Christianity As A Constructive Power
( Originally Published 1916 )
IT was the distinctive glory of Christianity that it could say to the men of the first century: "You are neither under the law of Moses, nor the law of conscience, but through faith have been brought under the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus." Justifying faith suspended the age-long struggle for salvation by personal effort, and this was what none of the schemes hitherto devised had been able to do. A religion of grace was taking the place of religions of works, whose promises were founded on historic performances. The immediate outcome of this experience was a new sense of freedom.
But how was the new freedom to be understood? Did justifying faith make salvation possible apart from a holy life? If salvation were a free gift, was it necessary to strive after perfection? Christianity was a law-free religion, and to many it appeared to offer peace with God apart from an ethical experience.
Such a misconception was easy for the Jew, because his religious sanctions were derived from the law of Moses. The only religion that a Jew could understand was a law-bound religion, and it was difficult to resist the conviction that Christianity was immoral simply because it set aside the law. It seemed to remove all legitimate restraints from human nature and to encourage lawlessness and self-indulgence.
Such a misconception was easy for the gentile, because he was familiar with non-moral religions. Religions without moral sanctions were common in the ancient world ; the mystery cults then exercising a wide influence in the empire were of this character. They promised blessedness on compliance with ritual requirements. To submit to a ceremonial purification admitted the devotee to spiritual privileges without regard to his moral character. Moreover a light-minded man will always take religion on the easiest terms and seek a maximum of benefit with a minimum expenditure of effort. The mystery religions attracted many because they offered salvation on the easy terms of ritual conformity. But these cults suffered somewhat in popular estimation because of their non-historical character. Cybele, Attis, and Isis turned out to be mythical figures without dynamic authority. It was different with Christianity. This religion was historic and productive of resuits in human experience through the Personality of Jesus. The age-long quest for a righting power had successfully ended at the foot of the cross. God's pardoning love was founded on an historic deed of sacrifice which gave man an undisputed status before God. It was easy for undisciplined minds to suppose that faith in this great sacrifice was sufficient. Having suspended the old struggle for peace, it did not seem necessary to take up a new quest for holiness. That such a view was current is apparent from the sixth chapter of Romans : "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid, How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?"
But such a notion of Christian experience would not satisfy a serious mind. How, for instance, would it strike a God-fearing gentile? This man had completely broken with native superstitions, and he was not interested in mystery cults be-cause they could not satisfy his craving for moral experience. He had turned to Jewish monotheism because it was the highest and best form of religion that he knew. Still Judaism did not fully satisfy him because it had no dynamic; and he eagerly embraced Christianity, not only because it offered peace with God, but imparted power to life and conduct. It would not be a pleasant reflection to suppose that the new religion would after all prove as disappointing as a mystery cult. If faith in Christ became an excuse for lawlessness, how could it be the best religion? Judaism, in spite of its limitations, was far better. The truth is, a serious man, be he Jew or gentile, could not accept Christianity on these terms. No religion can permanently hold the faith and loyalty of a serious nature that does not satisfy the need for ethical experience.
The demand, therefore, for a moral experience made a further elaboration of Christian doctrine essential. For no sooner was the believer satisfied as to his status with God, than he wished to know how faith met the problems of the present life. For the believer had a new experience, un-questionably the product of gospel power. Faith not only justified, but created desires and stimulated passions for righteousness. Still the new experience required interpretation. Was it real or fictitious? Granted that faith justified, did it also renew the human disposition? Assuming that the death of the Saviour had settled man's past obligations, what had Christianity to say for the present life? In other words could the new religion set the enfranchised spirit to work in the service of a moral ideal with a reasonable hope of success?
It was such a need that prompted Paul to undertake a further development of doctrine. First he lays down the characteristic Pauline proposition that faith in Christ means union with Christ. The Christian life was a unity; for the sake of clearness it might be viewed in various relations, but in essence it was one. Justification dealt with man's past; it removed the obligation to punishment through the atoning merits of the Saviour, but justifying faith led to a closer union of the believer with the Lord. The faith which justified also united the Christian with the renewing and transforming energies of the Spirit. Forgiveness was the gateway to a new experience. Even as Christ died and rose again, so believers in Christ die unto the old nature, and rise to newness of life. The Christian was a new creature, because he was a new creation.
In the last lecture we described faith as the releasing function of justification, but it is some-thing more than this. Faith unites the soul to Christ. To believe on Christ is to be in Christ. Paul is leading up to the conception of spiritual growth, but he finds it necessary first to speak of the connecting link between forgiveness and growth. That link he calls adoption.
Christ's redemptive work is comprehensively described as reconciliation. But reconciliation means a change of status or a change of nature. Spiritual growth is a manifestation of a transformed nature ; but adoption has to do with reconciliation as status. Justification gives the sinner not only the status of pardon, but also of acquittal of all past transgressions through the merits of the atoning Saviour. But the notion of status may be enlarged so as to include the redeemed sinner in the family of God. This enlarged status is called adoption.
Adoption is that expression of Divine grace which gives the pardoned sinner the status of a son in the Father's family. This conception had a very definite meaning to the early Christian. "The Pauline analogy was founded on one of the most cherished of Roman institutions, fraught with important and widely reaching results both to the adopted person and the father who had received him into his family. A bond was formed which even death could not sever. The adopter could not, even if he would, evade the new relationship, established by the ceremony of adoption in the presence of the appointed witnesses. The adopted person obtained the right to the family inheritance, and so close was the relationship conceived to be, that the tie of blood was no stronger.
The object of the Apostle was to awaken men to the full realisation of their glorious privileges, to enable them to comprehend the certainty, the closeness and permanence of that bond which united God to them as their Father, and them to God as His sons ; to assure his readers that the covenant which God makes with every believer in Christ Jesus is not a capricious undertaking, liable to be broken at any moment, but a pledge to be observed by Him in all its fulness, because grounded on the eternal Truth and Justice."
Justification narrowly considered seemed to leave the present experience detached from the life of God; but adoption showed how man was brought into the Divine family and given the status of a son. And this met one of the deep longings of the age. For centuries the world had been trying to realise the Fatherhood of God, and the notion had attained a definite meaning for Stoic philosophy. The Stoic, to use Mr. Bevan's phrase, believed in a "Friend behind phenomena." Three centuries before Christ Cleanthes had confessed the Stoic belief :
"We are thy children, we alone, of all On earth's broad ways that wander to and fro, Bearing thine image wheresoe'er we go."
Unquestionably the pagan world was dimly aware of the truth, but it was obliged to feel after God in the darkness of superstition. It was not able to realise it in any concrete way, because there was no actual contact of God's grace with human need.
But Christianity was the religion of revelation ; it was the unfolding of the mystery of grace. Christ's sacrificial death had revealed the Fatherhood of God, and the intense longing for this filial relation to God had been confirmed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was the witness to the adopting act. He bears witness with our spirits that we are the children of God. Adoption was a manifestation of divine love : "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." 3 In the Christian revelation, the great spirit of the universe, the wished-for "Friend behind phenomena" became the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Justification and adoption are links in a chain of redemptive causes which deal with man's status before God: one acquits him of the guilt of sin, the other admits him into the Divine family.
But the idea of status does not exhaust the gift of love. There is also a vital change of the human disposition. The believer realised that a new power was functioning in life. He had been quickened with Christ and was alive to new relationships. The works of the flesh were being eliminated and new desires were forming in the soul.
How was this experience to be understood? What share had man in its development? Paul answered this question with the doctrine of sanctification. Sanctification describes the constructive function of the Christian dynamic.
Back of growth is the mysterious experience of regeneration. But Paul does not carefully formulate this doctrine, because it was not needed. He was dealing with a people who were tremendously alive, and who were not so anxious to understand how they had been born, as to know how to meet the problems of the expanding life. This enabled the Apostle to pass from a consideration of re-conciliation as a change of status, to reconciliation as a change of nature.
