THE WIDOW AND THE EMPTY VESSELS

(This is Alexander Maclaren’s brilliant exposition on the subject, based on 2 Kings 4:1-7. Read it, ponder over it, implement it, and rejoice!~ J.K.)

WHEN THE OIL FLOWS

The series of miracles ascribed to Elisha are very unlike most of the wonderful works of even the Old Testament, and still more unlike those of the New. For about a great many of them there seems to have been no special purpose, either doctrinal or otherwise, but simply the relief of trivial and transient distresses. This story, from which my text is taken, is one of that sort. One of the sons of the prophets had died in Shunem. He left a widow and two little children. The creditor, according to the Mosaic law, had the right, which he was about to put in practice, of taking the children to be bondmen. And so the penniless, helpless woman comes to Elisha, as a kind of deliverer-general from all sorts of distresses, and tells him her pitiful tale. He asks her what she wants him to do, and she has no counsel to give. Then the thing to do strikes him. He asks what she has in the house. It was a poor, bare hovel of a place. There was not anything in it save a pot of oil, which was all her property. He sends her to borrow vessels, of all sorts and sizes. He takes the pot of oil, and shuts the door. Then she sets the two boys fetching and carrying; and herself taking up the one possession that she has, in faith she pours; and dish after dish is filled, and still she pours; and they were all filled, and she kept on pouring. Then she said, ‘Bring some more’; and the boys answered, ‘There are not any more,’ so then the oil stopped.

There was no very special reason for all this. It is not at all like most Biblical miracles. I do not suppose it had any symbolical intention; but I venture to do a little gentle violence to the incident, and to see in the staying of the oil when no more vessels were brought to be filled, a lesson addressed to us all, and it is this: God keeps giving Himself as long as we bring that into which He can pour Himself. And when we stop bringing, He stops giving.

Now, if I may venture to be fanciful for once, let me tell you of three vessels that we have to bring if we would have the oil of the Divine Spirit poured into us.

I. The vessel of desire.

God can give us a great many things that we do not wish, but He cannot give us His best gift, and that is Himself, unless we desire it. He never forces His company on any man, and if we do not wish for Him He cannot give us Himself, His Spirit, or the gifts of His Spirit. For instance, He cannot make a man wise if he does not wish to be instructed. He cannot make a man holy if he has no aspiration after holiness. He cannot save a man from his sins if the man holds on to his sin with both hands, like some shellfish with its claws when you try to drag it out of its cleft in the rock. He cannot give the oil unless we bring the vessels of our hearts opened by our desires.

If God could He would. ‘Ye have not because ye ask not.’ But we are never to forget that God is not led to begin His giving because we petition Him, but that the infinitude of His stores, and the endless, changeless, unmotived, perfect love of His heart, make self-communication-I was going to use a very strong word, and I do not know that it is too strong-necessary to the blessedness of the blessed God, and, long before we ever thought of Him, or sought anything from Him, there was pouring out from Him all the fulness of His love: just as we may conceive of the sunshine raying out before the orbs that were to circle round it had been completely shaped, but were still diffused and nebulous.

But, while God is always giving, our capacity to receive determines the degree of our individual possession of Him. Or, to put it in the plainest words-we have as much of God as we can take in; and the principal factor in settling how much we can take is-how much we wish. Measure the reality and intensity of desire, and you measure capacity. As the atmosphere rushes into every vacuum, or as the sea runs up into and fills every sinuosity of the shore, so wherever a heart opens, and the unbroken coast-line is indented, as it were, by desire, in rushes the tide of the divine gifts. You have God in the measure in which you desire Him.

Only remember that that desire which brings God must be more than a feeble, fleeting wish. Wishing is one thing; willing is quite another. Lazily wishing and strenuously desiring are two entirely different postures of mind; the former gets nothing and the latter gets everything, gets God, and with God all that God can bring.

But the wish must not only rise to intensity and earnestness, but it must be steadfast. Suppose these two little boys of the widow had held their vessels below the spout of the oil-pot with tremulous hands, while they looked away at something else, sometimes keeping the vessels right under, and sometimes shifting them on one side, it would have been slow work filling the unsteadily held vessels. So it is in regard to receiving God’s best gift. Our desires must be unwavering. A cup held by a shaking hand will spill its contents, or will never receive them. ‘Let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.’ The steadfast wish is the wish that is answered.

Is it not a strange indifference to our true good that we who have learned, as most of us have learned only too well, that in this world to wish is not to have, should turn away from the possibility that lies before us each, of passing from this disappointing world of vain longings into a region where we cannot wish anything that we do not get? There is only one thing about which it is true that, if you want, and as much as you want, you will have; and that thing is found when we turn away our wishes from the false, fleeting, and surface satisfactions of earth, and fasten them upon God, ‘Who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we . . . think.’ Wish for Him, and you have what you have wished. Wish for anything else, and you may have it or you may not, but depend upon it the fish is never half as big when it is out of the water as it felt to be when it was tugging at the hook.

II. Another vessel that we have to bring is the vessel of our expectancy.

Desire is one thing; confident anticipation that the desire will be fulfilled is quite another. And the two do not certainly go together anywhere except in this one region, and there they do go, linked arm in arm. For whatsoever, in the highest of all regions, we wish, we have the right without presumption to believe that we shall receive. Expectation, like desire, opens the heart.

There are some expectations, even in lower regions, that fulfil themselves. Doctors will tell you that a very large part of the curative power of their medicine depends upon the patient’s anticipation of recovery. If a man expects to die when he takes to his bed, the chances are that he will die; and if a man expects to get better, Death will have a fight before it conquers him. There are hundreds of cases, in all departments of life, where he who sets himself to a task with assured persuasion that he is going to do such and such a thing will do it. ‘Screw your courage to the sticking-place, and we’ll not fail,’ said the heroine in the tragedy; and there is a great truth in her fierce encouragement.

