(Message given at the Keswick Convention, perhaps, a 100 years ago.)
Go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come—
MATTHEW 5: 24.
I read from the Revised Version: “If therefore thou art offering “—note the vividness of the present tense—”thy gift at the altar, and there remember that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” We have here the photograph of an arrested purpose. Maybe our Lord, as He stood on some occasion in the Temple, had witnessed a scene in the history of some worshipper that suggested this marvellous representation of an arrested purpose. Here was a soul that, no doubt, knew itself to be a child of God—for these words of Christ follow upon other words that could only be appropriate to a child of God; a reverent soul, a penitent soul, for it had to come to the altar; an eager soul, for it had brought a gift, prompted, we trust, by gratitude and affection; a soul, therefore, in which God’s Spirit was evidently at work in the early stages of its experience, and which trusted and hoped that it might early enter into a deeper experience of God.
I am almost certain that there are hundreds of people in this tent tonight who are children of God by faith, who are reverent and penitent; and we are standing before the altar of self-surrender, beside which stands the Great High Priest Himself; and they have entered this tent with a serious resolution that they will consecrate their whole life to God. And when Dr. Smith spoke about a human life being a channel through which the torrent of the divine nature may flow to men, many a one deep down in the recesses which are not often opened said, “O my God, through my life henceforth, as I give it to Thee, wilt Thou pour Thy mighty self upon a dying world?” I see you standing there. There is a smile on your face, there is even rapture in your expression; you have something which you desire to give to Him upon the altar that sanctifieth the giver and the gift. But just there and just now memory does its work, and seems to stand up like a warning figure, and, pointing backward, says, “Remember!” And as He, the Priest, witnesses that sudden revulsion of feeling, He says, “Go your way; before you can make an offer of consecration, there is a previous work to be done.” You want to skip tonight, but Christ will not let you. You want to come to the act of consecra- tion, but there is something previous. He says, “Go … then come;’ First, “Go.”
It seems to me as if at this moment the Lord is going to send us back to our homes and to our rooms, that in some letter we shall write, or some word we shall speak, there shall be the first necessary preparation for the work of consecration which will follow presently. First “Go,” then “come.” Be reconciled to thy brother, then yield thyself to God. That is, your attitude toward God is determined by your attitude toward your brother. You love God just as much as, and no more than, you truly love the man whom you love least. You have been thinking that your favour in the sight of God Almighty was determined by the fervour of your prayers, the exuberance of your hymns, and the religiousness and constancy with which you maintain your private devotion. But understand today that your attitude toward God whom you do not see is gauged by your attitude toward your brother, whom you do see: and we have got tonight to settle that.
An American clergyman told me that for many years he had pleaded with God for revival, but no revival came. Finally, in despair he gathered his church around him, and rolled the burden of his anxiety upon his people, saying, “I have done all I could; it is now for you to consider your attitude toward God.” Then there rose up in the church-meeting a grey-haired elder, much respected. He said, “Pastor, I do not wonder that there is no revival in this church; there never will be as long as Brother Jones and I don’t speak to one another “; and before all the people the old man went down the aisle to where his brother sat, and said, “Brother Jones, forgive me; for ten years we have not spoken. Let us bury the hatchet.” They made peace, and he came back to his seat, and bowed his grey head between his hands. There was a great silence on the people, and another officer of the church rose, and said, “Pastor, I do not think there is going to be a revival in this church as long as I say fair things to your face and mean things about you behind your back. Forgive me I ” The pastor forgave him, and he said that for the next twenty minutes, in the awful stillness of the place, men with men, women with women, rose and went to square up old accounts with those with whom they were at feud. And then the Spirit of God came down in a mighty rushing wind.
“Thy brother “—someone near you. Has that brother or sister, or that man or that woman, aught against you? You are disposed to say, “I have a great deal against him; he only paid me five shillings in the pound. All the time he tried to do me hurt. He is an ugly, cross-grained, miserable, soul; I cannot get on with him!” The Lord puts His hand over your mouth, and says, “I do not ask you what you have against him. What has he against you?”
