H. C. G. Moule
Christ and Sanctification
Ch. 2, God is Able
We shall now as we proceed bend our thoughts more directly upon the Lord Himself, in some of those glorious characters in which He is ‘made to us Sanctiﬁcation’; and this, I am sure, will be in the proportion of the Gospel. We must look far more at Him than at our attitude towards Him. In Baxter’s well-known words, we must take ten looks at Christ for one at self. But none the less it is well to look early in the process of thought, and to look decisively, at what is the attitude of our will towards Him. If that is not done, interminable disappointment is a sad probability, where the Holy Spirit keeps conscience awake so as to feel it.
Before coming to a view, somewhat in detail, of one or another of the characters of Christ as our Sanctiﬁcation, let us here pause awhile before the grand fact in general that He, this Being who indeed is not ourselves, is able to deal with us in our inmost Self, and has announced His willingness to do it. Leave alone, for the moment, analysis and theory, however true, and ponder the FACT. Is it not good to do so, after such views as we have just been taking? We have held up to our own eyes an ideal of the life of walking with God, with a distinct resolve that it shall not remain for us a mere ideal. It shall be translated and transﬁgured into the real. It shall be, in some true and solid sense, reﬂected, before God and before man, in our experience and our life. Never, we know, will this ideal and this real absolutely coincide in our mortal state; if only for this reason, that we shall not be ‘like Him,’ absolutely, till ‘we see Him as He is.’ But then, we may be very much more like Him, relatively, than we are. We may reach to-day such a new development of likeness that it may be, to what was in us yesterday, a realization of the ideal, though to-morrow may bring in its turn what shall put to-day to shame. Such, however, has been our thought in the opening chapter.
Now is not one ﬁrst result of such views, a deeper and keener sense than ever of self-impotency? Noble and beautiful ideal! Just and conscience-waking conditions! But, am I not where I was before, only more aware of it? Are you not asking me to do precisely what is impossible, that I may enter upon a life of peace and spiritual power; to step on to this rock of strength, this lap of rest, across a gulf I cannot leap, and while I have no wings? Can self deny self? Can the centre of my acts and thoughts dislodge itself? Can I will that for which I am unwilling? Can I spring away, once and for all, from my own shadow?
In reply to such heart-questionings we will be perfectly practical. The heart, rather than the pure reason, is the questioner in this matter; and words which God has spoken in Scripture to the heart will be the best reply.
Do you remember the instructive progress of the Psalmist’s thought in Psalm 42. 4, 5, 6? He is in sore perplexity, and is athirst for God. At ﬁrst, he pours out his soul in him, or better, perhaps, upon him; throws and leans his distress upon himself, in weary introspection. Then, he reasons with that soul; conjures it not to fret upon him; entreats it to look up and off to God. Then, better still, he leaves this internal analysis and debate, and speaks direct to God, to his God: “O my God, my soul is cast down within me; therefore will I REMEMBER THEE.”
This saint of old shall be our guide. We will ‘REMEMBER Him.’ We will leave the anxious metaphysics of the inner man, and we will go out and up, in some quiet, steady recollections of fact. “O my God, I will remember Thee.”
Think, then, of this great, pervading, phenomenon of Scripture—its presentation of the Lord Himself—in His inﬁnite but personal Being, outside mine, though the source and base of mine still—as able to deal with me, to work in me, to work through me. Gather together such utterances as these, and believe them as you read them: ‘He is able to do exceeding abundantly, above what we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us’; ‘My grace is sufﬁcient for thee; My strength is made perfect in weakness’; ‘Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee’; ‘They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength’; ‘With Thee is the fountain of life’; ‘I am come that they might have life’; ‘I give eternal life’; ‘He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him’; ‘He is able to keep what I have committed unto Him’; ‘He is able to make all grace abound towards you’; ‘He is able to keep you from falling’; ‘He is faithful’; ‘He worketh in you, to will and to do’; ‘The life I live in the ﬂesh, I live by faith in the Son of God’; ‘Not I, but Christ liveth in me’; ‘Not I, but the grace of God with me’; ‘Much more, being reconciled by the death of the Son of God, we shall be saved in His life’; ‘The very God of peace sanctify you throughout’; ‘The God of peace, who brought again the great Shepherd, make you perfect,’ equip, or adjust you perfectly, ‘to do His will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in His sight.’
Now, mark, these are but some great clusters from the valleys of the Scripture Canaan. But are not these enough to show that ‘with God all things,’ all things proposed to faith, ‘are possible,’ however impossible in themselves? Looking at these words of the living God, will you not take in, and ever more take in, the divine certainty that ‘HE is ABLE,’ and write it across every practical problem of the ﬁrst step, and the next step, of your walk with God by faith?
Yes, clasp this side, the not-self side, of the Scripture promises. Fear not lest the legitimate action of self, of you, should be unduly eliminated. With the heart that asks the questions we have supposed, that is the last risk, and the least. What you need is to look away to this eternal Person undertaking for you, even before you ask in any detail what He says about His mode of action.
Read again, all through your Bible, your infallible Bible, the places that give you this view of Him. Are they trite to you, are they passe? In honesty with yourself, have you to own that the glory is departed from them, which once, perhaps, shone so richly from them? Believe me, if heart answereth to heart, I know the reason. It is because you have ceased to expect them to act. It is because you have been willing to put your own conventional gloss upon them. It is because you have assumed words to refer wholly to an indeﬁnite future, and another order of things, which are meant to be words of eternal life for the experience of to-day. What is meant to be your plank at this moment in the deep ﬂood, you have taken to be only the distant shore to which, practically unaided, you are to swim, half-drowned.
“O my God, I will remember Thee. Thou art not myself. Thou knowest me far better than I know myself. I cannot deal with that self, but Thou art able. I cannot manipulate the springs of thought and will; but Thou art able. Though I can indeed, with the powers Thou hast given me as man, do certain things in modiﬁcation of action, yet I cannot, no, I cannot, break habits decisively and at their root. But Thou art able. Thou knowest all that besets me; Thou knowest my circumstances; Thou ‘knowest where I dwell’; Thou art acquainted with every element in my character, my temperament, that responds to the besetments of my position. And Thou, inﬁnitely real and truly personal, art able to handle me throughout, in some wonderful way of Thine own, with a divine personal inﬂuence, to which it must indeed be blessed to submit. Take Thou me in hand. I am indeed a difﬁcult problem, insoluble to myself, but not to Thee. The more bafﬂing the moral difﬁculty, the more inveterate the habit, the more will be shown Thy skill in dealing with it. Be Thou magniﬁed in my body, and in my spirit, which are Thine. I yield myself to Thee.”
Yes, our deepest need, when the heart is alive with desire, and conscious of impotence, is ﬁrst to realize, and then to submit to, Him of whom ‘it is witnessed that He liveth.’
‘He that sitteth upon the throne saith, Behold, I make all things new.’ That is true not for the Universe only, nor for the Church only, but for the individual, for thee; and not for the eternal future only, but for the present; for the disorder of the soul, of thy soul, to-day. It is the KING who speaks, sitting on the throne. See Him as such, come to Him as such; and expect to ﬁnd, in the depths of being, and even now, that God is true, and God is able.