All these illustrations fall far beneath the Christian aspect of the thought that what we expect from God we receive. That is only another way of putting ‘According to thy faith be it unto thee.’ It is exactly what Jesus Christ said when He promised, ‘Whatsoever things ye ask when ye stand praying believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.’

I am afraid that a great many of us often have expectations fainter than desires; and that we should be very much surprised if the thing that we ask for, in the prayers that we so often repeat by rote, were granted to us. You will hear men praying for holiness, for clean hearts, for progress in the Christian life, for a hundred other such blessings. They do not expect that anything is going to come in consequence, and they would be mightily at a loss what to do with the gift if it did come. The absence of expectancy in our public petitions is to me one of the saddest features in the Christian life of this day. If you expect little, you will get little; and we do expect far less than we ought. We cannot raise our confident expectations too high; for ‘He is able to do for us exceeding abundantly above all that we ask’ as well as ‘think.’ The Apostle has set the limit of our expectations, in the same context, and here it is: ‘That we may be filled with all the fulness of God.’ There are two limits: one is the boundless illimitableness of God’s perfection, and the possibilities of our possession of Him are not exhausted until we have reached that infinite completeness. But then, there is a practical, working limit for each of us; and that is-what do you desire? and what do you expect? God can give more than we can ask or think, but He cannot at the moment give more than we expect or desire.

True, the vessels that we bring to be filled with the oil are not like the vessels that the fatherless boys brought. These were of a definite capacity; and the little cup when it was filled was filled, and there was an end of it. But the vessels that we bring are elastic, and widen out. The more that is put into them the more they can hold, so that there is no bound to the capacity of a heart for the reception and inrush of God; and there will not be a bound through all the ages of a growing possession of Him in eternity. But for to-day, desire and expectancy determine the measure of the gift.

III. Lastly, one more vessel that we have to bring is obedience.

‘If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine.’ There is one case of the general principle that wishes and anticipations are all right and well, but unless they are backed up and verified by conduct, even wishes and anticipations will not bring God’s gift. For it is possible for a man who, in his better moments of devotion, has some desires after a loftier range of goodness and a completer conformity to God than he ordinarily has, to rise from his knees and rush into the world, and there live in some lust, or uncleanness, or vice, or indulgence, or absorption in the cares of this life, in such a way as that desires and anticipations shall vanish. If we fill our vessels full, before we take them to the source of supply, with all manner of baser liquids, there will be no room for the oil. We may contradict and stifle our desires by our conduct, and by it make our expectations perfectly impossible to be fulfilled. Are our daily doings of such a nature as that the Spirit of God, which is symbolised by the oil, can come into our hearts; or are we quenching and grieving Him so that He

‘Can but listen at the gate
And hear the household jar within’?

Desire, Expectancy, and Obedience-these three must never be separated if we are to receive the gift of Himself, which God delights and waits to give. All spiritual possessions and powers grow by use, even as exercised muscles are strengthened, and unused ones tend to be atrophied. It is possible, by neglect of God and of the gift given to us, to incur the stern sentence passed on the slothful servant-’Take it from him.’ By disobedience and negligence we choke the channel through which God’s gifts can flow to us. So, brethren, bring these three vessels, and you will not go away with them empty. ‘Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.’

ALEXANDER MACLAREN

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

THE ARK OF SAFETY

by Earnshaw Smith, Keswick, 1930

“By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”-Hebrews xi. 7.

THERE is nothing more convincing than sight. You say, “I saw it with my own eyes, and therefore it must be so.” To man, seeing is believing, but the trouble is we are so shortsighted that there are things we do not see; like the people in Noah’s time we only see the things of this life, things close up against us, the little plans we have made for to-morrow; and disregard the things that really matter. With God believing is seeing. “Said I not unto thee that if thou wouldest believe thou shouldest see the glory of God?” The Christian has the evidence of things not seen. On the day when there is going to be an eclipse of the sun you see everywhere people with smoked glasses gazing up into the sky. Why? Because they have read about the eclipse in the newspapers. They are quite certain that there is going to be an eclipse, because they have read about it. But Noah needed no astronomers to warn him; he was warned of God, and he prepared an ark for the saving of his house. Would to God that we believed the Word of God as we believe the word of man!

Noah’s Telescope
The first thing I would draw your attention to is Noah’s Telescope and what he saw. Noah had a telescope whereby he could see the invisible; there is a glass for everyone whereby we may see the things not seen as yet. Faith brings the unseen near. Noah had great faith. Believing God’s Word, he gazed up into the cloudless sky and saw the black clouds of judgment already looming on the horizon. I want you to remember that he saw it only by faith. As Noah looked up into the vault of Heaven it was as cloudless as it had ever been, but he believed God’s Word. I would remind you also that Noah had no precedent to go upon. There had never been a flood before; and it did not seem likely that there ever would be one; there had been no great judgment of that sort on the world before, but he believed the Word of God. And Noah had no supporters. There may have been uneasiness when Noah first went on the streets with his tremendous message of judgment to come. I suppose there were some who said, “Well, what if God should punish sin? We have got into a very bad way; the world is in a terrible state.” But I expect that concern soon turned to ridicule and mockery and derision. They probably worked it out. In Genesis ii. 5- 6, it says, “the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth There went up a mist from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.” And when Noah proclaimed his message possibly the scientists of that time said, “The thing is impossible; there cannot be rain, or anything of the sort.”

Noah would be put down as a fanatic, but he believed in spite of what the world said. He looked through the telescope of faith and saw the heavens black with impending judgment; he believed the Word of God in spite of the laughter and the sneers of man. Faith brings the unseen near. What can you see tonight? Lift your glass and you see old age, far away, perhaps, yet surely drawing near. Turn your glass again and you see death. You do not like to think of it, you know that some time you have got to die. You, at least, believe the Word of God, and that “it is appointed unto men once to die.” You turn the glass again, and as you look through it, you see, “after that the judgment.” Old- fashioned? yes, and yet a law of nature.” God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap: he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Judgment is inevitable: “The wages of sin is death”: it is a law of nature, and a law of life, as well as being in the Word of God. As you see these things drawing nearer— old age, death, judgment— you say, “They are far, far away. It does not matter yet.” Noah preached for one hundred and twenty years while judgment was drawing nearer and nearer; and you won’t live half that time. Like a trumpet across four thousand years there sound the words, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” “Not always”; there is coming an end to this glorious day of grace; the day of judgment will one day dawn, the Day of the Lord will break. Will you look through the telescope of faith before it be too late?

Noah’s Faith in God
The next step in the story is Noah’s Faith, and what he did. In the Bible faith and works are joined together, Believing is doing. It is no use saying you believe if you do not do. Faith is proved by immediate action. Being warned of God, Noah prepared an ark. If I go into your room at night to tell you that the house is on fire and you believe me, you will prove your faith by getting up at once. Faith is always proved by action. You cannot persuade me that you believe if you remain still and take no notice. Many of you say, I believe; but what have you done? Have you turned to Christ? Have you closed with Him? Have you laid hold on eternal life? Have you believed unto the saving your soul? You will notice two things that Noah did. First, he prepared the ark to the saving of his house. It madness to believe in coming disaster and yet not to prepare for it. It madness to say we believe the Bible and yet not prepare ourselves for the tremendous Day when we shall stand before the great White Throne of God You have not got to prepare an ark! Praise God! long ago God prepared His Ark of Refuge. “God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might he saved.”God never pronounces judgment without drawing attention to the glorious provision of salvation and deliverance. “Come thou and all thy house into the ark,” says God. Do not get hard ideas about God. God Who decrees judgment has prepared an ark, His own blessed Son. “I am the door,” said Jesus Christ” by Me if any man enter in he shall be saved.” But you have got to enter. Leave the crowd; step out across the threshold, and you will find yourself in the ark of salvation. Are you shut in with Christ, rejoicing in His salvation to-night, or are you shut out? What kind of a faith is it that leaves us outside when Jesus Christ spreads before us the glories of His forgiveness and the gladness of His service? What are you going to do?

And the second thing about Noah is that he became a preacher of righteousness. For one hundred and twenty years he preached, but he was what you might call an unsuccessful evangelist. How few people responded, but yet he kept on. He had God’s Word to deliver. Do not be downcast or discouraged. The devil cannot snatch you from the Saviour’s hand; but if he can make you discouraged he will take the fire out of your testimony, and the edge out of your sword. Noah was in a minority; one against millions. For one hundred and twenty years he preached, whilst the long-suffering of God waited. And all the while any man who heard Noah preach might have stepped over the threshold, and put his hand into Noah’s hand and said, “Noah, I will believe your word, I will go with you.” But they did not. And then in a moment God’s patience ended. And so will it be in the end. If these things are so, Christian friends, ought we not to be up and doing, warning men, persuading men, knowing in our own hearts something of the burden of a Christless world, hearing “the thud of the Christless feet on the road to hell”? Should we not follow in the footsteps of Noah who became a preacher of righteousness? What are you doing to win others?

Noah’s Obedience
The third point to be observed is Noah’s obedience, and how he condemned the world. Jesus Christ took this history concerning Noah and used it as an example, “But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark. And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matt. xxiv. 37– 39). What are you expecting to happen to the world? Are you expecting the world to grow better and better, or are you expecting a sudden catastrophe? They knew well enough, but they did not believe it. Many of them had said, “Some day,” but they did not believe that the day was really going to dawn.

These people had been hearers of Noah’s preaching. Gospel preaching melts or hardens; the sun melts wax, but hardens clay. You have heard very often the preaching of the Gospel of the grace of God. You have heard the appeal again and again, but you have not surrendered. These people had been subjects of Noah’s prayers. In Ezekiel xiv. 14, we read that Noah was a great man of prayer, as well as a preacher. And there are ministers who have prayed for you, Sunday School teachers who have prayed for you. But that won’t get you into the ark -unless you yourself make a move.

These people had been helpers of Noah’s work. A great number must have been associated with Noah in the work, and many must have laboured for him during those one hundred and twenty years, toiling at the great beams of the ark, making the ark quite safe, but never stepping inside, and probably laughing at Noah as he paid them their wages. You know there are people like that to-day; there are people who are even taking Sunday School classes, people who are taking some part in Church work, but they have never stepped into the ark themselves. And every one outside the ark will perish.

These people had been viewers of God’s wonders. They had seen mighty wonders; they had seen that great multitude of animals going two by two into the ark, and they must have said— “Is there something in it, after all? Noah has said that God has fixed the time. Is it really going to happen?” You have seen wonders too. There are friends of yours who have been converted. Their lives have been changed by the power of Christ. And you have wondered— “Is there really after all something in it?” but you have not come in yourself. There came a day when God called Noah into the ark, “Come thou and thy house into the ark,” What a little company it was that went in, and yet with what joy Noah welcomed them as they left all and stepped in by faith! I believe that was a great test of faith to Shem and Ham and Japheth. When they went into the ark there was no sign in the sky of a storm. There was a mocking crowd outside, but they passed one by one up the gangway into the ark, and then the great doors swung slowly to. And it may be that Noah, appalled with the awful sense of finality, turned once more to appeal to the men he knew, but, lo, the door was shut. God had shut him in, the acceptable year of the Lord had come to an end, and the day of vengeance was begun.

The Day of Vengeance
Seven days before the flood came, the crowd outside went on thinking that all was well, and laughed at those who had gone into the ark. Don’t be discouraged when the world laughs at you. There are some terrible words of God in Prov. i. 24-31. ” Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out My hand and no man regarded.. . I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh.”

On the seventh day there was a strange phenomenon. The sky that had been blue and clear before, grew black with the clouds that swept across it; and the multitude outside said among themselves, “What means this? What if Noah be right, after all? Then came the first drops of rain. The windows of Heaven were opened the fountains of the great deep were broken up; the waters began to rise on every hand. Frantic crowds beat upon the door of the ark, “Noah, open to us,” but if he heard he could do nothin. I believe in coming judgment. I believe that one day God will judge the world in righteousness, and there is no time to waste. Noah entered into the ark seven days before the flood came. Oh, be in time! The invitation comes to you to-night. But there are some of you who want to make the best of both worlds, and you say that at the end of life you will give these things attention. But will you be able to? I believe there are many men and women who speak like that but in the last years of their life they find that the door is shut. They have not the desires and the longings they once had. God calls you to-night. Don’t delay.

 
I would ask you then to turn the telescope of faith upon the Hill of Calvary. Noah turned it forward one hundred and twenty years, and saw judgment coming. We turn it back nineteen hundred years, and look at that hill outside the city wall. How near it seems after nearly two thousand years. It is nearer than Skiddaw, nearer than all the hills around, the hill where Jesus died.

See from His head, His hands, His feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down?
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown ?

Can you see it? Can you hear Him as He cries in triumph through His agony, “It is finished”? He died to save you there. What does it mean, this tremendous picture that lives in our memory in spite of our worldliness and Christ-rejection? We cannot somehow get away from it. What is the meaning of the picture of Calvary? It means that sin is damnable. Sin nailed there the holy, righteous Son of God. We need to flee to Him from sin, if ever we are to be saved. He was made sin for us upon that Cross of shame. When I see Him there I realise the awful power of sin. It means that the doom of the impenitent is awful. Sin has caused the death of the spotless Lamb of God. Was this merely an example of how to die? A thousand times no! It was absolutely necessary that He should die, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. And to turn our backs on that scene means awful judgment.

God’s Infinite Love
It means that God’s love and pity are infinite. For “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.” “He spared not his own Son but freely gave Him up for us all.” If only you could see Him with outstretched arms upon the tree. It is the ark of His love that I proclaim to you to-night as your only refuge. Will you come? This word of judgment is no more a mockery than it was when Noah preached. God is surely going to judge the world. Sin will shortly bring forth its harvest. Where are you tonight? Jesus said, “I am the Door.” Are you inside that door? We do long that you might turn to Him. We would do anything to help you to find Him, but you have got to take the step for yourself and to say, “just as I am, I come.” I have turned the telescope of faith upon that great judgment day that is coming. I have also turned it upon the infinite love of Calvary. In the light of that love and in the light of certain and awful judgment do not any longer spurn the Lord Jesus Christ and tread Him under foot, but step out upon Christ’s glorious invitation, “Come thou and thy house into the ark.” “I am the Door, by Me if any man enter in he shall be saved.”

Whosoever cometh! Need not delay;
Now the door is open, enter while you may;
Jesus is the true, the only living Way,
Whosoever will may come!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

FIRSTBORN OVER ALL CREATION

In the first chapter of Colossians Paul makes the following statement about Jesus. “And he is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15). It has been alleged that firstborn means that Jesus was the first creation of God. Does this mean that Jesus Christ was a created being?

The Greek word prototokos, which is translated as firstborn, can refer to different things. It could refer either to something or someone that is first in order of time, such as a firstborn child, or it could refer to someone who is preeminent in rank. Or it could refer to someone who was both firstborn and preeminent in rank. It all depends upon the context.

Take the example of David. The psalmist gives a description of David as being the firstborn. The Lord said of him. “I will also appoint him my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth.”(Psalm 89:27). In this example the term firstborn obviously speaks of preeminence in rank. David was preeminent among the kings of Israel. However, he was not the oldest, or firstborn, in his family. David was in fact the youngest. Therefore in this context, the idea of firstborn among the kings has the idea of preeminence and does not have the idea of time.

In the passage in Colossians the idea of Jesus as firstborn means that He is preeminent over creation, not that He is a created being. This can be seen from the verses that follow. “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16,17). Jesus is clearly called the Creator of all things. Consequently He could not have been the first thing created.

Jesus is also called the firstborn from the dead. “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1:5). Jesus was the first person in time to come back from the dead never to die again. In addition, He is preeminent over the dead and death itself. Jesus said that He has the keys, or the authority, to death and Hades. “I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades” (Revelation 1:18).

There is one final thing. Colossians 1:15 could be better translated in the following manner. “And he is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15). This translation emphasizes that Jesus is preeminent “over” His creation. This is to be preferred to the translation of “the firstborn of all creation” which gives the impression that Jesus is a created being.

BLUE LETTER BIBLE

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Canadian Student Volunteer

I close with what a Canadian student said to me. I think he is the bravest man I have ever seen. He fought on Vimy Ridge*. A piece of shell cut an artery in his leg; he had a temporary bandage and he lay out in the open for several days. Nobody knows why he did not bleed to death. He was taken to hospital and nursed back to health. His commandant said, “You must not go back again to the front.” He went, and one of his eyes was shot out. After that his first thought was, “Now I can go on with my preparation in the medical school and enter upon service for Christ in Africa.”

He was a Student Volunteer. He was sent home to England, and when he got well the general in command of the Canadian troops said that on no account must he go back to the front. He was with his brigade when the Armistice was signed; he has been decorated twice, he has been offered staff appointments, but his answer is, “I am a Student Volunteer for missionary work, and once I am free, that is my work.” When I met him he said,” My widowed mother needs my support, but this June my sister will graduate, and she can look after mother; then I am off for Africa,” and I believe that man is going to be another David Livingstone.

We must bleed to bless if this world is going to be changed. We need men and women of that spirit at home, and also abroad, to go, who are ready to pay the price. “Why call ye Me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” He died for all, that those who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him Who died for them and rose again. (2 Cor 5.15)

RP WILDER
July 1925, Keswick

*The Battle of Vimy Ridge (April 1917) was part of the Battle of Arras, in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France, during the First World War. The main combatants were the four divisions of the Canadian Corps in the First Army, against three divisions of the German 6th Army.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Missionary in Poona

Once, when I was working in Poona in Western India, and was very weary because the climate was trying and the Brahmins were argumentative, I went to a place near Poona for a week-end. On Saturday night, when I entered the hotel dining room, I found seated beside me a naval officer, next him an infantry major and the major’s wife, next to them a sergeant- major and his wife. When conversation started, the naval officer said, “Why don’t these missionaries stay at home and mind their business? Why do they come out here and worry these people ? You can get all the converts your want at one rupee a head.” It was the time of the Armenian massacres, and there were rumours that the British fleet might be ordered to Constantinople. I turned to that naval officer and said, “Supposing you were ordered to take your battleship to Constantinople tomorrow, and I were to say, Why don’t you stay here and mind your business, there is no sense in your going to the Bosphorus?'” The man’s eyes flashed fire as he said, “I would tell you to mind your business; if we are ordered to go we must go even if every ship is sunk and every sailor killed.” I said, ” Quite right, my friend, but I have my marching orders, not from any human government, but from the Divine Government. My command was to preach the Gospel to every creature, and India has one-fifth of the population of the world, and the primary question is not whether in India converts may be made at one rupee or 5o rupees a head; the primary question is not whether I get any converts at all, but whether I am going to obey the last wish of my Lord and Saviour. Are you a Christian?”

The man tried to change the subject. I said, “Play up, old man, you brought this on yourself; if you are not a Christian I can understand your position, but if you claim to be a Christian surely to be a Christian means to follow the Lord Jesus Christ and to carry out His will.” For two hours, from 8 o’clock until 10, we spoke, but we did not speak about foreign missions; we spoke about Jesus Christ and His claims. No one left the table. It was one of the best opportunities I have ever had to witness for Christ. At the end of the meal the infantry major followed me out and said, “There are not 20,000 such Christians in the world as you would have us be; furthermore, you cannot be in the Army and be a Christian.” I said, “Well, that is news to me; where are you stationed?” He told me where he was, and I said, “Do you know a young artillery officer?” naming a certain man. He said, “Yes, he has no business in the Army, he ought to be a parson.” I mentioned several others, Army officers who were earnest Christians, and the next day when I was preaching in the open air in the vernacular in front of an idol temple, this infantry major and his wife and the naval officer came and stood by me during the service. It was a beautiful thing to do.

RP Wilder
July 1925, Keswick

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Medical Missionary

When the world-war broke out, one of our American students, a volunteer, a medical missionary, was working under the Pasha of Turkey who drove horseshoes into the feet of Armenians to help them in their flight. That was his sense of humour. This Pasha’s favourite wife was ill, and he sent for the medical missionary. When he got to the palace he found six other doctors, Jews and Syrians. He went past them and examined the woman, and came back and reported, “We must operate at once or she will be dead before morning.” The doctors looked at him in surprise and said, ” Do you know whose wife she is?” He said, “Yes, she is the wife of the Pasha.” “Well, do you not know that if we operate and she dies, we will all be dead before morning?” This doctor straightened himself up and said, “I am a Christian; when I left my medical college the only promise I made was this, that I would consider no interest but the interest of the patient. I am going to operate.” These Jewish and Syrian doctors said, “If you want to commit suicide, you are welcome, but please tell the Pasha you do this on your own risk.”

It was a difficult operation, and he performed it, and then he prayed as he had seldom prayed before that God might spare that woman so that he might remain to help the Armenians in that weltering sea of human misery. God granted his request; the patient recovered slowly and was completely restored to health. Later, petitions were sent to the Pasha, praying that this medical missionary should be banished; the Pasha tore up the petitions and said, “This man has saved the life of my wife; he can stay as long as he wants to.” The armistice was signed, and the missionary came back to see his wife and children. Then I did a very cruel thing—I wrote and asked him if he would travel for the Student Volunteer Movement. He handed the letter to his wife, and she said,” Of course you must go.” As he started for the first university, and went from the door of his house, he heard a child’s voice saying, “Daddy, when are you coming back ?” He said, “I will be back in a fortnight.” He was. After he spent a couple of days at home he started for the next university, and so he travelled for our Student Volunteer Movement for a year and a half. Wherever he went medical students were moved through and through by his ministries and messages. Then a letter came from his Board of Missions—”Are you ready to go back to your hospital in Turkey?” He handed that letter to his wife; she read it and said, “Of course you must go,” though she knew that she and the children must remain behind. Even yet she is unable to join him. He said, “I took particular care to leave my home at an hour of the night when I would not hear those two small feet behind me and a child’s voice saying, ‘Daddy, when are you coming back?'”

There that hero is at the post of duty, and when I think of him I think of the words of our Lord, “The seed are the sons of the Kingdom,” and what He wants to do is to plant men like that and women with the same devotion all over these distant islands—the seed are the sons and daughters of the kingdom. Thank God, the average missionary can take his family with him. Then the best thing in these distant fields often is the home of the Christian missionary, the home with the open door. But if Christ’s last command is to be carried out it means sacrifice on the part of parents who will give up their children to this work and on the part of the men and women who are to go into these distant fields. Are we ready?

RP Wilder
July 1925, from a message given at Keswick.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

FACE TO FACE WITH GOD

FACE TO FACE WITH GOD
by Dr Ruben Saillens from France
July 1925, Keswick

IT is a great opportunity for us, as we assemble in these solemn days under these tents, for it might be difficult in years to come to meet in such a peaceful way. We live in very difficult times, and every occasion on which we meet in peace and liberty and joy should be taken as a special favour of God, which we should improve well and as much as possible.

It would be a very great danger if any came in a spirit of holiday-making. Of course, we all enjoy the beautiful sunshine, we love the hills, and the heather on the hills, and the beauties of Nature, which speak of God; but we might find all these things nearer home than this, and it is not for them that we have come together. We come together in order to meet the Holy of Holies in His Temple; even this canvas tent reminds us that the holiest worship of all was offered in the wilderness under canvas. Oh, let us lift up our hearts to God, so that every occasion we have together during this week may be fully improved; that we may lose nothing which the Lord, in His kindness, in His great loving-kindness, is wanting to give to us. He has come first to this gathering. He was here before any of us; He is with us, His hands full of gifts, which we already knew something about, for we have received some of them before; but also with gifts that we have never yet had, good things within good things, riches inside riches, riches in detail as well as in the lump. Let us to-day, and all these days, keep our hearts open, so that all that the Lord has prepared for us may come into our hearts, that we may go back full and overflowing, and that our churche and our congregations, our societies, our families, our homes, our villages, our cities may all be better, happier, holier, and nearer to sanctification and conversion for our having been here.

I do not make any apology for my way of speaking. You detect the foreigner (Saillens was from France, Ed.) in me and yet I do not feel at all a foreigner here; for, after all, we have the same Lord, the same faith, the same baptism, the same Spirit, and I do not think that yonder where I shall soon be, if He tarry a little longer — I shall be there, perhaps, sooner than many of you—I do not think we shall speak French or English either. We have all to learn a new language; I know the first word of it already, and you know it too: “Abba.” That is the first word of the eternal language.

I want to bring you to a story that you know very well, which perhaps some of you have used many a time in preaching the Gospel or in addressing children in the Sunday School—the history of Paul’s conversion. It is told us three times in the Acts of the Apostles: a most remarkable thing. The facts of Christ are told many times, but then we have four Gospels in which we find them; each Gospel says something about how He began, and how He proceeded, and how He ended on the Cross, and His resurrection. We have, therefore, four accounts of the Cross and four accounts of the resurrection, but they are in four different books; while the account of which I am now going to speak is found three times in the same book. It is a most remarkable thing that the Holy Ghost should have found it useful, and indeed necessary, that we should have in that small book, the Acts of the Apostles, three accounts of the conversion of Paul. It shows that, after all, the personal fact, the personal experience, is one of the best means of preaching the Gospel to the outsider.

Paul was a learned man; he was a philosopher, if you like to use the word; he was a theologian of the first water, both Jew and Christian; and yet Paul did not find it. beneath him to recount the story of his conversion, before the democracy (lay people) and before the aristocracy (high people). He preached that Gospel before the people at Jerusalem, and he preached the same Gospel before King Agrippa. I think that sometimes we, ministers, might do well to tell from our pulpits how the Lord led us to Himself; it would be well if, under the gown of the minister, you found the soul of a living man, who wants to tell you how the Lord dealt with him.

I shall read in the 22 chapter of the Acts of the Apostles just a few lines. He says: “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner, of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God as ye all are this day.

“And I persecuted this way”—that is, this sect—” unto the death, delivering into prisons both men and women.

“As also the High Priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters, unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there, bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.

“And it came to pass, that as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me.

“And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, ‘Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?’

“And I answered, ‘Who art Thou, Lord?’ And He said unto me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, Whom thou persecutest.’

“And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of Him that spake to me.

“And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord? ‘ And the Lord said unto me, ‘Arise and go into Damascus ; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do.’ ”

I want, first of all, to point you to this fact, that Saul of Tarsus, under that great impression of the apparition of Christ in the heavens, and of that voice which had reproached him for his crime and his folly, being already blinded by that wonderful light which came from God, Saul of Tarsus was so thorough that he was not satisfied even with the evidence of his senses. The Lord had appeared to him, and the voice was heard by others as well as by himself (although he alone detected the words), but with that he was not fully satisfied. He had the impression that if, as he now began to perceive, his life had been altogether wrong, if it were true that he had been going astray from the right path, then he had to change roundabout. He had the impression that his life had been so far a mistake; but he wanted to make it sure. So, instead of satisfying himself with the emotion, the physical impression, the thrill that had taken possession of him, he spoke right out to the Lord Himself, and put to Him a great question, “Who art Thou, Lord?”

There are conversions that are superficial. There are some people who have been under a great emotion in a meeting; that have been moved to tears, even, by the preaching of the Gospel, by some solemn appeal, by some call of God through one of His servants ; and then they realise that their mistake has been great, that so far their life has all been wrong, and that they must change right-about-face ; but sometimes they still have misty ideas about the Master Whom they will have to follow henceforth. Saul of Tarsus was a thorough sort of man: he wanted to make sure. He wanted to have something more than a mere external impression; he wanted to have something that came from the Lord Himself.

There may be some young people here who have professed to be Christians. They have thought that they were converted; perhaps in some way they have been converted, and yet they never went down deep into the question: Who is He Who calls me to follow Him wheresoever He goeth? Who is He Who has arrested me in that way? Who art Thou, Lord, Who art going henceforth to have possession of me, Who art going henceforth to lead me anywhere? I am willing to serve Thee, I am willing to follow Thee, but I must first of all have an absolute certainty that Thou art able and worthy to command my soul, to take possession of my whole life. If Jesus Christ was the best of men; if He was even the Super-Man; but if He was not the Son of God, the Divine Incarnation, the Christ of the Gospel; if He was not what we believe that He was, what the New Testament tells us He was, what all the prophets of the Old Testament showed us that He should be—if Christ is not the Incarnate God, if Christ is not the Atonement for my sins, if His blood has not paid my debt, if I had not a tremendous debt to pay, if there is no hell to escape from, if there is no eternal life, given only through Him and His resurrection, I may have some admiration for Him, but I am not going to surrender to Him.

