Reuen Thomas.

Divine sovereignty, and other sermons online

. (page 12 of 16)
Online LibraryReuen ThomasDivine sovereignty, and other sermons → online text (page 12 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

storms. The moan of the sorrowful and the
distressed, the whine of the restless and dissat-
isfied, the demoniac howl of the bad, are all heard
— heard by every generation. Only the miracu-
lously frivolous and the supernaturally stoical do
not hear them. Mere words will not allay our fears
or excite our hopes. We need a man who is more
than man to come and walk on these waves and say
to us, *' Tliat which is impossible with man is pos-
sible with God." And so Jesus comes. He comes
to us to be one of us. He comes and steps into
the boat. He says, *' If you perish I will perish
with you." He comes to put Himself at our head.
He comes and takes on Himself the responsibility
for our being born with sinful tendencies. He
says — Let the sin do its worst on me, I will be
the guilty one, by identifying myself with the
guilty. If sin has any rights let it take them out

FOR ins NAME'S SAKE. 207

of me. If it has a right to kill, let it kill me.
Then^ I will bring all the forces of my Immortal
Being into operation to rescue men from it. As
David stood for all Israel in presence of Goliath, I
will stand for all humanity. Single-handed I will
fight its battles. The Goliath of Sin shall fliU
before me. And then I will demand forgiveness
of sin for all who are willing to take it at my
hands. And so it is. As was said to Paul in the
ship, * God hath given thee all who sail with thee,'
so to Jesus Christ it can be said, God hath given
thee all for whom thou didst die. Hence, "He is
the Savior of all men, specially of those who be-
lieve." Hence St. John's congratulatory words,
*'I write unto you, little children, because your
sins are forgiven you," inasmuch as ye have re-
pented enough ? No, no. Inasmuch as ye have
had correct spiritual experiences ? No, no. Inas-
much as ye are strictly orthodox in all points of
theology? No, no. Inasmuch as thera is a strong
probability that you will be found worthy to
receive the Divine endorsement at the last? No,
no — *'I write unto you, my little children, because
your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake.'^
I am glad St. John wrote these words rather
than any of the other Apostles, because he it was
who stood it out beneath the Cross and saw what
sin could do. He saw it erect that Cross. He
heard its vulgar reproach, its mockery, its words


of scorn, and though his heart must have been
nigh to breaking, he endured it. Brave, good,
gentle soul, the King of his heart was there, on
that Cross, crowned with thorns it is true, wnth
thorns which ''the unsuspecting earth had grown
for its Creator. They had grown up into matted
bushes, and the sun of autumn had hardened their
soft spikes into tough barbs. Perhaps the honey
bees had come to these flowers to extract sweet-
ness, and the restless butterflies had been attracted
for a moment by their aromatic fragrance, or the
birds had rifled their golden berries with their
beaks," but when the sun, that had hardened their
soft spikes into tough barbs, saw that to such uses
they were put, the very sun hid his face in
despair, and there was darkness over all the land
from the sixth to the ninth hour. Crowned with
thorns, but yet the King of all human hearts, as
John felt. Glad am I that it was John, the disci-
ple whom Jesus loved, the disciple whose love
never failed, even when his faith received the
rudest shock ; the disciple who saw what sin could
do, wdio wrote these words, "your sins are for-
given you, for His name's sake."

And so we are delivered from the harassing
questions as to the sincerity, the genuineness, the
sufficiency of our repentance. Repentance has its
place, not an obscure one, in Christian experience.
But, I repeat, it is an effect not a cause. If only


we can read these words with that understanding
of them which comes from the possession of a
Christianized heart, they will be far more satis-
factory to us than any other; ''Your sins are
forgiven you for His name's sake." The first
moment after death is a moment which must infal-
libly come to every one of us. Earth lies behind
us silently wheeling its obedient way through the
black-tented space. Will it make no difference
then, as the measureless Eternity stretches before
us, and the thought of a life which will seem a
failure lies behind, that these words have been
sent us by the lips of him who knew how to love
but not how to desert the One he so much loved,
**your sins are forgiven you for His name's



" Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow." —
Lamentations of Jeremiah, i : 12.

