CHRISTIA ITY A FACT A D A POWER. BY THE REV. GRIFFITH PARRY, ABERYSTWYTH.

" And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. ** Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of Grod, God dwelleth in him, and he in God," — i John iv. 14, 15. This chapter consists of two parts, as it deals with Christianity in its two aspects of TnUh and Love. I. In the first six verses the Gospel is regarded as a system of divine trtUh. Tests are supplied for distinguishing true and false prophets — ^the spirit that is of God and the spirit of Antichrist — the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. We have here two tests. The teachers are to be known by their ministry and by their followers. One distinguishing mark is their doctrine. The teachers of the truth, or the true ministers of the Gospel, are to be known by the subject-matter of their ministry, that which they proclaim or confess. The " present truth " of that age was the Incarnation. This was the touchstone of a true ministry. Gnosticism — that huge system of error which had developed itself by the latter end of the first century — denied the Incarnation, the fundamental fact of the Gospel. This was destructive of the entire Gospel fabric. Therefore, to announce or to deny

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CHRISTIA ITY A FACT A D A POWER. 159 the Incarnation — to confess or to deny that Jesus is the

Christ, or " that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh " — ^this it was that divided the religious teachers of the age into two classes, the true and the false : " Hereby know ye the spirit of God : every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God : and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God : and this is that spirit of antichrist whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world" (chap. iv. 2, 3). They were to be known also by their followers. Even as truth and error divided religious teachers, the teachers also divided the hearera like attracted like. Those that were of the world, the world heard them — the world in the preacher drew after it the world in the hearers. On the other hand, they that were of God, those who knew God, heard them; the divine in the preacher attracted the divine in the hearers. " They are of the world, therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth thenL We are of God, he that knoweth God heareth us : he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth and the spirit of error" (chap. iv. S, 6). Those that were of God and those that were of the world formed two opposite classes; the difference between them was marked and obvious: and the different attitudes of these two classes towards the respective teachers proved who taught the truth. 2. From the 7th verse to the end of the chapter Christianity is regarded as a principle of love. Love is the distinguishing principle of the Christian religion. As an external system, in its objective aspect, it is

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i6o CHRISTIA ITY A FACT A D A POWER.

truth; as an internal principle — in its subjective aspect, it is love. As truth, it addresses itself to the reason ; as love, it controls the heart The external truth once received realises itself as love within. Truth is converted into love. It is - truth of such a character that the moment it is believed it of necessity begets love. It is truth concerning love, a revelation of the love of God towards the world ; and as soon as it is believed it cannot fail to produce love towards God in return : " We love Him, hecavse He first loved us" (chap. iv. 19). And after love has once entered the heart, God has come to dwell in that heart, because "God is love." The Spirit of God is the spirit of love. Therefore it is through love that the highest end of religion is answered — the healing of the breach which sin had made between man and God — the making of God and man one — He in us, and we in Him. In accordance with the above explanation, we have here two signs of true religion — belief in the Incarnation and brotherly love. These are the two conditions of the divine indwelling — to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and to love one another. In other words, the two principal graces of the Gospel — faith and love : " faith in Christ Jesus and love towards all the saints." These are the two bonds of the union of the Church: faith unites all the members with the Head, and love unites all the members with each other. In the two verses before the text, brotherly love is specified as a condition and a proof of our dwelling in God : " o man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is per-

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CHRISTIA ITY A FACT A D A POWER. i6i fected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit," ver. 12, 13. In the verses of the text, belief in the Incarnation is set forth as the condition or proof of the mutual indwelling of God and us, the one in the other. He in us and we in Him : " And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God." If it be asked, why does the apostle recur to this second mark, after he had treated it in the first portion of the chapter ? the answer is : In the former part of the chapter the apostle lays down belief in the Incarnation as a proof of a true ministry ; but here he adduces it as a proof of true religion. To believe that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not alone the note of true ministers, but of true believers also : " Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God." The text represents Christianity as a fact and as a power. In the 14th verse we have Christianity as a fact: "And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world." In the I Sth verse Christianity is presented as a power : " Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God." These, then, are . the two subjects set before us in the text : Christianity as an external fact in the history of the world, and Christianity as a spiritual power, or a source of permanent infitience on the world.

