CHAPTER 7 - THE GODLY LIFE - "The Way" by Sir Robert Anderson

 

THE Christian is redeemed not merely from the penalties due to sin, but from the entire position to which those penalties attach. He is not in the position of a reprieved criminal; he has been "justified" - "justified through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," for he is made one with Him in His death. And death severs every relationship, puts an end to every obligation.
But in maintaining without reserve or compromise that the Christian has been delivered from every responsibility as a child of nature, it behoves us to give equal prominence to the truth that he has new responsibilities as a child of grace, connected with the new position into which grace has brought him, and with the new relationships pertaining to that position. He has been redeemed from law, but not that he may be lawless. He has been redeemed from duty, but not that he may be irresponsible. He has also been redeemed from that which made duty and law oppressive and fatal to him. He has not been redeemed from the penalties of doing his own will in order that self-will may have full scope; he has been redeemed from self-pleasing as well as from its consequences. "Who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity "-that is, from all lawlessness, from all self-will.
Iniquity in its activities is the opposite of righteousness: essentially and in its fruits it is opposed to holiness. And holiness rightly understood is devotedness, or separation, to God. The holy man is not one who shaves his face, puts on a cowl, and shuts himself up in a monastery, but one who "yields his members servants to righteousness." In appearance he is just like other people. If he be a barrister, he will be seen in court in a black gown and a horse-hair wig; if he be a footman, he may have powdered hair and an embroidered livery. But in either case, if he be a holy man, his life is directed Godwards. It is not that the one is thinking about texts of Scripture when his duty to his client demands that he should be absorbed in Acts of Parliament, nor that the other is out preaching when he ought to be polishing the silver plate; but that both are men who may be trusted to do their duty to the best of their ability, for they are living before God, and not before men. Such are God’s people. Not as a matter of profession, nor even as to title and privilege merely; but because they are "redeemed from all iniquity," from all self-pleasing, and thus "purified unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." "Yes," some one will here exclaim, "we are to be 'a peculiar people,' and this is quite opposed to what you have been saying."
An illustrated copy of "The Pilgrim's Progress" was my favourite book in early childhood, and I was much impressed by the fact that the worldly people wore tall silk hats, while Christian and his friends had "wide-awakes." And one of the truest men I ever knew - a sensible and successful man of business - asked me once very earnestly whether I thought it was wrong for a Christian to wear evening dress! My answer was to call his attention to the Apostle's words, "Whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, take account of these things." Where right and wrong are in question the Christian will not yield one iota to please anybody; but in matters of indifference he will be ready to please everybody. No matter how humble his station in life, the Christian ought to be gracious; for grace teaches people to be gracious, and any one who is thoroughly gracious has the essential characteristics which are intended by the term "a gentleman."
The "peculiar people" heresy has many phases and innumerable votaries. It often promotes conduct which is quite unbecoming a Christian, while it leads its dupes to think that in thus offending they are pleasing God. The expression is taken from the Greek version of Exodus xix. 5 :1 "All the earth is mine," God declared to Israel, "but ye shall be to me a peculiar people above all nations." And our English word, when rightly understood, is full of meaning, and none fitter or worthier could be chosen. As Webster's Dictionary tells us, "peculiar is from the Roman peculium, which was a thing emphatically and distinctively one's own, and hence was dear." A single word sometimes contains a sermon. And what a sermon we have here! To be "a peculiar people" is not to be a queer people. Still less is it to be a people noted for ungraciousness or rudeness. It is to be "emphatically and distinctively" God's own people, and therefore to be very specially dear to Him. And surely God's own people must be the best people in the world for any place or any purpose. Were Christians what they ought to be, the history of Daniel would, in a humble way, be re-enacted in the lives of thousands. If the captive Hebrew was promoted to the highest office at Babylon, it was because he proved his fitness for the position by sterling worth, and a life spent in the fear of God. And the result was that Daniel's God became known from one end of that mighty empire to the other. If Christians were known to be men of unswerving integrity, irreproachable in character and unblameable in life, their services would be at a premium in the world.
It was not always so. In many a time of bitter persecution the people of God were taught "that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." But the age in which we live seems rather to be like the halcyon Pentecostal days when the disciples "had favour with all the people." Exceptions there are, no doubt, for some know what it means to suffer for Christ's sake, and others for righteousness' sake. But if all who name the name of Christ "departed from iniquity," men would "glorify their Father in heaven."
And it is to this end that we have been redeemed. And such are the present responsibilities of our standing in grace - responsibilities which are definite and real, and in respect of which account has to be rendered. In the recoil from the mediaeval error that this life is a state of probation of which the issue awaits the award of "the day of wrath," we are in danger of forgetting that the earthly life of the redeemed is indeed a probation, of which the result shall be declared at the judgment-seat of Christ. Blinded by the errors from which they had been so recently delivered, our translators perverted the Apostle's words. The Revisers have rescued them for us thus: "Wherefore also we make it our aim, whether at home or absent, to be well-pleasing unto Him. For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ, that each may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad."
"What?" some one will exclaim, "Surely the good will be remembered and rewarded, but the bad thrust out of sight and hushed up for ever." The words are explicit, "whether good or bad." How worthy it is of human nature that we should wish to have the good recalled and the bad forgotten! But, thank God! that worthy and blessed Name shall be vindicated from all the wrong that has been heaped upon it here, while all true service and godly living shall be rewarded to the full, to the praise of Him to whom the power belongs. For the anthem then shall be, as His people cast the crowns that He Himself has given at His feet, "Thou art worthy, 0 Lord, to receive the glory and the honour."