STUDIES IN THE LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN
His Faith and His Service
HENRY T. SELL, D.D.
These studies consider the questions: What did Christ teach? What is the standpoint of Christianity? What is a Christian? What ought he to believe and why? How shall he regard the Bible and the church? What should be his relations to God, to his fellow men, to his home, to society, to business, and to the state?
The strength and reasonableness of the great main positions of Christian faith and service are constructively presented. Careful attention is also given to the practical application of Christian principles to the perplexing problems of modern life.
This book is for use in adult Bible classes, Bible study circles, pastors' training classes in the essentials of Christianity, educational institutions and private study.
It is uniform with the author's "Bible Studies in the Life of Christ," "Bible Studies in the Life of Paul" and his other Bible study books.
HENRY T. SELL. Chicago.
I. CHRIST, THE GREAT TEACHER
II. THE CHRISTIAN'S GOD
III. THE CHRISTIAN MAN
IV. THE CHRISTIAN'S FELLOW MAN
V. THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
VI. THE CHRISTIAN'S BOOK
VII. THE CHRISTIAN PRAYER
VIII. THE CHRISTIAN SERVICE
IX. THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH
X. THE CHRISTIAN HOME
XI. THE CHRISTIAN BUSINESS WORLD
XII. THE CHRISTIAN SOCIETY
XIII. THE CHRISTIAN STATE
XIV. THE CHRISTIAN'S HOPE
CHRIST, THE GREAT TEACHER
Scripture references: Matthew 4:23; 5:1,2; 7:29; 13:54; 26:55; 28:19,20; Mark 1:21,22; 4:1,2; 6:6; Luke 5:3; 11:1; 19:47; John 6:59; 7:14; 8:28.
THE FOUNDER OF CHRISTIANITY
The heart of the Christian religion is found in Jesus Christ. If we desire to know what Christianity is and of what elements it is composed we must look to Him and His teachings. He is the great source of our knowledge of what God, man, sin, righteousness, duty and salvation are.
Our interest in the books of the Old Testament lies in the fact that they lead up to Him. We study the books of the New Testament because of their vivid portrayal of His life, teachings, death and resurrection. With Jesus Christ a new era dawned for the world with new principles, ideas and aspirations for humanity. His teachings touch every department of human life and, where they are accepted and followed, they show their marvellous transforming power. There can be no more important study than what Jesus Christ said and did while upon this earth. "Never man spake like this man" (John 7:46).
WHAT CHRIST TAUGHT
There are five great lines which His teachings followed; they have to do with God, man, sin, salvation and the future life.
The Right Relation of God to Man and Man to God.—How does God regard man? and, How shall man look upon God? are questions upon which the best thought of men in all ages has been expended. Upon the answers given have been founded all sorts of religious and philosophical systems.
Man in this great universe desires to know in what relation he stands to the Author of it. Is man only a creature of fate? What does God care, great as He is, for one man?
Jesus Christ recognized this desire of man to know his standing with God and He proclaimed not only the power, but the Fatherhood of God. When He taught His disciples how to pray He began His immortal prayer not with "Great God of the universe," or "Creator of all things," but "After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven" (Matthew 6:9). Here was a new conception of God.
Through Christ man comes into personal relations with God as the Father (John 16:27) who cares for him as a son. Man is to love and forgive as God loves and forgives in this relation of Father (Matthew 22:37; 6:14,15). Man is to do all that he does as in the sight of his Father in heaven (Matthew 6:1-26). God is made known as supreme love (John 3:16).
The Right Relation of Man to Man.—There are many causes which divide men into classes, castes and nationalities. Once divided men begin to develop a class feeling and pride which tend to deepen and widen the gulfs which separate them from each other.
With the truth proclaimed by Christ of the "Fatherhood of God" came also the great truth of the "Brotherhood of Man." The true relation of man to man, no matter what the caste, class, employment or nationality, is that of sons who have a common father. The second great commandment given by Christ is, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matthew 22:39). When He took the example for a good neighbour He selected a Samaritan, a man of an alien race. Men are naturally inclined to do good to those who treat them well and whose help they need; but Christ, in carrying out this new law of brotherly love said, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:44-48). It is only through this love of man for man, no matter what the class or condition, that right relations between men can ever be established and maintained.
The Right Relation of Man to Sin.—Man violates his sense of righteousness and justice. He transgresses the laws of God and his nature. Man's sin is everywhere doing its destroying work. There is individual, social, corporate and national sin (Romans 3:23). This fact of sin is not only set forth in the Bible in unmistakable terms, but every government recognizes it in its laws and courts of justice. Society puts up its bars to protect itself against the sinner, and all literature proclaims the evil results of sin.
What ought to be man's attitude to sin? Shall he make light of it and call it a necessary part of living? Shall he continue in it, although he recognizes its evil results, and draw others with him into greater and larger violations of the laws of God and man? These are practical questions. Some temporize with sin and say, "Let us lead outwardly correct lives, but within certain bounds we will do as we please"; hence arises the practice of secret sinning.
Christ came declaring that man's relation to sin should be uncompromising. He used vigorous language in regard to sin. He said, "Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh! Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or feet to be cast into everlasting fire" (Matthew 18:7,8). But Jesus in thus advocating heroic treatment for sin was but doing what eminent surgeons are advising every day in regard to certain dangerous bodily diseases. Jesus also laid His finger on the source of sin when He declared, "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: these are the things which defile a man" (Matthew 15:19). A man must think evil before he does evil, and hence the emphasis which Jesus placed upon keeping the heart clean.
The Right Relation of Man to Salvation.—Man feels his inclination to do evil and, seeing also the degradation wrought by it, desires to be saved from it. The cry has gone up from many hearts to be free not only from the power of sin but from the desire to commit sin. No man can save himself. He may succeed in a certain outward reformation and correctness of habit and speech, but he cannot control the thoughts and inclinations of his own heart.
The special mission of Jesus Christ was to place man in the right relation of salvation from his sins and to show Himself the Saviour of Man. It was declared of Him before His birth, "He shall save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). He said at the last supper, "This is My blood of the New Testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28). He had power to forgive sins (Mark 2:10). He said not, "I show you the way," but "I am the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6). There is here a mighty spiritual power which can save man from sin and can keep him from the desire to sin. It is only as man enters into personal relations with Jesus Christ, repenting of his sin and having faith in Him, that the burden of sin is lifted from his heart (Matthew 6:33; 11:28,30).
The Right Relation of Man to Death and the Future Life.—The facts of death and of what comes after cannot be set aside; they must be faced. All forms of religion and systems of philosophy have striven to sustain and comfort men at their trying hour of need. The trouble has been, however, to find any certain ground of the hope of a future life upon which to rest. No man has been able to do more than present a good argument, in regard to the hereafter, which might or might not be true.
But when Jesus Christ came He was able to speak with authority and power. He plainly, in His description of the last judgment scene (Matthew 25:31-46), showed the relation of man's faith and actions in this world to his state in the world to come. He declared that a man need have no fear of death or the hereafter who trusted in Him. "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die" (John 11:25,26). "In My Father's house are many mansions, if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2). In a supreme trust in Jesus Christ all dread of death and the hereafter may be taken away and man may enter into a right relation to immortality in this life.
FORMS OF CHRIST'S TEACHING
He used many forms in placing the truth before men. He paid great regard to the timeliness and the manner of presenting what He had to teach. Upon many occasions the multitudes were so captivated by His words and works that they followed Him out into desert places.
Direct Discourse.—The Sermon on the Mount is a good example of this teaching. Here He taught plainly, (1) "The nature and constitution of the Kingdom" (Matthew 5:1-16); in itself (blessedness, vs. 1-12) and in its relation to the world (vs. 13-16). (2) The law of the kingdom (Matthew 5:17-7:12); general principles (vs. 17-20), the moral law (vs. 21-48), religious duty (6:1-18), and duty in relation to the world and the good and evil things in it (6: 19-7:12). (3) Invitations to enter the kingdom (Matthew 7:13-29).
He was equally plain in regard to His own mission. He declared Himself to be the Son of God and claimed equality with the Father (John 5:18-23). He said, "I and My Father are one" (John 10:30). He affirmed His preexistence and that He had glory with the Father before the world was (John 17:5) and whoever had seen Him had seen the Father (John 14:9). At His trial, in answer to the question of the High Priest, He declared that He was the Christ, the Son of God (Matthew 26:63-66). After His resurrection He told His disciples, in sending them forth to their mission, that all power was given Him in heaven and in earth (Matthew 28:18-20).
Parables (Mark 4:2; Matthew 13:3).—Christ spoke in parables to convey and send home to the hearts of His hearers the truth, just as Nathan employed the parable of the lamb in the case of David to make him acknowledge his sin. They were adapted to the capacities of His hearers. Each parable had some great central truth.
The parables have been classified as:
1. The Theoretic, which teach general truths concerning the kingdom of God, such as, "The Sower" (Matthew 13:3-23), "The Treasure" and "The Pearl" (Matthew 13:44,45).
2. Grace, setting forth the divine goodness and grace as the source of salvation and law of Christian life, such as, "The Lost Coin," "The Lost Sheep" and "The Lost Boy" (Luke 15).
3. The Prophetic or Judgment parables, which proclaim the righteousness of God as the supreme ruler, rewarding men according to their works, such as, "The Wicked Husbandmen" (Matthew 21:33-41), and "The Ten Virgins" (Matthew 25:1-13).
Miracles (John 3:2; 2:23; 6:2; Mark 1:32-34).—Christ appealed to His works as an evidence of His divine mission (John 10:38). Miracles are possible, probable and credible, when we believe there is a personal God, who is the Supreme Ruler of the universe and that He cares for man.
The thirty-six miracles of which an account is given in the four gospels have been divided into three classes; their teaching is important:
1. The Nature miracles show the divinity of Christ. The feeding of the five thousand men (Matthew 14:15-21) reveals His creative power, and the stilling of the storm on the Lake of Galilee (Matthew 8:23-27) His divine command over Nature and its forces.
2. The Healing miracles reveal not only His divinity but His humanity and compassion. They set forth the one being who loves the human race with His whole heart. This class of miracles shows the mission of Jesus to be the extinction of sin and disease, and the redemption of man, body and soul.
3. The Moral miracles are the life of Christ and its effect upon the world.
Example of Living and Dying, the teaching of which is elaborated in the Acts and Epistles (Acts 1:8; 2:31-41; 13:23-42; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:13-20).
HOW CHRIST TAUGHT
With Authority (Matthew 7:28,29; Mark 1:22).—He declared that "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28: 18). He did not quote precedents but said, "I say unto you."
With Persuasiveness and Love (Matthew 11:28-30; 19:13,14; John 3:17; Luke 9:56).—People of all classes gathered about Him, in the marketplaces, in the fields and by the seaside. They followed Him into desert places to hear the gracious words that fell from His lips.
With Originality (John 12:46).—He taught a new philosophy of sorrow and suffering, a new law of self-sacrifice and a new law of love for fallen humanity.
With Promise (Matthew 28:20; John 14:12-19; 16:1-14; Acts 1:4-8).—His work He declared was not to end with His resurrection and ascension, but was to continue. He promised to endue His disciples with power from on high in their task of converting a world. This promise of divine help was also extended to all His disciples in their effort to lead pure and righteous lives.
What can be said about the Founder of Christianity and His teachings? What did Christ teach; about the right relation of God to man, man to man, man to sin, man to salvation and man to death and the hereafter? What can be said of the forms of Christ's teaching; direct discourse (give examples), parables (give the teaching of the three classes), miracles (give the teaching of the three classes) and example of living and dying? How did Christ teach? What can be said of His authority, persuasiveness, originality and promise?
THE CHRISTIAN'S GOD
Scripture References: Genesis 1:1; 17:1; Exodus 34:6,7; 20:3-7; Deuteronomy 32:4; 33:27; Isaiah 40:28; 45:21; Psalm 90:2; 145:17; 139:1-12; John 1:1-5; 1:18; 4:23,24; 14:6-11; Matthew 28:19,20; Revelation 4:11; 22:13.
WHO IS GOD?
How Shall We Think of God?—"Upon the conception that is entertained of God will depend the nature and quality of the religion of any soul or race; and in accordance with the view that is held of God, His nature, His character and His relation to other beings, the spirit and the substance of theology will be determined." When one man says, "I believe in God" he may have in mind an entirely different conception of God from another man who uses the same expression. There is a Christian idea of God and there are many non-Christian ideas about God; it is the latter which keep men from heartily engaging in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Wrong Conceptions of God.—Some of these are:
1. That He is a blind fate or unknowable force. Personality is denied, and it is asserted that this great force neither sees, cares nor even knows what men do or do not do.
2. Even if this great force be personal, and knows what is going on amongst men, He is perfectly indifferent to right or wrong actions.
3. God knows and sees all that is going on, but He has wound up this universe like a great clock. To help or succour any man in his distress would disarrange the whole system. Natural law must have its course; it is useless to pray.
4. God is revengeful or weak; in the first place men seek to keep out of His way, in the second they do not care.
When men adopt these wrong ideas of God and cherish them they are fashioned after them in life and character. Here are the stumbling-blocks which need to be removed before men, who think this way, can be brought into sympathy with the Church of Christ. Man can never come into personal loving relations with a Universal Substance or Force, no matter how mighty it is.
Right Conceptions of God are necessary for the true worship of the Almighty, for the exercise of proper conduct to our fellow men and for the upbuilding of our own spiritual life. Never was there a time when the great fundamental positions of the Bible, in regard to God, needed to be more plainly stated than to-day. When men stand firmly upon these positions a whole host of perplexities and anxieties will take their departure.
The Christian Conception of God has been thus expressed, "God is the Personal Spirit, perfectly good, who in holy love, creates, sustains and orders all." The essential matters covered in this statement are:
1. The nature of God. He is the Personal Spirit (Exodus 3:14; John 4:24) who can enter into personal relations with man, and who hears and answers prayer.
2. The character of God. He is perfectly good, pure and holy (Psalm 25:8; Nahum 1:7; Romans 2:4). Man may have perfect confidence, however matters may seem to him to go wrong with his imperfect vision of the world and the happenings in it, that there is a good God who governs all in the interest of righteousness (Matthew 13:24-30,36-43).
3. The relation of God to all other existences. He creates, sustains and orders all (Genesis 1:1; Psalm 19).
4. The motive of God in His relation to all other existence; it is holy love (1 John 4:8).
Supreme power, personality, intelligence and perfect goodness are then the great revealed truths which the Bible presents to us as the proper conceptions which we should have of God.
But if it is desired to know what God is like we look at once to Jesus Christ. He is supreme intelligence. He has power over nature and men and He uses all with the motive and purpose of a holy love. We know that He controlled nature, when on earth, and not nature Him. He taught the great love of God for man. He made it plain that men were not in a relation as atoms of matter in a whirlpool of action, but as sons to a loving father.
GOD IS SUPREME
God's Attitude to the Universe.—The Scriptures are consistent in the statement, many times made, that God is the source of all things. He brings all things into being and sustains all by the word of His power. His is a work of perpetual administration. But God is not wholly occupied in conducting the affairs of the universe, neither does it exhaust His possibilities (Psalm 8:1; 148:13). He is greater than the universe. God, says Dr. Clarke, in his "Outline of Christian Theology," is like the spirit of a man in his body, which is greater than his body, able to direct his body, and capable of activities that far transcend the physical realm. God is a free spirit, personal, self-directing, unexhausted by His present activities. This statement affirms both the immanence and the transcendence of God. By the immanence of God is meant that He is everywhere and always present in the universe, nowhere absent from it, never separated from its life. By His transcendence is meant—not as is sometimes represented—that He is outside and views the universe from beyond and above, but that He is not shut up in it or limited by it, not required in His totality to maintain and order it. By both together is meant that He is a free spirit inhabiting the universe, but surpassing it, immanent as always in the universe, and transcendent, as always independent of its limitations and able to act upon it.
God's Attitude to Man.—God has not only placed man at the head of the animal world, but has endowed him with qualities which make him its lord and master. God is more than the Creator of man. He is his Father, Saviour and Friend.
God comes to man in the attitude, of The Supreme Spiritual Being, approaching a spiritual being who is of priceless value. Jesus Christ makes this truth very plain. He everywhere teaches the great worth of the life of a man and that God is seeking to come directly into touch with this life which is so precious in His sight (John 3:16; Matthew 10:30,31). This life is not the physical but the spiritual which is the real life of a man. "Not what one has, but what one is, gives the true measure of a man." He said, "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:36,37). "Is not the life more than meat and the body than raiment?" (Matthew 6:25). "In harmony with this view of the worth of life," Professor Stevens in "The Theology of the New Testament," says, "Jesus taught that the most humble and insignificant person, on whom men set no value, is precious in the sight of God. These little ones, be they children or humble believers, are not the despised (Matthew 18:10). The least important person who goes astray from goodness excites the pity and solicitude of God, and He seeks him and brings him back as the shepherd, leaving his ninety-nine sheep, goes into the mountains in eager search after the one that has wandered away" (Luke 15:14).
The hope of everlasting life is bound up with the recognition by man of the priceless value of the spiritual life and of the necessity of his coming into harmony (in thought, will and action) with God's plans for him (John 17:3; Luke 12:16-21; John 1:4; 3:15,34-36; 6:35,47; 14:6).
"GOD IS THE PERSONAL SPIRIT"
"God is Spirit," these words of Christ, uttered to the Samaritan woman (John 4:24), have reference to the nature of God and show us how we are to think of Him. He is not limited to a particular place of worship, but is to be worshipped "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23).
When we speak of a spirit we mean a being who has intelligence and will; one who thinks, feels and wills. God the great intelligence and will can enter into communication with man who, while he has a body, has also a spirit possessing intelligence and a will. We need not define the difference between God and matter, "if only we give full weight to this vital and practical difference, that He is one who thinks and feels and wills. The composition of spirit we may never understand, but this is the action of spirit and this is intelligible." God is everywhere represented in the Scriptures as exercising intelligence and will (Genesis 1:1,2; 6:3; Job 26:7-14; 38:1-41; Psalm 2; 19; 72; Isaiah 61:1; Mark 10:27; 12:27; John 3:34; Acts 3:26).
God is Personal.—Personality has two characteristics; self-consciousness and self-direction. When it is said that God is personal, the meaning is that He knows Himself as God and directs His own actions. In the Bible He is represented as saying "I" (Exodus 20:2; 3:14) and as directing all things. Personality does not limit God. He is the one perfect personality. Personality in man exists only in a more or less imperfect degree. Personality is understood here not as "bodily," but as belonging to the spirit.
GOD IS GOOD
The Character of God is a subject of great importance to man. God is the Supreme Personal Spirit, yet to know only this is to leave out a very vital part in our estimation or knowledge of God. We desire to know and feel that God is not only the greatest, but the best being in the universe. Hence God is shown to us in the Bible to be inwardly perfect and outwardly consistent with this perfection. The Old Testament shows a struggle between God and man; God seeking to bring man to the thinking of right thoughts and doing of right actions and man resisting Him. The history of Israel is a story of a nation whom God would make a righteous people; all the laws given to it, civil, sanitary and ceremonial, were with the end in view to make it "a holy nation"; all its prophets and teachers proclaim the righteous and just character of God (Exodus 19:6; Leviticus 11:45; 19:2; 20:7, 8; Numbers 15:40; Deuteronomy 14:2,21; Joshua 24:19; Psalm 22:3; 99:3; 111:9; Isaiah 6:3; 57:15). In Jesus Christ and His life upon earth we see the goodness of God in its largeness. "In His gospel holiness is the ideal, the substance of Christian character and the end in view in Christian experience." He says, in the Sermon on the Mount, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).
In Christ we have the one perfect ideal of moral excellence. In Him we can see what goodness in God means (John 14:9).
The standard for the conduct of man is that of God's goodness, righteousness and truth; this is not a double one—the Old and the New Testament—but a single one and applicable to all men of all races and climes.
"If sin exists holiness in God must absolutely and forever oppose it. From the holiness in God's character we can understand His righteousness and justice. The man who does evil sets his will against God's will and against the principle upon which He conducts the universe. Such a man has placed himself where he must either turn back and forsake his sin or take the inevitable consequences of resisting the purpose which God is fulfilling."
God's love for man is bound up with His goodness. God, foreseeing the fearful consequences of man's sinning, seeks in every way to warn and turn him back from the evil way. He knows the great worth of the soul and desires to save it to everlasting joy (John 3:17; Luke 9:56; John 14:1-3).
The Manifestation of God in Jesus Christ.—Paul says, "when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son" (Galatians 4:4); "That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:10,11).
This personal manifestation of God in Christ is in perfect harmony with the nature and character of God as we know Him through the Scriptures. This manifestation of God is not only subject to a historical test, but may also be made the subject of a personal experience test, "If any man will do His will he shall know of the doctrine" (John 7:17). Soon after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus the disciples, who had been with Jesus when He was upon earth, began to urge others to make a test of personal experience in regard to the manifestation of God in Christ (Acts 2:14,31-47; 3:19-21; 7:56). Paul, who had a special experience (Acts 9:1-8), preached this test of personal experience throughout the Roman Empire. Ever since those early times there has been the same urgent appeal for men to come to a knowledge of God through Jesus Christ and to make the test not only historical, but one of personal experience.
The "Threefold Self-manifestation of God."—Christ in instructing His disciples after His resurrection, said, "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19).
In the Old Testament we have the manifestation of God as the one living God of all. He was specially known as the God of Israel in preparing that nation for the great part it had in the divine economy.
In the New Testament Christ is recognized by His followers—and so taught Himself—as the personal manifestation of God, to whom divine honour was and is to be given. Christ told His followers that He would "pray the Father and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever" (John 14:16). This Comforter (16:7-15), the Holy Spirit, would guide them into all truth.
The Holy Spirit, upon whom they were to wait for His manifestation (Acts 1:8), came in wonderful power on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), thus beginning the great work which was to spread around the world. When Paul and Barnabas were ready for their large missionary task, the Holy Spirit called them to it (Acts 13:2). The early Church felt the presence of that mighty indwelling Holy Spirit. "As God Himself had come in the Son so it was felt that He had come in the Spirit. The one God of all known to the fathers, had manifested Himself in the divine human Christ, and in the invisible Spirit of truth and life. Both was His and yet each was truly Himself."
Who is God? How shall we think of Him? Give some of the wrong conceptions of God. What can be said of the right conceptions of God? What is the Christian conception of God? How can we know what God is like? What is God's attitude to the universe and to man? What do we mean when we say, that "God is a Spirit"? How is God personal? What can be said of the character of God? How is God manifested, in Christ, and in the threefold manifestation?
THE CHRISTIAN MAN
Scripture references: Genesis 1:26-28; 2:7; 9:6; Job 33:4; Psalm 100:3; 8:4-9; Ecclesiastes 7:29; Acts 17:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:7; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10; 1 Corinthians 15:45; Hebrews 2:6,7; Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 Corinthians 2:9.
WHAT IS MAN?
What Shall We Think of Man?—Who is he? What is his place on the earth and in the universe? What is his destiny? He is of necessity an object of thought. He is the subject of natural laws, instincts and passions. How far is he free; how far bound? How is he linked with the physical and the spiritual worlds? These and a host of other questions press upon us for answers, when we begin to think about man and his destiny.
Taken in detail the inquiries lead investigators in many different directions and result in many contradictory systems of thought. Taken, however, in a general practical way all questions about man may be considered from two standpoints; the physical and the spiritual. The danger is in making the physical alone interpret the spiritual and in declaring that "man is simply a ripple on the sea of human events and human life, merely on episode marking a particular stage in the cooling of a nebula." This method of interpretation leads to the ruling out of any personal responsibility on the part of man for his thoughts or actions, the obliteration of the distinction between right and wrong and the denial of a personal God and personal immortality.
The right standpoint from which to consider the many questions about man, as he appears upon this earth, is that of a personal spiritual being with a physical body. There is here no denial of the physical part of man, but it is made subordinate to the spiritual. Man is personal and responsible for his thoughts and conduct; upon this conception of man is founded human society and the state. Man is spiritual, knowing the distinction between right and wrong, capable of knowing God who is The Personal Spirit and looking forward to a personal immortality.
The Christian Thought of Man recognizes him as a personal spiritual being with a physical body; he has large responsibilities, and a great destiny to attain—if he so wills.
There are six heads under which the Christian conception of man may be considered:
1. Man is mortal (Psalm 90:5,10; Ecclesiastes 12:5). The physical part of man is quite definitely limited in years. His body is formed of the same elements as that of any other animal and is subject to the law of decay and death. This linking of man with, what we call, the material universe is asserted at the very opening of the Bible (Genesis 2:7). Man is a member of a race of men with all that this membership implies (Acts 17:26).
2. Man is immortal (1 Corinthians 15:53,54). The physical body is the house of the spirit of man. All the appeals in the Scriptures are addressed to this personal spirit of man (Matthew 6:25,33; John 14:1-4). There is in the New Testament a great forward look to the things that shall come to pass after the passing away of the physical body (Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 21,22).
3. Man is a moral being (Romans 2:14,15). There is a law of conscience impressed upon man when he comes into the world, which makes him a moral being capable of distinguishing between right and wrong. Man knows when he sins against the law of his conscience.
4. Man is a responsible being (Romans 2:1-11). He is self-conscious and self-determining. He knows himself as himself and he can determine his actions; it is these characteristics which make him responsible for his sins. He has the power of choice and in willing to do right or wrong he brings the consequences of his doing upon himself.
5. Salvation for man is through Jesus Christ. Man sins and violates his moral nature; he feels the responsibility for his sin; he desires forgiveness for his sin and to be freed from its power over his spiritual nature (Romans 7:23,24). But he finds no earthly help. Such help can come to man only through a spiritual being who, subject to all the assaults of sin (Matthew 4:1-11), has triumphed over them all (Romans 8:1-4; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus Christ, the manifestation of God the Father, is the Spiritual Being through whom man can receive forgiveness for sin (Luke 5:23,24; Acts 2:38; 13:38,39; 16:30,31).
6. Large possibilities are everywhere asserted for man in the Scriptures. This earthly life is looked upon as the beginning of a greater and fuller life (1 Corinthians 13:9,12). Yet in doing the will of God man may even here enter upon a life full of joy (Hebrews 12:1,2).
MAN MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD
The Statement of the Case.—In Genesis 1:26 we are told that God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." In Genesis 2:7 the narrative relates, "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul" (see Psalm 8:4-8). These passages have a great representative character and the truth expressed in them has lived and will live under all theories of the appearance of man upon this earth. In the Bible man is shown as the latest and highest creation of God, the last and best of His work in the animal world, but with a difference that is world-wide between him and the brute creation. Here is an animal, coming up out of the dust, endowed with spiritual qualities which place him not only at the head of the animal kingdom, but dominating it. The most radical evolutionist must admit that man is the last in the list of uplifts in the animal world, that he has qualities which elevate him far above it and by which he dominates it. Somewhere back there, again, he must admit that there came a change and the dust-born animal was changed into a God-born soul. The great truth then remains, man is an animal but endowed with a growing marvellous self-conscious, self-determining personality. As the Bible is a progressive revelation, showing us more and more the greatness of spiritual truths, it represents man as starting from no high plane of civilization and as a learner through the ages. Man is even now in the process of making; he has not yet come to his best estate.
The Image of God.—What is the likeness of God? "God is Spirit" (John 4:24) and that part of man which counts is his spiritual kinship to God.
Man's intelligence, moral nature and will constitute "the image of God" in him and make it possible for him to come into communication with God and to occupy his unique place in the universe. Only a person can understand a person.
"Man is dear to God because he is like Him. Vast and glorious as it is, the sun cannot think God's thoughts; can fulfill but cannot intelligently sympathize with God's purposes. Man, alone among God's works, can enter into and approve of God's purpose in the world and can intelligently fulfill it. Without man the whole material universe would have been dark and unintelligible, mechanical and apparently without any sufficient purpose. Matter, however fearfully and wonderfully wrought, is but the platform and material in which spirit, intelligence and will, may fulfill themselves and find development."
The Bible seeks to show men in how many ways they resemble God and to urge them to be worthy of their likeness to God. There is a certain philosophy on the other hand, sometimes called "the dirt philosophy," which seeks to show men in how many ways they resemble the brute and to urge them to live the life of the brute.
But a great practical question which demands an answer of us—as we look out upon the world of men taking them as they are—is, Did God make the evil man "in His likeness" as well as the good man?
The Good Man.—The best things bear the stamp of their maker. If a good judge of pictures is taken into some famous art gallery it is not necessary to point out to him the excellencies of the paintings, they tell their own story. There are men in the Bible who manifestly bear the image of God; Abraham, Isaac, Enoch, Moses, David, John, Paul and others. There have been many men in ancient and modern times who, when some great crisis has come in the state or church, have conducted themselves as men born in the image of God; men who have sacrificed their own interests to be loyal to the truth. We all recognize such men as God-born.
The Evil Man.—The difficulty is however to recognize any image of God in a certain class of evil men who have low instincts and desires; men who lie, cheat, steal and break every commandment of God and man.
Did God make the worst and the lowest of men? If we are to consider fairly the question of the making of man in the image of God we must not shun this problem, which the vilest of men and the most degraded savage presents. What can be seen in these men that reminds us of "the likeness of God"? We are to judge men, however, by what they are capable of and are, at their best, rather than at their worst. The art world regards Michael Angelo's statue of Moses as one of the greatest creations of the sculptor's genius. Suppose, however, some one should maliciously deluge this masterpiece with ink, smash it into fragments with a huge hammer, and then ask as he looked upon the marred and blackened bits of marble, "Is that a masterpiece of Michael Angelo's genius?" So we look upon a man who has been marred and broken by sin and ask the question, "Was that man created in the image of God? Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions." Trace back the cause of the degradation of the individual or society or state and we always find the root to be in some transgression of a righteous law of God.
The Bible uniformly asserts that God is not the author of sin or man's fall into evil ways, but that he has sufficient light to follow right ways, if he will. But that an evil man has this marvelous heritage of being God-born is shown by the fact that even when he has marred "the likeness of God" in him, by sin, beyond human recognition there is still a possibility of its being restored. Jesus Christ said, "For the Son of man is come to seek and save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10; Matthew 15:24; Luke 15:4); the most evil men came to Him and, confessing their sins, were brought back into sonship with God. The incentive to Christian work, in the slums of the cities, amongst the most degraded savages and everywhere, is the finding of men broken and marred by sin and the possibility of bringing them back to God.
God disapproves the sin but loves the sinner. "God commended His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8-11).
THE CHIEF END OF MAN
The Bible declares the divine origin and the divine destiny of man, and that he was made in the image of God and for His glory.
A Threefold Obligation rests upon man to serve and glorify God,
"1. On account of his creation by God, the Father.
"2. On account of his redemption by God, the Son.
"3. On account of his regeneration and sanctification by God, the Holy Ghost."
The Great Concern of Man should be conformity with the divine likeness (John 5:30; Matthew 6:10,33; 16:26; Romans 14:8; I Corinthians 10:31). "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:2). It is only when man succeeds in bringing his will to do God's will and makes God's plan his plan of life that he comes to his best and highest estate. The world is full of sin and misery, and there are many burdens heavy to be borne, because man insists upon having his way instead of seeking God's way. Many great civilizations have gone down and many forms of society have been disrupted because, in them, man strove to set up his glory, rather than God's glory, as the standard to be striven for. Man has repeatedly attempted to attain to "the dominion" promised him only to fail because he has desired such "dominion" to spend it upon himself. God desires to crown man with glory and honour and to do exceedingly large things for him, the Scriptures are filled with great promises, but man only grasps at the shadow of power, when he might have the substance. All great inventions and discoveries but point to still greater ones, when man shall be fitted by spiritual grace and goodness to be intrusted with them. The kingdom of heaven must come in man's heart before any great material or spiritual advancement can come in the world. Education, commerce, art, science, in all their majesty of strength, can never do what the Christian religion can do for men when it shall succeed in getting them to seek to be conformed to "the divine likeness": this is a truth too little emphasized, but it is fundamental and necessary to any real progress in the world. "There is a higher law for life than self-will and unregulated impulse; the real world goes deeper than things of sense; this temporal life is related to eternity; and God is the central verity of all."
THE PERFECT EXAMPLE
God's Measure of a Man.—What is the standard by which man is to compare himself? Great things are expected of a man but how is he to work them out? These are fair questions.
Jesus Christ has two titles in the New Testament, "The Son of God" and "The Son of Man." If we want to know what God is like we look into the face of Jesus Christ. If we want to know what man ought to be we look into the face of Jesus Christ (John 14:5-9; Matthew 5:48).
Jesus Christ is the Perfect Example.
He is the Perfect Example of a Physical Man.—The test here is bodily endurance and perfect control over the body. Look at Jesus Christ and note His physical endurance tests. He was forty days without food (Matthew 4:2); this is not a weakling's task. A man must have a strong body to endure through such a starvation period. For a man to be crucified upon a cross, after being scourged, was to undergo the most terrible agony; yet Christ so had His body under control upon His cross that He could speak forgiveness for His enemies and commend His mother to the care of a disciple. "How can I start a religion?" said one great Frenchman to another. "Go and be crucified," was the reply. If we want to behold the perfect physical man, who had His body in complete control and made it do His will, we must look to Jesus Christ. How many sins come to man through a weak physical control!
He is the Perfect Example of an Intellectual Man.—What man can compare with Jesus Christ in the power of His intellect? He stands ready before all to state and defend His precepts and principles. He so spoke to the people that they listened with growing conviction. "Never man spake like this man." Difficult questions were brought to Him, questions which would make the wisest judges hesitate in their answers, and at once He gave His replies which stand unimpeached to-day for marvellous wisdom and power. Living in an age long before modern science had its birth, He handles Nature as her Master and makes no mistake. His words to-day are a power in the court, in the senate and the marts of the world, as well as in the pulpit. He is the perfect intellectual man for our example.
He is the Perfect Example of a Moral Man.—Many intellectual and physical giants fail upon the moral test; but in Christ we find no moral flaw. He is the standard of moral perfection. He is the perfect moral example for all men.
Here is the foundation for physical and intellectual progress, but without a true moral foundation they will both fail.
No man ever so ministered to men as Jesus Christ.
