Great Texts of the Bible
Eternally the Lord’s
None of us liveth to himself, and none dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died, and lived again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.—Romans 14:7-9.
1. This text is interpreted for us by the section of the Epistle to the Romans in which it is found. That section is devoted to the elucidation of the principles by which the early Christians were to be guided as to their observance or non-observance of particular festival days, and as to their abstinence or non-abstinence from certain kinds of meats and drinks. To understand the matter fully we must have a clear perception of the difficulty with which the Apostle was seeking to deal.
Living as they were in the midst of paganism, the Gentile Christians were frequently invited to feasts at which meat was served which had been offered to an idol. Some partook of it without any hesitation, believing, as St. Paul himself did, that an idol was nothing in the world and that nothing was unclean of itself. Others, having less enlightened consciences, refused to touch it, believing that if they did eat it they would be guilty of countenancing idolatry. The Jewish converts, again, were divided on the question of the observance of their national feasts. Some of them maintained their old habits in the matter of those Mosaic appointments, and others contented themselves with the simple keeping of the Lord’s Day. All of them relied upon the sacrifice of Christ for justification, and therefore are to be carefully distinguished from those against whom the Epistle to the Galatians was written, and who insisted on circumcision as essential to salvation. No vital principle was at stake in this instance. The error of the scrupulous was that of asceticism, not that of legalism; and so the Apostle here counsels mutual forbearance. He condemns everything like intolerance and recrimination. Those who had attained to such breadth of view that they felt no difficulty about eating anything that was set before them, were not to arrogate to themselves superiority over those who felt no such liberty; and on the other hand, those whose consciences would not allow them to partake of every sort of food were not to condemn such as had no scruples on the matter. The Jewish believer who kept all the festivals of his nation was not to look upon himself as better than he who observed only the Christian festival of the first day of the week; and neither were they whose strength of mind had raised them above such things to despise those who still considered that they were important. There was to be an agreement between them to differ in love; and if in any case the exercise of his undoubted liberty by one should seriously imperil the spiritual welfare of another by leading him to commit sin, then that liberty was to be cheerfully sacrificed in order that a brother should not be destroyed, for “the kingdom of God” was not a thing of “meats and drinks,” but of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.”
Now the truth which has been affirmed in regard to the use of food, and observance or non-observance of days, is here based on a large truth of which it is a part. The whole life of the Christian belongs not to himself, but to his Lord. “None of us liveth to himself,” means that no Christian is his own end in life; what is always present to his mind, as the rule of his conduct, is the will and the interest of his Lord. The same holds of his dying. He does not choose either the time or the mode of it, like a Roman Stoic, to please himself. He dies when the Lord will, as the Lord will, and even by his death glorifies God. In Romans 14:14 ff. St. Paul comes to speak of the influence of conduct upon others; but here there is no such thing in view; the prominence given to “the Lord,” three times named in Romans 14:8, shows that the one truth present to his mind is the all-determining significance, for Christian conduct, of the relation to Christ. This (ideally) determines everything, alike in life and in death; and all that is determined by it is right.
The following verses indicate that St. Paul has at heart the truth that we live for ever related to one another, but he reaches it through the greater, deeper, antecedent truth of our relation to the Lord. The Christian is related to his brother-Christian through Christ, not to Christ through his brother, or through the common organism in which the brethren are “each other’s limbs.” “To the Lord” with absolute directness, with a perfect and wonderful immediateness, each individual Christian is first related. His life and death are “to others,” but through Him. The Master’s claim is eternally first; for it is based directly upon the redeeming work in which He bought us for Himself.
“None of us liveth to himself … we live unto the Lord.”
1. What is meant by this strange phraseology translated “unto” or “to”? We live “unto” the Lord. It seems to impart at once to the phrase an air of unfamiliarity, if not of actual unreality. Shall we try to understand this? The right and full understanding of it, indeed, would make any one a master of St. Paul’s philosophy, but some understanding of it we may all win.
We have very close relations with one another. Each one of us has duties to his friends, his society, his country. No one saw more clearly than St. Paul that religion was bound to take all these duties into account, to illuminate and sanctify them. Christ’s religion is above all others the religion of humanity. And on this aspect of religious duty—our duty to one another, and to the society of which we form a part—St. Paul spoke and wrote often and urgently. These duties are so exhaustive in their sphere, so far-reaching, so varied, that they make almost a religion of themselves.
But St. Paul knew very well that the religion which is based only on men’s relations to one another would be a very imperfect one. There is a third element in religion which must never be absent, and that is God. If we wish to grasp the significance of religion we must keep in view the thought of God, the thought of the world, and the thought of our own individual soul, and assign to each its proper place. If we leave out the thought of the world we may sink into a morbid, unpractical life of superstition and seclusion; if we leave out the thought of God we shall certainly fall into a somewhat fashionable philosophy, which is, however, one-sided, incomplete, not profound or final.
Now St. Paul, by this word “unto”—live “unto” the Lord—embodies the relation between these three great elements; not consciously, but all the more instructively because the expression arose unconsciously out of his natural and habitual modes of thought. “Live,” he says (and the context shows that he is speaking of the complicated life in a society), “live, and perform all your duties to society and to one another; and the way to do so is to live unto the Lord.” St. Paul might tell us to live with men, for men, by men; but it is impossible that St. Paul should tell us to live unto men. Here comes in the third element. We are to live with men, for men, but with our thoughts reaching out unto God. These real personal relations between our individual soul and God are not to be sacrificed to our duties to one another; nay, more; we cannot live as St. Paul bids us live until we live unto God, with our eyes, and thoughts, and prayers turned to Him.
2. The “Lord” here spoken of is at once Christ and God. This is manifest from the ninth verse, where Christ is identified with the “Lord of both the dead and the living”; from the tenth verse, where He is declared to be the supreme Judge of the world; and from the eleventh, where the Apostle, to establish that title, directly applies to Christ the solemn declaration of the forty-fifth chapter of Isaiah,—“I am God, and there is none else. Unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.” The God, then, to whom we must make this utter and unreserved surrender of the heart, is the God who was revealed in Christ Jesus, and who, by the mystery of the Incarnation, has for ever united in Himself the Divine and human natures, and has consecrated the one by the other. Unto Him, as Christians, we are called upon to live; He who is the principle of our spiritual life is also made the object of it; as the vapours of the ocean supply the rivers that return into the ocean itself.
I quite appreciate your difficulty in accepting the term “the Lordship of Christ,” and I would not for a moment assert that “to know God as Spirit” may not be a more advanced perception or apprehension. But the Personality of the term “Lord” helps me; the Lord Jesus is my Personal God, and for the awakening, sustaining, and developing of my affections I seem to need that “individualized” presentation of Deity. “Spirit” is too abstract at present for me. I find in the apprehension of God, which “the Lord” represents to me, the Comforter or Helper. I quite agree with you that “Lord” seems an individualized word, and gives the thought of limitations, while “Spirit” is free and diffused; but do we not, through the knowledge of the individualized “Lord,” get really to the knowledge of “Spirit” universal and diffused?1 [Note: R. W. Corbet, Letters from a Mystic of the Present Day, 208.]
3. Let us consider, then, how a real, living obedience to the command to live “unto the Lord” would affect our lives here, in our present society.
(1) To live means with us all, to work. Work in one form or another occupies a large part of our lives. Would it not make a great difference to any man if he felt that all his work was done “unto the Lord,” not unto men? It would not so much increase his diligence, but it would make it uniform, trustworthy; he would not be influenced so much by lower and temporary motives; vanity would have no place; consciously superficial work would be impossible, the work being done for the eye of the Master in heaven.
