Holiness Not Hopeless.
An Address Given at Dublin.
A BROTHBR said yesterday that hopelessness is one of the most ungodly things in the world. No one has so little reason for hopelessness as the child of God, whose sins are forgiven, and who is on the way to everlasting glory. I do rejoice that the truth of God in regard to the walk and ways of believers is being pressed upon us at these meetings. The more it is pressed the better. Only let it be so pressed, that it may not produce a feeling of hopelessness in our hearts.
God wants holy, obedient children. He finds few of us willing to be made holy and obedient. When one reads the histories of early saints, and of others of later days, how they could deny themselves for God, how they prayed and laboured, and when one looks abroad and sees the common-place life which most of us can live, and yet be called Christians, we can hardly help asking, "Where has the saintliness of the church gone? Observe the manner of dress, the books read, the frivolous conversation, the eager pursuit of money and social position, and compare that with the beautiful lives God has given some of His saints to live, and can we help crying out, "Grant me that life which Jesus lived in perfectness, and in which Paul and many others, who had caught the spirit of the Master; followed Him so closely." God wants simple obedience; not some grand piece of consecration, but simple, entire obedience to his will, hour by hour, and day by day, in everything. People say they do not care about little things. They will spend hours over newspapers, and wear what they please on their heads, and spend their money and educate their children like the world. These are trifles. It was a little thing brought our first parents out of Paradise. Little things test the heart. If we will not do a little thing to please God, we will not do a greater. It is easy to be martyrs when God doesn't want us; but patient submission of our wills to God's in every detail of our life is very different. This is what God wants.
The question is not what am I to do in relation to this circumstance or that, but what path has my heavenly Father marked out for me? It may cost me separation from many whom I love. Let us ask, "Is this the path God wants me to walk in? Is it because I am afraid of consequences that I shrink from it—because I love my own ease more than Thy will?" God wants honesty of heart. People may object, "Surely God does not want to go into every moment of our time; that would be no liberty, but bondage—a worse legality than that from which the gospel set us free." I reply, God does not come to a man without strength, and expect to get a great work from him; He does not come to the thorn and demand eggs from it. If He claims, He must give us, and He means to give us, what He claims. And what is it? Something of no value? Something that we care nothing about? No; it is the most precious jewel God could give us. It is to be like Jesus. Bondage? No! Put all worlds beside this gift, and they are dross. In will, and thought, and way, to be entirely conformed to the Lord Jesus Christ; this is what a heart renewed by the Holy Spirit hungers for more than a miser for gold. But how are we to attain it?
Now God knew what we were when He called us—He well knows there is nothing in us out of which this entire consecration can come. He does not expect great things from us, but He would have us expect great things from Him. "Sin shall not have dominion over us." Why? "Because we are not under the law, but under grace"; that is, God is not expecting things from us, but we are from God. The Holy Ghost has come down to dwell in our hearts, to sanctify us to God, to be our Power to meet the claims of God. It is our part quietly to rely on the Holy Ghost doing His work. Has He not, have we the power? It is not so much I that am to do it for God, but will God do it for me? Some years ago, a brother here said that he rolled his responsibilities over on the Holy Ghost. Many objected to the statement, lest it should lead to license. I am persuaded he was misunderstood. I am persuaded that he meant to deny no claim God makes on us for holiness. But if we wish to meet those claims, what can we do but roll them over on the Holy Ghost, and by faith hold Him to the work He has graciously undertaken?
When God brings a thing down to faith, He reckons that the whole difficulty is over, because He then means to do it Himself. The Egyptians were behind Israel, mountains on either hand and the sea before them; if ever men were in a difficulty, it was then. How were they to escape? How to overcome? Moses is powerless, the people powerless, how were they to get through the waters? Heb. xi. tells us:—"By faith, they passed through the Red Sea as on dry land." It was God who wrought. He divided the sea for them. When God said, "Do it by faith," He meant, "I will do it, and your part is to go forward, in full confidence in Me." Moses had no more might than I, but the work was done, and done easily, because God did it. Let us look up to the living God. To be consecrated in heart and life may be as impossible as to divide the sea. But has God undertaken it? Has God come to subdue my will, to lift me up to things above? Has the Spirit of God come to take me up to heavenly things? Then it can be done. I see no reason why, from morning to night, we should not be before God, and doing everything in the power of His indwelling Spirit. Past failure should not make us hopeless. We have striven to do it ourselves and failed again and again. Why? Just because we have striven to do it. We have not trusted that Almighty Spirit who dwells in us. Therefore, He has let us feel our weariness, that we might learn to lean on Him alone.
Let us go forth to service, not nerving our strength to undertake some great task, but with the consciousness that the Holy Ghost is in our hearts, whose resources are fully equal to the need, and saying to our God, "Now, Lord, I own my weakness, here is a great work for Thee to do; Thy Holy Spirit has come to do it for me, and I dare not let my heart suspect that He will fail."
When a man gets down, it is a hard thing to give him a fresh start, but if we go wrong, let us never forget the blood. "I write unto you, little children, that ye sin not; but if any one sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous."
Why should we count on sinning? When a service is put before us, why should we shrink from it? Nay, "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me." We have a right to whatever there is in Jesus. Our sins, our corruptions, let us not own them, let us roll them over on Jesus; and for help in our weakness, appropriate His strength our conscious need, making us cling closer and closer to Him. Thus, our consciousness of sin and of weakness, instead of driving us from Jesus, will make us ever work in, deeper and deeper into His fulness, daily losing self, more completely in Him, and learning more entirely to live our life in the flesh by the faith of the Son of God, who loved us, and gave Himself for us.
"The Christian" 1871