« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH.
* Those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell, think ye they were sinners above all them that dwell in Jerusalem? I tell you nay, but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish' (Luke xiii. 4, 5). Few, perhaps, consider the full import of these words spoken by Christ. Among those whom He addressed there were many who were religious and earnest, who appeared 'righteous indeed unto men,' who, as 'touching the righteousness of the law,' were ' blameless,' who professed the deepest reverence for the Scriptures, and who had a 'zeal for God, though not according to knowledge '; yet all these seemingly righteous men would as certainly perish as the publican and sinner unless they repented; and the warning may equally apply to many now who, like them, think they need no repentance.'
'Repentance'-metanoia—is change of mind ; and the repentance spoken of by Christ was no mere abstention from outward sin, and the performance of outward acts of righteousness, but a complete change of mind and affections, a repentance, indeed, on the part of the more zealous and religious, of the very righteousness in which they had been trusting, as in the case of the Apostle Paul, who, after his conversion, regarded his previous righteousness as worthless.
He that loveth his life,' said Christ, 'shall lose it, but he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal' (John xii. 25). Who among professing Christians of the present day has ever for a moment considered this condition of eternal life? Whosoever he be that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple' (Luke xiv. 33). Who for a moment admits that none can be a Christian indeed, who is not ready, when called upon, to fulfil this condition? 'Blessed are ye that weep now, for ye shall laugh.' 'Woe unto you that laugh now, for ye shall weep' (Luke vi. 21, 25). • Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company.' 'Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you’ (Luke vi. 22, 26).
These, and many similar statements, present to the mind conditions of salvation so far removed from the generally accepted principles of Christianity, that it is not too much to say that they are seldom, if ever, thought of, or referred to.
Will it be pretended, many might ask, that those who truly believe in the forgiveness of sins through the atonement of Christ, attend the ordinances of religion, and lead moral and respectable lives, cannot be saved unless they hate their lives in this world, and, as in the early days of Christianity, must expect to be, as far as this world is concerned, of all men most miserable'? Nevertheless, it is folly for those who profess to believe in Christ to reject or ignore any of His words, and it is necessary to consider the reason for these warnings and statements.
Man, as we have seen, is by nature psychical,' or natural.' His affections and interests are confined to this world, and he can take no interest in anything which does not appeal to his natural desires and affections. Spiritual things are, in consequence, not only foolishness, but distasteful to him; they are so opposed to the whole bent of his mind and inclination that conversation about them is oppressive, and a sense of relief is felt when the topic is changed. For although, like the Jew, he may be religious, and do many acts of righteousness, yet the religion and righteousness of the natural man can only be outward, while the heart is still unchanged. The motive of the religion of multitudes is simply to quiet conscience, and their religion is merely a sort of premium paid to ensure their future safety, in order that they may enjoy the interests of this present life without misgiving. Instead of causing them to set their affections on things above, it is the very means by which they put the thought of the things which are unseenout of their minds; a future life is the last thing to which they look forward, and the Word of God the last book they care to read.
But if he is unchanged, the natural man must perish; and he will perish, not because of the magnitude of the sins he may have committed, but because he is 'alienated from the life of God'-because he is still natural, not having the spirit. "Man that is in honour and understandeth not is like the beasts that perish' (Ps. lxix. 20). Before the natural man can become spiritual, a change must pass over him which is not a change of degree, but of kind—a change of ‘kingdom,' like the change which takes place in the subjects of the mineral kingdom when they pass into the vegetable kingdom, or when the subjects of the vegetable kingdom pass into the animal kingdom. In each change there is a complete death to all that is characteristic of the lower kingdom. So it is in the change from the natural to the spiritual. Man must die to the desires and affections of the flesh, to all the hopes, interests, and ambitions of this world, before he can be fitted for the life of the ages.'
Hence the Apostle says : 'She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth' (1 Tim. v. 6). "They who mind,' or care for, earthly things are enemies of the Cross of Christ, whose end is destruction' (Phil. iii. 19); and this, of necessity, is the characteristic of the natural
4.ange there pass into the 41. the man. They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh,' and they that are in the flesh cannot please God' (Rom. viii. 5, 8). One may care for social success, another for riches or worldly honours, another for religious superiority, while natural affection, and interests lawful in themselves, may absorb others to the exclusion of God and spiritual things. They are not • spiritually minded,' and 'to be carnally minded is death' (Rom. viii. 6).
Therefore the Apostle John writes : ‘Love not the world, neither the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world' (1 John iii. 15, 16).
No man,' says Christ, 'can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other; ye cannot .serve God and mammon' (Matt. vi. 24). “It is easier,' He said, 'for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.' For any worldly interest which absorbs the mind and affections makes it impossible for the person to set his affections on things above. It is to be carnally-minded, which is death; and therefore it is said, “They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts' (Gal. v. 24).
Nor is this all. “In the world,' said Christ to His disciples, 'ye shall have tribulation.' 'If ye were of the world, the world would love its own, but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you’ (John xvi. 33; xv. 19). Throughout the New Testament this hostility of the world to the Christian is continually insisted on as the certain and necessary consequence of true faith in Christ. To be the friend of the world' is to be the enemy of God’; and contrariwise, to be 'not of the world,' to be indifferent to its pleasures, its interests, and the influence of its authority and opinion, but more especially to refuse to bow to its religious errors, is to call forth its hostility. 'Marvel not, my brethren,' writes the Apostle, “if the world hate you'(1 John iii. 13). "Ye shall be hated of all men for My name's sake' (Matt. X. 22); 'yea, all,' says St. Paul, 'who will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution' (2 Tim. iii. 12). There is thus no escape for the true followers of Christ. The change from the natural to the spiritual is a change of kingdom, and in that change not only are the characteristics of the lower kingdom lost or destroyed, but the environment of the lower kingdom is utterly opposed to the subjects of the higher kingdom, and the conditions which favour the life of the plant are not more hostile to the animal, than is the world to the real Christian. ‘Because ye are not of the world, therefore the world hateth you.'
Therefore Christ said : Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple' (Luke xiv. 26). 'Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it, but he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal' (John xii. 24, 25). For it is perfectly manifest that unless a man is thus dead to present interests and hopes, it would be impossible for him to set his affections on things above, to be spirituallyminded, and to live by faith, 'looking at the things which are not seen.'
Therefore the Apostle says that Christ died unto sin'; and that only those who are planted in the likeness of His death' will be raised in the likeness of His resurrection' (Rom. vi. 5). This is a faithful saying,' he writes : 'If we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him; if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us’ (2 Tim. ii.