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i62 CHRISTIA ITY A FACT A D A JPOWER. I. Christianity is an external fact in the histoid/ of the world : " And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world." I. The condition of the world was desperate. Man through sin had destroyed himself. othing short of salvation would have met the case of man as a sinner. This salvation of necessity had to come from God. In the providential arrangements which are so full of meaning in the world's history, humanity had been put upon its trial for thousands of years in the development of its own resources. And instead of development, what do we find but deterioration ? Or rather there was a fearful concurrence of the two processes. Side by side with material and intellectual development there went on for ages a corresponding spiritual deterioration. As one side of our nature was rising, the other was sinking — sin thus ever exhibiting in its efifects more and more its own monstrosity. Such was the power of corruptipn that every material, intellectual, and social advancement was perverted to be the instrument of greater wickedness, until at last, when artistic and literary beauty had reached its climax, — when human culture and political power had culminated in the Eoman Empire, — there was seen a spectacle of moral degradation, a depth of corruption and misery such as the world had never witnessed. Society was rotten to its very core. Its disintegration was imminent, like the woman in the Gospel, humanity, after trying all the physicians of nature, instead of being cured, had become worse and worse. The machinery had no self-adjusting power; it could not right itself. In the physical system the vis medicatrix natures is

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CHRISTIA ITY A FACT A D A POWER. 163 invaluable, as without it the best efforts of the physician would be of no avail. But in the spiritual constitution there is no such self -restorative power. The power must come from without. The maker of the machinery alone can repair it. The comparison is too weak : it is not a matter of repairing, but of re-creating. He who created humanity at first is alone able to create it anew. The Author of life can alone quicken the dead. " Salvation is the Lord's." The sinner can destroy himself, but he cannot save himself. All his help is from God. As salvation could nave come only from God, so the order of the Divine nature made it a necessity that it should originate in the First Person of the Godhead — in God "the Father, of whom are all things." And the same Divine order rendered it necessary that it should be accomplished by the Second Person — God " the Son, throtigh whom are all things." This is what took place : " the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world'* 2. This salvation was of necessity a fact. It was a great act Thoughts and words would not have sufficed to save us; good wishes would not have availed us, without action. To speak would not have been enough. To do was essential. Eedemption was a work of infinite greatness and difficulty. It is observable how often the verb '*to make" occurs in the Gospels and Epistles. Our salvation throughout was one vast, unparalleled making. "The Word was made flesh;" "made of a woman ; " " made under the law ; " " m^ade to be sin ; " " m/ide a curse for us." And this making of Him was a necessary condition of a great making by Him. After He had thus assumed our nature and become our surety, He

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i64 CHRISTIA ITY A FACT A D A POWER. obeyed, sufifered, and died for us in order to make atonement for sin, to "make reconciliation for iniquity," to "make peace through the blood of His cross." And this making of Him and by Him were both the conditions of an ultimate making through Him : " that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him," made " partakers of the Divine nature," made "children of God" and " heirs of eternal life." Thus our redemption cost more than good wishes — more than words of sympathy. We are bought with " a price" of infinite worth. God's* own Son had to shed His own blood to be a ransom for us : " the Church of God, which He purchased with His own blood." othing less than this stupendous price could have brought us salvation : " without shedding of blood is no remission." And we may remark, in answer to the superficial, sickly sentimentalism which in these days so often seeks to assail the doctrine of the Atonement under the guise of a jealous regard for the glory of the fatherhood and love of God — that the holiness and righteousness which made this infinite sacrifice necessary are the very pillars of the universe. They are the fundamental conditions of the well-being of all God's moral creation. The love that would ignore all that is right and just and pure is not worthy the name ; it is not a principle but a sentiment — a contemptible weakness. It is the union of justice and love in the character of God and in the atoning death of Christ that makes both adorable. They illuminate each other with an ineflfable glory. Justice glorifies Love ; Love beautifies Justice.

G^d's thoughts were ever for our salvation. He felt

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CHRISTIA ITY A FACT A D A POWER. 165 with divine intensity for our salvation from all eternity. But an eternity of thinking, although it was God that was thinking, an eternity of feeling, although it was God that was feeling, would Aot have wrought salvation for a single soul, unless the thoughts and feelings had been converted into acts. And it is this that we find in the history of the Man Christ Jesus — the eternal thoughts and feelings of the Godhead realised in glorious works. Thus salvation is a series of acts constituting one glorious work — a series of unparalleled facts as links in a chain making one great fact, a chain of salvation for raising sinners from the depths of sin to the heights of holiness. The glory of Christianity is that it reveals salvation ; and the glory of salvation is that it is a great fact — a divine fact accomplished in human nature. This is its power and efl&cacy. It is a salvation, not in imagination, nor in theory, nor in purpose, nor in words, but in fact — in very deed. In spite of all the powers of darkness, it is a great fact. It exists, and will endure for ever. It cannot be explained away. o logic or sophistry can shake it. " Everlasting strength " belongs to it as to its Author. There is no truth in history to-day supported by such various and incontrovertible proofs as this : that God, about 1800 years ago, interposed supematurally in the history of the world — that God in a special manner entered into the spiritual history of mankind, in a Person, an act, and a series of acts, that were unprecedented, in

order to be the Saviour of the world. "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness : God was manifest in the flesh." " For when we were yet without

