Whom Will You Follow

"For to the angels has He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that Thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of Thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour" (Hebrews 2:5-11).

I will quote two Scriptures. "All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way," and "He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake." The first describes the road that we take when we follow Adam, the second the road we take when we follow Christ. There are these two leaders, and we are following one of them, our choice must be one or the other. This is not theology, worn out and exploded, as some would say, it is fact, stern and solemn fact, as all will discover either here or hereafter. Let us consider these two leaders.

The question is asked, What is man? And we have to ask another, Which man? for there are two, the first and the Second, Adam and Christ. God created Adam and was mindful of him. He crowned him with glory and honour, and set him over the works of His hands. How great were the capabilities that God gave him, and the possibilities that He put within his reach as He crowned him lord of creation, and gave him dominion over the fowl of the air, the fish of the sea, and the beast of the field. It was not long, however, before he lost the place of honour and trust that God gave him, for the devil offered him another crown. "Ye shall be as gods," said he, and that was a crown that he thought he could wear in independence of God; it allured him from his fidelity to God, and he grasped at it, and turned his back upon God to do it. That crown was a chimera, and he gained nothing but a guilty conscience and a great dread of God, and the crown with which God had crowned him was struck from his rebel brow, and he passed out of Eden a crownless man.

The majority of men are following the fallen head of the race. The life and nature of Adam is in every one of his children, and though they can do great things they are never satisfied with the results of their labour, and there lies within the very consciousness of the race the sense that something has been lost. Men are reaching out and stretching forward continually for something that always seems beyond them, and the tragedy of Tantalus is the continual tragedy of the race. It is the devil that deceives them; he can redeem no promise that he has made, but he lures them still with false hopes. The crown that God gave, this over-lordship, they have lost, but they are seeking it, the urge for it is within them, but they are seeking it in independence of God.

They would not so describe their ambitions and would rather cling to the vain dream of evolution, that flatters them into believing that they are striving after something that man never possessed before; but it is a delusion, and the unpleasant truth is that man is fallen, defeated, crownless. He has lost his best possession, his crown, which would have given completion and satisfaction and glory to his life. The crown could only be held in fealty to God his Maker — if he had held fast to that he would still have lifted up his head with great nobility and exercised his authority as lord over creation; and he would have been a free man with God as the Captain of his soul, where he is now a slave of sin and Satan, and his desire for "liberty, equality and brotherhood" would have been gratified, and not have grown into a frenzied cry, attended by blasphemy and blood.

There have been great men in the world's history who seemed in their day on the point of achieving the great ambition. There was Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled over the earth and then fell from his high estate to the level of the beasts; there was Alexander, who conquered the world and died in a drunken debauch; there was Napoleon, who crowned himself Emperor of France and died of cancer, a dishonoured exile in St. Helena.

There have been many men in different spheres of life who have grown great and famous and have thought that they would secure the fadeless and immortal crown; they have followed it, and fought for it, and expended every power they had to secure it, and just as they thought that they had achieved their ambition and reached their destiny, they tumbled into the grave. The fact becomes clear and plain that the crown lies on the other side of death, and death which was God's judgment upon Adam, the disobedient and fallen head, lies upon the whole race. Death is the end of man's ambition; his hopes lie shattered beside his open sepulchre; he cannot grasp the crown he craves for because he cannot grapple with and overthrow the power of death. "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Rom. 5:12), That is the secret, the solution to the terrible problem.

What was to be done? God had great purposes in regard to man when He made him in His own image; He intended that he should indeed be head over everything that He had created. Then have His purposes failed? If so, then the devil has gained a victory and God's throne is no longer the throne of God. No, God's purposes have not failed, and God has not failed. He had in reserve another Man, the second Man and the last Adam, His well-beloved Son, and in Him He has triumphed and recovered more than was lost. In due time God sent Him into the world. "He was made a little lower than the angels." "He made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men." When He appeared as a lowly babe in the manger at Bethlehem, the child of the virgin mother, it was not the beginning of His existence. The Hebrew epistles tell us that He is the Son, the Creator, for by Him God made the worlds. He came from the glory of God into the world of man's failure and sin, to stand firm and invincible in every place where man had been defeated. He comes into our view in the manger; we trace His footsteps through the earth, the Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; we see Him confronted by Satan's temptations and power, and finally by death itself. The prince of this world, who had defeated and degraded Adam's race, came, but found nothing in Him. He was unmoved by Satan's subtle wiles, because He had set His God always before Him, and desired nothing for His own satisfaction but the love and will of His Father, and the deliverance and blessing of the devil's poor dupes.

