Tag Archives: Patriarch

THE ROCK THAT IS HIGHER THAN I

Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

“From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2

Whatever suggested the image of our text, the inward meaning of it is explicit. It is the long cry of the human heart for the forgiveness and comforting of God. There are times when the deepest craving of the soul is for something higher than itself. The self-reliance of our sunny hours is lost in a deep feeling of dependence. And that deep feeling of dependence, expressed in many relationships of life, is never satisfied nor perfected until it finds its rest in God. Now when the heart is overwhelmed (as was the Psalmist’s) there always falls a dimness on the eye. The rock of safety may be very near, but the mist hangs heavy, and we cannot see it. It is then the soul betakes itself to prayer and like the shipwrecked sailor or the desert, wanderer supplicates heavenly guidance to the refuge. There is a rock higher than our highest, but we all need to be led to it. No one can by searching find out God. And how we are led there by a most loving guidance, whether it be of providence or grace, is the question which arises from our text.

The Experience of Failure

We see, for instance, how often men are led to the Rock by the bitter experience of failure. Man’s extremity of need is heaven’s opportunity for leadership. A pastor friend of mine was once traveling on a train shared his experience with me. He said, “he was joined by a well-known merchant whose affairs were on the point of bankruptcy. And quite naturally, after a little talk, the merchant asked (my friend) if he would pray for him, and there in the carriage of the train, they knelt down and prayed. He was a strong, self-reliant man, that merchant. He was not given to asking help of anybody. But now the deepest craving of his heart was for something higher than himself on which to rest.”

And much of what is difficult in life, and overwhelming to the point of heartbreak, is but the kindly stratagem of heaven to lead us to the higher Rock. Those hours of heart-sinking familiar to us all, the feeling that we have spent our strength for nothing, the deep conviction which visits us in secret that all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags–such things, for ten thousand souls, have been the hidden leadership of heaven to the Rock that is higher than themselves. Deep is calling unto deep, the deep of misery to that of mercy. Out of the depths, man is always crying. And though he often knows not what he cries for, God knows and answers through the dark by leading the overwhelmed soul to Himself.

Devotion to the Best

Again, we note how often men are led thither by lowly devotion to the best. Loyal to the highest that they know, they are confronted by the higher Rock. If this universe is not a righteous universe and if love lies not at the heart of things, what use is there in striving to be righteous or in making love the passion of our lives? But the strange thing is that whenever a man is loyal to the best and worthiest he knows, he is never left with questions like that. He is led upward from his cherished loyalties to something loftier than his loyalties. It is a Rock, solid and impregnable; the Rock on which the universe is built. He passes upward from his values to the reality of what he values; he discovers he has aligned himself with God.

When men live for love and truth and mercy, God is always walking in their garden. They come to feel with deepening conviction that the things they strive for are not passing dreams but answer to the realities of heaven. Do your duty, though it is very irksome, and do it because it is your duty; be tender-hearted, forgiving one another, no matter how you are tempted to be hard; and above you, over-arching you, the reality of what you strive for, you will discover God who is our Rock. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto me.” To be true to the highest that we know is to be led to the Rock that is still higher. “Madam,” said the preacher once to a lady lamenting she had lost the Lord, “go down and work in the slums and you will find Him.”

The Guiding Hand of Christ

But, above all, we are led to the Rock that is higher by the guiding hand of Christ–“no man cometh to the Father but by me.” When we crave for the certainty that God is love, we may turn in vain to nature or to history. Nature and history have many voices, but they never cry, “I am the way.” Only Christ proclaims Himself the way to One higher than our highest thought because deeper than our deepest need. Thus, although the Psalmist did not know it, he saw the day of Christ and he was glad. It was for Christ that he was yearning in that passionate outcry of his spirit. It is He who takes us by the hand and leads us where philosophy can never lead us, to Love, to a Father on the throne, to “the rock that is higher than I.”

POLISH COMES THROUGH TROUBLE

Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

“And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me;” (Isaiah 49:2).

Somewhere I read of this very famous beach called “Pebble Beach”, on the California coast. The long line of white surf comes up with its everlasting roar, and rattles and thunders among the stones on the shore. They are caught in the arms of the pitiless waves, and tossed and rolled, and rubbed together, and ground against the sharp-grained cliffs. Day and night forever the ceaseless attrition goes on–never any rest. And the result?

Tourists from all the world flock thither to gather the round and beautiful stones. They are laid up in cabinets; they ornament the parlor mantels. But go yonder, around the point of the cliff that breaks off the force of the sea; and up in that quiet cove, sheltered from the storms, and lying ever in the sun, you shall find an abundance of pebbles that have never been chosen by the traveler.

Why are these left all the years through unsought? For the simple reason that they have escaped all the turmoil and attrition of the waves, and the quiet and peace have left them as they found them, rough and angular and devoid of beauty. Polish comes through the trouble.

Since God knows what niche we are to fill, let us trust Him to shape us into it. Since He knows what work we are to do, let us trust Him to drill us into the proper preparation.

“O blows that smite! O hurts that pierce This shrinking heart of mine! What are ye but the Master’s tools Forming a work Divine?”

“Nearly all God’s jewels are crystallized tears.”

And when you see a Christian looking weary and can hardly take himself to the next location, thing one thing and that he is going through a process in the hands of God. God is taking him through some trouble before He can polish him and set him aside for His service. Becoming a Leader is not an overnight job and there is no time frame for him to function.

Let me indicate here that it took Moses forty years in the making and another forty years before God was able to accomplish His purpose. During the second forty years, Aaron was in training preparing to take over from Moses.

Our problem today is everyone wants to be in front and do not know where they are going. Everyone wants a big title and they are paying big money to attain it. Others are trying to come through the back door for the same purpose but no one wants to be trained for the job.  Even with all the training sometimes you break and can lose all your previous accomplishments.

Basic skills like reading, proper writing, communicating and confidentiality will take you to a higher level. May God bless and keep you.

CHRIST SOMETIMES DELAYS HIS HELP

Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

“I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.” (Song of Solomon 5:6).

The Lord, when He hath given great faith, hath been known to try it by long delayings. He has suffered His servants’ voices to echo in their ears as from a brazen sky. They have knocked at the golden gate, but it has remained unmovable, as though it were rusted upon its hinges. Like Jeremiah, they have cried, “Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through.” Thus have true saints continued long in patient waiting without reply, not because their prayers were not vehement, nor because they were unaccepted, but because it so pleased Him who is a Sovereign, and who gives according to His own pleasure. If it pleases Him to bid our patience exercise itself, shall He not do as He will with His own!

No prayer is lost. Praying breath was never spent in vain. There is no such thing as prayer unanswered or unnoticed by God, and some things that we count refusals or denials are simply delays.

Christ sometimes delays His help that He may try our faith and quicken our prayers. The boat may be covered with the waves, and He sleeps on, but He will wake up before it sinks. He sleeps, but He never oversleeps, and there are no “too lates” with Him.

Be still, sad soul! lift thou no passionate cry, But spread the desert of thy being bare To the full searching of the All-seeing eye; Wait! and through dark misgiving, black despair,

God will come down in pity, and fill the dry Dead place with light, and life, and vernal air.

FEAR AND FAITH

Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

“What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” Psalm 56:3

Let us consider for a little while some of the springs of human fear, and then notice how many of our fears spring from the imagination. It has been said (and I think truly said) that life is ruled by the imagination. The things we picture and weave in glowing colors have a very powerful influence over conduct. Often that influence is stimulative, illumining the pathway to discovery; often it creates or liberates fear. People who are highly sensitive are far more apt to be fearful than their neighbours. There are a hundred fears that never touch the man of stolid, unimaginative nature. That is why for a certain type of person to be brave may be comparatively easy, and for another infinitely hard.

Now, the worst thing about this kind of fear is that reason is powerless to allay it. You might as soon allay a fire with good advice. The argument is cold. It cannot banish the specters of the soul. It has no brush that can obliterate the pictures of the imagination. But there is another way, more powerful than reason, to overcome imaginative fears, and that is the way of this inspired Psalmist. Faith is the antidote to fear. It quiets fear as the mother quiets her child. The child still dreams, but the dreams are not reality. It is the mother’s arms that are a reality. So we, His children, dreaming in the darkness and sometimes very frightened by our dreams, find “underneath the everlasting arms.”

Weakness of Body

Another very common source of fear is weakness or frailty of body. Everyone is familiar with that. When we are strong and well it is not difficult to keep our fears at bay. Fears, like microbes, do not love the sunshine. They need the darkness for their propagation. That is why, when the lights of life are dim, we readily become the prey of fearfulness. We can bear burdens without a thought when we are strong and vigorous and well; we can meet tasks with quiet hearts; we can bravely face difficulties–but these seem insurmountable when we are worn and often plunge us into the lowest pit. We must never forget how the state of the mind is affected by the condition of the body. Health is not alone the source of happiness. It is one of the perennial springs of hope. Many of our vague uncharted fears which haunt us and rob us of the sunshine are rooted in the frailty of our bodies.

Now I have no doubt that many of my readers are far from being physically perfect. The fact is, there are very few of us who could be described as physically perfect. And to all such, whatever their condition, I want to give these wonderful words of Scripture: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” He knows our frame. He remembers we are dust. He made us and He Understand us. He alone can perfectly appreciate the interactions of body and of mind. And when we trust Him in a childlike faith, nothing is more evident in life than the way in which He disappoints our fears. His grace is sufficient for us. Often when we are weak, then are we strong. Drawing from Him we find we have our fullness, given us daily as the manna was, until at last the “body of our humiliation” shall be fashioned like His glorious body, and then such fears will be laid to rest forever.

Faculty of Conscience

I close by naming one other source of fear, and that is the faculty of conscience. A guilty conscience is a fearing conscience—-conscience makes cowards of us all. If we could get rid of conscience, what fears would go whistling down the wind! But God has so created us, that that is the one thing we cannot do. We may drug and dope it, we may silence it, we may sear it as with an iron, but, like the maiden, it is not dead but sleeping. It awakens in unexpected seasons, sometimes in the stillness of the night, or when our loved ones are removed in death, or when we see our sins bearing fruit in others; perhaps most often in our dying hours when the flaming colors of time no longer blind us and we draw near to the revelation of eternity. All the fears of our imagination, all the fears that spring from weakly bodies, all these, however haunting, are nothing to the fears of conscience. And the tremendous fact, never to be disputed by any theory of its evolution, is that God has put a conscience in the breast.

But He who has put a conscience in the breast has done something more wonderful than that. To minister relief to fearing conscience, He has put His Only-begotten on the tree. There, explain it as you will, is freedom from the hideous fears of conscience. There, explain it as you will, is released from the terrors of our guilt. One trustful look at the Lord Jesus Christ dying upon the cross of Calvary and the fearfulness of conscience is no more. There is now therefore no more condemnation. Pardoned, we have joy and peace. God is for us on the cross, and if God be for us, who can be against us? Blessed Saviour, who didst die for us and whose blood cleanseth from all sin, What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.

 KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF

Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

“O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

A life was lost in Israel because a pair of human hands were laid unbidden upon the ark of God. They were placed upon it with the best intentions, to steady it when trembling and shaking as the oxen drew it along the rough way; but they touched God’s work presumptuously, and they fell paralyzed and lifeless. Much of the life of faith consists in letting things alone.

If we wholly trust an interest in God, we must keep our hands off it; and He will guard it for us better than we can help Him. “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.”

Things may seem to be going all wrong, but He knows as well as we; and He will arise in the right moment if we are really trusting Him so fully as to let Him work in His own way and time. There is nothing so masterly as inactivity in some things, and there is nothing so hurtful as restless working, for God has undertaken to work His sovereign will.

