Great Texts of the Bible
Our High Calling
I bow my knees unto the Father … that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God.—Ephesians 3:19.
1. In no part of St. Paul’s letters does he rise to a higher level than in his prayers, and none of his prayers is fuller of fervour than this wonderful series of petitions. They open out one into the other like some majestic suite of apartments in a great palace-temple, each leading into a loftier and more spacious hall, each drawing nearer the presence-chamber, until at last we stand there.
Meditating on this prayer is something like ascending an Alpine peak. The first hour or so is comparatively easy work. The giant flanks of the mountain are steep, but still their ascent is not over difficult; but, the higher you go, the steeper it becomes, until at last there is just that one glittering pinnacle towering above your head, and it seems to say, “Thus far, but no farther! Scale me if you can.” But with the aid of a trusty guide, who cuts steps in the very ice for us, and who lends us the strength of his arm, we are able to gain the summit, and drink in with our eyes the grandeur of the scene.1 [Note: A. G. Brown.]
2. There can be nothing above or beyond this wonderful petition. Rather, it might seem as if it were too much to ask, and as if, in the ecstasy of prayer, Paul had forgotten the limits that separate the creature from the Creator, as well as the experience of sinful and imperfect men, and had sought to “wind himself too high for mortal life beneath the sky.” And yet Paul’s prayers are God’s promises; and we are justified in taking these rapturous petitions as being distinct declarations of God’s desire and purpose for each of us; as being the end which He had in view in the unspeakable gift of His Son; and as being the certain outcome of His gracious working on all believing hearts.
Filled unto all the fulness of God: who shall ever unfold the meaning of this expression to us? How shall we ever reach any definite idea of what it signifies? God has made provision for our enlightenment. In Christ Jesus we see a Man full of God, a man who was perfected by suffering and obedience, filled unto all the fulness of God: yea, a Man who, in the solitariness and poverty of an ordinary human life, with all its needs and infirmities, has nevertheless let us see on earth the life enjoyed by the inhabitants of heaven, as they are there filled unto all the fulness of God.1 [Note: A. Murray, The Full Blessing of Pentecost, 132.]
The main theme common to both the Colossian and Ephesian Epistles is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the relation of believers to Him. Isolated from the bustling activities of life, debarred from aggressive missionary work, limited to the few friends that visited him in his hired room, the Apostle is driven to contemplate the innermost realities of life, and to dwell upon the cardinal truths of revealed religion. His thoughts at such a time found centre in one truth—the Person of Christ, as the one mediating agent in both the natural and the spiritual world (Colossians 1:13-23, Ephesians 1:7-14). It was this that he came to feel was the rock on which alone his own feet could safely rest; it was this that he could boldly put forward as the antidote to the erroneous teaching at Colossæ; it was this alone that could enable those to whom he wrote in the Churches of Asia to become “full-grown men,” and to attain to “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”
The two Epistles to the Colossians and Ephesians must therefore be studied side by side. The central truth is the same in both; the point of view, and therefore the range of vision, is slightly different. Dealing with the Colossian danger, the Apostle meets it with the great doctrine of the fulness of Christ. That was the answer to all their questionings as to the relation between God and man, and between God and this material world. “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” In the Epistle to the Ephesians this fact is presupposed, and the Apostle goes on to argue from it the Church’s fulness in Christ. “He put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” Mark, again, the climax of his prayer—“that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God.” And thus the lessons of the two letters seem to be summed up in the simple but fully reasoned argument of Colossians 2:9; Colossians 2:19 : “In Christ is all the fulness: ye are in Him: in Him—complete—made full.”2 [Note: T. W. Drury, The Prison-Ministry of St. Paul, 154.]
“That ye may be filled.” That is to say, Paul’s prayer and God’s purpose and desire concerning us is, that our whole being may be so saturated and charged with an indwelling Divinity that there shall be no room in our present stature and capacity for more, and no sense of want or aching emptiness.
