Part 1 out of 4
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Quiet Talks about Jesus
S. D. Gordon
Author of "Quiet Talks on Power," and "Quiet Talks on Prayer"
A Bit Ahead
I. The Purpose of Jesus.
1. The Purpose in Jesus' Coming
2. The Plan for Jesus' Coming
3. The Tragic Break in the Plan
4. Some Surprising Results of the Tragic Break
II. The Person of Jesus.
1. The Human Jesus
2. The Divine Jesus
3. The Winsome Jesus
III. The Great Experiences or Jesus' Life.
1. The Jordan: The Decisive Start
2. The Wilderness: Temptation
3. The Transfiguration: An Emergency Measure
4. Gethsemane: The Strange, Lone Struggle
5. Calvary: Victory
6. The Resurrection: Gravity Upward
7. The Ascension: Back Home Again Until----
IV. Study Notes
"Show me, I pray thee, Thy glory."--_Moses_.
"When I could not see for the glory of that light."--_Paul_.
"But we all with open face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord
are transformed into the same image from glory to glory."--_Paul_.
"The light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus
"Since mine eyes were fixed on Jesus,
I've lost sight of all beside,
So enchained my spirit's vision,
Looking at the Crucified."
--From _Winnowed Hymns_.
A Bit Ahead
So far as I can find out, I have no theory about Jesus to make these talks
fit into. I have tried to find out for myself what the old Book of God
tells about Him. And here I am trying to tell to others, as simply as I
can, what I found. It was by the tedious, twisting path of doubt that I
climbed the hill of truth up to some of its summits of certainty. I am
free to confess that I am ignorant of the subject treated here save for
the statements of that Book, and for the assent within my own spirit to
these statements, which has greatly deepened the impression they made, and
make. There is no question raised here about that Book itself, but simply
a taking and grouping up together of what it says.
Most persons simply _read_ a book. A few _study_ it, also. It is good to
read. It is yet better to go back over it and _study_, and meditate. Since
learning that the two books on power and prayer have been used in Bible
classes I have regretted not including study notes in them. For those who
may want to study about Jesus there has been added at the close a simple
analysis with references. The reading pages have been kept free of
foot-notes to make the reading smooth and easier. The analysis is so
arranged that one can quickly turn in reading to the corresponding
paragraph or page in the study notes.
A great musician strikes the key-note of a great piece of music, and can
skilfully keep it ever sounding its melody through all the changes clear
to the end. It has been in my heart to wish that I could do something like
that here. If what has come to me has gotten out of me into these pages,
there will be found a dominant note of sweetest music--the winsomeness of
God in Jesus.
It is in my heart, too, to add this, that I have a friend whose constant
presence and prayer have been the atmosphere of this little book in its
I. The Purpose of Jesus
1. The Purpose in Jesus' Coming.
2. The Plan for Jesus' Coming.
3. The Tragic Break In The Plan.
4. Some Surprising Results of the Break.
The Purpose in Jesus' Coming
God Spelling Himself out in Jesus.
Jesus is God spelling Himself out in language that man can understand. God
and man used to talk together freely. But one day man went away from God.
And then he went farther away. He left home. He left his native land,
Eden, where he lived with God. He emigrated from God. And through going
away he lost his mother-tongue.
A language always changes away from its native land. Through going away
from his native land man lost his native speech. Through not _hearing_ God
speak he forgot the sounds of the words. His ears grew dull and then deaf.
Through lack of use he lost the power of _speaking_ the old words. His
tongue grew thick. It lost its cunning. And so gradually almost all the
old meanings were lost.
God has always been eager to get to talking with man again. The silence is
hard on Him. He is hungry to be on intimate terms again with his old
friend. Of course he had to use a language that man could understand.
Jesus is God spelling Himself out so man can understand. He is the A and
the Z, and all between, of the Old Eden language of love.
Naturally enough man had a good bit of bother in spelling Jesus out. This
Jesus was something quite new. When His life spoke the simple language of
Eden again, the human heart with selfishness ingrained said, "That sounds
good, but of course He has some selfish scheme behind it all. This purity
and simplicity and gentleness can't be genuine." Nobody yet seems to have
spelled Him out fully, though they're all trying: All on the spelling
bench. That is, all that have heard. Great numbers haven't heard about Him
yet. But many, ah! _many_ could get enough, yes, _can_ get enough to bring
His purity into their lives and sweet peace into their hearts.
But there were in His days upon earth some sticklers for the old spelling
forms. Not the oldest, mind you. Jesus alone stands for that. This Jesus
didn't observe the idioms that had grown up outside of Eden. These people
had decided that these old forms were the only ones acceptable. And so
they disliked Him from the beginning, and quarrelled with Him. These
idioms were dearer to them than life--that is, than _His_ life. So having
quarrelled, they did _worse_, and then--softly--_worst_. But even in their
worst, Jesus was God spelling Himself out in the old simple language of
Eden. His best came out in their worst.
Some of the great nouns of the Eden tongue--the _God_ tongue--He spelled
out big. He spelled out _purity_, the natural life of Eden; and
_obedience_, the rhythmic harmony of Eden; and _peace_, the sweet music of
Eden; and _power_, the mastery and dominion of Eden; and _love_, the
throbbing heart of Eden. It was in biggest, brightest letters that _love_
was spelled out. He used the biggest capitals ever known, and traced each
in a deep dripping red, with a new spelling--s-a-c-r-i-f-i-c-e.
Jesus is God, following us up.
You see, the heart of God had been breaking--_is_ breaking over the ways
things have been going down on this planet. Folk fail to understand Him.
Worse yet, they misunderstand Him, and feel free to criticize Him. Nobody
has been so much slandered as God. Many are utterly ignorant of Him. Many
others who are not ignorant yet ignore Him. They turn their faces and
backs. Some give Him the cut direct. The great crowd in every part of the
world is yearning after Him: piteously, pathetically, most often
speechlessly yearning, blindly groping along, with an intense inner tug
after Him. They know the yearning. They feel the inner, upward tug. They
don't understand what it is for which they yearn, nor what will satisfy.
For man was made to live in closest touch with God. That is his native
air. Out of that air his lungs are badly affected. This other air is too
heavy. It's malarial, and full of gases and germy dust. In it he chokes
and gasps. Yet he knows not why. He gropes about in the night made by his
own shut eyes. He doesn't seem to know enough to open them. And sometimes
he _will_ not open them. For the hinge of the eyelid is in the will. And
having shut the light out, he gets tangled up in his ideas as to what _is_
light. He puts darkness for light, and light for darkness.
Once man knew God well; close up. And that means _loved_, gladly, freely.
For here to know is to love. But one day a bad choice was made. And the
choice made an ugly kink in his will. The whole trouble began there. A man
sees through his will. That is his medium for the transmission of light.
If it be twisted, his seeing, his understanding, is twisted. The twist in
the will regulates the twist in the eye. Both ways, too, for a good change
in the will in turn changes the eyes back to seeing straight. He that is
willing to do the right shall clearly see the light.
But that first kink seems to have been getting worse kinked ever since.
And so man does not see God as He is. Man is cross-eyed Godward, but
doesn't know it. Man is color-blind toward God. The blue of God's truth is
to him an arousing, angering red. The soft, soothing green of His love
becomes a noisy, irritating yellow. Nobody has been so much misunderstood
as God. He has suffered misrepresentation from two quarters: His enemies
and His friends. More from--which? Hard to tell. Jesus is God trying to
tell men plainly what He is really like.
The world turned down the wrong lane, and has been going that way
pell-mell ever since. Yet so close is the wrong lane to the right that a
single step will change lanes. Though many results of being in the wrong
lane will not be changed by the change of lanes. It takes time to rest up
the feet made sore by the roughness of the wrong lane. And some of the
scars, where men have measured their length, seem to stay.
The result of that wrong turning has been pitiable. _Separation from God_,
so far as _man_ could make separation. There is no separation on God's
part. He has never changed. He remains in the world, but because of man's
turning his face away, He remains as a stranger, unrecognized. He remains
just where man left Him. And any one going back to that point in the road
will find Him standing waiting with an eager light glistening in His eyes.
_No_! That's not accurate. He is _a bit nearer_ than ever He was. He is
following us up. He is only a step off. Jesus is God eagerly following us
The Early Eden Picture.
But one will never get to understand this Jesus until he gets a good look
at man as he was once, and as he is now. The key to understanding Jesus is
man, even as Jesus is the key to God. One must use both keys to get into
the inner heart of God. To get hold of that first key one must go back to
the start of things. The old Book of God opens with a picture that is
fascinating in its simplicity and strength. There is an unfallen man. He
is fresh from the hand of God, free of scar and stain and shrivelling
influence. He is in a garden. He is walking hand in hand with God, and
working side by side with God: friendship and partnership. Friends in
spirit: partners in service.
The distinctive thing about the man is that he is _like God_. He and God
are alike. In this he differs from all creation. He is God's link between
Himself and His Creation. Particular pains is taken by repetition and
change of phrase to make clear and emphatic that it was in the very image
of God that man was made. Just what does it mean that we men were made in
God's likeness? Well, the thing has been discussed back and forth a good
bit. Probably we will not know fully till we know as we are known. In the
morning when we see Him we shall be like Him fully again. Then we'll know.
_That_ morning's sun will clear up a lot of fog. But a few things can be
said about it now with a positiveness that may clear the air a bit, and
help us recognize the dignity of our being, and behave accordingly.
Man came into being by the breath of God. God breathed Himself into man.
The breath that God breathed out came into man as life. The very life of
man is a bit of God. Man is of the essence of God. Every man is the
presence-chamber of God.
God is a _Spirit. Man_ is a spirit. He lives in a body. He thinks through
a mind. He _is_ a spirit, using the body as a dwelling-place, and the
mind as his keenest instrument. All the immeasurable possibilities and
capacities of spirit being are in man.
God is an _infinite_ spirit. That is, we cannot understand Him fully. He
is very close to us. The relationship is most intimate, and tender, yet
His fulness is ever beyond our grasp and our ken. _Man_ is infinite in
that he knows that God is infinite. Only like can appreciate like. He can
appreciate that he cannot appreciate God, except in part. He understands
that he does not understand God save in smaller part. He knows enough to
love passionately. And through loving as well as through knowing he knows
that there is infinitely more that he does not know. Only man of all
earth's creation knows this. In this he is like God. The difference
between God and man here is in the degree of infinity. That degree of
difference is an infinite degree. Yet this is the truth. But more yet: man
has this same quality _man_ward. He is infinite in that he cannot be fully
understood in his mental processes and motives. He is beyond grasp fully
by his fellow. Even one's most intimate friend who knows most and best
must leave unknown more than is known.
God is an _eternal_ spirit. He has always lived. He will live always. He
knows no end, at either end. All time before there was time, and after the
time-book is shut, is to Him a passing present. _Man_ is an eternal
spirit, because of God. He will know no end. He will live always because
the breath of God is his very being.
God is _love_. He yearns for love. He loves. And more, He _is_ love. Man
is like God in his yearning for love, in his capacity for love, and in his
lovableness. Man must love. He lives only as he loves. True love, and only
that, is the real life. He will give up everything for love. He is
satisfied only as he loves and finds love. To love is greater than to be
loved. One cannot always have both. God does not. But every one may love.
Every one does love. And only as there is love, pure and true--however
overlaid with what is not so--only so is there life.
God is _holy_. That word seems to include purity and righteousness. There
is utter absence of all that should not be. There is in Him all that
should be, and that in fulness beyond our thinking. Man was made holy.
There is in the Genesis picture of Eden a touch that for simplicity and
yet for revealing the whole swing of moral action is most vivid. In the
presence of conditions where man commonly, universally, the world around,
and time through, has been and is _most sensitive to suggestion of evil_
there is with this first man the utter absence of any thought of evil.
In the light of after history there could be no subtler, stronger
statement than this of his holiness, his purity, at this stage.
And in his _capacity for holiness_, in that intensest longing for purity,
and loathing of all else, that comes as the Spirit of God is allowed
sway, is revealed again the capacity for God-likeness. It is the prophetic
dawn within of that coming Eden when again we shall _see His face_, and
have the original likeness fully restored.
God is _wise_, all-wise. Among the finest passages of the' Christian's
classic are those that represent God as personified wisdom. And here
wisdom includes all knowledge and justice. That the Spirit of God breathed
into man His own mental life is stated most keenly by the man who
proverbially embodied in himself this quality of wisdom. "The spirit of
man is the lamp of the Lord searching out the innermost parts." The
allusion is clearly to intellectual powers. There is in man the same
quality of mental keenness that searches into things as is in God. It is
often dulled, gripped by a sort of stupor, so overlaid you would hardly
guess it was there. But, too, as we all know, it often shines out with a
startling brilliance. It is less in degree than with God, but it is the
same thing, a bit of God in man. This explains man's marvellous
achievements in literature, in invention, in science, and in organization.
Two light master-strokes of the etching point in the Eden picture reveal
the whole mental equipment of the man. The only sayings of Adam's
preserved for us are when God brought to him the woman. She is the
occasion for sayings that reveal the mental powers of this first man.
Fittingly it is so. Woman, when true to herself, has ever been the
occasion for bringing out the best in man. "And the man said, _this time_
it is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; _this_ shall be called
woman, because out of man was this one taken. Therefore doth a man leave
his father and his mother and cleave unto his wife, and they become one
flesh." ... "And the man called his wife's name Eve; because she was the
mother of all living." Here is revealed at a glance the keen mental powers
at work. Here is the simplicity of statement that marks the speech of
strong men. The whole forest is in a single acorn. The whole of a human
life is in the primal cell. The chemist knows the whole body by looking
into one drop of blood. Here is revealed in one glance the whole man. Mark
the keen sense of fitness in the naming of woman--the last and highest
creation. Adam was a philologist. His mind was analytical. Inferentially
the same keen sense of fitness guided in all the names he had chosen. Here
is recognition of the plan for the whole race, a simple unlabored
foresight into its growth. A man's relation to his wife, his God-chosen
friend, as being the closest of life, and above all others is recognized,
together with the consequent obligation upon him. She comes first of all.
She becomes the first of all his relationships. The man and the woman--one
man and one woman--united, make the true unit of society. Any disturbance
of that strikes at the very vitals of society.
And God is a _Sovereign_--_the_ sovereign of the vast swing of worlds.
_Man_ likewise is a sovereign in the realm of nature, and over all the
lower creation. He was given dominion, kingship, over all the
earth-creation. Man is a king. He is of the blood royal. He was made to
command, to administrate, to reign. He is the judge of last appeals on the
bench of earth.
But there is more here. The chief characteristic of an absolute sovereign
is the imperial power to choose, to decide. Man was made an absolute
sovereign in his own will. God is the absolute sovereign. He has made man
an absolute sovereign in one realm, that of his will, his power of choice.
There is one place where man reigns alone, an absolute autocrat, where not
even God _can_ come save as the autocrat desires it, that is in his will.
And if that "_can_" bother you, remember that it was God's sovereign act
that made it so. So that God remains sovereign in making man a sovereign
in the realm of his will. There every man sits in imperial solitude.
Here then is the picture of man fresh from the hand of God. A spirit, in a
body, with an unending life, partly infinite, like God in his capacity for
love, for holiness, and wisdom, with the gift of sovereignty over the
lower creation, and in his own will. Like Him too in his capacity for
_fellowship_ with God. For only like can have fellowship with like. It is
only in that in which we are alike that we can have fellowship. These two,
God and man, walking side by side, working together, friendship in spirit;
partnership in service.
This man is in a _garden_ of trees and bushes, with fruit and flowers and
singing birds, roses with no pricking thorns, soft green with no weeds,
and no poison ivy, for there is no hate. And he is walking with God,
talking familiarly as chosen friend with choicest friend. Together they
work in the completion of creation. God brings His created beings one by
one to man to be catalogued and named, and accepts his decisions. What a
winsome picture. These two, God and a man in His likeness, walking and
working side by side; likeness in being; friendship, fellowship in spirit;
partnership, comradeship in service. And this is God's thought for man!
Man's Bad Break.
Then come the climax and the crisis. A climax is the climbing to the top
rung of the ladder. A crisis is the meeting place of possible victory and
possible disaster. A single step divides between the two--the
precipice-height, and the canon's yawning gulf.
It was a climax of opportunity; and a crisis of action. _God's_ climax of
opportunity to man. _Man's_ crisis of action. God made man sovereign in
his power of choice. Now He would go the last step and give him the
opportunity of using that power and so reaching the topmost levels. God
led man to the hill of choice. The man must _climb_ the hill if he would
reach its top.
Only the use of power gives actual possession of the power. What we do not
use we lose. The pressure of the foot is always necessary to a clear
title. To him that hath possible power shall be given actual power through
This opportunity was the last love-touch of God in opening up the way into
the fulness of His image. With His ideal for man God went to His limit in
_giving_ the power. He could give the power of choice. Man must _use_ the
power given. Only so could he own what had been given. God could open the
door. Man must step over the door-sill. Action realizes power.
The tree of knowledge of good and evil was the tree of choice. Obedience
to God was the one thing involved. That simply meant, as it always means,
keeping in warm touch with God. All good absolutely is bound up in
this--_obeying God_, keeping in warm touch. To obey Him is the very heart
of good. All evil is included in disobeying Him. To disobey, to fail to
obey is the seeded core of all evil.
Whichever way he chose he would exercise his God-like power of choice.
Whichever way he chose, the knowledge would come. If he chose to obey he
would know good by choosing it, and evil by rejecting it. He knew neither
good nor evil, for he had not yet had the contact of choice. Knowledge
comes only through experience. In choosing not to obey, choosing to
disobey, he would know evil with a bitter intimacy by choosing it. He
would become acquainted with the good which he had shoved ruthlessly away.
With the opportunity came the temptation: God's opportunity; Satan's
temptation. Satan is ever on the heels of God. Two inclined planes lead
out of every man's path. Two doors open into them side by side. God's door
up, the tempter's door down, and only a door-jamb between. Here the split
hoof can be seen sticking from under the cloak's edge at the very start.
Satan hates the truth. He is afraid of it. Yet he sneaks around the
sheltering corner of what he fears and hates. The sugar coating of his
gall pills he steals from God. The devil bare-faced, standing only on his
own feet, would be instantly booted out at first approach. And right well
he knows it.
A cunning half lie opens the way to a full-fledged lie, but still coupled
with a half-truth. The suggestion that God was harshly prohibiting
something that was needful leads to the further suggestion that He was
arbitrarily, selfishly holding back the highest thing, the very thing He
was supposed to be giving, that is, likeness to Himself. Eve was getting a
course in suggestion. This was the first lesson. The school seems to be in
session still. The whole purpose is to slander God, to misrepresent Him.
That has been Satan's favorite method ever since. God is not good. He
makes cruel prohibitions. He keeps from us what we should have. It is
passing strange how every one of us has had that dust in his eyes. Some of
us might leave the "had" out of that sentence.
See how cunningly the truth and the lie are interwoven by this old
past-master in the sooty art of lying. "Your eyes shall be opened, and ye
shall be as God knowing good and evil." It was true because by the use of
this highest power of choice he would become like God, and through
choosing he would know. It is cunningly implied with a sticky, slimy
cunning that, by not eating, that likeness and knowledge would not come.
That was the lie. The choice either way would bring both this element of
likeness to God in the sovereign power of choice, and the knowledge.
Then came the choice. The step up was a step down: up into the use of his
highest power; down by the use of that power. In that wherein he was most
like God in power, man became most unlike God in character. First the
woman chose: then the man. Satan subtly begins his attack upon the woman.
Because she was the weaker? Certainly not. Because she was the stronger.
Not the leader in action, but the stronger in influence. He is the leader
in action: she in influence. The greater includes the less. Satan is a
master strategist, bold in his cunning. If the citadel can be gotten, all
is won. If he _could_ get the woman he _would_ get the man. She includes
him. She who was included in him now includes him. The last has become
She was deceived. He was not deceived. The woman chose unwarily for the
supposed good. The man chose with open eyes for the woman's sake. Could
the word gallantry be used? Was it supposed friendship? He would not
abandon her? Yet he proved _not her friend_ that day, in stepping down to
this new low level. Man's habit of giving smoothly spoken words to woman,
while shying sharp-edged stones at her, should in all honesty be stopped.
Man can throw no stones at woman. If the woman failed God that day, the
man failed both God and the woman. If it be true that through her came the
beginning of the world's sin, through her, too, be it gratefully and
reverently remembered, came that which was far greater--the world's
The choice was made. The act was done. Tremendous act! Bring your
microscope and peer with awe into that single act. No fathoming line can
sound its depth. No measuring rod its height nor breadth. No thought can
pierce its intensity. That reaching arm went around a world. Millenniums
in a moment. A million miles in a step. An ocean in a drop. Volumes in a
word. A race in a woman. A hell of suffering in an act. The depths of woe
in a glance. The first chapter of Romans in Genesis three, six. Sharpest
pain in softest touch. God mistrusted--distrusted. Satan embraced. Sin's
door open. Eden's gate shut.
Mark keenly the immediate result that came with that intense rapidity
possible only to mental powers. At once they were both conscious of
something that had not entered their thoughts before. To the pure all
things are pure. To the imagination hurt by breaking away from God, the
purest things can bring up suggestions directly opposite. Through the open
door of disobedience came with lightning swiftness the suggestion of
using a pure, holy function of the body in a way and for a purpose not
intended. Making an end of that which was meant to be only a means to a
highest end. Degrading to an animal pleasure that which held in its pure
hallowed power the whole future of the race. There is absolutely no change
save in the inner thought. But what a horrid heredity in that one flash of
the imagination! Every sin lives first in the imagination. The imagination
is sin's brooding and birth-place. An inner picture, a lingering glance, a
wrong desire, an act--that is the story of every sin. The first step was
disobedience. That opened the door. The first suggestion of wrong-doing
that followed hot on the heels of that first step, through that open door,
struck at the very vitals of the race--both its existence and its
character. That first suggested unnatural action, with its whole brood,
has become the commonest and slimiest sin of the race.
