reproduced by permission from a copy presented by the Rev. Lee Woofenden
For this is the love of God: that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous. (1 John 5:3)
We endeavored in the previous lectures to point out, first, the grand and clear idea--in which the whole Word of God combines--that the Savior is "God manifest in the flesh," the First and the Last of all that we can know or love of God, who alone can mold us into his own image and likeness. We endeavored also to point out that this one God had followed erring man, and was in Christ reconciling man unto himself, uniting the broken link of communication between himself and his creatures, and by enabling man to abide in him, pouring into him a spirit by which all his sins could be overcome and his whole mind transformed so as to be lovingly obedient to the spirit and laws of the Gospel.
We have now, carrying on the argument, to endeavor to show that all God intended in making us as our Creator, all that he intended by delivering us as our Redeemer, can be attained only in those who seek, by power from the great Savior Jesus Christ, to live a truly Christian life by keeping his commandments. "For this is the love of God: that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous."
We are anxious, first of all, to draw your attention to the fact that all God's operations since the fall, all the Savior's dealings, are for the purpose of rescuing man from the dominion of sin. His object in creation and redemption is to form a happy, glorious, blissful heaven from the human race.
It is impossible for man to be happy except so far as he overcomes his sins and receives from God the principles that form happiness. It is a mistake to suppose that happiness is an independent blessing, an effect without a cause. This error has continued long, and has exercised a most deleterious influence upon the human race. Men conceive that happiness is a gift that can be imparted to a person irrespective of the principles that are within him; it is not considered that happiness is a fruit which only grows on one tree, the tree of goodness and wisdom. Misery is not something independent inflicted upon us by someone else, but it is a fruit that grows upon the tree of sin. Take away the sin, and you take away the misery; leave the sin, and you also leave the misery.
It is astonishing to find that men so often overlook this. They act upon the idea that happiness could be given in the same way a concert of music can be given. For instance, how often do we hear the exclamations uttered, "Well I hope, after all, I shall go to heaven." "If I can only get into heaven at last, I shall be all right." "I do not care for anything else if I can only secure my salvation at last." These persons are under the false impression we have mentioned: that happiness may be gotten as a gift offered and given from without--although this is in total opposition both to human experience and to that divine teaching, which says, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation; neither shall they say, 'Lo, here!' or, 'Lo, there!' For behold, the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:20, 21).
This, we know from experience, is the fact. For we find persons--and this experience confronts us in every condition of life--we find persons with all the means of outward gratification: possessed of wealth, possessed of power, of rank and dignities, of high situation, possessed of magnificent houses and gardens, and attended by a large retinue of servants; but do these things make the selfish and the evil happy? Everyone knows they do not. The king who in his inmost soul is a corrupt and self-seeking despot is amongst the most miserable of the human race--not half so happy as many of his lowly subjects who at their own humble fireside, are of the character of which Jesus speaks when he says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3).
The "poor in spirit" are not necessarily those who are in the lowest condition of society only. It is possible for a man quite poor in pocket to be amongst the proudest of the human race, and as miserable as the most towering of the ambitious. It is possible for a person in the very highest rank of society to be humble and lowly--nay, the very highest Being of all is the lowliest of all. "Come unto me," said the Most High when amongst his creatures, "all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls" (Matthew 11:28, 29). He, though infinitely rich, for our sakes became poor in order that he might be the servant of all, and the minister of all.
It is thus, then, the possession of a heart that is humble that brings happiness--a heart humble enough to prefer God's will to its own will, God's wisdom to its own conceits, godliness of life to wickedness of life; a heart that takes practically the glorious maxim of a celebrated writer who said, "All religion has relation to life, and the life of religion is to do good" (Emanuel Swedenborg, The Doctrine of Life #1). The humble man, be his rank high or low, be he the inhabitant of a palace or the tenant of a cottage, he will be the Christlike man on earth, and will enter into God's happiness in heaven. "This is the love of God: that we keep his commandments."
Allow me to direct your attention to this important word "keep"--for there are many who imagine that love is a sentiment only; who mistake feeling for principle; who suppose that they love where they have a strong sentiment of admiration. But this is not true love. The Apostle shows what he means by true love in saying, "This is the love of God: that we keep his commandments."
It is of the utmost importance that this be borne in mind; for a person may sometimes love very deeply, and yet not have at the same time a sensation of delight in loving; while on the other hand, a person may have a strong sentiment of admiration and yet have no real love. A person will think sometimes that he has a strong love for doing good to others when he sits enjoying the sentimental feeling of, "How delightful it would be to see all the world happy! How delightful it would be for poverty to be completely banished! How very delightful it would be for the philanthropic feeling to be carried out, so that all the world might live in magnificent palaces and enjoy everything that is comfortable and happy!" And he may suppose that because he glories and gloats over this feeling, he has the love of God and the love of his brother--while in fact, he will not deny himself a single indulgence; he will not deny himself even of a chance of overreaching his brother in a bargain; he will not deny himself an unjust advantage over another. He will not, in fact, put himself to inconvenience in anything that requires a subjugation of his own selfish passions, even for the poor person in the next garret or neighboring cellar. And he supposes, nevertheless, that he has the love of God. But oh, how mistaken is he! "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments."
Never mind whether you feel it very pleasant at the time or not. You most likely will not; for by nature we are now so corrupted that to do good is difficult at first--although we have the germ of all that is noble; although God has taken care that "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound" (Romans 5:20); although God has taken care that in every child there should be the commencement of the kingdom of heaven. It is not the will of our Father in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. He, therefore, has taken care that at the commencement of life there should be the germ of every noble power and principle. Not a child is born but can become an angel, if he obey the Savior and work out his own "salvation with fear and trembling."
But nevertheless, there is also around these heavenly centers in the soul a mass of impurity, of tendencies to evil, of selfishness, of the love of the world, of the pride of life--of a thousand things that have to be overcome. And consequently the spirit of religion, when it comes to man and opposes his own active worldly life, which has become vivid and energetic within him, will tell him that he is to take up his cross. The Lord Jesus said, "He that taketh not his cross and followeth after me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:38). "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23).
Now, this taking up the cross is not anything of an external character. It is nothing wonderful, ascetic, or out of the way. Sometimes instead of paying attention to God's ways, we make some devices of our own; instead of looking at the crosses that really exist, we make crosses--extraordinary crosses. That is not the way of the Word of God; rather, it is that we "keep his commandments." You will find that salutary work is cross enough.
To transform the spirit into a state of order, of harmony with God's commandments, is no easy task. Though there will be comfort enough, encouragement enough; though the Lord Jesus will help us--for without him we can do nothing; though his angels will be brought into communion with us, for "the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him" (Psalm 34:7) and they will afford us help and encouragement; yet nevertheless, for the selfish man to fight against the selfishness will be a cross; for the worldly man to fight against his worldliness will be a cross; for the sensualist to fight against his degraded appetites will be a cross; for the ill-tempered person to fight against bad temper will be a cross; and so on through the whole catalogue of evil passions. For let us bear in mind that in Scripture, all these sins are real sins which have to be subdued. It is not shams that we have to bring before you. It is a real change from evil that must take place.
There are some people who talk in a strange style indeed. They say truly that the Lord Jesus was our Savior--that he lived for us, that he died for us, that he rose again for us. All that is most fully and divinely true. But they go farther and say, "He carried away my sins at that time; he removed them. I have nothing to do with them--only to believe that he did it." While they have the sin of selfishness, the sin of hating, the sin of cheating, and a thousand other sins, because their religion is not a real but a fanciful religion, they talk this kind of nonsense and say that they are quite delivered from their sins--while if they cannot see their own sins, everybody else can.
It is not a deliverance of this kind that the Scriptures invite us to think about. It is really to believe that the Lord Jesus is a living Savior; that he not only was nineteen hundred years ago, but is now Christ in you, as the hope of glory; not Christ thousands of years ago, but Christ in you--a living Christ; he who ever liveth to give you power to conquer sin, to implant in you the spirit of virtue and every excellency, and to transform you to the image of himself. This is the living Savior, the divine Jesus, who "saves his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). This, then, "is the love of God, that we keep his commandments."
Well, but some may say, "To keep his commandments . . . that is a very hard, indeed impossible task; we shall never go to heaven if we are to go by keeping his commandments. We must go to heaven some other way." Let me assure you that you will never get to heaven by any other way. If you cannot go to heaven by keeping the commandments, you will never get to heaven without. For, in the first place, what are the commandments of God? They are, in reality, the laws of happiness. We could go through them one by one, but everyone can readily do it for himself--and then see how impossible it would be to form a heaven on any other principle than on that of keeping the commandments.
Let us take, for instance, the first: that we are to love the Lord our God, that lovable Being who brought Israel out of its state of bondage, and who brings us out of the bondage of sin whenever we are made really free. "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:36); and there can be no freedom without him. If we love this glorious God and Savior, he forms the center of our souls, the sun of our spirits, and from him come grace and glory. Under his gracious smile it is as if we were in the sunlight splendor of a spiritual day: all is beautiful above, within, and around, for we have received blessedness, light, and love from him.
Well, suppose that a man loves himself and does not obey the commandments. He is the little god of his own idolatry; he is always seeking how he can make others subservient to him. However the wavering balance of things may shake, he endeavors to give it a movement in his own direction. Now suppose that a number of persons are collected together, and this is the principle in each one of them. What must happen? Each is seeking for homage and gain to himself. Every one of them has as many enemies as there are persons, because each one is trying to take advantage of the other--trying to take from him, and not give to him. Place these persons how you like; they cannot be otherwise than full of envy and uncharitableness--and this is hell, not heaven. So if a person does not keep the commandment "thou shalt not steal"--does not keep it in thought as well as in deed, such a one cannot form part of heaven. How is it possible to form a heaven out of a number of people of that kind? Each one is trying to take from the other; is stealing the other's goods, or happiness, or ideas; or in some way taking from, and not adding to, the comfort of the others. Could you make a heaven of people of this kind? It would be hell wherever you put them.
So that you see the commandments are the laws of happiness; they are the rules of spiritual health. God did not impose them to put a burden upon his creatures, but because they were necessary. They are just as necessary for the good health of the soul (and the good health of the soul is salvation) as sound rules are essential to the health of the body. The word "salvation" is simply the word "health" applied to the soul. "Salus" is the Latin word. It is health for the spirit: to be in a state of health and well-being, to be delivered from sin and all its tendencies, and to be initiated into heavenly excellencies and all their virtues. This is salvation. "What doth the Lord require of thee," says the prophet, "but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:8). The essence of every virtue is justice; that is the cardinal principle--justice to God and justice to man.
We do not sometimes see the whole force of the divine teaching in the Word upon this subject, for in our English Testament, the word "justice" in the original language is nearly always translated "righteousness," and in general conversation, righteousness has come to mean piety rather than justice. A person is said to be a righteous person who is very attentive to religious observances. It is good, it is highly important to attend to these. But they are the means of religion, not the end. Justice is the end: coming into a state of religious regard to God--that is, living holily from love to God because he constitutes the foundation of our every blessing; and loving him, therefore, with all the heart, and loving our fellow creatures as his children, and because we love them, being just to them, dedicating to them those powers and efforts which God has given to us for the purpose of making our fellow creatures happy. This is justice. And if, wherever you find the word "righteousness" in the English Testament, you read "justice" instead, you will find that a large portion of the Sacred Scriptures is given to teach us to be just. "Blessed are they who do hunger and thirst after justice; for they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6). "Except your justice shall exceed the justice of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:20). Note that it says "in no case." There is no exception.
Now, it is this cardinal principle of justice that is the soul of all the commandments. "What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly"; mind you, not to think justly; not to sentimentalize about justice, but to do justly. And in doing justly, also "to love mercy": to have a tender regard for those who need your help, as you need the help of others; "love mercy": endeavor to help the weak as Christ has helped you; "love mercy," and yet make no claim to merit, indulge in no glorification of yourself, but "to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8). The more you receive from him, the more are you a debtor to him. What have we that we have not received? The more we receive, the more we owe.
There is no room, therefore, for anyone--for a Christian especially, one who is animated by the love of God, who keeps God's commandments--there is no room for him to imagine that he has any claim to merit, that he has anything of self-righteousness to boast of. If his righteousness is not from God it is not righteousness at all; it is a mere pretence. We are to do what he has commanded us, and when we have done it, feel that to the Lord Jesus Christ all the glory and the praise are due. But do it; because there is no preparation for heaven, there is no real possession of the love of God, but by doing his commandments.
Again, let us notice some objections to this teaching. "Keeping God's commandments," say some, "Well, I do not think that that is the way to heaven. That was the way in the old law; that was what was given to the Jews." And so it was--and it was given to the Jews for the very same purpose. God's laws are always the same, though we may need fresh help to be assisted to become Godly--that is, Godlike (that old English word is more often used than understood, but it means Godlike)--to become in our degree such as God is in his infinite excellency. And this was always the will and the teaching of God. In the Old Testament you will find that he says his commandments "are not a vain thing for you, because they are your life" (Deuteronomy 32:47). They are the essential qualifications for happiness. "O that there were such a heart in them," the Lord says, "that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!" (Deuteronomy 5:29).
Talk of keeping the commandments not being intended by God; why, he intended that men should be happy. He must have intended that they should keep the commandments. It is not the keeping of the commandments that makes misery. It is not keeping them. It is not doing these holy laws that is the cause of all the mischief that occurs to ourselves and others. If there were no sin, there would be no misery. God has not created a single faculty, from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot, but what tends to happiness. It is our tendency to sin that makes unhappiness; and to come out of it is to come out of sorrow. "Behold, I give unto you power," says the Lord Jesus, "to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall by any means hurt you" (Luke 10:19). We cannot keep the commandments, we never could, without power given from God; but with the power that is given, we feel we can keep them, and we must.
But some may say, "That is a terribly heavy burden." What does the Apostle say? He says: "His commandments are not grievous" (1 John 5:3). It is a heavy burden so long as you do not like it. But come into the love of keeping the commandments for God's sake, and for the sake of your fellow creatures. Love this duty because it is essential to happiness, because it is the only way to become an angel and to prepare for heaven, and you will find the "burden" get lighter and lighter and lighter, until at length it is no burden at all. Then you "shall run and not be weary; and shall walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31). You will find that soon it will be your delight to keep the commandments. That is what the Scriptures teach: "Blessed are they that keep his commandments"--not blessed shall they be, but "blessed are they that keep his commandments." They will be blessed now, and that will be the warranty for their being blessed hereafter.
Those who do not enter into this Christian life are often afflicted with fear and anxiety that they will not go to heaven. They say they wish they knew. It is not difficult for us to tell, if we are honest to the Word and to the truth, when we observe our affections, thoughts, and acts. He will go to heaven who opens his heart to let heaven come in to him; he will go to heaven who is heavenly. "He that hath wrought us," the Apostle says, "for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 5:5). He gives us the "earnest" now. Heaven grows in those who keep God's commandments from love; and they find that inward bliss spreads its holy balm around and within them because their hearts are animated by love and goodness to others.
God blesses them as they work this principle out, and they thus work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. But as they grow in love, fear is cast away. You begin the work of religion with fear, but you do not finish with it. You begin with fear, but as you advance in holy excellences, fear passes away and a childlike love and holy affection for God grows and grows until it takes possession of the whole man. And at the period when our work is finished, it is but putting off the outward covering of clay, and we find that we are at once in harmony with "the spirits of just men made perfect" (Hebrews 12:23), and are happy by the principles which make them happy by making them good.
But again, it may be said, "Did not Christ come to keep the law for us, and is not his righteousness imputed to us? You are forgetting the Gospel; you are talking about the law as it was under the Old Testament." Oh no! The Gospel came not to make man less holy, but more so. The Gospel came not to say that a man need be less attentive to his life than he was before, but more attentive. Christ came in order to convey to man power to conquer the sins that were passed over before, when God was not so close to man--when his power was not brought down so thoroughly as it was when he was manifest in the flesh.
But when Christ came into the world he brought more power to fight against the evils that could not be overcome before, so that man could conquer his selfishness, could become Christlike. And it is the great end of Christianity to make Christ's men. The word "Christian" means a "Christ's man"--one who is truly living because the Spirit of Christ lives in him. And although he cannot become entirely conformed to his Heavenly Master all at once, he can begin at once. And as he pursues the blessed course mentioned in our text--"This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments"--and prays to Jesus Christ from day to day for more power, for more faithful obedience, he will find that he goes on and on, conquering one class of evils after another as they are presented to him, just as the Israelites in going from Egypt to Canaan conquered one class of enemies and then another during their wanderings in the wilderness. While we are going through our wilderness we shall have power given us to overcome the various evils that infest and assault us:
And never sit we down and say
There's nothing left but sorrow;
We walk the wilderness today,
The promised land tomorrow.
When we are thus by Christ's influence made to be Christ's men, and prepared for heaven. The angelic character being formed becomes animated by love to Christ and love to one another, and in this case our delight will be in doing good. Difficulties will be healthful exercises; everything will be joyous to us then. The homeliest comforts will be made delightful then. And when such men are congregated together in that glorious world where things are more pliant than here--that final inner world, the world of mind, where everything outside answers to the graces that are within--in such case, in heaven within and around, all things corresponding to the virtues of those that dwell there, there will be happiness from first to last. "Enter thou," said the Lord Jesus, concerning him who was faithful over a few things, "Thou hast been faithful over a few things; I will make thee ruler over many things. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Matthew 25:21).
But it may be said, "What are these works--these doings that you talk about so much? Are they almsgiving, fasting, frequent worship?" The answer is given in the text: "That we keep his commandments" in every work we have to do. It is an interesting view of the case to notice that the works of a person are the embodiment of what the man is. In every work that a man does, of course, there must be some principle operating. He performs every work from some cause. And he who examines a little as to the origin of work will see that a man does his works from his heart--from his will. He wills an act before he does it, and therefore the work is of just the same kind, of just the same quality, as his will.
And every work has this quality within it: that it confirms a person in the principle from which he acts. A selfish man by every selfish act increases that principle. Just as a person who uses his hands very much in his trade enlarges his hands, so it is with every principle: the more we practice it, the more potent it becomes in us. And therefore, he who would not have wickedness of any kind growing more deeply in him must avoid doing it. "He that doeth righteousness is righteous." the Apostle says (1 John 3:7). "Not everyone that saith unto me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven," says the Lord Jesus (Matthew 7:21).
A person advances in proportion to his faith in doing; and hence it is that the Apostle teaches, not only that the love of God is in keeping his commandments, but that faith also exists, consists, and is shown, in doing. He says, "Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works" (James 2:18). That is the only way that faith can be shown: by our works. For it is very clear that if a person has a knowledge of religion but his works are irreligious, although he may have a faith as far as saying he believes this or that proposition or creed, he does not really believe it; he really believes what he does.
If I believe that religion is better for me than irreligion, I shall do it. I may talk with another very largely about religion; say how much better it is to be religious; I may pride myself on being very eloquent, and think I believe because I dream over it and adorn it with imaginative pictures. But if the next day, when I come to the active duties of life, I take the first opportunity of cheating the person with whom I have to do, it is evident that I believe in cheating, and I do not believe in truth and uprightness. If when a person is unable to gratify my wish I become angry and revengeful, it is evident I believe in anger and revenge. I may fancy that I believe in the excellency of the opposite, but what I really believe is what I do.
And therefore it is that the word "faith" should always mean to us not a speculative, but a living active belief: being faithful to principle--that is really faith. Being faithful both to what Christ teaches and to what Christ is; believing in his power and in his goodness; believing in his wisdom and what he commands us to do and be--that is faith. And he who really believes this, really acts from it. Therefore it is that the Apostle Paul says, "Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:2). That is, though I have all that speculative belief, all that idea about religion which would assert a belief in the whole creed, it is of no use in the sight of God. Our real belief is the real inward disposition we have, which comes out in our acts, and is shown by what we do.
It is very clear, then, that the longer a person pursues the principles of heavenly goodness through Christ, by power from him, the more he becomes angel-minded. His inward virtues even give a beauty to his countenance and his entire appearance. They make him so that little children love him. Children see that there is something in him and around him that is delightful to them, that tends to make all who come near him happy, because the angel is becoming more and more formed within him. "This," therefore, "is the love of God: that we keep his commandments."
Let persons who wish to become really religious, who believe in the end of their being, not dream about any fanciful taking away of their sins. But let them look into themselves, see the sins they have and love, and strive for their removal. Sins differ as everything else differs. There is a variety in faces; there is a variety in virtues; there is a variety in sins. No two souls are alike any more than two blades of grass are alike, and sometimes this is a cause of self-deception. A covetous person that has no tendency to prodigality will pride himself on being better than his neighbor. He fancies that he is good because he is not of a wasteful character like his prodigal neighbor. The man who is hedonistic and drunken will frequently give himself credit for being superior to another who is parsimonious, and will say, "God will rather have me than the skinflint that lives next door." And so each person excuses his particular failing by comparing himself with another, whose sin differs from his own.
Too many of us are content with mere lip confession, without real self-examination. We say with the church, "We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us." But we really never look within to see whether that is true or not. It is, no doubt, true. But we do not seek out our particular sins, and see in what way we so grievously offend. Very often it happens that you will hear of a person said to be "dreadfully religious, but terribly ill-tempered." Many are very strict in piety, but it is found they are very keen hands at a bargain. They are devoted to class meetings and church meetings, but are very inconsiderate about their shopmen--will exact unconscionable hours and labor from them as though they were slaves. All these things are the result of persons making a lip confession, but no real confession, of evils as existing in themselves. They either do not look into themselves, or do not say what they see there.
Yet that is the only way in which we can get the victory over our sins. It is not by general confession and a heedless life. It is a particular examination that is wanted to detect in what way we sin, and prayer to the Lord for power to overcome our sins when discovered. One may have a bad temper. Another person may be naturally amiable, but have sins of slothfulness, sins of self-complacency, sins of being quite satisfied that they are all right, even though they never make any earnest endeavor to use their talents for the good of their fellow creatures, and can hardly be brought to see that they have any sins at all because they see that they are not so peevish as somebody else.
But the conviction we should all have is the conviction that we have many sins and many failings. Each has his besetting sins, his sins of mind and heart, and he never can be happy until these are overcome by the active power and agency of the Lord Jesus Christ. Self is a terrible servant which, when once exposed, will be hated, and must be slain. It is a lurking serpent that coils itself up in some secret recess of the soul, ever ready to dart out and destroy.
After a person has examined himself and seen in what way he falls short, if he will then read the Word, and pray to God from day to day for strength, he will assuredly conquer. To read the Word in order to get the knowledge of God's truth--this is the "sword of the Spirit"; this is the power by which sin may be overcome. "Now ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you" (John 15:3), the Lord says. It is by the Word we are saved from destruction, it is by the power of truth that we overcome sin. And as we act earnestly, sincerely, patiently, diligently, beginning in the morning and going on throughout the day--beginning with prayer to the Lord to give us power that day to be in communion with him, and to act kindly and justly to all belonging to our home, and to all with whom we are connected in business, and carrying this throughout the day into every act--sin will weaken in us, and heaven will strengthen.
Some will say, "We shall never get on in the world if we do this." But that is a sign that you do not have faith in the Savior. The Savior is he who made heaven and earth, and who rules it, and yet you do not have faith in him. You have a talking faith perhaps, but you do not have an actual living faith in the Savior. The Savior says, "If a man love me, he will keep my words" (John 14:23); "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15); "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17). Do you believe this? If you say you cannot get on without breaking the commandments, you do not believe it, and therefore you do not have faith.
Some people talk about going to heaven by faith alone. But if they have faith alone, they do not have faith. The virtues of religion do not exist alone. They exist altogether, or none of them are there. The trinity in religion is like the Trinity in God. The Trinity in God is in him in whom "dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians 2:9). The essentials of Deity are altogether in the One God. The trinity in religion is the same, the three great principles of love and faith and works go all together. A man that thinks he has love only does not have love; he only has fancy, sentiment. "This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments." "If a man love me, he will keep my words." "Love is the fulfilling of the law" (Romans 13:10); there is no love without that.
He who says he has faith, and hopes to be saved by faith alone, does not have faith; he is mistaken. Suppose a person wishes to go to a certain place, and asks me to direct him. If, after I have told him the right way, I see him turn around and walk in the opposite direction, I know he does not believe me. In all our other dealings with our fellowmen, we judge their real belief, their real intentions, by their actions. If a person tells me that he is a great friend of mine, or the neighbor who lives next door says that he wishes me well, but I find that he is doing all sorts of unpleasant things to make me uncomfortable, I see at once that he does not believe what he professes. He professes well, but does not mean it--and I do not believe his words. His actions tell me what he really means. And so it is in religion, in our relation to God. Therefore it is that the Scriptures set no value whatever upon a faith that professes to be faith alone. "Faith," says St. James, "if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. . . . The devils also believe and tremble" (James 2:17, 19). What better are they for that?
And so it is with works. Works that are not from love and faith are not good works. They are at best only appearances--virtues that seem to have a decent character, but do not really flow from love to God and faith in his principles. They are not good works. The Apostle Paul speaks of such when he says, "Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:3). It is quite possible for a person to do many useful things to a town--to give money to build a hospital, to give many gifts to the poor, to be very generous, and yet only to do these things to obtain the support of the electors, or to secure praise and reputation, or from some other selfish motive. There is no goodness in such a course. The works are not good works, although they may look like good works. And hence the Lord Jesus said, "I know thy works" (Revelation 2:2), and he "gives to every man according as his work shall be" (Revelation 22:12). He alone knows what works really are. And therefore whoever has works without love and faith does not have good works; he has a name to live, but he is dead.
The three virtues go together, and therefore St Paul says: "Neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love" (Galatians 5:6)--all three together. Neither persons who are merely attentive to rituals and ceremonies, as the Jews were to circumcision and other rites, nor persons who protest loudly against such things are in true faith, because these things are of no real value in the sight of God. The "faith which worketh by love"; the faith that makes a man love the Savior; the faith that makes a man love his fellow creatures; the faith that makes him honest; the faith that makes him victorious over his evils; the faith that enables him to triumph over his daily failings, and that brings him more and more into the likeness of his Heavenly Master--this is the true and saving faith, and there is no other.
Such, then, are the principles which constitute a Christian life. And they refer to the whole life, not simply to pious observances. They concern not simply the Sunday, but Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and every day in the week. They refer not simply to the closet, but to the breakfast and dinner table; the doings and dealings of the home in every respect. We have too long been in the habit of dividing religion from the world, and we have made a sour religion and a bad world. A person has imagined that by being religious on Sunday, he may allow himself many sinful indulgences on the other days in the week; and if he has been rather loose and easy in his business, he will make up for it by extra piety on Sunday.
All these are miserable delusions. Sunday is the spiritual market day to lay in food for the rest of the week. But if you do not use the food, you will be no better for the supply. Sunday is the day for getting strength in order to spend every other day aright; but if you do not use the strength, you will be no better for it. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Immortal beings were not made solely to attend to the services of the Sabbath; but those services were made to help us to become men, to help us to obtain those virtues which constitute the character of a Christian. When men grow more and more heavenly in all their being and habits, each Sabbath receiving more and more strength from the Most High, until at length they are quite ready to enter heaven, and know and feel that they are ready by the happiness they enjoy within and the happiness that glows around them--when they feel that they are ready to enter into the glorious world which is like their heaven within, where every act is filled with happiness because every act is the outburst of wisdom and communion with the Lord, then has the Sabbath done its work.
Such, then, is the Christian life. Let us endeavor not to make any religion a substitute for this, but everything in religion a help to this, a channel to this. Let us not deceive ourselves. We are every day fitting ourselves either for heaven of for hell.
Life is a serious thing--not a melancholy thing, but a serious, an important thing. This world is a training place for a higher and better world. It is not a world that is of no consequence in relation to eternity--not a world in which we may live as we please, and at the last make a gasp and say we believe this and that, and hope God will take us and make us happy. If we trust to anything of this kind, we shall find it a broken reed that will fail us. As we said before, we must be re-formed to be happy; we must conquer our evils to be happy. There is no other way. Anything that seems of another character is an apparent exception, which, be assured, is no real exception. Let us bear in mind that Jesus said, "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:20).
And why should we want to enter any other place? The life of religion is a thousand times better than anything else here. The life of sin never was a happy life. This is what we should endeavor to help our young people to see: that the life of religion, of true religion, of the religion of doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God, is the only way to peace and blessing.
I do not mean the life of religion as some people fancy it is a happy one. This often seems to some to be the life of making themselves as miserable as they can--the life of going about and hanging their heads like a bulrush; the life of being as lackadaisical as possible. God did not make this beautiful world in which we live in order that we might be perpetually spreading a miserable pall of mourning everywhere, and not be able to enjoy the mercies he has given us. He came not to take your joys away from you but, as he himself said, "that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (John 15:11). God wants to take away from us the things that make us miserable. He intends us to have all the blessedness that is in harmony with innocence, and only to fight against sins because they are contrary to the spirit of holiness and wisdom and happiness.
At times it seems as if a man was throwing away some advantage if he did not act unjustly. That is a mistake. He does nothing of the kind. If he would have all that is really necessary to his comfort and happiness in this world, and be prepared at the same time for everlasting happiness and comfort in the eternal world, let him live the life of religion--of real, living, practical justice and piety. This is to be as happy as our state of probation and preparation will admit, and to have heaven in addition. Why not live this life? Why not have continually impressed upon our children these blessed truths? Begin with the beginning of life; labor not vainly to the end. Too many talk of dying well; they should talk of living well--for they are sure to die well if they live aright.
Prepare to die? Prepare to live.
We know not what is living;
And let us for the world's good give,
As God is ever giving.
Give action, thought, love, wealth, and time,
To win the primal age again,
Believe me 'tis a truth sublime,
God's world is worthy better men.
Live according to the principles of the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be safe in letting your dying take care of itself. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Revelation 2:10).
"The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21). Let these principles be practiced in ourselves; let them be taught by living them before our children; and let our children have the happiness of learning and understanding and being impressed by them, and we shall save them from innumerable sorrows. We shall preserve them from ten thousand afflictions that rend hearts, that destroy the peace of homes, that make the world the battlefield, the Golgotha, of man instead of being God's outer palace and training place for heaven. We shall find, then, that this world is not the world of sorrow that too many have lamented to find it. It is a glorious world; it is a beautiful world. It only requires that men should be in spirit like God, and this world would be like God's kingdom--showing God's happiness in an outer and lower sphere, but realizing what the angel sang, as heard by John: "And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever'" (Revelation 11:15).
Let us hope that these truths may begin to permeate the world. Let men make their home circles into gems from which the beauty and blessedness of heaven may shine and be reflected on all around, and God will remember us in the day that he makes up his jewels.
A gentleman present said that he very much approved of all that had been advanced as to the excellence of a Christian life. No one could object to that. But what he did object to was making it an essential to salvation. He wanted to hear what the lecturer had to say to that grand declaration of the Apostle, "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (Romans 3:28).
