“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calls you who also will do it” (1 Thess. 5:23, 24).
The prominence given to the subject of Christian life and holiness is one of the signs of our times and of the coming of the Lord Jesus. No thoughtful person can have failed to observe the turning of the attention of Christians to this subject within the past quarter of a century and along with the revival of the doctrine of the Lord’s personal and pre-millennial coming. The very opposition which these two subjects have received and the deep prejudice with which they are frequently met emphasize more fully the force with which they are impressing themselves on the mind of our generation and the heart of the Church of God. The only way we can often know the direction of the weather-vane is by the force of the wind, and the stronger the wind blows against it, the more steadily does it point in the true direction. And so the very gales of controversy but indicate the more forcibly the intense interest with which the hearts of God’s people are reaching out for a higher and deeper life in Him, and are somehow feeling the approach of a crisis in the age in which we live.
These two truths are linked closely together in the passage above. The former is the preparation for the latter, and the latter the complement of the former. Let us turn our attention, in prayerful dependence upon God and careful discrimination, to the explicit teachings of this passage respecting the scriptural doctrine of sanctification; and may the Holy Spirit so lead us and sanctify us both in our thoughts and spirits that we will see light in His light clearly, and our prejudices will melt away before the exceeding grace of Christ and the heavenly beauty of holiness.
I. THE AUTHOR OF SANCTIFICATION, “THE VERY GOD OF PEACE.”
1. This name implies that it is useless to look for sanctification until we have become reconciled to God and learned to know Him as the God of Peace. Justification, and a justification so thoroughly accepted as to banish all doubt and fear and make God to us “the very God of peace,”is indispensable to any real or abiding experience of sanctification.
Beloved, is this perhaps the secret cause of your failure in reaching the higher experience for which you long? “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Are there loose stones and radical difficulties in the superstructure of your spiritual life, and is it necessary for you to lay again the solid foundations of faith in the simple Word of Christ and the finished work of redemption? Then do so at once. Accept without feeling, without question, in full assurance of faith, the simple promises, “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life,” “Him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out,” and then take your stand on the Rock of Ages and begin to build the temple of holiness.
2. The expression “the very God of peace” further suggests that sanctification is the pathway to a deeper peace, even the “peace of God which passes all understanding.” Justification brings us peace with God, sanctification the peace of God. The cause of all our unrest is sin. “The wicked are like the troubled sea which cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, says my God, to the wicked.” But on the other hand, “Great peace have they that love Your law and nothing will offend them.” So we find God grieving His people’s disobedience and saying, “Oh, that you had heeded my commandments, then your peace would have been as a river and your righteousness as the waves of the sea.” Sanctification brings the soul into harmony with God and the laws of its own being, and there must be peace, and there can be in no other way. Furthermore, sanctification brings into the spirit the abiding presence of the very God of peace Himself and its peace is then nothing less than the deep, divine tranquillity of His own eternal calm.
3. But the deeper meaning of the passage is that sanctification is the work of God Himself. The literal translation of this phrase would be “the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly.” It expresses in the most emphatic way His own direct personality as the Author of our sanctification. It is not the work of man nor means, nor of our own struggling, but His own prerogative. It is the gift of the Holy Ghost, the fruit of the Spirit, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the prepared inheritance of all who will enter in, the great obtainment of faith, not the attainment of works. It is divine holiness, not human self-improvement or perfection. It is the inflow into man’s being of the life and purity of the infinite, eternal and Holy One, bringing His own perfection and infusing in us His own will. How easy, how spontaneous, how delightful this heavenly way of holiness! Surely it is a “highway” and not the low way of man’s vain and fruitless mortification. It is God’s great Elevated Railway, sweeping over the heads of the struggling throngs who toil along the lower pavement when they might be borne along on His Ascension pathway, by His own Almighty impulse. It is God’s great Elevator, carrying us up to the higher chambers of His palace without our laborious efforts, while others struggle up the winding stairs and faint by the way. It is God’s great tidal wave bearing up the stranded ship until she floats above the bar without straining timbers or struggling seamen, instead of the ineffectual and toilsome efforts of the struggling crew and the strain of the engines, which had tried in vain to move her an inch until that heavenly impulse lifted her by its own attraction. It is God’s great law of gravitation lifting up, by the warm sunbeams, the mighty iceberg which a million men could not raise a single inch, but which melts away before the warmth of the sunshine and rises in clouds of evaporation to meet its embrace until that cold and heavy mass is floating in fleecy clouds of glory in the blue ocean of the sky. How easy all this! How mighty! How simple! How divine! Beloved, have you come into the divine way of holiness? If you have, how your heart must swell with gratitude as it echoes the truths of the words you have just read! If you have not, do you not long for it and will you not now unite in the prayer of our text that the very God of peace will sanctify you wholly?
II. THE NATURE OF SANCTIFICATION.
What does this term “sanctify” mean? Is there any better way of ascertaining than tracing its scriptural usage? We find it employed in three distinct and most impressive senses in the Old Testament.
1. It means to separate. This idea can be traced all through its use in connection with the ceremonial ordinances. The idea of separation is first suggested in the account of creation in the first chapter of Genesis, and there, probably, we see the essential figure of sanctification. God’s first work in bringing order, law, and light out of chaos was to separate, to put an expanse or gulf between the two worlds of darkness and light, of earth and heaven. He did not annihilate the darkness, but He separated it from the light, He separated the land from the water, He separated the waters of the sea from the vapors of the sky.
And so we see Him in the spiritual realm immediately afterwards, separating His people. He separated the family of Seth from the worldly race of Cain. He separated Noah and his family from the ungodly world. He separated Abraham and his seed from an idolatrous family. He separated Israel from Egypt and the surrounding nations. The very meaning of the word “church” is “called out” or “separated,” and to each individual the same call comes still, “Separate yourselves,” “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing: and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you and you will be my sons and daughters.” “Having, therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord.”
Sanctification then means our voluntary separation from evil. It is not the extinction of evil, it is the putting off, the laying aside of evil, the detaching of ourselves from it and placing an impassable gulf between. We are to separate ourselves not only from our past sins but from our sin, as a principle of life. We are not to try to improve and gradually ameliorate our unholy condition, but we are to put off the old life, to act as if it were no longer ourselves, and separate from our sinful self as the wife is divorced from her husband, and as the soul is separated from the body by the death of the body. These are, indeed, the two figures used by the Apostle in describing this separation in Romans. We are to reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin just as much as though we were no longer the same person, and the old heart was no longer that true self.
And so with respect to every manifestation of evil, whether from within or from without, to every suggestion and temptation, to every impulse that is not of God, we are to refuse it, to be in the attitude of negation and resistance, our whole being saying “no.” We have not to annihilate the evil or to resist it in our own strength but simply by a definite act of will to separate ourselves from it, to hand it over to God and renounce it utterly, to give Him the absolute right to deal with it and destroy it; and when we do so, God always follows our committal with His almighty power and puts a gulf as deep as the bottomless grave of Christ and a wall as high as the foundations of the New Jerusalem between us and the evil we renounce. We separate ourselves, and God makes the separation good. This is the first decisive step in sanctification, an act of will by which we renounce evil in every form in which it is made manifest to our consciences and brought into the light, and not only evil in its manifestations but the whole evil self and sinful nature from which each separate act has sprung.
And we separate ourselves also from the world and its embodiment of the old natural condition of things and the kingdom of the prince of evil. We recognize ourselves as not of the world even as He was not of the world. We put off, not merely that which is sinful, but that which is merely natural and human so that it may die on the cross of Jesus and rise into a supernatural and divine life; for “if any man be in Christ Jesus he is a new creation, old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new.” And so the Holy Spirit leads us to a deeper separation, not only from the evil but from the earthly, lifting us into a supernatural life in all respects, and preparing us, even here, for that great transformation in which this corruptible will put on incorruption and this mortal immortality, for as the first man was of the earth, earthy, even before he fell, so will he give place to the second man who was made a living spirit and who has lifted us up into His own likeness.
What then, beloved, is the practical force of this thought? It is simply this, that, as God shows you your old sinful self and every evil working of your own fallen nature, you are definitely to hand it over to Him, with the full consent of your will, so that He will separate it from you and deliver you wholly from its power, and then you are to reckon it in His hands and no longer having control over you, or, indeed, in any sense to belong to you. And as He leads you further on to see things that might not be called sinful and yet are not incorporated into His life and will, that from these, also, you separate yourself and surrender them to Him, that He may put to death all that is apart from Himself and raise up in a new and resurrection life our entire being. You will thus see you are delivered from the death struggle with evil and the irrepressible conflict with self, your part being simply to hand Agag over with your own hands for execution, and gladly consent that the Lord should slay him utterly and blot out the remembrance of Amalek forever. Beloved, have you thus separated yourself for God to sanctify? Yours must be the surrender. God will not put His hand on the evil until you authorize Him with your glad consent. Like Joab’s army of old, He encamps before your city and sends you the message that Sheba must die or the city perish, but your own hands must deliver him over. Have you done so or will you do so? Will you not now with glad consent lay your hand upon the blessed Sin-Offering’s head, and transfer your sinful heart, and the dearest idol it has known, to Him “who was made sin for us who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”?
2. Sanctification means dedication. It is not only to separate from but to separate to. The radical idea of the word is, set apart to be the property of another. And so the complement of this act which we have already partly described is this positive side in which we offer ourselves to God for His absolute ownership, that He may possess us as His peculiar property, prepare us for His purpose and work out in us all His holy and perfect will. This is the meaning of the appeal made by Paul in the 12th chapter of Romans, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” This is the meaning of those oft-repeated expressions where we are spoken of as God’s peculiar people, which literally means, a people for a possession. This is the very ground on which the Scriptures appeal to us to walk in holiness, because we are not our own; we are bought with a price and should glorify God in our bodies which are God’s. It is true that God has bought us, but here again His infinite condescension refuses to compel our surrender, and will accept nothing but a voluntary gift. So, gladly constrained by love, we feel it a privilege to belong to Him and have Him stoop to take us in our worthlessness and be responsible for all the risks of our momentous existence.
This is what the term consecration properly means. It is the voluntary surrender or self-offering of the heart, by the constraint of love to be the Lord’s. Its glad expression is, “I am my Beloved’s.” It must spring, of course, from faith. There must be the full confidence that we are safe in this abandonment, that we are not falling over a precipice or surrendering ourselves to the hands of a judge, but that we are sinking into a Father’s arms and stepping into an infinite inheritance.
Oh, it is an infinite privilege to be permitted thus to give ourselves up to One who pledges Himself to make us all that we would love to be; moreover, all that His infinite wisdom, power and love will delight to accomplish in us. It is the clay yielding itself to the potter’s hands that it may be shaped into a vessel of honor, and suited for the Master’s use. It is the poor street orphan consenting to become the child of a prince that he may be educated and provided for, that he may be prepared to inherit all the wealth of his guardian. How ashamed we may well feel that we ever hesitated to make such a surrender, or that we ever qualified it with any condition but His good and perfect will! Beloved, have you made this full surrender? If so, how gladly your whole being says “Amen” to all that we have said to the blessedness of being only the Lord’s! If not, let it be done this moment and at His feet of love flatten yourself as a whole burnt offering and cry,
“Take my poor heart and let it be, Forever closed to all but Thee; Seal Thou my breast, and let me wear Thy pledge of love forever there.”
3. Sanctification means filling. The literal translation of the old Hebrew word to consecrate is “to fill the hand.” It suggests the deepest truth in connection with sanctification, namely, that Christ Himself must be the substance and supply of our new spiritual life and fills us with His own Spirit and holiness. After the most sincere consecration, we are but an empty possibility which He must make real. Even our consecration itself must look to Him for grace to make it faultless and acceptable. Even our will must be purified and kept single and supremely fixed on Him, by His continual grace. Our purity must be the imparting of His life; our peace, His peace within us; our love, the love of God shed abroad in our hearts. Our very faith, which receives all His grace, must be continually supplied from His own Spirit. We bring to Him but an empty hand, clean and open, and He fills it. We are but a capacity and He is the supply. We give ourselves to Him fully, understanding that we do not pledge the strength or goodness required to meet our consecration, but that we take Him for all, and He takes us, fully recognizing the responsibility which He assumes to make us all that He requires and keep us in all His perfect will as we let Him through the habit of a full surrender. What an exquisite rest this gives to the trusting heart and what an infinite grace on His part to meet us on such terms and bear for us so vast a responsibility!
In the upper portion of our metropolis many of our citizens may often have noticed, especially in the past years, a great number of miserable shanties, standing on the choicest sites, perhaps on the corner of a splendid new avenue, looking out on a magnificent prospect, but the house was utterly unworthy of the site. Suppose that a millionaire should want to purchase this site, and that the owner should begin, before giving possession, to repair the old shanty for the new owner, putting fresh thatch on the miserable roof and a new coat of whitewash on the dirty walls. How the purchaser would laugh at him and say, “My friend, I do not want your miserable old wreck of a tenement fixed up like this. At the best it will only be a shanty when you have done all you can to it and I will never live in it. All I want is the ground, the site, and when I get it I will raze the old heap of rubbish to the foundations, and dig deep down to the solid rock before I build my splendid mansion. I will then build from the base my own new house according to my own magnificent plan. I do not want a fragment of your house, all that I require is the site.”