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i66 CHRISTIA ITY A FACT A D A POWER. strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." Christianity is a religion of facts — the most conspicuous in history. It can never be reasoned away. The work of the gospel ministry is to proclaim the facts of salvcUion : "And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world." The apostles had seen and had lived in close intercourse with the Saviour. They were eye-witnesses of the great facts of salvation — the life, the death, the resurrection and ascension of our Lord. Their work was to bear testimony to these facts : and our work, and that of our successors, is to continue to perpetuate the testimony, to hold up " the banner of salvation " to the end of time. Our business is not to argue or to philosophise, but to testify. " Christianity is not a religion of rites, therefore its ministers are not to be priests ; it is not a religion of metaphysical dogmas, therefore its ministers are not to be philosophers : but it is a religion of facts, therefore its ministers are to be prea^^hers" * Our business is to preach, to proclaim, to do the work of the King's messenger — to announce " that Christ Jesus has come to the world to save sinners ; " that there is life for a sinner in His death ; that the greatest sinners are welcome to come to Him to be for ever saved through Him. ''And this is the record (or the iestimony), that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son ; " " And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be

the Saviour of the world." This is the grand purpose of churches, chapels, sermons, and Christian activity in all its forms — to hold up the ♦ Dr. Maclaren.

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CHRISTIA ITY A FACT A D A POWER. 167 testimony concerning Christ — to announce to the world its life-message. II. Christianity is a spiritual power, or a source of permanent influen<ie on the laorld. "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God." I. The Incarnation of the Son of God was the indispensable condition of the reunion of man with God. This is the highest greatness that any creature is ever capable of attaining — that God should "dwell in him, and he in God." This does not mean to be lost like a wavelet in the ocean of Godhead, as the Pantheist imagines, but to become one with God in the affinity of holiness and the fellowship of love, and yet to preserve for ever our personal individuality in the conscious enjoyment of that union. This has been the professed object of every religion — to unite man with God. There is a deep spiritual instinct in humanity to which Augustine gave expression when he said^ " that man has been formed for God, and that he can never be happy but in God." This was the great problem of the religions of the heathen world through the ages — how to restore the union between

man and God. But they all mistook the way. The religions of the world aimed at raising man to God through the exercise of moral virtues. But in order to accomplish this, something else had to be done first. Before man could be raised to God, God had to come down to man — yea, had to lecome man. The High and the Lofty One had

o

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i68 CHRISTIA ITY A FACT A D A POWER. to come down to the depth in order to raise sinners and to unite them for ever with Himself. It was this that was accomplished in the Incarnation. The Son of God became the Son of man, in order that the sons of men might be made the sons of God. He brought heaven down to earth in order to lay hold of earth to raise it up to heaven. " ow that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth ? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things" (Eph. iv. 9, 10). The very principle of salvation, the sole possibility of salvation, lies in these words — to ascend — " what is it but that he also descended first ? " This is the condition of our salvation — to descend first. It would have been for ever impossible to raise sinners from the depths had not the Saviour " descended first " to the depths. Man could not have been saved by ascending — by the mere development of his natural

powers. Our salvation has been wrought by a descent of unparalleled magnitude — the Eternal God descending from the infinite heights, and making His abode with man by becoming man ! Descent is the ground of ascension. Thus it was for Christ Himself, thus it is for us through Him. 2. It follows that the Incarnation and death of the Son of God form the spirittuxi power that is to create the world anew — the moral lever for raising humanity to God: The Gospel concerning Christ and His work " is the power of God unto salvation." This is the great power that must be brought to bear upon human nature to regenerate it, to create the new heavens and the new

