Thoughts for Salvationists about Their Lord
General Bramwell Booth.
"As man He suffered—as God He taught."
I. The Man for the Century
II. The Birth of Jesus
"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke ii. 11.)
"The firstborn among many brethren." (Rom. viii. 29.)
III. Contrasts at Bethlehem
IV. Christ Come Again
"And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger." (Luke ii. 7.)
"Christ formed in you." (Gal. iv. 19.)
V. The Secret of His Rule
"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." (Heb. iv. 15.)
VI. A Neglected Saviour
"And He came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy." (Matt. xxvi. 43.)
VII. Windows in Calvary
"And they crucified Him, and parted His garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet. They parted My garments among them, and upon My vesture did they cast lots. And sitting down they watched Him there." (Matt. xxvii. 35, 36.)
VIII. The Burial of Jesus
"And after this Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and, took the body of Jesus." (John xix. 38. And following verses.)
IX. Conforming to Christ's Death
"That I may know Him . . . being made conformable unto His death." (Phil. iii. 10.)
X. The Resurrection and Sin
"Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was . . . declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." (Rom. i. 3, 4.)
XI. "Salvation Is of the Lord"
"Salvation is of the Lord." (Jonah ii. 9.)
"Work out your own salvation." (Phil ii. 12.)
"If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." (Matt. xvi. 24.)
XIII. In Unexpected Places
"And . . . while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus Himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know Him." (Luke xxiv. 15, 16.)
XIV. Ever the Same
"Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are His: and He changeth the times and the seasons." (Dan. ii. 20, 21.)
"I am the Lord, I change not." (Mal. iii. 6.)
The present volume contains some of the papers bearing on the Birth and Death and Work of our Lord Jesus Christ which I have contributed from time to time to Salvation Army periodicals. I hope that in this form they may continue the service of souls which I am assured they began to render when, one by one, they were first published.
Much in them has, I do not doubt, come to me directly or indirectly by inspiration or suggestion of other writers and speakers, and I desire therefore to acknowledge my indebtedness to the living, both inside and outside our borders, as well as to the holy dead.
Barnet, May, 1908.
The Man for the Century
The new Century has its special need.
The need of the twentieth century will be men. In every department of the world's life or labour, that is the great want. In religion, in politics, in science, in commerce, in philanthropy, in government, all other necessities are unimportant by comparison with this one.
Given men of a certain type, and the religious life of the world will thrive and throb with the love and will of God, and overcome all opposition. Given men of the right stamp, and politics will become another word for benevolence. Provided true men are available, science will take her place as the handmaid of revelation. If only men of power and principle are at hand, commerce will prosper as she has never yet prospered, rooted in the great law which Christ laid down for her: "Do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you." If the men are found to guide it, philanthropy will become a golden ladder of opportunity by which all in misfortune and misery may climb, not only to sufficiency and happiness here, but to purity and plenty for ever. And, given the men of heart, head, and hand for the task, the government of the kingdoms of this world will yet become a fulfilment of the great prayer of Jesus: "Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in Heaven."
But all, or nearly all, depends on the men.
The new Century will demand men.
But if men, then certainly a man. Human nature has, after all, more influence over human nature than anything else. Abstract laws are of little moment to us until we see them in actual operation. The law of gravitation is but a matter of intelligent wonder while we view its influence in the movements of revolving planets or falling stars; but when we see a baby fall terror-stricken from its little cradle to the floor, "the attraction of large bodies for small ones" takes on a new and heart-felt meaning. The beauty of devotion to truth in the face of opposition hardly stirs an emotion in many of us, as we regard it from the safe distance of our own self-satisfied liberty; but when we see the lonely martyr walk with head erect through the raging mob, and kiss the stake to which he is soon to be bound; when we watch him burn until the kindly powder explodes about his neck, and sends him to exchange his shirt of flame for the robe he has washed in the Blood of the Lamb; then, the beauty, the sincerity, the greatness, the God-likeness of sacrifice, especially of sacrifice for the truth, comes home to us, and captures even the coldest hearts and dullest minds.
The revelation of Jesus in the flesh was a recognition of this principle. The purpose of His life and death was to manifest God in the flesh, that He might attract man to God. He took human nature that human nature might see the best of which it was capable. He became a man that men might know to what heights of power a man might rise. He became a man that men might know to what lengths and breadths of love and wisdom a man might attain. He became a man that men might know to what depths of love and service a man might reach.
The men we need, then, for the twentieth century will find the pattern Man ready to their hand. Be the demands of the coming years what they may, God is able to raise up men to meet them, men after His own likeness—men of right, men of light, men of might—men who will follow Him in the desperate fight with the hydra-headed monsters of evil of every kind, and who will, by His Name, deliver the souls of men from the slavery of sin and the Hell to which it leads.
The new Century will demand high standards, both of character and conduct.
Explain it how we may, the fact is evident that religion has greatly disappointed the world. The wretched distortion of Christ's teaching which appears in the lives and business of tens of thousands of professed Christians, the namby-pambyism of the mass of Christian teachers towards the evil of sin, and the unholy union, in nearly all the practical proceedings of life, between the world and the bulk of the Christian churches, no doubt largely account for this, so far as Christianity is concerned.
Mohammedanism is in a still worse plight, for though, alas! it increases even faster than Christianity, it is helpless at the heart. The mass of its devotees know that between its highest teaching and its best practice there is a great gulf, and they are slowly beginning to look elsewhere for rules by which to guide their lives.
And what is true of Mohammedanism is true also of Buddhism—the great religion of the East. Its teachers have largely ceased to be faithful to their own faith; and, as a consequence, that faith is a declining power. Beautiful as much of its teaching undoubtedly is, millions who are nominally Buddhist are estranged by its failures; and are, with increasing unrest, looking this way and that for help in the battle with evil, and for hope amidst the bitter consciousness of sin.
Such is a cursory view of the attitude of the opening century towards the great faiths of the world. Perhaps one word more than another sums it all up—especially as regards Christianity—and that word is NEGLECT—cold, stony neglect!
And yet men are still demanding standards of life and conduct. The open materialist, the timid agnostic, no less than the avowedly selfish, the vicious and the vile, are asking, with a hundred tongues and in a thousand ways, "Who will show us any good?" The universal conscience, unbribed, unstifled as on the fateful day in Eden—conscience, the only thing in man left standing erect when all else fell—still cries out, "YOU OUGHT!" still rebels at evil, still compels the human heart to cry for rules of right and wrong, and still urges man to the one, and withholds him from the other.
And it is—for one reason—because Jesus can provide these high standards for men, that I say He is The Man for the Century. The laws He has laid down in the Gospels, and the example He furnished of obedience to those laws in the actual stress and turmoil of a human life, afford a standard capable of universal application.
The ruler, contending with unruly men; the workman, fighting for consideration from a greedy employer; the outcast, struggling like an Ishmaelite with Society for a crust of bread; the dark-skinned, sad-eyed mother, sending forth her only babe to perish in the waters of the sacred river of India, thus "giving the fruit of her body for the sin of her soul"; the proud and selfish noble, abounding in all he desires except the one thing needful; the great multitude of the sorrowful, which no man can number, who refuse to be comforted; the dying, whose death will be an unwilling leap in the dark—all these, yea, and all others, may find in the law of Christ that which will harmonise every conflicting interest, which will solve the problems of human life, which will build up a holy character, which will gather up and sanctify everything that is good in every faith and in every man, and will unite all who will obey it in the one great brotherhood of the one fold and the one Shepherd.
The new Century will call for freedom in every walk of human life.
That bright dream of the ages—Liberty—how far ahead of us she still lies!
What a bondage life is to multitudes! What a vast host of the human race, even of this generation, will die in slavery—actual physical bondage! Slaves in Africa, in China, in Eastern Europe, in the far isles of the sea and dark places of the earth, cry to us, and perish while they cry.
What a host, still larger, are in the bondage of unequal laws! Little children, stricken, cursed, and damned, and there is none to deliver. Young men and maidens bound by hateful customs, ruined by wicked associations, torn by force of law from all that is best in life, and taught all that is worst. Nine men out of ten in one of the great European armies are said to be debauched morally and physically by their military service; and all the men in the nation are bound by law to serve.
What a host—larger, again, than both the others—of every generation of men are bound by custom in the service of cruelty. It is supposed that every year a million little children die from neglect, wilful exposure, or other form of cruelty. Think of the bondage of those who kill them! Look at the cruelty to women, the cruelty of war, the cruelty to criminals, the cruelty to the animal creation. What a mighty force the slavery of cruel custom still remains!
All that is best in man is crying out for emancipation from this bondage, and I know of no deliverance so sure, so complete, so abiding as that which comes by the teaching and spirit of Jesus. But, even if freedom from all these hateful bonds could come, and could be complete, without Him, there still remains a serfdom more degrading, a bondage more inexorable than any of these, for men are everywhere the bond-slaves of sin. Look out upon the world—upon your own part of it, even upon your own family or household—and see how evil holds men by one chain or another, and grips them body and soul. This one by doubt, this by passion, this by envy, this by lust, this by pride, this by strife, this by fear, this one by love of gold, this one by love of the world, and this one by hatred of God! Is it not so?
