(A Sermon from the late 1800's)
"He shall not fall nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment In the earth." — Isa. xlii. 4.
"At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said...." Luke 10:21 (NRSV).
"Jesus exultavit Spiritu Sancto...." — Luke x. 21, Vulgate.
A PEASANT youth went forth one day from a mean and obscure country village in the East with the idea that he would conquer the whole world. The method of conquest adopted by this aspiring mechanic in the humble walks of a private citizen was as novel as his scheme appeared to be chimerical. He did not employ the printing press to laud his merits and create public opinion in his favor. This instrument of power had not been invented and enthroned over civilized society. This young artificer, who had just left the workshop with callous palms, had no intention of raising a new political party to lift him into supreme authority by its votes as a demagogue identifying himself with the "dear people" of whose rights he was, by loud profession, to be the philanthropic champion. It was not in his program to amass vast armies and direct them with Napoleonic strategy over bloody battlefields to the empire of the world. It was not his purpose to intensify race prejudice and to hurl the strongest nation against the weaker ones in accord with the wicked maxim of tyrants, "divide and conquer;" nor did he organize secret leagues sworn to compass his ambitious design. Nor did he plot to crown himself lord of all by the employment of human cunning and Jesuitical intrigue in the cabinets of kings. He relied only on that intangible abstraction which men call truth. This was his victorious sword. His bullets and bombs, his cannon bails, grape and canister shot were words which have been contemptuously defined as mouthfuls of spoken wind. His agents were to be no astute diplomatists skilled in making the worse appear the better reason; no philosophers from the Porch or the Academy, but a company of ordinary craftsmen drilled only in the rudest forms of labor.
With a manifesto as magnificent as the supremacy of the world, and with weapons so impracticable, and agencies so insufficient, this uncultured, untraveled, unknown young man began to astonish and alarm his family and narrow circle of friends by declarations implying that his scheme of universal conquest was absolutely certain of accomplishment. He even coolly assumes it as a fact already accomplished. Hear him incidentally drop the assurance of his ultimate triumph over all the nations of the earth. Of a woman who had at great self-sacrifice expressed confidence in his character, sympathy with his purpose and loyalty to his person, he said: "Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the WHOLE WORLD, that also which this woman hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her." Thus when surrounded by a beggarly retinue of a dozen common working men, as feeble a military force as Falstaff's regiment, together with a few women gathered from homes of poverty, and possibly from haunts of vice, this villager of Galilee assumes without the least waver of doubt that, beyond oceans yet unnavigated, and through islands and continents yet undiscovered, his heralds will surely make their way and lift up their voices to proclaim his right to rule the world, despite the foreseen and foretold resistance of every nation to the proclamation of this new King. And what is still more wonderful, the sovereignty at which he aimed is far more difficult than that acquired and exercised by the Alexanders, Cæsars and Napoleons of history. It was not the subjugation of men's persons by physical force, but the conquest of their hearts by a purely spiritual power working through the enlightenment of the intellect, the conviction of the moral reason, and the persuasion of the will. It is a harder task for a man to make another love and obey him with a disinterested affection and a genuine loyalty than it is to make a million men fear, cower and bow the cringing knee at the behest of armed power. This young man aimed at a still higher mark, the radical transformation of the whole human race from sensual to spiritual; from sinful to holy; from slavery to lust to the freedom of purity; from the yoke of unholy tempers and degrading passions to obedience to conscience; and from a love of falsehood to delight in the truth. He purposed to re-create fallen humanity by extracting the inveterate, hereditary proneness to sin which sooner or later breaks out in personal sin entailing guilt. If you wish to realize on a small scale the ease or difficulty of this transformation, try to lift some sinner out of the miry pit in which he is rapidly sinking. Go to yonder fallen sister and try to lure her back to the path of virtue; go to that vile rake boasting of his fiendish skill in pushing frailty off the precipice of infamy, and turn him into a self-sacrificing missionary to the Congo State, willing to lose his life to save a soul; join a woman's crusade against the saloon and try to breathe humane feelings into the flinty heart of the money-worshipping dram-seller; or attempt the reformation of one poor, bloated, beer-soaked, blear-eyed sot, lifting him out of the gutter and so transfiguring him as to be a fit companion of saints in this world and worthy to be enthroned with archangels in the world to come. Go try to inspire generosity in the heart of that aged miser sleepless on his bags of gold. Endeavor to effect a radical change in these characters whose evil habits are as changeless as the spots of the leopard or the hue of the Ethiopian, by turning their natures from their downward course and making them run uphill toward holiness and heaven. Go forth and try to make all bad people love you, not by warm hand-shakings as a candidate on election day, not by patting vile men on the shoulder and calling them "jolly good fellows," not by flattering their pride and excusing their vices, but by scathing rebukes for their misdeeds, and you will begin to realize the magnitude of the work to which this Hebrew Reformer confidently put his hand. By uncovering every man's sins he proposed to attach him by cords of love to his own person. It was the attempt to perform the prophetic miracle of changing the thorn into the fir tree and the brier into the myrtle tree — the everlasting sign of the supernatural origin of the Nazarene, a sign which will attend all the Christian ages, for it shall not be cut off. More than the radical change of individuals did he undertake. He put forth his hand to reconstruct society from its very foundations. The sins of mankind had entrenched themselves in organizations and become embodied in social institutions, incorporated and shielded by governments, licensed and protected by law. Might was making right. Wrong was universal. Civil governments, though instituted by God for human well being, had been perverted into instruments of personal aggrandizement to the detriment and oppression of the groaning millions. Neros were standing on the necks of prostrate nations. Liberty had fled from the earth; justice had fallen in the streets; philanthropy was a myth dimly floating down from a long-lost paradise. Slavery was almost universal. Every continent and habitable island, except Australia, was groaning beneath the curse of human bondage without the mitigations breathed into it by the gospel working out its inevitable extinction. The Roman master could, under the shelter of law, chop up a slave into mincemeat for his fish pond or inflict any refinement of torture which his caprice or fury might suggest. Everywhere polytheism, teaching the grossest sensuality with the sanctions of religion, reared her impure altars and lured her willing votaries to the most licentious rites. The Asiatic Ashtoreth, the Venus of Greece and Rome, gathered to her consecrated brothel temples crowds of impure worshippers. Lustful impulses were regarded as holy, and debauchery was sacred. We who have never seen idolatry are apt to think that it is quite respectable and that God's threatenings of punishment uttered against it in the Bible are altogether too severe. A visit to the idol temples of India today would open your eyes. There they are to be seen, as there were seen in the days of Herodotus in the fifth century before Christ the mammoth images of Phallus and its myriads of vile worshippers of both sexes. (See your dictionaries and cyclopædias.) To be more explicit would subject your preacher to the charge of impure utterances in a holy place. Vices now nameless in the purified vocabulary of Christian civilization, but named with sickening frequency in Latin and Greek lexicons, were lying unconcealed everywhere on the very surface of society. Even the men of taste and culture, the poets, were idealizing with all the drapery of an unchaste imagination impurities worse than beastly, making vices unnatural the themes of their muses, and shamelessly confessing their personal indulgence in loathsome practices which in all Christian lands the police would banish from decent society. You will find in an unexpurgated edition of Horace leprous verses which all the gold in the Bank of England could not have hired Tennyson or Longfellow to write. The truth is that when Jesus Christ began his moral transformation of mankind, Rome, the fountain of law, was putrescent in its immoralities. Pompeii and Herculaneum were cesspools of lust, sealed up by Divine Providence with lava torrents and ashes, to be preserved to coming Christian generations as specimens of pagan character, their exhumed walls presenting paintings which vouch for the truth of the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. Through all lands, on thousands of altars, were human sacrifices burning, sending up their offensive odors into the nostrils of the Almighty. Even the worship of civilized men and highborn women was inconceivably impure. Those incitements to vice of which our laws prohibit even the sale, were publicly paraded in every street, and filled the infant mind with a depraved animalism which stifled and poisoned the unfolding of the moral nature. The only temples that could draw a crowd were those of the libidinous Flora and the lascivious Bona Dea. At the festivals of these obscene goddesses, before the Roman day had sunk to its short-lived twilight, crowds, not only of harlots, but of mature matrons, might be seen wending their way to these temples in the Via Sacra, not simply with their persons negligently exposed, but in a state of absolute nudity. In the spacious and magnificent baths which the prodigality of successive emperors had reared in the imperial city, both sexes at the price of a farthing were indulged in promiscuous bathing. In the crowded theaters, when the first scenes of the play had been acted, and the passions of the audience had been fired by obscene verses, a sea of voices usually called out, Nudentur mimæ, "Let the actors be disrobed," and the order was no sooner issued than obeyed. Obscenities far more polluting than any to be seen in the worst penny theater that attracts the dregs of New York, London or Paris, were enacted in the Flavian amphitheater for the amusement of the emperor and the nobility of Rome. Vice had attacked the very foundations of society, and families were expiring so fast that a premium was offered to the man who would transmit a legitimate offspring to posterity. Humankind was gradually dying out, and if the process of dissolution had continued unchecked by the infusion of a pure blood and the preaching of a chaste creed, the race must have become extinct.
Brutal and cruel indeed were the amusements of the best classes of Roman citizens. Gladiators were trained to butcher one another to make a festive holiday. The refining influence of woman was destroyed by the yoke which harnessed her with the beast of burden to draw the plow or cart of her hard-hearted master, man. It is painful to present these pictures, but they are necessary to correct the rose-colored views of paganism with which modern skeptics are regaling our young people, presenting an Arcadian simplicity and purity transcending the moral virtues of Christianity.
But the worst of this bad case has not yet been told. The depravity which was lying on the surface of society was inborn and not the result of imitating bad examples; not a contagion by contact with vicious associations and easily medicated by such outward appliances as ethical instruction; the refinement of the intellectual tastes and the culture of the religious sensibilities. Both Jews and Gentiles believed in the deep moral degradation of the human race. The one reading in a Hebrew psalm, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me," and the other dolefully singing with Ovid,
"My reason this, my passion that persuades;Both believed that sin, like the shirt of Nessus, must stick to a man till death should strip it off; that sin is necessary, and holiness is impossible to mortals. This was deadening every aspiration after purity and paralyzing every effort of men to lift themselves and others Godward. How strong, think you, is the missionary-spirit in the bosoms of western frontiersmen and how earnest will be their efforts to convert the red men while they believe the slogan, "There are no good Indians but dead ones"? How strongly will men aspire after present likeness to God, whose creed is that there are no holy people on earth but those in the graveyard? This dreadful creed was producing a universal moral paralysis when Jesus went forth from Nazareth to the task of making a holy race out of those degenerate offspring of Adam whose very blood was poisoned with the virus of hereditary evil. He was not discouraged, because he knew that where sin abounds he could open the flood-gates of God's more abounding grace to wash away not only guilt but the very inborn seed of sin.
I see the right and I approve it too,
Condemn the wrong, and yet the wrong pursue."
I see the right and I approve it too,
Condemn the wrong, and yet the wrong pursue."
Again, the world up to the birth of this peasant youth had been a stupendous moral failure, utterly falling short of the design of its Creator, not because man was without a knowledge of his duty, but because there was an unbridged chasm between knowledge and right moral action. If you had taken a vagabond out of the slums of Antioch or Corinth and requested him to write out his moral creed, he would immediately have set down a list of the sublimest moral principles, with no more thought of living up to them than he had of flying to the moon. His knowledge would have afforded no motive to holy living. To produce this some wholly new agency more effective than anything yet known must be employed to overcome this dreadful "bent to sinning."
Out upon such a world our Hebrew Reformer looked from the hilltop of Nazareth and calmly prepared for its moral conquest. In imagination I hear him thus soliloquize: My spirit, the breath of purity and love, shall change this vast scene of suffering and sin into an Eden of delight. Before my simple words idols hoary with antiquity and leprous with, vileness shall hie to the bats and the moles; cast-iron superstitions which have been a nightmare on human hearts for thousands of years shall slink away before the light of my evangel. The sanctifying agent whom I will send forth shall disinfect the pollutions of the whole world. The humane spirit of my gospel shall break the fetters of the slave; chain up the dogs of war that they no more hunt and devour men; shall climb the ivory steps of thrones, steal into senates and soften legislation; shall exhale its fragrance in the world's schools and purify those fountains of influence; shall silently, but surely, clarify the world's literature and chasten art, and shall liberate music and all the daughters of song from their long captivity to the twin tyrannies of lust and wine, and turn all their bacchanal orgies into holy hallelujahs. That downward trend of human nature I will change into an upward tendency, through the Holy Spirit whom I will send down from the heaven to which I will ascend.
The magnitude of this work did not appall the heart of the young carpenter, though as he surveyed the coming race of men he saw a sight more sickening than Milton represents Adam as seeing when on a mount of vision he saw the congregated crimes and woes of his posterity all along the ages spread out on the plain below in one ghastly panorama, and Adam, though not of woman-born, could not but weep at the sight of his offspring sinning and suffering as a sequence of his own transgression. Jesus with confidence predicts his own success in his single-handed contest with the ingrained depravity of humanity, though well he knew that every radical reformer had fallen before the malice of those whom he would bless: Socrates, the zealous city missionary of Athens, toiling for the moral uplifting of the young men, compelled on charge of religious non-conformity to drink the hemlock; and Hebrew prophets, for their fidelity to Jehovah, stoned or sawn asunder, destitute, afflicted, tormented. His heart did not fail nor his cheek blanch, though well he knew that
"Right had been forever on the scaffold,Nor was he disheartened though, in his prospective view of his own life, a bloody cross confronted him but three years distant.
And wrong forever on the throne."
And wrong forever on the throne."
Strange young man! Did his friends put him in a strait-jacket, or thrust him into the cell of the lunatic? It is not wonderful that none understood him, that few believed, that many cried out madness; and that his own brothers distrusted his mission, if not his sanity. But chimerical as appeared his avowed project, he was perfectly sane. For he has accomplished enough already to prove his ability to accomplish the entire scheme of moral conquest. Jesus Christ rules so much of the world today as to remove all ground for doubt that he will rule the whole at last. The eternities are his. If it is necessary the Son of God can take a million years to lift up the submerged nations, as he took countless ages to elevate the submerged continents. "He shall not fail nor be discouraged till he have set judgment in the earth." Oh! what a boon to the world, what a benefaction above all price is one truly courageous soul possessing unfaltering faith in the final triumph of goodness, amid the present almost universal prevalence of iniquity. How that steady and strong soul tones up my fainting spirit! As if in vital connection with the pulses of that mighty heart mine cease their tremulous palpitations and beat with a steadier, stronger throb. Because he is confident we also believe and take heart.
Having outlined the stupendous work proposed by Jesus and the appalling discouragements and difficulties, we now inquire into the grounds of that marvelous confidence which from the very first dwelled in his bosom. Was it egotism and mere self-conceit? Was it a boast groundless and empty? Nay. It Was a confidence which knows that it stands not on the sand, but on the everlasting granite of reality. What, then, are the grounds of this assurance? We have disclaimed for him reliance on the sword and trust in money and political combinations, and the prestige of royal blood, and the influence of the press, and oratory and philosophy, in fact, all the ordinary means of attaining dominance over human affairs.
1. No small ground of confidence was the knowledge that death would not end his labors in the world. We are all more or less disheartened by the prospect of death near at hand. We cannot with the highest confidence enter upon any great enterprise the accomplishment of which involves a period longer than the average of human life. The thought of death naturally dampens ambition and moderates greed in reflective minds. It chastens eagerness for fame to know that —
"The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,But there could be no such limitation to the enterprise to which Christ put his hand. Death was no obstacle to his purpose to attain the dominion of the world. He knew that he would rise on the third day, that death had no power over him, that the tomb could not contain his body and that Hades could not confine his spirit when he should will to come forth in triumph. He knew that death instead of retarding would hasten the universal establishment of his kingdom; that his blood shed as an atonement for sin would shake the very foundations of Satan's dominion over human hearts, and that his resurrection, in exact fulfillment of his prediction, would fortify his gospel and make its evidences as absolutely immovable as the pillars of Jehovah's throne. If Satan inspired the crucifixion of the Son of God, he never so completely overshot his mark and so fatally wounded his own cause. For he put into the hand of Jesus a sword with which he will conquer the world, destroy the works of the devil, and bring in his own everlasting kingdom. The empty tomb of Jesus is an argument which infidelity cannot answer. The earth contains the bones of every other great religious founder. Confucius's tomb is visited in China; Zoroaster, the father of the fire-worshippers, lies buried in Persia. The dust of Buddha, the Hindu sage, venerated by 470,000,000 votaries, is mingling with the soil of India. In Mecca the coffin enclosing the ashes of the false prophet is surrounded daily by dusty pilgrims, while the body of Abraham is entombed at Hebron. But who will show us a bone of Jesus Christ? To what spot shall we journey to pay homage to his dissolving dust? Not to the rock-hewn tomb in Jerusalem where Joseph of Arimathæa tenderly laid him. "Come and see. He is not here. He is risen. Behold the place where the Lord lay." Not a bone of his will ever be dug up, not a particle of his dust cleaves to our planet as it sweeps around the sun. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. All are prospectively conquered in his victory over death at the very beginning of the battle.
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Await alike the inevitable hour —
The paths of glory lead but to the grave."
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Await alike the inevitable hour —
The paths of glory lead but to the grave."
2. Another element of confidence was Christ's knowledge that he has an ally in every human bosom. Man is depraved, earthly, sensual, and sometimes devilish, but he is not a demon hopelessly fixed in his badness. He has a reason which recognizes the truth. He has a conscience which hears the voice of duty. He has sensibilities capable of admiring the moral beauty of Christ, and a free will which has the gracious ability to elect his yoke. Yea, even the worst of men have an æsthetic delight in the law of God while rejecting its sway. Though carnal and sold on the auction block to sin, the despot, the worst man approves God's law as holy, just and good. All he needs is motive power. This Christ can supply. He is the dispenser of God's grace. By becoming a man he put himself into the circle of human sympathies. He knows to what part of our fallen nature he can appeal and awaken a favorable response. There is a chord which, if touched by the divine hand, will yield the plaintive melody of penitence and the joyful sound of thanksgiving. The adaptation of the gospel to meet the approval of the conscience, to satisfy the demands of the intellect and to fill the cravings of the affections, made it morally certain before Jesus Christ opened his lips on the Mount of Beatitudes that he would conquer the rebellious race at last. For no more surely is the ear adapted to sounds and the eye to light than the soul is adapted to feel the power of Christian suasives. Obedience to Christ commends itself to every man's conscience. There is a door to every heart, and our Saviour knows the path to that door. He can awaken the sleeper within by a knock too gentle to destroy freedom. He comes with no sledge hammer. "When I am lifted I will draw [not drag] all men unto me." The drawings of Christ are universal, but not irresistible. The story of the cross has conquered millions of hearts, and it is ever new. It thaws the icy affections of the Greenlander, and awakens the stupid Hottentot, while it overwhelms with wonder the man of science who can measure the distances of the fixed stars, weigh the planets, and unbraid a ray of light. Thank God, there is hope for every man, for there is within him a traitor to Satan and an ally to Christ. The ear of conscience may be gained and the man may be drawn to the embrace of his Redeemer. Were it not so I would not dare to enter the pulpit again to plead with the impenitent. Were it not so Jesus would have fainted at the first glance at a race hopelessly submerged in sin. He would have shunned the fruitless agony of Gethsemane and the useless cross on Calvary, and he would even now, on his mediatorial throne, cease his intercessory prayers and let the hopeless world of sinners lie forever in the ruin to which they have sunk.
3. Another ground of Christ's confidence is the new weapon with which the battle against sin is to be fought and victory won. This is not an invention for the wholesale slaughter of men, like a breech-loading gun, but a spiritual instrument of the highest efficiency never before wielded on the earth. It is a sinless and perfect human character rising in full-orbed splendor upon a world of darkness. There is a power in example transcending the suasiveness of tongues. The author of "Paradise Lost" very appropriately represents Satan as trembling when, from the top of Eden's walls, he first beheld a sinless man and "felt how awful goodness is." A holy man is a living rebuke to all unholiness. Unimpeachable integrity is a battery which can never be successfully assaulted. Argument may be repelled by superior logic, but holy character is absolutely unanswerable. The perfect son of man reveals by contrast the imperfections of all fallen beings who gaze upon him. One instance of a holy humanity is a demonstration of its attainability and a prophecy of its possible universality. The sinless Jesus walks forth upon the earth an incarnate rebuke to sin, in the fourfold record of his life. "Which of you convinceth me of sin?" Enoch, Moses, Job and Daniel had flaws which weakened their characters and detracted from their rebuking power. But, lo, here comes forth from Nazareth to the gaze of the universe and to the surprise of men an absolutely sinless man, the joy of God, the wonder of angels and the envy of demons. Holiness on the earth is now and henceforth a possibility. Moral perfection is no longer ideal. It is real. From this rock all the assaults of Satan rebound, pouring confusion upon the falsifier. What follows? If stainless purity whiter than snow is possible in one dweller in a house of clay, it is possible in all, else Christ's example instead of being a stairway to heaven is a millstone to sink us in despair. A model impossible to imitate tantalizes and paralyzes. Possibility in all is the ground of obligation in all. "Be ye yourselves holy in all manner of living; for I am holy." (1 Peter 1. 15, is, R. V.)
Hence the character of Jesus is an unconquerable aggressive power. The mythic shield of Minerva had on it the head of Gorgon so frightful that its very terrors turned into stone all who looked at it; but the photograph of Jesus on the gospel page is so lovely that it changes from stone to flesh all who gaze intently upon it. "But we all with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit." (2 Cor. iii. 18. R. V.)
4. The agencies at Christ's command are another ground of assurance. It was the boast of Franklin that he could draw the lightning down from the clouds, and of Professor Morse that he could make it the world's news carrier, and of Cyrus Field that he could use it as a thread beneath the oceans for weaving the nations together; and of other inventors that they could, make it light our streets and draw and warm our cars. It is a worthy boast to be able to harness invisible powers and make them toil for human weal. But Christ relied on a mightier invisible agency for the dethronement of spiritual wickedness, for the procurement of which he went down into the tomb and thence mounted the skies to send down the Pentecostal gift to raise dead souls to life and to stamp them, with his perfect holiness. To his tearful disciples he said, "I will send the Comforter," the spiritual transformer. By him penitents are born anew and believers are sanctified wholly. He can destroy the propensity to sin, root and branch, and make spotless holiness a reality in living men without the aid of death or of purgatorial fires. After his ascension the Son of God poured out the Spirit of promise, the personal Paraclete, to abide permanently in believers, as their present and perfect sanctifier. Hence his serene confidence in the ultimate triumph of his kingdom. When William Carey, the pioneer Baptist missionary, went to India to preach Christ to the Hindus, he called at the office of an English judge and unfolded his plan of evangelization, expressing his unwavering faith in the conversion of India. The judge impatiently heard him and then replied, "I advise you, young man, to return to England. You have undertaken an impossible enterprise. You cannot convert the Hindus. They have a religion older than Christianity, interwoven with all their social and industrial life, separating them into indestructible castes. They have sacred books of the highest antiquity, learned priests, magnificent temples, and the holy Ganges in which from time immemorial they have washed away their sins." Carey calmly replied, "Sir, I am not attempting to do this work alone. I rely on the cooperation of the Holy Spirit to break down these barriers and soften these hearts." "Well, well," rejoined the judge, "if you can connect God Almighty with your project, I have nothing more to say against it." Jesus Christ can link the omnipotent God with his scheme of world-wide conquest. "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth."
