XXIII. SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MESSAGE
By J. Gregory Mantle, D.D, Bible Teacher and Author.
IN his letter to the Colossians the Apostle Paul makes this statement: "I have been appointed to serve the Church in the position of responsibility entrusted to me by God for your benefit, so that I may fully deliver God's message -- the truth which has been kept secret from all ages and generations, but has now been revealed to His people." (1:25,26 Weymouth.) The expression "that I may fully deliver God's message," means that to the Apostle was given the revelation that makes full or complete the Message or Word of God. The highest and fullest revelation that God has been pleased to give to people was communicated through the Apostle Paul.
Who can deny that Dr. A. B. Simpson was privileged to be in the grand succession of those who, following the apostles, received and proclaimed the full-orbed Gospel, the complete Word of God? It was inevitable, since the hand of God had brought him through the fire and water of affliction into a large and wealthy place, that he should exercise a large and wealthy ministry.
The first characteristic of his message was Spaciousness. The whole thought of the Gospel is to call people out of littleness, out of pettiness, out of the insignificant things, into the breadth and sweep of great thoughts and forces and to the wide horizon of limitless possibilities in the realms of divine grace. But it is not all who answer the call. Many insist on living narrow lives in a large place. Not so Dr. Simpson. He had discovered the great secret, as he himself expresses it, that "Christ has not saved us from future peril, and left us to fight the battle of life as best we can; but He who has justified us waits to sanctify us, to enter into our spirit, and substitute His strength, His holiness, His joy, His love, His Faith, His power, for all our worthlessness, helplessness and nothingness, and make it an actual and living fact, I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me'."
The waters that in the early days of his ministry were "waters to the ankles," were now "waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over." What had seemed to him at one time to be merely a lake, he now discovered to be an arm of the ocean, and that he was on the shores of "a vast unfathomable sea where all our thoughts are drowned."
Dr. J. H, Jowett says that the expression, "the unsearchable riches of Christ," suggests the figure of a person, standing, with uplifted hands, in a posture of great amazement, before continuous revelations of immeasurable and unspeakable glory. In whatever way he turns, the splendor confronts him. It is not a single highway of enrichment. There are side-ways, by-ways, turnings here and there, labyrinthine paths and recesses, and all of them abounding in unsuspected jewels of grace." These unsearchable or untrackable riches Dr. Simpson explored as few people have done, and the amazing treasures he discovered he loved to declare."
What abundant illustrations of the spaciousness of his ministry may be found in a volume of sermons published nearly thirty years ago. The volume is entitled A Larger Christian Life, and the very titles of the sermons suggest this conception of amplitude: "The Possibilities of Faith"; "The Larger Life"; "Filled with the Spirit"; "More than Conquerors"; "Grace Abounding"; "God's Measureless Measures"; "Enlarged Work," etc.
In October, 1887, in the opening address at the New York Convention Dr. Simpson allowed his imagination full play as he described the marvels of the Palace Beautiful into which his audience was invited to enter: "You will be led a little way at this Convention through this Palace Beautiful, with its four grand walls corresponding to our glorious four-fold Gospel. The front wall is Salvation. The north wall to protect you from the cold winds is Sanctification. The wall on the south, from which the hot winds of disease blow, is Divine healing. The eastern wall, toward the sun-rising, is the point from which we are looking for our coming King. We look above us, and the wings of the Holy Spirit are spread there as a canopy. We are thus shut in His pavilion. I have not time to tell you of all the chambers in this wonderful house. There is the bath-room, in which you may be cleansed from all the filth of the flesh, and emerge a purified soul. There is the banqueting-room, in which you can feed your hungry spirit. There is the chamber of rest, in which you will find that peace which passes all understanding and lose all your care and fear. There is the library, in which you can learn the Word and the will of God. There is the art-chamber, with its exquisite pictures of heavenly things. Above is the observatory where you can look out upon the land that is very far off. God grant that, as weary pilgrims, you may be well entertained in this Palace Beautiful, of which the Master Himself is the chief delight. In my own heart the one word, Illimitable, has been painted. May He, indeed, bring us beyond our limit, filling us with all the fullness of God."