Here, in the beginning, the very thought _shocked_ them. In that lay their
safety. Shame is the recoil of God's image from the touch of sin. Shame is
sin's first checkmate. It is man's vantage for a fresh pull up. There are
only two places where there is no shame: where there is no sin; where sin
is steeped deepest in. The extremes are always jostling elbows. Instantly
the sense of shame suggested a help. A simple bit of clothing was
provided. It was so adjusted as to help most. Clothing is man's badge of
shame. The first clothing was not for the body, but for the mind. Not for
protection, but for concealment, that so the mind might be helped to
forget its evil suggestions. It is one of sin's odd perversions that draws
attention by color and cut to the race's badge of shame. It would seem
strongly suggestive of moral degeneracy, or of bad taste, or, let us say
in charity, of a lapse of historical memory.
Mark the sad soliloquy of God: "Behold the man has become as one of us: He
has exercised his power of choice." He tenderly refrains from saying, "and
has chosen wrong! so pitiably wrong!" That was plain enough. He would not
rub in the acid truth. He would not make the scar more hideous by pointing
it out. "And now _lest_ he put forth his hand and take of the tree of
life." "_Lest!_" There is a further danger threatening. In his present
condition he needs guarding for his own sake in the future.
"_Lest_"--wrong choice limits future action. Sin narrows.
With man's act of sin came God's act of saving. Satan is ever on the heels
of God to hurt man. But God is ever on the heels of Satan to cushion the
hurt and save the man. It is a nip-and-tuck race with God a head and a
heart in the lead. Something had to be done. Man had started sin in
himself by his choice. The taint of disobedience, rebellion, had been
breathed out into the air. He had gotten out of sorts with his
surroundings. His presence would spoil his own heaven. The stain of his
sin would have been upon his eternal life. The zero of selfishness would
have been the atmosphere of his home. The touch of his unhallowed hand
must be taken away for his own sake. That unhallowed touch _has_ been upon
every function and relationship of life outside those gates. Nothing has
escaped the slimy contact.
Sin _could_ not be allowed to stay _there_. Its presence stole heaven away
from heaven. Yet sin had become a part of the man. The man and the wrong
were interwoven. They were inseparable. Sin has such a tenacious, gluey,
sticky touch! Each included the other. _It_ could not be put out without
_his_ being put out. So man had to be driven out for his own sake to rid
his home-spot of sin. The man was driven out that he might come
back--_changed_. Love drove him out that later it might let him in. The
tree of life was kept _from_ him for a time that it might be kept _for_
him for an eternity.
When he had _changed his spirit_, and _changed sides_ in the fight with
evil started that day, and gotten victory over the spirit now dominant
within himself, those gates would swing again. When the stain of his
choice would be taken out of his fibre it would be his right eagerly to
retrace these forced steps, and the coming back would find more than had
been left. Love has been busy planning the home-coming. The tree of life
has been grown in his absence to a grove of trees. The life has become
life more abundant.
Outside the Eden Gate.
The story of what took place outside that guarded gate makes clear the
love, the wise farsighted love that showed the man the way out that day.
To tell the story one must use a pen made of the iron that has entered his
own soul, and though the pen be eased with ball point, it scratches and
sticks in the paper for sheer reluctance. And only the tears of the heart
will do for ink.
That was a costly meal. That first bite must have been a big one. Its
taste is still in the mouth of the race. If that fruit were an apple it
must have been a crab. There has been a bad case of indigestion ever
since. If you think there were no crab-apples in Eden, then the touch of
those thickening lips must have soured it in the eating--man's teeth are
still on edge. The fruit became tough in the chewing. It's not digested
yet. That Garden of Eden must have been on a hill, with lowlands below,
and high hills above, and roads both ways. The man seems to have gotten
into the lowland road, and after a bit, struck some marshes and swamps,
with a good bit of thick gray fog.
The first result of the break with God was _in the man himself_. Man has
two doors opening into himself from God--the eye and the ear. Through
these God comes into the man and makes Himself known. Through these comes
all man knows of God. Both have their hinges in the will, the heart. Man
gave both doors a slam shut that day in Eden. Yet they went shut
_gradually_. That was the God-side of their shutting. He quickly slipped
in an air cushion so the shutting might be softened and delayed, and
meanwhile His presence be appealing to the man.
Refusing to obey God was equal to hearing without being willing to listen.
It was the same thing as looking with that reluctance that won't see, and
then doesn't see. Hearing and seeing lie deeper than ears and eyes, down
in the purpose, the will, the desire of the heart. Unwillingness dulls,
and then deafens the ears. It blurs, and then blinds the eye. An earnest,
loving purpose gives peculiar keenness to the ears, and opens the eye of
the eye. Ears and eyes are very sensitive organs. If their messages be not
faithfully attended to they sulk and pout and refuse to transmit messages.
It is a remarkable fact that habitual inattention to a sound or sight
makes one practically deaf or blind to it; and that close attention
persisted in makes one's ears and eyes almost abnormally keen and quick.
Love's ears and eyes are proverbially acute.
One may be so wholly absorbed in something that he absolutely does not see
the thing on which his eyes are turned. He does not hear the sounds that
are plainly coming to his ear because his thought, back of that his heart,
is elsewhere. Hearing, seeing is with the heart back of ears and eyes. God
is spoken of as silent. Yet His silence may be simply our deafness. The
truth is He is speaking all the time, but we are so absorbed that we do
not hear. He is ever looking into our faces with His great, tender, deep
eyes, but we are so wrapped up in something else that the gaze out of our
eyes is vacant to that Face, and with keenest disappointment, so often
repeated, He gets no answering glance.
Let anybody in doubt about the strict accuracy of this do some
experimenting on himself, either with outer things or regarding God. Let
him obey the inner voice in some particular that may perhaps cut straight
across some fixed habit, and then watch very quietly for the result. It
will come with surprising sureness and quickness. And the reason why is
simple. The man is simply moving back into his native air, and of course
all the powers work better.
This truth about the nerves of the ears and eyes running down into the
heart is constantly being sounded out in the old Book. A famous bit in
Isaiah puts it very clearly, and becomes a sort of pivot passage of all
others of this sort. That fine-grained, intense-spirited young Hebrew was
caught in the temple one day by a sight of God. That wondrous sight held
him with unyielding grip through all the after years. With the sight came
the voice, and the message for the nation: "Tell these people--you are
continually hearing, but you do not listen, nor take in what you hear.
Your eyes are open, they look, but they do not see." Then the voice said,
"Make their heart _fat_, and their ears _heavy_, and their eyes _shut_."
That is to say, by continually telling them what they will continually
refuse to hear because it does not suit the habit of their lives, he would
be setting in motion the action that would bring these results. The ears
that won't hear by and by _can't_ hear. The heart that will not love and
obey gets into a state of fatty degeneration. The valves that refuse to
move in loving obedience will get too heavy with fat to move at all. The
fat clogs the hinges. There is the touch of a soft irony in the _form_ of
the message. As though Isaiah's talking would affect their ears, whereas
it is their refusal to hear that stupefies the hearing organ. In
faithfulness God insists on telling them the truth even though He knows
that their refusal to do will make things worse. But then God is never
held back from good by the possible bad that may work out of it.
When Jesus came, the Jews, to whom His messages to the world were directly
spoken, were in almost the last stages of that sort of thing. So Jesus,
with the fine faithfulness of love blending with the keenest tact, spoke
in language veiled by parable to overcome the intense prejudice against
plainly spoken truth. They were so set against what He had to tell that
the only way to get anything into them at all was so to veil its _form_ as
to befool them into _thinking it truer_. Toward the close, His keenness,
for which they were no match, joining with the growing keenness of their
hate, made them see at once that the sharp edge of some of those last
parables was turned toward themselves.
In explaining to His puzzled disciples about this form of teaching, with
a sad irony that reveals both His heart's yearning and His mental
keenness, He uses more than once with variations this famous bit from
Isaiah. He makes the truth stand out more sharply by stating the opposite
of what He desires, making the contrast between His words and His known
desires so strong as not only to make plain the meaning intended, but to
give it a sharper emphasis.
The result that began with ears and eyes quickly affected the _tongue_.
That is nature's path. The inner road from ear and eye is straight to the
tongue. The tongue is the index of man's whole being. While through ear
and eye he receives all that ever gets in, through the tongue his whole
being is revealed. Of course his personality reveals itself very much
otherwise. In the carriage of the body. Strikingly so in the look of the
eye. The body itself, especially the face, becomes in time the mould of
the spirit within. Yet the tongue--what is said, how it is said, what is
_not_ said, the tone of voice--the tongue is the index of the spirit.
There is no stronger indication of mastery over one's powers than in
control of the tongue. When God would break up man's first great ambitious
scheme of a self-centred monopoly on the Shinar plains, He simply touched
his tongue. The first evidence of God's touch in the re-making of man on
that memorable Pentecost day was upon his tongue.
The effect upon his tongue of the break with God has been radical and
strange. Dumbness, and slowness or thickness of speech alternate with an
unnatural sharpness. Sometimes the spittle has a peculiar oiliness that
results in a certain slipperiness of statement. Sometimes it has a bitter,
poisonous, acid quality that eats its way into the words. There is a queer
backward movement in biting sometimes. Withal a strange looseness of
speech regarding the holiest things, and the most awesome truths, and the
Holy One Himself.
The moment a man gets a vision of God he is instantly conscious of
something the matter with his tongue. The sight that comes to his eyes,
the sound to his ears makes him painfully self-conscious regarding the
defect in his tongue. Moses found himself slow-tongued. Isaiah felt the
need of the cleansing coal for his tongue.
But man's whole inner mental process was affected. A peculiar sense of
fear, of dread, is woven inextricably into the very fibre of man's being.
His first reported word after that break was, "I was afraid." That sense of
fear--a horrid, haunting, nightmare thing--has affected all his thinking
and planning and every-day speech. No phrase is oftener on man's tongue
than "I'm afraid." Isaiah's classic utterance about ears and eyes has a
counterpart equally classic from Paul's pen, about the effect of sin upon
man's mental processes. A few lines in the letter to the Ephesian circle
of churches give a sort of bill of details of the mental steps down that
slope from the Eden gate.
Paul is urging these friends to live _no longer_ as they, in common with
all the races, had been living, in "the vanity of their mind, being
darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because
of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their
hearts; who, being past feeling, gave themselves up to lasciviousness to
make a greedy trade of all uncleanness." Here are seven steps down. The
first five are put in reverse order. Beginning where they have been, he
traces the five steps back to the starting point, and then adds the two
likely to follow with any who persist past this point.
The start of all sin is in the setting of one's self against God. Choosing
some other way than His. It is called here "hardening of the heart." The
native juices of the heart are drawn away from God and dry up. In this
Book the heart is the seat of both affection and will. It is the pivotal
organ of life. Any trouble there quickly and surely affects the whole
being. Then follows "ignorance." Of course. The heart controls both ear
and eye, the two great channels inward of knowledge. The hardening of the
heart locks both doors. And hard on the heels of that comes "_Alienated_
from the life of God." That is, _cut off,_ shut out of fellowship and
intimacy. Life is _union with God_. Through union God's life flows into
us. Union is rooted in knowledge _and_ in sympathy, fellow-feeling, a
common desire and purpose. The man snapping that tying cord cuts himself
The next step is peculiarly pathetic--"darkened in their understanding."
The man has shut the shutters close, and pulled the shades down tight. Of
course it's dark inside. He is unable to see. First unwilling, now unable.
If the only thing that can be gotten for use as light be _darkness_, how
intense is that darkness! Then comes the pitiable result of acting as if
darkness were man's native air--"the vanity of the mind." That word vanity
means aimlessness. The mind is still keen, even brilliant, but the guiding
star is shut out, and that keen mind goes whirring aimlessly around.