Dr. Bayley: First, I would remark that the Apostle does not say that we are justified by faith alone, without the deeds of the law. Faith has its part in the work of justifying the soul, but it has not the only part. The Apostle says in the preceding chapter, "For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified" (Romans 2:13). Faith makes the intellect just by filling it with truth; love makes the heart just by filling it with goodness; and works make the life just by filling it with virtue. We are, therefore, justified by faith, we are justified by love, we are justified by works--but we are justified by none of them alone.
Gentleman: But what do you make of that expression, "Without the deeds of the law"?
Dr. Bayley: It means without circumcision, sacrifices, ceremonies, or Jewish righteousness of any kind; for that was all either trifling in itself, or defiled with the idea of merit. To understand the Apostle's argument rightly, we must not forget the controversy which was then rife among the Christians, who were very many of them only imperfectly delivered from Jewish prejudices, and still thought they must keep the law as they had done, and add the Christian faith to the Jewish rites. In this controversy, keeping the law meant acting out the Jewish observances.
You will find this illustrated in the Acts of the Apostles, especially in chapters 15 and 21. In chapter 15, we are told, "Certain men who came down from Judea taught the brethren, and said, 'Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.' When Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the Apostles and Elders about this question" (Acts 15:1, 2). This subject was considered by the Apostles and elders, and "there arose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees who believed, saying, "It is needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses'" (Acts 15:5). Here it is most clear what is meant by keeping the law. It meant living as the Jews did, conforming to their ritual, being men of the letter of religion, not of its spirit.
This is apparent in an equally striking manner in chapter 21. Paul came again to Jerusalem, and his coming once more produced great disturbance among the Judaising Christians. Some of the Apostles and elders evidently temporized very much. It was said to Paul, "Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are who believe; and they are all zealous of the law and they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. . . . Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them. Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads. And all may know that those things whereof they were informed concerning thee are nothing, but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law" (Acts 21:20, 21, 23, 24). Here, again, it is most evident that "keeping the law" had become a technical phrase for observing the Jewish customs, while "faith" meant a living belief in Christianity--a living belief because grounded in love, and productive of just and holy works.
The Apostle never meant to say that a man could be justified without doing God's will as well as believing it. No one speaks more strongly for Christian works than he. Look at the chapter before the one from which our friend's passage is taken, where the Apostle says that:
God will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation, and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but glory, honor, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile. For there is no respect of persons with God. (Romans 2:6-11)
Nothing, surely, can be stronger than this; and it is the Apostle's constant doctrine.
In the passage which the gentleman cited at first, the Apostle does not say we are to be justified by faith without any law at all, but by the law of faith--that is, the law as the Christian understands it, in its spirit, and in living obedience to the divine commandments. This was a righteousness before the Jewish law, and was always contained within its rituals and symbols. This is the righteousness of faith. Hence the Apostle says, "Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay; but by the law of faith" (Romans 3:27). "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid; yea, we establish the law" (Romans 3:31). The law of the divine commandments, as the Apostle understood it, would be more perfectly done than it had ever been done before, for now it would be done "in spirit and in life."
Hence he says again: "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God" (1 Corinthians 7:19). Again: "For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love" (Galatians 5:6). And once more: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature" (Galatians 6:15). Love, too, with the Apostle, is the ground of faith, and consists in the fulfilling of the law. He says:
Owe no man anything, but to love one another; for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," "Thou shalt not kill," "Thou shalt not steal," "Thou shalt not bear false witness," "Thou shalt not covet;" and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)
Gentleman: You say, sir, that love is the root or ground of faith. Now, sir, it has always been represented to me the other way--that faith is the root of love. And if it were not so, would not the Apostles have told their converts to have love? But when the jailer at Philippi said, "What must I do to be saved?" the Apostle only said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:30, 31).
Dr. Bayley: It is very evident that the jailer was in the love to be saved, or he would not have asked the question so earnestly. And if to this love he added the real belief on the Lord Jesus Christ, he would be saved from sin and all its consequences. The love comes first, the belief second, and the practice last. If there be much love, there will be much belief and much practice. If there be little love, there will be little belief and little practice. "For with the heart a man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:10).
Gentleman: I have been taught that saving faith produces love and works as necessary consequences, as a tree produces fruit. Do you not believe it is so, sir?
Dr. Bayley: That is a very common idea, but I fear there is much delusion hidden under its specious appearance. It would seem to imply that a person need not concern himself about good works, but only about faith, since if his faith be of the right kind--that is, truly orthodox--his works are sure to be what they ought to be.
Now, let us put this idea to a practical test. Are the works of professors of religion generally what they ought to be? Do the traders, the employers of labor, the laborers themselves, the clergy even, act upon the principles of the Christian faith? It must be answered that very few indeed do so--perhaps not one in a hundred thousand. Must we say, then, that not one in a hundred thousand has the right belief, or his practice would be perfect, since a true faith necessarily produces the right conduct? Nay, is there a single man whose conduct is in all respects right? Must we conclude, then, that not a single man on the earth has the right faith--instead of that there is some fallacy in the idea of a correct faith necessarily producing good works?
Perhaps there are many fallacies in the proposition. We suspect there are. What is meant by a correct faith with those who use this argument? Generally it means a faith that the Lord Jesus died for us. But if it be asserted that everyone who believes that the Lord Jesus died for him will necessarily produce good works, we know it is not true. Great numbers who have this belief are very evil men--especially if they do not believe also that good works are necessary to salvation. Most Christians have the belief that Christ died for them; indeed, you will find very few who have it not. And yet the lives of most Christians do not abound in good works.
The faith in the Lord's death, if taken as the whole of faith, makes an incorrect faith because it is incomplete. It is a part of faith, yet only a small part. And it is wrong to assume as an entire faith the proposition that the Lord Jesus died for us. A true faith is a faith, not in a single proposition, but in the Lord Jesus Christ. And a faith in the Lord Jesus is a belief in what he is and what he says.
We never say we believe in a person when we do not credit what he says. Now, those who do not believe that good works should be done as necessary to salvation do not believe the Lord Jesus, who constantly teaches to do good works. "If thou wilt enter into life," he says, "keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17). "They that have done good shall come forth unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:29). "Not everyone that saith unto me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). If we believe in the Lord Jesus as our divine Savior, and in the absolute necessity of a life according to his commandments, we shall be strongly disposed to do good works. But even then we shall do them voluntarily, not compulsorily.
The idea we are now considering seems to assume that when faith is received into the soul, its results--as necessary offshoots and without will on man's part--will be virtuous works. We do not think so. The faith which produces good works must be a faith that good works ought to be done; a faith that the Lord requires them; a faith that heaven, where the Lord's will is done, can only be entered by those who have prepared themselves by doing the Lord's will here. This faith and life are procured not by necessity, but by constant effort. "Work out your own salvation," says the Apostle, "with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). If faith be regarded as a tree, we must remember that trees do not necessarily produce good fruit, but only according to their cultivation. He who grafts his trees with proper slips, and duly prunes the branches, digs and enriches the soil, and in everything provides for their wants, will have an abundance of good fruit; but no others will.
The process of being converted to a Christian life is, briefly, this: We first obtain the knowledge of heavenly things either through teachers, preachers, or otherwise from the Word; "faith comes by hearing" (Romans 10:17). Having gotten the knowledge of faith in the memory, we are excited by some circumstance or other afforded to us by a merciful Providence to ponder upon it, and to be convinced of its necessity for us in order to save us from hell and prepare us for heaven. The longer and more deeply we ponder upon it, and the more we read, reflect, and pray, the more does faith open its sublime lessons to the soul, and imbue the intellect. As we embrace the truth because it is true and good, we see that it must purify our hearts and reform our lives, and we pray to the Lord that it may effect these saving works. At first we see but little by the light of faith; but it detects our most glaring evils, and gives us power to reform them. Gradually its light increases, and we see more to correct, and we will to be more and more conformed to the divine mind. Thus we go on by the power of the Savior until, every evil being subdued, and the life transformed, we obtain deep, interior, and lasting peace. All this proceeds by volition and effort, and no perfection comes of itself. The whole process is done by man, but by power from God.
Gentleman:What are the good works that are to be done to work out salvation?
Dr. Bayley: That is an important question, for too many have an idea that the good works of religion are only acts of piety such as attending places of worship, reading the Bible, contributing to the spread of religion, and all such works as are connected with Sunday exercises. But this is a dangerous error.
Works are all the acts of life. Those of Sunday ought to be done, but those of the other days not to be left undone. The service of Sunday is really to enable us to act rightly on Monday and all the other days. On Sunday we ought by reflection and examination to prepare ourselves to improve our whole daily life. If we do not use it for this purpose it is a fraud, an hypocrisy, and a delusion. Hear what the Lord says to the wicked worshippers of old:
When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot endure; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. . . . And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers I will not hear; your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:12, 13, 15-17)
A person ought to pray, and to pray earnestly, for power to practice. But prayers are only words, and make a very slight impression when not followed by acts of justice and virtue. Actions flow from the heart; they form and reveal the man. Acts form habits, and evil habits enchain the soul. A man is what he habitually and freely does, not what he prays without doing. A person's real religion is just so much as appears in his daily acts in the form of justice and truth--justice in deed and truth in word. Every work is either good or evil. It is good if done from a spirit of religion; it is evil if done from a selfish, unjust, and impure spirit. The corrupt and fraudulent practices which prevail everywhere reveal the real want of faith at the present time. Men have faith now in cunning, in fraud, in outward show, in fashion, in Mammon, but little faith in goodness, in order, in truth, and in God.
But a better time is coming. True faith is like a grain of mustard seed now, but it will grow and spread and fill the whole earth. In the meantime, let me exhort my hearers, whatever their occupations may be, to do them from love to God and man, to execute them from principles true, honest, and just, and their every work will then be a good work, and their whole life be a life of religion.
Gentleman: Is it your opinion, sir, that amusements are sinful?
Dr. Bayley: Certainly not, if they are innocent and take place at proper times. He who inspires the birds to sing, the flowers to bloom, and the sparkling spray to dance in the sunbeam desires to see all his creation happy. To man, he says, "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (John 15:11).
Labor is now continued much too long. Shops are kept open with flaring lights, when both principals and assistants would be much better employed with cheerful and instructive books and studies, or healthy recreations. The worship of Mammon is a heavy, joyless curse. Sad is it that men have not the courage to follow only the happy laws of their Savior and Creator. Men destroy their health, and the health of their servants, in accumulating a mass of wealth which, from debilitated frames, they are unable to enjoy. They have been full of care, anxiety, and toil in getting it; and when they have realized the dream for which they have forfeited too often both conscience and health, they find nothing but emptiness, weariness, and grief.
If they had done business moderately and from just principles, business--and life itself--would have been a real pleasure. And when age rendered repose necessary, the man who had passed his life in virtuous and active usefulness could always have looked back upon it with pleasure, be an example and a counselor to the young, and wait until his Lord summoned him to heaven.
Gentleman:But we are told in the Bible, sir, that labor is a curse inflicted for the sin of Adam. It must surely, then, be right to avoid it as much as possible.
Dr. Bayley: That is a popular delusion. Excessive labor is a curse, but orderly work is one of God's highest blessings. When Adam sinned, it was said, "In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat thy bread" (Genesis 3:19). But before that, when he was placed in Paradise, he was commanded "to dress and to keep it" (Genesis 2:15). Depend upon it: orderly work is the salt of life. Active labor brings forth everything valuable in life, and constitutes true dignity. The man who is sacrificing himself that his children may have nothing to do is laboring, not to bless them, but to give them a life of misery. The Lord himself works for all (Psalm 40:5; 103:6; 145:9; etc.); the angels are ministering spirits (Hebrews 1:14). And we must minister to the general happiness, too, in some useful occupation, or we cannot be happy. Wearisome is the life that has no useful aim:
Triumph and Toil are twins; and aye
Joy suns the cloud of sorrow;
And 'tis the martyrdom today
Brings victory tomorrow.
Gentleman: May I ask, sir, what is the light in which the sacraments are held in the New Church? In these days we hear much of baptismal regeneration when the sacrament is administered by a successor of the apostles. Do you hold that doctrine, sir?
Dr. Bayley: Certainly not. Regeneration with us is a fact, not a fancy. A man is born again when he receives from the Lord new tempers, new thoughts, and a new life. When, as the Apostle says, "he has put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him" (Colossians 3:9, 10).
Gentleman:But what has the baptism of a child to do with this?
