Purpose Of The Advent*
Four Sermons by Dr. G. Campbell Morgan
We are approaching the festival of Christmas. In the calendar of the Christian year this is the first Sunday in Advent. I am proposing to speak for four successive Sunday evenings on the purposes of the Advent. The importance of the subject cannot be overstated. The whole teaching of Holy Scripture places the Advent at the center of the methods of God with a sinning race. Toward that Advent everything moved until its accomplishment, finding therein fulfillment and explanation. The messages of the prophets, seers, and the songs of psalmists trembled with more or less certainty toward the final music which announced Jesus' coming. All the results of these partial and broken messages of the past led toward the Advent. It is equally true that from that Advent all subsequent movements have proceeded, depending upon it for direction and dynamic. The writings which we have in the Gospel stories are all concerned with the coming of Christ, with His mission and His message. The last book of the Bible is a book the true title of which is The Unveiling of the Christ. Not only the actual messages which have been bound up in this one Divine Library, but all the results issuing from them are finally results issuing from this selfsame coming of Christ. It is surely important therefore that we should understand its purposes in the economy of God.
There is a fourfold statement of purpose which I propose to make. The purpose to destroy the works of the devil, the purpose to put away sin, the purpose to reveal the Father, the purpose to establish by another Advent the Kingdom of God in the world.
In dealing first with the purpose to destroy the works of the devil
I am attempting to follow the order of historic appreciation. There is
a sense in which these purposes go forward concurrently, the
destruction of the works of the devil, the taking away of sin, the
unveiling of the face of the Father and the administration of the
Kingship of God toward consummation. In yet another sense we may state
the order of these things differently. We may say that He came first to
reveal the Father, then to deal with sin, presently by way of the
second Advent to set up the Kingdom in the world, and ultimately and
finally to destroy the works of the devil. I think, as I have already
intimated, that so far as historic appreciation of the purposes of God
is concerned, I have suggested to you the true order. To the men of
Christ's own age, both those who yielded to Him and those who rebelled
against Him, He was first of all a reformer--and I pray you do not
interpret the meaning of that word "reformer" by those who have
followed in His wake or those who preceded Him, but gather all your
thought of it from what He was in Himself--a soul in conflict with all
that was contrary to the purposes of God in individual, social,
national, racial life.
Such was Christ, and there is a sense in which when we have said this we have stated the whole meaning of His coming. His revelation of the Father was toward this end; His putting away of sin was a part of this very process, and His second Advent will be for the complete and final overthrow of all the works of the devil.
Confining ourselves, however, to the simplest meaning of this
particular passage, let us notice, first of all, John's description of
the Advent. He does not say, "For this purpose, or to this end, was
Jesus of Nazareth born." That would be true, but only part of the truth.
Remember, there can be no question as to Whom John referred when he said "the Son of God." We all know that he was writing of the One of Whom he always wrote. We are taken back irresistibly, however, to words at the beginning of John's Gospel and Epistle. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... and the Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us." "That which we have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands handled." It is impossible to read these words and imagine they are wholly or exclusively spiritual statements. John is most carefully defining the Person. In all the writings of John it is evident that his eyes are fixed upon the man Jesus. Occasionally he does not even name Jesus, does not even refer to Him by a personal pronoun, but indicates Him by a word you can use only when you are looking at an object or a person. For instance, "That which we have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands handled." Upon another occasion John said, "He that saith he abideth in Him, ought himself also to walk even as that One walked." It is always the method of expression of a man who is looking at a Person. Forevermore the actual human Person of Christ was present to the mind of John as he wrote of Him. How intimate he had been with Him we all know. One of the most tender and beautiful things in all the story of the life of Jesus is the story of John's love for Him, pure human affection for Him. The other disciples loved Him in a sense, and I do not undervalue their love, but it was of a different tone and quality from that of John. You cannot imagine Peter getting very intimately near to Christ. There was something of distance, of breeze and bluster, and of beauty, about the love of Peter. He would be quite content to talk to Jesus across the table, but John must get close to Him and lay his head upon His bosom. There was none of the disciples so intimately associated with the actual human personality of Jesus as John. When John refers to Him it is always in words that thrill and throb with the warm tenderness of human consciousness, of human friendship. Yet there is not one of you here who does not know that if I said no more I would not have uttered half the truth. If John the mystic, the lover, laid his head upon the human bosom of the Man of Nazareth, he heard the beating of the heart of God. If he laid his hand upon Jesus when he talked to Him he knew that beneath the warm touch of the human flesh there beat the mystic majesty of Deity. "That which our hands handled, concerning the Word of life." Mark the contradiction of it in this materialistic age of ours. Can you handle a word? Can you handle life? Yet John says, "This is what we have done." He is perfectly conscious of the flesh, but supremely conscious of the mystic Word veiled in flesh and shining through it. He is perfectly conscious of the human and gets thereby to Deity. So that when John comes to write of this One he speaks of Him as "the Son of God." He remembers the warmth of His bosom, the gentleness of His touch, the love-lit glory of His eyes, but He is "the Son of God."
The word "manifested" presupposes existence prior to manifestation. In the Man of Nazareth there was manifestation of One Who had existed long before the Man of Nazareth.
The incarnation was not an act by which God began to be in any
sense. It was not an act by which God came into nearness to human life.
It was an act by which God manifested His nearness to human life, and
by which manifestation He was able to do in human life and in human
history things He could not have done apart from that selfsame method
of manifestation. "To this end was the Son of God manifested."
Now we come to the statement of purpose. The person referred to, the devil. The things to be destroyed, the works of the devil. The purpose declared, to destroy the works of the devil.
The enemy is described here as the devil. I want to take other
from the writings of John and let their light fall upon this name. In
the eighth chapter of John's Gospel it is recorded that Jesus, using
this very name, declares of the devil that "he was a murderer from the
beginning... he is a liar." A little further on in the Gospel it is
declared it was he who put it into the heart of Judas to betray Christ.
I read in the context of my text that he is the fountainhead of sin,
the lawless one. Gather up these thoughts concerning this
personality--murderer, liar, betrayer, the fountainhead of sin, himself
missing the mark because of lawlessness--and it will immediately be
manifest what his works are. The work of the murderer is destruction of
life. The work of the liar is the extinguishing of light. The work of
the betrayer is the violation of love. The work of the archsinner is
the breaking of the law. These are the works of the devil.
First, as to the destruction of life, for he is a murderer. This consists fundamentally in the destruction of life on its highest level, which is the spiritual. Alienation from God is the devil's work. It is also death on the level of the mental. Vision which fails to include God is practical blindness. On the physical plane, all disease and all pain are ultimately results of sin and are among the works of the devil. These things all lie within the realm of his work as a murderer, destroyer of human life. The Greek word might perhaps be translated more forcefully "man-slayer." He is the slayer of man, in the spiritual, which is supreme; in the mental which marks consciousness, whether spiritual or material; in the body, which is the instrument of the spirit, whether for good or evil. The man-slayer is one who comes in to spoil humanity, to rob it of its life, to blind it spiritually toward God, to limit it mentally because of the blindness of the spiritual, and to bring into it all manner of disease and death in the physical realm.
He is more. He is the liar and to him is due the extinguishing of
light, so that men blunder along the way. All ignorance, all despair,
all wandering over the trackless deserts of life, are due to the
extinction of spiritual light in the mind of man. I can quite imagine
someone saying, "You are going outside the realm of what is true when
you declare that all ignorance is the devil's work." I abide by that
statement, perhaps for reasons which are not ordinarily advanced or
held. I will make one contrast in your mind tonight. I claim that in
this Man of Nazareth as pure man there was an utter absence of
ignorance. His thinking was perfectly clear. He as man saw right
through to the heart of mystery, and that because He was never brought
under the dominion of sin, never brought under the dominion of the evil
one, was able in His life perpetually to rebut every advance of the
prince of darkness, who is a liar from the beginning. I am not merely
speaking of Him as One infallible in spiritual things. I believe He was
also absolutely infallible in other things. I am asked today if I
imagine that Jesus knew the laws of nature by the discovery of which in
recent years men have made such rapid progress. Yes, absolutely. He
knew every one. I am asked if I believe that He understood the mystery
of electricity. Yes. Then you say, "Why did He not tell the race?" The
race was not ready for the knowledge. What is true in the spiritual
realm is true also in the scientific. He had many things to say which
men were then not able to bear. I for one have no part or lot in the
view of Christ that He was scientifically half ignorant, while
spiritually infallible. You say, "Then He was not upon our level." He
was not upon our level. No perfect man was ever upon our level. There
was in Him no sin, no darkness, no limitation, and you have one gleam
of this fact in the impression He produced upon the men of His own age.
He went up to Jerusalem and was talking in the midst of men of culture
and men of light and leading, in the midst of the school men. What did
they say of Him? "How knoweth this Man letters, having never learned?"