What men want, then, is PERSONAL, INDIVIDUAL LIBERTY FROM SIN. Given that, and a slave may be free. Given that, and the child in the nursery of iniquity may be free. Given that, and the young man or maiden held in the charnel-house of lust may be free. Given that, and the victim of all that is most cruel and most brutal in life may still be free. Oh! blessed be God, he whom the Son makes free is free indeed!
This, and this alone, is the liberty for the new Century—the Gospel liberty from sin for the individual soul and spirit, without respect of time or circumstance; and here alone is He who can bestow it—Jesus, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.
This, I say, is The Man for the new Century.
The new Century will be marked by a universal demand for knowledge.
One of the most remarkable features of the present time is the extraordinary thirst for knowledge in every quarter of the world. It is not confined to this continent or that. It is not peculiar to any special class or age. It is universal. One aspect of it, and a very significant one, is the desire for knowledge about life and its origin, about the beginning of things, about the earth and its creation, about the work which we say God did, which He alone could do.
Oh, how men search and explore! How they read and think! How they talk and listen! Where one book was read a generation ago, a hundred, I should think, are read now; and for one newspaper then read, there are now, probably, a thousand. Every man is an inquiry agent, seeking news, information, or instruction; seeking to know what will make life longer for him and his; and, above all, what can make it happier.
And here, again, I say that Jesus is The Man for the new Century. He has knowledge to give which none other can provide. I do not doubt that universities, and schools, and governments, and a great press, can, and will, do much to impart knowledge of all sorts to the world. But when it comes to knowledge that can serve the great end for which the very power to acquire knowledge was created—namely, the true happiness of man—then, I say, that JESUS is the source of that knowledge; that without Him it cannot be found or imparted; and that with Him it comes in its liberating and enlightening glory.
Oh, be sure you have that! No amount of learning will stand you in its stead. No matter how you may have stored your mind with the riches of the past, or tutored it to grapple with the mysteries of the present, unless you know Him, it will all amount to nothing. But if you know Him who is life, that is life eternal. Knowledge without God is like a man learned in all the great mysteries of light and heat who has never seen the sun. He may understand perfectly the laws which govern them, the results which follow them, the secrets which control their action on each other—all that is possible, and yet he will be in the dark.
So, too, knowledge, learning, human education and wisdom are all possible to man; he may even excel in them so as to be a wonder to his fellows by reason of his vast stores of knowledge, and yet know nothing of that light within the mind by which he apprehends them. Nay, more! he may even be a marvellous adept in the theory of religion, and yet, alas! alas! may never have seen its SUN—may still be in the blackness of gross darkness, because he knows not Jesus, the Light of the world, whom to know is life eternal.
The new Century will demand governors.
Every thoughtful person who considers the subject must be struck by the modern tendency towards personal government all over the world. Whatever may be the form of national government prescribed by the various constitutions, it tends, when carried into practice, to give power and authority to individual rulers. Whether in monarchies like England, where Parliament is really the ruling power; or in republics like France and the United States, where what are called democratic institutions are seen in their maturity; or in empires like Germany and Austria, the same leading facts appear. Power goes into the hands of one or two who, whether as ministers, or presidents, or monarchs, are the real rulers of the nation.
Perfect laws, liberal institutions, patriotic sentiments, though they may elevate, can never rule a people. A crowd of legislators, no matter how devoted to a nation, can never permanently control, though they may influence it. Out of the crowd will come forth one or two; generally one commanding personality, strong enough to stand alone, though wise enough not to attempt it. In him will be focussed the ideas and ambitions of the nation, to him the people's hearts will go out, and from him they will take the word of command as their virtual ruler. It has ever been so. It is so to-day. It will always be so.
And as with nations so with individuals. Every man must have a king. Call him what we will, recognise him or not, every man is the subject of some ruler. And this will, if possible, be more manifest in the future than in the past. Men will not be satisfied to serve ideas, to live for the passing ambitions of their day, they will cry out for a king.
Am I wrong when I say that JESUS IS THE COMING KING? In Him are assembled in the highest perfection all the great qualities which go to make the KING OF MEN. And so the new Century will need Him, must have Him; nay, it cannot prosper without Him, the Divine Man, for He is the rightful Sovereign of every human soul.
A New Force.
The new Century will demand great moral forces as well as high ideals.
Nothing is more evident than that the forms and ceremonies of religion are rapidly losing—even in nominally Christian countries—all real influence over the lives of men. The form of godliness without the power is not only the greatest of all shams, but it is the most easily detected. Hence it is that a large part of mankind is either disgusted to hostility or utterly estranged from real religion by theories and ceremonials which, though they may continue to exist in shadow, have lost their life and soul.
For example, the old lie, that money paid to a Church can buy "indulgences" which will release men in the next world from the penalty of sin committed in this, and the miserable theory which made God the direct author of eternal damnation to those who are lost, are among the theories which, though they are still taught and professed here and there, have long ago ceased to have real influence over men's hearts or actions. In the same way, there are multitudes who still conform to the outward ceremony of Confirmation, upon whose salvation from sin or separation from the world that ceremony has absolutely no influence whatever, although, for custom's sake, they submit to it.
But a greater danger than this lies in the fact that it is possible to hold and believe the truth, and yet to be totally ignorant of its power. Sound doctrine will of itself never save a soul. A man may believe every word of the faith of a Churchman or a Salvationist, and yet be as ignorant of any real experience of religion as an infidel or an idolater. And it is this merely intellectual or sentimental holding of the truth about God and Christ, about Holiness and Heaven, which makes the ungodly mass look upon Christianity as nothing more than an opinion or a trade; a something with which they have no concern.
The new Century will demand something more than this. Men will require something beyond creeds, be they ever so correct; and traditions, be they ever so venerable; and sacraments, be they ever so sacred. They will ask for an endowment of power to grapple with what they feel to be base in human nature, and to master what they know is selfish and sinful in their own hearts.
And right here The Man for the Century comes forward. The doctrine of Jesus is the spirit of a new life. It is a transforming power. A man may believe that the American Republic is the purest and noblest form of government on the earth, and may give himself up to live, and fight, and die for it, and yet be the same man in every respect as he was before; but if he believes with his heart that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and gives himself up to live, and fight, and die for Him, he will become a new man, he will be a new creature. The acceptance of the truth, and acting upon it, in the one case, will make a great change in his manner of life—his conduct; the acceptance of the truth, and acting upon it, in the other, will make a great change in the man himself—in his tastes and motives, in his very nature.
Again, I say, this is what we shall need for the new Century. Not good laws only, but the power to observe them. Not beautiful and lofty ideals only, but the power to translate them into the daily practice of common lives. Not merely the glorious examples of a pure faith, but the actual force which enables men to live by that faith amid the littleness, the depression, the contamination, and the conflict of an evil world.
The new Century will demand an atonement for sin.
The consciousness of sin is the most enduring fact of human experience. From generation to generation, from age to age, amidst the ceaseless changes which time brings to everything else, this one great fact remains, persists—the condemning consciousness of sin. It appears with men in the cradle, and goes with them to the tomb; without regard to race, or language, or creed it is ever with us. It was this robbed Eden of its joys; it is this makes life a round of labour and sorrow; it is this gives death its terrors; it is this makes the place of torment which men call Hell—for the unceasing consciousness of sin will be "the worm that never dies."
All attempts to explain it away, to modify its miseries, to extract its sting—whether they have come from the party of unbelief, or the party of education, or the party of amusement, have failed—and failed utterly. No matter what men say or do to get rid of it, there it is—staring them in the face! Whether they look amongst the most highly civilized peoples or amongst the lowest savages; whether they look into the past history of mankind or into its present condition, there is the stupendous fact of sin, and there is the incontrovertible fact that everywhere men are conscious of it.
It is going to be so in this twentieth century. If God, in His mercy, allows the families of men to continue during another hundred years, this great fact will still stand out in the forefront of life. Sin will still be the skeleton at every feast, the horrid ghost haunting every home and every heart, the spectre, clothed with reproaches, ever ready to plunge his dripping sword into every breast.
Sin. The world's sin. The sin of this one generation. The sin of one city. The sin of one family. The sin of one man—my sin! Ah! depend upon it, the twentieth century will cry aloud, "What shall be done with our sin?"
Yet, thanks be to God! there is an atonement. The MAN of whom I write has made a propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world. He stands forth the ONLY SAVIOUR. None other has ever dared even to offer to the sin-stricken hearts of men relief from the guilt of sin. But He does. He can cleanse, He can pardon, He can purify, He can save, because He has redeemed. "Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us unto God by Thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation."
Will you come and join in our great world-mission of making His atonement known? Will you turn your back on the littleness, and selfishness, and cowardice of the past, and arise, in the strength of the God-Man, to publish to all you can reach, by tongue, and pen, and example, that there is a sacrifice for men's sins—for the worst, for the most wretched, for the most tortured? As you set your face with high resolve towards the unknown years, take your stand with THE MAN FOR ALL THE AGES; and let this be your message, your confidence, your hope for all men-"Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!"
The Birth of Jesus.
"For unto you is born . . . a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." —Luke ii. 11.
"The firstborn among many brethren."—Romans viii. 29.
