Great Texts of the Bible
The Owner’s Mark
If any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.—Romans 8:9.
This is one of the most searching passages that can be found in the Bible. It takes hold of the question of our salvation in a very substantial and thorough manner. It removes utterly, almost infinitely, from this problem of our destiny, all shadow of uncertainty or of doubt. It brings us squarely to the facts in our character. On the force of this Scripture we are lifted to a platform where we stand with our hearts uncovered and naked before the eye of God.
I never read this Scripture in the presence of a Christian congregation without feeling that I have in some way chopped down through every heart with a great broad axe. There is no whitewashing in this passage: “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Not, “He will do tolerably well, but not quite so well as he might do”; not that he will get on after a fashion, and have quite a respectable entrance into the city of the great King, though he may not push quite so far towards the front as he might have done if he had had the Spirit of the Lord Jesus. Not that at all; but, if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, there is not the remotest shadow of a chance for him: “he is none of his.”1 [Note: C. H. Fowler.]
What is the Spirit of Christ?
1. In the earlier part of this verse it is called “the Spirit of God”—“ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you.” It is therefore the Holy Spirit of promise. The Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of God” because God is the original source, “the Spirit of Christ” because Christ is the immediate Channel and occasion of His gift to men.
When our Lord entered upon His Ministry, He acted as though He were a mere man, needing grace, and received the consecration of the Holy Spirit for our sakes. He became the Christ, or Anointed, that the Spirit might be seen to come from God, and to pass from Him to us. And, therefore, the heavenly Gift is not simply called the Holy Ghost, or the Spirit of God, but the Spirit of Christ, that we might clearly understand that He comes to us from and instead of Christ.1 [Note: J. H. Newman.]
2. This Holy Spirit dwells in us as in a temple. He pervades us as light pervades a building, or as a sweet perfume the folds of some honourable robe; so that, in Scripture language, we are said to be in Him, and He in us. It is plain that such an inhabitation brings the Christian into a State altogether new and marvellous, far above the possession of mere gifts; exalts him inconceivably in the scale of being and gives him a place and an office which he had not before. In St. Peter’s forcible language, he becomes “partaker of the Divine Nature,” and has “power” or authority, as St. John says, “to become the son of God.” Or, to use the words of St. Paul, “he is a new creation; old things are passed away, behold all things are become new.” His rank is new; his parentage and Service are new. He is “of God,” and “is not his own,” “a vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.”
3. Given without measure to Jesus, the Spirit of God, called also the Spirit of Christ, is given in measure to those that belong to Jesus. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Thus the Holy Spirit, that Life from God which came into the world in Jesus, and so changed and uplifted and refreshed the spirit of man, flows on into other men. Therefore He is called the Spirit of Life. Christians are said to have received this life. It is described as “Life indeed.” To lack the Spirit is to be separated from the Life of God.
I think that this thought, great as it is, is simple enough for each of us—that the Holy Spirit is the name of that holy Life which passes from God into us. That this should be so is more than we could have asked or thought, but it is not more or other than what fits with splendid fitness what in our own spirit we know and feel (though we hardly dare own it) that we are meant for some real union and communion with God.2 [Note: Bishop E. S. Talbot.]
The Possession of the Spirit of Christ
1. The possession of the Spirit of Christ is the test of belonging to Christ. And how is it known that a man possesses the Spirit of Christ? A man possesses the Spirit of Christ if he manifests the mind or character of Christ. For just as the anointing of the Spirit enabled Christ to live His life of perfect obedience and true holiness, so in the measure in which the Spirit of Christ dwells in a man will he bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, which are the component parts of the Christian character. Here, then, is the test of Christianity. If a man have not the spirit, the tone, the temper, the character of Christ, he is none of His. Not the words that I recite as a creed, not the service that I render as a church member—these things do not prove my relation to Christ—but what I am in temper, in tone, in spirit, in character. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”
I pray you, attempt to correct the circumference of your life from the centre; do not attempt to correct the centre from the circumference—that is, do not attempt to correct your spirit by altering your habits. Correct your habits by an alteration of the spirit. And how is the spirit to be altered? Only by the true, whole-hearted, unquestioning abandonment of your whole being to the Spirit of God will it be possible for you to have the Spirit of Christ.1 [Note: G. C. Morgan.]