"Whence hath this Man the accent of the school, never having been to
school? How is it that this Man in His teaching is most evidently
familiar with the things we have obtained through strife and
difficulty?" They did not answer their question. Men today cannot
answer their question, save as they recognize that here was a Man never
having learned yet knowing, and seeing clearly to the heart of things.
I go back from that illustration, which is in some sense a digression,
and yet I think you see its purpose. All ignorance is the result of the
clouding of man's vision of God. "This is life eternal," age-abiding
life, high life, deep life, broad life, long life, comprehensive life,
"that they should know Thee the only true God, and Him Whom Thou didst
send, even Jesus Christ." The proportion in which man knows God is the
proportion in which he sees clearly to the heart of things. You say,
"How is it that Christian people have not been able to see these
things? How is it that the great discoveries of science have not been
made by Christian people?" I would have you remember first that the
discoveries of science have always been made in a Christian atmosphere.
In the second place, the redemptive work of Christ will not be
perfected in humanity until that mysterious morning of His second
Advent, when we shall have our new bodily powers as well as our new
spiritual powers, and when man is wholly restored to God. Let me say
this as superlatively as I believe it. In that day manhood will laugh
at the foolish pride of this day, which thinks it understands this
world. Sinning man has but scratched upon the surface of the infinite
mysteries of this world. By and by, when the redemptive work of Christ
has been perfected in man, and in the world, we shall find that all
ignorance is banished and man has found his way into light. But the
liar, the one who brings darkness, has made his works far spread o'er
all the face of humanity, and all ignorance and resultant despair and
all wandering aimlessly in every realm of life are due to the work of
the one whom Jesus designated a liar from the beginning. Again, the
violation of love, as a work of the devil, is seen supremely in the way
he entered into the heart of Judas and made him the betrayer. All the
avarice you find in the world today and all the jealousy and all the
cruelty are the works of the devil.
Finally, He is the supreme sinner. Sin is lawlessness, which does not mean the condition of being without law, but the condition of being against law, breaking law. So that all wrong done to God in His world, all wrong done by man to man, all wrong done by man to himself, are works of the devil.
To summarize them, death, darkness, hatred, find them where you will, are works of the devil.
The Son of God was manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil. If at the beginning we saw Him as a soul in conflict with all these things, remember that was an indication of the program and a prophecy of the purpose. The Advent which we celebrate was not merely the birth of a little child in whom we were to learn the secret of childhood and in whom presently we were to see the glories of manhood. All that is true; but it was the happening in the course of human events of that one thing through which God Himself is able to destroy the works of the devil.
"To destroy." What is this word? It is a word which means to dissolve, to loosen. It is the very same word that is used in the Apocalypse about loosing us from our sins; or, if you will be more graphic, it is the word used in the Acts of the Apostles when you read that the ship was broken to pieces; loosed, dissolved, that which had been a consistent whole was broken up and scattered and wrecked. The word "destroyed" may be perfectly correct, but let us understand it. He was manifested for what? to do a work in human history the result of which should be that the works of the devil would lose their consistency. The cohesive force that makes them appear stable until this moment He came to loosen and dissolve. He was manifested to destroy hatred by the gift of love. He was manifested to destroy lawlessness by the gift of law. He was manifested to loosen, to break up, to destroy the negatives which spoil, by bringing the positive that remakes and uplifts.
He was manifested to destroy the works of the devil as to death by
gift of life. This means first spiritual life, which is fellowship with
God. It means also mental life, the vision of the open secret. Not yet
perfectly do we understand, but already the trusting soul in this
house, utterly devoid of education, hears more in the wind at eventide,
and sees more in the blossoming of the flowers than any scientific man.
Was it not Huxley who said that if our ears were but acute enough we
would hear the flowers grow. You say that is a purely scientific
statement. I know it is, and science, in the last analysis, is
spiritual. Christ has so far invaded the world that the men who do not
name His name are beginning to spell out this great truth. The merely
physical scientist of a generation ago has passed never to return. I
hear of whitening dawns of psychological investigation, but what does
it mean? That men are gradually beginning to hear the singing. There is
no simple-hearted child of God in this house but that looking into a
flower sees the face of God. I think, perchance, I have told you here
before of something that happened in my boyhood's days which I have
never forgotten. There came to my father's house a young fellow who had
been led to Christ but recently in one of my father's meetings. One day
he took me down the garden--I was but eight years old--and he plucked a
nasturtium leaf, and putting it in his hand he said, "Look at this."
Boylike, I thought he had found a great curiosity, and hurried to see
it. I did not see what he saw. The day came when, by the grace of God,
I saw it also. He said, "See, is not God beautiful?" For me, you may
take all your botanists if you will give me that man with the leaf in
his hand. That is not imagination. It is the open secret. It is what
Carlyle called the great significance shining through. Mrs. Barrett
Browning was right--
How many there are in the "rest"!
He who sees has the true intellectual vision, which Christ has bestowed in His gift of life. "This is life eternal, that they should know Thee the only true God." The gift of life was to destroy death, and the man who has His gift of life laughs in the face of death, laughs triumphantly, and--yes, I will say it--makes fun of death! Do not misunderstand me--I mean for himself, never of the sorrow which comes to the bereaved. I still believe, say what you will, that there was laughter in the Apostle's tone when he said, "O death, where is thy sting?" As though he had said, "What hast thou done with thy sting, death? What hast thou done with thy victory? I trembled in thy presence once, O rider upon the pale horse, but now I laugh in thy face, for thy paleness has become the glistening white of an angel of light." So He destroys the works of the devil by giving the gift of life which destroys death.
As for darkness, this is intimately associated with the thing already said, the gift of light; but remember light always comes out of life. If there be death then there is no vision. If there be life there is light. Light means knowledge and hope and guidance, so that there is no more wandering aimlessly. By bringing light into human life and into the world Christ has destroyed the works of the devil.
As for hatred, He destroys hatred by His gift of love, benevolence--and I am not using the word idly as we often do; I am using it in all its rich, spacious, gracious meaning--benevolence, well-willing, self-abnegation, kindness in the Apostle's sense of the word who, when writing to the Galatians, gives kindness as one of the qualities of love, the specific doing of small things out of pure love. All these things are things by which the works of the devil are being destroyed. Hatred, avarice, jealousy, selfishness, how are these things destroyed? By shedding abroad love which is the warmth of life, as light is its illumination. By these things He destroys the works of the devil.
As for lawlessness, this Jesus destroys by the gift of law, passion for the rights of God, service to my fellow men, the finding of self in the great abnegation, and the finding of self in perfect freedom because I have become the bond-slave of the infinite Lord of Love. The works of the devil, what are they? Death working within us, the spirit that is against truth and light, the darkness of ignorance. The spirit of hatred and malice, avarice and jealousy and the whole unholy brood of things which are unlike God, lawlessness lying at the base of all, the refusal to submit, these are the works of the devil. Nineteen centuries ago the Son of God was manifested, and during those centuries in the lives of hundreds, thousands, He has destroyed the works of the devil, mastered death by the gift of life, cast darkness out by the incoming of light, turned the selfishness of avarice and jealousy into love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness. He has taken hold of lawless men and made them into the willing, glad bond-servants of God. So has He destroyed the works of the devil.
Do not forget the meaning of the Advent historically. It was the invasion of human history by One who snatched the scepter from the usurper. It was the intrusion of forces into human history which dissolved the consistency of the works of the devil, and causes them to break and fail. "How long, O Lord, how long?" is the cry of the heart of the saint today. Yet take heart as you look back and know that force has operated for nineteen centuries and always toward consummation. Still, the works of the devil are manifest, the works of the flesh are manifest. Yes, but the fruit of the Spirit of life which has come through the Advent of Christ is also manifest. All over the world today on many a branch of the vine of the Father's planting the rich clusters of fruit are to be found. All, so far, is but preliminary. It is twilight only. High noon has not yet arrived; but it is twilight, and noon must come. What the Advent has wrought it will still work. That which it has accomplished in the face of opposition it will accomplish. That which has dissolved the vested and established evils proves to my heart the certainty of the ultimate victory. I tell you that if we have but eyes anointed to see we shall discover the fact that all the works of the devil in the world are wrapped about by the slow burning fires that came when the Son of God was manifested that He might loosen, dissolve, destroy the works of the devil.
The last word is to be personal. The Advent personally was the
of the Stronger than the strong men armed. It was the coming of One to
destroy the works of the devil in my own life. Are they not destroyed?
