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enlarge them to enclose far more of the grace than we have ever possessed_ We are not straitened in God, but in ourselves. He is able to do exceeding abundantly above what we ask or think.' Therefore let us stretch desires and thoughts to their utmost, remembering that while they can never reach the measure of His grace in itself, they make the practical measure of our possession of it. 'According to thy faith' is a real measure of the gift received, even though according to the riches of His glory' be the measure of the gift bestowed. Note, again,
III. The Glory that springs from the Divine Work.
'The glory of God' is the lustre of His own perfect character, the bright sum total of all the blended brilliancies that compose His name. When that light is welcomed and adored by men, they are said to give glory to God': and this doxology is at once a prophecy that the working of God's power on His redeemed children will issue in setting forth the radiance of His name yet more, and a prayer that it may. So we have here the great thought, expressed in many places of Scripture, that the highest exhibition of the Divine character for the reverence and love-of the whole universe, shall we say ?-lies in His work on Christian souls, and the effect produced thereby on them. God takes His stand, so to speak, on this great fact in His dealings, and will have His creatures estimate Him by it. He reckons it His highest praise that He has redeemed men, and by His dwelling in them, fills them with His own fulness. And this chiefest praise and brightest glory accrues to Him'in the Church in Christ Jesus.' The weakening of the latter words into 'by Christ Jesus,' as in the English Version, is to be regretted, as substituting another thought, Scriptural no doubt and precious, for the precise shade of meaning in the Apostle's mind here. As has been well said, 'the first words denote the outward province; the second, the inward and spiritual sphere in which God was to be praised.' His glory is to shine in the Church, the theatre of His power, the standing demonstration of the might of redeeming love. By this He will be judged, and this He will point to if any ask what is His Divinest work, which bears the clearest imprint of His Divinest self. His glory is to be set forth by men on condition that they are 'in Christ,' living and moving in Him, in that mysterious but most real union without which no fruit grows on the dead branches, nor any music of praise breaks from dead lips.
So, then, think of that wonder that God sets His glory in His dealings with us. Amid all the majesty of His works and all the blaze of His creation, this is what He presents as the highest specimen of His power-the Church of Jesus Christ, the company of poor men, wearied and conscious of many evils, who follow afar off the footsteps of their Lord. How dusty and toil-worn the little group of Christians that landed at Puteoli must have looked as they toiled along the Appian Way and entered Rome! How contemptuously emperor and philosopher and priest and patrician would have curled their lips, if they had been told that in that little knot of Jewish prisoners lay a power before which theirs would cower and finally fade! Even so is it still
Among all the splendours of this great universe, and the mere obtrusive tawdrinesses of earth, men look upon us Christians as poor enough; and yet it is to His redeemed children that God has entrusted His praise, and in their hands He has lodged the sacred deposit of His own glory.
Think loftily of that office and honour, lowly of yourselves who have it laid upon you as a crown. His honour is in our hands. We are the 'secretaries of His praise.' This is the highest function that any creature can discharge. The Rabbis have a beautiful bit of teaching buried among their rubbish about angels. They say that there are two kinds of angels, the angels of service and the angels of praise, of which two orders the latter is the higher, and that no angel in it praises God twice, but having once lifted up his voice in the psalm of heaven, then perishes and ceases to be. He has perfected his being, he has reached the height of his greatness, he has done what he was made for, let him fade away. The garb of legend is mean enough, but the thought it embodies is that ever true and solemn one, without which life is nought: Man's chief end is to glorify God.'
And we can only fulfil that high purpose in the measure of our union with Christ. 'In Him' abiding, we manifest God's glory, for in Him abiding we receive God's grace. So long as we are joined to Him, we partake of His life, and our lives become music and praise. The electric current flows from Him through all souls that are 'in Him,' and they glow with fair colours which they owe to their contact with Jesus. Interrupt the communication, and all is darkness. So, brethren, let us seek to abide in Him, severed from Whom we are nothing. Then shall we fulfil the purpose of His love, Who 'hath shined in our hearts,' that we might give to others 'the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.' Notice, lastly,
IV. The Eternity of the Work and of the Praise.
As in the former clauses, the idea of the transcendent greatness of the power of God was expressed by accumulated synonyms, so here the kindred thought of its eternity, and consequently of the ceaseless duration of the resulting glory, is sought to be set forth by a similar aggregation. The language creaks and labours, as it were, under the weight of the great conception. Literally rendered, the words are 'to all generations of the age of the ages'-a remarkable fusing together of two expressions for unbounded duration, which are scarcely congruous. We can understand 'to all generations' as expressive of duration as long as birth and death shall last. We can understand 'the age of the ages' as pointing to that endless epoch whose moments are 'ages;' but the blending of the two is but an unconscious acknowledgment that the speech of earth, saturated as it is with the colouring of time, breaks down in the attempt to express the thought of eternity. Undoubtedly that solemn conception is the one intended by this strange phrase.
The work is to go on for ever and ever, and with it the praise. As the ages which are the beats of the pendulum of eternity come and go, more and more of God's power will flow out to us, and more and more of God's glory will be
manifested in us. It must be so. For God's gift is infinite, and man's capacity of reception is indefinitely capable of increase. Therefore eternity will be needful in order that redeemed souls may absorb all of God which He can give or they can take. The process has no limits, for there is no bound to be set to the possible approaches of the human spirit to the Divine, and none to the exuberant abundance of the beauty and glory which God will give to His child. Therefore we shall live for ever and for ever show forth His praise and blaze out like the sun with the irradiation of His glory. We cannot die till we have exhausted God. Till we comprehend all His nature in our thoughts, and reflect all His beauty in our character; till we have attained all the bliss that we can think, and received all the good that we can ask; till Hope has nothing before her to reach towards, and God is left behind: we 'shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.'
Let His grace work on you, and yield yourselves to Him, that His fulness may fill your emptiness. So on earth we shall be delivered from hopes which mock and wishes that are never fulfilled. So in heaven, after 'ages of ages of growing glory, we shall have to say, as each new wave of the shoreless, sunlit sea bears us onward, 'It doth not yet appear what we shall be.'
"THE FIRST DAY OF THE FEAST':
A MEDITATION ON MATTHEW XXVI. 17, FOR A COVENANT AND
SACRAMENTAL SERVICE :
BY THE REV. NEHEMIAH CURNOCK.
'YE are they which have continued with Me in My temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as My Father hath appointed unto Me; that ye may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.' Oneness with Christ in temptation, in all that strengthens and gladdens, and in royal labour-is not this the meaning, not only of these words, but of all the teaching that circles around them?
In this sense, and for this purpose, we are all summoned, on this day of solemn covenant and holy communion, to look into the future. We are waiting, not only to be forgiven and purified, but also to be hired.' We are standing this day before God that He may appoint us our work. Christ hath many services to be done. Some are more easy and honourable, others
more difficult. Some are suitable to our inclinations and interests, others are contrary to both. In some, we may please Christ and please ourselves. In others, we cannot please Christ but by denying ourselves. It is for Him to say what our work and what our condition shall be. He must have the command of us and the disposal of us. Christ will be the Saviour of none but His servants. He is "the Author of eternal salvation" to those "who obey Him."' 'I must,' through all my life, whether on earth or in heaven, 'be about my Father's business.' This is Christianity-not merely for Ministers and Teachers, for Leaders and Stewards, but also, and equally, for mothers and children, and old men and maidens, and sick and busy people. This is 'following the commandments of
God, and walking from henceforth in paration day, whilst the leaven was
His holy ways.
'Dismiss me not Thy service, Lord,
But train me for Thy will;
How many serve, how many more
To tend the vines, the grapes to store,
In another and far higher sense than that thought of by the Jews who were flocking by thousands to Jerusalem, it was the first day of the feast of unleavened bread.' The first day of a feast unto all nations. A feast of freedom and triumph: a feast of the reconciliation of long-lost children to their God and Father, and of long-sundered brothers and sisters to one another: a feast which, beginning amid the gloom and clamour of earth, was to find its consummation in the everlasting light and rapture of heaven : : a feast to which were to be summoned the poor and the blind and the lame, and all who were so ready to perish that they could not come, except under the sweet compulsions of Divine love, or borne in the arms of Divine power: a feast to which no man was required to contribute anything except his own presence the gladness of his thankful heart, the music of his praiseful voice, and also the presence of so many of his perishing neighbours and kinsfolk as he could persuade or compel to come with him. For all things were ready, even the white robes in which the naked or travel-stained guests were to appear. And this was the first day of the feast: the day on which the one thing which stood in the way of freedom for the guests, and triumph for the King, and victory for His soldiers, and successful labour for His servants, and gladness for all, was to be put away. On this pre
being put out of every Jewish house, and thousands of lambs were being devoted to sacrifice, the Son of the Highest was to sanctify Himself for that sacrifice, of nobler name and richer blood,' by which sin was to be for ever put away. Was it any wonder that the King's Son, in the supreme moment of His love, should seek to breathe into His friends and servants the spirit of His own selfsacrificing devotion? or that He should desire to give them some kind of specific preparation for the right doing of a work which was costing Him so dear? Were they not destined, in a little while, to travel forth into city streets and lanes, and into far-off highways and hedges, to invite and, in myriads of cases, to bring guests to their Lord's feast? Would not the success of the work depend chiefly upon the way in which they did the part assigned to them?
I. If they forgot Whom they served, or thought more about their own comfort and honour than about the welfare of those to whom He sent them; or if they were not gentle and kind one to another, accounting it not merely a mark of high chivalry-though that is good and Christian-but the purest joy, to have ever so small an opportunity of bearing a brother's burden, or sharing his grief, or in any way helping his need, what heed would the people give to the story they told of their Lord's disinterested love? If you were in perilous straits, and two men came to you with frowning faces and unamiable manners, sneering at one another, and betraying, even in what they did for you, a greedy and narrow spirit; and if these two servants announced themselves as sent by a great and wealthy Lord, whose uppermost desire it was to help you, would you very readily believe them? Would not your thoughts of their Master be coloured by the faults of
His servants? Would you entrust a sick child to their guardianship, or care yourself to travel in their company to the halls of their Lord? Suppose you fell into exasperation, and cried out bitterly upon them, and charged them with arrant imposture, would your neighbours blame you very much? I will even ask another and far more momentous questionasking it with all solemnity and deliberation-feeling, at least to some extent, the tremendous issues which it involves: Would the Lord Himself blame you so much as them? Upon whom will the sorest ultimate blame and punishment fall for the thousands who are driven back into the wilderness, from the very gates of the City, by an un-Christlike Christianity?-driven from the Lord's Table by the querulousness and quarrelsomeness of the King's servants? How many younger sons and aged fathers and little ones are still in the famine-land, because the brethren sent to fetch them to the land of corn are falling out by the way?
Our Lord was 'with the wild beasts' in the wilderness. There are not a few who would rather face even these than the angry spirits which, alas! are still to be found in Christian Churches. We variously and wonderfully proclaim ourselves as the servants of Christ, and announce to the world that ours is a mission of peace on earth, and good will towards men; and yet how often does one Church contemptuously ignore the work of another, or even turn the weapons of its warfare upon its Christian neighbours. And why? Mostly for such trifles-and trifles they are, when looked at, as one day we shall look at them, first in the glare of the devil's work, and then in the solemn light of the glory of our Lord's work-for such trifles as those which threatened to divide the good men about our Lord. 'Grant that these my two sons may sit, the
one on Thy right hand, and the other on the left, in Thy kingdom...And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.' If the Master had not instantly put an end to that most preposterous contention, it would probably have issued in an equally unseemly contention between James and John for the seat of highest honour. Master, we saw one casting out devils in Thy Name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.' Which also, but for our Lord's rebuke, would not improbably have resulted in some more frightful and impious narrowness, which would have destroyed the infant Church in the first days of its life.
Now, on this first day of the feastthis solemn preparation day-how did our Lord prepare His disciples for this great peril of their future work? By uniting them together into a Society, the ties and bonds of which were devotion to a common Master, and honourable and loving service for one another.
1. They were His guests. 'Where is the guest-chamber, where I shall eat the Passover with My disciples.' They sat at His table, in His kingdom. When the County Magistrates dine together, before commencing the administration of justice, whatever differences of opinion, political and otherwise, may exist among them, honour for the Sovereign in whose name they meet, if nothing else, forbids any breach, not merely of courtesy, but of amity. They are brother Magistrates.' As in the Court itself, over the chief seat of justice, so in the dining-hall, the heraldic symbol of the Royal presence shines out from the point of highest honour, to rebuke any departure from the law of brotherly esteem on the part of the servants of a noble Mistress. Were not these men to 'sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel'? Were they not now supping together in the actual presence