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- Godliness - 10/23 -
BAPTISM OF BLOOD AS WE HAVE NEVER CONCEIVED OF, AND HE WILL PUT US OUT, and put some other nation in our place, or else He will act contrary to all His former dealings with nations! Do you suppose that Jerusalem was more guilty than we are? Have we not been exalted much higher than Jerusalem ever was? And have we not sinned against greater light and privilege than ever she did? Are not our professed Christians exactly the same in character as her Pharisees? Do they not make fine and long prayers, and, at the same time, devour the widow and fatherless? Yea, for hellish gain, do they not make widows and orphans wholesale? Might not God truly say of us, "Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger: they are gone away backward." Even the prophets prophesy falsely, and the people love to have it so!
Do you say, "No, we are not so _bad?"_ I answer, look abroad over the land, open your eyes, observe and see. Has it not become proverbial--have you not heard it until your ears have tingled, and your face burned with shame--"Better go and deal with anybody than a Christian"? and, alas! has there not been much ground for it? Have we any need to wonder that infidels wag their heads? Can you go into a shop where you are sure you will not be extortioned? Do you know anybody who keeps a conscience with respect to the profits he makes? Is there anybody scarcely who won't charge his neighbor more than the article is worth, if he has a chance, and call it lawful? _That_ is extortion. It may be only asking twopence for an article worth a penny, or a 1,000 pounds for what 700 pounds should buy; it does not matter the amount--it is EXTORTION!
God puts extortioners amongst the blackest of sinners. The Lord help me to "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others," and have the Charity that will not take a mean advantage of my neighbor because I have the chance, and thus traduce the precious name of the Holy Jesus by calling myself one of His followers. It is time this satanic Charity was swept out! The very first law, the very vital principle of true Charity, is _righteousness._ There is no Charity apart from righteousness. If your Charity is incompatible with righteousness, it is born of the devil and leads to hell!
If you have had anything revealed to you, in your heart or life, that you see to be wrong, say, "Here Lord, pour the light in; I am so glad You have shown this thing to me while there is time to alter it. Now bring your dissecting knife, and cut it away, even if the roots go deep down into my very heart's core. I will have it out." Will you? Will you be made true, straight, clean? Will you be made Divine? Will you be filled with the pure, holy love of God towards God, and towards men, and all beings? That is what the Lord wants you to have. This is what He has sent His Son to do. No subterfuge; no make-believe work to get you into Heaven as you are; but He wants to make you as He wants you to be, and _He can do it._ The Great Physician is able, He is willing, He has got love enough, and power enough and grace enough to do it for you. Confide all your heart to Him. Will you have this Divine Charity wrought in you? It will make you willing to suffer, to endure hardness, and shame, and contempt, and persecution. It will make you willing to do anything that human nature can do, and endure anything that human nature can suffer, that you may accomplish the same purposes that He came to accomplish, that you may help onward the progress of His glorious kingdom.
CHARITY AND LONELINESS.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.-I COR. xiii. 13.
_The possession of this Divine Charity often necessitates walking in a lonely path._
Not merely in opposition and persecution, but _alone_ in it, and here, again, Jesus, who was the personification of Divine lore, stands out as our great example. He was emphatically alone, and of the people there was none with Him. Even the disciples whom He had drawn nearest to Him, and to whom He had tried to communicate most of His thought and spirit, were so behind that He often had to reprove them, and lament their obtuseness and want of sympathy. In the greatness of His love He had to go forward into the darkness of Gethsemane. He was alone while they slept, and then through ribaldry, scorn, and sarcasm, to the cross. Alas! alas! almost alone, except a few--to their everlasting honor--poor faithful women--_alone!_
And, as it was with the Master, so it has been with all those whom God has called to go in advance of their race. It was so with John, and with Paul, and with most of the apostles, and with all those whom God has called to extraordinary paths since. Must John have a revelation of things shortly to come to pass? He must go alone into the Isle of Patmos! Must Paul hear unspeakable words, not, at that time, lawful for a man to utter? He must go alone into the third heaven, and not be allowed even to communicate what he saw and heard when he came down; alone, he must necessarily go in advance.
And just so, when God has called some of His followers to an out-of- the-way path, they have had to go alone in an untrodden way. Superior love necessitates a lonely walk. You shrink, and say, "That seems so hard." Yes, I know; I wish I could make it easier, but I cannot help it. I simply state the fact, that superior love necessitates, in some measure, a lonely walk, because you see it is only they who--thus love, to whom the Lord tells His secrets. If you want to ask a confidential question and get a confidential answer, you must be on the bosom of your Master. You won't be able to do it at a distance. Then, you see, when He gives to any soul superior light to its fellows, and that soul _follows_ the light, it necessarily entails a path in advance of its fellows. Unless he can inspire and encourage them (which, alas! is hard work) to follow, he must go on alone.
That was a beautiful illustration we read in the lesson (Acts x.). Here is Peter called to go in advance of the whole Church! Now, the Lord wants a man to do this, and whom does He choose? He chooses impulsive, energetic, head-first Peter. But then, there is something to be done first God lets down the sheet with all its unclean contents, and Peter fastens his eyes upon it. (I wish you had studied all the sheets the Lord has let down before _your eyes_, you would have come out very differently to what you have.) Peter studies them, and soon the Divine vision has absorbed Peter's attention. When the Lord has fairly got his attention, then comes the voice, "Now, Peter, rise, slay and eat." Then, when the Lord had taught him his lesson effectually, and when Peter saw that he had not yet explored all the ideas of the Divine mind about the extension of His kingdom, and that his business was to follow his Lord's directions, and not to have his own "ifs" and "buts," but go ahead and do as God bade him, then Peter goes on to carry out the Divine direction. Then the church, aghast, as usual, at anything new-- always down upon a measure, whether good or bad, if it has the _awful quality of being new_--was down upon it. This new church, which had only just itself been brought to God by a set of _new measures_, is down upon Peter, and they call him to the council to answer for his conduct.
He tells them all about it in the truthful simplicity of a man of God, and, thank God, they bad sense enough--yes, and love enough, charity enough, to accept his explanations, and to glorify God. Would to God we could get as much sense and charity in these days!
A lady writes to me, only the other day, of her husband, saying that he sympathises with outside work, but contends that there is everything one wants in the church; and another contends that there is everything everybody wants somewhere else, and so they are down upon all the Peters that dare to do anything out of the jog-trot line. You may reason ever so urgently, and show them that all these old measures are not enough for everybody, that there is a great mass of outlying population which they do not reach--the Gentiles of this generation; you may show them that these Gentiles are without the Holy Ghost, that they are not cleansed, that they are yet common and unclean; you may show them that these new measures of yours are quite as lawful as their old measures, and that, probably, they would be a great deal more useful, and, moreover, that they have been borne in upon you by the Holy Ghost, and that you feel as if there were a fire in your bones urging you to go and try them, but they will not hold their peace and glorify God, but will loose their tongues and villify you.
False Charity looks more at the means than at the end. Its possessor is more concerned about what men will think of _him_, than what will exalt the Redeemer. You can know it by this mark. Are you more concerned about what your neighbor, Mr. So-and-So, or your minister, Rev. Mr. So-and-So, or even your bishop, thinks about you, than you are about the extension of the kingdom of Christ? Look out, my friend, yours is the wrong sort of Charity. True Charity looks at the end--the spread of righteousness in the earth--_the reign of the King_--and it is not very fastidious about the measures, so that they are lawful.
I do not advocate anything unlawful, to do good--God forbid. Divine Charity says, "Anywhere with Jesus"--in the temple or outside of it-- at the seaside or in Cheapside--on the mountain top or in the market place--in the streets--anywhere, Lord Jesus, if Thou wilt only come and take Thine inheritance and reign over the hearts and souls of men. True Charity is only too glad to become a Jew to the Jews, as weak to the weak, if it can only pick them up;--only too glad to descend to men of low estate, and put its arms round their necks, if it can only bring them to the cross and bring them back to the heart and Heaven of God; and it does not care what the Pharisee on the other side says; it is set on saving the poor sinner; it is pouring in oil and wine, and putting him on its own beast; _it is intent on saving him_, and does not care what anybody thinks. Have you got it? It is so good. It makes you feel so warm and comfortable inside. It is beautiful, and it proves better and better every day, and it will be better still when you are dying--Faith and Hope will be done away, but this love will last _forever!_
But this necessitates somebody leading the way--going on in advance. Will _you_ be content to go in advance? Will _you_ endure the hardness of a pioneer? Can you bear the ridicule and gibes of your fellow-men? Dare _you_ go where the Holy Ghost leads, and leave Him to look _after the consequences?_ If so, happy are you, and you shall have a harvest of precious souls; you shall shine as the stars forever; but, if you draw back, His soul shall have no pleasure in you. Step out on to the Divine love, that is able, alone amongst the breakers, to bear your little bark--able to make you _more_ than a conqueror. Oh, step out--follow, follow, follow--do not be afraid!
_Spurious Charity_ is the opposite of this. It must have human notice. Ostentation is its very essence. Cease to notice it, and it will soon die. "I went about to establish mine own righteousness," says Paul, before he got the true Charity. Here was a grand opportunity for Pharisaic Saul. These Nazarenes, were they not
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