This is exactly what God wants of us and waits to do in us. Each of us has a splendid site for a heavenly temple. It looks out upon eternity and commands a view of all that is glorious in the possibilities of existence, but the house that is built upon it now is a worthless wreck, it is past improving. Our patching and repairing is worse than waste, and what God wants of us is simply that we give Him the possibilities of our life and let Him build upon them His own structure, that temple of holiness which he will make His own abode and which He will let us dwell in with Him as His happy guests in the house of the Lord forever. From the very foundations, the work must all be new and divine. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith, and the true attitude of the consecrated heart is that of a constant yielding and constant receiving. This last view of sanctification gives boundless scope to our spiritual progress. It is here that the gradual phase of sanctification comes in. Commencing with a complete separation from evil and dedication to God, it now advances into all the fulness of Christ, and grows up to the measure of the stature of perfect manhood in Him, until every part of our being and every part of our life is filled with God and becomes a channel to receive, and a medium to reflect His grace and glory.
Beloved, have we learned this blessed significance of sanctification and taken God Himself as the fulness of our emptiness and fountain of our spiritual life? Then, indeed, have we entered upon an everlasting expansion and ascension, and forever more these blessed words will deepen and broaden in their boundless meaning:
“Thou of life the Fountain art, Ever let me take of Thee; Spring Thou up within my heart, Rise to all eternity.”
Having seen the source and meaning of sanctification, let us next trace its sphere and extent. “I pray God to sanctify you through and through” is the meaning of this verse. And then Paul specifies the threefold division of our human nature, the spirit, the soul, and the body as respectively the subjects of this work of grace. The Divine Trinity has its counterpart in human nature, at least in some feeble measure. Man has been called a trichotomy or a triplex nature, and there seems good ground to claim that this division is recognized in the Scriptures. In the original account of man’s creation the body is first distinctly mentioned — “the Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground.” Then we have the soul and spirit clearly distinguished in the words which follow, “God breathed into man the breath of life and man became a living soul.” We have first the breath of spirit of the Almighty imparted into man’s higher being and then the physical principle constituting him a living soul.
Again in the account of our Lord’s childhood we have the same division. “The child grew,” His physical life; “waxed strong in spirit,” His spiritual; “filled with wisdom,” His intellectual or soul life. Again in 1 Cor. 2, the apostle Paul very clearly distinguishes between the soul and the spirit in man. The psychical man, that is, the soul-man, he tells us, “does not receive the things of the Spirit of God neither can he know them for they are spiritually discerned, but he that is spiritual discerns all things.” The psychical man, therefore, is the man of the soul, the spiritual man is the man of quickened spirit. It will be noticed that in this passage he begins with the spirit and gradually descends to the soul and body as the subjects of sanctification. This is quite instructive and significant.
The other day in speaking to our builders, they remarked, “We always work from the top story downward and end with the basement, and so we never go back over our finished work, or need to soil the floors that have been cleansed and completed.” And so in God’s great house, He works from the top downward. So it is in the growth of the tree. Let it add a thousand layers, you will find that not one is laid on from the outside but each of them has a separate growth from the innermost pith of the tree. The tree’s life is from within, outward. So in the tabernacle, the great symbol of spiritual truth, in the account given us in the book of Exodus, we find Jehovah beginning in the Holy of Holies in the Ark of the Covenant, and traveling outward until He has traversed the sanctuary with all its sacred vessels, and reached the external court, with its laver and altar of sacrifice.
Beautiful type of the work of sanctifying grace; the holy Shekinah of the divine spirit and the indwelling Christ in the innermost chamber of the spirit, and spreading their heavenly life and influence abroad through every part until they penetrate every faculty of the soul and every organ of the physical being with their transforming and consecrating power.
I .WHAT IS THE SPIRIT?
In a word it may be said that the spirit is the divine element in man, or perhaps more correctly, that which is cognizant of God. It is not the intellectual or mental or aesthetic or sensational part of man but the spiritual, the higher nature, that which recognizes and communicates with the heavenly and divine.
1. It is that in us which knows God, which directly and immediately is conscious of the divine presence and can hold fellowship with Him, hearing His voice, seeing His glory, receiving intuitively the impression of His touch and the conviction of His will, understanding and worshiping His character and attributes, speaking to Him in the spirit and language of prayer and praise and heavenly communion. It is, also, directly conscious of the other world of evil spirits, and knows the touch of the enemy as well as the voice of the Shepherd.
2. The spirit is that which recognizes the difference between right and wrong, which loves the right and thinks, discerns, chooses in harmony with righteousness. It is the moral element in human nature. It is the region in which conscience speaks and reigns. It is the seat of righteousness and purity and sanctity, it is that which resembles God, the new man created in righteousness and true holiness after His image. Every one must be conscious of such an element in his being and feel that it is essentially different from the mere faculties of the understanding or the feelings of the heart.
3. The spirit is that which chooses, purposes, determines and thus practically decides the whole question of our action and obedience. In short, it is the region of the will, that mightiest impulse of human nature, that almost divine prerogative which God has shared with man, His child, that very helm of life on whose decision hang the whole issues of character and destiny. What a momentous force it is, and how essential that it be wholly sanctified! As it is, or is not, sanctified, the life is one of obedience or disobedience, and when the will is right, and the choice is fixed, and the eye is single, God recognizes the heart as true and pure, “If there be a willing mind it is accepted according to what a man has and not according to what he has not.”
4. The spirit is that which trusts. Confidence is one of its attributes and exercises. It is the filial quality in the child of God which looks in the Father’s face without a cloud, which lies upon His bosom without a fear and puts its hand in His with the abandonment of childlike simplicity.
5. The spirit is that which loves God. It is not now the human emotional love of which we speak, for that belongs to the lower nature of the soul and may be most fully developed in one whose spirit is still dead to God in trespasses and sins; but it is that divine love which is the direct gift of the Holy Spirit and the true spring of all holiness and obedience. It is nothing less than the love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit, and its appropriate sphere is the human heart.
6. The spirit is that which glorifies God, which makes His will and honor its supreme aim and loses itself in His glory. The very conception of such an aim is foreign to the human mind and can be only received by a spirit which has been born again and created in the divine image.
7. The spirit is that which enjoys God, which hungers for His presence and fellowship and finds its nourishment, its portion, its satisfaction, its inheritance in Himself as its all and in all.
This wonderful element of our human nature is subject to all the sensibilities and susceptibilities which we find in a coarser form in our physical life. There are spiritual senses and organs just as real and intense as those of our physical frame. We find them distinctly recognized in the Scriptures. There is the sense of spiritual hearing, “He that has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches,” “Blessed are your ears, for they hear,” “My sheep hear my voice and they follow me.” There is the sense of vision, “Your eyes will see the King in his beauty and the land that is very far off,” “Looking unto Jesus,” “Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord,” “Having eyes they see not,” “He has sent me to open the blind eyes and turn them from darkness unto light and from the power of Satan unto God.” There is the sense of spiritual touch, “That I may apprehend, (or, grasp with my hand) that for which I am apprehended of Christ Jesus,” “Who touched me,” “As many as touched him were made perfectly whole.”
There is the sense of taste, “He that feeds on me will live by me,” “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good,” “He that comes to me will never hunger, and he that believes on me will never thirst.” There is the sense of smell. Very definitely is it referred to in the 11th of Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon him and will make him of quick smell in the fear of the Lord.” The spirit is a real subsistence, and when separated from the body after death it will have the same consciousness as when in life, and perhaps intenser powers of feeling, action and enjoyment.
Such is a brief view of this supreme endowment of our humanity, this upper chamber of the house of God, this higher nature received from our Creator, and lost, or, at least, degraded, defiled and buried through our sin and fall.
II. WHAT IS IT FOR THE SPIRIT TO BE SANCTIFIED?
It is indispensable, first of all, that it be quickened into life. Naturally it is dead, and the work of regeneration quickens it into vitality as a newborn life, inbreathed, given from heaven as unto us in the first creation, as from the very lips of God. So, in one sense, the unregenerate soul is not spiritually alive. Its faculties are alive, its animal life is active, but spiritually it is dead in trespasses and sins. When “By one man sin entered into the world and death by sin,” not only did man become subject to physical death but spiritual death reigned also. Thank God for the grace of God revealed in the gift by grace. Jesus Christ, whereby He has delivered us from the bondage of death and enables us to reign in life by one, even Jesus Christ.
But now what is a sanctified spirit?
1. It is a spirit separated.
Have you ever looked upon the dark, cold ground in early spring, through which if you drew your hand, it would chill and defile your fingers and perhaps it was mixed with the manure of the barnyard and the crawling earth worms that burrowed in it? Yet, have you never seen, growing out of that dark soil, a little plant or flower, with roots white as the driven snow, and leaf as delicate and petals as pure as a baby’s dimpled cheek, separated by its own nature and purity from the dirty soil that was all around it and could not even stain it? So the spirit born of God is separated in its own divine nature from its own self and the sinful heart, and the very first step of sanctification is to recognize this separation and count ourselves no longer the same person, but partakers of the divine nature and alive unto God as those who have been raised from the dead. And as such we are to separate our spirit from all that is not of God; not only from sin but from the world and from self and our whole old natural life. All our spiritual instincts, senses and organs are to be separated from evil and intuitively to turn away from even the touch and approach of temptation. We are to refuse to hear with our inward ear the stranger’s voice, to see with the spirit’s eye the fascinating vision of temptation, to touch in spiritual contact any unclean thing, to taste even the forbidden joy, and by the quick sense of smell at once recognize and turn from the unwholesome atmosphere, and as evil of any kind is revealed to the spirit, it is to renounce it and to ask God to separate it from it and to put the gulf of His presence between the soul and the sin.
And it must be separated ever from the spirits of others, and, indeed, from any human spirit that could control it apart from the will of God. All the aspects of the spirit which we have already referred to must be separated. The higher consciousness that knows God must be separated from all other gods but Him. The moral senses that know right must separate from all wrong. The will must be separated from the choice or inclination of all but His will. The power of trust must be voluntarily separated from every thought of unbelief or distrust. The power to love must be wholly separated from forbidden love. The aim and motive must be separated from all that is not for His glory, the source of its pleasure must be purified and the spirit separated from all joy that is not in harmony with the joy of the Lord. Beloved, is your spirit thus separated, cleansed, and detached from everything that could defile or distract you from the will of God and life of holiness?
2. A sanctified spirit is a dedicated spirit.
Its powers of apprehension are dedicated to know God and to count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus. His Word is the object of its deepest study and meditation, and His attributes and His glory the theme of its most delightful contemplation. To know God and to be filled with His Spirit and to be ever in His presence is its highest aim. Its will is dedicated to God. It chooses Him deliberately as its portion and its sovereign Lord, and delights to abandon itself to His entire possession and to His perfect will. It is this element of a single heart and a supreme choice of God which constitutes what the Scriptures call a perfect heart, and which they affirm of many a Christian whose steps were not always perfect. Every moral sense in the sanctified spirit is dedicated to God. It chooses His standards of right and wrong and desires above all things to bear His image and be conformed to His nature.
Its power of trusting is dedicated. It is determined to trust God under any circumstances and in spite of all feelings, as an act of will that chooses to believe His Word notwithstanding every discouragement and temptation. A spirit that thus chooses God will be sustained by the very faith of God Himself imparted to it.
Its love is dedicated and its power of loving. It chooses to love God supremely and to love all as God would have us to love, regarding every human being in the light of God and His will, and adjusting itself to every relationship in such a manner as to please God. It is dedicated to the glory of God. It accepts this and not the applause of men nor its own pleasing as the true end and purpose of life and lays itself a living sacrifice on His altar.
And, further, it is dedicated to enjoy God. It chooses Him as its portion, its happiness, all and in all, and consents to find all its satisfaction in Him and Him alone, whether it be in the loss of every other channel of happiness or by His filling all the springs of life with Himself.
A dedicated spirit is thus wholly given to God, to know Him, to choose His will, to resemble His character, to trust His Word, to love Him supremely, to glorify Him only, to enjoy Him wholly and to belong to Him utterly, unreservedly, and forever. All its senses, susceptibilities and capacities are dedicated to Him. It yields itself to Him to be made by Him all that He would have it to be and to have His perfect will wrought out by it forever. It chooses to hear only what He would speak, to see only what He would have it behold, to touch only at His bidding and to use every power and capability in and for Him only. It regards itself henceforth as His property, subject to His disposal and existing for His great purpose regarding it. It is consecrated not so much to the works, or the truth, or the cause, or the church., as to the Lord. And this is done gladly, freely, without fear or reservation, but as a great privilege and honor to be permitted thus to belong to so great and good a Master, and have Him undertake so uncongenial a task as our sanctification and exaltation.
This dedication of our spirit can be made in the very first moment of consecration and before we have a single conscious experience or feeling answering to the dedication we make. As empty vessels, as bare possibilities with nothing in us yet but the entire consent of our will to be all that the Lord would have us, we yield ourselves to God according to His will.
This act of dedication should be made once for all, and then recognized as done and as including every subsequent act which we may ever renew as we receive more light in detail respecting His will concerning us.
It is possible for us, once for all and not knowing perhaps one thousandth part of all that it means, to give ourselves to God for all that He understands it to mean, and to know henceforth that we are utterly and eternally the Lord’s as certainly as we will know that we are the Lord’s after we have been a million years in glory.
And yet, after this one comprehensive act of dedication it is quite proper for us, as new light comes to us and we become conscious of new powers or possibilities we can lay at His feet, to say our glad “yes” to His claim as often as it is renewed. Yet this is only the working out in detail of the all-inclusive consecration that we made at first.
Beloved, have you thus dedicated yourself and your spirit to God, and will you henceforth dare to reckon yourself all the Lord’s, and as each new chamber of your higher nature opens to your consciousness, will you gladly put the key of it in His gracious hand and recognize Him as its Owner and Guest?
