Christ in You the Hope of Glory by James Hastings
To whom God was pleased to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
1. The word “mystery” is one which has acquired in modern English a sense remote from its original signification. No one who recalls the original sense of the word—the sense which it bore for pagan ears—will suppose that when St. Paul talks of the mystery of the Gospel he means a doctrine which it is difficult or impossible to understand, and which has just to be accepted on authority. When an ancient Greek was initiated into the mysteries at Eleusis or Samothrace, he was not told something which he could not understand. The rites were called mysteries because they had a secret meaning—not known indeed to the world at large, but quite known and intelligible to the privileged body of the initiated. And so, when St. Paul borrows the word to express a Christian meaning, it is never a difficult or unintelligible truth that he has in view, but some truth which was once hidden, but is now revealed—revealed to all who have accepted the revelation of God in Christ. What he calls a mystery is always, indeed, a truth known only to the initiated, but the initiated for St. Paul are the whole body of baptized believers in Jesus.
As when, in the early morning of a glorious summer day, the wreathing mists hide the mountain slopes and cover the valleys beneath, then, under the breath of the freshening wind, gradually lift and open, revealing some giant mountain top lost in the sky or woods and rocks on the hillsides, a ravishing vista of varied landscape, delighting the eyes and stimulating the imagination, showing that what was at first seen was cloud-like appearance only, and making manifest the solid realities and dawning splendours behind and beyond—so a glimpse has been granted to us of the great purpose of God, seen in Christ, but only so far seen as to hint at unimagined reaches beyond—Christ in you, the hope of glory! St. Paul can hardly control his feelings as he approaches this theme. You have watched a smouldering match when plunged into a jar of oxygen burst into bright flame. So, when this messenger of Christ breathes the atmosphere of this Gospel, he flames forth in its celebration—“preached in all creation under heaven; whereof I Paul was made a minister!”1 [Note: W. T. Davison, The Indwelling Christ, 270.]
In our own little world we have glorious sun-light flooding ourselves and bathing all things round about us, flooding ourselves and bathing us every day of every year. It is a most wonderful thing, this light. In many respects it is an impenetrable mystery and incomprehensibility. But it is not a secret. It lies open to the perception of all.
Nor are flowers secrets. In many respects there are secrets in them, and incomprehensibilities too. But in actual fact they lie open to the perception of all, and are not secrets. Nor are trees, although laden with wonders. Nor is grass, or grain, nor is winter with its frosts and snows, or summer with its fragrances, or spring with its anniversary springings, or autumn with its rainbow tints. While there are scientific and philosophic mysteries and incomprehensibilities in all these terrestrial phenomena, not one of them is a mystery in the classic sense of the term. They are, as matters of fact, things unveiled, un muffled, unmantled, lying open in Nature to every one’s perception, so that he has but to look and see.
It is different with the Gospel. It does not lie quite on the surface of things around us, above us, and within us, especially in its glorious amplitude and universalities, and hence the Apostle, in his use of the word, calls it a “mystery.” It had once been a secret, but it was now a secret no longer, at least to him. It had once been so much of a secret that to no mind but One was it known. It lay, as the Apostle expresses it in his Epistle to the Ephesians, “hid in God.”2 [Note: J. Morison, Sheaves of Ministry, 37.]
2. The particular mystery which the Apostle here stands amazed at is the introduction of the Gentiles to equal privileges under the Gospel with the Jews; and, in particular, to this privilege—that Christ should make glory sure to them by dwelling in them.
Now this was what set Paul at variance with his nation. They had no quarrel with many of his opinions, but when he threatened their pride of separation they struck at his life. He might talk as he would of God, of sin, of forgiveness, but when they heard that he was bringing a heathen man into the Temple, and when they saw that, on his theories, there was no need of a Temple at all, the worshippers in Jerusalem were transformed into a murderous mob from whose clutch he had to be rescued by Roman troops. Wise men do not run the risk of martyrdom in mere stubbornness, and when Paul speaks of “the mystery of Christ—for which I am in bonds,” he does not vaguely mean the gospel, he means the freeness of the gospel. That is what had lain hidden in the mind of God, and it was for that he was “an ambassador in chains.” In Ephesians 3:4; Ephesians 3:6, he is quite explicit. “Ye can perceive,” he says, “my understanding in the mystery of Christ; to wit, that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise.” That, in Paul’s view, was God’s secret plan, hid from the ages and the generations, and now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets, and the text says that God willed it that this mystery should be made known among the Gentiles, not as bare fact, but as a very radiant and marvellous thing, a thing to sing about, a cause for which a man might very gladly live and die.
It is strange in looking back to see how nearly this secret of gladness was anticipated ages before. In three Psalms—the 96th, 97th, and 98th—you will find a sudden burst of song, just as when the dawn comes and the birds awaken, and the cause of it is Paul’s discovery that God is all the world’s God. “Sing to the Lord a new song.… He has made known his salvation. He hath openly declared his righteousness in the sight of the nations. Let the sea roar,” says the poet, “and the pride of its waves, the world and its people; let the tossing waves clap their hands, let the hills sing for joy before the Lord, for he cometh to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and all the peoples with equity.” It seemed as if at that time the full day of knowledge was at hand, but the time of promise passed, for “God enlargeth a nation, and straiteneth it again.” Hearts which had expanded to take in the world, grew narrow and parochial, and darkness descended on the face of the earth. But now the day had come, and Paul felt his time too short for all he had to do in letting men know that the great and merciful God was actually for them.1 [Note: W. M. Macgregor, Jesus Christ the Son of God, 242.]
3. Our subject is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Let us take it in this order—
II. The Hope of Glory.
III. Christ in you the Hope of Glory.
- What is glory? In our ordinary thought it is splendour, magnificence. We think of such a saying as “Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Or we think, more sublimely, of the words, “They shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30). But in seeking a conception of glory suitable to our present text we should start with the incident in the Book of Exodus in which Moses desires to see the glory of God: “Shew me, I pray thee, thy glory.” What is God’s answer? He said: “I will make all my goodness pass before thee” (Exodus 33:18-19). The glory of God is therefore His goodness made visible to us. We see His glory when we see Him “gracious to whom I will be gracious,” and shewing “mercy on whom I will shew mercy.” The goodness of Christ on the earth was seen as He “went about doing good.” That was His glory in the state of His humiliation.
I cannot see for the glory of that light—there is to me just now such a light on the things of God that I cannot rightly see them. God is a glorious God—Christ is a glorious Christ—the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory is a very glorious object.2 [Note: “Rabbi” Duncan, in Memoir of John Duncan, LL.D., 485.]
- But how is goodness made visible and seen at work in its highest manifestation? Surely in love. In the great Intercessory Prayer our Lord said, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me.” What is that glory? “For,” He added, “thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” This is the highest glory. It is to love and be loved. It is love—the love of the Father to the Son and of the Son to the Father—recognized by men, seen, wondered at, and shared in, by men like the disciples.
Heaven is nothing but the manifestation of the Eternal One, wherein all worketh and willeth in quiet love.1 [Note: Jacob Behmen.]
God has for ages been driving the mysteries of Heaven into sentences of one syllable. He began in allegory, passed on to parable, symbol, law, prophecy, and finally put the infinite into speech that a little child can utter. The sum of all the revelation of God is—Love.2 [Note: S. Chadwick.]
The Passion does more than simply manifest the glory of Jesus. It opens to us the glory of a state, or spiritual condition, of which He is Lord by all the rights of that love with which He was glorified. We are called to this state, and we abide in it through fellowship with Him; more, we abide in it through the grace of vocation. The glory of the Crucified becomes likewise the glory of the faithful soul. The great love which burned in Him is to burn in us; the same utter selflessness and unworldliness must be in us as in Him. Here is, perhaps, the point where our own personal failures and personal difficulties come to mind. Jesus was glorified by the utter sacrifice of all to the supreme demand of Divine love. We are humiliated by the occasional triumphs in us of dispositions which we have not subjected to the law of Divine love. That is our sorrow; but it should also be the concern of our souls to bring all things so completely into subjection to Christ that He may throw around us the glory of His own love. It is the glory of love in the noblest, most heroic sense. We know how often the love which stirs us in devotion is found weak in the presence of demands which would reduce self to the uttermost, or call forth our energies in work which has no visible reward. Jesus was glorified in His Passion. We are glorified as we are made one with Him in love, which is most truly human because it is most gloriously Divine.3 [Note: J. Brett, The Witness of Love, 52.]
- And thus, last of all, the glory which is promised to the Colossians by the indwelling of Christ is that they shall be good as God is good, that their goodness shall be manifest in all men’s sight, and that it shall be not merely a succession of acts of goodness but a spirit of love—such love in them, felt by them and exercised by them, as the love of the Father to the Son.
Recognize, then, the dignity, responsibility, destiny of human life. “Glory,” in the Greek doxa, the practically untranslatable word, the word that means so much, is, in this context, the perfection of poor humanity, its emergence from its dark, lustreless condition, from the imprisonment in which it is “cabin’d, cribb’d, confined,” the old internal dualism gone, the lower law in the members subdued, atoned, at-one-d, to the higher. The glory of God the Father will be the emergence of humanity into the perfect freedom of the purer conditions when we shall be like the Christ, for “we shall see him as he is.”
“Christ in me.”
Who dares to grasp the truth?—In him alone
The law shall be fulfilled, and only he
Who passes from the vision of the Christ—
A righteousness for him—apart from him—
To share the fulness of the risen life—
The revelation of the Christ within,
Shall please God perfectly. O if the soul
Be truly emptied—yielded up to Him,
And He in all His fulness dwell within—
A Power to serve—a Zeal to watch and pray—
A Faith to claim the promises—a Love
To sympathize and win—a Patience learnt
In sorrows of His manhood, and a Crown
Won by a Cross—if such a Life be ours
As He has laid within the reach of all,
No pathway is too rough for us to tread—
No height beyond our reach—no task too hard
To be performed—no law of His too high
To be fulfilled in us. Lo! as we die
We also rise in Him and He in us!
1 [Note: E. H. Divall, A Believer’s Songs, 86.]
4. This glory, it should be noticed, is not simply heaven, and it is not entirely future. Christ in us is the hope of the full manifestation of our character in love which never can be here; but it begins here. We love at once, as soon as we recognize that He first loved us. And St. Paul does not hesitate to call the Corinthians and Colossians with all their shortcomings, “saints.” Their goodness was not very visible or, perhaps, actually very great, but the possession of Christ was the assurance that they would attain to glory; and he salutes them on the way.
The immature faith of a Peter may fail and fall, but he can appeal from the very failure of his weakness to the heart of his love. “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.” The victory is gradual. We “go from strength to strength”; the “image of the earthly” is gradually effaced—the “image of the heavenly” is perfectly produced. In spiritual experience we are conscious of the indwelling Christ—in yearnings for God, in holy affections and growing sympathies, in passionate consecration, in pious, fervent, joyous worship, in ineffable communion. In our relations to our brother men, the indwelling of Christ is manifested in the purity, rectitude, and benevolence of all these relations. “He that abideth in me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.” The religious life that does not find expression in ways of piety, holiness, and unselfishness is spurious and worthless. “By their fruits ye shall know them.”
Holiness means, in the first place, perfect disinterestedness, indifference to earthly and human interests. Again, it implies a mind one with God, over which no shadow of uncleanness or untruth ever passes, which seeks only to know His will, and, knowing it, to carry it out in the world. To purity and truth it adds peace and a certain dignity derived from independence of all things. It is heaven upon earth—to live loving all men, disturbed by nothing, fearing nothing. It is a temper of mind which is unshaken by changes of religious opinion, which is not dependent upon outward observances of religion. Such a character we may meet with once or twice in a long life, and derive a sort of inspiration from it. And oh! that it were possible that some of us might, even in the days of our youth, find the blessedness of leading such a life in God’s presence always.1 [Note: Benjamin Jowett.]
The inward experience of a new creation, the actual formation of Christ, as the resident life within, “worked mightily” in Paul, and he called everybody to a similar experience. Few words have ever borne a more touching appeal than that intimate personal call to his wavering friends in Galatia: “My little children, I am travailing in birth pains again for you until Christ be formed in you.” To the Roman Christians he says: “If Christ be in you, the sinful body is dead.” To the Corinthian believers he says: “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you.” … The Ephesian prayer carries us almost beyond what can be asked or thought—that “Christ may dwell in your hearts.” And the Colossian letter declares that the riches of the glory of the Divine revelation is this: “Christ in you.” It would be easy to multiply texts, but the mystical aspect of Paul’s “Gospel” does not rest on isolated texts. It is woven into the very structure of his message. He cares not at all for the shell of religion. The survival of ceremonial practices are to him “nothing.” Circumcision, which stands in his thought for the whole class of religious performances, “avails nothing.” Everything turns on a “new creation.” His aim is always the creation of a “new man,” the formation of the “inward man,” and this “inward man” is formed, not by the practice of rite or ritual, not by the laying on of hands, but by the actual incorporation of Christ—the Divine Life—into the life of the man, in such a way that he who is joined to the Lord is one Spirit. Christ is resident within, and thereby produces a new spirit—a principle of power, a source of illumination, an earnest of unimagined glory.1 [Note: R. M. Jones, Studies in Mystical Religion, 14.]
The Hope of Glory
- If we require a little explanation of the word “glory,” do we not at least understand the word “hope” at once? If one were to ask us if Christ is being formed in us, or if we are on the way to glory, what do we answer? Very often, “I hope so.” Is that the Apostle’s hope when he says “Christ in you the hope of glory”? No, nor is that the sense in which the word “hope” is ever used in the Bible of the Christian hope.
Joy and peace are the causes of hope. But if you look again you will see near the beginning of the chapter (Romans 15) another source of it—“patience and comfort of the scriptures”; and I have always noted the combination of the two different occasions as full of blessed teaching. Not only the sunny and tranquil hours should produce it, but also the times when all we can do is to endure, and when all our comfort comes to us from God’s Word.1 [Note: Dr. McLaren of Manchester, 246.]
