Great Texts of the Bible
The Inner Revelation
It was the good pleasure of God, who separated me, even from my mother’s womb, and called me through his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles.—Galatians 1:15-16.
It would not be easy to overestimate the service which has been rendered to the cause of true religion by such narratives as that which Bunyan has given of his own conversion in his Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, or the similar narrative which Scott, the commentator, gives of his religious history in The Force of Truth. This text in Galatians is just such a narrative. It is St. Paul’s account of his own conversion—the secret history, as we may call it, of that ever-memorable event. It is perhaps the shortest and most compact piece of religious autobiography that was ever penned. And one need hardly say that, in this case, the story may be read without any misgiving respecting either the truth of the facts or the wisdom of the narrator.
St. Paul is vindicating the Divine origin and authority of his apostleship against those who had questioned his title to occupy an apostle’s place. He claims that the words he speaks were given to him by the direct communication of Heaven, without the interposition of any human or intermediate agency: he bases his right to have his spiritual authority recognized upon the intimacy of the relationship in which God has met him; and he recalls, by way of substantiating his claims to apostolic status, the circumstances which had made his conversion and his call entirely exceptional and unique. No earthly voices of counsel or instruction, he says, had intruded themselves upon him; no earthly presences were at hand when his new Christian allegiance began to determine his course and shape his inward life. Flesh and blood had revealed nothing to him; even they who possessed experience in these things—they who were Apostles before him—had no share in the moulding of his destinies; but he had retired into the Arabian desert, and had listened there, in the silences and solitudes, to the heavenly voices that had told him what God would have him to do. “Who shall dare,” he seems to ask, “to question the validity of such an ordination as that—an ordination wherein no hands of men, but the invisible touch of God, consecrated me, and wherein the anointing and sanctifying influence was the breath of the Eternal Spirit?” In secret God had spoken to him. It was as he had stood in God’s unveiled presence that his spiritual inspirations had come.
How have I seen in Araby Orion,
Seen without seeing, till he set again,
Known the night-noise and thunder of the lion,
Silence and sounds of the prodigious plain!
How have I knelt with arms of my aspiring
Lifted all night in irresponsive air,
Dazed and amazed with overmuch desiring,
Blank with the utter agony of prayer!
Shame on the flame so dying to an ember!
Shame on the reed so lightly overset!
Yes, I have seen Him, can I not remember?
Yes, I have known Him, and shall Paul forget?1 [Note: F. W. H. Myers, Saint Paul.]
“It was the good pleasure of God, who separated me, even from my mother’s womb.”
This may be viewed as the utterance of adoring humility on the part of the Apostle, combined, however, with the strongest possible assertion of the Divine origin of his mission. A similar statement of God’s arbitrary selection of a particular human being for a particular function is found in Isaiah 49:1, “The Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name”; v. 5, “That formed me from the womb to be his servant”; and again, with yet more striking resemblance, in Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” It is difficult to believe that this conviction of the Apostle concerning himself as the object of God’s predestinating purpose, and perhaps even the form of its expression—for compare the words in the next verse, “that I might preach him among the Gentiles”—was derived mainly from Jeremiah. The Apostle feels that all the while that he had been pursuing that career of persecuting impiety and passionate Pharisaism, the Almighty had kept His eye upon him as His predestined Apostle, and had been waiting for the fitting hour to summon him forth to His work.
Mr. Gladstone’s character, as Lord Morley’s biography brings out well, was in one respect exceedingly simple. His life became immensely powerful and influential; but it all flowed from one source—the moral crisis, almost in the form of a religious “awakening” or “conversion,” through which he passed in his Oxford days. For immediately upon this there followed the consecration of his whole life as the life of a layman, and yet to be lived from the highest motives. His opinions, religious and political, changed afterwards from time to time. In religion, from Evangelical and individualistic, they became more High Church and historical. In politics, from Conservative they became avowedly Liberal. But while such subsequent revolutions changed the direction, they do not seem to me to have added to the amount of the force which at that date began to move. Up to the age of twenty-two, Gladstone was like a hundred other lads around him. From that age till he died at eighty-nine he lived in the lavish expenditure of power generated in him by one year—perhaps one hour—of conviction. But that force was a moral force; and for seventy years thereafter it poured itself with amazing volume into each new channel of opportunity which seemed to him a path of duty—much as if his chief guide in life had been the ancient indiscriminating exhortation, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.”1 [Note: A. Taylor Innes, Chapters of Reminiscence, 172.]