Dr. Bayley: Neither the baptism of a child nor of an adult effects this. It is only the outward sign of it. The water used in baptism corresponds to purifying truth; for that cleanses the soul as water purifies the body. Water is applied to the child or adult in baptism to signify that the inward water of the Holy Word must be applied to the spirit to render it clean from evils, both hereditary and actual. The Lord ordained this sign to be used for admission into his church, and no doubt when done from love to him it has his especial blessing, and connects us more fully with the angels of his kingdom. And there is great propriety in the baptism of infants because in reality the will of the Lord is that they should in all things from earliest childhood be instructed in truth, and prepared for heaven.
We baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, because these are the three great essential principles in the Deity. The Father is the divine love, the Son is the incarnate wisdom, and the Holy Spirit is the divine virtue flowing out from God. Man is inwardly baptized in the name of the divine love as he becomes loving; in the name of the divine wisdom, or the Son, as he becomes wise; and in the name of the divine outflowing virtue or operation as he becomes virtuous in every act of life. This is what baptism signifies, and as our regeneration proceeds, this is what inward baptism actually is. It is worthy of observation that we read in the Acts of the Apostles of their baptizing in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:5)--a fact which teaches very strongly that they regarded that name as the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Gentleman: Will you favor us also with your view of the Holy Supper?
Dr. Bayley: As to the Holy Supper, the New Church teaches that it is the most Holy Sacrament, and the grand means by which the Lord most fully feeds the humble soul. The bread is the symbol of the heavenly bread of divine goodness, the bread of life; the wine is the symbol of divine wisdom, the new wine of the kingdom of heaven. When the natural elements are taken into the body, the spiritual food signified is taken into the soul, and thus the Lord sups with us and we with him. This is the holiest act of worship, and the highest means of conjunction with heaven. We ought never to neglect the high and sacred privilege of meeting our blessed Lord, and being strengthened by his divine flesh and blood. His flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed (John 6:55). He who eats his flesh and drinks his blood has eternal life (John 6:54). By prayer, by hearing and reading the Word, and by the Sacrament, we obtain divine illumination, strength, and blessing; and by these all sins are subdued, and we rise daily to those graces which prepare the soul for peace and heaven.
Gentleman: One question I should like finally to ask. I understand you to assert that a Christian life is in all cases indispensable for salvation. Now, I will not say but that is the safest course and the general way, but I have thought there were exceptions, extraordinary cases. Such, for instance, as the thief upon the cross. He had no time to live a good life, and yet Jesus said to him, "Today thou shalt be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). What do you say to that, and the eleventh-hour laborers (Matthew 20:6)?
Dr. Bayley: We know nothing of the previous life of the malefactor who said, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom" (Luke 23:42). He may, for anything we know, have been a very good man in his ordinary life, and fallen into the fault for which he suffered from sudden temptation--like the Apostle Peter, who was undoubtedly a good man, but who, nevertheless, under severe and sudden temptation, cursed and swore, and denied his Master (Matthew 26:74; Mark 14:71).
Moreover, an ordinary thief was not punished with death amongst the Jews, but made to restore, in some cases twofold, and in some fourfold. This man's fault was something different from that of an ordinary bad character. Dr. Kitto observes:
Some eminent writers are of opinion that he was, in all probability, not a thief who robbed for profit, but one of the insurgents who had taken up arms on a principle of resistance to the Roman oppression, and to what they thought an unlawful burden--the tribute money. They are of opinion, also, that it is far from certain that either his faith or repentance was the fruit of this particular season. He must have known something of the Savior, otherwise he could not have said, "He hath done nothing amiss." He was convinced of our Lord's Messiahship: "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom."
Koecher tells us that it was a very ancient tradition that the thief was not converted at the cross, but had been previously imbued with a knowledge of the Gospel. To all this I will add that the Lord who had previously laid down the law that "not everyone that saith unto me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21) was the same Lord who admitted this man, and who knew him thoroughly. I don't believe he would break his own law, and therefore I conclude this man was a doer of his will.
As to the eleventh-hour laborers, they had been waiting to be hired all the day, and when they were hired they obtained as much reward for their short time as the others had gained for all the day. They were placed first, for they denote the best principles of the soul, which come into operation the last. The whole vineyard represents the mind which has to be regenerated. The whole day is the whole of man's life. The different classes of laborers mean the different classes of affections which are made active in the soul. The first are the least excellent. As the lord of the vineyard goes out at successive times, he brings in fresh laborers who have been waiting to be hired all the day, and at last those of the eleventh hour (Matthew 20:1-16).
So is it in our regeneration. The principles from which we first act in religion are low and selfish, much actuated by fear. Then we come into the love of knowing truth; then into the love of understanding the truth; then into the love of goodness, and of God, who is goodness itself. We begin with fear, but we come at length into that perfect love which casts out fear (1 John 4:18). The affections of this love are the eleventh-hour laborers. They are the last which shall be first.
And now in concluding our subject for this evening, allow me to mention that only this doctrine of the Christian life which we have been urging is in harmony with the great Scripture doctrine of judgment according to our works. If the doctrine of salvation by faith alone were right, all judgment of our works would be superfluous, since those who had the right faith would be saved, and those who had not would be condemned. Yet in no case where judgment is referred to or described is there any enquiry or declaration made in relation to faith. The judgment is always that of works.
Let us suppose a case. A man has lived in villainy and crime all his life. His career has been spotted with vice and selfishness, ever deepening, until he comes upon the verge of eternity. Then, terrified at the prospect, he recoils from the punishment before him, and he cries out with terror. Preachers come and tell him he must have faith that Christ died for him; and now, being powerless to act, and wishful to escape punishment, he cries out that he believes, and dies. In the judgment, all his life will be declared--as it was--evil. And the law of judgment is: he that has done evil shall come forth to condemnation. If the momentary faith will set aside the judgment of the life, undoubtedly judgment is an utterly vain thing, and the whole Word of God, which declares that we shall be judged according to our works, is vain.
But it cannot be so. The very idea of this world is that of a testing period. Here we are men in the process of making--and what we make ourselves to be in actual life, such shall we be in the end. "He that is holy, let him be holy still . . . and he that is unjust, let him be unjust still" (Revelation 22:11). In the early portion of the Bible, we find it written, "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door" (Genesis 4:7). And in the last chapter of the same holy record it is said, "And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Revelation 22:12).
May this great truth lead us daily to prepare, that all our works may be done in the spirit of justice and judgment, which is the spirit of heaven; and the sentence of our merciful Judge at the last may be: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant . . . enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Matthew 25:21).