What is man? What shall we think of him? What is the Christian thought of man? Give the five points in the Christian conception of man. Man made in the image of God; give a statement of this case. What is the image of God? Did God make the good man, the evil man? What is the chief end of man? What threefold obligation rests upon man to serve and glorify God? What should be the great concern of man? What can be said of God's measure of a man? What can be said of Jesus Christ as the perfect physical, intellectual and moral man?
THE CHRISTIAN'S FELLOW MAN
Scripture references: Luke 10:29-37; Matthew 7:12; 5:16; Luke 12:13-15; 1 Corinthians 13; Matthew 7:3-5; 5:42-49; John 21:21, 22.
MAN AND OTHER MEN
The Question of Relationship.—One of the most important questions is that of the relation which a man shall hold to other men.
1. It is fundamental in every system of philosophy and religion. The answers, which are given, show their widespread practical bearing in the social, industrial and political spheres, as well as in the religious.
2. It is imperative from the fact it demands a reply which becomes at once the basis of action. A man, amongst men, is under the necessity of deciding how he will conduct himself towards his fellow men.
There are many divergent opinions, in regard to the relation which a man should sustain to his fellow man, which lead to widely divergent courses of action and largely affect the world for good or ill.
Jesus Christ was outspoken on this matter. His words (Luke 10:29-37; Matthew 22:36-40) go at once to the heart of the question and give its only possible solution.
THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MEN
The Inequalities in the Lives of Men are many and far reaching. They divide men from each other and tend, if brooded over, to make them live lives apart, with a lessening sympathy and a growing hostility. They pertain to race, education, business and society. They may be natural, or artificially induced.
The great inequality to-day, however, upon which men place an acute emphasis is that of wealth or the lack of it. A man once came to Jesus and said, "Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me" (Luke 12:13); there is the same demand to-day. Men are not seeking to share the responsibility of a self-denying service to their fellow-men, such as Jesus gave; neither are they greatly desirous of advancing the cause of righteousness in the world, but they are too largely looking to the betterment of their material condition. It is this state of affairs which often spurs men on to accumulate wealth by the oppression of their fellow men. Many men work and plan for certain great results in financial matters (as though these were the supreme things), only to be disappointed and in consequence lose their interest in life. It is the making of the struggle for material betterment the chief thing in life which causes strikes, lockouts and most of our modern industrial troubles. Here we find also the cause of heart-burnings and jealousies and deep-seated hatreds.
It is said that out of these struggles between competitors, and employer and employee, there is coming a better understanding between the contending parties and also new adjustments which will do away with these destructive strifes. This may all be true, but so long as men seek simply and only for material betterment, ignoring the spiritual and moral in their lives, any readjustment of hours of labour or scale of wages or agreements will only be of a temporary character, for the real cause of the whole trouble is left untouched. One of the ablest writers upon "The Social Unrest" says, "At the heart of the larger labour movement is the race longing for a society in which at least the spirit of equality shall be realized. Most radical remedies are only means to this end. Beyond, and deeper than all the machinery of social reconstruction, is this master passion of democracy." But this same writer also, after a survey of the whole question, declares that before this equality can be realized there must come a character founded on love.
Cause and Remedy.—Selfishness is often the real cause of the sting of inequality and of the keeping of men apart; until this is eradicated and replaced by the master passion of love—employer for employee and employee for employer—no agreements and no legislation, between the contending forces will serve the purpose. It was the master passion of a supreme love which produced the first social equality society (Acts 4:32-37); it was selfishness which broke it up (Acts 5:1-13). This selfishness is also at the root of the arrogance which causes men to despise men of an inferior race, culture or social position and seeks to use them for purposes of gain.
Perfect equality amongst men, however, outside of equality before the law and God, hardly seems a realizable thing; certainly all men cannot be of the same age and of the same stature at the same time; there are gifts of talent; there are different races, but where supreme love is it takes out the sting of a sense of an inferiority and the jealousy and hatred of superior gifts; under its benign influence the rich and the poor, the talented and the untalented, work together as brethren. The brotherhood of love is the only true brotherhood and the only solution of this vexed question.
THE TRUE RELATION OF MAN TO MAN
Who is My Neighbour?—The answer which Jesus gave to this question (Luke 10:29), which a certain lawyer asked of Him in order to justify himself, shows the true relation of man to man.
The lawyer doubtless supposed when he put this question to Jesus that he would silence Him. The Jews in their proud isolation considered themselves the chosen people of God and despised other races, even looking with a certain contempt upon their Roman conquerors. How would the Jewish Messiah, if not put to silence, answer a question like this? Doubtless the reply would be that only a Jew could be neighbour to a Jew. The race spirit is a strong one and men born to a certain nationality have many stout binding ties of speech and customs, which are not easily broken.
Mark, however, the large mindedness of Jesus. He breaks at once through race ties and without so much as mentioning the Jew, he takes the Samaritan as the example of a good neighbour. Now the Jews and the Samaritans had no dealings with each other, their animosity was well known; at this distance of time we can hardly realize how startling a thing it was to take a Samaritan as an example of a good neighbour. But it is right here that Jesus begins to show us the true relation of man to man and that this relation is superior to race, caste, language, social distinctions, customs and organizations.
My neighbour, then, is not only the man who lives next door, or is in the same business, or belongs to the same church or labour organization, or political party, but all men are my neighbours and I am to seek to do them good (Luke 10:30-37). This definition of neighbour does away with all clannishness and exclusiveness, and man comes face to face with his fellow man as a man.
How Shall I Treat My Neighbour?—A number of answers may be given:
1. Investigate the claims of my neighbour when I see him in a sad condition. The good Samaritan did this at considerable personal risk, for he could be by no means sure that the robbers would not return and rob him. Too many men, when they see their neighbours in want, pass by on the other side, as the priest and Levite did. Adversity has been described as "a deep pit, into which a man has fallen, which is surrounded by his near-sighted friends."
2. Sympathize and succour my neighbour in trouble and do what is needed to help him get upon his feet.
3. Interest myself in the well being of my neighbour after the immediate and acute necessity for aid is past. There are many who are willing to aid when a pressing call comes, but who are unwilling to keep up that aid through the convalescing stage; here is where the summons comes to be not weary in well doing to one's neighbour.
Outside of money help and aid in times of disaster and sickness there are many who are lonesome for words of cheer and acts of kindness on the part of those with whom they daily come in contact. There is a deeper meaning in the parable than that which relates to physical pain. There is a suffering of the soul and a mental trouble which beseech the kindness of the Christlike neighbourly touch.
4. There is also the larger work, which is fundamental, of bringing one's fellow man into the fellowship and communion of Jesus Christ; this is the greatest benefit which any Christian man can confer upon his brother-man (John 1:40-42,45).
CHRIST'S LAW OF LOVE
Statement of the Law.—"Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matthew 22:39). A certain lawyer asked Jesus, "Master, which is the great commandment of the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." The kingdom of God will come when this commandment is fully obeyed by men.
Exposition of the Law.—It would seem as if a law so plainly stated would need no explanation or exposition. But before men can rightly love each other they must have certain principles and a certain character. It is not desirable that evil men with depraved thoughts and bad lives love us as they love themselves; for they love that which, if accepted by men, would lead to deep corruption of character.
Jesus Christ well put it that God must first be loved, with all the heart, soul and mind, before a man is ready to love his neighbour as himself. This loving of God, first, implies an acceptance of the standpoint of God in regard to man and the looking upon one's fellow man as God looks upon him. This standpoint of God is best seen in the words and acts of Jesus Christ. A man in order, then, to love his fellow man aright must be thoroughly imbued with the principles of the Master. A man must look upon other men as having souls of eternal value. A man who would do as Jesus would have him do must first have His spirit of self-sacrificing love (Matthew 23:8-12; John 17:19; Philippians 2:5-7; Isaiah 53:3; John 13:12-15).
Application of the Law.—The beauty of this law of love is that it may be universally applied. There is no condition of man that it cannot meet and satisfy. The crying wrongs of the home, society, the industrial world, the state, arise out of its neglect and condemnation. Men seek to make good their claims for things which they think belong to them, they fight for them, gain them or lose them, fight again or are fought, and in consequence race hatred, class and industrial hatred embitter the hearts of men.
This law applied to the life of the individual, sweetens it in its lowest depths and makes the strongest kind of a character. Paul is an example of an able yet impetuous man, who let the gospel of the love of Christ have its supreme way with him. We find in him no shrinking from difficulties or death itself (2 Timothy 4:6-8). In the midst of sore trials he wrote that remarkable classic (1 Corinthians 13) upon love which has been the help and stay of many a burdened soul.
This law applied in society is its only saving power. It is this Christ love which sends men into the slums of the cities to work for their fellow men. It is this love that is the moving power of the missionary of the cross, when he goes into the heart of heathendom. It is this love that has brought into the world all the reforms that are worth having and caused it to care for its sick and its poor.