We are here to make full surrender. We have come to this Convention for that pur- pose: to find a Master to Whom it will be our joy and our duty to entrust our whole lives, and to give ourselves fully, without reservation. Is that so? Have we come for that? In that case we must know who He is; we must be ten times, nay, a hundred times sure that He is worthy of the gift that He claims from us. “Who art Thou, Lord?”

You know Saul of Tarsus was a learned man with a trained mind, and he knew about apparitions, and how one could be deluded into believing as realities things that were only mists, and he wanted to be sure. He wanted to have something in his soul that would make him as certain that He Who had appeared to him had a right to his soul, as he was certain that he himself was in existence.

The first question, it seems to me, we should put to ourselves at the beginning of this Convention is this: What do I think about the Lord Jesus Christ? What is He for me? Do I believe that He is all in all for me, that He is the first and the last, that there is no hope, except in Him; that His incarnation is the only promise that I may have of my own exaltation in heaven; that His coming down is the only reason which makes me hope I shall go up? Is Jesus Christ the crucified, my Saviour, my only Saviour? Am I quite certain about it? Have I met Him, and has He given a reply to my heart-question: “Lord, Who art Thou?” Art Thou the Son of David? Well, then, Thou art the King of the Jews; but I am a Gentile; that does not concern me. Art Thou the greatest doctor, a great healer of men? I do not concern myself so much about the ills of my physical frame. What I need is the One Who shall come from the highest to the lowest, Who shall come down from heaven to my misery, and Who, in order that I may taste forever the sweetness, and glory, and happiness, and love of heaven in fellowship with the Father, has been willing to come down into my very hell, and has spoken on the Cross those words that shall never be fully understood by any human mind, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” I want to have the Christ of the fathers in the faith, the Christ of the Reformers. I want the Christ of the Apostles ; I want the Christ of the New Testament; and (God forbid) if anyone takes away from me any part of the blessed Christ, in so far he makes me incapable to follow Him, even unto the death.

It is a great thing, dear friends, to be a disciple of Christ. To be a disciple of Christ means for some of those Chinese Christians over there that they are willing to be murdered. To be a disciple of Christ has meant for many thousands, and even millions of people throughout the ages, that their tongues have been cut in their mouths, that their eyes have been plucked out of their heads, and that they have been burned at the stake. They must have had a certitude about Christ; they must have been sure that He was worthy of such sacrifice. If I had any doubt of the worthiness, or the mightiness, or Divinity of Jesus Christ, I should give up being a Christian.

As we came along in the train I was cheered by seeing so many young men and young women in the train. I said, “Well, all hope is not lost if the young people are coming to Keswick.” Young people, do not let your minds be troubled by the doubts of the present age; eschew as poison anything found in any book or heard in any pulpit that would diminish, however little, the absolute certainty that I hope you have, that Christ is the One, the only God visible, God tangible, God from the cradle to the Cross, from the Cross to the grave, and from the grave to His Throne back again.

Now for the reply that Jesus made to that bold and perfectly respectful query, Who art Thou, Lord ? “I am Jesus of Nazareth, Whom thou persecutest.” If Jesus had wished to win this man by milk and water, He would not have answered him in that way. He would have told him: “I am Jesus of Bethlehem, the city of David. I am Jesus of Jerusalem, the kingly city and the priestly city too. I am Jesus, the Son of God. I am Jesus in heaven.” And all that was perfectly true. But there was one thing to which the soul of Saul of Tarsus objected more than to anything else; it was that Jesus should be of Nazareth, an ill-spoken little place; it was to the nickname that had been attached to the believers: “Nazarenes”; it was something most despicable; to be called a “Nazarene” was to be insulted. Jesus takes that insult, and He beatifies it, He glorifies it. In the same way that you say Lord So-and-so or the Duke of So-and-so, because the man happens to have won a battle somewhere in Belgium, so we say Jesus of Nazareth, because Nazareth was one of the places where He fought most, where He suffered most, where He was most despised. The people of Nazareth would not have anything to do with Him; His own kindred, living at Nazareth, despised Him, and He could not do anything there on account of their unbelief; yet He glorifies the name, because it is ill-spoken of, because it is thrown into the mud. He makes Nazareth one of the shining stars of heaven; Nazareth has had the great honour of being glorified more than Jerusalem ever was.

That is the sort of logic that we find in the Gospels. If you are not prepared to throw in your lot with Jesus of Nazareth, that is not with a Jesus Who was triumphant, but with a Jesus Who was defeated apparently, a Jesus despised by men, a Jesus hated by Communists, by all sorts of revolting people, whose numbers are getting to be very large; if you are not willing to side with the despised One, and to be one of the despised yourself; if you are not willing to bear the reproach of Christ; if you have never known any reproach in Christianity; if you have so managed your Christian life that you have evaded everything that seems to be a shame and a loss; if your religion so far has brought you no discredit, no poverty, no suffering, no trouble, then it lacks something yet. You do not know the fellowship of the Nazarene as you should.

Jesus, as He looks down upon that little company of the saints, that little company of His frightened disciples, who are meeting in caves and cellars and wildernesses, says to Saul: ” I am one of them; I am at the head of that little flock; I am their Shepherd; I am one with them up in heaven; I am thinking of no one else but them. I am praying for them; I am supporting them. They are My friends and My brothers, and by-and-bye they shall share My glory. I am Jesus of Nazareth. Wilt thou be a Nazarene, thou Saul of Tarsus?”

