Works of Alexander Maclaren
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His voluntary acceptance of them was peculiar to Himself.
Ministry, Books & Reviews by Pastor Jimmy R. Reagan
But His death stands alone in this, that on His head was concentrated the whole awfulness of the thing. So far as the mere external facts go, there is nothing special about it. But I know not how the shrinking of Jesus Christ from the Cross can be explained without impugning His character, unless we see in His death something far more terrible than is the common lot of men. Except we understand that, it seems to me that many who derived from Jesus Christ all their courage, bore their martyrdom better than He did; and that the servant has many a time been greater than his Lord. Whatever may have been the spiritual development of St.
Here he isolates the death from the rest of the history of Christ, and concentrates the whole light of his thought upon the Cross, and says, There!
I beseech you to ask yourselves whether these representations of Christian truth adhere to the perspective of Scripture, which do not in like manner set forth in the foreground of the whole the awning death of Jesus Christ our Lord. Then note, further, that this death, the fountain of fife, is a death for us. Now I know, of course, that the language here does not necessarily involve the idea of one dying instead of, but only of one dying on behalf of, another. Take the Scripture narratives. He died by the condemnation of the Jewish courts as a blasphemer; by the condemnation of the supercilious Roman court — cowardly in the midst of its superciliousness — as a possible rebel, though the sentencer did not believe in the reality of the charges.
I want to know what good that is to me? He died, say some people, as the victim of a clearer insight and a more loving heart than the men around Him could understand. What advantage is that to me?
Paul was writing to these Thessalonians, of whom none, I suppose, except possibly a few Jews who might be amongst them, had ever seen Jesus Christ in the flesh, or known anything about Him. When Christ went to the Cross there was in His heart, in His purposes, in His desires, a separate place for every soul of man whom He embraced, not with the dim vision of some philanthropist, who looks upon the masses of unborn generations as possibly beneficially affected by some of his far-reaching plans, but with the individualising and separating knowledge of a divine eye, and the love of a divine heart, Jesus Christ bore the sins of the world because He bore in His sympathies and His purposes the sins of each single soul.
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Guilt and fear and loneliness, and all the other evils that beset men because they have departed from the living God, are floated away. You may remember that, in my introductory remarks, I pointed out the double application of that antithesis of waking or sleeping in the context as referring in one case to the fact of physical life or death, and in the other to the fact of moral engrossment with the slumbering influences of the present, or of Christian vigilance. I carry some allusion to both of these ideas in the remarks that I have to make. Through Jesus Christ life may be quickened into watchfulness.
It is not enough to take waking as meaning living, for you may turn the metaphor round and say about a great many men that living means dreamy sleeping. Just as a man fast asleep knows nothing of the realities round him; just as he is swallowed up in his own dreams, so many walk in a vain show.
The Psalms, Volume 2 : Alexander MacLaren :
Their highest faculties are dormant; the only real things do not touch them, and their eyes are closed to these. They live in a region of illusions which will pass away at cock-crowing, and leave them desolate. For some of us here living is only a distempered sleep, troubled by dreams which, whether they be pleasant or bitter, equally lack roots in the permanent realities to which we shall wake some day. But if we hold by Jesus Christ, who died for us, and let His love constrain us, His Cross quicken us, and the might of His great sacrifice touch us, and the blood of sprinkling be applied to our eye-balls as an eye-salve, that we may see, we shall wake from our opiate sleep — though it may be as deep as if the sky rained soporifics upon us — and be conscious of the things that are, and have our dormant faculties roused, and be quickened into intense vigilance against our enemies, and brace ourselves for our tasks, and be ever looking forward to that joyful hope, to that coming which shall bring the fulness of waking and of life.
So, you professing Christians, do you take the lessons of this text? A sleeping Christian is on the high road to cease to be a Christian at all If there be one thing more comprehensively imperative upon us than another, it is this, that, belonging, as we do by our very profession, to the day, and being the children of the light, we shall neither sleep nor be drunken, but be sober, watching as they who expect their Lord.
You walk amidst realities that will hide themselves unless you gaze for them; therefore, watch. You walk amidst enemies that will steal subtly upon you, like some gliding serpent through the grass, or some painted savage in the forest; therefore, watch. You expect a Lord to come from heaven with a relieving army that is to raise the siege and free the hard-beset garrison from its fears and its toilsome work; therefore, watch.
On the other hand, the death of Christ will soften our deaths into slumber. The physical fact remaining the same, all that is included under the complex whole called death, which makes its terrors, goes, for a man who keeps fast hold of Christ who died and lives. For what makes the sting of death?
Two or three things. One side of it is the fear of retribution. Another side of it is the shrinking from loneliness. Another side of it is the dread of the dim darkness of an unknown future. And all these are taken clean away. Is it guilt, dread of retribution? My rod and My staff will comfort thee. And so it is a misnomer to apply the same term to the physical fact plus the accompaniment of dread and shrinking and fear of retribution and solitude and darkness, and to the physical fact invested with the direct and bright opposites of all these.
Sleep is rest; sleep is consciousness; sleep is the prophecy of waking. And they that sleep in Jesus will be so. Then, whether we wake or sleep does not seem to matter so very much.
The Psalms, Volume 2
That life, as our text tells us, is altogether unaffected by death. And so the stream of our lives may run through the Dead Sea, and come out below none the worse for the black waters through which it has forced its way. The life that Christ gives is unaffected By death. Our creed is a risen Saviour, and the corollary of that creed is, that death touches the circumference, but never gets near the man.
It is hard to believe, in the face of the foolish senses; it is hard to believe, in the face of aching sorrow. It is hard today to believe, in the face of passionate and ingenious denial, but it is true all the same, Death is sleep, and sleep is life. And so; further, my text tells us that this life is life with Christ. We know not details, we need not know them Here we have the presence of Jesus Christ, if we love Him, as really as when He walked the earth.
Alexander Maclaren (1826–1910)
He is with us, and it is the power and the privilege and the joy of our lives to realise His presence. That Lord who, whilst He was on earth, was the Son of Man which is in heaven, now that He is in heaven in His corporeal humanity is the Son of God who dwells with us. Further, that united life is a social life. He refers to two forms of union. Whether we wake or sleep we shall live all aggregated together, and all.
They are together because they are with the Lord. Suppose a great city, and a stream flowing through its centre. The palace and all pertaining to the court are on one side of the water; there is an outlying suburb on the other, of meaner houses, inhabited by poor and humble people. But yet it is one city. We are one in Him, and so there will be a perfecting of union in reunion; and the inference so craved for by our hearts seems to be warranted to our understandings, that that society above, which is the perfection of society, shall not be lacking in the elements of mutual recognition and companionship, without which we cannot conceive of society at all.
Dear friends, I beseech you to trust your sinful souls to that dear Lord who bore you in His heart and mind when He bore His cross to Calvary and completed the work of your redemption. And so shall we live together, and all together, with Him. And it is a great misfortune that our Authorised Version, in accordance with the somewhat doubtful principle on which its translators proceeded, varies the rendering of ;the one Greek word so as to hide the frequent recurrence of it in the apostolic teaching. The metaphor that underlies it is the notion of building up a structure. The Christian idea of the structure to be built up is that it is a temple.
I wish in this sermon to try to bring out some of the manifold lessons and truths that lie in this great figure, as applied to the Christian life. And I purpose to look at these in order. First, self-edification. Now, I suppose that the metaphor is such a natural and simple one that we do not need to look for any Scriptural basis of it.
But if we did, I should be disposed to find it in the solemn antithesis with which the Sermon on the Mount is closed, where there are the two houses pictured, the one built upon the rock and standing firm, and the other built upon the sand. But that is perhaps unnecessary. We are all builders; Building up — what? But what sort of a thing is it that we are building? Some of us pigsties, in which gross, swinish lusts-wallow in filth; some of us shops; some of us laboratories, studies, museums; some of us amorphous structures that cannot be described.
But the Christian man is to be building himself up into a temple of God. The first thing about a structure is the foundation And Paul was narrow enough to believe that the one foundation upon which a human spirit could be built up into a hallowed character is Jesus Christ. He is the basis of all our certitude. He is the anchor for all our hopes. To Him should be referred all our actions; for Him and by Him our lives should be lived.
On Him should rest, solid and inexpugnable, standing foursquare to all the winds that blow, the fabric of our characters. Jesus Christ is the pattern, the motive which impels, and the power which enables, me to rear myself into a habitation of God through the Spirit. Whilst I gladly acknowledge that very lovely structures may be reared upon another foundation than Him, I would beseech you all to lay this on your hearts and consciences, that for the loftiest, serenest beauty of character there is but one basis upon which it can be rested.
The first course of stone that we lay is Faith; and that course is, as it were, mortised into the foundation, the living Rock He that builds on Christ cannot build but by faith. The two representations are complementary to one another, the one, which represents Jesus Christ as the foundation, stating the ultimate fact, and the other, which represents faith as the foundation, stating the condition on which we come into vital contact with Christ Himself.
Then, further, in this great thought of the Christian life being substantially a building up of oneself on Jesus is implied the need for continuous labour. You cannot build up a house in half an hour. You cannot do it, as the old fable told us that Orpheus did, by music, or by wishing. There must be dogged, hard, continuous, life-long effort if there is to be this building up. No man becomes a saint per saltum.