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H. C. G. Moule
Christ and Sanctification
Ch. 3, The Divine Master
WE are turning our thoughts directly to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, as the secret of all Christian Holiness. The inﬁnitely sacred subject can only be touched, and that only at a very few of its countless salient points. Intentionally I shall avoid many aspects, even paramount aspects, of the truth as it is in Jesus. I will but allude in passing to the Saviour as my justiﬁcation, my Sacriﬁce of peace, my Righteousness before the Holy God. And I will but thus passingly allude to Him, for the present, as the great Firstborn among many brethren, the Second Man, the Root and Life-spring of the New Race, of New Men, of New Man.
So now ﬁrst I reverently place my Redeemer before me as My MASTER.
This aspect of His sacred Personality towards me comes thus ﬁrst in the order of thought about Him, by no means at random. We hope to consider Him ere long as the Keeper, as the Friend, and as the Indweller, and how many other titles might we not gather round His Name, full of tenderness unspeakable! But if we would get right at these, for use in the hourly path, for rest amid overwhelming pressure or interlacing cares, or for the spiritual mind amidst the common intercourse of common days, sure I am—deeply sure—that we need to lay beneath all these restful views of Christ, and to weave as a thread of strength and truth into them all, the thought, the fact that He is the Master, the Master of a veritable slave, and that slave here, now, always, everywhere, myself.
True, there are texts in which the Lord and His Apostles waive this idea for a special purpose. ‘I call you not servants, but friends’; ‘Thou art no more a servant, but a son.’ But a little attention shows that we have in such sentences, as often in Scripture, one side of truth isolated and spoken of absolutely, while yet other sides hold good. He who calls His followers friends, says on the same occasion that they do well to call Him Lord. And soon He deals with them as Lord indeed: ‘if I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?’ And the Apostle who bids the believer repudiate in one respect the idea of bondage, clasps it in another to his inmost soul: ‘Paul, the slave of Jesus Christ’; ‘Whose I am’; ‘Enslaved to God!
Thus the idea is a permanent one, so permanent that it is carried on into the eternal state: ‘His bond-servants shall serve Him, and they shall see His face! And what I deeply feel and would earnestly enforce with regard to this idea, is that it is an idea precisely ﬁt to give safety and solidity to every tenderer one. Fail to recognize it to the full, fail of an unreserved and habitual recognition that this is my despotic Master, a recognition carried into the inner habit of everyday thought and purpose, and there will be in every other aspect of Jesus Christ to me a something out of order, a lack of ﬁxity, a lack of rest.
It is deeply signiﬁcant that His own blessed invitation to the weary and the heavy laden, speaks at once of a yoke and a burden. How shall you ﬁnd rest unto your souls? How shall you understand that I am meek and lowly of heart? Take My yoke upon you; become one of My ‘servants under the yoke.’ So, and not otherwise, you shall understand.
Let me look, then, every day and hour, and, as to the mental habit, every moment, upon Jesus Christ as my Master. Saintly George Herbert chose that to be, as it were, his best-beloved aspect of his Saviour: ‘My Master, Jesus’; ‘An oriental fragrancy, my Master.’ Let me do the same. Let me wear the word next to the heart, next to the will; nay, let it sink into the very springs of both, deeper every day.
Let me get up every morning with this for the instantaneous thought, that my Master wakes me. I wake, I rise, His property. Before I go out to plough or feed, or whatever it may be, upon His domain, let me with reverent and deep joy go into His private chamber, as it were, and avow Him as my Master, my Possessor; absolute, not constitutional; supremely entitled to order me about all day, and, if He pleases, not to thank me at the close. Let me put the neck of self beneath His feet, and rise up bearing not the cross only, which is another thought, but the yoke, the implement of menial service, the pledge of readiness to do and to carry anything. And let me continually, in the habit of my thought, be coming again into that Presence-chamber, to renew the act of that dedication and submission. With each call and claim the day may bring, let me carry into all things, let me have ready for them, this ‘oriental fragrancy, my Master.’ Is it regulated and expected duty? How delightful the thought that hands, or head, or voice, are indeed the implements of the faithful slave, kept at work for such an Owner! Is it unlooked-for and additional service? It is the Master’s sudden call, I am wanted, and it is by Him. Let me rise with alacrity at His lightest bidding, and ask His pleasure. Is it the miscellaneous intercourse of life? Let my mental habit be so full of ‘my Master,’ that I shall be on the watch, always and everywhere to be used by Him, or to ‘stand and wait’ close to Him, as He pleases; only always knowing myself to be His property, and glad indeed so to be. Let others always know where to ﬁnd me; because I am bound and anchored to His blessed will by the realized and heartwelcomed fact of this thrice-holy, entire, and literal slavery.
Yes, and let me remember and welcome down into the depths of my being the fact that His despotism is above all things to be felt there. In my innermost self I have no personal rights against Him. Every thought is a lawful captive and slave to Him. No corner of that mysterious world, my spirit, no movement of will, or of desire, has a right to be other than He wills. I am bound, fast bound, to think as He does, to like and dislike with Him, to lay every personal prejudice and pique and so-called just sensibility on self’s part beneath His despotic foot; and to leave it there, looking to Him to keep it down all day long. Let me never for one minute be content with the externals, however real in their sphere, of submission and of bondage. No; I am bound from within, from the depths. So it was of old when I lived that self-life I now deplore. The will was not free to righteousness; it was a servum arbitrium, a slave-will, that way; and it was bound from within. Now it is not free to evil. It is a slave-will that way, and it is bound from within; for a Master, a despotic Possessor, dwells in my heart by faith. He says no. It is against orders. And the orders speak now in the region where to speak is to control.
So I take His yoke upon me, and I ask Him never to let me take it off; no, not for a minute. My gracious Master still bestows needful periods of repose. He knows my frame. But when that repose does come, perhaps in some vigorous recreation in my youth, perhaps in calmer wise in maturer years, by shore or forest, on ﬁeld or mountain, it is not for one moment release from slavery. The inner despotism is as merciful and as real as ever; and as to outward service, I am ever to stand ready for it. My Master has but sent me for renewal of strength to some fair corner of His domain, never off it; and will often meet me there, and remind me what I am, and may bid me work for Him there, if He sees it right. And he expects me to go back to the task when the rest is over, with all the blessedness of a renewed and absolute avowal of what I am, and for whom I live; ‘an oriental fragrancy, my Master.’
And just the same it will be if He lays me low with sickness, accident, agony; bids me seemingly be useless for Him. Has He done it? I am to ask no questions. Not for a moment am I a self-determining being. ‘Yes, Master, I know what I am, and I know Thee, and Thou knowest me, and knowest best.’
Very feebly have I tried to sketch some practical, not sentimental, exercises of thought and will upon those stern, those merciful words: Master, Despot, Slave. May I dare to say they have become in growing realization blessed realities to myself? Ah! how imperfectly grasped yet; but enough to justify me, a sinner, in venturing to say: ‘Taste and see that this Master, this unutterably real and despotic Master, is good. There is rest here for the soul.’
It may seem strange to quote Aristotle in connection with Christian sanctity. But there is a passage on slavery in the Politics, at the opening, which I have lately read after many years with deep interest and emotion. It is a ruthless statement of the principles of bond-service of man to man, but we can read into it the golden gloss of the bond-service of redeemed man to Jesus Christ. What is Aristotle’s account of nature’s own slave, the being meant for bondage? He is ‘a chattel that lives’; he is ‘a part of his master; as it were a living, though separated, portion of his body.’ He has, strictly speaking, no existence apart from his master; he is ‘not only the slave of the master, but the master’s, wholly his’; so that, in no action or relation of life, is he for one moment an independent being. On the other hand—how ﬁnely and truly said!—there is thus and therefore between the born master and the born slave a relation of common interest and mutual friendship.
Are we not reminded by the way of that rule of the Passover, which entitled the born or purchased bond-servant to share the holy meal with his master, but shut out the hired servant altogether?
Surely, in this page of Aristotle we read, we ﬁnd expressed to the letter, almost to the spirit, the relation between the Christian and Christ. The servant is his master’s piece of absolute property. He is a part of his Master. He has no foothold for a moment’s independence. He is, as a ‘slave by nature,’ by new nature, near to his Master, in closest interest and in reverent friendship.
And further, still in Aristotle’s words scarcely modiﬁed, ‘he is by nature a slave, as one made to belong to another, and as sharing that other’s mind so far as to perceive it.’ Yes, after all, the slave of Christ, though purchased and branded for a most literal servitude, is made capable of a true perception of his Master’s mind, a sympathy, as true as it is humble, with his Master’s will, an intuition into his Master’s wish. And thus it is his delightful privilege evermore to act as if free, in just this respect, that he can look in his Master’s face and say, as one who is at liberty to go if he will, ‘I love Thee, I am well with Thee, I will not go out free.’