This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
"AFteR these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before His face into every city and place, whither He himself would come." — St. Luke x. 1.
It is remarkable how little stress has been laid on this statement. There have been a few conjectures, among scholars, that one or another of the historic men whose early confession of the Faith gave their names a place in the Christian records was among these " seventy." But we really are told about any of them only two things, — their errand, and the fact that they were held worthy, through their prompt and obedient discipleship to the Master, to be made forerunners of His own ministry. From Jerusalem eastward beyond Jordan, and so up to Bethsaida, — from Nazareth west to the coasts of Tyre and across through Samaria, — ^might be seen these pairs of pilgrims, bound on a mysterious march, eager, solemn, urgent, as if the spell of another world was on their spirits ; — this is all we know.
Yet questions of high interest immediately arise. Why should there he any forerunners? What were they sent to do? How were they received by their
countrymen where they came ? And what were the after fortunes of their lives? Silent as the narrative is on points like these, there are indicated in the single sen-
TWO AND TWO BEFORE HIS FACE. 129
tence which mentions the incident two or three principles of the Christian life, in the world and in man, of great practical power. He "sent them two and two before His face into every place whither He himself would come."
In order to the full personal influence and reign of Christ anywhere, there is a law of necessary preparation. Yery impressive it is to see that God, when He has any great gift to communicate, proceeds by prearrangement. He never bursts into His family with thunders of revelation too sudden or loud for them to bear. Take the one signal event which stands in the centre of all history, — the personal coming of the Son of God on the earth. In one sense, to be sure. His birth was a surprise ; the dull mind of the lodgers at the. Bethlehem tavern, and of the peasants at Nazareth, was not looking for Him in the place and fashion of His actual appearance. But
Simeon and Anna in the Temple were ready for Him. The prophetic spirit of His nation had been looking out for Him, as nightly watchers on Mount Moriah looked out for the dawn toward Hebron, two thousand years. A group of magi from the far East, without Bible or Hebrew tradition or Mosaic monuments, were expecting Him, earnestly enough to travel a long way by a strange road to find Him. Herod was not surprised, — foreknowing Him by that presentiment of alarm with which unrighteous kings always dread prophets. Every student who reads below the surface of the letter understands that the whole course of Eastern empire and emigration, from the patriarchs, as much as the literal predictions of Jacob or Isaiah, was a making ready for just that spiritual revolution which came embodied in the Galilean carpenter, the Desire of all nations, the Everlasting King. From the very beginning He was sending
130 TWO AND TWO BEFORE HIS FACE.
out, along the highways of ages, voices, two and two, of herald and psalm, of priesthood and commandments, 6f awakened conscience and struggling faith, of failing virtue and falling thrones, into the places whither He
himself would come.
There is a wider view of history, and of God's majestic purposes in it, still. To narrow and jealous interpreters it used to appear to be somehow a slight upon the Scriptures to suppose that the Almighty took other nations besides the Jews into His design, or that He illuminated Gentile seers and sages to catch any glimpses of the Gospel. But Scripture itself is bound by no such exclusive rule. It sees religion beyond the bounds of Judea. It honors Melchisedec's devotion and Balaam's vision of the Christian Star rising out of Jacob, and celebrates the adoration of the wise men, and welcomes the ships of Tarshish, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah, the outstretched hands of Ethiopia. Christian scholarship in later years, rising to loftier conceptions of the Christly providence and the Divine philosophy in history, discovers proofs that, long before Mary took her way to the feast, or laid Jesus in the manger, there were great converging lines of thought and life pointing to that wonderful nativity. On the purer pages of both Greek and Latin literature there are guesses of an Evangelic future; there are ideas working out from men's minds under the breath of the all-inspiring Spirit, preparing the way for the reconciliation of Calvary, for the brotherhood of the race, for the Sermon on the
Mount, for the parable of the Good Samaritan, for the missionary journeys of St. Paul. Over the plains of Syria, along the sea-coasts of the Mediterranean, in the northern forests, tribes and their captains were moving, thrones were put down and set up, armies were gathered
TWO AND TWO BEFORE HIS FACE, 131
and dispersed, — the miglity leaders themselves not conscious for what King of kings they were opening a path, but all shaping the face of the earth for His kingdom. Literally, Caesar's legions were building roads out from Italy to every quarter of the compass, not more for the Pretorian eagles to pass than for the apostles and witnesses of the Cross. Alexandria laid the keels and spread the sails of her galleys for a better freight than she knew, — for the message of love on earth, good will to East and West, and glory to God in the highest, out to the Pillars of Hercules. The Athenians, through period after period, in the exquisite culture of their perfect tongue, were producing a language for the truth as it is in Jesus to proclaim its glad tidings in, from the Granges to the Danube. Eoman jurisprudence, by its skilful statutes and admirable discipline, quite as much
as military conquests, was familiarizing courts and senates and thinkers with the idea of universal law. In fact, to eyes that see the divinity in the Saviour's face at all it is not difficult to discern, all along those earlier ages, heralds like " the other seventy also," going before that Face into the places whither He himself was afterward to come.