What has your wife against you? Have you been intolerant, have you been irritable, have you constantly demanded of her sacrifice that you have no right to ask? Has there been a domineering, tyrannical spirit in your address toward those nearest and dearest to you? Has any girl or woman living aught against you? Have you excited hopes in that girl’s heart which you have not realised; have you been tampering with that girl’s love, have you been leading her to think that you would be more to her than you meant to be? Has that woman anything against you? Has that servant, that dependant, anything against you? Have you demanded from him that for which you have not paid just wages? Has that poor servant girl a voice against you tonight, because you treat her as a slave? You do not think of her moral need; you do not mother her.
Have those trades-people aught against you? Do they look upon you as hard-fisted? Do they say they would rather serve men of the world than you; that you are always finding fault, that you keep them out of their money, that there is so much parsimony in your dealings with them? Has your brother aught against you? I do not ask if he is a Christian. He is simply a brother man, a man inferior to yourself, a woman or girl, who is altogether below you in position and station, and God Almighty is searching you tonight.
I put it once more, in the most solemn way, to this audience: you want comfort, you say; you want consecration, you say; you want high rapture, you say; you want to be lifted up upon the wings of the cherubim. I know all that. You resent the arrest. You are offering your gift, but God steps in, and says: “Go back and find your brother, your sister, the child, the woman, the man who has something against you.”
Now what does Christ say? He says, “Go and be reconciled.” But you answer, “Why should I? I am the older, I am the employer, I am in many ways superior. Let them come to me. If they want to get right, I am quite prepared to make it right.”
“No,” says Christ; “you must go and be reconciled.” Is there any cause of offence now between you and some man or woman in this world still existing? You know you took things out of your father’s house which were over and above your share; you know that you divided that property unjustly, or at least in a way
which you justified to yourself, but which upset the rest of the family; you know that you have done things in your money matters with your customers and creditors which “won’t wash.” I tell you that it is absolutely impossible to expect that God will accept your gift and baptise you with the Holy Ghost until these things are put right. First go to your brother and tell him you have done wrong; and make restitution. Write the cheque tonight and send it; add the interest. Write the letter of apology, and say, “Excuse me, and forgive me.”
Have you been angry without a cause? When a man allows anger in his soul, it makes him stiff and abrupt and cold. Then Christ says, “Have you let anger make you say of someone, ‘Vain fellow!’ or ‘Ungovernable fool!’ Directly you judge another man in that way, you are judged, and by an invisible court the sentence is pronounced on you that you pronounced. If you call a man a “vain fellow,” heaven pronounces that you are vain; if you speak of a man as a “fool,” the heavenly court pronounces you culpable of folly; and if you count a man as rubbish, you yourself are cast upon God’s rubbish heap—Gehenna—which is not for the future but for now. There are scores of men and women in this tent tonight who are on God’s rubbish heap. He cannot use them because they are not just and right in their relations to others.
You say to me, “I do not feel like it.” No, but that is not the question. You are to will it, you are to do it, you are to obey, and you are to do it in cold blood; and then “come.” Now, in this moment, as I close, Christ stands here side by side with the altar, and He looks into my heart and into your heart, and says, “Re- member! Has any aught against you?” I never shall forget how He came to me. There was something in my life—God grant it may not be in yours—and at that supreme moment, when I knelt by my bedside and said, ” Christ, I surrender my whole manhood to Thee,” He absolutely stopped me. I forced on Him the gifts of my heart, and He refused them, and said, “Stop ! There is something to be done first.” Something had come into my life which was not only affecting myself but my relations to others, and there my whole nature was entrenched; and I said, ” I cannot, and I won’t !” It was only after He kept me waiting at the altar until I saw that the fire was burning out, and that He was leaving and passing away with averted face, that I called my Priest back, and said, “Come back! Don’t leave me here!” and He returned; and there and then there had to be an adjusted relationship with another and with others. Then, when all was done, I. came and offered my gift, and on that gift the fire came.
Now, do you remember something to be done? Then do it, and Christ will fulfil. “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.”
He will fulfil your life as the summer fulfils the spring and the flower fulfils the bud. 0 Saviour, fulfil our lives; but help us, first, to do what is to be done tonight. I have been told that on this platform Pastor Stockmeyer, before he spoke with wonderful power, said he must confess to a feeling of jealousy toward another minister who was on the platform. I should not be at all surprised if you find out some Christian worker, and say, “Forgive me”; if you find out some man or woman in this tent or at Keswick and say, “Forgive me.” Or you will write a letter before you sleep and post it tonight. You will go; then come.
F B MEYER