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Author Topic: George H. Morrison's Old And Beautiful Devotions  (Read 43240 times)
nChrist
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« Reply #630 on: November 17, 2006, 10:38:39 PM »

November 17

The Moral Conditions of Belief

…a good conscience; which some having put away (thrust from them—R. V.) concerning faith have made shipwreck— 1Ti_1:19

Tampering with Conscience

We must try to understand what the apostle means when he speaks of putting away a good conscience. He means what in the idiom of today we describe as tampering with conscience. The good conscience of our text does not just signify an approving conscience. It signifies a conscience that is working well, just as we might speak of a good clock. And as a man can tamper with his clock, so can he subtly tamper with his conscience until at last it ceases to be good. Let conscience work in liberty, and it registers unalterable certainties. It takes such things as truth and love and purity and stamps them with the signature of God. And whenever anybody begins to doubt and question these abiding and instinctive certainties, he is thrusting from him a good conscience. Men do that often under the stress of passion. They make the worse appear the better reason. They are eager to get the approval of their conscience for actions that are dubious or immoral. And conscience is such a delicate adjustment that for long periods they can achieve this, though I question if they can ever do it permanently. Such action implies a certain violence, and the word Paul uses carries that suggestion. It is the word that is used of the Egyptian when he pushed away the interfering Moses (Act_7:27). A little violent handling of one's conscience like a little violent handling of one's clock, and we silence the chiming of God's hours.

Tampering with Conscience Means the Ruin of Life

Now we know that when anyone does this, he invariably makes shipwreck of his life. But Paul tells us that if anyone does this, he invariably makes shipwreck of his faith. Our Christian faith is a faith that God is love, and that in His love He gave us the Lord Jesus. It is a faith that we all are precious to the Father and are being guided to a perfect life. And this inspiring and sustaining faith, says Paul, does not strike its roots into a brilliant intellect; it strikes them into the soil of a good conscience. Tamper with conscience and God becomes unreal. Circumvent it, and the invisible grows dim. Wrest and manipulate its instant verdicts, and love and honor disappear from heaven. A man may have faith in all the Christian verities though his intellectual processes be childish; but he never can have faith in them once he begins to juggle with his conscience. To put it in more modern language, the conditions of all living faith are moral. They lie not in intellectual apprehension, but in honesty of intention and of heart. All which is fitted to be of infinite comfort to those who grope in intellectual darkness and are troubled because they cannot understand. Nobody makes shipwreck of his faith because he is powerless to understand. No ship that has set sail for heaven ever founders because the brain is dull. Shipwreck comes when the inward voice of conscience, challenging to truth and love and purity, is disowned in the interests of sin.

The Pure in Heart Do Not Tamper with Their Conscience

That this, too, was the teaching of our Lord is seen in His most exquisite beatitude. Blessed are the pure in heart, He said, for they shall see God. Now, to see God is not to set our eyes on Him. It is to have a living faith that He exists. It is to believe, what Christ Himself believed, that He is a loving and redeeming Father. It is to believe that just because He loves us He is guiding us with perfect understanding and carrying out His purpose in the world. A faith like that alters the whole of life and makes the sun shine in the darkest day. A faith like that is better than a fortune. It inspires serenity and courage. And the one condition of that faith, according to the teaching of our Lord, is not intellectual but moral. To be pure of heart is not to be perfect, else were there no hope for any man. It is to be sincere and single-eyed. It is to refuse to juggle with our conscience. It is to hold to it through every temptation that the imperious voice of conscience must be heeded, and that love and truth and purity and loyalty are demanded at whatsoever cost. Live like that, says Jesus, and you will never live long in a godless universe. Do your duty, as conscience tells you to, and God will surely bless in your life. The strange thing is that with Jesus, as with Paul, there is no word of intellectual processes. The conditions of belief are moral.

So are we led to this great truth for all who are really eager to believe. The way to faith is not the way of intellect. It is rather the simple way of duty. Far better than puzzling our brains is to do the next thing that is demanded. It may be hard to know what we should believe: it is seldom hard to know what we should do. And in doing that, at the command of conscience, with a single eye and a pure heart, we find ourselves, perhaps when we never dreamed of it, on the avenue that leads to God. We come to feel that truth is on the throne, or conscience never could demand truth. We come to feel that love is in the heavens, because at every hazard we must love. And as truth and love and purity and honor are but idle words without a person, duty brings us to the feet of God. To be pure-hearted is the way to see. To do His will the way to know. To listen to conscience and never seek to juggle with it is to touch the reality of all its values. He who does that, although the winds be contrary, will never suffer shipwreck in the deeps, but will come at last to his desired haven.

____________________

George H. Morrison Devotions

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(The goal of Rick Meyer is to distribute excellent Bible Study
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of charge, and that goal gets closer by the day.)
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« Reply #631 on: November 17, 2006, 10:40:33 PM »

November 18

Christ and the Hope of Immortality - Page 1
by George H. Morrison


Our Savior Jesus Christ...hath brought…immortality to light through the gospel— 2Ti_1:10

The Mingling of the New and Old

There are two ways in which Christ has worked in His long task of the regeneration of mankind. He has brought among us from heaven what is new, and He has consecrated what was old. There is a widespread tendency in theological thought to belittle the originality of Jesus just as once there was the opposite tendency to ignore Jesus' relation to the past. But both extremes are not only false to Scripture, but they are also false to Christian experience which always blends the new and old together. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. There are ten thousand times ten thousand lives that can testify to that. There is something original and fresh and new in every truly regenerate experience. And yet the grace that has inwrought the new takes into its bosom all the old, and uses it for the service of the kingdom. Old tenderness begin to live again. Old hopes lift up their faces to the morning. Chords that were broken begin again to vibrate with a music that whispers of the long ago. So in Christian experience as in the Scripture, there is ever the mingling of the new and the old; new power and, through the inflow of that power, old hopes and yearnings and longings realized.

The Yearning for Immortality

And among these yearnings of mankind, one of the deepest is that for immortality. Christ did not bring it here, He found it here, deep in the shadowy places of the soul. We have read of instances in which a great musician has heard a beautiful voice out in the street. It was that of some poor girl singing for bread in the shadow of the London twilight. And recognizing the beauty of the voice, the master has had it trained at his own cost till it became a thing of joy to multitudes. In some such way, out in the crowded thoroughfares, our Master heard the voice of immortality. And He recognized the range and beauty of it, undisciplined and uncultured as it was. And so this Easter, the question which I want to ask is this, How did Christ train that singer of the street? In other words, what difference has Christ made to the yearning of the heart for immortality? What is the contribution of our Lord to the belief in a life beyond the grave? I think, laying aside what is debatable, we may sum it up in these three propositions. First, Christ has confirmed the hope of immortality. Second, Christ has enriched the thought of immortality. Third, Christ has enhanced the power of immortality.

Christ Confirmed the Hope of Immortality

Now I do not think, friends, that I speak unguardedly when I call the hope of immortality a universal hope. We come upon it in the remotest ages and find it among the most barbarous peoples. It was this faith that built the pyramids. It was this that reared the mighty Etrurian tombs. It was this that led men to embalm their dead and to lavish art and treasure on embalming. It was this that placed the food within the coffin and the piece of money in the corpse's hand, which slaughtered the horses of the departed warrior and burned the widow on her husband's pyre. It was this that made Socrates despise his poison as something that could not touch his real self. It was this that drew Plato to his loftiest argument in words that thrill and throb unto this hour. From the lowest depths of damp and sunless forests to the heights of intellectual and spiritual genius, men have cherished the hope of immortality. The strange thing is that that undying hope has never, out of Christ, become a certainty. It is an instinct of all untutored hearts, and yet an instinct that never has been verified. And this is the first great service of the Lord to that universal hope of immortality, that He has turned it, for all who trust in Him, into a full and glorious assurance.

