Fire on Earth

Luke 12:49.---' I am come to send fire on the earth.'

Here we find our Lord saying that He came to bring to earth something new and revolutionizing. Opinions differ as to what it meant by this fire. Some would have it to mean the glow of love kindled in believing hearts; others explained it by other human emotions, or by the transformation effected in the world by Christ's coming. But while these things are the results of the fire kindled on earth, that fire itself means not these effects, but the cause of them. It is brought before it kindles a flame on earth.

Christ does not simply kindle it in humanity; He launches it into the midst of humanity. it is something from above that He flings down upon the earth. So it is not merely a quickened intelligence, a higher moral life, or any other of the spiritual and religious transformations which are effected in the world by the mission of Christ, that is primarily to be kept in view here, but it is the Heaven-sent cause of these transformations and that flame. If we catch the celestial fire we shall flash and blaze; but the fire which we catch is not originated on earth. In a word it is God's Divine Spirit, which Christ came to communicate to the world.

I see the fire at work within the heart of the sinner. There it is light. The Spirit of God opens the bars and sutters, and allows the sunshine to stream in on my soul that was entrenching itself in ignorance and evil; and what hateful things I discover in my nature and history! But the light is turned Christward too. It brings the knowledge of the strong and merciful Savior. I look up from the dust and recognize my Healer, my Shepherd, my Master, my God. In the sinner's heart, moreover, the Fire is Life. The Spirit finds me, cold, hard, unprofitable to the Father, often hurtful to my neighbor; and He causes me to live. He creates me anew by what St. Augustine calls His "victorious delight.' Then the wilderness gives me blossoms in the spring and an autumn gathering. O Flame, wonderful and three times-blessed!

I see the fire at work within the being of the saint. Fire of love the Spirit is there. I am steeped in His warmth and glow, my obstinate selfishness is melted into tender affection for God and man; my keenness is transfused into generosity; my rectitude flows into sympathy and brotherhood. And Fire of holiness the Spirit is there. The gold of my regenerated character is mingled still with earthly dross. But, as the flames of heaven play on it, gradually it becomes beautiful, stainless, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. And fire of discipline the Spirit is there. Where fire is, there is pain; and the Lord's chastening is not joyous but grievous. But my sins are shriveled and destroyed in the brightness and heat. My dim and unripe graces shine with a celestial gleam. And shall I not say, I am now ready to be offered up?

Every man must be cleansed, if he is cleansed at all, by the touch of fire. If you take a piece of foul clay, and push it into a furnace, as it warms it whitens, and you can see the stains melting off it as the fire exercises its beneficient and purifying mastery. So the promise to us is of a great Spirit that will come, and by communicating His warmth will dissipate our foulness, and the sins that are inwrought into the substance of our natures will exhale from the heated surface, and disappear. The ore is flung into the blast furnace, and the scum rises to the surface, and may be ladled off, and the pure stream, cleansed because it is heated, flows out without refuse or ash. All that was 'fuel for the fire' is burned; and what remains is more truly itself and more precious. And so, brothers and sisters, you and I have, for our hope of cleansing, that we shall be passed through the fire, and dwell in the everlasting burnings of a Divine Spirit and a changeless love.

I see the fire at work within the Church of Christ. There it is power, equipping the Church with strength, so that she laughs at impossibilities. And there it is revival, ridding the Church of feebleness and faithlessness, so that she grapples again with great problems and goes forward afresh to surpassing victories.

There is an old saying attributed to our Lord by tradition, 'He that is near Me is near the fire.' Since the Day of Pentecost the Church has had 'fire,' not only 'near,' but actually within her, and there has been a peril in the possession, as well as an infinite privilege. In each member of that Divine Society, moreover, there has been enkindled that same fire which ought to be ever seeking its own self-expression in enthusiasm for the Glory of God---an enthusiasm wrapping, like flame, all the faculties of the soul, and transfiguring weak and wayward natures by the Spirit's inspiring operations. This is an inward reality which is capable of manifesting itself in divers ways. Now it may take the form of a burning passion to add fresh kingdoms to the empire of Jesus Christ; now, to secure justice for the wrongs of the weak and oppressed; now, to expel all that must be abhorrent to His awful holiness from our social life; now, to stem the tide of that lazy indifference which finds it too much exertion to abhor anything that is evil; and now, to conduct some valiant campaign against the strongholds of Satan. It is an inward force which urges, prompts, constrains, controls.

In Christ, timothy.