Devotedness: What Is It?
C.H. Mackintosh (from "Things New and Old,"
available on "Truth for Todayís Bereans" CD, available from Stem
It has often been said, "There are two
sides to every question." This saying is true and very
important. It demands special attention in approaching the subject
which stands at the head of this paper. The history of the professing
Church affords many proofs of the fact that serious mischief has
been done by devoted men who were not guided by sound principle.
Indeed it will ever be found that in proportion to the degree
of the devotedness will be the gravity of the mischief where the
judgment is not wisely directed. We must confess we long for more
true devotedness in ourselves and others. It does seem to us the
special need today. There is abundance of profession, even of
a very high character. Knowledge is greatly increased among us,
and we are thankful for knowledge, but knowledge is not energy
and profession is not devotedness. It is not that we desire to
set the one against the other; we want to combine the two. "God
hath not given us the spirit of fear (cowardice, N.T.), but of
power and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Tim. 1:7).
Mark this lovely union, this exquisite entwining
of a threefold cord - "power, love and a sound mind."
Were it power alone, it might lead one to carry himself with a
high hand and to push aside or crush any who could not come up
to oneís own mark - to cherish and manifest a spirit of haughty
independence, to be intolerant of any difference of thought or
feeling. On the other hand, were it a spirit of love only, it
might induce an easy-going temper, a total indifference to the
claims of truth and holiness - a readiness to tolerate error for
the sake of peace. But there is both love and power, the one to
balance the other. Moreover, there is the sound mind to adjust
the two and give to each its proper range and its just application.
Such is the adjusting power of Holy Scripture, for which we cannot
be too thankful.
We are so apt to be one-sided - to run to wild
extremes, to run one principle to seed while another, though equally
important, is not even allowed to take root. One will be all for
what he calls power, another for what he calls love. Again, one
will extol energy; another will only speak of the value of principle.
We want both, and our God most graciously supplies both. A man
who is all for principle may do nothing through fear of doing
wrong. A man who is all for power may do mischief through fear
of doing nothing. But the man who is enabled by grace to combine
the two, will do the right thing at the right time and in the
right way. This is what we want. And to meet in some feeble way
this want is one special object of this paper to which may God
most graciously attach the seal of His blessing.
In handling our theme, it may help us in the
way of clearness and precision to first consider the ground; secondly,
the spirit; and thirdly, the object.
The Ground Of True Devotedness
If we answer this question from the ample materials
furnished by the history of Abraham, we must say it is simple
faith in the living God. This must be the solid ground of true,
earnest, steady devotedness. If there is not the link of personal
faith in God, we shall be driven here and there by every breath
of human opinion and tossed about by every ripple of the tide
of circumstances. If we are not conscious of this living link
between our souls and God, we shall never be able to stand at
all, much less to make any headway in the path of real devotedness.
"Without faith it is impossible to please God: for he that
cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder
of them that diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6).
Here lies the secret. We must believe that He
is and what He is. We must have to do with God in the secret of
our own souls, apart from and independent of all beside. Our individual
connection with God must be a grand reality, a living fact, a
real and unmistakable experience, lying at the very root of our
existence and forming the stay and prop of our souls at all times
and under all circumstances. Mere opinions will not do; dogmas
and creeds will not avail. It will not be sufficient to say, "I
believe in God, the Father Almighty." Neither this nor
any other form of mere words will do. It must be a heart question,
a matter between the soul and God Himself. Nothing short of this
can sustain the soul at any time, but more particularly in a day
like the present in which we find ourselves surrounded by so much
that is hollow and superficial.
Few things tend more to sap the foundations of
the soulís confidence than a large amount of unreal profession.
One may gather this in some measure from the fact that the finger
of the infidel is continually pointed at the gross inconsistencies
exhibited in the lives of the teachers and professors of religion.
And although it be true that such inconsistencies, even were they
multiplied ten thousand fold, will never shelter the infidel from
the just consequences of his unbelief inasmuch as each one must
give account of himself and for himself before the judgment seat
of Christ, yet it is a fact that unreal profession tends to shake
confidence. Hence the urgent need of simple, earnest, personal
faith in God - of unquestioning childlike confidence in His Word,
of constant dependence upon His wisdom, goodness, power and faithfulness.
This is the anchor of the soul without which
it will be impossible to ride securely in the midst of Christendomís
troubled waters. If we are in any way propped up by our circumstances,
if we are leaning upon an arm of flesh, if we are deriving support
from the thoughts of a mortal, if our faith stands in the wisdom
of man or the best of men, if our fear towards God is taught by
the precept of men, we may rest assured that all this will be
tested and fully manifested. Nothing will stand except the faith
that endures as seeing Him who is invisible - that looks not at
the things that are seen and temporal, but at the things that
are unseen and eternal.
How vividly all this was illustrated in the life
of the father of the faithful, we may easily learn from the marvelous
history of his life given by the pen of inspiration. "Abraham
believed God." Observe, it was not something about God
that he believed - some doctrine or opinion respecting God, received
by tradition from man. No; this would never have availed for Abraham.
It was with God Himself he had to do in the profoundest depths
of his own individual being. "The God of glory appeared
unto our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he
dwelt in Charran, and said unto him, Get thee out of thy country
and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall show
thee" (Acts 7:2-3).
These opening sentences of Stephenís powerful
address to the Council set forth the true secret of Abrahamís
entire career from Ur of the Chaldees to Mount Moriah. It is not
our purpose to dwell upon the solemn and instructive interval
at Charran. Our desire is rather to set before the reader, as
plainly and pointedly as we can, the unspeakable value, the absolute
necessity of faith in God, not only for life and salvation, but
for anything like true devotedness of heart to Christ and His
cause. True, that honored servant of God tarried at Charran, traveled
down into Egypt, turned to Hagar, trembled at Gerar and denied
his wife. All this appears upon the surface of his history, for
he was but a man - even a man of like passions with ourselves.
But "he believed God."
Yes, from first to last, this remarkable man
exercised in the main an unshaken confidence in the living God.
He believed in that great truth that lies at the bottom of all
truth; namely, that God is; and he believed also that God is a
rewarder of all those who diligently seek Him. It was this that
drew Abraham forth from Ur of the Chaldees - from the midst of
all those ties and associations in the which he had lived and
moved and had his being. It was this that sustained him through
all the changes of his pilgrim-course. Finally, it was this that
enabled him to stand on Mount Moriah and there show himself ready
to lay upon the altar that one who was not only the son of his
bosom, but also the channel through which all the families of
the earth were yet to be blessed.
Nothing but faith could have enabled Abraham
to turn his back upon the land of his birth, to go forth not knowing
where he went. To the men of his day he must have seemed to be
a fool or a madman. But oh! he knew whom he believed. Here lay
the source of his strength. He was not following cunningly devised
fables. He was not propped up by the circumstances or the influences
which surrounded him. He was not supported by the thoughts of
man. Flesh and blood afforded him no aid in his wonderful career.
God was his shield, his portion and his reward, and in leaning
on Him he found the true secret of all his victory over the world
and of that calm and holy elevation which characterized him from
first to last.
Reader, have you faith in God? Do you know Him?
Is there a link between your soul and Him? Can you trust Him for
everything? Are you at this moment consciously leaning upon Him,
upon His Word, upon His arm? Remember, if there is any darkness
or hesitation as to this, devotedness is and must be out of the
question. All steady devotedness rests upon the solid ground of
personal faith in the living God. We cannot too strongly insist
upon this in a day of profession as widespread as it is shallow.
It will not do to say "we believe." There is far
too much of this, far too much head knowledge and lip profession,
far too much of mere surface work.
It is easy to say we believe, but as James puts
it, "What doth it profit though a man say he have faith?"
Faith is a divine reality and not a mere human effort. It is based
upon divine revelation and not upon the working of human reason.
It connects the soul with God with a living, mighty link which
nothing can ever snap. It bears the soul above and carries it
on in triumph, come what may. There may be failure and confusion,
error and evil, coldness and deadness, strife and division, breaking
down and turning aside, stumblings and inconsistencies - all manner
of things to shake the confidence and stagger the soul - but faith
holds on its peaceful, steady way, undaunted and undismayed. Faith
leans on God alone and finds all its springs in Him. Nothing can
touch the faithfulness of God and nothing can shake the confidence
of the heart that simply takes God at His word.
And be it remembered that faith is simply taking
God at His word. It is believing what God says because He says
it. It is taking Godís thoughts in place of our own. "He
that believeth hath set to his seal that God is true."
How simple! God has revealed Himself, faith walks in the light
of that revelation. God has spoken, faith believes the Word. But,
if it be asked, "How has God revealed Himself? Where is
His voice to be heard?" He has revealed Himself in the
face of Jesus Christ, and His voice may be heard in His Word.
He has not, blessed be His Name, left us in the darkness of night,
nor even in the dimness of twilight. He has poured upon us the
full floodtide of His own eternal truth so we may possess all
the certainty, all the clearness, all the authority which a divine
revelation can give.
Is it asked, "How can we know that God
has spoken?" We reply, "How can we know the sun is
shining?" Surely by the gentle influence of its beams.
How can we know the dew has fallen? Surely by its refreshing influence
upon the earth and by the luster of its pearly drops. So of the
precious Word of God. It speaks for itself. Do I want a philosopher
to tell me the sun is shining or the dewdrops are falling? Assuredly
not. I feel their influence. I recognize their power. No doubt
a philosopher might explain to me the properties of light and
a chemist might instruct me as to the component parts of the dew.
They might do all this for me, even though I had been born and
reared in a coal-mine and had never seen either the one or the
other. But they could not make me feel their influence. So it
is in a divine way as to the Word of God. It makes itself felt
- felt in the heart, felt in the conscience, felt in the deep
chambers of the soul. True, it is by the power of the Holy Spirit,
but all the while, there is power in the Word.
Let us remember this. Let no one imagine that
God cannot speak to the heart or that the heart cannot understand
what He says and feel the power of His Word. Cannot a father speak
to his child and cannot the child understand his father? Yes,
surely, and our heavenly Father can speak to our very hearts and
we can hear His voice and know His mind and lean upon His eternal
Word. And this is faith - simple, living, saving faith. Such a
definition of faith might not satisfy a profound theologian, but
that makes no difference. The heart does not need learned theological
definitions. It wants God and it has Him in His Word. God has
spoken. He has revealed Himself. He has come forth from the thick
darkness, chased away the shades of twilight, and shone upon us
in the face of Jesus Christ and on the eternal pages of Holy Scripture.
Reader, have you found Him? Do you really know
Him by the revelation which He has given and by the Word which
He has spoken? Is His Word a reality to you? Is it your stay and
support? Is it the real ground on which you are resting for time
and eternity? Do, we beseech you, make sure work of it at this
moment. See to it that you have a living faith in God and such
a sense of the value, the importance and the authority of His
Word, that you would rather part with all else than surrender
it. It is the only ground of devotedness. It is utterly impossible
that a heart distracted and tossed about with unbelieving reasonings
can ever be truly devoted to Christ or His service. "He
that cometh to God must believe that He is." How simple!
How plain! How could Abraham have left his country; how could
he have run the race; how could he have given up everything and
come forth as a stranger and a pilgrim, not having so much ground
as to set his foot upon? How could he have stood upon Mount Moriah
and stretched forth his hand for the knife to slay his son? How
could he have done all or any of these things if he did not have
simple faith in the one living and true God? Impossible.
And so in your case, beloved reader, unless you
can trust God, unless you are sustained by the real power of simple
faith in the Word of the living God, you will never be able to
get on. In fact, you have no life in you. Truly we may say, "No
faith, no life." There may be high profession. There may
be the semblance of devotedness, but if there is not a living
faith, there can be no spiritual life. And if there is no life,
there cannot be any true devotedness. "The just shall live
by faith." They not only get life by faith, but live day
by day and hour by hour by faith. It is the spring of life and
power to the soul all the journey through. It connects the soul
with God, and by so doing imparts steadiness, consistency, energy
and holy decision to the servant of Christ. If there be not the
constant exercise of faith in God, there will be fluctuation and
uncertainty. Work will be taken up by fits and starts, instead
of being the necessary result of calm abiding in Christ by faith.
There will be an occasional rush at some line of service which
is merely taken up for the time and then coldly abandoned. The
course, instead of being a steady, upward and onward one, will
be zigzag and most unsatisfactory. At times, there will be a feverish
excitement, and then again, deadness and indifference.
All this is the very reverse of true devotedness.
It does serious damage to the cause of Christ. Better to never
start on the course at all, than having started, to turn aside
and give it up. "No man having put his hand to the plough,
and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." True
devotedness is based upon a profound and earnest faith in God.
It has its root deep down in the heart. It is not fitful or whimsical,
but calm, consistent, decided and steadily progressive. It may
at times, when tried by the rule of a romantic and visionary enthusiasm,
seem slow-paced, but if it is slow it is only because it will
be sure. The end will prove the difference between the energy
of nature and the acting of faith.
May God by His Spirit lead all His people into
a truer and deeper sense of what devotedness really is. There
is an energy abroad. The minds of men are active. Principles as
well as passions are in action. Contending elements are at work
underneath the surface of human life. Society is becoming more
and more an unsettled thing. Men seem to be on the lookout for
something. There is evidently a crisis at hand. Men are taking
sides. The stage is being reared for some grand act of the drama.
What is needed in view of all this? Unquestionably, a calm, deep,
earnest faith in the Word of God. This is the only thing to keep
the heart steady, come what may. Nothing will keep the soul in
peace; nothing can give fixedness to the course; nothing can maintain
us in the path of devotedness but the realization of that living
link between the soul and God Himself, which, as being divine
and eternal, must of necessity outlive all that is merely human
Having sought to lay down what we consider to
be the essential ground of all true devotedness - an earnest,
personal faith in the living God - we shall now, in dependence
upon divine guidance and teaching, proceed to consider:
The Spirit of Devotedness
The two things are intimately connected inasmuch
as it is impossible for anyone to have to do with God in the realities
of a life of faith, without having his heart drawn out in true
worship. And the spirit of worship is, in very deed, the spirit
that must ever characterize true devotedness. It is faith alone
that gives God His proper place and leaves the scene clear for
Him to display Himself in His own proper glory. Hence it is that
faith enjoys ten thousand occasions of realizing what God is to
all who trust Him and diligently seek Him, and each fresh realization
draws forth fresh strains of praise. Thus a living faith ministers
to a spirit of worship, and a spirit of worship is the vehicle
through which to convey the experiences of a living faith. The
more we trust God the more we shall know Him, and the more we
know Him the more we must praise Him.
We have little idea of how much we lose by our
lack of simple confidence in God. Unbelief ever hinders the display
of divine power and goodness. "He could there do not many
mighty works because of their unbelief." This holds good
in our individual history every day. God will not show Himself
if our unbelief fills the field of vision with other objects.
It is impossible that God and the creature can occupy the same
platform or jointly form the ground of the soulís confidence.
It must be God alone from first to last. "My soul, wait
thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him. He only is
my rock and my salvation .... Trust in Him at all times."
Such is the language of faith "only and at all times."
This is the ground - the solid and unassailable ground of true
devotedness - and the soul that really occupies this ground will
ever be clothed with a spirit of worship. Faith counts on God;
God reveals Himself to faith; and faith responds in words of praise
and adoration. Nothing can be simpler and nothing on earth more
blessed. Faith can ever address God in the following words, "Lord,
You know me; we are on the same old terms." Blessed terms!
May we understand them better!
There is nothing in all this world like having
to do with God in the secret of our own souls and in all the details
of our personal history, day by day. It imparts a calmness not
easily ruffled, a stability not easily moved, a holy independence
of human thinkings and speakings, a moral elevation that lifts
the soul above the reach of surrounding influences. There is an
atmosphere enwrapping this world - an atmosphere so dense, so
murky, so depressing, that nothing but the eye of faith can pierce
it. Our own hearts also are full of unbelief, ever ready to depart
from the living God, constantly sending up infidel reasonings
from within or hearkening to infidel suggestions from without.
Therefore we so greatly need to have the foundations of our personal
confidence strengthened so our devotedness may be of a more decided
But in contemplating the spirit of devotedness
as illustrated in the life of Abraham, we must look somewhat closely
at the facts of his instructive history, especially at those facts
which immediately precede his call to Mount Moriah. For example,
in Genesis 20, we find him called to apply the sharp knife of
self-judgment to an old root of evil which had found lodging in
his heart for many days. This self-same root may teach the writer
and the reader a deeply solemn and an eminently practical lesson.
When Abraham started on his career, we may notice
that he was clogged and hindered by a natural tie and that he
was secretly influenced by a root of moral evil. The natural tie
was snapped at Charran by the hand of death and Abraham was set
free and enabled to get up to the place to which God had called
him (compare carefully Genesis 11:31-32 and Genesis 12 with Acts
7:2-4). He was told to get up out of his country and from his
kindred and come into the land of Canaan, but he brought some
of his kindred with him and stopped short at Charran. There his
father died. Thereupon Abraham made his way to the true point
of divine revelation.
The ties of nature, right enough and really of
God in their proper place, are sure, if not kept in their place,
to hinder true devotedness. It was all right and very beautiful
in Elisha to love with the tenderness of a son, his father and
mother, but when Elijah had flung around him the prophetic mantle,
it was entirely below the mark of a deep-toned and genuine devotedness
to say, "Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother
and then I will follow thee." Natural ties are like honey:
we must beware of how much we eat and when. Was ever a sonís love
so tender as that which glowed in the bosom of the Man Christ
Jesus? Was ever subjection to parental authority so divinely perfect
as His? And yet, when the claims of service were to be responded
to, when the integrity of true Nazariteship was to be maintained,
He could say, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?"
And again, "Who is My mother?" It was only the true
and perfect Servant who knew how to adjust conflicting claims
and keep each in its place. Hence, from the same lips flowed forth
the words of faithful Nazariteship at one time, and words of melting
tenderness at another.
Abraham was hindered in his course by the tie
of nature until that tie was dissolved by death, but the root
of moral evil seems to have clung to him for a much longer period
of time. What was that root? Regretfully, it was one which we
can only too well understand - a little bit of unbelief, clothing
itself in the form of humanly-prudent reserve in reference to
his relationship to Sarah.
"What!" it may be said, "Unbelief
in the heart of the father of the faithful?" Just so. It
is a remarkable fact, illustrated in the history of the most eminent
saints of God, that their most remarkable failure appears in the
very thing for which they were most noted. Moses, the meekest
man in all the earth, spoke unadvisedly. Job, the model of patience,
cursed his day. Abraham, the father of the faithful, carried in
his heart for many a long day and through many a changing scene,
a root of unbelief. This root first sprouted in the land of Egypt
where Abraham had gone to escape the famine that raged in the
land of Canaan. And as might be expected, the sprouting brought
trouble on himself and others. "And it came to pass, when
he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai
his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look
upon; therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall
see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will
kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou
art my sister, that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my
soul shall live because of thee" (Gen. 12:11-13).
Reader, remember the Holy Spirit has penned this
faithful record for our learning and admonition, and truly it
is most solemn to think that such a man as Abraham could be so
governed by the fear of personal danger as to expose the object
of his heartís fond affections to loss of virtue and to deny his
relationship to her. True, this conduct was the result of his
being in a wrong position, for had he remained in the place to
which God had called him, there would have been no need to deny
his wife. But as it generally happens, one wrong step led to another,
and having gone into Egypt through fear of the famine, he there
denies his wife through fear of death.
"And the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house
with great plagues because of Sarai, Abramís wife." What
marvelous grace to Abraham! God, who ever delights to rebuke his
peopleís fears as well as to answer their faith, covered His erring
servant with the shield of His powerful protection. Abrahamís
life and Sarahís virtue were both preserved in safety behind that
impenetrable shield, and the house of Egyptís monarch was made
to feel the heavy stroke of Jehovahís righteous rod. "And
Pharaoh called Abram and said, What is this that thou hast done
unto me? Why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife? Why
saidst thou, she is my sister? so I might have taken her to me
to wife." Abraham had evidently exposed himself in all
this matter. Hence, although God protects him, He yet allows Pharaoh
to rebuke him.
It is well to see this. When the man of God steps
off the path of faith and christian integrity, he at once exposes
himself to the men of this world, and he need not marvel if they
chastise him with an unsparing hand. Had Abraham remained in Canaan,
he would not have been reproved by Pharaoh in Egypt. It is better
far to starve, if it must be so, in the path of obedience than
gain abundance by the sacrifice of faith and moral uprightness.
May we have grace to remember this at all times! It is easy enough
to put these things down on paper, but when the moment of temptation
arises, it is another thing. Still we must remember that the Spirit
of God has penned the history of Abraham for our profit, and it
is well for us to ponder its holy lessons.
Now let us enquire as to the effect produced
in Abraham by Pharaohís sharp reproof. Did it prove effective
in delivering him from the root of evil which had called it forth?
Regretfully no. So far as the inspired history informs us, Abraham
received the rebuke in silence and went on his way; but he carried
the root along with him to sprout again. He received a fresh revelation
from God; he obtained a splendid victory over Chedorlaomer and
his confederates and refused the tempting offer of the king of
Sodom; he was comforted by fresh assurances and promises from
God and manifested a child-like faith which was counted unto him
for righteousness. In short, he passed through a variety of scenes
and circumstances with varied exercises of soul no doubt, but
all the while, the moral root to which we are directing the readerís
attention, remained unjudged and unconfessed.
That root had sprouted and produced its bitter
fruit, but as yet the sharp knife of self-judgment remained to
be applied to it. It is not until we reach Genesis 20 that this
root again appears above the surface in the matter of Abimelech,
King of Gerar. Here we have the same scene enacted over again
after years of rich experience of divine goodness and loving-kindness.
The King of Egypt and his house had been brought into trouble
before, and the King of Gerar and his house are brought into trouble
now, for Jehovah reproved kings for Abrahamís sake though the
kings had reason to reprove Abraham because of his ways.
"Then Abimelech called Abraham and said
unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended
thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin?
Thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done. And Abimelech
said unto Abraham, ĎWhat didst thou have in view that thou hast
done this thing?í" This was bringing the father to a point.
There was no escaping such plain dealing. Therefore Abraham frankly
opens his heart and unlocks that secret chamber which had been
kept shut for so many years. He tells out all and exposes every
fiber of the root which had proved the source of so much trouble
to himself and others. Let us hearken to the unreserved confession
of this dear and honored man of God. "And Abraham said,
because I thought, surely, the fear of God is not in this place;
and they will slay me for my wifeís sake. And yet indeed she is
my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter
of my mother; and she became my wife. And it came to pass when
God caused me to wander from my fatherís house, that I said unto
her, This is thy kindness which thou shalt show unto me at every
place whither we shall come, say of me, he is my brother."
Here was the root of the whole matter. Why do
we dwell upon it? Why seek to unfold it in such detail? Simply
for the spiritual profit and moral health of the Christian reader.
Have we not all our roots? Yes, verily, deep, strong and bitter
roots - roots which have been the source of a world of sorrow
and shame to ourselves and of trouble to those with whom we had
to do. Well then, these roots must be reached and judged, for
as long as they remain unreached and unjudged, it is utterly impossible
that we can reach the higher stages of the path of devotedness.
Need we remind the reader that it is not a question of life or
salvation? Need we recall him to the thesis of our paper which
is simply "What is devotedness?" Our one grand object
is to raise the tone of devotedness in the soul of every Christian
who may scan these lines. But we know that devotedness, to be
true, steady and effective, must rest on the proper ground and
breathe the proper spirit. That ground is faith; that spirit is
worship; and though it be quite true that a soul may occupy, in
the main, the ground of faith and breathe a spirit of worship
while there are many roots in the heart unreached and unjudged,
we are nevertheless fully persuaded that so long as there is any
hidden root of evil in the heart, any chamber which we keep locked
and refuse to have properly lighted and ventilated, the higher
stages of practical devotedness are yet beyond and above us.
God knows we do not want to depress the heart
of the reader. Indeed, if our lines have anything of a depressing
tendency, their effect should be realized first and most of all
by the writer himself. But we desire to encourage and exhort,
and it is with a simple view to these desirable ends that we now
turn directly to the reader and put this plain and pointed question
home to him, Have you any secret reserve in your soul? Do you
have any hidden root of evil deep down in your heart and mind?
Is there anything you are keeping back from the action of the
light and from the edge of the knife? Search and see! Search diligently!
Do not deceive yourself nor let Satan deceive you. Deal honestly
and truly with your own soul in this matter. Let no false application
of the doctrines or principles of grace prevent you from exercising
a most rigid censorship over your ways, your character and your
heart with all its motive springs and hidden chambers.
Be assured of it, there is an urgent demand for
real heart work on the part of all who long to tread the highest
stages of the divine life. We live in a day which is earning for
itself the title of "A day of shams." Yes, reader,
sham seems stamped upon all around, whether in politics, commerce
or manufacturing; and most assuredly, much of the Christianity
of the day forms no sort of exception to the rule. Hence the demand
for reality on the part of the true Christian. And, unquestionably,
all reality must find its source in the heart. If the heart is
not right and real with God, we cannot be real in anything.
There is another point to which we must refer
in the life of Abraham before we close this part of our subject.