The birth of Jesus is one of the great signs of His condescension; and, no matter how we view it, is perhaps scarcely less wonderful than His death. If the one manifests His glorious divinity, then the other exalts His wonderful humanity. If Calvary and the Resurrection reveal His power, does not Bethlehem make manifest His love? And did not both the former come out of the latter? The infinite glory which belongs to the cross and the tomb had its rise in the gloom of the stable. If the Babe had not been laid in the manger, then the Man would not have been nailed to the tree, and the Lamb that was slain would not have taken His place on the Everlasting Throne.
I claim, therefore, a little more attention to the events which relate to the Saviour's birth, and to the lessons which may be derived from them; and though, perhaps, something of what I have to say will have already occurred to some who will read this paper, I will venture to suggest one or two thoughts as they have been presented to my own mind. Their very simplicity has made them of service to me.
The nature of the whole work of our redemption is made manifest by the one fact—He really came. His everlasting love, His infinite compassion, His all-embracing purpose were from eternity; but we only got to know of it all because He came. If He had contented Himself with sending messages or highly-placed messengers, or even with making occasional and wonderful excursions of Divine revelation, man would, no doubt, have been greatly attracted, and perhaps even helped somewhat in his tremendous conflict with evil; yet he might never have been subdued in will, he might never have been touched and won back to God; he might never have been brought down from his pride to cry out, "My Lord and my God." No, it was His coming to us that wrought conviction of sin, and then conviction of the truth in our hearts.
He came Himself.
There is something very wonderful in this principle of contact as illustrated by the life of Jesus. Just as to save the human race He felt it necessary to come into it, and clothe Himself with its nature and conform Himself to its natural laws, so all the way through His earthly journey He was constantly seeking to come into touch with the people He desired to bless. He touched the sick, He fed the hungry, He placed His fingers on the blind eyes, and put them upon the ears of the deaf, and touched with them the tongue of the dumb. He took the ruler's dead daughter "by the hand, and the maid arose." He lifted the little children up into His arms, and blessed them; He stretched forth His hand to sinking Peter; He stood close by the foul-smelling body of the dead Lazarus; He took the bread, and with His own hands brake it, and gave it to His disciples at that last farewell meal. He even took poor Thomas's trembling hand, and guided it to the prints in His hands and the wounds in His side.
Yes, indeed, it is written large, in every part of His life, that He really came, and that He came very near to lost and suffering men.
Is there not a lesson here for us, my comrade? As He is in the world, so are we. This principle in His life was not by accident or by chance, it was an essential qualification of His nature for the work entrusted to Him. It is a necessary qualification for those who are called to carry on that work.
Is this, then, the impression you are able to give to those among whom you labour: that you have come to them in very truth; that in mind and soul, in hand and heart, you are seeking to come into the closest contact of love and sympathy with them, especially with those who most need you?
Oh, aim at this! Do not for your own sake, as well as for your Master's, move about amid your own people, or among those to whom God and The Army have given you entrance, as one who has little in common with them, who does not know them, who does not feel with them. Go into their houses, put your hand sometimes to their burdens, take a share in their toils, nurse their sick, weep with them that weep, and rejoice with them that rejoice. Make them feel that it is your own religion, rather than The Army system, that has made you come to them. Let them see by your sympathy and kindness that love is the over-mastering influence in your life, the influence that has brought you to them. Compel them to turn to you as a warm-hearted unselfish example of the truths you preach. Let them feel that you are indeed come from God to take them by the hand, as far as may be, and lead them through this Vale of Tears to the City of Light and Rest.
His Humble Origin.
Everything associated with the advent of Jesus seems to have been specially ordered to mark His humiliation. It is true that Mary, His mother, was of the lineage of King David, but her relationship with the royal house was a very distant one, and the family had fallen upon sad times. The Romans were masters in the land, and a stranger sat upon the throne of Israel. Mary, therefore, was but a poor village maiden; Joseph, her betrothed husband, was a carpenter—an ordinary working man. Bethlehem, the place of the Saviour's birth, was a tiny straggling village, which, though not the least, was certainly one of the least of the villages of Judea. And Nazareth, where He grew from infancy to childhood, and from youth to manhood, was another little hamlet among the hilly country to the north of Jerusalem, and was held in low repute by the people of those days.
The occupation chosen for the early life of Jesus was a humble one. He learned the trade of a joiner, and worked with Joseph at the carpenter's bench. His associates and friends were of the village community, and He "whose Name is above every name" passed to and fro and in and out among the cottage homes of the poor—as one of themselves. Probably none but His mother had, in these early years, any true idea of the mysterious promise which had been given concerning Him.
What a contrast it all presents to the years of stress and storm and of victory which were to follow, and to the supreme influence His teaching and example were to exert in the world!
Is there not something here for us? Do not the lowly origin and simple country habits and humble tastes of some of our comrades make them hesitate on the threshold of great efforts, when they ought to leap forward in the strength of their God? Let them remember their Master, and take courage. Let them call to mind the unfashionable, uneducated, uncultivated surroundings of Nazareth. Let them bear in mind the carpenter's shed, the rough country work, the bare equipment of the village home, the humble service of the family life. Let them, above all, remember the plain and gentle mother, and the meek and lowly One Himself, and in this remembrance let them go forward.
To be of lowly origin, or of a mean occupation; to come out of poverty and want; to be looked down upon by the rich or the powerful ones of earth; to be treated as of no consequence by governments and rulers, and yet to go on doing and daring, suffering and conquering for God and right; what is all this but the fulfilment of Paul's words, "And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence"? Nay, what is it all but to tread in the very steps that the Master trod?
His High Nature.
But if, on the human side, our Redeemer's origin and circumstances were of the humblest, and we are thus enabled to see His humanity, as it were face to face, there was united with it the Divine nature; so that as our Doctrines say, "He is truly and properly God, and He is truly and properly man." Many mysteries meet by the side of that manger, some of them to remain mysteries, so far as human understanding can grapple with things, till God Himself reveals them to our stronger vision in the world to come. But, blessed be God, some, things that we cannot compass with our mental powers are very grateful to our hearts.
How Thou canst love me as I am, Yet be the God Thou art, Is darkness to my intellect, But sunshine to my heart.
And we to whom the Living Christ has spoken the word of life and liberty, although we may not now fully comprehend this great wonder of all wonders —God manifest in the flesh—and may not be able effectively to make it plain to others, we cannot for ourselves doubt its central truth— that GOD dwelt with man.
Here was, indeed, a perfect union of two spirits. There was the suffering and obedient spirit of the true man; there was the unchanging and Holy Spirit of the true God. It was a union—it was a unity. It was God in man—it was man in God. A being of infinite might and perfect moral beauty, sent forth from the bosom of the Father; and yet a being of lowly and sensitive tenderness, having roots in our poor human nature, tempted in all points like as we are, and touched with the feeling of all our infirmities.
Is it not to something of the same kind we are called? Is not every true Salvation Army Officer designed by God to be also (not, of course, in the same degree, but still up to the measure of his own capacity and of his Master's will) a dual, or two-fold creature, with associations and roots and attachments in all that is human, and yet with the divine life, the divine spirit, divine love, divine zeal, divine power, divine fire united with him and dwelling in him?
The perfect man would have been a great marvel, a great teacher, a great prophet; but without the God he could never have been the perfect Saviour. The Divine, without the human, would have been an awe-inspiring fact, a spectacle of holiness too great for human eyes; but He could not have been a Saviour. If it were possible for us to conceive the one without the other we should certainly not find a JESUS in either.
And so, your merely human Officer, no matter how pure, how strong, how thoughtful, how clever, how industrious, will fail, and ever fail. And even so the Officer who is lost in visionary seeking after the Divine alone, to the neglect of action, of duty, of law, of self-denial, of the common conflicts and contracts of the man, will equally fail, and always fail. It is the man we want. The MAN—but the man born of the SPIRIT. The MAN—but the man full of the HOLY GHOST. The MAN—but the man with PENTECOST blazing in his head and heart and soul.
Comrade, what are you? Are you striving to be a prophet without possessing the spirit of the prophets? Are you trying to be a priest without the priestly baptism? Are you labouring to be a king without the Divine anointing? Beware!
From Infancy to Manhood.
Birth implies the weakness, the dependence, the ignorance of infancy. But it implies, also, the promise of growth, of increase, of advance from infancy to manhood. Thus it is with man generally. So it was with the Son of Man. First, He was "wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger." Presently He goes forth in His mother's arms into Egypt, and back to Nazareth. By and by it is written that "the Child grew and waxed strong in spirit, and the grace of God was upon Him." Then He is found in the Temple, asking that wonderful question about His Father's business, and at last we find Him "increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man."
We know, also, that He was found in fashion as a servant, and was obedient unto death; that He was tempted of the Devil, and that "He learned obedience by the things that He suffered." In fact, a very slight acquaintance with the history of His life reveals the truth that in some wonderful way He steadily grew in wisdom and grace; in the power to love and to serve, and in strength to grapple with sin and death—all the while He journeyed from the cradle to the grave and the victory beyond.
His life was a discipline, in the very highest sense of the word. Many of the hopes He might rightly entertain about the success of His work were dashed. Much of His love for those around Him was disappointed, and His trust betrayed. He was despised where He should have been honoured: rejected where He should have been received. "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not." "Not this man," they cried, "but Barabbas." But out of it all He came forth perfect and entire, lacking nothing—the chiefest among ten thousand, the altogether lovely. It may be a mystery, but it is a fact all the same, that the more the precious and wondrous and eternal jewel was cut and cut again, the more the light and glory of the Day-spring from on High was made manifest to men.
And here also I find a word of help and courage and cheer for you and me, my precious comrade. I am not sure that you could receive any more valuable Christmas gift than the full realisation of this truth—that your advance from the infancy to the manhood of your life in God will not be hindered and delayed, but rather will be helped and quickened by the storms and trials, the conflicts and sufferings, which will overtake you.
It was so with the man Christ Jesus; it has been so with thousands of His chosen. As He, our dear Lord, was made perfect through suffering, so are His saints. We are "chosen in the furnace of affliction," and often cast into it, too! And yet He who chooses all our changes, might have spared us every trial and conflict, and taken us to victory without a battle, and to rest without a toil. But He knows better what will make us men, and it is men He wants to glorify Him—men, not babes.
The dark valleys of bitterness and loneliness are often better for us than the land of Beulah. A certain queen, once sitting for her portrait, commanded that it should be painted without shadows. "Without shadows!" said the astonished artist. "I fear your Majesty is not acquainted with the laws of light and beauty. There can be no good portrait without shading." No more can there be a good Salvationist without trial and sorrow and storm. There might, perhaps, remain a stunted and unfruitful infant life—but a man in Christ Jesus, a Soldier of the Cross, a leader of God's people, without tribulation there can never be. Patience, experience, faith, hope, love, if they do not actually grow from tribulations, are helped by them in their growth. For what says the Apostle? "Tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed."
The finest pine-trees grow in the stormiest lands. The tempests make them strong. Surgeons tell us that their greatest triumphs are often those in which the patients have suffered most at their hands—for every stroke of the knife is to heal. The child you most truly love is the one you most anxiously correct, and "whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth." Oh, do believe that by every blow of disappointment and sorrow He permits to fall upon you, He is striving to bring you to the measure of the stature of a man in Christ Jesus. Do work with Him in the full knowledge that He will not forsake you. He, the Man who has penetrated to the heart of every form of sorrow, and left a blessing there; He who has watched in silence by every kind of earthly grief, and found its antidote: the Man who trod the wine-press alone—He will be with you.
And, since He is with you, see to it you acquit yourself well in His presence. It is related of an old Highland chief that when advancing to give battle he fell at the head of his clan, pierced by two balls from the foe. His men saw him fall, and began to waver. But their wounded captain instantly raised himself on his elbow, and, with blood streaming from his wounds, exclaimed, "Children, I am not dead; I am looking to see if you do your duty!"
My comrade, this is the path of progress, the way of advance from the littleness and weakness of infancy to the battles and victories of manhood. It is the way of duty, and your Captain, with the wounds in His hands and His side, is looking on.
Contrasts at Bethlehem.
The birth and infancy of Jesus—notwithstanding that Christmas time comes round again and again—receive less attention than they deserve; owing, no doubt, to the interest attached to the events of His manhood and death. Nevertheless, they suggest some useful lessons, especially to those of us who have much to do with the weak and trembling, and are ourselves, alas! often weak and trembling, too. May I offer one or two thoughts on the subject, which, though quite simple, have proved of blessing to my own heart?
Great weakness may be quite consistent with true greatness and goodness.
It is unnecessary to dwell even for a moment on the weakness of the Infant Jesus. The Scripture has left no possible doubt about it.
Unable to speak, to walk, indeed to do anything for Himself—weak with all the weakness of the human race; yea, more truly helpless than a young bird or a tiny worm, the Holy Child was laid in the manger hard by the beasts that perish.
And yet we know that there was the Divine SON, the Express Image of the Father, the Everlasting King, the Enthroned One, the Creator, "without whom was not anything made that was made"! It is indeed a contrast, which first astounds us, and then compels our adoration and love. Our God is a consuming Fire—our God is a little Child. Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory—and yet He is there in fashion as a Babe, for whom, in all His sweet innocence, they cannot find a room in the crowded inn.
Yes, my friend, to be weak, to be small, to be sadly unfit for the strifes of time; to feel weary and unequal to the hard battles of life; to realise that you are pushed out and away by the crowd, to be contemptuously forgotten by the multitude shouting and singing across the road—all this may be your case; and yet you may be God's chosen vessel, intended —framed "to suffer and triumph with Him." You, even you, may be destined by His wisdom to fill for Him some great place in action against the hosts of iniquity and unbelief. Above all, you may be appointed by God the Father to be like His Son, with a holy likeness of will, of affection, of character.
For, indeed, weakness in many things is not inconsistent with goodness, and purity, and love. The manger has in this also a message for us. Out of that mystery of helplessness came forth the Lion-Heart of Love, which led Him, for us, to the winepress alone, and which, while we were yet rebels, loved us with an everlasting love, going, for us, to a lonely and shameful death. Take heart, then, remembering that it is out of weakness we are to be made strong. Be of good courage—to-day may be the day of the enemy's strength, when you are constrained to cry out: "This is your hour and the power of darkness!" but to-morrow will be yours. The weakness and humiliation of the stable must go before the Mount of Transfiguration, the Mount of Calvary, the Resurrection Glory, and the exaltation of the Father's Throne. Take heart!
A condition of complete dependence may be quite consistent with a great vocation—the call, that is, to a great work.
I suppose that there is nothing known to man so absolutely dependent upon the help of others as a little child! Life itself begins in total dependence upon another life, and is only preserved in still greater dependence on powers outside itself—for air, for light, for heat, for food, for clothes, for comfort—indeed, for every needed thing. This is especially the case with the child. The young lions and sheep, the tiny flies and the small fishes—these are all able to do something for their own support; but the new-born babe presents a picture of complete dependence. And this Babe was no exception. What a service of imperishable worth to all the world was rendered by His mother in her loving care of Him!
And yet we know something of the stupendous task to which He came! That little Child was to become the greatest Example, the greatest Teacher, the greatest, the only Saviour, the greatest Healer of the sorrows of men, the greatest Benefactor, the greatest Ruler and King. Upon Him and upon His word, who lies there in His Virgin mother's arms, dependent on her breast for life and warmth, unnumbered multitudes were to rest their all for this life and the next—tens of thousands, in the face of inexpressible agonies, were to trust to Him their every hope, and for His sake were to die a thousand deaths.
Let not, then, your heart be troubled because you also are so dependent on others—so hedged in by your circumstances, so limited by sickness and pain, so incompetent through inexperience and ignorance, or that you are so compelled to stand and wait when you would fain rush on and do or dare for your Lord. All this may be even so, and yet you may be called to share in the same high vocation as your Saviour.
I read lately of an old saint chained for weary years to a dungeon-wall, unable even to feed himself, whose testimony for Jesus was powerful to the deliverance of many of his persecutors. He was killed at last, lest, one by one, he should convert the jailers also who were employed to supply him with food.
Are you "bound" in some way? Are you chained fast to some strange trial? Are you appointed to serve in what seems like a den of beasts? Are you under the compulsion of some injustice? Are you made to feel helpless and useless without the support of those around you? Ah, well, do not repine. Do not forget that God's call comes often—Oh, so often—to just such as you—to witness for Him in spite of "these bonds," to declare the truth, to dare to reprove sin. Above all, do not doubt your God. You may be very dependent to-day, but you may be more than victorious to-morrow.
Poverty and friendlessness are often found in company with a great heart.
There was no home for Jesus in Bethlehem. There was no room for Him in the inn. There was no cradle in the stable. There was no protector when Herod arose to kill. What a strange world it is! Did ever babe open eyes on such a topsy-turvy condition of affairs? The King of Glory had not where to lay His head! Mary, it is true, was strong in faith, but both she and Joseph must needs soon fly into Egypt with the Babe. Refused at the inn, soon even the stable must cast them out!
He came to take all men into His heart, and they, ere ever they saw Him, cast Him forth as an outlaw!
And we who know what it means to be loved of Him, what can we say? Our hearts are bowed with something of shame and grief that He thus suffered, and yet we have a secret joy because He suffered so well! For of all the greatnesses of the Babe this is the greatest—the greatness of His heart. "The Sacred Heart of Jesus," the Romanists call it. "The All-Conquering Heart of Jesus," I prefer to name it. For it was His wealth of love that really gave Him the victory.
Does one read these lines who is poor, who is cast out by those who are dear, who is a stranger in a strange land, who is driven from "pillar to post," who is harassed by open foes and wounded by secret enmity? Well, to that one let me say, remember your Lord's poverty and friendlessness; remember the tossings up and down of His infancy; the frugal cottage home in Nazareth wherein His family was finally gathered—despite its bareness and toil—was a place of peace and abundance, compared with the stable, the flight into Egypt, and the sojourn among aliens there.
Are you, dear friend, tempted to complain of your narrow surroundings, of your small opportunity to shine before others, or of a want of appreciation of your service and gifts and powers by those who should know you? Oh, remember the Babe, and the long years of His condescension to men of low estate, to the cramped surroundings of the carpenter's shed, and the sleepy Jewish village. Are you tried sometimes because you have to suffer the hatred or jealousy, secret or open, of those for whom you feel nothing but goodwill, and who perhaps once thought themselves happy in your friendship? Well, in such hours, remember your Master, and the hatred of Herod seeking to kill the Child. Try to call to mind something of the secret, as well as the open, bitterness of men, religious and irreligious alike, which began to hunt Him while yet in swaddling clothes, and which hunted Him still all through His days.