1. What is it to be filled with God? It is to have as much of God within us as our nature can contain. How this truth is overlooked. There is a natural tendency on the part of us all to dwell with exquisite delight on the other side of the question, namely, how we are accepted in the Beloved—how we are in Christ; and, perhaps, we dwell on that thought to the exclusion of this, that not only are we in God, but God is in us; that, whilst we are accepted in the Beloved, He is pleased to make our heart His abiding rest, His chamber, and His temple. Not only can the believer shout,” Emmanuel, God, with us,” he can also say, “Christ, the Lord, within us.” We think that a low experience spiritually is a necessity. If you talk to them, there are many who will say, “Well, but is it not rather utopian to expect, whilst we are on earth, to be full of joy, and to be full of peace, and to be full of triumph? Do not we carry about with us this body of sin and death, and ought we not to expect much darkness and sorrow of soul, and be very thankful if occasionally we get a few gleams of light?” This is not in the Word. The teaching of this Book is for us to expect to walk in the light, and when we are not in the light to ask the reason why.
We see the river Nile flowing through Egypt in the times of drought, a river indeed, but the bed is not covered or the banks reached, nor is there fertilizing richness deposited in the fields. But later we see the Nile, when the sources are sending abundant supply, and the stream is spreading over all the channel, and the water is even with the banks, and the fields are rejoicing on every side. The Nile is “filled.” A heart “filled”; not merely having here and there a few experiences of the richness of God’s grace, but filled, every part of it, with that grace!1 [Note: J. G. K. McClure, Loyalty the Soul of Religion, 232.]
In his address to Cornelius and his household Peter tells us that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth” “with the Holy Ghost and with power,” that is, with the power of the Holy Ghost. And what next? What would we expect to follow such a statement but the words we find?—“Who went about doing good.” Filled with this fulness, we cannot do other, it is then our very nature, our very life to go about doing good.1 [Note: T. Waugh, Twenty-Three Years a Missioner, 109.]
My Father, can it be
That Thou hast willed
Such an inheritance for me?
That I with all Thy fulness should be filled—
That Thine own Life with all its glorious light,
And love, and purity, and wondrous might,
And depth of grace,
In me should find a dwelling-place?
Is this the hidden thing—
The mystery which long hath slept,
In Thine eternal counsels kept—
That from the source, the everlasting spring,
Thyself, should flow,
Through Thine own Son,
To me, the Life which makes the Head and Body One?
Yea, Thou hast said it, and I know
It is Thy will
Thy temple thus to fill—
To give no less
Than all! I may possess
The fulness! I may be
Complete in Him by whom I live—
Who comes again to give
Himself—the Life that fills my soul with Thee!2 [Note: Edith Hickman Divall, A Believer’s Songs, 108.]
2. To be filled with God we must first be emptied. Such emptying we fear. What will God wish of us if He has entire occupancy of our desires and purposes? It may be that He will ask us to change our desires, to give up present ambitions, to enter upon entirely new courses of business, and study, and pleasure. Perfect surrender to the infilling of God may mean a sacrifice as great on our part as was Abraham’s when he was called to go out he knew not where; it may necessitate the subversion of all our past and the adoption of a wholly new standard of procedure. Many a man is unwilling to face such a situation. We wish some standing ground, some reservation somewhere, for ourselves. We are ready to let God have a portion of our heart, that portion where honesty, gentlemanly conduct, purity, and even benevolence are; but we dare not let Him “fill” us, for then not one inch would be left for anything of our own.
Yet it is absurd for any of us to think of being filled with God’s fulness so long as we are under the dominion of any purely earthly or temporal wishes, or desires, or ambitions, or passions, or tastes. The words imply a totality of self-surrender to God. In praying to be filled with God the Father’s fulness, we pray that all our powers and faculties and desires and energies and likes and dislikes may be just what they would be if all our merely earthly desires were taken out of us, all that is selfish and mean and bad were emptied out of us, and the vacant space filled up by a pouring in of the character of God our Father. It is the same as praying that we may be just what God would be if we could imagine God to be put in our place.
If we say that religion is the absolute surrender of the soul to God, the surrender derives its meaning and value from this, that it is a conscious self-surrender—that it is not the meaningless rapture of the mystic striving after an impossible self-annihilation, but the “joy in God” of the spirit which, in the inmost depths of its being, thrills with the consciousness of unimpeded union with the life of the Infinite.1 [Note: John Caird.]