Sometimes a very earnest aimlessness. The man's on a foggy sea without sun
or star. The compass on board is useless.
But more pitiable and pathetic yet; indeed utterly laughable if it were
not so terribly serious and pathetic:--this man in the dark proceeds
gravely to decide that this darkness of his own making is a superior sort
of light, and bows low in worship of its maker. He has even been known to
write brilliant essays on the light-giving power of blinding darkness,
with earnest protests at the evil of this thing commonly called light.
Sometimes having carefully cottoned up the shutters that no scrap of sun
light or sun warmth may get in, he strikes a friction match, and sits
warming himself, and eloquently sets forth his own greatness as shown by
the match, _friction_ match. Most of this sort of light and heat is of the
Then with reluctant hand, one who knows Paul's tender heart can well
believe, the curtain is drawn aside for the last two stages; the grosser,
gutter, animal stages, which, not always by any means, but all too
commonly follow. "Past feeling!" The delicate sense of feeling about right
and purity dulls and goes. The fine inner judgment blunts and leaves. The
shrinking sensitiveness toward the dishonorable and impure loses its edge
and departs. _Then_--pell mell, like a pack of dogs down a steep hill,
follows the last--"lasciviousness," the purest, holiest things in the
gutter-slime, and then, cold-blooded, greedy trading in these things.
That's the picture painted in shadows of Rembrandt blackness, newly
blackened, of the effect in man himself of turning away from God.
Now Jesus is the music of God's heart sounding in man's ears anew, that he
may be wooed back the old road to the Eden life. Jesus is the face of God,
close up, looking tenderly, yearningly, into man's face, that his eye may
be caught and held, and his heart be enchained.
The second great result of that Eden break has been in _the growth of
sin_. In the seventeenth century after that it was said that man's heart
was a breeding place of thoughts whose pictured forms were bad, only bad,
with no spots of good, nor spurts of good. A thousand years later, Moses
giving the Hebrew tribes the ten commandments, adds a crowd of
particulars, some of them very grewsome, which serve as mirrors to reveal
the common practice of his age. The slant down of those first centuries
has evidently been increasing in its downward pitch.
More than a thousand years later yet, there is a summary made by Paul that
reveals the stage reached by sin in his day. Probably no one knew the
world of his time, which has proved to be the world's crisis time, as did
Paul the scholar and philosopher of Tarsus. Himself a city man, well bred
and well schooled, a world traveller, with acute, disciplined powers of
observation, and a calm scholarly judgment, he had studied every phase of
life cultured and lowly.
He pitched upon the great city centres in his active campaigning, and
worked out into the country districts. He was a world-bred man. He knew
the three over-lapping worlds of his time: the Hebrew, with its ideals of
purity and religion; the Greek, with its ideals of culture; and the Roman,
with its ideals of organization and conquest. He is writing from Corinth,
then the centre of Greek life, to Rome, the centre of the world's life.
His letter is the most elaborate of any of his writings preserved to us.
In its beginning he speaks of man, universally, morally, as he had come to
know him. His arraignment is simply terrific in its sweep and detail.
Let me pause and be measuring the words cautiously and then put this
down:--the description of the latter half of the first chapter of Romans
is a true description of man to-day. At first flush that sounds shocking,
as indeed it is. It seems as if this description can apply only to
degraded savages and to earth's darkest corners. But the history of Paul's
day, and before, and since, and an under view of the social fabric to-day,
only serve to make clear that Paul's description is true for all time, and
around the world.
There is a cloak of conventionality thrown over the blacker tints of the
picture to-day in advanced Christian lands. It is considered proper to
avoid speaking of certain excesses, or, if speech must be used, modestly
to say "unnamable." And it is a distinct gain for morality that it is so.
Better a standard recognized, even though broken. But commonly the
conditions are not changed. The differences found in different
civilizations to-day are differences only of _degree_. In the most
advanced cities of Christendom to-day may be found every bit of this
chapter's awful details, _but properly cloaked_. In European lands the
cloaks are sewed with the legal-stitch, which is considered the proper
finish. In lands where our Christian standards are not recognized the
thing is as open as in this chapter.
In four short paragraphs containing sixty-six lines in the American
Revision, Paul packs in his terrific philippic. He swings over the ground
four times. Nowhere does he reveal better his own fidelity to truth, with
the fineness of his own spirit. Here, delicacy of expression is rarely
blended with great plainness. No one can fail to understand, and yet that
sense of modesty native to both man and woman is not improperly disturbed,
even though the recital be shocking.
Here is paragraph one: Man knew God both through nature and by the direct
inner light. But he did not want Him as God. It bothered the way he wanted
to live. The core of all sin is there. All its fruitage grows about that
core. He became vain in his reasonings. He gave himself up to keen,
brilliant speculation. Having cut the cord that bound him to God,
unanchored, uncompassed, on a shoreless, starless sea, he drifts
brilliantly about in the dense gray fog.
Then he befooled himself further by thinking himself wise. He preferred
somebody else to God. Whom? Himself! Then--birds; then-beasts on all fours
with backbone on a line with the earth, nose and mouth close to the
ground; then--gray-black, slimy, crawling, creeping things. He traded off
the truth of God for a lie; the sweet purity of God for rank impurity. He
dethroned God, and took the seat himself. He bartered God for beasts and
grew like that he preferred. God's gracious restraint is withdrawn when he
gets down to the animal stage. Only here man out-animalled the animals.
The beasts are given points on beastliness. The life he chose to live held
down by the throat the truth he knew so well. That's the first summary.
The next two paragraphs are devoted to that particular sort of unnatural
sin first suggested to man after his disobedience, and which in all time
and all lands has been and is the worst, the most unnatural, the most
degrading, and the most common. It came first in the imagination. It came
early in the history of actual sin. It is put first by Paul in his
arraignment here. He gives it chief place by position and by particularity
of description. First was the using of a pure, natural function to gratify
unnatural desires. Then with strange cunning and lustful ingenuity
changing the natural functions to uses not in the plan of nature. Let it
all be said in lowest, softest voice, so sadly awful is the recital. Yet
let that soft voice be very distinct, that the truth may be known. Then
lower down yet the commercializing of such things. Unconcerned barter and
trade in man's holy, most potent function. Putting highest price on most
Then follows the longest of these paragraphs running up and down the grimy
gamut of sin. Beginning with _all_ unrighteousness, he goes on to specify
depravity, greedy covetousness, maliciousness. Oozing out of every pore
there are envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity. Men are whisperers,
backbiters, God-haters, and self-lovers, in that they are insolent,
haughty, boastful. They are inventors of evil things, without
understanding, breakers of faith, without natural affection, ruthlessly
The climax is reached in this, that though they _know_ God, and what He
has set as the right rule of life, they not only _do_ these things named,
but they delight in the fellowship of those who habitually practise them.
The stage of impulsiveness is wholly gone. They have settled down to this
as the deliberate choice and habit of life. Man is still a _king_, but all
bemired. He is the image and glory of God, but how shrivelled and
withered; obscured, all overgrown with ugly poison vines.
Let it be remembered at once that this is a _composite_ picture of the
race. Many different sorts of men must be put together to get such a view.
Sin works out differently in different persons. A man's activities take on
the tinge of his personality. So sin in a man takes on the color and tone
of his individuality.
One man has the inner disposition against God, accompanied by no excesses
at all. These things disgust him. He is refined in his tastes, perhaps
scholarly and intellectual in his thinking. That inner disposition may be
a sort of refined ignoring of God either defiant or indifferent. In
another, the animal nature swings to the front, stronger perhaps by
heredity, and, yielded to, it runs to the excess of riot. Then there is
the man with the strange yellow fever, whose love for the bright-colored
precious metal burns in his blood and controls every impulse and purpose.
And the man with intense love of power, of controlling men and things for
the sake of the immense power involved, with himself as the centre of all.
There is every imaginable degree of each of these, and every sort of
combination among them. The lines cross and re-cross at every possible
angle in various persons. A man is apt to get money-drunk then
society-drunk (with a special definition for the word society in this
connection), then lust-drunk. Or, he may swing direct from
money-intoxication into power-intoxication. Please notice keenly that each
of these four grows up out of a perfectly normal, natural desire. Sin
always follows nature's grooves. There is nothing wrong in itself. The sin
is in the wrong motive underneath, or the wrong relationship round about
an act. Or, it is in excess, exaggeration, pushing an act out of its true
proportion. Exaggeration floods the stream out of its channel. Wrong
motive or wrong relationship sends a bad stream into a good channel.
But sift down under the surface and always is found the same thing. The
upper growth is varied by what it finds on the surface to mingle with, but
the sub-stuff is ever the same. The root always is self. The whole seed of
sin is in preferring one's own way to God's way; one's self to God. The
stream of life is turned the wrong way. It is turned in. Its true
direction is up. The true centre of gravity for man is not downward, nor
inward, but upward and outward.
God's Treatment of Sin.
God's treatment of sin lets in a flood of light on the sort of thing it
is. Three times over in this summary Paul says that God "_gave them up._"
As they cast out all acknowledgment of God, He gave them up to an
_outcast_ mind. When they turned God out-of-doors, God left them indoors
to themselves. It was the worst thing He could do, and the best. Worst--to
be left alone with sin. Best, because the sin would get so vile that the
man in God's image would want to turn it out, and get God back. Man never
turns from sin until he feels its vileness to the sickening point. When
things get to the acute stage, and a sharp crisis is on, then as a rule
there will be an eager turning to the One who can cleanse and make over
new; but usually not until then.
Sin has a terrific gait. Give it a loose rein and man will get winded and
ready to drop. Only then is he ready to drop it. Sin can't be patched up
or mended. Nursing only helps it to its feet for a fresh start. The whole
trouble is in the nature of the thing. The heart pumps the hot blood of
rebellion. Its lungs can breathe only self-willed air. The worst
punishment of sin is that left alone it breeds more sin, and worse sin.
The worst of sin is in its brood. It is very prolific. Every sin is a
seed-sin. The breeding process gets the sort more refined in its
"This is the very curse of evil deed,
That of new sin it becomes the seed."
And the plain statements of the Book, and the inevitable working of man's
nature, reveal all the bad results of sin intensifying indefinitely in
the after-life. Jesus is God letting sin do its worst, upon Himself, that
man might see its utter, stubborn damnableness, and eagerly turn from it,
and back to Him.
A Bright Gleam of Light.
Yet be it keenly marked, there is a very bright gleam of light across this
dark picture. In going over the story of sin with its terrific results now
and afterward, one needs to be very tender, for he is talking about
_men_--his _brothers_. And to be very careful not to say things that are
not so. Some good, earnest people have been thinking that the whole race
except a small minority were given over to eternal misery. The vast
majority of men has never heard the name of Jesus. And some very godly
people have seemed to think that these are lost forever.
Yet the old Book of God speaks very plainly here. Its meaning can be
gotten without any twisting of words. Neither the Jewish nation nor the
Christian Church can be regarded as favorites of God. God has no favorites
for salvation. The Jewish nation was chosen for _service_' sake. Through
it there came a special after-revelation of God. Through it came the
world's new Man. The Church is the repository of God's truth to-day, with
its window panes not always quite clear. Its great mission is to tell the
whole race of Jesus. Both were chosen for service.