Growth creates perplexities for serious minds because it usually sharpens the sense of opposition. Moral effort sooner or later reveals a schism within the soul. There is a law in the mind and a law in the members; there is conflict between the flesh and the spirit.
Plato has described the conflict between flesh and spirit in the myth of the charioteer and the winged horses. One horse is noble, pure and amenable to right reason; the other is earthly, sensual and perverse, and the struggle to control creatures, so diverse in disposition, makes up life's moral experience. The ancients could discover no adequate method of reconciling these opposing forces. With all his faith in the power of intelligence, Aristotle is obliged to confess that there is a concupiscent part of the soul that is not subject to reason. The thinking and especially the experience of later ages made this point clear; and Paul's period was keenly aware of human perversity, and equally lacking in power. How, then, would the experience of growth impress a serious nature? Assuming that the grace of God provided for justification, did it also promise power for the realisation of a holy life? Could Divine power control and finally overcome the concupiscent part of the soul? That question had to be answered, since no religion can stand on justification alone; it must also give power to lead a holy life. Could Christianity do this?
For so soon as the believer was assured of his status, he became aware of a new problem. Contact with Christ sharpened the radical difference between good and evil, and made man aware of the tremendous power of the flesh, to resist and even to defeat the holy aspirations of the newly enfranchised spirit.
Paul has a great deal to say of the warfare of flesh and spirit. By flesh he does not mean the material body, but that system of disorderly and self-regarding desires which opposes the reign of spirituality. The carnal mind is enmity against God; it cannot be subject to the will of God. The natural man is under the dominion of flesh, while the spiritual man is under the dominion of spirit. If the spirit is to triumph, the flesh must be put to death. There must be a transformation of the inner disposition. Although the Christian was renewed in the inner life, the problem of growth had to be faced. He must put on Christ in the moral habit and disposition of the mind, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfil its lawless desires.
This was a splendid programme, but could it be carried out? The plain fact confronted the believer: contact with Christ intensified the reality of the struggle with evil. The flesh lusted against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, and no compromise was possible. We have had occasion in previous lectures to note the fact that the older Stoics made no allowance for human imperfection. They held that a man was either wholly good or wholly bad. Their favorite illustration, as Mr. Bevan has pointed out, was "that a man a foot below the water is in a drowning condition just as much as a man a mile down." They admitted that a perfect man was a rarity, but they would make no concessions to imperfection, for fear of impairing the moral ideal. Although later Stoics tempered this hard doctrine, the feeling still remained to torment earnest souls. It power-fully affected growing Christians. How was it possible to believe in the soundness of one's salvation so long as sin remained in the mortal body? The Orphics among the Greeks had settled the question by saying that the body was the tomb of the soul; that matter was essentially evil and that the spirit could be delivered only by death. But the Christian could not hold such a view. Evil dwelt in the thoughts and disposition of the mind. The higher a man aimed the more conscious was he of the presence of sin in experience, not because his sins increased in bulk, but because moral effort increased the sensitiveness of the soul. Mere status, then, however glorious, could not meet a need like this. How could a Christian believe his sins were forgiven, so long as evil influenced his conduct?
This feeling made men doubt the adequacy of Christianity, and exposed them to the temptations current in that syncretic age. Many, in those days, could not be satisfied with a simple religion; they were engaged in various improvements and additions to current faiths, and cults borrowed from each other with impunity. The satisfaction of the devotee appeared to depend on the number and variety of elements taken from other religions. It was natural that Christians should feel the force of this tendency. They would ask: Is not something lacking in the gospel which may be supplied from without? It was such a feeling that tempted the Galatians to mix Moses with Christ. The tendency was also present in the church at Colossæ. Some were inclined to adopt the Orphic notion of the evil of matter; others were interested in the worship of "elemental spirits," and still others were disposed to practise a false asceticism, borrowed for the most part from the Jews; and all were inclined to believe that by the addition of one thing or another they would get a better Christianity.
The tendency to supplement Christ's redemptive work from outside sources is a very stubborn one. It is occasioned usually by the difficulty of believing in a religion of grace rather than of works. It is very difficult to follow the Christian programme, when every advance sharpens the conflict between flesh and spirit, without being tempted to do something of a supplementary character to sustain the meagre resources of faith.
This feeling, so deeply rooted in human nature, accounts for the power of old Jewish practices, it explains the attraction of asceticism in the early church; it gave Roman Catholicism great influence in the Middle Ages, and is responsible in part at least for the confusion in the mind of some theologians, concerning the relation of justification to sanctification. This latter is a vicious mistake, for it practically makes one's faith in justifying grace dependent on one's opinion of moral progress, and is utterly contrary to the Biblical view, as it is destructive of peace.
Paul's answer to the whole contention was that since the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in Christ, Christians were complete in Him. It was impossible on the one hand to accept the antinomian contention that salvation by faith alone inevitably led to lawlessness, since faith in Christ meant union with the life and power of Christ. It was equally impossible on the other hand to ignore the plain fact that the new life was a life of strife. It deepened the notion of sin and sharpened the conflict between flesh and spirit, but the Christian was assured of resources in Christ adequate to meet all problems growing out of the new life of holiness. It was folly then to go outside of Christ, since His grace was sufficient for all practical needs.
According to Paul, justification must be complete before sanctification can begin. They were closely related but essentially distinct functions of grace. Justification was an act, sanctification was a work. In justification God was the sole agent; in sanctification God and man worked together. As Prof. Stearns puts it, "Justification is the setting of the broken bone ; it brings the soul into its true relation to God; it has sanctification for its object. Sanctification is the healing, a process wholly different and wholly distinct."
It is important to notice that while perfection of character is the ultimate goal of sanctification, it is not its immediate object. It is doubtful whether in this life a man can form a true estimate of perfection. There is danger in attempting to do so, for fear of suspending the struggle without which perfection is impossible. The immediate object of sanctification is not perfection, but reasonable progress in the divine life. Its aim is not the suspension of struggle, but the avoidance of useless effort. The old effort after perfection was to found salvation on the basis of human merit, or attainment. This was the significance of the quest for safe conduct. But this abortive effort had been set aside by the coming of Christ. Faith in the atoning mercy of the Saviour, by the grace of justification delivered the soul from past fears and bondage, to serve the living God in the freedom of the spirit. But this new liberty was not deliverance from struggle, but only from the fruit-less and unavailing effort to lay a basis of salvation in human merits.
Paul vigorously describes the new experience. Sometimes it is a race, at other times a boxing match; still again it is called a battle, and in one place it is a wrestling match with formidable powers of darkness. It was always strenuous. The growing Christian could never say that he had attained, or was already perfect. The best he could say was that he was pressing on. In this warfare our weapons were not carnal. Power to succeed in this realm must come from spiritual relationships. The believer was encouraged by the further revelation of sanctifying power issuing from the free gift of salvation. The grace that bestowed the status of a son was also given to ensure the experience of a son by the progressive transformation of man's nature. The active agent in this new experience is the Holy Spirit of God; He is the leader of the regenerate nature in its warfare on the flesh. As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
The growing Christian would be intensely interested in the teaching about the Holy Spirit, and Paul naturally devotes a great deal of attention to the subject. The Spirit is the witness with our spirits that we are children of God. He is the earnest of the purchased possession;. the interpreter of the unexpressed longings of the growing soul; the seal of the Father's love and the guarantee of a completed salvation. He regenerates, renews, quickens, guides and informs the soul in its progress towards the divine ideal. Man's co-operation is needed, but power issues from the divine energy imparted through faith. The active agent charged with the responsible task of developing the divine experience in the life of man is the "Holy" Spirit, the Spirit of righteousness and of love. He is also the "Spirit of Christ," manifesting the same attitude and disposition towards man as was experienced in Christ. As such He was no stranger or outsider, but an active participant in the great work of salvation.
We cannot overestimate the tremendous significance of this revelation for the first Christian century. Belief in the activity of spirits was practically universal in those days, but it was not al-ways an encouraging belief. There were many reasons for the notion. For one thing it was very old, and had been inherited by the Romans from Greece and the Orient. It was especially influential in the first century because of' the growing belief even among pagans in the moral significance of God. When the conscience sleeps it is easy to bring the gods down to the ordinary level of human life and make them in man's likeness ; but when conscience awakes it turns round on inherited beliefs and modifies them in the interest of a purer conception of Deity. As the idea of God is moralised and spiritualised, He becomes remote and inaccessible to man. The feeling of the aloofness of God was common in the first century. It was almost universally believed that any communication with Deity depended on mediators of one sort or another. This led to the notion of intermediate gods or elemental spirits. "Great was the multitude of this heavenly host, interpreters between God and man; `thrice ten thousand are they upon the fruitful earth, immortal, ministers of Zeus,' healers of the sick, revealers of what is dark, aiding the craftsman, companions of the wayfarer." Plutarch said that it could be proved "on the testimony of wise and ancient witnesses that there were natures, as it were on the frontiers of the gods and men, that admit mortal passions and inevitable changes, whom we may rightly, after the custom of our fathers, consider to be dæmons, and so calling them, worship them." And Plutarch was stating the general belief of the time. These daemons "serve two purposes in religious philosophy. They safeguard the Absolute and the higher gods from contact with matter, and they relieve the Author of Good from responsibility for evil. At the same time they supply the means of that relation to the divine which is essential for man's higher life."
Opinion differed as to the nature of these intermediate spirits. Some were of the same essence as God Himself ; others had mixed natures, partly divine and partly human. Plutarch said "that they were godlike in power and intelligence, but human in liability to the passions engendered by the flesh."
It was inevitable that such views should develop into the notion of a tyranny of malignant spirits, "tainted with the evil of the lower world." In order to reconcile the old myths with prevailing ethical conceptions of deity, the doctrine of the familiar spirit was devised. The gods were believed to be good, but they were often as in the case of Zeus misrepresented by their familiar spirits. Such notions led, of course, to a spread of superstition, to a dread of gods and dæmons of the most degrading influence. The favour of good dæmons could be gained by observing the ritual requirements of the mystery religions, but there was no sure way of obtaining the good will of evil dæmons. This gross superstition roused the noble scorn of Lucretius in the preceding century, but the dread of elemental spirits was even more common in Paul's time. The universe was filled with capricious beings; even the Most High God might have a familiar spirit, capable of misrepresenting Him.
It is easy to imagine the eagerness of a people, long familiar with the dread of elemental spirits, in receiving the Pauline revelation of the Holy Spirit. God Himself was present in the believer's life. The Historic Christ had brought man into living contact with the Lord of Glory, and the Great Spirit of the Universe had come down from His inaccessible heights to dwell in sympathetic relation with the children of men.
The doctrine of the Holy Spirit as the active agent in the growth of the Christian met the second pressing need of the times. The first need Paul had met with the doctrine of justifying faith. The second need was met with the assurance of reasonable progress in the divine life, in spite of indwelling sin and the prolonged struggle with the flesh. But a third and final question would be raised: What of the future? Is Christianity capable of bringing man to the goal of his hopes? Was there a stage beyond sanctification? God had begun a good work in man, did He intend to complete it?
This question was raised in part by the growth of the Christian, and in part also by the increasing complications of life in this world.
The outstanding fact of the new experience was the fact of dependence. The Christian knew that his experience was an effect. He was what he was by the grace of God. He was just as de-pendent on grace for progress in holiness as he had been in the first instance upon pardoning love. He could not boast of his spiritual attainment, because the goal of perfection receded as he approached it. It was a flying goal, and the best he could say was that he was pressing on. But sooner or later he had to face the question of attainment. Progress could not be indefinitely pro-longed: would he then reach the goal? He was sure if he did, it would be by the grace of God. This made him intensely anxious to know whether there was a Divine plan comprehensive enough to meet all requirements back of his faith and life. He wanted a larger concept of religion; one that would embrace the several aspects of experience.