Dr. Simpson's ministry was uncommonly fruitful because he found in an ever-increasing measure that the illimitable mines of riches he had discovered, were usable riches, fitting into every possible condition of human sin, sorrow, poverty and need. He proved, day after day, in the incessant activities which now engaged him, the truth of his own poem:
"I have come to the Fountain of Love,
He fills all the springs of my heart,
Enthroned all others above,
Our friendship no power can part;
And so long as the fountain is full.
The streams without measure must flow,
And the love that He pours in my soul
To others in blessing must go."
This it was that made his life so radiant and useful. He never saw a need in human life that did not find its complement in Jesus Christ.
Another characteristic of Dr. Simpson's messages was their Simplicity.
It is indeed a great art, and one to be devoutly coveted, to make profound truths simple and easy of comprehension by men and women of ordinary intelligence. Like His Master, because of this, "the common people heard him gladly." He was the very antipodes of the Scotch minister who was said to be incomprehensible on the Sabbath and invisible all the week.
The doctrine of the Indwelling of Christ has been so greatly neglected during the last half century that it has been called a lost doctrine. While that prince of expositors, Dr. Alexander Maclaren, of Manchester, was calling attention in Great Britain to this lost doctrine, Dr. A. B. Simpson was doing the same in this country.
"The glad thought," Dr. Maclaren says, "of an indwelling Christ who actually abides and works in our hearts, and is not only in the heavens, or with us by some kind of impalpable and metaphorical presence, but in spiritual reality, is in our spirits, has faded away from the consciousness of the Christian Church. We are called 'mystics' when we preach Christ in the heart. Unless your Christianity be in the good, deep, sense of the word 'mystical,' it is mechanical which is worse."
"This truth of the Indwelling of Christ," says Dr. Simpson, "is no vague figure of speech, this is no dream of Pantheism, of New Theology, or of the Divine Immanence, but it is a great supernatural fact which marks a crisis in every Christian's life when the Son of God becomes incarnate in the believer, just as truly as He became incarnate in the Christ of Judea and Galilee. The one who apprehends this truth and goes forth from that sacred hour of transformation is no longer a mere person fighting the battle of life even with Divine assistance, but is a Christ-person, an anointed soul, a dual life with two persons united in everlasting bonds, one, the lowly disciple, the other, the living Christ, and these two from now onforever one, 'Not I, but Christ who lives in me.'"
"Once there lived another person within me,
Child of earth and slave of Satan he; But I nailed him to the cross of Jesus And that person is nothing now to me.
Now another Person is living in me,
And I count His blessed life as mine; I have died to all my own life, I have risen to all His life Divine."
In what sense is this a mystery? No human mind or heart had ever dreamed of it. Ancient mythology had foreshadowed some union of God with human beings, but it was a union which only degraded their gods and did not lift mankind and still left a great gulf between the earthly and the heavenly.
"It is a secret of which the world has no conception. Think of it and try to realize it -- not only a God that mercifully pardons our guilt and saves us from its consequences; not only a God that gives to us a new nature that loves to do the right which once we hated; not only a God that comes to our aid in temptation and trial and interposes His strength and His providence for our deliverance but above all this, a God Who comes Himself to live His own life in us; Who takes us into the Divine family; Who makes us partakers of the Divine nature; Who undertakes our life for us; Who becomes the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Who 'works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.'"
"What does human poetry, human philosophy -- the purest form of human religion -- know of anything like this? No wonder Paul was aflame with the enthusiasm of his glorious discovery and longed to sweep like an angel flying in the midst of heaven to tell our helpless race the mighty secret, not only that God had come down to visit people with a message of mercy, but that He had come to stay and live within them with 'the power of an endless life'."
It is earnestly to be hoped that in the near future, there will be given to the public, in a separate volume, a collection of Dr. Simpson's marvelously luminous sermons on this subject.
The following is a specimen, among scores of others, of how he reduces to simple and easily apprehended language, one aspect of this great doctrine, and shows the relationship between the indwelling of Christ and the O; dwelling of the Holy Spirit, a subject so full of perplexity to so many.
"One of the most attractive lights in which the Holy Spirit is revealed to us in the New Testament is in connection with the Person of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is a pure Spirit, and has not been incarnated in human flesh as the Son of God was in His birth and earthly life. Instead of this He has been so united to Jesus Christ, that He partakes of the incarnation of the Son of God, and comes to us clothed in the humanity of Jesus, softened and humanized by His relation to Him and His residence in Him during the whole period of His earthly ministry."
"In receiving Him we just receive the Lord Jesus Himself. He comes to us to impart the very life of Jesus Christ. He takes the qualities that were in Him, and makes them ours. He transfers to us the purity, the love, the gentleness, the faith of Jesus Christ, and so imparts to us His very nature as to reproduce in us His life, and we live, in a very literal and real way, the Christlife as our own experience."
"Cease to look to the Holy Spirit as simply an addition to your human virtue and strength; and surrendering self entirely, accept Him as the divine medium through whom Christ is made to us a wisdom from God, consisting of righteousness, sanctification and redemption."
"This is a very attractive conception of the Christian life. It is not our holiness, but the life of our Lord. It is not our struggle with the old nature, but it is the imparting of a new nature, and the indwelling of a new life. Hence it follows that when the Holy Spirit comes into our life and consciousness, it is Jesus that is made real to us rather than the Spirit, who never speaks of Himself."
"Jesus is not only the pattern, but the source of our life, and it is the business of the Holy Spirit, day by day, and moment by moment to transfer His qualities into our life. Do we need patience? We just draw it from Him through the Holy Spirit. Do we need power? We take a deeper draughing of His fullness, and He becomes our power. Do we need love? We draw a little nearer to Christ the Loving One, and through the Holy Spirit, His love is shed abroad in our hearts."
"So the deeper Christian life becomes as simple as the life of a babe; as instinctive as breathing; as high and lofty in its standard of righteousness as the very holiness of Deity. It is at once transcendently great, and yet delightfully easy. It is God's great secret of holy living/'"
Who can wonder that his exultant spirit so often broke forth into song:
"This is my wonderful story,
Christ to my heart has come;
Jesus, the King of Glory,
Finds in my heart a home.
How can I ever be lonely,
How can I ever fall;
What can I want, if only
Christ is my all in all!
Christ in me, O wonderful story,
Christ in me, the hope of glory."
A third characteristic of this great preacher's messages and writings is their Sanity.
Before me is an article on Spiritual Sanity which Dr. Simpson wrote because of swarms of hysterical excitements that prevailed, and particularly because of the danger that the special gifts of the Holy Spirit should be so travestied that rational Christians would turn away from the truly supernatural and divine manifestations of the power of God through fear of the counterfeit.
With these unbalanced presentations of the deepest truths, which created so much prejudice in the minds of intelligent thoughtful seekers after God's best, he had no sympathy. Nor could he regard with favor the sensationalism with which so many so-called revivals were attended. He says: "The Lord Jesus was never undignified, spectacular or ridiculous in His personal bearing and earthly ministry. Not once did He resort to the tricks of the stage performer to attract the public. The calm dignity and resistless power of His presence and all His work, were sufficient to advertise Him, and again and again, even when He sought retirement 'He could not be hid.' Surely if the example of our Lord has any weight with respect to the bearing and deportment of His servants, we shall find little encouragement in the Master's example for many of our modern methods of attracting the multitude and manifesting the power of the Spirit."
The last paragraph of this article is so sane and strong that we venture, in closing, to reproduce it. "It has been well said, that the element of proportion is indispensable, both in natural and spiritual things. The atmosphere we breathe depends for its wholesomeness upon the exact proportions in which the different constituents are mingled in the air. A little more carbon, a little more hydrogen, or a little more oxygen, would bring death in a single instant to the whole human race. It is because these elements are so perfectly mingled that the air we breathe brings life and wholesomeness. It is precisely so with the gifts of the Spirit. The spirit of love alone will make us sentimental, unless it is mixed with power and wisdom. The spirit of wisdom alone will make us cold and hard, unless it is mixed with love. The spirit of power alone will run all the trains off the track, unless wisdom stands at the engine and directs the way. God give us the blended fullness of the Holy Spirit, the holy tact of the Master, who 'increased in wisdom and in favor with God and mankind,' and 'the spirit of love, and of power, and of a sound mind'."
The Life of A. B. Simpson is the Official Authorised Edition by A. E. THOMPSON, M. A. with Special Chapters by Paul Rader James M. Gray, D. D. Kenneth Mackenzie, J. Gregory Mantle, D. D. F. H. Senft, B. A. R. H. Glover, M. D. W. M. Turnbull, D. D. Published by Christian Alliance Publishing Co. 318 West 39TH St., New York in 1920. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2012.
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