Every nation knew God directly at the first. And be it said thoughtfully,
every man has enough of revelation and of inner light to lead him back to
God. A man's choice in this life is his choice always. Any student of the
ordinary working of man's mind can certify that. Whatever sort of being a
man deliberately, persistently chooses to be here and now, he will be
always. The only change possible in the after-life will be in the degree.
Never in the sort.
The Gospels speak of _believing on Jesus_, and of the bad results for
those who decline or refuse to have anything to do with Him. Of course it
is speaking of those who have heard of Him. There can be no believing on
Jesus without hearing, and of course in simple fairness no condemning on
any such grounds. The gospel message is wholly concerned with those who
But there is clear and plain teaching about the great outside majority of
past generations and of our own who have never heard. It was a member of
both Jewish nation and Christian Church, whose tongue, touched by the
Spirit of God, said, "God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation
he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness is acceptable to Him." That
is a simple standard, yet a searching one. Anybody, anywhere, with a truly
reverential thought upward, and a controlling purpose to be right in his
life, will find the door swinging wide. No other badges or tickets
required. This would include that remarkable woman of India, Chundra
Lelah, all those weary years before the simple story of Jesus brought
its flood of light and peace, and all of her innumerable class.
Paul puts it as simply and a little more fully in the letter to the
Romans, that careful treatise which sums up with marvellous fulness and
brevity the gospel he preached to the world. In chapter two, he says, "to
them who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and
incorruption (He will give) eternal life." Note that in his review thus
far he has not yet gotten to Jesus the Saviour.
These people of whom he is now speaking have never heard of Jesus. They
are the great majority. Mark keenly the simple description of them. It is
a description, not of an achievement, but of a purpose. The absorbing aim
in their lives is _seeking upward_. The seeking controls the life. The
mastering spirit of these seekers is _patience, steadfastness_. They are
seeking for the highest thing. They are doing what seems to them to be
right, while seeking. They are doing right _patiently_.
Patience! What a world of conflicting experiences in a word!
Misunderstandings, breaks, slips, stumblings, failures, falls; but in all,
through all, _patience_, steadfastness. Taking a fresh hold at every turn.
And the gripping fingers ever learning a new tenacity. Pulling steadily up
a steep mountain side, in a blazing hot sun, blinded by dust, struck by
loosened rocks above rolling down, but--patiently, steadily, with
dust-blinded eyes, tugging _up_. To such is given the heart's
desire--eternal life. Ah! God judges a man by his _direction_, by the set
of his face. He may not be far up, but his face is turned up. His heels
show their backs. His toes point toward the top. That reveals the purpose,
the desire of the man inside. His choice is to be _up_. And it is choice
that makes character as well as revealing it. And the one thing that
concerns God is the character as revealed in the purpose.
There is a simple, pathetic story from mission lands, variously told, and
well vouched for, of a missionary pausing long enough in a village to tell
the story of Jesus to the crowd that gathered, and then pushing on. This
was the first visit of a missionary to this place and so the first news of
Jesus. The crowd listened eagerly with various results. There was one
listener, an old man, held in repute for his wisdom, who at once accepted
the missionary's story, and announced his acceptance of Jesus. His
neighbors expressed their surprise at his prompt acceptance of such a new
thing. The old man's quiet answer in effect was this: "Oh, I have long
trusted this Jesus, but I never knew His name before." There was no change
of purpose with this man, but, in the story of Jesus, the burst of light
that brought unspeakable peace as he kept on in his upward tug.
Yet all this will not hold back from glad sacrifice, from free giving,
from eager going to foreign mission lands a single man or woman who has
been caught by Jesus' Spirit. _The Master said, "Go ye_." That's enough.
For the largest wealth that may be given, for the keenest sacrifice that
may be endured, for the strongest life that may be devoted--that is quite
enough. And if more were needed--then to go, to give, to sacrifice for the
sake of helping our struggling brothers yonder know Jesus, and His
wondrous sacrifice and His _great peace_. To make them conscious of the
disgustingness of sin, to bring to them _a vision of Jesus' face_ to
allure, and enchain, to give a man's will an earnest boost, when he
_-would_ choose, but cannot seem to for the suction of sin, inherited and
ever growing upon his choosing powers. God sent _His_ best. Jesus
sacrificed His all in going. We'll gladly follow in such a train. Jesus is
God sending His best, sacrificing His dearest, giving His most, _going
Himself_ to get men started up the hill out of the bog.
The Broken Tryst.
Man's break back in Eden was very hard on God. That evening early, in the
twilight, God came walking in the garden to have the usual talk with His
friend. He came to keep tryst. It was the usual trysting place and
trysting hour, and God had the trysting spirit. We may think He came early
for this bit of fellowship. He was prompt. Nothing would be allowed to
disturb this appointment. But God was disappointed. It was His first
disappointment. The first one to be disappointed on this earth was God.
Adam had always met Him before. We may easily think met Him eagerly,
jubilantly, with glad, free, open face and clinging hands.
But the man was not there this time. He failed God. He broke tryst. He
stayed away. Indeed he had gone away. God didn't fail. He was there. The
man failed. They had a long distance talk. God called Adam. He was not
content to come to the trysting place. He must find the missing tryster.
Some folk would make God a sort of hard and dry keeper of His word: A sort
of trim syllogism, dry as punk. Some seem to think Him to be as they seem
to be. How our poor God has been slandered by His supposed defenders! God
was not satisfied to keep the appointment. _He wanted the man._ He
hungered for His friend, upon whom He had imprinted His own image. His
heart was hungry for fellowship. He wanted the comfort of a bit of talk.
So He starts at once eagerly, insistently to find the man.
That voice of God spoke out, tender, gentle, plaintive, pleading. You can
just hear the soft, very soft woodsman's cry, "Hello-alo, hello, Adam,
A-a-dam--here I am--waiting for you--I've kept my tryst--where are
_you_?--hello-o--hello--_where_--are--you?" The voice that spoke worlds
into being, that brought life and beauty to all creation, that brought
instant reverence and adoration from myriads of the upper world, that
voice now speaks to one, two: two who were one. All the heart of God, all
the power of God, in the soft voice talking to one man. God has always
been after the one man, and still is.
And the breezes hushed to hear that voice with its new pleading tone. The
birds stilled their song for this new music in minor mellowing tone.
Silence for a moment, the breezes hushed, the birds stilled, the creation
near by held its breath, God held _His heart still_, that He might catch
the first response to its cry. The twilight of that day had a pathetic
sight. It saw a broken tryst; a lonely God; words of fellowship unspoken.
A man and woman hiding. Skulking behind trees. Trees served a new purpose
that evening, not a good purpose. They never were meant to hide behind.
Sin perverts the use of all things.
All these weary years God has been standing wherever men are: standing,
waiting, calling man back to his tryst. Among the trees, in the crowded
city of man's making, He is ever calling, and eagerly, wondrously, helping
every one who answers. He is so near that a reaching hand always touches
Him. The voice of the heart never misses His ear. But His love and grief
shine out most on that bit of a hill, outside a city wall, on the east
coast of the middle-of-the-earth sea. That is earth's tallest hill. It can
be seen farthest away of any. Jesus up on that hill is God calling man
back to his broken tryst.
God seems to have fairly outdone Himself to get man to turn toward the old
trysting place. For when a man will turn around enough to get even a
glimpse of that God-Face, and a whisper of that God-Voice, he can
withstand no longer.
God has taxed all the ingenuity of His love to let man know about Himself.
He revealed Himself directly to the whole race at the start. He has in
every generation, and in every clime, on every hilltop and valley, in
every village and crowded city, been revealing Himself to the heart of
every man. There cannot be found one anywhere who has not heard the quiet
inner voice drawing up, and away from wrong.
In this world of wondrous beauty God is speaking. The glory-telling
heavens, the winsome coloring of trees and all growing things, the soft
round hills, the sublime mountains, the sea with its ever-changing mood
but never-changing beneficence upon the life of the whole earth, the great
blue and gray above, the soothing green below, the brighter colors in
their artistic proportion, the wondrous blendings--surely every bush and
other green thing, every bright twinkler in the blue, everything is aflame
with the presence that burns but in great love consumes not. His eyes are
indeed badly bothered that cannot see; his ears in queer fix that do not
hear. Yet sometimes the empty shoes seem few enough. But they are ever
increasing, and will yet more and more, by retail method, with wholesale
But God comes closer yet in His wooing. The web of life's daily run, with
its strange mixing and blending, shadings and tints, is of His weaving.
He sits at life's loom ever watching and weaving. Were He but recognized
oftener and His hand allowed to guide the skein, how different the
"Children of yesterday,
Heirs of to-morrow,
What are you weaving--
Labor and sorrow?
Look to your looms again;
Faster and faster
Fly the great shuttles
Prepared by the Master.
_Life's in the loom,
Room for it_--_room_!
"Children of yesterday,
Heirs of to-morrow,
Lighten the labor
And sweeten the sorrow:
Now--while the shuttles fly
Faster and faster,
Up and be at it--
At work _with_ the Master.
_He stands at your loom_,
_Room for Him_--_room_!
"Children of yesterday,
Heirs of to-morrow,
Look at your fabric
Of labor and sorrow.
Seamy and dark
With despair and disaster,
Turn it--and lo,
The design of the Master.
_The Lord's at the loom_,
_Room for Him--room_."
When men's eyes seemed unable to see clearly these revelations of
Himself, God picked out a small tribe, and through long, patient,
painstaking discipline, gave to it, for the whole world, a special
revelation of Himself. In it, in the Book which preserves its records, in
the Man who came through it, God came nearer yet.
In Jesus, God told out His greatness most, and His love most tenderly. Man
is the fairest flower of earth's creation. It was love's fine touch that
to him God should reveal Himself best and most in the fairest flower of
the eternal creation. Only man could fully appreciate Jesus, God's Man,
and man's Brother.
But Jesus was known only to one generation--His own generation--to one
narrow strip of country, one peculiarly exclusive tribe, the very small
majority of all to whom He had come. So there came to be a Book that all
after-generations might know Him too. We of later generations know _of_
Jesus through the Book, in some shape or other, before we can come to know
Himself direct. And so we prize the Book above all others. Not for the
Book's sake, at all, of course, but because through it we come to know
Jesus. With loving reverence we handle it, for it tells of Him, our
Some learned folk have been much taken up with the make-up of the Book,
its paper and type, and punctuation, and binding. And they have done good
service in clearing away a lot of dust and cobwebs that had been gathering
on it for a long time. But we plain folk, absorbed in getting things
done, do not need to wait on their conclusions. If in those pages we have
found Jesus, and God in Jesus, the Book has fulfilled its mission to us.
To all directly, in nature's voice, and in our common daily life; to a
nation chosen for the special purpose, and through that nation and its
books; through Jesus to those who knew Him, and, by a Book telling of Him,
to all following, God came, _comes_ in His wooing, and looked, _looks_
tenderly into man's face. Each of these paths leads straight to God, and
each comes to include the others.
But chiefly in Jesus God came. Jesus is God going out in the cold black
night, over the mountains, down the ravines and gullies, eagerly hunting
for His lost man, getting hands, and face, and more, torn on the brambly
thorn bushes, and losing His life, in the darkness, on a tree thrust in
His path, but saving the man.
