Spiritual Life

[2 Pet. 1:3]---' According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.'

God's glory.---Threadbare and consequently vague as the expression is in the minds of a great many people who have heard it ever since they were little children, God's glory has a very definite meaning in Scripture. All starts from the Old Testament use of the expression. There it is the distinct specific name for the supernatural light that lay between the cherubim and brooded over the ark and the mercy seat. That was specifically and originally the 'glory of God,' the raying out, the irradiation of a material, though supernatural, symbol of His Divine and spiritual presence. If you wanted to do something supernatural today, Love. The glory of God in its deepest meaning is the irradiation and perpetual pouring out from Himself, as the rays of the sun stream out from its great orb; the pouring out of Himself of the light, and the perfectness, and the beauty of His own self-revelation. And we may fairly translate and paraphrase the first words of the text thus: God's great way of summoning men to Himself is by raying out His love upon them, and letting the fullness of that ineffable and uncreated light, in which is no darkness at all, stream into the else blinded and hopeless lives and hearts of men.

The highest form of the Divine glory is Jesus Christ; not the attributes with which men clothe a somewhat heathen divinity; not those abstractions that you find in books of theology. All that is but the fringe of the glory, and the living white light at the center of the heart of all the radiance is the light of love which is gathered into the gentle Christ. As the Apostle John has taught us, ' we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.' It is the highest light in Him that says: ' I am the light of the world'---verily, and the very light of very light; the brightness of His glory, the irradiation of His splendor, and the express image of His person.

For what is glory? It is the bloom of character. It is majesty issuing in grace. It is holiness consummated in tenderness. It is truth in the radiant robes of mercy. It is the splendor of the Godhead shedding itself abroad in the delicacy of love. We must never dissociate grace from majesty; in reality we are unable to do it, but we are sorely tempted in thought to make the division. In literal truth we can no more dissociate them than we can separate the sun from the sunlight. ' We beheld his glory, full of grace and truth.' So that when we are contemplating the glory of the Lord we are among the holy tendernesses, the majestic gentlenesses, the incorruptible love which forgives and is never defiled. Glory is the manifested presence of the Lord; warm and gentle as sunlight, as clean and pure as fire.

God's virtue.---The other side of the writer thoughts seems, if we will only strip it of the threadbare technicalities that we associate with it, to be as great a wonder as God's 'glory'---God's 'virtue.' Virtue here is substantially the same thing that we mean by the word 'energy' or 'power.' When people in country places talk about the 'virtues' of plants, they do not mean by that the goodness of plants, they mean something about powers which they suppose them to be able to put forth. We read in one of the Gospels that our Lord Himself said at one notable period of His life that 'virtue had gone out of him,' meaning thereby, not goodness, but energy. And so we may get a sufficiently near equivalent to the meaning of the text, if for the second of the two words we read, ' He hath called us by the glory, the raying out of His light,' and ' He hath called us by the activity and energy, the power in action of His great and lustrous Being.'

Now the religious life depends upon the extent to which men share the life of God; and for this all men have some capacity. It may not be a very marked capacity, and it may scarcely be developed, but it is there. A man may live for many years thinking he lacks that capacity; but one day something moves him to a consciousness of God, and if he develops that consciousness it becomes communion. The fact is, that we are all spiritual, whether we know it our not. Love for little children is just the Divine in us turning to what in this world is most like itself. Our perception of beauty is just God recognizing Himself in the world and using human faculties in the act of recognition. Those crude mysticisms, those vague eternities, those nameless emotions that somehow stir somewhere within us are just the spiritual life essaying self-assertion. God is in us even as we are in God; and we begin to live, as distinct from merely existing, when our religious life becomes self-conscious, when somehow we know ourselves to be spiritual.

Yet even in spiritual life there are distinctions. Let history speak. All through the ages men have been seeking God; and the quality of their spiritual life has varied with their success. The Fijian worshipping base gods with an idolatry past all belief; the Buddhist turning an atrophied heart towards a spiritualized Nothingness; the Zorastrian offering eager worship to the flaming sun; the Jew yielding himself to Jehovah---all these in varied and ascending degrees through the long ages have consciously or unconsciously been seeking God; and the search has always been a testimony to the amazing vitality of spiritual life. One of the main differences between the Jew and devotees of lesser religions is that the Jew was the only man who knew that God was seeking him. He knew this, even though he was afraid of getting too near God. What neither he nor anyone else in the world fully realized was that God, by His Spirit, by the very Force that moved them towards Him, was in reality always seeking all men. Yet it was so! ' In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. . . .That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world!'

Through all the years the characteristic separating humanity from the lower creation has been a persistent religiousness. In pre-Christian times this religiousness was at a minimum in the idolatries of savage peoples, at a maximum in the monotheism and spiritual experience of the Jews. But with the advent of Jesus the religious life became deeper, more spiritual, more significant, richer and nobler. The universal religiousness was particularized to perfection in Christianity. Men saw in Jesus what they ought to be. The vision called them to a better life; this Divine power granted unto them all things that pertain unto life and godliness through the knowledge of Him that called them by His own glory and virtue.

To return to the imagery of our text, in Jesus Christ we see not only God but our own lives as God wishes them to be. And we know this last full well. When we hear Jesus say to the woman with the stained life: 'Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more,' we know we ought to be as charitable and merciful as our Lord. When His righteous anger moves Him to denounce some Pharisee, we know that our holy wrath ought also to consume the hypocrisy and pretentiousness of the world. When He weeps at the grave of Lazarus, we know our own hearts ought to be tender with sympathy for the grief-stricken folk around us: and when, beholding Jerusalem, He weeps over the sins of the city, we know our own sorrow for the transgressions of humanity ought to add us to the sacred company of those who have lived and died to save a heedless world. Oh yes, His own glory and virtue call us from religiousness to Christianity; and as certainly as we respond His Divine power grants unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness through our knowledge of Him. Spiritual life is fellowship with God. A Christian life is communion with God through and in Jesus Christ.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha

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