Reuen Thomas.

Divine sovereignty, and other sermons online

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leave the soul, if not unstained, yet not separated
from God. The man who has never meant to be
a God-defier and hater, w4io has never meant to
injure his neighbor, must be of a different quality,
whatever his natural infirmities, from the man
who has been both a God-defier and a man-hater.


Those who fear not God, nor regard man, are in a
condition far more hopeless than many whose sins
are more outspoken in their gliaracter. Search
into our Lord's life, notice how He speaks as he
comes into contact with different types of sinners,
how pitiful he is towards one class, how full of
insuppressible indignation in the presence of
others, a holy defiance trembles in His tones — what
is the meaning of this destinction ? In the one
case he meets sin which is almost all infirmity, in
the other case sin, calling itself virtue, whose core
is unrepenting malignity. In the one case he is
the physician to human helplessness, in the other
case he confronts that kino^dom whose darkness
enters into the very spirit of man destroying faith
and hope. In the one case he touches the sin
which belongs to fallen humanity, in the other he
finds men in leaijue with the Evil One, actino; like
children of the devil, and he came to destroy the
works of the devil and to give man his deliverance
from the devil power. I think we are justified in
the inference that death indicates the time of
deliverance from all evils which are not Satanic in
their quality. ' ' Fear not them which kill the body,
and after that have no more that they can do."

The third idea is — that of a more dreadful
enemy than those who kill the body. We are, in
this world, occupied chiefly with evils which
report themselves in the body. Not everyone


recognizes that there may be evils more dire and
dreadful than these, whose seat is the soul, deliv-
erance from which w^ould not come with rescue
from the conditions which bind us while we are in
this material bod}^ There is a Personal Power,
says our Lord, which prompts the murderers of the
body to do their dire work. That is the dreadful en-
emy ; you cannot regard that enemy with too much
dread and horror. It is a power which delights
in condemnation and destruction. Its sphere of
operation is not confined to this world. It has
access here through the worst men and women
who are in the world. They are the gateway
through which it enters. I know how we all
shrink from lookins: into this re«:ion. It is a dark
and doleful realm. We seem helpless when called
upon to fight an enemy who works in the dark.
Even murder has its degrees and assassination is
the meanest form of murder. An enemy who
gives you no chance of flight or defence is the
lowest specimen of an enemy. Now, when social
reformers plead with men to forsake their vices,
they almost invariably point to results which are
of the earth, earthy. They say to the chronic
drunkard, look at the social disgrace which you
bring upon yourself, the desolateness of your
home, the poverty of your children, disease lurk-
ing in your blood, and so on. All these are
material results and possibly, in most cases, they


are the only results which can be talked about.
But there are subtler and worse results than
these. Supposing the poverty and beggary should
be avoided and the coarser material results
should not press themselves upon the attention, is
there nothing else in the home deplorable, nothing
else in man still more deplorable ? Think of a
woman of natural nobleness of soul, with delicate
refinement of taste, and educated mind, whose
chief pleasures would be in the mental and affec-
tional regions, bound hand and foot to a man who
is a chronic drunkard, and then conceive, if you
can, of the unspoken misery of such a state. It
is not the misery of wanting bread, or the misery
of *' looped and windowed raggedness," but a far
deeper misery than that. Then think again of the
meanness of soul which comes to the man himself,
of the loss of all nobleness and all real refinement
and consideration for others ; these, the moral and
spiritual results, are far worse than the material.
We begin to touch that region which our Lord
opens to us when the soul becomes the prey of a
malignant power from which it cannot rescue
itself. Not that this is by any means the only or
chief gateway through which that malignant power
gets access to the soul ; I quote it only to show
that there are worse evils than the material to
which social reformers point.