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CHRISTIA ITY A FACT A D A POWER. 169 earth, to restore mankind to holiness and happiness. " For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil" (i John iii. 8). The eflBcacy of a belief in the Incarnation of the Son of Grod, with all it involves, is shown in the text in a strong light, by making such a belief to be the condition of the highest spiritual result : " God dwelleth in him, and he in God." If we would become one with God, — ^and what higher glory or felicity is conceivable ? — let us ever remember that Christ in His obedience and atoning death is the medium. He is " the Way ; " " no one cometh to the Father but through Him." If we would be godly — at peace with God, renewed to the image of God, living in

close communion with God — this is the secret, to believe that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, that He lived and died in our stead ; to have fellowship with Him by faith, and by faith and love to draw the virtues of His death to our spirits. This is the interpretation given by some of that great verse in the 2nd Epistle of Timothy: "And without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh." The doctrine of the Incarnation is the great mystery of godliness as an objective system of truth. It is the central truth. But it is equally doubtless that a vigorous practical belief in that doctrine is the great mystery or secret of godliness as a subjective principle of holiness. If we see a Christian of extraordinary attainments in godliness, we may be sure that this is the secret of his strength — his thoughts and affections revolve constantly around this great centre, " God manifest in the flesh ; " he

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I70 CHRISTIA ITY A FACT A D A POWER. abides by faith and love in Christ, and thereby God dwells in him, and he in God. This is the " secret of godliness." 3. Hence the facts of our redemption accomplished in Palestine 1 800 years a^go remain in the world yet^ as great spirittial forces operating on the souls of mem, to raise them to God. Every particle of spirituality, of holiness or godliness, to be found in the world to-day, is the fruit of the Incarnation and Atonement of the Son of God. What do we see in the holy conduct of godly men throughout the world, in their heavenly conversation ? What do we see in the Christian graces and activity of the Church ? It is the fruit of the " grain of wheat **

that died — the spiritual efficacies of the death of the Cross developing themselves in all the forms of the Christian life. We conclude with two remarks of practical application : — I. Let us appreciate the Gospel above all things. This is the purpose of the Gospel and its ordinances — to perpetuate the Incarnation and the Atonement. To make the coming of Christ in the flesh, the death of the Cross, the facts of our salvation — to make them eVerpresent realities before the eyes of the world. To point to the Saviour, and direct lost sinners to Him, proclaiming : " Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world ! " To point to the Cross — to " show forth the death of the Lord." To point to the empty grave, announcing, " Verily, the Lord hath arisen." And to point to the result of the whole — the God-man glorified, sitting on the throne, invested with all the

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CHRISTIA ITY A FACT A D A POWER, 171 authority of the universe of God — all power in heaven and earth for saving purposes, for realising the objects of His redeeming work. This is the purpose of the Gospel; to keep this' fountain of living waters in full play on the parched wilderness of the earth — to make the facts of redemption ever-present realities before the world, so as thereby to bring them to operate as allpowerful spiritual forces in the lives of men, re-uniting them to God. 2. Let us ever remember that godliness^ and all pro-

gress in holiness, draws its strength from Christ and His cross, His life, death, and resurrection. The conservation of force and the conversion of forces are amongst the greatest discoveries of modem science. Force any more than matter is not annihilated — force in nature is never lost. And physical forces are convertible into each other, as heat into motion. These are but recent discoveries in science ; but they have always been operative and known in the spiritual world. There was force in the Incarnation; there was spiritual power in the death of the Cross ; there was divine energy in the resurrection on the third day. Yes : and the force remains to this day ! ot a particle of the power of the Gospel has been lost in the course of eighteen centuries. Though it has been working all that time, the power is not any the less to-day. The Gospel of Christ is still " the power of God unto salvation." We find also in nature that one force is convertible into another. It changes its form. It is the heat of the sun in another form that burns on every hearth. George Stephenson, in the beginning of the railway age,

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172 CHRISTIA ITY A FACT A D A POWER. asked Sir David Brewster what was the power that worked the train? After two or three unsatisfactory answers, Stephenson said it was tJie sun : the heat of the sun preserved in trees, converted into coal, and liberated again by combustion, is the motive power that works all the steam-engines on sea and land. In like manner, spiiitual forces are convertible into various forms and modes of action. What is the fire of

love that burns in the hearts of believers through all countries and ages ? . It is all kindled by heat from the Sun of Eighteousnesa The power that sets and keeps in motion all the machinery of the Church, every form of Christian activity, comes from the Sun. What do we see in the believer ? The spiritual force of the Incarnation turned into a godly life. What is the obedience and the holy life of a Christian ? It is a form of the power that comes from the death of the Cross. What is a life of faith, a heavenly conversation, the afifections set on things thati are above ? They are so many forms of " the power of Mis resurrection " — the spiritual forces of redemption working in and through those that believe. Let us then live in the rich pastures of the things concerning Christ ! May we abide in Christ through His words abiding in us. Let us pitch our tents at the foot of the Cross, and on the holy mount of fellowship with Him, so that our lives may be gradually transfigured through the glorious light that comes from Him.

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