Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.

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

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not ultimate but point upwards to a higher Power.
Conscience is the voice of God proclaiming war
in man; and through it man knows that he is not
at peace with God. Hence its pain and terror.


Everywhere, man knows that because he is a
sinner, he is at enmity with God. Man's sense
of enmity with God is the source of all his terror, all
his unrest, all his misery. It is ineradicable and
universal. It must abide so long as man knows he
is a sinner. But so long as it abides, he cannot be
other than miserable.

Now the Apostle, in the text, recognizing this
state of things, promises us as if it were the fun-
damental blessing, the peace of God. And he
promises it to us in language which exhibits his
high appreciation of its nature. He calls it, a
peace that passes all conception. And he prom-
ises it as something that will guard or "sentry"
our hearts and thoughts — as if it were able to
keep us pure and holy as few things can. Let us
note then in opposition to the restlessness of man's
heart by nature the surpassingness of God's peace.

And here, note especially, the universality of
this peace of God; how it supplies the whole lack
of peace in which we are by nature.

It is fundamentally peace with God. "But
now in Christ Jesus ye that once were afar off are
made nigh in the blood of Christ. For he is our
peace, who made both one, and broke down the
middle wall of partition, having abolished in his
flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments
and ordinances, that he might create in himself
of the twain one new man, so making peace; and
might reconcile them both in one body unto God


through his cross, having slain the enmity there-
by." Christianity does not come crying peace,
peace, when there is no peace, and when we know
there is no peace. It does not come crying that
God is love and nothing but love, and the Father
of all, not at enmity to us, not needing any recon-
ciliation. It comes recognizing the enmity and
laying an adequate foundation for peace. It rec-
ognizes our sin and guilt and offers an atonement
for it. It recognizes our condemnation and makes
provision for its reversal. It institutes peace out
of war, and that by a method which commands our
assent as complete, availing, effective. Thus it
makes peace between us and God.

And just because it does not talk of a peace
already existing when our hearts know there is
war, it relieves also our unrest of conscience and
brings us to peace with ourselves. Looking upon
the satisfaction of Christ, the heart can comfort
itself in the knowledge of a reconciled God and
receive His promises that on the basis of that
atonement the Spirit shall come and work peace
in the soul.

And once again, this peace of soul mightily
works to produce peace in our environment, for
now the soul no longer looks upon the external
world as its enemy and no longer on the laws of
nature as purely natural forces, grinding out evil
for it. It sees that in nature and above nature a
Father sits — truly a Father, now, that He is rec-


onciled to us in Christ, and that all Providence is
in His hands, touching us. In nature itself — in
history — the reconciled soul meets God and per-
ceives everywhere the hand of One who loves him
and cares for him. Amid all happenings he is
peaceful and serene; he knows nothing can harm
him now; he knows nothing can take away his
peace; he knows that all things shall work to-
gether for good to him. The external world is no
longer his enemy, but his friend.

In our absorption with the weightier matters of
the fundamental reconciliation of the soul with
God in Christ and the operation of the Spirit
working peace in us, we are apt to neglect this ele-
ment of peace, in which we are ourselves at peace
in the world, no longer orphans but communing
with God in all our happenings. How important
an aspect of the matter it is may be advertised
to us by the comfort which the theologians of the
school of Ritschl find in it, the only form of com-
munion with God they acknowledge, and how it
fills their hearts to be able by the revelation of
Christ to look on the world as God's Kingdom in
which His children are not orphans but sons of a
living God.

The inestimable value of the peace of God is
apparent next from the reasonableness and surety
of this peace. There may be a peace which is not
reasonable; a peace which is not assured. The
worldly man's peace on which he strives to stay


himself is of this kind ; the peace of a drunkard in a
house on fire, the peace of a lunatic who fancies
himself a king, the peace of a fool who cries Peace !
Peace! when there is no peace. Such a peace can
be maintained only by shutting our eyes to what
we are and where we are and the relations that
actually exist about us and between us and God.
Any accident that calls us to ourselves destroys it.
Any ray of true light arising in our conscience ex-
tinguishes it. And when evil and death come,
where is it then.^^ But God's peace is a rational
peace, and a stable peace. It arises not from
shutting our eyes to our real state, but from open-
ing them to it, and the more our eyes are open and
the more we reahze our real condition, under-
standing what Christ is, what we are, and what
He has done for us, the more peace flows into our
hearts. The more searching the light we turn on
the scene, the more glorious the prospect. Light
turns a false peace into torment. Light awakes
in the countenance of the true peace, happy smiles.

