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LIBRARY

OF THE

University of California.

THE FAMILY OF REV. DR. GEORGE MOOAR

Class











DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY



AND OTHEB SERMONS,



BY
REUEN THOMAS,

MINISTER OF HARVARD CHURCH, BROOKLINE.

Author of^^Mmmanuel Church^^ etc.




BOSTON:
D. LOTHROP & COMPANY,

Franklin and Hawley Sts.

i^ondon: james clarke & co., fleet st.






COPYRIGHT. 1885, BY

D. LOTHROP & COMPANY.



PREFACE.



I have been many times asked, by friends in
England and America, to publish a volume of
Sermons, but have hitherto refrained because I
was not conscious of anything specially new in my
way of presenting Biblical truth ; and because my
method of sermonizing, being a mixture of the
prepared and extemporaneous, is of all methods
least fitted to do itself credit in print.

These sermons that I now offer to my friends
and the public have not been re-written for publi-
cation, but are given, as nearly as possible, as
spoken from the pulpit. The first six were
a brief course to inquirers ; intended to be sug-
gestive and expository, not at all controversial.
The other sermons are ordinary Sunday morning

discourses. R. T.

ill



CONTENTS.



I. — Divine Sovereignty ... 7

II. — Man's Sinfulness and Inability . 20

III. — Atonement and Expiation . . 35

iy._The Divine Helper ... 49

v.— The Witnessing Church . . 62

VI.— Eetribution 74

VII.— Means and Ends . . . 88

VIII.— <« Worship God" . . . 102

IX.— The Child and His Dues . . 118

X.— A More Excellent Way . . 136

XI. — The Pre-eminence of Christ . 148

XII. — Our Eelationships . / . 163

XIII.— The Limitations of Evil . . 179

XIV.— For His Name's Sake . . 194

XV.— Searchings of Heart . . .210



vi CONTENTS.

XVI.— The Divine Kesponsibility . 223

XYII.— Predestination . . . .235

XYIII.— Self-Improvement . . .250

XIX.— Weariness in Well-Doing . . 264

XX.— The Divine Invisibility . . 279




I.

DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY.



And Jesus came unto them and spake unto them, saying, All
authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go
ye therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them
in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost :
teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you;
and lo, I am with you alway even unto the end of the world. —
Matt., xxviii: i8.

THE words * ' Divine Sovereignty " have often-
times been so used as to create a prejudice
against them. Man's own ideas of Sovereignty-
have been imported into them. I am aware that
in using them I may put myself at a disadvantage
in obtaining, with some, ready receptivity for the
ideas which I propose to ask you to consider.
Persuaded as I am that many of these ideas have
not been correctly apprehended or adequately ap-
preciated, — persuaded also that there is in them
truth so important that if we let it slip, we shall
suffer in increased mental imbecility and moral
feebleness, it seems to me to be my duty to speak
to those of you whose minds are open to the

7



8 DIVINE SO VEREI0NT7.

truth which Jesus the Christ has brought within
our grasp, on these essential things — not theo-
logically or dogmatically but exegetically and
ethically.

The Christian Church, through its Apostles,
received originally a commission from its Founder.

The record runs thus : — * ' The eleven disciples
went into Galilee unto the mountain where Jesus
had appointed them. And Jesus came unto them
and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath
been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go
ye therefore and make disciples of all the nations,
baptising them in the name of the Father and of
the Son and of the Holy Ghost : teaching them to
observe all things whatsoever I commanded you ;
and lo, I am with you alway even unto the end of
the world."

This is a sweeping statement. It speaks of
authority — of authority as deposited in a person.
It suggests that that person has in himself the
substance of the Divine nature — otherwise the
formula to be used in baptism is unintelligible.
His apostles were to go forth to make disciples of
all the nations. They were to administer dis-
ciples' baptism. They w^ere to put the nayne,
which implies the ownership of God, on those
who were baptised. They were to declare, thus,
that they belonged to God. They were to declare
that the nations belonged to God. In a word



DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY. 9

they were to announce and maintain the Divine
Sovereignty over nations. That Divine Sover-
eignty for this world is deposited in Jesus the
Clirist.

This is the truth that underlies all else in the
commission given to the disciples. " Therefore^
because all authority hath been given unto me in
heaven and on earth, go and make disciples of
all the nations.

We must not limit the authority and think of it
as confined to the church or to Christians alone,
and to them only so far as they are members of
organized Christian societies — and only to their
acts as members of such societies. There is no
such limitation in the words of our Lord. ''AH"
cannot mean less than "all. " The moment we
begin to limit revealed truths by man's opinions
that moment we begin the process of belittling
everything which Jesus has spoken. That moment
we begin the exaltation of man over Christ — that
moment we enter on a course the exact opposite
of the one suggested by John the Baptist : ' ' He
must increase but I must decrease." We are not
"of the truth "when we set up the opinions of
men as of more worth than the explicit teachings
of Christ.

Authority — all authority — all Sovereignty over
man is vested in Christ.

We can see reasons why it should be. On the



10 DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY.

ground of knowledge; He knows more of the nature
of Deity — more of the nature of man — and more
of the nature of things than any other who has
ever been on this earth knows.

On the ground of goodness; He has submitted
himself to all the tests to which the nature of man
can be subjected and has triumphed in all. Tried
and tempted by every form of evil, he remains the
sinless one — spotlessly good.

But goodness is not simply abstinence from
acts of sin or feelings that are sinful. It is not
merely negative. It is positive. This Jesus
Christ has done everything possible to be done by
any human, or as far as we can see, by any divine
being for the sake of helping others. He has
loved the Eternal Father with all his heart and his
neighbor as himself.

That is all I feel called upon to assert, at this
present stage, on the nature of the goodness of
Christ. On the grounds of knowledge and good-
ness, in a word on the ground of the superiority
and excellency of his nature, he is Sovereign.
It is according to all that we know or imagine of
the Divine Nature that Sovereignty should be
deposited in him who is greatest and best.

In the superiority and excellency of the nature
of Christ we may see a practically sufficient rea-
son why the Divine Government of mankind
should be administered through Jesus Christ,



DIVINE SOYEREIGNTT. 11

It is not to be wondered at that in the ultmate
ordering of the Divine 'Government sujperioritios
should be invested with authority.

In this age we are compelled to search for the
ground of things. We must dig down to that
which is fundamental. There is too much law-
lessness in society to allow of serious men putting
one set of opinions against another and in angry
faction fights contending that one set of opinions
is right because it is old, and another set wrong
because there is the flush of youth about them.
As a general principle we may assume that
whatever has stood the test of age has essential
truth in it. The seemingly new must expect to be
regarded with suspicion until its worth has been
tested. Whoever accepts an opinion simply
because it is new and for no other reason stamps
himself as frivolous. But oftentimes it happens
that that which seems to be new is the oldest of
all. A new machine is often the bringing of prin-
ciples which are as old as the Universe into more
effective operation. Nothing really new is intro-
duced. The old is brought into a neater
useableness. When the lightning shall have been
domesticated and made to light the girl who has
to sew into the weary hours of night, nothing new
will have been brought into the world. It will
only be a more perfect understanding of the old.
Everything new in all departments when proved



12 DIVINE SO VEREIGNTT.

practical and useful is simply more perfect under-
standing of the old. Let us put away all fear
of knowledge. Ignorance is the thing to be
feared — ignorance of God — ignorance of our-
selves — ignorance of the world in which we live.
That the ignorant people of the country should
practically rule it — being the multitude, and
having votes to cast for those who represent
themselves, this is the danger. And it is
much more of a danger than any of us see. It
was ignorance which crucified Jesus the Christ ;
*' Father, forgive them, for they know not what
they do."

The Church of Christ must beware of nar-
rowing its mission to the world within any limits
more contracted than those assigned to it in
its original commission. We have to proclaim the
Sovereignty of God in an age when so many
are proclaiming the sovereignty of man — i. e.
the sovereignty of the multitude — let that
multitude be composed of whomsoever it may.
It is true, as one has said, that the idea of
modern democracy has become predominant under
the influence of the preaching of the truths which,
in their best expression, are in the New Testament.
" Heathenism had no such notion of man as man ;
it had no glimmer of the preciousness of a soul ; it
had no likeness to this, introduced and diffused in
the western world, which revealed that it is not



DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY. 13

for the high, nor for the philosophical, not for the
wealthy, not for emperors or nobles or patricians
of Rome, but that it is for man as man, for each
soul of man that God has sent His Son to shed his
blood, and sent his Spirit for renewal and restora-
tion to himself as to a Father's bosom." But
you have to choose between the Democracies — a
Christianized democracy or a demonized democra-
cy. In all its history the Church of Christ has
never been in the position in which it finds itself
to-day, here, on this continent. And I am afraid
we do not see the peculiarity of the position and
therefore the duty of the hour. I fear that we
ourselves are only half awake to our responsibilities
in regard to organized society. Have we any
definite idea of the Kingship of Christ in reference
to society? Has not this very idea of the real
Sovereignty over man, as man, being deposited in
Christ, a feeling of unreality about it ? Do we see
that if it be a truth it is the most practical of all
truths? When a man takes «Tesus as Christ
he takes him as his Sovereign — not simply as his
Prophet, his Teacher — not simply as his Priest —
but also as his King. He has to take him for all
he is, or he can never rise to the full stature of a
man in Christ Jesus.

The questions of most urgent practical impor-
tance in our day are such as relate not to freedom
but to Government, to Sovereignty, to Authority,



14 DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY.

to Law and Order. There are some countries in
which the duty of the hour would be to speak of
Freedom, its nature and its necessity. There is
no such duty laid upon us in this century so
far as this country is concerned. In order to
have right ideas of freedom we must first of
all have right ideas of Sovereignty. If we un-
derstand the prophetic element in the New Tes-
tament Scriptures rightly, the development of
the spirit of lawlessness is to be one of the signs
of the latter days of the present dispensation of
things. I am fully aware that the efiect of preach-
ing the fulness of the Divine nature — that in
which the gospel consists — that God is love —
will be in some minds, to produce laxity. And
yet for the sake of those who have a right to all
that is revealed of the Divine Nature we must not
withold any truth. What we need to see is that
Love works through law and not independently of
it. God is light as well as love. The word light
suggests holiness. It suggests purity. It sug-
gests intelligence. It suggests wisdom. All the
beneficences of the Universe depend upon law.
Destroy law and what then? Then chaos and
destruction. Love is seen to demand for its sphere
of operation law and order. These are the ideas
we need to have impressed upon our minds in
this age.

What is the foundation of human law? Is there



DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY, 15

such a thing as authority ? What is it ? On what
does it rest ? In what is it rooted ? What is the
ground of it ? We must ask these questions and
we must find answers to them. Without debating
the matter I venture the affirmation that there is
no answer to be found outside religious truth.
An irreligious man may say, ' It is necessary.
It is expedient.' But why ? ' We cannot make our
fortunes — we cannot possess our comfortable and
luxurious homes — we cannot sleep well at nights
— w^e cannot pursue our pleasures quietly, with-
out law and order.' But supposing the great
multitude should be instructed enough in our
public schools, just enough, to lose all that natural
fear of superiorities which belongs to superstition
and ignorance ; supposing they should listen to
the men who represent lawlessness — the men
who have nothing to lose even if society becomes
a chaos — what would they care about these
material things on which we place so much value ?
Considerations of necessity and expediency would
go for nothing. If there be no Divine Sovereignty
— in itself righteous — with the right to rule,
with the right of authority, then all these lower
sovereignities are usurpations. Everything that
man has is derived. From what source is the
authority which is invested, for instance, in the
President of the United ^States; in the Gov-
ernor of this state ; in the Judges of the supreme



