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Discussion Forum : Scriptures and Doctrine : The Crowning Vision

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 The Crowning Vision

[b]The Crowning Vision[/b]
by George H. Morrison

[b]We shall see him as he is — 1John 3:2[/b]

Whether we shall see God as He is, is a question that has been often agitated in the schools. No man hath seen God at any time. That we shall know Him with a knowledge intimate and satisfying is the Scriptural hope which we all cherish. God doth so interpenetrate all heaven that to be in heaven is to be in God. But whether we shall see Him face to face, and have an immediate vision of His being, is a question on which men have reverently differed. Even the seraphim around the throne veil their faces with their wings before Him. These mighty creatures, the bodyguard of heaven, cannot brook the glory of Jehovah. And so it has been reverently questioned whether it will ever be possible for man to see a glory which they cannot bear.

But if God, in His essential being, may be forever shrouded from our human gaze, it is not so with the Lord Jesus Christ. If there is one thing clear upon the page of Scripture, it is that when the believer wakes in glory he shall behold his Savior face to face. Now we see through a glass darkly; we are like men beholding in a mirror. We walk by faith, or we strive to walk by faith, and faith is the evidence of things not seen. But when earth retires and we awake in heaven, faith shall be perfected in sight: and then we shall see Him as He is. Eye hath not seen and ear hath never heard the things that God hath prepared for them that love Him. That is the faith in which the saints have lived, and it is in such a faith that they have died. And of all the things that God hath so prepared there shall be nothing half so wonderful or satisfying as the immediate vision of our Savior.

I should like to note that these words of John are to be taken in their deepest sense. We shall see Him as He is. Our first thought would be to take these words as a vivid contrast to what our Savior was. Now we see Him as He was; then we shall see Him as He is. But the thought of the apostle goes far deeper than any difference between past and present: we are to see Him as He really is. John knew, as all the apostles knew, that his exalted Lord was always one. That He is the same yesterday and forever is the consistent testimony of the apostles. And what John means is that now we see Him dimly, whether in Galilee or on the throne, but then we shall see Him as He is. In our very clearest moments here we see Christ but dimly and imperfectly. All we have ever seen and known of Him is, as it were, "the outskirts of His ways." And the wonder of the sight of heaven is this, that with eyes made perfect by the love of God, for the first time we shall see Him as he is. It is often a very thrilling moment when we first see people as they really are. We thought we knew them, and then some hour arrives when heights and depths in them flash out upon us. And then we feel that we have never known them, never understood their real character, never fathomed their depths of personality. In some such way, when we awake in heaven, we shall feel that we have never known the Savior. Now we know in part and see in part; then shall we know even as we are known. At last, when we are purged and purified, and when the love of God has given us eyes to see, we shall see Him as He is.

[b]We Long for the Person, Not the Place[/b]

It is this immediate vision of the Lord which will crown the blessedness of heaven. The joy of heaven is the beatific vision. That heaven is a very real place is the unvarying teaching of the Bible. "I go to prepare a place for you," says Christ; and "in my Father's house are many mansions." But a mansion may be very beautiful and adorned with every treasure wealth can purchase, and yet the heart may be very lonely there. There is nothing more desolate than a beautiful home when somebody who was its light is gone. All that art can minister and wealth supply seems but a mockery in such an hour. And so the very magnificence of heaven would only make it a more lonely place if the presence of our Savior were not there. As with homes, so is it too with countries, and heaven is often spoken of as a country. The most beautiful scenery God ever made can never satisfy the human heart. And heaven shall be far more beautiful than earth, for it is reality and earth the shadow, and yet a man might be unhappy in it. That is why Paul, whenever he thinks of heaven, immediately passes to the thought of Christ. He knew all about the sea of glass, but he never dwells on that. He never says, when life is hard and difficult, "I have a desire to depart and go to heaven"; he says, "I have a desire to depart, and be with Christ."


That we shall see Him there as He is we may regard as certain, when we remember that there we shall see Him at home. I think you must always see a man at home if you want to see him as he really is. Of course, there are some homes of which that is not true. There are homes where a person is not his real self. That is especially true of sensitive children in homes Where there is more ridicule than sympathy. And the untold evil of such homes is this, that they make the child shrink into himself, which is the very thing God meant no child to do. It has not been my lot to meet with many hypocrites, but I have watched them closely whenever I have met them; and my experience is that very often hypocrisy can be traced back to the home. When a child is repressed instead of being encouraged, when it is afraid to open its lips lest it be jeered at, then it grows reticent and loses all self-confidence, and hypocrisy becomes perilously easy.

But while that is true and very sadly true, it only emphasises what I have been saying, that where there is love and sympathy at home, it is there that a man is seen just as he is. He may be a better man, or he may be a worse man, than he is in the judgment of the world. He may be far more generous, amiable, patient; or, on the other hand, he may be less so. But the point is that in the freedom of the home, where there is love and fellowship and sympathy, a man is recognized in his true nature. I have been honored by the friendship of good men whose name is fragrant in city and in market, men whom the bitterest rival never dared to associate with a dishonorable thing, and yet there were depths in them of patient love and heights of idealism quietly realized that could never be known to anyone on earth save to those who had the friendship of their home.

And there "we shall see him as he is"; in heaven we shall see Him in His home. We shall no longer see Him among those who scorn Him; we shall see Him among the multitudes who love Him. Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head. He had only one place here to lay His head, and that was on the cross. And if here, despised and rejected, He was so wonderful and full of grace—what will He be at home! Here He could not turn without men judging Him. Here He was always being misinterpreted. Here, when He wanted to do a deed of love, they laughed Him to scorn. And if in spite of all that human treatment, He was so gloriously and infinitely gracious here, what will He be in the liberty of home? There will be nobody to insult him there. There will be none to hinder Him, because of unbelief. Love will surround Him, and nothing else than love, in the multitude whom He has ransomed. And who can tell what depths will be disclosed then in Him who was so exquisitely gracious when He could not move a finger without cavil.

[b]No Longer Children[/b]

Then, once again, we shall see Him as He is because we shall be no longer children. "Beloved, now are we the children of God; but it doth not yet appear what we shall be." In our version it is translated sons of God, but in the revised version you will find it children. That is a small change, but a very important one, and what it means is this. It means that the word for sons (which Paul was so fond of) is a different word from the one which John here uses, and it is different because the thought is different. When Paul speaks of the sons of God, he thinks of the liberties of sonship. But when John speaks of the children of God, he thinks of the weakness and ignorance of childhood. And so John says, "Beloved, we are children now—ignorant and inexperienced children—but the day is coming when we shall not be children, and then we shall see Him as He is." Many of you can appreciate that out of your own experience. When you were a child, you had a loving father, and even as a child you knew he loved you. But it was not till you grew to manhood or womanhood, perhaps when your father was sleeping in his grave, that you ever really understood his character. As a child you used to see him writing, or going out on visitation. Or perhaps some evenings he would be very quiet, and your mother would watch him with an anxious face. But what it all might mean you did not know then, because you were children at the time. My friend, you know it all today. You know how honored and loved your father was. You are no longer children, and so now you see what as a child you had no eyes to see. And beloved, now are we God's children, and it hath not yet been manifested what we shall be, but we know that when it shall be manifested, we shall see Him as He is. Every believer shall be a son in heaven, but no believer will be a child in heaven. The love of God will draw us into manhood, fresh from the releasing of the grave; and in that manhood we shall begin to see what here as children we have no eyes to see, the wonder of the love of Jesus Christ. Words will come back to us we heard in childhood and which we never understood in childhood. Things that seemed cruel and hard to us in childhood will dawn upon our memories again. And being no longer children but grown men, under the quickening of the love of God, we shall understand at last what it all meant. "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things." And so in heaven, being no longer children, we shall put away our childish ignorance, and at last shall see Him as He is.

