"If God Be For Us"
Continuing to follow the Apostle further in his consideration of this election, paraphrasing his language thus: Do we not see, brethren, that God has a great and wonderful plan which he is carrying forward? Do we not see that, having determined on the selection of a certain class for cooperation in this plan, he is favoring us in that he has revealed to us the terms and conditions--justifying and calling us with this heavenly calling? This means that God is for us-- that he wishes us to be of this elect class; that he has made every arrangement necessary whereby we may attain a position in it. Do we sometimes feel that, although the Lord is for us, Satan and sin and our own weaknesses through heredity are all against us, seeking to ensnare and stumble us? Let us reflect that, the Almighty God being on our side, none of these oppositions need cause us fear or trepidation for he is abundantly able to carry us through them all. Let us look back and note his favor toward us while we were yet sinners, in providing the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Let us reflect that if he would do all this for us as sinners he would do much more for us now we have become his children--now that we have heard his voice, that we have accepted his Son, that we are trusting in him and have been justified through his merit--now that we have heard the call to the divine nature and have made consecration, laying our little all upon the altar--surely, much more would God favor us and do for us now, although we cannot think how he could do more than was represented in
the gift of his Son. We may be sure that he who changes not still loves us, is still for us, and will use his power to cause all things to operate for our highest spiritual welfare and for our ultimate attainment of a place in the New Creation, if we abide in him in faith, in love, and in heart-obedience-- however weak and imperfect may be our best efforts at controlling the flesh. Let us be assured that in giving us his Son and in thus opening the way for us to attain to his call to the New Creation, the Lord has made provision in Christ for every necessity of ours which could possibly arise. In him he has freely given us all things.
Does any one suggest that perhaps the Law would condemn us in spite of God? Let us reflect that it is God who condemned us under his Law; and that it is the same God himself, who as the great Judge condemned us, who now has pronounced our justification--who has pronounced us "Justified freely from all things from which the Law could not justify us"--through his grace, through Christ Jesus our Lord. In the face of this fact "who could lay anything to the charge of God's elect"--whom he has thus favored? Who could condemn us on account of unintentional weaknesses or frailties? We would answer such: It is Christ who died; yea, who has risen again and is ascended on high as our representative, and who has imputed on our behalf the sufficiency of his merit, covering all of our blemishes. Rom. 8:34
Is it still urged that something may intervene to separate us from God's love or from Christ and his love and mercy; and that thus we may be left to ourselves and make shipwreck of our faith and future as respects the New Creation? We reply: On the contrary, Christ has great love for us, else he would not have redeemed us. His every dealing has been loving and we should not allow anything to separate us from that love. If tribulations come, we should permit them only to drive us nearer the Lord as the one who alone can succor us. If distress or persecution or famine or destitution or any peril should come upon us--should we on account of fear of these cease our love for the Lord, renounce his name
and his cause and follow no longer in his footsteps, choosing rather some easier course in life? Nay, it is by these very experiences that we are to be developed as conquerors. How could we be marked as victors if there were nothing to overcome --if the whole way were smooth and without an unfavorable grade? We have been made recipients of God's mercies and blessings; and now he tests us, to see to what extent we are worthy to abide in his love and in his favors. He is willing that we should abide in them, and has made every necessary provision, and yet he will not coerce our wills. I am persuaded, I have confidence, that we are determined to permit nothing to separate us from the love of God manifested in Christ--neither fear of death nor love of life; and that none of God's other creatures will intercept or turn aside God's favor from us--neither angels nor principalities nor powers at present created or ever to be created. In all these things we are more than victors merely--we are adopted as sons of God on the divine plane, through him who loved us.
"Making Our Calling and Election Sure"
--2 Pet. 1:10,11--
"Brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall; [the things previously specified, namely, giving diligence, adding to your faith virtue and knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, love, which things being in us and abounding, we shall be neither barren--idle--not unfruitful;] for so an entrance shall be administered unto you abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
In this election we see that the important steps belong to God; namely, (1) The predetermination to have such a New Creation; (2) The invitation to some to develop the necessary character; (3) The arrangement of matters so that the invited ones might be able to attain an acceptable condition in conformity to the call.
On the other hand, important steps must be taken by those who become the elect: (1) It is for the called ones, for whom all these preparations and arrangements have been made, to accept the call--making a full consecration. (2)
They must become so imbued with the spirit of their calling and so appreciative of their blessings that they will with zeal conform to the conditions and limitations attaching thereto.