The evil seed sown in me when a child—a relative having thoughtlessly taken me to the pantomime in London—grew into an overshadowing passion for the theatre. The good seed of my godly old schoolmaster was not altogether expelled by it, sometimes I experienced searching heart questionings on this matter which would not be silenced, and gradually so worked within me that, as a young man, I have sat in the pit, seeing not, hearing not, save the stirring Spirit of God bringing me into condemnation for refusing to yield up my darling pleasure, whilst I trembled with fear for disobedience. At last I yielded partially, making a compromise that I would cease regular attendance, and be present only on those occasions when Helen Faucit, that supremely gifted actress, came to Manchester. But the voice would not be silenced, and at last I utterly broke from the toils, and resolved to visit the theatre no more, no matter what temptation it held out. Then peace flowed into my soul. Few of this age will read this with any understanding, but I know this passion for theatrical entertainments was gradually eating away all spiritual desires, and that, “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him,” and that indulgence in it would have made me unfit for the labour God purposed for His servant eventually.1 [Note: The Life and Letters of Frederic Shields, 30.]
This is the supreme necessity—a definite self-surrender. You remember the story of John Newton’s conversion. In early manhood he was a profligate sailor on board an African slaver. “I was,” he says, “a wild beast on the coast of Africa, but the Lord caught and tamed me.” The Holy Spirit had long dealings with him, and one night he had a dream. He dreamed that he was handling a rope on deck and a ring which he prized slipped off his finger and sank in the sea. He was greatly distressed, when he felt a hand on his shoulder, and, turning round, he saw a stranger with the ring in his hand. “You have lost it,” said the stranger, “and you will lose it again. Let me keep it for you.” He understood the parable when he awoke, and gave his precious soul into the keeping of Jesus and left it with Him. This is the way of peace: Commit yourself to Christ, and keep on renewing the deposit day by day.2 [Note: David Smith.]
3. But we must remember how St. Paul leads up to these words. We shall then better understand their meaning. The Apostle prays God for his disciples at Ephesus that they may be “strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; that Christ may dwell in their hearts by faith”; and that they, “being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge”; that they may “be filled unto all the fulness of God.” Now the whole of this prayer helps to explain these last words.
(1) First, the Apostle prays that the Ephesians may be “strengthened with power through “God’s “Spirit in the inward man.” And how can we be “filled unto all the fulness of God” except by His Spirit filling us? We believe, with the whole Church, that the Holy Spirit is God. If then the Holy Spirit dwells in the inward man, God dwells there. “To be filled with the Spirit” is to be filled with God.
The Spirit is the Spirit of power—“strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man.” This means that the whole moral nature must be in touch with God, and so strengthened by that contact as to be the expression of God’s power.1 [Note: E. Trumbull Lee.]
(2) But if God’s Holy Spirit does dwell within us, then we shall have faith; then Christ will dwell in our hearts by faith. This is the second blessing asked for in the Apostle’s prayer. Faith, like every other grace, is the fruit of the Spirit. It is not of ourselves, “it is the gift of God.” And behold then how by faith we are “filled unto all the fulness of God.” For Christ, who is God, dwells in our hearts by faith. Faith is the faculty within us which receives the Saviour. He cannot come where there is no faith. The door is, as it were, shut against Him. And the greater our faith, the more fully and constantly will Christ abide with us. True faith sets the door wide open for the Saviour to pass in. But how do we speak of Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith? In two ways: Both because He really visits and abides in the heart which has faith to receive Him, and because that faith feels and realizes His presence.
Perhaps we are venturing where God means us not to enter, when we seek to understand the manner of Christ’s indwelling presence. It is a Divine mystery; and we believe it, because it is revealed to us. Yet we may perhaps say this much, that, when in one place we read of Christ dwelling in our hearts, and in another place of having the Spirit of Christ, these two expressions declare the same thing, and that to have Christ dwelling in us is, in truth, to be filled with the Spirit of Christ. It is this that St. John speaks of when he says, “Of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.” Yet to have Christ dwelling in us must mean, after all, something more than to be filled with the Holy Ghost,—the Spirit, which proceedeth from the Father and the Son. It must at least mean to be so filled with that Holy Spirit as to be fashioned like unto Christ,—to have Christ formed in us,—to have in us that mind which was also in Christ Jesus. And I think it must also mean to possess the priceless blessing of Christ’s special love and favouring presence. And this we both possess and know by faith. Faith receives the Saviour. And Faith realizes the Saviour’s presence. By Faith we feel His love, His nearness, His ever-present help. By Faith we contemplate His purity, and holiness, and perfect example. By Faith we trust in His merits, His sacrifice, His prevailing intercessions. And thus Christ dwells in our hearts by Faith; and we are “filled unto all the fulness of God.”1 [Note: W. W. How, Plain Words, ii. 214.]