(2) And what dignity it adds to labour. Much the greatest part of any man’s work is a sort of drudgery, or what in some moments of weariness we are tempted to call so. Certainly much is monotonous, almost mechanical, attention to endless details. We are apt to grow impatient of this, to think that we have a soul above such petty details, to do our work, whatever it may be, badly and superficially, and to find some excuse for ourselves in the triviality of the things we neglect. But the thought that we are living “unto the Lord,” with our eyes on Him, and His on us, dignifies all the most trivial details of duty, and removes impatience. We are working under our Master’s eye; and no work that He gives us is petty or uninteresting.
All true Work is sacred; in all true Work, were it but true hand-labour, there is something of divineness. Labour, wide as the Earth, has its summits in Heaven. Sweat of the brow; and up from that to sweat of the brain, sweat of the heart; which includes all Kepler calculations, Newton meditations, all Sciences, all spoken Epics, all acted Heroisms, Martyrdoms,—up to that “Agony of bloody sweat,” which all men have called divine! O brother, if this is not “worship,” then I say, the more pity for worship; for this is the noblest thing yet discovered under God’s sky. Who art thou that complainest of thy life of toil? Complain not. Look up, my wearied brother; see thy fellow-Workmen there, in God’s Eternity; surviving there, they alone surviving; sacred Band of the Immortals, celestial Bodyguard of the Empire of Mankind.1 [Note: Carlyle, Past and Present, ch. xii.]
They said, “The carpenter’s son.” To me,
No dearer thing in the Book I see,
For He must have risen with the light,
And patiently toiled until the night.
He too was weary when evening came,
For well He knoweth our mortal frame,
And He remembers the weight of dust,
So His frail children may Bing and trust.
We often toil till our eyes grow dim,
Yet our hearts faint not because of Him.
The workers are striving everywhere,
Some with a pitiful load of care;
Many in peril upon the sea,
Or deep in the mine’s dark mystery,
While mothers nor day nor night can rest;
I fancy the Master loves them best.
For many a little head has lain
On the heart pierced by redemption’s pain.
He was so tender with fragile things,
He saw the sparrow with broken wings.
His mother, loveliest woman born,
Had humble tasks in her home each morn,
And He thought of her the cross above,
So burdened woman must have His love.
For labour, the common lot of man,
Is part of a kind Creator’s plan,
And he is a king whose brow is wet
With the pearl-gemmed crown of honest sweat.
Some glorious day, this understood,
All toilers will be a brotherhood.
With brain or hand the purpose is one,
And the master workman, God’s own Son.
4. Then there is another consequence of the thought that we are living “unto the Lord,” an instantaneous and most important consequence. If we can bring the thought of God as a factor into our relations with the world, it will prevent us, as nothing else will, from making, more or less consciously, our own happiness our aim. Now if we aim at happiness, a thousand things occur to disappoint us; either we do not get what we want, or, quite as often, we get what we want and then do not enjoy it; it is different from what we expected, or there comes with it a little bitter sting of conscience which destroys all the pleasure. But if in our life and work we think of God, if we do our work “unto the Lord,” we escape the personal element in disappointment; our failures will chasten us without making us sullen or morose. For such a thought leaves no room for vanity, from which most of our disappointments spring. Such a thought transplants us into a region above vanity.
Though now thou hast failed and art fallen, despair not because of defeat,
Though lost for a while be thy heaven and weary of earth be thy feet,
For all will be beauty about thee hereafter through sorrowful years,
And lovely the dews for thy chilling, and ruby thy heart-drip of tears.
The eyes that had gazed from afar on a beauty that blinded the eyes,
Shall call forth its image for ever, its shadow in alien skies.
The heart that had striven to beat in the heart of the Mighty too soon
Shall still of that beating remember some errant and faltering tune.
For thou hast but fallen to gather the last of the secrets of power;
The beauty that breathes in thy spirit shall shape of thy sorrow a flower,
The pale bud of pity shall open the bloom of its tenderest rays,
The heart of whose shining is bright with the light of the
Ancient of Days.1 [Note: A. E., The Divine Vision, 73.]
5. And thus we come back to the first part of the text: “None of us liveth unto himself.” For a man cannot live unto the Lord, and live to himself. There will be no room for selfishness in a life that is really devoted to the Lord. “None of us liveth to himself”—this alone is a sublime text for the socialist. But it was not the text of St. Paul, and we only need to turn over the pages of experience to find out where it breaks down. If we make the right beginning and remember that we live unto the Lord, an unselfish attitude to our fellow-men will follow as a natural consequence. “To love is the perfect of the verb to live.”
Few men in his generation sought to live so much for Christ and his people as did Thomas Guthrie, the Scottish pulpit orator and philanthropist, and the secret of all was that he had learned at the foot of the cross to sacrifice self and to love all for whom the Master died. I have heard him often, and always with delight, but never, I think, with such quivering emotion tingling through my frame, as when, at the close of a glowing appeal for his ragged children, he repeated with the deepest fervour, these lines, which were peculiarly appropriate on lips like his—
I live for those who love me,
For those who know me true;
For the heaven that smiles above me,
And awaits my spirit, too;
For the cause that lacks assistance,
For the wrongs that need resistance,
For the future in the distance,
For the good that I can do.
That was his motto, because he had learned the meaning of the love of Christ to his own soul.2 [Note: W. M. Taylor.]
“And none dieth to himself … we die unto the Lord.”
1. “None dieth to himself.” The expression is striking, but it is practically meaningless if separated from the rest of the passage. It is the thought which follows that we must emphasize. We die unto the Lord. So then, it results that if we live to the Lord and die to the Lord we are eternally the Lord’s. Once grasp that thought firmly, and we shall hold a weapon strong to disarm the grim fear of death.
Death is the withdrawal of all human support from around the soul, of its vesture and home, of the very body which is its second self, that it may be alone with Christ, and feel Him to be enough for it, more to it than any created thing. He invites the soul and constrains it to put all its confidence into that last act of surrender; to cast itself, bare of every aid but His, into the mysterious infinite, feeling that underneath it are the everlasting arms. For a man to learn this perfect confidence in Christ, he must die.1 [Note: John Ker.]
Once when I was visiting a dear child whose death-bed was a very happy one, she told me she had been dreaming that she was in the act of departing, and she felt not the slightest alarm. It reminded her of a day long previously, when she was being bathed in the sea, and her big brother suddenly caught her up and carried her out far beyond her depth. It gave her only a sensation of delight, for she knew she was safe in his arms.2 [Note: J. Gibson.]
2. The Apostle four times over in this short paragraph makes mention of death, and of the dead. “None of us dieth to himself”; “whether we die, we die unto the Lord”; “whether we die, we are the Lord’s”; “that he might be Lord of the dead.” And this last sentence, with its mention not of the dying but of the dead, reminds us that the reference in them all is to the Christian’s relation to his Lord, not only in the hour of death, but in the state after death; it is not only that Jesus Christ, as the slain One risen, is absolute Disposer of the time and manner of our dying; it is not only that when our death comes we are to accept it as an opportunity for the “glorifying of God” (John 21:19; Php 1:20) in the sight and in the memory of those who know of it. It is that when we have “passed through death,” and come out upon the other side,
When we enter yonder regions,
When we touch the sacred shore,
our relation to the slain One risen, to Him who, as such, “hath the keys of death and of Hades,” is perfectly continuous and the same. He is our absolute Master, there as well as here. And we, by consequence and correlation, are vassals, servants, bondservants to Him, there as well as here.
For doubt not but that in the worlds above
There must be other offices of love;
That other tasks and ministries there are,
Since it is written that His servants there
Shall serve Him still.1 [Note: R. C. Trench.]
3. “Eternally the Lord’s.” Let us welcome the assurance from His own teaching. “To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise”—wherever that mysterious spot may be in space, at least somewhere where He is living a continuous life. The death of Jesus Christ is no ceasing, no ending of His personal existence. This is as clear as anything can be. Put to death in the flesh, He was quickened in the Spirit, and He went in that Spirit and preached to the spirits in prison. Death was to Him no ending of existence; it was an incident in the endless life; not an incident that came to Him as other incidents had come and were to come, of His Father’s will, and in the time of His Father’s ordaining. It has never touched for a single moment the continuity of His personal existence. And as with Him, so with us. He died, He rose, He revived in order that He might make manifest to us what our death is. Death, then, to us as to Him, does not touch personal existence at all. Whether we live we live unto the Lord; whether we die we die unto the Lord; living or dying, we are the Lord’s. It is not surviving death. Death is only the inevitable incident that comes to us in a life which is of endless continuance.
Death is another life. We bow our heads,
At going out, we think, and enter straight
Another golden chamber of the King’s,
Larger than this we leave, and lovelier.2 [Note: P. J. Bailey, Festus.]
“Whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died, and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” In these words, as so often in general statements of this kind in St. Paul, there seems to be a universal reference, and a particular one also. For while it is obvious that the great assertion of the text has a sense in which it is true of the whole race of man, in which every man, whatever he may be doing or suffering, is Christ’s, it is equally obvious that there is also another sense, and that the only blessed and full one, in which they and they alone are His who are consciously united to Him in His death unto sin and His life unto righteousness; who shall reign and walk with Him in light, where He is in the glory of the Father.
1. Let us take first the general fact announced in the words: “To this end Christ died, and lived again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” The Apostle is speaking of the duty of all Christians to judge one another charitably, and grounding it on this fact that it is not to himself, but to the Lord, that every Christian man lives and dies and performs all his actions. We therefore, in judging another, are judging the servant of a far higher master, to whom, and to whom alone, he standeth or falleth. And the proof of this is the fact that we are not our own. And how is it that we are not our own? It is because with His most precious blood, shed in our humanity, Christ purchased us to Himself—purchased, that is to say, this universal race of man, to be His in a peculiar manner, in which it was not and could not be His without the shedding of that blood, and the triumph which He achieved through death. Moreover, the Apostle declares that to become possessor and Lord of both the dead and the living was the very object and end which the Son of God set before Himself in His sufferings and His triumphs.
(1) The death of Christ is usually and rightly looked upon as the great atonement for our sin—for the sin of the world. But in so regarding it, men not only stop here when they should go very much further, but they do not understand even this much aright. As long as they have an idea of Christ the Son of God, as merely one living man substituted for other men in God’s sight as their atonement, they can give no account whatever of the fact that by so doing He intended to become Lord of our nature.
If A pays a penalty on behalf of B, there may exist a claim of gratitude, but there results no fact of lordship or ownership whatever. And it is characteristic enough that those who regard the death of our Lord as the mere substitution of one person for another, commonly forget, or even deny, the fact of His universal lordship and headship over our race. Here is one of the reasons why evangelical preaching often fails to work social changes and renew men’s souls. Preachers allow to pass out of sight the one truth of God, that He who was stricken thus as our substitute, was not merely a personal man, but the personal Son of God with our whole nature upon Him; bearing in His own Divine Person our flesh, the flesh of all the many thousand millions of mankind, as certainly and as actually as Adam bore us all in himself when he stood alone in God’s world.1 [Note: Dean Alford.]
(2) Now in order that Christ may be Head and King of the race, it is not necessary that we should first believe it. We are not the measure of this fact; it exists irrespective of us and our belief; it is God’s eternal truth; it is God’s One eternal truth, by which He will save the world. But when we apprehend this truth that Christ is our Head and King, that He lives in us and through us, that His death is our death, His victory our victory, His crown our crown, His spirit our spirit—then, and not till then, can we lift up ourselves, and shake off the dust of death, and stand up in God’s sight pardoned and justified men, with God’s work before us and God’s help to do it with.
Christ is the universal head, and man’s belief is just the lighting up of this fact in reference to the individual man, and making it to be to him the fact of his own individual life. Well then, you say, you come to faith after all. Come to faith? Yes, certainly. Do you suppose this wonderful being of ours, body animated by life and lighted by spirit, can be rescued, can be saved, can be glorified, without and in the abeyance of its higher powers? If you are to benefit the body by medicine, must not the body take it in? If you are to turn a man’s course for good, must you not persuade him? And if this inclusion in Christ, this fact and potentiality of God which He has brought about in the mystery of redemption, is in its turn to bring about in you holiness, and joy, and fruit for God, and future glory, do you suppose it can do so without your apprehending it, without your applying it as a reality to your whole life and thoughts? Of course we come to faith, and always must come to faith, in every spiritual matter.1 [Note: Dean Alford.]
2. Now we come to the more proper and more close application of the words—that in which the terms “we” and “us” are referred to those who have apprehended, who do feel, who are living in, and making their own, this glorious truth. And the difference between them and others is that they are consciously realizing to its fullest extent the fact of Christ’s Lordship. They are one with Christ. He is their King, as He is King of all, but they are His willing and devoted bondmen.
Speaking of Phillips Brooks in early manhood, his biographer says: To be true to himself, to renounce nothing which he knew to be good and yet bring all things captive to the obedience of Christ, was the problem before him. He hesitated long before he could believe that such a solution was possible. His heart was with this rich attractive world of human life, in the multiplicity and wealth of its illustrations, until it was revealed to him that it assumed a richer but a holier aspect when seen in the light of God. But to this end, he must submit his will to the Divine will in the spirit of absolute obedience. Here the struggle was deep and prolonged. It was a moral struggle mainly, not primarily intellectual or emotional. He feared that he should lose something in sacrificing his own will to God’s will. How the gulf was bridged he could not tell. He wrote down as one of the first of the texts on which he should preach, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power,” with the comment that “willingness is the first Christian step.” Thus the conversion of Phillips Brooks becomes a representative process of his age. So far as the age has been great, through science or through literature, its greatness passed into his soul. The weakness of his age, its sentimentalism, its fatalism, he overcame in himself when he made the absolute surrender of his will to God. All that he had hitherto loved and cherished as the highest, instead of being lost, was given back to him in fuller measure. To the standard he had now raised there rallied great convictions and blessed experiences, the sense of the unity of life, the harmony of the whole creation, the consciousness of joy in being alive, the conviction that heaven is the goal of earth.2 [Note: Phillips Brooks, 82.]
3. Now it follows with every man who thus apprehends the Gospel of Christ and Christ Himself, that his life and thoughts must be changed and purified and sanctified by Christ’s Spirit. For if I, with my inner man, have laid hold on this truth as my truth of life, that Christ is my Lord and Head, that it is Christ who lives in me, not I myself merely, and that I am the partaker of Christ’s victory and Christ’s glory, just so far as His holy and sin-hating and godly life is carried on and carried out in me, is it not totally impossible that I should live in sin or to sin?
Writing to the Corinthian Christians St. Paul does not endeavour to persuade them into the belief that they are living a new life in Christ; he speaks of it in the simplest language of fact—“I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; that in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: so that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:4-7). This is the strain in which men write to their friends about assured facts; thus would a man express thankfulness for his friend’s health or his prosperity, or the advancement of his children, or any of those matters of fact which admit least doubt, and require least argument. More than one of the apologists of Christianity, as Justin Martyr and Tertullian, appeal to the existence of conspicuous Christian virtues amongst them, which even their enemies are expected to admit. Their patience of wrong and of suffering, their strict morality, their unselfishness, their mutual love, contrasted so strongly with the tone of pagan society, that they were like water-springs in a dry and barren ground. “Christ,” says Augustine, “appeared to the men of an old and expiring world, that whilst all around them was fading away, they might receive through Him a new life and youth.” It was the evidence of good works, rather than of miracles, that attracted new inquirers to the Christian ranks, even whilst persecutions were thinning them. Young lads and tender women, common workmen and slaves, showed that a new spring moved all their actions; and those who came into contact with them, if they had in their hearts any germ of good at all, must have felt the influence of this moral superiority. And can we find any other solution of this change than the simplest of all, that Christ was keeping His promise of being ever with His disciples? It was God who wrought in them; it was the promised Spirit of God who guided them; it was the Lord of the dead and the living who was sitting at the right hand of God, and helping and communing with those whom the Father had given Him.1 [Note: Archbishop Thomson.]
