Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Ministry of Grace

The following is an excerpt from The People's Bible, published in 1891. I love this book for its frank depiction of the Christian way and its unashamed praises of the loveliness of Christ:


Does not love give boldness, courage, hope, confidence? May not love go higher than any other inquirer or worshipper? Many there are on the first step of the throne; some a little higher up; but what figure is that, highest of all, white-clothed, with a face all light, with an eye kindled as the sun? The name of that highest, purest, sweetest worshiper is Love. It is therefore not strange that there would be in the Bible even a book steeped in love (The Song of Solomon), a soul sick of love, a heart without a dividing passion, a consecrated flame of affection. That such a book may be put to wrong uses is perfectly true; but what is there that may not be abused? What flower is there which a villain may not pluck and put upon his breast as a seal of honor? What bird is there which the cruelest hand many not kill? What word is there in all speech which a perverted imagination may not use for immoral or corrupting purposes?


We are right in thinking of Christ himself as the cause or origin of all this love. "Draw me, we will run after thee." There is a drawing force in life, a gracious impulse; not an impulse that thrusts men forward by eager violence, but that lures them, beckons them, draws them, by an unspeakable but most mighty magnetism. "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him." : Observe the difference between the words to draw and to drive. It is the special function of love to attract, to fascinate, to shut out all other charms, and to fix the vision upon itself; and under that sweet compulsion men will dare any peril, face any darkness, traverse any distance, though the road be lined by ravenous beasts. "We love him because he first loved us." God does not ask from us an affection which he himself has not first felt: the love is not on our side, except as an answer; the love is on God's part, as origin, fountain, spring, inspiration. "God is love." If God were only "loving" he might be something else---a mixture, a composition of elements and characteristics: God is more than loving, or he is loving because he is love. We say of some men, They are not musical, they are music; they are not eloquent, they are eloquence. In the one case you would but describe a feature or a characteristic; in the other you indicate an essence, a vitality, an individualism bound up with the thing which is signified. This love may be resisted; this drawing may be put aside. We may say even to him who is chiefest among ten thousand and altogether lovely, We will not have thee to reign over us; we have made up our minds to turn the day into night, and the night into one horrible revelry, and we would not have they presence amongst our orgies and supper or feast of hell. Thou would plague us; the feast would turn to poison under they look or touch; so we banish thee, and enclose ourselves with evil spirits, that we may make night hideous. A tremendous power is thus given to man. He could not be man without it. Every man has the power to leave God, but no man has the right to do it. Am I asked what is this drawing? Hear the apostle when he puts the inquiry, "Despises thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leads thee to repentance?" Do not mercies break thee down in tears? Does not daily kindness penetrate thy obstinacy, and turn they stubbornness into prayer? This is an appeal which is manifest, and not merely sentimental. The appeal is founded upon the goodness of God, and the goodness of God is the common story of the day; it begins to be seen when the dawn flushes the awakening earth with earliest light; it grows with the growing sun; it burns visibly and comfortingly in the setting day; all night it breathes its whispered gospel upon the heart of man;--it is written on the front-door of the house; it is inscribed on every window-pane through which the light comes with its needed blessing;--it is in every loaf, turning it into sacramental bread; it is in the cup, stirring the contents into holy wine, as sacramental blood; --the goodness of God was at the birth of the child, rocked the cradle of the child, watched over the growing life of the child, and will never forsake the advancing life, unless indeed that life shall grieve the Spirit, and quench the Holy Ghost.


This is what is meant by it being "all of grace." It never occurred to the heart of man to seek God or to love God. Who can love omnipotence? Who can love omniscience; or who can love ubiquitousness, onipresence--a mere occupation of space? Love does not answer such ideas; there may be a bowing of the head, a closing of the eyes, a wondering of the imagination, a standing back as from an intolerable glory; but love does not know that sphere, love does not speak that language. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son." : now we begin to feel a new emotion, there is upon our arm a human touch; there is mingling with our fellowship a human voice; there is a shrouded Deity, a concealed God. "Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh." : Accompanying that revelation there is a drawing power, and having been once drawn we wish to be closer still; our cry every day is, Draw me: there is another height to be conquered, there is another land to be seen, there are other gardens growing with all the fulness and odour of the paradise of God: draw me, and I shall not see the danger; draw me, and I shall fly where I cannot walk. This is the ministry of grace; this is the ministry of providence; this is that spiritual ministry which operates without bound or time or space.

4 comments :

  1. I struggle to even begin to form into words the effect this had on me. Words only cheapen it, yet I feel cheated if I don't respond. Like a catch22. Thank-you so much for this. I think I am going to look for this book for myself. This is rich.
    It also helps enlighten me in my own study of the woman at the well of Sychar. I just finished writing something myself a little along this line. I am moving very slowly through this story each day because I want to experience for myself, not just dissect it intellectually. I am so thirsty myself to experience this kind of love that I am jealous of those who seem to jump into it so easily.

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  2. Clay,

    This book is one of those rare finds which I will treasure forever. The depth of wisdom and love within its pages astounds me.

    Does the desire to experience this kind of love drive you to jealousy? Then I'm so glad to have posted these words on my blog. I too am jealous for a deeper intimacy with the Lord, and this is one of those books which causes me to hunger and thirst for more.

    (By the way, the author's name is Joseph Parker, D.D, and this was published by Funk & Wagnalls. I hope you do find yourself a copy.)

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  3. Right after I left my comment I went to Amazon and ordered a copy. At first I only found a contemporary book by that name but by typing in the 1891 I was able to find the original. I look forward to reading it when it arrives.

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  4. Clay,

    I'm rather surprised they carry this book! I know it will prove to be an inspiration to you.

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Comments, anyone? I'd love to hear your point of view.