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Discussion in 'Other Christian Denominations' started by DHK, Oct 12, 2012.
Ryle on Matthew 6
Ryle on Matthew 6:25-34
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
These verses are a striking example of the combined wisdom and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ's teaching. He knows the heart of a man: He knows that we are always ready to turn off warnings against worldliness, by the argument that we cannot help being anxious about the things of this life. "Have we not our families to provide for? Must not our bodily wants be supplied? How can we possibly get through life if we think first of our souls?" The Lord Jesus forsaw such thoughts, and furnished an answer.
He forbids us to keep an anxious spirit about the things of this world. Four times He says "Take no thought." About life, about food, about clothing, about the morrow, "take no thought." Be not overcareful: be not over anxious. Prudent provision for the future is right: wearing, corroding, self-tormenting anxiety is wrong.
Let it never be forgotten that the material part of a Christian Church is by far the least important part of it. The fairest combinations of marble, stone, wood and painted glass, are worthless in God’s sight, unless there is truth in the pulpit and grace in the congregation. The dens and caves in which the early Christians used to meet, were probably far more beautiful in the eyes of Christ than the noblest cathedral that was ever reared by man. The temple in which the Lord Jesus delights most, is a broken and contrite heart, renewed by the Holy Spirit.
~ J.C. Ryle
Ryle on Matthew 6:25-34
He reminds us of the providential care that God continually takes of everything that He has created. Has He given us "life"? Then He will surely not let us want anything necessary for its maintenance. Has He given us a "body"? Then He will surely not let us die for want of clothing. He that calls us into being will doubtless find meat to feed us.
He points out to us the uselessness of over-anxiety. Our life is certainly in God's hand; all the care in the world will not make us continue a minute beyond the time which God has appointed. We cannot add one hour to our lives: we shall not die till our work is done.
He sends us to the birds of the air for instruction. They make no provision for the future: "they sow not, neither do they reap;" they lay up no stores against time yet to come; they do not "gather into barns;" they literally live from day to day on what they can pick up, by using the instinct God has put in them. They ought to teach us that no man doing his duty in the station to which God has called him, shall ever be allowed to come to poverty.
He bids us observe the flowers of the field. Year after year they are decked with the gayest colours, without the slightest labour or exertion on their part: "they toil not, neither do they spin." God, by His almighty power, clothes them with beauty every season. The same God is the Father of all believers: why should they doubt that He is able to provide them with raiment as well as the "lilies of the field"? He who takes thought for perishable flowers, will surely not neglect the bodies in which dwell immortal souls.
He suggests to us that over-carefulness about the things of this world is most unworthy of a Christian. One great feature of heathenism is living for the present. Let the heathen, if he will, be anxious: he knows nothing of a Father in heaven; but let the Christian, who has clearer light and knowledge, give proof of it by his faith and contentment. When bereaved of those whom we love, we are not to "sorrow as others who have no hope." (1 Thess. 4:13.) When tried by anxieties about this life, we are not to be over-careful, as if we had no God, and no Christ.
He offers us a gracious promise as a remedy against an anxious spirit. He assures us that if we "seek first" and foremost to have a place in the kingdom of grace and glory, everything that we really want in this world shall be given to us: it shall be "added" over and above our heavenly inheritance. "All things work together for good to them that love God." "No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly." (Romans 8:28; Psalm 84:11.)
Last of all, He seals up all His instruction on this subject by laying down one of the wisest maxims. "The morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." We are not to carry cares before they come: we are to attend to today's business, and leave tomorrow's anxieties till tomorrow dawns. We may die before tomorrow: we know not what may happen on the morrow; this only we may be assured of, that if tomorrow brings a cross, He who sends it can and will send grace to bear it.
Ryle on Matthew 7:1-11
The first portion of these verses is one of those passages of Scripture which we must be careful not to strain beyond its proper meaning. It is frequently abused and misapplied by the enemies of true religion. It is possible to press the words of the Bible so far that they yield not medicine, but poison.
When our lord says, "Judge not," He does not mean that it is wrong, under any circumstances, to pass an unfavourable judgement on the conduct and opinions of others. We ought to have decided opinions: we are to "prove all things;" we are to "try the spirits." (I Thess. 5:21; I John 4:1.) Nor yet does He mean that it is wrong to reprove the sins and faults of others until we are perfect and faultless ourselves. Such an interpretation would contradict other parts of Scripture: it would make it impossible to condemn error and false doctrine; it would debar any one from attempting the office of minister or a judge. The earth would be "given into the hands of the wicked" (Job 9:24): heresy would flourish: wrong-doing would abound.