Paul had been revealing the several links in the chain of redemptive causes. But the believer wanted to see the whole chain, its beginning and end. He saw justification, adoption and sanctification; was there not a further link of glorification still to be revealed? He asked this question because his experience had reached the stage where unity in the several processes of his life was essential to abiding peace.
An additional influence in this direction was the increasing complications of life in this world. Christians were beginning to attract the unfavourable attention of society. The profession was becoming dangerous not only to leaders but also to followers. The disciples were realising the increasing cost of living with Christ. The early Christians universally believed that Christ would return during their lifetime, and their hopes at the outset were fixed on this blessed expectation. But as time passed it appeared as if they were to be disappointed. Some were growing lax, others had fallen away, and some were growing sceptical and saying: "Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." Above all the menace of Nero's evil reign was becoming portentous, and the future held the promise of persecution and death for many.
It is interesting to note that the Roman Christians did not suggest that Christ save them from such a future. They were willing to endure hardship and even suffer death for Christ's sake. Undoubtedly many who read Paul's great epistle suffered under Nero. But they knew the weakness of the flesh, and had no confidence in themselves. How would they behave in the flames? What would be their attitude when they saw the lions in the arena? How could they stand against the opposition of the Roman world? They dare not trust themselves, but could they trust God? That depended on His plan for their life. Would His grace hold them true as they passed through the fires, and in spite of unworthiness bring them to the goal of their hopes?
That was an urgent question. Stoics like Seneca tried to answer it with a conception of Providence very like fatalism, but it was a hard old creed, and few could abide it. But the God and Father of Jesus Christ was not the rigid deity of the Stoic philosophy. He had loved them in the past and He loved them in the present, but would He love them unto the end? Was it not natural then to ask for further explanations of the Divine purpose that would enable them to be more than conquerors in the coming persecution?
This question was urgent because of the tragedy of the Jewish nation. If God had a plan, had it not been revealed in the history of the Jew? But the law had failed to save the Jew, and his nation had been rejected. Did this imply the failure of God's plan, or was there something more to be said?
It was this need, issuing from the mature Christian experience, and the complications of life that prompted Paul to formulate the doctrine of the Divine purpose. The very word "predestination" bristles with difficulties, and it is unlikely that one could answer all objections made to it. We must frankly admit the presence of a deep mystery in the ways of God with men. A philosophy of Providence is impossible since the finite mind can never fully comprehend the Infinite. But it is evident to any one familiar with the relation of Christian teaching to the life of those times, that the doctrine of election was taught for a very practical purpose. It was not meant for babes in Christ, but for strong men. It would have been an enigma to the Corinthians, but it was as plain as a pike staff to the Romans, simply be-cause they had reached a stage where light on the Divine purpose was essential to further progress.
The doctrine of election, so far from being a perplexing mystery, is a plain and necessary element in spiritual education. It is a doctrine for the maturer stages of faith, but if I am right in accounting for the conditions which made the doctrine essential, I think it can be shown to have great utility for a growing intelligence, for it prepares the believer for successfully overcoming the temptations which issue from the deeper phases of Christian experience.
The doctrine of election is the revelation of the plan behind the believer's life. It is the principle that coordinates the plan of salvation. It is the final cause of redemption. In this book, I have consistently maintained the causal significance of Christianity; I have asked you to consider doctrine in part at least as descriptive of function. If this be true, we may regard election as the explanation of the purpose that gives meaning and cohesion to the Christian dynamic which functions through faith in the interests of a complete salvation.
Paul develops the. discussion along several lines. First he shows that the law and gospel are not two different plans of salvation, but two phases of one and the same plan. So far from failing to fulfil its Divine mission, the law was a complete success. It had accurately diagnosed the world's spiritual malady, and by revealing the positive and negative aspects of sin, had established a need for redemption. Furthermore, through its types and symbols, it had efficiently served as an attendance officer to bring the world to Christ. Christ was the end of the law for righteousness, to every one that believed. Paul knew from his own experience that the law was efficient. It had not failed; what it had done was to establish the fact that the race could be saved on no other terms than those of free grace.
The law was given to a chosen nation; that was an advantage ; but the covenant which God made with the Jew was not based on the law but on the agreement with Abraham. The Abrahamic covenant was based on faith rather than works. Israel was elect unto certain privileges, but they did not confer the blessing of a personal election. That depended on other conditions entirely. The nation's failure did not imply the failure of God's plan; on the contrary, it proved, as Prof. Stevens truly observes, that there was "an election within the election."
This more intimate phase of election was indicated by the calling of the gentiles. It unfolded the mystery of God, hitherto a Divine secret, but now made manifest in the universality of the gospel offer; but within this general call, there was an effectual calling. Mature Christians knew some-thing of this, for, says Paul, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God ; to them who are the called according to His purpose." 13 It was impossible to believe that God would begin such an experience as they enjoyed, and then allow it to fail in the face of the very complications that it raised.
From an assured position in experience Paul proceeds to develop the doctrine of the Divine purpose. Christians are predestinated to be con-formed to the likeness of Christ. The plan behind the life is indicated in the successive links of a causal chain: whom He called, He justified, whom He justified, He sanctified, and whom He sanctified He will also glorify.
What more can we want than this? No doubt there is still much to be said from the point of view of the theologian, the seeker for a complete system; but for the growing Christian whose aim is to understand in some measure the implications of his experience, nothing further than this is needed, since this is about all Paul told the Romans about it.
But some one will say : If you assert the efficiency of the Divine Will in all the processes of salvation, do you not relieve the believer of moral effort? The answer is plainly no, simply because the only practical evidence of a Divine purpose in individual life is reasonable progress towards holiness. But this progress need not be consciously continuous. Asa matter of fact, many do lose it temporarily; they seem to fall from grace, but if God begins a work of grace in man's soul, He will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. If a child disobeys his father and falls down the steps, he does not fall out of the house; because his body is bruised, he does not cease to be his father's child. And if it be objected, How about falling out of the window? my answer is that there are no windows in this house; it opens only on the eternal glories of that great upper world where God waits the home coming of His children.
The mystery of the Divine purpose is the mystery of a love so wise and comprehensive as to meet all the requirements of a growing experience, and to give positive assurance that in spite of the complications of this present evil world the believer shall arrive at the goal of his hopes. Justifying faith is the title deed to salvation, and election is the abstract of that title, which traces our right to it straight back to the source of all good.
"If God be for us, who can be against us?" writes the great Apostle, as he sees in vision those earnest Roman faces. He knew the strain that would shortly come on their faith; he knew the mighty temptations to yield in the face of persecution; he knew how the arch fear would grip those brave hearts when they saw the cords and the stakes, the lions and the arena. These people wanted assurance that they would not fail; they passionately wished to endure without flinching the last struggle with the world; and he knew moreover that they were intelligent enough to understand his meaning : so he did not hesitate to tell them that behind their experience, working through all the stages of the new life, was the great purpose of God; and in words of immortal beauty he gathers up the possibilities of the situation and affirms a truth which reasonable faith will confirm, that through all the phases of our earthly pilgrimage there is being realised an unchangeable plan, a plan grounded in love and sustained by a power adequate to fulfil its promises and complete its undertakings.
The Christian life is rooted and grounded in the Divine Energy. When God comes into a man's life, He comes to stay. That life begins, grows and ends in God; and behind its hopes and its fears, its longings and desires, stands the historic Personality of Jesus Christ, who lived and died and rose again that He might deliver us from this present evil world, and present us faultless in the Throne Room of the Eternal God.