Amory Howe Bradford.

The growing revelation online

. (page 6 of 13)
Online LibraryAmory Howe BradfordThe growing revelation → online text (page 6 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

for developing tenderness and helpfulness in
those who minister to them, then, according to
their ability and opportunity, they will be in
holy fellowship with Jesus Christ. You may
not understand it, you may resist it, but nothing
is clearer than that those who would be happy
must cease to seek happiness, and ask only the
privilege of giving. The song will rise in our
hearts when we cease to live for ourselves, and
begin to live for the good that we can do.

The way of the cross is the way of victory.
Clouds shut in Calvary when Jesus died, and
those who looked toward the mount went shud-
dering and shivering to their homes, and the
short-sighted said, " Now the farce is ended.
It will be long before another upstart will seek
to overturn the existing order." But from
Calvary a light streamed across to Cyprus, to
Asia, to Greece; poured its splendour upon
Rome, and rolled around the world. That
cross, from being the emblem of shame, has
become the symbol of honour. From it have
gone inspirations which have thrilled human
hearts. Martyrs have died chanting the name
of the Crucified. In the old time that for which
it stood was abhorred ; in our time it is the
symbol of the highest and finest human char-
acter. The way of the cross was the path of

The Wat op the Ceoss. 101

victory for the Christ, and the same way is
the path of victory for His followers.

How may we get into this Royal Way of the
Holy Cross? Forsake all known sin; follow
Jesus Christ as you would follow any other
trusted leader, and the works which He did shall
you do also, and greater works.




"And the greatest of these is love."

1 Corinthians xiii. 13.

A Christian is never so quickly and surely
humbled as when he faces the fact that the
essence of Christianity is simply and solely love
as it is manifested in Jesus Christ. Many can
pass muster for orthodoxy whose hearts are as
hard and unresponsive as stones. Many bow
low before the Christ in bread and wine who
grind the face of the Christ in the persons of
the weak and poor. There is no real worship
except loving acts, and no genuine orthodoxy
apart from a self-sacrificing spirit. There is one
infallible way for determining growth in grace,
and that is, the application of the question,
Are we beginning to love with Christlike love ?
An American evangelist in Scotland, after a
sermon of exceptional power, was approached
by the venerable Dr. Bonar, who said, "You
do love to preach, do you not?" The evan-
gelist replied, " Yes, I do." Dr. Bonar then
asked this searching question : " Do you love
men as much as you love to preach ? " The
Corinthians had asked Paul about spiritual

106 Love and Life.

gifts. He had replied by asserting the reality
of the spirit; that as in nature the one life
manifests itself in a million forms, so in the
realm of spirit there is the same multiplicity of
manifestation, and each gift is as important as
every other. Having said so much he con-
tinues : " But desire earnestly the greater
gifts. And a still more excellent way show I
unto you." That better thing is described in
the thirteenth chapter. It is love. Elsewhere
St. Paul says, "Love is the fulfilling of the
law." St. Peter says, "Above all things have
fervent love among yourselves." St. John lifts
the whole subject to the loftiest heights in these
words : " God is love. Whosoever loveth is
born of Grod." Our Lord said that the whole
law was embodied in " Thou shalt love the Lord
thy Grod with all thy heart . . . and thou shalt
love thy neighbour as thyself." Then He added
a final commandment : " That ye love one
another, even as I have loved you." The posses-
sion of love is the test of discipleship : " By this
shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye
have love one toward another." Not one, but
all the New Testament writers place love above
every other gift, and agree that without it there
is no Christianity. This chapter, which is the
world's classic on the subject, naturally divides
itself into three parts. The first contrasts love
with other gifts ; the second is a kind of
" verbal prism " through which the light of love

Love and Life. 107

is passed, and by which is revealed the elements
of which it is composed ; the third shows that
love is the greatest and most enduring thing in
the world ; while all combined show the relation
of love to life.