[b]We Shall Be Like Him[/b]

The third ground of our assurance that we shall see Him so, lies in the fact that then we shall be like Him. "We know that when he shall appear we shall be like him," and being like Him, "shall see him as he is." Unless you have some affinity with people, you never see them as they really are. You must have the music of poetry within you if you are really to understand a poet. Personality is wonderfully sensitive—not consciously but by its very nature—and never reveals itself in any fullness save under the sunshine of affinity.

You may have known a man for years, yet never known him, just because you are radically different from him. And then some one comes along who understands him by some divine affinity of nature. And in a week or two that kindred soul begins to see what you have never seen; he is like him and sees him as he is. That is especially the case with children. They have an unerring instinct for those who understand them. You must have the childlike heart to see the child. You must have the Christlike heart to see the Savior. And it is just because at last we shall be like Him, in the fullness of our glorified humanity, that in heaven we shall see Him as He is.

 2007/12/13 0:06

 Re: Amen ~

[b]Contrasted Environments

I was in the isle that is called Patmos I was in the Spirit- Rev_1:9-10[/b]

The two brief texts which I have chosen suggest the two environments of life, and do so in a very vivid way. For John, the one environment was Patmos, a rugged and inhospitable island where the sound of the breakers was never far away and everything was desolate and dreary. But along with that there was another, unseen and yet intensely vivid, for John says, I was in the Spirit. He was moving in a spiritual world, living in heavenly places with Christ Jesus. He was engirdled by the love of heaven and by all the promises of God. And there is one very delightful little touch that reveals to the discerning heart which was the real environment for John. He does not tell us that he was in Patmos. He says he was in the isle that is called Patmos. He had heard that name upon the lips of others, and he took it upon their authority. But, he adds, I was in the Spirit. He needed no one's authority for that. In this environment he was at home.

It is instructive to contrast these two environments which have their parallels in every life. We note, for instance, that one of them was visible and the other unseen by any human eye. When John awakened in the morning, we can picture the scene that broke upon his vision—the stem hills, the debris of the mines, the waves washing on the barren shore. It was a desolate and dreary prospect, made more so by the sea, for no Jew ever loved the sea. Had that been all, what a profound depression would have settled down on the apostle's heart! But the beautiful thing is that the moment he awoke he was conscious of another environment than that. And the question for all of us is this, are we alive to that unseen engirdling when we waken to the duties of the day? There are many people who feel a deep depression when the routine morning breaks on them again. They have to drag themselves out: they see nothing before them but drudgery. But what a profound difference it makes when, with the returning of the daylight, we waken to the spiritual environment! Still we are in Patmos. It is by the will of heaven that we are there. I pray not, says the Lord, that Thou wouldst take them out of the world. But the dreariest Patmos becomes bearable when the life is hid with Christ in God. I was in Patmos ... I was in the Spirit.

[b]Imprisoned and Yet at Liberty[/b]

Again, I note that the one environment was not of the apostle's choosing; the other depended on himself. If John had had the ordering of his ways, he certainly never would have chosen Patmos. He was an old man now—his years were ebbing out—he had reached the period when rest is sweet. He was quietly happy in his home at Ephesus, and there he had the society of Christians. Then suddenly the mighty arm of Rome had gripped him and carried him to exile—and he was in the isle that is called Patmos. A greater power than he had sent him there; it was not the place of his desire. There was no resisting that iron arm of Rome—to it the individual was as nothing. And then in Patmos, his forced dwelling place, John moved freely into another world, for he kept himself within the love of God. He was imprisoned and yet he was at liberty, for where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. In the bitter bondage of his exile, the Son had made him free. The sharp contrast between life's compulsion and the heart that triumphs in the midst of it, is all in these two little sentences, "I was in Patmos…I was in the Spirit."

For as it was with John, so is it with every one of us: there is an element of necessity in life. We do not choose the country of our birth, nor our parents, nor the homes where we are cradled. We do not choose the schools where we are educated, nor perhaps the particular places where we dwell. But how we live there, in what atmosphere, environed by what unseen presences, all that is within the compass of our will. In Patmos we may be in the Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit is love and joy and peace. We can have liberty and rest in Patmos, though we be set there by grim necessity. How many dream that life would be far richer if they only had the wings of a dove to flee away! But—"I was in Patmos ... I was in the Spirit."

[b]Amid Criminals and Yet "In the Spirit"[/b]

I note in closing that in these two environments there was the contrast of loneliness and company. Amid the desperate and hardened criminals incarcerated on this island, John was more lonely than had he been alone. In the one environment he was a solitary: in the other he had a vision of the Lord. He was in living touch with an ascended Savior. He had a Friend who understood. And that made all the difference to him as it makes all the difference to us amid the enforced loneliness of life. Even Patmos became bearable for John when he realized that Christ was there. He would move among these desperadoes as a man who has a satisfying secret. They were in Patmos, and they hated it. There was no other environment for them. Is there another environment for you ?

George H. Morrison

 2007/12/14 23:44

 Reverence ~


And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead — Rev_1:17[/b]

John was a prisoner in the isle of Patmos when he had this revelation of Jesus Christ. He had been banished thither because he was a Christian; and if the early legends can be trusted, he was condemned to the hard slavery of the Patmos mines. But sweet are the uses of adversity. There are some things we cannot learn in Babylon that become plain to us in sea-girt Patmos. There are some sights we are blind to in the markets: our eyes are only opened in the mines. It was not at home that Jacob had his Bethel: it was in the hills, a wanderer and alone. It was not at Pharaoh's court that Moses saw Jehovah in the burning bush: it was when flying from Pharaoh in the desert. It was not in peaceful days that Stephen saw heaven opened and Jesus standing at the right hand of God: it was in the hour of martyrdom. And this vision of Jesus, the alpha and omega, the first and last, whose head and hairs were white as snow and whose eyes were as a flame of fire,—this vision came to John, an exile in the mines. "It is adversity," says Bacon in his priceless essays, "which carrieth the greater benediction, and the clearer revelation of God's favour."


Now there are many lessons in this story. An old and fragrant commentary that I opened on the chapter rises into a height of eloquence, lost in this day and age, over these eyes that were like a flame of fire. But I want to center on one point only. I want to take this falling-down of John as a true instance of a truly reverent spirit. John saw, John worshipped, John adored. And we are living in a world that's full of God, and we have something better than a vision; we have the word of prophecy. And do we stand or fall upon our faces, and are we reverent or are we not? that is the question.

I do not think that the most cheerful optimist would dare to assert this was a reverent age. Of course we shall always have some reverent souls in every congregation, but reverence is not a note of modern life: still worse, it is not a desire. There was a time when to be thought reverent was an honorable thing. Now, to be thought reverent is to be old-fashioned. Men want to be smart and clever and successful, and somehow reverence does not agree well with these. We are all busy: few of us are reverent. Yet without reverence life is a shallow thing, and true nobility of character is impossible; and without reverence we shall be strangers to the end to all that is best and worthiest in our faith.

[b]The Lack of Reverence[/b]

Can we explain the comparative absence of this grace? I think we can. It springs from certain features of our modern life, and the first of these is the wear and hurry of it. It is no chance that the most reverent hour in Moses' life was in the desert. It is no accident that John fell down as dead, not in the streets of Babylon, but in the isle of Patmos. It was no whim, though it seems whimsical to us, that a prophet of reverence whom we lost a week ago should have denounced our crowded city life. It is not easy for an overdriven man to keep a reverent heart. It is very hard to feel perpetual reverence when life for thousands is a perpetual rush. When I travel fast enough by train, castles and towns and woods and battlefields flash for an instant and are gone, and the great things are but little for the speed. So in the rush of life, worrying, leisureless, the great things of the soul and of the universe are dwarfed, and it is hard to be a reverent man. There is a certain leisure needed for the cultivation of a truly reverent spirit, a certain inward quietness, a certain detachment from the present day. But do note that leisure is a thing of heart and not of hours. Some of our hardest workers, who never enter a church door, it may be, are far more reverent, and being more reverent are better men, than many a church-goer who never felt the awe of things and never fell down at His feet as dead.