It is presented in Genesis 21. The bondwoman and her son are cast
out of the house. We do not dwell upon this point, but merely
name it for the purpose of pointing out the deep moral conveyed
to us in this portion of Abrahamís history. The heart and the
house had both to come under judgment before the call to Moriah
fell on the patriarchís ears. God was about to call His beloved
servant into the very highest position that man can occupy, to
demand of him an expression of devotedness of the very highest
order, to pass him through a crucible of the very highest degree
of intensity. And, be it observed, before He did so, the root
of moral evil had been reached in the heart, and the legal element
had been expelled from the house. All this is deeply practical.
God deals with moral realities. If we are to
walk with Him along the high and holy pathway of pure devotedness,
the heart and the house must be duly regulated. If the real desire
of our hearts be after a closer walk with God, we must see to
it that we are not retaining anything within or about us that
would not agree with that nearness. Our God is infinitely gracious,
merciful and patient. He can bear with us and wait upon us in
marvelous tenderness, but at the same time, we have to remember
that we forfeit present blessing and future reward through our
lack of earnest devotedness. There is nothing of legality in this:
it is but the just application of the principle of grace in which
"And it came to pass that God did tempt
Abraham." Why is it we never read such words as "It
came to pass that God did tempt Lot?" Alas! Lot was never
in a moral condition to warrant his being so highly honored. Sodom
tempted Lot, but it was no temptation at all to Abraham. What
a contrast between Lot in the cave and Abraham on Mount Moriah!
Yet they were both saved. But what a poor thing to be content
to be saved! Ought we not to sigh after those spiritual heights
which lie beyond? Should we not long to give expression to a more
ardent devotedness? Oh! that our houses and our hearts were in
a moral condition acceptable in the sight of God so we might enjoy
habitual nearness to Himself and unbroken communion with Him.
This is our privilege and we should never be satisfied with anything
It was a high honor conferred upon Abraham when
God called him into the place of trial - when He asked him for
"his son, his only son Isaac." It was an elevated
point in the patriarchís career, and that he felt it to be such
we may judge from the spirit in which he responded to the divine
call and in the manner in which he traveled to the scene of sacrifice.
"I and the lad will go yonder and worship." Here
the true spirit of devotedness most blessedly unfolds itself.
To give up his only son, the object of his affections, the channel
of all Godís promises, to lay this one as a victim on the altar
and see him consumed to ashes, what was it all? Just an act of
worship! This was real work indeed. It was no empty lip profession,
no saying "I go, sir" and yet not going at all. "Abraham
believed God." Here lay the secret of it all. He had learned
to yield an unquestioning, implicit obedience to the Word of the
Lord. Therefore when called to lay his Isaac upon the altar as
a sacrifice - that Isaac for whom he had longed and waited and
trusted - he bows his head and says, "I and the lad will
go yonder and worship."
Thank God there lived such a man as Abraham,
that there was enacted such a scene as that upon Mount Moriah,
and that we have so vividly and forcibly presented to our hearts
the ground and the spirit of true devotedness!
The more we ponder the question which has been
occupying our attention, namely, What is devotedness? the more
we are convinced of its immense practical importance. It puts
the soul in immediate contact with the Lord Himself and opens
a path for each one, along which he can move in calm and steady
confidence, let his surroundings be what they may.
But just in proportion to the importance of the
subject of devotedness is the need of clearness as to the true
ground, spirit and object thereof. We have already sought to present
to the reader the truth as to the first two points. Now it remains
to dwell on
The Object of Devotedness
How much hangs on the answer which the heart
gives to this question, "What is my object in life?"
It is, undoubtedly, one of the very gravest questions which anyone
can put to himself. It is the object which stamps the character.
Let us remember this. What was it that gave character to Abrahamís
journey to Moriah and to his conduct when he arrived there? What
was it that drew the attention of heaven to the scene? Was it
the mere fact that a father was going to offer up his son as a
sacrifice? No; thousands of fathers have done that. Thousands
of sons have been sacrificed on the altars of false gods, and
that too, in so-called devotedness. But what was it that distinguished
the act of the father of the faithful? It was this: let us hear
it and mark it with the heartís deepest attention. "Now
I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy
son, thine only son, from Me" (Gen. 22:12). Here we have
Abrahamís object, and on this point let us meditate for a few
The heart may propose to itself a thousand objects.
These objects may be good enough in themselves, yet not one of
them be the object which characterizes Christian devotedness.
We once knew a man who prayed for seven hours a day. We have seen
him on his knees at four oíclock in the morning. And after the
toils of the day we have seen him on his knees again till the
midnight hour. We have seen him in agonies of devotion. His flesh
was worn from his bones by constant kneeling. He was a blameless,
friendly man. Those who marked the course of his daily life could
not put their finger on a single moral blemish in his conduct
as a man. And yet when we approached that man to speak some word
about Christ, he shrunk from us and refused to listen. He was
devoted to his religion, but he hated Christ.
Again, a man may devote himself to philanthropy.
He may devote his life and his fortune to the objects of benevolence
and make the most splendid sacrifices to carry out his schemes.
He may fix the wondering gaze of millions upon his career, yet
be a total stranger to Christ.
Further, a man may devote himself to what may
seem to be the work of the Lord. He may seem to be a laboring
student of Scripture, an active, earnest, self-denying evangelist.
He may go forth to the fields of foreign mission, leaving his
country, his kindred and his home in devotion to his work. He
may do all this and much more, and yet not exhibit one atom of
true Christian devotedness simply because Christ was not his object
in all that in which he was engaged.
All this is deeply solemn. We may be religious,
devotional, benevolent, active in the Lordís work in all its departments,
whether as evangelists, pastors or teachers, and yet not have
Christ before our souls at all. A man may start in a work which,
to all outward appearance, seems a real work of God. He may seem
to be most simple in his devotion to that work and yet, it may
turn out in the end that his heart was engrossed with the work
to the total exclusion of Christ as an object. True Christian
devotedness is embodied in this brief sentence, "To me to
live is Christ." Paul does not say, "To me to live
is work," though where was there ever such a workman except
the perfect Workman? He does not say, "To me to live is
religion or benevolence or morality," though who more religious,
benevolent or moral than Paul? It is not that he loved these things
less, but he loved Christ more. This makes all the difference.
I may wear myself out with religious exercises such as prayers,
fastings and vigils; I may bestow all my goods to feed the poor;
I may give my body to be burned, yet there may not be in all these
things one particle of genuine devotedness to Christ.
Is not this a very weighty consideration in this
day of religious activity, forms of piety and schemes of benevolence?
Should we not, dear Christian reader, look well to the question
as to what is our real object? Is it not too true that one may
spend a whole life in the exercise of religion and philanthropy,
and yet live and die a stranger to that One who is Godís only
object, heavenís only center - Christ Jesus? Sadly, the truth
of this is illustrated in the history of millions. The god of
this world is blinding the minds of countless multitudes. And
with what does he most effectively blind them? With schemes of
benevolence and forms of piety. Oh! Christendom, Christendom,
hear it: thy rituals, thy forms and thy schemes are blinding the
minds, hardening the hearts and searing the consciences of untold
It is not merely amid the haunts of vice in all
its abominable forms, that Godís faithful messengers are called
to raise a warning voice, but on the broad and well-trodden highway
of religious profession, along which multitudes are rushing to
eternal doom. The devilís grand object is to keep Christ out of
the heart, and he cares not by what means he attains this object.
He will use a manís lusts or he will use his superstitious fears.
Forms of vice and forms of piety are all alike to him. He hates
Christ and will seek by all means to keep souls away from Him.
He will let a man be religious, benevolent, friendly, moral, but
he will not, if he can help it, let him be a Christian. And when
anyone has through grace become a Christian in reality, Satanís
one aim is to draw his heart and turn his eye away from Christ.
He will seek to engage him with objects professedly Christian
to divert him from the only Object that really forms the Christian
- Christ Himself. He will give him lots of work to do: he will
overwhelm him with work and get him a name as a most wonderful
workman. And yet, by means of this very work, he will sap the
foundation of a manís Christianity and so deceive and pervert
his heart that, in process of time, he will become occupied with
himself and his doings instead of with Christ and His service!
Hence the importance of having the one object
ever before the heart, and that object is Christ. "To me
to live is Christ." "Thou hast not withheld thy son,
thine only son from Me." Christ is the great standard for
everyone and everything. All must be measured by Him. Everything
is to be regulated and valued with reference to Him. The question
is not, how much work am I doing? But, to whom is it done? Searching
question! "Then shall the King say unto them on His right
hand, Come ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared
for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and
ye gave Me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink; I was a
stranger, and ye took Me in; naked, and ye clothed Me; I was sick
and ye visited Me; I was in prison, and ye came unto Me ... inasmuch
as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren,
ye have done it unto Me" (Matt. 25: 34-40).
Here lies the secret of all acceptable service
and all true devotedness. We may feed the hungry, clothe the naked,
visit the sick, but if the King cannot say, "Ye did it unto
Me," it will be valueless.
Oh! what a privilege to be allowed to do any
little thing for Christ! To be enabled to have Him ever before
the heart! It is this which gives real value and true elevation
to all we may be called to do in this world, whether it be sweeping
a sidewalk or evangelizing a nation. Christian service is that
which is done to Christ. Nothing else deserves the name; nothing
else will be so esteemed in Godís account; nothing else will pass
as genuine gold through the fire of that great testing day which
is rapidly approaching. All the thoughts of God center around
Jesus. It is His eternal purpose to exalt and glorify that Name.
The whole universe will yet be called upon to find in the Lord
Jesus its central sun. The beams of His glory shall, before long,
shine forth over the whole creation.
Thus it will be very soon. Now, the Christian
is called to anticipate that day and to make the Lord Jesus his
one absorbing, commanding object in all things. If he gives alms,
it is to be in the Name of the Lord Jesus; if he preaches the
gospel for the conversion and gathering of souls, it is to be
with his eye fixed directly upon the Lord Jesus and for the glory
of His Name. Will this restrict the sphere or measure of his benevolence?
Will it lessen his interest in the work of evangelization? Quite
the reverse; it will greatly enlarge the former and intensify
the latter, and while it does all this, it will elevate the tone
of his spirit in the work and impart stability to all his service,
because it will ever keep his heart and mind occupied with the
very highest object, even the Lord Jesus Christ, the Same yesterday,
today and forever.
I may enter upon a certain line of work under
the influence of excitement or in imitation of others, or to get
a name for myself - from all manner of motives. I may work with
an energy and zeal which puts others to shame. I may be greatly
looked up to get a great name among my fellows. I may be puffed,
flattered and applauded. My name may appear as a celebrity in
all the religious journals of the day. Yet, after all this, the
Lord may not be able to say as to a single act of all my service,
"You did it unto Me."
On the other hand, a man may pursue a path of
quiet, unobtrusive, unostentatious service, unknown and unnoticed,
and not wishing to be noticed. The stream of his benevolence may
flow abundantly, unknown to all except to those who are refreshed
by its influence, and for the most part, not even by them. The
lanes, the alleys, the courtyards, the prisons, the hospitals
are visited; the widowís tear is dried, her sorrow soothed, her
wants supplied; the orphan is thought of; the sons and daughters
of toil and misery are looked after; the precious tidings of salvation
are sounded in many a room; the gospel tract is slipped into many
a hand; and all the while, little is heard or known down here
of the doer of these precious, these most fragrant acts or service
and self-sacrifice. But the odor goes up to the throne. The record
is above: it is all engraved on the Fatherís heart. He remembers
it all and will bring it all out in due time and after such a
fashion that the doer would not recognize his own work.
Who knew what was in Abrahamís heart when he
started on that marvelous journey to Moriah - a journey which
has only been exceeded in marvelous mystery by that from Gethsemane
to Calvary? Who knew what he was going to do? Who would ever have
known it if the Holy Spirit had not recorded it on the eternal
page of inspiration? "I and the lad will go yonder and worship."
"They went both of them together." "Thou hast
not withheld thy son, thine only son from Me." Abraham
was engrossed with God from first to last. From the moment he
rose from his couch on that memorable morning, until he stretched
forth his hand to take the knife, his soul was absorbed with the
living God. It was this that gave holy elevation to the entire
scene. It was done for God.
Thus it is always. Whatever is done for Christ
will be remembered and rewarded; whatever is not will sink into
eternal oblivion or be burned up in judgment. It is not the quantity
but the quality of the work that will be tried and made manifest
before the judgment seat of Christ. Look at the parable of the
laborers in Matthew 20. What a seasonable lesson does that parable
read out to our hearts! The laborers who were first hired were
the only ones with whom an agreement was made; all the rest worked
in the confidence that their Master would give them what was right.
If any of the first set of laborers had been asked during the
day, "What are you to get as a reward for your work?"
they would have said "A penny." They were working
for a penny. But if any of the others had been asked the same
question, they would have said, "I donít know, but I am
sure the Master will do what is right."
This makes all the difference. The moment I work
for reward, it ceases to be Christian service. It is not that
Christian service will not be rewarded: it most assuredly will,
but just so far as it is Christian service, it will be rendered
apart from all thought of reward. "The love of Christ,"
not the hope of reward, "constraineth us." Why did
the wicked and slothful servant hide his talent in the earth?
Because he did not know his Lord. Had he known Him, he would
d Him and served Him for loveís sake, which is the only service
that Christ values.
It was, we may rest assured, joy to Abrahamís
soul to have a son to lay on the altar of God. And so with the
true Christian now; it is his joy to be permitted to render any
little service to that Lord whom he loves supremely. Nor will
it be a question with him as to the kind of service or the sphere
in which it is to be rendered, or the amount of the work; it is
enough for him if his Lord can say, "You did it unto Me."
"Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work
upon Me." It does not matter in the least what we are doing,
provided only it be done directly for Christ, with the eye fixed
on Him and the heart filled with Him. It is this that imparts
value to every little act of service, and if there be one thing
more than another which the heart longs for, it is the ability
to do all oneís work, of whatsoever kind it is, with a single
eye to Christ.
But ah! the heart is so treacherous and so prone
to have mixed motives. We are apt to attach importance and interest
to things because of our connection with them, to engage in service
for serviceí sake, to be more occupied with our work than with
the Master. May we have grace ever to remember that all that is
not done directly unto the Lord Himself is absolutely worthless,
however showy it may be in the eyes of man; and on the other hand,
that the smallest thing done in love to the Lord Jesus and in
singleness of heart to Him, will never be forgotten.
It would be truly pleasant to the heart to dwell
a little longer on this blessed theme, but we must close. Before
we do, we desire to leave with the reader this one solemn question,
"What is your real object?" We feel the weight of
this question, and we look to the Spirit of God to give it weight
in the heart and conscience of the reader.
To everyone who can say in calm confidence and
spiritual intelligence, "I am saved," the next grand
point is to be able to say, "Christ is my object: to me
to live is Christ." Alas, how few of us can say it. We
stop short. We are occupied with our salvation, our peace and
blessing, our comfort and liberty, or it may be we are taken up
with our service. In a word, it is not Christ - it is not abiding
in Him, feeding on Him and acting for Him. It is really self,
and this is downright misery. We should never rest satisfied with
anything short of having the Lord Jesus as a covering for our
eyes and an Object for our hearts. This would be to understand
experimentally the ground, the spirit and the object of true devotedness.