Is this peace ours.'^ How can we obtain it?
Whence obtain it.^^ We must distinguish. It is
not our peace; it is God's. We do not make it;
He makes it. But we can by God's grace enjoy
it more and more.

(1) Its foundation is, of course, in Christ and
Christ's work. It can be had on no other basis,
in no other way. "Being justified by faith, we
have peace with God." We cannot go about to


establish it; we should be doomed to utter failure.
We are by nature at enmity with God. No peace
can be found until that enmity is removed. It
cannot be removed by aught but a perfect sac-
rifice, a perfect righteousness. Christ alone can
do it. For the inestimable peace of God, there-
fore, we must look to Christ. It can have no
other foundation than His perfect work.

(2) Its formation in us is, of course, by the Holy
Ghost. We cannot produce it for ourselves, even
on the basis of Christ's work. A fountain cannot
rise higher than its source and a sure and stable
peace — an everlasting peace — an infinite and per-
fect peace — must be the work of Him who is Him-
self all this. "Now the works of the Spirit
are love, joy, peace."

(3) But the cultivation of it is placed by God's
grace in our hands. Christ may have died for
us; the Spirit may have applied that death sav-
ingly to us; and yet we may still hold back from
the full consciousness of our safety; wrong
thoughts and feelings may stand in our way. We
are at peace with God; our conscience knows it.
But we may so seldom look to Him who is our
Peace, and so much to ourselves, that we fail to take
the true comfort and joy of our changed position.

Hence a good old writer (William Bridge)
draws two useful distinctions: a distinction be-
tween Fundamental Peace and Additional Peace;
a distinction between Dormant Peace and Awak-


ened Peace, — peace in the seed and peace in the
flower. Fundamental Peace, he tells us, is that
peace which naturally and necessarily arises from
our justification; those who are justified by faith
have peace with God. We cannot cultivate
this, we have it; it cannot be less true or be made
more true. But it is objective. There is, then,
the subjective peace, founded on this: the addi-
tional peace that arises from the sense of our jus-
fication. This we may neglect to cultivate; it
may be lost for a time. As the thief breaking in
at night can steal the accumulated income
hoarded in the safe, but cannot steal the capital
invested in the land ; so the great thief of the uni-
verse, Satan, may take away our additional peace
but never the fundamental. So we may also
speak of Dormant peace — a peace we have ever
in heart but do not realize always ; and Awakened
peace, which manifests itself to the soul.

On the one hand, the wicked man may give him-
self great comfort till the day of death comes, but
when trouble breaks forth upon him, he is at
length awake. The sin and guilt were in his heart
always; they lay sleeping there, but now they are
awakened. So the German poet sings:

The heart hath chambers twain.

Which inhabit
Sweet joy and bitter pain :
Oh joy, take thou good heed!

Tread softly,
Lest pain should wake indeed!


Just so, on the other hand, men may have a
great reservoir of true peace within them, and
yet have never drawn on it for the supply of their
needs. After a while the need arises that breaks
the retaining wall and the whole soul is flooded
with peace. This is peace indeed! O, that we
may have this peace! Not merely Fundamental
peace — though that is the main thing — but Addi-
tional peace; not merely Dormant peace, but
Awakened peace — the sense of being at peace
with God.


Col. 1:12: — "Giving thanks unto the Father who made us meet
to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in Ught."

Our passage is one of those fervent descrip-
tions of the blessed state of the saved soul in
which the writings of Paul abound. It occurs in
the midst of the prayer which he says he has been
offering for the Colossians ever since their con-
version. The Colossians were not brought to
Christ by his own preaching, but by that of his
faithful minister in the Gospel, Epaphras. And
when Epaphras brought him the good news of the
turnmg of the many at Colossse from darkness to
light, the heart of the Apostle overflowed with
thanksgiving. From that day, he says, he has
been continually thanking God for the Colossian
Christians, and mingling with his thanks earnest
petitions for their Christian walk.

The gist of his petition is that they — so lately
brought to Christ and so surrounded by danger —
should be filled with the knowledge of God's will
in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that
they might walk worthily of the Lord unto all
pleasing. Two points are to be noted here.

The thing which Paul desires for the Colossian
converts is that they may, in their walk and con-
versation, be well pleasing to Christ. This is



expressed by means of a term of rather startling
strength; a term which in its classical usage bore
an implication of cringing subjection to the whims
of another and was applied to the sycophant and
the flatterer. Of course, the nobler association
with Christ voids it of its unworthy suggestions,
but there is left on the mind a strong impression
of the fullness of the devotion which the Apostle
would fain see in the lives of Christians to
their Lord. External service — eye service — is not
enough ; our thoughts must run ahead of the com-
mand and all our lives be suffused with this prin-
ciple — that we may be well pleasing to Christ.
This is what the Apostle asks in behalf of the Co-
lossian converts.

The second thing to be noted is that Paul ex-
pected this perfection of service to be mediated
by perfection of knowledge. What he directly
asks for is that these converts may be filled with
the knowledge of God's will in all wisdom and
spiritual understanding — and the word used here
for "knowledge" is the term for precise, full, ac-
curate, profound knowledge. He prays directly
that they may have the knowledge — in order that
they may walk worthily of their Lord unto all
kinds of pleasing. Obviously it seemed to the
Apostle that the pathway to a right life lay through
a right knowledge. It was only as they knew the
will of God that they could hope to please Christ
in action. Knowledge comes thus before life and


is the constructive force of life. Thus the Apostle
teaches us the supreme value of a right and pro-
found and exact knowledge of Divine things.
Not as if knowledge were the end — life, undoubt-
edly, is the end at which the saving processes are
directed; but because the sole lever to raise the
life to its proper height is just right knowledge.
It is life — the right life — that the Apostle is pray-
ing for in behalf of the Colossians: but he repre-
sents knowledge — right knowledge — as possessing
the necessity of means to that life.

The nature of this right life is perhaps suflS-
ciently outlined in the single phrase in which Paul
gives expression to his longing. He says that he is
asking that the Colossians may walk worthily of
the Lord in every kind of pleasing. It is a Christ-
pleasing life that he wishes for them. But it is
not the Apostle's way to content himself with
broad phrases. And he proceeds at once to sug-
gest more fully what kind of a life he conceives a
Christ-pleasing life to be. There are three char-
acteristics which he throws into emphasis. It
must be a fruitful life. It must be a stable life.
It must be a thankful life. Here is the way he
develops its idea. That ye may walk worthily
of the Lord unto every kind of pleasing, he says —
(1) by bearing fruit and yielding increase in every
good work, through the knowledge of God; (2)
by being strengthened in every sort of strength
according to the might of His glory, unto all obe-


dience and long-suffering; (3) by joyfully giving
thanks to the Father, who has qualified us for our
share in the lot of the saints in the light. Abound-
ing fruitfulness in good works; strong patience
in the trials of Hfe; joyful thankfulness for the
blessings of salvation; these are the traits of the
Christian walk which shall be worthy of the Lord
unto all pleasing; these are the marks of that life
on which our Saviour will smile.

Now it is particularly to the third of these traits
of a Christ-pleasing life that our text draws our
attention to-day. It is one of the marks of right
Christian living when we are joyfully thankful to
the Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ
for our introduction into the blessings of the
Christian life. For, more accurately speaking,
that is the substance of the thanksgiving which
the Apostle desires to see illustrated in the Colos-
sian Christians. The terms in which he ex-
presses it are worth our careful consideration.
"With joy, giving thanks to the Father," he
phrases it, "who made us sufficient for a share
of the lot of the saints in light." The ground of
the thankfulness which he would fain find in them
is that supernal act of the Father of our Saviour
by which he has introduced us into the company
and endowed us with the heritage of the saints.
Of course, the reminiscence of our primal estate as
aliens from the household of God underlies the
thought; but it is not explicitly adverted to until


the next verse. What is emphasized here is the
wonder of the act by which we were transformed
into fellow-citizens of the saints, and fellow-heirs
with them of God. That, says the Apostle, is
the ground of a thanksgiving on our part which
should transfuse our whole life and by which our
life will be characterized as a Christian one.

For the development of the thought, let us em-
phasize in turn the four chief elements which
seem to enter most prominently into it. These
words of the Apostle would seem to advise us,
then, of at least these important facts :

1. That the saints have a heritage.

2. That the heritage of the saints is "in the

3. That it is God and God alone who has the
power to introduce men into this heritage.

4. That it is a matter of profound thanksgiving
to men, therefore, when they find themselves in-
vested with this heritage — a thanksgiving which
should transform their whole lives and make them
conscious debtors to God to such an extent that
henceforth they should live to Him and His glory
should be their one pursuit — in a word, that
they should walk worthily of the Lord unto all

That the saints have a heritage is obviously the
central implication of the passage. What Paul
wishes his readers to be thankful for is their
capacitating by the Father for their share "in the


inheritance of the saints." Our term "heritage"
may indeed be misleading in this connection. The
Greek term may not naturally emphasize the same
connotations, possibly may not contain all that
we are^accustomed to think of in connection with
it. It may be better to use the word "lot," for
example, and speak of "the lot" of the saints.
The main implication is that of a possession which
becomes ours, not by our earning it but by gift
from another. What the saints obtain is not
merited by them, is not theirs by right and their
own desert; it is allotted to them. The language
is founded on and is reminiscent of the allot-
ment of Canaan to the Tribes which composed the
ancient people of Jacob. As in that typical
transaction the whole land was the gift of God to
the people and was allotted to the several tribes
and families, each having his own portion, so, in
the antitype, the saints are conceived as having
in possession their allotted heritage, in which
each has his specific portion which is to be his in-
disputably and his forever. As under the Old
Testament, so imder the New, there remains a
land, a country, an abiding home, for the people
of God, into which abode the true Joshua leads
them to their rest. And this, I say, is the fun-
damental implication of the passage.

The designation of this country of the saints as
"in the light" follows a symbolism which per-
vades the whole Bible, and the grandeur of which


is, perhaps, liable to be missed by us through our
very wontedness to it. Throughout the Scrip-
tures "light" is used as the designation of all that
is of consummate and unapproachable perfection,
whether in the physical, intellectual, moral or
spiritual spheres. In contrast with the darkness
of sorrow and peril we have the light of joy and
safety; in contrast with the darkness of death we
have the light of life; in contrast with the dark-
ness of error we have the light of truth; in con-
trast with the darkness of sin we have the light of
holiness; in contrast with the darkness of de-
struction we have the light of salvation. Physi-
cally, intellectually, ethically, spiritually, sav-
ingly, "light" is all that is pure and true, bright
and holy and blissful. And light is the heritage
of the saints. It is the sphere in which God lives,
for we are to walk in the light as He is "in the
light." It is the glorious city built foresquare of
luminous stones, in which the saints have their
real citizenship and the "light" of which is God
Himself. God Himself is "light" and we, as His
children, are the "children of light." In Him is
no darkness at all, or as the strongly emphatic
language of John seems to say, "Darkness is not
in Him; no not in any way" — not in the way of
physical infirmity, of intellectual error, of moral
fault, of spiritual stain, or of sullied blessedness.
In Him and in Him only, who dwelleth in light inac-
cessible, is there no darkness, — no, not in any way.


Meanwhile we fairly wallow in darkness. But
for the saints there is a heritage "in the light"
that streams out from the Throne of God, that
light which is the source and condition of all life,
and health, and strength, and all knowledge and
righteousness, hohness and bliss. There lapped
in the actinic rays of the "light of life," dwell the
saints. There each has his appointed portion,
his home. There each obtains his own higher
qualities of knowledge, righteousness, holiness and
bliss; and becoming thus luminiferous is made
himself a "light bearer" in the world. All this
and more is meant by the Apostle when he tells
us of the "heritage of the saints in light."

Now he tells us further that it is God and God
alone who can introduce men into this glorious
region of "the light." It is God who is light and
all the light that is in the world streams from Him.
We, on our part, are under the dominion of "dark-
ness," and darkness has filled our hearts. How
can we be rescued from the rule of darkness and
translated into the kingdom of the Son of God's
love? Obviously it is only by an act of God, the
Light, Himself shining into our darkened heart.
And so the Apostle tells us, declaring that it is
God who has made us meet for a share in the heri-
tage of the saints. Our English word "meet"
probably only brokenly represents the Greek
word which he employs. In the Greek word the
idea of sufficiency, adequacy, ability, is more


prominent than that of worthiness, suitability.
The notion conveyed is, perhaps, not so much that
God has made us fit, worthy, to be in the King-
dom of Hght — though that in any event is in-
cluded, and as to the thing itself is not inharmoni-
ous with the Apostle's main intention; but that
He has made us able to enter into this state. Im-
mersed in the kingdom of darkness, or worse than
that, with the kingdom of darkness within our-
selves, we were incapable of entering the kingdom
of light. We needed to be made "suflScient,"
"competent," "adequate," "capable," to be
"qualified," "capacitated" for entering into our
portion in the allotment of the saints. There was
no power in us for entering these light-sown re-
gions; our natural home was elsewhere. Only
by a creative act of God were we able to enter
upon their sacred precincts.

You see the idea is not that we had the power to
enter but not the fitness to abide there; it is
that we had no power to enter — the light striking
us in the face drove us away because we were of
the darkness and incapable of the light. It was
God and God alone who made us able to receive
a portion in the inheritance of the saints in light;
He alone who delivered us from the authority (we
were under its authority) of darkness and trans-
lated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.
And we will utterly fail to catch Paul's real mean-
ing unless we feel profoundly how entirely he as-


cribes the totality of the transaction by which we
are vested with a heritage among the saints "in
the light" to God and to God alone. It is to God
and not to ourselves — not to our fellow-men, nor
yet to angels, — to God and to God alone, that we
owe it that our part is with the saints in the light.
It is He that has qualified, capacitated, compe-
tentized, suflScientized us, for our part in the lot of
the saints.

And it is just on this basis that He calls on us
to spend our lives in one long thanksgiving to
God, as the one who has enabled us for our share <
in the heritage of the saints in the light. Thanks-
giving presupposes indebtedness. The nature of
the indebtedness is already enshrined in the one
word "who made us competent," but it is richly
developed in the subsequent verses. We were
held under the power of darkness; we have been
delivered from it and translated into the Kingdom
of the Son of God's love. We were under the
curse of sin; we have received in Him redemp-
tion, even the forgiveness of sins. In this great
rescue we have been made suflScient for both
things. There is obviously an objective and a
subjective side to it; an ideal and an actual pos-
session involved. But the upshot of it all is —
that God has taken us out of darkness with all
that that involves and placed us in the light, with
all that that involves. And as children of the light
we must rejoice in the light — which light God is.


Col. 3:1-4, especially 3: — "Your life is hid with Christ in God."

We cannot hope to empty so great a text as this
into our minds and hearts in the course of a quar-
ter of an hour's study of it. It is a great fountain
filled with refreshment. But we may like to sip
a little of its strengthening waters. To do so, let
us in a very simple way just glance at its contents.

And first we observe that the text assumes a
fact. Its opening words, "If then ye were raised
together with Christ" posit a fact beneath all
that it has further to say. And the resurrection
here adverted to implies a previous death; and

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Online LibraryBenjamin Breckinridge WarfieldFaith and life; 'conferences' in the Oratory of Princeton seminary → online text (page 20 of 27)