Moral Elevation

“Resurrection was everything to Him. It was His relief amid the sorrows of life (John 11); it was His object amid the prospect and promises of the world as in chapter 12. It gave His soul a calm sunshine when dark and heavy clouds had gathered over Bethany; it moderated and separated His affections when the brilliant glare of a festive day was lighting up the way from thence to Jerusalem; the thought of the resurrection then stayed His mind amid the griefs and enjoyments around Him. It made Him a perfect exemplar of that fine principle: ‘let him that weeps be as though he wept not, and he that rejoices as though he rejoiced not’ (1 Cor. 7:30). How little of this elevation, above the conditions and circumstances of life, the hearts of some of us are acquainted with” (J.G.B. on the Gospel of John, p. 86).

All true and beautiful, but it is surely a moral elevation we earnestly seek to reach. A mind stayed on God—the God of resurrection—is the secret of perfect peace to those whose barques are tossed on the surface of life’s stormy sea.

The picture of a calmly sleeping Christ, when the vessel in which He was sailing was thus storm-tossed, is exceedingly lovely. What perfect tranquillity rested on Him at the moment when His fishermen-disciples were in deepest fear! What caused this repose? It was the result of a mind absolutely stayed on God and of a will completely subject to His. This is perfect peace. It is not blind submission to Fate, nor is it a form of cold, senseless stoicism that shuts its eyes to facts and folds its lazy hands to duty.

No, that is not the principle by which the man of God lives. Times there are when faith may be passive, when it has to “stand still and see the salvation of God,” when it has to encounter difficulties far beyond itself. Then it waits on God. But more frequently it is called on to put forth all its energy, and to exhibit, in a thousand ways, its active, living confidence in the God of resurrection and of infinite power. In each case, however, the man of faith is marked by a spirit of calm superiority, of dignity, of mental balance, and of that elevation over conditions and circumstances which can only be, but which surely are, produced by very close dealing with God. He is careful for nothing, because he is most careful to expose everything to the eye and ear of that God, who is a very present help in trouble.”

“We are not careful,” said the three Jewish children—Daniel’s faithful fellows—“to answer thee in this matter,” as they stood before the infuriated King of Babylon, and listened to his threat of a merciless death in the event of disobedience. “Not careful!” What elevation!

A burning, fiery furnace had no terror for them, the name of their God was at stake. Its honour had been entrusted to their care. They felt that the glory of God was in their keeping. All else—their lives and all—was of no moment. “Our God,” they said, “is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace … and He will … but if not!”

No matter. There they stood, three men of faith, calm, dauntless, unflinching in view of all the power of Babylon and Satan.

What a picture of moral elevation! There may have been many such displays of repose in view of the threatening of the adversary. We read not a few of them in Hebrew 11 and in other well-known records of martyr-suffering! God has led His witnesses through fire and flood, through anguish and agony, and has imparted to them that spirit of divine superiority that made their persecutors astonished, or that kept them in perfect peace in disaster, in perplexity, in death itself. They had the answer of every convulsion in themselves; they were calm, peaceful, victorious. Think not that this moral elevation of heart and mind, over the various circumstances of life, is wholly impossible. Nay, it is clearly within the range of simple but energetic faith in God, and should, in measure, make itself visible in the daily life of each of His children. “I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me” is the calm soliloquy of the traveller through the valley of the shadow of death, be that valley where it may. Evil he need not fear since God is his companion.

“Fear has torment,” and few are the hearts which are not thus tormented, but there is a blessed remedy even for this. “Perfect love,” we read, “casts out fear.” The two cannot co-exist in the same bosom. If you have one you cannot have the other. But it is God’s perfect love, possessed, realized, and enjoyed, by child-like faith in the Father, that dissipates the fear and that prevents the torment.

Then what remains? Only the rich elevation of mind and spirit which was always seen in the ways of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ.