The following address was delivered at Norris Castle in 1908.
Christ tells us that the purpose of His coming was that we might have life and have it more abundantly. John x. 10.
What is a Christian? A man with spiritual life. What is an unsaved person? A man who has not got life. It is a question of life and death, a deep, vital question. We find it all through the Bible just as we find the difference between life and death in nature. The most skeptical can't get away from the spring. The materialist says, "We die like dogs," and then he goes out into the garden and says, "What a beautiful spring it is!" Yes, there is the miracle.
If it is the purpose of Christ's coming that I might have abundant life, I must see that I have it. Will you permit an illustration along medical lines?
What is life? It is a mystery, a precise definition is impossible. But here is one which describes it to a certain extent. "Life is the sum-total of the forces that resist death." We have multitudes of enemies around us all the time that we can't see, but just as real as the lions and tigers which we could see if they were there. "Sleeping sickness" is a very terrible disease; it is caused by a little tiny micro-organism carried about by the tsetse fly. There are seven varieties of the tsetse, but this one, when it bites, injects the sleeping-sickness poison just as the mosquito injects the malarial poison. In Uganda, 200,000 have died of it and hardly anyone has ever been cured. Railways and steamers spread it across the continent of Africa. Some of the men employed to make the railways had it in their system and then when the tsetse fly bit them, the disease was transmitted to others.
How is it that we do not oftener fall victims to surrounding disease? There are countless little microscopic phagocytes in the blood forever defending us. They make for any little foreign body that comes along and they eat him up! Or if they can't do this, they build him up if possible. Very often, if there has been tubercular trouble and the person gets better, it does not mean the trouble is gone but it is absolutely walled up.
One of the most dangerous things that can come to anybody is to get below par. It is that which makes influenza dangerous. It is not the influenza itself that matters, but the sequelae. When we get below par, down we go before the attacks of these invisible foes. A German Professor once said, "We fight these diseases in Germany with laboratories; in England, they fight them with beef steak!" The wisest way is to try and strengthen the constitution itself so that life is an abounding element, then disease can't take hold. Unless there is a suitable nidus----a nest for it to lodge in----disease can't take hold.
Further, the relation of temperature to disease is most interesting and instructive. When a patient is kept in a warm temperature, we find by experience that disease is driven away. Exposed to cold, the disease will return.
Let the temperature go up by the grace of God and life itself makes war against the foe. Jesus Christ came, not that we should be spiritual invalids, but have life, and life abundant.
Jesus Christ solved the mystery of life when He said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." To receive Him is the new birth. John i. 12, 13. "As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name; which were born . . . of God." Look and live. Receive the Son Who is the Life, and there is the new wonderful life palpitating within. It is not the acceptance of a doctrine, but receiving a Person, receiving Christ into the heart. "Christ in you, the hope of glory." It is through His Spirit that He dwells in the heart. He, physically, could not be in all His people, it is by His Spirit.
A heart filled with the Spirit of Christ possesses the Life Abundant. "Be filled with the Spirit." If filled with God the Holy Ghost, don't you think that the sum total of the forces that make for life will successfully resist all evil forces? Evil habits for instance, temper, and other things. As the heart is filled with the Holy Spirit, they will drop off as the leaves in spring before the rising sap. The leaves that stay on all the winter are hard to pull off at first. It is easier when spring begins, then easier still, till at last they drop off. We may try to give up these habits, but that is not the way, it is only like pulling at the leaves. It is the insurging life within the soul that makes these things drop off. In South America, a lady came to our Meetings. She had read Huxley and Darwin, and was an avowed infidel. She explained, “I am not a bit interested, I come with my daughters because they want to come." In time, those daughters were converted, and eventually Mrs. Richarte said, “I can't tell where my infidelity is, but it is gone," It had fallen off, it had not to be plucked off.
Jesus Christ came in order that we might have the abounding life. The fulness of the Holy Spirit is not to be deserved any more than is salvation. Don't try to get anything on the basis of desert. Gal. iii. 13, 14, shows the ground on which it is obtained. First of all, there is the Gospel statement, "Christ hath redeemed us," and then the explanation of how He did it. "Being made a curse for us." Here is the substitutionary work of Jesus Christ. "Made a curse for us," in our place. Verse 14 gives us the double issue of the atoning work. From the smitten Rock, two streams flow. (1) That the blessing of Abraham might come upon us, that is to say justification by faith. (2) That we might "receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." God's promise was "floods upon the dry ground," the fulness of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ became a curse that we might drink of both those streams. If so, where is boasting? I'm a poor sinner; I am absolutely unworthy of anything at the hands of my Saviour, but He came to seek me, He died in my place, now perfectly simply, I can have justification by faith and the fulness of the Spirit.
Though the Holy Spirit is received by faith, He is only given to those who obey Him (Acts v. 32). If I am not willing to obey God, that will immediately close the way to receiving the Spirit.
"Are your windows open toward Jerusalem?" Is there communion with God? Often there is such a rush even in connection with the work of God that there is no time for communion. I know a Church where they have not got an open window----there is no Prayer Meeting in connection with that Church, the congregation is dwindling. Open the windows, get to prayer, and the people will come in.
Archibald Brown had a Church of 2,300 members, with 3,000 attending. For thirty years, he had a Prayer Meeting every Saturday night, and what a Meeting it was----attended by 800 to 1,000 people! I account for the life of that place by two things----faithfulness in preaching the Word, and this Prayer Meeting. I cannot enjoy abounding life unless I have prayer. Does this not cut very deep? If the windows get shut down, you get below par. Nine times out of ten, people don't want medicine, they need open air. The atmosphere is of infinite importance.
Then there is the question of food. Some mothers treat their babies very foolishly. There was a mother in a train, cramming her baby with all sorts of utterly unsuitable things. A nurse in the train ventured to remonstrate. "Are you married?" said the woman. She had to confess she was not. "Then don't talk to me who 'as buried nine!" There are certain things that don't agree with you. You know what they are. Some of you perhaps take a little bottle of saccharine about with you because you have rheumatism and have to avoid sugar.
I called on a clergyman one day to borrow a commentary, but though there were plenty of novels, I failed to discover any expository volumes. I say nothing against an occasional good novel, but there is a difference between eating a bit of pastry now and then and living on pastry. If workers would read that Book, they would not be dry for want of messages. As a student at the Hospital, I refused to do any work on Saturday night, and went to that Prayer Meeting I told you of, and read my Bible. The food saved me. If a man is immersed in that Book, don't be frightened for him if he has to go among agnostics. Such a man does not need hot-house Christianity, let him get out into the world. The sum total of the forces that resist death will be in the ascendant.
The Great Physician is at hand. He can help. Friends sometimes can, but He always. Go to Him. Like the man who dropped his borrowed axe-head into the river, if you know the exact spot where you lost the Spirit's fulness, you know where to seek it. Where the axe-head fell in is the place to get it out. Why don't you go back there and get the thing put right?
Professor Godet used to say, "Faith never did yesterday what it won't have to do again to-morrow." It won't do for me to go in the strength of yesterday, I must cast myself afresh upon my Lord.
Further, to keep in good health, we must have exercise as well as air and food. Look after the Kingdom of God and let the feelings take care of themselves. When I was quite a boy, I wanted to work for Jesus, but did not know how to begin. I went with my mother to a meeting and thought I would begin to work as I saw others do. I looked round about me, wondering whom I could speak to. I saw an old gentleman, and went up to him and said, "Are you a Christian?" "Yes, dear boy, are you?" he said. He thought I was anxious and wanted help. I felt I had made an awful mistake and sidled off, feeling very bad. ''Perhaps I ought to have tried a boy." I thought. So I looked round to see if I could find a boy. I went up to one and said, "Do you love the Saviour?" He burst into tears. But the best of it was the father, who was with him, was very anxious, and they both came to the Saviour there. I shall never forget the grip the father gave my hand and how he said, "This boy has led me to Jesus."
If you have not started to work for the Saviour, begin right away!