“Being perplexed, I say, ‘Lord, make it right! The night is as day to Thee, Darkness as light. I am afraid to touch Things that involve so much; My trembling hand may shake, My skilless hand may break; Thine can make no mistake.’

“Being in doubt I say, ‘Lord, make it plain; Which is the true, safe way? Which would be gain? I am not wise to know, Nor sure of foot to go; What is so clear to Thee, Lord, make it clear to me!'”

It is such a comfort to drop the tangles of life into God’s hands and leave them there. You cannot help God in any way. Your intentions may be good but God does not need your help. Stay in your lane and watch Him work and bring His plan to fulfillment.

HOLD FAST

“But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.” (Revelation 2:25).

The other day we asked a Jewish friend how it was that his countrymen were so successful in acquiring wealth. “Ah,” said he, “we do not make more money than other people, but we keep more.”  The save for rainy days and when they cannot work they have secured an investment. Beloved, let us look out this day for spiritual pickpockets and spiritual leakage. Let us “lose nothing of what we have wrought, but receive a full reward”; and, as each day comes and goes, let us put away in the savings bank of eternity its treasures of grace and victory, and so be conscious from day to day that something real and everlasting is being added to our eternal fortune.

It may be but a little, but if we only economize all that God gives us, and pass it on to His keeping, when the close shall come we shall be amazed to see how much the accumulated treasures of a well-spent life have laid up on high, and how much more He has added to them by His glorious investment of the life committed to His keeping.

Oh, how the days are telling! Oh, how precious these golden hours will seem sometime! God help us to make the most of them now. It is time to lay up treasures in heaven and not on earth. So many have invested on this earth in earthly things. The cares of the world and when death comes they wonder why so many heartaches. I urge you to make wise choices before it is to late.

GOD HAS CHOSEN ME

Sir Godfrey Gregg D. Div

“Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” (Isaiah 48:10).

Does not the Word come like a soft shower, assuaging the fury of the flame? Yes, is it not an asbestos armor, against which the heat has no power? Let the affliction come–God has chosen me. Poverty, thou mayest stride in at my door; but God is in the house already, and He has chosen me. Sickness, thou mayest intrude; but I have a balsam ready–God has chosen me. Whatever befall me in this vale of tears, I know that He has chosen me.

Fear not, Christian; Jesus is with thee. In all thy fiery trials, His presence is both thy comfort and safety. He will never leave one whom He has chosen for His own. “Fear not, for I am with thee,” is His sure word of promise to His chosen ones in “the furnace of affliction.” I have been cast aside, lied on, scandal and hurt by some of the very people that sat and sup with me. Those I have helped has seen it fit to be the most horrible towards me. But I have good news for you. Though you slay me, yet will I trust Him and today I am not broken but I am made stronger. My message is not to bring you back to the table of repentance, but in all your ways acknowledge God and let Him direct your path.

Pain’s furnace heat within me quivers, God’s breath upon the flame doth blow; And all my heart in anguish shivers And trembles at the fiery glow; And yet I whisper, “As God will!” And in the hottest fire hold still.

He comes and lays my heart, all heated, On the hard anvil, minded so Into His own fair shape to beat it With His great hammer, blow on blow; And yet I whisper, “As God will!” And at His heaviest blows hold still.

He takes my softened heart and beats it; The sparks fly off at every blow; He turns it o’er and o’er and heats it, And lets it cool, and makes it glow; And yet I whisper, “As God will!” And in His mighty hand hold still.

Why should I murmur? for the sorrow Thus only longer-lived would be; The end may come, and will tomorrow When God has done His work in me; So I say trusting, “As God will!” And, trusting to the end, hold still.

The burden of suffering seems a tombstone hung about our necks, while in reality, it is only the weight which is necessary to keep down the diver while he is hunting for pearls. The road may look well to walk but there is a Hill of Difficulty we have to climb. O, for a thousand tongues to sing our great Redeemer praise. We are ready to cross over and I say come with me.

TRUE HABITS

Sir Godfrey Gregg

“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:” (Colossians 2:6).

It is much easier to keep the fire burning than to rekindle it after it has gone out. Let us abide in Him. Let us not have to remove the cinders and ashes from our hearthstones every day and kindle a new flame, but let us keep it burning and never let it expire. Among the ancient Greeks the sacred fire was never allowed to go out; so, in a higher sense, let us keep the heavenly flame aglow upon the altar of the heart.

It takes very much less effort to maintain a good habit than to form it. A true spiritual habit once formed becomes a spontaneous tendency of our being, and we grow into delightful freedom in following it. “Let us not be ever laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, but let us go on unto perfection, and whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same things.”

Every spiritual habit begins with difficulty and effort and watchfulness, but if we will only let it get thoroughly established, it will become a channel along which currents of life will flow with divine spontaneousness and freedom.

My brothers and sisters, we are called to a place of worship and establishment. However, there are certain preparations to be made and secure a solid foundation. It, therefore, behooves us to find the foundation which has been laid and continue to build there. Jesus told Peter He will build the church on a certain rock. That could only be the revelation of His word. So, let us continue to fight the good fight of faith and lay hold on eternal life. Blessings all.

THE TRIUMPH OF TRUST

Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

“But thou, O God, shalt bring them down into the pit of destruction: bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; but I will trust in thee.” Psalm 55:23

The value of a word and the power that it has over our hearts depends largely upon the man who speaks it and on the circumstances of its utterance. When Paul said to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord, and again I say rejoice,” how inexpressibly these words are deepened by the circumstances of the Apostle–no longer young nor free, but a prisoner in a Roman cell with his life-work seemingly shattered at his feet. Living words have the quality of life. They are born and bear the fashion of their birth. They may be robbed of meaning or may be filled with meaning, by the hour in which the spirit utters them. So it seems to me the only way to enter into the grandeur of our text is to learn the circumstances of the Psalm. What kind of man was this who said so confidently: “But I will trust in thee?” What were his circumstances? Was he happy? Was everything going very well with him? A study of the psalm will show us that.

The Psalmist Was a Man Unanswered

First, note that he was a man unanswered. He knew the bitterness of heaven’s silence. His opening cry in our deep psalm is this: “Hide not thyself from my supplication” (Psalm 55:1).

It is an easy thing to trust in God when swiftly and certainly our prayers are answered. There are some who read this column whose life is a compact of answered prayer. But when we pray and the face of God is hidden, and we are restless because heaven is silent–it is often difficult to trust Him then. Especially is that true of intercession when we have been praying for someone who is dear, that God would spare a life or kill a habit or bring the beloved prodigal home again. To continue trusting when we have prayed like that and the prayers have seemed to go whistling down the wind, is one of the hardest tasks in human life. The splendid thing is that the psalmist did it. He refused to regard silence as indifference. He knew that a thousand days are as one day to God and that sometimes love delays the chariot wheels. Heaven might be silent and the face of God averted and all the comfort of fellowship withdrawn, but “I will trust in thee.”

The Psalmist Was Afraid

Observe next, he was a man afraid. “The terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me” (Psalm 55:4-5). Now if the writer of this psalm was David, he was one of the bravest souls who ever lived. As a shepherd lad, as an outlaw, as a king, he had given most conspicuous proofs of gallantry. Yet that gallant and courageous heart cries out: “The terrors of death are fallen upon me; fearfulness and trembling come upon me.”

Such hours come to the businessman when he has grappled with some big concern; to the lawyer on the eve of a very important case; to the mother, brooding in the quiet night on the responsibilities of her home and children; or to the pastor, praying for his flock. Suddenly our courage fails for reasons that are often quite inexplicable. Things are not different, duties are not different, but in a strange and mysterious fashion, we are different. And men who faced the lion and the bear and were quick to answer the challenge of Goliath experience the fearfulness of David. All of us have fainting fits, even the strongest and the bravest; hours when the strong men bow themselves and when the keepers of the house to tremble. David had them in their full intensity, and the good thing is that when they fell on him, he lifted up his heart and cried, “But I will trust in thee.”

The Psalmist Was Imprisoned

Observe next, he was a man imprisoned. “O that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away and be at rest” (Psalm 55:6). Now, this does not mean that he was in a dungeon. It is evident from the psalm that he was not. It means that he was weary of his lot; he was dead-sick of it; he loathed it. The meanness of things to that great heart had grown intolerable. He would have given worlds to fly away, but that was the one thing he could not do. In the providential ordering of heaven, he was bound, as it were, by fetters to his place. And I believe there are few people anywhere, whatever their lot or calling, who have not known the longing to escape. To escape from the bondage of ourselves–what a craving we often feel for that! To get away–just to get right away–from the routine which meets us every morning, how overpowering at times is that desire! It was then that David rose to a better way. The wings of a dove would never give him rest. The thing he needed was to find his rest under the overshadowing wing of God–right there, just where he was, amid the burdens and the cares of kingship, “I will trust in thee.”

The Psalmist Was Deceived

Observe lastly, he was a man deceived. Somebody he trusted had proven false, and it had almost broken David’s heart (Psalm 55:12-14). A man his equal, his guide and his acquaintance to whom he used to turn for loving counsel; a man with whom, on quiet Sabbath mornings, he used to walk into the house of God; a man whose friendship he had never doubted and on whose loyalty he would have staked his life had played the part of Iscariot to the Psalmist. What a devastating revelation! What a tragic and desolating hour! How many people have lost their faith in God when they have lost it in a man or woman? Yet David, amid the ruins of that friendship, deserted by one he clung to as a brother, says, “But I will trust in thee.”

SINCERITY

Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

“Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.” Psalm 51:6

There is a remarkable foreshadowing of the insight of Christ Jesus in these words. They ring with that depth which is so clear a note of Jesus’ moral teaching. We have been inclined to think of the Old Testament as dealing with the outward sphere of action; we have been inclined to say that it was Jesus who first ran down the action into the heart. But we must not separate the Old and New by any hard and fast distinctions such as these. They intermingle, both in creed and character. If Abraham saw Christ’s day and was glad, David saw Christ’s day and was sad. He recognized God’s passionate insistence that a man should be thoroughly sincere.

It is worth noting, too, that when David recognized this, he had a broken heart. David had sinned, and David was repentant, and a repentant man sees deeply. There are some hours in life when we are blind; hours when we see nothing and forget everything; and all our past, and all our honour and duty and God, and heaven and hell, fade and are blotted out. But when repentance comes, we see again. We see what we have done and what we are. We touch a sinfulness far deeper than our actions. And that was David’s case. On ordinary days he might have been content with ordinary sacrifices; but in an hour like this it was “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned,” and “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts.”

This, then, is God’s insistence on sincerity, and it is always a hard thing to be sincere. Life is so full of little insincerity’s that it is often the man who is seriously struggling to be true who feels most keenly how untrue he is. It is always a hard thing to be sincere. But there are times when it is harder than at other times. And it is especially hard today.

The Struggle for Existence

One reason it is so hard to be sincere is the fierce struggle for existence. There is a fierceness in a modern competition that makes it very hard for a man to be a man. There are so many interests involved, so many whirling wheels within the wheels, that to be true to self is difficult. Men are not free as the shepherd on the hills is free. Men are combined and interlocked in the great mechanism of modern life until at last, to say what a man thinks and to be what a man is, is one of the quiet heroism of honesty. Thank God, there are such heroisms!–as worthy of honour as any deed upon the battlefield. But when to be sincere spells heroism, we must not wonder if insincerity is common. Few men are heroes. For one soul that has a passion for sincerity, there are a hundred that have an overriding passion for success. And this, and the great gulf between Monday’s warfare and Sunday’s worship, and the compliance’s and the accommodations and the silences have tinged our city life with insincerity.

The Pressure of Public Opinion

I think, too, it is harder to be sincere because of the increasing pressure of public opinion. It seems there never was a time when the thought of so many was so quickly voiced and registered. For centuries the people had no voice. They lived and loved and had their griefs and died. But what their thought might be on the great themes mattered no more to their rulers than the thought of brutes. Then came the awakening of knowledge, the dawn of power, the rising of the people like a giant, the vote, the newspaper; until today the thought of the people have been caught and voiced, and public opinion is a dominant power. It is an untold blessing. But the voice of the people is not always the voice of God, and in the tremendous pressure of general opinion, it is harder for a man to be himself. It is a difficult thing to be an individual. I am so apt to be all warped and pressed out of the mental form that God has given me until my life becomes play acting and all the world a stage, and I don’t have the courage to think, and I don’t have the heart to feel, and I don’t have the heroism to be myself. And losing my individuality, I cease to be sincere.

A Time of Transition

But perhaps the deepest cause of insincerity is that we are living in a time of transition. All times to some extent are that. There is never an age, however dull and dead, but the old like a river is watering its plains, and the new like a spring leaps up into the light. But there are some times when the transition is very sharp and clear, and we are living in such a time as that today. Old things are passing away. Old faiths are in the crucible again. Old truths have got to be recast and readjusted. There is not a doctrine, whether of heart or Bible, but earnest minds are trying to reset it in the growing knowledge of these latter days. In one pew a father and a son are sitting; and though the father may never dream of it, there is the space of centuries between the two. For the father, with all the loyalty of his heart, still clings to the great message of the past; and to the son, the strain is to reconcile that message of his childhood with the wider horizon that he cannot yield.

That is the pain of a transition time. There can be little question that for many the only antidote for that pain is insincerity. It is impossible, it is utterly wrong, to cast away the past. It has meant too much to us and been too much to us for that. It is impossible, it is utterly wrong, to flout the new. It is the air we breathe. So springs the temptation to be insincere, to join in the worship that was formed and fashioned when faith was an enthusiasm, to sing the hymns that were the music of unclouded souls through the enthusiasm of our faith is gone and there are more clouds than sunshine in the sky.

Insincerity Robs a Man of His Dignity

Insincerity takes all dignity out of life and makes this world a very low place. We think we can be insincere, and men will be tricked and never find it out. O brethren, God Almighty has His own awful ways of writing a man’s insincerity upon the heavens and engraving it as with a pen of iron on the world. All reverence is impossible, all purity is stained, and all innocence rebukes me when I am insincere. If I am false and double, I cannot hear the laughter of my children but what it sends a pang of pain into my heart. Better be excitable, better be inconsistent, better be dead than insincere. Peter was excitable, brimful of inconsistencies; yet if ever a sincere heartbeat, it was the heart of Peter–and Jesus was Christ to Peter and heaven was heaven. But Judas, I don’t know what his other sins were, was insincere till he came to feel the very sincerity of Jesus was like an insult; and, insincere, he went to his own place.

Insincerity Distorts the Character

Insincerity carries yet another curse. I hardly think that there is any sin that mars and distorts the character like this one. That master theologian Augustine gave us a phrase that has become historic. He spoke of splendid sins. And perhaps there are some sins that in some lights, though not the light of God, have certain elements of splendor in them. But all the insight and all the love of Augustine could never find an element of splendor in the man or woman who had ceased to be sincere. There is no sin that so eats the manhood out of us as insincerity. There is no sin that so robs the character of its quiet and restfulness and strength, and leaves it restless, shifty, self-assertive, loud. The nation has often wondered at the sweet equanimity of our revered Queen. And it was Bright who said the Queen was the most truthful being he had ever met. It is the insincere man who exaggerates. It is insincere who flatters. It is insincere who plays the coward in the crisis. When I have won something of the sincerity of Christ, I shall know something of His strength and peace.

Insincerity Destroys Our Influence

Surely no sin saps and undermines our influence as insincerity. Perhaps you think you have no influence. You feel yourself a very uninfluential person. Come! the humblest woman reading this, it is not so! Most of us think far too much of our abilities and far too little of our influence. We are so interwoven in the web of life that we are making and molding each other every day. In ways mysterious, out of the depths of this mysterious self, we touch and turn each other. And perhaps the men who influence us most are the men who never tried to influence us at all.

Now the one bolt that falls out of the blue to shatter this unconscious influence of character is insincerity. I may be ignorant, and men may not despise me. I may be poor and still command respect. But ignorant or learned, rich or poor, once let men feel that I am insincere and all my influence for good, all my influence on God, is gone. It’s a sad hour when a son sees through his father. Sad for the father, twice sad for the son. And even if a minister has the eloquence of Paul, if his people distrust him, there will be no changed hearts. It is God’s curse on insincerity. It is the separating, isolating power of that heart-sin. There is no more heart-lonely creature in the world than the man or woman who has grown insincere. And to be heart-lonely forever, that is hell.

The Path to a Renewed Sincerity

First, we must win a deeper reverence for ourselves. We must believe in individual possibilities. We must remember there are no nobodies with God. If I am only a leaf tossed by the wind, if I am only a flake carried on the stream, if I am only a light that flashes and is gone, if it will be all the same a hundred years hence, it matters little whether I am sincere or not. I must not mock myself with any self-importance. But if I am a man called into being by an everlasting God, nurtured and bosomed in an eternal love, gifted with faculties that only eternity can ripen, and filled with a ceaseless craving for the truth, to be untrue to self is self-destruction. Therefore, when I am tempted to be insincere, I fall back first upon Bible doctrine. I see my weakness there. I see my fall. But I see there such hopes for me, such possibilities for me, that to be me–myself–becomes a new ambition. And to be me is to be sincere.

Then we must gain a profound faith in God. There is no choice about it. We simply must. I defy any man to be consciously insincere who lives under these eyes that are a flame of fire. It is because God is distant, hidden in the clouds that are around His throne, that we dare be one man within, another man without. The old religious sculptors, says a writer, who came to their tasks with prayer and meditation on unearthly beauty, would never suffer any imperfect workmanship even though placed where a man could never see it. And when one questioned them why the concealed parts of statues removed from human sight should be so exquisitely made, they answered that the eyes of the gods were there. “Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, my way is hidden from the Lord, and my goings are passed over from my God?” It is a speech like Jacob’s that makes insincerity so easy. It is the practice of God’s presence which makes it hard.

And we must gain a closer fellowship with Christ. Of all the help whereby I struggle onwards toward sincerity, there is none like daily fellowship with Him. If it ennobles me to live with noble souls and makes me purer to have a pure woman for my friend, how will it shame me into a new sincerity to live with the sincerest heart that ever beat! There are some men with whom I could not gossip. There are some men in whose presence slander dies. There is one Man whose very company kills insincerity, and that is Christ. When I am near to Him, and He to me, I am proportionately true. When I have lost Him, banished Him, driven Him from His center and His throne, like a strong tide my insincerity creeps up again.

There is a sad lack of sincerity today, but let us not be blinded to the fact that sincerity is not the only virtue. I am not necessarily good, I am not necessarily right, I am not necessarily saved because I am sincere. There is a call for new sincerity in every heart, yet that sincerity is but a stepping-stone. I may sincerely believe the earth is flat, and yet for all my sincerity, the earth is round. I may sincerely consider my friend to be a hero, and yet in spite of that, my friend may be a scamp. I may sincerely be convinced Christ never arose, yet Christ did arise and is at the right hand of God today. Sincerity without humility is the obstinacy out of which fools are made. The truly sincere man is always humble, feels like a child amid God’s infinite mysteries and cries in his heart, “Light, light, more light”; till God in His own way leads him there. And the light is light indeed, and the light indeed is love. And neither height nor depth, nor life nor death, nor any other creature, shall separate him from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.