3. The sanctified spirit is a spirit filled with the presence and the Spirit of the Lord.
What it gives to Him is only a possibility. It is His presence that makes it a reality. Even when dedicated it is but a vessel, empty and meet for the Master’s use. It is He who fills it and pours it out for the supply of the needs of others or to satisfy the desire of his own heart. Even the consecration which we make to God, the very act of dedication itself, has to be made perfect by His grace. We cannot even yield ourselves to Him in a manner that is without imperfection, but we can choose to be His, and then He will come into our dedicated will and make the living sacrifice worthy of His holy altar.
We can lie down upon that altar in full surrender and because He, the great Burnt-Offering, offered Himself to God for us, once for all, we too can become to God a sacrifice of sweet-smelling savor. This was, really, the meaning of the Burnt-Offering of old. The offerer did not offer himself, but touched the spotless lamb and it became the perfect offering. So with our hand upon the head of Christ, our consecration is accepted in Him, and He comes into our will and our spirit, and so unites Himself with us that the sacrifice is acceptable and complete. And so, again, our knowledge of God and fellowship with Him are dependent upon His own grace to be made effectual. We dedicate our spirit to God, and then He reveals Himself to us, opening the eyes of our understanding, showing us the person of Christ, unfolding His truth to our spiritual apprehension, and making us to see light in His own light.
It is wonderful how the untutored mind will thus often, in a short time, by the simple touch of the Holy Spirit, be filled with the most profound and scriptural teaching of God and the plan of salvation through Christ. We once knew a poor girl, saved from a life of infamy and but little educated, in a few days rise to the most extraordinary acquaintance with the Scriptures and the whole plan of redemption, through the simple anointing of the Holy Spirit. We simply give to Him our spirit that it may know Him and He fills it with His light and revelation.
So, again, we choose to be transformed to His image, but we cannot create that image by our own morality or struggles after righteousness. We must be created anew in His likeness by His own Spirit, and stamped with His resemblance by His heavenly seal impressed directly upon our heart from His hand. And thus He does become to us our holiness, for Christ is made unto us our sanctification, and we are made the righteousness of God in Him. We turn from the sin, choose to be holy, and God fills our proffered hand with His own spotless righteousness.
So, again, our faith is but the filling of His Spirit and the imparting of the faith of God. We choose to trust and He makes that choice good by enabling us to believe, and to continue in the faith grounded and settled, and so living by the faith of the Son of God. Our love is but a purpose on our part, the power is His; for when we choose to love He sheds abroad that love within us and imparts to us His own Spirit and nature which is love. All our struggles will not work up one throb of genuine love to God, but He will breathe His own perfect love into any heart that chooses to make Him the one object of affection. We cannot love our enemies but we can choose to love them, and God will make us to love them. Often have we known consecrated characters placed in circumstances where they were obliged to come in contact with uncongenial companions whom they could not love; but, choosing at His bidding to act in the spirit of love, God has so inbreathed His very heart, that without a struggle they could adjust themselves to this relationship and meet the uncongenial associate, or even enemy, with quietness, and even tenderness, and a holy desire for his highest good.
So, again, it is with His joy in us. And so, likewise, the power to glorify Him is nothing more nor less than simply this, to let God Himself be manifested in us and so glorify Himself, as others see Him reflected through us. Sanctification is thus God’s own life in the spirit that is yielded up to Him to be His dwelling place and the instrument of His power and will. So also of our spiritual senses of which we have spoken. They are sanctified when they become the organs of God’s operation, when our spiritual ear is quickened by His Spirit, our spiritual eyes opened by His touch, our spiritual taste, and touch, and smell, made alive by His own quickening life within us.
Now, beloved, have you ever learned this wonderful secret of regenerated spirit and God’s Spirit, the Guest and Occupant of that consecrated abode? Will we illustrate this somewhat lofty conception by a simple illustration? Here is a common leather case which represents the body. Within it is a silver casket, which stands for the soul. We touch a spring and it opens and discloses an exquisite golden locket, which we will consider as the symbol of the spirit or higher nature, and within that golden locket is a place all set with precious gems for a single picture.
Is it empty in your spirit or is it filled with some other face, or is it dedicated to and occupied by your blessed Lord? Is it His shrine and His home and has He accepted it and made it the seat of His glorious abode and throne of His blessed kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost? Or are there some who read these lines who have not yet even learned the meaning of their own spirit and do not know whether it has yet been quickened from the dead and prepared to be the seat of Christ’s indwelling? All that they know of life consists in the physical organism, their mental faculties and their human affections. They have a keen, quick, human life, all aglow with emotion and mental activity, but the spirit, alas, alas! is so dead and cold that it has not even caught the grasp of these higher thoughts that we have been contemplating.
Ah, beloved! there is one world that you have not yet entered, and that is the eternal world to which you are hastening. The life you are living can never introduce you to the sphere of heavenly beings, for “flesh and blood cannot inherit eternal life, nor corruption incorruption.” Your physical life will wither like the flowers of summer, your mental endowments will rise to the highest human rank, but will not touch the joy of that celestial realm. You must have another nature before you can enter the kingdom of heaven. “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Just suppose for a moment a man going to a great musical festival in Germany. He enters the great Concert Hall but he does not know a single word of the language spoken nor has the faintest germ of musical taste. To him the words are unmeaning gutturals, and the notes a jargon of confusing noises. He could understand a problem in mathematics, he could discourse with them with eloquence in English on questions of politics or philosophy, but he is out of place, he does not possess the key to their society or enjoyment.
And so let us suppose the highest intellect of earth entering the society of heaven. To him their songs and joys would all seem as incomprehensible as the conversation of a cultivated home circle would be to the little dog that sits at their feet or the canary that sings in the window. It belongs to a different race and cannot touch their world. Nor could such a man have one point of contact with these heavenly beings. It would be another world, a world unknown, a world as barren as a wilderness; and from its scenes he would be glad to hasten to find some congenial fellowship. He cannot reach its range because it is a spiritual race of beings, and he has but an intellectual nature. And, on the other hand, they would have as little in common with him as his range is infinitely below theirs.
We can imagine the porter of yonder gates asking him what he knows, and he begins to tell them about the lore of classical culture, the mythologies of Greece or the monuments of Egypt. The angel smiles with pity and answers, “Why, these splendid memories of which you speak are not worthy of comparison with the world in which we dwell. The grandest temple of Egypt would not make a pedestal for one of the stairs of heaven.” Perhaps he tells them of astronomy, the distance or magnitude of the stars. “Why,” the angel answers, “we have no need of these dim and distant calculations here. There is not one of yonder worlds we have not visited and we could tell you ten thousand times more of its mysteries than you have ever dreamed of, but the glories of these cannot be compared with the glory of Him who sits upon the throne, whom you have not eyes to see, or the sweetness of these redemption songs which you cannot even hear because you have not ears to hear. One thrill of the rapture we feel you cannot ever know because your heart has not been quickened in one heavenly chord. You do not belong here. You live in the lower realm of mind alone, but this is the Home of God and those who have received His nature, His Spirit, and are admitted as His children to dwell in His presence and share His infinite and everlasting joy.
Beloved, this is the high calling which is given to every one of Adam’s race who has heard the gospel. You may become a son of God, you may receive a new spirit which can know and enjoy Him, and that spirit can be so sanctified, so cleansed, so enlarged, so filled with Himself, as to be able to reach the highest sublimity of His grace and glory and joy. Will you separate it from all that defiles and dwarfs it? Will you dedicate it to Him to be exalted to its highest possible destiny and will, henceforth receive Him to be its life and purity, its satisfaction, its nature, and its ALL and in ALL?
These four short lines of simple poetry express the depth and height of holiness, namely,as a great need and an infinite supply for that need in God. Beloved, will they express, henceforth, your emptiness and your divine filling?
In the heart of man- A cry; In the heart of God- Supply.
We have already seen that in the threefold division of our being the spirit represents the higher and divine element, that which knows, trusts, loves, resembles and glorifies God. What then is the soul as distinguished from the spirit and the body, and what is meant by a soul wholly sanctified?
I. THE NATURE AND ATTRIBUTES OF THE SOUL.
It is not necessary for us to descend into all the depths of psychology and attempt to analyze the manifold attributes and faculties of that wondrous consciousness which God has placed within the breast of every human being. It is enough for the present to observe that every one of us is conscious of, at least, the following four great classes of mental endowment, namely, the understanding, the tastes, the affections and passions, and the appetites.
1. The understanding. This is the seat of intelligence. Many and varied are the chambers in this house of many mansions. Perhaps the first is that which the philosophers have called perception, that which fixes its attention upon objects and becomes directly cognizant of things and thoughts. Next might be named the faculty of intelligence, of acquiring knowledge, of understanding truth and relations, and reasoning, thinking and concluding. To this department also memory belongs, that wondrous attribute which recalls the past and stores up forever the impressions and sensations of the mind to be the source of joy or pain. Imagination follows next, the faculty which gives the soul the power of ignoring space, of bringing the distant near, of peopling the empty void with the creations of an ideal world, which to the vivid fancy seems as real as the material forms around it. As the correlative of Memory, Expectation looks out upon the future with the magnifying glass of Imagination and springs forward on the wings of Hope, until time and sense are forgotten in the prospect of the bright vista that opens before. Amid all this, as the helm of character and the driver of the fiery coursers of the soul, sits reason or judgment, the faculty of comparing or concluding, of weighing instructions and deciding courses of action. Sometimes it is called commonsense, and sometimes the exercise of the judgment. All these are but a few of the mental qualities of which each of us is conscious, and which constitute the leading attributes of the soul. When we think how much they have to do with every interest of human life, it is not necessary to show how important it is that they should be sanctified so as to be guarded from error and perversion and used for their highest ends, for our welfare, the good of others and the glory of God.
2. The tastes follow next in order. Each of us possesses certain special talents and mental inclinations and adaptations. The result of this is that one man is a born musician, another has a genius for painting, another is a natural architect or sculptor, another a great inventor, another a traveler, and another a poet or writer of fiction.
Each of us then has some special bias of mind, and adaptation is usually indicated by inclination. But each of these tastes needs to be sanctified. Just as in the class of faculties previously enumerated the unholy imagination or the false judgment will lead the literary man to be a prurient Ouida or a passionate Byron, so here, a false taste will make a lover of art a disseminator of vice, the unhallowed love of music a channel for Satan’s most insidious temptations, and even the love of beauty and refinement but an instigation to self-adornment, fashionable extravagance and the wild carnival of idolatrous worldliness. Every one of these tastes came to us originally from God, who is Himself a lover of the beautiful and has made everything to reflect His own infinite taste and wisdom, but every one of them may be but a minister to self and sin and a source of degradation and defilement. Do we not most earnestly desire that all these gifts of heaven, unbalanced and perverted by the Fall, will be wholly sanctified?
3. Deeper still, in the soul’s innermost chamber dwell the affections of the heart. This is the home of love, the mother’s love, the bridegroom’s love, the love of the child, the brother, the friend, the ties of kindred and the deep fellowships of congenial affinity and common tastes, dispositions, interests and aims. We have spoken in the former chapter of love as one of the exercises of the sanctified spirit. We referred there, of course, to the love which the Holy Spirit gives to the heart, a divine love for the Supreme Object and all others related to Him. We speak now of the human affections instinctive in the soul, which are not wrong in themselves but which need to be sanctified and lifted above self, sin and excess. Along with these affections are the various passions and emotions, pride, acquisitiveness, anger, emulation, mirth, joy, sorrow, and many more, all of which are right or wrong according to their measure, their motive and their limitations. It is possible to be angry and sin not, to be proud without vanity, to emulate without envy, to “covet earnestly the best gifts” without avarice, and to be ambitious for the highest recompenses without worldliness in spirit or aim.
Yet all these without the grace of God have become like false lights or reefs of rock and ruin to innumerable human souls, whose very brilliancy of natural endowments and success have but aggravated more utterly their destruction.
4. Lower still in the scale of beings are the appetites and propensities, which link the mind with the body and become the handmaids of the physical organs. These we will speak of more in detail in connection with the sanctification of the body. It is only necessary here to refer to them as qualities of the mind which touch the physical senses and act through them. All these appetites are natural and in their normal state, in a properly balanced and sanctified being, are sinless and blameless, but owing to the disturbing influences of the Fall and the perversion of human nature they have become disturbed from their true order and subordinate place, and have become in many cases degrading and destructive. A man whose reasons and affections are under the control of his appetites has started downward on the steep incline which soon must bring him to the level of the brutes, nay, to a still deeper plunge, measured from the height from which he fell. This, at last, is the wretched and hideous condition of many a human soul, and, hence, the supreme necessity that the appetites and propensities which link us so closely with the brute should be wholly sanctified.
This is a brief survey of the human soul. To realize at once its grandeur and its peril we have only to think of the records of human history and the brilliant panorama which has swept over the stage of time, to fall upon the farther verge over the steep and awful precipices of ruin. How clear and lofty the intellects that have searched out and sought to teach the ages the principles of truth! How wonderful the achievements, even without God’s light, of a Plato, a Socrates, a Confucius, a Seneca! How sublime the genius and imagination of a Homer, a Virgil, a Dante, a Shakespeare! How splendid the force of an Alexander and a Napoleon! How superb the taste of a Phidias, a Wren, a Raphael, a Michael Angelo! How glowing and glorious the eloquence of a Demosthenes, a Cicero, a Chatham! And yet withal, how sad the highest issues of human culture and wisdom! How bitter and disappointing the brightest prospects the best of them could look forward to, and how fearful the wreck to which many of them plunged even before the eternal depths were revealed to view! How frequently the brightest intellects have the saddest lives, and how extreme the perils that encompass the path of genius, success or beauty! Oh, how the world needs the Sanctifier to guard even her richest treasures from being their own destroyers!
II. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE SANCTIFICATION OF THE SOUL?
How are all these attributes and faculties to be wholly sanctified? Well, we cannot better make this plain than by applying our three simple tests in detail to each of them. They can be separated, dedicated and filled with the Spirit and life of God and thus, and in no other way, can they be wholly sanctified. Will we apply the tests in detail?
1.What about our understanding?
(a) Is it separated? Have we learned to withdraw our attention and perception from all that is unholy and to refuse to see forbidden things? Is not this the real source of most of our difficulties about a holy life, that we allow the unholy world to sweep in through all the avenues of our being and absorb all our attention until there is inevitable pollution and misery? The very first thing therefore for us to do is to close the hatches and keep out the billows, to close the shutters and exclude the objects that intrude themselves upon our gaze, to drop the eyelash and be kept as the apple of His eye from the seeing of evil. We can do all this, refuse to perceive and notice the evil around us. As you walk down the street, have you ever been conscious of two forces, the one holding your attention to God in a spirit of quiet recollection and communion, the other tempting you to look at everything on the street, to take in the glare of the shop windows and the busy crowd and the whole animated scene and many a picture of evil, which, if it does not defile, distracts you from the simplicity of your spirit? Have you never felt, on glancing over your morning paper, a check upon your mind as your eye fell upon the glaring columns and a voice which seemed to hold you from absorbing with your eye all the reeking filth that literary scavengers had shoveled from the alleys and garrets of a wicked metropolis; and have you not felt, when you had read it, all saturated with uncleanness, even though you yourself had not any participation in these crimes? Your thoughts had touched them and therefore were defiled.
The writer was once tempted to read Robert Ingersol’s lectures with a view of answering them, but after reading a single page he felt so deluged with the shower of brimstone that poured from every page upon his whole being that he dared not go farther, and felt that he could only warn his people from any contact with such things, and tell them that “evil communications corrupt good manners,” and that God’s ground was to abstain from the very appearance of evil and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, not even so far as to hear them. He was once called upon by a young convert, a very earnest Christian woman, who had gone one Sabbath night, under strong pressure, to hear this daring blasphemer. Her face was fairly shining with the light of the pit, and she had called to tell her pastor that she was fascinated and knew not what was the matter, but that she had been so captivated by his brilliant blasphemy that she seemed to have lost her power of resisting. Therefore the very first thing in order to the sanctification of the mind is to separate it from all evil by absolutely ignoring evil and refusing any contact with it.
So, again, we should separate ourselves from thoughts as well as objects which are not purifying. There are ten thousand inward activities which spring up in the soul without any touch from the external world or any observation of people or things. Many of these are evil thoughts, and still more of them are unnecessary thoughts. These we must suppress. It is possible so to hold the reins of the mind that it will refuse to dwell upon thoughts which the judgment denies. It may be like the waves which beat against the vessel’s timbers, but this is very different from letting them into the hold through the hatches. We can keep the hatches down and refuse to open them, and if we do so, God will take our thoughts and hold them captive and fill our minds with His higher, holier thoughts. The truth is that a great many people wear their minds out with useless thinking. Much of the waste of brain and the dead pain in the cerebellum is not due to overwork for God, but is due to a thousand cares and questions which did nobody any good and did us infinite harm. A sanctified soul is one that has learned to be still and cease from all its own activities This is the meaning of the Psalmist’s passionate cry when wearied with his own exhausting activity, “I hate thoughts but thy law do I love.” This is the meaning of the Apostle when he says in the 10th chapter of Second Corinthians, “The weapons of our warfare are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Our imaginations, our thoughts must be suppressed until we learn to wait in stillness for God’s voice and God’s thoughts. Thus we will save ourselves needless exhaustion and ever be within touch of God and out of innumerable sources of temptation. For every one of Satan’s wandering thoughts is like a thistledown, with wings at one end and a seed of evil at the other. Softly it floats into the soul, but wherever it goes, it deposits its little germ in the fertile soil which brings forth its harvest of poisonous thorns.
So, again, we must cease from the unholy activities of the memory as it dwells on the forbidden past, and the imagination, as it builds its vain castles in the air or makes temptation vivid and real before the fascinated soul; and so from our reasoning and judgment, as they proudly sit in council, perhaps over God’s Word or our brother’s character, or determine in godless independence our own course of action instead of listening to the voice of the Master. We must learn to cease from all these activities, to distrust them when exercised independently of the Spirit’s guidance, and the Master’s will, and to hold ourselves unto God for His complete direction and possession.
(b) And so we apply our second test to the faculties of the understanding. Are they dedicated? Is our attention dedicated to God? Can we say, “My heart is fixed, my mind’s stayed on Thee”? Are our thoughts dedicated to God? Is our intelligence devoted to know His Word and will, and count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ? Is our memory dedicated to be stored with His truth? Does our imagination dwell upon His Word until it makes the things of eternity more real and vivid than the objects of sense? Is our whole power of thought and reason and judgment and decision wholly yielded to Him, to know and do His will?
He is the Author of our intellect, He has made it for Himself, it can find its loftiest employment and satisfaction only in God and His Word. And He needs our mind as well as our spirit to use as the instrument and organ of His high and holy service.
(c) And, finally, is our understanding and intellect filled with God? For He must possess us Himself and put in us His thought and mind as well as His spirit and grace. The Christ who came to give Himself to us had not only a divine nature but a reasonable soul, and this He imparts to us in our union with His person. “We have the mind of Christ,” and into this weak and erring brain can come the very understanding of our blessed Master, so that, as the great Kepler, we may say, “I am thinking God’s thoughts after God.”
The Holy Spirit is a quickening force to the consecrated intellect. Minds that have been dull and obscure before have risen beneath His touch to the highest intellectual attainments and the mightiest achievements of human genius. Every intelligent Christian knows the story of Augustine, the worn-out wreck, who emerged from a wasted youth to become, by the power of grace, the teacher of twelve centuries and the father of evangelical theology.
Again, such a lost intellect was Thomas Chalmers until kindled from above by the power of grace and a divine enthusiasm, and from that hour he became the leader of the religious thought and life of the country and his age. Such again, in the higher ranks of life, was Wilberforce. As a young, aristocratic Englishman, his early years were frittered away in the frivolities of fashionable life and his mind seemed to have but little force and brilliancy. But from the hour in which he gave himself to God, every power in his intellect seemed to be awakened and intensified, until he became the champion of the greatest movement of modern philanthropy, and the honored and successful leader of his country in one of the greatest social movements of English history.
And so many a humble name, a Harry Moorhouse from the ranks of English pick-pockets, a Jerry McAuley from the wharf thieves of New York, a Dwight Moody from the shoemaker apprentices of Boston, and a great multitude of the most gifted ministers, evangelists and Christian workers of today, all owe their mental force and that combination of qualities, which constitutes real genius, to the touch of God upon a mind which, without His grace and quickening life, would never have risen above obscurity.
But in a degree in which, perhaps, these brethren have not fully understood, the Lord Jesus is willing to possess the understanding and all the faculties and so fill them with His Word and the power of presenting it effectually to others as to constitute a new era in their work for God, as wonderful as the healing of the body or the consecration of the spirit. There is a distinct baptism of the Holy Ghost for the mind as well as for the spirit. The latter gives the qualities of earnestness, faith, love, courage, unction, and heavenly fire; but the former gives soundness of judgment, clearness of expression, pungency of thought, power of utterance, attractiveness of style, and all those qualities which can fit us to be meet vessels for the Master’s use, prepared unto every good work.
A Christian lady recently illustrated this in a simple conversation by telling of a vision which had come to her while praying to God to give her power to understand His Word and teach it to others. She said that there suddenly appeared before her mind, so vividly that it almost seemed real, a naked and empty skull. It almost terrified her at first, and it seemed to hint to her some message of death. But it was immediately followed by the picture of a flaming fire that seemed to enter the empty skull and fill it in every part, and then a thought was whispered to her heart, “This is the answer to your prayer. Your busy brain must become as dead and empty as that skull and then the Holy Ghost will fill it with His glowing fire and His quickened life; bringing His thoughts and feelings, and taking possession of it as His simple instrument and the organ of His working and His will.” This is, perhaps, the most perfect figure by which we can express the thought of this message.
Will we not, beloved, prostate our proud intellects and lay our wisdom low at Jesus’ feet, and, into brains emptied of their self-consciousness and self-sufficiency, receive the baptism of His fire? Will we not with a new sense of His meaning breathe out the prayer:
“Refining fire go through my heart, Illuminate my soul, Scatter thy life through every part, And sanctify the whole”?
2. Hitherto we have spoken only of the understanding and intellect, the thinking, reasoning faculties of the mind, but we have seen that there are other departments. There are the tastes which give direction to our mental faculties, and bias to our choice, and zest to our employments. Take, for example, the love of music. It is not necessary to show how it may be perverted, and is, frequently, for worldliness, selfishness, and sin. It is the very handmaid of vice and the fascination which allures the heedless world from God and all thought of eternity and salvation.
And yet it is a divine gift and may be wholly sanctified and gloriously used. But it must, first, be separated from all earthly alloy and sinful defilement. The voice that sings for God must not be prostituted to the indulgence of worldliness and sensuality. How often the lips that lead the worship of Jehovah in the sanctuary on Sabbath are found ministering to an ungodly or even to the promiscuous crowd of the music hall or the beer garden before the next six days are ended!
One of Germany’s greatest painters refused to use his brush, when offered a fortune by Napoleon, to paint a Venus for the Louvre, because he said he had just painted the face of Jesus and his art might never be desecrated again. And so our tastes must be separated. Well I remember the cloud of condemnation that fell upon my spirit when listening once in my own parlors to the leader of my choir singing the famous “Ave Maria.” I could not imagine what had come over my spirit until I began to think of the words and remember that they were words addressed to a human being which belonged only to Jehovah, and I could find no peace until I kindly but firmly bore witness to my dear brother, and promised God that I would never again listen to such blasphemy without faithful protest.
And yet how often Christians allow their ears to be defiled by listening to unholy strains by their love of music, and their own voices to be prostituted by unholy performances in the concert or even the private drawing-room. Not only must this taste be separated, but it must be dedicated to God and used for His service and glory, and then He will fill it with His own anointing and use it to work most gloriously. What ministry today has been more honored than gospel song? How God has shown in a Bliss, a Sankey, or a Phillips the honor He still will put on this simple taste to draw millions, by the power of the consecrated melody of the gospel.
So the love of art must be separated. How many Christian homes there are whose decorations or adornments do not speak for God, but for pagan licentiousness or godless display. How this quality of taste may be separated in the matter of personal dress or adorning from that which speaks for the world and self rather than the meek and lowly Jesus. We may dedicate these tastes so that they may be witnesses for Christ, so that the walls of our chamber will speak for Him, and our very wardrobe be like the phylacteries of Hebrew garments, written over by the sacred characters which declare the glory of our Lord.
Then our various talents and the qualities that bring us success in the occupations of life may be separated so that we will be strong in every direction, not for self or earthly glory, but for our Master’s service and our highest usefulness. There is nothing that may speak more for God than refinement, good taste and preeminent talents. God wants these things inscribed with “Holiness unto the Lord.” Blessed be His name for many a lovely woman and many a gifted man who have laid all the attractions of their person and their mind on His altar; and may the day be hastened when all that is lovely in the endowments of nature and the gifts of His infinite taste and wisdom will become garlands for His brow and attributes to lay at His feet to whom belong the beauty and the glory, the riches and the honor, the praise and the love of the whole creation!
3. But there still remains the most interesting class of our mental qualities, namely, the emotions and affections of the heart. These, we have seen, belong to the human soul. Above them all is the attribute of love. It is instinctive in some form in every human breast. While there is a divine love which is imparted by the Spirit, yet the soul is endued by the Creator with a strange and exquisite power of loving, and, like the tendrils of a living vine, its chords must reach out in some direction.
But how necessary it is that our love should be separated. How natural it is for the heart, like the vine, to cling to some rotten and ruined wall, from which it must be detached to save it from destruction. Who is there that has reached the high and heavenly place in the consecrated life who does not look back, in the very beginning of his or her progress, to a lonely grave where the heart’s first idols were buried beneath the cross of Jesus, and it died to that which was most dear to every natural instinct and affection? The path of holiness with us all began at Mount Moriah, in the altar of Isaac, and the sacrifice of our heart. And it was on the same glorious mount that the majestic temple still rises above the spot where the heart in consecration first gave its all to God. God loves to build His temples still on the site of the altar of sacrifice. It is not that He takes delight in wrenching our affections, but these objects of love most frequently are draining our heart’s very life and must be severed like the succulent growth of a plant, if it is ever to bring forth fruit. Happy they who, before they unite their hearts to any objects, first learn the mind and will of God, and thus save themselves from a broken heart. It is not necessary that we should be torn from everything we love if we first learn the mind and will of God. This is separation. This also is dedication, to give the mind to God and ever to give Him the supreme place in its affections.
