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Therefore Christ said, “None can come unto Me,' except it were given him of the Father. For, as before observed, only few give heed to Christ's warnings. For the teaching of the religious world, the authority and influence of which is so paramount with most people, tends, as it were, to drown the voice of Christ, and to turn men from Him to ways which seem to be right to a man,' but which lead unto death. Hence the importance of Christ's exhortation to earnestly seek for the true way of life, and his warning, ‘For many, I say unto you, shall seek to enter in and shall not be able' (Luke xiii. 24).
In fact, it is evident that if many professing Christians who had done many wonderful works in His name shall come unto Christ in the last day, to whom He will say, 'I never knew you. Depart from me ye that work iniquity' (Matt. vii. 22); and if few only discover the true way of life, there can be no greater mistake than for anyone to assume himself to be a Christian, born again by the word of truth without having sought the truth as for hid treasures, or come to Christ for life. Yet it will be observed this is just what multitudes do, anda they think that if only they believe in the forgiveness of sin, and end their prayers with the words through Jesus Christ,' His intercession will be secured, and their prayers will be answered. But it is clear that if they are ignorant of, or reject His warnings, they cannot be born again by the word of truth, or have the Spirit of Christ, and 'if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His' (Rom. viii. 9). How, then, can they expect His intercession ? 'I pray not,' He said, “for the world' (John xvii. 9). If they have never come to Christ for life, there can be no real relation between them and Christ, and if so, it must be concluded that He will say to them at the last, “I never knew you. Christ is the door of the sheepfold, and those who assume themselves on other grounds to be Christians without having come to Christ for life, are those whom He describes as climbing up some other way' (John x. 1).
No man,' He said, 'cometh unto the Father but by Me,' for not only can no man even know the true God except through Christ, but Christ, as vice-regent of the Father, has now all power in heaven and in earth (Matt. xxviii. 18). He declares that He alone has the keys of hell and of death,' that He 'shuts and no man opens, and opens and no man shuts’ (Rev. i. 18; ii. 7). For He by whom all things were made, rules now over all things, all being put under His feet until all enemies are destroyed (1 Cor. xv. 25, 27). Therefore none can be saved who do not come to Christ for life.
Now, anyone who recognises this, and believes the warnings of Christ, and the danger of being deceived, will not assume himself to be a Christian without having become one, but will seek of Christ alone, and from His words, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, and continue to do so, not once, but always. To do this is clearly what Christ described as * abiding' in Him, and His words “abiding' in the believer. It is to draw life from Christ, as the branch draws life from the vine.
Thus it was with the first disciples. They came to Christ and listened to His teaching, and kept His words in their hearts; they sought His help, His guidance, His consolation, in every time of need, both during the days of His flesh and after His ascension. They are therefore characterized as those who called upon the name of Jesus Christ' (1 Cor. i. 2). He had told them, 'Lo, I am with you alway, unto the end of the world' (Matt. xxviii. 20). He it was who stood by them and strengthened them, who guided them by His spirit and His word, whose strength was made perfect in their weakness, who was with them when they passed through the fires of persecution and the waters of death. Thus there was the most intimate relation between them and Him. He was their personal Friend, their Brother, as well as their God, and infinitely more to them than their closest human relation; their portion' in this life, their 'exceeding great reward' hereafter.
It is equally manifest that those who, instead of assuming that they have this relationship, seek to attain it; who, casting aside all other sources of life, and all human guidance, come to Christ and trust in Him alone for life and guidance; who, in sole dependence on that guidance, seek to discover the true way of life; who seek for the truth as for a hid treasure; who listen to Christ's words and keep them in their heart, rejecting all interpretations which weaken or turn aside their force;these must certainly receive that life, and establish a relationship between themselves and Him which He will never repudiate.
This, then, is the nature of that life which is eternal, which, springing from the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever, can never perish; which, changing the whole bent of the mind and affections, causes a man to pass from death unto life, from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, from the natural to the spiritual kingdom-a change which that of the grub to the butterfiy faintly shadows forth, and which causes those in whom it has taken place to pass into a new sphere and state of existence; from the confused din and tumult of the great city,' into the hush and calm of a mighty temple not made with hands, and they cease to be any longer of the world’ (John xvii. 16).
It is as if one of the higher animals, whose sole desires had hitherto been limited to the passing satisfaction of the requirements of the body, was to find itself a man, with all a man's power of thought and imagination, and possessed of joys, hopes, and aspirations, the faintest conception of which had never before entered its consciousness, thenceforth recognising that between it and its former companions a great gulf' had intervened.
THE LIFE OF THE WORLD.'
CHRIst came not only to redeem those who should believe on Him during the present period of the world's trial, but He gave Himself for the life of the world' itself (John vi. 51). “Behold,' said the Baptist, the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world' (John i. 29). This, however, does not imply that the fate of those who have died in their sins can be altered, but that the human race of the future will eventually be redeemed from all iniquity. Had it been possible to have redeemed those who have perished, it would doubtless have been done. But by an inexorable necessity the redemption of the race had to be gradual, the gradual result of moral agencies, the effect of which was limited by the moral imperfection of man himself. Therefore, when Christ said, 'I if I be lifted up will draw all men unto Me,' He clearly does not mean that the whole world would be instantaneously converted by His death, which would have been in direct opposition to other of His statements, but that this would be the ultimate effect of His death. When this is the case, then will “the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations' be 'destroyed' (Isa. xxv. 7); or, in other words, the spiritual blindness of man will be taken away, and the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea' (Isa. xi. 9).
But this cannot be until the real nature of sin and of righteousness has been fully manifested and recognised. If the world at present cannot receive the spirit of truth; if multitudes reject it altogether; if even a large number of those who profess to believe it, and have every opportunity of knowing it, yet pursue and esteem that outward righteousness which only strengthens the self-confidence which is the root of sin and the cause of independence of God; if still larger numbers regard idolatry and superstition in the same way, and if there are few in whom the love of idolatry, which is depending on and honouring the creature rather than the Creator, is not, in one form or other, more or less present; if, on the other hand, as will be pointed out hereafter, the righteousness of faith, which is the righteousness of God, and the only true righteousness, is an offence to every natural man—then, as long as this is the case, the hearts of men must remain unchanged, selfishness and its consequent misery must reign triumphant, and the sin of the world cannot cease. Nor can that sin be taken away until it has been manifested, in all its manifold forms, as evil. If even innocent beings are defenceless against sin while ignorant of its true nature, much more must those who have made sin their good, be under its dominion, until all its terrible evil has been fully manifested.
It is this principle, as already pointed out, which seems to be the principle of God's moral education of both the individual and the race, and when all have fully recognised sin as evil, and righteousness as good, then the knowledge* will be a preservative against the
* It may be as well to observe here, that while the knowledge of the nature and good of righteousness, and of the nature and evil of sin, are necessary for redemption, they do not constitute the whole of the Truth, and that the power to follow righteousness and resist sin, even unto death, does not spring from mere prudential self-interest, but from a far deeper spiritual principle, which will be considered hereafter.