In the contrast between love and other gifts,
notice the strong form of the language used.
There is no chance of a possible misunderstand-
ing. Love is greater than eloquence. A man
may talk like an angel, but if he is without a
loving spirit his life is no more musical than
the noise which boys make on old kettles and
pans. " Sounding brass," an old brass kettle
struck by a stone, that is as much like music as
a man without love is like Christ. Eloquence
is admired above almost all other gifts. He
who can speak to men of God, providence,
eternity; who can paint verbal pictures with
Milton, analyse motives with Shakespeare, play
upon emotions as an organist on his organ, is
the popular idol ; but if there is no love in his
heart, the Apostle says, his speech though it be
about sacred things is no more acceptable to
God than hammering on an old brass pan.
That is vigorous talk.

Next, love is contrasted with prophecy, or the
power of reading the future ; with knowledge of
mysteries, which plainly refers [to theology ;
and with all knowledge, which includes science
and faith. Here language seems utterly inade-
quate. With one sweep Paul says in effect:

108 Love and Life.

" I may be able to read the future ; I may know
everything about the Trinity, the Divinity of
Christ, punishment after death, and all the rest
of these great subjects ; I may know how the
worlds were made ; I may believe that God can
save men to the uttermost ; but if I go into a
church and find people there that I malign and
ignore; if I go out into the street and have
toward the sorrowing and the vicious no con-
sciousness that they are children of God ; even
though I pray, sing psalms, am always at
church, and am as orthodox as ten thousand
creeds can make me, I am nothing. Nothing !
No stronger assertion is possible. In com-
parison with that love which goes about doing
good, comforts the lonely, builds a bridge along*
which the vile and vicious may walk from the
slums to heaven, theology, science, faith, are of
no account whatever. Thus moves on the
tide of the Apostle's teaching.

He goes farther, and puts the emphasis on
the inner life. One might say, " I cannot do
anything, therefore I do not love." That point
is carefully guarded. Love is not manifested
alone in outward action. A man may feed the
poor in order to get a reputation for benevo-
lence ; in a frenzy of enthusiasm he may even
be willing to be a martyr, and think only of
self and a shining crown ; but even martyrs
without love are nothing in comparison with
those who feel that humanity in itself is

Love and Life. 109

precious. He who is possessed by that con-
viction will do good according to opportunity ;
he who has it not will do good only so long as
it will minister to his selfishness. Love is the
supreme gift. Mere eloquence is as the sound
of brass; theology and science in themselves
are nothing ; even outward acts of benevolence
are of no account. Of this thought the Bible
is full. "God so loved the world." "God
commendeth His love toward us in that when
we were yet sinners," &c. " The love of Christ
constraineth us." "If we love one another,
God abideth in us." So the music rises and
swells like a symphony, and sweeps on toward
the consummation in which we catch glimpses
of a city whose twelve foundations are precious
stones : the first jasper, the second sapphire,
the twelfth an amethyst ; and the Lamb — love
in sacrifice the light which is flashed from their
every facet. Love is the diamond among
spiritual gifts. Where it is, there Christianity
is. "Whosoever loveth is born of God." That
explains many things. Our hearts say that
certain men who differ from us are not bad
men; we load them with denunciation while
they live, and extravagantly eulogise them when
they die. What does it mean ? Simply that,
in spite of all theories, the straitest of all sects
know that those who truly love are loved of God.
Many men are better and many are worse than
their creeds. Where Christlike love is, theories

110 Love and Life.

are of comparatively little consequence. What
a man is is always more than what he professes.
If the Apostle had left the subject at this
point evil might have resulted. Some would
have confused love with tenderness or sensi-
bility ; they would have imagined that tears are
its natural language. But Paul describes the
way in which love is manifested, and so leaves
no possibility of misunderstanding. Who ever
saw love? The blush on the maiden's cheek,
the gleam in the young man's eye, the acts of
kindly attention, the silent, ceaseless, deathless
tenacity with which one friend clings to another
— these outward things are visible ; but love
itself can no more be described than the force
which blooms in a rose, makes an orchard a
poem in colour, sings in birds, romps in children,
and glows and grows in the splendour of the

In this thirteenth chapter of First Corin-
thians is found the real offence of the cross.
Whatever was true in Paul's time, it is not true
now that men are repelled from Christianity
because they are unwilling to believe its doc-
trines ; there is nothing in the doctrine of the
Trinity, or the most mechanical theory of the
Atonement, or in any of the terrific teaching
about future punishment which any honest
thinker would refuse to accept if once he could
be convinced that such teaching is true. The
natural heart is not unwilling to receive the

Love and Life. Ill

doctrines of Christianity. Men will accept any-
thing that is true if it is to their advantage.
But when a truth enters life and presumes to
dictate what they shall eat and drink, how they
shall behave among their fellows, what they
shall talk about, rebellion arises. When a
selfish person is told that he must be kind, be
willing to give up his luxuries and comforts if
by so doing he may help some tramp or beggar;
that he must put a bridle on his tongue, and
not even think unkindly, then he feels the
offence of the cross ; then he turns from tho
Master who taught and lived what pierces his
pride to the quick. The offence of the cross in
our time is unwillingness to live according to-
the love of the cross.

Consider these three sentences. u Love suf-
fereth long and is kind." Abuse, misunder-
standing, misrepresentation, may be piled high ;
the man with love in his heart not only endures
it, but is kind. The more Christ was perse-
cuted, the more intensely He manifested His
love. " And is kind " — that is a positive word.
Some endure obloquy and hard treatment with-
out complaint who will not be kind to those
who heap burdens on them. A brute mis-
represents me, lies about me — am I kind to him
in proportion as he is unjust to me ? That is
the question that brings presumption to the

" Thinketh no evil." Love not only does not

112 Love and Life.

injure another by outward act, but does not retain
the thought of evil things in the memory. It
is one thing to refrain from judging in word —
it is vastly different not to judge in thought.
This would be a new world if none would think
evil of their fellow-men.

" Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in
the truth" — that is, is not glad when evil
befalls another ; never draws a friend aside and
says, n Did you hear so-and-so about Mr. B. ? "
with a manner that cannot conceal satisfaction.
" Rejoiceth in the truth " — never makes capital
out of others' faults ; never delights in exposing
weakness ; " endeavours to see things as they are,
and rejoices to find them better than suspicion
feared or calumny denounced." *

There is little difference in the average
estimate of the glory of the loving character.
It is only when men are told "this is what
you must do " that they rebel. It is one thing
to admire the grandeur of a mountain ; another
to be told to climb to its loftiest peak. Love is
the very shining crest and loftiest summit of
the Christian life.

Many people ask, " How may I love God ? "
and have no definite idea of what loving God is.
Love for God is proved by obedience to God.
If one knows that it is the supreme purpose and
effort of his life to do God's will, that is the
only evidence he needs that he loves God. Love

# Drurnmond's ''Greatest Thing in the World," p. 39.

Love and Life. 113

is always measured by what one is willing to do
for the object of affection. But even this is
rather abstract. Jesus never made anything
clearer than that love for God is to be deter-
mined by appreciation of man. " If a man love
not his brother whom he hath seen, he cannot
love God whom he hath not seen." We serve
God, Jesus says, by clothing the naked and
feeding the poor. He who is true to man can
never be false to God. The first thing for all
to do is to get a correct idea of the value of
man. If the fact that God is the Father has
its proper place all else will be clear. It follows
then that every human being has something
divine in him. That drivelling wretch is my
brother — I must help him ; that fellow with a
plausible story but a villainous face is God's
child ; he may lie to me, but the Father is seek-
ing for him and I must help the wanderer to
his home ; that little dirty-faced, untamable
boy has something in him that reaches back to
the throne of God and forward into eternity,
therefore nothing done for him can be wasted.
If there is nothing in that brute of a man but
wounds and putrifying sores let him die, but if
within that mined body is an immortal spirit,
then nothing that will help him to himself is
too costly for us. The first step in this path-
way of love is the realisation that all are the
children of God. After that about all that
need be said is that men must learn to love by


114 Love and Life.

doing loving things, just as they grow strong
physically by the exercise of their muscles. Some-
times a man undertakes work for others simply
to drown sorrow; in a little while interest is
aroused ; then enthusiasm ; until from the
service of those who needed love, love has

But, after all, who can describe the genesis
of love ? Who can tell where the life in an elm
tree comes from ? Who knows what makes the
flowers fragrant, and the birds to sing ? The
flowers are fragrant and the birds sing because
somewhere in the universe is a fountain of life,
and men love because somewhere in the universe
there is One who is a fountain of love. This has
never been so beautifully stated as by the
Apostle John: "We love — because He first
loved us."