16 DIVINE SOVEBEIONTT.

court ; in Judges everywhere — derived ? Has it
any right to be ? The Christian man, if he is as
intelligent as Christianity is capable of making
him, has his answer ready. And it is all-suflScient.
It is this — ' There is a Divine Order in this
Universe. The Creator must be the Sovereign
by right and in fact. We have nothing which is
not derived. Not a faculty, not a power but is
derived. We are not independent. All round
and all through we are dependent. We are born
into an established order of things ; an element
in it; a part of it. We do not stand alone —
cannot stand alone. We are related all round.'
There are no facts less open to question than these
— that we are related to certain institutions — the
family and the nation — yea, the Kingdom of
Christ, for it existed as revealed in the family
and nation into which we were born. We are
thus related to organisms which God has made.
We are thus related to Him. We are under the
Divine Sovereignty. There can be no doubt of it.
Our accepting it or rejecting it does not alter the
fact. We are in the midst of a system of laws
which God has established. We cannot get from
under them. They are in us. We are organized
in accord with them. Thus the Sovereignty of
God comes into our very nature and makes it
what it is. These dependencies and these rela-
tionships put upon us duties and responsibilities.



THE DIVINE SO VEUEIGNTY. 17

Herein comes our freedom — we may intelligently
and voluntarily work with God (to the measure
to which He has revealed Himself) in the family,
in the church, in the nation, or we may igno-
rantly and wilfully (all we can) work against Him.
In the one case we are subjects, in the other
rebels. In the one case we rise into the condi-
tion and feeling and apprehension of children in
a household, and are as free and happy as chil-
dren at home ; in the other case rebellion grad-
ually but surely hardens down into that wilfulness
which becomes, in the process of time, total
alienation moving steadily toward demonism. The
facts of life compel us to see that irreligion
never stops at mere inhumanity. Its final form is
demonism.

Now, the irreligious man has no answer to the
question — on what rests the authority which is
vested in the parent in regard to his child ; in the
Governor in regard to the State ; in the Judge as
regards the administration of law ? When I say
that he has no answer, I mean that he has no answer
which is not like a house built on the sand.

If an eternal foundation for a temporal institu-
tion cannot be found it cannot stand ; it must go.
All permanent necessary institutions have their
ultimate authority in the right of the Creator
to govern — in a word, in Divine Sovereignty.
Democracy may be so regarded as to become the



18 DIVINE 80VEBEIONTT.

hugest idolatry which has ever been set up in the
world — the idolatry of the will of man. The
Christian can have nothing to do with it under
that aspect. God's ultimate purpose in reference
to nations is declared to us in that nation of Israel.
That ultimate purpose is not democracy but
theocracy — not the rule of the many over the few,
but the rule of God over all. And if the Church
of Christ fails of seeing this, and of teaching it,
and of illustrating it in its own life — it so far fails
of comprehending the greatness of the commission
entrusted to it, and the basis truth on which that
commission rests. All rightful authority over
man is deposited in Jesus the Christ. He is the
sole Sovereign. To submit to his Sovereignty is to
be in right relations with God, and so, essentially,
to be free from guilt. To refuse to acknowledge
that Sovereignty is to be out of rightful relations
towards God, and so, to be now and as long as the
refusal continues, guilty in God's sight. And
while the Creator has revealed himself as '* long-
suffering, plenteous in goodness and truth — not
willing that any should perish but that all should
come to repentance, " yet has he also said that
*' he will by no means clear the guilty. '' Let us
try to appreciate something of the magnitude of
this most practical and most necessary revelation —
'* All authority hath been given tome in heaven
and on earth, go ye therefore and make disciples



DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY. 19

of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of
the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ;
teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I
commanded you ; and lo, I am with you alway
even unto the end of the world."



11.

MAN'S SINFULNESS AND INABILITY.



All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. — Romans,
iii: 23. ^

IN speaking on liie theme of Man's Sinfulness and
consequent Inability I am not under the neces-
sit}^ of occupying your time in any elaborate at-
tempt at proving either the one or the other. It is
universally admitted that there is something defec-
tive, inharmonious and wrong in man's nature. The
best and the worst of men admit this much. Any
man who argued to the contrary would be regarded
as lacking in intelligence as well as in moral sense,
as odd and singular, as a man whose views and
opinions of things were so peculiar as to cause him
to be regarded with something of suspicion. In
every one of us there is a something good which
perceives a something bad and wrong. There is
also something in every man which whispers of
an ideal state. There is in all a kind of reminis-
cence of a lost condition. This reminiscence has
never, I think, been more exquisitely phrased,

20



MAN'S SINFULNESS AND INABILITY. 31

than in the poet's Wordsworth's * ' Intimations of
Immortality from Recollections of Early Child-
hood." The poet can account for the inward con-
dition which he finds in himself and in other men
only by the suggestion that we have had a prior
existence, traces of which still remain with us :

*• Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;

The soul that rises witli us, our life's star.
Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And Cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home."

In order to account for what we find in our-
selves we need not accept the extreme explanation
of the poet. It suffices if we think of our nature
as having had, originally controlling it, a supreme
love which has been largely but by no means
entirely lost, which is now only a reminiscence.
The idea of the lost condition hides itself in the
soul but can never ''except in the worst of the
worst " be entirely killed out. That in us which
accuses us when we do wrong and commends us
when we do right cannot be fallen and sinful.
That must be righteous and holy. And so there
is in us all a viceroy asserting Kingship in the
name of the true Sovereign of our souls. Job
recognized it. David recognized it. Call it Con-
science, call it what you will, it is there as a fact.



22 MAN'S SINFULNESS AND INABILITY.

And I am dealing, in the simplest possible way,
with facts of consciousness.

But there is in us not only this sense of righteous-
ness — of a lost ideal state but much else. In every
man there is a sense of incongruity — of dividedness
of nature — of disharmony. We are not at
one with ourselves. The Apostle Paul puts
the case thus — **The flesh lusteth against the
spirit and the spirit against the flesh, and these are
contrary the one to the other." There is a
depravity, a degeneration in our nature. And as
the several parts of our nature are so intimately
associated that if one part sufiers all the other
parts sufier with it, so the depraved condition is
not moral alone or intellectual alone, or physical
alone. All departments are weakened from their
original strength, and corrupted from their original
purity. The intellect, the aff*ection, the will, are
not in that condition which is seen to be possible.
As a matter of fact we look upon one another as
beings not entirely trustworthy. Every man puts
every other man upon trial, and does not entirely
trust him until he has had considerable experience
of him. If man be not a depraved creature, why
this universal suspicion? Surely no one would
choose to live in a perpetual state of distrust, for it
is an exceedingly uncomfortable state. And yet,
the men and women who are naturally at the
farthest remove from this suspiciousness of dis-



MAN'S SINFULNESS AND INABILITY. 23

position, are compelled by the experience they have
of life to exercise no little of caution. Without
parading the acknowledged vices of society before
your gaze, there is enough of evidence among the
most decent and well-behaved people of the world
to testify that we have in us the conviction that all
men everywhere are in a depraved condition.
And yet they are not so depraved as not to know
that they are depraved.

It is often argued that we are here in a state of
probation. But man as man has had his probation
and has fallen. It would seem that innocence
apart from experience cannot stand. The repre-
sentation of the case in the Book of Genesis is that
Adam's ' ' tree of knowledge of good and evil "
tested his obedience. Our Tree of Life — Jesus
Christ — tests our obedience. Only w^ith a differ-
ence. The first man of whom we read, knowing
only good, w^anted to know what evil was. We,
having in ourselves the knowledge of good and
evil, are put upon trial, whether we will adhere
persistently to that which is good — not simply
good in the abstract — good only as an idea —
but good in the concrete — good personalized in
Christ Jesus. Nothing appeals to our whole nature
until it becomes personalized.

Taking these simple facts, which are undeniable,
— what does this condition mean ? Is there any ex-
planation of it ? There is suggested the explana-



24 MAN'S SINFULNESS AND INABILITY.

tion of incompleteness. Our nature, say some, is
moving on gradually towards unity, harmony, per-
fection. Give it time and it will come out accordins:
to the highest idea that the best and most intelli-
gent man has of it. Theoretically this looks plausi-
ble. And if we could ^shut ourselves away from
ourselves, and from all the facts of society, the
idea of simple imperfection might seem large
enough to cover the case. The apple is green
and tart, but leave it alone for a month or two, and
it will be pleasant to the eye for its color, and
sweet to the taste. Unhappily, except under


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Online LibraryReuen ThomasDivine sovereignty, and other sermons → online text (page 1 of 16)