They whose hearts are whole and strong,
Living clean from soil of wrong,
Wearing truth’s white dress,—
They unto no far-off height
Wearily need climb;
Heaven to them is close in sight
From these shores of time.
Only the anointed eye
Sees in common things,—
Gleam of wave, and tint of sky,—
To the hearts where light has birth
Nothing can be drear;
Budding through the bloom of earth,
Heaven is always near.1 [Note: Lucy Larcom.]
4. It was precisely this that was in St. Paul’s view when he affirmed that “none of us liveth to himself,” and that “none dieth to himself.” He was not speaking of any persons who had attained to this perfection, but of the law of spiritual life under which we all have passed. God is our Law; Christ is our Rule; and while we are no longer free to follow inclinations that would draw us out of accord with Christ’s rule, we are liberated from all lower authority. God’s service is then perfect freedom; we are no longer free to live to ourselves, because our will has passed into a higher life. How can he, says St. Paul, who is dead to sin, live any longer therein? We are determined, even as God is determined, by the highest life that is in us. And in the Apostle’s words,—for we might fear to use such words from ourselves—we become joint rulers with God as we become His servants from our hearts. We rule through willing submission: accord with the Highest is command over all that is lower than He. We obey natural law, and it obeys us; we obey the laws of labour, and it yields us its returns; we obey God, and He is the strength of our souls and our portion for evermore. This is the great law of life which delivers us from ourselves and our own blindness, so that, living or dying, life and death are freed from the colours of earthly accident, and centred in God. This is the only true liberty, to know that we are not our own masters.
“We are the Lord’s,” and they amongst whom we work are the Lord’s. Miserable some of them are and disappointing, and unsatisfactory; but they are the Lord’s. There are some who repel us, and make us feel inclined to turn away in despair, squalid and half-human as they seem to be; but they are the Lord’s. Living or dead, wretched and mean though they be, they belong to Him. He has not finished with them yet. “It doth not yet appear what they shall be “; but it will help us to value the souls of our fellow-men, and to discover something better than the sordid and the unlovely, if we remember that Christ Jesus is their Lord. There are forces at work to frustrate His designs, and He sends us forth to grapple with “the wrongs that need resistance” and to help “the cause that lacks assistance.” In all social service, Jesus works with His disciples, for all men are His.1 [Note: J. S. Corlett.]
Me this unchartered freedom tires;
I feel the weight of chance-desires:
My hopes no more must change their name,
I long for a repose that ever is the same.
Oh, let my weakness have an end!
Give unto me, made lowly wise,
The spirit of self-sacrifice;
The confidence of reason give;
And in the light of truth thy Bondman let me live!2 [Note: Wordsworth, “Ode to Duty.”]
Eternally the Lord’s
Alford (H.), Quebec Chapel Sermons, vi. 260.
Barry (A.), First Words in Australia, 161.
Bourdillon (F.), Our Possessions, 62.
Boyd (A. K. H.), The Graver Thoughts of a Country Parson, 2nd Ser., 234.
Bruce (J.), Sermons, 197.
Bruce (W. S.), Our Heritage, 93.
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Chapman (J. W.), Pocket Sermons, i. 35.
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Davidson (R. T.), Christian Opportunity, 77.
Davidson (R. T.) Captains and Comrades in the Faith, 276.
Fuller (M.), The Lord’s Day, 376.
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Keble (J.), Sermons for the Christian Year (Easter to Ascension), 44.
King (E.), The Love and Wisdom of God, 155.
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