Here a class of mistaken Christians would relax their efforts and lie down and rest. Because God is in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, they imagine that success is certain without human aid. They reason thus: The agency of the Spirit is universal. He visits all souls. He reproves the Hindus and the Hottentots as well as the New Englanders. All are on salvable ground. Why, then, should I give my money or my children, or why should I go myself to heathen lands? This is a superfluous sacrifice. Christ will succeed because it is in prophecy and in the divine decree.
This sophistry cuts the sinews of effort and dries up the streams of gold flowing into missionary treasuries. It is true that the Spirit reproves the world. He passes by no human soul, however degraded by sin. With every one he debates the high themes of duty and of destiny. He wages war against every one's sins. But his success depends largely on his weapons. 'The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. It is not his office, since the New Testament was completed, to reveal religious truth, but rather to apply and vitalize truth already revealed to a few to be by them communicated to all. Here comes in the grand incentive to Christian propagandism through sermons, schools, books, tracts, and home and foreign missions, and personal testimony and effort everywhere and with everybody, to shed, the light of gospel truth upon their minds and thus put the sword into the hand of the Spirit for his most effective work. He is ready for aggression upon all the regions of sin. At this point the purpose of Christ will fail unless there is something in his religion which secures the hearty cooperation of human agency.
5. Here we come to another interesting ground of confidence in the universal spread of Christ's reign over the nations. The requisite human agents will not be wanting. It is of the very genius of Christianity to multiply them. Jesus had a solid basis for his reliance on men in his conquest of men, in the nature of the Spirit's regenerating work. This is the inspiration of fervent love to God and to men created in his image. This will secure self-sacrificing activity for the salvation of others. This makes successful Sunday-school teachers. This calls young men from the plow and shop to the pulpit, and crowds the decks of departing steamers with volunteer missionaries to all pagan lands. The gospel of Christ generates its own propagators. There is no need of employing cohorts of angels. How wonderful that Christ's conquered foes are his only agents for further conquests! No general suppressing a rebellion expects to strengthen his army by enlisting the conquered enemies of his country. When General Sherman cut himself off from his base of supplies and of recruits in his famous march through Georgia to the sea he did not expect conquered Confederates to wheel into line with the Federals and fight valiantly for the cause which they were just now destroying. But King Jesus does the very thing which a worldly king would regard as supreme folly. The immediate enlistment of conquered enemies is one of the fundamental and indispensable principles on which he conducts his holy war. He expects every prisoner of war, the moment that he lays down his arms, to take the oath of allegiance, to seize the sword of the Spirit, and to fight bravely for the enthronement of his conqueror. Jesus conquers by love. His victory is the inspiration of love to the victor. The first impulse of every truly regenerated soul is to invite others to submit to Jesus also. If this impulse declines it is because loyalty to him wavers and love has grown cold. Aggressive activity in bidding others to the feast of divine love is indispensable to genuine discipleship to Christ. When General William Booth, in the slums of London, first lifted the banner of his Salvation Army with its significant emblem, "Blood and Fire," and announced his purpose to Christianize the submerged tenth of that great city and convert the outcasts of all the nations, he was asked, "Where will you get your preachers?" In sublime trust in the transforming power of the gospel of Christ, pointing to a row of low groggeries, he replied, "Out of these dram shops."
The gospel's self-perpetuating power is in exact proportion to the degree of love in the hearts of Christ's disciples. Love is the warm atmosphere in which the missionary spirit is born. When Samuel Mills, one of the five young men whose self-consecration to the evangelization of India occasioned the formation of the American Board, was asked by his father what put it into his head to become a missionary, he answered, "Father, it was your prayers at the family altar."
The confidence of our risen Lord Jesus in the sufficiency of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of consecrated men and women to evangelize all nations is in striking contrast with the despair of some good men in modern times in view of the slow advance of the gospel and the gigantic obstacles which still obstruct its progress. Such persons, undervaluing the agencies now active, and forgetful of their long probable future on the earth, boldly declare that the church under the dispensation of the Spirit is a stupendous failure, and that the glorified Christ will soon descend, not to judge the whole race of men and to wind up human probation, but to subdue his foes, not by love evinced by self-sacrifice, as hitherto, but by sheer almightiness terrorizing the stubborn souls which would not yield to the suasives of love divine and of saving truth applied by the Holy Spirit. How does this faintheartedness of eclipsed faith contrast with the courage and steadiness of the Son of God! While some of his disciples lose heart and despair paralyzes their sinews, he bids us go bravely forward to certain victory. He knows that greater Luthers will arise to challenge hoary errors; that new Wesleys will come forth in future generations to breathe spiritual life into dead churches and to lift Christendom to the summits of holy character; that poets sweeter than Watts and Charles Wesley will touch the sacred lyre; that mightier Whitefields will fly over the continents and oceans, like the angel of the Apocalypse, preaching with overwhelming power. He sees future David Livingstones and William Taylors exploring the last dark corners of the world to hunt up the last pagan soul and to lead him to Christ. He sees rolling down the future ages tidal waves of revival power drowning out unbelief, purging our great cities, sweeping away the saloon and the brothel and all other fountains of crime. Christianity is not a spent shot moving against the enemy's works.
6. Another reason why Christ is not discouraged is found in the foreseen fact that the world will always be ruled in the interest of his kingdom. "For he is head over all things unto his church." The rise and fall of empires alike will impel the chariot of King Jesus onward. The results of all modern wars have been overruled for the breaking down of barriers to the extension of Christ's kingdom. If war is to lift its horrid front in the future, the outcome will be the humiliation of barbarism, the opening of larger missionary fields, and the better protection of the messengers of salvation. Study the political history of the world since on the day of Pentecost the risen Christ "opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers," and see how great events have wonderfully conspired to enthrone him over the nations. Well may Mr. George Bancroft, a secular historian, say, "I find the name of Jesus Christ written at the top of every page of modern history."
How comes it that, Bible-reading nations are in the ascendant over all the world today — their commerce steaming over every sea, their power acknowledged by Turks and all other barbarians that roam the land and the wave, their navies thundering along every coast? Our Lord Jesus is at the world's helm is the sufficient answer, and he is no pessimist.
After reviewing these grounds of Christ's confidence let us now inquire what effect should his calm assurance have on his disciples who are still in the midst of the battle. Should it not be the antidote for that bane of Christian effort, discouragement because of small results? Because whole nations have not been evangelized within the memory of living men, some people are ready to give up the cause of despair. Such people need the tonic of a stronger faith arising from an upward look at the glorified Head of the Church. Calmly he stands
"Out of whose handoffering his ceaseless intercessory prayer with unfaltering faith in his final success, though idolatries cast their dark shadows across the continents, and semi-paganism, baptized in the name of Christ, buries the simple gospel beneath a mass of traditions, hiding his saving power, and teaching ignorant souls to offer ten prayers to Mary to one to the Son of God. Yet he does not lose heart. For this reason we should not. Hear his words, "Be of good cheer; I have overcome."
The centuries roll like grains of sand,"
The centuries roll like grains of sand,"
Remember how it was in the darkest day of our nation's recent struggle to keep the Union founded by Washington from being blotted out forever. Many faint-hearted patriots were inclined to allow the dismemberment of the Republic, and others were despondently sighing, "We cannot conquer eleven seceding sovereign States," and all foreign nations reëchoed the doleful cry. The Federal credit was rapidly falling and Confederate bonds were selling at a higher price in London than the United States' securities, and gold was more than 250 per cent premium; and reverses attended our army of the Potomac, and our brave boys in blue were starving in Southern prisons, and our great commercial metropolis was in the hands of a bloody mob resisting the draft by plundering houses, burning Negro orphanages and terrorizing the citizens. How was the faith of the loyal people kept from a total collapse? Next to trust in God and the justice of our cause, the confidence of the mass of the people hung upon their leaders. Had Lincoln and Grant, Stanton and Chase, these four men, in the year 1864 issued a statement that the Federal cause was a hopeless failure, their despair would have palsied the hands of the loyal people, and the noblest and freest nation beneath the sun would have been rent asunder. But under the Spirit of our God, the pluck of our leaders, those providential men, saved our Republic by toning up the hearts of the masses who were loyal to the old flag. Their words of cheer in those gloomy days fell on fainting patriots and held them back from the slough of despond, the gulf of ruin. So, my Christian friends, in the great war against sin and all the powers of darkness let us keep near our divine Captain, and hear his words of cheer, and catch the hopefulness which animates him who "shall not fail nor be discouraged till he has set judgment in the earth." Amid the convulsions of empires, the downfall of nations, and the apparent fluctuations of his kingdom, the great spiritual temple is noiselessly going up, stone upon stone. The Master Builder looks calmly through the storms and tempests which drive away the workmen and seemingly retard the work. Yet the sublime edifice is to the omniscient eye always rising till the cap-stone shall be brought forth with shoutings, and Jesus, looking from the skies, shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied with the full realization of his purpose.