1. So nicely balanced, and so carefully hung, are the worlds that even the grains of their dust are counted, and their places adjusted to a correspondent nicety. There is nothing included in the gross, or total sum, that could be dispensed with. The same is true in regard to forces that are apparently irregular. Every particle of air is moved by laws of as great precision as the laws of the heavenly bodies, or indeed by the same laws; keeping its appointed place, and serving its appointed use. Every odour exhales in the nicest conformity with its appointed place and law. Even the viewless and mysterious heat, stealing through the dark centres and impenetrable depths of the worlds, obeys its uses with unfaltering exactness, dissolving never so much as an atom that was not to be dissolved. What now shall we say of man, appearing, as it were, in the centre of this great circle of uses? They are all adjusted for him: has he, then, no ends appointed for himself? Noblest of all creatures, and closest to God, as he certainly is, are we to say that his Creator has no definite thoughts concerning him, no place prepared for him to fill, no use for him to serve, which is the reason of his existence?
God has a plan for all our lives. There is a definite and proper end, or issue, for every man’s existence; an end which, to the heart of God, is the good intended for him, or for which he was intended; that which he is privileged to become, called to become, ought to become; that which God will assist him to become, and which he cannot miss, save by his own fault. Every human soul has a complete and perfect plan cherished for it in the heart of God—a Divine biography marked out, which it enters into life to live. This life, rightly unfolded, will be a complete and beautiful whole, an experience led on by God and unfolded by His secret nurture, as the trees and the flowers by the secret nurture of the world; a drama cast in the mould of a perfect art, with no part wanting; a Divine study for the man himself, and for others; a study that shall for ever unfold, in wondrous beauty, the love and faithfulness of God; great in its conception, great in the Divine skill by which it is shaped; above all, great in the momentous and glorious issues it prepares.
The world is not a mere necessary sequence of material phenomena, but a spiritual stream that, swift or sluggish be its course, flows irresistibly to God. The existing fact is not the law; choice between good and evil, heroism, sacrifice are not illusions; conscience, the intuition of the ideal, the power of will, and moral force are ultimate and mastering spiritual facts. The Divine design controls it all, and man has liberty to help God’s plan. And he who knows this, knows that “a supreme power guards the road, by which believers journey towards their goal,” and he will be “bold with God through God.” The crusaders’ cry, “God wills it,” is for him, and his are the courage and consistency and power of sacrifice that come to those who know they battle on the side of God.1 [Note: Bolton King, Mazzini, 240.]
When a farmer goes into town on a market-day to hire, let us suppose, a ploughman into his service, it may happen that the man he hires is one who was previously quite unknown to him, and whom he had no thought of engaging till he chanced to meet him in the street. In these matters we are obliged to do the best we can in a rough haphazard way, with very little of fore-ordination. But it is never so with the Great Husbandman. When He comes into the market-place and hires labourers into His service, He never hires a man with whom He had no previous acquaintance; He never makes an unpremeditated choice. The man who is hired may not have known Christ before, but Christ has known him; and not only known him, but had His eye upon him, ever since he had a being; and has been all along preparing him for the place intended for him in the service. Christ, in everything He does, and especially in calling men into His grace and service, acts by determinate counsel and foreknowledge.2 [Note: W. Binnie.]
2. How did St. Paul know that, before he was born, God had destined him to be an Apostle? Did Ananias tell him that he was “a chosen vessel unto God”? There are more ways than one by which God’s purposes may come to light. As St. Paul looked back upon his life he could see that the Divine purpose had been controlling his personal history from the very beginning, and preparing him for a service of which he had no thought, and which, if it had been proposed to him, he would have regarded with horror. His birth, by which he inherited the rights of Roman citizenship, though he was also “of the stock of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews”; his early years in Tarsus, a great Greek city, famous for its wealth, its commerce, and its schools of learning and philosophy; his life as a student in Jerusalem; his zeal in mastering the doctrines and methods of the Rabbis; the earnestness and fidelity with which he had submitted to the discipline of the most austere of Jewish sects, so that “touching the righteousness which is in the law” he was “blameless”—all these had contributed in various ways to his fitness for the work to which God had destined him.
All the good impressions I ever received came through reading. When I was about nine, some one gave me a copy of Baxter’s Call, which I read through with great interest and earnestness; then Alleine’s Alarm. Then I got hold of a copy of Doddridge’s Rise and Progress, and not only read it through, but prayed all its prayers upon my knees. Then, when I was about ten, Squire Brooke came to the village, and a number of lads, myself amongst them, went like a flock of sheep into the vestry. The others were soon made happy, but I went mourning for some days. One night during a noisy prayer-meeting a big lad told me it was my duty to stand up and say I was saved. I did as I was told, but it was not true. I went to “class,” prayed in prayer-meetings, but it was weary bondage until, in my seventeenth year, I ran away from it all. I think it was on that account more than any other that I buried myself out of the sight and hearing of every one who knew me with the intention that it should be for life. When I was in my twenty-first year I dreamt that I had to die in a fortnight. The news did not give me any fear, but I said, “What a fool I have been! Here is the end of my life, and I have not even begun to serve the purpose for which God gave it me.” Six weeks afterwards I suddenly remembered this dream with all I thought and felt, the result being that on the spot I resolved to be a Christian.1 [Note: John Brash: Memorials and Correspondence, 23.]
O blessed Paul elect to grace,
Arise and wash away thy sin,
Anoint thy head and wash thy face,
Thy gracious course begin.
To start thee on thy outrunning race
Christ shows the splendour of His Face:
What will that Face of splendour be
When at the goal He welcomes thee?2 [Note: Christina G. Rossetti, Verses, 83.]
“And called me through his grace.”
In the Acts of the Apostles the external details of the call of St. Paul are described; here he gives us only the internal experience. He alone could give this, and this was the really important thing. The flashing light, the arrested journey, the audible voice, the blindness, were all accessories. The one important thing was the inward voice that brought conviction to the heart of the man. Every Apostle needed a call from Christ to constitute him such. But every Christian has some Divine call. We have not the miracle to convey the call, and we do not want it. By the manifest claims that present themselves to us, by the discovery of our own powers and opportunities of service, by the promptings of our conscience, Christ calls us to our life’s work. To see a work for Christ needing to be done, and to be able to do it, is a providential call to undertake it.
1. The call is an act of God’s grace—“called me through his grace.” God Himself—without the intervention of Apostles, without human intervention of any kind—had spoken to him the strong and gracious word which had broken his heart to penitence, and which had drawn him to Christ. There had been no movement towards Christ on his own part. He was on his way to Damascus, vehement, passionate in his hatred of the new sect, resolved to suppress it; it was God’s “grace”—what else?—that “called” him to receive the Christian redemption and to preach the Christian Gospel. At that point, indeed, his own free response to the grace of God came in; till now, all that God had done to prepare him for his Apostleship was done without any free concurrence of his in God’s great purpose; he had known nothing of it. Now, however, he might have thwarted and defeated the Divine love; but, as he says elsewhere, he “was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision.”
2. The call is ever a secret between the soul and God. We have to find out for ourselves how our spiritual life is to develop and form itself: there is no programme we can draw up and publish as binding upon all who would fulfil the requirements of Christian service; nor is it demanded that the sacred summons, when we have heard and obeyed it, should affect us all in precisely the same manner, or work in all of us exactly similar results. When we yield ourselves to holy inspirations, it does not mean that our characters are, as it were, run into a common mould or stamped with a common pattern. God may call you, and you may answer to the call and lift up your eyes to behold Him; but perhaps you may have a vision of Him totally different from the vision given to me; and according to our visions, according to the aspect in which each one of us has seen Him, will He control and affect our lives. One may grasp God by intellect, reaching up to Him through reasoning processes and exercises of thought. Another may be conscious of God coming near to him through the avenues of sensibility and feeling, be touched by the wonder of His majesty, overawed by the immeasurableness of His power. Yet another may be held to God by the influences of love, and may be constantly filled with the experiences of His tenderness and grace, and find the sweetness of a personal relationship with God the dominant factor in his spiritual consciousness. And so we get various types of the spiritual life, according to the various aspects in which various hearts behold God.
