SIR ROBERT ANDERSON
Secret Service Theologian
THE HONOUR OF
"EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY deism," says Renan, "and a certain kind
of Protestantism, have accustomed us to think of the founder of the Christian
faith only as a great moralist, a benefactor of mankind." Such is the "Jesus"
of the rationalist - the "Jesus" of many a "Christian" book, and of many a
"Christian" pulpit. But Rationalism is only one of "the three R's" by which
Christianity is undermined. Romanism and a certain phase of Revivalism, though
opposed to Rationalism and to one another, tend in varying degrees to produce
similar results. The authority of the Church is the labarum of the one;
sentiment is a characteristic of them both. Under the Roman delusion we find a
very great scholar and thinker stultifying himself by the superstitions of
religion, and then appealing to some "kindly light" to lead him "amid the
encircling gloom "-a gloom due to his closing his eyes to both reason and
Revelation. And this "kindly light" leads him to worship a mythical "mother of
God," who excels even "the Man of Sorrows" in tenderness and pity. Archbishop
Whately taught that the errors of Rome have their roots in human nature. And
the same tendency that leads the Roman Catholic to create a mythical Virgin
Mary, leads the Protestant to impersonate her womanly qualities in the mythical
"Jesus" of certain popular books of piety and some of our popular hymns.
Hymnology is a delicate subject to deal with; and yet so great is the influence of hymns that Christians do well to give intelligent thought to what they sing. I will not speak here of mawkish and irreverent hymns that no spiritual Christian should tolerate; but a verse of a familiar hymn of a much less objectionable kind may illustrate my meaning.
"Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on His gentle breast,
There by His love o'ershaded,
Sweetly my soul shall rest.
Hark 'tis the voice of angels
Borne in a song to me,
Over the fields of glory,
Over the jasper sea."
Here we have the motherly arms and the gentle breast." As
for "the voice of angels," fields of glory," and "the jasper sea "- it is all
the merest sentiment. How different from "the words and thoughts of other days,
the martyr-words and thoughts . . of mighty men "- the men who won our freedom
and won back our Bible for us! How different from the words and thoughts of the
Apostles of the Lord Can any one imagine the beloved disciple singing such
words as these! He held a place of peculiar nearness to the Lord, and at the
Supper he leaned upon His breast; and yet he fell at His feet, when he saw Him
in His heavenly glory.
There are other hymns in which thoughts that ought to rise in praise expend themselves in sentiment. And some of these might easily be raised to a high level. The hymn beginning "Come unto Me, ye weary" may serve as an example. It would be a really fine hymn if, from being an ode about "Jesus," it were changed as follows into a hymn of faith and adoration of the Lord
" Come unto Me, ye weary,
And I will give you rest."
Thy blessed voice, Lord Jesus,
That comes to hearts opprest!
It tells of benediction,
Of pardon, grace and peace;
Of joy that hath no ending,
Of love that cannot cease.
I give this merely as a specimen. Many hymns may be similarly treated.
"Come unto Me, ye wand'rers,
And I will give you light."
Thy loving voice, Lord Jesus,
That comes to cheer the night!
Our hearts were filled with sadness,
And we had lost our way;
But Thou hast brought us gladness,
And songs at break of day.
"Come unto Me, ye fainting,
And I will give you life."
Thy cheering voice, Lord Jesus,
That comes to end our strife!
The foe is stern and eager,
The fight is fierce and long;
But Thou hast made us mighty
And stronger than the strong.
"And whosoever cometh,
I will not cast him out."
Thy welcome voice, Lord Jesus,
That drives away our doubt;
That calls us - very sinners,
Unworthy though we be
Of love so free and boundless-
To come, 0 Lord, to Thee!
The exigencies of rhythm and rhyme have much to answer for in our hymnology. But without even this excuse some of our best hymns are marred by this will be found in the first stanza of that noble hymn
"For all the saints who from their labours rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, 0 Jesus, be for ever blest, Hallelujah."
Even as a poem this hymn would be improved by substituting
the Christian confession, "Lord Jesus," for the unchristian "0 Jesus" in the
third line. If some member of the Royal Household were to address his Majesty
as "0 George," the indignant amazement of the Palace would not be greater than
would have been caused in early days if some Minister, in leading the prayers
or praises of the Church, had addressed the Lord of Glory as "0 Jesus" And what
is to be said of "children's hymns"? Many books for the young are a special
grief. The idea prevails that in the case of little children it is necessary to
resort to what the cynic would describe as "drivelling." God is kept in the
background to check or scare them when they are what is called "naughty"; and "
Jesus" is represented as a gentle kindly being who will befriend them when they
are "good." It is taken for granted that they would be repelled by truth such
as that which moulded the character and guided the early life of Samuel and
David, of John the Baptist and Timothy.
Was there ever such a blunder! No "goody-goody" book is so fascinating to a child as Bunyan's great allegory. Nor will an irreverent hymn attract and charm them like the Psalms of David. Children find no element of sadness in what is awe-inspiring; and to them what is mawkish and familiar is more harmful even than to persons of maturer years. If we are to "sanctify Christ in our hearts as Lord," it is in early life that the habit can most easily be formed. And yet in many a Christian home the babies are taught to speak of the Lord of Glory much in the way that some children are allowed to talk about the pet uncle of the family 1' What wonder is it if the children of Christians need to be converted! Conversion is the turning to God of one who is consciously on a wrong path; but a parent who "brings them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord," may trust the Lord to fulfil His promise that a child who is trained in that path "will not depart from it."
But may we never call Him "Jesus" or "Jesus Christ?" The inquiry comes from a home that is noted, not only for refinement and culture, but for a high Christian tone. Is it not extraordinary that such people, instead of seeking opportunities to confess Him as Lord, should wish to find occasion to deny Him the reverence and honour which He claims from all who know Him!
These pages have already exceeded the limits originally contemplated. And yet I cannot close without disclaiming with emphasis the intention or the wish to lay down rules for the guidance of others in this matter. My purpose has been to awaken an intelligent interest in the subject, and to urge upon Christians the importance of seeking guidance from Scripture respecting it, and the importance, too, of obeying that spiritual instinct to which the Apostle John appeals when he says, "As for you, the anointing which ye received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any one teach you." As the context indicates, it is not that the Apostle credits the disciples with "understanding all mysteries and all knowledge," but that he is appealing to their spiritual instincts to make them intolerant of everything that touches the honour of the Lord.
In the letters of William Carey, the working cobbler who became not only a pioneer and prince among missionaries but the adviser and friend of three great Indian Viceroys, will be found the following pregnant sentence: "A gentleman is the next best character to a Christian, and the Christian includes the gentleman." In the spirit of these words I would suggest that, apart even from spiritual instincts, if well-conditioned people would follow their natural sense of what is right and fitting, they would shrink from the impropriety of naming the Lord Jesus Christ as though He were a dead hero or an equal.
The character of a gentleman is not formed by the study of a "book of manners." It is by an instinct of courtesy that our words and acts are regulated. But if Socialism had prevailed in this land even for a generation, and, by daily intercourse with its degraded votaries, we had forgotten that unwritten code which Edmund Burke describes as "the unbought grace of life," we might need not a little schooling today in the social sphere. Is it strange then that, after so many centuries of "Christendom religion," we should need to have our spiritual instincts quickened and trained by close and habitual contact with Holy Scripture?
"Gird up the loins of your mind" is a precept than which none is more needed, and none more neglected. For in the sphere of Christian truth "slovenly-mindedness" is all too common. In no other sphere would it be tolerated. In literature, in art, in science, accuracy and care in the terminology of every subject is deemed essential; but in this sacred sphere, accredited teachers display utter indifference, and ignorance of Scripture terminology.
And "slovenly-mindedness" influences conduct. It tends to make us forget "the fear of the Lord" and the solemnities of "the judgment-seat of Christ." Hence it is that some from whom better things might be expected "hold fellowship" with men who not only defame the Lord, and pour contempt upon His Holy Word, but by falsely claiming to be His
Ministers, commit the Judas sin of betraying Him with a kiss. En these days of apostasy it behoves us to seek the Master's approval by both testing, and showing intolerance of, such evil men.' Not the sinners of the streets-for such He has no stint of pity-but these sinners of the synagogue, for whom He has only warnings of woe, and stern de-nunciation.2 The Reformation rescued for us the doctrine of salvation by faith; but salvation by grace has been the great truth of the evangelical revival. That truth flashed out, like an April sun, in the writings of the Reformers; but, like an April sun, it be-came veiled again by gathering clouds. It was soon forgotten that the grace which brings salvation teaches the saved to "live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world;" and the Christian was relegated to the school of law. We have now re-gained "the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free"; but all the more do we need to be reminded that the distinctive Christian truth of grace in no way abrogates the preceding revelation of a God of infinite holiness and majesty. For not a little of the preaching and teaching of the day suggests, that the Christ of the Gospels has supplanted "the great and terrible God" of the Old Covenant. But the "Jesus" of that kind of teaching is a myth. "He who was manifested in the flesh" is no other than the God of Sinai: "our God is a consuming fire." In presence of the Sinai glory, Moses said, "I exceedingly fear and quake"; but when the beloved disciple beheld the glory of Him upon whose breast he leaned on the betrayal night, he "fell at His feet as dead."
Among those who proclaim most loudly that "all Scripture is God-breathed," how few there are to whom the first chapter of Revelation is as really the Word of God as is "the Nicodemus sermon" of the third of John! The Apocalypse is treated as a negligible appendix to the New Testament, a book to be studied by people of learning and leisure. And yet there is no Book more needed in these days of ours. And to a mind enlightened by the vision of its opening chapter, every detail in the narratives of the humiliation has a fuller meaning, and glows in a heavenlier light.
Here is the record of that vision: "I saw . . . One like unto the Son of Man . . . His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire; and His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters. And He had in His right hand seven stars; and out of His mouth. went a sharp two-edged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth, and I was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and I have the keys of hell and of death."
In presence of that awful glory a peace that depends on "the religion of the crucifix," or on the gospel of a Jesus who is the image of man, would vanish like mist before the sun. But "the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God" brings a peace that is eternal and can never fail. Not that we would give up one jot or tittle of the record of His earthly life; but that our faith rests upon our risen and glorified and coming Lord; and reaching back from the Christ of the glory to the Christ of the humiliation, the "It is finished" of the Cross is crowned by the "Fear not" of the Throne.
And if the "eyes of our heart " be filled with the vision of His glory, instead of asking "May we never call Him Jesus?" it will be our deepest longing and unceasing aim to "serve Him with reverence and godly fear,"' and thus to win a place in that book of remembrance written before Him for them that fear Him, and that think npon His Name.
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