Love is the greatest thing in the world. It
is the most lasting. Paul spoke about prophe-
cies. There are no prophets now in the old
sense, and yet in those days every mother
longed to have her son a prophet. Then there
was a gift called " tongues." In our time it is
not known whether that gift was the ability to
speak a foreign language without having learned
it, or a state of spiritual ecstasy. Knowledge
also shall be done away. Nothing has been
more evanescent than knowledge. Already the
Encyclopaedia Britannica has passed through
nine editions, and every one has been an

Love and Life. 115

improvement on its predecessor. Language is
in a state of constant change. Ptolemy was
sure that the earth was stationary and that the
sun moved around it. The science of yesterday
is the foolishness of to-day. The text-books of
our childhood have all been supplanted by
others. Even Mr. Darwin ten years after his
death is no longer the chief exponent of

As in science, so is it in theology. Whether
it be a fact of good omen or not, the theology of
to-day is not that of the last century. Eeligion
can no more be expressed in the terms of the
Westminster Confession than astronomy in
Ptolemaic language. Everything earthly is in
a state of flux — mountains are being taken to
the plains ; the ocean is encroaching on the
continents ; empires fall ; prophecies are ful-
filled ; science takes on new forms ; theology
adjusts itself to its environment — but love never
faileth. Faith, hope, and love abide, but love is
the greatest ; for God is love, and all who love
enter into the life of God. He that loveth is
born of God. Those only truly live who are in
harmony with God. The life "of love and
sacrifice is the ageless life." * The sun shines,
the rains fall, the harvests come, the constella-
tions sweep the spaces, and one law binds all
events, all ages, all forces into harmony.
Nothing is at enmity with love. A little child
• " The Mind of the Master." John Watson, D.D.

116 Love and Life.

loving his mother is so far like God ; a mother
hound hy affection to her child is so far like
God ; two lovers, if their devotion is pure, are in
a way like God ; a woman leaving a home of
culture and wealth to help those who can give
nothing in return is so far like God ; the man
giving his wealth to build a church where the
Gospel may be preached, to f ound a library, to
open a fountain, to help to a sweeter and finer
life those who have little to inspire, is so far like
God. Mrs. Judson sailed for Lidia almost alone
to teach the Gospel to those who never heard of
Jesus; love took her there — and God is love.
Whittier saw in the black man in southern rice-
swamps his brother ; love tuned his song — and
God is love. A good woman knew that even
London cabmen were children of the Heavenly
Father, and she sought for them protection from
storm and cold ; love inspired her ministry — and
God is love. Love can never grow old, because
God cannot.

This is the theme on which the preacher can
dwell and never exaggerate. This is the test
to which at last all must come. I have some-
times thought that the judgment-seat of Christ
is not a great white throne, but simple, pure,
and perfect love, and that when men are to be
judged no word will be spoken, no sound be
heard, but still as the air, impalpable as the
light, love will shine around them, and if they
love, their little lives will blend with the larger

Love and Life. 117

love, but if they are selfish, their true characters
in all their discord will simply be made manifest.

Let us press home this question until it is
answered. Do we love with just a little of the
love which was in Christ ? Do we act toward
those around us as if they were the children of
God ? Are we using our money chiefly for our-
selves, or to make men happier and better ? Are
we using our strength in the service of those
who need it, or wasting it in feasting and folly ?

" Then shall the King say unto them on His
right hand, Come, ye blessed of My Father,
inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the
foundation of the world ; for I was an hungred,
and ye gave Me meat ; I was thirsty, and ye
gave Me drink ; I was a stranger, and ye took
Me in ; naked, and ye clothed Me ; I was sick,
and ye visited Me ; I was in prison, and ye came
unto Me." Blessed are the men whom these
words truly describe !




"Watch ye, stand fast in the faith."

1 Corinthians xvi. 13.

If such discrimination were proper, it might
be said that the Epistles of St. Paul to the
Corinthians deserve the most careful study of
any of his writings, because they have in them
more that appeals to the universal human experi-
ence. The members of the Church of Corinth
lived in circumstances more like our own than
the members of any other church to which he
addressed letters. They had the training and
kind of knowledge which a great seaport with
its cosmopolitan life is sure to give. Nature
did more for them than she has done for most
people. The sensuous beauty of that southern
clime, with the wonderful influence of its seas
and mountains, was not the smallest factor in
their environment. Corinth was a large city,
its population was heterogeneous, and came
from many lands. Jews, Greeks, Romans,
sailors, philosophers, poets, artists, merchants,
jostled each other in the streets. Next to
Rome it was the most cosmopolitan city in the
world. It was full of the conceit of culture.

122 Faith for Our Time.

Its citizens imagined that they were more
learned than the Athenians, and its schools of
rhetoric presumed that wisdom had spoken her
final word through them. The Corinthians
were in danger of substituting worldly ideals for
the pure and lofty standards which were taught
by Christ and His Apostles. Our text is a part
of an exhortation by St. Paul urging them to
live godly lives in the midst of a civilisation
which was sure to rebuke every attempt to
improve the existing social order. Without
seeking to analyse what Paul here meant by
" the faith," observe certain truths which were
surely included in that faith, which the people
of that time were in danger of neglecting, and
which those in our time are in quite as great
peril of forgetting.

" Stand fast in the faith "—what faith ?

The faith that man is essentially spirit. As
years advance, as the analogies between the
human body and the bodies of animals are
better understood; as the fact is faced that
most human beings come into existence acci-
dentally ; as the remorselessness of death is
considered ; it is almost impossible for the man
who thinks not to ask with a great deal of
eagerness whether the teaching of his childhood
is not a beautiful but baseless dream. It is not
a dream, but a sublime fact, and Christianity
rests upon the foundation that man is spirit.
He is allied by his body to the lower creation,

Faith for Our Time. 123

but he himself is not physical, is not subject to
physical laws, has no reason to dread death — in
short, is spirit. If, at this point, any one asks
for argument the reply is that the object of this
sermon is not argument, but the presentation
and emphasis of truths which lie at the founda-
tion of the Christian faith. Paul found a law
in his members warring against the law of his
mind ; he was like an eagle seeking to rise into
the clear splendour of the upper air, while his
animal nature bound him to things which he
hated. The spirit was in daily battle with the
body. To the Corinthians he put the question,
u Know ye not that your bodies are temples of
the Holy Ghost ? " But the most significant of
his utterances on this theme is in the fifteenth
chapter of First Corinthians, in which in magni-
ficent words he declares that the end of the long
battle between the flesh and the spirit is in the
triumph of the latter. Death is swallowed up
in victory. The figure suggests the writer
standing upon a mountain and beholding death,
which is the culmination of the physical, swal-
lowed up in engulfing waters. As the hideous
form disappears nothing remains but pure spirit.
That is a sublime picture ! This teaching is funda-
mental. If a man realises that he is spirit he
will reach after the life of the spirit; if he
believes that he is only an animal he will live
an animal life, and justify himself in doing so.
Nay, more, if he believes that he is only matter

124 Faith foe Our Time.

he will feel no responsibility, acknowledge no
brotherhood that is vital, look forward to no
existence higher than the present. As a con-
sequence in most cases the poetry of life will
disappear, and the shades of the prison-house
lengthen with each new day. No exercise can be
more beneficent than the practise of the con-
sciousness than we are spirits. I look out upon
a lake, deep-blue like the sky, and feel that
there is something in me that finds no answer
there ; the trees have voices, and I listen to
their various music, but there are moods in my
life that no message from the trees ever reach ;
the trees shed their leaves, and the flowers
decay and fall, and so we pass, but somehow I
cannot identify myself with lake or forest or
flower. And yet many are trying to bring
themselves to some such dreary belief, which
would lead to the destruction of faith, the
banishment of hope, and the annihilation of the
basis on which morality must build. No eye
has seen a spirit, but all may be conscious that
they are spirits. This consciousness should be
cultivated. Stand fast in this faith. If the

1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryAmory Howe BradfordThe growing revelation → online text (page 6 of 13)