Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.

Faith and life; 'conferences' in the Oratory of Princeton seminary online

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self-poised, and independent nature is one of the
best gifts of God — cultivate it! But it is very
easy for a proper self-pride and a high-minded in-
dependence to pass into a very improper self-
sufficiency. We were not intended to defer with
servile incapacity to any fellow-creature's direc-
tion; but there is a place for authority in the
world after all; and as liberty must not be allowed
to lapse into licence, so independence must not be
permitted to degenerate into self-assertion. God
did not create mankind atomistically but as a
race; and it is the part of true dignity to find our
true relations and to subject ourselves to them.
It is not a mark of manhood to separate ourselves
from the bands that unite mankind into an organ-
ism, but to take each his place in the organism
and thoroughly to fill it.

He who hitches his chariot to a star is not
thereby sinking to a lower status. True as this
is in worldly matters it is superlatively true in
spiritual aflPairs. The man led by the Spirit of


God — the Christ-led man — is the man of highest,
and not of lowest, dignity. As it is the mark of a
Christian man that he is "under orders," so it
is the source of all his dignity that he is "under
orders." With that odd . penetration into the
essence of things, which so often characterizes
the words of Rudyard Kipling, he seems to have
grasped and set forth this fundamental fact of the
Christian life in the refrain of one of his "Barrack
Room Ballads." He says:

" The 'eathen in 'is blindness bows down to wood and
stone —
'E don't obey no orders, unless they is 'is own."

The point is, of course, the fine soldierly concep-
tion of the value of order and discipline; the sol-
dier recognizes the fact that he is "under orders"
as the source of all that gives value and worth to
his life; his coming "under orders" was his trans-
mutation from a "hoodlum" into a "soldier";
the discipline of the army has made, as we say, a
man of him. But Rudyard Kipling has so
phrased his refrain as to make it hint a far wider
and higher truth. The characteristic of heathen-
ism, as he sees it, from this soldier-like point of
view, is precisely that the heathen man — like the
hoodlum, — that the heathen world — like a mob —
obeys no orders; each man goes his own way; is
left, as the Scriptures say, to his own devices.
On the other hand, the characteristic of the Chris-
tian man is that he has orders to obey — he is


"under orders." And the soldier, conscious of
all that being under orders is to him — of what it
has wrought in him — of how it has given him
self-respect, a sense of his value, a consciousness
of dignity and worth, — sees in this parallel fact
the essence of Christianity. The Christian man
is the man who is under orders; the heathen, he —
who like the man in the slums — obeys nothing but
his own caprices.

Rudyard Kipling was, perhaps, speaking more
wisely than he knew; for what is the primary
characteristic of Christendom but just this, — that
God has taken charge of it, given it His orders, a
revelation we call it; while heathendom is with-
out this book of general orders. And what is the
characteristic of the Christian man but just this:
that he has found his Captain and receives his
orders from Him? "What shall I do, Lord?" —
that is the note of his life. And is it not clear
that it is the source of an added dignity and worth
to his life? Just as the soldier is nothing but the
hoodlum licked into shape by coming under orders
— under the establishing and forming influence of
legitimate and wise authority — so the Christian is
nothing but the sinner, come under the formative
influence of the Captain of us all.

Power — it lies in the very nature of the case
that such a coming under orders is the source of a
vast increase also of power. For it is at once to
find our place in a great and powerful organism.


So the soldier finds it, though this is not the
primary fact of his betterment which he per-
ceives as a result of his coming under orders.
That, as Kipling rightly sees, is the subjective
effect on himself, the increase of self-respect and
of general dignity and conscious worth which
comes to him. But the increase of power also is
a factor of high moment. A cog wheel is a use-
less piece of iron by itself; but in its legitimate
place in the machine it works wonders. An in-
dividual is as nothing in this seething mass of
humanity which we call the world; be he never
so energetic he can work no effect, but all his ac-
tivity is like the aimless dashing of a moth about
the destroying flame. But let him find his true
place in the organism of humanity, and the weak-
est of us becomes a factor in the inevitable rush
of the whole towards its destined end. See, then,
the element of power in the question, "What
shall I do. Lord?" For we must keep fully in
mind that this human race of which we are mem-
bers is not simply a chance aggregation of indi-
viduals, like a mass of worms crawling restlessly
this way and that as the native impulse of each
directs. It cannot be atomistically conceived.
It is an organism, in which each individual has
his appointed place and function. It is not
merely the dictate of wisdom but the condition of
eflSciency and power that we should each find this,
our place, and fulfil our own function.


If sin had never entered the world, this would
doubtless be an easy task; we should each fit well
into the place in which we find ourselves and
should fulfil our required functions smoothly and
easily, and each in his appointed measure advance
the race to its destined goal. But sin has spoiled
all; and the disjointed mechanism lies broken
and dismantled and unable to work at its task.
It is, therefore, that Christ Jesus has come into
the world, the head of a new humanity, for the
restoration of the race to its harmony with itself,
the universe, and its appointed work. It is only
through Him and through His direction as the
Captain of our salvation that we may discover
or occupy our place in His Church, which is only
another name for reorganized humanity. There-
fore the noble figure of Paul, which compares the
Church to a body and us to members in particular.
How shall the members of a body act? Each
going his own way, independently of and incon-
siderately of the others.^ Where then would be
the body.f^ But how find our true place and task
in this organism of the body of Christ.^ There
can be but one way and that way is pointed to by
Paul's question, "What shall I do. Lord.?" He
and He only can appoint to their functions the
members of His body, and thus the way of con-
tinued humility and dignity is easily seen to be
also the way of power.

Take another example from military affairs.


What shall the soldier in battle do, if he would
wish to be effective as a factor in the result?
Go his own way, or obey orders? Let each seek
to go his own way, and that army is doomed.
But let each only strictly obey orders, and if
the leading is wise and sure — as our leading under
our Divine Captain is — the end is certain victory.
Each soldier may seem to himself isolated as he
makes his way through the underbrush; he can
see no companion; he can hear no neighbour. It
may seem to him that on his sole arm is laid the
whole burden and heat of the day. Let him but
obey orders and he is, on the contrary, a link in
the one great design, and after a while, as the
brushwood is threaded and the open plain is
reached, the bugle sounds the charge, and out he
charges — all by himself — to find suddenly that
he is not by himself. Out of the ground as it
seems, to the right and to the left of him, others
start up — who have obeyed orders like himself —
and they sweep a united band to the victory.
Brethren, that is the way we are to conquer the
world; and our part in it is just to obey orders.
"What shall I do. Lord?" is to be our one ques-
tion, and simple obedience to the response our
one duty. Ah, in all our ministerial life, if we
value success — the success of Christ — let us make
Paul's question the one single, simple matter of
our lives. Let "Lord, what shall I do?" be our
sole chart for all the journey of life.


Acts 26:18: — "To open their eyes, that they may turn from
darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that
they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among
them that are sanctified by faith in me."

We are given in the Book of Acts three accounts
of Paul's conversion — one by Luke in the course
of his history of the advance of the church, and
two from the lips of the Apostle himself in ad-
dresses reported by the historian in the course of
his narrative. The account in the apology which
the Apostle in chains made before King Agrippa
is the fullest account of the three, and especially
in the report it makes of the words spoken by
Jesus to Paul. We may be especially grateful
for this. For these words are simply marvellous
in the compressed fullness of their content and
the richness of their teaching to us, even after
the passage of so many ages.

The superior completeness here of the narrative
of what passed between the Lord in heaven and
him whom He would make a chosen vessel for the
conveyance of His precious Gospel to the world,
is already apparent in certain preliminaries to
the main declaration — comparatively unimportant
no doubt, but not without their significance.
Here only we are told that the ascended Christ



addressed the future Apostle in the Hebrew dia-
lect, — the sacred tongue in which all the prophets
had spoken and Moses, when they foretold His
sufferings and how first out of the resurrection of
the dead He should proclaim light to the people
and to the Gentiles. Here only also are we told
that to the sad inquiry, "Saul, Saul, why perse-
cutest thou me?" was added that proverbial say-
ing, "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks"
— intimating that like the harnessed ox he was
in the hands of a master who would direct his
path whither He would, and it was useless for him
to strive against the performance of the duties
which were appointed him. Better accept the
commission given you and perform the work of
the Lord assigned to you, with joy that you are
chosen to serve the Lord, than to seek hopelessly
to go your own way.

But it is not until we reach the words by which
Saul was commissioned to be the Lord's Apostle
that the full richness of this report breaks upon us.
* 'Arise and stand upon thy feet" — so the record
of the words runs — "for it is for this that I have
appeared to thee; to ordain thee as a servant and
a witness both of those things because of which
thou hast seen me and of those things because
of which I shall appear to thee, delivering thee
from the people and from the nations, unto whom
I send thee." Here is Paul's appointment to
the apostleship. Was ever man appointed to an


oflSce in a manner so authoritative or with words
so decisive? Christ comes from heaven itself
to make the appointment. The appointment is
to the work of a servant, a servant of Himself.
The nature of the service required is that of wit-
ness-bearing; "a servant and a witness," that is,
a servant whose service is witnessing. The mat-
ter to be witnessed to is provided by the appointer:
"a witness of that with respect to which I shall
appear unto thee." The witness is to add noth-
ing of himself but to testify only what he has
heard, what he has seen with his eyes, what he
beheld and his hands have handled. And as the
scope of the testimony is thus set him so also is
its sphere; it is to be borne to the "people and
the peoples" — to Jew and Gentile, — unto whom,
says the voice, "I send you" — with majestic em-
phasis on the "I."

Truly it is to the office of a servant that Paul
is called, a servant with a specific work to do and
with specific instructions how to perform it. Thus
he was made an "apostle," an apostle by the
same call to the same work which all the apostles
had received. It is even odd how perfectly
Paul's commission accords with the very terms
given to his fellows: "Go, and make disciples of
all the nations . . . and lo, I am with you always,
even to the end of the world." "The people and
the Gentiles unto whom I send thee" — here is
the universal commission; he is to go to Jew and


Gentile alike, to all the world. "Delivering thee
from the people and from the Gentiles, unto whom
I send thee" — here is the accompanying promise
of "Lo, I am with thee." xAnd note the nature
of the apostolic promise. It is not that Paul
shall suffer no harm from Jew and Gentile, that
he shall not be hard-bested, baffled and perse-
cuted. How could Paul the prisoner have re-
peated such a promise as that.^^ It was that he
should not be balked in his witness-bearing to
them; that through divine intervention he should
be successful in performing his duty as a servant
and witness. Here, says Calvin, we see the
Divine hand instilling courage into His servant
for his task by assuring him of Divinely given
success and at the same time forewarning him of
the cross he was to bear. He shall need deliver-
ance; but he shall have it.

What then is the task laid upon this servant?
We have it already adumbrated in the call. He is
called to serve as a witness. Witness-bearing is
his one function. But in the wonderful words
which are more particularly before us to-day, we
have it opened out to us in all its richness. I
send thee to all peoples, says the heavenly King,
in imposing upon him His mission: I send thee
to all peoples, "to open their eyes." There we
have in the briefest compass possible, the whole
apostolic mission. The apostles are sent into a
world, blinded by sin, sunk in the darkness of


soul that comes from sin, "to open men's eyes."
Witness-bearers as they are, their duty corre-
sponds with their equipment: they have received
of the Lord, let them impart of what they have
received to others. They have only to "open
men's eyes," to open them to a clear vision of
their state, of their danger and destiny, and of
the love of God in Christ which has provided a
reprieve from the danger.

To what end are they to open men's eyes?
"To the end," says the heavenly King, "that they
may turn from darkness to light, and from the
power of Satan to God." As the whole apostolic
duty consists in opening men's eyes, so the end
for which they perform this duty consists wholly
in the "conversion" of men; they are to open
men's eyes to the end that men may "turn" —
turn "from darkness to light and the power of
Satan to God."

Why should they thus turn? The heavenly
Xing condescends to explain even this to us. It
is that "they may receive forgiveness of sins and
inheritance among the saints." Those who are
in darkness and under the tyranny of Satan,
having had their eyes opened to their true state
and the provision for their relief made by a lov-
ing God, may turn from the darkness to light
and from the power of Satan to God. The con-
dition of so doing is to have their eyes opened.
This the Apostle was to perform. The effect of


so doing was to receive forgiveness of sin and a
lot among the saints. This God was to do; and
He alone could do it. Turning to God, they re-
ceive from God these blessings.

How then do they receive them? The heav-
enly King does not omit to tell us plainly, though,
no doubt, it is involved in the nature of the case.
If, by turning to God, they receive from God
these blessings, it must needs be by faith that
they receive them, for what is faith but a looking
to God for blessings .f^ Nevertheless the ascended
Christ fails not to state the matter for us and to
state it in a manner and in a position in the sen-
tence which throws upon it a tremendous em-
phasis. "By faith" He says; and He says more,
— "by faith in Me." And there is where the
Christianity of the declaration comes in.

One might be sent to open men's eyes without
being a Christian. Socrates was so sent; and he
opened men's eyes to much that was true, and
right, and good; and Sakya Muni was so sent;
and Zoroaster and Confucius; and since them a
host have been so sent, who, by their investiga-
tions into nature or their profound philosophy,
have made men to know things, and, let us hope,
have made men's darkness less intense — though
we must never forget that the world by all its
wisdom does not know God. Men might be
even sent to open men's eyes as to their religious
state — so that their religious darkness might be


ameliorated and they be led to see some rays of
religious light, and to long to be delivered from
the power of Satan and to turn to God — without
being Christians. Even should we say that we
are sent to op en men's eyes that they may turn
from darEness to light and the power of Satan to
Gqd^nd so might obtain forgiveness of sins and a
lot with the sanctified — the proclamation might
remain not yet Christian. Nor would the mere
addition of the words "by faith" Christianize it.
But when we say that all this is obtained by faith
in Jesus, and say this as the ascended Jesus has
said it here — then, indeed, we have a Christian
proclamation, or let us rather say, the Christian
proclamation. For in these words we have the
very essence of Christianity.

And now, perhaps, we shall be able to under-
stand why, ever since the Book of Acts has been
written, men have been accustomed to look upon
this little verse as one of the most pregnant in the
whole scope of revelation, and why they have
learned to call it the "Breviarium Apostolicum,"
the "Summarium Evangelicum." It is the com-
pendium of apostolic duty. It is the summation
of the Gospel. It tells the Apostle briefly that
his one duty is to "open men's eyes"; it tells the
world briefly that the Gospel consists in forgive-
ness of sins and a title to eternal life through faith
in Jesus. Out of one and out of the other it ex-
tracts the core and holds that up to us for our un-


distracted contemplation. As such it surely is
worthy of our most serious consideration.

There is another circumstance about it which
gives it an especial claim on our attention. These
are the words of the ascended Christ. Men
to-day seem to find it very difficult to discern an
authority in religion. Surely we cannot trust
the mere "ipse dixit" of men in the affair of the
salvation of the soul ! Let us find firm footing for
our feet ! And so the cry has risen, Back to Christ !
Back even from the apostles whom He commis-
sioned to make Him known to men; back to
Christ Himself! But when we go back to Christ,
a new doubt seizes the wavering soul. Was not
Christ, too, in the time of His sojourn on earth,
a man? Mayhap — so it is suggested — mayhap
He not only walked as a man and spake as a man,
but thought as a man and taught as a man. Can
we trust even His deliberate declarations in the
days of His flesh? Well, if we are earnest in all
this, we may find relief for our souls in a passage
like the one before us. In it we have gone back
to Christ. It is He who speaks these words to us.
And we have gone back, not to the earthly Christ
but to the heavenly Christ. It is not the Christ
in His humiliation but the Christ in His glori-
fication who here speaks to us. He has put off
the Servant-form, and been exalted to the right
hand of the Majesty on High; and He rends the
heaven to give to men from the very Throne, this


"Breviarium Apostolicum," this "Summarium
Evangelicum." It may, indeed, be that Hke an
Old Testament hero we are ourselves unstable as
water — "like the surge of the sea driven of the
wind and tossed" — and cannot feel our footing
firm though the Eternal Rock be beneath our
feet. But surely if we are earnestly in search of a
secure basis for our faith, the word spoken from
heaven by the exalted Christ supplies it to us;
making known to us what the duty of the Apostle,
and of us, too, the successors of the Apostles in
witnessing to the Word, is, and what the Gospel
is to which as Christ's messengers we are to bear

Approaching the passage in this spirit, let us
mark well the supreme lessons it brings to us, as
messengers of the grace of God in the Gospel — as
seekers of the salvation that is in Jesus.

Mark, then, first of all, the function which the
Ascended Jesus assigns to His witnessing servants.
It is summed up in a single term — it is "to open
men's eyes." Now, of course, the eye of the
heart can be opened only by the Spirit of God;
and it is not this unperformable duty which
Christ lays on His servants. But the eyes of
the mind are opened, in a lower sense, by the pres-
entation of the truth and it is this that the Lord
requires of His servants. They are "witnesses";
their duty is not to tickle men's ears or to allay
their fears; their duty is to make known the


truth, though it is precisely the truth that is not
agreeable to their ears and that arouses and
gives leash to their most terrifying fears. What
men need is to have their eyes opened, and the
duty laid on Paul and on all who would be fol-
lowers of Paul is to open men's eyes. That it
was in this sense that Paul understood his com-
mission is obvious from the succeeding context.
He was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, he
tells the king, but having been sent to open men's
eyes, that they might turn to God, he preached
the Gospel of repentance and turning to God,
bearing his witness to small and great alike. So
will we, too, fulfil our commission as messengers
of God's grace. We owe, as ministers, a teaching
duty and our prime duty — our one duty — is to
teach : we must open men's eyes.

We must not fail to mark the honour which is
thus put by the Ascended Jesus on what we have
learned to call by way of eminence, the Truth, —
or, the Gospel message. Everything is made to
turn on that. It lies at the root of all. The
Apostle's duty is to open men's eyes. Whatever
of salvation may come to men comes subsequently
to that and as an outgrowth of this root. "Truth
is in order to godliness" — that is a true formula.
But it must not be read — should we wish to re-
main in harmony with the Ascended Christ — as
a depreciation of the value of "truth" and
"knowledge" (its subjective form), but as an


enhancement of their importance. Truth exists
only to produce godliness; that is true and needs
to be kept constantly in mind. But no truth, no
godliness, — that, too, is true and that, too, needs
to be kept fully in mind. The only instrument
in your hands or my hands for producing godli-
ness is the truth; we are not primarily anything
else but witnesses to truth; and the truth of God
is the one lever by which we can pry at the hearts
of men. Preach the Word; that is our one com-
mission. And it is no more true that the Word
cannot be preached without a preacher, than that
the preacher cannot preach without a Word.
Men are in darkness, they need light, and we are
sent to give it to them.

It is equally important to observe that the im-
plication of our Ascended Saviour's words of
commission as to the condition of men, is that
they are in darkness. That is the reason why
they require to have their eyes opened. In what
darkness let the Apostle who received the com-
mission elsewhere tell us. As to the Gentiles, he
tells us sufficiently in the first chapter of Romans;
they have held back the knowledge of God in un-
godliness until their foolish mind is darkened and
they cannot know God; and under what bondage
to Satan this has brought them, let the cata-
logue of evils with which that chapter closes in-
form us. Nor are the Jews in better case: for a
Veil lies on their hearts also which will not be


taken away except on turning unto the Lord.
The dense darkness in which men live, the terrible
bondage into which they have been brought; this
is part of the revelation of the Ascended Saviour,
connected with which is the necessary implication
of their hopelessness apart from the preaching of
the Gospel. The appointed means of breaking
this darkness is the proclamation of the Gospel

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Online LibraryBenjamin Breckinridge WarfieldFaith and life; 'conferences' in the Oratory of Princeton seminary → online text (page 10 of 27)