The Plan for Jesus' Coming
The Image of God.
Man is God's darling--the king and crown of creation. The whole creation
was made for him to develop and rule over and enjoy. He is in a class by
himself. When he made his bad break there was just one thing left to do.
God must get a new leader for His man to lead him back into all the
original plan for himself. Of the whole earth man stood next to God
Himself. God could not find that leader lower down. So He went higher.
Jesus is God giving the race a new Leader who would withstand the lure of
temptation and realize the ambition of God's heart for His darling.
The man was made in the image of God, for self-mastery, and through
self-mastery for dominion over all of God's creation. That was the plan
for the man. That, too, is the plan for the new Man. There is only one
place to go to find God's plan for the coming One. That is in the Hebrew
half of the Bible. One can hardly believe, unless he has been through the
thing, how hard it is to get out of the Old Testament its vision of the
coming One without any coloring from the New getting into his eyes.
We have been reading the Old Testament _through_ the events of the New
for so long that it gives a severe mental wrench to try to do anything
else. Yet only so, be it sharply marked, can the plan for the coming of
Jesus be gotten, and, further, only so can Jesus be understood. One must
attempt to do just that to understand at all fairly what a reverent Hebrew
in prophetic times expected; what such earnest Hebrews as Simeon and Anna
were looking for.
I have tried to make a faithful effort to shut severely out of view the
familiar facts of the gospel story for my own sake, to try to understand
God's plan as it stood before there was a gospel story.
This old Hebrew picture is so full of details that are found in the
reality that one who has not actually gone studiously over the Old
separately will be very likely to think that the New Testament details are
being _read into_ the Old. If that be so, it is urgently requested that
such an opinion be held off until the old Hebrew pages have been carefully
examined as outlined in the study notes, that you may get the refreshment
of a great surprise.
It must be kept keenly in mind that there is a difference between God's
plan and that which He knows ahead will occur. Sovereignty does not mean
that everything God plans comes to pass. Nor that everything that comes to
pass is God's plan. Clearly it has not been so. It _does_ mean that
through very much that is utterly contrary to His plan He works out, in
the long run, His great purpose. He works His own purpose out of a tough
tangled network of contrary purposes; but in doing it never infringes upon
man's liberty of action. He yields and bends, and, with a patience beyond
our comprehension, waits, that in the end He may win _through_ our
consent. And so not only is His purpose saved, but man is saved and
character is made in the process.
The plan is a detail of the purpose. There is one unfailing purpose
through continual breakings of the plan. God's purpose remains unchanging
through all changes. Yet here not only is His purpose unbroken, but His
plan is to work out in the end unbroken too, though suffering a very
serious break midway.
The plan goes back to the first broken plan. There was dominion or
kingship of the earth by a masterful man bearing the image and imprint of
God. All this was lost. Through loss of contact with God came the blurring
of the image and the loss of self-mastery. Through loss of these came loss
of dominion. These are to be restored--all three. This is the key to the
plan for the coming of Jesus. A universal dominion, under the lead of a
Master-Man, in God's image, and through these a restoration of blessing to
all the earth of men. This is the one continuous theme of the old Hebrew
writings. The emphasis swings now to one aspect, now to another, but
through all the one thought is a king, a world-wide kingdom bringing
blessing to all creation.
But if Jesus was to lead man back He must first get alongside, close up,
on the same level. This was the toughest part of the whole thing. The
hardest part in saving a man is getting the man's consent to be saved.
There is no task tougher than trying to help a man who thinks he doesn't
need help, even though his need may be extreme. You may throw a blanket
over a horse's head and get it out of a burning stable or barn; or a lasso
over a bull's head to get it where you want, but man cannot be handled
that way. He must be _led_. The tether that draws must be fastened inside,
his _will_. He must be lifted from inside. That is a bit of the God-image
in him. And so God's most difficult task was getting _inside the man_ that
had shut Him out.
Fastening a Tether Inside.
And a long time it took. That it took so long, measured by the calendar,
suggests how great was the resistance to be overcome. A long round-about
road it does seem that God took. Yet it was the shortest. The circle route
is always the shortest. It is nature's way. Nature always follows the line
of least resistance. The eagle, descending, comes in circles, the line of
least resistance. Water running out of a bowl through the hole in the
bottom follows the circuitous route--the easiest.
God's longest way around was the shortest way into man's heart. Standards
had to be changed. New standards made. Yet in making a standard there must
be a starting point. God's bother was to get a starting point. When man
was too impure in his ingrained ideas to receive any idea of what purity
meant, things were in bad shape. When he was grubbing content in the
gutter, how was he ever to be gotten up to the highlands, when you
couldn't even lift his eyes over the curbstone? All the prohibitions of
the Mosaic code are but faithful mirrors of man's condition. A wholly new
standard had to be set up. That was God's task. It must be set up
_through_ men if they were to be attracted to it. So God started on His
longest-way-around-shortest road into man's heart.
A man is chosen. Through this man, by the slow processes of generations, a
nation is grown. Yet a nation only in numbers at first; in no other sense;
a mob of men. Then this mob is worked upon. They are led through
experiences that will make them soft to new impressions. Then slowly,
laboriously, by child-training methods, the new standard is brought to
them. Yet after centuries the best attained is only that their tenacious
fingers have hold of a _form_, not yet the spirit. Yet this is an immense
By and by this is the pedigree: A man, a family, tribes, a nation, a
strong nation, a broken nation, a literature, ragged remnants of a nation,
an ideal the like of which could not be found anywhere on earth, and a
_book_ embodying that ideal written as with acid-point in metal, as with
sharpest chisel in hardest stone.
At last a start was made. God had gotten a hook inside man's will to
which He could tie His tether, and _draw_, lovingly, tenderly,
tenaciously, persistently, _draw_ up out of the mire, toward the
highlands, toward Himself.
The First Touches on the Canvas.
This old Hebrew picture is found to be a mosaic made up of bits gathered
here and there, scattered throughout the Book. Some of the bits are of
very quiet sober colors found in obscure corners. Others are bright. When
brought together all blend into one with wondrous, fine beauty. The first
bit is of grave hue. It comes at the very beginning. There is to be sharp
enmity, then a crisis, resulting in a fatal wound for the head of evil,
with scars for the victor.
After this earliest general statement there are three distinct groups or
periods of prediction regarding the coming One. During the making of the
nation, during its high tide of strength and glory under David and his
son, during the time of its going to pieces. As the national glory is
departing, the vision takes on its most glorious coloring. The first of
these is during the making of the nation. As the man who is to be father
of the chosen family is called away from his kinfolk to a preparatory
isolation, he is cheered with the promise that his relationship is to be a
relationship of leadership and of great blessing _to the whole earth_.
This is repeated to his son and to his grandson, as each in turn becomes
head of the family. As his grandson, the father of the twelve men whose
names become the tribe names, is passing away he prophetically sees the
coming leadership narrowed to Judah, through whom the great Leader is to
Later yet, in a story of divination and superstition characteristic of the
time, a strange prophet is hired by an enemy to pronounce a curse upon the
new nation. This diviner is taken possession of by the Spirit of God, and
forced to utter what is clearly against his own mercenary desires. He sees
a coming One, in the future, who is to smite Israel's enemies and rule
During the last days of Moses that man, great to the whole race, speaks a
word that sinks in deep. In his good-bye message he says there is some One
coming after him, who will be to them as he had been, one of their own
kin, a deliverer, king, lawgiver, a wise, patient, tender judge and
teacher. The nation never forgot that word. When John the Baptist came,
they asked, "Art thou _the_ prophet?"
The second group of predictions is found during the nation's strength and
glory. To David comes the promise that the royal house he has founded is
to be _forever_, in contrast with Saul's, even though his successors may
fail to keep faith with God. It is most striking to note how much this
meant to David. He accepts it as meaning that the nation's Messiah and the
world's King is to be of his own blood. "Thou hast spoken also of thy
servant's house for a great while to come." Then follows this very
significant sentence: "And this is (or, must be) the law of _the man_
(or, _the_ Adam)." This promise must refer to the plan of God concerning
the woman's seed, _the_ man, _the Adam._
At the close, when the tether of life is slipping its hold, this vision of
the coming greater Heir promised by God evidently fills his eye. He says:
"_There shall lie One_ that ruleth over men;
A righteous One, that ruleth in the fear of God.
And it shall be then as the light of the morning,
When the sun ariseth,
A morning without clouds,
The tender grass springing out of the earth through
clear shining after rain."
"Verily, my own house has not been so with God;
Yet hath He made with me an everlasting covenant,
Ordered in all things and sure.
For this covenant is now all my comfort and all my desire,
Although he has not yet brought it to pass."
This seems to be the setting of those psalms of his referring to the
coming One. It was to be expected that his poetical fire would burn with
such a promise and conception. In the Second Psalm he sees this coming
Heir enthroned as God's own Son, and reigning supremely over the whole
earth despite the united opposition of enemies. In the One Hundred and
Tenth Psalm this Heir is sharing rule at God's right hand while waiting
the subduing of all enemies. He is to be divine, a king, and more, a
_priest_-king. Surrounded by a nation of volunteers full of youthful vigor
He will gain a decisive victory over the head of the allied enemies, and
yet be Himself undisturbed in the continual freshness of His vigor. And
all this rests upon the unchanging oath of Jehovah.
David's immediate heir found his father's pen, and in the Seventy-second
Psalm repeats, with his own variations, his father's vision of the coming
greater Heir. While there is repetition of the kingdom being world-wide
and unending, with all nations in subjection, the chief emphasis is put
upon the blessing to that great majority--the poor. They are to be freed
from all oppression, to have full justice done them, with plenty of food
to eat, and increased length of life.
That David's expectation had thoroughly permeated his circle is shown in
the joyous Forty-fifth Psalm, written by one of the court musicians. It
addresses the coming One as more than human, having great beauty and
graciousness, reigning in righteousness, victoriously, with a queen of
great beauty, and a princely posterity for unending generations.
A Full-length Picture in Colors.
These are but the beginnings. It is in the prophetic books, the third of
the groups, that the full picture with its brightest coloring is found.
The picture is not only winsome beyond all comparison and glorious, but
stupendous in its conception and its sweep. It is most notable that, as
the flood-tide of the nation's prosperity ebbs from its highest mark, the
vision to the prophetic eye of a coming glory grows steadily in
brightness and in distinctness. As the great kings go, the great prophets
come. It is to them we must turn for the full-length picture.
The one _continuous_ subject of the prophets is the coming King and
kingdom and attendant events. Immediate historical events furnish the
setting, but with a continual swinging to the coming future greatness. The
yellow glory light of the coming day is never out of the prophetic sky.
Its reflection is never out of the prophetic eye. Jeremiah is the one most
absorbed in the boiling of the political pot of his own strenuous time,
but even he at times lifts his head and gets such glimpses of the coming
glory as make him mix some rose tincture with the jet black ink he uses.
The common thread running through the fabric of the prophetic books clear
from Isaiah to Malachi is the phrase "in that day." Sometimes it thickens
into "the day of the Lord," "the great day of the Lord," "Jehovah hath a
great day," "at that time." About this thread is woven in turn the whole
series of stirring scenes and events that are to mark the coming time.
Sometimes it is of local application; most times of the future time, and a
few times the meaning slides from one to the other, touching both.
Over all of these pages is the shadow of _Somebody_ coming down the aisle
of the ages, who is to be the world's Master. The figure of a man, large
to gigantic size, majestic, yet kindly as well as kingly, looms out
through these lines before the reader's face. The old idea of God Himself
dwelling in the midst of the people, sharing their life, made familiar by
Eden, by the flame-tipped mount and the glory-filled tent, comes out
again. For this coming One is said to be God Himself. But more than that
He is to be a man, and a _son_ of man; man bred of man. The blending of
the two, God and man, is pointed to in the unprecedented thing of a pure
virgin birth for this one. God and a pure maiden join themselves in His
coming. He is to be of native Hebrew stock, in direct descent from the
great David, and born in David's native village. Of course He is to be a
king as was David, but unlike that ancestor, to be not only a king, but a
priest, and a preacher and teacher.
The _kingdom_ he will set up will be like Himself in its blending of the
human and divine. Its origin is not human, but divine. The _capital_ is to
be Zion or Jerusalem. It will be marked by the glorious presence of God
Himself visibly present to all eyes. The _characteristics_ of the kingdom
are of peculiar attractiveness, at any time, to any people of this poor
old blood-stained, gun-ploughed battle-field of an earth. The stronger
traits that men commonly think of as desirable are combined with traits
that have been reckoned by men of all generations as absurdly,
There will be vengeance upon all enemies, who have been using Israel as a
common football, and great victory. Yet, strangely, these will be gotten
_without the use of violent force_, and will be followed by great peace.
The kingdom is to be established in loving-kindness and marked to an
unparalleled degree by a sense of right and justice to all. This feature
is emphasized over and over again, with refreshing frequency to those so
eager for such a revolutionary change in their affairs. Absolute gentle
fairness and impartiality will decide all difficulties arising. Even the
most friendless and the most obnoxious thing will be fairly judged.
That great universal majority, _the poor_, will be especially guarded and
cared for. There will be no hungry people, nor cold, nor poorly clad; no
unemployed, begging for a chance to earn a dry crust, and no workers
fighting for a fair share of the fruit of their sweat-wet toil. But there
are tenderer touches yet upon this canvas. Broken hearts will be healed
up, prison doors unhung, broken family circles complete again. It is to be
a time of great rejoicing by the common people. Yet all this will be
brought about, not immediately, but gradually, following the natural law
of growth; though the beginning will be marked by a great crisis, coming
The effect upon Israel _nationally_ is to be tremendous, sweepingly
reversing the conditions under which most of these predictions are made.
Israel is to become a Spirit-baptized nation, wholly swayed by the Spirit
of God, and that gracious sway never to be withdrawn. All judgments for
her sins are removed and all impurity thoroughly cleansed away. Possession
of their own land is assured. And the capital city is to become a _holy_
place from which, in common with the whole land, all impurity has been
cleansed away. All weakness and disability are gone, and full freedom from
the exactions of her former enemies to be enjoyed. Not only is Israel to
be at peace with all nations, but, far more, is to have the _leadership_
of the nations of the earth, and leadership of the highest sort--in a
world-wide spiritual movement, in the day when the Spirit of God is to be
poured out upon all flesh.
This leadership is to be a glorious and absolute supremacy among all the
nations of the earth. And yet this is not to be by man's method of
conquest, but of their own earnest accord all nations will come a-running
eagerly, voluntarily, with all their wealth and resources for the
upbuilding and service of Israel. In that time the Hebrew capital
Jerusalem will likewise be the capital of the earth.
No less radical and sweeping will be the changes in Israel _personally_,
individually. The people are to be _made over new within_. The modern word
for this sort of thing is regeneration. The old-fashioned word is a _new
heart--a new spirit_. The change is to be at the _core_; a change of the
sort. With this will come a marked spirit of devotion to God, and a
peculiar open-mindedness to the truth. There will be an absence of all
sickness and a decided increase in length of life and great increase in
numbers. There will be no longer any disappointment in plans, and the
_sense_ of _slavish fear_, which is universal, not only with all the
race, but through all time, will be utterly absent. Israel is to be a
nation of persons with thrilled hearts and radiant faces.
Back to Eden.
The effect upon _all the nations_ of the earth is a large part of the
background of the picture. Through Israel's advancement under the new
order, every other nation is to come back to God. The outpouring of the
Spirit upon Israel is to be followed by an outpouring upon _all_ flesh.
There are the two outpourings of God's Spirit in these old prophetic
pages. This will be followed by a universal, voluntary coming to Israel
for religious instruction. She becomes the teacher of the nations
regarding God, until by and by the whole earth shall be filled with the
knowledge of the only God. Her influence upon them for good will be as the
heavy fertilizing eastern dews and the life-giving showers are to
But further yet, Israel is to be the _only_ medium of God's blessing upon
the nations--the only channel. Those refusing her leadership will, for
lack of vital sap, die of dry rot. The wondrous blessing enjoyed by this
central nation, the unhingeing of dungeon doors, the opening of blind
eyes, the mellowing of all the hard conditions of life, the reign of
simple, full justice to all, is to be shared with all the nations.
Israel's peace with all nations is to become a universal peace between and
among all nations.
But there's still more. There are to follow certain radical changes in
the realm of _nature_. Splendid rivers of water are to flow through
Jerusalem, necessitating changes in the formation of the land there. The
fortress capital of the Jews strongly entrenched among the Judean hills is
to become, as the world's metropolis, a mighty city, with rivers to float
the earth's commerce. The light of the sun and moon will be greatly
increased, and yet this greatly intensified light will become at Jerusalem
a shadow cast by the greater light of the presence of God. A devout Hebrew
would associate this back with the light of the Presence-cloud in the
Arabian barrens. While the devout Christian will likely, quickly think
forward from that to the light that was one time as the sun, and, again,
above the sun's brightness. Naturally, with this comes a renewed fertility
of the earth's soil, and the removal of the curse upon vegetation. Before
the healing light and heat the poisonous growth, the blight of drought and
of untempered heat disappear. There is to be a new earth and above it a
To complete the picture, the _animal_ creation is to undergo changes as
radical as these. Beasts dangerous because of ferocity and because of
treachery and poisonous qualities will be wholly changed. Meat-eating
beasts will change their habit of diet, and eat grain and herbs. There
will be a mutual cessation of cruelty to animals by man and of danger to
man from animals, for all violence will have ceased.
And then the climax is capped by repeated assurances that this marvellous
kingdom will be as extensive as the earth and absolutely unending.
The whole thing, be it keenly noticed, is simply a return to the original
condition. In the Eden garden was the presence of God, a masterful man in
the likeness of God, with full dominion over all creation. There was full
accord in all nature, and perfect fellowship between man and nature.
All this is to come to pass through the coming One. He is the key that
unlocks this wondrous future. Through all, above all, growing ever bigger,
is the shadowy majestic figure of _a Man coming._ His personal
characteristics make Him very attractive and winsome. He will be of
unusual mental keenness both in understanding and in wisdom, combined with
courage of a high order, and, above all, dominated by a deep reverential,
a keenly alert, love for God. He will be beautiful in person and, in sharp
contrast with earth's kings, while marked personally with that fine
dignity and majesty unconscious of itself, will be gentle and
unpretentious in His bearing. His relations with God are direct and very
intimate, being personally trained and taught by Him. Backed by all of His
omnipotence, He will be charged with the carrying out of His great plans
for the chosen people and through them for the world.
In a fine touch it is specially said that "He will judge the _poor_." Poor
folk, who haven't money to employ lawyers to guard their interests, and
haven't time for much education to know better how to protect themselves
against those who would take advantage of them--the _poor_, that's the
overwhelming majority of the whole world--He will be _their_ judge. They
will have a friend on the bench. But He will have this enormous advantage
in judging all men, poor and otherwise, that He will not need to decide by
what folk tell Him, nor by outside things. He will be able to read down
into the motives and back into the life.
Such is the plan for the coming One outlined in these old pages. To many a
modern all this must seem like the wildest dream of an utterly unpractical
enthusiast. Yet, mark it keenly, this is the conception of this old Hebrew
book that has been, and is, the world's standard of morals and of wisdom.
The book revered above all others by the most thoughtful men, of all
shades of belief. It is striking how the parts of this stupendous
conception fit and hold together. There is a mature symmetry about the
whole scheme. For instance, the changes in the light of sun and moon run
parallel with the changes in growth and in the healthfulness and longer
lives of man. Increased light removes both disease and its cause, and
gives new life and lengthened life.
Surely these Hebrews are a great people _in their visions_. And a vision
is an essential of greatness. Yet this sublime conception of their future
is not regarded as a visionary dream, but calmly declared to be the
revealed plan of God for them, and through them for the earth. And that,
too, not by any one man, but successively through many generations of
men. The prophetic spirit of the nation in the midst of terrible disaster
and of moral degradation never loses faith in its ultimate greatness,
through the fulfilling of its mission to the nations of the earth.
Is it to be wondered at that the devout Israelite, who believed in his
book and its vision, pitched his tent on the hilltop, with his eye ever
scanning the eastern horizon, for the figure of the coming One? And when
eyes grown dim for the long looking believed that at last that figure was
seen, the heart breathed out its grateful relief in "Now lettest thou thy
servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen."
Strange Dark Shadowings.
But, too, there is in this vision of glory something very different, so
mixed in that it won't come out. There are dark shadows from the first
touch upon the canvas. Always there is a bitter, malignant enemy. There is
decisive victory, but it comes only after sharp, hard, long-continued
fighting. But in the latter parts, that is, in David's time, and
intensifying in the later pages, there is something darker yet. Through
these lines run forebodings, strange, weird, sad forebodings of evil.
There are dark gray threads, inky black threads, that do not harmonize
with the pattern being woven. And the weavers notice it, and wonder, and
yet are under a strange impulse to weave on without understanding.
Their coming One is to be a king, but there is the distinct consciousness
that there would be for Him terrible experiences through which He must
pass, and to which He would yield on His way to the throne. The very
conception seems to involve a contradiction which puzzles these men who
write them down. Like a lower minor strain running through some great
piece of music are the few indications of what God fore_knew_, though He
did not foreplan, would happen to Jesus. A sharp line must always be drawn
between what God plans and what He knows will happen. The soft sobbing of
what God could see ahead runs as a minor sad cadence through the story of
Sometimes these forebodings are _acted out_. In the light of the Gospels
we can easily see very striking likenesses between the experiences in
which keen suffering precedes great victory, of such _national leaders_ as
Joseph and David, and the experiences of Jesus. Here is _God's_ plan of
atonement by blood, involving suffering, but with no such accompaniments
of hatred and cruelty as Jesus went through. Read backward, Jesus'
experience on the cross is seen to bear striking resemblances, in part, to
this old scheme of atonement; yet only in part: the parts concerning His
character and the results; but not the _manner_ of his death, nor the
_spirit_ of the actors.
Then there are the few direct specific passages predicting a stormy trip
for the king before the haven is reached. There is a vividness of detail
in the very language here, that catches us, familiar with after events,
as it could not those who first heard. There is the Twenty-second Psalm,
with its broken sentences, as though blurted out between heart-breaking
sobs; and then the wondrous change, in the latter part, to victory
_through_ this terrible experience. And the scanty but vivid lines in the
Sixty-ninth Psalm. There is that great throbbing fifty-third of Isaiah,
with its beginning back in the close of the fifty-second, and the striking
ahead of its key-note in the fiftieth chapter.