THE greatest natures are capable of the
greatest sorrow. It is utterly inconceiva-
ble to man of how much sorrow a nature like that
of Jesus is capable. The prophet saw Him in
vision, and His visage was more marred than that
of any man's. What sorrow would be ours if, for
a single daj^ we were endowed with a power of
vision which enabled us to see underneath all the
coverings of life, into the heart of things; if all
persons were laid bare to us, and we saw the
stern reality below the veneer and polish and dress
and shows of things ! Yet the Divine Eye traverses
that region, and none can cover up the interior
life from His burning gaze. Is the Divine heart
impassive and unmoved by what it sees? Has it
no suffering on account of it ?

There are two kinds of sufferinir, two kinds
of sorrow. There is the suffering and sorrow

\ 210


of guilt — dry, hard, and without contrition ; there
is also the suffering and sorrow of love, which
faintly represents the inner movements of the
Divine heart. We cannot say what compensations
of joy are in the Divine Nature, but that it is an
impassive nature, that we cannot believe so long
as we hold by Scripture. To no one so thor-
oughly as to a Divine Being has this question such
broad and deep application — * ' Behold and see if
there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow."

Let us dwell for a short while on this thought.
Let us not forget that the sufferings of our Lord
historically recorded, are but part of His suffer-
ings. To the Colossians the great Apostle speaks
of '* filling up that which is behind of the afflictions
of Christ." There are sorrows for the Son of
man still, for he has identified Himself with us,
and become one with us. To Paul, afflictions and
trials were radiant with a golden light of privilege,
because, more than ought else they brought him
into such close fellowship with the great Sufferer.

And does not our Lord suffer now? Does not
His church cause Him sorrow ? Is it not like raw
material, so very hard to his hand as to be almost
incapable of being moulded into any shape or form
of beauty ? Does He not sorrow over our igno-
rance? Our mental dullness? Our pride of
knowledsre which is often w^orse than io^norance?
Our assumptions of something so like infallibility


that no one can distiniruish it from the real thins:
itself? Our unteachablenes ? Our cantankerous-
ness? Our unloveliness of spirit and unlovea-
bleness? Our hard thoughts of others? Our
want of charity towards them that see not with us,
eye to eye, in opinion? Do not these things cause
Him sorrow ?

Again, our want of patience in doing His
work? Our expecting to reap on the very day
we sow? Our pettishness and peevishness with
one another ; our ill-humor, which gives a dis-
eased color to our eye so that everything seems to
have a jaundiced and fading look ; everything
seems to be'* in the sere and yellow leaf," and
we find no cause of thankfulness to God anywhere.
Does He not sorrow over our suspicion, that spirit
which is the opposite of the charity which thinketh
no evil, the spirit which sees nothing in those who
are not with us but whited sepulchres and platters
clean but on the outside ? Does He not sorrow
over our self-importance, that spirit which leads
us to suppose that we must always be right and
others always wrong ; that we are called to sit on
thrones not only to judge the erring and wander-
ing twelve tribes of Israel, but the tribes of the
spiritual Israel also.

Does not our Lord sorrow over our legalism —
that old Jewish spirit of slavishness to mere forms
and customs which are of human device — the letter


which killeth ; the rigidity which knows not how
to bend or adapt itself to weakness and feebleness
and infirmity?

Must He not sorrow over our sectarianisms —
our thinking more of mere sectional names than of
the real unity which underlies all these? Must
He not sorrow over that mental and spiritual
obtuseness which cannot, or will not, see that a
man may be a very rigid sectarian and a very bad
Christian ; that he may be most scrupulously
excellent at such work as " tithing mint,anise, and
cummin," but for the weightier matters of justice,
judgment, and truth he may have no very sincere
appreciation? Must He not sorrow over our inju-
dicious, oftentimes almost untruthful speech ;
over that very great freedom that we allow our-
selves, even in the presence of young children, to
criticise, severely and unkindly, our fellow-mem-
bers, our deacons, our ministers? The tongue is
a fire, a world of iniquity, says the Apostle James.
And he calls the man who has perfect control over
his speech a perfect man. *' In many things we all
offend ; if any man offend not in word the same is
a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole
body." Must not our hard speech, speech desti-
tute of love and feeling and tender consideration
for others, be a cause of sorrow to our Divine

Yea — sometimes, must not our very prayers be


a source of sorrow to Him? '^ Ye ask and receive
not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume
it on your lusts." Have we had no lust at the
root of our desire ? No lust of power ? No lust
of influence ? No lust of lording it over others ?
No lust of impressing our own peculiar individual-
ism on others ? Have we longed to see the poor
crowding into our church courts ? Have we not
secretly prayed that this and that person of influence
might be brought in ? But have we felt glad —
rejoiced — when some poor servant girl has come?
Have we ? Have we thought that all our prayers
and anxieties were more than answered by such a
result as that?

If there had been but that one soul lost, still
Redemption's work must all have been given for
that one soul. Have our prayers been winged by
Lazarus at the gate, or by Dives in the palace?
Must not our Lord have had sorrow oftentimes
over our limiting the Holy One of Israel ; over
our very defective appreciation of the diversity of
His operations ? Have we not dug out our chan-
nels, and laid our waterpipes and connected them
with some favorite reservoir of opinion, and said
within ourselves, *'Come, O Spirit of Grace, into
these — or, I can have no delight in thee?" But,
instead of that, oftentimes the influences have not
come down our channels. They have been dry.
Yet in other ways God has sent His blessing, have


we delighted in it? Have we not too often had
that Naaman-spirit, which was not humble enough
to receive a blessing just in the way which God
had designed it should come, <' Surely, I thought,"
has been our reply. And then, has not some
weak and gentle voice whispered in our ear, '*If
the prophet had bid thee do some gy^at thing,
wouldst thou not have done it ? Have we never
been proudly ambitious to do some great thing?
Have we never sought reputation simply and been
heedless of character? And has not our Lord had
continual sorrow because of this?

Have we not been, like Peter, sometimes imper-
tinently officious about others, instead of careful
about our own spirits ? ' ' Lord and what shall this
man do ? " Have we not forced our Lord to be
sharp with us? — "If I will that he tarry till I
come, what is that to thee ; follow thou me?"

Instead of simply being disciples^ and cherishing
the spirit of disciples, have we never done any-
thing, or said anything to convey to others the
impression that we are models of Christian attain-
ment, paragons of excellency, just what others
ought to be, in short, the guardians and watch-dogs
of the church, licensed by our very nature to
snap and bark at all intruders, or, like Scotch
sheep-dogs, trained to worry the sheep into the
fold? Have none of us given just cause for men
to say, < if it were not for such hard men as that


man, and that man, such unlovable men, I should
think better of Christians? ' Dear brethren, are we
free from that spiritual Pharisaism, that ill-na-
tured spiritual conceit which repels, from which
even contrite souls recoil? Often, very often, no
one but God knows how often, I have to compel
my own spirit just to take its proper position, that
of a sinner at the foot of the Cross. I dare not
approach God as a saint. I believe that I know
something of what the Apostle felt when he wrote,
«*less than the least of all saints." Are we
Christian brethren, content to be simply disciples
of Jesus, sinners saved by grace, to stand where
Paul chose to stand, a position dignified enough
surely for any man, not boasting ourselves of how
much we love Christ, but rejoicing in this, that
He loved us, '^who loved me, and gave Himself
for me ? "

Yes, truly, our Lord may well say, as He looks
into the hearts of the members of His professing
Church, *' Behold and see, if there be any sorrow
like unto my sorrow." When, in a court of
Justice, a man's own witnesses seem to damage his
cause, the case is indeed pitiful.

And yet, our Lord's deepest, profoundest,
tenderest sorrow does not arise from any inconsist-
encies, or defects, or blunders, or ignorances, or
wilfulnesses which He sees among those who
believe in Him, trust Him and look to Him,


