1 John 3:3
And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.
No sacred inspiration, no emancipating impulse, no consecrating motive, no uplifting enthusiasm, no grand ethical or spiritual force of any sort, can spring from self-despite. Good is not born of evil nor of the mere contemplation and realisation of evil. Convince a man that he is a low creature, a mere animal, evolved fiord lower types, and he will go far toward proving the doctrine true. Make out that a man is the slave of circumstances, the victim of base necessity, and the slave of circumstances and the victim of base necessity will he be. Helpful moral ministry lies in the revelation of the noble and divine in man, the elements of worth, the germs, the potencies of good. The grand characteristic of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that it makes a man feel that he is a being of capacity and worth, one whom God loves and cares for, desires to redeem and save, and purposes to do great things by, counting not the cost the process of His grace involves. It sets forth the ideal relation of man as the child of God. What soul but recognises this as the highest, deepest, grandest truth concerning it? What so accentuates the evil into which men have actually fallen as the light of this sublime truth? And what so brings the sense of shame with regard to evil in ourselves and starts the reactions of repentance and resolve, as to realise from what height we have fallen into it, what better purpose our sin has foiled, and with what pain and grief it is regarded by those who know us best and love us most! This is the effect of the revelation of Jesus Christ to the soul. It reveals the man to himself, shows him what he truly is, and awakens the instincts which belong to his deepest affinities and relations. It makes him feel how foreign sin is to his real nature and life, and starts the yearning after goodness. It sets the child of God crying out unto and claiming his Father. Nothing is so terrible as the theory — call it philosophy, science, rationalism, agnosticism, or what you will — that man is abandoned to the evil into which he has fallen, with no help for his recovery. This subverts all the moral principles and paralyses all the moral forces of a life and opens the way for all manner of delusions, sophistries, subterfuges, and shams. But that is a grand, Divine, redeeming, saving religion which shows man that he is a child of God, awakens the instincts of this relation, and leads him into the actual and effectual realisation of what he natively and ideally is, enabling him to say, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God." But that will not do for man what he needs which destroys aspiration, and allows to settle upon him the dull satisfaction of a finality, the thought that he has attained to the highest, and that there is no grander possibility and idea calling to him, and challenging endeavour. Man's true life is one of progress and growth. And it is another eminent characteristic of Christianity that it meets this requirement. It sets before man lofty ideals. But something has grown certain by that which already is. We know that our perfecting must come in our religion, not out of it; in our Divine sonship, not out of it. Oh, the sadness of those whose religion has failed them, or who have become stolid and moribund in it, to whom it has become a memory, but ceased to be a hope, and whose good days are behind them! Christianity, where it has a true effect, makes us know that, if certain influences could act upon us completely, if we could be perfect correlation to certain forces, the result would translate and fulfil all our best desires. It is the nature and inevitable effect of hope to train the life into preparation for its own realisation, and to purify it of all that is inconsistent therewith. We pitch our lives at the height of the good we anticipate. The ideal draws us into itself. Thus, hope is the beginning of its own fulfilment. Especially is this the case if the hope be centred, as every great and noble hope must be, by a heart of living personality, and the looked for event is to give to us, and give us to, not only somewhat, but some one. We see this in the forecast of and preparation for the great, solemn, tender, and sacred relations of the present life. How the anticipation of these lifts up the life to their plane! Change is impending by which our life is going to be translated from the present scene and setting, with their poverty and hardness, to a condition of affluence and advantage. How we set our lives in the order of the new days and ways! We say, "I shall do this and that by and by," and we begin to do this and that now; "I shall have this and that when the change has come," and the anticipation already moulds our tastes and consciousness; "my friend lives thus and so," and we begin to live like Him with whom we are soon to be. The provincialisms fall off from us as we contemplate the grand capital of being. The prodigal, through all his homeward journey, must have been becoming ever more and more a son, because he was going to his father. Hawthorne has given profound truth pictorial form in his allegory of "The Great Stone Face:" The young man, Ernest, had heard, when a child, from his mother's lips, the local prophecy, that some day there should come to the valley one bearing an exact resemblance to the great stone face which they could see in the neighbouring mountain, and being the greatest and noblest personage of the time, should be a great blessing to those among whom he lived; and he had taken the prophecy more seriously than the other inhabitants of the valley. As he had greater faith, he had the power of seeing more clearly than his neighbours the grandeur of the strange, stony outline, and so the prophecy meant more to him than the rest, and the hope of its fulfilment entered more deeply into his life. Ever as the years passed that hope became stronger and of richer meaning. When this one and that one came to the valley and was regarded as the fulfilment of the prophecy — Mr. Gathergold, the millionaire; General Blood and Thunder, the military hero; Old Stony Phiz, the eminent statesman; and the poet, whose wondrous songs glorified both nature and humanity, and had such meaning and charm for Ernest himself, his hope was most eager and rejoicing; but he was always the first to discover that the prophecy was not yet fulfilled. But ever as the prophecy's fulfilment was thus deferred, the great stone face seemed to whisper to him, "Fear not, Ernest; he will come." As he thus dearly cherished the hope of the great man's coming, he gave himself to doing good, preparing the valley for the great benefactor's arrival, doing in his imperfect way what he thought the great one who would fulfil the prophecy would do in his better way when he came. He learned a heavenly wisdom and became involuntarily a preacher, the pure and high simplicity of his soul, which dropped silently in good deeds from his hand, flowing also from his lips in words of truth, so that the people came to him with their needs and troubles, felt in his presence the benignity of the great stone face, and had a greater confidence that one would come who resembled it, until at length, when Ernest had grown old, and with the grey about his face like the mists which often hung about the face in the mountain, the people saw that he resembled it. His hope had configured his features, even as the character of which they were the expression. And the people said, "The man resembling the great stone face is with us;" but Ernest the more firmly believed that a wiser and better than himself would yet appear. Thus is it ever with our noblest hopes. Thus is it with the grandest of all hopes — that of seeing God. All grossness, triviality, selfishness, sordidness, falsity, scorn, bitterness, and contempt are purged from the heart where such hope abides. Pessimism is the grave of heroism, aspiration, the nurse of noble purpose and generous ardour. He who believes the worst will be, will be his worst. He who believes the best will be, will be his best. And he who hath the hope of seeing Christ and being like Him, will purify himself even as He is pure. The life that is pitched only at temporal ends will be weak in its ethics and liable to allow itself large licence as to means. But when one has attained to the love of the highest and has come to realise that "the highest is the most human too," the soul then knows that it belongs to the highest and must be joined to the highest, and the life is governed by sublime attraction. The great question in regard to every life is, Does it respond to the highest, does it cleave to the best? The great Elder Brother, revealing your Divine sonship, making possible its realisation, and setting before you the glory of its consummation, claims you for Himself, claims you for the Father whom He reveals, claims you for the life for which you were made.
(J. W. Earnshaw.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.