Beloved, are you thus separated? Are you willing thus to separate your heart and your love from all forbidden love, from every unhallowed friendship, from every purely selfish affection, and to let Christ be the Master of your heart and its chief object of affection and delight? Then indeed will He fill that heart and adjust all its chords to harmony and happiness, and into every relationship of life so infuse His own Spirit that we will be enabled to adjust ourselves to all our mingled and manifold situations and relationships, and everyone be a link with Him and a channel of holy service and blessing.
So we might trace through the whole realm of our emotional nature the same great principles, and find that there is not one of our affections and even passions which might not have a holy and sanctified use. Our anger may be so pure that it will be a holy zeal for God. Our emulation may be so free from envy that it will impel us to imitate the noble qualities of others. Our acquisitiveness may be so regulated that it may be lifted above avarice and covet earnestly only the best gifts. Our ambition may be so heavenly that it will be an impulse to others, pressing us forward to the most noble achievements and most enduring rewards, and every throb of joy and sorrow, hope or fear, may be a movement of the heart of Christ along the various chords of our consecrated being, until every voice within us will join the heavenly chorus, singing evermore, “Blessing and glory and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be unto him that sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever.”
The human body has been called the microcosm of the universe, a little world of wonders and a monument of divine wisdom and power, sufficient to convince the most incredulous mind of the existence of the Great Designer. There are enough evidences of supreme skill in the structure of the human hand alone to prove the existence, intelligence and benevolence of God in the face of all the sophistry of infidelity. The records of creation teach the importance and dignity of the human body. When God had made all other parts of the material universe, before He formed the human frame, He called a solemn council of the Trinity, and with the most majestic deliberation He decreed, “Let us make man in our image after our likeness,” and it is added, “The Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.”All the infinite wisdom of the Trinity was concentrated in his creation and the kiss of the Almighty awoke his higher nature into consciousness and life.
The reason why God has so honored the human frame is made very clear in the subsequent revelation of Jesus Christ and the great mystery of the incarnation. It was because the human body was designed to be the ultimate climax of the whole creation and the eternal form of the incarnate God Himself. Always, it would seem, that the Lord Jesus Christ had purposed to become embodied in a human form, and to link the creation with the Creator in His own wonderful Person. Therefore, the human body was designed, in the beginning, as the pattern and type of this sublimest form of being which ever should exist. Have we ever fully realized the stupendous fact that, down to the latest ages of eternity, as often as from the distant worlds of space, another and another new inhabitant will come to the great metropolis of the universe to gaze upon the face of its Lord and to behold the wonderful God to whom all creation owes its existence, and to celebrate His yet more wonderful glory and grace in the redemption of a sinful race of which those ages and realms are forever to hear as the most marvelous story of the eternities, they will gaze as they enter the celestial gates and approach the jasper throne upon the face of a man, upon a form like yours and mine, upon the human frame and countenance of Jesus! Oh! may we not still say, “Lord, what is man that You have set such honor upon him!” Our hearts sink in amazement and adoration at the infinite grace which has so glorified the human body. Will we wonder, therefore, beloved, that God should require it to be made worthy of such a destiny and sanctified wholly unto its high calling! For, seated by the side of that wondrous Man, we, too, will share His glory, and be the objects of the wonder and love of the ages to come.
One of the gravest errors of all the centuries has been to depreciate the body. Today the old form of Gnosticism has been trying to establish the doctrine that matter is not real, that the human body is not real but a fiction, or, as they are pleased to phrase it, “a wrong belief,” and this “wrong belief” is the cause of all our physical troubles. The aim, therefore, of their long ago exploded philosophy is to do away with the body, or, rather, the belief of the body, and to reduce man to a simple combination of mental faculties.
This is wholly contrary to the teachings of Scripture, and, in fact, would seem to be the Antichrist of which the Apostle John declared that it should deny that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh. Another ancient error was that the body was essentially evil and the great source of temptation and sin, so that the true aim of life in the struggle after sanctity was to get rid of the body, or, at least, to reduce it to the lowest possible condition and render it as incapable as possible of injuring the soul and spirit. One of their favorite methods was the mortification of the body through physical penances and privations until it became reduced and emaciated, so as to cease to be the instigator of evil. The ascetic idea grew out of this delusion, the essential principle of monasticism being the denying of the body in order to the higher culture of the spiritual life. A still grosser form of delusion taught that the true way to purify the body was to indulge its grossest passions to the utmost excess, thus wearing them out by their own abuse and making their theory prove its extreme folly in the fact that while professing sanctity it really led to every kind of sin.
The blessed Holy Spirit has taught us a more excellent way, and Christ has made provision for the sanctification of the body as well as the soul and spirit. Let us ask once more what is a sanctified body, and the first answer will be:
I. IT IS A SEPARATED BODY.
It is essential in order to the true sanctification of the body that it be cleansed from all impurity and physical sin. There are bodily transgressions as distinct as those of the soul and spirit.
1.Surely it is not necessary to say that a sanctified body is a body cleansed from gross, sensual indulgences. And yet this is one of the things of which the Apostle most frequently speaks in those epistles which rise to the sublimest heights of spiritual exultation, and speak most freely of our high place in the fellowship of Christ and the life of the Spirit. Those who dwell in heavenly places are not exempt from watching diligently against the sins of the flesh.
Beloved, are your bodies thus separated from all unholy use and all abuse?
2. The sanctified body, we need scarcely add, is a body cleansed from the indulgences of the appetites in every excessive or unnatural form. It is a body that abhors the coarse sin of gluttony and the pampering of its tastes. It is a body that regards the question of eating and drinking, not as a matter for the delectation of the palate, but as a natural and divine provision for its strength and nourishment, that it may glorify God by the use of its powers for Him. It is a body that abstains from the gross and abominable indulgence of the drunkard. And we believe truly, that, in this day, a wholly sanctified body will be kept from even using that which becomes to such multitudes the very poison of hell and the cause of wreck for time and eternity. It is a body that avoids unnatural physical appetites, whether they be the opiate, the cigar or the wine cup. Beloved, are your bodies thus sanctified and separated from all evil?
3. The sanctified body is one whose hands are clean. The stain of dishonesty is not on them, the withering blight of ill-gotten gain has not blistered them, the mark of violence is not found upon them. They have been separated from every occupation that could displease God or injure a fellow-man.
4. A sanctified body is one whose feet are cleansed from every false way and unhallowed step. They go not in the paths of sinners and the promenades of worldliness and folly. They are not found in the great procession that throngs the theaters and keeps time in the dance to the carnival of folly and earthly pleasure. They walk not in the broad road that leads to destruction, but have turned aside from every forbidden way to walk in the footprints of the Lord, to carry His messages and to do His will.
5. A sanctified body is known, as physical health is known, by the appearance of the tongue. Your physician asks to see your tongue when he calls, and there is no surer test of a sanctified body than the condition of its tongue. A sanctified tongue is a true tongue. It is cleansed from every form of falsehood, equivocation, deception, and lying,whether it be the daring perjury of the criminal, or the polite prevarication of fashionablesociety. Along with this it has also abandoned profanity in every form, the oath of the blasphemer or the polite jest that plays and puns on sacred things and makes light of the holy and the divine. It is a tongue that is free from folly and frivolity. It does not shrink from the spirit of genial and innocent humor when it is controlled by sense and kindness, but it has repudiated foolish talking which is not convenient, and seeks, in everything, to speak in the sight of God as the instrument of His thought and will. And, above all other forms of abuse of the tongue, it has put away evil speaking, the abominable gossip of society, the habit of repeating all that one hears, and especially the evil that affects another. It dare not give publicity to an unkind report or an unfavorable whisper respecting another’s character, or even utter that which it knows to be false, unless under the stern necessity of protecting another’s soul from danger, and then only when it has first spoken freely and plainly to the offending one directly. A sanctified tongue is also cleansed from all needless speaking. It has learned the golden habit of stillness and finds its greatest blessing in its own suppression and habit of silence and communion with God.
6. Beloved, has God sanctified your tongue? Are you willing that He should? Will you give to Him the reins of this member, and, henceforth, relinquish to Him the right to hold it in suppression, to keep it from idle, evil, false or foolish speech, and use it wholly as the instrument of His will and service? Solemnly and forcibly has the Apostle James said: “The tongue is a world of iniquity, it sets on fire the whole course of nature and is set on fire by hell.”Almost every chapter in the book of Proverbs flashes with sentencesof fiery warning against this lively member of the human body, whose control the Apostle has said is the real test of perfection and entire sanctification. “For if any man offend not in tongue, the same is a perfect man and able also to bridle the whole body.”
7. The sanctified body has also been cleansed from the sins of the eyes. It has purposed that it will not look on evil nor on vanity. It refuses to see the faults of others or to dwell upon the spectacle of temptation or the fascinations of vice. It declines to read the double-leaded or double-inked lines that flash, through our daily press, the foul deeds of a fallen world before the eyes of the public, and keeps the spirit pure by closing the shutters of vision and keeping out the foul images that pass before the windows of the heart for all that will allow them to attract their attention. It is a great thing to learn to turn away your eyes from beholding vanity and to remember the injunction of the wisest preacher: “Let your eyes look right on and your eyelids straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet and let all your ways be established.”
Beloved, have you sanctified your eyes and separated them from evil unto the Lord, or will you do so from this moment as the light of conviction is passing even now through your soul? Will you not say,
“Take my eyes and let them see Only that which pleases Thee”?
8. A sanctified body has cleansed its sense of hearing and put up the curtains upon its ears against all the sin that assaults our senses from without. It refuses to hear evil as much as to speak it, and puts gossip and slander to flight by looking boldly in its face, and demanding, “How dare you?”
Beloved, are you one of those of whom it is written, “He that shuts his eyes to the seeing of evil, and his ears from the hearing of evil, he will dwell on high; his place of defense will be the munitions of rocks”? Your “eyes will see the King in his beauty, they will behold the land that is very far off.”
9. The sanctified body is one whose dress is free from worldliness and sin, and marked by that modesty and simplicity which neither attracts attention by its being either excessive or defective. The truest dress is that which the ordinary observer is less likely to notice, and so controlled by simplicity and propriety that most persons should fail to remember anything special in the appearance of the wearer, and of which it could be as truly said that the wearer was equally unconscious of her dress. There is much in this that speaks for God or the world. Dear friends, is your dress sanctified to the Lord? Is your person a simple, earnest, modest witness for Christ?
10. The sanctified body is one that has been purified from intemperate work, and immoderate and excessive service of any kind, and also from the needless neglect of the simple laws of nature and of health. While these efforts should not bind us where God’s work or will requires us to go to the extreme of toil and self-sacrifice and self-denial, yet where such denials are needless, they are wrong; and especially is it a physical sin for men and women to violate every principle of prudence in the pursuit of pleasure or selfish gain, and receive the sad retribution in worn-out bodies and premature disease and death, in pursuit of the fancied prize.
11. The sanctified body has been, or at least should be, separated from disease. We do not say that disease is a voluntary sin, but we do say that it is a blemish and a physical impurity. It is a form of corruption in the flesh. Under the ancient dispensation it disqualified priests from ministering at the altar. It was a defilement or blemish, and so still it is a hindrance to the highest spiritual state and to the most effective service for God. No doubt He can overrule it for much good. He can make the invalid’s chamber a beautiful example and testimony. But this does not make the disease the more pleasing to Him nor the less a blemish; an abnormal condition; an impurity in the human system; something from which Christ has come to separate His people; something which He bore upon the cross that we might not bear it, but “by his stripes be healed.”
Beloved, have you been separated from disease, from the malarias and humors that defile your blood, depress your liver, drag down your spirits, cloud your brain, irritate your temper and overshadow all your future life and work, besides holding you back from service for God, and occupying your existence with a morbid self-consciousness and a struggle that is dragging you down when God wants every power engaged in service for a suffering world? Are you willing to be sanctified from disease, and is it valuable enough for you to throw your prejudices away and accept the salvation which Christ has come to bring for spirit, soul and body?
II. A SANCTIFIED BODY IS A DEDICATED BODY.
In the twelfth chapter of Romans the Apostle Paul beseeches us to present our body a living sacrifice, and in a later epistle he speaks to the Corinthians as not their own but bought with a price, therefore expected to glorify God in their bodies which are His. It is impossible for the spirit and soul to be consecrated to God while the body is still held in our own hands, in some measure at least. This is as incongruous as a house presented to a friend while we retain the title deed to the lot on which it stands, or a precious jewel while we retain the key of its casket. The dedication of the body implies the setting apart of our entire physical being, with every organ and member, as the property of God, to be the object of His special care and the instrument of His special will and service. While it may be done in one great comprehensive act, once for all, yet it adds great force and definiteness to it to make it explicit and to recognize every individual member as particularly yielded to His ownership and control. Millions have probably been helped to such a consecration by the eloquent but yet simple hymn of Frances Ridley Havergal:
“Take my life and let it be Consecrated, Lord, to Thee; Take my hands and let them move At the impulse of Thy love.”
We are so prone to generalize things that it is extremely wholesome for us to make our spiritual acts explicit. A consecrated body is one that recognizes itself as the property of God and recognizes Him as the Guardian and Keeper of all its interests and needs. He is responsible to take care of us, and, like little children, we look to Him for all. It is a body which has learned to regard every sense and organ, not as a minister of our own pleasure, but a channel for His life and a weapon for His work. This, indeed, is the word used by the Apostle when he says, “Yield yourself unto God as those who are alive from the dead, and your members as weapons of righteousness unto God.” The hands are presented to Him to work for His glory, whether it be in our secular calling or in our ministry for others. This, of course, implies that our works are consecrated, that our greetings are consecrated, and that even the grasp of our hand speaks for Christ.
It means that our tongues speak only at His bidding and for His glory; that we regard every word as a trust or service, and that our speech is always with grace seasoned with salt and for the edification of others. A consecrated tongue will not speak even the commonest word without waiting upon God for His direction, and looking to Him for His approval. Consecrated ears will be very attentive to all that He would have us hear, as well as dead to all other voices. Consecrated eyes will see a thousand opportunities which others pass by unheeded, a thousand beauties and meanings in things which others miss. Consecrated feet will find the path of duty always easy; the highest stairs, the most lonely walks, the most repulsive journeys, the most self-denying tasks a willing service for their Lord; and the errands on which they run will be doubly effectual because they are the Lord’s feet which carry the Lord’s messages. A consecrated voice will have a new power to sing and speak, which natural tones and cultured elocution or music could never accomplish.
Beloved, are your bodies thus consecrated with all their powers to work and walk and speak, to see and hear, to give of your means and to use your whole external life as a glad and sacred ministry for Christ?
III. A SANCTIFIED BODY IS A BODY FILLED WITH THE HOLY GHOST.
“Do you not know that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost?” So the Master is asking of us all, and there are many who have received Him into their hearts whose flesh has not become His entire abode. None of us yet fully realize to how great an extent our physical frame may become the abode of the Lord Jesus. We have sometimes seen a human face light up with the glory of God in some hour of spiritual elevation, on some mountain top of spiritual experience, or in the light of the borderland, until it seemed as if the body had become transparent and the light of heaven within was shining through the windows of a palace. This may give us some conception of how God can fill even this earthly vessel with Himself. We are told in the New Testament Scriptures the reason is that Christ has become the Head of the human body, and that even in this life “the Lord is for the body and the body for the Lord.” He is, it is true, the source of physical strength and health, but there is something far higher than divine healing, and that is divine health. It is one thing to have the Lord touch us until we are delivered from our infirmities, but it is another thing to have Him possess us with His life, and our life become His life manifest in our mortal flesh.
This is the teaching of the Apostle in the fourth chapter of the Second Corinthians: “We have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us.” The vessel may be very frail, but if the life of Christ possesses us it fills it with strength as well as divine sacredness. This is what he means when he speaks in the verses that follow of being cast down but not destroyed, perplexed but not in despair, always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also might be made manifest in us. This life will carry us above our physical infirmities on the high tide of a supernatural vitality which is not dependent upon our organic conditions, but elevates us above them and becomes a heavenly nourishment to all our conscious life and work, so that we can truly say, “We do not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God,” and that “in him we live and move and have our being.”
This is really a foretaste of the future life. The frail vessel of clay cannot bear it all as the resurrection body will be able, but we can receive and reflect all that we can hold, in this present mortal life, of the very life of our living, immortal Head, the Second Adam who has been made a quickening Spirit.
Beloved, have you received this mystery, this new and glorious secret, which all may receive in a cleansed, consecrated, and receptive vessel? It is waiting, like the light, to come in wherever there is room to receive it. And this blessed filling not only holds and strengthens, but it endues with power for service, and enables our body to become a vehicle of the Spirit and the instrument of the higher nature for the noblest ends.
This great and glorious truth which we have been unfolding is not without a parallel and a parable even in the natural realm. We can often see in the lower world how a piece of clay can be so filled with a higher principle as to be transformed and to be endued with higher properties than its own nature was capable of expressing. Take, for example, that rough mass of iron ore out of the dark mine. It is but a lump of earth; but smelt it, and melt it, and cleanse it from all its dross, and draw it out in malleable form into the supple wire which girds, in millions of miles, the whole circle of the globe today, and then fill it with the electric fire, and lo! the earthen vessel becomes the electric wire and speaks the messages of business and affection to all mankind. What a mighty power a piece of clay has become! So God can take your vessel of earth and cleanse, develop and prepare, and then fill with His holy presence until it will speak to the millions of earth and the ages of eternity of Him and for Him.
Or, look at these two or three chemicals: prepare them, and bring them into chemical adjustments and positions, and then attach suitable wires to form your circle; then let the battery play, and lo! you have the magnificent system of the electric light; and those two little bits of clay suspend between them that most perfect form which science knows today, and which is illuminating our streets, our factories, our buildings, with a radiance which defies the revolving earth, or the changes of day and night, to affect man’s luxury or comfort. So God can take the earthen vessel, and illuminate it with a touch of His glory until it becomes itself the very light of the world.
Or, again, take this little handful of sand and melt it, and cast it into your mold, let it cool, then polish it into a concave lens, and then take it to yonder splendid observatory on Mount Hamilton and put it into the greatest telescope in the world, and then look into the converging lines of heaven which meet in its bosom, and lo! the whole heavens are revealed, the distant worlds of space have stooped down to meet your eye, and that little bit of clay is filled with the vision of immensity. You can see the distant hills of the moon, the rings of Saturn, the nebulous clouds of space, divided up into their innumerable stars and systems; and the whole universe becomes a wonder all through a little bit of clay filled with something higher than itself.
So, beloved, you can be polished and filled until you, too, will shine with the reflected glory of heaven and become a channel for the Spirit of vision and revelation, disclosing the very secrets of the Lord and the wonders of His Word and works. Or, will we take another example in that piece of common charcoal? Will we carry it through all the stages of mineralogy until it becomes crystallized carbon and the rough diamond? Will we then take it and cut down its rough sides and polish it into facets until from a hundred angles it flashes back the rays of light and the glories of color like a little sun or like a rainbow and sun all combined? It is but a bit of clay filled with light.
So, beloved, these bodies of ours, these earthen vessels, may receive a treasure, too, that will so shine from them, when cleansed and completely sanctified, and when all our Master’s discipline has been completed, that will make them like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. For the day is coming when the wondering universe will look upon us in the image of our glorious Lord, and will wonder which most to wonder at, the Heavenly Bridegroom or the Heavenly Bride, which has received all her glory from her more glorious Head, and is all the more wonderful because of her humble origin and because of her dark and sinful past. Oh, let us yield ourselves unto God; let us receive Him into every pore and fiber of our being; let every chord and every member be a channel for His indwelling and inworking, and our whole spirit, soul and body sanctified wholly and presented blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and then will these bodies leap into that higher plane and rise to that nobler destiny of which He has given us now the earnest and the foretaste even in this mortal flesh.
“I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calls you who also will do it.” (1 Thess. 5:23, 24.)
It is one thing for the ship to weigh her anchor and spread her spotless canvas to the breeze, and sail away with pennons flying and hearts and hopes beating high with expectation; it is another thing to meet the howling tempest and the angry sea and to enter the distant port. The first experience many — perhaps most of us — have begun, but what will the outcome be? And what promises have we for the voyage and the haven? How will all this seem tomorrow, and tomorrow, and six months hence, when the practical tests of life will have proved our theories and measured the real living power of our principles of life and action? We have been sanctified wholly: how will we be preserved blameless? Thank God, there is the same provision for both, and to both the closing promise applies: “Faithful is he that calls you who also will do it.” Let us look at God’s provision for His consecrated people and the conditions on which these promises depend.
I. THE PROMISE OF OUR PRESERVATION.
We find it in the Old Testament benediction: “The Lord bless you and keep you”; we find it again and again in the psalms and prophets : “The Lord is your keeper, the Lord will preserve your soul, he will preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth and even forevermore.” Even to poor, vacillating Jacob He swears, “I am with you and will keep you in all places wheresoever you go, for I will not leave you until I have done for you all that I have spoken of to you.” Of His vineyard He declares: “I, the Lord, do keep it. I will water it every moment; lest any hurt it I will keep it night and day.” “He will keep the feet of his saints,” Hannah sings in her song of triumph. And even in our halting, David declares that “the righteous, though he fall will not be utterly cast down, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” For those who abide in closer fellowship, Isaiah declares, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.” This was also the Savior’s prayer before He left the disciples: “Holy Father, keep through your own name those whom You have given me. I pray not that You should take them out of the world but that You should keep them from the evil.”And so Peter declares that we are “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” Paul tells us of the “peace of God that surpasses all understanding that will keep our hearts and minds (as with a garrison) through Jesus Christ.” And Jude dedicates his epistle to those “who are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Christ Jesus,” and closes with a doxology to Him who is “able to keep us from stumbling and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” The great Apostle opens his last epistle with the triumphant confession, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day,” and closes with the yet bolder declaration, “The Lord will deliver me from every evil work and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom.” Such, then, are some of the promises of God’s preserving grace.
II. THE PROVISION MADE FOR OUR PRESERVATION.
1. It is made in the atonement of Christ, “for by one offering,” we are told, “he has perfected forever all them that are sanctified.” The death of Christ has purchased our complete and final salvation if we are wholly yielded to Him and do not wilfully take ourselves out of His hands and renounce His grace and faithfulness.
2. The intercession of Christ. “Therefore,” it is said, “he is able to save to the uttermost” or, as it is in the margin, “forevermore all them that come unto God by him, seeing he forever lives to make intercession for them.” It is because He forever lives to make intercession that they are kept; because He lives we will live also. This is the Apostle’s meaning when he declares that “if, when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by his death, much more, being reconciled, we will be saved by his life.” And so, in the 8th chapter of Romans, he declares: “It is Christ who died, yea, rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God who also makes intercession for us.” And then comes the shout, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?”
3. The blood of Christ secures our preservation. For John declares, “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with the other and the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.” The old ordinance of the red heifer, in the 19th chapter of Numbers, is a beautiful type of Christ’s cleansing power. The ashes were preserved and mixed with water, and used as a water of separation, sprinkled upon the unclean, and separating from defilement which had been contracted after the cleansing. It did not refer to the original cleansing, but to the taint which came from the touch of the dead. And so we, though wholly separated from evil, and dedicated to God, are constantly coming into contact with evil, and incurring defilement from the elements which surround us on every hand, and need constantly, like the washing of the disciples’ feet, or the bathing every morning of the flower-cup in the crystal dewdrop, a fresh application of His blood. If you ask what this blood means, the answer, perhaps, is a double one. First, it is the fresh application of His atoning sacrifice by faith. But more, it is an appropriation of His life to our being, for “the blood is the life.” So the blood of Jesus is His risen and divine life imparted to us by the inbreathing of the Holy Spirit and the absorbing power of a living faith. His pure life filling us and expels all evil, and continually renews and refreshes our entire being, keeping us ever clean and pure, even as the fresh oil in the lamp maintains the flame, or as the running stream washes and keeps the pebble pure which lies at the sandy bottom.
4. The abiding presence of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit are God’s chief sources of preservation for His trusting people. It is He who keeps, and He keeps from within. “I will put my Spirit within you, and will cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye will keep my statutes and do them.” “He that abides in me and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit.” “He that abides in him sins not.” “The Lord is your keeper; he will preserve you from all evil.” There is a fine translation of the familiar passage in the 3rd chapter of 1 John: “He that is born of God sins not, for he that was begotten of God keeps him, and that wicked one touches him not.” The presence of Jesus comes between us and every temptation, and meets the adversary with vigilant discernment, rejection and victory.
III. CONDITIONS ON WHICH GOD’S KEEPING DEPENDS.
There are conditions. All God’s promises are linked with certain attitudes on our part. It is the willing mind and the surrendered heart that are assured of God’s protection and grace. “God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble.” “He that abides in him sins not.” That which is “committed” to Him He is able to keep. The principle of spiritual perseverance has never been better stated than in Samuel’s language to Saul three thousand years ago: “If you will fear the Lord and serve him and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord; then both you, and also the king that reigns over you, will continue following the Lord your God.”
More particularly if we would be preserved blameless:
1. Let us expect to be preserved. If we go out anticipating failure we will have it; or, at least, we will never know certainly but that the next temptation we meet is the one in which we are to fall; and as the chain is never stronger than its weakest link, we will be sure to fall. It is the reputation of an army that secures its victory; it is the quickening assurance that it has never been defeated that carries it irresistibly against the foe.
2. Let us also expect to be tempted. Most persons, after a step of faith, are looking for sunny skies and unruffled seas, and when they meet a storm and tempest they are filled with astonishment and perplexity. But this is just what we must expect to meet if we have received anything of the Lord. The best token of His presence is the adversary’s defiance, and the more real our blessing, the more certainly will it be challenged. It is a good thing to go out looking for the worst, and if it comes we are not surprised; while if our path be smooth and our way be unopposed, it is all the more delightful, because it comes as a glad surprise. But let us entirely understand what we mean by temptation. You, especially, who have stepped out with the assurance that you have died to self and sin, may be greatly amazed to find yourself assailed with a tempest of thoughts and feelings that seem to come wholly from within, and you will be impelled to say, “Why, I thought I was dead, but I seem to be alive.” This, beloved, is the time to remember that temptation has power to penetrate our inmost being with thoughts and feelings that seem to be our own, but are really the instigations of the evil one. “We wrestle with principalities and powers”; that is to say, they entwine themselves around us as wrestlers do about the limbs of their opponents, until they seem to be a part of ourselves. This is the essence of temptation, and we are almost constrained to conclude that the evil is within ourselves, and that we are not cleansed and sanctified as we had believed. Do not wonder if you are assailed with temptation that comes to you in the most subtle forms, the most insinuating feelings, the most plausible insinuations, and apparently through your inmost being and nature.