This thought of the essentially private and individual character of spiritual processes in the human heart deepens our responsibility and makes the spiritual life altogether a more solemn thing. Somehow the ordinary views of the Christian life often leave us too easily satisfied. When we take it as involving the possession of certain feelings, as requiring the employment of certain phrases, we force ourselves into the use of the conventional words, we persuade ourselves that the necessary emotions have taken possession of our hearts, and we rest content with these utterly trivial matters, forgetting the more important aspects, the deeper and weightier concerns, of the spiritual life. But let us once realize that God’s call to us is something we have to face absolutely alone! Solemn indeed is it to know that we are shut away with the ministries which God exercises upon us, and have to give ourselves up to their working and derive unaided from them the good they are meant to bring; that impassable lines are drawn round the place where God meets us and summons us to stand face to face with Him; that, as we bow before that majestic Presence, waiting for the sacred commands, all human companionships have to be left far away.
I think you have rather confused the “inward motion of the Spirit” with the “call,” which are not exactly coincident, though they must be mostly considered together. First observe the distinct phrase used by the Church, “Do you trust that you are inwardly moved?” etc. The matter is frankly set forth as one of faith, not of sensible consciousness. The motion of the Spirit is to be inferred from its effects in and on our spirit; any other view is likely to degrade and carnalize our apprehensions of spiritual operations, not to exalt them. Now I do not think it possible for one man to lay down absolutely for another what inward thoughts and aspirations are or are not trustworthy indices to a genuine motion of the Holy Ghost; but the Church’s words do themselves suggest some necessary elements of them—a direct and unmixed (I mean, clearly realizable and distinguishable) desire to be specially employed in promoting God’s glory and building up His people. If a man does not feel a clear paramount desire,—often interrupted and diluted and even counteracted, but still distinctly present whenever he is in his right mind,—to tell men of God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent,—in a word, to preach the Gospel, that is, announce the Good Tidings,—I very much doubt whether he has a right to “trust that” he is “inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost.”1 [Note: Life and Letters of F. J. A. Hort, i. 278.]
“It pleased God … to reveal his Son in me.”
This should be read along with the fuller Narrative in the Acts. So read, it will be found quite intelligible. We learn from that narrative, that, for three days after Saul’s arrest on the way to Damascus, he lay in the city without a ray of light—bound, as it were, in chains of darkness: there were scales on his eyes and a cloud on his heart. It was dark without and dark within; and he could neither eat nor drink. At length, on the third day, the cloud was taken away, he received his eyesight, and the peace of God filled his soul with light. Such is the account given in the Acts. Mark the secret history of the same blessed deliverance as it is given here.
He says that it pleased God to reveal His Son in him. Why in him? Why does he not say, “It pleased God to reveal His Son to me”? Was not the light which he saw an outer vision? Did it not arrest him at midday with a glory above the brightness of the sun? Did it not bar the way to his old nature, and bid his life pause in the midst of his journey? Surely that picture of his Lord was a vision to his eye. But can any picture be a vision to the eye? Can a thing be revealed to me which has not been revealed in me? Is the landscape on which we gaze revealed only to the outward vision? No, or it would not be revealed at all; there could be no beauty without if there were not a sense of beauty within. Is the music to which we listen revealed only to the outward ear? No, or we should be deaf to it for evermore; there could be no harmony without if there were not a sense of harmony within. So is it with the beauty of Him who is fairer than the children of men. Often have we envied the lot of those who were permitted to gaze upon His outward form, to see the beam on His face, to hear the thrill in His voice. Yet was it not the very chief of these to whom the words were spoken, “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee”? It was not the eye that saw the beam, it was not the ear that heard the thrill; it was the soul, the heart, the life, the responsive spirit bearing witness with His spirit, the kindred sympathy that ran out to meet its counterpart, and found in Him all its salvation because it found in Him all its desire.
As there is an external call and an internal—the former universal, but often ineffectual; the latter personal, but always efficient—so there is an outward revelation of Christ and an internal, of which the understanding and the heart are the seat. Hence it is, with the utmost propriety, said to be a revelation “in us.” The minds of men, until they are renewed, resemble an apartment shut up and enclosed with something which is not transparent; the light shines around with much splendour, but the apartment remains dark, in consequence of its entrance being obstructed. Unbelief, inattention, love of the world and of sin, and hardness of heart, form the obstructions in question. Let these be removed, and the discoveries of the word penetrate and diffuse a light and conviction through the soul: “The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” Thus it was with St. Paul before his conversion: his prejudices against the gospel were inveterate, his animosity violent and active; but no sooner was Christ revealed in him, than all was changed.1 [Note: Robert Hall, Works, v. 203.]
George Fox has given a very simple and impressive account of the experience which ended his long search for somebody who could “speak to his condition” and give him authoritative direction to a religion of verity and reality. “When all my hopes in men,” he says, “were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could tell what to do, then, O then, I heard a voice which said, There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition; and when I heard it my heart did leap for joy. I knew experimentally that Jesus Christ enlightens, gives grace and faith and power. I now knew God by revelation, as He who hath the key did open.” This is a typical piece of early Quaker biography. The testimony of the Yorkshire yeoman William Dewsbury is not so well known as that of Fox, but it comes up out of actual experience, and it, as well as that of Fox, has the power of a pure and sincere life behind it. His spiritual travail was long and hard, beginning when he was a boy of thirteen. “I heard,” he says, “much speaking of God and professing Him in words from the letter of the Scripture, but I met with none that could tell me what God had done for their souls.” At length all his “fig-leaf coverings were rent,” the Lord “manifested His power” to him, and brought “the immortal seed to birth” within him, and he bears this personal testimony: “I came to my knowledge of eternal life not by the letter of Scripture, nor from hearing men speak of God, but by the Inspiration of the Spirit of Jesus Christ who is worthy to open the seals.”1 [Note: W. C. Braithwaite, The Beginnings of Quakerism, xxxv.]
1. This inner revelation meant the translation of the historical Christ into the present Christ; of the Christ according to the flesh into the Christ of spiritual consciousness. What is translation? It is (1) the extracting of a thought from its visible or representative envelope, and then (2) it is the recasting of this thought into another form of our own intelligent selection. By this process, faithfully carried out, we make the thought our own. We bring it out of its mere external relation to the mind as an object, and make it a part of our mind as subject. It is no longer something that we contemplate merely with the mind’s eye, and which passes from memory when our attention is withdrawn, but it is now bound up with our mind, and must remain part of our conscious being.
St. Paul had never seen the Lord veiled in the flesh. He was not required to grope his way through preconceptions and prejudices to a slowly maturing revelation. He learned with all the suddenness of a surprising and blinding vision what his fellow-Apostles had learned with dull, reluctant, and hesitating receptivity. The Divinity of the Lord came upon him almost as the dawning of a glorious summer morning after the deep darkness of the night, and he was able to grasp moreover the larger, deeper meaning of the Saviour’s death and resurrection with a quickness and breadth of apprehension which had not been given to the rest. The spiritual significance of Calvary and of the empty sepulchre was read more promptly, if not more intelligently, by one who, with a richly inspired mind, looked at these things from afar than by those who had seen them with all their disguising surroundings; and it is to St. Paul that we owe the fullest exposition of these great facts and mysteries.
2. There was something deeper than this process of translation, there was actual identification with Christ. It seems no strain of language to say that in the consciousness of St. Paul, Christ was inseparable from himself. He could not abstract the ego, as metaphysicians would say, from a non-ego. He could not think of himself without thinking of Christ. “I am crucified with Christ.”
St. Paul applies the same mode of thought to his converts and disciples. When, by the act of their own will, they became Christians, they were in spirit buried with Christ. At the same time, by realizing the Divine energy in themselves which raised Him from the dead, they were in spirit raised up along with Christ. It is upon this basis, thus firmly laid in the Christian consciousness, that St. Paul builds his system of conduct. The Christian conduct is a perpetual self-renunciation, a perpetual self-identification with the Spirit of Christ. It is the mind dying out of the earthly passions rooted in egoism, and living into the new ideal of manhood, the new creation. And so through the whole series of the historical events. They are renewed. They become history once again in the mind of the Christian. The selection of Christ as God’s Beloved includes the selection of the Christian in Him; the exaltation of Christ to external glory means the present inward exaltation of the Christian to the heavenly regions.
As a Methodist I have never dealt much with the favourite Keswick doctrine of the sinner’s identification with Christ in His death and resurrection. But on Good Friday I preached upon it—“One died for all, therefore all died,” etc. As I was meditating on the subject, after I had preached, I saw with the vividness of a lightning flash, that it was my present personal privilege to reckon myself one with Christ in His risen life. In the same moment I knew that it was real—the world, the flesh, and the devil under my feet. I could have shouted for joy. The blessed freedom and the near access to God through Christ remain with me still. I suppose that my experience was somewhat similar to that of Dr. Dale when he had as clear a perception of the truth that Christ lives. How simple is the way of faith, and how simple is faith itself!1 [Note: John Brash: Memorials and Correspondence, 102.]
“That I might preach him among the Gentiles.”
1. St. Paul recognized at once his obligation to be a witness for Christ. “That I might preach him.” We are saved for service. Our receipts make our debt. We are not absolute owners, we are responsible trustees. “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” The men who had learned directly of Christ never regarded their spiritual gifts save in this aspect. They never once supposed that the heavenly light had been kindled in them solely for their own glory, that the Divine treasure had been bestowed upon them simply for their own enrichment, and that for their own sakes alone they had been singled out for a benefit so vast, a mercy so wonderful, a salvation so grand and complete. How could they suppose that, unless Calvary had developed in them the Pharisee’s pride or the miser’s greed? How could they entertain that thought, unless they had been plunged in a blinding maelstrom of intolerable self-conceit? What had they done to deserve this signal grace and the promotion from rude fishermen to companionship with the King of kings? No, they knew that the Divine love which had fixed itself on them was felt as fully and as freely towards the whole human race, and that the light had shone on their hearts first that through them the illumination might spread everywhere. It was not their own. It was the most sacred and responsible of trusts. It belonged to all men. To withhold it would be to rob men of what God had made their right. It would even be to deny and forfeit their own calling. “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel.” And everyone feels this who has truly understood and rejoiced in God’s great gift. If it has not yet penetrated and suffused the hearts of all Christians, it is because selfish human elements have counteracted the workings of the Divine, and because man’s littleness has brought God’s great thought down to the measure of the market and the shop.
What marvellous writing that of Paul is! There is a depth of meaning in it which seems unfathomable. Oh! for more of that man’s spirit, his love, his faith, and above all his dauntless intrepidity for Christ. What a hero he was! What a splendid specimen of humanity! I am selfish enough to love him all the more because “his bodily presence was weak and his speech contemptible”; and yet no man ever did more for Christ and for Christ’s world.1 [Note: Dr. MacGregor of St. Cuthberts, 120.]
Dr. McLaren of Manchester writing to his friend Shields to thank him for a copy of his Paul which the artist had sent to him says: “Thank you for your noble ‘Paul’ (what do you call him saint for?). I think you have never done a truer embodiment of a great soul. The wasted eagerness, the weakness re-inforced by supernatural strength, are magnificently rendered. I wish every lazy, smooth-haired and smooth-souled preacher had a copy of it hanging in his ‘study’ to flame down rebukes at him. I have had him framed to hang in mine, and you through him will spur me often.”2 [Note: E. Mills, Life and letters of Frederic Shields, 331.]
2. St. Paul’s mission was wider than he at first dreamed. “Among the Gentiles.” Naturally his soul turned towards his own people with ardent desire. Was he not an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin; and could he be indifferent to the needs of his brethren according to the flesh? Surely it would not be difficult to unfold the meaning of the sacred symbolism through which their forefathers had been disciplined in those very wastes. That the rock was Christ; that the water which flowed over the sands foreshadowed His mission to the world; that the law given from Sinai had been fulfilled and re-edited in the holy life of Jesus of Nazareth; that the sacrifices offered on those sands had pointed to the death of the cross; and that the fire which burned in the bush had also shone on His face—to teach all this and much more, and to lead his people from the desert wastes of Pharisaism to the heavenly places of which Canaan was the type, was the hope and longing of his heart. What work could be more congenial to his tastes and attitudes than this?
But he came to learn that not as a privileged Jew, but as a sinful man, had Divine grace found him out. The righteousness of God was revealed to him on terms which brought it within the reach of every human being. The Son of God whom he now beheld was a personage vastly greater than his national Messiah, the “Christ after the flesh” of his Jewish dreams, and his gospel was correspondingly loftier and larger in its scope. “God was in Christ, reconciling,” not a nation, but a “world unto himself.” The “grace” conferred on him was given that he might “preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,” and make all men see the mystery of the counsel of redeeming love. It was the world’s redemption of which St. Paul partook; and it was his business to let the world know it. He had fathomed the depths of sin and self-despair; he had tasted the uttermost of pardoning grace. God and the world met in his single soul, and were reconciled. In his latest Epistles, he declares that “the grace of God which appeared” to him, was “for the salvation of all men.” “Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” The same revelation that made St. Paul a Christian made him an Apostle of mankind.
Often at the beginning of the new life we attempt to forecast the work which we hope to accomplish. We take into account our tastes and aptitudes, our faculties and talents, our birth and circumstances. From these we infer that we shall probably succeed best along a certain line of useful activity. But as the moments lengthen into years, it becomes apparent that the door of opportunity is closing in that direction. It is a bitter disappointment. We refuse to believe that the hindrances to the fulfilment of our cherished hopes can be permanent. Patience, we cry, will conquer every difficulty. The entrance may be strait, but surely it is passable. At last we reach the wide and large place of successful achievement. We cast ourselves against the closing door, as sea birds on the illuminated glass of the lighthouse tower, to fall dazed and bewildered to the ground. And it is only after such a period of disappointment that we come to perceive that God’s ways are not as our ways, nor His thoughts as our thoughts; and that He has other work for us to do, for which He has been preparing us, though we knew it not. When we are young we gird ourselves, and attempt to walk whither we will; but in after years we are guided by Another, and taken whither we would not.1 [Note: F. B. Meyer, Paul, 65.]
Is there some desert or some boundless sea
Where Thou, great God of angels, wilt send me?
Some oak for me to rend, some sod
For me to break,
Some handful of thy corn to take
And scatter far afield,
Till it in turn shall yield
Of grains of gold,
To feed the happy children of my God?
Show me the desert, Father, or the sea.
Is it Thine enterprise? Great God, send me!
And though this body lie where ocean rolls,
Father, count me among All Faithful Souls!2 [Note: Edward E. Hale.]
The Inner Revelation
Banks (L. A.), The Sinner and his Friends, 39.
Binnie (W.), Sermons, 90.
Clark (H. W.), Meanings and Methods of the Spiritual Life, 68.
Dale (R. W.), Fellowship with Christ, 215.
Findlay (G. G.), The Epistle to the Galatians (Expositor’s Bible), 68.
Hall (R.), Works, v. 199.
Hayman (H. H.), Rugby Sermons, 145.
Hodge (C.), Princeton Sermons, 223.
Matheson (G.), Moments on the Mount, 52.
Meyer (F. B.), Paul, 27.
Miller (J.), Sermons Literary and Scientific, i. 52.
Moore (E. W.), The Promised Rest, 160.
Moule (H. C. G.), The Secret of the Presence, 202.
Russell (A.), The Light that Lighteth every Man, 41.
Sanday (W.), The Oracles of God, 59.
Spurgeon (C. H.), Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, xi. (1865), No. 656; liv. (1908), No. 3078; lvi. (1910), No. 3202.
Virgin (S. H.), Spiritual Sanity, 16.
Christian World Pulpit, xx. 234 (E. Johnson).
Church of England Pulpit, lxiii. 106 (W. J. S. Simpson).