Are they not shaken to their foundations? Are they still established in
the fiber of your being? Do you know as you sit in this house tonight
that the works of the devil, death, darkness, hatred and rebellion are
the master forces of your being? Then I bring you the Evangel. I tell
you of One manifested to destroy all such works. I tell you not merely
as a theory, but as having the testimony of history attesting the truth
of the announcement of my text. I do not move you by that! Suffer me,
then, to tell you as a word of personal and actual experience: not that
in me the victory is perfectly won, not that the Master's work is
accomplished, but that in me, solemnly, I bear the testimony, the
forces of this Christ have operated and are operating, and the things
that were formerly established are loosened and are falling to decay.
He was manifested to destroy the works of the devil. If tonight you are
in the grip of forces of evil, if you realize that in your life his
works are the things of strength, then I pray you turn with full
purpose of heart to the One manifested long ago, Who is here now, Who,
in all the power of His gracious victory, will destroy in you all the
works of the devil and set you free.
Ye know that He was manifested to take away sins; and in Him is no sin. (1 John 3:5)
Last Sunday evening we spoke on a verse in this same chapter, "To this end was the Son of God manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil." If the works of the devil are death, darkness, hatred and lawlessness, the one word "sin" expresses all these things for us. Sin is due to death and issues in death, that is, death as separation from the life of God. Sin is due to darkness--the carnal mind which cannot see the things of God--issues in yet denser darkness. Sin is due to hatred--the man continuing in sin continues a carnal man, not knowing God, is at enmity with God--and issues in yet profounder hatred. Or, comprehensively, it may be stated that sin is due to lawlessness as a principle expressing itself in lawlessness as an activity. Thus in our text we get nearer to an understanding of the purpose of the Advent as it touches our human need.
The simple and all inclusive theme which the text suggests is, first, that the purpose of the Advent was the taking away of sins, and secondly, that the process of accomplishment is that of the Advent.
Let us first, then, take the purpose as declared. "He was manifested
take away sins." In order to understand it we must take the terms in
all their simplicity, and be very careful to find what they really
mean. "To take away sins." What is intended by this word "sins"? The
sum total of all lawless acts--the thought is incomprehensible as to
numbers. I think I shall carry you with me when I say that there is no
human being here who would care to have the task allotted to him of
counting up his own lawless acts. If the thought is indeed
incomprehensible as to numbers let us remember that in the midst of
that which overwhelms us in our thinking are our own actual sins. The
actual sins which we cannot enumerate are nevertheless included in this
declaration of purpose.
For a moment postpone the activity of your mind
which suggests difficulties as to how anyone can do such a thing as
this; leave out of the question the whole thought of process and simply
face the avowed declaration of purpose "manifested to take away sins."
"Sins," missings of the mark, whether willful missings of the mark or
missings of the mark through ignorance, does not at present matter. The
word includes all those thoughts and words and deeds in which we have
missed the mark of the Divine purpose and the Divine ideal: those
things which stand between man and God, so that man becomes afraid of
God because he recognizes that in his sins he has violated the Divine
purpose and broken the Divine law; those things which stand between man
and his fellow man, so that man becomes afraid of his fellow man,
knowing that he has wronged him in some direction; those things which
stand between man and his own success. Call them failures if you will,
call them by any name you please, so that you understand the intention
of the word.
When John the Baptist looked upon Jesus, he said, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." There he used the same word but in the singular. There he referred to the principle manifesting itself in lawless acts. He used a word which includes all sins, and therefore is, in some senses, the profounder word, and yet in our text we understand the writer to mean that the Advent was in order to the taking away of all acts of lawlessness springing out of the attitude of lawlessness, of all practice of wrongdoing issuing from the principle of wrong life.
Let us now examine the phrase "to take away." This is a statement of result, not a declaration of process. There is a marginal reading which says "to bear sins," and in the Gospel of John there is also a marginal reading, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away," or "beareth the sin of the world." These words are not incorrect if we are very careful to understand what they really mean. The Hebrew equivalent of the word "taketh away" is found in that familiar story of the scapegoat. It was provided that this animal should be driven away to the wilderness, "unto a solitary land." This suggested that sins should be lifted from one and placed upon another, and by that one carried away out of experience, out of consciousness. That is the simple signification of this declaration, "He was manifested to bear sins." If you take this word and track it back--not always a safe process, but here, I think, a helpful one--to its root meaning, it is, "He was manifested to list sins." He was manifested in order that He might come into relationship with human life, and passing underneath the load of human sins lift them, take them away.
Either this is the most glorious Gospel that man has ever heard, or the greatest delusion to which man has ever listened. I care nothing, for the moment, about your theological tendencies, or convictions, or prejudices--you may choose your own word! What I do care about is that there is in the heart of every man and woman in this house a consciousness of sin. No one of us would be prepared to say, "I have never deliberately done the thing I knew I ought not to do." That is consciousness of sin. You may attempt to excuse it. You may even say that it does not much matter, that the sin was the result of some infirmity of the flesh. You may even go so far as to say that the fact that you have repeatedly done the thing you knew was not the right thing was simply part of a process in which you were learning not to do it. So ingenious is the human heart that it will attempt to excuse itself by all kinds of fallacies. I do not believe there is a single person here who will deny the charge--if you deny the arguments I care nothing.
I will go one step further, and declare that in the deepest of you, in the best of you--again notwithstanding theological opinions, or prejudices, or convictions, as you choose--the one thing you hate most of all in your past is your own sin. You may affect to excuse it. You may be ready to argue with me as to the reason for it and the issue of it, but, if you could, you would undo it. If you could make it not to be, there are some here tonight who would be ready to sacrifice right hand or right eye. You may profess to have turned your back upon these evangelical truths which we declare, and yet you know you have sinned, and you wish you had not.
Passing for a moment from that outer fringe of men and women, who are somewhat careless about the matter, to the souls who are in agony concerning it--to the men and women who know their sin and loathe it, to the men and women who carry the consciousness of wrongs done in past years as a perpetual burden upon their souls--and there are many of them who have never confessed it, who have never spoken to another soul about it, but nevertheless hate the memory of their own sins--I say that to such, a declaration like this is the cruelest word or the kindest that can be uttered. Cruel if it be false, kind indeed with the kindness of the heart of God if it be true. If somewhere, and somewhen, and somehow, in human history One was manifested to lift sins and bear them away; if by some means I can find some just and honorable peace of conscience notwithstanding sins and sin, then have I found blessing greater than any man can give me. I dismiss for the moment for the sake of my argument not only the outer fringe but also the inner circle of burdened souls, and I speak as a witness. Turning aside from advocacy, I bear testimony that if it be true, that He was manifested somehow, in some deep mystery that I shall never perfectly understand, in order to get beneath my sins, my sins, my thought of impurity, my words of bitterness, my unholy deeds, and lift them and bear them away--that is the one Evangel I long for more than all. More valuable to me, a sinner, than anything else that He can do for me is this.
In order that this great purpose of the Advent, as declared, may be more powerfully and better understood, let us reverently turn to the indication of the process which we have in this particular text, for while the supreme value of the text last week was its unveiling of the purpose of the Advent in victory gained over the enemy of the race, I am inclined to think that the supreme value of this declaration of purpose is its indication of process. "He was manifested to take away sins." Notice the Person referred to. "He was manifested." Who was the Person? "Ye know," says John, "that He was manifested." The reference certainly is to some One. If you go back over this chapter you come presently to the statement, "Beloved, now are we children of God, and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if He shall be manifested, we shall be like Him." Whom? The same Person is being referred to as in my text. I go back a little further and read, "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God: and such we are. For this cause the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not." Whom? I go yet further back, into the preceding chapter, and trace my way until I come to the twenty-third verse, "Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that confesseth the Son hath the Father also." You cannot read the context of this text without seeing that, in the thinking of the man who wrote it, there is identity between God and the Son. It is perfectly evident that John here, as always, has his eye fixed upon the Man of Nazareth, and yet it is equally evident that he is looking through Jesus of Nazareth to God. That is the meaning of his word "manifested" here. It is the Word made flesh. It is flesh, but it is the Word. It is something that John had appreciated by the senses, and yet it is Someone Whom John knew preeminently by the Spirit. When he says in this same letter, "Everyone that hath this hope set on Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure," he means hope set on God finally, on the Son by manifestation. So that the Person who is presented to our view here is that One Who in human life was the manifestation of God Himself. "He was manifested." He was before manifestation. Who was He before manifestation? Because Whosoever He was before manifestation, He was in manifestation; and Whosoever He was before manifestation and in manifestation, He was in the taking away of sins.
Notice that after John makes the affirmation, "He was manifested to take away sins," he adds this great word, "In Him is no sin." Will you let me put that into another form? Let me render the actual word of John in slightly different terms, "Missing of the mark was not in Him." The One in Whom there was no missing of the mark was manifested for the express purpose of lifting, bearing away, making not to be, the missings of the mark of others. Mark that declaration of the eternal and essential sinlessness of the One Who came. We can interpret the language of John only by the teaching of John; so without apology I take you back again to the introductory word in his Gospel, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." No missing of the mark was in Him. He was sinless through all the unmeasured and immeasurable ages. "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men"--all created things springing from the energy of that mysterious One in Whom was no sin, in Whom was no missing of the mark in the mystery of creation. "All things have been made by Him"; that is continuity of activity in creation. In Him, the Upholder as well as the Creator, there was no missing of the mark. Presently "The Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the Only Begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." In Him was no missing of the mark. Presently we see Him yielding Himself to death, and even there, in the hour of His death, there was no missing of the mark. Through resurrection, by way of ascension at this moment at the center of the universe of God, the same Person, and in Him is no missing of the mark.
"He was manifested"--and in the name of God I charge you do not read into the "He" anything small or narrow. If you do you will at once be driven into the place of having to deny the declaration that He can take away sins. If He was man as I am man merely, then though He be perfect and sinless He cannot take away sins. If into the "He" you will read all that John evidently meant according to the testimony of his own writing, from which alone I have been making my quotations--if you will read into it all John meant, "He," the Word made flesh, in Whom was no missing of the mark before or after He was manifested to take away sins, you begin to see something of the stupendous idea, and something of the possibility at least of believing the declaration that "He was manifested to take away sins."
Consider the manifestation and sins, as to man. The terms of the
promise of the Advent were, "Thou shalt call His name Jesus; for it is
He that shall save His people from their sins." From hell? Certainly,
but I pray you remember, only by saving them from their sins. From the
punishment of sin, because from sin itself. That was the great word,
"He shall save His people from their sins." When the songs to which the
shepherds listened were heard, what said they? "There is born to you
this day... a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." The promise of the
Advent was that of the coming of One to lift sins.
During the probation of the long years this Person was meeting all the forces of human temptation and overcoming them. I think we may accurately and reverently speak of the long years of probation as testing years, years in which there was being wrought out into human visibility the fact of the sinlessness of the Son of God.
During His life and ministry what were the words of Jesus? Words revealing the meaning of sin. Words calculated to rebuke sin and to bring men away from sin. What were the works of Jesus? By works I mean miracles and signs and wonders. They were chiefly works overtaking the results of sin. You tell me that the miracles of Jesus were supernatural. I tell you they were always restorations of the unnatural to natural positions. When He cured disease it was not a supernatural thing, but the restoration of man to the normal physical condition. He was taking away the results of sin. So all along the line of His miracles of healing and His calling back out of death He manifested His power. I see Him forevermore in grips with sin, showing men tentatively, not yet finally, how He had power to lift sins. Once, in the course of a miraculous revelation of that wonderful power, He said to a man, "Thy sins are forgiven thee," and He was immediately criticized. What was His answer to the criticism? "What reason ye in your hearts? Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee; or to say, Arise and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins, I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch." You will sadly misread that story if you think He did some piece of jugglery in the physical to convince them of His power in the moral. There was most intimate connection between the man's palsy and his sin, and Jesus demonstrated His power to lift sin by setting the man free from the result of sin and sending him on his way in sight of the men who had heard Him. These men who criticized had no more to say. They criticized Him for pretending to forgive sins, but when they saw the man raised they had enough simple mental intelligence to see the connection between the thing said and the thing done.
I come now to the final thing in this manifestation, the process of the death, for in that solemn and lonely and unapproachable hour of the cross I come to the final fulfillment of the word of the herald on the banks of the Jordan, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." It is not open for us in these days to attempt to interpret that word of John by the day in which we live, or by the conditions in which we live. We can interpret that word of John only by the simple facts in the midst of which he stood when he uttered it. Remember that phrase, "the Lamb of God," could have but one significance in the ears of the men who heard it. This was the voice of a Hebrew prophet speaking to Hebrews, and when he spoke of the Lamb taking away sins, they had no alternative other than to think of the long line of symbolical sacrifices which had been offered, and which they had been taught shadowed forth some great mystery of Divine purpose whereby sin might be dealt with. When John stood there in the midst of the great ethical revival which came under his preaching, and said, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world," we must explain his language, not by any poetical license of this age, but by the deep religious intention of the man who uttered it, and by the religious understanding of the people who listened to it. In all probability, when John uttered that word there were men from all parts crowding up to the Passover Feast, taking with them lambs of sacrifice in great numbers. In the midst of all the ritual, these men were arrested by the voice of John crying, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." So in the hour of death you have the ultimate meaning of that great word. Whereas by manifestation, from first to last, He is forevermore dealing with sins and with sin, lifting, correcting, arresting, by gleams of light suggesting to men the deepest meaning of His mission, it is when I come to the hour of His unutterable loneliness and deep darkness and passion baptism that I have that part of the manifestation in which I see as nowhere else and as never before the meaning of my text, "He was manifested to take away sins."
Reverently let us take one step further. The manifestation and
to God. Let me take you back simply to this affirmation that the
manifested One was God. If that be once seen then we shall forevermore
look back upon that Man of Nazareth in His birth, His life, His cross,
as but a manifestation. The whole fact cannot be seen, but the whole
fact is brought to the point of visibility by the way of incarnation.
If indeed this One be very God manifested, then remember this, the
whole measure of humanity is in Him and infinitely more than the whole
measure of humanity. Do not forget the last part of my assertion. If
you take the first part only--that the whole measure of humanity is in
Him, you may imagine that humanity is the measure of Deity. I did not
say so. But the whole measure of humanity is in Him. It is true of the
whole race, from its beginning to its last, that "in Him we live and
move and have our being"; that we are as to first creation and
essential meaning of life, "the offspring of God." The whole race is
from God and of God, and I repeat, the measure of humanity is in Him,
but He is infinitely more; it is also true that the measure of all
created things is in Him--and infinitely more. Beyond the utmost bound
of creation, God is. All creation, heaven and earth, suns and stars and
systems, angels and archangels, principalities and powers, the
hierarchies of whom we hear but cannot perfectly explain their nature
or their order, all these are in Him; but He is infinitely beyond them
all. They are but the dust in the balances which His right hand holds,
and it is an arrogant and ignorant assumption to declare that humanity
is the sum of God. All humanity is within the compass of His upholding
might. No man can escape from God. In some deep sense of the word, no
man can live a Godless life. "If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou
art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the
uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy
right hand shall hold me." Humanity is not the measure of Deity; but
the measure of humanity is in Deity. "He," the immeasurable, "was
manifested to take away sins."
I begin to wonder. In amazement I begin to believe in the possibility of lifting the burden of my sin. The cross, like everything else, was manifestation. In the cross of Jesus there was the working out into visibility of eternal things. Love and light were wrought out into visibility by the cross. Love and light in the presence of the conditions of sin became sorrow--and became joy! In the cross I see the sorrow of God, and in the cross I see the joy of God, for "it pleased the Lord to bruise Him." In the cross I see the love of God working out through passion and power for the redemption of man. In the cross I see the light of God refusing to make any terms with iniquity and sin and evil. The cross is the historic revelation of the abiding facts within the heart of God. The measure of the cross is God. If all the measure of humanity is in God and He is more, and the measure of the cross is God, then the measure of the cross wraps humanity about so that no one individual is outside its meaning and its power. When next you ask, or hear anyone else ask, "How can one man bear the sin of the race?" say, "He cannot, and he never did." One man cannot bear the sin of another man, to say nothing of the sin of the race. He Who was manifested is God. He can gather into His eternal life all the race as to its sorrow and its sin, and bear them.
Yet remember this--I would state this with great carefulness--it was not by the eternal facts that sins were taken away, but by the manifestation of those facts. My text does not affirm, and there is no text that begins to affirm, that He Who was manifested takes away sins. There is a sense in which that is true; but this is the truth, "He was manifested to take away sins." It required the "He," the Person manifested, but it required His manifestation. Most reverently do I declare that the passion revealed in the cross was indeed the passion of God; but the passion of God became dynamic in human life when it became manifest through human form in the perfection of a life and the mystery of a death.
Man's will is the factor always to be dealt with, and whereas the sin of man was gathered into the consciousness of God and created the sorrow of God from the very beginning, it is only when that fact of the sorrow of Godhead is wrought out into visibility by manifestation that the will of man can ever be captured--or ever constrained to the position of trust and obedience which is necessary for his practical and effectual restoration to righteousness. Wherever man thus yields himself, trusting--that is the condition--his sins are taken away--lifted.
If it be declared that God might have wrought this selfsame deliverance without suffering, our answer is that the man who says so knows nothing about sin. Sin and suffering are coexistent. The moment there is sin there is suffering. The moment there are sin and suffering in a human being it is in God multiplied. "The Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world." From the moment when man in his sin became a child of sorrow, the sorrow was most keenly felt in heaven.