many of whom do their feeble, blundering best,
to serve Him. For, every man who names the
name of Christ, and departs from iniquity, honors
Christ. Just as every young man who enters a
school honors that school, by the trust he reposes
in its teachers. Just as a tyro in art honors a
great Master by copying his works. Christ's church
is practically a school ; not a museum in which to
deposit specimens of antique theologies and dead
saints ; not a gallery of painting and sculpture in
which to display finished productions ; it is a
school for Christians in the making. There are no
finished specimens to be found in it. This world
is God's manufactory, not His show-room. But
wherever there is trust in God and confidence
towards God, there is reconciliation with God.
There is no Christian man without his inconsisten-
cies, but these are the mere unfinished parts of
character. And yet, between the soul that trusts
itself into Christ's hands, and the *soul that
witholds itself for itself, there is a whole gulf of
difierence. Naturally, one may be a finer specimen
of man than the other, intellectually superior,
more refined in sensibility, more companionable,
and yet as to the interior possibilities there is no
comparison. Christ in a man, as Paul puts it,
may be but as a seed in him, but it is a seed which
shall rend the rock, and split the mountain in its
growth. Christ in a man is a germ in Him which


demands Eternity for its development. Therefore
is it that to get the idea of Christ uppermost in the
mind renews the mind, to get the love of Christ
supreme in the heart renews the affectional nature.
As to those who trust Him, our Lord can wait the
perfect development of Himself into dominion
over all weaknesses, ignorances, wilfulnesses,
inconsistencies whatsoever. It is a mere matter
of time. His chief sorrow is from another source.
His chief sorrow was not over Peter who denied
Him ; not over the two disciples who wanted to be
the greatest in His kingdom ; not over Magdalene
whose soul He cleansed of its seven-fold tyranny of
evil — for she loved much, having much forgiven —
not over Nicodemus who came secretly, under the
deep shadows of night ; not over the disciples who
slept in Gethsemane and could not watch with
Him one hour ; not over the men who forsook
Him and fled ; not even over the dying thief. His
chief sorrow was not over these, but over the
people of the city who rejected Him — *' Oh, Jeru-
salem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets,
and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how
often would I have gathered thy children together,
even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her
wings, and ye would not!" — over Judas who
betrayed Him, " good for that man had he never
been born." And, in these days. His chief
sorrow is not over His Church, with all its multi-


plied inconsistencies, ignorances, and wilfulnesses,
but over others ; over you young man, to whom
He has given a godly father and mother, who
daily pray for you, though you hear it not, who
love you with a love that as far as a finite thing
can represent an infinite thing, is like the love of
God. Oh, to be born in Heaven and to descend
into Hell ; to be cradled in Bethlehem and thence
to sink into an inhabitant of Sodom ; to breathe
your first breath in the land of Promise, and to
choose in preference the bondage of Egypt ; to
resist successfully the undying solicitude of a
heart beating with a pulse that is timed to God's
love ; to be the child of a house on the lintel and
side-posts of which the blood of Calvary had been
sprinkled ; to be dedicated to God in Baptism ; to
have all the privileges of the Kingdom of Heaven
claimed on your behalf; to be a child of God's
Covenant made with your parents, and to break
away, finally and forever from this, it seems to me
at times impossible. It seems to me at times as
if the power of God as well as the grace of
God were pledged to your arrestment. Our
Lord looking ^n you may well say, ** was any
sorrow, like unto my sorrow ? "

Over you also, fathers and mothers, men and
women bearing the holiest names that this world
knows ; into whose arms a gift has been placed than
which this earth can furnish none so marvellous or


wonderful — have you appreciated that gift at its
true value ? Have you realized that the flesh was
only a platform for an immortal spirit to stand upon ?
Must there not be sorrow in the heart of Christ
as He sees fathers and mothers treating children as
though they were mere animal forms, or at the
most, mere children of this world, to be trained
for this world, everything nurtured in them except
that which is highest, that which is distinctive, that
which makes them men ? In every child there is
a religious instinct, and it largely depends upon
what the parents are as to whether that religious
instinct shall be cultured or crushed ; whether it
shall become conviction, or remain for a while in
an undeveloped condition and eventually become
an accusins: Conscience. I believe that most of
the sad disappointments that parents meet with in
their children are simply Nature working its own
revenge for this insult offered to the religious
instinct. Have those of you who are fathers and
mothers not brought much sorrow into the heart
of Jesus by refusing to train the religious instinct
in your child ? That which fathers and mothers
do, children naturally want to do. Are you,
fathers and mothers, just exactly where you ought
to be, considering what your opportunities and
responsibilities are? You love your children,
why do you not love them all through, soul as
well as body, spirit as well as soul? I have


sometimes met with cases of parents who said to
their children, *'go," but not '^comc." Better,
far better life than speech. Better example than
precept. But more human and kindly the spirit
which says, "go" than that which resists the re-
ligious instinct of childhood in its feelings after
God. What must have been the sensations of
that mother, whose son, in the condemned cell,
turned upon her, almost with the rage of a tiger,
and said, ''If you had been a better woman I
should never have been here."