The lack of reverence too, I cannot doubt, is partly due to the spirit of inquiry of today. God knows that if to be reverent meant to be ignorant, some of us, in the eagerness to know, would say farewell to reverence forever. But is not the keenest teacher sometimes as reverent and humble as a little child? We had three great professors in my day at Glasgow, men known in every academy in Europe—the one for Greek, the other for medicine, the third for natural philosophy —and only to hear them was to be reminded of Sir Isaac Newton who felt like a little child picking some pebbles from the shore and casting them into the infinite ocean of the truth. Still, for all that, it is the truth that an inquisitive age is rarely reverent. And of all inquisitive and critical times, I fancy we have fallen on the worst. We are all eager: few of us are reverent. We are never afraid to criticize, but we have almost forgotten to adore. We can discuss these seven golden candlesticks, and trace the sources of the vision in Daniel, and smile at the strange mixing of the metaphors; but "when I saw Him," says John, "I fell at His feet as dead."

But this present lack of reverence has another source: it is the dying-out from heart and conscience of the fear of God. "Ah, Rogers," said Dr. Dale of Birmingham to his old friend,—"ah, Rogers, no one fears God now." And there can be little question that in the largest sense Dale was right. Man's views of God have changed in the past century. It was the Sovereignty of God that was the watchword once. It is the Fatherhood of God that is the watchword now. And no man can quarrel with that change of emphasis, when we remember how it has flashed new light upon the love of God and kindled into meaning many a page and parable. But things are not right if we can only love God more by reverencing Him less. And who can doubt that something of the majesty, and something of the grandeur, and something of the awesome fear of God is gone in this reiterated insistence on His Fatherhood? I sometimes think God had a special purpose in giving us the Old Testament in our Bible. With all its difficulties, I feel it was preserved to counteract a natural tendency of man. For God in the Gospel comes so very near us, and the love of God shown in the love of Jesus is so brother like, that only to realize it is to run the danger of forgetting reverence and growing very familiar with God. And it takes all the Psalms and all the prophets, with their magnificent Gospel of a Sovereign God, to make us fall down at His feet as dead. O living Spirit, open our eyes and give us back again something of the fear of God! For we shall never love or serve Thee well till we have learned to reverence Thee more!

[b]What Is Reverence?[/b]

Now what is reverence ? It has been variously defined, but perhaps the old definition is the best. It is the practical recognition of true greatness. It is my attitude of heart and mind when I am confronted by the truly worthy and the truly great. It does not matter of what kind the greatness is: it may be the greatness of my brother's character, it may be the greatness of this mysterious world, or it may be the greatness of Almighty God; but the moment I see it, feel it, and recognize my place, I am a reverent man.

And that is the condemnation of the irreverent man. He may be clever, but he is always shallow. He may be smart, but he is blind. To live in a universe like this and to find nothing to reverence is to condemn, not the world, but myself. Irreverent men are often amusing, and are always selfish. For not to see and feel what is sublime, and not to be touched by what is truly great, is a true token of a selfish heart. The other side of reverence is humility. The other side of irreverence is pride. It is the curse of the irreverent heart that underneath all lightness and all jest it is a stranger to the humility of Jesus.

Now where does individual irreverence begin? I think that generally it begins at home. When I have ceased to reverence myself, it is the hardest thing in the whole world to reverence my brother and to reverence God. If I am mean, I shall read meanness in my neighbor's heart. If I am selfish, I shall find selfishness in the most Christlike thing my neighbor ever did. We all get as we give. If there is nothing great in you, no hope, no ideal, you pay the penalty by finding the world mean. If there is any glimmering of greatness in you and any passion for righteousness and God, it is wonderful what a grand world this becomes, and what new worth we find in other men, and what a majesty we see in God.

[b]The Reverence of Jesus[/b]

Now there are two things in the life of Jesus that arrest me. And the first of these is His reverence for God. Jesus knew God as God was never known on earth before. God was His Father in far deeper senses than He is yours or mine. His intimacy with His Father was complete. He was at home with God. Yet nothing can match the perfect reverence of Christ towards this Father He knew and loved so well. I can always speak of Jesus' fellowship with God. It is a misuse of language to speak of Jesus' familiarity with God. There is an awe and reverence in all the recorded communication of Jesus with His Father that is as wonderful as His perfect trust.

But still more arresting than the reverence of Jesus for His God is the reverence that Jesus had for man. Sometimes you reverence a man because you do not know him well; you get to know him better, and your reverence dies. Christ knew men thoroughly. Christ knew men through and through,—their thoughts, their hopes, their fears, their weaknesses, their struggles, and their passions. Christ saw each sin more deadly and each vice more horrible than the most tender conscience in its most tender hour had ever dreamed of. If you had seen what Christ had seen, you would have spumed your brother. If you had known what Jesus knew, you would have spat on him. The wonder is Christ reverenced him still, still thought it worth His while to teach him, still thought man great enough to live for, still thought man great enough to die for. There never was a reverence so loving, there never was a love so sweetly reverent, as the love of Jesus Christ for you and me, fallen men, yet still in our ruin not without tokens of a heavenly greatness and of the God who made us in His image!

[b]Lessons to a More Reverent Life[/b]

So as I think on reverence, and link it with the supreme reverence of Jesus, I learn three lessons that may guide us to a more reverent life.

And first, if we are ever to grow reverent again, we must know more. The reverence of ignorance is gone. Half-knowledge is irreverent: a fuller knowledge will make us reverent again. Jesus was reverent because His knowledge was perfect: we are irreverent because our knowledge is shallow. When we know man, far off, as Jesus knew him, we shall find something to reverence in our most ordinary brother. When we know God as Jesus knew Him, we shall adore. And is that knowledge possible to me? Thank God, through daily fellowship with Christ, I may follow on to know the Lord.

And then, if we are ever to grow reverent again, we must trust more. If John had never trusted Christ, he never would have seen the vision and never would have fallen at Jesus' feet as dead. I cannot reverence a man whom I distrust, I cannot reverence a God. It wants deep faith to make me reverent. It wants a perfect faith like Jesus had to make me perfectly reverent like Him. I never can be noble without reverence. I never can be reverent without faith.

And if we are ever to grow reverent again, we must love more. There never was a time when so much was spoken and written about Christian love. If we loved more and said less about it, we might revive our dying reverence. Oh, how much of our so-called love to Jesus is spurned by an infinite God because the feeling of reverence is not in it. It is so easy to talk of leaning on Jesus' bosom. It is so easy to forget that he who leaned on Jesus' bosom fell down at Jesus' feet as dead. I plead for more love, not to increase, but to remove that light familiarity that blots our Christian service. For love reveals, love sees, love breaks the bars, love reads the secrets both of man and God. And when I have seen my brother's secret story, and when I have seen into the deep things of God, I never can be irreverent again.

George H. Morrison

 2007/12/16 22:16

 ~ His Eyes ~

[b]His eyes were as a flame of fire — Rev_1:14[/b]

When John was an old man he had a vision of the ascended Lord. One thing that instantly struck him in that vision was that His eyes were as a flame of fire. And one likes to think that in that touch there is some sweet and haunting recollection of eyes which he never could forget. Sir Walter Scott tells us that the eyes of Burns were the noblest he ever saw in human head. Anyone who ever saw the eyes of Mr. Gladstone will carry some thought of their splendor to the end. And John could never forget the eyes of Christ, the depth of them, and how they glowed and burned: His eyes were as a flame of fire. Of this there is singular corroboration in the words of the father of the epileptic boy. "Master," he cried, "look upon my son, for he is my only child." The Roman centurion wanted Christ to speak, but all that this father craved for was a look—what a tribute to the power of Christ's looks! It might be profitable to meditate a moment on some of the recorded looks of Christ.


There is, for instance, the look of detection. You have that in the story of the poor ill woman who pushed through the crowd and touched His garment's tassel and immediately found that her flow of blood was staunched. Perceiving that virtue had gone out of Him, the Master asked, "Who touched me?" The disciples ridiculed that question in the thronging and surging of the crowd. And immediately, we read, our Lord looked round to see who had done this thing—and the woman came trembling to His feet. In that look she felt that she was seen. Under that gaze she knew that she was known. She was singled out from all that surging multitude by the penetrating eyes of Jesus. This poor woman felt that instantly, and I believe that everybody feels it who comes into personal contact with the Lord. We have all known people who suggest that look. They seem to see right into us and search us. There is often something strangely disconcerting in the steady gaze of an innocent little child. And when we remember that our Lord was sinless and uncoarsened by any touch of evil, we begin to appreciate why it was that His eyes were as a flame of fire. It was along such avenues that men were led towards the divinity of Jesus. Had they not read in the psalms, "There is not a word in my tongue but lo! O Lord, Thou knowest it altogether"? And then—they met with Jesus, and the Psalm came floating back into their memories, for immediately they felt that they were known.


Then, again, there is the look of anger in the story of the man who had the withered hand. We read that our Lord looked round on them with anger, being grieved at the hardness of their hearts. Our anger is so often sinful that we hesitate to think of Christ as angry. When a husband is angry with his wife he is generally repentant towards nightfall. But the anger of Christ is a pure and holy thing; it is the other side of His burning love for souls, and whenever anyone despises souls His eyes are as a flame of fire. I do not think you ever find Christ angry at the hideous treatment He Himself received. Smitten, you never hear Him crying, "God shall smite thee, thou whited wall." All this He bore in patience and in beauty, as a heavy part of the cross He had to carry—His anger flamed and burned at others' wrongs. Sometimes the deepest anger is the anger that does not say one word. Sometimes in a look is a rebuke more poignant than in the bitterest speech. I don't think anyone ever would forget the look of anger in the eyes of Christ that day. God grant that it never light on us.


And then there is the look of disappointment. We have that in the fall of Simon Peter when the Lord turned and looked on Peter, and Peter went out into the night and wept. There was more than disappointment in that look. There was the tender memory of happier days. There was the love that gripped him in his weakness, and held him, and would not let him go. But it seems to me that what broke the heart of Peter and drove him out into the night to weep was the look of utter disappointment. We speak of the ascended Christ and sing our praise to the triumphant Christ. But do we ever think in quiet, reflective moments on the disappointed Christ? Is there anyone who reads this column on whom the Lord is looking, as He looked on Peter, with a look of utter disappointment? He expected such splendid things of you. He remembers the love of your espousals. He recalls the day of your conversion. He sees you as you bowed in dedication. And now, are you worldly, sensual, dishonest? Have you a name to live and yet are dead? And the Lord turned and looked on Peter, and Peter went out into the night and wept.


And then there is the look of trust, of quiet and perfect confidence in God. For that we turn to the stupendous miracle of the feeding of the hungry thousands. First, our Lord made everyone sit down; then into His hands He took the loaves and fishes. And then—what did He do then?—did He break the bread and give it to the multitude? Not so; He looked up and blessed and brake, and no one ever would forget that scene—the crowd, the solitude, the greenness of the grass; and, in the hush, the Savior looking up. One look round to see that all were seated. One look downward to the sorry loaves. Then, in the great quietness, one look upward, to draw for His need on God's unfailing reservoirs. Do you meet things like that? Do you know the power of that upward look? One look upward, and our Lord was ready for everything that mighty hour demanded.

George H. Morrison

 2007/12/18 10:43

 Re: The Crowning Vision

[b]The Note of the Heroic

His eyes were as a flame of fire — Rev_1:14[/b]

It is notable that in this vision of the ascended Savior, the eyes should have been as it were a flame of fire. That is hardly the characteristic we should have expected after hearing of hair that was as white as snow. The snow-white hair suggests to us venerable age; it hints at the passing of unnumbered years with the inevitable quenching of the fire of youth; but when we should look for eyes that were very gentle or that were filled with the wise tenderness of age, we find that His eyes were as a flame of fire. Now that contrast at once suggests to me this thought. In Christ there is not only a beauty as of silvered age; there is also a fire and a heroism as of youth.

And it is on that note of the heroic I ask you, as we begin to think upon the matter, to bear in mind one very simple distinction. It is that the thoughts that cluster round the heroic are not exactly those which the word hero suggests. A hero is just the embodiment of our ideal. He is the man who represents to us all that we dream of, whom we can clothe in every virtue and grace we consider fine. There is nothing fixed or defined, then, in the meaning of hero; its importance is relative to the qualities we admire. The hero of an unscrupulous man of business is often a man who is only more unscrupulous. The heroine of the woman of the world is sometimes only a more worldly woman. In a hero there may be absolutely nothing heroic; if we are degraded, so shall our ideals be. But heroism is always lofty and disinterested; it is courage touched into self-forgetfulness; it is enthusiasm with the crown of sacrifice upon its brow; it is the genius of the heart defying prudence. A hero may have very evil eyes; but wherever the true heroic is, there the eyes are as a flame of fire.

[b]Physical Heroism[/b]

Now as civilization advances and grows more complex, there is one kind of heroism that is less and less demanded. It is the heroism that may be described as physical and has for its basis what we call animal courage. In a rough and lawless and unsettled time, it might benefit a man very little to be gentle. The man who would live must have a ready sword and wield it valiantly, sometimes, for wife and children. Such times, then, in a nation's history—as we have had long periods like that in Scotland—are times that call out and develop physical heroism. It is always an early epoch in a country that is known by the name of its heroic age. But as civilization advances, life takes other aspects. The relations of man to man become more intricate. The sword that once was carried in the belt is handed over to be wielded by the law; life becomes ordered, settled, and secure. There is consummate need to be intelligent and tactful; there is less need now than once for physical heroism. We are never awakened mornings now to hear that the Highland marauders are "out" and are marching on the city. And that implies that as civilization grows and communication increases and law becomes supreme—and may I add as anesthetics are discovered that remove the necessity of facing up to pain—the accent is shifted from merely physical heroism and is inevitably placed on other virtues.

[b]Spiritual Heroism[/b]

But as the need of physical heroism declines, the need of spiritual heroism steadily grows. The very causes that have lessened the value of the one have helped to heighten the value of the other. We are in no danger now from Highland marauders: the dangers that menace us are far more subtle. They spring from that lowering of moral standards that is unavoidable in our complex society. It is not easy to be oneself now, we are so interlocked with one another. We have lost a little liberty, with all our gains, and are molded more into a common pattern. The pressure of public opinion is tremendous, and public opinion makes for an average type. It is, therefore, more difficult now to be honestly true to oneself. It takes a little more heroism than it did once. We are more tempted to conform to common standards, to barter our birthright of individuality, to be what a hundred interests would have us be, rather than the men God meant that we should be. And so the need of spiritual heroism grows as the need of physical heroism lessens. The hair of His head was white as snow, we read—that does not even suggest a young society. When time has mellowed the spirit of a people, when age has tempered the passion of its youth, when the riot of its blood is somewhat cooled, and it is venerable, stately, and august, it is then (if Jesus Christ be living) that there will be eyes that are like a flame of fire.

[b]The Union of Grace and Heroism[/b]

Now we cannot turn to the earthly life of Jesus without being struck with one marvelous union there. I refer to the union of what was beautiful and gracious with all that was in the truest sense heroic. We know that a bruised reed He would not break. We cannot fathom the depths of His compassion. There was never a patience like His patience with the twelve; there was never a pity like His pity of the sinner. He was gentle, charitable, courteous, kind, a perfect pattern of moral beauty. But the wonder of that beauty is magnified a hundredfold when we remember the heroism with which it went hand in hand. If to be true to one's mission and to stand alone, if to be faithful and joyful and quiet and undaunted, if to challenge all the powers of hell to combat, if to march forward without a falter to a cross—if that be heroism in its noblest meaning, then Jesus of Nazareth must have been heroic. Tenderness is great and heroism is sublime. In Christ there was tenderness infinite and heroism matchless. The eyes that wept beside the grave of Lazarus were eyes that were like a flame of fire.

In some degree, then, as we grow like unto Christ, that union of qualities will be found in us. It is a distinctive mark of that new character that has been built up through the powers of the Gospel that there is ample room in it for all that is gracious and, at the same time, for all that is heroic. There were two great schools of philosophy in Rome in the age preceding the entrance of the Gospel there. The one was Stoicism and the other Epicureanism, and each had its own ideal of human character. The aim of the Stoic was to foster heroism; he crushed out the affections ruthlessly. The aim of the Epicurean was not heroism; it was just to fashion amiable gentlemen. But the needs of the human heart broke down the first, for pity and love demanded recognition. And the grandeur of the human heart broke down the second, for there is that within each of us that craves for self-sacrifice. What the world needed was a type of character that could embrace and glorify the two ideals, and I humbly submit that the Gospel gave us that. There is a place in it for pity, and there is room for love; there is dew and sunshine for the tenderest affections that nestle in the shadow of the heart; but there is room for the heroic too. We have a cross to carry; we have a witness to bear. We have a life to live; we have a death to die. We are following a hope that is sublime, and we don't fare well without a little heroism. We shall be poor disciples of a compassionate Lord unless we have eyes that can soften into pity. But we shall be poor soldiers in the mystical warfare unless these eyes are as a flame of fire.

[b]What Is Spiritual Heroism?[/b]

It is notable, too, that as the spiritual life of Christendom has deepened, as it has grown richer with the passing of the ages, it has brought with it a deeper and truer concept of what spiritual heroism really is. There is a well-known poem by Tennyson under the title of St. Simeon Stylites. It is a gruesome description of one of these pillar-saints whom people venerated in the Middle Ages. St. Simeon spends his years on the top of a high pillar; he is scorched by the sun and is swept by the storms of winter. He grows blind and deaf; he is racked with intolerable fevers and chills. He is praying night and morning for heaven's pardon. And round the base of the pillar people are ever thronging to do reverence to this ascetic saint. Now that is an extreme case, I grant you willingly; and it is almost repulsive, even in Tennyson's hands. But the fact remains that, in the Middle Ages, it was such lives that were the types of moral heroism. Even St. Francis, the gentlest of all mystics, was desperately cruel to himself. It was very noble—I think we all feel that. It was very noble; but it was mistaken. And we should thank God that we are living in a time when the heroism of self-suppression is disowned to make room for the nobler heroism of service. It is not on the tops of pillars that we look for saints now. It is not in cell or monastery that we search for heroism. The Christian doctor who labors among the leprosy patients, the Christian student who will hold fast to truth though a score of voices denounce him as a fool, the Christian worker who goes down into the slums and toils there for the poor and the fallen for whom Jesus died, the gentle Christian girl who volunteers for mission work in the jungles—it is these that are our types of the heroic. The heroism of the hermit is gone. We have drunk more fully of Christ Jesus now. We have seen more deeply into these wonderful eyes which John says were like a flame of fire.

[b]The Challenges to Heroism Today[/b]

But I must close, and I do so with two remarks. The first is that there is always danger for a church when the note of the heroic passes from its life. It is very pleasant to be very comfortable and to talk about one's good-natured congregation. But the eyes of the vision were not good-natured eyes; they were eyes that burned as with a flame of fire. It was heroism that made Christ's church in Scotland. And it was heroism that saved Christ's church in Scotland. It was secession, and deposition, and disruption, in the times that are well described as moderate. And when that uncalculating enthusiasm passes and leaves us comfortable and statistical and unmoveable, let us beware lest a voice say to us also, "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot."

And the second is: I appeal to the young men on the ground of the heroism of Christ Jesus. Mr. FitzGerald, the translator of Omar Khayy'am, in an exquisite little piece he calls "Euphranor," has some suggestive words on chivalry. He says that the charm of chivalry was just its note of heroism; and if it appealed—as it certainly did appeal—to the bravest and noblest and most gallant men, it was just because it put the accent there. May I not do the same with Jesus Christ? I think it is a true appeal to opening manhood. Never forget the heroism of Jesus, nor the heroic in the Christian calling. The time will come when you will need Christ's tenderness. You will want a gentle Lord, and you will find Him. But today it is a call to the heroic that appeals, and I thank God I can hear that call in Christ. Go! mother, bowed with a mother's sorrow—go to the graveside where Jesus wept. But eager, gallant, generous heart of youth—why should I lead you to that scene of tears? You crave a heroic captain for the battle, and the eyes of Christ are as a flame of fire.

George H. Morrison

 2007/12/19 23:28

 "What to Do With Our Cares"

[b]Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant. — 1Pe_5:7-8[/b]

The cares of which the apostle speaks were those associated with persecution. He was writing to those who might, at any moment, be exposed to the fury of the populace. A great deal of pagan trade was intimately bound up with idolatry. Wherever the Gospel came and took a grip, it began to interfere with trade. And for that, as for many other reasons, Christians were never safe. Their life was one of continuous anxiety. Such anxieties are gone now where the populace is nominally Christian. But care remains, haunting the human heart and robbing life of the gladness of the sunshine. And so to us, in a land that is called Christian as well as to those sojourners in paganism, comes the message of the great apostle. The question, then, for all of us is this: How does a man cast his care on God? That I should answer by asking another question: How does a man cast his care on anybody? Our Lord was very fond of that procedure, arguing from the lesser to the greater, and reaching heavenly things through things of earth.

[b]We Cast Our Cares on Someone by Relying on Him[/b]

In human life, then, we cast our cares on anybody when we confidently rely on him. We can illustrate that by the captain of a ship. When a wild storm falls upon a vessel, the passengers are naturally anxious. Children cry; women begin to tremble; men look grave and often become silent. And then they see the captain on the bridge relaxed, smiling as he talks to his officer, and they remember he never lost a ship and is reputed the finest captain in the service. The moment they see that their anxieties begin to vanish. Trusting the captain when the storm is raging, they find that they have cast their cares on him. And whenever anyone trusts God and quietly puts his confidence in God, he awakens to the same discovery. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee," and then the prophet adds, "because he trusteth in Thee." Trust is the great antidote to care. It is by simple, quiet, unswerving confidence that we cast our cares on anybody, and just so do we cast our cares on God.

[b]By Talking We Share Our Care[/b]

Once again we cast our cares on anybody when we go to him and talk things over frankly. That is one of the benefits of friendship. The chief office of friendship, says Lord Bacon, is the ease and discharge of the swellings of the heart. And then he adds that the man who has no friend is a cannibal of his own heart. That is to say, he eats his heart out because he has no one to whom he can resort to speak of the anxieties that gnaw him. People often approach me for advice, and frequently go away without it. And yet they thank me when they go away and say that everything looks different now. You see, what has helped them isn't my advice; it is just that they have talked the matter over with one who feels for them and is a friend. Friendship is like a lancet; it opens the abscesses which are very painful. And as it is with a true friend on earth, so is it with our truest Friend in heaven. When we go to Him and tell Him all, opening our hearts to Him in quiet communion, how wonderfully do we discover that we have really cast our cares on Him! Be careful for nothing, says St. Paul, but in everything let your requests be made known unto God. And then what happens? Are your requests granted? The wise apostle says nothing about that. But he does say, and it is always true, that the peace of God which passeth understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.

[b]In Faithful Duty We Find Security[/b]

Once again we cast our cares on anybody when we do our duty by him faithfully. I think of the public servants of Glasgow Corporation. The dustmen who pass my windows in the morning have their cares just like other men. They are married and have to feed and clothe their wives and children. And yet so long as they do their duty faithfully, they have no need to worry about that. They cast their cares upon the Corporation. Is not that precisely what our Savior meant when He was speaking about care and worry? "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you." Put God first, be loyal to Him daily, live for the happy service of the kingdom, and will God do less than the Glasgow Corporation? If any man is living for self, he has no warrant to cast his care on God. But if he lives for service and not self, he can lean his weight upon the word of Jesus. There is a deeper meaning than we think of in that word of our Lord beside the well, "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me."

[b]What Does God Expect of us?[/b]

And then when our cares are cast on God, what kind of life does God expect of us? It is here that Peter displays a heavenly wisdom, for he says, "Be sober and be watchful." It is a perilous thing to have a load of cares. It is fraught with manifold temptation. It may make a husband very cross and irritable as many a wife knows. But never forget that to be free from cares may be as perilous as to be burdened with them, and that's why Peter adds, "Be sober and be watchful." I have known people suddenly freed from care by some large legacy of fortune—and that freedom has sometimes been their ruin. God does not make His children carefree in order that He may make them careless. Surely better a thousand cares than that. He makes them carefree that with undivided heart they may give themselves to the service of their brother and to the glory of His blessed name.

George H. Morrison

 2007/12/21 15:21

 Re: The Crowning Vision

[b]The Beatific Vision

And they shall see his face — Rev_22:4[/b]

It should be noted that this beatitude of glory immediately follows on another. It immediately follows on the promise that His servants shall serve Him. We might draw the two into a unity by the suggestion that the glorified continually serve, and serving, continually see. There is a deep sense in which we see through serving. Service is one of heaven's eye-salves. A mother sees more in her child than anybody else does, in the loving patient service of her motherhood. It is when a man serves nature with an entire devotion, such as the naturalist or geologist or astronomer, that he begins to see in her things more wonderful than men had dreamed. The best way to see Christ here is to serve Him. If any man will do, then shall he know. To take one's cross up and to help is the open secret of fellowship with Jesus. And the apostle hints that in the life of glory our service, which shall be perfected at last, is going to issue in unclouded vision. The glorified shall serve and they shall see. They shall see just because they serve. Their vision shall be purified because in heaven their service shall be perfect. Is it not often the frailty of our bodies or the presence of other motives in our service that dims for us here the vision of the Lord?

[b]Where Service and Seeing Shall Be One[/b]

Or, again, if we find in seeing all that is implied in contemplation, is it not a beautiful thought that in the life of heaven service and seeing shall be one? Amid the shadows of this lower world, activity stands apart from contemplation. The world is like that blessed home in Bethany where were active Martha and contemplative Mary. It is hard, in multifarious duties, to keep that child-like purity of heart without which no man shall see God. There are those who have so many meetings that they almost forget to meet with Him. How few, immersed in an untiring labor, keep the secret of an unruffled calm. And then John tells us that in the brighter world His servants shall serve Him, and yet in the very thickest of the service they shall see His face. Action will not be divorced from contemplation. The one will never make the other harder. Toiling Martha will never be grudging Mary, whose eyes are homes of silent prayer. The glorified, in utter self-abandonment, will give themselves to the services of God, yet never for one instant will they lose the beatific vision of His face.

[b]Perfect Satisfaction in Heaven[/b]

And another implication is that in heaven there is perfect satisfaction. What a thrilling satisfaction to the heart just to see the face of somebody we love! We cherish their photograph when they are absent, and in quiet moments we gaze upon the photograph. They write us letters, and how we long for them. At other times they communicate by phone. But when the door opens and we see the loved one's face, what an exquisite and thrilling satisfaction—and so, says Scripture, shall it be in heaven. Here we have His photograph. Here we have His love-letters. Here, often, do we catch His messages in the silence and secrecy of conscience. But there we shall see Him as He is, face to face, without a cloud between, and we shall be satisfied when we awake.

George H. Morrison

 2007/12/24 13:00

 Re: The Crowning Vision

[b]The Reign of the Saints

And they shall reign for ever and ever — Rev_22:5[/b]

I venture to say that with this expression there creeps in a touch of unreality. It is difficult to associate thrones with the immortal life of our beloved dead. We can readily picture them as serving, for they loved to serve when they were here. Nor, remembering how they searched for it, is it hard to believe that they see His face. But to conceive of them as reigning and having crowns and sitting upon thrones introduces a note of unreality. For many of them that would not be heaven. It would be the last thing they would desire. For they were modest folk, given to self-effacement, haunting the shadowy avenues of life. And if individuality persists, they will carry over into another world those lowly graces that made us love them here. We can always think of an Augustine as reigning. But the saints we knew and loved were seldom Augustines. They were gentle souls, shrinking from publicity, perfectly happy in the lowest place. It is hard to see how natures such as that could ever be quite at home in heaven, if in heaven their calling were to reign. But the Scripture cannot be broken. It is revelation, not conjecture. If there is anything in it that offends the heart, we may be certain the error lies with us. So I believe that the difficulty here and the jarring note that grates upon the sensitive lie in our wrong ideas of reigning.

That there is something wrong in these popular ideas is demonstrated by one forgotten fact. It is that the saints do not begin to reign when they pass into the other world. If kingship were confined to heaven, the nature of it would lie beyond our understanding. It would be one of those things that eye had never seen, which God hath prepared for them who love Him. But kingship is not confined to heaven, according to the concept of the Scriptures. It is a present possession of the saints. We do not read that Christ will make us kings. We read that He hath made us kings (Rev_1:5). Loosed from our sins in His own blood, we begin to reign in the moment of redemption. And the reign in glory, which troubles meek souls, is not something different from that, but that enlarged and expanded to its fullness. This harmonizes with the general mind of Scripture in the glimpses it affords of immortality. It pictures it as a completion rather than as a contradiction. It takes such human things as love and service and tells us that in the land beyond the river such beautiful graces are going to be perfected. In what sense, then, do the saints reign here? How is the humblest child of God a king? There is no throne here, nor any visible crown, nor any of the insignia of regality. If we can grasp the kingship of believers amid all the infirmities of time, we have the key to understand the mystery of their reign forever and forever.

[b]Our Reign Will Not Be in the Earthly Sense[/b]

And it is just here that a word of Christ's casts a flash of light upon our difficulty. "The kings of the Gentiles," He says, "exercise lordship, but it shall not be so with you." Are not all our common thoughts of kingship taken from the royalty of such monarchs? Does not their state and the insignia of it fill our minds when we meditate on reigning? And Jesus tells us that this whole concept, gathered from the facts of earthly lordship, is alien now and alien forever from the lordship and dominion of His own. He that would be greatest must be least. The monarch is the servant. Kingship is not irresponsible authority: it is love that gives itself in glad abandonment. It is love that goes to the uttermost in service just as He went to the uttermost in service and so reigns forever from the cross. It is thus a Christian mother reigns amid the restless rebellions of her children. It is thus that many a lowly toiler reigns over the hearts and lives of everyone around him. It is thus the Salvation Army lassie queens it over the rough and reckless slum though she carry no sceptre in her hand and her only crown be the familiar bonnet. The kingship of believers here has nothing whatever to do with pagan lordship. At the command of the Lord Jesus we must banish such concepts from our mind. The only kingship of the saints on earth is that of the glad abandonment of love in an unceasing and undefeated service.

Now it seems to me that all our trouble vanishes when we carry that thought into the other world. If this be reigning, then in the life of heaven our dear ones will be perfectly at home. We would not have them other than we knew them when they were with us here amid the shadows. The thought of heaven would be too dearly purchased if it robbed us of their lowly, quiet gentleness. But if the sway they won over our hearts on earth, perfected, be their eternal reigning, then they can still reign and be the same. Reigning will not alter them. It will not render them irrecognizable. It will not touch that lowly loving service which made them so inexpressibly dear. It will only expand it into fullest kingliness, setting a crown of gold upon its head. They shall reign forever and forever.

George H. Morrison

 2007/12/27 13:08


January 4th's Devotional Sermon by George H. Morrison


"Who can understand his errors?" Psa_19:12[/b]

It is the true desire of every earnest heart that preceding the Communion Service our thoughts should be turned inward in self-examination. Every astronomer worthy of the name is constantly careful to keep his lenses clean. But when he is on the verge of some great hour, then he cleanses them with double care. And so the Christian must always be watchful—must always be examining himself—but never more intensely so than at the time when he is looking for fresh discoveries of Christ. I want you, therefore, to follow me while I try to find why most of us are so ignorant of self. For of this you may be always sure, that the more we know what we really are, the better shall we know our need of Christ and of the glorious Gospel of His grace.

[b]Busy Days and Quiet Times[/b]

It is a full and busy life in which we share, and the hand of that life opens many doors, but not the door which leads into the heart. Moments are precious now and days are full. Interests are manifold and ever changing. There is not an attic window which does not open on the panorama of the mighty world. And just as the Indian, putting his ear to the ground, can hear far off the galloping of horses, so all the movement and music of humanity is morning by morning borne upon our ear. It was a saying of John Wesley that he had all the world for his parish. And there is not a farmer in the remotest village who could not say something of the same kind today.

Now none but a pessimist would ever doubt that in this full life are elements of value. It has developed man and enlarged his vision and helped to make him a little less parochial. It has turned the Gospel into a world-wide message in a way that was never possible before. All this is good and we are thankful for it. There is something in it which exalts the Savior. We are learning the kingship of Jesus Christ today in a manner that was undreamed of once. And yet with it all there is a certain loss—a loss of quietness and of introspection. We have an added knowledge of the world, and perhaps a lessened knowledge of ourselves. We know far more than our forefathers knew about Japan and India and Thailand. The question is, do we know any more about the spiritual kingdom that is here? And after all, no kingdom in the world can relay such mighty news as can the kingdom of a man's own soul where heaven and hell are fighting for the throne. We have gained, and we have also lost. We have seen more widely, and are a little blinder. We know far more than our forefathers knew, and yet it may be we know a little less. It is far harder now than it was once to reap the harvest of the quiet eye by practicing, amid the stir of things, the quiet and kindly grace of recollection.

[b]We Are Rocked to Sleep by the Gradual[/b]

Another and deeper cause of our self-ignorance is the gradual and silent growth of sin. You are never startled by any noise of hammering when the chains of a bad habit are being forged. All of us are roused into attention when anything flashes suddenly upon us. It is one of the ministries of God's surprise that it arrests us when we are dull and heavy. But when a thing is gradual in its coming and steals upon us without the sound of a trumpet, it is always easy to be unobservant. If in a moment the sun shone out in splendor and midnight vanished and the sky were blue, how every eye would mark that miracle and see in it the hand of the divine! But like a true artist of Almighty God, the sun has a scorn for anything sensational, and never an infant is wakened from its cradle as, rising, the sun parts the curtains of the east.

Think of the way in which children grow. How silently they creep towards their heritage! It seems but yesterday since they were little infants and busied with the first stammerings of speech. And today they are fighting their battle with the world, and the mystery of life has touched them, and they are launched into the boundless deep—and still are children in their mother's eyes. We are all rocked to sleep by what is gradual. We let ourselves be tricked by what is silent. We miss the message of God times without number because He whispers in a still small voice.

And just as we are often dulled towards God, so are we dulled to our besetting sin for it has grown so gradually and strengthened with our strength and never startled us with any uproar. It is easy to see the sins of other people, because in a moment they are displayed to us. We see them not in the slowness of their growth, but in the sudden flash of their fulfillment. We see them as we see some neighbor's child whom for a year or two we have not set our eyes on, and then we say, "How the child has grown; I never would have recognized him!" That is how we can detect our neighbor's sin. That is how we fail to see our own. It has grown with us and lived in the same home and sat at the same table all the time—until today we are living such a life as God knows we never meant to live, and tampering with conscience and with purity as God knows we never dreamed to do. Had the thing leapt on us like a wild animal we should have aroused our manhood to resist it. But the most deadly evils do not leap on us. The most deadly evils creep on us. And it is that slow and silent growth of all that at last is mighty to confound which lulls men into the strange security which always is the associate of self-ignorance.

[b]You Can Never Know Sin's Power, Till You Oppose It[/b]

Another reason for self-ignorance is that you never know sin's power till you oppose it. It is as true of sin as of any other force that you must measure its power by resistance. It is not when you are walking with the wind that you can measure how strong the wind is blowing. It is when you turn into the teeth of it that you perceive the power of the blast. And you will never learn the power of sin, nor how sweet it is nor what a grip it has, till in the name of God you battle with it. That is what Paul means when, in Romans, he says "I had not known sin but by the law." It was when sin was checked by the commandment that it revealed the power which was in it. It was when God said "Thou shalt not," that sin began to struggle for its life; and the commandment came, says the apostle, and sin revived and I died. Try to lift up those chained arms of thine, and thou wilt find how heavy are the chains. Waken that sleeping devil in thy bosom, and thou wilt find it is a sleeping Hercules. It is thus that men are led to Jesus Christ and to feel their need of an Almighty arm and to cast themselves in great despair on Him who can save even to the uttermost.

[b]The Tangle of the Beautiful and the Base[/b]

Another cause of our self-ignorance lies in the interweaving of our best and worst. In deeper senses than the psalmist thought of, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

I had the pleasure, some little time ago, of going over one of the cruisers of the Navy. There was a great deal that was good to see, and with consummate courtesy we were shown it all. But the feature which seemed to interest our guide most, and to which he called particular attention, was the watertight compartments of the ship. He pointed out the fittings of the doors. He showed us how ingeniously they set. When the doors were locked there was such nice exactitude that not a penknife could have been inserted. And all this meant that in the hour of battle, if the one cabin were flooded by a shot, the other compartments would be dry.

Now it is thus that men may build, but it is not thus that the Almighty builds. There is no door of steel which closes fast between the highest and the worst in us. If all that was bad in individual character stood by itself in perfect isolation, then we would feel the joy of what was good and the dark loathsomeness of what was evil. But human character is not constructed with separate departments for its good and evil. It is an intricate and inextricable tangle of what is beautiful and what is base.

"Then I beheld," says Bunyan in his dream, that "there was a way to hell from nigh the gate of heaven." I think that that is so with every man: his hell and heaven are never far apart. There is something of his weakness in his strength, and the beautiful and the ugly have strange kinships, and the good and the bad in him spring up together like the wheat and tares in Jesus' parable. Let the philosophers sift out our faculties. Let them distinguish the reason from the will. Let them treat on this page of the memory and on that page of the imagination. Our ordinary life makes merry with philosophers. And hope and faith and will, and height and depth, are interwoven in a water lily—beautiful, yet rooted in the slime. How many a glimpse there is of heaven in passions whose appointed end is misery. And it is the interweaving of such opposites in the whole range of human life and conduct which leads so often and so easily to the peril and the evil of self-ignorance.

[b]The Poverty of Our Ideal[/b]

I shall mention but one more cause of our self-ignorance, and that is the low standard of our moral judgment. We manage to be contented with ourselves because of the poverty of our ideal. A sheep may look tolerably fair and clean against the greenness of the summer grass, but when the snow has fallen in virgin purity the sheep may be as a blot upon the hill. It is not the living creature that is different; it is the background that is different, and I want to ask you this straight question—What is the background of life? Is it the common standard of your class? Then you will never understand your errors. You are not worse than anybody else; you are as good as they are any day. But how that poor and shallow self-complacency is torn and tattered into a thousand shreds when the life which once accepted social values is set against the background of the Christ! Paul was proud of his moral standing once, for he could lift up his head with any Pharisee. But when Christ found him and made a man of him, the Pharisee became the chief of sinners. And it is always so when Christ comes in. We see the brightest and we see the worst. There is a heaven higher than our hope, and there is a hell deeper than we dreamed. Have you been awakened in any way like that? Are you profoundly dissatisfied with self? Have you had hours when you felt that in all the world there could be nobody quite so bad as you? Blessed be God for His convicting Spirit. It is better to feel that than to be satisfied. It is along that road, however dark, that the way lies for self-examination at the Communion Table.