3. Remember that temptation is not sin unless it be accompanied with the consent of your will. There may seem to be even the inclination, and yet the real choice of your spirit is fixed immovably against it; and God regards it simply as a solicitation, and credits you with an obedience all the more pleasing toHim, because the temptation was so strong. We little know how evil can find access to a pure nature, and seem to incorporate itself with our thoughts and feelings, while at the same time we resist and overcome it, and remain as pure as the sea-fowl that emerges from the water without a single drop remaining upon its burnished wing, or as the harp string, which may be struck by a rude and clumsy hand and gives forth a discordant sound, not from any defect of the harp, but because of the hand that touches it. Let but the master’s hand play upon it and it is a fountain of melody and a chord of exquisite delight. Now, the truth is that these inner thoughts and suggestions of evil do not spring from our own spirit at all if truly sanctified, but are the voices of the tempter, and we must learn to discriminate between his suggestions and our choices, and declare: “I do not accept; I do not consent; I am not responsible; I will not sin; I reckon myself still dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God through Jesus Christ.”
There is a most beautiful incident related in the annals of the early Church, by Mrs. Jamieson, of a holy and exceedingly beautiful maiden in Antioch who became the object of the sinful passion of a heathen nobleman. Unable to win her affection, he employed a magician to throw over her a fatal spell and win her in the toils of his snare. The magician himself became enamored of the fair girl, and sold himself to the devil on condition that he should be given power to captivate her with unholy passion. And so he began to apply all his arts, and throw over her mind the fascinating spell of his own imaginations. Suddenly the poor girl found herself, like a charmed bird, possessed by feelings and apparently by passions to which she had always been a stranger. Her pure heart was horrified by constant visions from which her whole being recoiled, and yet it seemed to her that she must herself be polluted and degraded; and she began to lose all hope and to stand on the verge of a despair which was impelling her to throw herself away in hopeless abandonment to the power which possessed her. In this condition of mind she went to see her bishop, and it is recorded that the good man, with quick discernment, immediately pointed out to her that these influences and feelings were not from her own heart at all, but spells from the will of another, and that their only power consisted in her fears and her recognition of them as her own; and if she would stand firm in her will, refusing in the name of the Lord to acknowledge them as her thoughts, and disdaining either to fear them or for a moment to consent to them, their power would be wholly broken. Unutterably comforted by this wise counsel, she returned to her home and set her face, in the strength of Christ, against these allurements of evil, and immediately she found them broken; and soon after the magician himself became conscious that his power was ended, came to her in deep contrition, confessing his sin, and asking her forgiveness and her prayers, and, it is said, afterwards yielded himself to the Lord, convicted by the triumph of the grace of Christ through a pure and trusting will. This little incident tells the whole story. Let us never reckon any temptation to be our own sin, but stand steadfast in our purpose, and God will give us the victory.
4. Let us therefore continually reckon ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, detach our spirit from every evil thing that touches it, tell the devil that these are his children, not ours, that he lays at our doors, refuse to acknowledge any relationship with them, keep the hatches down when the billows sweep the deck, and sail on not fearing the worst as long as they do not get into the hold of our little vessel; and as we reckon, Christ will reckon, and make the reckoning true for us.
5. But above all our reckonings respecting ourselves let us reckon Christ to be in us and recognize Him as the indwelling Life and Keeper of our spirit, soul and body. It is a great principle that where we recognize God, there God will meet us. Recognize Him in the heavens, He will meet us in the heavens; recognize Him by our side and He will speak to us from beside us; recognize Him in our inmost heart and He will meet us there. Let us meet Him as an abiding presence. Let us trust Him as a faithful Keeper. Let us set the Lord always before us, and say with the Psalmist: “Because he is at my right hand, therefore I will not be moved.”
6. If we desire to be preserved blameless let us abide in the love of Christ. Let us persuade ourselves that He loves us infinitely and perfectly, and that He delights in us continually, and is wholly committed to us to carry us through and fulfil in us all the good pleasure of His will. Let us not think that we must squeeze from Him, by hard constraint and persuasion, the blessings which our faith compels, but that He has set His heart on our highest good, and that He is working out for us, in His loving purpose, all that we can receive of blessing. Relaxing like John, in His bosom, let us each reckon ourselves to be the disciple whom Jesus loved, and, like Enoch, let us claim by faith the testimony that we please God, and looking up with confidence we will find His responsive smile and benediction. The true secret of pleasing God is to trust Him, to believe in His love to us, to be guileless children, and to count ourselves beloved of God.
7. If we desired to be preserved blameless, let us remember that God’s will for us is not a hard and impossible task but a reasonable, practicable and gentle standard, and that He is not continually frowning upon us because we cannot reach some astonishing height, or imitate some prodigy of martyrdom and service, but He expects of us a simple, faithful life in the quiet sphere which He has assigned to us; and that we are truly blameless in His sight when we are following, moment by moment, His perfect will in life’s duties as they meet us. He adapts the standard of duty according to our circumstances and ability. The parent expects less of the lisping child than the teacher does of the older student or the employer does of the full-grown man. God knows our strength and capacity, and His will is adapted to our growth, and His “yoke is easy and his burden light.” Therefore, let us not accuse ourselves because we have not yet reached some ideal that, by and by, we will have attained to. Are we meeting His will today and saying “yes” to His claims as the moments pass? Then, indeed, we are blameless in His sight. At the same time, let us not allow this comfort to allure us to a false extreme. If, on the other hand, God is pressing us forward by His Spirit to higher reaches, let us not be content with less, for we will not be blameless unless we press forward, that we may apprehend all for which we are apprehended of Christ Jesus. With many of us, God is not finding fault for actual disobedience, perhaps, but for shortcoming and a too easy contentment with past attainments. The great question is, Are we obedient to the voice of His Spirit as He calls us onward, step by step?
8. Implicit obedience to every voice of God and every conviction of duty is essential to a blameless life. One moment’s hesitation to obey, one act of wilful disobedience, will plunge us into darkness, and withdraw His conscious presence from the heart, and leave the soul disarmed and exposed to temptation and sin. They that have become wholly sanctified have given up the right of self-will and disobedience forever, and it is not to be thought of even for a moment that we should hesitate to say “yes” to His every voice. True, we may not know His voice at all times, but in such cases He will always give us time. But when we are convicted of His will and convinced of His way for us, there is no alternative but obedience or a fearful fall and a complete loss of the divine communion.
9. If we desired to be preserved blameless we must preserve ceaseless communion with God, and abide in the spirit of prayer and fellowship through the Holy Spirit, for thus alone will we be led out into all the steppings of His will and kept blameless and fully obedient. The interruption of our communion for an hour might lose a step, and that lost step might lead us from the pathway of His perfect will and the fellowship of His presence for days to come, or, at least, leave us a step behind, and therefore not blameless.
10. Further, if we desire to be kept, we must maintain a quiet spirit, free from the turmoil and agitation of anxious care and inward strife, and still enough to always hear His voice. “The peace of God will garrison your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.” This is the soul’s defense if we desired to be preserved blameless; therefore let the peace of God rule in your hearts, and regard with apprehension and alarm even a moment’s interruption of your quietness and inward rest.
11. If we desire to be kept we must jealously guard our hearts and thoughts, and not feel ourselves at liberty to drift into the current of all the imaginations that are ever ready to sweep through the brain, and the idle words in which even Christian people are always ready to involve us. If you are walking closely with God, and watching for His voice you will be quickly conscious of a constraint, a weight upon your mind, a repression upon your heart, a deep tender sense of God’s anxiety for His child — the mother calling her little birdlings to her soft wing from the place of peril. Truly “He that keeps his mouth, keeps his soul.” These outward gates are places of danger, and the path of safety is a hidden one.
12. If we desire to be preserved blameless we must not live by long intervals, but by the breath and by the moment. Each instant must be dedicated and presented to God, a ceaseless sacrifice, and each breath must be poured into His bosom and received back from His being.
13. If we desire to be preserved blameless we must learn to recover instantly from failure by frank confession and prompt faith and re-committal. It is possible to catch ourselves before we have really fallen, and God does not count it a fall if we do not yield to it. Unseen hands are ever near to bear us up. even when we dash our foot against a stone; the remedy is found even before the danger has become effectual. There is provision for every failure in the blessed promise, “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” There is something higher and better than this, namely, the grace that is able to keep us from stumbling, and check us even before the fall is accomplished. So He is willing to keep us even as the apple of the eye, reminded of the danger before it has become fatal, and instinctively closing the eyelids against its intrusion.
14. Finally, let us remember that the whole spirit, soul and body must be trained to abide in Christ. The life He gives us is not a self-contained endowment but a link of dependence, and every part of our being must continually draw its replenishment and nurture from our living Head, and thus be preserved blameless unto the Coming of our Lord JESUS CHRIST.
“As he is, so are we also in this world.” 1 John 4: 17.
The apostle of love gives us a picture of perfect love, and its source in perfect faith and union with the Lord Jesus Christ. For this is the force of the passage: “Herein is our love made perfect, because as he is, so are we in this world.” It is the full realization of our oneness with Jesus that gives us perfect love.
We are sitting at the feet of the greatest teacher of love. We are learning of him who himself leaned on the Master’s breast, and learned all he knew of love from the living touch of His heart.
I. PERFECT LOVE.
It is evident that the love he refers to is our love to God. The phrase, “Perfect love casts out fear,” explains what he means by perfect love. It is a love that has no doubt or dread in it, but leans confidingly on the bosom of the Lord, trusts in the darkest hours with unfaltering confidence, and even in the day of judgment will stand with boldness amid the tumult and the wreck of a dissolving world, and claim its place in the friendship of the Judge who sits upon the throne.
During the French War of 1870, a train was carrying military despatches from Metz to the headquarters of the French army. The Germans had just captured Metz, and were marching rapidly to cut off the French army. It was necessary that the despatches should reach the post within an hour. The distance was sixty or seventy miles. The road was rough; the train consisted of a single coach and locomotive; the speed was like a whirlwind, and the passengers, consisting of the wife and child of the engineer, the bearer of the despatches, and a newspaper correspondent, were hurled hither and thither in the dashing, rushing train, like sailors in a frightful storm.
To say that they were alarmed would be little — they were in imminent and deadly peril. Every moment threatened to pitch the furious train over some embankment or bridge. Rolling from side to side, leaping at times in the air, rushing, roaring on past stations, where everything made way for this whirlwind of desperate speed and energy, the few people inside held their breath in dismay, and often cried out with terror as they dashed along.
But there was one person on that car that knew nothing of their fears. It was the little child of the engineer. Happy as a bird amid all the excitement around her, she laughed aloud in childish glee and merriment as often as the train would give some wild lurch and hurl her over a seat; and, when they looked at her in wonder, and her mother asked her if she was not afraid, she looked up and answered: “Why, my father is at the engine!”
A little later the engineer came through the car to cheer up his trembling wife, and, as he entered with the great drops of sweat rolling down his soot-stained face, the little child leaped into his arms and laid her head upon his bosom, as happy and peaceful as if she was lying on her little cot at home. What a picture of the perfect love that casts out fear! What a lesson for the children of the Heavenly Father!
Look at your little, lisping babe putting its hand in yours and letting you lead it where you will, and learn to trust and love the Father that cannot err, forget nor fail.
This is the remedy for every fear — the fear of man, the fear of yourself, the fear of Satan, the fear of death, the fear of falling, the fear of the future. Only love Him and rest in His love, and you will dwell safely and be quiet from the fear of evil.
And, oh, what a life ours would be if we were fully saved from our fears! How many of our worst troubles are those that never come! God give us the perfect love that casts out fear!
II. THE SECRET OF THIS LOVE.
“Because as he is, so are we also in this world!” This love is the fruit of faith. It is the blossom which grows on the fair tree of trust. Its roots are in the very heart of Jesus. Its life is nourished by His very life and love. It is as we realize what He is to us, and what we are to Him, that we enter into the fulness of His love.
There is no stronger statement anywhere in God’s Word of our intimate and absolute union with the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. It does not mean that some day we will be like Him, but here, and now, as He is, so are we in this world.
1. We are one with Him in His death. His death was our death, “For we thus judge that, if one died for all, then were all dead.” He hung upon the cross in our name, and His dying has as effectually settled all the claims of God’s law against us as if we had been executed for our own crimes and had already passed through all the pains and penalties of hell. How can we help loving such a Friend? What will we fear when He Himself has taken our very sins? It is only as we realize this fully that we will live in the perfect love that casts out all fear.
2. As He is in His resurrection, so are we in this world. For we are not only dead with Him, but we also live with Him. The life we now live is not the same as our past. The saved man is no longer himself. He is dead, and the man who lives in his stead is a new man in Christ Jesus. He can truly say: “I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me.” It is not the same man. Your old sins are regarded as the sins of another. You are even as He. God recognizes not the old man, but the Christ in you, and receives you as He does His own beloved Son. Why then should you be afraid? Only realize your unity with Him, and His perfect love will cast out all fear.
3. As He is in His acceptance by the Father, so are we also in this world. For “He has made us accepted in the Beloved,” or, literally, in the Son of His love. That is to say, we are accepted even as the Son of His love is. We are as dear as the Son of His love is. The word “accepted” means received with complacency and delight — God is pleased with us for Jesus’ sake, even as He is with Christ Himself.
We have heard of a Scottish shepherd, one of whose flock had lost her lamb, while another lamb was motherless. Vainly he tried to make the lambless mother accept the motherless lamb. She would have nothing to do with it, but pushed it rudely from her with cruel and heartbroken anger, because it only reminded her of the one she had lost. At length a sudden device occurred to him. He took the skin of the dead lamb and with it he covered the living one, and then he brought it to the offended mother. Instantly her whole manner changed to the tenderest affection. She welcomed the little one with a mother’s tenderness, caressed it, washed it, fed it from her bosom, and treated it henceforth as if it were the very lamb she had lost. So He has made us accepted in the Beloved, and so He receives us even as His own dear Son.
4. In His ascension glory we are one with Him. For His ascension was not for Himself. He has sat down at the right hand of God, far above all principality and power, and every name that is named, not for Himself, but for us. He is there as our Head, and we are here as His body. He has taken His seat there in our name, and written our name on the place prepared for us.
Just as you have sometimes gone into some great assembly and held not only your own seat, but also the seats which you have reserved for your friends till they should come, so Jesus is sitting for us on high and holding our places until we go. “He is head over all things for his body, the church, which is the fullness of him that filleth all in all.” God always thinks of us as if we were there; so let us think of ourselves and live as in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
5. In His redemption rights. Christ has purchased for us certain rights. To us they are the free gifts of God’s mercy, utterly undeserved by us; and yet to Him they are simply the fulfillment of a covenant whose condition He has met, and whose promises He is entitled to claim to the full.
These rights we share with Him, and, while in one sense, we ourselves have no rights as sinners, but punishment and banishment; yet in union with Him we are entitled to all that He has purchased by His righteousness and blood, and may come to God and claim from His justice and faithfulness all the worth of our Savior’s atonement.
Suppose that one of my friends were to go to a leading business house and order for me a large and valuable bill of goods, and then should send me word that the goods were paid for and that I was requested to go and select to the full amount of the deposit. There would be no modesty in my hesitating to take the very best quality of goods. There would be no kindness to my friend in acting before the clerks of that store as if I were a pauper and receiving a gratuity. My most becoming course would be to act with manly independence and claim the full measure of my friend’s purchase. From him it may be a gift, but from the business house it is a purchase, and fully paid for, and involving on my part every right of simple justice. Exactly so, Christ has purchased for us a complete salvation, and paid for it to the full; and now, in His name, we may come and buy “wine and milk,” the choicest blessings, without money and without price. We buy without money, because He has paid the price; and yet we buy in the sense of making it absolutely our own.
When we fully realize that we do thus fully stand with Christ in all His rights, we enter into the perfect love that casts out fear. No longer do we hold back, like the prodigal in the servant’s place. Prodigals, indeed, we are, but we have become, in our Elder Brother, more than sons. Let us draw near, therefore, in full assurance and with fearless confidence, and dwell in the Father’s house in perfect love.
6. In His Sonship. “I ascend unto my Father and your Father, my God and your God.” Our heavenly sonship is not natural. We are not children of God by virtue of creation, as angels are and Adam was, but through the new birth, in first place, which makes us partakers of the divine nature, and, still more, through our personal union with the Lord Jesus Christ, who so comes into us and dwells in us that we partake of His own relation to the Father, and are the children of God, even as He is. This is especially true after we enter into the deeper life of abiding in Christ, and receive the full baptism of the Holy Ghost.
There are two terms used for children in the New Testament. One, “teknon,” meaning a child; the other, “huios,” meaning a son in the most exclusive sense in which the term can be used. Jesus is never called “teknon,” but always “huios” — never a child of God, but always the Son of God; that is, the only begotten and well-beloved Son.
Now, we are called “tekna,” that is, the children of God, in the Scriptures; but, after a certain point in our experience, the careful student of the original Scriptures will not fail to notice that the higher word for sonship — the word that exclusively belongs to Jesus — is also given to those who have received Jesus to abide in them. United to Him, they have come into His own very place with the Father, and are the sons of God in the very same sense that He is. Wonderful, glorious place! — that as He is, so are we also!
Even as the wife is received in the husband’s home, exactly so we are wedded to Him and inherit His high prerogative.
7. In His Father’s Love. There is one thing which the human heart is unwilling to give away to any other and that is the exclusive love which belongs to us alone, from those that are dear to us. We cannot give it away to any unless they are so close to us that they are even as we ourselves. This is the most wonderful thing about the love of Christ. He has given away to His disciples His Father’s peculiar love to Him. “That the love wherewith You have loved me, may be in them and I in them.”
How can He give to us that sacred love which was His own supreme delight? Only because we are one with Him, so that in giving it to us He is only giving it to Himself in another form. It is like the mother willing to share the love of her husband with her child who is part of her own self.
It is the strongest proof of our identity with Christ. For in no other way could He share with us that which belongs to Himself alone. In the same way we, as His disciples, can be willing that His peculiar love to us should be shared with our brethren, because they are one with us. Well may it give boldness to our love to know that we are as dear to the Father as His beloved Son, so that Christ must perish before we can be plucked out of His hand.
8. In His righteousness and holiness. “For both he that sanctifies and they that are sanctified are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Our sanctification is the very same as His. Therefore, He said in His parting prayer, “For their sakes I sanctify myself that they may be truly sanctified.”
Christ gives us His own holiness, being made unto us of God sanctification and redemption, and as He is so are we also. This should give boldness to our love. He does not expect of us any qualities that He is not willing Himself to impart. He does not chide us for our failures and imperfections, but because we do not receive more of Him.
Let us, therefore, nestle closer to His breast and throw ourselves more fully upon His all-sufficient grace.
9. In His mind. For “we have the mind of Christ.” Humanity is threefold; spirit, soul and body. Christ gives us His soul and life as well as His spirit.
He thinks His thoughts in us and not only reveals to us divine truths, but gives us a divine capacity to understand them. It is not a similar mind but the same mind that was in Jesus that we are exhorted to possess. How it quickens the languid thought, clarifies the obscure conception, enlarges the vision of the soul, kindles the imagination and inspires every lofty and heavenly impulse to enthusiasm, until the soul takes wings and mounts up into the heights that are to others inaccessible and which are full of glory!
There is no direction in which the life of Christ may be more practical and helpful in our work for Him, than in this connection. Happy they who have learned to say with the great apostle, “Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God, who also has made us able ministers of the New Testament, not of the letter which kills, but of the Spirit which gives life.”
10. In His plans and thoughts. The Master has said as the tenderest expression of His love: “I have not called you servants, but I have called you friends.” We are not working as slaves at a task, but as partners in a blessed fellowship in which we share all the plans and thoughts of our Lord respecting His work. We are not required to go in blind obedience and do simply what we are told, but we are entrusted with His resources and guided by His wisdom, in cooperation with Him, working with us, to carry out intelligently His great plans for the redemption of this world. Therefore, He has unfolded to us the mystery of His kingdom and the great purpose of His providence respecting Israel, the Church and His second coming.
We are trusted and confidential friends and fellow-workers, and counted true yoke-fellows with Him in all His cherished thoughts and purposes. Let this inspire us to more loyal service, and fill us with a love that casts out all fear, to know that in all that is dearest to His heart we share His fullest confidence, and as He is so we are in this world.
11. In the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He has given us the very same spirit that dwelt in Him. On the banks of the Jordan He first received the Holy Spirit, and as He was leaving the world He breathed upon them and communicated to them with the sweetness of His own life and love the same Spirit in which He had wrought all His miracles and spoken all His words. And so Peter says in connection with the gift of Pentecost that Christ “having received the promise of the Spirit has shed forth this which ye now see and hear.” Therefore, the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Christ and sometimes even Christ, because He brings to us the presence of Jesus and enables us to realize our oneness with Him.
This is the secret of the love that casts out fear; to be filled with the Spirit of Jesus until we are lost in the consciousness of our union with our beloved Lord. “He gives not the Spirit by measure unto him.” Therefore, if we have Him we have the Spirit that dwelt in Him without measure. Have we? Then, indeed, we are “filled with all the fullness of God and have received exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think according to the power that works in us.”
12. In His physical life. For we are “members of his body, his flesh and his bones” and “the life of Christ is manifested in our mortal flesh.”
This is the secret of divine healing, to be so united with Christ in our body that we will share in these vessels of clay the life and strength of our risen Head.
Even in our physical frame we may be in this world as He is also. This was the secret of Paul’s endurance. He could be buffeted by every blast, exposed to every hardship, yet not crushed by any pressure. Sorrowful yet always rejoicing, cast down but not destroyed, shouting amid all the extremes of life’s vicissitudes. “I can do all things through Christ who is my strength.”
O, how this experience deepens our love as we look back and remember how often He has relieved our physical sufferings! How many aches and infirmities He has healed or hindered and how tenderly He has cherished our mortal frame, even as a mother does the babe she loves! O, how our heart swells with the love that casts out fear! How sweet it is to lean our whole weight on His bosom, knowing that as He is so are we also in this world.
13. In His ministry of prayer. There is no place where Christ more fully identifies Himself with us than at the mercy-seat, where He bids us pray in His name, which just means in His very personality, taking the very same place as He Himself and asking all that He is entitled to claim.
Not only so, but He gives us His own Spirit to pray in us, impresses us with His own desires and wishes, and so enables us to pray that it will be His own very prayer. This is the secret of all true prayer, to pray in the Lord Jesus, asking what He would ask and as He would ask it. To such prayer the promise is absolute. “Whatsoever you will ask the Father in my name I will give it.” “If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you will ask what you will and it will be done unto you.” “Seeing, then, that we have a great High Priest, who is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
14. In our service for Christ. “As my Father hath sent me even so send I you” is His commission. We are sent into the world as directly as the Lord Jesus Himself was. This was not His home, but He came into it to do a special work for the Father and the world, lived in it as a stranger and left it when His work was done.
True service for God is not only to do our work as Christ did it, but to do it in the very life and strength of Christ. This is the meaning of the promise, “He that believes on me, the works that I do will he do also.” That is, he will work in partnership with me, we doing the same works together. This is the same thought as Paul expresses in Ephesians. “We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before prepared that we should walk in them.” Our very works are prepared for us, and inspired in us by the indwelling Christ.
O, how it fills the heart with love and dispels our fear to know that in all our service for Him, He is with us and in us, and as He is so are we also in this world in all our work for Him.
15. In our sufferings. Not only does He suffer with us in all our trials, but we are called to suffer with Him and to “fill us that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ, for His body the church.” How often we keenly feel the condition of others for whom we are called to pray or minister to! It is only the heart of Christ suffering in us for those whom He desires to let us help, by bearing their burdens or holding them up for His blessing. By the sufferings of Christ we do not mean sickness or calamity, but those sufferings which involve the sufferings of others, or sympathy with Him in some place where we can share His burdens. How touching His words to Paul when he was persecuting the saints, “Why do you persecute me?” This was the highest ministry of Jesus — to suffer. This is also the crowning ministry of almost every Christian life.
The last two Beatitudes are wholly about suffering, implying surely not only the climax, but a double climax. The dear Scotch martyr, dying at the stake in the Solway Sands, expressed it finely when looking at the little maiden who was dying near her and struggling with the waves in the last conflict, she said, “What do I see but Christ in one of His members suffering there?” It was not Margaret Wilson but Christ suffering there. And so, beloved, you never suffer alone if you suffer for Him and according to His will.
16. In our faith. Even the power to believe is the working of Christ within us. He is the author and finisher of our faith, and He will enable us to believe even as He. Christ is the great example of faith; He is its inspiration too. How sublime the faith that trusted the Father through the testings of the enemy in the wilderness; that met the power of Satan and sickness through all His earthly ministry with calm reliance upon His Father and victory over all the power of the enemy; that stood at the grave of Lazarus and said, “Father, I know that You hear me always; Lazarus, come forth”; that even upon the cross would say, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit,” and afterwards could claim and promise to His disciples all the glories of His coming kingdom and the blessings of the gospel dispensation!
It is the same Christ who lives in us and inspires us with the faith of the Son of God, for our conflicts, testimonies and victories. He who says to us, “Have the faith of God,” will not fail to impart it if we will receive Him and trust Him, and will enable us so to stand in all the hard places of our Christian life, that as He is, so will we be.
17. In our joy. The life of Christ was one of joy. Even in the darkest trials He often rejoiced in spirit. He had the inner and upper fountains of His Father’s joy and love, and while He knew the depths of pain as no other spirit ever did, yet as is ever the case the pendulum touched both extremes. He also knew the heights of joy with equal intensity.
If we are filled with Christ we will have His joy in us and He has said it will be full. We will not have the hilarity of the world, and men may be unable to understand our happiness; but our deepest spirit will be filled with gladness and able to rejoice in the Lord when there is nothing else to light up the midnight of trouble.
18. In our love we may be even as He. Indeed in no other way can we meet the law of love and the demands and tests of Christian life except by His indwelling and the shedding abroad of His love in our hearts. But this He is willing to do if we are willing to stand in His love wherever He places us, and we will be able to pass triumphantly through every testing, perhaps with keen suffering, but without disobedience or sin and ever say, “Thanks be unto God, who always causes us to triumph in Christ Jesus.” “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”
19. In his glory. “The glory that thou have given me, I have given them that they may be one, even as we are one.”
When Joseph rose from a prison to a throne his greatest joy was to share his glory with his father and his father’s house. Even when we receive a great blessing we long to share it with those we love.
So our precious Lord is not sitting amid the glories of heaven for His own delight as the ages go by. He is busy preparing our mansions and our crowns, and it will be His sublimest joy some day to open to us the vision of all He has been preparing for us during the years that we are suffering for Him below, and sometimes wondering if He had ceased to love us. Oh, how we will fall at His feet in wonder and transport, and almost feel ashamed to take the crown which He will place upon our head!
That will be a happy day for us; but sometimes I think that it will be a happier day for Him, as He finds in our joy the consummation of His.
“It does not yet appear what we will be, but we know that when he appears we will be like him, for we will see him as he is,” and as He is, so will we be also in that world.