Because you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that you are wretched, and miserable…
Setting aside for a little the question what this lukewarmness or shallowness is, in the higher spiritual life of the soul, we are all of us perfectly well acquainted with those whose characters it marks in common life — shallow, surface, outside men. We see it in one man in the life of the affections. He is full of a ready, courteous, skin-deep kindliness of demeanour, which reaches down to no self-sacrifice, which implies no wearing anxiety for others, which reveals no deep, disturbing love, perhaps, for any one person upon the earth, nay, which perhaps is thoroughly compatible with absolute cruelty of heart. This character is one of utter shallowness; it is marked by an essential poverty in the life of the affections. They are called up by the lightest surface-touch, because to them the surface is all. They are mere land-springs of kindness, easy to break out after a summer shower, easy to dry up after a twelve hours' drought. It is demonstration without depth, the brook of shallow love, babbling of its shallowness as it flows. Here is one of these shallow characters: now look at it from another point, and see it in the life of science. See the poor sciolist, with his ready smattering of all learning, veiling even from himself his universal ignorance. For what worth knowing does the man know? His readiness to acquire and his readiness to produce are of the very essence of his disease. Again, you may see the self-same character in the public man. He is the easy repeater of the watchwords of a party, the retailer of other men's aphorisms, the uncomprehending inheritor of a traditional policy. There is not in this man, perhaps, one atom of real knowledge, one acting of any deep principle which could govern, could strengthen, or could ennoble a public life. Here, then, in the ordinary life of this world — having put for the time the higher spiritual world aside — here is this familiar phase of shallowness. And now, how is it to be cured? How are we ourselves to get free from it? We must trace the cause of the evil. The master root of this vice is the selfishness of our fallen nature, working under the peculiar circumstances which belong to ease, to abundance, and to a refined civilisation. Men shaken daily together in the vast sack of common respectabilities round off from one another the sharp corners of their individuality, and thus the curse of shallowness is imparted, like some contagious disorder, from one to another; and all combine to banish, as the source of continual trouble, from their life of painted complacency, deeper and more real qualities. Here is the working of the evil and its cause; and now where is the cure to come from? Wealth cannot buy it; civilisation cannot give it; intellectual power cannot command it. Where then is the cure against all this degradation of humanity? In the Church of Christ, and in it alone, is stored the sufficient remedy. The Lord imparts Himself to the soul that will receive Him. This is the new life of the regenerate. This is the mystery of the new birth in its perfection, in the soul that follows after Christ. And so the shallownesses of his nature are swept away by the mighty burst; the rock is struck and the streams flow, and those whom the Lord has healed, witness of that healing to others. The emptiness of fallen man is filled full by the awful in-dwelling of the Incarnate God. "I counsel thee to buy of Me." And what is needed to buy of Him? First, you must believe in the reality of the renewed life. How many fail here! They live in the perpetual dream that for the present they must be shallow, instead of believing in the mighty enfranchisement which the Eternal Son has wrought out for them. Oh, claim it for thyself, and claim it here. Next, join in desire, join in prayer, join in perpetual aspiration, your present life to the life of Christ. This is the great sacramental mystery of our new being. By the power of the Holy Ghost, Christ will work daily within you, if you will seek His working. Only thirdly, seek all this not as a mere apprehension of the understanding, for that will do no good, but seek it as part of a renewed life. Seek it in a life of greater brightness and greater obedience in service.
(Bp. S. Wilberforce.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: