H. C. G. Moule
Christ and Sanctification
Ch. 4, The Divine Keeper
In the last chapter we viewed the Lord Jesus Christ under the special character of the absolute and despotic Owner of the spirit, soul, and body of His purchased and self-dedicated servant. We recalled in the last words, that interesting detail in the law of Hebrew bond-service, in which the slave, whose year of release had arrived, might of his own choice elect to be a slave for ever: ‘I am well with Thee, I will not go out free.’ His master thereupon pierced his ear, fastening it for the moment to the house-door, a pledge and brand of perpetual connection with the house, and perpetual obedience. Delightful parable of what the Christian may, not once only, but evermore, be doing in his conscious relations with his divine and beloved Possessor: ‘O my Master, I have felt Thy yoke. I have tried Thy despotism, deep within my soul as well as in the outside of my life. It is real, intensely real, stricter and more penetrating by far than any other ownership can be. I see that it means for me the continuous surrender to Thee, in full reality, of all I am, and all I have and do. But I have found in it the glorious paradox of a blissful and restful liberty. I have found the secret of a nearness to Thee and fellowship with Thee unfelt before. I know my absolute Sovereign to be, while He never relaxes His sovereignty for a moment, meek and lowly in heart, as I could not know it before. I have begun to taste the deep sweetness of a life whose sole inner aim is to be a vessel for the Master’s use, when and how He pleases. And so it is well with me in Thy bondage. Brand me again. Bind me to Thy house-work again. I will not go out free.’
We shall never get beyond the occasions of such new surrender, nor beyond their blessedness. Every day, and well nigh every thing, may give the opportunity. Sharpest trials, deepest repose; the Lord’s takings and the Lord’s givings; things which deﬁnitely remind us of slavery, things which largely tempt us to forget it, or to conceal it; all will give us opportunity, which we will rejoice to take. Through such renewals of our surrender, if they are done in truth of heart before Him, will ﬂow in very markedly indeed the sanctifying powers of our Master’s life, the precious inﬂuences of our mystical union with our glorious Head.
Realize deliberately, and in fact, that you are the slave of Jesus Christ. Blessed position! How different from that of a passing visitor with Him, a traveler through His land, who stops at pleasure to sketch or measure it! Such are not you. You are bound to the soil, or rather to its Lord; with ceaseless obligations there; indissoluble relations to Him; a very real piece of His property; and so, of very real concern to Him.
And here may naturally come in our new topic, the divine Keeper. As before, we take up a revealed relation between the Lord and the believer, with special view to its bearing on Christian holiness. Let us think a little on this aspect of the keeping power of Christ.
I have realized, then, that I am His property, His implement for use, His living chattel, in the words, quoted above from Aristotle’s account of slavery. True, I always am such. But in a true sense I also become such in each crisis, now in this last crisis, of self-surrender. I have renounced, deﬁnitely renounced, the aims of the old life of self, and, among them, its aim to govern itself, in its own name, more or less wisely and successfully. And now what has happened correspondingly? This divine Possessor, who now, in a sense so true and special, holds me as not my own but as His, and assuredly regards me, and thinks of me in a sense correspondingly special, as a piece of instrumental property and possession, to be used, and therefore to be kept. His word encourages me to this view, not my fancy or reverie. The man who through grace has purged himself from these, separating himself from the life of sin, that is of self, to God, is revealed to be ipso facto a vessel for the Master’s use and what a master uses, will he not, for himself, from his own point of view, take care of? Will it not concern him to keep it near him, to keep it in order, to keep it clean?
You see the suggestion of thought. In the fact of that self-disfranchisement on my part, which God secures, and also invites, lies imbedded a holy further fact: that the Master who owns me will very specially take care of me, and He will do this in all respects in which, for His purposes, I need it. For let me think for the while, as far as I can, of His point of view only. For His purposes He will take very special care of me indeed. And of all respects in which this care will be taken, which may I ﬁx upon with most certainty, most expectation, most realization? Surely that which concerns my inner man; my world of thought and will, the seat and spring of all that comes out in external service, and according to the attitude of which towards Him will be the whole character—in His sight—of that external service. I am an instrument for His use; perhaps to bear burdens, such as pain, sorrow, or shame; perhaps to convey messages, writing, speaking, conversing; perhaps simply to reﬂect light, showing His mind in the commonest of all daily rounds. In only one way can I truly do any of these, in the way of inner harmony with Him, and peace and joy in Him. Will He not now take care, in a very special way, of this for me? Yes, He surely will. Let me keep the two thoughts, or rather the two facts, the two realities, connected: the ownership and the keeping—the Owner and the Keeper, our dear and sovereign Lord, and I shall not be 8
disappointed in the latter. Let go the former, wish to be my own, claim to be—however partially—my own, and let me not look for the Master’s keeping of the unﬁt instrument. Something else will be needed for it; perhaps, for a time, some sternly merciful taking to pieces; but not this sacred keeping. But accept Him wholly, in the sense of our last chapter, as Master, and we shall know something of it indeed.
I am not about to enter on any elaborate discussion of the relations between our will and the Lord’s. No; I would only say that certain broad, never to be forgotten, facts on this great subject stand out in the Word of God. One is the true and permanent reality of my will. It is never viewed as exhaled, or absorbed, into the will of God, but as willingly yielded to it, which is a very different thing. And when so yielded, it is still to be employed, with holy reality and activity; probably in very different directions, and with very different aims from of old. It will will, for instance, in temptation far rather to call in the Master’s strength than to employ the forces, such as they are, of my own introspections, and reasonings, and resolves. Yes, my will remains real and active. But then, on the other hand, the Scripture makes it plain, perhaps much plainer than I once thought, that His will on me and in me is an immense reality; and His will is personal, external to me, operative, effectual, trustworthy beyond all words. It tells me, and perhaps it comes to me with the light of a new world, a new sun of calm pure light and heat, that this Personal Being, whose I am, is ready, if I will trust Him for it, to act on me and in me with a present power of divine life and personal inﬂuence which is able to do great things, whereof I shall be glad; able so to do them that, if I may dare to say so, it shall be as if the victory over temptation, the deliverance from sinning, the animation to love, the leading forth to witness and labour, were the independent and isolated action in me of another, of my Master and Keeper. Nay, I am so to realize Him in this mighty ‘not-myself’ of His will and work, as to trust Him (while I maintain the attitude of His slave, His chattel), for innumerable modes of purifying and preserving power in me and on me, quite beyond my analysis. I only know about them, all that they are ministered to me by the Blessed Spirit, through Whom I and my Lord are one. But I am content to know this, and no more, in accepting the soul-blessing realization that ‘His grace,’ not will be, may be, but ‘is SUFFICIENT for me’; that He is able to keep me from falling; that I am kept by His Father’s power; that His power worketh in me; that He can keep me back from sinning; keep me in perfect peace; keep that which I have committed unto Him and into His hands—my spirit—not for death only but for life at the present hour.
‘Able to keep.’ I know well how liable is this blissful truth, like every other, to distortions and misuse. It is possible so to state it, or rather so to ignore other truth beside it, as almost to deny our immortal personality, or our present responsibility. It is possible so to interpret ‘not I, but Christ,’ that it shall come strangely round, in practical result, to mean: ‘not Christ, but I.’ But as sure as I am that this truth is liable to misuse, it is more liable to disuse. And so I venture to state and press it, for the once unbalanced and unrelieved: Commit, O bondservant of Christ Jesus, the keeping of thy spirit unto Him. In the problem of internal evil, in the face of dark and abiding fact of internal evil, in the question of what to do with that which in thee ever tends to come up and out in vanity, in envy, in impurity, in anger, in levity, in selﬁndulgence, in selﬁshness of every shade, in actions of evil and absences of good—throw thy will supremely in the direction of looking off from the temptation, and unto Him, and commit to Him the keeping. Thou absolutely belongest unto Him as His slave and His implement, for His work. He is not only able, He greatly cares to keep thy spirit. And do not stay to analyze how, in the crisis of need. He knows well how to act; according to the mighty working whereby He is able to subdue even all things to Himself. And be sure that these acts of peace-bringing trust will result, by His gracious will, in a holy deepening attitude and habit; in the gaze, instinctive, willing, restful, of ‘eyes that are ever toward the Lord; for HE shall pluck your feet out of the net.’
"Jesus, my strength, my hope,
On Thee I cast my care,
(My spiritual care),
With humble conﬁdence look up,
And know Thou hear’st my prayer.
Give me on Thee to wait
Till I can things do,
On Thee Almighty to create,
Almighty to renew."