We have already seen that these conditions and limitations are, briefly, heart-likeness to God's dear Son; but, analyzing this likeness more particularly, we find it to mean, as the Apostle Peter here points out, that we should have the fruits of the spirit of holiness. God is holy, and the elect are to have his spirit, his disposition of love for righteousness and opposition to iniquity. The Apostle in the above scripture shows up the various elements of this holy Spirit of God, and points out the fact that we do not attain to his perfect likeness (the perfection of love) at the beginning of our course; but, rather, that it is the mark or standard which indicates the end of the course. Love as a general expression covers all these elements of character which are really parts of love. Meekness, gentleness, brotherly kindness, godliness, are all elements of love.
Some one has suggested that these fruits of the spirit of God might be defined as below, and we heartily agree:
(1) Joy--Love exultant.
(2) Peace--Love in repose.
(3) Long-suffering--Love enduring.
(4) Gentleness--Love in society.
(5) Goodness--Love in action.
(6) Faith--Love on the battlefield of life.
(7) Meekness--Love in resignation.
(8) Temperance (moderation)--Love in training.
When we started in the racecourse, resolved to do so because God had justified us by his grace and had invited us to run in this race for the prize of the high calling of the New Creation, we said, first of all: We will lay aside the weights and hindrances of earthly ambitions by consecrating our wills to the Lord and resolving that this one thing we will do; namely, we will seek for, and by the Lord's grace attain, the blessings to which he has called us. At the same time we concluded that we would put away, so far as
we might be able, our easily besetting sins--whatever they might be--whether ours were the same as others in the racecourse or not; and that we would run faithfully in this race for the great prize.
The entering of the racecourse corresponds to our consecration. That was the start. We consecrated ourselves to the Lord--to be controlled by his spirit of love; yet we realized that by reason of the fall we sadly lacked in those elements of character which the Father would approve. We run, however, and persevere in the attainment of this character-likeness of his Son--which is his will respecting us, and the condition of our fellowship with him. In this respect we differ from our Lord, for he being perfect could not attain one step or degree after another in the development of love. He was filled with the spirit from the beginning--he was at the mark from the beginning; his testing was to determine whether or not he would stand faithful at that mark of perfect love to God, and to his people, and to his enemies. We, however, need to run, to strive, to attain unto that mark.
We might divide the racecourse into four quarters, and say that in the first quarter we recognize love as a divine requirement and seek to have it, though able to apprehend it only from the standpoint of duty. We feel a duty-love toward God because, as our Creator, he has a right to demand our obedience, our love, our devotion; a duty-love toward our Lord Jesus, also, because he loved us and we ought, in justice, to love him in return; and a duty love toward our fellows, because we realize that this is the will of God.
The second quarter of the racecourse brings us a little further along, a little nearer to the "mark," so that those things which we at first sought to do from a duty-love, we gradually considered in an appreciative manner and not merely as a duty. We thenceforth saw that the things which God commands us as right and duty, are good things; that the noblest principles of which we have any conception are identified with the Justice, Love and Wisdom which the Lord commands and sets before us, and which from that time we began to appreciate. We began to love God not
merely because it was our duty toward our Creator, but additionally and especially because we saw him possessed of those grand elements of character enjoined upon us--the personification of every grace and goodness. Those who attain to this two-quarter mark love the Lord not merely because he first loved us, and because it is our duty to love him in return, but because now the eyes of our understanding have been opened wide enough to permit us to see something of the glorious majesty of his character, something of the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of the Justice, Wisdom, Love and Power of our Creator.
The third-quarter mark on this racecourse we will call-- love for the brethren. From the first we recognize a duty-love toward the brethren even as toward the Father, only in a less degree, because the brethren had done less for us; and we recognized them chiefly because such was the Father's will. But as we got to see the principles of righteousness, and to appreciate the Father, and to see that the Father himself loveth us, notwithstanding our unintentional blemishes, our hearts began to broaden and deepen toward the brethren; and more and more we became able to overlook their unwilling imperfections and blemishes and mistakes, when we could see in them evidences of heart-desire to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and in accord with the principles of the divine character. Love for the brethren became distinctly marked in our experiences. Alas! evidently a good many of the Lord's dear people have not yet reached this third-quarter mark on the race course toward the prize of our high calling. There is much need of developing the brotherly kindness, the long-suffering, the patience, which the Scriptures inculcate--and which are necessarily tried and tested more in our connection with the brethren than in our connection with the Father and our Lord. We can see the perfection of the Father and the Son, and that they have no imperfections; we can realize their magnanimity toward us and our own shortcomings toward them: but when we look toward the brethren we see in one this weakness, and in another
that weakness; and the temptation is, alas, too common to say to a brother: "Let me pick out the mote from thine eye"--instead of realizing that such a picking and nagging and fault-finding disposition toward the brethren is an evidence that we still have a large beam of impatience and lovelessness of our own to contend with. As we near this third-quarter mark, we gradually get the beam out of our own eyes--we get to see our own blemishes, and to appreciate more and more the riches of our Lord's grace toward us; and the influence of this upon our hearts is to produce in us a greater degree of the spirit of meekness, patience, and gentleness toward all--and this again enables us to overlook or cover a multitude of sins, a multitude of imperfections in the brethren, so long as we realize that they are surely brethren--so long as they are trusting in the precious blood, and seeking to run this same racecourse for this same prize.
The fourth or final quarter-mark of our race is Perfect Love--toward God, toward our brethren, toward all men-- and is the one we are all to seek earnestly to attain to, and that as quickly as possible. We are not to dally at the quarter marks, but to run on patiently, perseveringly, energetically. There is a sense in which we are to "love not the world, neither the things of the world"; but there is a sense in which we are to love and to "do good unto all men as we have opportunity, especially unto them who are of the household of faith"; (Gal. 6:10)--a love which includes even our enemies. This love does not annul or diminish our love for the Father and the principles of his character, and our love for the brethren, but it intensifies these; and in that intensification it enables us to include in the love of benevolence and sympathy all of the poor groaning creation, travailing in pain and waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. "Love your enemies, do good to them that persecute you and hate you," is the Master's command; and not until we have attained to this degree of love--love even for enemies--are we to think for a moment that we have reached the mark which the Lord has set for us as his followers.
Not until we have reached this position are we copies of God's dear Son.
We must reach this climax of love before we can be counted worthy of a place in the New Creation, and we are not to expect that each one of the Lord's followers will reach this mark just at the moment of expiring in death. Quite the contrary. We are to expect to reach it as early as possible in our Christian experience, and then to remember the words of the Apostle, "Having done all--Stand!" (Eph. 6:13) We require testings in love after we have reached the mark; and our exercises while at the mark--striving to maintain in our lives that mark, or standard--will be very strengthening to our characters. In this, especially, our experiences will correspond to those of our Lord; for while he did not need to run to attain the mark, he did need to fight a good fight of faith at the mark--not to be turned from it, not to be overcome by the various besetments of the world and the Adversary. "I press down upon the mark," says the Apostle; and so must each of us hold fast that mark after we do attain it, and see to it that in all the testings which the Lord permits to come upon us we shall be accounted of him as overcomers--not in our own strength, but in the strength of our Redeemer's assistance.
Besetments will come against us to turn us from the perfect love toward the Father, to induce us to consent to render less than the full homage and obedience due to him. Temptations will come to us in respect to the brethren also, to suggest that we do not permit love for the brethren to cover a multitude of faults--suggestions that we become provoked with those whom we have learned to love and appreciate, and with whose weaknesses we have learned to sympathize. Besetments will come against us in respect to our enemies, after we have learned to love them--suggesting to us that there are exceptional cases and that our magnanimity toward them should have its limitations. Blessed are we if in these temptations we hold fast, bearing down upon the mark, striving to retain that position which we have already attained--fighting the good fight of faith--
holding firmly to the eternal life which is counted ours through Jesus.
"Knowing Your Election of God"
"Knowing brethren beloved, your election of God. For our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power and in the holy Spirit and in much assurance." 1 Thess. 1:4,5
Elsewhere we have pointed out what constitutes the signs, the evidences that we are the children of God; namely, our begetting of the holy Spirit, our sealing, our quickening. We will not repeat here, but merely in a general way call attention to the fact that whoever participates in this election has various evidences by which it may be discerned not by himself only, but ere long be discernible by "the brethren" with whom he comes in contact. There is a power, as well as a message, in this election. This election message, or call, or "word," is not only Gospel or good tidings to the elect class, but it is more than this to them: it is the power of God working in them to will and to do his good pleasure. It brings to the elect the holy Spirit and much assurance, and they, in turn, are ready at any cost to sound out the Word of the Lord.