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Gregory Mantle

Beyond Humiliation: The Way of the Cross

Chapter 2
A Mixed Life

Oft have I wished a traveler to be:
Mine eyes did even itch the sights to see
That I had heard and read of.
At last I said: “Go travel first thyself.
Thy little world can show thee wonders great:
The greater may have more, but not more neat
And curious pieces. Search and thou shalt find
Enough to talk of. Make no pretenses
Of new discoveries whilst yet thine own
And nearest little world is still unknown.
Away, then, with thy quadrants, compasses,
Globes, tables, maps, and minute glasses!
Lay by thy journals and thy diaries!
Close up thy annals and thy histories!
Study thyself and read what thou hast writ
In thine own book — thy conscience! Is it fit
To labor after other knowledge so
And thine own nearest, dearest self not know
Travels abroad both dear and dangerous are,
Whilst oft the soul pays for the body’s fare.
Travels at home are cheap and safe. Salvation
Comes mounted on the wings of meditation
He that doth live at home, and learns to know
God and himself, needeth no further go.”
— Christopher Harvey

In the beginning a threefold separation was accomplished before the command was given: “Be fruitful, and multiply.” God separated the light from the darkness, the waters beneath from the waters above the firmament, the sea from the dry land. To show His jealousy for physical order still further, He forbid an Israelite to plow with an ox and an ass under the same yoke (Deut. xxii. 10). The sowing of a field with mingled seed, and the wearing of a garment mingled of linen and woolen were also strictly forbidden (Lev. xix. 19). To this day an orthodox Jew will not mend a woolen garment with a flaxen thread. One of the preparations made by the Jews for an approaching Passover was to go over the fields and root up plants that had grown from mingled seeds. These prohibitions were intended to cultivate in the mind of the people the sentiment of reverence for the order established in nature by God. Wool and linen come from separate kingdoms in nature, one from the animal, the other from the vegetable, and unmixedness of moral character is clearly foreshadowed. To wear, in the same robe, the wool of selfishness and the linen of spirituality is contrary to the law of order which prevails in the kingdom of grace as in the kingdom of nature. God is as jealous — nay, more jealous — of moral order than of physical order, and in the management of their cattle, in the cultivation of their fields, in the making and wearing of their clothes, God was whispering in their ear, “Be pure of heart and life.” “What communion hath light with darkness?”

This thought of unmixedness is still further illustrated in the dress of the priests: “When the priests minister in the inner court, they shall be clothed with linen garments; no wool shall come upon them while they minister in the inner court, and within” (Ezek. xliv. 17). To enter “within the veil” and dwell there in the presence of God, there must be a laying aside of all that appertains to the dark world — the world of our selfhood — and we must be clothed with the fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteous acts of the saints and the robing of the Bride of Christ (Rev. xix. 8).

Few will deny that this mixedness in Christian life and work is a great bane, and seriously interferes with the effectiveness of both. This must be so, because it is a subversion of God’s order, and, as we have previously intimated, the creature will not be permitted with impunity to interfere with the laws established by the Creator. This was Paul’s trouble in the Corinthian Church. The Christians were possessed of a regenerate babe-life which Paul calls “carnality.” They lived a kind of suspended life, now dominated by the flesh and now by the Spirit, and the result was an elementary experience, envying, strife, and division (I Cor. iii.). Those who are living this mixed life are spoken of as double-minded (more exactly double-souled) men (James i. 8; iii. 8). There is only one cure for such a condition. It is the converging of all the desires and affections in the same center, viz., the love of God’s will and glory. When this is the case true singleness of heart is experienced. “If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.”

Before we can live the unmixed life, and belong no longer to the carnal but to the spiritual Christians, we must be willing to know the extent of the mixedness in our own character, for what the eye does not see the heart will not grieve over. Before we invite God to search us, let us pause and ask whether we are willing that He should make a thorough work of this self-discovery, however painful and humbling it may be. If not, we had better not begin; for it is better to be without the light than to possess it and be disobedient.

For obvious reasons no branch of knowledge is so neglected as knowledge of ourselves. In other sciences knowledge flatters the vanity of the unsanctified heart; it exalts men in the eyes of others, it increases their influence in the world. But true self-discovery wounds our pride, and spoils the good opinion we had formed and cherished of ourselves. We may be skilled in every other science and ignorant in this. We may be able to calculate the motions of the heavenly bodies, and know nothing of the movements of our own sinful nature. We may be able to plant our foot on a mountain summit where no human foot has ever before trod, and yet be ignorant of the dimensions of the black mountain of evil in our heart. We may be able by chemical analysis to detect and decompose the material substances around us, and yet never analyze the motives by which we are influenced, and which color and stain all our conduct.

“Self-love conspires with trust in our own hearts to make dupes of us as regards our spiritual account. Proverbially, and in the verdict of all experience, love is blind; and if love be blind, self-love being the strongest, the most subtle, the most changeless, the most difficult to eradicate of all loves, is blinder still. Self-love will not see, as self-trust cannot see, anything against us.” It is this ignorance that leads to quiescence. The hateful foe assumes such disguises, and appears so exactly the opposite of what he really is, that we lose sight of the fact that he is a devil still, and that, as Luther was wont to say, the white devil is more to be dreaded than the black.

What is necessary then, since self-love will cause us to live in such a fool’s paradise if we follow its interested opinion, is the search-light of God. This, and this alone, will disturb our self-complacency and self-deception. “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art the wretched one and miserable and poor and blind and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold refined by fire, that thou mayest become rich; and white garments that thou mayest clothe thyself, and that the shame of thy nakedness be not made manifest; and eyesalve to anoint thine eyes, that thou mayest see” (Rev. iii. 17, 18, R.V.).

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins [the hidden part] even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer. 17:9,10). What are spoken of as the reins, here and elsewhere in the Bible, are the secret thoughts, desires, and affections of the soul.

The heart is so exceedingly complicated and intricate; it is so near the eye which seeks to investigate it, that it baffles our research. There are a few things about the heart which are broad and open, and which we can in some measure, discover. But there are chambers receding within chambers, which no human investigation can ever reach. To explore these hidden chambers is the prerogative of God alone.

We live in an age of shallowness and superficiality, and we possess a marvelous capacity for self-deception. This capacity the enemy finds to be one of his most effective weapons for destroying the souls of men.

Our love of ease and our unwillingness to be disturbed, lead us to avoid the prayer: “Search me, O God and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts and see if there be any way of pain in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23,24 r.v.m.)

Painful and humiliating as the searching and exposure may be, the very beginning of a life that is all for God hinges upon our being absolutely honest with Him about our present spiritual condition.

The two great pillars upon which true Scriptural Christianity rests are the greatness of our fall and the greatness of our redemption. “Until,” says William Law, “you are renewed in the spirit of your mind, your virtues are only taught practices and grafted upon a corrupt bottom. Everything that you do will be a mixture of good and bad; your humility will help you to pride; your charity to others will give nourishment to your own self-love, and as your prayers increase so will the opinion of your own sanctity. Because till the heart is purified to the bottom, and has felt the axe at the root of its evil (which cannot be done by outward instruction), everything that proceeds from it partakes of its impurity and corruption.”

Nothing is easier than self-deception; few things are so difficult as real self-disclosure. We may be claiming and even professing the experience of holiness, and yet know nothing of a total death to the carnal or natural life. The dress and conversation of the inhabitants of Canaan are imitable; but the true divine life is as inimitable as life always is. Let us not mistake phraseology for experience, the maiming of the enemy for his death, sanctimoniousness for sanctification, unctuousness for unction, or the knowledge of the truth for the Spirit of truth, for “when truths have once been fully revealed and been made a part of orthodoxy, the history of them does not necessarily imply an operation of the Spirit of God.”

There is a striking thought in the literal translation of Hebrews iv. 13: “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked, and lying open unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” The passage might be rendered: “All things are stripped and stunned,” the figure being that of an athlete in the Coliseum, who has fought his best in the arena, and has at length fallen at the feet of his adversary, disarmed and broken down in helplessness. There he lies, unable to strike a blow or lift his arm. He is stripped and stunned, disarmed and disabled, and there is nothing left for him but to lie at the feet of his adversary, and throw up his arms for mercy. It means, as Alford reminds us, not only the stripping off of all coverings and concealments, but the lying prostrate in exposure before the eye of God, the God “with whom we have to do.” That is what the Holy Spirit and the searching Word will do for us if we are willing, and until we are willing, we shall be living a mixed life, with more or less of self, and more or less of Christ.

The ingratitude and unreasonableness of offering the Lord Jesus Christ a mixed life, a divided heart, has rarely been better expressed than in the searching and forceful lines of quaint old Francis Quarles:

Give Me thine heart, but as I gave it thee;
Or give it Me at least as I
Have given Mine
To purchase thine.
I halved it not when I did die;
But wholly gave Myself to set thee free.

But while thine heart’s divided, it is dead;
Dead unto Me, unless it live
To Me alone,
It is all one
To keep all and a part to give:
For what’s a body worth without a head?

Yet this is worse, that what thou keep’st from Me
Thou dost bestow upon My foes:
And those not mine
Alone, but thine:
The proper cause of all thy woes
From whom I gave My life to set thee free.

Have I betrothed thee to Myself, and shall
The devil, and the world, intrude
Upon My right
Even in My sight?
Think not thou canst Me so delude:
I will have none, unless I may have all.

I made it all, I gave it all to thee.
I gave all that I had for it:
If I must lose,
I’d rather choose
Mine interest in it all to quit:
Or keep it whole. Oh, give it whole to me!