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« Reply #632 on: November 17, 2006, 10:42:18 PM »

Christ and the Hope of Immortality - Page 2
by George H. Morrison


If, then, you ask me how He accomplished that, I reply that the answer is twofold. He has done it first by the doctrine He has given us of the relationship of God and man. Christ's proof of immortality is not our instinct; Christ's proof of immortality is God. If we are His children and if He truly loves us, it is incredible to Christ that we should cease to be. Once realize the Fatherhood of God, and Jesus was never weary of proclaiming it, and on the bosom of that Fatherhood there nestles the immortality of man. There is no proof that I am an immortal being merely because God is my creator. He is the creator of these myriad creatures that dance and die upon a summer's evening. But if God be my Father and if He really loves me with the splendor and passion of a father's love, then I am His and He is mine forever. Here, for instance, is an earthly father standing beside the deathbed of his child. And he bows his head over a breaking heart, and he strives to say, "Thy will be done." But ah! had he the power to baffle death and to drive him across the threshold of the home, with what a will would he exercise that power. My brother and sister, God always has that power, and if He loves as an earthly father loves, death will never rob Him of His child. It is thus that Christ has confirmed our human yearning. He has rooted it in the Fatherhood of God. He has taught us that at our worst we are so dear to God that nothing shall ever separate us from Him. Christ's proof of immortality is not an argument built on the disproportion's of humanity. His proof is a love that will not let us go.

But Christ has not only confirmed it by His teaching. He has also confirmed it by His life. The life of Jesus, for the seeing eye, is the crowning argument for immortality. One of my acquaintances in Glasgow is a German gentleman who has been resident in Scotland thirty years. Well, when I spend an evening in his company, his fatherland grows very real to me. One of my old friends who was at college with me is now an honored missionary in Livingstonia, and there is nothing more living for me than Livingstonia after an hour or two with Donald Fraser. Now that was the kind of impression Jesus made. He irresistibly suggested heaven. He lives so near the frontiers of eternity that the glory of it smote Him on the face. And men awoke to feel that all their yearning for a life that was larger than the life of time was answered in the life of Jesus Christ. He satisfied the longing of the heart. He was the confirmation of its surmise. He carried in Himself, for all who knew Him, the overwhelming proof of a beyond. And it is this, sealed in the resurrection, that has touched the flickering hope of all the world and turned it into the certainty of Christendom.

Christ Has Enriched the Thought of Immortality

Now I hesitate to make broad and sweeping statements when I am so conscious of imperfect knowledge, but there is one broad statement I can make, I think, without any fear of contradiction. It is that in the ancient, as in the savage world, immortality has always been a dreary prospect. It has never thrilled with any sense of joy, but rather with a sense of desolation. It has never been thought of as a life enriched, but always as a life impoverished; never as a life to be desired, but rather as a lot to be endured. There are one or two passages in the Old Testament that rise magnificently into a clearer air: "In thy presence is fullness of joy"; "I know that my redeemer liveth." But these are the utterances of glorious souls who saw like Abraham the day of Christ, and the usual outlook is different from that. The future is a shadowy realm of silence. It is a lonely, desolate existence. There is no vision of God in Sheol nor any voice of praise nor any human warmth or cheerfulness. And you cannot wonder, when you remember that, how the saintliest Jews shrunk from it with horror and cried in agony when death approached, "Deliver me from going down to the pit."

My brother, I need hardly say to you how radically Christ has altered that. If He has deepened the shadows for all who are impenitent, He has banished them for all who are His own. Just as God, when He takes some sluggish creature and enriches it with new wealth of being, gives it a new capacity for joy, but also a new capacity for pain; so Christ, taking the thought of immortality, left it no longer dull and rudimentary but capable of all the blessedness of heaven and all the anguish and bitterness of hell. Enrich the great idea of patriotism, and you shall have blood in it as well as triumph. Enrich the great idea of home, and you shall have anguish there as well as love. Enrich the great idea of immortality, and you shall have joy and glory in its compass and also, by a law inevitable, the possibility of awful woe. Now that is exactly what Jesus Christ has done. He has heightened and deepened immortality. He has made it far more glorious than before. He has made it far more dreadful than before. He has filled it for the finally impenitent with an agony of remorse that is appalling, and He has filled it for every childlike heart with a bliss that is beyond compare. Eternity can never be colorless again for anyone who has heard the word of Jesus. Either it is unutterable loss, or else it is unutterable gain. And that is what I mean when I suggest that Christ has enriched the thought of immortality as He has enriched the thought of motherhood and home.

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« Reply #633 on: November 17, 2006, 10:44:08 PM »

Christ and the Hope of Immortality - Page 3
by George H. Morrison


Christ Has Enhanced the Power of Immortality

Now, of course, all hopes must have a certain power. Men are always molded by their hopes. The kind of thing you long for in the shadow always affects and influences character. But it is unique, and has often been observed, that among all the hopes which men have cherished, few have been so powerless out of Christ as the universal hope of immortality. As if a child at play should find a diamond and look on it merely as a curious pebble and only understand its priceless value when one passed by who had the eye to see, so in the garden of the heart men found eternity and never understood the riches of it till Someone came along whose hands were pierced. The most that the future had ever done for men was to fill them with a vague and haunting fear. It had never inspired them, never come with comfort, never upheld them when the way was weary. And what I say is that Jesus took that yearning, lying unused in every human soul, and turned it into one of the mightiest powers that has ever been brought to bear upon humanity.

Think, for example, of how the Christian faith has brought immortality to bear on work. It has given an impulse to all honest toil that has practically changed the face of Christendom. If all our striving is to cease at death—if every effort is to be ended there, well might we ask, when effort costs so much, whether all our effort were worthwhile. But if all we have striven to do, and all we have failed to do, is to be perfected in the eternal morning, then in the dreariest hour or task we pluck up heart again. Our toil is not a task of three score years. Our toil is a task that has eternal issues. Every capacity that we have fought our way to, we shall carry over into the beyond. So in the thick of it there steals upon our ear the music of the distant triumph-song, and we thank God and take courage by the way. Divorce our duty from our immortality, and duty becomes incredibly hard. It is when a man can say, I am forever, that he can say with a glad heart, I ought. And that is why duty has blossomed like the rose, since Jesus lived, and died, and rose again, because He has touched it with the hand of the forever.

Immortality's Influence on Sorrow

Think, lastly, how our Christian faith has brought immortality to bear on sorrow. It has given beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. You young people, who have not drunk of sorrow yet, will think I am using exaggerated language. To you it is Glasgow which is intensely real and the beyond which is the pageant of a dream. But there is someone sitting beside you here tonight who has laid her treasure in a little grave, and for her it is Glasgow that is the place of shadows, and the one intense reality is heaven. The one thing love refuses to believe is the foolish doctrine of annihilation. Love wants the loved one not for twenty years. Love wants the loved one forever and forever. And now comes Christ to every breaking heart, and says, "Let not your heart be troubled. In my Father's house are many mansions: I go to prepare a place for you." What is all your philosophy to that, splendid though be the triumphs of philosophy? Do you think your philosophy will climb those attic stairs and give its comforts to that lonely widow living there? Yet that is what Christ is doing every day in the lonely attic room and in the crowded Babylon, to Queen Alexandra mourning for her brother and to the father mourning for his child. And we do not sorrow as those who have no hope. We are begotten into a lively hope. "In my Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so I would have told you." Death is no journey into the obscure night where the wild beasts are crying in the dark. It is the passing for all who are in Christ into a larger and a brighter room.