Yet I would that my last word should be a word specifically and
especially to the man who is burdened with a sense of sin. I ask you to
contemplate the Person manifested. There is not one of us here of whom
it is not true that we live and move and have our being in God. God is
infinitely more than I am, infinitely more than this whole
congregation, infinitely more than the whole human race, from its
beginning to its last. If infinitely more, then all my life is in Him.
If in the mystery of incarnation there became manifest the truth that
He, God, lifted sin, then I can trust. If that be the cleaving of the
rock, then I can say as never before,
He was manifested and by that manifestation I see wrought out the
infinite truth of the passion of God, what we speak of--and whether our
language be the best or not, who shall tell?--as the Atonement. All the
mystery of Deity was rendered visible by the Advent, the Incarnation,
the Manifestation, so I know that here and now, as nineteen centuries
ago on the rough Roman gibbet, as surely as God is God, here and now
are the living values of the thing of which men sang and of which we
still sing. Here and now I trust, and here and now I know that my sins
are lifted, carried, borne away.
He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father. (John 14:9)
This is now the third study on the general subject of the purposes of the Advent. Having spoken of the fact that Jesus was manifested to destroy the works of the devil, and of the fact that He was manifested to take away sins, we now turn to that wonderful fact that He was manifested to reveal the Father. I have chosen to take this, His own statement of truth, in this regard because of its simplicity and its sublimity. In our translation of the passage, so simple is it that no word of two syllables is employed save the word "Father." "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father"; and yet so sublime is it that among all the things Jesus said concerning His relationship to the Father none is more comprehensive, inclusive, exhaustive than this. Its very simplicity leaves us no room for doubt as to the meaning of our Lord.
The last hours of Jesus with His disciples were passing away. He was talking to the disciples, and four times over they interrupted Him. Peter first, "Lord, whither goest Thou?" While He was yet answering Peter, Thomas said, "Lord, we know not whither Thou goest; how know we the way?" While He was yet dealing with Thomas, Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us." Ere He had done with Philip, Jude said, "What is come to pass that Thou wilt manifest Thyself unto us, and not unto the world?" The lonely Christ, recognizing the fact that the nearest friends of His life, His own followers, did not perfectly understand Him, could not walk with Him along the via dolorosa, were afraid of the gathering shadows, yet taught them, patiently and gently answering objections, clearing away difficulties, storing their minds with truth.
Philip's interruption was due, in the first place, to a conviction of Christ's relation in some way to the Father. He had been so long with Jesus as to become familiar in some senses with His line of thought. He had heard over and over again strange things fall from the lips of the Master. He had listened to the wonderful familiarity with which Jesus had spoken of God as "My Father." In all probability, moreover, Philip was asking that there should be repeated to him and the little group of disciples some such wonderful thing as they had read of in the past of their people's history. He would have read therein of the great and glorious theophanies of days gone by, of how the elders once ascended the mountain and saw God; of how the prophet had declared that "in the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple"; of how Ezekiel had declared that when he was by the river Chebar he had seen God in fire, and wheels; in majesty and glory.
It was to that request, based upon a vision of Christ's relationship to the Father, based upon the memory of how God had manifested Himself to the men of olden days, that Jesus replied. I cannot read this answer of Jesus without feeling that He divested Himself of set purpose of anything that approached stateliness of diction, and dropped into the common speech of friend to friend, as looking back into the face of Philip He said, "Have I been so long time with you, and dost thou not know Me, Philip? he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." Mark the simplicity of it. They were most familiar with Him. I think you will agree with me that it requires no stretch of the imagination to believe that they had looked upon His face more often than upon the face of any other during the three years. They had listened with greater interest to the tones of His voice than to any other sounds that had come to them during that period.
The very simplicity of it is its audacity. The word may not be well chosen, and yet I take it of set purpose. If you want to know how audacious and daring a thing it is, put it into the lips of any other teacher the world has ever produced. Looking into the face of one man, who was voicing, though he little knew it, the great anguish of the human heart, the great hunger of the human soul, Christ said, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father," and in that declaration He claimed absolute identity with God. So much for the setting of my text and the claim thereof.
That claim has been vindicated in the passing of the centuries. The conception of God which is triumphant, intellectually capturing the mind, emotionally capturing the heart, volitionally capturing the will, came to the world through that One Who, standing Man before man, yet said to Him, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father."
My purpose this evening is not to argue but to consider. I shall ask you therefore to consider with me, first, what this revelation of God has meant to the race; and, secondly, what it has meant to the individual.
First, consider the highest knowledge of God which man had before
Advent, and the new values consequent upon the manifestation in Jesus.
What conception of God had man before Christ came? Taking the Hebrew thought of God, let me put the whole truth as I see it into one comprehensive statement. Prior to the Advent there had been a growing intellectual apprehension of God, accompanied by a diminishing moral result. There had been a growing intellectual apprehension of truth concerning God. That is the first half of my statement. It is impossible to study the Old Testament without seeing that gradually there broke through the mists a clearer light concerning God: the fact of unity of God, the fact of the might of God, the fact of the holiness of God, the fact of the beneficence of God. These things men had come to see through the process of the ages. There had been progressive understanding of the fact of God's might. There had been progressive understanding of the fact of His holiness. There had been progressive understanding of the truth of His beneficence. Yet, side by side with this growing intellectual apprehension of God, there was diminishing moral result, for it is impossible to read the story of the ancient Hebrew people without seeing how they waxed worse and worse in all matters moral until the last. The moral life of Abraham was far purer than life in the time of the kings. Life in the early time of the kings was far purer than the conditions which the prophets ultimately described. This diminishing moral result is not to be wondered at. In proportion as men grew in their intellectual conception of God, it seemed increasingly unthinkable that He could be interested in their everyday life. Morality became something not of intimate relationship to Him and therefore something that mattered far less. In some senses that has been repeated during the last half century. The discoveries of the scientists have created an ever-increasing sense of the greatness of the universe. Every decade has given man a larger grasp upon the truth of the universe. With the progress of man's intellectual apprehension of the greatness of the universe, there has been an increase necessarily in his conception of the God of the universe, until at last God has grown out of knowledge and men have declared that He is unknowable, and have defined Him as force, as intelligence--or as the operation of force and intelligence combined. The greater the universe, the greater the God, and the greater the God, the less man has been able to appreciate his relation to Him.
Think of the great Gentile world as it then was, and as it still is, save where the message of the Evangel has reached it--for the things of the Gentile world prior to the Advent are the things of the Gentile world until this hour, save where the Gospel of the grace of God has reached it.
In Gentile thought there is always a substratum of accurate consciousness. Go where you will, get down deeply enough, and you will find in the common consciousness of humanity a substratum of truth. When it begins to express itself it does so falsely. When it begins to take that deep underlying conviction, and put it into form or expression it breaks down; but there is universally a sense of God.
Occasional flashes of light have broken out of this underlying subconsciousness. We have had such remarkable teachers as Zoroaster, Buddha, Confucius, men speaking true things flashing with a new light.
Notwithstanding these things, a perpetual failure in morals and a uniform degradation of religion have been universal. No voice which has spoken some message of truth out of the subconsciousness in the passing of the centuries has been able to lift those to whom it has been addressed in the moral scale. The history of the Hindu religion is, perhaps, the most conspicuous illustration of this fact. Buddhism as it is practiced today and Buddhism as Buddha lived and taught are at the poles asunder.
Wherever you find Gentile nations you find these things true--a
substratum of accurate consciousness, occasional flashes of clear
light, but perpetual failure in morals and uniform degradation of
religion. The failure has ever been due to lack of final knowledge
At last there came the song of the angels and the birth of a child. At the close of one swiftly passing generation of teaching and of working, of gathering a few souls together, there stood One in the midst of a little group of disciples, and at the same moment in the midst of all humanity, and He looked into the face of one man and said, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father."
Through that Advent and ministry there came to men a new consciousness of God.
I turn to the centuries that have passed since His coming. What effect has that coming had in the realm of revelation? By that I mean among those who had received revelation from God. First, the inclusion in His teaching and manifestation of all the essential things which men had learned in the long ages of the past. He did not deny the truth of the unity of God. He re-emphasized it. He did not deny the might of God. He declared it and manifested it in many a gentle touch of infinite power. He did not deny the holiness of God. He insisted upon it in teaching and life, and at last by the mystery of dying. He did not deny the beneficence of God. He changed the cold word "beneficence" into the word throbbing with the infinite heart of Deity, "love"! He did more. He brought to men the new, that toward which they had been groping but had never found. That which men had imperfectly expressed in song and prophecy He came to state. "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." Not Elohim, not Jehovah, not Adonahy, none of the great names of the past, all of them suggestive, but "He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father." In and through Him that truth of fatherhood was revealed. When I say that I beseech you remember that fatherhood means a great deal more than we sometimes imagine it means. It is not merely a term of tenderness. It is also a term of law and discipline. But Fatherhood means supremely that if the child have wandered away the Father will suffer everything to save and bring it home again. Within the realm of revealed religion this truth emerged, that the one God, mighty, holy, beneficent, is the Father Who will sacrifice Himself to save the child. There man found the point of contact in infinite love which never abandons him, never leaves him. That is the truth which, coming into revealed religion, saved it from being intellectual apprehension minus moral dynamic, and sent running through all human life rivers of cleansing, renewal, regeneration.
Wherever Christ comes to people who have never had direct revelation, He comes first of all as fulfillment of all that in their thought and scheme is true. He comes, moreover, for the correction of all that in their thought and scheme is false. All the underlying consciousness of humanity concerning God is touched and answered, and lifted into the supreme consciousness whenever God is seen in Christ. All the gleams of light which have been flashing across the consciousness of humanity merge into the essential light when He is presented. I will take the illustration which is the lowest and the simplest, and therefore perhaps the profoundest at this point. It is an old story, I have often used it before. In Africa are found men of whom we speak as superstitious, perhaps the lowest in all the scale intellectually. The only form of religion they have is that of which we speak as fetish worship, which means nothing less and nothing more than that the uninstructed mind of the savage connects with some charm--a little piece of stick, a little piece of leather--certain values that are beyond his ken, supernatural values. He does not think it possible to be fortunate in business, in pleasure, in home or in marriage or anything else save as he is accompanied by his fetish. That is a low form of religion. You smile at it--and yet I know of people in England who carry charms about with them. In Africa, if you are about to trade with one of these men after he has driven his cattle hundreds of miles, and discovers that in his unutterable folly he has not brought his fetish with him, you cannot persuade him to trade with you. He will tramp all the weary miles back again, and postpone his traffic for days, weeks, months, because he cannot trade unless that fetish is with him. You smile at him. When Jesus meets that man he does not destroy that belief. He fulfills it. Christ comes to him and says in effect, "You are perfectly right in your underlying consciousness that you cannot be fortunate in business or home or marriage or pleasure unless you have dealing with the thing that is more than you are, the supernatural. You must have God with you." Jesus takes out of the black hand the fetish, the little piece of leather or stick, and flings it away and puts back into the hand His own pierced hand, saying, "Lo, I am with you all the days--business days, pleasure days, home days, all the days. Never do business without God." Before you mock the African who will not traffic without his fetish learn this, that if you do business without God you are far more heathen than he is. Christ comes not to contradict the essential truth of Buddhism but to fulfill it. He comes not to rob the Chinaman of his regard for parents, as taught by Confucius, but to fulfill it, and to lift him upon that regard into regard for the One great Father, God. He comes always to fulfill. Wherever He has come, wherever He has been presented, wherever men, low or high in the intellectual scale, have seen God in Christ, their hands have opened and they have dropped the fetishes and the idols and have yielded themselves to Him. If the world has not come to God through Him it is because the world has not yet seen Him; and if the world has not yet seen Him the blame is upon the Christian Church.
The wide issues of the manifestation of God in Christ are the union of intellectual apprehension and moral improvement, and the relation of religion to life. When you are tempted to admire Buddhism, or to admire Confucianism, and to think that in these God has spoken to men, never forget that in no system of religion in the world has there come to men the idea of God which unites religion with morals save in this revelation of God in Jesus Christ. There is through all India today divorce between religion and morals. There a man may be the most immoral of all men and yet be religiously a saint. But wherever this manifestation of God comes, and the heart of God and the sacrifice of God, behind His unity and His might, His holiness and beneficence, emerge into view, there men have found that religion means morality.
I pass, in the second place, to say some few words concerning the effect of the manifestation in relation to the individual. Here I propose to see one man as illustration. I think we cannot be truer to the text than by taking Philip, the man to whom Christ spoke. Mark the words of Jesus to him, "Have I been so long time with you, and dost thou not know Me, Philip?" The evident sense of the question is, "You have seen enough of Me, Philip, if you have really seen Me, to have found what you are asking for, a vision of God." There is no other interpretation of Christ's question possible. "Show us the Father and it sufficeth us," was Philip's request. "Have I been so long time with you, and dost thou not know Me, Philip? he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." He surely meant that Philip had seen enough of Him to have found the Father. What, then, had Philip seen? What revelations of Deity had come to this man who thought he had not seen and did not understand? Christ evidently intended to say he might have seen and might have understood. What were the things to which Christ referred? I am not going to indulge in speculation. I might gather up the general facts of His teaching and His doing, but I think we shall be safer if we adhere to what Scripture tells of what Philip had seen.
All the story is in John. Philip is referred to by Matthew, Mark,
Luke as being among the number of the Apostles, but in no other way.
John tells me of four occasions when Philip is seen in union with
Christ. I will take the first three, for the last is the one in which
our text occurs. Philip was the first man Jesus called to follow him. I
do not say the first man to follow Him. There were other two who
preceded Philip, going after Christ in consequence of the teaching of
John. Philip did not go to inquire. It is distinctly stated in the
first chapter of John's Gospel that Jesus found him and said, "Follow
Me." That was the first man to whom Christ used that great formula of
calling men which has become so precious in the passing of the
centuries. "Follow Me." What happened? "Philip findeth Nathaniel, and
saith unto Him, We have found Him, of whom Moses in the law, and the
prophets, did write." That was the first thing that Philip had seen in
Christ, according to his own confession, One Who embodied all the
ideals of Moses and the prophets. When he said, "We have found Him, of
Whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write," he did not refer
to any particular word of Moses. The word he used covers the whole of
the Old Testament teaching. What he meant was, "We have found Him Who
embodies the ideal of Moses, and the ideal of the prophets, all the
teaching of Moses, all the messages of the prophets. We have found
Him." It was the cry of a soul inviting another soul. It was the cry of
a soul who had this conviction borne in upon it--Here is One Who
fulfills all the ideals and suggestions and intentions of the whole
religious economy of the past! That was the first thought.
I find Philip next in the sixth chapter, when the multitudes were about Christ and they were hungry. Jesus singled out Philip and said to him, "Whence are we to buy bread, that these may eat?" John is very careful to state that Jesus did not ask that question because He needed advice, "for He Himself knew what He would do." He asked it to prove Philip. Philip answered, "Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient, that everyone may take a little." That is the background. What happened next? Philip, who considered it impossible to feed the hungry multitude, is next seen with the other disciples seating them ready to be fed, incredulously, perhaps; I do not know. Then he watched this selfsame Jesus take the loaves and fishes of the lad and break them. Then with the others he carried the food to rank after rank until all the assembled multitude were fed. So that Philip had now seen Someone Who in a mysterious way had resource enough to satisfy human hunger. That is not all. Philip then listened while in matchless discourse Jesus lifted the thought from material hunger to spiritual need and declared, "I am the Bread of Life." So that the second vision Philip had of Jesus, according to the record, was a vision of Him full of resource and able to satisfy hunger both material and spiritual. I see Philip next in the twelfth chapter. The Greeks coming to him said, "Sir, we would see Jesus." Philip found his way with Andrew to Jesus, and asked Him to see the Greeks. Mark the relation with the Father, and that there was perfect harmony between them, no conflict, no controversy. He saw, moreover, that upon the basis of that communion with His Father and that perfect harmony, His voice changed from the tones of sorrow to those of triumph, "Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Myself." That was Philip's third vision of Jesus. It was the vision of One acting in perfect accord with God, bending to the sorrow that surged upon His soul in order that through it He might accomplish human redemption.
We now come back to the last scene. Philip said, "Show us the Father and it sufficeth us." Gathering up all the things of the past, Christ looked into the face of Philip and replied, "Have I been so long time with you, and dost thou not know Me, Philip? When thou didst first see Me did there not come to thee the conviction that in Me there was the embodiment of law and righteousness? When thou didst watch Me feed men didst thou not understand that I am the One Who can satisfy all the hunger of the human heart? In the mystery of that strange hour when thou didst bring the Greeks to Me didst thou not understand that in union with God I am moving toward unutterable pain in order that men may be set free?" No, Philip had not seen these things. We are not to blame him. They were there to be seen, and by and by, the infinite work of Christ being accomplished and the glory of Pentecost having dawned upon the world, Philip saw it all. Then Philip saw the meaning of the things he had seen and had never seen, the things he had looked upon and had never understood. Then Philip found that having seen Jesus he had actually seen the Father. When he looked upon One Who embodied in His own personality all the facts of the law and righteousness, he had seen God. When he had looked upon One Who could touch the loaves of a lad until they fed a multitude, and One Who could deal with the spiritual needs of restless hearts until they were rested, he had seen God. When he had seen a Man Who shrank from sorrow yet pressed into it because through it in co-operation with God He could ransom humanity, he had seen God.
This manifestation wins the submission of the reason. This manifestation appeals to the love of the heart. This manifestation demands the surrender of the will. Here is the value of the Advent as revelation of God.
Let my last word be one in which I ask you solemnly to see what this
means in your case. Call back your thoughts from the wider application
of the earlier part of my sermon. Call back your thoughts for a moment
from the particular application in the case of Philip, and think what
this means to you. Is it true that this manifestation wins the
submission of your reason, appeals to the love of your heart, asks the
surrender of your will? Then to refuse God in Christ is to violate at
some essential point your own manhood. To refuse, you must violate
reason which is captured by the revelation, or you must crush the
emotion which springs in your heart in the presence of the revelation,
or you must decline to submit your will to the demands which the
May God grant that we shall rather look into His face and say, "My Lord and my God"! So shall we find our rest and our hearts be satisfied. It shall suffice as we see the Father in the Christ.
Christ also, having been once
offered to bear the sins of many, shall
appear a second time, apart from sin, to them that wait for Him, unto
We come this evening to consider the last of the four great values of the first Advent. We have spoken together of the fact that He was manifested to take away sins, that He was manifested to reveal the Father; and now we come finally to this great truth that He was manifested to prepare for another manifestation, that He came once in order that He might be able to come again. All the things of which we have spoken as constituting the values of the first Advent were necessary in order that there should be another Advent.
Our thoughts are turning with gladness to the first coming of Jesus. The light that shone o'er the plains is shining around us; the songs which the shepherds heard we also hear; and the new hope that filled the hearts of shepherds and Wise Men in that Eastern land at the Advent of Jesus is in our hearts at this time.
Yet we are all conscious that nothing is perfect, that the things
He came to do are not yet done, that the works of the devil are not yet
finally destroyed, that sins are not yet experimentally taken away,
that in the spiritual consciousness of the race God is not yet
perfectly known. As the writer of this said in another connection, "Now
we see not yet all things subjected to Him." The victory seems not to
be won. There seems to be very, very much still to do. Or, if I may put
this into another form, it is impossible to read the story of the first
Advent and to believe in it, and to follow the history of the centuries
that have followed upon that Advent, without feeling in one's deepest
heart that something more is needed. The first Advent demands something
Therefore, we turn with relief to the declaration of the New Testament which formed the very hope and song of the Early Church, the declaration which states that He Who has come will come, that the first Advent was indeed preparatory, and that the consummation of its meaning can be brought about only by another coming, as personal, as definite, as positive, as real in human history as was the first.
Think of the fact stated in my text: "Christ... shall appear a second time." There is no escape, other than by casuistry, from the simple meaning of these words. The first idea conveyed by them is that of an actual personal advent of Jesus yet to be. To spiritualize a statement like this and to attempt to make application of it in any other than the way in which a little child would understand it is to be driven, one is almost inclined to say, to dishonesty with the simplicity of the Scriptural declaration.
This statement is not peculiar to the letter from which it is taken. It is the teaching of the whole of the New Testament. To the man who has given up the New Testament as final, authoritative, and infallible, I have no appeal. We have no common ground. If you are attempting to erect a Christian structure upon your philosophizing I have no time to argue with you. I respect your conviction, I believe in your honesty, but I part company with you. To me the New Testament is the living, final, absolutely infallible Word of God.
I find a great many Christian people, however, who believe that as surely as I do, who yet seem not to be perfectly sure of a second personal Advent of the same Jesus. I repeat, and again I would say it carefully, with no desire to offend or hurt the convictions of any, that you cannot take your New Testament and read it simply and honestly without coming to the conclusion that the Christ Who came is still to come. There may be diversities of interpretations as to how He will come and when He will come. I am not discussing these tonight. We may part company as to whether He will come to usher in a millennium or to crown it. I think that is important, but I am not careful now to argue it. When the risen Christ had passed out of the sight of the men who waited upon the mountain side and in astonishment looked at the clouds which had received Him, angels appeared to them who said, "This Jesus, which was received up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye beheld Him going into heaven." He is coming or the angels were wrong.
Paul in all his writings is conscious of this truth of the second Advent. In some of them he does not dwell upon it at such great length or with such clearness as in others, for the simple reason that it is not the specific subject with which he is dealing. In the Thessalonian letters you have most clearly set forth Paul's teaching concerning this matter. In the very center of the first letter we have a passage which declares in unmistakable language that "the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we that are alive, that are left, shall together be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord." "It was this hope which more than anything gave its color to the primitive Christianity, its unworldliness, its moral intensity, its command of the future even in this life." The latter sentence is a quotation from the book of a man who does not hold the position I hold, who does not believe as I believe in the actual second personal Advent of Jesus, who, nevertheless, recognizes that this view gave the bloom to primitive Christianity and constituted the power of the early Christians to laugh in the face of death, and to overcome all forces which were against them.
That is not peculiarly Pauline. Writing to those who were in affliction, James said, "Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord is at hand."
With equal clearness, Peter said to the early disciples, "Be sober and set your hope perfectly on the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
John, who leaned upon his Master's bosom, and who wrote the most
wonderful of all mystic words concerning Him, said, "We know that, if
He shall be manifested, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him even
as He is. And everyone that hath this hope set on Him purifieth
himself, even as He is pure."
Jude said to those to whom he wrote, "Ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."
That is but a rapid passing over of the great field of New Testament teaching. To summarize yet more briefly the things to which I have already referred, I would declare that every New Testament writer presents this truth as a part of the common Christian faith. I believe there is nothing more needed in our day than a new declaration of this vital fact of Christian faith. Think what it would mean if the whole Church still lifted her face toward the East and waited for the morning, waited as the Lord would have her wait--not star-gazing and almanac examining, but, with loins girt for service and lamps burning, waiting as she serves. If the whole Christian Church were so waiting she would cast off her worldliness and infidelity and all other things which hinder her march to conquest. It is because we have lost the bloom of hope that our songs are so poor. If we may but hear again the promises of the New Testament, the assurances of the Word that He Who came is coming, then there will be strength in service and new fortitude for suffering, and new hope for all the world in its sin and its sorrow and its sighing.
Our text does more than affirm the fact of the second Advent. In a somewhat remarkable way, it declares the meaning thereof, "Christ... shall appear a second time, apart from sin."
To understand this rightly we must look upon it as putting the second Advent into contrast with the first. That is what the writer most evidently means, for the context declares that Jesus was manifested in the consummation of the ages, to bear sins. That we have considered. He now says that "Christ... shall appear a second time, apart from sin." Consequently, I repeat, to understand this rightly we must look upon it as putting the second Advent in contrast with the first. All the things of the first Advent were necessary to the second, but all the things of the second will be different from the things of the first. The whole of the first Advent was conditioned within the fact of sin. Jesus came to deal with sin. By His first Advent sin was revealed. Men never truly understood the meaning thereof until He came, and by the light of His presence in human history flung it into clear relief. From the slaughter of the innocents which accompanied His birth to His own death upon the cross His presence in the world flung hatred into view. The slaughter of the innocents was the action of a false king who feared a new king coming to snatch his scepter, and hatred manifested itself in devilish cruelty to little children. Our Lord's own cross was the place where all the deep hatred of the human heart expressed itself most diabolically in view of heaven and earth and hell.
There was also revelation of darkness as contrary to light. "Men loved the darkness rather than the light," was the supreme wail of the heart of Jesus. His presence in the world was, moreover, revelation of spiritual death as contrary to life. In the perpetual attempt of men to materialize His work, the attempt of His own disciples as well as all the rest, and their absolute failure to appreciate the, spiritual teaching He gave, we see what spiritual death really is.
In His first Advent He not only revealed sin but bore it. In the words, "Christ also, having been once offered to bear the sins of many," the reference is not merely to the final movement of the cross. The word "offered" is used in reference to God's action in giving Him. It would be perfectly correct interpretation to supply the word "offered" by the word "gave," the word which you have in John's Gospel, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son." Let us put that word here, "Christ also, having been once given to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time." All through His life He bore sin. All through the long, long days, He was putting Himself underneath sin in order to take it away. He bore its limitations throughout the whole of His life. In poverty, in sorrow, in loneliness He lived, and all these things are limitations resulting from sin. All poverty is the issue of sin. It is well we should remember that. The problem of poverty has a deeper problem lying at its heart which is the problem of sin. I do not mean that the poor man is the sinner always. Far from it. It is very easy for people who live in comparative ease and comfort, or in affluence, to write about the blessings of poverty. There are no blessings of poverty save as God does overrule all the grinding and crushing of human life for some essential good. All poverty is the result of sin, either of the man who is poor or of some other who is robbing him. When Jesus Christ entered into flesh He entered into the limitations which follow upon sin and He bore sin in His own consciousness through all the years. Not poverty only, but sorrow in all forms. Sorrow is lack. The sorrow of bereavement is the lack of the friend. Every sorrow is a sense of lack, something wanting, something gone, and Jesus lived through all the years "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." And in His long loneliness He lived in the midst of limitations resulting from sin. Finally gathering all these things to a crisis, He reached the ultimate issue of sin, bearing it, carrying it, lifting it, placing Himself, very God as well as very man, underneath it until all its weight was upon Him--the weight of its poverty, for "though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor"; the weight of its sorrow, for all the sorrows of the human heart were upon His heart until He uttered that unspeakable cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Such was the story of the first Advent.