When our Lord looks from the height of His
Intinite Knowledge upon the world of fathers and
mothers, and sees how, by their example, they are
bending their children's souls away from Him,
how often must His feeling be like to that ex-
pressed in these words, '' Is any sorrow like unto
my sorrow."

But we cannot pursue this line of reflection
into many of its details. And yet does it not
touch every one of us? What sorrow greater
than that of being perpetually misunderstood?
And who knows this sorrow as the Son of God
knows it? Have we not misunderstood Him
most egregiously? Have we not thought of
Him as the condemner? Yet is He the Saviour.
Have we not regarded Him as though He came to
destroy ? Yet He came to stand between us and
destruction. What sorrow is more cutting and


laceratino^ and torturins: to the heart than to be
suspected? Has not Jesus been the object of
our suspicion ? Have we not said by our conduct,
* I dare not trust Him, I dare not commit myself
to Him?' Have we not exalted men above Him?
Have we not feared men ? Have we not allowed
the frowns of men to be more to us than the
smiles of the Savior? Have we not steadily re-
fused to follow our best inclinations ? Have we
not done our best to put out the light which was
in our consciences? Have we not resisted our
own tenderest impulses? Have we not thought
that we might have too much of Christ ? Have we
not persisted in thinking that the call of Christ
w^as to gloom, and despondency and joylessness
and narrowness of life ? Have we not ignorantly
misinterpreted the plainest truths of Holy Writ ?
Have we not resisted the Holy Spirit's movements
in our souls? Have we not almost forced our-
selves into darkness? And all this has been so
much of sorrow poured into the lot of the Son of
Man. Yet still He broods over us, with a love
that many waters cannot quench. Still He shows
us His Crown of Thorns, His garments all red
with blood, His pierced hands and feet. His spear
thrust side ; still He reminds us of Calvary, and
of Gethsemane and asks us still, ''Was any
sorrow like unto my sorrow ?"


But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He
that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not, for I have redeemed thee, I
I have called thee by thy name: thou are mine. — Isaiah, xliii: I.

THE subject of Responsibility has recently
occupied our attention. First, the Eespon-
sibility of the Ungodly for his ungodliness
and all its consequences. Secondly, the Respon-
sibility of the Christian — consisting mainly
in loyalty to Christ. And now I am about
to venture upon an extension of this thought
of Responsibility. I purpose to pursue it into
a region, the most sacred of all — and to
speak — I hope without presumption, I hope with
reverence, I hope so as not to expose myself to
any just charge of rashness or impiety — I propose
to speak of the Divine responsibility.

For, surely, Responsibility is not a word that
can be limited to man. It must belong to those
higher orders of created intelligence known to us
as angels of various degrees. It must belong to



the Eternal One Himself. It must be that He
holds Himself respo7isihle for the Creation and its
consequences. This is not a thought that often
comes within the sphere of our meditation — nor
should it. Such a thousrht is not to be brouirht
into the area of flippant discussion or heated con-
troversy. It belongs rather to those moments of
meditation Avhen all voices are quiet but one, and
that one voice chastened into subduedness consist-
ent with the deepest reverence. And yet surely
we may spealv on so sacred a theme without being
blameworthy. If responsibility belongs to the
creature made in the image of God, it is inherited
responsibility ; it comes down from Him who
made him.

Let us approach the subject cautiously. God's
revelation of Himself is intended to be a li^ht to
the mind, and a joy to the heart. If the word
* God' means "the good one," be sure that all that
is made known to us of God in any way, or
through any medium, is for our good. Every
word by wdiich He has made Himself known is our
property — to be sacredly guarded for w^hat it
contains. Everyone who knows anything of Scrip-

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16

Online LibraryReuen ThomasDivine sovereignty, and other sermons → online text (page 12 of 16)