The Disciple,—Master, in these days some learned men and their followers regard Thy atonement and the redemption by blood as meaningless and futile, and say that Christ was only a great teacher and example for our spiritual life, and that salvation and eternal happiness depend on our own efforts and good deeds.
The Master,—1. Never forget that spiritual and religious ideas are connected less with the head than with the heart, which is the temple of God, and when the heart is filled with the presence of God the head also is enlightened. For the mind and the eyes of the understanding are useless without the true light, as the natural eyes are without daylight. In the dark one may mistake a rope for a snake, just as the wise of this world pervert spiritual truth and lead astray simple minds. So Satan when beguiling Eve made use not of the sheep or the dove but of the serpent, the most crafty of all the animals. So he takes the wisdom of the wise and the skill of the learned, and of them makes instruments suited to his purpose. But it is not enough to be learned and clever; one must also have the innocence of the dove, therefore I have said, “Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matt. x.16).
2. My cross and atonement do the same for believers as the serpent of brass did for the Israelites, for whoever looked up to that with the eyes of faith was saved (Num. xxi.9, John iii.14,15). There were some, however, who, instead of believing, thought of it as brass only and began to criticize and say, “If Moses had provided an antidote, or were to give us some powerful drug or special medicine for these venomous serpents, that would be a proper object of faith, but what power has this pole over poisonous venom?” They all died. In these days too, those who cavil about the method of salvation which God has appointed will perish in the poison of their own sin.
3. A young man fell down a precipice and was so much injured, and lost so much blood that he was at the point of death. When his father took him to the doctor he said, “The life is the blood, and the supply of this young man’s blood is exhausted; but if anyone is prepared to sacrifice his own life he may recover, otherwise he will die.” The father, whose heart was overflowing with love for his son, offered his own blood, and this being injected into the young man’s veins he recovered. Man has fallen from the mount of holiness and lies broken and wounded by his sins, and by reason of those wounds his spiritual life has ebbed away and he is near to death. But for those who believe in Me I pour forth my own everlasting and spiritual blood, that they may be saved from death and obtain eternal life. For this purpose have I come that they might have life and have it more abundantly (John x.10), and thus live for evermore.
4. In ancient times men were forbidden to drink the blood of animals, or to eat certain foods, in the belief that they would thus escape certain diseases; and also lest, as a man has an animal body, his animal propensities might be strengthened by eating flesh and drinking blood. But now “My flesh is meat indeed and My blood is drink indeed” (John vi.55), for they give spiritual life, and by them perfect health and heavenly happiness and joy are received.
5. The forgiveness of sins does not mean full salvation, for that can only come with perfect freedom from sin. For it is possible that a man should die from the disease of his sin, though he has received full pardon for it. For instance, a man had his brain affected owing to an illness of long standing, and whilst thus affected he made an attack upon another man and killed him. When sentence of death was pronounced upon him, his relatives explained the circumstances and appealed for mercy for him, and he was granted pardon for the sin of murder. But before his friends could reach him with the good news, indeed while they were on the way, he had died of the sickness by reason of which he had committed the murder.
What advantage was this pardon to the murderer? His real safety would have been to be cured of his disease, and then he would have had real happiness in his pardon. For this reason I became manifest in the flesh that I might deliver penitent believers from the disease of sin, from its punishment and from death; thus taking away both cause and effect. They will not die in their sins, for I will save them (Matt. i.21), and they shall pass from death to becomes heirs of eternal life.
6. To many people life is full of peril, and they are like that hunter who caught sight of a honeycomb on the branch of a tree overhanging a stream. Climbing up, he began to enjoy the honey, quite unaware of the fact that he was in peril of death, for in the stream beneath him lay an alligator with open jaws waiting to devour him, while around the foot of the tree a pack of wolves had gathered waiting for him to descend. Worse still, the tree on which he sat had been eaten away at the roots by an insect and it was ready to fall. In a short time it did fall, and the unwary hunter became the prey of the alligator. Thus, too, the human spirit, ensconced in the body, enjoys for a short time the false and fleeting pleasures of sin gathered in the honeycomb of the brain, without a thought that it is in the midst of this fearsome jungle of the world. There Satan sits ready to tear it to pieces, and hell like an alligator waits with open mouth to gulp it down, while, worst of all, the tiny unseen insect of sin has eaten away the very roots of the body and life. Soon the soul falls and becomes an everlasting prey to hell. But the sinner who comes to Me I will deliver from sin, from Satan, and from hell, and will give him eternal joy “which none shall take away from him” (John xvi.22).
7. Satan with crafty speech and enticements draws men to him and swallows them down just as a snake fascinates little birds by the magnetism of its glittering eye, and makes a prey of them. But to those who believe on Me I give deliverance from that old serpent and from the seductions of this soul-destroying world. I set them free so that, as a bird, easily resisting the force of gravity which is in the earth, flies freely through the open heaven, they mount on the wings of prayer and reach at last the abode of safety and their hearts dear home, drawn by the sweet attractions of My love.
8. Just as a man with jaundice sees everything yellow, so to the sinner and the philosopher truth itself takes on the form and fashion of his sin or his theories, and it is not a matter of much surprise if such people go a step further and count Me a sinner like themselves. But My work, which is the salvation of sinners, does not depend on the good opinion of the world, but for ever moves on its undisturbed way in the lives of believers. Just as Levi, being still in the loins of Abraham, paid tithe to Me though he was not yet born, so all generations of believers have in Me, offered upon the cross, the atonement and ransom for their sins, though they were not at that time even born; for this salvation is for all races of men in the world.
9. This saying, that a man can by his own effort and good works acquire salvation, is foolish and absurd so long as the man is not born again. World-rulers and teachers of morality say, “Become good by doing good,” but this is what I say, “Become good yourself before doing good works.” When that new and good life has been entered upon, good deeds will be the natural result.
It is only a fool that will say that a bitter tree by constantly bearing fruit will at last become sweet. As a matter of fact a bitter tree can become sweet by being grafted on a sweet tree, so that the life and qualities peculiar to the sweet tree will pass into the bitter one and its natural bitterness will pass away. This is what we call a new creation. So too the sinner may have the desire to do what is right, and yet the only result is sin; but when he repents and by faith is grafted into Me the old man in him dies, and he becomes a new creature. Then from this new life which has its origin in salvation good deeds come forth as fruit, and this fruit abides for ever.
10. There are many who have learnt from experience that man’s natural goodness cannot give true peace of heart, nor can it give him a certainty of salvation or eternal life. The young man who came to Me seeking eternal life is a case in point. His first thought with regard to Me was wrong, as is that of some worldly-wise men and their followers at the present day. He thought Me to be one of those teachers who are like whited sepulchres, and in whose lives there is not a particle of true goodness. Therefore I said to him, “Why do you ask Me about goodness? There is none good but One.” But he failed to see in Me the one giver of goodness and life; and when I sought to admit him to My companionship and make him a truly good man, and bestow life upon him, he became sad and left Me. His life, however, makes one thing perfectly clear, and that is that his keeping the commandments and his goodness did not satisfy him or give him the assurance of eternal life. If his good works had given him peace he would not have come to inquire of Me, or had he come he would not have left Me in sorrow, but, believing My words, would have gone away rejoicing.
Not long afterwards the young man Paul recognized Me, and the desire of his heart was completely fulfilled. Instead of turning away in sadness he gave up all that he had and followed Me (Phil. iii.6-15). So everyone who ceases to trust in his own righteousness and follows Me shall receive from Me true peace and everlasting life.