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A MONG the Logia or professed Sayings of Our Lord recently found in an early Greek papyrus, none has excited more perplexity than the fifth. It begins with a reminiscence of the great words which have been called the true charter of the Church — " Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." It goes on, " Raise the stone, and there thou shalt find me ; cleave the wood, and there am I." We do not accept the addition as a saying of Christ, but it is at the least a comment of high interest. Any satisfactory interpretation must read it in the light of what precedes it, and show it as exegetical or explanatory of that. For this reason various interpretations that have found currency are out of court. Let us try whether it is. possible to weave the passages into one. Whether our interpretation is right or not, the truths which underlie it are of unending significance and worth.
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We read the passage as a whole as meaning in the first place, that Christ waits to be gracious. When His people go to gather together in His name, they find that He is already there. He welcomes with a smile the first worshippers. He has prevented them with the blessings of His goodness. It is not as in the days after His resurrection when the disciples were within, and the door was shut, and Jesus came through and stood in the midst of them, and said, '* Peace be unto you." Many of our readers, we are sure, count as among the highest and most luminous hours of life the little praj'er-meetings they have attended in humble places, in kitchens and barns. It all comes before them so vividly that they are tempted to think that no experiences have been graven so deep as these. They recall the walk to the meeting-place, perhaps on a moonlit night of snow, the long shadows, the "holier day," the hopeful loneliness, the sense that they were on
the road to Christ, to a full manifestation of His presence. Thus we come to the low doorway through which love, and grief, and patience, and hope approach Him, and enter the little room where we mark His blest abode, and into glory peep. The little company of grave, subdued
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worshippers gradually take their places, and one is aware of the deep still current of thought flowing towards -the present Christ, the growing sense of His mastery over us, of His awful righteousness, and of Mis more awful love. Clouds are there, and tliey may be very heavy. There are sad thoughts — thoughts of the lapses of a stained life, of sorrows so black that scarcely a pale beam shines through them, of bereavements that have left life cold and dark as the later hours of a winter day. It may even be that the very faculty of emotion fails and sinks under the subduing weight of depression and care. But
it is amidst these clouds that the Heavenly Star arises. We feel in a little that we have come into the presence of the personal Christ, that we are looking in His face, that we hear His voice and feel His heart beating. He has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Gradually there rises the strong tide of "joy for pardoned guilt," gradually we pass into a deeper compliance with His will. We realise the worth of what we rebelled against in the days of our darker ignorance, and at last, as Christ is preached in a mystery, the heart leaps up from the past pain like a bird from its nest, and the brooding
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sadness fades from the face. Then is our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing, and long ere the meeting is done we know that new, strong cords have been twisted that link His life with ours.
But the human soul never speaks more truly than when it says, " I cannot come to Him unless He first come to me." He always comes first. " Raise the stone, and there thou shalt find me; cleave the wood, and there am I." The deeper thought of salvation ever stretches back to anchor itself in the uncaused Love. Redemption is not an afterthought, but an eternal thought. It is not we who ascend heaven to bring Christ down from above, it is He who comes and unites Himself with us. God's rich mercy is long kept, and it is from everlasting to everlasting. The Redeemer was anointed from all eternity to save the yet unborn world. " Lo, I come," was His word of quick obedience in the time before time was. The vitality of Calvinism lies in its assurance that love is not a thing that began yesterday and may end to-morrow, but that it foreknew, and fore-ordained, and will ultimately glorify. "Alpha art Thou indeed," are the words in which one of the deepest students of these mysteries
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closes his meditations. Christ is Alpha and Christ is Omega. He is the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
The second thought is that His people may find Christ when they seek Him in the strangest places. They may have the stone to raise ; they may have to worship, and they have often worshipped, in dens and caves of the earth. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, which is at once so passionate and so calm, the writer's voice sometimes breaks, as when in his recital of the sufferings of the saints, " They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented," he suddenly pauses to say, " of whom the world was not worthy." But the saints, even when they hide from an hourly expected vengeance, and know by every testimony that can impress man that their cause is lost, meet Christ in their hiding-place, and hear Him say, "Be of good cheer, 1 have overcome the world." An old author said, when his chief
friend died, " The theatre of all my actions is fallen." This can never be said by true believers. The theatre of their actions can never fall when it is Christ, and He is never so near as when they are at the lowest ebb of fortune, and even
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nigh despair, " Raise the stone, and there shalt thou find mc." It has been said with truth about Coleridge and the wonderful reach of his thoughts, " Go where you will, to the loneliest heights or the lowermost parts of the earth, in the regions of criticism and pure speculation, you are sure to find carved on the rocks the initials S. T. C." Christ's people find in the loneliest heights and in the lowest parts of the earth the Real Presence. Stones are to them consecrated bits of the old earth, like that stone of Shechem which was a witness to the people lest they denied their God.
" Cleave the wood, and there am I." The king7
dom of heaven sometimes suffers violence and the violent take it by force. They may have forcibly to break through closed doors to find a place of security for their prayers. Even so He will be there before them. He has passed through the closed door like a spirit invisible to mortal eyes. Cleave the wood, burst open the door, make your way to me by any means or to any place, and still there am I, To quote Phillips Brooks : " In the deepest depths to which he can go, man shall still find Christ waiting, and hear Christ speak. And out of the heart of the unknown must come the Christ he knows so well, saying, ' I am here too.' "
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