I would dwell upon the achievements of the second Man, our Lord Jesus Christ. He withstood the devil's threefold temptation in the desert, and when that arch-enemy returned in a more subtle form, and endeavoured to turn Him from the way of God's will, saying, through Peter, "This be far from Thee," He discerned the snare and answered, "Get thee behind Me, Satan, for thou savourest not the things that be of God." He had come for the suffering of death; it was for this that He was made a little lower than the angels, but His death was not for Himself; death had no claim upon Him, it was for others He died, for you and me. His love led Him into the depths of death, that He might lead us out of them and crown us with a brighter crown than Adam lost, on the other side of death. He died to glorify God and establish all His purpose in regard to men. Think of Him in that hour. He should have been crowned with the royal diadem and led amid the acclamations of the people to the throne of David, this was His right, but instead He was crowned with thorns and nailed to the cross, and He knew that it would be so. He had become man thus to suffer, and He took the cup, filled to the brim with sorrow and shame and woe, not from Pilate, or from the chief priests, from neither man nor devil did He take it, though both were concerned in it, but from His Father. "The cup that My Father has given Me, shall I not drink It?" He said, and refused to allow His disciples to fight on His behalf, or to defend Himself by word or act.

He has been raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, and now WE SEE JESUS, CROWNED WITH GLORY AND HONOUR. He has gained the crown; it shines upon His brow, but He has gained it by overthrowing the power of death; it is in resurrection that the crown is His. We do not yet see all things put under Him; they will be according to God's unalterable decree, but this is the "not yet" time, but it is nevertheless a time of great blessedness in which THE CROWNED CHRIST is leading God's many sons to glory. We read, "It became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." He has qualified to be the Leader of the many sons by His suffering. Many enemies blocked the way, they stood a formidable host between us and the crown and the glory, for the devil's intention was that man should be crownless for ever, but Jesus has met every foe Himself, and without aid; He did not conduct the fighting from a safe place in the rear, and from thence urge the sheep to be valiant in the fight and to the slaughter. This was His place. He went before them. He stood up in the face of the foe, and when arrows of death and judgment flew in a blinding cloud they found their mark in His bosom. He gave Himself for us. He willingly died in our stead. He has cleared the way. If we may change the figure and adopt one used by the prophet Isaiah: He has smitten the sea when it roared and made the depths a way for the ransomed to pass over. He has made a clear road for us right up to the glory of God.

I appeal to my readers, and especially to those who have youth and energy on their side, which of these two leaders will you choose? If you follow the first the world will honour you and your name may be inscribed high up in its temple of fame, but you will surely go astray and miss the prize and go down to disappointment and death without a hope and without a crown. If you follow the second Man, owning Him as your Lord, He will lead you in the paths of righteousness, and bring you at last to the glory with all the sons of God. You will be crowned there, for whom He called them He also justified, and whom He justified them He also glorified, and these are they whom He leads out of their bondage into this glorious liberty of the sons of God. It is true that He is still despised and rejected of men, and those who follow Him must not expect to be popular in the world that hated Him, but faith weighs the value of present things with what the future holds; it sees Jesus now crowned with glory and honour, and refuses the false glory of the world that lies in the wicked one, and gladly follows Him to the day of glory yet to be.

"O, who will follow the Nazarene,
  Of God and man forsaken?
Such grief and sorrow ne'er were seen,
  His life from the earth was taken.

"He shall see of the travail of His soul,
  The spoil with the great dividing.
The heavens and earth shall He control,
  In grace and truth abiding.

"O, who will follow the Nazarene?
  O Lord, our hearts awaken!
May no false pomp Thy glory screen,
  Thy life from the earth was taken.

"And O, Thy name is above the skies,
  All past Thy toil and sorrow.
Though the earth may woo me, my heart replies
  That I wait the grand tomorrow."

Consider our great Leader, the Apostle and High Priest of our profession. If we have believed in Him, God has committed us to His care, for two reasons. First, He could trust no other, no man or angel was equal to this great work of bringing the sons of God home to His glory, only Jesus, who has destroyed him that had the power of death which is the devil. He has prevailed to bring us safely home; and second, His sons are too precious to God to be committed to any other person, and their dignity is too great. We are the sons of God. Let us consider the dignity that is ours. Our Scripture tells us that He is not ashamed to call us brethren, and that not because He has come down to our level and become one of us, but because He has made us one with Him, for "He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one," and it is for this cause that He is not ashamed of us. We are His brethren and loved with the same love that rests upon Him, for we are the sons of God on our way to the glory of God. And He has entered into heaven as our Forerunner. We are well aware that the feelings of the place into which a forerunner enters indicate how the one whom he represents will be received. It is even so in our case, impossible as it may seem. Because He has entered heaven, so shall we; if He, our Leader and Forerunner, has been received there with joy and honour, so shall we; as to this our hope is both as sure and steadfast as the immutable Word of God. We do not travel with uncertainty, we are not travelling to disappointment and death. How glorious is our prospect! When He shall appear in glory then shall we appear with Him in glory, and when we see Him we shall be like Him. Creation waiteth for the manifestation of the crowned sons of God; when the first man lost his crown he involved the whole creation over which he was set in his fall, but it is to be delivered from its travail, its groaning is to be hushed and the curse for ever rolled away, and this shall surely be when the second Man, the triumphant Man, appears, the Firstborn among many brethren, all of whom shall be conformed to His image and crowned with Him.