Think of that! He was a gentleman, that is, a man of nobility, probably a member of the Senate. He was a theologian, a doctor; he might have taken the place of either Nicodemus or Gamaliel at the head of the School. Instead of that, he had now to be a Nazarene, the scum of the world; he had now to be blinded for three days, and led by some servants or soldiers by the hand, like a poor tramp, for the remainder of the journey to Damascus. There he had to wait until someone called Ananias, that he never knew before, a man of no account in the social world, would come, and baptise him, make him one of the hateful company, and a little later he was to go down from the wall of that city, which he had expected to enter on horseback and with a sword in his hand to punish; he had to get away from that city in a basket. The Lord did not mince matters to him, for in another part He says, “I shall show him how great things he must suffer for My name.” The way in which the Lord distinguishes His men, in which He marks His heroes, is to hide nothing from them. He does not tell them it will mean they will have plenty to eat, plenty to drink. He does not say, “Follow Me, and I will make it easy for you every day of your lives.” He says, “Follow Me ; I am the Good Shepherd ; I lead My sheep in green pastures; I have also, sometimes, to lead them up the rugged valley, up to the mountain-top, where the wind blows, where the grass is very scarce, where danger is great; but I am with you. Follow Me. I do not promise you anything on this earth, except My Cross, but I promise you peace, I promise you joy, I promise you happiness in so far as you shall be willing to carry out My programme, to do anything I want you to do!’

Young people, I come in the name of One Who suffered, not that you should never suffer yourselves, but in order that you might be able to suffer for Him and with Him; and I beg you to see that the Lord Jesus Christ is well worthy of the sacrifice of your whole life. He is the God of love; He has exalted the weak in that one name Nazareth; He has taken up the downtrodden, and has associated them with His glory. How glad I am myself that He has come down to me, that He has picked me up and made me a partaker, in a little measure, of His sufferings by the power of His resurrection!

Oh! dear friends, if you have any doubt of His wonderful power, how can you account for the fact that this despised Name has become the most glorious? How can you account for the fact that that Cross on which He suffered has become the most glorious thing in the world? How do you account for the fact that the name of Jesus, the crucified, has become in this world, even for those who do not love Him, a synonym for everything that is great and good? I have proved it over and over again amidst the freethinking audiences of Paris and different parts of France. I have often heard people hurl insults on the ministers, the priests, the churches; but in the hundreds of instances where I have met the worst infidels I never heard a single man or woman say anything against Jesus. It is wonderful. Although the world will not have Him, the world respects Him, and the glory of Christ shines over the whole world.

Will you not follow Jesus as the One that is demonstrated to you, not merely by the emotions that you may have felt at some time or other, but by the evidences, the inward evidences of the Spirit? I would like you to try, if any here have not become fully convinced. I have a friend in France, who, many years ago, was a student in the University of Paris, a free-thinker, yet respectful of anything that was good. But he had no faith in Christ. He was invited by a friend of his to go to America to attend the first conference of the Christian Student Movement at Mr. Moody’s place at Northfield. That is about thirty years ago —perhaps more. This young man knew only a little English, but he thought it would be a nice way of spending a vacation, and he went to America and joined this band of Christian students at Northfield. He has told us the story of his conversion. He said: “I could not understand what all these young people were saying, but I could see a joy on their faces, a light in their eyes, a purity on their countenances, that struck me very much. These young men were not at all like the young men I used to have as my friends in Paris. They were full of fun, and yet had gravity when it was necessary, and they were so desirous to do me good. When we were sitting at table together, one of them would write upon a little bit of paper a sentence in bad French to express his affection, send me a little message across the table, a sort of love letter. How these young men love me! How nice they are! How pure! How happy they seem to be!’ ” He was a scientific man; so he said, “Well, I must try.” He went home to his little room, and for the first time in his life he knelt down and said, “Oh! God, I do not know whether You exist or not, but I should like, if You exist, to be Yours. I should like to be like these young men. I covet their happiness, their purity, their gentleness. Oh! God, if you are the God of these young men, if the God of the Gospel that is preached in this place is a real Being, show it me, and I shall follow You.” He has said to me very often: “I remained on my knees for a while, until all at once I had a sort of inward perception that my prayer was heard. A wonderful, mysterious joy bubbled up in my heart; I felt as if I could sing. I got up, and I wrote down the minutes of the meeting, Such a day, at such an hour, I had the experience; I prayed to God„ and He gave me His answer; I know that He exists, and that He is my Saviour.’ ”

Later on he made progress, and is to-day one of the best professors in one of the French Universities, a simple-minded and yet a very learned man. He is a celebrity in his own line. He is a biologist; he gives lectures on the genuineness of the 1st chapter of Genesis, and, yet he believes in science too. He has discovered some things that have made his name well known amongst the scientists in our country.

My last word is this: see how simple-hearted and sincere Saul of Tarsus was. “Who art Thou, Lord? ” “I am Jesus of Nazareth.” Then he was convinced of the reality of the interview. It is not a dream, it is not a mere vision, it is far from being a delusion, it is a fact. What next? “Lord, what shall I have to do? ” No reservation. “How much money shall I give? ” “All.” “How much of my life shall I give? ” “Everything, every day, every minute.” “What wilt Thou have me to do? Shall I have to go to prison ? Shall I have to renounce the joys of home, and live as a tramp on the streets and on the roads of the world ? Shall I go down to Rome, to be beheaded anonymously? Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?”

And you may read whatever we have in the New Testament about Paul. Of course, he was a man, he was far from being as perfect as his Master was, and yet I challenge you to find a single instance in which Paul should have done something for his Master that he shrank from. You never find in that tragic life anything that Paul refused, any instance in which Paul said, “No, that is too much; I am not going to do it.” The inward enemy, sin, he vanquished by the power of the risen Christ.

Let us put these two questions together, “Who art Thou? ” and “What shall I do” and let us take the answer and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.

RUBEN SAILLENS

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment