Christ fashioned Within

Col.1:27.---'Christ in you, the hope of glory.'

We are all familiar with the saying that in every man there are three personalities. But a truer reading of human nature modifies this statement. There is only one personality, but that personality lives and moves in three worlds of thought, desire and will. The first of these three worlds is that of our ordinary thought and our transient feeling as they are expressed in the intercourse of life. The second is the world of inner desire, with its self-communing and unconfessed hopes and fears. But within and behind these two, there is a third realm. It is a world wholly unknown to our fellow-men, and greatly dark to ourselves. It is the Holy of Holies---the shrine of the soul. The other two are only the Outer Court and the Holy Place.

We know how real this inmost sphere of life is. When we were children there were names which were household words, places familiar in every feature, incidents which were the great events of our short history, persons who were our guides. Many of these have melted into the infinite azure of the past. We cannot recall them by any act of will. yet let some name stand out on a page, or let some word fall upon our ear from a speaker's lips, or let some old faded letter come into our hands, and at once, swimming up out of this secret inmost world, there come the names, faces, events, personalities, upon which we thought death had laid its binding spell. They were not dead; they were only lodging in this inmost world of our being.

The broad law of a victorious Christian life is that Christ must be dominant within the soul. It is not enough that Christ should control the outer court of our life, our judgment, our habits, our intercourse with the world, or even our worship and service. It is not enough that Christ should be the master in the second chamber of our being, and that we should think on Him with reverence, and dwell upon Him in quiet meditation, and find our minds glow with tender feeling towards His moral loveliness. Christ must pass in through the two outer courts. He must enter to abide within us, and to hold our will in the hollow of His hand. He must be the indwelling personality who will fashion us like unto Himself. The whole history of the Christian conquest is the fashioning of Christ within.

There are three clearly outlined stages in this fashioning. The first is---Christ born within; the second---Christ formed within; the third---Christ perfected within.

Christ Born Within.---There is a decisive spiritual change by which a man becomes a Christian. We should not encourage any narrow thoughts about the circumstances of its happening, or the emotions which it arouses, or the words in which it finds expression. We are all so different in age and situation, in our past and even our present, in our training and our temperament, that no two men ever have had the same experience in this vital change. For that reason it is described in Scripture under many names. It is called: 'being renewed in the spirit of your mind'; 'being quickened together with Christ'; 'being called out of darkness into his marvelous light'; 'becoming a little child'; 'awaking as from a deep sleep'; 'passing from death unto life'; 'becoming a new creature in Christ Jesus.' But Jesus always uses the final, the perfect, and the most beautiful word, and He names it---the new birth. Where does this new birth take place? Not in the outer world of daily thought and action, and not in the inner world of self-communing. It takes place in this inmost core of our being. What is it in simplest terms? It is Christ passing into the secret place of our soul, a spiritual presence, to be fashioned within.

To that experience Paul refers in one of his strange words: 'It pleased God to reveal his Son in me.' We know how Jesus laid siege to Paul. We can mark the steps by which He conquered him. Paul's large, sane, penetrating mind began to understand the wisdom of Christ's words. Jesus in His grace and loveliness began to creep into the study of his imagination. Then Christ passed into the second world of Paul's deeper thought and more wistful desire. The conviction that the way of his walking was not securely right brought forth self-reproaches and strange relentings. The record of that stage of experience is to be found in the words, 'It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.' But Christ was not yet born within. There came that moment on the road to Damascus when the great light shined about him, and the voice of Christ rang through him, and the barrier of the shrine was broken down, and Christ passed in to dwell at the center of his being. God had revealed His Son in Paul.

This is conversion, the passing, as the Bible calls it, from death unto life. Those who have stood by another's side at the solemn hour of this dread possession have been conscious sometimes of an experience which words are not allowed to utter---a something like the sudden snapping of a chain, the waking from a dream.

Martin Luther had a personal experience of Christ as the Forgiver and Savior. It was that personal experience of Christ's saving grace that fired Luther's soul and touched his lips, and turned the monk into a prophet, and gave him such a mighty gospel that it liberated and regenerated half Europe. It was so also with John Wesley. He was brought up in the nuture and admonition of the Lord as a boy in the vicarage at Epworth. The right belief was his from his early days. He believed in Jesus as the Son of God. That belief sent him out to be a minister in Georgia. But if he had never got beyond that, he would have remained a respectable and ineffective curate to the end of his days. But one day it was the good pleasure of God to reveal His Son in him. The creed was transmuted into an experience. It was his own experience of Christ as a Forgiver that sent him flaming from one end of the land to the other; it was that same experience that made him so mighty a preacher that tens of thousands of people as they listened to him were born again of the Spirit, and religion once more became a reality in England.

Christ Formed Within,---Every organism at its birth is lowly in its form and function. To use the language of science, it is only an embryo. It has few members, feeble capacities, an undeveloped life. When a man is born again he is only a Christian in embryo. Christ comes into his inmost world as the germ of the new life which is yet to flower out into the beauty of holiness. So Paul writes to those who have been born again, but are veined and flawed by faults. 'My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.' He is setting forth, in his own intense way, his desire to see Christ formed within them in a fuller loveliness.

It may seem that we are speaking in too high, to daring, and too mystic a way when we declare that Christ may be fashioned within the spirit of man. But it should no be a strange thing to any one to say that one personality may possess and pervade another. It is quite within the range of our experience that one personality has become the life and force of another, so as to be formed within.

In the seventeenth century there graduated at Aberdeen University in Scotland a young man of twenty by the name of Henry Scougal. He was almost immediately made a professor of philosophy. He died when he was twenty-eight years of age, but he left a little book, written as a letter to a friend who wanted a reasonable view of religion. It reads as though it had been written for our day. He entitled it, The Life of god in the Soul of Man. Back of all differing forms and expressions of religion he saw that religion was just one thing. Here is what he said: "True religion is the union of the soul with God, a real participation of the Divine nature, the very image of God drawn upon the soul; or, in the Apostle's phrase, it is Christ formed within us. Briefly, I know not how the nature of religion can be more fully expressed than by calling it . . . the life of God in the soul of man.

Christ Perfected Within.---'That God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.' This hope, made confident by the experience of its power, breathes through the aspirations of all New Testament saints. Paul's prayer is consummated in John's unforgettable anthem, 'Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.' What is the reality to which this hope looks out? The day is coming when all that is earthly shall pass away, and all that is temporal shall be no more. What shall remain is this inmost world of our personality, where Christ has been formed within. There shall Christ be perfected. We have been planting our bulbs in the earth in the knowledge that there is a day in spring when under all the earth the secret germs begin to stir and grow before they bud. As the life within begins to move, the outer husks and coverings fall away into death and rottenness. But the life sends up its living green shoots into the world of light and beauty. Then the form of the plant begins to appear, and finally the flower lifts its head in the mellow sunshine. So Christ, born within and formed within, shall, in that new atmosphere of light and love, be perfected, and we shall be 'conformed unto the likeness of God's dear Son.'

All this rises up to a solemn issue. It brings us face to face with the alternative which cannot be escaped. Either Christ has been born within, and is passing on to a perfect fashioning, or some other personality is becoming the indwelling and dominant spirit of our inmost being. 'Behold: I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.' That is the timeless word of the wondrous music with which Christ seeks entrance that He may be fashioned within. But the shrine will not remain empty. If Christ be denied, some other will enter in. The Evil One will become dominant, and we shall be fashioned unto his likeness, as too many men have been.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha