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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Surety of our Christian Faith: Let's learn from the faith of Ignatius [Early Church, AD 1]

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The Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans

Chapter 6. By death I shall attain true life


All the pleasures of the world, and all the kingdoms of this earth, shall profit me nothing. It is better for me to die in behalf of Jesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth. For what shall a man be profited, if he gain the whole world, but lose his own soul? Him I seek, who died for us: Him I desire, who rose again for our sake. 

This is the gain which is laid up for me. Pardon me, brethren: do not hinder me from living, do not wish to keep me in a state of death; and while I desire to belong to God, do not give me over to the world. Allow me to obtain pure light: when I have gone there, I shall indeed be a man of God. Permit me to be an imitator of the passion of my God. If any one has Him within himself, let him consider what I desire, and let him have sympathy with me, as knowing how I am straitened.




Friday, February 17, 2017

The Vision of Dry Bones by Robert Murray M'Cheyne


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IN EARLY LIFE THE Prophet Ezekiel had been witness of sieges and battle-fields—he had himself experienced many of the horrors and calamities of war; and this seems to have tinged his natural character in such a way that his prophecies, more than those of any other prophet, are full of terrific images and visions of dreadful things. In these words we have the description of a vision which, for grandeur and terrible sublimity, is perhaps unequalled in any other part of the Bible.

He describes himself as set down by God in the midst of a valley that was full of bones. It seemed as if he were stationed in the midst of some spacious battle-field, where thousands and tens of thousands had been slain, and none left behind to bury them. The eagles had many a time gathered over the carcasses, and none frayed them away; and the wolves of the mountains had eaten the flesh of these mighty men, and drunk the blood of princes. 

The rains of heaven had bleached them, and the winds that sighed over the open valley had made them bare; and many a summer sun had whitened and dried the bones. And as the prophet went round and round to view the dismal scene, these two thoughts arose in his mind: "Behold, they are very many; and, lo, they are very dry."

If the place had not been an open valley, it might have seemed to his wondering gaze some vast charnel-house — as if the tombs of all the Pharaohs had been laid bare by some shock of nature to the wild winds of heaven—as if the wanton hand of violence had rifled the vast cemeteries of Egypt, and cast forth the mummied bones of other ages to bleach and whiten in the light of heaven. How expressive are the brief words of the seer: "Behold, they are very many; and, lo, they are very dry!"

No doubt there was an awful silence spread over this scene of desolateness and death; but the voice of his heavenly guide breaks in upon his ear: "Son of man, can these bones live?"

How strange a question was this to put concerning dry, whitened bones! When Jesus said of the damsel: "She is not dead, but sleepeth," they laughed him to scorn; but here were not bodies newly dead, but bones— bare, whitened bones; nay, they were not even skeletons, for bone was separated from its bone; and yet God asks: "Can these bones live?" Had he asked this question of the world, they would have laughed a louder laugh of scorn; but he asked it of one who, though once dead had been made alive by God; and he answered: "O Lord God, thou knowest. "They cannot live of themselves, for they are dead and dry; but if thou wilt put thy living Spirit into them, they shall live. So, then, thou only knowest.

Receiving this answer of faith from the prophet, God bids him prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them: "O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones, Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live; and I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord." Had the prophet walked by sight, and not by faith, he would have staggered at the promise, through unbelief. Had he been a worshipper of reason, he would have argued: These bones have no ears to hear, why should I preach to them, "Hear the word of the Lord"? But no — he believed God rather than himself. He had been taught "the exceeding greatness of his mighty power;" and therefore he obeyed: "So I prophesied as I was commanded."

If the scene which Ezekiel first beheld was dismal and desolate, the scene which now opened on his eyes was more dismal—more awfully revolting still: "And as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking; and the bones came together, bone to his bone; and when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above; but there was no breath in them." If it were a hideous sight before, to see the valley full of bones, all cleansed by the rains and winds, and whitened in the summer suns, bow much more hideous now, to see these slain, bone joined to his bone—sinews, and flesh, and skin upon them; but no breath in them! Here was a battle-field indeed, with its thousands of unburied dead-masses of unbreathing flesh, cold and immovable, ready only to putrefy—every hand stiff and motionless—every bosom without a heave—every eye glazed and lifeless—every tongue cold and silent as the grave.

But the voice of God again breaks the silence: "Prophesy unto the wind (or Spirit), prophesy, son of man, and say to the Spirit, Thus saith the Lord God, Come from the four winds, O Spirit, and breathe upon these slain that they may live."

Before, Ezekiel had bent over the dead, dry bones, and preached unto them—a vast but lifeless congregation; but now he lifts his head and raises his eyes; for his word is to the living Spirit of God. Unbelief might have whispered to him, To whom are you going to prophesy now? Reason might have argued, What sense is there in speaking to the viewless wind—to one whom you see not; for it is written: "The world cannot receive the Spirit of God, because it seeth him not"? But he staggered not at the word through unbelief: "So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army."

The first application made of this vision is to the restoration of the Jews. 1. It teaches that at present they are like dry bones in the open valley—scattered over all lands-very many, and very dry—without any life to God. 2. It teaches that the preaching of Jesus, though foolishness to the world, is to be the means of their awakening, and that prayer to the all-quickening Spirit is to be the means of their new life. 3. It teaches that when these means are used with them, God's ancient people shall yet stand up, and be an exceeding great army—shall be as they used to be when they marched through the wilderness, when God went before them in the pillar of cloud; that they shall then be led back to their own land, and planted in their own land, and not plucked up any more. But another, and to us a more important, application of this vision, is to the unconverted souls in the midst of us. Let us go over it with this view.

Unconverted souls are like dry bones—very many, and very dry.

They are very many. When a soul is first brought to Christ, he enjoys a peace in believing which he never knew before; and not only so, but he is quickened from the death of trespasses and sins into a life which he never knew beforehe knows the blessedness of living to God. But even with all this joy, there is an awful feeling of loneliness; for when he looks round upon the world, he feels just like Ezekiel, set down in the midst of a valley full of dry bones. He is alive himself, but this world, once all his joy, looks now like some ancient battle-field, where the remains of the dead are all lying exposed on the open field; and he feels a solitary thing in a world of dead. 

This world appears now like one vast charnel-house, where whole generations of dead meet, and are jumbled together- all alike fit only for the burning; and he feels himself a solitary living thing, moving over heaps of slain. He feels like Elijah on the Mount of God, when he complained: "Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars, and I, even I, am left alone." He feels like our blessed Lord, who was a light shining in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. He feels as if he were a feeble "light in the world, holding forth the word of life"—a lamp suspended in the densest darkness, whose oil is all supplied by grace from on high, and whose rays seem only to make the darkness more visible. 

He feels like Paul at Athens; for his spirit is moved in him, to see the whole world given over to idolatry. He feels like Paul at Rome, when he complained: "I have no man like-minded, who will naturally care for your state; for all seek their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ's." He feels like John, when he said so sweetly, yet so sadly: "We know that we are of God, and the whole world beth in wickedness," To the eye of sense, O what a happy living world this is, with its shops and markets—its compliments and companies—its visits of ceremony and visits of kindness—its mirth and its melody! how living and life-like is the whole world, from morning's dawn till midnight. 

But to the eye of faith, what a lonely wilderness is this world! for "the whole world lieth in wickedness." Is it not so, believing brethren? Is it not like Egypt in that dreadful night when there was a cry heard from every dwelling; for there was not a house where there was not one dead? Oh! it is more dismal far; for in every house there are many dead souls, and yet there is no cry. Look into your own family—look among the families of your neighbours—look into your native town—are not the many all dead, dead souls? 

The most are dead, dry bones. Nay, look into the Christian Church- look among our Sabbath keepers, and those who sit down at sacraments—O, brethren! is it not true that, like the members of the Church of Sardis, most have a name to live and are dead? Do not the most of you live lives of pleasure? and is it not written: "She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth?" Do not most of you show no love for the brethren? and is it not written: "He that loveth not his brother abideth in death?" O yes, the most are dry bones! Truly, then, "they are very many."

They are very dry. Dry bones are the farthest of all from the possibility of living. (1.) They are without any flesh or comeliness. (2.) They are without any marrow or spirit. (3.) They are without any activity or power of moving. And oh! is not this the very picture of poor, unconverted souls—"They are very dry"?
(1.) They are without any comeliness. 

They see no beauty in Christ, and Christ sees no beauty in them-their souls are lean and ill-favoured. Man was made perfect in beauty at the first; for he was made in the image of Him who is perfect loveliness; but a fallen, unconverted soul has no beauty—it is like a beautiful building scattered in ruins -it is like a beautiful statue all defaced, not one feature remaining—it is like a beautiful body smitten by death, corrupting in the grave.

(2.)They are without any marrow or spirit. Man was made to be a habitation of God through the Spirit; and it is only when we are led by the Spirit that we are alive unto God. But the unconverted soul is "sensual, not having the Spirit." The Bible says: "The world cannot receive the Spirit, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him." They have no work of the Spirit in their hearts—no awakening work—no convincing of righteousness—no sanctifying work—no sealing of the soul—no walking in the Spirit—no love in the Spirit—no praying in the Holy Ghost.

(3.) They have no activity or motion God-ward. If we preach the Word of the Lord unto them, they have no heart to attend to the things which are spoken; dry bones have no ears. If we tell them of the wrath of God that is coming upon them, they are not moved to flee; dry bones cannot run. If we tell them of the loveliness of the Lord Jesus—how he offers himself to be their complete Saviour—still they are not moved to embrace him; for dry bones cannot stretch out their arms. Ah! these dry bones are very dry.

Brethren, is it not possible to make you anxious about your souls? Can you sit still and hear how dead and dry they are, and yet go away and forget it all? Can you bear to carry about with you a dead stone in your bosom instead of a heart? Can you bear to have such a cold, icy, wicked heart, as sees no desirableness in the lovely Saviour—no beauty in him who is stretching out his hands to you all the day—"the chief among ten thousand"—the "altogether lovely"? 

Oh, brethren! if you will go away unmoved—and, doubtless, hundreds of you may—what need have we of witnesses? Ye yourselves are the only evidence we need that unconverted souls are "very many; and, lo, they are very dry."

The second lesson we learn from this vision is, that preaching is God's instrument for awakening the unconverted.
Every intelligent man among you has been puzzled at one time or another by a seeming contradiction which runs through the whole of the Bible. It is written in one place: "No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him"; and yet the whole Bible through bids every one of you come to Jesus. 

Again it is written: "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them"; and yet what are we continually urging upon you, but to receive the things of the Spirit of God? Again, God opened the heart of Lydia to attend to the things which were spoken of Paul—which makes it plain that no natural heart can attend; and yet we do nothing but press these things on your attention. 

By nature your hearts are as hard as adamant, and even demonstration will not make you flee from hell; yet, "knowing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men." By nature you cannot so much as comprehend the beauty and loveliness of the Lord Jesus; and yet "we are determined to know nothing among you but Christ, and him crucified." Oh! what a mass of contradiction there is here; and yet how easily it is solved! 

These bones were dead, dry, spiritless, lifeless, without flesh, without ears to hear; and yet God says: "Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord." And while he prophesied there was a noise, and "behold a shaking; and the bones came together, bone to his bone; and when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them, above." Just so, my unconverted friends, your souls are like these dry bones—dead. dry, spiritless, lifeless, without ears to hear, without hearts to attend to the things which are spoken. 

You have such blunted consciences, that no words of mine can move you to flee from the wrath to come; you have such hard, wicked hearts, that no words of mine can persuade you to embrace the beseeching Saviour; and yet it is by the foolishness of preaching that it pleases God to save them that believe; and though our words have no Power, yet God can work almightily through them; and this is his message unto you: "O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord."

I earnestly beseech those of you who care little for the preaching of the Word to attend to this. You may say, and say truly, that preaching seems a weak and foolish instrument for such a work—God himself has called it "the foolishness of preaching." You may say, and say truly, that ministers are but earthen vessels—that they are men of like passions with yourselves—God himself has called them so before you. 

But you cannot say that it is not God's way of converting souls; and it is at the peril of your own souls if ye despise it. Keep away from the house of God, and lock up your Bible, and you put away from you the only instruments by which God can reach you.

The third and last lesson we learn from this vision is, that prayer must be added to preaching, else preaching is in vain.
The effects produced by the prophesying of Ezekiel to the dry bones were very remarkable. The bones came together, bone to his bone—the flesh, the sinews, the skin came up upon them, and covered them; but still there was no breath in them—they were as dead as ever. 

And, oh! how like this is to the effects which often follow on the preaching of the Word. How often is a people outwardly reformed! Instead of Sabbath breaking there is Sabbath observance—instead of drunkenness, sobriety—the form of godliness, but none of the power—the bones, and sinews, and flesh, and skin of godliness, but none of the living breath of godliness. 

Ah! my friends, is not this just the way with our congregations at this day? abundance of head knowledge, but, ah! where is the lowly heart that loves the Saviour? Abundance of orthodoxy and argument, but, ah! where is the simple faith in the Lord Jesus, and love to all the saints? 

Does not the Saviour say, when he looks down on our Churches: "There is no breath in them"? Oh! then, brethren, let us, one and all, give heed to the second command to the prophet: "Prophesy unto the Spirit, son of man; say, Come from the four winds, O Spirit, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army."

Learn two lessons from this.

1st, Unconverted friends, what dead hearts you must have—all the preaching in the world cannot put life into them. What hard hearts yours must be—the heaviest hammer we can lift cannot break them.

We speak the weightiest arguments into your ear, yet all will not move you. We must lift up our voice, and prophesy to the Spirit—we must bring down the Almighty Spirit before we can touch your heart. 

We try to convince you of sin—we show you how you have broken the law, and that "cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them" - that you must be under that curse—that you will not be able to bear that curse—that it crushed the Saviour to the earth, and will crush you to the lowest hell. 

You are somewhat impressed, and we hope that your heart is touched; but your impressions are like impressions on the sand when the tide is out, and the very next tide of the world effaces all. We try to convince you of righteousness. 

We tell you of the love of the Saviour, how it passeth knowledge; how there was an ocean of love in that bosom, which no line could fathom—love to lost sinners like you; how he served in the stead of sinners, obeying the law for us; how he suffered in the stead of sinners, bearing the curse for us. We tell you to believe in him, and be saved; you are melted, and the tear stands on your cheek; but, ah! it is like "the morning cloud and early dew—it quickly passes away."

Ah! brethren, what hard, iron hearts you must have, when all that man can do will not melt them. Your hearts are too hard for us; and we have to go back weeping to our Lord, saying: "Who hath believed our report?" In all other things we could persuade you by arguments. 

If your bodies were sick, we could persuade you to send for the physician — if your estate were entangled, we could persuade you to be diligent for your family — oh! how readily you would obey us; but when we demonstrate that you are the heirs, soul and body, of an eternal hell, you will not awake for it all. Even if we could show you the Lord Jesus Christ himself — the bleeding, beseeching Saviour — your wicked hearts would not turn or cleave to him. You need Him that made your hearts, to break and bend them. Will you not, each of you, go away, then, beating on the breast, and saying: "God, be merciful to me, a sinner"?

Learn, 2ndly, Believing brethren, what need you have to pray. When God, in the chapter before (Ezek. 36), promises to give a new heart and a new spirit to Israel — "to take away the stony heart out of their flesh, and to give them an heart of flesh" — he adds, at verse 37: "I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them." 

And when God promises to give to Christ the heathen for his heritage, he only promises it in answer to prayer: "Ask of me, and I will give thee." And just so here; when he wishes to give life to these dead carcasses that are lying in the open valley, his word is: "Prophesy, O son of man, unto the Spirit."


O believing brethren! what an instrument is this which God hath put into your hands! Prayer moves Him that moves the universe. O men of faith and prayer! -Israel's, who wrestle with God, and prevail! — righteous, justified men, whose prayers avail much!—you may be a little flock, but be you entreated to give the Lord no rest. 

O pray for the Spirit to "breathe upon these slain, that they may live!" And you, selfish Christians, if such a contradiction can exist—you, who approach the throne of God only for yourselves — you, whose petitions begin and end only for yourselves—who ask no gifts but only for your own peace and joy — go you and learn what this meaneth: "lt is more blessed to give than to receive" — "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus."

The Perfection of the Gospel Covenant by Robert Murray M'Cheyne


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Hebrews ix. 11,12.—"But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands,—that is to say, not of this building,—neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us."


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IN our last lecture on this chapter, we saw the imperfection of the Mosaic covenant. We saw its imperfection in three things. 1st. We saw that the Tabernacle and all its services was only a figure for the time then present. We saw that the ark, and the mercy-seat, and the table and the shew-bread, and the living priest himself, were only a figure—a shadow of good things to come. 

We saw this imperfection, 2dly, from this, that the gifts and sacrifices under the Mosaic covenant could not make the conscience perfect. You remember I entered at some length into the subject of the conscience. I showed you that it is not till we come to the blood of Christ that we have a pacified conscience. Now, all the Mosaic services could not pacify the conscience. It is true that they did attain to peace of conscience. It is said, "Thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed upon thee." 

And we find Isaiah singing, "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God ; speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem ; and cry unto her, that here warfare is accomplished—that her iniquity is pardoned ; for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins." And you find David singing, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity." 

It is quite true that they did attain a peace of conscience ; but they did not attain it through the Mosaic sacrifices ; but they looked past them to the substance—to Christ ; but this only proves the imperfection of it. 3d. I showed you this in another way,—That the Mosaic covenant was only a shadow, because it was imposed on them. I showed you, that Peter says it was a yoke which neither they nor their fathers were able to bear,—there were so many services of meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances. God intended it to be a yoke. This, then, was the imperfection of the Mosaic covenant.

Now, I proceed to-day to notice the perfection of the Gospel covenant. We have just three things in these words which we would consider,—the high priest, the Tabernacle where the offering was made, and his entrance into the holiest of all.

1. First of all, the high priest. Verse 11. "But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come." You will remember, I dare say, some of you, when we were lecturing on the 5th chapter of this wonderful book, that we saw the high priest was taken from among men. God did not send and angel, to wear the breastplate, and the golden ephod, and the priestly robes ; but God took a Jew—"Aaron, thy brother." 

And I showed you the reasons of this. There were especially two reasons. The first was, that they might come to him. We could not have come to an angel. And then any Jew who had any guilt on his conscience might come to Aaron, his brother. When he thought that he was his brother, of the same nature with him, this would give him boldness to come. 

And another reason was, that he might have perfect sympathy. You know an angel could not have this—he was not encompassed with our infirmities ; but Aaron felt them : Therefore, he could sympathize with them in their sorrows ; but, brethren, there is one point we should notice. Now, though all this was very gracious in God, yet the high priest could do nothing for any that came to him : He could not pardon him—he could not roll away the burden of guilt, or the wrath of God. What could he do for him ? 

"But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands,—that is to say, not of this building,—neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." Here is the contrast. He is the perfect high priest, "Christ being come an high priest of good things to come,"—that is, a high priest of Gospel blessings. Just as, you remember, Christ is called, "He that was to come," so here he is called "An high priest of good things to come." Let us consider what these blessings are. 

1st. Is complete atonement. The Jewish high priest could not make complete atonement. It is true that he offered an atonement once a year ; but that only proves that it was imperfect. The Jewish high priest never made atonement for a single soul—it was only a shadow. "Christ being come an high priest of good things to come," &c., made complete atonement. It is written, "He made intercession for the transgressors." "He hath borne our sins in his own body on the tree." O, brethren ! this is a "good thing to come." This is one of the Gospel blessings. Have you got this thing ? Have you come to get all your sins made white as snow. ?

2d. Another good thing that Christ, as the high priest, does, is, to make continual intercession. You know the high priest among the Jews made intercession. He had a breastplate, on which were engraved the names of the children of Israel ; and I have no doubt that he offered up strong cries and tears when he went in before the Lord ; but how could he know all the names of Israel ? or, even if he did, how could he know all the cases of the children of Israel ? or, even if he did, how could he have such a bosom of sympathy as feel for them all ? "But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come." 

He has got a deep memory—"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word." And not only has he got a deep memory : but he has an omniscient eye, and he has got a bosom that can sympathize for all his people.—"We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."

3d. Let me mention another of the good things : It is acceptance. You know the Jewish high priest was allowed to go in once a year into the holiest of all ; but he could not take any one with him—not even one of the priests. "But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come," not only enters himself, but takes us along with him—"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus." With the blood of Jesus, all have boldness to enter in, and there is a day coming when he will take us all into the holiest of all—into the presence of his Father.

4th. Another of the good things is, a change of heart. You know the Jewish high priest could sympathize with his brother ; but he could not give him a new heart. "But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come," he can give the sinner a new heart and put within him a right spirit. He is a high priest of good things to come. Ah, brethren ! have you made use of this high priest ? Have you received these good things to come ? Have you taken them ? Ah ! how strange is it that you would have all the good things of this life, without the good things of Christ ?

II. I now hasten to the tabernacle where Christ made his offering. "Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands,—that is to say, not of this building." 

At the beginning of this chapter, we considered the Jewish Tabernacle, where was the candlestick, and the table, and the shew-bread,., in which the priests offered sacrifice. But we now come to consider the tabernacles where Christ offered up his sacrifice ; and I think that this tabernacle is his body. 

You remember he told the Jews that his body was the tabernacle, and he said to his disciples, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again ; but he spake of the temple of his body." So I believe, dear friends, that the tabernacle spoken of was just the holy human nature of Christ. This was the tabernacle in which he offered up his sacrifice, and it is the tabernacle in which he offers up his sweet incense within the veil. 

And you will notice that it is said to be "a greater,"—not greater in dimension, but in value. We saw that the Jewish Tabernacle was very glorious : Its golden altar, its golden candlestick, its boards of shittim-wood, its curtains of blue and purple and scarlet, and its fine-twined linen, made it a glorious Tabernacle ; and it is called "a perfect Tabernacle." You know the old Tabernacle was very perfect ; but, ah ! it is not like this. And it is said, it is "without hands." 

You know the old Tabernacle was made with hands ; but this is one without hands. The Holy Ghost overshadowed Mary, and formed him in the Virgin's womb. I believe, dear brethren, that this is intended by the greater and more perfect tabernacle. And I would just leave with you three things in which it excelled the old Tabernacle.

1st. It was intrinsically holy.—The old Tabernacle was extrinsically holy ; but you know the golden altar, and the boards of shittim-wood, and the curtains, and the fine-twined linen, cannot be holy in themselves ; but Christ was intrinsically holy. His holy mind was a perfect transcript of the mind of God.

2d. There is a second particular in which the human body of Christ excelled the old Tabernacle : It is, that he dwelt in it by the Godhead bodily. You know, that in the Tabernacle, God's glory was seen ; but, O ! in the body of Jesus, the Godhead dwells. The omniscience of God is there—the love of God is there. Ah, brethren ! it is sweet to think about him now when he is in heaven.

3d. There is a third thing ; and that is, this tabernacle was never to be taken down. You know the old Tabernacle is taken down : What has become of its boards and its curtains we do not know : But this tabernacle is never to be taken down : It is a tabernacle that the Lord pitched, and not man—"Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and forever." 

Ah ! we may gaze for ever on that pure majestic eye that wept at the grave of Lazarus—it is a tabernacle that will never be taken down. Ah, brethren ! it will be the employment of heaven to study this tabernacle. It was a greater tabernacle—one made perfect through suffering.

III. I come now to the third and last point—The entrance into the holiest of all. In like manner as the Jewish high priest entered into the holiest of all below, so has our high priest entered into the holiest of all above. It is explained, verse 24—"Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true ; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." 

The Jewish high priest drew aside the curtain, and entered into the holy place, even where his foot could not stand unless on blood ; but Christ has gone into the holiest of all—into heaven for us. And then notice the time : We saw that the Jewish high priest entered in once a year ; but Christ has entered in once for all. Now, this shows the perfection of Christ's sacrifice. When the high priest entered in once and then again, that showed that he was not perfect ; but Christ has gone in once for all. It was the perfection of Christ's priesthood that it was once and no more.

And then notice farther, the blood by which he entered in—"Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, he entered in once into the holy place." I showed you that the Jewish high priest had to take with him blood when he entered into the holiest of all. Now, dear friends, observe that the Lord Jesus did not take the blood of bulls or calves, because it is not possible that they could take away sin ; but he entered in with his own blood. 

At Gethsemane and Calvary, he shed his blood ; and then, with the marks of the nails in his hands and feet, and the mark of the spear in his side, he entered into the holiest of all. Christ could not enter in within the holiest of all without his own blood.

Now, last of all, notice what he obtained : He obtained eternal redemption for us. He obtained this before he entered in. The Jewish high priest did not obtain redemption by all his sacrifices ; but Christ, by his own blood, hath obtained eternal redemption for us. What is this eternal redemption ? Brethren, we were under bondage to Satanunder the cords of our lusts, and Christ came to pay a price for our redemption—"We were not redeemed with corruptible things such as silver and gold, but by the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." 

When he laid down his blood as the price of our redemption, God accepted of it. The redemption out of the land of Egypt was only a temporary redemption ; but this is eternal redemption.


Dear friends, what think ye of Christ ? What think ye of this high priest of good things to come, who has obtained eternal redemption for us ? Have you got this eternal redemption ? Ah, friends ! of not, then you will be under eternal bondage. O ! the misery of this bondage to one who has heard of redemption. O, brethren ! think of this : It is not long that you will be offered eternal redemption. 

Remember He is coming again, but not to offer eternal redemption, but to take vengeance on them that know not God, and that have not obeyed the Gospel. O ! that you were wise ! O ! that you would consider this—that you would remember your latter end ! Amen.

The Contents of the Tabernacle by Robert Murray M'Cheyne

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Hebrews 9:1-5—"Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shew-bread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy-seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly."


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In my last lecture on this chapter, I enter on the subject of the Jewish Tabernacle. I showed you that the Tabernacle was the peculiar glory of the Jewish people. I showed you it was so for two reasons,

1st. Because it was the meeting-place with God ; 

2d. Because it was the greatest type of Christ becoming incarnate. And therefore, when the Arabian or the stranger saw it—saw the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night—they knew that this was a peculiar people. And when that wicked man Balaam saw them, he said, "For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from he hills I behold him." [ Nu. 23:9 ] "The Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them." [ Nu. 23:21b ] "How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel!" [ Nu. 24:5 ] The Tabernacle, then, is to be regarded as the peculiar glory of the Mosaic covenant.

I showed you first of all, that the Tabernacle is called "a worldly sanctuary." It was called so for two reasons,

1st. Because it was in the world : It had local habitation : It had its little spot where it could be seen. 

2d. It was a worldly sanctuary for another reason—because it was made of worldly material. The badgers' skins, and the boards of shittim-wood, and the fine twined linen, were all fading. It was a worldly sanctuary, soon to pass away. Now, the second covenant has got a heavenly sanctuary—"A building of God—an house not made with hands." I showed you that Christ is the new Tabernacle.

The second thing that I showed you was the holy place. We saw, that in the 2d verse, it is described in three ways : It is described first by its situation, then by its contents, and lastly by its name. I shall not now go over all that I then said : but I would like to show you what is the meaning of the holy place. I would open to you now what appears to be the meaning of the holy place and all that is in it. I think that it is meant to show Christ mystical,—that is, Christ and all his members.

In order to explain this more fully, just observe there was a golden lamp lighted up every day. Now, there can be no doubt that this lamp was intended to represent Christ and his members. Now, you will observe, brethren, one remarkable feature about this candlestick—the light was enclosed within boards and curtains. 

Now, it appears to me, that this expresses the state of the Church in the Wilderness—before Christ came it was shrouded under boards and curtains. It is true that there were some straggling lights shed over the world, so that the Queen of Sheba came to inquire about it, and the Eunuch came all the way from Ethiopia to Jerusalem to worship : But, however that may be, it was not intended to shine over the world : It was a Church having the Gospel, but not spreading the light of the Gospel over the world, until Christ came, and then the boards and curtains were taken down, and the lamp shed its light over the world. 

It appears to me, that the candlestick in the Tabernacle describes the state of the Church till Christ came ; but now, when he is come, the light is no more hid under boards and curtains, but is spread over the world.

Again, in the holy place there was the golden altar of incense. The golden altar of incense was on the outside of the veil, and its use was to burn incense every morning and evening. Now, there can be no doubt that this also describes Christ, the great intercessor, and his people, the intercessors of the world. But there is one thing that must strike you very much : The altar was not within the veil, but on the outside of it. Now, I cannot but think that this describes the state of the Church before Christ died—that they had not that near, close, and intimate communion that we now enjoy. 

The Spirit signified by the incense on the outside of the veil, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet manifest. We know that the Old Testament Church was one of prayer. David sought God's face seven times a day. Solomon prayed. Daniel was a man of prayer. The Psalms prove distinctly that it was an interceding Church ; but the intercession was without the veil. There was not that spirit of adoption whereby we cry "Abba, Father!"

There was a third thing ; and that was, the pure golden table bearing the twelve loaves of bread. There can be no doubt that this shows Christ, the provision of his people. But you will notice that there was a loaf for the twelve tribes, but nothing for the Gentiles ; and this is what Christ means when he says, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." [ Mt. 10:5,6 ] 

The twelve loaves of the shew-bread were the children's bread ; and it seems to signify that till the veil was rent the twelve loaves of bread were for the twelve tribes only—until Jesus died and said, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." [ Mk. 16:15 ] You remember, what he said unto the Jews—"I am the bread of life." [ Jn. 6:35 ]

From all this, dear friends, I want you to gather how great and peculiar the privilege under which you live. When the Tabernacle was standing, the way into the holiest of all was not made manifest ; but now, since Christ has died—the boards and the curtains are taken down, and the way into the holiest of all is made manifest, and the bread which was only twelve loaves is now multiplied—there is enough for the prodigals of the Gentiles. Brethren, how shall ye escape if you neglect so great salvation ? 

I do not know, brethren, if you have followed me in what I have been saying ; but you cannot but see that there is now an openness to be found that was not then ; so that your condemnation will be greater, if you go away, as the most of you are doing, going away unpardoned, unjustified, unsaved.

I now come, dear friends, to the most holy place. Verses 3-5—"And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy-seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly." You will notice, dear brethren, that the second chamber is described in three ways : It is described from its situation—"after the second veil ;" then from its name—"the holiest of all ;" and then from its contents—"which had the golden censer," &c.

1st. First of all, It is described from its situation and its name. It is said, it was "after the second veil." See Exodus xxvi. 31-33—"And thou shalt make a veil of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made: And thou shalt hang it upon four pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold: their hooks shall be of gold, upon the four sockets of silver. And thou shalt hang up the veil under the taches { clasps, fastenings}, that thou mayest bring in thither within the veil the ark of the testimony: and the veil shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy." 

It is the same veil that is mentioned in the 27th of Matthew, 50th verse—"Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom." This is the very veil which is here spoken of, called "the second veil." 

The second vail was that which divided between the first and second or innermost chamber. It was four square ; the boards of it were of shittim-wood, overlaid with gold ; and just as the holy place had no light from the outside, so it had no light from the outside. Now, the name of this innermost place is called "the holiest of all." This is the second or innermost place of the chamber which we are now to speak about. Now, let us enter it, and see its contents.

The first thing mentioned is the golden censer. Now, we know quite well that this is not the golden altar. The golden censer, then, can be none other than that which the high priest carried in on the day of atonement. Leviticus xvi. 12 and 13 verses—"And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the LORD, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil: And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not." 

You will observe that the first thing the high priest did on the day of atonement, was, to take the golden censer, and fill it with burning coals from off the altar ; and then, with his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, he entered in within the second veil, and as he entered he put the beaten incense on the coals, and thus he was enveloped in sweet-smelling incense. It is probable that he put it down on the ground before the altar ; for we read that he sprinkled the altar seven times with blood. 

Now, it is very plain that the golden censer represents Christ standing before the golden altar offering up our prayers and his own. You will see this in the 8th chapter of Revelation, 3d verse—"And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne." 

There can be no doubt that the angel here represents Christ, and that the incense represents his fragrant intercession. And this was to teach Israel two things : It was to teach them their prayers were sinful ; and then it was to teach them that they had a high priest to offer up their prayers. But it was to teach you next, that you have a golden censer, and a high priest to offer it up.

The next thing is the ark of the covenant. You will see it described in the 25th chapter of Exodus. 10th, 11th, and 16th verses—"And they shall make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, within and without shalt thou overlay it, and shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about." 

"And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee." Now, brethren, this ark in the holiest of all was merely a chest overlaid with gold, and only contained the tables of stone. And yet it was the chiefest thing in the Tabernacle. You remember when it was taken by the Philistines, Eli trembled for the ark of God, and [the daughter in law of ] Phinehas said, "The glory is departed from Israel, for the ark of God is taken." [ 1 Sa. 4:21 ] 

So then it was the glory of Israel, and it was the main thing in the Tabernacle, because it showed Christ as our law-fulfilling righteousness. I think it was the intention of it to show Christ as our righteousness—"Jehovah our righteousness." [ i.e. Jehovah-Tsidkenu—Jer. 23:6 (also Jer. 33:16) ] And this shows that it is the main thing in a Christian church—it is the righteousness of Christ that ought to be made known.


The next thing within the veil was the golden pot that had manna. I must not now enter upon this. But let me repeat to you what I said before—if those that despised the Gospel in the days of Moses died without mercy, "of how much sorer punishment shall they be thought worth who have trodden under foot the Son of God, and have counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith they were sanctified, an unholy thing, and have done despite unto the spirit of grace." 

The Gospel was taught to the Jews in the same way in which we teach children—by pictures ; but the Gospel is taught is in the same way as we teach grown-up men—by books, &c.; and if they died without mercy, of how much sorer punishment shall ye be thought worthy ? There is nothing convinces me more that the unconverted will perish than this. 

If you go to your grave without having Christ our righteousness—if you go to your grave without making use of the golden censer—you will be condemned. If we could say to an unbelieving Jew, "How shall you escape ?" may we not say the same to you ? Amen.

Monday, February 13, 2017

"God & Man" by J. Gresham Machen

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J. Grecham Machen, Christianity & Liberalism (1923), chapter 3


It has been observed in the last chapter that Christianity is based on an account of something that happened in the first century of our era. But before that account can be received, certain presuppositions must be accepted. The Christian gospel consists in an account of how God saved man, and before that gospel can be understood something must be known (1) about God and (2) about man. The doctrine of God and the doctrine of man are the two great presuppositions of the gospel. With regard to these presuppositions, as with regard to the gospel itself, modern liberalism is diametrically opposed to Christianity.

It is opposed to Christianity, in the first place, in its conception of God. But at this point we are met with a particularly insistent form of that objection to doctrinal matters which has already been considered. It is unnecessary, we are told, to have a"conception" of God; theology, or the knowledge of God, it is said, is the death of religion; we should not seek to know God, but should merely feel His presence.

With regard to this objection, it ought to be observed that if religion consists merely in feeling the presence of God, it is devoid of any moral quality whatever. Pure feeling, if there be such a thing, is non-moral. What makes affection for a human friend, for example, such an ennobling thing is the knowledge which we possess of the character of our friend. Human affection, apparently so simple, is really just bristling with dogma. It depends upon a host of observations treasured up in the mind with regard to the character of our friends. 

But if human affection is thus really dependent upon knowledge, why should it be otherwise with that supreme personal relationship which is at the basis of religion ? Why should we be indignant about slanders directed against a human friend, while at the same time we are patient about the basest slanders directed against our God? Certainly it does make the greatest possible difference what we think about God; the knowledge of God is the very basis of religion.

How, then, shall God be known; how shall we become so acquainted with Him that personal fellowship may become possible? Some liberal preachers would say that we become acquainted with God only through Jesus. That assertion has an appearance of loyalty to our Lord, but in reality it is highly derogatory to Him. 

For Jesus Himself plainly recognized the validity of other ways of knowing God, and to reject those other ways is to reject the things that lay at the very center of Jesus' life. Jesus plainly found God's hand in nature; the lilies of the field revealed to Him the weaving of God. He found God also in the moral law; the law written in the hearts of men was God's law, which revealed His righteousness. Finally Jesus plainly found God revealed in the Scriptures. How profound was our Lord's use of the words of prophets and psalmists! To say that such revelation of God was invalid, or is useless to us today, is to do despite to things that lay closest to Jesus' mind and heart.

But, as a matter of fact, when men say that we know God only as He is revealed in Jesus, they are denying all real knowledge of God whatever. For unless there be some idea of God independent of Jesus, the ascription of deity to Jesus has no meaning. To say, "Jesus is God," is meaningless unless the word "God" has an antecedent meaning attached to it. And the attaching of a meaning to the word "God" is accomplished by the means which have just been mentioned. 

We are not forgetting the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." But these words do not mean that if a man had never known what the word "God" means, he could come to attach an idea to that word merely by his knowledge of Jesus' character. On the contrary, the disciples to whom Jesus was speaking had already a very definite conception of God; a knowledge of the one supreme Person was presupposed in all that Jesus said. 

But the disciples desired not only a knowledge of God hut also intimate, personal contact. And that came through their intercourse with Jesus. Jesus revealed, in a wonderfully intimate way, the character of God, but such revelation obtained its true significance only on the basis both of the Old Testament heritage and of Jesus' own teaching. Rational theism, the knowledge of one Supreme Person, Maker and active Ruler of the world, is at the very root of Christianity.

But, the modern preacher will say, it is incongruous to attribute to Jesus an acceptance of "rational theism"; Jesus had a practical, not a theoretical, knowledge of God. There is a sense in which these words are true. Certainly no part of Jesus' knowledge of God was merely theoretical; everything that Jesus knew about God touched His heart and determined His actions. In that sense, Jesus' knowledge of God was "practical." 

But unfortunately that is not the sense in which the assertion of modern liberalism is meant. What is frequently meant by a "practical" knowledge of God in modern parlance is not a theoretical knowledge of God that is also practical, but a practical knowledge which is not theoretical --in other words, a knowledge which gives no information about objective reality, a knowledge which is no knowledge at all. And nothing could possibly be more unlike the religion of Jesus than that. 

The relation of Jesus to His heavenly Father was not a relation to a vague and impersonal goodness, it was not a relation which merely clothed itself in symbolic, personal form. On the contrary, it was a relation to a real Person, whose existence was just as definite and just as much a subject of theoretic knowledge as the existence of the lilies of the field that God had clothed. The very basis of the religion of Jesus was a triumphant belief in the real existence of a personal God.

And without that belief no type of religion can rightly appeal to Jesus today. Jesus was a theist, and rational theism is at the basis of Christianity. Jesus did not, indeed, support His theism by argument; He did not provide in advance answers to the Kantian attack upon the theistic proofs. But that means not that He was indifferent to the belief which is the logical result of those proofs, but that the belief stood so firm, both to Him and to His hearers, that in His teaching it is always presupposed. 

So today it is not necessary for all Christians to analyze the logical basis of their belief in God; the human mind has a wonderful faculty for the condensation of perfectly valid arguments, and what seems like an instinctive belief may turn out to be the result of many logical steps. Or, rather' it may be that the belief in a personal God is the result of a primitive revelation, and that the theistic proofs are only the logical confirmation of what was originally arrived at by a different means. At any rate, the logical confirmation of the belief in God is a vital concern to the Christian; at this point as at many others religion and philosophy are connected in the most intimate possible way. 

True religion can make no peace with a false philosophy, any more than with a science that is falsely so-called; a thing cannot possibly be true in religion and false in philosophy or in science. All methods of arriving at truth, if they be valid methods, will arrive at a harmonious result. Certainly the atheistic or agnostic Christianity which sometimes goes under the name of a "practical" religion is no Christianity at all. At the very root of Christianity is the belief in the real existence of a personal God.

Strangely enough, at the very time when modern liberalism is decrying the theistic proofs, and taking refuge in a "practical" knowledge which shall somehow be independent of scientifically or philosophically ascertained facts, the liberal preacher loves to use one designation of God which is nothing if not theistic; he loves to speak of God as "Father." The term certainly has the merit of ascribing personality to God. 

By some of those who use it, indeed, it is not seriously meant; by some it is employed because it is useful, not because it is true. But not all liberals are able to make the subtle distinction between theoretic judgments and judgments of value; some liberals, though perhaps a decreasing number, are true believers in a personal God. And such men are able to think of God truly as a Father.

The term presents a very lofty conception of God. It is not indeed exclusivelyChristian; the term "Father" has been applied to God outside of Christianity. It appears, for example, in the widespread belief in an "All- Father," which prevails among many races even in company with polytheism; it appears here and there in the Old Testament, and in pre-Christian Jewish writings subsequent to the Old Testament period. Such occurrences of the term are by no means devoid of significance. 

The Old Testament usage, in particular, is a worthy precursor of our Lord's teaching; for although in the Old Testament the word "Father" ordinarily designates God in relation not to the individual, but to the nation or to the king, yet the individual Israelite, because of his part in the chosen people, felt himself to be in a peculiarly intimate relation to the covenant God. But despite this anticipation of the teaching of our Lord, Jesus brought such an incomparable enrichment of the usage of the term, that it is a correct instinct which regards the thought of God as Father as something characteristically Christian.

Modern men have been so much impressed with this element in Jesus' teaching that they have sometimes been inclined to regard it as the very sum and substance of our religion. We are not interested, they say, in many things for which men formerly gave their lives; we are not interested in the theology of the creeds; we are not interested in the doctrines of sin and salvation; we are not interested in atonement through the blood of Christ: enough for us is the simple truth of the fatherhood of God and its corollary, the brotherhood of man. 

We may not be very orthodox in the theological sense, they continue, but of course you will recognize us as Christians because we accept Jesus' teaching as to the Father God.

It is very strange how intelligent persons can speak in this way. It is very strange how those who accept only the universal fatherhood of God as the sum and substance of religion can regard themselves as Christians or can appeal to Jesus of Nazareth. For the plain fact is that this modern doctrine of the universal fatherhood of God formed no part whatever of Jesus' teaching. Where is it that Jesus may be supposed to have taught the universal fatherhood of God? Certainly it is not in the parable of the Prodigal Son. 

For in the first place, the publicans and sinners whose acceptance by Jesus formed theoccasion both of the Pharisees' objection and of Jesus' answer to them by means of the parable, were not any men anywhere, but were members of the chosen people and as such might be designated as sons of God. 

In the second place, a parable is certainly not to be pressed in its details. So here because the joy of the father in the parable is like the joy of God when a sinner receives salvation at Jesus' hand, it does not follow that the relation which God sustains to still unrepentant sinners is that of a Father to his children. Where else, then, can the universal fatherhood of God be found ? Surely not in the Sermon on the Mount; for throughout the Sermon on the Mount those who can call God Father are distinguished in the most emphatic way from the great world of the Gentiles outside. 

One passage in the discourse has indeed been urged in support of the modern doctrine: "But I say unto you, love your enemies and pray for them that persecute you; that ye may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He maketh His sun to rise on evil and good and sendeth rain on just and unjust" (Matt. v. 44, 45). But the passage certainly will not bear the weight which is hung upon it. God is indeed represented here as caring for all men whether evil or good, but He is certainly not called the Father of all. 

Indeed it might almost be said that the point of the passage depends on the fact that He is not the Father of all. He cares even for those who are not His children but His enemies; so His children, Jesus' disciples, ought to imitate Him by loving even those who are not their brethren but their persecutors. The modern doctrine of the universal fatherhood of God is not to be found in the teaching of Jesus. And it is not to be found in the New Testament. 

The whole New Testament and Jesus Himself do indeed represent God as standing in a relation to all men, whether Christians or not, which is analogous to that in which a father stands to his children. He is the Author of the being of all, and as such might well be called the Father of all. He cares for all, and for that reason also might be called the Father of all. 

Here and there the figure of fatherhood seems to be used to designate this broader relationship which God sustains to all men or even to all created beings. 

So in an isolated passage in Hebrews, God is spoken of as the "Father of spirits" (Heb. xii. 9). Here perhaps it is the relation of God, as creator, to the personal beings whom He has created which is in view. 

One of the clearest instances of the broader use of the figure of fatherhood is found in the speech of Paul at Athens, Acts xvii. 28: "For we are also His offspring." Here it is plainly the relation in which God stands to all men, whether Christians or not, which is in mind. But the words form part of an hexameter line and are taken from a pagan poet; they are not representedas part of the gospel, but merely as belonging to the common meeting-ground which Paul discovered in speaking to his pagan hearers. 

This passage is only typical of what appears, with respect to a universal fatherhood of God, in the New Testament as a whole. Something analogous to a universal fatherhood of God is taught in the New Testament. Here and there the terminology of fatherhood and sonship is even used to describe this general relationship. But such instances are extremely rare. Ordinarily the lofty term "Father" is used to describe a relationship of a far more intimate kind, the relationship in which God stands to the company of the redeemed.

The modern doctrine of the universal fatherhood of God, then, which is being celebrated as "the essence of Christianity," really belongs at best only to that vague natural religion which forms the presupposition which the Christian preacher can use when the gospel is to be proclaimed; and when it is regarded as a reassuring, all-sufficient thing, it comes into direct opposition to the New Testament. 

The gospel itself refers to something entirely different; the really distinctive New Testament teaching about the fatherhood of God concerns only those who have been brought into the household of faith.

There is nothing narrow about such teaching; for the door of the household of faith is open wide to all. That door is the "new and living way" which Jesus opened by His blood. 

And if we really love our fellow men, we shall not go about the world, with the liberal preacher, trying to make men satisfied with the coldness of a vague natural religion. But by the preaching of the gospel we shall invite them into the warmth and joy of the house of God. Christianity offers men all that is offered by the modern liberal teaching about the universal fatherhood of God; but it is Christianity only because it offers also infinitely more.

But the liberal conception of God differs even more fundamentally from the Christian view than in the different circle of ideas connected with the terminology of fatherhood. The truth is that liberalism has lost sight of the very center and core of the Christian teaching. In the Christian view of God as set forth in the Bible, there are many elements. But one attribute of God is absolutely fundamental in the Bible; one attribute is absolutely necessary in order to render intelligible all the rest. 

That attribute is the awful transcendence of God. From beginning to end the Bible is concerned to set forth the awful gulf that separates the creature from the Creator. It is true, indeed, that according to the Bible God is immanent in the world. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without Him. But he is immanent in the world not because He is identified with the world, but because He is the free Creator and Upholder of it. Between the creature and the Creator a great gulf is fixed.

In modern liberalism, on the other hand, this sharp distinction between God and the world is broken down, and the name "God" is applied to the mighty world process itself. We find ourselves in the midst of a mighty process, which manifests itself in the indefinitely small and in the indefinitely great--in the infinitesimal life which is revealed through the microscope and in the vast movements of the heavenly spheres. 

To this world-process, of which we ourselves form a part, we apply the dread name of "God." God, therefore, it is said in effect, is not a person distinct from ourselves; on the contrary our life is a part of His. Thus the Gospel story of the Incarnation, according to modern liberalism, is sometimes thought of as a symbol of the general truth that man at his best is one with God.

It is strange how such a representation can be regarded as anything new, for as a matter of fact, pantheism is a very ancient phenomenon. It has always been with us, to blight the religious life of man. And modern liberalism, even when it is not consistently pantheistic, is at any rate pantheizing. It tends everywhere to break down the separateness between God and the world, and the sharp personal distinction between God and man. Even the sin of man on this view ought logically to be regarded as part of the life of God. Very different is the living and holy God of the Bible and of Christian faith.

Christianity differs from liberalism, then, in the first place, in its conception of God. But it also differs in its conception of man. Modern liberalism has lost all sense of the gulf that separates the creature from the Creator; its doctrine of man follows naturally from its doctrine of God. But it is not only the creature limitations of mankind which are denied. Even more important is another difference. 

According to the Bible, man is a sinner under the just condemnation of God; according to modern liberalism, there is really no such thing as sin. At the very root of the modern liberal movement is the loss of the consciousness of sin.1

The consciousness of sin was formerly the starting-point of all preaching; but today it is gone. Characteristic of the modern age, above all else, is a supreme confidence in human goodness; the religious literature of the day is redolent of that confidence. Get beneath the rough exterior of men, we are told, and we shall discover enough self-sacrifice to found upon it the hope of society; the world's evil, it is said, can be overcome with the world's good; no help is needed from outside the world.

What has produced this satisfaction with human goodness? What has become of the consciousness of sin? The consciousness of sin has certainly been lost. But what has removed it from the hearts of men?

In the first place, the war has perhaps had something to do with the change. In time of war, our attention is called so exclusively to the sins of other people that we are sometimes inclined to forget our own sins. Attention to the sins of other people is, indeed, sometimes necessary. 

It is quite right to be indignant against any oppression of the weak which is being carried on by the strong. But such a habit of mind, if made permanent, if carried over into the days of peace, has its dangers. It joins forces with the collectivism of the modern state to obscure the individual, personal character of guilt. If John Smith beats his wife nowadays, no one is so old-fashioned as to blame John Smith for it. 

On the contrary, it is said, John Smith is evidently the victim of some more of that Bolshevistic propaganda; Congress ought to be called in extra session in order to take up the case of John Smith in an alien and sedition law.

But the loss of the consciousness of sin is far deeper than the war; it has its roots in a mighty spiritual process which has been active during the past seventy-five years. Like other great movements, that process has come silently--so silently that its results have been achieved before the plain man was even aware of what was taking place. Nevertheless, despite all superficial continuity, a remarkable change has come about within the last seventy-five years. The change is nothing less thanthe substitution of paganism for Christianity as the dominant view of life. Seventy-five years ago, Western civilization, despite inconsistencies, was still predominantly Christian; today it is predominantly pagan.

In speaking of "paganism," we are not using a term of reproach. Ancient Greece was pagan, but it was glorious, and the modern world has not even begun to equal its achievements. What, then, is paganism? 

The answer is not really difficult. Paganism is that view of life which finds the highest goal of human existence in the healthy and harmonious and joyous development of existing human faculties. Very different is the Christian ideal. Paganism is optimistic with regard to unaided human nature' whereas Christianity is the religion of the broken heart.

In saying that Christianity is the religion of the broken heart, we do not mean that Christianity ends with the broken heart; we do not mean that the characteristic Christian attitude is a continual beating on the breast or a continual crying of "Woe is me." 

Nothing could be further from the fact. On the contrary, Christianity means that sin is faced once for all, and then is cast, by the grace of God, forever into the depths of the sea. The trouble with the paganism of ancient Greece, as with the paganism of modern times, was not in the superstructure, which was glorious, but in the foundation, which was rotten. There was always something to be covered up; the enthusiasm of the architect was maintained only by ignoring the disturbing fact of sin. 

In Christianity, on the other hand, nothing needs to be covered up. The fact of sin is faced squarely once for all, and is dealt with by the grace of God. But then, after sin has been removed by the grace of God, the Christian can proceed to develop joyously every faculty that God has given him. Such is the higher Christian humanism--a humanism founded not upon human pride but upon divine grace.

But although Christianity does not end with the broken heart, it does begin with the broken heart; it begins with the consciousness of sin. Without the consciousness of sin, the whole of the gospel will seem to be an idle tale. But how can the consciousness of sin be revived? 

Something no doubt can be accomplished by the proclamation of the law of God, for the law reveals transgressions. The whole of the law, moreover, should be proclaimed. It will hardly be wise to adopt the suggestion (recently offered among many suggestions as to the ways in which we shall have to modify our message in order to retain the allegiance of the returning soldiers) that we must stop treating the little sins as though they were big sins. That suggestion means apparently that we must not worry too much about the little sins, but must let them remain unmolested.

With regard to such an expedient, it may perhaps be suggested that in the moral battle we are fighting against a very resourceful enemy, who does not reveal the position of his guns by desultory artillery action when he plans a great attack. In the moral battle, as in the Great European War, the quiet sectors are usually the most dangerous. 

It is through the "little sins" that Satan gains an entrance into our lives. Probably, therefore, it will be prudent to watch all sectors of the front and lose no time about introducing the unity of command.

But if the consciousness of sin is to be produced, the law of God must be proclaimed in the lives of Christian people as well as in word. It is quite useless for the preacher to breathe out fire and brimstone from the pulpit, if at the same time the occupants of the pews go on taking sin very lightly and being content with the more' standards of the world. The rank and file of the Church must do their part in so proclaiming the law of God by their lives that the secrets of men's hearts shall be revealed.

All these things, however, are in themselves quite insufficient to produce the consciousness of sin. The more one observes the condition of the Church, the more one feels obliged to confess that the conviction of sin is a great mystery' which can be produced only by the Spirit of God. 

Proclamation of the law, in word and in deed, can prepare for the experience, but the experience itself comes from God. When a man has that experience, when a man comes under the conviction of sin, his whole attitude toward life is transformed; he wonders at his former blindness, and the message of the gospel, which formerly seemed to be an idle tale, becomes now instinct with light. But it is God alone who can produce the change.


Only, let us not try to do without the Spirit of God. The fundamental fault of the modern Church is that she is busily engaged in an absolutely impossible task--she is busily engaged in calling the righteous to repentance. Modern preachers are trying to bring men into the Church without requiring them to relinquish their pride; they are trying to help men avoid the conviction of sin. 

The preacher gets up into the pulpit, opens the Bible, and addresses the congregation somewhat as follows: "You people are very good," he says; "you respond to every appeal that looks toward the welfare of the community. 

Now we have in the Bible--especially in the life of Jesus--something so good that we believe it is good enough even for you good people." Such is modern preaching. It is heard every Sunday in thousands of pulpits. But it is entirely futile. Even our Lord did not call the righteous to repentance, and probably we shall be no more successful than He.