But amidst it all, what a great heart of passionate love was His! Blessed be His Name for ever! Whether the poverty and suffering and hatred were or were not favourable to it, there it was—the Great Heart of all the world. What about you? Can you ever be again the same since you learned that He loved you? Can you ever be again content to remain little and narrow, with interests and affections that are little and narrow also? Will you not rise, as He rose, above the small ambitions of the spiritual pigmies who meet you at every turn, determined to look beyond your own tiny circle, and the low aims of those around you? Depend upon it, you ought to do so. Depend upon it, the Holy Saviour can enable you to do so. Depend upon it, the world's great need is "Great Hearts." Will you be one?
Christ Come Again.
"And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger."—Luke ii. 7.
"Christ formed in you."—Gal. iv. 19.
The life of Jesus Christ in Palestine was a foreshadowing of His life in all who accept Him. God appointed Him a Saviour, not only because He should bring redemption nigh by a sacrifice which He alone could offer, but because He was also appointed to be the firstborn of many brethren, to be the head of a new family, the beginning—the new Adam—the first of a new line, in which character should cease to be merely human, even though perfect with all human perfections, and should become a union of the human and the Divine; in which, in fact, the body and mind and spirit of man should continue to exhibit the wonder of Christ's Incarnation, and show forth God clothed with man.
The life of Jesus divides itself quite naturally into several distinct periods, each having its own special characteristics and peculiar history. There is His birth and infancy; His childhood; His youth; His manhood; His perfected or completed life following Calvary and the Resurrection; and, may we not say, His eternal glory, upon which a few of His disciples saw Him begin to enter in the transcending splendour of the Ascension.
Every one of these phases or sections of His wonderful experience of earth has its continuing lessons for us. All speak aloud to us of His purposes and plans, and reveal to us the power and force of His inner life in the outward or public appearances and acts which belong to each. God has hidden many things from us—mysteries of nature, of grace, of eternity; but this mystery of God's relations to men, He has exhausted His resources in order to make plain. Before all else the life of Jesus is a revelation of the mind and methods, the principles and the practices of God, as they ought to appear, and as they ought to work out, amid the surroundings and limitations of humanity.
It is to the beginnings of that life to which our thoughts turn at this Christmas season. We dwell with affection on the oft-depicted picture, and repeat the oft-repeated words, and join in the old, old Hallelujahs of the shepherds with something of the zest and freshness of a first love. The story is so unlike all others, and touches with such unerring potency chords in the human soul which call it to a higher and nobler life, that, no matter who gazes upon the Babe of Bethlehem, he feels a kinship with all the world in hailing the Desire of all Nations. The manger, the silent companions of the stable, the swaddling clothes—what a touch of human tenderness—motherliness, so to speak—is in that line, "and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes"!—the adoring shepherds, the star, the wise men (all thoughts of their wisdom for the moment gone); the gold, the frankincense, the myrrh, the rejoicing and yet trembling mother, the little Child—we see it all. Seeing, we believe; and believing, we rejoice. The Day Star from on High hath visited us. We know in whom we have believed. The great condescension is before us. Strength has made itself dependent on weakness, cause upon effect, eternity upon time, God upon man; and He has done it for our sakes.
The Divine condescension never appears so new and so real to us as when we stand at the side of this lowly cradle. Here are no high-sounding doctrines, no hard words, no terrible commands, no far-off thunders of a new Sinai, no rumblings of a coming Judgment. Here we see Jesus, and Jesus only. Jesus showing Himself in our very own flesh and blood; submitting Himself to the weakness of our infirmities; voluntarily clothing Himself with our ignorance, and making God the present tangible possession of the whole human family, bringing Him "very nigh to us, in our mouth and in our heart, if we can but believe." And, more than this, God joined in that Babe His great strength to our great nothingness; He bound us to Himself; He robed us, as it were, with Himself, and He robed Himself in us. Henceforth the Tabernacle of God is with men. Henceforth every one of us may be conscious of an inward Presence, of which we may say in holy joy: "Angels and men before Him fall, and devils fear and fly."
It is this manifestation of Jesus in His people for which the Apostle prays in the words I have quoted, "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you." Nothing less will satisfy him, because he knew that nothing less will prevail against the power of the world, the flesh, and the Devil, in any human heart. "Christ formed in you," Christ born again in them—that is his agonised prayer, his one hope for them.
In the workshops of human effort no instruments, no skill, no motive power exist for the formation and development of character apart from the energising vitality of God's Spirit dwelling in us. He is the indispensable foundation of any goodness, or wisdom, or beauty that can last. Purity begins and ends in Him. Faith finds her author and finisher in Him. Truth, which is the beauty of the soul, is but a reflection of His image, and love has no being but in Him. And so Paul says, Let Him in. Conformity to His example is only possible by the re-formation in you of His life, and the growth again in you of His person; the mind of Christ in your mind, the spirit of Christ in your spirit, the presence of Christ in your flesh and blood; the motive power of Christ, the Father's will, prompting your every thought and word and deed, and thereby transforming your body into a temple of the Son of God.
And, because, in this unity of purpose with the Father, the Christ of Glory stooped to the infancy and childhood of Nazareth, yielding Himself completely to the bonds and limits inseparable from the life and conditions of a little child, and thinking no humiliation of our nature too deep for His love to tread, so He will condescend to the lowest depths of weakness and want revealed in your heart and life. He will meet you where you are. He will deal with you just where you are weakest and worst. This is indeed the key-note of all that God has to show you. It is your own link in the long chain of patient and ever-new revelations of God to man.
For what is the history of man, what is the story the Bible has to tell, what is the testimony of all time, but that God has ever been speaking to man, appearing to man, opening now his eyes, and now his understanding, and now his heart, and making an everlastingly new revelation to the soul that God in him is his sole hope of glory. And His Christmas-message to-day is still the same. To you, if you are willing, Christ will come as really, as sensibly, as wonderfully—nay, a thousand times more so—as He came to Mary and to Bethlehem. In truth, a second coming; but in many and wonderful ways like unto the first.
The childhood of Jesus was attended by remarkable recognitions of His Divinity. At His birth, at His dedication, in Herod's instant resolve to kill Him, in the Temple with the fathers, by many clear tokens men confessed and acknowledged that He was the Son of God. If He is being formed in you there will be equally definite and not very dissimilar signs of recognition.
First, before all else, you will know, with Mary, that the new life entrusted to you is Divine; that God has entered into your heart to make all things new. It is just the absence of this assurance which stamps so much of the Christianity of the present day as—in effect—a religion without God. Its professors have no certainty. They seek, but they do not find; they ask, but they do not receive; they have no sure foundation in the sanction of their own consciousness to the indwelling Person; they have no revelation; they have, in short, no God. How far—even as the east is from the west—is this from the glorious confidence with which Mary sang, and in which you can join, if, indeed, your Christ is come: "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour."
Salvation is of the Lord, and so is the assurance of it. Where there is the life of God, there will be His witness, even in the heart of the weakest and slowest servant of all His household. If you are not clear about this first evidence of your Lord's coming, let me counsel you that there is something wrong. If Christ be formed in you, you will assuredly know it beyond the power of men or devils to make you doubt.
But others than Mary also acknowledge this appearance of God "manifest in the flesh." The shepherds and the Wise Men, Holy Simeon, and Herod the king, each in his own way adds his own tribute to the New Life that had come down to man.
The shepherds and the strangers from afar bow down and worship. Strangers, perhaps, were more ready to rejoice with you than your own kith and kin when first Christ came to you.
Simeon, who had so desired to see the salvation of God, sees and is satisfied. Perhaps some Simeon had thus watched and waited and wept for you, and when the Lord came to His temple, he saw it, and was ready to depart with joy.
Herod the king sought to kill the Child. So it is even now. Don't be deceived; where Christ comes, storms come. The world of selfishness and power and wealth will kill the Divine Thing in you, if it can. Between the prince of this world and the Prince of the world to come no truce was possible long ago in quiet Judea, and no truce is possible now. The spirit of the world is still the spirit of murder. It is called by other names to-day, and, under its influence, men will tell you that the life of God in you is not to take those forms of violent opposition to wrong, and of passionate devotion to right, and of burning zeal and self-denial for the lost, which they took in Jesus. The real meaning of their tale is that they are seeking to kill the Child.
But do not be dismayed. Remember Mary's flight into Egypt. The great peril of her Son made her regardless of her friends, of her reputation, of her home, of her life. She must guard that precious Life at any cost, at any risk, at any loss. Is there not a lesson in her example? Let nothing, let not all the sum total of this world's pleasures and possessions lead you to risk the Life of God in your soul. Listen to no voices that counsel friendship, or parley, or compromise with the world—the spirit of Herod is in it. If you cannot preserve that Indwelling without flying —from somewhere, or something, or some one—then fly. If you cannot guard that Presence without losing all, then let all be lost, and in losing all you shall find more than all.
Side by side with these evidences of His Divinity the infancy and childhood of Jesus revealed His dependence and weakness; that is, the reality of His human nature.
The first recorded act of His mother shows us one aspect of that weakness after a fashion which appeals to the tenderest recollections of the whole human family, "She wrapped Him in swaddling clothes"; and then, as though to mark for ever the perfection of dependence, the history goes on, "and laid Him in a manger." There are other equally striking incidents teaching just as clearly that the Babe was a babe, and that the Child was really a child. It is the perfect union of Him "Who was, and is, and is to come," with him who flourisheth as the flower of the field; the wind passeth over him, and he is gone.
Even so may Christ be formed in you. The purity and dignity of His life will be all the more wonderfully glorious in the eyes of men and angels because it is linked with dependence and trial, and weakness and sorrow. As it was at Nazareth, so it is now. Hand in hand with Divinity walked hunger and weariness, poverty, disappointment, and toil. Did we think it would be otherwise? Did we, do we, sometimes wonder why the road is so rough, and the burden so heavy, and the sky so dark? Are we found asking the old question about sitting on the twelve thrones, judging those around us, and sharing in some way the royal glory of a King? and is there an echo of murmuring at these bonds and infirmities and drudgeries of daily duty and common sorrow? So did the Rabbis of old, and, in consequence, refused Him.
Ah! the answer to it all is in the one word, it was because "He was made perfect through suffering;" it was because He learned obedience by the things He suffered that He must do it again through you—in you. Every energy of your being may thus be sanctified. Every pain, every sorrow, every joy, every purpose will be—not taken away; not crushed and hardened into a series of unfeeling forms and empty signs; not passed over as having no relation to his life, but touched and purified and ennobled with the love and power of an indwelling God.
Yes, it is man whom He came to restore—it is man, whose beauty and power were the glory of creation, that drew Him with infinite attractions from the centre of His Father's heaven, and plunged Him into the centre of a very hell of suffering and shame. It was man whose nature, passing by the angels, He took upon Him. It was man He swore to save. He loves our manhood—its will—its intelligence—its emotions—its passions; and it is our manhood He has redeemed. He designs to make men really men, to cleanse—to restore—to indwell in them, and finally to present every one in the beauty of a perfected character before the presence of His Father, without spot or blemish or any such thing.
It is this great principle of Redemption that has found expression in The Salvation Army. We are of those who see in every human being the ruins of the Temple of God; but ruins which can be repaired and reconstructed, that He may fit them for His own possession, and then return and make them His abode.
Never listen to that fatal lie, that to be a man means of necessity to be always a sinner; that humanity is only another word for irreclaimable desert or irreparable despair. When the enemy of your soul whispers to you out of his lying heart that because sin has found one of its strongholds in the appetites and propensities of your poor body, or in the original perversity of a rebellious spirit, and that you cannot be expected to triumph over that evil nature because it is your nature, remember Bethlehem, and answer him with the promise of God, "I will dwell in you, and walk in you." It was because He purposed to cleanse wholly, body and soul and spirit, that He came, taking the body, soul, and spirit of a man, and that He will come again, taking your body, soul, and spirit as His dwelling-place.
The birth and childhood of Jesus were the beginning of His great sacrifice, as well as the preparation for it. The spirit of Bethlehem and the spirit of Calvary are one. He was born for others that He might die for others. The mystery of God in the Babe was the beginning of the mystery of God on the cross. The one was a part of the other. If they had not "laid Him in a manger" for us, they could never have laid Him in the tomb, that He might "taste death for every man." And it was because "He grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and increased in wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him" in those early years, that He was able afterwards to tread the winepress alone, to work out a perfect example of manhood, to wrestle with Death and the Grave, and finally to stand forth for us as the great Victorious One, conqueror of all our foes.
And is it not in this same fashion and for this same purpose that Christ is to be formed in us? "He grew." Progress is the law of happiness, the law of holiness, the law of life. To stand still is to die. It was not enough for the fulfilment of His great mission that He should be born, that He should live—He must grow.
Let us take that lesson to our hearts, in this superficial, painted, rushing generation. Let us beware of resting our hope to satisfy the eternal claims of God upon some great event in our spiritual history of long ago. It is not enough to have been converted. It is not enough to have had the adoption of the Father. It is not enough to have entered the spiritual family of Christ. It is not enough that even Jesus revealed Himself in us. Thousands of false hopes are built on these past events, which, divinely wrought as they may have been, have ceased to possess any vital connexion with the life and character of to-day. Such a religion is a religion of memory, destined to be turned in the presence of the Throne to unmixed remorse.
But how, and in what, are we to grow? In manner and in substance like our Lord. Jesus grew in strength and stature, in wisdom and in grace—the grace of God was upon Him.
In spiritual strength and stature; that is, from the timid babe to the bold and valiant soldier; in the power to do the things we ought to do, in the ability to obey the inward voice. It is by the exercise of the muscles and tendons of the babe that the bodily frame is fitted for the rush and struggle of life. It is by the A B C of the infant class that the mind is fitted to comprehend and appreciate the duties and obligations of political, social, physical, and family relationships. It is by the humble wail of the penitent, and the daily acts of loving help, that the soul learns to soar on eagles' wings, and shout the truth that God is gracious, and to brave difficulty and danger in His service. They go from strength to strength. Are you so journeying?
In wisdom. Wisdom is a thing of the heart more than of the brain, and the wisdom of God is really a revelation of the love of God. To be "wise unto salvation" is to learn the lesson of love. To be "wise to win souls" is first to love souls. To feel that "it is more blessed to give than to receive," is the fruit of love. How different this from the calculating wisdom of this world!
Dear comrade and friend, are you taking care that the Divine Life in you shall grow after this Christ-like fashion? When I hear Christian people say: "Oh, I have so little love, so little faith, so little joy," I generally find that it is so because they stifle and quench the blessed yearnings of the Divine Spirit to seek the souls of others; because they leave unanswered the urgings and promptings of duty which God in their conscience is demanding; because they neglect prayer, and self-denial, and heart-searching, and the Word of God; because, in short, they starve the Child. What wonder if love and faith are feeble, and joy is like to die!
"And the grace of God was upon Him." Here was the promise of that entire sacrifice for men which culminated when a man cried out to Him on the cross: "He saved others; Himself He cannot save." It is ever thus that God repeats Himself. When we are ready to be offered up for the blessing and saving of others, then grace will come upon us for the struggle as it came upon Him. When Christ formed in us finds free course for all His mind and all His passion; when our eyes are opened to the great purposes of His life in the salvation of the whole world; and when we hear, through Him, the cry of those for whom He was born, and for whom He died, God will pour out on us grace to send us forth—grace sufficient, grace abundant, grace triumphant. Have you come to this? Can you say He is thus dwelling in you, and working in you, to will and to do of His good pleasure?
Do not turn away with the paralysing fear that it cannot be; that the life of Jesus can never be lived out again in flesh and blood. Remember, He is "the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." All He was in Bethlehem, to Mary and Joseph; all He was to His work-mates at Nazareth; all He was in the wilderness, fighting with fiends, in the deserts feeding the hungry, or among the multitude—healing the sick, blessing the little children, casting out devils, and preaching the Kingdom; all He was in Bethany, weeping over Lazarus, and crying, "Lazarus, come forth"; in the garden of His agony, in the darkness of His cross, in the hour of His Resurrection, all this—all—all—all—He is to-day. He belongs to the everlasting Now. All He was to the martyrs who died for His Name, all He has been to our fathers, He is to us, and will be to our children, for with Him is no variableness nor shadow of turning. Yes! This unchanging Christ "is in us, except we be reprobate," the Life and Image of God, and the Hope of Glory.
The Secret of His Rule.
"For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."—Heb. iv. 15.
We hail the Christmas season as the anniversary of our King's birth. Our eyes turn to the manger, and our hearts to Mary, for a thousand and one reasons, but the chiefest is that Jesus was born in Bethlehem as the Divine Son and the Royal Branch.
Although we know that many shadows darken the way of the Cross, and that it is roughened by many thorns and agonies, many dark descents and weary struggles, we have always the assurance that at the end, and at the right time, there will be a crown and a throne.
Standing at the manger, and looking over the hills of hatred and suffering, we can already see the great white Throne. From the wilderness of the Temptation we can even catch a glimpse of the marriage supper of the Lamb. In the darkness around the cross, we have visions of a great multitude, which no man can number, casting their crowns at the feet of the Crucified. Written large on all the life of Jesus there is, in fact, the witness that He will triumph. We know and feel it. It is revealed even when it is not stated. It is assured even when not promised.
But I do not think that it is by virtue of this that Jesus Christ has exerted His greatest influence on the hearts of men. To be a king, to be in the royal line, is a great thing; and to be the Divine King is infinitely greater. To be a king, however, is one thing; to be a ruler is often quite another. The right descent, the royal birth, the due recognition, the ultimate taking possession of the throne, are enough to make the king, but far from enough to make the ruler.
Principles, of course, there are, very important and far-reaching, involved in any sort of kingship. We have all heard of "the divine right of kings." We all see—even if we cannot understand it—the love of peoples for a king. Even when the heads of states are called by some other name than king, the fact of kingship is still there. All this denotes the working of great principles, having their roots in the deepest feelings of the human race. But I repeat, that to rule is quite another thing than to be a king. History abounds with examples of great monarchs who have not ruled, and of true rulers who have had no royal blood and no kingly throne.
And just as there are facts in human experience which have made kings necessary and possible, so are there principles by which alone it is possible to rule.
The kingship and rule of Jesus Christ our Lord was no exception. It is not my purpose to dwell here on the great and unchanging demands of the human soul which make His sovereignty a necessity of our well-being alike as citizens, and as individuals of His world. Unless the Lord is King, all must be confusion, dissonance, and disaster. The supreme fact in human life after all is, that our God is "the creator, preserver, and governor of all things."
But what of His rule? There another principle comes into operation. On what is His rule based? By what agency does He extend His authority until it becomes control?
And here it must be remembered that He aspires to rule men's hearts. His kingdom is moral and spiritual first, and then physical and material. That is why it will endure for ever. It is in the region of motive and affection, of reason and emotion, of preference and choice, that He designs to be Ruler. It is to reign in men's hearts that Christ laid aside His heavenly crown and throne. If He cannot be a Ruler there, then He will account little of His kingship in the skies.
By what, then, does He rule? Is it not by His compassion? Has not that been the chief influence which has drawn men to Him, and held them in His service?
Just think for a moment of one or two commonplace facts.
At least three-fourths of the human family are always little children. To what does He owe the influence He exercises in the minds and hearts of multitudes of these little ones? His exalted throne? His royal lineage? His majesty? No; I think not to these, but to the revelation of His pity, His sympathy, His patience, His sweet, forgiving grace, His tender compassion as a Saviour. To them He is the "Friend above all others"—the Lowly One, the "Gentle Jesus, meek and mild." Viewing Him thus, they confess to Him in sin, they fly to Him in sorrow.
His creative power, His everlasting habitations, His throne of unapproachable glory, His glorious and terrible judgments, are little more to the children than words and phrases—may I not say?—at best but the "trappings" of His person. They solemnise, they inspire, perhaps, with reverent fear; but they do not, they could not, secure that true ascendency over the nature of the child by which alone there can be real control and true rulership.
Sorrow is the most common of all human experiences. There are no homes without it, and there are very few hearts which have not tasted of its cup. Earth is a vale of tears. Sooner or later, all men suffer. "Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward," and to millions of men Christ has appeared in their affliction and taken possession of their lives.
What was the secret of His influence over them? Was it His dominion from sea to sea? Was it even His victory over death and His kingly conquest of the grave? Was it His sovereign throne of power? No, I do not think it was thus He won them; but as "the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief," who learned obedience by the things that He suffered, and who could compassionate with them in their sorrows also.
It is one of the commonplaces of life that people associated in great suffering and trials obtain great influence with each other. And it is so here. Let the human heart once realise that in its deepest depths of sorrow it may have for helper One who has been deeper still; and it is in the nature of things that it should fly to that One for succour, for sympathy, for strength. And when that One out of His riches gives of His own might, and of His own sweet, unfathomed consolations, then His government is assured, His rule is established.
Did I say that sorrow was the commonest of all human experiences? Ought I not to have said temptation? We all know the reality of temptation: its biting wounds, its power to assail, to harass, to irritate, to worry; its appeals to the senses, the animal in us; its assault of our confidence; its liberty to terrorise and to torment.
Yes, every man is tempted. How shall he withstand temptation? What is it in Jesus Christ that calls the sorely-tempted one to Him? Is it His divine purity, His kingly holiness, His might as the supreme Sovereign whose law is good? No; I think that only those who have learned to love Him will love His law. Is it not rather the wonderful pity of Him of whom it is written, "We have a great High Priest, . . . touched with the feeling of our infirmities, . . . in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin"? Touched with the feeling of our infirmities. There is the attraction of a supreme compassion for the tempted. There is the means by which the King of Righteousness becomes also the Ruler over tempted and sinful men.
I can add but one other word now.
If it is only by His continual compassion that our Master obtains and maintains His rule, will it not be by a similar means that we may hope to bless and influence the souls of men? Yes; that has been already the great lesson of The Salvation Army. It is founded on sympathy, on a universal compassion.
The moment we turn away from that, and rely merely on our system, or on methods, or our teaching, we cease just in that proportion to be true Salvationists. We aspire to rule men's hearts. We care nothing for the position of a church or sect; we care everything for a real control over the souls and conduct of living men and women, that we may lead them to God and use them for His glory. It is by tenderness we shall win it. By seeking them in their sorrows and sins; by making them feel our true heart-hunger over them, our true love, our entire union with the Christ in His compassion for them.
And the same principle will hold good in training those whom we have already won. This was, no doubt, the secret of Paul's great influence with his people. His whole heart was theirs; and they knew it. "We were gentle among you," he says, "even as a nurse cherisheth her children; so, being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the Gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us."
We know his courage, his lofty standard, his splendid impatience of shams, his tenacity of the truth, his contempt for danger, his daring unto death; and yet he can say of himself that, with it all, he was gentle among them as a nurse cherishing her children—ready to give up his very soul for them.
Ah, Colonel, Captain, Sergeant, leaders all, whatever name you bear, do you want to lead and rule the people whom God has given you as a charge? Then here is the true secret of power—be for ever pouring out your heart's deepest, tenderest love for them, and most of all for the weak and the most unworthy and sinful amongst them. Do this, and you will not merely be walking after Paul—you will be walking with Christ.
A Neglected Saviour.
"And He came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy."—Matt. xxvi. 43.
There are few more instructive or more touching things in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ than His evident appreciation of human sympathy. Whether we observe Him at the marriage feast, or in the fishing-boat, or on the Mount of Olives, or when spending a time apart with His disciples, or in the Garden of His Agony, this appreciation expresses itself quite naturally and consistently. The Son of Man, though one with the Father, yet found joy and comfort in the society of men. What we call "companionship" had real charms for Him. It helped to draw Him out to the hungerings and thirstings of men; it assisted in revealing to Him the facts of human sin, and the needs of the human soul. Thus it enabled Him more perfectly to be our living example, as well as the propitiation for our sins.
And as He valued the consolations arising from human friendship and love, so also He had to suffer the loss of them, in order that He might carry out His great work for God and man. For His work's sake, His soul was required to pass through the agony of losing every human consolation. Many were His moments of bitterness. The world proved itself to be, what it still remains, a cold-hearted affair; His own, to whom He came, received Him not. But the bitterest sorrow which can come to a leader was added to His cup, when He witnessed the failure of His trusted disciples in the hour of trial, and when He realised that their unfaithfulness was towards Himself as a person, as well as to the great mission to which He had consecrated both Himself and them.
Now, when we are called upon to suffer in the same way, may we not be brought into very intimate fellowship with Jesus? Shall we complain because the servant is not above his Lord? Shall we doubt His love, and care, and power, because He does not always shield us from that same blast of loneliness which swept over His own soul in the Garden, when for the second, aye, and for the third time, He found His three disciples asleep?
Sad as it is, it is none the less certain that we, too, must expect some in whom we have trusted to fail us in that hour when we most need them, be it the hour of supreme temptation, or of great opportunity, or of deep sorrow for the Kingdom's sake. It was precisely this which happened to our Lord. It is bad to be so dependent on men—even on the most beautiful, or most perfect souls—that we cannot fight on without them. The dependence of love must work hand in hand with the independence of faith, if we are to take our share in this trial of our Master and to profit by it.
Those who thus fail us will, perchance, be the very persons upon whom we have most reason to rely, and whom in some sore trial of our faith or moment of danger, we have specially called upon for defence and prayer, for strength and sympathy, as did our Lord in the case of these disciples. Until now, Peter had been a valiant, not to say, reckless follower of Jesus; while all, John especially, had been well beloved and tenderly watched over by Him. And yet this woeful sleep deadens them to it all. Even for one short hour they cannot watch with Him.
But such failure on the part of those who were loved and trusted will add immensely to the burden of the battle that we are fighting for God and the souls of men. It did so even to Jesus. Nothing more pathetic, more deeply heart-moving, is written in all God's Book, than this simple picture of the Man of Sorrows—struggling for the life of the human race, absolutely bereft of human aid—coming in the midst of His dark conflict to seek the touch of sympathy, a hand-grasp, a word, a look from those His well-loved followers, only to find them asleep in the gloom. Retracing His steps, He casts Himself on the ground, and cries, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me." Am I wrong in saying that it was an added ingredient of bitterness in that cup to find that these, His trusted ones, could only sleep, while He must go forward to suffer?
But their failure did not stop Him. No, not for one moment. There was agony in His heart, there were death shadows around Him, and bloody sweat upon His brow, but He did not waver. He went right on to finish the work He had promised to do. Gladly would He have had them with Him; steadfastly He goes forward without them! Here also is a lesson for you and for me. The work is more than the worker. And in times when we must lose, for our work's sake, that which we count dearer to us than our lives, when the iron of disappointed love enters our souls, as it entered His, we must follow Him, and go forward, steadfastly forward.
And after all, the failure of the disciples was very human. Their eyes were heavy. They were weary and sore tired. This, too, is typical of many of the losses we Salvationists are called upon to suffer. Some on whom we have relied and trusted grow weary in well-doing. The strain is so great! The tax on brain and heart and hand is so constant! Life becomes so burdened with watchings and prayings and sufferings for and with others, that there is little, if any, time or strength left for oneself! And so they cannot keep up, but seek rest and quiet for themselves elsewhere. They are heavy, and no longer feel the need to watch with us.