Beloved, I have come to you uttering no doleful words of despair, but rather of hope and assurance. Yours is the exceedingly great privilege of enlisting in a cause destined to succeed. The banner of the cross will never be folded up and laid aside on the shelf of the antiquary labeled, "The Lost Cause." Ye are called to fight under a captain whose confidence never falters, whose courage was never shaken, and whose triumph over the serried ranks of foes is more certain than tomorrow's sunrise. At his coming coronation he will not be ashamed to acknowledge as his brethren all who have valiantly stood by his banner amid the smoke of the battle. Be heroic in the service. Be discouraged by no obstacle. Be daunted by no foe. Preach a large gospel, adequate to man's deepest needs, the good news of complete deliverance from sin. Be aggressive. Panoplied of God go forth and bring in trains of captive enemies transformed into friends whom Christ, the great Captain, will soon lead through the lifted gates in glorious triumph. You are to share his glory. "The glory which thou hast given me, O Father, I have given them." "He that overcometh shall sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne."
Our subject has a national as well as a personal application. In every war there is a decisive battle, and in every, battle a critical moment, a turning point, called by the Greeks τροπή. It would seem that God has chosen the United States as the great battlefield of the world, and the close of the nineteenth century as the critical hour in the momentous contest between Christ and Apollyon, the commander-in-chief of the hosts of darkness. We need to be on our guard against political pessimism to which we are specially liable because of the disposition of politicians to beslime one another. It is true that there are evils in our glorious Republic which threaten its life. But there is a hopeful outlook. One of the greatest perils has recently disappeared. The crime of human chattelism was abolished not less by the rising tide of the Christian world's moral condemnation than by the exigency of the Union. There is a power which can mitigate, subdue and finally extinguish the haughty spirit of caste and the bitter race hatreds which disturb our national peace and disfigure our Christian civilization. That power is love to God and man. This love is shed abroad in believing hearts by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven by our glorified Redeemer. The concluding clause from which our motto in Isaiah is taken is this, "And the isles shall wait for his law." The recent victories of our navies, as marvelous as any in Old Testament history, not excepting Joshua's discomfiture of the Amorites at Gibeon, have placed the last waiting islands where the gospel can elevate and save their degraded, benighted and oppressed millions. May the future historian of our Republic never have to record that American Christians failed and became discouraged in view of the Herculean task providentially laid upon us in the victories of Manila and Santiago. Rather let us rejoice because the Head of the church, our ascended Christ, has entrusted us with this great responsibility, and honored us by making our nation a prominent instrument for setting judgment in the earth and enthroning his law over the long-waiting isles. It is true that our free institutions may be subverted by two millions of voters unable to read their ballots. But we have the light by which this appalling ignorance may be dispelled, the light of gospel truth, an open Bible, and millions eager to read and thousands impatient to put into their hands the spelling-book, the key of all knowledge, and the Bible, the safeguard of all freedom. An African college president making the most highly praised address at the opening of the great Southern Exposition at Atlanta is the leader of a procession of respected, learned and eloquent Africans to whom future generations of white men and women will listen with pleasure and patriotic pride. A pure gospel fearlessly preached through all our country north, south, east and west, will unify our people and cement our Union till the end of the world. There are in our metropolitan city indications that the reign of King Alcohol over law and lawmakers is to come to an eternal end. It cannot endure the faithful preaching of the gospel of purity and temperance by the teacher in the public school, by the parent at home, and by men and women on the platform and in the pulpit. The cause has already made rapid strides over vast areas of our country, especially over the Southern States. It is destined to be universal. A gratifying and significant token of this is the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church towards this baleful traffic in intoxicants. This completes the solidarity of the organic Christianity of America against this iniquity.
To Christianity alone do we confidently look for the cure of customs and practices which cause the decay of the family — the social evil, club life and easy divorce. These will wither and die as the spirit of Christ more and more purifies the individual and sanctifies society.
In conclusion we remark that he who never felt the first tremor of fear or shade of doubt is more than a man. It is human to feel despondency at times. The wisest and holiest of men have sometimes felt despair chilling their enthusiasm and paralyzing their strength. The secret of Christ's calm self-reliance and unshaken assurance of success is that he is God manifested in the flesh, having all the resources of omnipotence for his work and the lifetime of the eternal Father for its completion. No other theory of his person is a satisfactory explanation of his unique and unfaltering hopefulness.
"Jesus is God! If on the earth
This blessed faith decays,
More tender should our love become,
More plentiful our praise.
We are not angels, but we may
Down in earth's corners kneel,
And multiply sweet acts of love,
And murmur what we feel."
This blessed faith decays,
More tender should our love become,
More plentiful our praise.
We are not angels, but we may
Down in earth's corners kneel,
And multiply sweet acts of love,
And murmur what we feel."
— From Jesus Exultant Chapter 1.
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