These I have named are the dire facts of life ;


there is no fancy here ; no invention ; no specula-
tion ; we are face to face with facts, enemies who
kill the body, men of the slaughter-house, but
after that have no more that they can do ; and
revealed to us more fully by Jesus the Christ
than it was ever revealed before, a power whose
aim is to destroy both body and soul, a malignant
power, the whole of wliose nature and history we
shall never know in this world. But notice now,
I beg of you, what follows ; notice what is the
next word which falls from our Lord's lips. He
anticipates the dismay which will come to human
hearts as he utters these words about the men
who kill the body and the more malignant power
which aims to destroy the soul. He sees the
hopeless look. He hears the groan of the
sympathetic heart. He notes the question shaping
itself into form. Alas, what is a man to do in
such a world and in presence of such powers of
evil ? And so, immediately, with a haste that seems
like an abrupt transition from one subject to
another. He asks, *' Are not five sparrows sold for
two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten in
the sight of God. But the very hairs of your
head are all numbered. Fear not, ye are of more
value than many sparrows." He meets all the
fear and apprehension of the soul in presence
of these appalling facts by a declaration of the
minuteness and universality of the Divine Provi-


dence. Where is the protection from this malig-
nant power of evil ?

Utter, absolute trust in God — that is the refuge
from the evil and destroying spirit. In the
presence of great destructive forces you feel your
own insignificance. But you are not more insig-
nificant than the birds, are you? God cares for
them. You cannot deliver yourself from these
destructive powers, but God can deliver you from
them. That is the connection between one thought
and the other. The Providence of God is so
deep, so broad, that it can allow to men and
devils a freedom which seems appalling, and yet
it can put up insurmountable barriers beyond
which these evil powers cannot go. That is our
Lord's teaching. And it is teaching that every
mind needs, specially minds that are imagina-
tive, brooding, thoughtful, contemplative, otherwise
these minds will relapse into darkness, into
unbelief, into godlessness. Poor Cowper (the
poet) mused and mused and mused till he went
mad, but he recovered himself and wrote ; — .

God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;
He plants liis footsteps in tlie deep

And rides upon the storm.

Blind Unbelief is sure to err,

And scan his work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,

And He will make it plain.


I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven
you for His name's sake. — i John, ii: 12.

THIS language of St. John is somewhat hazy.
A kind of mist hangs around it as around a
landscape when the all but imperceptible golden
veil of an Indian summer is thrown over it. Some
land is naturally so rich that it throws up its veil
of modest mist and then when the Sun permeates
it, everywhere is a whisper of color, but it is color
which reveals not conceals, like the color on tlie
peach which reveals that it is luscious to the very
centre. And so the mind of St. John throws off
its own enriching atmosphere, simply because it is
itself so rich and mellow through its easy permea-
bleness. The human love of Jesus found a restinof
place in this disciple's heart, and in that fact is the
secret of the sweet mysticism of the Apostle.
Each heart throws off its own atmosphere, as each
flower its own perfume. In the company of St.
Paul men would feel able to do and to dare. In



that of St. John they would feel the deep need of
fellowship, of being in loving sympathy with each
other and with God. Inspiration did not change
each of these men into the other, it used that
which Avas best in each individual and thus brought
all into sympathetic fellowship with the Christ
of God.

Living in the joy and light of the Divine Father-
hood, the Apostle John had come to regard all dis-
ciples of Jesus as children ; and as the beauty of a
child is in its childhood, its littleness, its uuassert-
iveness, its dependableness, the Apostle seems to
have a delight in speaking of the disciples of Jesus
as little children, remembering doubtless the little
child that Jesus took and set in the midst of those
disciples who were wrangling about greatness and
place and position. These three terms which he
uses — fathers, young men, little children — are not
picked up at random, but chosen de/iberately and
with design — '* fathers " for knowledge ; " young
men " for strength ; *' little children " because of
their complete dependableness. We must bear
this in mind or we shall perhaps be somewhat
inclined to find fault with the Apostle when he
associates the idea of sinfulness with little children.
Their small naughtinesses do not seem of sufficient
gravity to be called sins. And yet, inherited
sinfulness of disposition is at the root of most
of them. But if we look carefully at the form of


this passage it suggests to our minds not a lament
over sins, but a congratulation on the fact of sins
forgiven. * ' I write unto you because your sins are
forgiven you for His name's sake." The idea in
the passage which attracts us is the association of
sin with forgiveness, and specially the association
of forgiveness w^ith Jesus Christ.

In this week on which we have entered and
which is regarded by the sacerdotal churches as
specially a holy week, it does not seem to me that
there is anything to prevent the Evangelical
Churches from approaching Easter day by the
gateway of that sacrifice of Himself which our
Lord made. Indeed, there seems to be a kind of
incongruity about celebrating the Resurrection
unless we first of all dwell upon some of the facts
and thoughts which made the Resurrection the
great triumphant centre of all life. As we intend,
on Sabbath next, to turn our thoughts to the
Resurrection of our Lord, would it not be as
appropriate for us, as for those who belong to the
sacerdotal churches, to make this week a time for
meditation on the sacrificial work of our Lord and
its relation to our deliverance from sin and its
consequences ?

He made a sacrifice of Himself, and so, in some
real and true sense. His life and death must have
been sacrificial. He sacrificed Himself in order
that we might have our human life preserved to


US, and so in some real and true sense His life and
death must have been substitutionary. And as
His death had relation to the forgiveness of our
sins, in some real and true sense, it must have been
expiatory. These three elements, the expiatory,
the substitutionary, the sacrificial must have
entered into what our Lord was and did. Often-
times, I know, these facts are stated in a very
crude and inadequate way. But that is the fault
of the statement not of the fact. There is a deep
philosophy in the fact. When a citizen dons the
garb of a soldier, and goes out to fight for his
country, if he dies, he dies that some one else may
not die, he sacrifices himself that some one else
may live. He does not fight his own private
battle. He is a representative. And so Jesus
Christ was our representative, and sacrificed Him-
self for us. Not that this illustration covers the
ground. It only helps us to make a little pro-
gress towards the place where we can see farther
into this death of Jesus. But all our explanations
leave much unexplained, for we cannot look into
the deeps of sin or the deeps of life, or what is
necessary in order to God being just and the justi-
fier of Him who believes in Jesus.

I think however, that there is much of instruc-
tion, and no little of comfort for us if only we will
try to see things as the Apostle John sees them.

He acknowledges the dark fact of sin, the


bright fact of forgiveness, and the brightest of all
facts — that forgiveness is based on the relation
which Jesus Christ has established between
Himself and us.

Believino: that we do not make enouo^h of this
brightest of all bright facts, that forgiveness is
based on the relation which Jesus the Christ has
established between Himself and us, I would ask
you specially to fix your attention on this.

Not that I mean to suggest that we make too
much of the dark fiict of sin. On the contrary
we talk about it too much and think about it too
little. If we had any deep apprehension of what
sin is, we could never jest about it as we do so
often. We should feel it to be the radical defect
in our nature, so radical that nothing that we
could do ourselves, if left to ourselves, could pre-
vent its being fatal. That shallow theology which
says *'If only a man repent of his sin it is all
right " would not find much favor from us. The
sin of man is so radical that if left alone he never
will repent of it ; for he will never see sin as sin.
He will see it only as defect, — defect excusable
on the ground that to err is human. In old times
leprosy was the disease which stood for sin, for
the reason that it was an incurable disease.
Christ touched the leper to show men that what
was incurable with man was curable with God.
There was a world of suo^ojestion in that touch of


Christ. There is no possibility of man curing his
own sin by his own repentance. Repentance is
an effect not a cause. It is the effect of the Spirit
of God entering a human spirit and starting a new
life in it.

I do not mean to offer any words that are
saturated with reproachfulness, but in our most
thoughtful moments I think we must, some of us,
be surprised at the pitiful poverty of much which
passes for thinking on some of these vital themes.
One is weary of hearing of secular education as a
cure for the radical sinfulness of man's nature.
I am sure that an eloquent w^riter of our day is
right on this — that if the influence of the outpoured
life of Christ were withdrawn from our world,
sins would not only increase incalculably in number,
but the tyranny of sin would be fearfully aug-
mented, and it would spread among a greater
number of people. Falsehood would become so
universal as almost to dissolve society ; and the
homes of domestic life would be turned into the
wards, either of a prison or a mad-house. We
can not be in the company of an atrocious criminal
without some feeling of uneasiness and fear.
We should not like to be left alone with him, even
if his chains are not unfastened. Withdraw the
outpoured life of Christ from the world and why
should not such men be the majority ? Some one
says. Educate, Educate ; Education (of the mind


only apart from education of the heart)
multiplies and magnifies our powers of sinning.
Tliat refinement adds a fresh malignity. Under
the power of the education of the intellect only
you but sharpen the claws of the lion and whet
the fangs of the tiger. Under the power of
secular education only men may become more and
more diabolically and unmixedly bad, until at
last earth would be a hell on this side of the grave.
There would doubtless be new kinds of sin and
worse kinds. Education would provide the
novelty, and refinement would carry it into the
region of the unnatural. All highly refined and
luxurious developments of heathenism have fear-
fully illustrated this truth. A wild barbarian is
like a beast. His savage passions are violent but
intermittent, and his necessities of sin do not
appear to grow. Their circle is limited. But a
highly-educated sinner, without the restraints of
religion, is like a demon. His sins are less confined
to himself. They require others to be offered in
sacrifice to them.

If only we had read more carefully our histories,
the history of Greece, refined linguistically and in
regard to Art beyond anything accomplished
since ; the history of Rome with its legal education,
its military discipline, its aesthetic training in
oratory and the art of poetry, so that even now
Horace and Virgil stand all but peerless in their

FOR ni8 NAME'S SAKE. 201

ranks, we should not too much exalt education so
far as it means the sharpening of the intellect. Or,
if we went to the Orient, is the Buddhist slu uned-
ucated man? The subtlest-thoughted people in
the world are in the Orient. If you doubt it, ask
Emerson. He knew. And yet these educations
produced a wide-spread despair. And what does
that mean ? Despair, it means always and every-
where, ''rage, madness, violence, tumult, blood-
shed." Verily we are saved by hope. But how
to get the hope. Hope does not come to men
who need it, simply by telling them it is a good
thing and brings brightness into the soul. Flowers
are good things and bring brightness into our
gardens, but they never come except you can pour
sunlight, and not frosty sunlight either, into the
beds in which the seeds lie slumbering. Christ-
ians ouo^ht to have reached an order of intellif^ence
which would restrain them from giving their
endorsement to that kind of thinkins: which seems
to have something in it because it is so well-
dressed. All the classics and mathematics in the
world cannot touch the root of the evil which
curses man. It is a new disposition, a new heart
which man needs, and the outpoured life of God
in Christ is necessary to produce that ; as neces-
sary to produce it as the outpoured radiance of
the Sun is necessary to produce the fruits of the
earth by which our physical nature is sustained.


Has not God given us in nature parables illustra-
tive of the great facts of spiritual life ? At times
God seems to be at a great distance from us, at so
great a distance that we can live our life without
taking Him and what He can do for us into the
account. We even think that it is problematical
whether He have any touch upon us or not. We
seem to live from earth-born forces and within
earth-born conditions. Ought not such musings
to be seen in their true nature when we think that
we are really dependent upon light and heat
generated ninety millions of miles from us, for
every violet gathered by a child's hand in the early
spring-time, for every blushmg rose in June, even
for every common potato which comes to our
table. If it were not for that great furnace ninety
millions of miles off, our globe would be an icicle
glittering in the semi-darkened depths of space, a
dimly visible gem on the sable bosom of night.
There is nothing which lives on the life generated
within itself. Man cut off from the outpoured
radiance of the Divine Nature would be as the
earth cut off from the Sun. The man who curses
God, the man whose profanity declares the innate
vulgarity of his mind, is obliged to inhale from
God's reservoir of life the very breath with which
to curse his Maker. In God's Universe the dis-
tant and the near are in fellowship, and so, too, in
God's spiritual realm, the Redemptive forces which


often seem far off, are not really so. *'I am with
you alway, even to the end of the world," was no
mere figure of speech. As the sunlight enters
into every flower that blooms and every fruit that
ripens, so Christ's life enters into every soul
that breathes the prayer, *' God be merciful to me
a sinner." Therefore it is that the Apostle John
goes far deeper than to connect the forgiveness of
sin with repentance for sin, he connects it with
the relationship we sustain to Christ and the rela-
tionship He sustains to us. And if only you will
think of it, there is much more of consolation in
this fact than in anything we can say about repent-
ance. There is always room for doubt as to the
reality and sincerity of our repentance. There is
always room to doubt its genuineness, its suffi-
ciency, its quality. Will such repentance as I can
give ever satisfy the Divine Holiness ? If it will
not, what is the good of it? What use to torment
myself about it ? If I cannot be sure of anything
I offer being the genuine and right thing, what
comfort can I get out of anything I do? The
human mind is sure to reason in this way. If a
man builds his house on the sands and there is
nothing beneath but sand, he will tremble when
the tempest-driven tide thunders in. All our
experiences, all our feelings, all our ideas of
ourselves are poor, sandy foundations on which
to build hopes for Eternity. So long as a man is



playing with religion, almost anj^thing that sounds
religious will do for him ; but once let real
thoughtfulness sieze him, once let him look into
the depths of his own nature and see **what in-
credible possibilities of wickedness we have in our
souls," tJien nothing but the real thing will do.
Henceforth his repentances, his experiences, his
feelings, anything and everything belonging to
him are regarded as poor foundations on which to
build hopes. He asks — is there no reason out-
side myself why God should forgive my sins ? All
these changeful inner experiences are treacherous
as a quicksand. I want something that is not
treacherous, something that remains, something
that man cannot tal^e away from me, something he
has not given me. It is this state of mind to
which the Apostle John appeals when he says, *'I
write unto you little children because your sins
are forgiven you for His name's sake." I do not
for a single moment assume that I have the vision
to look into the profundities of the Divine and
Human natures so as to see to the depths of this
theme. Some one asks — why is it necessary
that Jesus the Christ of God should put Himself
into the relations towards us wliicli have been
established, in order that the Everlasting Father
may forgive sins? Why cannot He say to the
sorrowing man "I forgive you," and have done
with it? Well, it seems to me there are reasons


in His own nature ; there are reasons in man's
nature ; there are reasons in the Divine Govern-

There are reasoiis in His own nature. When
God undertakes to forgive sin He pledges Himself
to rescue the forgiven man from his sin. In a
word, He undertakes to regenerate his nature, to
renew it so that he shall eventually live the unsin-
ning life. And in order to that, Jesus Christ
and His work are necessary.

There are reasons in the nature of man. To
forgive a sinner and leave him to the helplessness
which has come from his sin is only Aa//* forgive-
ness. Man needs to be brought into such an
understanding of God and into such a love of
God that he will hate to sin against Him. In
order to that, Christ Jesus and His sacrifice of
Himself are necessary. Mere words w ill not do.
There must be some Divine Act which will stand
unapproachable, and incapable of being paralleled.
Jesus the Christ has supplied that act.

There are reasons too in the Divine Government,
but we have not time tx) state thetn beyond saying
that it must be made universally evident that there is
no righteous reason for rebellion against God on
the part of any. This we may be sure of — that in
its most serious moments, wdien thouo^ht sursfes
"within like a sea lashed with tempest, the heart of
man must have from God something more than


mere words to still the storm. On Galilee's lake
there is a boat's crew battling with tempest. They
can do nothing with the winds and waves. The
gusty howl of the wind, the frothy fury of the
waves, blanch their cheeks and still their tongues.
But, walking on the wave, One comes with a
quietude which is itself sublime, and there is a
OTeat calm. Not for nothin^^ was that scene «:iven
US. The tumult that rages within this human life
of ours seems endless. Nothing abates it. Every
age has its controversies. Every life has its

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Online LibraryReuen ThomasDivine sovereignty, and other sermons → online text (page 11 of 16)