Dean Stanley used hopefulness as a test of all systems of truth. Rightly so. God is the God of hope, and His truth, like Himself, carries the atmosphere of good cheer. The falsity of mediævalism appears in this—it robbed men of joy and gladness. God was the centre of darkness. His throne was iron. His heart was marble. His laws were huge implements of destruction. His penalties were red-hot cannon balls crashing along the sinner’s pathway. Repentance toward God was moving toward the arctics and away from the tropics. Christianity was anything but “peace on earth, good will to men.” Philosophers destroyed God’s winsomeness. The Reformers came in to lead men away from medievalism back to God Himself. Men found hope again in redemptive love. They saw that any conception of God that dispirited and depressed men was perverted and false. No man has done more to establish this fact than he who long ago said: “Any presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ that does not come to the world as the balmy days of May comes to the unlocked northern zones; any way of preaching the love of God in Christ which is not as full of sweetness as the voice of the angels when they sang at the Advent; any way of making known the proclamation of mercy which has not at least as many birds as there are in June and as many flowers as the dumb meadows know how to bring forth; any method of bringing before men the doctrine of salvation which does not make every one feel, ‘There is hope for me in God—in the Divine plan, in the very nature of the organization of human life and society,’ is spurious—is a slander on God and is blasphemy against His love.”2 [Note: N. D. Hillis, The Investment of Influence, 290.]
- What, then, does the Bible say about hope? It speaks of “the full assurance of hope.” Is that the same as “I hope so”? It says that “hope is an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast.” Ask the seaman as he throws his anchor overboard if it will hold. Does he say, “I hope so”? He looks at the great iron claws of it and he answers that he is sure it will hold, if there is anything to hold by. We have a hope which is placed on that Saviour and Lord who has ascended to the right hand of the Father. It “entereth within the veil.” There is something to hold by there. Our hope is an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast.
Mr. Watts some time before received a letter which had moved him profoundly. It was written by a stranger to tell him in the simplest language that in a dark hour of life in a grimy northern town a photograph of his picture of “Hope” had arrested attention at a moment of extreme crisis. The photograph had been bought with a few remaining shillings and the message pondered, and so for one life the whole course of events had been changed. The letter concluded with these words: “I do not know you, nor have I ever seen the face of him who gave me my ‘Hope,’ but I thank God for the chance of that day when it came to me in my sore need.” I read some of these simple words to Mr. Cecil Rhodes, and when I next looked up I saw in his moistened eyes how deeply they had touched him.1 [Note: Mrs. Watts, in George Frederic Watts, ii. 269.]
When God, of His own determinate counsel, willed to clothe His thought in a human race, and willed to train His human thought-children by the drastic process of exposure to evil, that out of the bitterness of contrast they might ultimately choose and tenaciously cleave to the good, He did it, Paul says, in hope. “The creature,” says the Apostle, “was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who subjected it, in hope.” Does that imply uncertainty? No. God’s hope is a “shall.” “Therefore,” he continues, “the whole creation shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.”2 [Note: B. Wilberforce, The Hope of Glory, 17.]
Of all the virtues, hope is the most distinctively Christian (it could not, of course, enter definitely into any pagan scheme); and, above all others, it seems to me the testing virtue,—that by the possession of which we may most certainly determine whether we are Christians or not; for many men have charity, that is to say, general kindness of heart, or even a kind of faith, who have not any habitual hope of, or longing for, heaven.3 [Note: Ruskin, Stones of Venice (Works, x. 399).]
The hailstorm and sunshine contended,
As I sheltered beneath the broad tree;
Each its claim to be master defended,
With furious persistency;
And so fierce was the challenge,
So even the balance,
I could not the issue foresee.
But soon the stern fight was decided,
When a bow threw its span o’er the storm,
And the cold blinding tempest subsided,
While joy to my bosom leapt warm;
For that bow in the sky,
Flashed its message on high,
“Let Hope all thy doubtings disarm.”
Thus darkness and light through the ages,
Wrath and mercy, alternate have reigned;
Nor had all the world’s mightiest sages,
The key to the riddle attained;
Till the shining God-Man,
On the clouds wrote Heaven’s plan,
“Perfection through suffering gained.”
1 [Note: T. Crawford, Horæ Serenæ, 69.]
Christ in You the Hope of Glory
- How can Christ be in us? Is He not in heaven: throned in glory everlasting? He is, yet is He in us. As to the body, He is on the throne of the Highest. The loving Man rules the courts of heaven. But He is in us as to His Spirit.
All the relations of my soul to Christ are personal, vital, and conscious. He “knocks at the door of my heart,” and tells me that if I will open unto Him He will come in unto me; not merely to worship with me, or to hold formal religious fellowship with me, but to “sup with me”—to mingle with the pursuits, to inspire the joys of my common life. If I refuse to admit Him, He bewails my refusal with tears: “If thou hadst known;” “How often would I have gathered thee!” “Ye will not come to me that ye might have life.” He comes to me in individual recognition, in personal inspiration, in intelligent fellowship, in affectionate sympathy, in discriminating help. I speak to Him all my thoughts and feelings. I tell Him my secret in the common prayer of the congregation. He blesses me with an individual application of the common grace. I consciously hold intercourse with Him, in more intimate, uncalculating confidence than a man with his friend. He represents Himself as the Shepherd of the sheep, as calling His own sheep by name and leading them out. “He goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.”
How individual it all is! What a unique conception of religious life and inspiration it is! His is not a common benevolence; it is a personal, discriminating love. Mine is not a general loyalty, it is a distinctive affection and service—a worship, a consecration, and, if needs be, a martyrdom.
There is such a thing as Jeremy Taylor, in one of his chapters on “Holy Living,” calls the “Practice of the Presence of God.” “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age,” says the omnipresent Master; and there is no greater need than that this presence shall be recognized and felt. It cannot be detected by the physical senses, for it is not a sensible fact. But to him who cultivates the sensibility to the unseen and exercises his inner senses to discern good and evil, the reality of the presence of Christ may become as indisputable as anything demonstrable by the bodily organs. Such communion with a personal Christ assimilates character to His likeness. “We, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory.”1 [Note: A. J. Gordon, How Christ came to Church, 77.]
An unknown writer has left us the following beautiful words: “It is not so much working for God, or speaking for God, as living in the secret of His presence, which most glorifies Him. We must so seek to realize our Saviour’s presence with us and in us that our whole being shall be hushed, and quietly elevated, and controlled in every little thing.” That is an inspiring picture of the life we might live. It is what God intends, for St. Paul has told us plainly, “He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” This communion with God is surely the highest and most sacred of all attainments. If hourly we hold sweet fellowship with Christ, our moral strength will be continually invigorated, and our spiritual life can never decline. It is like the sweet gravelly bed at the foot of the flowing stream. No impurity can lodge there. It is ceaselessly purged by the river of life. Surely there is nothing higher than this to wish for.2 [Note: J. A. Clapperton, Culture of the Christian Heart, 90.]
- There are two phrases—“We in Christ” and “Christ in us.” “We in Christ” is safety: we have fled for refuge to the hope set before us in the Gospel. “Christ in us” is sanctification: Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith means that we are “able to comprehend with all the saints, and to know the love of Christ,” until we are “filled unto all the fulness of God.”
Think seriously, you who are in Christ, of that life in Christ which you ought to live. And how will you say, one day, that your life has been lived, according to the life of Christ, if Christ has not dwelt in the details, the constituents of that life; if your own desires, your own thoughts, your own wisdom, your own interests, your own glory, your own ease, have been the mainspring of your actions? If this has been the case from minute to minute, from hour to hour, without a thought of Christ or His word, without the influence of His Spirit, how will you be able even to suppose hereafter that you have lived in Christ?1 [Note: The Life of Cæsar Malan, 166.]
I saw Thee at the cross,
Where Thou didst die that we might live;
And love possessed my heart,
When Thou didst cry “Forgive.”
I saw Thee at the tomb,
When all Thy passion tide was o’er;
I joyed to hear Thee say,
“Alive for evermore.”
“Alive for evermore!”
So when to death I shall draw nigh,
Then Thou wilt take my hand;
I shall not fear to die.
I shall not fear to die!
But worse than fear of death is sin;
So, more than help without,
I ask for Thee within.
I ask for Thee within,
Yea, in my heart victorious be!
That I transformed by love
May live my life in Thee.
2 [Note: Bishop Boyd Carpenter.]
3. “Christ in you.” If we give due weight to phrases like this, phrases of which the New Testament is full, and which speak, as one may say, the common-sense of religion, we see once more that the thought of the Atonement is not of any external sacrifice. Rather the Atonement, so far as we are concerned, is some spiritual change, some change of the inmost soul in its relation to God. We cannot trust in an external sacrifice, not even in the death of the Son of God, if all the while we are content to go on living with quite a different spirit in our lives from His. We know how people sometimes talk about trusting in Christ, and of looking to Christ alone for salvation, as if all this were possible without the great interior change, the change of character which comes from the actual dwelling of Christ in the soul. We have heard people talk, perhaps, of trusting in Christ, and of looking to Him for salvation, when their lives showed very little of His Spirit, when their hearts seemed to be set mainly if not entirely upon the things of this world, upon material comfort and ease, if not upon money-making and pleasure, and upon the selfish enjoyment of these things, without a thought of helpfulness to others, without a notion of spending in the cause of God something like the same proportion of time and money that they spend on their own families or their own establishments, without a thought of the great needs of the world and of their responsibility for meeting them.
Thus it is that you are to conceive of the holy Jesus, or the Word of God, as the hidden treasure of every human soul, born as a seed of the Word in the birth of the soul immured under flesh and blood.
If Christ was to raise a new life like His own in every man, then every man must have had originally, in the inmost spirit of his life, a seed of Christ, or Christ as a seed of heaven.
For we cannot be inwardly led and governed by a spirit of goodness but by being governed by the Spirit of God Himself. For the Spirit of God and the spirit of goodness are not two spirits, nor can we be said to have any more of the one than we have of the other.
The Christian religion is no arbitrary system of Divine worship, but is the one true, real, and only religion of nature: that is, it is wholly founded in the nature of things, has nothing in it supernatural or contrary to the powers and demands of nature; but all that it does is only in, and by, and according to the workings and possibilities of nature.
A Christ not in us is the same as a Christ not ours.1 [Note: William Law, The Spirit of Love.]
(1) The secret of the growth of the Christ in us is the practice of quick mental concentration, in every moral crisis, upon the Presence in which we “live, move, and have our being.” Witness, in the hidden lives of the greatest men, the strengthening effect of this practice. Such men will make what we call mistakes (though there are no mistakes in the full purpose of God—the mistakes are part of the purpose, and men and nations learn as much by their mistakes as by their successes). They may make mistakes; but they are kept in perfect peace, because their minds are stayed on Him.
In The Life of Gladstone, by Lord Morley, the biographer has given us glimpses, from Mr. Gladstone’s most private diary, of this ceaseless lifting up of the heart, always, everywhere, in every crisis. It was his custom when waiting to catch the Speaker’s eye, in the House of Commons, to occupy the interval in intense mental prayer. On one occasion, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, before rising to make his first great budget speech, his lips were observed moving. Members might have thought he was rehearsing his figures. His diary tells us what he was doing. He was murmuring the words of the Psalmist, “Turn unto me, and have mercy upon me; give thy strength to thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid.”1 [Note: B. Wilberforce, Speaking Good of His Name.]
(2) The truest evidence of the reality of this life is that sense of common love, that thrill of common sympathy, which leads us to care for others and to work for others. Let us determine that the world shall be somewhat the better that we are living in it, and we shall be giving practical outward expression to that “mystery hid from the foundation of the world”—“Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
I remember the morning on which I came out of my room after I had first trusted Christ. I thought the old sun shone a good deal brighter than it ever had before—I thought that it was just smiling upon me; and, as I walked out upon Boston Common and heard the birds singing in the trees, I thought they were all singing a song to me. Do you know, I fell in love with the birds. I had never cared for them before. It seemed to me that I was in love with all creation. I had not a bitter feeling against any man, and I was ready to take all men to my heart. If a man has not the love of God shed abroad in his heart, he has never been regenerated. If you hear a person get up in the prayer-meeting and begin to find fault with everybody, you may doubt whether his is a genuine conversion; it may be counterfeit. It has not the right ring, because the impulse of a converted soul is to love, and not to be getting up and complaining of everyone else and finding fault.1 [Note: D. L. Moody, in Life, by his son.]
Why do I dare love all mankind?
’Tis not because each face, each form
Is comely, for it is not so;
Nor is it that each soul is warm
With any Godlike glow.
Yet there’s no one to whom’s not given
Some little lineament of heaven,
Some partial symbol, at the least, in sign
Of what should be, if it is not, within,
Reminding of the death of sin
And life of the Divine.
There was a time, full well I know,
When I had not yet seen you so;
Time was, when few seem’d fair;
But now, as through the streets I go,
There seems no face so shapeless, so
Forlorn, but that there’s something there
That, like the heavens, doth declare
The glory of the great All-fair;
And so mine own each one I call;
And so I dare to love you all.
2 [Note: Henry Septimus Sutton, A Preacher’s Soliloquy and Sermon.]
These signs appear when Christ is in us—
(1) Life is sanctified.—Sad it is that so many of the most earnest souls are looking in the wrong direction for sanctification. It comes not along any path outside of us. It journeys by the inward way. It is by the yielding up of the nature to the indwelling Christ that true holiness is achieved.
Christ is far more than One who stands behind all the developments of life, as originating Source. It is equally true that in Him all things consist. The bond of inter-relationship between all life and all lives is His essential Being. All the rhythmic order of the universe is created by the presence of the Christ, so that He is immanent, the Centre of the believer’s life, and transcendent, its Sphere. Wherever the Christian looks he sees the Christ. At dawning of the morning His face makes it more beautiful. When the sun goes westering, and the shadows of the evening are growing, the consciousness of His presence is sleep. When the battle thickens, He rides at the head of His battalions, and leads to victory. When peace is declared, it is His benediction falling upon the sons of men. Christ is everywhere, and to the man who knows what it is to have Christ in him, the hope of glory, whether he look up or down or out or back Christ’s face is there.
Christianity is in its essence devotion to a Person—not to a sacred memory, not to an ideal of conduct, not to any glorious hope for the future, but to a living Person who stands before us to-day as really as He stood before the disciples of John, as really as He stood before Pontius Pilate, some nineteen centuries ago. “What shall I do, then, with Jesus Christ?” This is the practical question that is left with us by the answering of our riddle; by the appearing before us of Christ, the final answer. His way of giving answer is to enter into our life as Saviour and Teacher and Friend. And it is only by our coming thus into fellowship with Him, and allowing our characters to be transformed into the likeness of His own that He can be to us in the final and complete sense the answer to our riddle. “Prophet and apostle can only be understood by prophet and apostle,” says Emerson. And Carlyle gives expression to the same truth when he says that “the sincere alone can recognize sincerity.” A spirit can be understood only by a kindred spirit. To understand another, one must have with that other some common ground; and perfect understanding can come only with perfect likeness. It is only when we begin to be like Christ that we begin to know Him as He is. And He comes to us, to open our eyes and to change our hearts, that we may both see Him and be like Him.1 [Note: J. B. Maclean, The Secret of the Stream, 34.]
(2) The character is uplifted to a throne.—If He dwells in me, my nature becomes His palace, and He, my King, reigns there with unchallenged rule. He does His own sweet will therein. It is mine to obey Him. My King commands within me, and I delight to do His will. “Christ in you.”
Obedience in its highest form is not obedience to a constant and compulsory law, but a persuaded or voluntarily yielded obedience to an issued command; and so far as it was a persuaded submission to command, it was anciently called, in a passive sense, “persuasion,” or πίστις, and in so far as it alone assuredly did, and it alone could do, what it meant to do, and was therefore the root and essence of all human deed, it was called by the Latins the “doing,” or fides, which has passed into the French foi and the English faith.1 [Note: Ruskin, Modern Painters (Works, vii. 213).]
We are to do His will, and thus we shall gradually understand the doctrine which He has taught us concerning Himself. Thus it is that in our earthly relations we get to be acquainted with those who are higher and better than ourselves. We have first of all to learn to obey them whether we can see the reason or no; and by and by we come to see the reason, and to understand the kindness of our advisers. Thus it is that a soldier gains confidence in his general, or a patient in his physician, or a son in his father; thus it was that our Lord’s apostles learned by degrees to acknowledge that in Jesus Christ they “beheld the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth”; thus it is that each of us must learn to confess “The Lord is in this place and I knew it not.”2 [Note: Hurrell Froude.]
(3) We know the ways of God.—Christ is the true “inward light.” The Christian does not depend so much on arguments without as on illumination within. The indwelling Christ witnesses truth to me and rejects error. Many a difficult religious problem is easily solved if Christ dwell in us. He conducts a teaching ministry within us. He settles many a point of criticism, Biblical and theological. “We shall not full direction need” if Christ be in us. The indwelling Christ authenticates the things of God to our intellect and heart and conscience.
There is an incident recorded by the Archbishop of Armagh, in his book Primary Convictions, which illustrates this. He tells us how on board a great Atlantic steamer he happened on one Sunday evening to take down and read a certain chapter in Darwin’s Descent of Man. It told him how back through inconceivable æons his origin can be traced to the amphioxus, a thing almost a worm, with scarcely a brain or rudiment of a vertebral column. From it through long lines of development can be traced the highest form of vertebrates, the human race. “I retired to rest,” he says, “almost dismayed. The majestic induction, the colossal industry, was not to be gainsaid. But as I lay awake in my cabin I heard presently the burst of an organ, and voices went out over the starlit sea in chants and hymns. The vast ship was rushing along at over twenty miles an hour, and I could see through the little window of the porthole the water cut into white swathes of foam. What words were those? ‘Lead, kindly Light,’ ‘There is a green hill far away.’ Then I felt that the question is, not what man may have been, but what he is; not what he is like, but what he can do; not what organism may have been employed in moulding his body, but what he has become.… The being who triumphs over the waves, who raises strains whose very sweetness ‘giveth proof that they were born for immortality,’ may have come from the humble amphioxus or from something lower still, ‘the dust of the ground’; but he is the child of God by nature, and made for a yet higher sonship. ‘Because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father.’ ”1 [Note: G. Nickson, in The Record, Nov. 6, 1908.]
You say you want “proof” of the fact of God having a will which He wishes us to fulfil. But how is that to be proved to you as long as you refuse to try to fulfil the will? It is like a starving man refusing to eat until he has “proof” that food will nourish him. If he eats he will find the proof in himself; so will you, if you try to do God’s will, find the evidence that there is a Divine will and that it is the life of a human creature to fulfil it. You do not know what is God’s will in itself, but you know that what is right is according to that will, you can try to do what is right, and in that effort you will learn that what is right is Divine, and that only through faith in and union with the Divine is the human perfected. I don’t ask you to do right because it is God’s will, but to do God’s will because it is right, and when you are in doubt as to what is God’s will, to do what your conscience bids you, and your doubt will disappear.2 [Note: Memoir of Robert Herbert Story, 153.]
(4) We have a new sense of self-reverence.—If my body be His shrine can I desecrate that shrine? All wrong done to the body or to any part of human personality is sacrilege. One in whom Christ dwells must reverence himself. Such cannot be merely self-respecting, they will be self-reverential—not self-conceited, but self-awed! Herein is the explanation of the dignity which graces many of the humblest Christians. We not seldom wonder at the refinement of spirit and of manner manifested by some who are poor and unschooled. We call it “native refinement.” But it is not “native.” It springs from the consciousness of Christ mystical. Lowly people are noble-mannered when Christ is homed in their hearts.
It was in the light of the Incarnation that men dared to speak of the human body as the temple of the Holy Ghost, of our being members of Christ’s body, and even dared tersely to express the place of the body in the designs of God by saying, “The Lord is for the body.” It was this conception that gave new value and sanction to the work of ministering to the weakly and sick, and new direction to Christian compassion and charity. It gave new importance and meaning to physical self-control, to cleanliness, to sexual purity, to abstinence; and finally it encouraged the discharge of reverent and decent offices to the bodies of the dead, with self-restraint in mourning, and uniform tenderness to the frail tenement of the human spirit. We are, indeed, guilty of sham spirituality when we forget the connexion of these things with the Incarnation of the Son of God, and their witness to that deep saying, “The Lord is for the body.”1 [Note: G. A. Johnston Boss, in Youth and Life, 12.]
(5) There is a fount of sweetest comfort within.—What soothes amid sorrow like the consciousness of the indwelling Christ? This is a pure deep fount of consolation in the heart, more refreshing far than the most sparkling fountain by the way. How would some of you sustain the heavy burdens of life save for Christ being in you? In the extremes of pain and woe what has upheld you but this? What supported you on the sad journey to the cemetery, and on the sadder journey home again, excepting this alone—“Christ in you”? This glowing centre of Christian experience is ardent consolation.2 [Note: D. T. Young, The Crimson Book, 145.]
“God reigns, and the Government at Washington still lives,” cries Garfield to the crowd in the panic following the assassination of Lincoln. “Had I not perceived the Lord was at the helm I should long ago have given up the struggle,” writes Zwingli in the throes of the Reformation struggle. “I lay my head to-night upon the bosom of Omnipotence” is Rutherford’s explanation of calmness in the presence of difficulty and loss. These are the men of whom it is true that
Looking backward thro’ our tears
With vision of maturer scope,
How often one dead joy appears
The platform of some better hope!3 [Note: G. Nickson, in The Record, Nov. 6, 1908.]
“Christ in us”!—who can reach the depth and height,
The length and breadth of such a gift as this?
In weakness He is strength, in darkness light,
Amidst the world’s distress an untold bliss,
Treasures of wisdom to a simple mind,
Riches of grace the contrite heart to bless,
A clear and open vision to the blind,
And to the naked soul a comely dress;
Compared with this all other gifts are dim:
Poor in ourselves, yet we have all in Him.
With “Christ in us,” our glorious hope is sure;
Dwelling in Him the true and living way,
Our souls are safe, and to the end endure;
Through faith all sin and guilt on Him we lay:
See through the veil our great High Priest within,
Prepared His own redeemed ones to bless;
Himself made sin for us, who knew no sin,
That we might perfect righteousness possess;
While by His Spirit, dwelling in our hearts,
His peace, His joy, His glory He imparts.
1 [Note: John Streatfeild, Musings on Scriptural Subjects.]
Christ in You the Hope of Glory
Allon (H.), The Indwelling Christ, 1.
Banks (L. A.), Sermons which have Won Souls, 445.
Burrell (D. J.), The Religion of the Future, 74.
Chapman (J. W.), Pocket Sermons, i. 1.
Davies (T.), Sermons and Homiletical Expositions, 3.
Davison (W. T.), The Indwelling Spirit, 269.
Ingram (A. F. W.), The Mysteries of God, 33.
Kuyper (A.), The Work of the Holy Spirit, 333.
McConnell (S. D.), Sons of God, 55.
Macgregor (W. M.), Jesus Christ the Son of God, 241.
Moore (E. W.), Christ in Possession, 1.
Morgan (G. C.), Christian Principles, 90.
Morison (J.), Sheaves of Ministry, 35.
Price (A. C.), Fifty Sermons, xi. 361.
Spurgeon (C. H.), Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, xxix. (1883), No. 1720.
Swan (F. R.), The Immanence of Christ in Modern Life, 17.
Wilberforce (B.), Speaking Good of His Name, 91.
Wilberforce (B.), The Secret of the Quiet Mind, 13.
Wilberforce (B.), The Hope of Glory, 1.
Williams (T. R.), The Christ Within, 1.
Wilson (J. M.), Rochdale Sermons, 1.
Young (D. T.), The Crimson Book, 140.
American Pulpit of the Day, iii. 161 (Perinchief).
Christian World Pulpit, xlix. 248 (Eland); lxxvii. 120 (Ingram).
Church of England Pulpit, lviii. 14 (Forrest).
Expositor, 1st Ser., ix. 264 (Matheson); 3rd Ser., ii. 106 (Maclaren).
Guardian, Feb. 18, 1910 (Ingram); May 27, 1910 (Rashdall).
Record, Nov. 6, 1908 (Nickson).
The Great Texts of the Bible – James Hastings
© 2018 Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com.