What our Lord means to condemn is a censorious and fault-finding spirit. A readiness to blame others for trifling offences or matters of indifference, a habit of passing rash and hasty judgments, a disposition to magnify the errors and infirmities of our neighbours, and make the worst of them, this is what our Lord forbids. It was common among the Pharisees: it has always been common from their day down to the present time. We must watch against it. we should "believe all things," and "hope all things" about others, and be very slow to find fault. This is Christian charity. (I Cor. 13:7).
Master's College, for example, is a member of the Christian College
Coalition. It's a coalition of Christian colleges across America of which
there are about 110 colleges. Of the 110 Christian colleges in the
coalition, six that we know of believe in the creation account in Genesis.
Creation: Believe It Or Not Pt 2
Ryle on Matthew 7:1-11
The second portion of these verses teaches us the importance of exercising discretion as to the persons with whom we speak on the subject of religion. Everything is beautiful in it's place and season. Our zeal is to be tempered by a prudent consideration of times, places, and persons. "Reprove not a scorner," says Solomon, "lest he hate thee." (Prov. 9:8.) It is not everybody to whom it is wise to open our minds on spiritual matters. There are many, who from violent tempers, or openly profligate habits, are utterly incapable of valuing the things of the Gospel: they will even fly into a passion, and run into greater excesses of sin, if we try to do good to their souls; to name the name of Christ to such people is truly to "cast pearls before swine." It does them not good, but harm: it rouses all their corruption, and makes them angry; in short, they are like the Jews at Corinth (Acts 18:6), or like Nabel, of whom it is written, that he was "such a son of Belial, that a man could not speak unto him." (I Sam. 25:17.)
The lesson before us is one which it is peculiarly difficult to use in the proper way. The right application of it needs great wisdom. We are most of us far more likely to err on the side of over-caution then of over-zeal: we are generally far more disposed to remember the "time to be silent," then the "time to speak." It is a lesson, however, which ought to stir up a spirit of self-inquiry in all our hearts. Do we ourselves never check our friends from giving us good advice by our moroseness and irritability of temper? Have we never obliged others to hold their peace and say nothing, by our pride and impatient contempt of counsel? Have we never turned against our kind advisors, and silenced them by our violence and passion? We may well fear that we have often erred in this matter.
Ryle on Matthew 7:1-11
The last portion of these verses teaches us the duty of prayer, and the rich encouragments there are to pray. There is a beautiful connection between this lesson and that which goes before it. Would we know when to be "silent," and when to "speak," when to bring forward "holy things," and produce our "pearls"? We must pray. This is a subject to which the Lord Jesus evidently attaches great importance: the language that He uses is a plain proof of this. He employs three diferent words to express the idea of prayer: "Ask," "Seek," "Knock." He holds out the broadest, fullest promise to those who pray: "Every one that asketh receiveth." He illustrates God's readiness to hear our prayers by an agrument drawn from the well-known practice of parents on earth: "evil" and selfish as they are by nature, they do not neglect the wants of their children according to the flesh; much more will a God of love and mercy attend to the cries of those who are His children by Grace!
Let us take special notice of these words of our Lord about prayer. Few of His sayings, perhaps, are so well known and so often repeated as this. The poorest and most unlearned can generally tell us, that "if we do not seek we shall not find." But what is the good of knowing it, if we do not use it? Knowledge, not improved and well employed, will only increase our condemnation at the last day.
Do we know anything of this "asking, seeking, and knocking"? Why should we not? There is nothing so simple and plain as praying, if a man really has a will to pray. There is nothing unhappily, which men are so slow to do: they will use many of the forms of religion, attend many ordinances, do many things that are right, before they will do this; and yet without this, no soul can be saved!
Do we ever really pray? If not, we shall at last be without excuse before God, except we repent. we shall not be condemned for not doing what we could not have done, or not knowing that we could not have known; but we shall find that one main reason why we are lost is this, that we never "asked" that we might be saved.
Do we indeed pray? Then let us pray on, and not faint. It is not lost labour; it is not useless; it will bear fruit after many days. These words have never yet failed, "Every one that asketh receiveth."
I heard this recently, will pass it on. Back to Ryle next time.
Now, I used to be a patriotic person, let me say this and I want you to understand what I mean. You mean that you’re no longer patriotic? Oh I love this country, but I hate what it has become. It makes me sick to my stomach to see what we are becoming. And when we stand up and we say “I love America” and “God bless America,” I cringe, I cringe when people say that because it’s not going to happen. God’s not going to bless America, as long as America is doing what America is doing and as long as America continues to involve herself in what America is involving herself in. We get tied up in this false since of patriotism and really it is, it’s a false since of patriotism and we become proud of what? We become proud of our hard work, and our accomplishments, and our entrepreneurial successes, and our culture, and our creative genius, and our military might, and we become very proud and arrogant and we swell up and say, “Look at our country, look at us, look at what we have become,” and that’s how most people think, and they don’t stop to think, where did this all come from? Well it all came from God. God blessed us, God made us what we were, He certainly is not making us what we are becoming. But we have become a nation of lost people who equates patriotism with godliness. Patriotism is not godliness. Patriotism today, in our country, has become just nothing but pride, godless pride. Now I am not saying that we as Christians can’t be patriotic, or shouldn’t be, I understand, take it the way it was intended, but you know what I am talking about when you hear people say, “Oh God bless our country?” And you must say to yourself, “Why would He, Why should He? The answer is He won’t. He will suspend His judgment perhaps as long as there is a gospel witness in this country, as long as there are Churches proclaiming the gospel, I mean God was willing to even avoid the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah for what was it ten just men? Yeah, I think it was, ten just men, I will avert the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, for just ten, and He couldn’t find ten, and so the judgment fell. And when you think about it, pride is absolutely the ultimate rejection of God. Pride says, “God, I don’t need you,” pride says, “Everything In have, I have accomplished by myself and of my own ability and talents, my own ingenuity. Reduced to its simplest form, pride is the ultimate barrier to God, the ultimate barrier to God. Men loathe humbling themselves before God and therefore, they will, like the rich young ruler, they will go to eternity empty, empty of any spiritual blessings whatsoever.
In this part of the Sermon on the Mount our Lord begins to draw His discourse to a conclusion. The lessons He here enforces on our notice, are broad, general, and full of the deepest wisdom.
He lays down a general principle for our guidance in all doubtful questions between man and man. We are "to do to others as we would have others do to us." We are not to deal with others as others deal with us: this is mere selfishness and heathenism. We are to deal with others as we would like others to deal with us: this is real Christianity.
This is a golden rule indeed! It does not merely forbid all petty malice and revenge, all cheating and overreaching: it does much more. It settles a hundred difficult points, which in a world like this are continually arising between man and man; it prevents the necessity of laying down endless little rules for our conduct in specific cases; it sweeps the whole debataeble ground with one mighty principle; it shows us a balance and measure, by which every one may see at once what is his duty. Is there a thing we would not like our neighbour to do to us? Then let us always remember that this is the thing we ought not to do to him. Is there a thing we would like him to do to us? Then this is the very thing we ought to do to him. How many intricate questions would be decided at once if this rule were honestly used!
In the second place, our Lord gives us a general caution against the way of the many in religion. It is not enough to think as others think, and do as others do. It must not satisfy us to follow the fashion, and swim with the stream of those among whom we live. He tells us that the way that leads to everlasting life is "narrow," and "few" travel in it; He tells us that the way that leads to everlasting destruction is "broad," and full of travellers: "Many there be that go in thereat."
Ryle on Matthew 7:12-20
These are fearful truths! They ought to raise great searchings of heart in the minds of all who hear them. "Which way am I going? By what road am I traveling?" In one or other of the two ways here described, every one of us may be found. May God give us an honest, self-inquiring spirit, and show us what we are!
We may well tremble and be afraid, if our religion is that of the multitude. If we can say no more then this that "we go where others go, and worship where others worship, and hope we shall do as well as others at last," we are literally pronouncing our own condemnation. What is this but being in the "broad way"? What is this but being in the road whose end is "destruction"? Our religion at present is not saving religion.
We have no reason to be discouraged and cast down if the religion we profess is not popular and few agree with us. We must remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in this passage: "The gate is strait." Repentance, and faith in Christ, and holiness of life, have never been fashionable. The true flock of Christ has always been small. It must not move us to find that we are reckoned singular, and peculiar, and bigoted, and narrow minded. This is "the narrow way." Surely it is better to enter into life eternal with a few, then to go to "destruction" with a great company.
Ryle on Matthew 7:12-20
In the last place, the Lord Jesus gives us a general warning against false teachers in the church. We are to "beware of false prophets." The connection between this passage and the preceeding one is striking. Would we keep clear of this "broad way"? We must beware of false prophets. They will arise: they began in the days of the apostles; even then the seeds of error were sown. They have appeared continually ever since. We must be prepared for them, and be on our guard.
This is a warning which is much needed. There are thousands who seem ready to believe anything in religion, if they hear it from an ordained minister. They forget that clergymen may err as much as laymen: they are not infallible. Their teaching must be weighed in the balance of Holy Scripture: they are to be followed and believed, so long as their doctrine agrees with the Bible, but not a minute longer. We are to try them "by their fruits." Sound doctrine and holy living are the marks of true prophets. Let us remember this. Our minster's mistakes will not excuse our own. "If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch." (Matt. 15:14.)
What is the best safe-guard against false teaching? Beyond all doubt the regular study of the Word of God, with prayer for the teaching of the Holy Spirit. The Bible was given to be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. (Psalm 119:105.) The man who reads it aright will never be allowed greatly to err. It is neglect of the Bible which makes so many a prey to the first false teacher whom they hear. They would fain have us believe that "they are not learned, and do not pretend to have decided opinions:" the plain truth is that they are lazy and idle abourt reading the Bible, and do not like the trouble of thinking for themselves. Nothing supplies false prophets with followers so much as spiritual sloth under a clock of humility.
May we all bear in mind our Lord's warning! The world, the devil, and the flesh, are not the only dangers in the way of the Christian; there remains another yet, and that is the "false prophet:" the wolf in sheep's clothing. Happy is he who prays over his Bible, and knows the difference between truth and error in religion! There is a difference, and we are meant to know it, and to use our knowledge.
Ryle on Matthew 7:21-29
The Lord Jesus Christ winds up the Sermon on the Mount by a passage of heart-piercing application. He turns from false prophets to false professors, from unsound teachers to unsound hearers. Here is a word for all. May we have grace to apply it to our own hearts!
The first lesson here is the uselessness of a mere outward profession of Christianity.Not every one that saith "Lord, Lord," shall enter the kingdom of heaven. Not all that profess and call themselves Christians shall be saved.
Let us take notice of this. It requires far more then most people seem to think necessary, to save a soul. We may be baptized in the name of Christ, and boast confidently of our ecclesiastical privileges; we may posses head knowledge, and be quite satisfied with our own state; we may even be preachers, and teachers of others, and "do many wonderful works" in connection with our church: but all this time are we practically doing the will of our Father in heaven? Do we truly repent, truly believe on Christ, and live holy and humble lives? If not, in spite of all our privileges and profession, we shall miss heaven at last, and be forever cast away. We shall hear those awful words, "I never knew you: depart from Me."
The day of judgment will reveal strange things. The hopes of many, who were thought great Christians while they lived, will be utterly confounded. The rottenness of their religion will be exposed and put to shame before the whole world. It will then be proved that to be saved means something more than "making a profession." We must make a "practice" of our Christianity as well as a "profession." Let us often think of that great day: let us often "judge ourselves, that we be not judged," and condemned by the Lord. Whatever else we are, let us aim at being real, true, and sincere.
Ryle on Matthew 7:21-29
The second lesson here is a striking picture of two classes of Christian hearers. Those who hear and do nothing, and those who hear and do as well as hear, are both placed before us, and their histories traced to their respective ends.
The man who hears Christian teaching, and practices what he hears, is like "a wise man who builds his house upon a rock." He does not content himself with listening to exhortations to repent, believe in Christ, and live a holy life. He actually repents: he actually believes. He actually ceases to do evil, learns to do well, abhors that which is sinful, and cleaves to that which is good. He is a doer as well as a hearer. (James 1:22.)
And what is the result? In times of trial his religion does not fail him; the floods of sickness, sorrow, poverty, disappointments, bereavements beat upon him in vain. His soul stands unmoved; his faith does not give way; his comforts do not utterly forsake him. His religion may have cost him trouble in times past; his foundation may have been obtained with much labour and many tears: to discover his own interest in Christ may have required many a day of earnest seeking, and many an hour of wrestling in prayer. But his labour has not been thrown away: he now reaps a rich reward. The religion that can stand trial is true religion.
The man who hears Christian teaching, and never gets beyond hearing, is like "a foolish man who builds his house upon the sand." He satisfies himself with listening and approving, but he goes no further. He flatters himself , perhaps, that all is right with his soul, because he has feelings, and convictions, and desires of a spiritual kind. In these he rests. He never really breaks off from sin, and casts aside the spirit of this world; he never really lays hold on Christ; he never really takes up the cross; he is a hearer of truth, but nothing more.
And what is the end of this man's religion? It breaks down entirely under the first flood of tribulation; it fails him completely, like a summer dried fountain, when his need is sorest. It leaves its possessor high and dry, like a wreck on a sand-bank, a scandal to the Church, a by-word to the infidel, and a misery to himself. Most true is it that what costs little is worth little! A religion which costs nothing, and consists in nothing but hearing sermons, will always prove at last to be a useless thing.
So ends the Sermon on the Mount. Such a sermon never was preached before: such a sermon perhaps has never been preached since. Let us see that it has a lasting influence on our own souls. It is addressed to us as well as to those who first heard it; we are they who shall have to give account of its heart-searching lessons. It is no light matter what we think of them. The word that Jesus has spoken, "the same shall judge us in the last day." (John 12:48.)
Worship, Beauty, Holiness By G. Campbell Morgan
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. Psalm 96:9
The word that attracts our attention in this text is the word "beauty." "O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." Whether in application this word is of supreme importance may be another question. The very fact of its attractiveness compels us to consider its setting. In that consideration we shall discover its suggestiveness and importance.
The particular word translated "beauty" here is used only five times in the Scriptures: once in Proverbs 14:28, where it is translated in the Authorized Version "honour," and in the Revised Version "glory"; again in 1 Chronicles 16:29; in the psalm which was sung when the ark was brought from the house of Obed-edom to its resting-place in the tent or tabernacle; again in II Chronicles, in the story of Jehoshaphat's arrangement of the singers who were to precede the army, who were charged in their singing to "praise the beauty of holiness"; again in Psalm 29, and in the text.
It is a somewhat rare word therefore. Our English word "beauty" does most perfectly express the real meaning of the word, of which it is a translation. It suggests honor, or glory, or beauty, not as a decoration, but as an intrinsic value, an inherent quality. The Revised Version suggests in its marginal reading in each case that we should read, "Worship the Lord in holy array." But this does not for a single moment interfere with the essential thought of the passage, for it cannot refer merely to material clothing, but to that outshining of inner character which is the true array of the soul in its approach to God in worship, that outshining of inner character which makes even sackcloth beautiful, and homespun a thing of ineffable glory. We do not forget that when our Lord was transfigured, that transfiguration was not the shining upon Him of a light from heaven, nor even, as I venture to believe, the outshining of His Deity, but rather the shining through of the essential glory and perfection of His human nature. Eye-witnesses tell us that His very raiment became white and glistening, and yet as we read the story we know that it was the appearance of the glory of a raiment due to the essential glory of His own character there manifested to them for their sakes rather than for His.
A Profound Question By G. Campbell Morgan
What think ye of the Christ? Matthew 22:42
This is in some ways one of the most interesting chapters in the Gospel according to Matthew. It tells the story of a day of questions, of criticism, of opposition, of unbelief. Of the questions the unifying principle was an attempt to entangle Him in His talk: mean and dastardly questions when the spirit of them is recognized. There were questions political, theological, and religious. The political was asked by a coalition of Pharisees and Herodians, two opposing parties, one of them believing that the Hebrew people ought to pay tribute to Caesar, the other believing that they ought not so to do. The theological question was asked by the Sadducees, and had to do with the resurrection. Finally, the religious question was asked by the Pharisees, and inquired as to which among the commandments was the greatest. Jesus answered these questions one after the other with that surpassing and surprising wisdom which was always characteristic of Him. Then quite suddenly, and I think I may say startlingly, He turned upon His questioners and asked them a question. "What think ye of the Christ?" We must understand this question. He did not ask it just as we may ask it today. We may still take this question and without any violence to its context make use of it, but we must understand how He asked it. Let me remind you that the word "Christ" is but the Greek form of the Hebrew word "Messiah," and apparently to the group of men who stood about Jesus this was not a question concerning Himself. He did not say to them, at least they would not so understand Him, "What do you think of me?" That is not the point of His question. It was a question about their own Scriptures, about their own religion, about their own hope and outlook. It was to all appearance a purely speculative question. He said to them, in effect, "Now, what is your opinion of your Messiah? Whose Son is He?" And in a moment, without any hesitation, and showing their perfect familiarity with their own Scriptures, and that central hope of their religious thinking, they said, "The son of David." Then immediately He said to them, "How then doth David in the Spirit call Him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand till I put Thine enemies underneath Thy feet? If David then calleth Him Lord, how is He his son?" They had been bringing problems to Him, this was one for them. It is as though He had said, "You have been questioning Me concerning the payment of tribute. You have brought Me a problem concerning the resurrection. You have attempted to make Me minimize the value of the commandments by overestimating the value of one. Now here is a problem for you out of your own law, about your Messiah. "Whose son is He to be?" "David's," was their reply, and they were perfectly correct so far. "But if He be David's son, how can He be David's Lord?" Yet I should be very sorry to make you feel that Jesus was simply attempting to do with these men what they had been attempting to do with Him. He was not attempting to entrap them. He never played mean tricks with men. He left that wholly and exclusively to His enemies. What, then, is the significance of His question? Here again, as on former occasions, He intended to show them that they did not understand their own Scriptures, that according to them there were wonders concerning the Messiah which they had never comprehended. One thing these men did not understand about their Messiah was that He was to be, not merely man, but God. Because the Messiah was to be after the flesh born of David's line He was son of David, but because He was to be immediately and by the mystery of unfathomable miracle begotten of God, He was also to be David's Lord.
But I have not selected this text that we may follow it in its first application. We are no longer asking a question that has to do with a hope, with an ideal, with an anticipation, with a prophecy. We still ask the question, but it has to do with an achievement, with a history, with a Person. When He said, "What do you think about the Messiah?" they were looking on; but we, as we take our New Testament and read the question which is still a living question--every question He asked has an abiding import in its deepest meaning--we are not looking on, we are looking back. We ask the question tonight, and to us the word "Christ" is not the title of One for Whom the world is waiting. To us the word "Christ" has become the name of One Who has come, and abides, and still is to come! To these men the word "Christ" was the title of some person never seen though long hoped for. To us the word "Christ" is the name and title of a Person seen and known, and with Whose story we are all perfectly familiar.
A Profound Question By G. Campbell Morgan
My business tonight is to ask you quietly, not so much as a congregation as in your individual and personal capacity, to answer this question. Here, everything depends, as everywhere else, upon what a man thinks. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he," so said the Preacher of old. Your attitude toward Jesus Christ and your relationship to Him are alike based upon what you think of Him. You may turn that round if you will and state it thus, your attitude toward Christ results from what you think of Christ, and therefore reveals what you think of Christ. Consequently, the answer to this question is not an answer that can be made by the recitation of a creed. The answer to this question is not an answer that can be made by an affirmation or declaration of the lips. The answer to this question you are giving every day. There is a sense in which you can answer this question conclusively tonight, but you are answering it every day and every hour. If I stand in this pulpit tonight and say to you what I think of Christ, I may do it with perfect sincerity, but I cannot convince you that what I say I think is the thing I think. How will you find out what I think of Christ? You can find out only if you know me in my everyday life, in my everyday activity, in what is my constant relation to Christ. A man's thought of Christ creates a man's attitude toward Christ, therefore I repeat, a man's attitude toward Christ reveals what the man's thought of Christ really is. Herein is the importance of this question. In the asking of it we pass beyond the externalities to the internal things of life. In asking this question we come into the very deepest of us. As I ask this question of my own heart, or let me put it in this way, as I let Christ Himself ask me, "What do you think of me?" it is not a mere question of speculation. It is in the last analysis a question that gets deeper down than the things which are upon the surface, to the very springs and fountains of my being. It does matter supremely for today and tomorrow, and the great forever of God, what I think of Him, because all my relation to Him depends upon that, and because what I am going to be in my own life depends entirely upon what I think of Christ. I stay here because if only I can fix your thought upon the importance of the question the battle is half won and the work is half done. All activity is the result of thought. A conception always underlies a deed. Everything you do in any relationship of life is the direct outcome of some underlying thought, some conception. To put it in another way, at the back of all activity is reason, behind every choice that a man makes there is an impelling cause, and that impelling cause is a thought, a conception in the particular realm in which the activity is manifest. I watch what you do. I cannot watch what you think, but I can know what you think from what you do. We may be helped to an understanding of this question by a trivial illustration. It is this: I stand upon the great highway and I watch the men and women passing up and down, and I see one man cross over from one side to the other. It is a manifest action, but before he crossed over he thought of crossing, and I know his prior thought by that simple action. It is a trivial illustration as I said, but lift it as high as you will, watch it in all the realms of human activity, from the lowest to the highest the same principle applies. What you think is manifest in what you do.
A Profound Question By G. Campbell Morgan
Christ makes demands upon every man in that inner realm of his thinking. He comes into my inner life and presents Himself. I look at Him and I think something of Him. I cannot tell you what I think, and you cannot read that inner thought, but if you will watch me through the next hour, day, week, month, year, you will know what I think of Him by what you see me do with Him.
Mark this mystery of human personality as it is taken into account in this question of Jesus. The final glory of a human being is that of volition, that of choice. I can choose. I can elect. I can decide. Or, to put it back into the simplest word of all, I can will. This is the dignity of human life.
What lies behind the will impelling it? The emotion. What lies behind the emotion? The intelligence. When I face a fact, whatever that fact may be, I face it first with my mind. I know it, and upon my conception of it in my mind, depends my attitude, my emotional attitude toward it. I like or dislike it; I love or hate it; I admire or reject it. That is emotion. Then I will, and what I will depends upon the attitude of emotion after the intelligence has looked and seen and understood. The thinking is the deepest thing. The emotion is moved by the thinking, the will is impulsed by the emotion. What do you think of Christ? If you have answered that question in your deepest heart I will tell you what happens. You will say either, "Because I think this of Him I love Him," or
"Because I think this of Him I hate Him." Then the will will act in yielding to Him or refusing Him, in putting a crown upon His brow or sending Him to the cross out of the way. While the business of the messenger of the cross of Christ is that of appealing to your will, behind your will will be your emotional attitude toward Christ, and at the back of that, the deepest foundation of all, will be your thinking concerning Him.
