Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.

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

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of yonder glory. More, they may rejoice and be
exceeding glad, for great is their reward in heaven.
The more suffering for Christ here, the more
glory with Christ there. As an old writer has
it, the more the vessels of mercy are scoured here,
the more may they be assured that God wants
them to shine there; the more clear it is that we
are being preserved not in sugar but in brine, the
more clear that God is preserving us not for a
season but for eternity. The last of the beati-
tudes thus pronounces blessed those who suffer
affliction for Christ's sake and bids them rejoice
and be exceeding glad, because their reward shall
be great

Let us punctually observe, however, that it is
not affliction in itself that is pronounced blessed.
It is affliction for Christ's sake. This is the key-
phrase which locks up the whole list of beatitudes.
For Christ's sake. It is this that transmutes pov-
erty of spirit into heavenly humility, that brings
comfort to the mourning, and glorious riches to
the meek, and plenty to those that hunger and


thirst after righteousness. It is this that has been
the spring of mercy in the merciful, of purity in
the pure of heart, of peace in the peacemakers.
And it is this and this only that makes it a glory
to endure the scoffs and revilings and persecutions
of men. As truly as we may say that the blessed-
ness of affliction and persecution is due to its re-
lation to the reward, is due to the fact that it is
the gateway to the kingdom, so also may we say
that it depends on its cause. For Christ's sake
is the little phrase that points us to its source and

When we selected these three words, "For my
sake" as the centre of our meditation this after-
noon, therefore, we elected to ask you to give
your attention this hour to the great determining
motive of the Christian life, above which the
Scriptures know no higher, above which no higher
can be conceived. Christ adverts to it as the
great moving spring of Christian activity and en-
durance in the ninth beatitude. When reproach
and persecution and reviling are endured on
Christ's account, then and then only are we
blessed. But this is not the only place or the most
moving way that this motive is adduced. The
Scriptures are full of it. Let us sum up what we
have to say of it in two propositions. (1) For
Christ's sake is the highest motive which could
be adduced to govern our conduct. (2) For
Christ's sake ought and must be our motive in all


our conduct. In other words it is the grandest
and most compelling, and we should make it our
universal and continual motive, in all our conduct
of life.

Let us consider then, the greatness of this motive
as a spring of action, and here let us observe, first,
that its greatness as a motive is revealed to us by
the greatness of the requirements that are made
of us on its account. This ninth beatitude is an
example in point. Men are expected to endure
reproaches and persecutions and all manner of
evil for Christ's sake. That is, "for Christ's
sake" is expected to sweeten the bitterest cup,
and to make every affliction joyful to us. Dis-
graceful scourgings, unjust imprisonments (Matt.
10:18), burning hates (10:22), malignant slanders
(Luke 6:22), death itself (Matt. 10:39), and that
with the utmost refinement of cruelty and the
deepest depths of disgrace; all these are enumer-
ated for us as things before which no Christian
should hesitate when it is for Christ's sake. All
these are things which Christians have joyfully
met with praises on their lips for Christ's sake.
The enumeration in the eleventh chapter of He-
brews is but a bare catalogue of what since then
has been endured with delight by those who bore
this strengthening talisman in their bosom. For
Christ's sake. These too have had trial of mock-
ings and scourgings, of bonds and imprisonments,
of stonings and sawings asunder, and of long


lives of privation in deserts and eaves and have
for Christ's sake witnessed a good confession.
These all, in one word, have testified to us the
supreme strength of the motive "for Christ's
sake," by joyfully suffering everything for Christ,
that they might be glorified with Him, becoming
sharers in His sufferings that they might be par-
ticipants in His glory.

And this leads us to observe, secondly, that the
greatness of this motive is revealed to us by the
greatness of the promises that are attached to
living by it. So in this ninth beatitude, those
who are afflicted for Christ's sake are pronounced
blessed, and are called upon to rejoice and be ex-
ceeding glad, because — because, so it is added,
"great is your reward in heaven." And so is it
everywhere. "Every one" it is said, without
exception (Matt. 19:39), "every one that hath
left houses or brethren or sisters or fathers or
mothers or children or lands for my name's sake,
shall receive a hundredfold and shall inherit eter-
nal life." Thus it is that those whose eyes are
opened may see the recompense of the reward
and may be enabled to account the reproach of
Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.
He that denieth Christ before men may, indeed,
receive the applause of men; but men pass away
and their applause is empty air. But, he that
denieth men for Christ's sake is received into the
eternal habitations. "He that findeth his life


shall lose it; but he that loseth his life for my sake
shall find it." If we suffer with Him so also shall
we be glorified together with Him (Rom. 8:17).
There is, indeed, no limit to the reward promised;
truly "great is our reward in heaven." And the
greatness of the motive may be justly measured
by the greatness of the reward. As high as heaven
is above earth, as long as eternity is beyond time,
as great as perfection is above lack, as strong as
stability is above that which endureth but a
moment; so high is the heavenly reward above
the earthly suffering and so strong is the motive to
act for Christ's sake.

But, thirdly, let us observe that the greatness
of this motive is revealed to us by the fact that
God honours it as the motive of His own most mys-
terious acts of redemption. He not only asks us
to do for Christ's sake what is hard for us, but He
Himself for Christ's sake does what is hard for
Him. What could be more difficult for a just and
holy God than to pardon sin and take the sinner
into His most intimate love and communion.^
Yet for Christ's sake God does even this. "I
write unto you, little children," says the beloved
Apostle, "because your sins are forgiven you for
his name's sake" (1 John 2:12). All the instru-
mentalities of grace are set at work in the world,
only for Christ's sake. It is for His sake that we
are accepted by God, that we have the gift of
the Spirit, that we are regenerated, adopted, jus-


tified, sanctified, glorified. Nay, even the little
things of life are for His sake. It is not only for
His sake that we are received by God, but for
His sake that we are treated even here and now
while yet sinners as God's children, allowed free-
dom of access to the Throne of Grace, and have
all our petitions (little and great alike) heard and
answered. "Verily I say unto you," says the
Saviour, "whatever ye shall ask in my name, that
will I do" (Jno. 14:13).

And thus we are led finally to observe that the
greatness of the motive rests on the greatness of
Christ's work for us. As He has stopped at noth-
ing for our sakes, so we must not stop at anything
for His sake. All that we are and all that we
have are His. And as He has loved us and given
Himself for us, so must we love Him and give
ourselves to Him. Behind the phrase "for thy
sake" lurks thus all the motive power of a great
love, the fruit of a great gratitude. As we can
never repay Him for our redemption, so there is
nothing that we can pause at, if done for His
sake. Is not this the core of the whole matter.^
What difference will it make to us what men may
judge or what they will do? Need we hesitate
because they consider us beside ourselves.^ If
this is lunacy, it is a blessed lunacy! Nay, shall
we not rather say with the Apostle of old, " whether
we be beside ourselves it is to God. . . . For the
love of Christ constraineth us." And why should


the love of Christ constrain us? "Because we
thus judge, that if one died for all then all died;
and He died for all that those that live should no
longer live unto themselves, but unto Him who
for their sakes died and rose again." Yes, here
it is : for our sakes He died and rose again. And
because He died for our sakes, we shall live for
Him, yea, and if need be, for His sake also die.
Is there, can there be asked, a stronger motive
than this.f^

Or need we ask at this point how universal is
this obligation — how far, into what details of life,
we should carry it as our motive .^^ It is clear that
there can be no call so great that this motive
should not dominate it; we must be glad and will-
ing to go to death itself "for His sake." But
perhaps, the other side needs emphasis too. Can
there be a call so small that this motive need not
govern us.^ Nay, we are bought with a price and
are asked not only to be ready to die, but also
(sometimes a harder task) to be ready to live for
Christ. Whatever we do, however small, how-
ever seemingly insignificant — must needs be for
Him. We are now new creatures — no more
worldlings but Christ's children; let us see to it
that we live like Christ's own children; doing all
we do for Him and for His sake. So the Scrip-
tures teach us to do: "Whatsoever ye do in word
or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through Him."


"Whatsoever ye do, do from the soul, as unto the
Lord, and not unto men; knowing that from the
Lord ye shall receive the recompense of the m-
heritance." (Col. 3:17, 23.) As Christians, let
us be Christians, recognizably followers of Christ,
doing His will in all we do and trying our duty at
every stage simply by these questions: Is it ac-
cording to His will.^ Does it subserve His glory?
Is it for His sake? So doing, we cannot but ap-
prove ourselves before man and God as followers
of Him.


Matt. 6:33: — "But seek ye first his kingdom and his righteous-
ness; and all these things shall be added unto you."

This verse is in a sense the summing up of the
whole lesson of the Sermon on the Mount up to
this point. This great discourse had opened
with an enumeration of the classes to whom the
advent of the kingdom would bring joy and bless-
ing, in whom the leading characteristic is seen to
be other- worldliness. It then proceeded to enun-
ciate the law of the kingdom, which demanded
holiness before God rather than external right-
eousness before men. At the nineteenth verse of
the sixth chapter the summing up begins with a
direct appeal to lay aside care for earthly things
and to set the mind on heavenly things. This
summing up culminates and finds its fullest ex-
pression in the verse before us: "But seek ye first
the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and
all these things shall be added unto you." This is
the precipitate of the whole sermon; in a few
words it contrasts the two cares which press on
man, the two seekings which may engage his at-
tention. It does not commend to us a nerveless
life of Buddhist-like retirement from desire and
destruction of activity. It presupposes in all
men who are men, desire, energy, activity directed



to a goal. But it discriminates activities and
goals. We are to seek. But not what the heathen
seek — worldly ease and goods and advantages.
We are to seek heavenly things. Hence, it bans
one class of seekings and commends the other.
Our chief end is not to gain earthly things but

Approaching the verse somewhat more closely,
we observe of it — that it is a protest against prac-
tical atheism. There is a formal atheism of opin-
ions and words and reasonings which declares
that there is no God and seeks to sophisticate the
understanding into believing that there is none.
This the Bible describes as an open folly: the
fool has said in his heart, There is no God. But
even when the lip and the mind behind the lip
are true to right reason and confess that there is
a God who rules the world and to whom Ve are
responsible in our every thought and word and
deed, there is often a practical atheism that lives
as if there were no God. Formal atheism denies
God; practical atheism is guilty of the possibly
even more astounding sin of forgetting the God it
confesses. How many men who would not think
of saying even in their hearts. There is no God,
deny Him practically by ordering their lives as if
He were not.^^ And even among those who yield,
in their lives, a practical as well as a formal ac-
knowledgment of God, many yet manage, prac-
tically, to deny in their lives that this God, ac-


knowledged and served, is the Lord of all the earth.
How prone we are to limit and circumscribe the
sphere in which we practically allow for God!
We feel His presence and activity in some things
but not in others; we seek His blessing in some
matters but not in others; we look for His guid-
ance in some affairs but not in others; we can
trust Him in some crises and with some of our
hopes but not in or with others. This too is a
practical atheism. And it is against all such prac-
tical atheism that our passage enters its protest.
It protests against men living as if they were the
builders of their own houses, the architects of their
own fortunes. It protests against men reckoning
in anything without God.

How are we to order our lives .^ How are we
to provide for our households — or, for our own
bodily wants.? Is it true that we can trust the
eternal welfare of our souls to God and cannot
trust to Him the temporal welfare of our bodies.?
Is it true that He has provided salvation for us
at the tremendous cost of the death of His Son,
and will not provide food for us to eat and
clothes for us to wear at the cost of the directive
word that speaks and it is done.? Is it true
that we can stand by the bedside of our dying
friend and send him forth into eternity in good
confidence in God, and cannot send that same
friend forth into the world with any confidence
that God will keep him there.? O, the prac-


tical atheism of many of our earthly cares and
earthly anxieties! Can we not read the lessons
of the birds of heaven and the lilies of the field
which our Father feeds and clothes? What a
rebuke these lessons are to our practical atheism,
which says, in effect, that we cannot trust God
for our earthly prosperity but must bid Him wait
until we make good our earthly fortunes before
we can afford to turn to Him. How many men
do actually think that it is unreasonable to serve
God at the expense of their business activity?
To give Him their first and most energetic ser-
vice? How many think it would be unreasonable
in God to put His service before their provision for
themselves and family? How many of us who
have been able to "risk" ourselves, do not think
that we can "risk" our families in God's keeping?
How subtle the temptations ! But, here our Lord
brushes them all away in the calm words, "Seek
ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness ;
and all these things shall be added unto you."
Is this not a rebuke to our practical atheism?
But the verse does not take the form of a re-
buke; it takes the form of an appeal; and we
observe next of it, therefore, that it is an appeal
to make God's kingdom and righteousness the
prime objects of our life. And looking closely at
it we see that it is not an empty appeal but in-
cludes a promise. We are, primarily, to make
God's kingdom and righteousness our chief con-


cem; but, doing so, we shall more surely secure
the earthly things we need. The passage does
not proceed on the presumption that we do not
need these earthly things; it asserts our need of
them. It does not proceed on the assumption
that they are not to be in their appropriate place
and order and way the objects of seeking. It
merely corrects our mode of seeking them. We
may seek them without and apart from God or
we may seek them in and of God. It tells us that
the former way — the atheistic way, in which we
seek to provide for ourselves — is the way not to
get them; the latter way in which we seek them
in and from God is the way to get them. Who
can doubt it.?

In the first place we have God's promise. He
tells us that if we will seek first His Kingdom and
His righteousness He will add all these things. He
tells us in effect that to godliness there is the prom-
ise both of this world and of the world to come.
Men find it hard to believe this. It is a standing
problem of the wise of the earth and has been
from Job's day down. But we have the promise.

In the next place we may add, despite the diffi-
culties of life and the clouding of judgment, it,
after all, does stand to reason. Isn't, after all, it
the best way to secure the reward, to enter into
the service of the King.? And God is the King
of all the earth. How shall we obtain the goods
of the earth better than by hearty service of the


King of the earth? True we shall obtain them as
gifts and not as acquired by us. But is not the
best path for man, to seek them at His hands?
The King suffers not His faithful servants to

But more fundamentally still, we may add that
it belongs to the very nature of things. If we
want to enjoy those earthly goods which God has
placed in this world for the benefit and use of His
children, the best way to secure their enjoyment
is obviously not to seek to do it individually but
socially. It is a social axiom that everything that
betters the condition of society as a whole increases
our enjoyment of our material goods. A savage
acquires a pot of gold. How shall he enjoy it?
His fellow savages covet it; and who shall secure
it to him? He is liable to be waylaid at night for
it. Every bush hides an enemy; the poisoned
arrow may fly upon him from any tree; his sleep
is driven from him as he seeks to protect his life.
Hidden by friendly darkness he may bury his
treasure under some great tree in the tangled
forest; and anxiously guard its neighbourhood lest
he may have been watched and still be bereft of
it. In such conditions there is no enjoyment of
the treasure for him; he can enjoy only the pro-
tection of it. But, now, he is a wise savage and
instead of giving his energies to protecting his
treasure, he gives it to civilizing his people. Out
of the savage tribe rise the rudiments of a state;


the majesty of law emerges— protecting under
its powerful aegis the person and property of its
citizens. What a change! No need of hiding
the treasure now. He can wear it displayed upon
his person. He now can enjoy at least its pos-
session. But a higher stage is still possible; the
community may be not only civiHzed but Chris-
tianized; Christian principles take the place of
external laws; love the place of force. And he,
touched with the same spirit, goes about with his
treasure, transmuting it into aid for the suffering
and needy. Now he is truly enjoying it, enjoying,
not only protecting it, not only possessing it but
using it. When such a time fully comes to this
world of ours — that is what we mean by the Mil-
lennium — the kingdom of God has come for
which we daily pray in the prayer our Lord has
taught us, when men no longer prey on one an-
other but help and support one another.

Meanwhile how shall we approach it.^ By cur
Lord's prescription— by seeking the kingdom of
God and His righteousness. In proportion as we
seek and find this kingdom, in the measure in
which we bring it into practical life in the narrow
circle around us, is it not necessarily true that we
shall have and enjoy the best goods of this earth.?
Is there not a deep foundation in the nature of
things for our Lord's promise: "Seek ye first the
kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all
these things shall be added to you?" Is not this


the most hopeful way to obtain and hold and
enjoy these other things?

But it is time for us to take note of another and
the most characteristic element in this appeal.
When we observe it narrowly we will see that it is
not an appeal to seek the kingdom of God and
His righteousness on the ground that this is the
best way to obtain the other goods. It does not
say: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His
righteousness" "because" — but simply "and"
— "and all these things shall be added unto you."
It is a fact that Godliness has also the promise of
this life, but that is not the reason why Godliness
should be sought. It is a better reason that it
has the promise of the life to come. It is a bet-
ter reason still that it is Godliness. Nor does our
passage itself fail to bring this out. It does not
say "and all these things shall be your reward."
It does not propose to pay us for seeking God's
Kingdom and righteousness by giving us earthly
things. It says: "and all these things shall be
added unto you." The Greek word is not the
word for pay, reward, but for the small gratuitous
addition to the promised wages, given as we should
say "in the bargain." The worldly goods that
come to us are in a word here represented not as
our reward, but as something "in the bargain."
The appeal of the passage is made to rest else-
where; that is, in the contrast between goods
earthly and goods heavenly. We are to seek the


heavenly, not for the sake of the earthly, but for
their own sake. For, as Paul says, after all the
Kingdom of God is not meat and drink but
righteousness. And our passage sets, as Bengel
points out, this celestial food and drink over
against the earthly.

Herein resides the "hft" of the passage. It
places the highest good before us — God and His
righteousness — fellowship with God; and pries at
our hearts with this great lever of. Who will seek
earthly food and drink when they can seek the
kingdom of God and His righteousness.? In the
restitution of the harmony between man and God
thus involved, every blessing is included. Here is
something worth losing all earthly joys for. Here
is something worth the labour of men, the very end
of whose being is to glorify God and enjoy Him
forever. Would we not purchase it with loss of all
earthly — if we can speak of loss in the exchange
of the less for the greater.? Will we not take this
for our seeking when in addition to this great
reward, we shall have also "all these things added
to us".? See the tenderness of our Lord in this
constant regard for our human weakness.

And there is another tender word in the pas-
sage when restored to its right reading, which
reaches down into our hearts to summon another
motive from their depths, whereby we may be led
to seek God's kingdom and righteousness. The
fact that this is the best way to obtain these very


eaTthly blessings which we need may be a suffi-
cient motive. The glory of the things sought
may be a higher and more prevailing motive.
But there is a more powerful one still; it is
love — love not to a principle but to a person.
And our Lord does not fail to touch on this.
In its right reading the passage does not run:
"Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His
righteousness," but " Seek ye first His king-
dom and His righteousness." And the ante-
cedent to "His" is "your heavenly Father."
Here our Lord is tugging at our hearts. " For
your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have
need of all these things. But seek ye first His
kingdom and His — your heavenly Father's —
righteousness; and all these things shall be added
unto you." Did we say the passage is a protest?
Did we say it is a command.? Do we not now
see that it is rather a pleading .^^ O, the subtlety
of love! Love speaks here to us; will not love
respond in us.'^ Under such pleading what can
we do but seek first our heavenly Father's
kingdom, our heavenly Father's righteousness.'^
And because He is our Father, we are sure both
that we shall find it, and with it — how compari-
tively little it seems now! — whatever else we
need, added to us.


Mark 4:21-25: — "And he said unto them. Is the lamp brought

Online LibraryBenjamin Breckinridge WarfieldFaith and life; 'conferences' in the Oratory of Princeton seminary → online text (page 3 of 27)