2. Character is the deepest fact of human life. There can be no final and satisfactory analysis of it; there can be no final and satisfactory statement of what character is. It is the essential truth concerning a man. The word means originally and simply an engraving, something written upon, carved into; and the man’s character is the truth about the man written upon his personality, to be read constantly and clearly by God, to be deciphered slowly and blunderingly by his fellow-men; but it is the fact, the essential fact, concerning a man.
It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who once said: “Gentlemen, I cannot hear what you say for listening to what you are.” That is very often the case. Speech is constantly discounted by conduct, and profession is cancelled by the contradictory character that lies behind it.
Some Characteristics of the Spirit of Christ
If we are to be tested by the possession of the Spirit of Christ, we must have some clear conception as to what that Spirit is. Can we analyze it so far as to gather some conception as to its component parts?
It may be said that the Spirit of Christ is summed up in the one word Love. But we are bound to break the thought of love up, and notice how in Christ love expresses itself. What are the facts that, woven into perfect warp and woof, make up the fine and delicate texture of His Spirit?
Can there be a doubt as to the Spirit of Christ set forth in His teaching? “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” All religion comes to that: those are its high and final words. A filial soul in communion with the Father, a fraternal soul in communion with humanity. “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” That is, surely without controversy, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” And clear as His teaching is, that Spirit of Christ is yet more evident in His life.1 [Note: B. J. Snell.]
1. Take Gentleness first. The chief element of gentleness is self-restraint, the power to check those natural tendencies to self-assertion in its various forms of pride or bluster or fretfulness, not to speak of the more obvious faults of malice and bitterness. And then there is fairness of judgment, a kindly allowance for faults in others which a very little thought would show to be serious enough in ourselves, a consideration for the feelings of others. In these days of what some people would consider over-refinement, there is special need for this. Delicacy of sentiment makes men peculiarly liable to sensitiveness. The common courtesies of society are not always a sufficient remedy against this, because they may be merely the conventional veneer which hides very real unkindness. Nothing can be more unkind than rudeness expressed in honeyed words of transparent insincerity. Christian gentleness means gentleness of feeling, real kindness of heart. It will generally show itself in gentleness of manner, but gentleness of manner is by no means a substitute for it.
A few months ago I read one of those exquisite little articles by Dr. George Matheson. In this particular one he spoke of the gentleness of God, and he said a thing about gentleness that I did not know before. He said this about gentleness: Gentleness is power in reserve, in check.” Said Dr. Matheson, “We speak of the gentleness of the brook, and it is a false figure. The brook has no gentleness; the brook is beautiful but not gentle; noisy, not gentle. It laughs over the stones and runs through its banks of moss and fern. While men may come and men may go the brook runs on for ever. But it is making all the noise it can, and it is exerting all the force it can. You cannot get more force out of it than it is exerting as it runs. There is no gentleness in the brook. You may talk, if you will, of the gentleness of the mighty river, the river that, if it once but breaks and bursts its banks, would devastate the whole countryside, yet it quietly and gently carries its burden on its bosom to the sea, and you hardly know it is strong. That is gentleness.” Oh, the gentleness of Jesus! What said He? Know ye not that I could ask of My Father, and He could straightway give Me ten legions of angels to fight My battles? All power behind Him, but He left it there and took His way, a perpetual outshining of gentleness; power in check, held back.1 [Note: G. C. Morgan.]
A gentleman’s first characteristic is that fineness of structure in the body which renders it capable of the most delicate sensation; and of structure in the mind which renders it capable of the most delicate sympathies—one may say, simply “fineness of nature.” This is, of course, compatible with heroic bodily strength and mental firmness; in fact, heroic strength is not conceivable without such delicacy. Elephantine strength may drive its way through a forest and feel no touch of the boughs; but the white skin of Homer’s Atrides would have felt a bent rose-leaf, yet subdue its feeling in glow of battle, and behave itself like iron. I do not mean to call an elephant a vulgar animal; but if you think about him carefully you will find that his non-vulgarity consists in such gentleness as is possible to elephantine nature; not in his insensitive hide, nor in his clumsy foot, but in the way he will lift his foot if a child lies in his way; and in his sensitive trunk, and still more sensitive mind, and capability of pique on points of honour. Hence it will follow that one of the probable signs of high-breeding in men generally will be their kindness and mercifulness.1 [Note: Ruskin, Modern Painters, pt. ix. ch. 7.]