Now, on that great scale of time and space we have a picture, in colossal proportions, of what goes on in every one of our own breasts. Conscious of it or not, agencies are at work in us to make ready, if we only will, for the entrance of the Lord of the heart into His home and dwelling-place there. Having created us for Christian service, as the true end and real glory of our being, our Father takes pains to fit and to fashion us for that destiny, with all its honor and all its joy. By secret influences, untraceable as the wind that bloweth where it listeth, silently pressing on the springs of feeling and
132 TWO AND TWO BEFORE HIS FACE.
principle within us; by strange sorrows and misgivings there ; bj hours of uneasiness not explained ; by sharp
twinges of conscience ; by open providences, prosperous or painful, so plain that he who runs, in the busiest habits, can read their meaning, and even the wayfaring fool can hardly miss it ; by letting us have what w^e want, to encourage or to shame us ; by taking away what we love too well, or love falsely, that we may become wise and strong and pure in our grief, — this process of personal preparation is in continual operation. The heralds are out, sent by Him who is coming after them. The " other seventy " are proceeding on their errand. "We ourselves are the cities and places whither He would come. He wants us, and He would have us want Him. He has named us, one by one, to the messengers. He has marked each heart, as He did the chamber in the city by the man bearing a pitcher of water where He would have the disciples " make ready the passover." This is the Divine reality of our human life, and it throws over its common things one of their tenderest and most earnest aspects. Nothing is separate from this blessed plan ; and so nothing is insignificant. Even the commonplaces, in God's view, however it may be with ours, are parts of the formation of character. They are always teaching what manner of persons we ought to be. The voice of the wilderness rings through them, — " Prepare ye the Lord's way." He knows of each one whether the door is open or shut. And by one touch or another
He will open it, unless we would rather die than live.
All our approaches to full religious truth, to spiritual power, or holiness, or peace, are gradual. The best are not hest at once^ any more than the very bad are worst at once. The towns and cottages of Palestine must hear a little about the Messiah before they saw Him, and get used at
TWO AND TWO BEFOEE HIS FACE. 133
least to His name. " Is not this He that should come ? " IN'ot Elias, not one of the old prophets, — but everybody's Friend, the Saviour of publicans and laboring men, of sinning women, and of the little child. Were our ears open, we should hear about Him in other voices than those of sermons. Childish instruction is one of them, including all the little morsels of Christian knowledge that are scattered in the houses of the people. Many of them are but crude and broken bits ; the information is scanty and one-sided ; it is mixed with false theories and mistaken impressions ; but there it is, — some precept about prayer, some fragment of the Kew Testament narrative, some text committed to memory, some names of saints, some verses of a hymn. Even in households not very
religious, or in streets, or in secular schools, these crumbs of the sacred Bread of Life are dropped ; and they help to prepare the way. The children cry in the marketplace, " Hosanna to the Son of David ! " and they may be the more glad to greet Him and sit at His feet afterward. Sunday-school teaching, imperfect as it is, goes before the face of Christ, and that is a reason why it ought to be more carefully and thoroughly done. If there is too little of Christ himself there, there are at least His promises. His gifts. His praises from young lips, and knees bent to Him. All habits of daily devotion are a preparation for Christ. He may not be faithfully received, or confessed, or followed ; yet the practice of saying something often to God, " through Jesus Christ our Lord," keeps a private by-path where His holy feet may walk at any time, in some season of penitence, or agony, or under the shadow of a cross. So it is with morality. It is not always Christian morality. The flavor of the passion-flower, the sweetness of humility, the strength and sanctity of faith, may not be in it.
134 TWO AND TWO BEFORE HIS FACE.
There is a morality that is hard, proud, bitter, self-
approving. Men may do right from wrong motives, — be honest from policy, or amiable for favor, or liberal for popularity, and even austerely just in a kind of haughty ambition to do as well without religion as Christians do with it. But, generally, right living is akin to righteous living. Zaccheus was the better pupil to Jesus for his obedience. The stern moralists of antiquity, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Socrates, would doubtless have welcomed the Son of Man from Galilee if they had seen Him. And therefore, along with a right education goes a correct ordering of conduct, the two casting up a causeway, through miry grounds, for the spiritual sovereign of the soul.
Again, it appears from the Lord's sending of the seventy that all personal efforts and public movements for extending truth and increasing righteousness in the world are really parts of His work, and are dependent on His spiritual power. Christendom everywhere is full of beneficent activities. They are philanthropic, educational, sanitary, reformatory, missionary. Sometimes they scarcely recognize, and oftener they fail to praise, wdth explicit and conscious gratitude, the Great Fountain from which they spring, and the ever-present Leader who inspires and sends them. So much the worse for their vitality and their honor if they do. But none the
less are they the merciful emanations of the one great central, mighty, and missionary Heart which has brought the love of heaven into the dwellings of men. 'No matter where you find them, or what human agents started them, or what particular form of good they aim at, they are none the less, in their first origin, products of the one great healing and loving plan, — just as the million shapes of organization in the forests and flora of
TWO AND TWO BEFORE HIS FACE. 135
vegetable nature spring and bloom and bear fruit from a single living principle at the heart of the universe. The grandest result of modern scientific discovery and scholarly thought is the growing conviction of a unification of forces : — all the infinite variety of shape and color and odor, of leaf and blossom and stalk, flowing from one Head, in one shoreless stream, under one allincluding Law. The spiritual creation is not less orderly, or less at unity in itself, than the material. " Master, we saw one casting out devils in Thy name, and he folio weth not us; and we forbad him." But Jesus said, " Forbid him not, for there is no man which shall do a miracle in My name that can lightly speak
evil of Me. For he that is not against us is on our part." " Whosoever receiveth a child in My name, receiveth Me " : and the ignorant and the heathen and the poor are children. " Whosoever shall give you a cup to drink in My name shall not lose his reward " : and healthy tenements, or temperance, or bathing-houses, or schools, or hospital care, or flower-missions in cities, are cups of water. " Wisdom is justified of all her children." " He that keepeth My commandments, he it is that loveth Me." " All souls are Mine." The benefactions of this late age, half-blind though they may be, or forgetful of their Author, were born at Bethlehem, and grew in stature at Nazareth, and conquered their enemies, — selfishness and pride and wrath, — at Calvary, and went out among the nations with the apostles. If we had seen one of the seventy walking in some by-way of Jericho or Bethany, we might have seen no badge of Christ upon him, and wondered at his eager gait or absorbed expression. But he was going where the Master sent him, and the Master's mantle was on him, and the Master's secret in his soul. Thither, after him,
136 TWO AND TWO BEFOEE HIS FACE.
tlie Master himself would come, — to reaffirm and fulfil His words, — to deepen, sanction, complete His work. Large or small, these forerunners run over the earth, — from Zion to Damascus and to Spain, from London to Cape Town and Japan, from the New York Bible House to Mexico and Oregon. One Sender sends them. One Keaper and Ingatherer and Finisher follows them. He is the Alpha, beginning them, — the Omega who will end them. They began in His charity. They will end in His righteousness His grace conceived them — every one. His mediation holds them up. His glory will crown them, in His own good time. The many-handed Church Missionary Society of Great Britain, with its million dollars a year, and the little " auxiliary " of a few quiet women in a rural parish, are branches of one tree, drawing their life from one root, yielding for that patient Planter who will come " seeking fruit."
And on Him they all depend. Underneath their roots, and filling every pore with the sweet stream that nourishes each fibre. He is over them as well, watching and tending and watering, and lifting the boughs into air and light. Without Him they can do nothing, as without His creation they could not have been. Unless they cut themselves ofi", — severing the secret channels by unbelief, by headstrong self-will, by a quarrelsome and
alien temper, by the bitterness of a radical rejection of Him,— He feeds their springs. That is the wonder and the beauty of the love. So much does He care for the whole flock, that He will let shepherds almost as simple as the sheep go after them, — to lead some, to drive others. So much does He long to draw souls in, that He opens gates in all the walls, on the four sides of the city, which lies four-square to all the points of the compass, — the city of holiness and rest. He never shuts
TWO AND TWO BEFORE HIS FACE. 137
tliem. If tliey ever seem " strait," and the way to tliem "narrow," it is only because, without obedience and a likeness to the self-denying Lord of the place, they that enter would not be at home there, but uneasy prisoners at the court of a goodness which judges them. His heavenly economy is not to bar out but to invite in. He suffers ten thousand stammering tongues, of scanty wisdom, to teach and preach Him, if only they will
heartily repeat His name. If there are not ordained and official hands to baptize new-born children into His family, they shall not be left outasts and homeless for want of outward and inward water, and a welcome. " The Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."
How plain it is, then, that all our exertions to do good to our fellow-men, or to ourselves, are strong and effective exactly in proportion as we keep them in direct connection with Christ. Do you inquire how? By our inward feeling; by the outward confession, and the continual thanksgiving, and the sacramental memorial ; by carrying requests to Him ; by marking the signs of His guiding will and following them, though they cross interests or break up projects of our own ; by managing and deliberating and administering, working alone or working in societies, in His Spirit; by thinking of Him in our work, reverently and affectionately. Whereever they went, in mountain passes, or river jungles, or lonely deserts, among robbers, among Pharisees, among serpents, do you suppose the seventy ever forgot the voice, the face, or the blessing of Him who said to them, " Go ye, hefore Me " f Their knees would have trembled, their hearts would have sunk in them, many a time, if they had. Whether we try to convert the
heathen, or to Christianize our western barbarians, or to
138 TWO AND TWO BEFORE HIS FACE.
build cliiirches, or to reclaim in our Christian communities " such as neglect so great salvation," or to train the young, or to nurse the sick, or to employ the idle, or to house and clothe orphanage and old age, — it is not only true that " without Him we can do nothing " ; it is just as true that in the degree of our conscious and willing and loving memory of Him we prosper and prevail. As we are in communion with Him, He strengthens us. As His name and creed are on our lips, His mark on our foreheads, our knees bent to Him, we prepare His way. He comes after us, and comes up with us, and we walk with Him, and the bread is broken, and our eyes are opened to the vision of Him, and we feast with Him, and with His Father, who is our Father, and They with us. His kingdom comes in Him, from Him, and round about Him, and abides with Him wherever He is. This leads on to the final truth. When the spiritual life unfolds into its real freedom and practical energy, the character it presents is a Christlike character. The moment we see it, we see not only its beauty and useful-
ness but its source. The stamp of its authorship is upon it. However rude, imperfect, immature the earlier forms of religious life may be, as surely as they grow and ripen there comes out in them the likeness of the. perfect Pattern of them all. Many failures and rough outlines at first ; not much else but sincere longings, penitent resolves, half-discouraged struggles to worry through the daily fight and break down the old selfish or sensual habit. Amendment is slow ; the record only a little better to-day than yesterday; some* backslidings, very likely ; timid faith asking " where is the promise of His coming"; Peter sinking in the waves as the wind rises ; and half-pagan Christian neighbors looking on with little hope and less cheer. But what then ?
TWO AND TWO BEFORE HIS FACE. 189
Always the herald must be less than the king. Preparation is not perfection, nor is seed-time the harvest, nor is John calling down fire on Samaritans the John on the Lord's breast at the Last Supper. First the blade ; then the ear ; after that the full corn in the ear. Only make sure that the seed-corn is the genuine grain ; that the tillage goes on ; that the blade is nurtured, and the
weeds are killed. Then the full corn will be Christ's life again. Is the true quality here in the germ, — the baptism of the Spirit, — the new creature's breath and blood, — the love and longing for God, however feeble or faint? Then take care of it. Your business is to water and feed it, — and, if need be, to fight for it. The Church's business is to train it ; she is its nursing-mother ;' the entire system of her ministrations is a divine arrangement and provision for it ; her christening Christens it ; her confirmation confirms it ; her adoring prayers hold it up to the light of the Lord's countenance ; her teaching gives it body and soundness ; her Church work makes sinew and nerve and hardness for it; her Eucharist satisfies and renews it; her hymns invigorate its aspiration, making it rise like the wings of the eagle. But, in all Christ must be, or there is nothing. To Him it must all tend and work in the heart, or it works to vanity. Christ begins and finishes its glorious circle of seven-fold light and grace in personal lives. When we speak of the kingdom, it is only the society of Christ's men, the complete and brotherly body of living souls, alive in Him. That only is the Church that rfses, and makes Gentiles see the brightness of its rising, and brings sons from far, and nurses daughters at its side, and gathers gold and incense from east and west, and doves of the air to its windows, — its gates not shut day nor night,
and glorified with the glory of the Holy One.
140 TWO AND TWO BEFORE HIS FACE.
Who He is you know. All better things, of desire and purpose, in the heart point to Him and prophesy Him. Seventy times seven messengers, in these Christian ages, go before Him. Our repentance is comforted by His forgiveness. Every step is made safe and steady by His hand. The whole course and order look to Him, — " Path, motive, guide, original, and end."
Men of our time think they see a grander future in store for the people, and for the world. They are right, if they look for an age of greater nearness to the Son of Man. The heralds go out. Commerce, science, discovery, education, nature interpreted, sea and sky and land comprehended, humanity awakened, the universe explored, every law traced, — these are messengers that will not only foresee but help bring in the millennium they predict, if they labor and move together in the faith of the great reconciliation, for the righteousness and peace, for the love and purity of God. For then these are manifestations of the kingdom of
His Son. Is that kingdom within you ?
1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books
2. ALL WRITINGS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.