weep bitterly. Sometimes the voice is like a
thunder-clap startling a summer night. But one
thing we maybe sure of: the task He sets us
to is never measured by our delinquency. The
discipline may seem far less than our desert, or
even to our eye ten times more. But it is not
measured by these ā it is micasured by God's
solicitude for our progress ; measured solely by
God's love; measured solely that the scholar
may be better educated when he arrives at his
Father. The discipline of life is a preparation
for meeting the Father. When we arrive there
to behold His beauty, we must have the educated
eye; and that must be trained here. We must
88 GOING TO THE FATHER
become so pure in heart ā and it needs much
practice ā that we shall see God. That explains
life ā why God puts man in the crucible and
makes him pure by fire.
When we see Him, we must speak to Him.
We have that language to learn. And that is
perhaps why God makes us pray so much. Then
we are to walk with Him in white. Our sancti-
fication is a putting on this white. But there
has to be much disrobing first ; much putting
off of filthy rags. This is why God makes man's
beauty to consume away like the moth. He
takes away the moth's wings, and gives the
angel's, and man goes the quicker and the
lovelier to the Father.
It is quite true, indeed, besides all this, that
sometimes shadow falls more directly from
definite sin. But even then its explanation is
the same. We lose our way, perhaps, on the
way to the Father. The road is rough, and we
choose the way with the flowers beside it, instead
of the path of thorns. Often and often thus,
purposely or carelessly, we lose the way. So
the Lord Jesus has to come and look for us.
And He may have to lead us through desert and
danger, before we regain the road ā before we
are as we zvere ā¢ ā and the voice says to us sadly
once more, "This is the way to the Father."
The other thing which this truth explains is,
why there is so much that is unexplained. After
we have explained all, there is much left. All
GOING TO THE FATHER 89
our knowledge, it is said, is but different degrees
of darkness. But we know why we do not know
wJiy. It is because we are going to our Father.
We are only going: we are not there yet.
Therefore patience. "What I do thou knowest
not now, but thou shalt know. Hereafter, thou
shalt know." Hereafter, because the chief joy
of life is to have something to look forward to.
But, hereafter, for a deeper reason. Knowledge
is only given for action. Knowing only exists
for doing: and already nearly all men know to
do more than they do do. So, till we do all that
we know, God retains the balance till we can
use it. In the larger life of the hereafter, more
shall be given, proportionate to the vaster sphere
and the more ardent energies.
Necessarily, therefore, much of life is still twi-
light. But our perfect refuge is to anticipate a
little, and go in thought to our Father, and, like
children tired out with efforts to put together
the disturbed pieces of a puzzle, wait to take the
fragments to our Father.
And yet, even that fails sometimes. He seems
to hide from us and the way is lost indeed. The
footsteps which went before us up till then cease,
and we are left in the chill, dark night alone. If
we could only see the road, we should know it
went to the Father. But we cannot say we are
going to the Father; we can only say we would
like to go. " Lord," we cry, " we know not whither
Thou goest, and how can we know the way ? "
90 GOING TO THE FATHER
"Whither I go," is the inexpHcable answer, "ye
know not now." Well is it for those who at such
times are near enough to catch the rest: "But
ye shall know hereafter,"
II. Secondly, and in a few words, this sustains
A year or two ago some of the greatest and
choicest minds of this country laboured, in the
pages of one of our magazines, to answer the
question, " Is Life worth living } " It was a
triumph for religion, some thought, that the
keenest intellects of the nineteenth century should
be stirred with themes like this. It was not so ;
it was the surest proof of the utter heathenism of
our age. Is Life worth living ? As well ask. Is
air worth breathing ? The real question is this
ā taking the definition of life here suggested ā
Is it worth while going to the Father .''
Yet we can understand the question. On any
other definition we can understand it. On any
other definition life is very far from being worth
living. Without that, life is worse than an
enigma; it is an inquisition. Life is either a
discipline, or a most horrid cruelty. Man's best
aims here are persistently thwarted, his purest
aspirations degraded, his intellect systematically
insulted, his spirit of inquiry is crushed, his love
mocked, and his hope stultified. There is no
solution whatever to life without this ; there is
nothing to sustain either mind or soul amid its
terrible mystery but this ; there is nothing even
GOING TO THE FATHER 91
to account for mind and soul. And it will always
be a standing miracle that men of powerful in-
tellect who survey life, who feel its pathos and
bitterness, and are shut up all the time by their
beliefs to impenetrable darkness ā I say it will
always be a standing miracle how such men, with
the terrible unsolved problems all around them,
can keep reason from reeling and tottering from
its throne. If life is not a going to the Father, it
is not only not worth living, it is an insult to the
living; and it is one of the strangest mysteries
how men who are large enough in one direction
to ask that question, and too limited in another to
answer it, should voluntarily continue to live at all.
There is nothing to sustain life but this thought.
And it does sustain life. Take even an extreme
case, and you will see how. Take the darkest,
saddest, most pathetic life of the world's history.
That was Jesus Christ's. See what this truth
practically was to Him. It gave Him a life of
absolute composure in a career of most tragic trials.
You have noticed often, and it is inexpressibly
touching, how as His life narrows, and troubles
thicken around Him, He leans more and more
upon this. And when the last days draw near ā
as the memorable chapters in John reveal them
to us ā with what clinging tenderness He alludes
in almost every second sentence to " My Father."
There is a wistful eagerness in these closing words
which is strangely melting ā like one ending a
letter at sea when land is coming into sis^ht.
92 GOING TO THE FATHER
This is the Christian's only stay in life. It
provides rest for his soul, work for his character,
an object, an inconceivably sublime object, for
his ambition. It does not stagger him to be a
stranger here, to feel the world passing away.
The Christian is like the pearl-diver, who is out
of the sunshine for a little, spending his short
day amid rocks and weeds and dangers at the
bottom of the ocean. Does he desire to spend
his life there? No, but his master does. Is his
life there? No, his life is up above. A com-
munication is open to the surface, and the fresh
pure life comes down to him from God. Is he
not wasting time there? He is gathering pearls
for his Master's crown. Will he always stay
there? When the last pearl is gathered, the
" Come up higher " will beckon him away, and
the weights which kept him down will become an
exceeding weight of glory, and he will go, he and
these he brings with him, to his Father.
He feels, to change the metaphor, like a man
in training for a race. It is months off still, but
it is nearer him than to-morrow, nearer than any-
thing else. Great things are always near things.
So he lives in his future. Ask him why this
deliberate abstinence from luxury in eating and
drinking. " He is keeping his life," he says.
Why this self-denial, this separation from worldli-
ness, this change to a quiet life from revelries far
into the night? "He is keeping his life." He
cannot have both the future and the present ; and
GOING TO THE FATHER 93
he knows that every regulated hour, and every
temptation scorned and set aside, is adding a
nobler tissue to his frame and keeping his life for
the prize that is to come.
Trial to the Christian is training for eternity,
and he is perfectly contented ; for he knows that
" he who loveth his life in this world shall lose
it ; but he that hateth his life in this world shall
keep it unto life eternal." He is keeping his life
till he gets to the Father.
in. Lastly, in a word, this completes life.
Life has been defined as a going to the Father.
It is quite clear that there must come a time in
the history of all those who live this life when
they reach the Father. This is the most glorious
moment of life. Angels attend at it. Those on
the other side must hail the completing of another
soul with ineffable rapture. When they are yet a
great way off, the Father runs and falls on their
neck and kisses them.
On this side we call that Death. It means
reaching the Father. It is not departure, it is
arrival ; not sleep, but waking. For life to
those who live like Christ is not a funeral pro-
cession. It is a triumphal march to the Father.
And the entry at the last in God's own chariot
in the last hour of all. No, as we watch a life
which is going to the Father, we cannot think
of night, of gloom, of dusk and sunset. It is
life which is the night, and Death is sunrise.
*' Pray moderately," says an old saint, " for the
94 GOING TO THE FATHER
lives of Christ's people." Pray moderately . We
may want them on our side, he means, but
Christ may need them on His. He has seen
them a great way off, and set His heart upon
them, and asked the Father to make them come
quickly. "I will," He says, "that such an one
should be with Me where I am," So it is better
that they should go to the Father.
These words have a different emphasis to differ-
ent persons. There are three classes to whom
they come home with a peculiar emphasis : ā
1. They speak to those who are staying away
from God. " I do not wonder at what men
suffer," says Ruskin, " I wonder often at what
they lose." My fellow pilgrim, you do not know
what you are losing by not going to the Father.
You live in an appalling mystery. You have
nothing to explain your life nor to sustain it;
no boundary line on the dim horizon to complete
it. When life is done you are going to leap into
the dark. You will cross the dark river and land
on the further shore alone. No one will greet
you. You and the Inhabitant of Eternity will
be strangers. Will you not to-day arise and go
to your Father?
2. They speak, next, to all God's people.
Let lis remember that we are going to the
Father. Even now are we the sons of God.
Oh let us live like it ā more simple, uncomplain-
ing, useful, separate, joyful as those who march
with music, yet sober as those who are to com-
GOING TO THE FATHER 95
pany with Christ. The road is heavy, high road
and low road, but we shall soon be home. God
grant us a sure arrival in our Father's house.
3. And this voice whispers yet one more
message to the mourning. Did Death end all ?
Is it well with the child? It is well. The last
inn by the roadside has been passed ā that is
all, and a voice called to us, " Good-bye ! I go
to my Father."
" They said, He is beside Himself.'''' ā Mark iii. 21.
THE most pathetic life in the history of the
world is the life of the Lord Jesus. Those
who study it find out, every day, a fresh sorrow.
Before He came it was already foretold that He
would be acquainted with grief, but no imagination
had ever conceived the darkness of the reality.
It began with one of the bitterest kinds of sor-
row ā the sorrow of an enforced silence. For
thirty years He saw, but dared not act. The
wTongs He came to redress were there. The
hollowest religion ever known ā a mere piece of
acting ā was being palmed off around Him on
every side as the religion of the living God.
He saw the poor trodden 'Hipon, the sick un-
tended, the widow unavenged. His Father's peo-
ple scattered. His truth misrepresented, and the
whole earth filled with hypocrisy and violence.
He saw this, grew up amongst it, knew how to
cure it. Yet He was dumb, He opened not His
mouth. How He held in His breaking spirit, till
THE ECCENTRICITY OF RELIGION 97
the slow years dragged themselves out, it is im-
possible to comprehend.
Then came the public life, the necessity to
breathe its atmosphere : the temptation, the con-
tradiction of sinners, the insults of the Pharisees,
the attempts on His life, the dulness of His disci-
ples, the Jews' rejection of Him, the apparent fail-
ure of His cause, Gethsemane, Calvary. Yet these
were but the more marked shades in the darkness
which blackened the whole path of the Man of
But we are confronted here with an episode in
His life which is not included in any of these ;
an episode which had a bitterness all its own,
and such as has fallen to the lot of few to know.
It was not the way the world treated Him ; it was
not the Pharisees ; it was not something which
came from His enemies ; it was something His
friends did. When He left the carpenter's shop
and went out into the wider life, His friends were
watching Him. For some time back they had
remarked a certain strangeness in His manner.
He had always been strange among His brothers,
but now this was growing upon Him. He has
said much stranger things of late, made many
strange plans, gone away on curious errands to
strange places. What did it mean? Where was
it to end ? Were the family to be responsible for
all this eccentricity? One sad day it culminated.
It was quite clear to them now. He was not respon-
sible for what He was doing. It was His mind,
98 THE ECCENTRICITY OF RELIGION
alas ! that had become affected. He was beside
Himself. In plain English, He zvas mad!
An awful thing to say when it is true, a more
awful thing when it is not; a more awful thing
still when the accusation comes from those we
love, from those who know us best. It was the
voice of no enemy, it came from His own home.
It was His own mother, perhaps, and His brethren,
who pointed this terrible finger at Him ; apolo-
gising for Him, entreating the people never to
mind Him, He was beside Himself ā He was
There should have been one spot surely upon
God's earth for the Son of Man to lay His head
ā one roof, at least, in Nazareth, with mother's
ministering hand and sister's love for the weary
Worker. But His very home is closed to Him.
He has to endure the furtive glances of eyes
which once loved Him, the household watching
Him and whispering one to another, the cruel
suspicion, the laying hands upon Him, hands
which were once kind to Him, and finally, the
overwhelming announcement of the verdict of
His family, " He is beside Himself." Truly He
came to His own, and His own received Him
What makes it seemly to dig up this harrow-
ing memory to-day, and emphasise a thought
which we cannot but feel lies on the borderland
of blasphemy? Because the significance of that
scene is still intense. It has a peculiar lesson
THE ECCENTRICITY OF RELIGION 99
for us who arc to profess ourselves followers of
Christ ā a lesson in the counting of the cost.
Christ's life, from first to last, was a dramatised
parable ā too short and too significant to allow
even a scene which well might rest in solemn
shadow to pass by unimproved.
I. Observe, from the world's standpoint, the
cJiarge is true. It is useless to denounce this
as a libel, a bitter, blasphemous calumny. It is
not so ā it is true. There was no alternative.
Either He was the Christ, the Son of the living
God, or He was beside Himself A holy life is
always a phenomenon. The world knoweth it
not. It is either supernatural or morbid.
For what is being beside oneself ? What is
madness? It is eccentricity ā ec-centr-icity ā
having a different centre from other people.
Here is a man, for instance, who devotes his
life to collecting objects of antiquarian interest,
old coins perhaps, or old editions of books.
His centre is odd, his life revolves in an orbit
of his own. Therefore, his friends say, he is
Or here is an engine with many moving wheels,
large and small, cogged and plain, but each
revolving upon a central axis, and describing a
perfect circle. But at one side there is one
small wheel which does not turn in a circle.
Its motion is different from all the rest, and the
changing curve it describes is unlike any ordi-
nary line of the mathematician. The engineer
lOO THE ECCENTRICITY OF RELIGION
tells you that this is tJie eccentric, because it has
a peculiar centre.
Now when Jesus Christ came among men He
found them nearly all revolving in one circle.
There was but one centre to human life ā self
Man's chief end was to glorify himself and en-
joy himself for ever. Then, as now, by the all
but unanimous consensus of the people, this
present world was sanctioned as the legitimate
object of all human interest and enterprise.
By the whole gravitation of society, Jesus ā as
a man ā must have been drawn to the very
verge of this vast vortex of self-indulgence,
personal ease and pleasure, which had sucked
in the populations of the world since time be-
gan. But he stepped back. He refused abso-
lutely to be attracted. He put everything out
of His life that had even a temptation in it to
the world's centre. He humbled Himself ā
there is no place in the world's vortex for hum-
bleness. He became of no reputation ā nor for
namelessness. He emptied Himself ā gravitation
cannot act on emptiness. So the prince of this
world came, but found nothing in Him. He
found nothing, because the true centre of that
life was not to be seen. It was with God. The
unseen and the eternal moved Him. He did not
seek His own happiness, but that of others. He
went about doing good. His object in going
about was not gain, but to do good.
Now all this was very eccentric. It was living
THE ECCENTRICITY OF RELIGION loi
on new lines altogether. He did God's will. He
pleased not Himself. His centre was to one
side of self. He was beside Himself. From the
world's view-point it was simply madness.
Think of this idea of His, for instance, of start-
ing out into life with so quixotic an idea as that
of doing good ; the simplicity of the expectation
that the world ever would become good ; this
irrational talk about meat to eat that they knew
not of, about living water; these extraordinary
beatitudes, predicating sources of happiness
which had never been heard of; these paradoxi-
cal utterances of which He was so fond, such as
that the way to find life was to lose it, and to lose
life in this world was to keep it to life eternal.
What could these be but mere hallucination and
dreaming! It was inevitable that men should
laugh and sneer at Him. He was unusual. He
would not go with the multitude. And men
were expected to go with the multitude. What
the multitude thought, said, and did, were the
right things to have thought, said, and done.
And if any one thought, said, or did differently,
his folly be on his own head, he was beside him-
self, he was mad.
II. Every man who lives like Christ produces
the same reaction upon the world. This is an in-
evitable consequence. What men said of Him,
if we are true to Him, they will say of you and
me. The servant is not above his master. If
they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute
I02 THE ECCENTRICITY OF RELIGION
you. A Christian must be different from other
people. Time has not changed the essential dif-
ference between the spirit of the world and the
spirit of Christ. They are radically and eternally
different. And from the world's standpoint still
Christianity is eccentricity. For what, again, is
Christianity? It is the projection into the world
of these lines along which Christ lived. It is
a duplicating in modern life of the spirit, the
method, and the aims of Jesus, a following through
the world the very footprints He left behind.
And if these footprints were at right angles to
the broad beaten track the world went along in
His day, they will be so still. It is useless to say
the distinction has broken down. These two
roads are still at right angles. The day may be,
when the path of righteousness shall be the glo-
rious highway for all the earth. But it is not now.
Christ did not expect it would be so. He made
provision for the very opposite. He prepared
His Church beforehand for the reception it would
get in the world. He gave no hope that it would
be an agreeable one. Light must conflict with
darkness, truth with error. There is no sanc-
tioned place in the world as yet for a life with
God as its goal, and self-denial as its principle.
Meekness must be victimised ; spirituality must
be misunderstood ; true religion must be bur-
lesqued. Holiness must make a strong ferment
and reaction, in family or community, office or
workshop, wherever it is introduced. " Think
THE ECCENTRICITY OF RELIGION 103
not that I am come to send peace on earth, I
came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am
come to set a man at variance against his father,
and the daughter against her mother, and the
daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a
man's foes [He might well say it] shall be they
of his own household."
True religion is no milk-and-water experience.
It is a fire. It is a sword. It is a burning, con-
suming heat, which must radiate upon everything
around. The change to the Christlike Life is so
remarkable that when one really undergoes it, he
cannot find words in common use by which he
can describe its revolutionary character. He has
to recall the very striking phrases of the New Tes-
tament, which once seemed such exaggerations :
" A new man, a new creature; a new heart, a new
birth." His very life has been taken down and
re-crystallised round the new centre. He has
been born again.
The impression his friends receive from him
now is the impression of eccentricity. The change
is bound to strike them, for it is radical, central.
They will call in unworthy motives to account for
the difference ; they will say it is a mere tempo-
rary fit, and will pass away. They will say he
has shown a weakness which they did not expect
from him, and try to banter him out of his novel
views and stricter life. This, in its mildest form,
is the modern equivalent of " He is beside him-
self." And it cannot be helped. It is the legiti-
104 THE ECCENTRICITY OF RELIGION
mate reproach of the Cross. The words are hard,
but not new. Has it not come down that long
hne of whom the world was not worthy? Its
history, alas ! is well known. It fell on the first
Christians in a painful and even vulgar form.
The little Church had just begun to live. The
disciples stood after the great day of Pentecost
contemplating that first triumph of Christ's cause
with unbounded joy. At last an impression had
been made upon the world. The enterprise was
going to succeed, and the whole earth would fill
with God's glory. They little calculated the im-
pression they made on the world was the impres-
sion of their own ridiculousness. " What meaneth
this?" the people asked. "It meant," the dis-
ciples would have said, " that the Holy Ghost,
who was to come in His name, was here, that
God's grace was stirring the hearts of men and
moving them to repent." The people had a dif-
ferent answer. " These men," was the coarse
reply, "are full of new wine." Not mad this
time ā they are intoxicated!
Time passed, and Paul tells us the charge was
laid at his door. He had made that great speech
in the hall of the Caesarean palace before Agrippa
and Festus. He told them of the grace of God
in his conversion, and closed with an eloquent
confession of his Lord. What impression had he
made upon his audience? The impression of a
madman. "As he thus spake for himself, Festus
said with a loud voice, ' Paul ! thou art beside
THE ECCENTRICITY OF RELIGION 105
thyself; much learning hath made thee mad.'"
Poor Paul ! How you feel for him when the cruel
blow was struck. But there was no answer to it.
From their view-point it was perfectly true. And
so it has been with all saints to the present hour.
It matters not if they speak like Paul, the words
of soberness. It matters not if they are men of
burning zeal like Xavier and Whitfield, men of
calm spirit like Tersteegen and a Kempis, men
of learning like Augustine, or of ordinary gifts