Daniel listens with awe deepening ever more as Gabriel tells him that the
coming Prince is to be "_cut off_." To the returned exiles rebuilding the
temple Zechariah acts out a parable in which Jehovah is priced at thirty
pieces of silver, the cost of a common slave. And a bit later God speaks
of a time when "they shall look upon Me (or Him) whom they _have
pierced_." And later yet, a still more significant phrase is used, as
identifying the divine character of the sufferer, where God speaks of a
sword being used "against the man that is _My Fellow_," adding, "Strike
the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." It is God's Fellow--one
on a par with Himself--against whom the opposition is directed.
Such is the great vision in these Hebrew pages of the plan for the coming
One. There is a throne on a high mountain peak bathed in wondrous sublime
glory, but the writers are puzzled at a dark valley of the shadow of
death through which the king seems to be obliged to pick His way up to the
Jesus is to be God's new Man leading man back on the road into the divine
image again, with full mastery of his masterly powers, and through mastery
into full dominion again; but the road back seems to be _contested_, and
the new Man gets badly scarred as He fights through and up to victory.
The Tragic Break in the Plan
The Jerusalem Climate.
Then _Jesus_ came. His coming was greeted with great gladness above, and
great silence below. Above, the stars sent a special messenger to bid Him
welcome to the earth they lightened and brightened. Below, the rusty
hinges of earth's inn refused to swing for Him. So man failing, the lower
creation shared room with Him.
Above, was the sweetest music, the music of heaven. Three times the music
of heaven is mentioned: at the creation, at this coming of Jesus, at the
coming crowning of Jesus in John's Revelation. Below, the only music was
that of the babe's holy young mother, God's chosen one to mother His Son,
crooning to her babe; and the gentle lowing in minor key of the oxen whose
stall He shared. Above, the great glory shining, the messenger of God
speaking a message of peace and love. Below, only darkness and silence.
Among the cultured leaders of the city of David, and of Solomon, and of
God's once glorified temple, there were no ears for the message, nor eyes
for the glory. They had gone deaf and blind Godward long before. To them
came no message, for no door was open. To simple men of nature who lived
with the stars and the hills and the sheep, came the new shining of the
glory, and the wondrous messenger and message. Their doors were open. They
practised looking up. Of course neither city nor country mattered, nor
matters. God always speaks into the upturned ear and looks into the
And so Jesus came. With all of its contrasts it was a winsome coming. A
pure young mother nursing her babe; the babe with its sweet wondrous face,
a fresh act of God indeed; the simple unselfish cattle; the bright stars;
the Glory shining; the sudden flood of music; the Lord's messenger; the
message--a very winsome coming.
He came into the peculiar climate of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is Judea. Out of
the Babylonian remnant of Israel had come great men, true leaders, with
great zeal for the city, and the temple, and the temple service, and for
the law. They made the mould in which this later Jerusalem was cast. But
that mould retaining its old form, had now become filled with the baser
metals. The high ideals of the new makers of the city had shrunk into mere
ideas. The small, strongly entrenched ruling circle were tenacious
sticklers for traditions as interpreted by themselves. That fine old word
conservative (with an underneath meaning of "what we prefer") was one of
their sweetest morsels. Underneath their great pride as Moses' successors,
the favored custodians of the nation's most sacred treasures, was a
passionate love for gold. The temple service was secretly organized on
the profit-sharing plan, with the larger share, as usual, for the
That hardest thing in the whole range of human action to overcome, either
by God or man or the devil--prejudice--they had, in the Simon-pure form,
superlatively refined. The original treasure of God's Word was about as
much overlaid and hidden away by writings about it as--it has been in some
other times. Of course they were looking for a Messiah, the one hope of
their sacredly guarded literature. But He must be the sort that they
wanted, and--could use.
Herod the King was a man of great ability, great ambition, great passion,
and great absence of anything akin to conscience. But the virtual ruler
was the high priest. His office was bargained for, bought and sold for the
money and power it controlled in the way all too familiar to corrupt
political life in all times, and not wholly unknown in our own. The old
spiritual ideals of Moses, and Samuel, preached amid degeneracy by Elijah
and Isaiah, were buried away clear out of sight by mere formalism, though
still burning warm and tender in the hearts of a few. This was the
atmosphere of the old national capital into which Jesus came.
The Bethlehem Fog.
Then it was that Jesus came. Strange to say, there is a shadow over His
coming from the beginning. A gray chilling shadow of the sort of gray that
a stormy sky sometimes shows, gray tingeing into slaty black. Yet it was
the coming that made the shadow. It takes light, and some thick thing like
a block, and some distance for perspective, to make a shadow. The nearer
the light to the block thing the blacker the shadow. Here the light came
close to some thick blocks; of stupid thickness; human blocks grown more
toughly thick by the persistent resisting of any such transparent thing as
This was a foggy shadow. A fog is always made by influences from below. A
lowering temperature chills the air, and brings down its moisture in the
shape of a gray subtle pervasive mist, that blurs the outlook, and often
gathers and holds black smoke, and mean poisonous odors and gases from bog
and swamp. Such a fog endangers both health and life. This was just such a
shadowing fog. There was a decided drop in the temperature, a sudden
chill, a fog formed that sucked up the poison of the marshes, and
threatened to stifle the baby breath of the new-born King.
A subtle, intangible, but terribly sure something haunts and hunts the
King from the first. His virgin mother is suspected by the one nearest her
of the most serious offense that can be charged against a woman. The
shadow that later grew to inky blackness came ahead of the man, and, under
the stable eaves, waited grimly His arrival. The feverish green of Herod's
eyes will be content with nothing but a new, bright, running red, and
plenty of it. Satan's plan of killing was started early. He was not
particular about the way it was done. The first attempt was at Bethlehem.
The venomous spittle oozed out there first. But he must move along natural
channels: just now, a murderous king's jealous dread of a possible rival.
The first hint of the actual coming of the long expected One is from the
star-students of the east. Their long journey and eager questioning bring
the birth of Jesus before the official circle of the nation. It is most
significant that His birth causes at once a special meeting of the
nation's ruling body. Herod was troubled, of course. But--all Jerusalem
was troubled _with_ him. Here is a surprising sympathy. It reflects at
once vividly the situation. It was strangely suggestive that news of their
King coning should trouble these national leaders. These devout
star-watchers are wise in the source of information they came to. These
leaders knew. They quickly pointed out the spot where the coming One
_should_ be born.
A pure virgin under cruel suspicion, a roomless inn, a village filled with
heart-broken mothers, a quick flight on a dark night to a foreign land by
a young mother and her babe, the stealthy retirement into a secluded spot
away from his native province, a fellow feeling between a red-handed king
and the nation's leaders--ugh! an ugly, deadly fog.
The Man Sent Ahead.
A high fence of silence shuts out from view the after years. Just one
chink of a crack appears in the fence, peering through which, one gets a
suggestion of beautiful simplicity, of the true, natural human growing
going on beyond the fence.
When mature years are reached, the royal procession is formed. A man is
sent ahead to tell of the King's coming. John was Jesus' diplomatic
representative, His plenipotentiary extraordinary; that is, the one man
specifically sent to represent Him to the nation whose King He was.
Treatment of John was treatment of Jesus. A slight done him was slighting
his sovereign Master. If Sir Henry Mortimer Durand were to be slighted or
treated discourteously by the American authorities, it would be felt at
London as a slight upon the King, the government, and the nation they
represent. Any indignity permitted to be done on American soil to von
Stuckenburg would be instantly resented by Kaiser William as personal to
himself. John was Jesus' Durand, His von Stuckenburg, His Whitelaw Reid.
And no diplomat ever used more tactful language than this John when
questioned about his Master. In Jesus' own simile, John was His _best
man_. Jesus was a bridegroom. John stood by His side as His most intimate
Jesus and John are constantly interwoven in the events of Jesus' career.
We moderns, who do everything by the calendar, have been puzzled in the
attempt to piece together these events into an exact calendar arrangement.
And the beautiful mosaic of the Gospels has been cut up to make a new,
modern, calendar mosaic. But these writers see things by _events_, not by
_dates_. They have in mind four great events, and about these their story
clusters. And in these Jesus and John are inextricably interwoven. First
is John's wilderness ministry, heading up in his presenting Jesus to the
nation. Then John's violent seizure, and Jesus' withdrawal from the danger
zone. Then John's death, and Jesus' increased caution in His movements.
Then Jesus' death. John comes, points to Jesus, and goes. Jesus comes,
walks a bit with John, reaches beyond him and then goes, too.
John baptized. That is, he used a purifying rite in connection with his
preaching. It helps to remember the distinction between baptism as
practised in the Christian Church, and as practised by John, and by Jesus
in His early ministry. In the church, baptism has come to be regarded as a
dedicatory rite by some, and by others an initial and confessional rite.
But in the first use of it, by John and Jesus, it was a purifying rite. It
was a confession too, but of sin, and the need of cleansing, not, as
later, of faith in a person, or a creed, although it did imply acceptance
of a man's leadership. To a Hebrew mind it was preaching by symbol as well
as by word. The official deputation sent from Jerusalem to look John up
asked why he should be using a purifying rite if he were neither the
Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet. They could understand the
appropriateness of either of these three persons using such a rite in
connection with his preaching as indicating the national need of
cleansing. And in the beginning Jesus for a time, through His disciples,
joined in John's plan of baptizing those who confessed sorrow for sin.
Jesus acknowledged John as His own representative, and honored him as
such, from first to last. He gives him the strongest approval and backing.
The national treatment of John always affects Jesus' movements. When,
toward the close, His authority is challenged, He at once calls attention
to the evident authority of His forerunner and refuses to go farther.
A trace of that ominous, puzzling foreboding noticed in the Old Testament
vision of the coming One creeps in here. Pointing to Jesus, John says,
"Behold the lamb of God, who beareth (away) the sin of the world." Why did
John say that? _We_ read his words backward in the light of Calvary. But
_he_ could not do that, and did not. He knew only a _King_ coming. Why?
Even as Isaiah fifty-third, and Psalm twenty-second were written, the
writers there, the speaker here, impelled to an utterance, the meaning of
which, was not clear to themselves.
This relation and intimacy between these two, John and Jesus, must be
steadily kept in mind.
The Contemptuous Rejection.
From the very first, though Jesus was _accepted by individuals_ of every
class, _He was rejected by the nation_. This is the twin-fact standing out
in boldest outline through the Gospel stories. The nation's rejection
began with the formal presentation of Him to it by John. First was the
simple refusal to accept, then the decision to reject, then the
determination that everybody else should reject too. First, that He should
not be admitted to their circle, then that He should be kept out of their
circle, and then that He should be kept out of every circle. There are
these three distinct stages in the rejection from the Jordan waters to the
First came _the contemptuous rejection_. John was a great man. Made of the
same rugged stuff as the old prophets, he was more than they in being the
King's own messenger and herald. In his character he was great as the
greatest, though not as great in privilege as those living in the kingdom.
He preached and baptized. With glowing eyes of fire, deep-set under shaggy
brows, and plain vigorous speech which, if pricked, would ooze out red
life, he told of the sin that must be cleaned out as a preparation for the