was this glorious compound of a terrible, yet tearful tenderness, that
caused the early church to go forth as a terrible army of "Invaders from
another world," bent on taking human hearts captive for their crucified
Master. They knew the meaning of Christ's promise: "Because I live,
ye shall live also." They knew the onfall of the Spirit. They had
"not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline"--of
power, to speak the truth fearlessly; of love, that
constrained and drove out fear; of discipline, that could stand
up against all the dreadful engines of torture mustered by the Roman Empire.
Oh, the invincibility of such an army! What a presentation of the
Crucified! Little wonder they lifted that empire off its hinges,
and turned the tide of history. Concerning these invaders, let us
repeat again what Dr. A. J. Gordon said:
The help of the world,
the patronage of its rulers, the loan of its resources, the use of its
methods they utterly refused, lest by employing these they might compromise
their king. An invading army maintained from an invisible base, and
placing more confidence in the leadership of an unseen commander than in
all imperial help that might be proffered-that was what so bewildered and
angered the heathen, who often desired to make friends with the Christians
without abandoning their own gods.
But before we can thus present
Christ, there must needs be many heart searchings and humblings before
God. There must be an uncomplaining, uncompromising, embracing of
the Cross, and an utter and courageous rejection of the idol "self." Ourselves
we cannot save.
Some of my readers--let me
warn and encourage you--will pass through agonies and inner tortures which
will amount to a thousand deaths in order to unlearn the ways and means
of the flesh. You may little realize how you lean on your committees
on "ways and means." You may be organized to death. Or, you may have
gotten into such habits of ostentation, and swagger, and self-advertising,
that it will be like uprooting your very life to allow the Cross to be
applied. But, before you can ever lay the Cross on the worldliness
in your people, you must first be cut off from all your own "confidence
in the flesh."
But let me speak encouragingly
as well. My heart has been pained over the tragic troubles which
bother the average minister. He is "betwixt and between"-of all men
most miserable. As somebody puts it, "We suffer so much, but so seldom
with Christ; we have done so much, and so little will remain; we have known
Christ in part, and have so effectively barricaded our hearts against His
mighty love, which surely He must yearn to give His disciples above all
people." All these things have brought upon you untold frets and
worries. Like Saul you are trying to save your kingdom. But
you have actually suffered more miseries than the minister who has embraced
the Cross. You may have saved your life, but you have lost it, even
in this world. The energy of the flesh not only spoils God's work;
it spoils your own life and peace.
Your trouble may be that
you have been devoted to a cause instead of having the Cross as your sole
inspiration, your one and only attraction. You have been ambitious
to build your work. Shamefully you have made use of Jesus Christ.
But as you contemplate cutting away these fleshly contrivances and false
ambitions, you become almost paralyzed with fear. You will be different!
You will be reckoned a fool and a fanatic! Oh, the shame you may
have to suffer as you humble yourself before your parishioners, your Sunday
school, your class! Then think of the contempt you may suffer before your
fellow-ministers or fellow-workers. I believe I know how to sympathize
with you. But cheer up. Once you have been undone in the fires of
God's furnace, you will come forth without the smell of your religious
self. Never again will you be content to live in the smoke of formalism
and iciness and stiffness of the flesh. Ah, yes, it will be difficult
for God to put His new wine into your old skin. Be earnest,
therefore--dead in earnest--but above all things have a holy discontent
to offer any longer "dead things, nothings, shams." Let your fears be gone.
"Better a thousand times effective peculiarity than ineffective ordinariness."
(D. M. Thornton.) Surely our half-hearted and calculating love for
the Lord Jesus is the shame of the church, the grief of heaven and the
laughingstock of hell. God cannot stomach the like. He says,
"I will spew thee out of my mouth."
But if you persist in remaining
unbroken, stout-hearted, and self-willed, let me give you the advice of
Prof. T. C. Upham, a minister and theologian of a century ago:
They are slow to learn
what is to be done, and equally reluctant to submit to its being done.