(3) There is a third way in which we may be “filled with all the fulness of God.” It is by being “rooted and grounded in love.” Surely we can see that unless we are filled with love we can in no wise think that we are filled with God. For “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” Faith receives the fulness of God. Love is the fulness of God.
Strange as it may seem, it is undeniably true that the sovereign method for the deepest, fullest spiritual life is constant and appreciative remembrance of the love of God—its length, its breadth, its height, its depth. There is nothing a soul is to do but try to comprehend that love, in all its features and in all its expressions, and then make it the permanent, continuous, and controlling power of all its thought and feeling. To study God’s love, to get the fact of it, the greatness of it, the sweetness of it, the constancy of it, the comfort of it into one’s heart is to feel the nearness, dearness, and blessedness of God Himself. The mind that with each opportunity for leisure turns to the consideration of God’s love, that believes in that love for itself, that sees life in the light of that love, and that lets that love flow in upon it with ocean-fulness, will have such a sense of the presence, beauty, and power of God as will make that heart a holy of holies; God Himself will be in it, and His glory will fill it.
The love of God is as various as the world which God hath made, and there is no state of mind and no circumstances of life to which that love will not fit its gift. The Christian, the longer he lives, the more sure he becomes that God has loved him from the very first; that not even his own many sins have quenched that unquenchable fire; that not even when his own heart was coldest and his thoughts most far from heaven, did God forget the creature that He had made; that even into grievous sin and even into strange hardness of heart did God’s unwearied love pursue him and will pursue him yet. And so, when the Christian thinks of himself, he knows that he may fall; but when he thinks of God it seems impossible that God should let him. And in this thought he lives a more heavenly life, he cherishes a surer hope, he is more cheerful, he is more joyous every day. For he knows that God loves him, and while this is present to his mind, he cannot go wilfully away. He is God’s son; how can he quit his own Father?
Our human sight is short and dim. We cannot always look on beyond the present to God’s sure purpose to give us His blessing. But all the more ought we to write it down as with a pen of iron on our own souls, that whatever else we read in the life of Christ, we read first of all, and above all, and through all, the assurance of the all-searching love of God. If the life be careless, bring back the mind to that; if the heart be unhappy or discontented, compel the thoughts to that; if the habits of our daily walk cause us many a conflict between conscience and inclination, anchor the will on that. For most certainly it cannot fail. God’s love never can, and never did, and never will.1 [Note: Archbishop Temple.]
The Fulness of God
1. “Filled unto (R.V., not with, as in A.V.) all the fulness of God.” This suggests the idea not of a completed work but of a process, and of a growing process, as if more and more of that great fulness might pass into a man. Suppose a number of vessels, according to the old illustration about degrees of glory in Heaven; they are each full, but the quantity that one contains is much less than that which the other may hold. Add to the illustration that the vessels can grow, and that filling makes them grow; as a shrunken bladder when you pass gas into it will expand and round itself out, and all the creases will be smoothed away. So the Apostle’s idea here is that a process of filling goes on which may satisfy the desires of the moment, because it fills us up to the then capacities of our spirits, but which, in the very process of so filling and satisfying, makes those spirits capable of containing larger measures of His fulness, which therefore flow into it.
Is this wide world not large enough to fill thee,
Nor Nature, nor that deep man’s Nature, Art?
Are they too thin, too weak and poor to still thee,
Thou little heart?
Dust art thou, and to dust again returnest,
A spark of fire within a beating clod,
Should that be infinite for which thou burnest?
Must it be God?1 [Note: Mary E. Coleridge.]