The only guarantee of gentleness is to observe the golden rule of the Gospel. “Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye unto them.” Put yourself into their position, and see how you would like to be treated. But then there is a real difficulty sometimes in putting this into practice. What are we to do, you will say, when people have really injured us, and we feel obliged to let them know, not that we exactly resent it, for we really wish to be kind, but that we have been pained? I should say, in nine cases out of ten, better not to let them know it to all. A gentle example has far greater force that the kindest rebuke. In the rare cases in which it is absolutely necessary to explain your feelings, speak as plainly and directly as you can, remembering that a parade even of gentleness may be extremely provoking. You may be assuming thereby position of moral superiority which has the appearance, perhaps the reality, of affectation. The relations of Christians to each other require an infinity of tact, and may I not add an infinity of common sense? One thing we may be sure of, that the person who is really kind and really courteous is seldom taken advantage of except by the ignorant and foolish, and these he can generally afford, I won’t say to despise, but at any rate to bear with.2 [Note: F. H. Woods.]
A German with a trained musical ear came a stranger into an American city. He heard the voice of song, and following the sound, found himself where they were singing psalmody in a nasal and discordant way. After he had entered, he wished he were outside, and he did not know whether he ought to put his, hands over his ears and so show his disgust, or rush out of the hall; but being too well bred to do either, he determined to endure it as best he could. And while he was sitting there, he discerned a woman’s voice, clear and sweet, singing in exact tune. She was not trying to drown all the rest; nor, on the other hand, was she at all disturbed or her melody at all marred by the discords around her; she just kept singing that sweet, pure note of concord, until at last it became infectious, and the others began to fall in with it; and it was not long before the whole company was singing in perfect harmony, influenced by the example of that one voice.
2. Strength. Next to the spirit of gentleness, comes the spirit of power. To some these would seem to be antagonists. The one appears to them as the natural and proper character of woman, the other of man. But surely it is not so. If there is any truth in such a view it is that gentleness is the quality which men need most to learn; power, force of moral character, what women too often lack. But certainly the two are not opposed to each other. Christian gentleness does not mean weakness of character, nor is strength of character at all the same thing as rudeness, nor yet as obstinacy. Rather is it the very opposite; at any rate, gentleness is essential to all true strength. Composure of mind, a quiet determination to do what is right, a readiness to overlook personal wrong, above all, an infinite store of patience, these are what give a man or woman an influence in the world; and the nobler the work is the truer all this becomes. For there is an attractiveness about sweetness of temper which draws us to those who have it. And the attractiveness is all the greater when we realize that that sweetness is the fruit of an earnest desire to live the Christian life under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
O, east is east and west is west and never twain shall meet
Till earth and sky stand presently at God’s great judgment seat;
But there is neither east nor west, border, nor breed, nor birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!1 [Note: Kipling.]
It takes the greatest strength to speak quietly. It takes rarely disciplined strength to bring the softest music out of organ or piano. It is quite likely that, speaking offhand, one would say that the eagle is the most powerful of all flying birds. And yet a little thought and reading bring to the mind the fact that, though actually so powerful, its relative strength is really inferior to that of the humming-bird. This smallest of birds can perform a feat of strength quite impossible to the powerful eagle. It holds itself steadily poised in mid-air as it quietly sips its honey-food from the hanging flower. Its very calmness and steadiness and delicacy of action reveal the superbness of its strength. The strength that reveals itself most in gentleness and tenderness and keenly alert patience, in subdued tone, and soft touch, and quiet step, is the real, strong strength that wins the hardest fight.1 [Note: S. D. Gordon, Quiet Talks on Home Ideals, 102.]
3. Sympathy. Sympathy is the power of love that enables you sometimes to make a pilgrimage outside the small circle of your own personality. If the majority of people were asked for a definition of sympathy, they would answer, “Sorrow for those who are in sorrow.” That is a splendid half-definition. Sympathy is not only the power that makes it possible for you to weep with me when I weep, it is the power that makes it possible for you to laugh with me when I laugh. That is apostolic, that is Christian—“Weeping with those who weep, rejoicing with those who rejoice.” It is not by any means certain that the latter half is not the more difficult.
Sympathy is a thing to be encouraged, apart from human considerations, because it supplies us with the materials for wisdom. It is probably more instructive to entertain a sneaking kindness for any unpopular person … than to give way to perfect raptures of moral indignation against his abstract vices.2 [Note: R. L. Stevenson, Some Portraits of Raeburn.]
I will not tell you of the things I know,
I cannot bar the path that you must go;
God’s bitter lesson must be learnt by all,
But living, I will listen to your call,
And stretch to you a hand that you may know.3 [Note: Philip Bourke Marston, Song-Tide, 41.]
Sister Dora, after her long day’s work in her Walsall hospital for waifs and strays, for poor souls beaten down in the battle of life, often went to rest almost too tired to sleep. But over her head was a bell, to be sounded, in spite of all her weariness, when any sufferer needed her. And the bell bore this inscription, “The Master is come and calleth for thee.”4 [Note: B. J. Snell.]
I was very much struck not long ago to hear a very clever and a very energetic and a well-known woman reply, when asked what she thought of the question about her sisters and the Empire Music Hall, “Oh, I am too busy over political questions to think about that; it does not touch me.”5 [Note: C. M. Holden, The Warfare of Girlhood, 48.]
One day in Charleston Jail a minister came to call on John Brown and defended slavery as a Christian institution. “My dear sir,” said the old man, “you know nothing about Christianity. You will have to learn its a b c; I find you quite ignorant of what the word Christianity means.” And when the man looked at him very much disconcerted, John Brown softened a little: “I respect you as a gentleman, of course, but it is as a heathen gentleman.” And it was exactly that intensity of feeling in the old man that made him willing for the sake of his cause to lay down his life, and the heat of his passion set this land on fire.1 [Note: R. E. Speer, The Master of the Heart, 198.]
I lay my hand on your aching brow
Softly, so! And the pain grows still.
The moisture clings to my soothing palm,
And you sleep because I will.
You forget I am here? ’Tis the darkness hides.
I am always here, and your needs I know.
I tide you over the long, long night
To the shores of the morning glow.
So God’s hand touches the aching soul,
Softly, so! And the pain grows still;
All grief and woe from the soul He draws,
And we rest because He wills.
We forget,—and yet He is always here!
He knows our needs and He heeds our sighs;
No night so long but He soothes and stills
Till the dawn-light rims the skies.
4. Humility. What a matchless view of Christ’s humility we have in John 13.—He rose from supper, laid aside His garments and took a towel, girded Himself, poured water into a basin, and began to wash His disciples’ feet. Christ was on earth as one that served. Humility followed Him from His birth in the manger to His borrowed grave. We have just as much of Christianity as we have of humility.
I held the golden vessel of my soul
And prayed that God would fill it from on high.
Day after day the importuning cry
Grew stronger—grew, a heaven-accusing dole
Because no sacred waters laved my bowl.
“So full the fountain, Lord, wouldst Thou deny
The little needed for a soul’s supply?
I ask but this small portion of Thy whole.”
Then from the vast invisible Somewhere,
A voice, as one love-authorised by Him,
Spake, and the tumult of my heart was stilled.
“Who wants the waters must the bowl prepare;
Pour out the self that chokes it to the brim,
But emptied vessels from the source are filled.”1 [Note: E. Wheeler Wilcox.]
In a very entertaining work, over which we have roared in childhood, it is stated that a point has no parts and no magnitude. Humility is the luxurious art of reducing ourselves to a point, not to a small thing or a large one, but to a thing with no size at all, so that to it all the cosmic things are what they really are—of immeasurable stature.2 [Note: G. K. Chesterton, The Defendant.]
The lesson of Christ’s humility is that we should be willing to take the humblest place to serve others. We need the John the Baptist spirit, not envious of the success of another, saying with our eye on the Lord, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” A Christian minister said, “I was never of any use until I found out that God did not make me for a great man.” High trees are commonly fruitless, and what grows on them hangs high above our reach. So we have more good of the humble servant of God who is willing to communicate what he has. The proud servant looks so high that even if he bore fruit it could not be reached by God’s poor people.
Give me the lowest place; not that I dare
Ask for that lowest place, but Thou hast died
That I might live and share
Thy glory by Thy side.
Give me the lowest place: or if for me
That lowest place too high, make one more low
Where I may sit and see
My God and love Thee Song of Solomon 3 [Note: Christina G. Rossetti.]
5. Zeal. Christ’s was a spirit of holy zeal. “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” What a power Christians would be in the world if each one could honestly say with Brainerd, “Oh, that I were a flaming fire in the hands of my God! “We need at this time what the Chinese convert told the missionary his people wanted, “Men with hot hearts to tell us of the love of Christ.”
So far as my recollection of the 1875 Session goes, I can hardly tell what was its main feature. But perhaps the most memorable incident was the Plimsoll one. Mr. Plimsoll had devoted himself to an attack on rotten ships, which he alleged were numerous, and were sent out by money-seeking owners, totally regardless of the lives of the sailors. Some of these alleged malefactors he unmistakeably pointed to, and this led to angry denials on their part. He brought in a Bill dealing with this evil, but the Government pooh-poohed it, and gave him no real assistance. So, one afternoon when the matter was under discussion, he sprang from his seat on to the floor of the House, gesticulating, shaking his fist at the Treasury Bench, shouting out something about murdering villains, and generally deporting himself like one possessed. This, of course, caused great excitement and confusion, and as he declined to retract the words about villains, he had to retire from the House, while Disraeli proposed that he be reprimanded. On this, Fawcett got up, who was always a little pompous in his style of speaking, and, alluding to the scene just enacted and kindly doing what he could for Plimsoll, said that he had “advised him to take a walk.” So the reprimanding business was adjourned for a week, at the end of which time Plimsoll made an apology, which satisfied the House. But mark the result of all this. The “scene” attracted the attention of the country to the shipping scandal which Plimsoll attacked, and the Government thought it prudent at once to bring in a Bill of their own, which they carried before the end of the Session, and took great credit for, Disraeli making so much of it in a speech at the Mansion House that it was written that he had explained then—
How the whole of his life one long effort had been
To provide for the lives of the Merchant Marine.1 [Note: G. W. E. Russell’s Memoir of Sir Wilfrid Lawson, 110.]
In southern China, some years ago, in a city on the borders of the province of Hunan, I talked with a young Chinese Christian. He was a graduate of a college in the far north. He had come a thousand miles away from home to preach Christ among his own countrymen. He was one of the most intelligent Chinese Christians whom I had met. And I was asking him many questions regarding his nation, and especially regarding the life and spirit of the Chinese Christians. And when I was done, he said, “Mr. Speer, you have asked me a great many questions, and some of them have been very difficult. Now, I would like to ask you one question. You know what the Christians in your country are like. Are they all men and women of burning hearts?” It was a quaint Chinese idiom of which he made use, but that was its literal translation. He desired to know if we were all of us of burning hearts. What would you have said to him? What would you have said to him about the great mass of our so-called Christians. Are we of burning hearts?1 [Note: R. E. Speer.]
’Tis not for man to trifle, life is brief
And sin is here;
Our age is but the falling of a leaf,
A dropping tear.
We have no time to sport away the hours,
All must be earnest in a world like ours.
Not many lives, but only one have we,
One, only one,
How earnest should that one life be,
That narrow span,
Day after day spent in blessed toil,
Hour after hour still bringing in new spoil.
Enthusiasm’s the best thing, I repeat;
Only, we can’t command it; fire and life
Are all, dead matter’s nothing, we agree:
And be it a mad dream or God’s very breath,
The fact’s the same,—belief’s fire, once in us,
Makes of all else mere stuff to show itself.2 [Note: Browning, Bishop Blougram’s Apology.]
The Owner’s Mark
Holland (H. Scott), Fibres of Faith, 67.
Newman (J. H.), Parochial and Plain Sermons, ii. 217.
Pusey (E. B.), Parochial and Cathedral Sermons, 472.
Talbot (E. S.), Sermons at Southwark, 61.
Christian World Pulpit, xi. 299 (Swing); lix. 377 (Campbell Morgan); lxxii. 280 (Snell); lxxv. 305 (Scott Holland).
Church of England Pulpit, lx. 298 (Boyd Carpenter).
Churchman’s Pulpit, pt. xix. 97 (Newman), 101 (Woods), 102 (Monro).
Church Pulpit Year Book (1907), 115.
Five-Minute Sermons by Paulists, i. 274.
Sunday School Times, xxxv. 769.
Treasury (New York), x. 815.
World’s Great Sermons, viii. 149 (Fowler).