Now hear my text. Having finally dealt with sin and destroyed it at
very root in His first Advent, Jesus' next coming, His second Advent,
is to be that of victory. He will come again, not to poverty but to
wealth. He will come again, not to sorrow but with all joy. He will
come again, not in loneliness, but to gather about Him all trusting
souls who have looked and served and waited. We are celebrating the
Advent when there was no room for Him in the inn.
When He comes again
the whole world and the universe will make haste to make room for Him.
At the close of the first Advent we saw Him holding the reed of
mockery, robed in the purple of contempt, crowned with thorns,
surrounded by a mob. When He comes again He will hold the scepter of
the universe in His right hand; upon His brow there will be many
diadems; He will be panoplied with all the splendor of God, and ten
thousand times ten thousand angels will be the cohorts that accompany
Him. All in His first Advent of sorrow and loneliness, of poverty and
of sin, will be absent from the second. The first Advent was for
atonement, the second will be for administration. He came, entering
into human nature and taking hold of it, to deal with sin and put it
away. He has taken sin away, and He will come again to set up that
Kingdom, the foundations of which He laid in His first coming.
I pause for one moment to say I am not dealing with the different phases of the Advent, with the fact that He will first gather His Church to Himself and then establish the Kingdom on earth. I am viewing the whole in general outline, recognizing the different phases, but insisting now only upon the glorious and gracious fact that this One Who came is yet to come.
Let us go one step further, and we shall find that my text declares the purpose of the Advent. "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh judgment; so Christ also, having been once offered to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time, apart from sin, to them that wait for Him, unto salvation." A similarity is suggested. "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh judgment." Over against that dual appointment stands "So Christ also, having been once offered to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time, apart from sin, to them that wait for Him, unto salvation." As His first Advent was parallel to the appointment of death, His second Advent is parallel to the appointment of judgment. "It is appointed unto men once to die... Christ also, having been once offered to bear the sins of many." It is appointed that after death there shall be judgment--He "shall appear a second time, apart from sin..." But the contrast seems to break down. The similarity is not carried out. There is a strange differentiation in the ending of the two declarations, and we must notice it. We expected that it would have been written to complete the comparison, thus, "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh judgment; so Christ also, having been once offered to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time, apart from sin, unto judgment." That would seem to be a balanced comparison, but the writer does not so write. Notice how this very difference unfolds the meaning of the first and second Advents. It is appointed to men to die--He was offered to bear the sins of many. After death judgment--He is coming again unto salvation. As the first Advent negatived the death appointed unto men, the second Advent will turn the judgment into salvation.
"It is appointed unto men once to die." It is often somewhat
affirmed that men must die. While admitting the truth of this
statement, we inquire why must they die? Ask the scientist. Science can
no more account for death than it can account for life. It has never
been able to explain the mystery of the beginning of life. It has never
yet been able to say why men die. How they die, yes; why they die, no!
We are all reconstructed on the physical side every seven years. The essential personality is not reconstructed, but maintains its individuality through all the processes of reconstruction. I am the man I was seven years ago, and yet there is not a particle of this tabernacle, through the medium of which I speak to you tonight, that would have been here had I been here seven years ago. Waste of tissue and breakdown of the physical is a constant process of remaking. The mental in man gains breadth and strength and beauty as years pass on. The man who has run out the allotted three score years and ten, or for whom God has lengthened the lease a few years, mentally and spiritually is greater than he has ever been before, but the reconstruction of the physical is not quite so perfect as it used to be, the elasticity is missing, the vision is becoming dim, the new-made temple is not quite so fibrous and tough as the old one. Why? I wait for scientific answer, but I wait in vain. No man without revelation has ever been able to tell me why the physical ceases at maturity to reconstruct itself with ever-increasing strength. I will tell you why. Death is the wage of sin. Science will admit that death comes by the breaking of certain laws. Science will use some other word than the word "sin." Sir Oliver Lodge tells us that sensible men do not use the word "sin." I am a little tired of the Church's worship of Sir Oliver Lodge. I am surprised at the way Christian ministers have welcomed his creed. I have every respect for him as an honest scientist, but he does not understand Christianity. His creed is not the Christian creed. If there is no place for "sin" and "blood," there is no room for Jesus Christ. "It is appointed unto men once to die" by the fiat of God Almighty because they are sinners, and no man can escape that fiat.
But Jesus Christ was offered by God to bear the sins of many--that was the answer of the first Advent to man's appointment to death.
Beyond death there is another appointment, that of judgment.
Who shall appeal against the absolute justice of that appointment? He "shall appear a second time, apart from sin... unto salvation." To those who have heard the message of the first Advent and have believed it, and trusted in His great work, and have found shelter in the mystery of His manifestation and bearing of sin, to such, salvation takes the place of judgment. But to the man who will not shelter beneath that first Advent and its atoning value judgment abides. All the things begun by His first Advent will be consummated by the second.
At His second Advent there will be complete salvation for the individual--Righteousness, Sanctification, Redemption. We believed, and were saved. We believe, and are being saved. We believe, and we shall be saved. The last movment will come when Our Lord comes.
What of those who have fallen on sleep? They are safe with God and He will bring them with Him when He comes. They are not yet perfected, "God having provided some better thing concerning us, that apart from us they should not be perfected." They are at rest and consciously at rest. They are "absent from the body... at home with the Lord," but they are not yet perfected, they are waiting. We are waiting in the midst of earth's struggle, they in heaven's light and joy, for the second Advent. Heaven is waiting for it. Earth is waiting for it. Hell is waiting for it. The universe is waiting for it.
That coming will be to those who wait for Him. Who are those who wait for Him? Let Scripture interpret this. In the Thessalonian Epistle I find Paul's description of the early Christians, "Ye turned unto God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven." The first thing is the turning from idols. Have you done that? The second thing is serving the living God. Are you doing that? Then because you have turned from idols and are serving Him you are waiting. That is the waiting the New Testament enjoins, and to those who wait, His second Advent will mean salvation. There is waiting other than that, but we have no share in it. That is our waiting, because we have heard the Evangel of the first Advent and know it. The whole creation waiteth, "groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now." I hear the sob of the waiting myriads in China and Africa and India. They are waiting. They have never yet heard of the first Advent. They are waiting. They know not for what. They cry as a child in the night, with no language but a cry. Oh the pathos and the tragedy of it!
"Christ shall appear." Glorious Gospel! He shall appear, to heal the wounds of all creation. "He comes to break oppression and set the captives free." He is coming to rule with a rod of iron, which means absolute and inflexible equity. Ofttimes there is more love in justice than in mercy. When He Who came in meek mercy long ago comes again, He will come in majestic might, and also in love. He will come to gather out His trusting souls and then to establish His own rule and set up His own government. What a day of burning it will be for some! What terror will come to the hearts of those who have lived and fattened upon devilism!
He is coming! That is my hope and confidence. That is my hope and my song for the world this Christmastime. He came to commence, to initiate. He will come to complete. "Christ... shall appear a second time, apart from sin... unto salvation." Salvation means judgment wrought out in the impulse and power of love.
We stand tonight between the Advents. Our relation to the first creates our relation to the second. To receive Him as rejected is to be received by Him at His coronation. To accept His estimate of sin and share in the value of His atoning work is to enter into His coming administration of righteousness. To trust in the first is to wait for the second.
How stands it between my soul and the Advents, first and second? I am not trying to cast a cloud over the merriment of Christmastime. But have a reason for your merriment, and in God's name cease your merriment if the Child Who was born, and of Whom you sing, is excluded from your heart and hearth and home. The blasphemy of it! The tragedy of it! The shame of it! People who by persistent sin are crucifying this Christ afresh every day yet make merry this Christmastime. If you have admitted Him and found room for Him for Whom there was no room in the inn, if you have handed Him the kingdom of your life though the world still rejects Him as in the days of old, then make merry. Let your songs abound. Let your hearts be glad. Give the children a good time. But I warn you against all merriment if you have shut Him out, for He comes again, and if, in spite of the light of the first Advent you have rejected Him, He must, on the basis of eternal justice, reject you. He is coming. May we so trust Him as to the meaning and merit of His first Advent as not to be ashamed of Him when He comes again!
* From: G. Campbell Morgan, The
Westminster Pulpit,Volume I, Chapters 23-26, (Westwood, NJ :
Fleming H. Revell, 1955).