Vanguard and Rearguard

Isa. 52:12.---' The Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rearward.'

How do you regard human life? I suppose the three most frequent descriptions of life, the three most popular pictures, are these---a battle, a voyage, and a march.

Many have spoken of it as a battle. "For my own part," declared William James in a famous passage, "I do not know what the sweat and blood and tragedy of this life mean, if they mean anything short of this. If this life be not a real fight, in which something is eternally gained for the universe by success, it is no better than a game of private theatricals from which one may withdraw at will. But it FEELS like a real fight."

And many have spoken of it as a voyage, the passing of a ship across seas which today may be as smooth as glass, and tomorrow tossed with a hurricane---on and on, till the harbor lights appear on the other side and the desired haven is won.

But the picture which doubtless has the widest appeal is that of life as a march. We talk about 'the milestones of the years.' We put our ear to the ground and we hear the tramp, tramp, tramp of the hosts of humanity. We turn the pages of history and we see the cavalcade of the sons of men. Life is a march.

Many of the greatest spirits who have ever lived have taught us to regard it so. We are given immortal pictures of the road beaten bare by the passing of pilgrim feet. Pictures of generations rising out of darkness into daylight, each living out its brief enthralling day, each hasting stormfully across the astonished earth, each leaving on the hardest adamant some footprint stamped in.

That is the history of the sons of men. That is our own life today---with the milestones hurrying by. And that is Isaiah's picture here. Only---mark this--- he has added something to it. He has added something most dramatically important. 'That vanguard on in front,' he says, 'that is God---God at the head of the host---the spearhead of humanity's advance! That rearguard following after,' he continues, 'that, too, is God, God coming up behind, God holding the post of danger at the army's rear! That is Isaiah's vision.

The Lord our vanguard! Has not that been your experience on the road? Can't you look back today and put your finger on place after place, and say, "Here, and there, and here God had prepared the way for me"? Take the longest view. Look back on the whole course of your life. Has not God always been beforehand with you? And if you love Him today, is it not because He has always loved you first?

Or turn from the joys you have had, and think of the sorrows. Think of the frustrations, the griefs, the disappointments; and see if you cannot say, looking back upon them now, that even in those things grace was present, even there God was leading on, with a definite plan for your life.

'We love Him, because He first loved us.' He has always been first. he has been 'the Lord our vanguard.'

And therefore [this is the point we have been making for], a brave heart to the passing milestones---greet the unseen with a cheer!

We talk about "the unknown future"; we say timidly that we have no notion whatever of what may be coming to us. It is not true! "But surely," protests someone, "it is true. We can't tell what a day may bring forth; we don't know one single thing about what may be on there in front." I say again---It is not true. One thing I know---God is on there in front! One thing I can say---Whatever that future is going to bring forth, it is going to bring God. The Lord our vanguard---that I know. And is not that enough?

Here we are today, with the dark mystery of the veiled future confronting us, wondering [as it is perfectly natural to wonder] what is moving there for us behind the veil, joy or sorrow, friend or foe, success or failure, life or death. But if you stand today, and cry into that black mysterious void, "Who goes there?"---you'll get your answer. 'God goes there! Love goes there. Your Father is there!' And again I ask you---Is not that enough?

'The Lord will go before you'---whatever else is hidden, that is gloriously certain. God our vanguard!

And when you think of the onward march of humanity today, and when you think of your own soul's march from the past into the future, remember there is not only a God on in front there, leading the way: remember there is also Something behind, Someone facing backwards down the road you have traveled as He gazes back to protect His own. O blessed, suffering gallant God---You are the rearguard!

And therefore, soul of mine, march with courage! Into the unseen days, marching singing. Past the milestones of the years, keep marching. March till your road begins to dip towards its end, and the towers and turrets of the City appear beyond the river. God is your vanguard, God your rearguard. Therefore sing---and march!

In Christ, timothy. maranatha =======================================================================================


Many-Colored Wisdom.

Eph. 3:10.---' The manifold [Gr. many-colored] wisdom of God.'

Many students have believed that they could detect in the Epistle to the Ephesians the influence of Rome upon the Apostle, for it was probably during his captivity there that it was written. It was only natural that Rome should impress him; for he was a Roman citizen, and its genius was akin to his own mind. He had always longed to see Rome, and, although he was brought there in chains, and to be tried for his life, nothing is allowed to diminish the sense of triumph that his wish has been realized and the standard of the Faith has been planted in Caesar's household.

He was impressed with the Imperial power, the genius that could hold so many races under its sway. Within the city were gathered men from all over the known world, bringing with them their different minds and their strange creeds. Rome was being invaded by the gods of the East, and religions that were dying elsewhere came here to find a new lease of life. Instead of being appalled by this confusion, Paul was not only the more determined to win this varied crowd for Christ, but he became increasingly aware that Christ contained width enough to hold them all. The mystery that was revealed to him in Rome was that the Gentiles were fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. And here in Rome 'Gentiles' did not mean simply non-Jews; the term had come to have a positive significance and to be filled with vaster meaning: for it included all those nations with which the streets of Rome were teeming. And, looking at their infinite variety and, perhaps, at their richly colored garb, Paul realized that their need could only be matched in the unsearchable riches of Christ and the manifold wisdom of God.

As he searched round for a word to describe this infinite variety which was to be found in the mind of God, he lit on a rare Greek word, and one cannot help thinking that its original meaning carried, even if unconsciously, some attraction to his mind: 'many-colored,' varied, it is, for its pictures a garden glowing with the colors of all kinds of flowers.

But perhaps there is no more beautiful image than that of a garden where each flower is allowed to make its contribution of color and beauty, admirable in itself, and yet going to make up a scene of delights. The Church was meant to be Christ's garden, neither, surely, with the different flowers planted out in beds, primly divided off from one another, nor rioting in careless and disordered profusion, but just that which is the greatest pleasure, flowers of all kinds growing together as in an old-world garden, lavish, glorious, and of all kinds and colors, yet making one simple effect of pure and surpassing joy.

It is the duty of the Church's ministry to show how the one truth of God is able to be revealed in countless colors, turning the prism of theology this way and that, until each pure, delightful color is flashed upon the eye; to see its varied application, its endless meaning, its inexhaustable treasures; each a colored loveliness, all sheer loveliness. We have got to show how bright and lively Christianity really is; how from the very tears of men it begets the rainbow; how, when the purposes of God are broken by the rebellion of men, it only wins therefrom the greater beauty.

Our Christian life must be one that is full of color. White is the characteristic color of purity and sainthood. But whiteness is not the absence of color; it is the perfect mingling of all the pure colors. These give it its glow and sense of brightness. Therefore, if it is saintship we aspire after---and there is no other ambition worth a moment's concern---we must take care that we include all the virtues. People are not canonized because they specialized in one virtue, and those in an intense and heroic degree. We cannot specialize in the Christian life; we must be perfect as our father is perfect, and that means holding all the virtues together: for apart they are not virtues at all.

It is our business to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. That seems an ambitious and almost irreverent undertaking. And yet it must be done. Doctrines, the great principles of Christianity, have got to be expressed in a life which shows how many-colored, how infinitely beautiful it is. We must win men and women to our religion, not by apologetic, not by dogmatic, but by aesthetic: the attractions of fine and lovely character. There must be the basis of truth, but just because it is truth it must be made beautiful. Then one day we shall be made ready to see God, made ready by the perfect purity of our heart. For God is neither smoke nor fog, but glorious color; and when, at last, His light shines unclouded upon us, it will break into a thousand happy colors, and we shall begin that beatific life which is endless joy and inexhaustible pleasure because it is fed from the many-colored wisdom of the infinite Mind.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha