The Purpose and the Power

Ja. 1:27]---'Unspotted from the world.'

The problem of the relation between religion and the world is older than Christianity; and it is one of those problems which Christianity has met, not with a concise and portable solution, but with rays of light enough for a consistent life, though not for a coherent theory.

When we try to disentangle our way from the world's ways, we may not find it a simple and straitforward task. Conscience and experience may speak to us emphatically as the Bible about worldliness, and what comes of it: we may know well how true it is that no man can serve two masters, and how the love and service of the world drain life and reality out of the love and sevice may still profess towards God: we may know the inner poverty, the weakness, the deterioration, the blank and pitiful failure of insight that sets in when a man allows himself worldly ambition, worldly pride---all this may be clear and certain to us, and the sternest language of the New Testament may be matched in the plainset experience of our own life: nevertheless we may sincerly find it hard to see distinctly what the world is, and where its ways diverge from those that a Christian man should hold. For it is a complex and mysterious scene that is before us. Human life, human society, has not come to be what it is without the care of God for it. It has its own laws, and their origin is in His will. It may be all astir with human selfishness and folly, but it is astir also with Divine love and wisdom; and the great patience of the Almighty, from whom no secrets are hid, moves about its tangoled ways. Through a costly and unfathomable past it has came to be what it now is. The elements that have entered into that past, and into the present that has come of it, have differed as widely as light and darkness; their interaction, their conflicts, their form, have gone on for centuries by the permission and under the providence of God :---it would be strange if the product of all this admitted of easy unravelling, of obvious division, of confident and simple labelling. But if men take pains about two things they are not likely to go far wrong. The first is to try patiently and reverently to understand, so far as they can, the life, the troubles, the apirations, the forces of the age in which they live. The second is to maintain steadily their own communication with God, their realization of His presence, their attention to the disclosures of His will, their expectation of His judgment.

[Eph. 3:11]---'According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus.' [Eph. 3:20]---'According to the power that worketh in us.'

Our modern Christianity falls short of the Christianity of the New Testament in that we have so little of that forward-looking, forward-striving, impulse which the gospel awakened in the first believers. They could rejoice in hope of the glory of God. They confidently hoped that God would manifest His Glory; that He would go on with what He had begun in Jesus Christ; that the light then shining would shine more and more unto the perfect day; that in the on-coming ages He would show in kindness toward men the exceeding riches if His grace in Jesus Christ. To St. Paul's faith there was a great Power of God engaged in working out a great Purpose of God. Both the Purpose and the Power had been manifested in Christ. The Purpose was to sum up all things, to bring all things under one head, in Christ; the Power was working spiritually in the world and in men towards the accomplishment of that Purpose.

Man is a creature. Individually or as a race he has nothing to do with his being in the world and very little to do with the time or manner of his going out of it [unless, of course, he resorts to suicide, the ultimate in sheer selfishness] ; and while he is in it, he is absolutely dependent on nature and on nature's God for the food that he eats, the water he drinks, the air he breathes, and even the very ground he walks on. No amount of self-pride or self assertiveness on his part can alter these facts, now or ever.

Man is a creature. Neither as an individual nor as a race is he self-sufficient. Moreover, the unfailing criterion of a truly wise man is his own constant recognition of his creaturehood in all his dealings with his God and with his fellows. Humility, as Augustine was wont to reiterate, is the most essential condition to the acquirement of wisdom, wisdom being the constructive application of knowledge to the realization of man's natural and proper ultimate ends.

Hence, as a creature, man, every man, every human being, has his own natural and proper intrinsic and extrinsic ends. [Intrinsic ends are those realized within himself, the fulfilment of his natural potentialities ; extrinsic ends are those served by him outside himself, in relations with his fellows and with his God.] [An absolutely ultimate end is defined a priori as that which leaves nothing further to be desired, that which is desired and sought for itself alone, and that which perfects [actualizes the potentialities of] his personal nature.

What, then, must be the natural and proper absolutely ultimate intrinsic and extrinsic ends of man, the ends to which he is ordered by the Creator Himself, that is to say, the purposes for which He put him in the world? Intrinsically, the natural proper absolutely ultimate end is perfect happiness. Perfect happiness, heavenly joy, 'exalted happiness,' genuine bliss, obviously, is to be realized only in ultimate union with God. Variously designated Seeing God Face to Face, Blessedness, The Beatific Vision, Life Everlasting. Note the following comment with resect to the Beatitudes, [Matt. 5:3-10] : "Beware of preaching the gospel of temperment instead of the Gospel of God. Numbers of people today preach the gospel of temperment, the gospel of 'cheer up.' The word 'blessed' is sometimes translated 'happy,' but it is a much deeper word ; it includes all that we mean by joy in its full fruition." It stikes this me that a more realistic definition would be 'bliss,' 'heavenly bliss,' 'rapture,' etc.

The natural and proper absolutely ultimate extrinsic end of man is, of course, the glory of God. [Isa. 46:9-11, Isa. 45:25, Isa. 33:11, Phil. 2:9-11, 1 Cor. 15:24-28, Rev. 7:12, Rev. 21:23, 1 Tim. 6:14-16].

In the Glorious Consummation of all things, the Glory of God will be seen to include redeemed humanity. Indeed Jesus makes love for our fellows [mankind] an integral part of our love for God. [Matt. 22:35-40, also Matt. 25:31-46, Deut. 6:5, Lev. 19:18, 1 John 4:7-11].

In Scripture this ultimate union with God is described as seeing Him 'face to face.' [Matt. 5:8, 1 Cor. 13:12, 2 Cor. 3:17-18, 1Jn. 3:2-3, 2 Pet. 1:3-4, 2 Pet. 3:18].

It should be noted that 'seeing God face to face' connotes not what we call physical 'vision,' but rather spiritual knowledge, illumination, by means of which we shall continue to grow as we are 'transformed into the same image,' that is, the image of Christ, 'from glory to glory' [2 Cor. 3:18], and so become partakers of the divine nature. We must not lose sight of the fact that the essential principle of life is growth. Surely this growth will continue spiritually even in the experience of eternal life, in the Kingdom of Glory!

In Christ, timothy.


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