« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
the children of the Most High! Idolater' and 'infidel' are the hard words which they hurl at one another. Yet it is not impossible that the Lord who gave His image to the Anglo-Saxon and the Bedouin, to the Caucasian and the Negro, may have given the life of His Spirit to the Catholic and the Pres byterian. The beginning of the divine life is very varied. Different states of feeling and entirely dissimilar emotions may mark the first presence within the soul of the supernatural and heavenly fire, may indicate the commencement of the "good work" which will be carried on by the Spirit of the Father and of the Son until the day of the Lord Jesus. If the beginnings are so varied, the further manifestations of the Spirit of life will surely refuse to follow very definitely any uniform succession. The divine life often begins with a discovery of the soul, with a consciousness of immortality, with the realization of the presence, nearness, nature, and glory of God, or with a crushing sense of sin and alienation of heart from God, or with hunger after righteousness, or with a desire and readiness to see in Christ Jesus our Lord all that the human spirit needs, or with a great willingness and anxiety to do the will of God and be engaged in His service. I am anxious to lead you to some considerations concerning the way taken by the soul of man and the Spirit of God in some of the further stages of the divine life. I wish to shew you that the sense of God may ripen into communion with God, into hoping, delighting,
and resting in the living God.
I think it may
appear that the sense of sin deepens into "death to sin;" that "fellowship with Christ" becomes sympathy with Him in His agony and bloody sweat, and a crucifixion with Him by our living faith; that "hungering after righteousness" may issue in holy living, and that the desire for Christian work may expand into holy zeal, and will respond to every summons to holy work; and finally, that this life, though beset by many hindrances and often paralyzed by personal weaknesses, can never rest nor grow weary, and must be "faithful unto death."
Let it not be supposed that Holy Scripture implies that every soul must make progress in the same department of Christian life in the same order of divine emotions. The danger lest there should be this misconception arising from the general order of our thought, induces me to indicate the deep reasons for these divergencies in the Christian life.
I shall endeavour to shew almost at the outset that the sceptical and speculative tendencies of human thought must and always will be different from the conservative, dogmatic, and believing tendencies, and that each of these will always be present in the Church of Christ as well as beyond its pale. The meditative and the practical souls will severally develop according to their own measure the meditative and practical tendencies awakened and guided by the Holy Ghost. Consecration to God may take the form of quiet rest and patient submission, or it may take the form
of fiery zeal; it may offer words and meditations as holy sacrifice to the Lord, or it may, kindling with angry loyalty, go forth to the help of the Lord against the mighty.
Again, it does not follow because there are numerous developments of the divine life in the soul, that the lower always expand into the higher forms under precisely the same circumstances or order. The deepening sense of God may lead to deepening horror and loathing of sin, or to a profound sympathy with the Lord Jesus. Devoted consecration to Christian work may be quickened by every vision of God, by every longing after righteousness. The purpose of the following meditations is, to help my brethren to find out the working of the Holy Ghost within themselves and others. I hope that many anxious spirits may learn to say, 'God is leading me to Himself by a way that I knew not; these feelings of mine are holy life; these poor labours of mine for brother man are holy life; this waiting and working for God will and must end in the beatific vision, in the eternal service.' I am anxious to urge upon all who humbly believe that theirs is the life of a divine sonship, never to rest in their first emotions, and always to remember that as surely as all other life is making perpetual advances, so must this life of God in the soul. May the Father of all refresh the spirits that are struggling heavenwards, and mature the graces that are pressing towards Himself and striving to resemble Him!
Let me now endeavour to illustrate some grand common features of the life of God in the soul, and contrast them with a kind of life which is the sad and melancholy opposite and alternative of living to and being "alive unto God," and which St. Paul calls "living in sin." There are general features of the divine life fundamental to all forms of it; there are bold terrible signs of the absence of that life, which are conspicuous warnings against undue comprehensiveness. While we are eager to comfort those who are living to God and do not know it, we are anxious at the outset to be free from the charge of calling evil good, or sympathizing with the pantheistic supposition that all life is the life of God.
Two considerations are suggested by my texts, which will form a general introduction to the question which I propose to discuss.
I. The contrasted lives; "Life in sin," and "being alive unto God."
II. The process by which the one mode of life can be transformed into the other; viz. "Dying unto sin.... through Jesus Christ our Lord."
On the present occasion I limit myself to the contrast between the two lives. The contrast is of such a kind that the unspiritual and the worldly man can perceive it, though unable to understand it. The ungodly may say, 'We do not know and do not care whether a man is pardoned or not before the invisible bar of divine judgment, whether he is justified or not in the eye of the divine law, which we
neither appreciate nor understand, but we do know whether a man is honest and upright or not; we do care whether he can bear the scrutiny of his fellows; we claim to be interested in the question, whether he keeps the law of conscience, whether his word can be relied on, whether he acts up to his professed principles, whether he carries out his convictions, whether he does that which, apart from his religion and independently of his profession, we know to be right. The world is unable to judge of the deep feelings which agitate the heart of a professed child of God, but it can recognize purity of motive and uprightness of bearing; it will honour practical holiness, though it may scorn the steps by which it is attained; it will respect and admire the result, though destitute of sympathy with the motive which prompts it.'
While making this admission, it is incumbent upon us to ask, How is it that the world is able to form these judgments, and is justified in setting up its own high principles in opposition to some of the practical developments of the higher principles assumed on the part of Christian professors? Was the civilized world qualified to do this in the days of Cicero or of Pericles? Was the corporate conscience of the world equal to the task before Christianity had leavened society? Was there to be found then, or is there to be found now, where Christianity is not a power, or where it has not been proclaimed, and where its indirect influences have not been felt,