There are plants which we sometimes see in our northern latitudes, but which are native to the more generous soil and the warmer skies of southern lands. In their true home they grow to a greater height, their leaves are larger, their blossoms more luxuriant and of a colour more intense; the power of the life of the plant is more fully expressed. And as the visible plant is the more or less adequate translation into stem and leaf and flower of its invisible life, so the whole created universe is the more or less adequate translation of the invisible thought and power and goodness of God. He stands apart from it. His personal life is not involved in its immense processes of development; but the forces by which it moves through pain and conflict and tempest towards its consummate perfection are a revelation of His “eternal power and Godhead.” For the Divine idea to reach its complete expression, an expression adequate to the energy of the Divine life, we ourselves must reach a large and harmonious perfection. As yet we are like plants growing in an alien soil and under alien skies. And the measures of strength and grace which are possible to us even in this mortal life are not attained. The Divine power which is working in us is obstructed. But a larger knowledge of the love of Christ will increase the fervour of every devout and generous affection; it will exalt every form of spiritual energy; it will deepen our spiritual joy; it will add strength to every element of righteousness; and will thus advance us towards that ideal perfection which will be the complete expression of the Divine power and grace, and which Paul describes as the “fulness of God.”2 [Note: R. W. Dale, Lectures on the Ephesians, 257.]
2. We have, then, as the promise that gleams from these great words, this wonderful prospect, that the Divine love, truth, holiness, joy, in all their rich plenitude of all-sufficient abundance, may be showered upon us. The whole Godhead is our possession. For the fulness of God is no far-off remote treasure that lies beyond human grasp and outside of human experience. Do not we believe that, to use the words of this Apostle in another letter, “it pleased the Father that in him should all the fulness dwell”? Do we not believe that, to use the words of the same Epistle, “In Christ dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily”? Is not that abundance of the resources of the whole Deity insphered and incarnated in Jesus Christ our Lord, that it may be near us, and that we may put out our hand and touch it? This may be a paradox for the understanding, full of metaphysical puzzles and cobwebs, but, for the heart that knows Christ, most true and precious. God is gathered into Jesus Christ, and all the fulness of God, whatever that may mean, is embodied in the Man Christ Jesus, that from Him it may be communicated to every one that is willing. For, to quote words of another of the New Testament teachers, “Of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.” And to quote words in another part of this Epistle, we may all come “unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” High above us, then, and inaccessible though that awful thought, “the fulness of God,” may seem, as the zenith of the unscaleable heavens seems to us poor creatures creeping here upon the flat earth, it comes near, near, near, ever nearer, and at last tabernacles among us, when we think that in Him all the fulness dwells; and it comes nearer yet and enters into our heart when we think that “of his fulness have all we received.”
The doubting question of all time is, “Will God dwell with men?” That God will actually enter a human heart and fill it with His fulness seems too good to be true. As a reviewer of Drummond’s Ascent of Man puts it, “And so the author’s purpose is to prove scientifically that God is love, a teaching that seems to many too good to be true.” But it is not too good to be true. The God who makes the cup to overflow, who scatters flowers over prairies in profusion, who sets not twenty, nor hundreds, but thousands upon thousands of stars in the heavens—that God can and will enter the soul with His spiritual fulness.1 [Note: J. G. K. McClure, Loyalty the Soul of Religion, 235.]
(1) The constitution of man admits this fulness. “God created man in his own image; in the image of God created he him.” Fulness and God are inseparable, and equally united are fulness and the image of God. There is a natural capacity for “fulness” in man, which has not been destroyed by the entrance of the foreign element of sin.
(2) The redemption that is in Christ Jesus specially provides for this fulness. It restores lost truths and lost objects of hope and love and joy, and directly aims at filling us with all possible good.
The experience of every Christian is that of having supplied to him, by the Saviour, that which, being essential, has nevertheless been lacking. The Saviour of men appears to those who come to Him, as the morning star and the rising sun after the darkest of winter nights. He appears as a rock of foundation to a builder who has utterly despaired of finding any foundation better than sand. He appears as bread to one dying of hunger, and as water to one perishing of thirst. He appears as a robe of righteousness to one whose attire is filthy rags. He appears as the friend that sticketh closer than a brother to one who is outcast and desolate. He comes as wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, and those who receive Him are complete in Him.
(3) The exceeding great and precious promises of God show that those who lack fulness or completeness are straitened, not in God, but through themselves. All that is needful for a true Christian they can have. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”
I think there is something implanted in man’s heart, fallen creature as he is, which defies him to be content with anything but God alone. It is a trace of original majesty, which leaves a mark of what he was before the fall. He is always panting for something fresh; and that is no sooner attained than it palls upon his taste. And this strong necessity of loving something makes a man form idols for himself, which he invests with fancied perfections, and when all these fade away in his grasp, and he finds their unsubstantiality, he must either become a misanthrope or a Christian. When a man has learned to know the infinite love of God in Christ to him, then he discovers something which will not elude his hold, and an affection which will not grow cold; for the comparison of God’s long-suffering and repeated pardon with his own heartless ingratitude convinces him that it is an unchangeable love.1 [Note: Lift and Letters of F. W. Robertson, 57.]