____________________

George H. Morrison Devotions

Dist. Worldwide in the Great Freeware Bible Study package called
e-Sword by Rick Meyer: http://www.e-sword.net/downloads.html
Full Featured - Outstanding - Completely FREE - No Strings Attached

(The goal of Rick Meyer is to distribute excellent Bible Study
Software to every country on earth in their own language FREE
of charge, and that goal gets closer by the day.)
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« Reply #634 on: November 19, 2006, 03:28:45 PM »

November 19

The Tragedy of Renounced Service

Demas…my fellowlabourer— Phm_1:24.
Demas— Col_4:14
Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world— 2Ti_4:10

The Downfall of Demas

The disloyalty of Demas has had a strange grip upon the minds of men. It has appealed to the imagination. The fact that we know nothing of him save in these three texts, his presence in the little company that moves in and out of Paul's imprisonment—these glimpses have arrested men and drawn their thoughts to Demas as to someone mysterious and elusive. Then conjecture has been rife as to the ways in which he loved this present world. Was it lucre that tempted him, as Bunyan thought, or just the pressure of the lower standards? On such things we cannot dogmatize, for the apostle does not give us details; he did not expatiate on things that hurt him. All the same, it seems to me that we do know a little about Demas. These three references, put in their right order, surely betray something of the man—not, of course, of how the world allured him, for that must rest forever hidden, but of the gradual declension of his life. The chronology of the Epistles is not certain, but on many points there is a large agreement. Philemon was written earlier than Colossians and Second Timothy a great deal later. May we not trace, then, in this triple reference something of the soul-history of Demas that ended in such pitable fashion?

An Overcomer as Long as He Served with Paul

In the first reference Demas is described as one of the apostle's fellow-workers. He was one of that company of eager toilers to whom we owe the spreading of the faith. From the fact that he went away to Thessalonica, we might infer that he was a Thessalonian. Backsliders are like dying exiles, they begin craving for the familiar places. Demas, then, would be one of the early fruits of the apostle's visit to that European city, and the fruit, for long, was sweet to the taste. Demas was not content to confess Christ. He must serve and be a fellow-worker. He must do something for the Lord who saved him and for the apostle whom he loved so well. And it seems to me that so long as he was serving he found himself raised above the world: so long as he was serving he was safe. Men talk of the joy and liberty of service, and there are multitudes who have known the truth of that. But there are many who have never realized the spiritual strengthening of service. Christian service is like other work in that it helps to keep our besetting sins at bay, and in drearier hours saves us from ourselves. So was it, I believe, with Demas. He was kept as long as he was serving. He was master of all his timidity's and cravings in the years when he was laboring with Paul. The earliest reference to Demas, full of affection and of gratitude, is "Demas, my fellow-worker."

His Apostasy Began with His Cessation of Service

Then the years pass and he is named again—but this time he is not a fellow-worker. All that we hear in the letter to Colossae is the one word Demas. He is still the companion of the great apostle; but he is not the fellow-laborer now. He seems to have grown weary in the service; perhaps he was disappointed in the fruits of it. He had been dreaming that he would change the world with the magnificent message of the Christ, and Rome was pretty much where he had found it. So far he had not swerved in his personal loyalty to Paul. He loved him. He owed his life to him. There was nothing he enjoyed more than to listen to him. But he did not love to preach now as he used to do nor to go out and brave the ridicule of crowds nor to give himself to the training of the young. Had you told Demas that the day was coming when he would desert his spiritual father, he would have indignantly repudiated the calumny. Yet anyone who knows the human heart knows that he was on the highway to apostasy from the hour that he ceased to be a fellow-laborer. No man can cease to serve without good reason and yet maintain unimpaired the older loyalties. When the spirit of willing service goes, all the enthusiasms begin to die. Prayer is stinted, criticism enters, churchgoing becomes very intermittent, and slowly the whole character is changed. Paul, with his fine delicacy, does not hint at this. He does not exclude Demas from the greetings. But he is perfectly conscious of the change and of the possibilities involved in it. Once (and he wrote it with a grateful heart) it was Demas, my fellow-worker. Now it is simply Demas.

His Return to Thessalonica: No Service, No Prayer, No Fellowship
And then the years go by, the bitter dragging years, and once again we have the name of Demas. And with a great ache in his heart, Paul has to write, "Demas hath forsaken me." It was not in the least a sudden thing. Paul had long foreseen that it was coming. The vessel had been straining at its moorings, and the cable had been gradually fraying. Idle, not serving as he used to do, no longer forgetting everything in labor, Demas was unequal to the strain. It all began when Demas ceased to serve and, ceasing to serve, also ceased to pray. All he had given up began to claim him then. The old life became intensely vivid. And the tragedy is that, going back to it, it never could content his heart again after the glory that had come—and gone. Paul was not only sorry for himself. He was a thousand times sorrier for Demas. He knew the disappointment and unrest that awaited him in the old familiar scenes. I think the tear of an infinite regret would blot the parchment as he wrote, "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world."

____________________

George H. Morrison Devotions

Dist. Worldwide in the Great Freeware Bible Study package called
e-Sword by Rick Meyer: http://www.e-sword.net/downloads.html
Full Featured - Outstanding - Completely FREE - No Strings Attached

(The goal of Rick Meyer is to distribute excellent Bible Study
Software to every country on earth in their own language FREE
of charge, and that goal gets closer by the day.)
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« Reply #635 on: November 21, 2006, 01:56:25 AM »

November 20

The Selective Power of Personality - Page 1
by George H. Morrison


Unto the pure all things are pure— Tit_1:15

Misapplications of Scripture

It would be an interesting but a melancholy study to consider the texts of Scripture which have been misapplied. It would not only illuminate many a heresy; it would lead also to the secret springs of conduct. Some misapplications we should group together as arising from the imperfections of our version. Others we should find taking their rise in the sinful bias of the will. Others rather owe their origin to the proverbial character of certain words of Scripture and to the constant tendency of men to use proverbs in a mistaken way. It takes more wit to use a proverb wisely than it took originally to coin that proverb. It is far easier to strike out an apothegm than in some complex moment to apply it. Hence is it that certain words of Scripture, our present text being one of them, are in real danger of misapplication.

The Text Does Not Mean that There Is No Objective Evil

Have we not all heard these words misapplied? The commonest misuse of them is when something offensive has been spoken, something coarse or allusively indecent, and someone with a hot heart has protested against the evil remark. Immediately, sometimes with a smile or more often with the suspicion of a sneer, he is told that unto the pure all things are pure. The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose, and such a citation is the devil's handiwork. Our text does not mean that good and evil have their being in our thoughts about them. There are things that are everywhere and always right, and there are things that are everywhere and always wrong, and there is little hope for any man who has learned to tamper with these immutables. A deadly fever is not less infectious because I am fortified against it by some antidote. It is still deadly, in its inherent virulence, though I may be immune against its ravages. Even though every mind were as pure as the unsullied snow upon the Alps, there would still be things that were indecent. In a bare and literal sense, it is not true that unto the pure all things are pure. Unto the pure, till the last trumpet sounds, there will be words and actions that are horrible. It is that conviction which inspires the home and gives stability to nations, and when it is lost in a degenerate charity, the day of moral decadence has come.

What We Are Affects Our Interpretation of What Is Going on Around Us

What then is the true meaning of our text? Well, it is something of this kind. It is the inspired if proverbial expression of the selective power of personality. Everything with which we come in contact carries a large diversity of meaning. There is nothing we meet with in our daily walk but is capable of different interpretations. And how we shall interpret all that wealth and what we shall see in it as it steals by, all that is really determined by what we are. By all the influences that played on us in childhood and all the activities of our maturer years, by every battle we have quietly fought and every burden we have bravely borne, by the unhindered trend of leisure thought, by temptation, friendship, religion, you and I, whether for weal or woe, have forged out our personality. It is the only thing that we possess really yet-it is something more than a possession. It is by that, and that alone, that we interpret everything around us. All the wonder of the sky and sea, all the experience of light and shadow, all the countless activities of life, are accepted and interpreted by that. It is not in the light of the wisdom of the ages that you and I read the drama on life's stage. Far few men have ever learned that wisdom; and those who have, have learned it all too late. It is in the light of all we have made of ourselves in quiet years and immemorial days when we prayed God to give us strength to stand or yielded to the importunity of sin. By that we see—by that we read—by that we interpret God and man and everything. That is the key which unlocks every door opening on to the riches of the universe. And that, I take it, was in the apostle's mind when, brooding deeply upon this life of ours, he said, moved by the Holy Ghost, unto the pure all things are pure.

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« Reply #636 on: November 21, 2006, 01:58:20 AM »

The Selective Power of Personality - Page 2
by George H. Morrison


Interpretation of Nature

Now let us carry that thought into one or two spheres, and first let us think of nature. One of the noblest odes in literature is the ode of Coleridge written at sunrise at Chamounix. The poet is gazing upwards at the Alps, and he hears a mighty song of praise to God. The torrent praises Him; the eagle praises Him; the forest of pine and the snowy summit praise Him. There is no discord in that mighty chorus—"earth with her thousand voices praises God." But now there comes reeling on to that same scene some poor drunkard with his sodden brain. And the same torrents are sounding in his ears, and the same peaks are white against the heaven. But for ruined him, by his vice and fashioned by his past into a beast, neither in cataract nor snow nor forest is there heard one syllable of heaven. Both look on the same mystic dawn moving on tiptoe where man hath never trod; both hear the rush and swirl of the one river that hurries from the everlasting snow. And to one it is the echo of that song which was sung in the high heaven when Christ was born; to the other it is the echo of despair. In other words, faced by this wondrous world, you and I always get just what we bring. We see its power and glory through the eye, but never do we see them with the eye. We see them with all that we have made ourselves—with every coveting and every conquering—with every virtue that has been wrestled for and every passion that has been brought to heel. That is why places which speak to one of peace, speak to another of sinful opportunity. That is why sky and sea to one are paradise and to another are but air and water. That is why, in apostolic thought, unto the pure all things are pure.

Interpretation of Language

The same thought also applies to language just as truly as it applies to nature. Through all the range of it, language is colored by the abiding mystery of what we are. It might well seem to the casual observer that there were few things more fixed and definite than words. The fact that there are such books as dictionaries argues for the stability of words. And yet those words, which we are always using and which seem fixed and rigid as the hills—there is scarce one of them but is affected subtly by this tremendous fact of personality. In every term we use there is some shade of meaning which has never quite been caught by other men. There is some suggestion that is all our own, whether it be a high suggestion or an evil one. And the point is that all that verbal coloring, which gives to our words an individuality, springs from the kind of life we have experienced and have been forging in the dark. It is in that sense I the character we understand our Lord when He says that by our words we shall be judged. If we are but drawing on a common stock, I can find in our words no principle of judgment. But if on the common language that we use we cast the shadow of our deepest self, then in our words, when all the .books are opened, there will be more of revelation than we dream. It is a truth of widest application that the style is the man. It is true of Shakespeare and of Browning, but it is also true of you and me. We take the words the dictionary gives us, and then we so mold them by our secret self that the day is coming, if Christ is to be credited, when by our words we shall be judged. To put it otherwise, all mastery of language is at the heart of it a moral business. It is not merely an artistic victory; it is a moral and spiritual victory. He who has conquered words and made them serve him so that they throng to him in power and beauty has conquered things more powerful than words in the secret battle-places of the soul. Behind the glory of the words of Ruskin lies the moral enthusiasm of Ruskin. There is the pressure of a dauntless courage in the superb carelessness of Walter Scott. And who does not feel, in reading Stevenson, the presence of these very qualities which made that life of his, with all its suffering, such a quietly heroic thing. Unto the pure all things are pure. It is the inward self that shapes the instrument. It casts its shadow whether for weal or woe on the universal heritage of speech. And that is why, let me it—when the day of reckoning is come, we are told by again repeat one who ought to know that by our words we shall be judged. Now if that be largely true of all speech, it is especially true of the great words we use. It is true, for instance, in a very solemn way of the greatest of all words, God. In the Shorter Catechism, when we were children we learned the answer to the question, "What is God?" Some of us can repeat that answer still, and it would be hard to match in its sublimity. Yet it is not the light of any catechism that has lit up for us the name of God; It is the light of the life we have experienced since we were cradled at our mother's knee, knew a little girl in an orphanage who would never sing a hymn with Father in it. Her father had been a drunken ruffian, and in her wretched home he used to beat her. And she had taken all that childish sorrow and had carried it up into the gates of heaven so that for her there was a cry of terror in the sweetest and tenderest name of God. It is thus that that great name is molded for us. It is colored by the hand of memory. It comes to us impoverished or enriched by all that home has been and all that church has been. That is why God to one means everything; that is why to another it means nothing. That is why to one it is a name of terror and to another of infinite encouragement. No definition of the wisest catechism shall ever tell what God is to the soul. It is the soul itself which answers that.

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« Reply #637 on: November 21, 2006, 02:00:07 AM »

The Selective Power of Personality - Page 3
by George H. Morrison


Interpretation of Human Life

Passing from language, I would note again that the same thought applies to human life. In the selective power of personality is the secret of our estimate of conduct. It is one of the commands of the New Covenant—"Judge not, that ye be not judged." That is a warning which we all need against censorious or hasty judgments. But you must remember that Christ never meant by these words to disapprove of the faculty of judgment; as a matter of fact we are so constituted that each of us is judging all the time. Every action, whether small or great, is summoned imperiously to our judgment-bar. Swiftly, instinctively, unhesitatingly, we pronounce sentence on it there. We do it every day a hundred times, and do it we must if we are to be men, for it is that faculty of moral judgment which separates us from the beasts that perish. Now there are certain acts so clearly good that the worst of men cannot but admire them; and there are other acts so clearly bad that they are universally condemned. But in between these two extremes lies a whole world of effort and accomplishment, and how we shall judge all that when it confronts us, depends on the deep fact of what we are. There is nothing that reaches us but has its contact with the life which is lying hidden in the soul. It touches secret forms of hope and passion which we thought were dead but which were only sleeping. And it is all that hope and all that passion and all the complex whole that we call self which passes sentence on the acts of men as they rise up for judgment in the gate. In other words, when we are judging others we are passing silent judgment on ourselves. Things will be mean to us if we are mean. Things will be great to us if we be great. By all we have struggled for with many a failure, by every ideal we have lost or won, by hidden lust, by secret sham, do we interpret the drama of mankind. Give me a man who has lived for ten years purely, and he shall find purity on every hand. Give me a man whose life has been a mockery, and all the world shall be a mockery to him. In every sneer, in every commendation, in every word of praise or word of blame, we are but registering what, we have made of life since our feet were on the uplands of the dawn. There came a poor woman once, with hair disheveled, and she anointed the feet of Christ with ointment. Do you remember how diversely that act was viewed by the guests who were reclining at the table? To One of them it was a deed of love that was to be told wherever the Gospel should be preached; to another it was the wild extravagance of an impulsive and abandoned woman. Both looked on the same vase of alabaster; both watched the moving of the same white fingers; but the one who looked upon the deed was Judas, and the other was the Son of God. And in their looks, swift as a swallow's flight—different from each other as night from day—there is a glimpse into that awful gulf which parted the betrayer from his Lord. Unto the pure all things are pure. We see by all that we have become. If we have lived disloyally like Judas, then shall we look upon a sorry spectacle. But if it has been "the utmost for the highest" as it was with Him whom we adore, then may we also catch the gleam of splendor in the ointment lavished on the feet.

What We Are Influences Our Actions in Society

In closing I ask you to observe that we have here the secret of social influence. It is a well-known fact that just to see the best has a strange power of calling out the best. Arnold of Rugby believed so in his boys that they grew ashamed to tell a lie to him. Men have a curious and subtle way of answering to our expectations of them so that oftentimes they will act honorably because they are assured we think they are honorable. To see the finest, in a world like this, is a sure way of evoking what is fine. It was in such a confidence that Jesus worked in His mighty task of bringing in the kingdom. If then we have power by what we see and if what we see depends on what we are, I say that the most urgent of all social duties is the duty of a man to his own soul. I have no faith in any social service that springs from careless and unworthy character. There cannot be any vision in such service, and without vision service is in vain. We need a heart that scorns what is contemptible and clings tenaciously to the highest if men and women are to feel the touch that helps them to be better than themselves. Unto the pure all things are pure. We see the best, and to make it so. Every victory we win alone is aiding our brother to help be a better man. Don't say you can do nothing for your fellows; you can do more for your fellows than many a noisy demagogue by being patient, loyal, true, and pure in the life which no human eye can see.

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« Reply #638 on: November 21, 2006, 02:01:42 AM »

November 21

Christ and the Fear of Death - Page 1
by George H. Morrison


And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage— Heb_2:15

We Face Death with Curiosity

There are two feelings which the thought of death has always kindled in the human breast, and the first of them is curiosity. Always in the presence of that veil through which sooner or later we all pass, men have been moved to ask with bated breath, What is it which that veil conceals? It is as if the most diaphanous of curtains were hung between our eyes and the great secret, making men the more wistful to interpret it. It has been said by a well-known Scottish essayist that this would account for the crowd at executions. You know how the people used to flock by the thousands when a criminal was to die upon the gallows. And Alexander Smith throws out this thought that it was not just savagery which brought them there. It was the unappeasable curiosity which death forever stirs in human hearts.

We Face Death with Fear

But if the thought of death moves our curiosity, there is another feeling which is always linked with it. Death is not alone the source of wonder. Death has ever been the source of fear. How universal that feeling is we see from this, that we share it with all animate creation. Wherever there is life in any form there is an instinct which recoils from death. When the butterfly evades the chasing schoolboy—when the stag turns at bay against the dogs—we have the rudiments of that which in a loftier sphere may grow to be a bondage and a tyranny. The fear of death is not a religious thing, although religion has infinitely deepened it. It is old as existence, wide as the whole world, lofty and deep as the whole social fabric. It touches the savage in the heart of Africa as every reader of Dr. Livingstone knows, and it hides under the mantle of the prince as well as under the jacket of the prodigal. How keenly it was felt in the old world every reader of pagan literature has seen. The aim and object of the old philosophy was largely to crush it out of human life. In the great and gloomy poem of Lucretius, in many a page of Cicero, above all in the treatises of Plutarch and of Seneca, we learn what a mighty thing the fear of death was with the men and women of the Roman Empire.

Of course I do not mean that the fear of death is always active and present and insistent. To say that would be an exaggeration and would be untrue to the plain facts of life. When a man is in the enjoyment of good health, he very rarely thinks of death at all. When the world goes well with him and he is happy, he has the trick of forgetting he is mortal. He digs his graves within the garden walls and covers them with a wealth of summer flowers so that the eye scarce notices the mound when the birds are singing in the trees. We know, too, how a passion or enthusiasm will master the fear of death within the heart. A soldier in the last rush will never think of it though comrades are dropping on every side of him. And a timid mother, for her little child's sake, or a woman for the sake of one she loves, will face the deadliest peril without trembling. For multitudes the fear of death is dormant else life would be unbearable and wretched. But though it is dormant, it is always there ready to be revived in the last day. In times of shipwreck—in hours of sudden panic—when we are ill and told we may not live, then shudderingly as from uncharted deeps, there steals on men this universal terror. Remember there is nothing cowardly in that. A man may be afraid and be a hero. There are times when to feel no terror is not courage. It is but the hallmark of insensibility. It is not what a man feels that makes the difference. It is how he handles and controls what he feels. It is the spirit in which he holds himself in the hour when the heart is overwhelmed.

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« Reply #639 on: November 21, 2006, 02:03:57 AM »

Christ and the Fear of Death - Page 2
by George H. Morrison


The Guard Around the Grave

Nor can we be altogether blind to the purposes which God meant this fear to serve. Like everything universal in the heart, it has its duty in the plans of heaven. You remember the cry wrung from the heart of Keats in his exquisite music to the nightingale. "Full many a time," he sings, "I have been half in love with easeful death." And it may be that some who read these pages have been at times so weary of it all that they too have been in love with easy death. It may have been utter tiredness that caused it. It may have been something deeper than all weariness. Who knows but that some may even have dreamt of suicide? Brethren, it is from all such thoughts and from all the passion to be done with life that we are rescued and redeemed and guarded by the terror which God has hung around the grave. Work may be hard, but death is harder still. Duty may be stem, but death is sterner. Dark and gloomy may be the unknown morrow, but it is not so dark and gloomy as the grave. Who might not break through the hedge and make for liberty were the hedge easy to be pushed aside? But God has hedged us about with many a thorn—and we turn to our little pasturage again. When Adam and Eve had been expelled from Eden, they must have longed intensely to return. It was so beautiful and the world so desolate; it was so fertile and the world so hard. But always when they clasped repentant hands and stole in the twilight to the gate of Paradise, there rose the awful form with flaming sword. Sleepless and vigilant he stood at watch. His was a dreadful and terrible presence. No human heart could face that living fire which stood in guardianship of what was lost. And that was why God had placed His angel there, that they might be driven back to the harsh furrow and till the soil and rise into nobility while the sweat was dropping from the brow. So are we driven back to life again by the terror which stands sentinel on death. So are we driven to our daily cross, however unsupportable it seems. And bearing it, at first because we must, it comes to blossom with the passing days until we discover that on this side of the grave there is more of paradise than we had dreamed. Christ then does not deliver us from the deep instinct of self-preservation. That is implanted in the heart by God. It is given for the safeguarding of His gift. It is only when that fear becomes a bondage and when that instinct grows into a tyranny that Christ steps in and breaks the chains that bind us and sets our trembling feet in a large room. The question is, then, how did He do that? How has Christ liberated us from this bondage? I shall answer that by trying to distinguish three elements which are inherent in that fear.

Fear of Dying

In the first place, our fear of death is in a measure but a fear of dying. It is not the fact of death which terrifies; it is all that we associate with the fact. We may have seen a deathbed scene of agony; it is a memory which we shall never lose. We may have read a story of torment in the closing hours. And it is not what death leads to or removes, but rather that dark accompanying prospect which lies hidden within a thousand hearts as an element of the terror of the grave. I think I need hardly stop to prove to you that this is an unreasonable fear. If there are deathbeds which are terrible, are there not others which are quiet as sleep? But blessed be God, Christ does not only comfort us when we are terrified with just alarms: He comforts us when we are foolish children. Clothed with mortality, He says to us, "Take therefore no thought for the morrow." Dreading the pain that one day may arrive, He says, "Sufficient unto the day is its own evil." He never prayed, "Give us a sight of death, and help us to contemplate it every hour we live." He prayed, "Give us this day our daily bread." Christ will not have us stop the song today because of the possible suffering tomorrow. If we have grace to live by when we need it, we shall have grace to die by when we need it. And so He sets His face against that element and says to us, "Let not your heart be troubled." "My grace shall be sufficient for thee, and my strength made perfect in thy weakness."

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« Reply #640 on: November 21, 2006, 02:05:34 AM »

Christ and the Fear of Death - Page 3
by George H. Morrison


Fear Lest Death Spells the End of Everything

Secondly, much of our fear of death springs from the thought that death is the end of everything. It is always pitiful to say farewell, and there is no farewell like that of death. You remember how Charles Lamb uttered that feeling with the wistful tenderness which makes us love him. He did not want to leave this kindly world nor his dear haunts nor the familiar faces. And deep within us, though we may not acknowledge it, there is that factor in the fear of death—the passionate clinging of the human heart to the only life which it has known. We have grown familiar with it over the years. It has been a glad thing to have our work to do, and human love and friendship have been sweet. And then comes death and takes all that away from us and says it never shall be ours again, and we brood on it and are lonely and afraid. Thanks be to God, that factor in the fear has been destroyed by Jesus Christ. For He has died, and He is risen again, and He is the first fruits of them that sleep. And if the grave for Him was not an end, but only an incident in life eternal, then we may rest assured that in His love there is no such sadness as the broken melody. All we have striven to be we shall attain. All we have striven to do we shall achieve. All we have loved shall meet us once again with eyes that are transfigured in the dawn. Every purpose that was baffled here and every love that never was fulfilled, all that, and all our labor glorified, shall still be ours when shadows flee away. This life is but the prelude to the piece. This life is the introduction to the book. It is not finis we should write at death. It is not finis, it is initium. And that is how Jesus Christ has met this element and mastered it in His victorious way and made it possible for breaking hearts to bear the voiceless sorrow of farewell.

Fear of Coming Judgement

Thirdly, much of the fear of death springs from the certainty of coming judgement. Say what you will, you know as well as I do that there is a day of judgement still to come. Conscience tells it, if conscience is not dead. The very thought of a just God demands it. Unless there be a judgement still to come, life is the most tragic of mockeries. And every voice of antiquity proclaims it, and every savage tribe within the forest; and with a certainty that never wavered it was proclaimed by the Lord Jesus Christ. Well may you and I fear death, if "after death, the judgement." Seen to our depths with every secret known, we are all to stand before Almighty God. Kings will be there, and peasants will be there, and you and I who are not kings nor peasants. And the rich and the poor will meet together there, for the Lord is the maker of them all. It is that thought which makes death so terrible. It is that which deepens the horror of the tomb. Dwell on that coming day beyond the grave, and what a prospect of terror it is! And it is then that Jesus Christ appears and drives these terrors to the winds of heaven and says to the vilest sinner, "Son of man, stand upon thy feet." He that believeth hath everlasting life. He gives us our acquittal here and now. He tells us that for every man who trusts Him there is now therefore no condemnation. And He tells us that because He died for us and because He bore our sins upon the tree and because He loves us with a love so mighty, neither life nor death can tear us from it. That is the faith to live by and to die by: "I will both lay me down in peace and sleep." That is the faith which makes us more than conquerors over the ugliest record of our past. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

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« Reply #641 on: November 22, 2006, 11:35:14 AM »

November 22

The Temptations of Calvary

In all points tempted like as we are— Heb_4:15

Christ's Temptations Were Real

That our Lord's temptations were intensely real is the accepted faith of Christendom. He was tempted in all points like as we are. Unless He was really and cruelly tempted and knew the full meaning of resistance, He can never, in any helpful way, be the brother of tempted men and women. And if He be not Brother then He is not Savior, for a Savior, whatever else he be, must be vitally identified with man. Our Lord's sinlessness was not endowment. It was rather an unparalleled achievement. It was not a gift bestowed on Him by heaven. It was a moral and spiritual victory. It was wrought out, moment after moment, by a will sustained in perfect poise with God, instantly and unswervingly obedient. Now always, where the heart is, there is the sorest onset of temptation. Temptation has always its eye upon the citadel, though it may seem to be leveled at the outworks. And that is why, right through the Gospel story, the bitterest temptations of our Lord are to be found converging on the cross. How, then, was our Lord tempted in regard to the great experience of Calvary? To what suggestions, winging from the darkness, had He to offer victorious resistance? Let us reverently give our thought to that.

Tempted to Avoid the Cross

We see Him first, and we see Him often, tempted to avoid the cross. That sore temptation never left Him. At the very outset of His ministry, such was the suggestion of the devil. It runs like some dark thread of hell through all the encounters of the wilderness. Let Him with all His brilliant gifts ally Himself with worldly policies and what need would there be of the bloody way of Calvary? It smote Him again after many days and this time through the lips of Simon Peter. Was not our Lord recalling the scene out in the wilderness when He said, "Get thee behind me, Satan" (Mat_16:23)? And near the end when the Greeks came craving an interview with Christ, was that not the old temptation back again? Why, in that thrilling hour, did our Lord say "Now is my soul troubled" (Joh_12:27)? Why did He not rejoice in spirit when the "other sheep" were coming to His feet? Surely it was because these Greeks were envoys offering an open door to the big world without the imminent agonies of Calvary. It is notable that in the Gospel of St. John there is no mention whatever of Gethsemane. To St. John that offer of the Grecian world was the spiritual equivalent of Gethsemane. It was the temptation to achieve the kingship on which His kingly heart was set by some way other than the cross. He was tempted to avoid the cross, to shun it, to take some other road. Have we not all been tempted just like that? And does it not bring the Master very near us in a brotherhood intensely real to remember that He was victorious just there?

Tempted to Hasten on the Cross

Once again our Savior was tempted to hasten on the cross. He was tempted to antedate the hour of God. We read, for instance, that when the sisters sent for Him, He abode two days still in the same place where He was (Joh_11:6). For One who was the Good Physician that was an extraordinary thing to do. If we summoned our doctor to a dear one and if for two days he never came, we should find it very hard to call him good. Was He waiting to augment the miracle? But then Lazarus was already dead (Joh_11:39). Was He waiting to test the sisters' faith? But is that how Jesus deals with loving friends? He was waiting because He saw so clearly that the raising of Lazarus would seal His doom (Joh_11:53), and He dreaded to antedate the hour of God. Human love was calling Him to Bethany. Affection for His friends was calling Him. Going, He signed His death-warrant—but was it His Father's will that He should die yet? And so, though drawn by the cords of love to go, He waited in quiet fellowship with Heaven until the will of God was perfectly revealed. How often had He said "Mine hour is not yet come." With what profound conviction did He know that God had His appointed hour for Calvary. Might not these drawings of love be but the devil's stratagem to interfere with the ordered times of heaven?—and He abode two days still in the same place where He was. Once more does not that bring Him very near us? Have we not ail been tempted to hurry on God's hour? There are few things more difficult in life, sometimes, than just to wait patiently for God. And He was tempted in all points like as we are.

The Temptation to Come Down from the Cross

Lastly our Lord was tempted to come down from the cross. "Let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him" (Mat_27:42). When these voices broke upon His ear, were they not fraught with terrible temptation? Think of the agony He was enduring in His so sensitive and sinless frame. Think how the very passion of His heart was that these men and women should believe in Him. And as these cries rang upon His ear did they not carry with them the suggestion that in one instant He might escape His torture, and doing it win the allegiance of His own? Tempted in every prospect of the cross, our Lord was tempted on the cross itself. By one swift action might He not end His agony and win the great ambition of His life? And the wonderful thing is that on the cross as in the desert at the opening of His ministry, He steeled Himself against these tempting voices. They said "Come down, and we will believe in you." We believe, because He did not come down. To us the glory is in His hanging there till He cried in a loud voice "It is finished." And when we are tempted, as we so often are, to release ourselves when "crucified with Christ," what a comfort that we can quietly say, "He was tempted in all points like as we are."

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« Reply #642 on: November 23, 2006, 11:51:18 PM »

November 23

The Sinlessness of Christ - Page 1
by George H. Morison


In all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin— Heb_4:15

A Truth of Utmost Importance

It might seem at first as if the sinlessness of Jesus were a matter far away from human need. It is as if we discussed the color of the stars or the density of water in the depth of ocean. Why should we trouble ourselves, it may be asked, over an abstract question such as this? Were it not better, in a reverent faith, to leave these mysteries alone? It is enough for me (a man might say) that Jesus of the Gospel story was the friend of publicans and sinners and went about doing good. The one fatal objection to that attitude is that to a thoughtful mind it never can be permanent. Steadily, whatever point we start from, we are forced into the presence of this problem. And especially is that true of all of us who believe in a Gospel of redemption and who cannot conceive of a message of good news which has not redemption at its heart. The keystone of our faith is this, that Jesus the Lord suffered for our sins. But if Christ was sinful, as you and I are sinful, then not for our sins, but for His own, He died. So all the efficacy of that atoning death, with all the preaching of Christ crucified, rests ultimately on the sinlessness of Jesus. It is not, then, an unimportant theme. It is one of the most important of all themes. It lifts the cross out of the realm of tragedy into the clear air of willing sacrifice. Only if Jesus Christ was sinless can we be certain of what is all-important—that in a free action of redeeming love He died for our sins according to the Scriptures.

Entire New Testament Affirms Christ's Sinlessness

Now when you study the New Testament writings—I mean the writings outside the four Gospels—one thing that becomes plain is this, that they all record the sinlessness of Jesus. However the writers differ in their outlook—and each of them has his unique outlook—however they may diverge from one another in their concept of the work of Jesus, yet there is one point on which they all agree, and that is in conceiving Christ as sinless. John had lain upon the Master's bosom, and he writes, "In Him there was no sin." Peter had known Him in the closest intimacy, and he writes, "He died, the righteous for the unrighteous." Paul writes, "He who knew no sin was made sin for us." And the writer of Hebrews in our text says, "He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin." These are but a few texts out of many which indicate a perfect unanimity. Each writer may use the fact in his own way, but all of them insist upon the fact. And what we have to ask is this, How was that profound impression generated so that not one writer of the New Testament doubts for a moment the sinlessness of Christ?

First Heresies Concerned Christ's Divinity

Let me say in passing that it helps us to conceive how powerful this impression really was when we recall the nature of the earliest heresies. When men today have doubts about the Lord, it is the divinity that is the point of difficulty. You and I may doubt if He was God, but we never for an instant doubt that He was man. Yet the singular thing is that in the earliest heresies the point of difficulty was the opposite. Men did not doubt if Jesus was divine then, but they doubted if He was really human. Now it seems to me that no mere moral grandeur will ever quite explain these earliest heresies. One is not less a man, but more a man, if he is morally and spiritually wonderful. That strange belief uttered in early heresies, that Christ was not human as you and I are human, can only rest on the profound impression that He stood apart from all in being sinless. The nearer then to the historic Christ, the more intense the belief that He was sinless. The closer that men stand to Him, the more profound does the impression grow. And so we must go back to the record of the Gospel story and try to discover how that impression was created.

Christ's Sinlessness Not Self-Declared

In the first place I should like to make clear that it was certainly not created by insistence. Christ never insisted on His sinlessness—never took pains to prove that He was sinless. There are some things on which our Lord insisted with a self-assertion that is most magnificent. I am the truth, He said—I am the life. No man cometh to the Father but by Me. Yet though no one who ever taught mankind has made such stupendous claims as Jesus Christ, you never find Him saying, "I am sinless." On the contrary, one might almost say that He deliberately veiled that fact. So did He live in fellowship with outcasts that they called Him the friend of publicans and sinners. And once when a lawyer, with the gloss of a compliment, came to Him and said, "Good Master," Christ checked him instantly—"Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God." Clearly then, for reasons we can only guess at, Christ did not passionately insist upon His sinlessness. However the impression was created, He never declared it so.

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« Reply #643 on: November 23, 2006, 11:52:57 PM »

The Sinlessness of Christ - Page 2
by George H. Morison


No Deed of Sin Recalled

How then was the impression generated? Well, the first answer is that those men who companied with Jesus did not recollect one deed of sin. When the years of ministry were closed, they would recall it all in tender memory. They would summon to the sessions of sweet thought the days they had spent together in the villages. And as they did so and as they talked together of the time when it was bliss to be alive, silently it would be borne in upon them that they had never seen one trace of sin in Jesus. They had been with Him in His temptations, and they had seen Him in the widest range of circumstances. They had known Him in hunger and in weariness; they had watched Him in rapture and in agony. And yet as they looked back upon it all in the penetrative light of memory, they could not recollect one single incident which suggested to them the thought that Christ had sinned. Thus it was that the deep impression was created. It was a judgment based upon the memory of the wonderful years they had spent with Jesus. Could they have recalled one single instance in which the conduct of Jesus had been flawed, then neither in Peter nor in John would we have found the sinlessness of Christ.

Mere Absence of Observable Sin Not Sufficient

Now all that is absolutely true, yet it is far from being all the truth. It is quite impossible to build a Christian doctrine on any negative basis such as that. Granted that they had never known Christ to sin, is that any adequate proof that He was sinless? Had they been watching Him with unwearied eyes from the moment of His birth to the cross? On the contrary, they had only known Him for three brief years out of the three-and-thirty, and of these three years there was many a day when they were never in His company at all. What of the long years of village childhood? What of the crucial time of ripening manhood? What of the still and happy days in Bethany when Martha and Mary were the only company? There was no Peter to be observant there nor was there any John to watch and to remember; there was only the love of women so adoring that the universal voice has called it blind. Had any of the disciples detected sin in Jesus, we should never have had the faith that He was sinless. But to call Him sinless because they saw no sin is something that no reasonable man can do. For immediately on doing it, there arises before him all the unchronicled and unrecorded years when Christ was hidden from the eyes of watchers in shadows that were as enwrapping as the grave.

In Jesus There was No Consciousness of Sin

The true foundation of the doctrine lies deeper than any absence of the act. It was not thus, at least not thus alone, that the profound impression was created. What impressed men in Jesus Christ was not merely the absence of any act of sin, but rather the absence of any consciousness of sin. It was that never once did he make a confession. It was that never once did He betray penitence. It was that never once upon His lips was there whisper of remorse or of regret. The nearer a man lives to God, the more intensely active is his conscience. He becomes sensitive to shades of guilt that are imperceptible to common men. Yet Christ, who lived in a fellowship with God that is admittedly unique and uncommunicable, never betrays so much as by a word the faintest trace of consciousness of sin. As Simon Peter grew in spirituality, he cried, "Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man." As Paul advanced in the deep things of heaven, he came to know he was the chief of sinners. But Jesus, who through all His earthly years was walking in perfect union with His Father, never once whispered, "Father, I have sinned." We see Him in those high and holy seasons when He was looking back upon His past. We overhear Him in His hours of prayer; we see Him in the agonies of death. Yet in such seasons when purest and holiest souls feel above everything their need of mercy, the pure and holy soul of Jesus Christ was absolutely unconscious of that need. We have had very many shining saints in Christendom, and they have differed vastly from each other. But there is one point in which they are all alike, whatever their century or their communion. And it is this, that as they have wrestled heavenward and grown in grace and fellowship with God, out of the depths has come the fervent cry, "God be merciful to me a sinner." It is not your worldly man who utters that. It is not your nominal and easy Christian. As life in God becomes more real and deep, steadily the sense of sin is deepened. And the one thing you will note in the experience of Jesus Christ is that with t life in God unparalleled, He never had any consciousness of sin. And He was always talking about sin, remember. It was a theme which was ever on His lips. He poured the vials of His withering anger upon the man who thought that he was righteous. Looking abroad upon the world of men He saw no hope for them except in penitence—"I will arise and go unto my father, and say unto him, Father, I have sinned." Now it was that fact, as I understand the Gospels, which created the profound impression of Christ's sinlessness. It was that He had eyes to see sin everywhere—yet had no eyes to see it in Himself. It was that other men when they are called to die cry out into the dark, "Father, forgive me"; but that the Master when He came to die said, "Father, forgive them"—not forgive Me. There is not a trace in Christ of any healed scar. There is not a trace of regret or of remorse. In all the history of the Redeemer there is no word of penitence nor any sign of shame. And all this, with a heart so sensitive and with a life so flooded and absorbed with God, can only mean that Jesus Christ was sinless.

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« Reply #644 on: November 23, 2006, 11:54:36 PM »

The Sinlessness of Christ - Page 3
by George H. Morison


Jesus Used Praise but Not Penitence of Old Testament

No one can study the prayers of Jesus Christ without discovering what he owes to the Old Testament. Christ fed and nourished His piety on the sublime words of psalmist and of prophet. And though His soul was steeped in prophecy and the language of it rose to His lips in prayer, there is one point at which He stops, saying, as it were, "Thus far and no further." It was with the Scripture that He met the tempter. It was with the Scripture that He assailed His adversaries. It was of the Scripture that His heart was full as He hung in His last hours upon the cross. Yet never once, though claiming as His own that wonderful heritage of faith and prayer—never once does He personally use the cry of prophet or psalmist for forgiveness. Isaiah had cried, "Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips." David had cried out of a broken heart, "Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned." Yet Christ, who was so steeped in these old writings that their language rose to His lips as if by instinct, never uses—never repeats—these penitential and brokenhearted prayers. Now all that we ever find in Holy Scripture is the transcript of our deepest life. We can only use its language with sincerity when it has some link with our experience. All that answers to us as if it were our own comes to our lips when we draw near to God; all else, though it speaks as with the tongue of angels, can never rise to heaven in our prayers. Why is it then that Jesus Christ is silent with such a treasury ever at His hand? Why does He use the psalmist's adoration, yet never in one word the psalmist's penitence? The only answer of which I can think is that in all the experience of Jesus there was nothing which answered to that heavenward cry in which psalmist and prophet prayed for pardon. Had He felt in Himself the slightest need, He would have used the penitential language. For there is nothing like it in the world, it is so poignant and sincere. Yet Christ who used all else never used that—never took up a single word of it though from a child in the sweet home of Nazareth He had been fed on the word of Holy Scripture.

The Reality of Jesus Temptations

There is one other aspect of the matter that I can hardly avoid saying a word upon. It is that if Christ be sinless, then what becomes of His temptations? Now let me say, and say with all my heart, that I hold the temptations of Jesus to have been intensely real. He is no brother to me unless in all reality He was tempted as the Son of man. And the point is, how could He be tempted so—truly intensely and terribly tempted—if He was indeed a sinless Savior? I shall not profess to give a perfect answer for I am not here to give little answers to great questions. But I am here to suggest to you such thoughts as I may have brooded on in quiet hours. And I think that there are two considerations which throw light upon the difficulty, and these two I would put as follows.

The Temptation Between Two Rights

The first is that the bitterest temptations are not always dependent upon sin. They spring from the conflict, not between right and wrong, but from the conflict between right and right. If a man, for instance, is tempted to become drunk, then of course within his heart there must be evil. And if all temptations were of that complexion, then Christ our Savior could never have been tempted. But I submit that in this life of ours there are other temptations more bitter than that which if a man has experienced and resisted, he has sounded all the depths of moral trial. Here, for instance, is a student who has come out of a humble home. And he is brilliant and successful in all he does, and the way is opening for a fine career. And then one day there comes to him the news that his father is smitten with some dread paralysis and that the little family business will be ruined unless the son comes home, and comes at once. On the one hand is his duty to his mother and to the little children still under her care. On the other hand is his duty to himself and to the gifts of intellect which God hath given him. And what I say is that in these rival voices calling each of them as with the voice of heaven, there are all the elements of a moral conflict beside which that of the drunkard is a sham. For you have not exhausted moral conflict when you have told of the conflict between good and evil. Subtler than that, and sometimes far more terrible, is the conflict between good and good—the duty that we owe ourselves faced by the duty that we owe our brother; the duty that we owe our wife and children faced by the duty that we owe to heaven. What I mean is that if all human progress were merely a progress from bad to good, then in Christ who was entirely good, there could have been no progress through antagonism. But if within the circle of the good many of our fiercest battles must be fought, then it is easy to see why a sinless Savior might be tempted as we are. Yes, and if sinless, might it not be the case that He felt temptation more terribly than we? For there are calls that are deadened for everyone of us just because our hearts are dulled through sin. Had we been less dulled, with what intense appeal certain claims might have come home to us, and so would the temptation have been so much more the awful.

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