A Profound Question By G. Campbell Morgan
"What think ye of the Christ?" I am going to attempt to form your thinking by bringing to you certain witness concerning Him. It may be very old, and I am sure it is, yet I desire to put this witness before you once again, and ask you very honestly to weigh the evidence, because upon the basis of your thinking your emotion will act, and upon the basis of that movement of the emotion your will ought to act.
Remember this, it is possible for a man to think one thing and to be moved emotionally by that conception, and yet, finally, by act of will to refuse to obey the emotion and intelligence. That is the greatest disaster of human life. That is the tragedy which is happening all around us in such congregations as this. You think of Christ the true thing and your heart goes out in admiration and adoration, and then because of the siren voices which are sounding in your ears, because of some fancied advantage of the moment, you contradict your emotion, and belie your intellect, and refuse Him. All that is your own matter. I cannot help you there, no preacher can. I can take the New Testament in my hand tonight and ask you at least to postpone for a few moments the volition and bring your emotional nature once again to the light of your reason.
Let me stop a moment. You are not afraid of your emotional nature, are you? This prevalent idea that the emotional nature and the intellectual nature are in opposition is absurd. This idea that a man's intellect has nothing to do with his fears is to be laughed out of court by high intelligences.
Bring your emotional nature, that godliest wonder of you if you did but know it, to the light of your thinking. For two or three minutes I am going to take you back to three opinions about Christ. I bring these opinions to you hoping and praying that they may help you in your thinking of Him. I bring them to you in the deeper hope that by true thinking, emotional nature may be moved again toward approbation, admiration, and adoration. I bring them to you in the final hope that you will be honest enough to exercise your will in answer to such enlightened emotion when your thinking has been trained by the witness of Scripture.
A Profound Question By G. Campbell Morgan
I bring you, then, three testimonies concerning Jesus, the testimony of God, the testimony of a demon, and the testimony of a man--a voice from the upper world, a voice from the under world, and a voice from the world about us. The voice of God breaking the silence, "Thou art my beloved Son, in Thee I am well pleased." The voice of the underworld, "I know Thee Who Thou art, the Holy One of God." The voice of man, sinner as I am a sinner, "Thou art the Christ."
Think of the setting of these testimonies. The voice of God. Jesus was here emerging from seclusion into publicity. For eighteen years I have no record of His doings or sayings but the briefest. At twelve years of age He passes out of sight with these wonderful words written concerning Him, "He went down with them, and He was subject unto them." I see no more of Him until He is about thirty years of age. No human eye has been watching Him carefully enough to be able to give any record of Him. God had been watching Him during the hidden years. God had been watching, not merely the activity of the man in the carpenter's shop, but watching deeper, as God ever watches deeper, the methods, the motives, and then the work and the words. All these havebeen in the light of heaven's unsullied standard, and as He stood there, so much one of the multitude that men did not recognize Him as separate from them in any sense--"In the midst of you standeth One whom ye know not"--God broke the silence and declared, "Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well pleased." He sees there is no fault in this Man. There has been no failure in all those hidden years of commonplace life. There has been no flaw in the absolute perfection of His humanity. At last, God has found a Man Who has realized the divine ideal and perfected the divine conception. What do you think of Christ? God thinks Him perfect.
A Profound Question By G. Campbell Morgan
Next I have the testimony of a demon from the underworld. It is a very remarkable testimony. "I know Thee Who Thou art, the Holy One of God." Remember that evil is not indigenous to the human race, it came from without. When next you quote glibly, "To err is human," remember it is not human to err. Erring humanity is outside the original intention and purpose of God, and outside its own fairest capacity. Do not forget, I pray you, that evil came from without, and do not forget that the whole story of the Bible is the story of attack upon humanity by forces external to itself. For the moment, I am not arguing for an original fall involving all the race, though in some senses I profoundly believe that. I take individual cases, and down through the centuries I see man after man tempted and falling, seduced and sinning. But here is a Man standing on the earth about thirty years of age, and an evil spirit looks into His face and speaks through another human voice and says, "I know Thee Who Thou art, the Holy One of God." "Thou art the Man Who having been tempted has never yielded. Thou hast been tempted as other men have at every vulnerable point, but Thou hast resisted." This is the devil's testimony, that this Man has beaten him. Once in the history of the race the underworld of seducing evil has been foiled, beaten, and all unexpectedly, even from the lips of an unclean fallen spirit, comes the confession of the unsullied purity of Jesus. What do you think of Christ? The devils reckon Him holy.
A Profound Question By G. Campbell Morgan
"What think ye of the Christ?"
Pass to the last of these three words of testimony. This time it is the voice of a man, a sinning man, a hoping man, a man such as thou art, oh, my brother, consciously mastered by the forces of evil yet still aspiring after the unattainable good. This man might have said as truthfully as his co-Apostle Paul, "To me who would do good, evil is present." This man, like every other man, was a strange mixture, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. That is not a lonely story. There is no man who does not know something of the duality of his consciousness, the beast and the angel, the downward pull and the upward attraction. This man is a man as we are men, and this man is a man who has been looking forward with hope, for we can perfectly understand this confession only as we interpret it from the Hebrew standpoint. In all probability his mother had lulled him to sleep in the days of his infancy with the songs of Zion, and the songs of Zion were the songs of a coming Redeemer. I can quite imagine that she had sung to him Zephaniah's infinite music, "The Lord thy God is in the midst of thee, a mighty One Who will save: He will rejoice over thee with joy, He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing." That is the great lullaby of the mother heart of God. As he passed from infancy to boyhood, he had begun to read the Scriptures and then to recite them in the synagogue. He had watched the light which burned amid the darkness of the age in which he lived, the light of the coming Deliverer, Emmanuel, "Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace," titles never perfectly understood but constituting the song of the coming Deliverer. Standing amid the rocky fastnesses of Caesarea Philippi, this man looked into the face of Jesus and said, "Thou art the Christ, the Hope of the centuries, the Deliverer for Whom we have been waiting, the One in Whom there merge the majestic might and the meek mercy of the covenant God of Israel." What do you think of Christ? Looking into His face, one of the men who knew Him most intimately, and had followed Him through those three years of discipleship, made this great confession, upon which everything else was based in the coming years, this great conviction which created all subsequent duty: "Thou art the Christ--the One for Whom men have been sighing and longing and waiting, the Opener of the prison, the Setter at liberty of such as are bound, the One for Whom I wait and for Whom I long." "Thou art the Christ." What do you think of Christ?
You may say to me that the testimony I have deduced is old. You may ask, "How may I depend upon the accuracy of the records from which you have read this testimony?" We are being told today that this is all mythical, that God's silence was never broken by Jordan's banks, that the unutterable, deadly silence of the underworld was never broken by a demon, that this man never said these words with any such rich and spacious meaning as I have indicated. Very well, I am not here tonight to argue with you. At this hour the testimony of God and the testimony of Satan, and of man concerning Christ, is the same, and it has accumulated weight, for nineteen centuries have passed on their way, and there is no century in which one voice has ever been lifted to question the testimony of God and the testimony of the devil. I draw my line there for a moment. A great many have doubted Peter's testimony. The whole Hebrew nation, with the exception of such as have turned to Jesus, would deny Peter's testimony. The testimony which says He is the Christ has been denied, is being denied. No voice has been daring enough yet to deny the testimony which is said to be the testimony of heaven, the testimony which is said to be the testimony of hell. What is that testimony? It is absolutely the same. The man standing upon the earth said another thing which included this thing, but the voice of heaven and that of hell merge into one great anthem which is a declaration of the sinless perfection of Jesus. No one has denied it. Men are denying today the accuracy of the records, but who is there can deny the sinlessness of the ideal presented. Here are four little fragments called Gospels, forgeries, if you will have it so, untrue if you will have it so; but forgeries and untrue if they be, they have given the world a portrait of an absolute perfection which no man has dared to call in question. You must not ask me to believe, however, that a few unknown men have given us a portrait of a Person Whose sinlessness no century has been able to question, and that their writing was fraudulent or untrue. It is an unthinkable proposition, and we are driven to the conclusion that this is an actual Man, a sinless Person, a perfect Person. The testimony of God as recorded here is the testimony of God at this hour through the common consciousness of all upright and sincere and honest souls. Once again, the testimony of the devil as recorded here is the testimony of the devil today through all debauched and degraded and depraved souls. God's speech to men today is speech through humanity, and on the highest, noblest, purest level attests the perfection of this One. The speech of evil comes to men also through humanity today, and evil is still saying, "Let us alone, Thou Jesus of Nazareth. Do not interfere with us." Why? Because evil recognizes the perfection of this ideal. The one thing evil does not want is that those who bear His name should interfere with it. Evil is saying to the Church of Jesus Christ, "Let us alone," because it recognizes that wherever the Christ Spirit obtains that spirit lays hands on evil and drags it into the light for its destruction in order that man may be delivered.