When all the over-work of life
Is finished once, and fast asleep
We swerve no more beneath the knife
But taste that silence cool and deep;
Forgetful of the highways rough,
Forgetful of the thorny scourge,
Forgetful of the tossing surge,
Then shall we find it is enough?
How can we say “enough” on earth—
“Enough” with such a craving heart?
I have not found it since my birth,
But still have bartered part for part.
I have not held and hugged the whole,
But paid the old to gain the new:
Much have I paid, yet much is due,
Till I am beggared sense and soul.
Not in this world of hope deferred,
This world of perishable stuff:—
Eye hath not seen nor ear hath heard
Nor heart conceived that full “enough”:
Here moans the separating sea,
Here harvests fail, here breaks the heart:
There God shall join and no man part,
I full of Christ and Christ of me.1 [Note: Christina G. Rossetti, Poems, 192.]
All the Fulness of God
When he asks for “all the fulness,” St. Paul thinks of other elements of revelation in which we are to participate. God’s wisdom, His truth, His righteousness, along with His love in its manifold forms—all the qualities that, in one word, go to make up His holiness—are communicable and belong to the image stamped by the Holy Spirit on the nature of God’s children. “Ye shall be holy, for I am holy” is God’s standing command to His sons. So Jesus bids His disciples, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
While the holiness of God gathers up into one stream of white radiance the revelation of His character, “the fulness of God” spreads it abroad in its many-coloured richness and variety. The term accords with the affluence of thought that marks this supplication. The might of the Spirit that strengthens weak human hearts, the greatness of the Christ who is the guest of our faith, His wide-spreading Kingdom and the vast interests it embraces and His own love surpassing all—these objects of the soul’s desire issue from the fulness of God; and they lead us in pursuing them, like streams pouring into the ocean, back to the eternal Godhead. The mediatorial kingdom has its end: Christ, when He has “put down all rule and authority,” will at last “yield it up to his God and Father”: and “the Son himself will be subjected to him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:24-28). This is the crown of the Redeemer’s mission, the end which His love to the Father seeks. But when that end is reached, and the soul with immediate vision beholds the Father’s glory, the plenitude will be still new and unexhausted; the soul will then begin its deepest lessons in the knowledge of God which is life eternal.1 [Note: G. G. Findlay, The Epistle to the Ephesians, 202.]
(1) To have all the fulness of God is to be full of joy.—“These things have I spoken unto you that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11). In the following chapter and the 24th verse, “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name; ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” And in the following chapter and the 13th verse, our Lord prays, “And now I come to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves,” or, in other words, “that they may be filled full with my joy.”
Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian.2 [Note: G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, 296.]
She really cared for nothing but the life of the spirit. The sources of joy were very far removed from the surface of things for her. They were in the inner recesses and not subject to sudden changes of weather like a brawling mountain torrent. To some extent this belief that God was in all creation made her a little self-centred. She was like one who sits at a warm fireside in the winter time heedless of storms and tempests outside. She did what her own heart asked her to do. She liked to quote: “I must be filled with joy if my feet are on the right road and my face set towards ‘the gate that is called Beautiful,’ though I may fall many times in the mire and often in the mist go astray.”3 [Note: J. Ramsay MacDonald, Margaret Ethel MacDonald, 60.]
(2) It is to be full of peace.—“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope.” Joy is peace singing; peace is joy reposing.
If peace means satisfaction, acceptance of the whole of an experience as good, and if even we, in our weakness, can frequently find rest in the very presence of conflict and of tension, in the very endurance of ill in a good cause, in the hero’s triumph over temptation, or in the mourner’s tearless refusal to accept the lower comforts of forgetfulness, or to wish that the lost one’s preciousness had been less painfully revealed by death—well, if even we know our little share of this harmony in the midst of the wrecks and disorders of life, what limit shall we set to the Divine power to face this world of His own sorrows, and to find peace in the victory over all its ills?1 [Note: Josiah Royce.]
Take a water-bottle, and if that water-bottle be only half full, every time you move the bottle, the water in it washes to and fro. Why? How is it that it feels every motion? Because it is not full. But if you fill that water-bottle right up till it cannot hold another drop, and then cork it in, you may turn the bottle which way you like, and the water within it will not move. There is no movement, no washing about. Why? Because it is too full to be agitated. The reason why you and I live such poor restless lives is that we are not filled up with the fulness of God.2 [Note: A. G. Brown.]
When she knew that she was close by the opening gateway of death, I asked her if she desired to see any one who would speak to her of what was to come. “That would be but a waste of time,” she replied, “I have always been ready. Let us praise God together for what has been. He has been very good to me in giving me my work, my friends, and my faith. At the end of the day I go gladly to Him for rest and shelter.” She was convinced that life and time were not the sum and substance of experience, and went away as though but starting upon a journey which, beginning in darkness, would proceed through light. She would hold my hand, she said, till those who had gone before gave her greetings.3 [Note: J. Ramsay MacDonald, Margaret Ethel MacDonald, 62.]
(3) It is to be full of righteousness.—In Php 1:11 we read, “Pilled with the fruits of righteousness”—not just a stray fruit here and there upon our boughs, but all our boughs filled with fruit until, through the very weight of their load, they bend down and kiss the ground. The more fruitful the branch the lower it will hang. The more fruit there is upon a believer, the less conceit and pride there will be about him. The branch, heavily laden, bends beneath the weight of its own fruitfulness.
What an aspiration for a band of fishermen, peasants, slaves! It was an aspiration after more than Roman dominion, after more than Judaic empire. The proudest dreams of Pantheism never dared to soar so high. The Brahman had aspired to be lost in God, to have the little spark of his individual being absorbed in the mighty fire of the universe; that was rather humility than pride. Here was a company of men aspiring to reach God yet not to be lost in God, aiming to touch the brightness of the Infinite Glory without losing the spark of their own individual being. Was not this presumption, was not this impiety, was not this fitted to destroy all the tender graces of the Christian life—the poverty of spirit which had been promised the Kingdom, the meekness of heart which was to inherit the earth?
Nay, but who was this God with whose fulness they desired to be filled? His name was Love. If His name had been aught else than Love the desire of these men would have been indeed presumption. But to be filled with the fulness of love is not pride; it is the deepest, the most intense humility. He that is filled with love is thereby made the servant of all; he repeats the life of the Divine Man, and becomes heir to His burden. To him belong sorrows not his own. He labours in the labour of humanity, he suffers in the tears of affliction, he is wounded in the battle of the weak. His glory is his pain. That which fills him with God is that which fills him with sadness, which bows him down with the sense of nothingness; the love that makes him great is the power that makes him gentle.1 [Note: George Matheson, Moments on the Mount, 129.]
They speak of ideals. But they cannot separate man’s ideals from the Man Christ Jesus. They speak of truth. Questions about truth involve the question, What about Christ? They speak to us of goodness. And—more faintly or more vividly, more lightly or more seriously—does there not rise on their memory a Face, marred more than any man’s, that carries an image and message of goodness, leaving all else of goodness behind it and below it?2 [Note: The Life of Principal Rainy, ii. 174.]
Our High Calling
Brown (A. G.), Sermons from the Penny Pulpit, No. 63.
Drury (T. W.), The Prison-Ministry of St. Paul, 139.
How (W. W.), Plain Words, ii. 213.
Maclaren (A.), Christ in the Heart, 53.
McClure (J. G. K.), Loyalty the Soul of Religion, 229.
Martin (S.), Rain upon the Mown Grass, 304.
Matheson (G.), Moments on the Mount, 129.
Matheson (G.), Times of Retirement, 155.
Spurgeon (C. H.), Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, xxix. (1883), No. 1755.
De Teissier (G. F.), Village Sermons, iv. 30.
Williams (I.), Sermons on the Epistles and Gospels, ii. 241.
Wilmot-Buxton (H. J.), The Life of Duty, ii. 137.
Cambridge Review, xiii. Supplement, No. 327.
Christian World Pulpit, xxxii. 339 (White).
Church Pulpit Year-Book, vii. (1910), 223.
Examiner, Feb. 18, 1904 (Jowett).
Keswick Week, 1900, p. 183 (Inwood).