Dear comrade, in your like trial do not doubt that the Lord Jesus is with you. Suffering of this kind will help to liken you to Him—it is a very real bearing of the Cross of Christ. Pitiful followers of Him should we be, if we wished to have only joy when He had only suffering.
But the disciples' strange failure did not call forth one word of bitterness from our Lord's lips. A gentle reproach was certainly implied in the words, "Could ye not watch with Me one hour?" but no shade of personal displeasure expressed itself, much as the occasion might seem to warrant it. No! Jesus knew the failures begotten of human weakness, as well as the horror of human sin. And so He made allowances, and was as patient with those who left Him, as He was tender to those who were steadfast. He loved them both.
Go thou, and do likewise. In your home; in your family circle; in your Corps; in your office; in your work, be it what it may; when men fail and forsake your Lord; even if all disappoint and desert you, you must love them still. Be faithful with them; but, above all, be steadfast in your own purpose, and devote all your zeal and strength to finish the work that God has given you to do. In short, go forward without them; but let your words, and thoughts, and prayers for them be like your Master's.
And Jesus utters no word of complaint about this failure. The silence all through that great anguish is indeed very wonderful. Abandoned by man, He abandoned Himself all the more earnestly to His work for men without a murmur. And abandoned by God—as for a little time it seemed—He all the more completely abandoned Himself to God. To have fellowship with Him, you and I will have to walk the same path, and mind the same rule.
When friends, or followers, or comrades trample upon the solemn covenants made alike to us and to God, and forsake, and leave us to finish our work and tread our winepress alone, let there be no moaning because of the pain it inflicts. When those upon whom we had a right—right by reason of natural law, or right by reason of the obligations and precious vows of friendship, or right on the ground of spiritual indebtedness—when those, I say, upon whom we had a right to depend fail us, let there be no complaining of their treatment because it is painful to us. Let there be no filling of the earth with laments and wailings, no accusing of our accusers, no reviling of those who revile us. Let us be silent in the patience of Jesus and in the strength of His love, and let His way of meeting the loneliness of desertion be our way—let us pray.
But all the same, that sleep, that failure to respond to the personal claim of Jesus, was a sure forerunner of the cowardly flight, and the deadly denial which followed it. The seeds of Peter's lies and curses were sown in the selfishness and slumber of the garden; they came to maturity in the kitchen of the judgment hall. Poor Peter! How many hours of bitter self-reproach would you have been spared, had you but held out during that one brief hour of your watch in Gethsemane! How differently we could have regarded your poor wobbling nature! How differently, too, your Lord's great trial would have come to Him! How different might have been the history of mankind!
The method of love which Jesus adopted towards the forsakers received the sanction of success, for they all came back. In spite of their shame and their fears, they returned to their allegiance, with, I think, much more than their old faith and love. Judas was the only exception, and even he sought a place of repentance, and, but for his horrid league with the jealous and cruel religionists, would, I think, have found one.
You see the lesson? If you go on with your work for God, and finish it, paying no heed to those who, having put their hand to the plough, look back; and if, in spite of your sorrow, you will struggle steadily forward in the face of the coldness and carelessness of those between whom and you there was once the tenderest love, God will not only carry you through your appointed labour for the world, but He will restore many of those others to their allegiance to Him and His.
Will they ever be quite the same? Will they not have lost something? Yes, they will indeed have lost; but, if they come back, in reality they will gain more. The new union will be more divine than the former one. They will not merely
. . . rise on stepping stones Of their dead selves to higher things;
but the beauty, and excellence, and glory of love, the exceeding profitableness of enduring grace, and the sweet aroma of faithfulness, will be the more clearly manifest to the sons of men by reason of the weakness and breakableness of the human vessel.
Let us, then, press forward, without one backward glance, until we finish our work. Let us thank God for those who are faithful; let us love and pray for those who fail, expecting to see them restored, healed, and purified.
Windows in Calvary.
"And they crucified Him . . . And sitting down they watched Him there."—MATT, xxvii. 35, 36.
Passing words spoken in times of deep emotion often reveal human character more vividly than a lifetime of talk under ordinary circumstances. Conduct which at other times is of the most trifling significance, reveals in the hour of fiery trial, the very inwards of the soul, even making manifest that which has been hidden, perhaps, for a generation. Thus, while watching a man with the opportunity and the temptation to deceive or oppress those who are in his power, you may see into the very thoughts of his heart; you may learn what he really is. Or you may measure the depths of a mother's love in observing her when, after violating every principle she has valued and lived for, her prodigal boy comes to ask her to take him in once more.
In the same way, words spoken by the dying are often like windows suddenly uncovered, through which one may catch a glimpse of the ruling passion of life, in the light of which their life-witness and life-labour alike look different. It is this fact which often gives the dying hour of the meanest, importance as well as solemnity. The veriest trifler that ever trifled through this vale of tears has, in that last solemn hour something to teach of the secrets of mortality.
And this revelation of the real facts of human experience is of the highest value to the world. It is one of God's witnesses to truth, that truth will out. Sooner or later, selfishness and sin will appear in their naked deformity, to horrify those who behold them; and in the end, justice and truth and love are certain to be made manifest in their natural beauty, to convince and to charm and to attract their beholders.
It is not only one of the uses of trial to bring this about, but it is one of the means by which God converts to His own high purposes, the miseries and sorrows the Devil has brought in. The one burns the martyrs; the other brings out of that cruel and frightful wrong the glorious testimony which is the very seed of His Church. The one casts us into fiery dispensations of suffering and loss; the other takes these moments of human anguish and desolation, and makes of them open windows through which a doubting or scoffing world may see what love can do. Thus He makes us to triumph In the midst of our foes, while working in us a likeness to Himself, the All-patient and All-perfect God.
Nor is it the good and true alone who are thus made object-lessons to others, and to themselves, by these ordeals of pain. By them, many a bad man also is forced to appear bad to himself. Many a hypocrite, anxious about the opinions and the traditions of men, is at last stripped of his lies to see himself the wretched fraud he really is. Many a heart-backslider, whose religion has long ceased to be anything but a memory, awakes to the shame of it and to the danger; and often, thank God, awakes in time.
Now, the words of the dying Christ on His cross are, in the same way, a true and wonderful revelation of His character and His spirit. As it is only by the light of the sun that we see the sun, so it is by Jesus that Jesus is best revealed. Never one spake like He spake; and yet in this respect, so real was His humanity, He spake like us all—He spake out what was in Him. The Truth must, above all, and before all, make manifest what is true of Himself.
To whom, then, did our Lord speak on the tree, and what spake He? What special thoughts and beauties of His soul do His words reveal?
Jesus, so far as His words have been recorded for us, spoke from the cross to Mary His mother, to one of the thieves who was crucified with Him, to God His Father, and to Himself.
His Words to Mary.
"When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother!"
The position of Mary in those last hours was peculiarly grievous. She had lived to see the breaking down of every hope that a mother's heart could cherish for her son. Standing there amidst that mob of relentless enemies, and watching Jesus, forsaken by God and man in His mortal agony, her present sorrow, great as it was, was crowned by the memory of the holy and happy anticipations of His birth, and the maiden exultations of her soul when the angels foretold that her Son should be the Saviour of His people and their King. How cruelly different the reality had turned out! How far, how very far away, would seem to her the quiet days in Nazareth, the rapture of her Son's first innocent embraces, and the evening communions with Him as He grew in years! What tender memories the sight of those dear bleeding feet, those outstretched, wounded hands, would recall to that mother's heart! Yes, Mary on Calvary is to me a world-picture of desolate, withering, and helpless grief—of pain increased by love, and of love intensified by pain!
And Jesus in His great agony—the Man of Sorrows come at last to the winepress that His heart might be broken in treading it alone; come to the hour of His travail; come to the supreme agony of the sin-offering; face to face with the wrath of the Judge, blackness and tempest and anguish blotting out for the moment even the face of the Father—forsaken at last —FORSAKEN—Jesus, in this depth of midnight darkness sees her standing by the cross. Bless Him, Oh, ye that weep and mourn in this vale of tears! Bless Him for ever! His eyes are eyes for the sorrowful. He sees them. He has tears to shed with them. He is touched with the same feelings and moved by the same griefs. He sees Mary, and speaks to her, and in a word gives her to John, and John to her, for mutual care and love. It was as though He said, "Mother, you bare Me; you watched and suffered for Me, and in this redeeming agony of My love, I remember your anguish, and I take you for ever under My care, and I name you Mine."
Surely, there never was sorrow like unto His sorrow, and yet in its darkest crisis He has eyes and heart for this one other's sorrow. Far from Him, as the east from the west, is any of that selfish thought and selfish seclusion which grief and pain so often work in the unsanctified heart, aye, and in the best of us. What a lesson of practical love it is! What a message—especially to those who are called to suffer with Him for the souls of men—comes streaming from those words spoken to Mary. The burden of the people's needs, the care of the Church, the awful responsibility of ministering to souls—these things, sacred as they may be, cannot excuse us in neglecting the hungry hearts of our own flesh and blood, or in forgetting the claims of those of our own household.
Dear friend and comrade, in your sorrow, in your sore trial of faith, in your Calvary, take to your heart this revelation of the heart of the Son of Man, and be careful of the solitary and heart-bleeding ones near you, no matter how humble and how unworthy they may seem.