It is to be deplored that in some quarters we should hear voices talking about the inability of the Church to cope with the modern conditions of life and that these voices should be calling for new institutions to take its place. So long as the Church recognizes its duty to preach and practice the love of God to man, man to God, and man to his fellow man, no institution can take its place; for it has in this preaching, and the application of it, the supreme remedy for the ills of mankind. Where there is no love or regard of man for his God or fellow men all agreements and all laws however stoutly made, with and for contending parties, have in them a fatal weakness.
It is love that sent Jesus Christ into the world (John 3:16,17) and it is its proclamation, and acceptance as the ruling power of life, that has caused all the real advancement in civilization since His advent.
What can be said of the question of the relationship of man to other men? What can be said of the inequalities in the lives of men and the great inequality? What is the cause and remedy of the sting of inequality? Who is my neighbour? How shall I treat my neighbour? What is Christ's law of love? Give the statement, exposition and application of the law.
THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
Scripture references: Hebrews 11; Matthew 9:29; 17:20; Mark 10:52; 11:22; Acts 2:38; 3:16; 10:43; 16:30,31; Romans 1:17; 5:1; 10:17; Galatians 2:20.
FAITH AND PRACTICE
Belief Controls Action.—"As the man is, so is his strength" (Judges 8:21), "For as he thinketh in his heart so is he" (Proverbs 23:7). "According to your faith be it unto you" (Matthew 9:28,29). "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Proverbs 4:23).
The Scriptures place stress upon the fact that a man's actions are largely dependent upon what he believes or disbelieves rather than upon his environment (Proverbs 4:23; Romans 10:10; Acts 8:21; Matthew 9:4; 12:34; 15:11,18-20; 23:25).
There is the will to believe and there is the will not to believe (Matthew 15:28; 16:24; Luke 9:23; John 5:40). Man grows from the inside out. What he believes in his heart will sooner or later manifest itself in his acts. If a man thinks evil in his heart and cherishes that evil, while outwardly his life is moral and upright, it is only a question of time when the inner badness will break through the thin crust of outer goodness. The real battle of life is in a man's soul and if a man sets himself to win this battle he need have no fear of outward evil circumstances; he will have to set no guard upon his words or acts for he will speak and act from a pure and upright heart. It is not what he disbelieves, but what he believes, his conviction of truth, that makes him strong.
Hence the necessity for the vigorous and living faith which Christ urged upon His followers (Mark 11:22-24; Matthew 17:19,20; Luke 8: 24,25), a faith that could not be daunted by mountains of difficulty or great storms of afflictions.
Jesus came into the world with a positive program. He had a constructive gospel to preach to men. His disciples after His death followed in the footsteps of their Master and carried out His commands. The result was that faith was translated into action; the old world was changed and myriads of men gave in their allegiance to the Christ. The positive setting forth of the Christian faith always brings definite results.
BASIS OF CHRISTIAN FAITH
The Christian Faith is Founded Upon the Fact and Experience of Jesus Christ.—Without Him there would have been no such faith.
1. The fact of Christ. This faith bases itself primarily not upon reason or feeling, but upon Jesus Christ, a historical person, and what He said and did while upon this earth in bodily form. The early disciples and preachers declared themselves to be witnesses. They were sent forth as witnesses (Matthew 28:18-20; John 15:27; Acts 1:8; 2: 32). The speeches of Peter (Acts 2:14-40; 3:12-26; 4:8-12), Stephen (Acts 7:1-56) and of Paul (Acts 13:16-41; 22:1-21) are recitals, of certain well attested occurrences, which have for their chief point the setting forth of the fact of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as the Saviour of men and hope of the world (Acts 2:38,39).
2. The experience of Christ. By this is meant the experience which men have who receive Christ as their Saviour and Lord. There is a historical Christ; and there is a spiritual Christ who enters into a communion of happiness and joy, with believers in Him. Jesus Christ, when on earth in bodily form, promised the coming of the Holy Spirit who should glorify Him (John 16:13,14); He also declared to His disciples, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matthew 28:20). Wherever this gospel of Jesus Christ is preached and men under its power truly repent of their sins and accept Him as their Saviour, as in the past so now, men may enter into personal relations with their risen and glorified Lord (Acts 2:40-42; John 7:17; Acts 8: 5-7; Romans 8:1-10; Colossians 1:27; Acts 26:15-19).
Essential Elements.—In the Christian faith there are six component elements.
1. Belief in God as The Spirit, "infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom and power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth" (John 4:24; Exodus 20:2-7; Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 44:6; John 17:3; 1 Corinthians 8:4,6; Psalm 19; 104:24).
2. Belief in man, as a child of God, whose spirit is destined to live forever (Genesis 2:7; 2 Corinthians 5:1; Ecclesiastes 12:7; Matthew 6:25; 5:29,30).
3. Belief in sin which taints and corrupts the heart of man, making it finally, if unchecked, the dwelling place of all evil. The effects of sin are everywhere plainly manifest. Men not only sin through ignorance and carelessly but willfully. The worst sins are those which are of the spirit, anger, pride, malice and envy (Isaiah 53:6; 64:6; Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8; Romans 1:18-3:23; 8:7).
4. Belief in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Saviour of men, who can cleanse the heart of man and save him from his sins. Jesus Christ came not only to reveal God, the Father, to man but also to purge his heart from evil. "He is the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 2:1,2; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:24,25; Matthew 20:28; Romans 3:24,25; 5:8; 8:3; Galatians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Matthew 9:2-6).
5. Belief in the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 3:16; Galatians 5:22) who "testifies of Christ, as the Saviour of sinners, unites us to Him by faith, and makes us partakers of all His benefits." Jesus said, "When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me" (John 15:26). "The Spirit of truth ... will guide you into all truth.... He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine and shall show it unto you" (John 16:13,14; 14:26; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Titus 3:5,6; Matthew 28: 19; John 3:5,6).
6. Belief in the resurrection and the life to come, the issues of which are declared to be eternal. "The hour is coming in which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:28,29; Matthew 25:31-46; 25:1-13). The great rainbow of promise that spans the future, for those who trust in Christ, is in the fact that He said, "I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die" (John 11:25,26; I Thessalonians 5:23; John 6:47; 14:2,19). The resurrection body "will be spiritual, immortal, incorruptible, and like unto the glorious body of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 3:20,21; 1 Corinthians 15:20-23,35-57).
Definiteness.—There is a marvellous directness and definiteness in the statements of the New Testament writers, in proclaiming the Christian faith, because they believe that they are dealing with the tremendous facts of life and destiny. God has manifested Himself and spoken in Jesus Christ as He has never manifested Himself before. "God who at sundry times and in diverse manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things" (Hebrews 1:1,2). The eternal things of God, kept secret from the foundation of the world, are now made known to man; why should he not, in spite of any punishment or threatened ignominious death, proclaim these truths definitely and plainly to his fellow man (Acts 4:13-20)?
The keynote of all of Paul's work is sounded in a very definite and direct way in his first Epistle to the Corinthians (2:2,5) where he says, "For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.... That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." Paul consistently maintains throughout his Epistles that the sole basis of salvation is the grace of God through Jesus Christ, to be appropriated by faith on the part of man.
TESTS OF CHRISTIAN FAITH
Effects Upon Men and Institutions.—Jesus Christ was ever urging His disciples to test His words and principles. He declared the difference between true and false prophets could be known by their fruits. He said, "Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit ... wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:15-20). When Thomas expressed doubt of His resurrection, Christ gave him ample opportunity to test its reality (John 20:24-29). Christ's challenge to the world is, "Try Me!" "Come and see what I can do!"
What kind of men has the Christian faith made? What kind of communities has it produced? Two pertinent questions are asked in a recent book of sermons, What would be the effect upon this world if everybody was a consistent Christian? What would be the effect upon this world if everybody was a consistent infidel? "The argument is a crushing one, for of a truth Christianity can stand such a test with a glory that would astonish even the most ardent enthusiasts. And it is the one test, let it be admitted with sorrow, that a reviling world is not willing to have it judged by."
A Saving Faith which meets men at their extremity of need and gives them a new heart. It is not only a faith that did save men when Christ walked the earth and healed the sick, giving sight to the blind and raising the dead, but it is a faith which saves men now. Christ is still performing His miracle of cleansing the hearts of men of evil. He is saying, "Come unto Me," and men are coming as of old. The question whether He can save now is being put to the test every day and every day it is being answered in the regeneration of men. Wherever this gospel is preached amongst the wealthy and learned or the poor and ignorant, it shows its splendid fruitage as it did of old.
USES OF CHRISTIAN FAITH
To Make Plain the Great Cause of All as Father.—We live in an immense universe, in the midst of giant forces of which, after science has made its most searching investigation and said its last word, we know comparatively little and that little imperfectly. No set of men is more ready to admit this state of affairs than that which has made the closest scrutiny of the phenomena of nature. There is a host of questions to which the most painstaking investigation on the part of the philosophers can afford us no answer.
Without this Christian faith which tells us of a revelation from God and His plan and purpose for man we should be helpless, ever seeking for light in this universe which we could not find. Then again we might believe in a first great cause of all things, but without a revelation we could not know God as the Creator of all things and as our Father who cares supremely for us—made known in the manifestation of Jesus Christ.
By faith in Christ we are brought into communion with God the Father.
To Show the Importance and Value of Human Life.—How could man know that he was more than an atom in a whirlpool of atoms, his life of sense but a transitory thing, if it had not been for the Scriptures which seek to impress upon him the value of his life in the sight of God (John 3:16,17; Matthew 16:26)? Without the pale of the Christian faith men hold life but cheaply, they squander it and waste it in sin; they too often say, "Let us eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die"—forever passing out of existence. The Christian faith holds human life as a very precious thing, something to be cherished with infinite and loving care, for the spirit in man is to live forever. Here is a new significance given to life which, when the individual accepts it, gives him new and great ideals, which lift him to a higher level of living.
By faith in Christ we are brought into proper fellowship with our fellow men, and their lives are made precious in our sight.
To Show the Way to Happiness and Joy Through Jesus Christ.—If there is one thing more than another which man is seeking it is happiness, but it is the kind of happiness which frequently destroys the body and soul—still he seeks it. Many men seek happiness through relaxation of their moral nature.
Christ came preaching the happiness of a conqueror, the victor who sings the song of rejoicing over some victory won; He set forth a joy which celebrated a conquest over evil desires and made a man noble and pure in his thoughts and aspirations. Jesus did His work for the joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:2). The Christian faith was never intended to make a man gloomy or downcast, but to put joy in his heart and a song upon his lips. No one has more right to a cheerful countenance than the sincere Christian, for he can be sure that he knows the way of happiness here and nothing can come to him hereafter save peace and glory in the redeemed life.
How does belief control action? What is the basis of Christian faith? Give the six component elements of the Christian faith. What can be said of the definiteness of the Christian faith? Give some of the tests of Christian faith. Give three uses of Christian faith.
THE CHRISTIAN'S BOOK
Scripture references 2 Timothy 3:16,17; 2 Peter 1:20,21; John 5:39; Romans 15:4; 2 Samuel 23:2; Luke 1:70; 24:32,45; John 2:22; 10:35; 19:36; Acts 1:16; Romans 1:1,2; 1 Corinthians 15:3,4; James 2:8.
WHAT IS THE BIBLE?
What is the Bible? How shall we regard it? Where shall we place it? These and many questions like them at once come to the front when we begin to discuss the Bible as a book. It is only possible in this brief study, of a great subject, to indicate the line of some of the answers.
It is not Like Other Books.—Although its last paragraph was written and the canon completed many hundreds of years ago, it is still one of the freshest and newest of books and its moral precepts and admonitions are far in advance of the world's practice. It has an adaptability to all sorts and conditions of men and a flexibility in meeting the most radical changes of thought, which is possessed by no other volume. It has been attacked and denounced and seemingly demolished only in the end to lead its critics captive and to come forth from the fray stronger than ever.
It is a God-filled and God-inspired book. It is the most lasting in its popularity of all books.
It is Like Other Books in that it is cast in the mold of the literature of a certain people. We find here all the forms of literature, history, philosophy, poetry, letters, etc. There is much plausibility in the plea for the study of the Bible as literature for it is the best of its kind.
It Leads the World's Thought of Righteousness and Purity of Life.—The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) and The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:29) set forth the highest ethical standards known to man.
It is the Record of a Revelation from God.
The theme is, "the entrance of God into the spiritual life of man." This makes it superior to all other books and invests it with a unique character which commands our most earnest attention. God, who is speaking to men through this book, says, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." God is not only the God of the Israelites but of all nations and peoples.
The great men, whose life stories are given in the Bible, were God called to, and God guided in, their work of uplifting the world. We have only to look at the record to see how the initiative is declared to have been taken by God. Here is the roll call, Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), Moses (Exodus 3:14), Joshua (1:1-6), Samuel (1 Samuel 3:4-21), David (1 Samuel 16:3,11-13), Isaiah (1:1), Ezekiel (1:1), Jeremiah (1:2) and all the prophets, John the Baptist (Luke 1:13-17; Matthew 3:1-12), Peter, John and Paul (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4; 13:1,2).
The Old Testament shows the looking forward to the Christ and the New Testament records His coming as the Spiritual Light of the world. No other book or set of books announce "the entrance of God to the spiritual life of man" through Jesus Christ (John 1:1-l8), who came speaking of the new spiritual birth of man (John 3:1-21).
The only key to the understanding of the Bible is this plan of God to enter into the spiritual life of man. We may easily look in the Bible for what is not there and read into its pages what is in our own thoughts or read out of them that which we do not wish to see, but back of all we must acknowledge this peculiar purpose of God.
Back also of all theories of revelation and inspiration—and giving rise to them—stands the great thought of God for the spiritual redemption of men. For this end He enters into covenant with the Israelites, He sends them prophets and teachers, and at last He sends His Son. Continually God is calling to men, "Be ye holy for I am holy."
In any book, after the consideration of the theme, we look for the form and the plan. In order to study a book to the best advantage, the different parts and their relation to each other and to the whole must be made plain. The Bible readily lends itself to an investigation of its structure.
The Bible is One Book with one thought running through it, God's purpose to redeem man, and may be so read and studied.
The Bible is Composed of Many Books written by different authors in different languages, at different times. Some of the books were circulated separately before they were gathered either into the canon of the Old or New Testaments. The gathering together of the books and the placing them in the order that we have them now was a slow process, but all in the order and interest of a progressive revelation of God and because of a common sympathetic subject.
The books take different forms and have different classifications, such as books of the law, wisdom, history, poetry, etc. In studying any book it is necessary to attend to its classification; there has been much misunderstanding of the Bible books because of the interpretation of a book of poetry as history or the holding the free style of a letter to the hard and fast standards of a carefully worded court document. The standpoint of the author of a book, and some consideration for the age in which he lives, must always be taken into consideration; in this way a book, which may seem to us now to be behind the age in its thought, will be seen to be far ahead of the age in which the author lived and making and marking an important epoch in a progressive revelation.
Each Bible book has a well considered plan, a special aim, a historical setting and a practical value. For instance, in Genesis we have a book of beginnings; a broad explanation of the origin of the world, man, sin, salvation; and the revelation of God as Creator, Preserver, Lawgiver, Judge and Merciful Father. After the introduction the book, if we look into the book itself, is divided into ten parts with the recurring formula, "These are the generations of." This book cannot be overestimated from a religious standpoint. The fact of a Creator is the fundamental teaching of its cosmogony. God, one God, is here clearly distinguished from a host of heathen gods. He is over and above matter, everything in the universe is subject to Him. Again in this book we have the early history of the human race shown in large outline and also the story of the fathers of the Jewish race from the calling of Abraham to the death of Jacob. Behind any theory of the construction of Genesis the great representative truths stand firm. Every Bible book can be considered and its plan and purpose shown in this way. Even a small book like Ruth, which seems to be only a little pleasant story, has an important part to perform. Without it the times of the judges would present only a very somber picture, but with it we can see that in those dark and troublous times there were noble, God fearing men like Boaz and true women like Ruth. We could not spare a single book of the New Testament, for with one lacking something would be wanting in the picture of early Christianity.
The Bible is Composed of Groups of Books Which Relate to Special Eras.—They show God revealing Himself and also dealing with the chosen nation, under different forms of administration; they indicate the steps leading up to Christ and His appearance on the earth.
First Era, the Time of Beginnings (Genesis 1-11:32). This extends from the creation of the world to the call of Abraham. We have here set forth the connection of the world with God, the beginning of life and beginning of sin, which rendered salvation necessary.
Second Era, the Theocracy. The record is found in the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth and 1 Samuel. This period is known as the Theocracy because it marks the direct rule of God over His people. It lasted from the covenant of God with Abraham to the anointing of Saul as king. We here see the beginning of the chosen family, and nation, what laws and precepts were given it and what fortunes befell it. This training time shows God's high standards in the laws and precept given this Israelitish people.
Third Era, the Monarchy. The record is found in the books of 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Psalms, Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Micah, Joel, Isaiah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk and Jeremiah. We have here the story of the rise, glory, division and fall of the Jewish monarchy. The people desired a king and the king sought to rule by his own will rather than the will of God. We note God's desire to make this nation a "Holy Nation" and its sin and failure. The function of the prophets was to declare the sin of the nation, to set the right way before it and seek to lead it back to God, but the nation would not heed the voices of the prophets, hence the fall of the monarchy. The coming of the perfect king and kingdom under the Messiah is prophesied. The work and place of Christ is foretold by the prophets.
Fourth Era, the Captivity. The record is found in the books of 2 Chronicles, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel and Obadiah. The people rejecting God are taken into captivity. In this captivity the people turn to God in their affliction, their worship is purified and the hope of the coming of the Messiah grows very strong.
Fifth Era, the Restoration. The record is found in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. The people purified by their captivity and uplifted by their hope of the coming Christ are restored to their own land.
Sixth Era, the Christian. The record is found in the books of the New Testament. The Christian era is ushered in by the coming of Christ and the fulfillment of God's promises. The mission of the Jewish nation finds its fruition in Christ and the coming of the Saviour of all mankind.
It will be seen from this very brief summary of the eras how God gradually revealed Himself and His plan for the spiritual enlightenment of all men. The necessity also of studying each book, not only in its own plan but in its group place, in order to find its meaning, cannot be too earnestly commended.
It is natural that a book demanding our belief in such great things should be asked for its credentials and that these credentials should be subjected to the most searching investigation. The Bible has nothing to fear, however, from the keenest scrutiny of any scholar who has only the desire to get at the truth. The trouble begins when a critic, who is hostile to its spiritual truth or who has a theory to maintain, takes a part in the investigation; even then the truth is sure, in time, to assert its rightful claim (Acts 5:39). The fact of different interpretations of the same set of facts in different times, but leading to the same practical results, must also be taken into consideration. All men do not receive the same truth in the same way while they may be one at heart in the fundamentals (1 Corinthians 12:4-14).
The Bible welcomes any and all searching of its claims; it stands out in the open; it has won its way amongst mankind not by the might of those who advocate its claims, but by the power of the truth within its pages.
Some of the arguments for the credibility of the Bible are here given.
The Argument from History.—Back of all questions of authorship, date and composition of the books of the Bible, is the one great question, Are the records true to the facts? Is the Bible, in plain words, true history?
The writers of the New Testament use the historical argument. They speak of the things most surely believed amongst us and of the testimony of eyewitnesses (Luke 1:1-4; John 19:35; 21:24,25). The disciples were not to go forth preaching a subtle philosophy, but were to be witnesses of certain facts and were to testify of the things which they had seen and heard (Acts 1:8). Peter's speech upon the day of Pentecost is a recital of facts. Paul's argument for the resurrection of Christ is based upon the testimony of eye-witnesses (1 Corinthians 15:1-20). If God has manifested Himself in the person of Jesus Christ we need to know it through the best of testimony in regard to the fact. The record of the New Testament is made to this end.
The writers of the Old Testament profess to give us statements of facts in regard to God's dealings with the Israelitish people. The critical dealing with each of the books of the Old Testament is all to the intent whether it fairly represents a historical situation. The older scriptural narratives show of the doings of other nations than the Israelites, they describe situations in times long past, where owing to broken and imperfect records, it has been difficult to get at the exact facts. Unfortunately in some quarters the tendency has been to cast doubt upon the Old Testament writings where the statements were not corroborated by a research in the archives, often very imperfect, of other nations. But happily this state of affairs is being changed and confidence in the historicity of the Old Testament records is being greatly strengthened by the investigations of the archaeologists in the ruins of the great empires of Egypt, Assyria and Babylonia with which Israel came so closely in contact. Until recently the Old Testament stood alone in its assertion of a comparatively high civilization antedating Moses and Abraham, but now we know from excavations made in Nippur and other buried cities that the contention of the Bible is true to the letter. The situation in Egypt and Palestine about the time of the Exodus is made plain by the Tel-el-Amarna tablets. The history of first and second Kings is not only corroborated but amplified by the monuments. Much yet remains to be done along this line, some views may have to be changed, but the period of destruction has passed and that of construction has begun.
The Argument from Prophecy.—The Old Testament prophets were not only the preachers of righteousness for their own times and their own nation, but they had a mission to other nations and times as well. Their ruling idea was the establishment of God's kingdom upon earth. They taught the unity, spirituality, holiness, justice and goodness of God. They made predictions in regard to Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Syria, Moab, and their cities, when they were at the height of their power; these predictions were remarkably fulfilled. They foretold the captivity and restoration of Israel. Their great subject was the expectation of the Messiah and the Messianic Kingdom. The prophecies in regard to the Christ became more and more explicit as the time drew near; they declared His mission, His prophetic power, His kingly office, His priestly activity, the circumstances of His coming through a man, a nation, and in a definite place.
The Arguments from Vitality, Adaptability and Growth.
1. Vitality. The religions of Babylon, Egypt, Greece and Rome died with the nations which gave birth to them. The religion of the Bible, shows its divine author in its vitality and power to outlast the religions with which it has come in contact. Empires, systems of thought, mighty kings, great men rise and have their day and pass away, but this book lives on. Here is a vitality which persists in spite of any and all adverse circumstances and influences.
2. Adaptability. The Bible is at home with all races in all climes. It adapts itself to all conditions of life, the most humble and the most exalted. The Asiatic, the African, the European, the American accept it as their book. It finds men, as men, in the deepest needs of their nature and shows them the all loving Saviour.
3. Growth. The multiplying power of the book is shown by its translations into hundreds of languages and dialects. It makes its own way into the remotest quarters of the globe and is found wielding its power in the hut and the palace. More popular than any book that has ever been published, its sales, of millions of copies a year are ever increasing, because it comes with a message from God direct to the heart of man.
What is the Bible? How is it not like and how is it like other books? How is it the record of a revelation from God? What can be said of its structure? What can be said of its books, of its groups of books? What can be said of its credibility? Give the arguments from history, prophecy, vitality, adaptability and growth.
THE CHRISTIAN PRAYER
Scripture references: Matthew 6:5-15; Luke 11:1-13; John 17; Matthew 26:41; Mark 11:24,25; Luke 6:12,28; 9:29; 1 Thessalonians 5:17,25; 1 Corinthians 14:13,15; Psalm 19:14; 50:15, Matthew 7:7; 1 Timothy 2:1; Ephesians 3:20,21; John 16:23; 14:14; James 5:16.
THE PROVINCE OF PRAYER
Definition.—Prayer is the communion of man with God. It is not first of all the means of getting something from God, but the realization of Him in the soul. "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). The glory of a man is in his uprightness of character, the purity of his spirit and his nearness and likeness to God. Man becomes like that which he thinks about the most often and with which he most frequently communes in the secret recesses of his heart. Prayer is not merely, then, a matter of stated times and seasons, although these should be observed, but a constant walking with God and a realization of His presence at all times and in all places (Luke 18:1; Romans 12:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). The man who thus communes with God will lay before Him his plans and purposes and will ask for direction and guidance in them; he will expect help from God as a partner in all his enterprises; he will grasp the power unseen to work great things in the seen. There will be special needs and occasions when a man, in harmony with God (James 5:16), will require special help and for this aid from God he will make strong and earnest petitions to Him. "Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee and thou shalt glorify Me" (Psalm 50:15; James 1:17; Psalm 19:14; Ephesians 3:20,21).
The Different Kinds of Prayer.—They are adoration, thanksgiving, intercession, petition and praise (1 Timothy 2:1).
The Different Places of Prayer.—1. In the public assemblage (Psalm 122:1,2; Acts 3:1; Hebrews 10:25). 2. In the social and family gathering (Matthew 18:19,20; Acts 1:14; 2:46; 12:12). 3. In private (Matthew 6:6; Mark 1:35; Psalm 55:17; Daniel 6:10).
The Approach of Man to God.—"All men pray at some time or other, whether fitfully or constantly, in weakness or in strength, in sorrow or in joy. Some men pray because it is their chiefest delight to do so, and some pray because necessity drives them to it; but they all pray. Prayer is a constant element, and the impulse to pray is ever present to human nature." Man has been called "a religious and praying animal," because of this universal desire of men to come into some touch with the power over them. This tendency is shown in lands where the true spiritual knowledge of God is lacking and where men deify and adore objects of nature. The sun, the earth, the stars, trees, mountains, waters, winds and carved images have all been made divine objects of adoration and prayer, because of the desire of man to find or place the supernatural in them. Paul said to the men of Athens when he saw the altar to the "Unknown God": "Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship Him declare I unto you" (Acts 17:23). All the research of natural science is to find out what is the Ultimate Power behind all the phenomena of nature. Man by his very nature seeks to approach God. He is driven by an inward impulse to come to Him. Hence, where men do not have the true light by which to approach God or reject it there are found all sorts and kinds of caricatures of religion.