Jer 17:5 Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.
Jer 17:6 For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.
Jer 17:7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.
Jer 17:8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
Jer 17:10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
Jer 17:11 As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.

 2008/1/3 22:36

 Secret Faults

[b]Secret Faults

"Cleanse thou me from secret faults." Psa_19:12[/b]

The secret faults of which the psalmist is speaking in this verse are the faults that are secret from even ourselves. They are the sins and failings in your life and mine of which we are unconscious. There are some faults we can keep secret from the world, and yet they are well known to those at home. The people we meet in the street may not suspect them, but our wives or mothers know them all too well. And there are other sins which a man may do in business so that his name smells rank among honorable dealers, yet the shadow of them may never touch his home nor the innocent faces of his adoring children. Such faults are secret beyond a certain circle. Love casts the mantle of her glorious silence around them. But it is not these of which the psalmist thinks when he cries, "Cleanse thou me from secret faults." He thinks of the faults and sins which in the sight of God we are committing, and yet we are ignorant of them and have never been awakened to them and are not conscious they are there at all.

Now that there are such faults in every one of us may be demonstrated along many lines. Think, for instance, how certain it becomes when we remember what we see in others. Is there anyone known to you, however good or beautiful, on whose faults or failings you could not put your finger? Is there any friend or lover or child or wife or minister whose weakness you have not long ago detected? They may not see it—it never obtrudes on them—they are quite unconscious that it is obvious to you. And so also as our neighbors move among us daily, and we see a hundred faults which they are blind to. Do not exempt yourself, I beg of you, from this general censure of humanity. You are bone of their bone, flesh of their flesh, born with their weakness, tempted with their sin. The very fact that all of us can see the mote that is in our brother's eye is proof that we have one in our own.

The certainty of such faults is proved again by our general ignorance of our own nature. There is not a man or woman whose life is not full of secret possibilities. Let the finger of love but touch a woman's heart, and you shall hardly know that woman by and by. Let motherhood come with all its infinite mystery, and she is enriched to the very heavens. Let a man be converted by the grace of God, as Paul was converted on the Damascus road, and life is expanded into undreamed-of fullness. We all surprise each other now and then, and now and then we all surprise ourselves—when love comes, or some great wave of emotion, or the sound of a trumpet and the call to battle. And if we believe in secret possibilities, on the basis of which Christ wrought from first to last, must we not also believe in secret sins? The fact is we should believe it instantly if it were not for the presence of self-love. Love thinketh no evil of the loved one, even when the loved one is oneself. And so in our secret virtues we believe, and in the hidden possibilities within us, but from our secret faults we turn away. That common attitude is intellectual cowardice. It is a man's first duty to face all the facts. To flatter other men is bad enough, but to flatter one's ownself is far more deadly. And therefore if you believe in hidden heights within you, I ask you also to believe in hidden depths and to cry as David cried, "Cleanse thou me from secret faults."

[b]The Power of Habit[/b]

The exercise of a long-continued habit has a deadening power. There are sins which were not secret long ago, but habit and custom have made them secret now.

I well remember when I went to Dundee from the seclusion of my manse in Thurso, and how at first I found it hard to sleep at nights for the incessant noise of the railway and street. In Thurso, when night fell, the quiet was perfect. The countryside might have been wrapped in snow. There was no sound except the northern wind and sometimes the mystical calling of the sea. And then in the city there was the midnight traffic, and the jar and jolt and shrieking of the railway, and I would lie awake repeating, "Sleep no more, Dundee hath murdered sleep." All that lasted for a week or two, and then the clamorous voices became silent. And they died away and were no longer audible and never again disturbed the beatitude of rest. The noise was as loud as ever, and still the train rattled through the dark, but habit had made me oblivious to it all.

For good or for evil in this life of ours, habit is always busy doing that. Things that would wake us once and make us jump with fear are robbed of their power to disturb our slumber. And so the sins that long ago were open, and shocked us and made us blush to think of them, may have become with passing years our secret sins. You would have been very unhappy once, when day was over, if you had flung yourselves down upon a prayerless bed. And yet it may be that you do it now with never a thought that you are grieving God. You would have been miserable once and full of guilty shame had you been cruel, dishonest, or impure. And yet it may be that today you sin these sins without any inward unhappiness at all. My brother and sister, that is Satan's triumph—to take our open sins and make them secret: to take the faults that shamed us long ago and make us habituated and accustomed to them. When a man has ceased to be shamed and shocked by sin, when he does habitually what once he loathed and hated, let him beware for his immortal soul, for final impenitency crouches at the door. "Cleanse thou me, O Lord, from secret faults." They were not secret once in happy childhood. Then they distressed us and sent us out in misery, but they do not distress us for a moment now. So from the pressure of habit and of custom, touching us all into a certain hardness, we may be sure that we need to apply the psalmist's prayer to ourselves as well.

[b]The Most Perilous Sins[/b]

And may I say that among all our sins there are perhaps none more perilous than our secret sins. And they are perilous just because in them we have the preparation for our open falls. Our great sins are seldom momentary overthrows. They seldom reach us like bolts out of the blue. These dark and tragic falls that we all know are not isolated and independent things. They reach us by the hidden ways of darkness and out of the silent and interior life, so that on every hour of wreckage and disaster there is the pressure of our secret faults.

For every noble act you ever did, there was a conscious and an unconscious preparation. You were getting ready for it not only when you strove, you were getting ready when you never dreamed of it. By every virtue you clung to in the dark—by every beautiful thought you ever cherished—by the self-denials of each routine morning—you have been getting ready for your nobler hours. That is the road by which we reach our victories, and that is the road by which we reach our tragedies.

Our sudden overthrows, when character was forfeited, are never quite so sudden as we think. Through secret faults—through covetings unchecked—through lusts unbridled when they were still imaginations—a man goes out to his hours when peace is lost and the shame of the vanquished is written on his brow.

Professor Drummond, in his Tropical Africa, tells of the secret ravages of the white ants. He tells of their enormous powers of destruction and how insidiously and secretly they work. He tells how a man may be sitting in his hut, and may think of it as strong as on the day he built it, when suddenly he may discover that there is nothing around him but a shell. Silently the white ants have been at work eating out the heart of every beam: no one has seen them—no one has heard them toiling—no one has had any warning of their presence. And then in a moment comes the revelation when the very pillars of the house tremble, and the secret ravage is revealed.

"Cleanse thou me from secret faults—keep back thy servant from presumptuous sins." Answer that first prayer, our blessed Savior, and in it we shall have our answer to the second. For all those open shames of word and deed that we cannot remember without self-loathing are but the lurid flowering of that nightshade whose roots are in the secret of the heart.

[b]Our Utter Need of Christ[/b]

In closing, I am eager to suggest to you that our secret sins have one peculiar benefit. Above all other sins which we commit, they lead us to feel our utter need of Christ. Let me make that plain by a simple illustration. If some beautiful garden that you love is only disfigured by a weed or two, it is quite within your power to pull those weeds out though they may be tough as crabgrass or as venomous as poison ivy. But if the soil is bad—filled through and through with seeds—tangled with root-stocks of pestilential things—then cleaning it out is quite another matter.

My brother and sister, when you come to think of it, that is like the garden of your heart. If all that needs to be rooted out are a few habits, then do it in God's name, for you have power to do it. But when you awake to the appalling certainty that down in your heart there is a world of sin, in that hour you realize your utter helplessness. Not what we know, but what we do not know, is the deepest cry of the human soul to Christ—that world unfathomed beneath the range of consciousness out of which spring adulteries and murders. You cannot reach that world which lies unseen, away deep down in your mysterious being, and yet unless it is reached and cleansed by somebody, you know there can never be victory for you. It is just there that Jesus Christ draws near. He is able to save even to the uttermost. He is able and willing this very day to work a radical cleansing within you.

January 5th's Devotional Sermon by George H. Morrison

 2008/1/4 21:27

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