[Thoughts on the Surrendered Life, suggested by the death of P. Cameron Scott, founder of the African Inland Mission.]
There are times when God speaks in the silence louder than in the message of uttered words. There comes to you today a vision of the old farm of bygone days. You stood by the bars of the harvest field, gazing wistfully into the fading twilight, breathing deep draughts of the cool summer air heavy with fragrance of the fresh mown hay. Slowly the outcries and clamor of the day gave place to the lowing of cattle, twittering of birds, and rustling of leaves, and then, as those last sweet restrainers of the evening's stillness ceased, there came a silence, voiceless, impressive, intense; without jar, or stir, or stress; and in it God spoke to your listening soul. So here the mightiest message that can come to you will come, not in any tribute of praise, or rush of loving words concerning him whose face and form have vanished from our midst. But it is that message which--when you have laid aside this printed page-in--the quiet of your own chamber of prayer; in the stillness of your own heart-communing with God; with the picture of this young heroic Christ-like life before your tearful vision, the Holy Ghost Himself shall whisper to your soul:--the silent message of--A Surrendered Life.
"Beloved, now are we the Sons of God." Raised from the dead; set in heavenly places; destined to be throne-mates of Jesus Christ, there is for us here a life of infinite privilege. It is a life of separation and servantship; of peace and power; of conscious communion with, and approval of our God; of unbounded joy and successful service; of triumph over besetting sin; a life rich, blessed, precious, and mighty in Christ Jesus; a life any less than which is too poor for the Spirit born offspring of the God of all grace, glory and power;--the life surrendered to God. Such a yielded life is as normal, natural, and expected by Him, as the unyielded life is an anomaly, astonishment, and grief to His heart. The call of God to His believing children to such a life is universal; not one is exempt; all are saved to serve; all are "created in Christ Jesus unto good works," which God has ordained that we should walk in them; "He died for all that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves but unto HIM;" He says to all "I beseech you brethren that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice."
Yet Cameron Scott for several years drifted along upon the listless tide of a shallow Christian life, seemingly without a thought of God's personal claim upon himself. He beheld Christ uplifted to the sinner with burning words of appeal, but no impassioned lips sped to his heart, with earnest beseechings, that supreme message of Christ to His children--a message born of the very travail of His soul--"My child, I want your life." How true this is of myriads of lives today! High crime, or woeful blunder is it in the church of Jesus Christ, wherever she has dared to substitute membership in her body: attendance upon her services: observance of her means of grace: and engagement in her manifold activities, for that absolute surrender of the life and will which alone can satisfy the heart of God who seeks it, and the heart of His child who makes it.
Reader, have you too been for years a child of God, and never yet had this message brought home to your heart and conscience with the conviction, power, and intensity it merits? Or, having heard, do you perchance shrink, and heed not, because it means self-sacrifice, self-crucifixion, the cross of Christ, and, you, say, "I am not ready for this ?" Behold the place you take! "I believe in a cross for the remission of sins; but none for the crucifixion of self. A cross for Christ, but none for me! Sins laid on Jesus' body-gladly; but life laid at Jesus' feet-never! For the fainting Christ, a cross naked, cruel, blood-stained; but a cross ornate, flower-be-decked: the gilded apex of a church spire: or the dangling bauble of a woman's necklace, is good enough for me!" Even so may we accept the cross for salvation, but make void the cross for surrender and self crucifixion. Paul saw two crosses: or rather the same cross in a two-fold view. The first, a cross with Christ on it for him (Col. i. 20); the second, a cross on which he hung with Christ (Gal. ii. 20). The sinner must needs accept the former: the believer dare not refuse the latter. If he refuse, it is with immeasurable loss, for through this flood-gate alone comes the mighty inrush of peace and power our thirsty souls do covet. Many modern substitutes are there for the old-fashioned way of the cross of self-surrender and self-renunciation, but they land us in the slough of a barren selfishness, instead of in a place of power with God and man. Verily, except the church of Christ preach to the believer the cross of separation and surrender, as faithfully as she preaches to the sinner the cross of salvation, the iron will distill from her blood, the fires quench in her heart, and the power die out apace from her resulting easy, listless, worldly life.
There comes to every believer a time when the Holy Ghost begins to work mightily in his heart to induce this surrender of his life. This, too, is clear from Cameron Scott's experience. Worldly disappointments, baffled plans, sickness and bodily afflictions were used of God to show him the vanity of the world, and beget soul-hunger for a deeper heart-knowledge of the Christ whom he was serving only in name. Again and again did the Spirit move and trouble his heart with the text, "Ye are NOT your own, ye are BOUGHT with a price," until at last he yielded and laid that life at the feet of Him who had bought it with His own blood. Here again does not his life but image that of all God's bought-ones? Has not the Holy Spirit, beloved, patiently and gently thus wrought in your life through many vanished years? Have you not been restless; heart-sick of the world; unsatisfied with your spiritual experience; groping after the fuller, richer life you felt to be your lawful inheritance? Have you not had visions of heights meant for your feet, yet untrod: songs of rejoicing fashioned for your lips, yet unsung: closeness and preciousness of communion with Jesus, yet unrealized: abundance of rich fruitage and joyous service, yet unknown? Has there not been ever cherished within you an ideal which, amid all the debasement of your heavenly citizenship to the dead worldly standard about you, has never faded from your secret soul? And what does it mean? Simply that the Holy Spirit, appointed to take of the things of Christ and show them to you, has been holding up before you a vision of the Christ not only as a Saviour, but as an obedient servant; a world renouncing, self-renouncing God-man; a surrendered Son of God; and has been pleading with you to follow in his footsteps. This is the secret of the mysterious, inner unrest of your soul. It is the Holy Spirit. He is moving you to that advanced step in your Christian life which will flood it with blessing; --the surrender of yourself to Him. And are you still resisting? When Cameron Scott was day and night thus beset by the Holy Ghost with these words, "YE: ARE NOT YOUR OWN," they so troubled his resisting heart that at last he sought to erase the text from his Bible! Beloved, are we resisting the Holy Ghost? Have we not cast out this truth from our lives, which is far worse than erasing it from our Bibles? Has not our gradual and uneasy descent to a lower, more selfish, more worldly place of Christian life, testimony, and service been in the face of earnest protest and pleading from a quiet inward monitor whose voice--known only too well--kept calling us always higher? Let us beware! For "the heart is deceitful, and desperately wicked." Thus resisting we may stand for years upon a threshold of blessing we shall never cross; we may catch glimpses of a promised land here whose joy shall ne'er be ours:
and yet never enter into the haven of rest, peace, privilege, and power which God has prepared even in this life, for them that yield to Him.
Yielding thus to the Holy Ghost, the surrender of the life to God brings untold blessing in its train. So was it with Cameron Scott. He became a transformed man. His lips were touched with divine power; his heart yearned over lost men; his life was lifted from the world plane to the Christ-plane, into the closest sympathy with God's loftiest purpose for the world; his spiritual man grew by leaps and bounds; the Word of God and secret prayer became wellsprings of joy; his whole being throbbed and glowed with eager devotion, until at last it burned out its intense life for his Lord and King. And this, too, in a man who had once essayed to erase a consecration text from his testament! Child of God, behold what transformation the grace of God can work in a yielded life, and know assuredly that He stands ready to bring such into yours when surrendered to Him. The power you long for: the separation from the world unto your Lord: the close, conscious communion with Him: the zeal for service and sacrifice: the finding of your own God-ordained place and path of happy service; the joy, and peace, and blessing beyond your fondest dreams--all these will flood your life through the channel of the yielded life. So momentous and fruitful of mighty results in Cameron Scott's view was this definite act of consecration to God, that, as it was his favorite message in life, even, so in the hour of death, calling about him his fellow workers, he solemnly asked them, "Are your hands off ?" And if our vanished friend could speak to us today, his message would be the same: "Think not that you can give too much for Him. Though every drop of blood were poured forth in costliest libation; though every jot of waning strength were consumed for Him; though every feeble breath were spent in prayer and praise, and preaching of His Word; though every fleeting moment were laid fast hold of for His service; yet all would be but a feeble measure of your love, when you see Him as He is. 'I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, Which is your reasonable service.'"
Again, the life that is yielded to God is in the truest sense a saved life. As the world marks a life of such rare ability, devotion, and loveliness cut off in the very flush and prime of young manhood, it cries out "What a waste!" But therein the world only shows its ignorance of that profound truth of God's spiritual king kingdom, that fruitage comes through sacrifice; that the enlargement of the kingdom of God comes not from the lives that are saved, but the lives which--from the world's standpoint--are wasted. God's truth is: "Whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it." Here is a husbandman with two measures of golden grain. There comes one who says to him, "Do not waste it; save it; care for it; store it against the time of coming famine, when every grain will be precious." He heeds, and treasures it up in the waiting granary. Now comes another, and says: "Take this measure and cast it broadcast into the dark damp earth. Be, prodigal; spare it not; fling it and leave it to die. This too is heeded, and the careful, frugal world, turning with approval from the plump, well housed, comfortable grains to those that lie scattered, buried, and dying in the earth, cries aghast, "What a waste!" But the months roll on apace, the harvest time is come, and again, as ever, the foolishness of God is wiser than men. In the granary still lies the grain that was saved, not one jot increased, but rather shrunken, and doomed. soon too must, shrivel, and decay. But mark the transformed field where the "lost and wasted" once found its lonely grave! In dense, serried array, a countless multitude of speary stalks bend and sway under the weight of golden grain, and wait, with glad expectancy, the harvester's stroke that shall feed them to a starving world. And could your listening ear catch the secret of this miracle of abundance every swaying stalk would whisper to you: "At my feet is a tiny grave; in that grave a grain of wheat once gave up its life; and out from that grave have I sprung up into this hundred fold abundance. Know ye not that 'except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone? But if it die it shall bring forth much fruit.' This is the law of the wheat field."
Child of God, hath not the Master proclaimed this the law of His kingdom? Out from the surrender and death; out from the very toil, hardship and sacrifice; out from the tears, the sufferings, the strong cryings of the yielded life spring God's eternal harvests. Such a life is in the profoundest sense saved for God. But if your life is a selfish one, absorbed in laying up earthly treasures, gratifying earthly ambitions, following worldly pleasures and pursuits, with naught but to eat, drink and take its ease, though your soul were saved, is not your life lost to God? He cannot purify it; empower and inspire it; whisper His secret counsels to it; guide it into the place of blessing and service He has prepared for it in Christ; sow it in the world-field to bring forth bountiful fruitage for time and eternity, if it is not yielded to Him--can He? Is it not lost to Him for this age! So far as it is concerned, is not the accomplishment of His mighty purpose, for this generation in which it lives, baffled and frustrated? Does such a life satisfy you? Does it satisfy Jesus? True you are saved; but are you content to be merely saved "so as by fire?" Do you not long to bear some fruitage for Him? To lay some trophies at His feet? If the yielding of your life--poor requital as it is for His deathless love--is yet a sacrifice of sweet savor to Him, will you not heed His gentle entreatings?
"Brethren, the time is short; it remaineth that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it; FOR THE FASHION OF THIS WORLD PASSETH AWAY." The Lord is at hand. The tremulous veil that hangs between time and eternity, between mortality and glory, is swaying with the very breath of the Presence of the Coming One. If He should come tonight and snatch you, not a surrendered servant with "hands off," but a busy worldling with hands still marred with the indent of your desperate clutch upon worldly baubles, and lips still ajar with your latest refusal to His beseechings for your yielded life, would you not be "ashamed before Him at His coming?" Are you still vacillating: still compromising: still in fleshy dalliance with the world? Has the glitter of earth's vain trifles not yet faded before the vision of the Crucified? Has your heart not yet cried out "O Galilean, Thou hast conquered!" May you clutch earthly prizes, and gain the heavenly ones too? Can you walk in the flesh, and walk with Him too? Dare you pursue the same pleasures, lust after the same riches, serve the same master as the avowed worldling? Beloved, YIELD, YIELD thyself to Him, Else that solemn trust of a human life which he has given thee to live, and live but once, will, like the feathered arrow, soon have sped, and fall aimless and broken at the feet of Him who would have made it the choicest weapon in His quiver for mighty and victorious warfare, if thou hadst but yielded it to Him.