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Quiet Talks about Jesus

Outside the Eden Gate.

The story of what took place outside that guarded gate makes clear the love, the wise farsighted love that showed the man the way out that day. To tell the story one must use a pen made of the iron that has entered his own soul, and though the pen be eased with ball point, it scratches and sticks in the paper for sheer reluctance. And only the tears of the heart will do for ink.

That was a costly meal. That first bite must have been a big one. Its taste is still in the mouth of the race. If that fruit were an apple it must have been a crab. There has been a bad case of indigestion ever since. If you think there were no crab-apples in Eden, then the touch of those thickening lips must have soured it in the eating--man's teeth are still on edge. The fruit became tough in the chewing. It's not digested yet. That Garden of Eden must have been on a hill, with lowlands below, and high hills above, and roads both ways. The man seems to have gotten into the lowland road, and after a bit, struck some marshes and swamps, with a good bit of thick gray fog.

The first result of the break with God was in the man himself. Man has two doors opening into himself from God--the eye and the ear. Through these God comes into the man and makes Himself known. Through these comes all man knows of God. Both have their hinges in the will, the heart. Man gave both doors a slam shut that day in Eden. Yet they went shut gradually. That was the God-side of their shutting. He quickly slipped in an air cushion so the shutting might be softened and delayed, and meanwhile His presence be appealing to the man.

Refusing to obey God was equal to hearing without being willing to listen. It was the same thing as looking with that reluctance that won't see, and then doesn't see. Hearing and seeing lie deeper than ears and eyes, down in the purpose, the will, the desire of the heart. Unwillingness dulls, and then deafens the ears. It blurs, and then blinds the eye. An earnest, loving purpose gives peculiar keenness to the ears, and opens the eye of the eye. Ears and eyes are very sensitive organs. If their messages be not faithfully attended to they sulk and pout and refuse to transmit messages. It is a remarkable fact that habitual inattention to a sound or sight makes one practically deaf or blind to it; and that close attention persisted in makes one's ears and eyes almost abnormally keen and quick. Love's ears and eyes are proverbially acute.

One may be so wholly absorbed in something that he absolutely does not see the thing on which his eyes are turned. He does not hear the sounds that are plainly coming to his ear because his thought, back of that his heart, is elsewhere. Hearing, seeing is with the heart back of ears and eyes. God is spoken of as silent. Yet His silence may be simply our deafness. The truth is He is speaking all the time, but we are so absorbed that we do not hear. He is ever looking into our faces with His great, tender, deep eyes, but we are so wrapped up in something else that the gaze out of our eyes is vacant to that Face, and with keenest disappointment, so often repeated, He gets no answering glance.

Let anybody in doubt about the strict accuracy of this do some experimenting on himself, either with outer things or regarding God. Let him obey the inner voice in some particular that may perhaps cut straight across some fixed habit, and then watch very quietly for the result. It will come with surprising sureness and quickness. And the reason why is simple. The man is simply moving back into his native air, and of course all the powers work better.

This truth about the nerves of the ears and eyes running down into the heart is constantly being sounded out in the old Book. A famous bit in Isaiah puts it very clearly, and becomes a sort of pivot passage of all others of this sort. That fine-grained, intense-spirited young Hebrew was caught in the temple one day by a sight of God. That wondrous sight held him with unyielding grip through all the after years. With the sight came the voice, and the message for the nation: "Tell these people--you are continually hearing, but you do not listen, nor take in what you hear. Your eyes are open, they look, but they do not see." Then the voice said, "Make their heart fat, and their ears heavy, and their eyes shut."

That is to say, by continually telling them what they will continually refuse to hear because it does not suit the habit of their lives, he would be setting in motion the action that would bring these results. The ears that won't hear by and by can't hear. The heart that will not love and obey gets into a state of fatty degeneration. The valves that refuse to move in loving obedience will get too heavy with fat to move at all. The fat clogs the hinges. There is the touch of a soft irony in the form of the message. As though Isaiah's talking would affect their ears, whereas it is their refusal to hear that stupefies the hearing organ. In faithfulness God insists on telling them the truth even though He knows that their refusal to do will make things worse. But then God is never held back from good by the possible bad that may work out of it.

When Jesus came, the Jews, to whom His messages to the world were directly spoken, were in almost the last stages of that sort of thing. So Jesus, with the fine faithfulness of love blending with the keenest tact, spoke in language veiled by parable to overcome the intense prejudice against plainly spoken truth. They were so set against what He had to tell that the only way to get anything into them at all was so to veil its form as to befool them into thinking it truer. Toward the close, His keenness, for which they were no match, joining with the growing keenness of their hate, made them see at once that the sharp edge of some of those last parables was turned toward themselves.

In explaining to His puzzled disciples about this form of teaching, with a sad irony that reveals both His heart's yearning and His mental keenness, He uses more than once with variations this famous bit from Isaiah. He makes the truth stand out more sharply by stating the opposite of what He desires, making the contrast between His words and His known desires so strong as not only to make plain the meaning intended, but to give it a sharper emphasis.

The result that began with ears and eyes quickly affected the tongue. That is nature's path. The inner road from ear and eye is straight to the tongue. The tongue is the index of man's whole being. While through ear and eye he receives all that ever gets in, through the tongue his whole being is revealed. Of course his personality reveals itself very much otherwise. In the carriage of the body. Strikingly so in the look of the eye. The body itself, especially the face, becomes in time the mould of the spirit within. Yet the tongue--what is said, how it is said, what is not said, the tone of voice--the tongue is the index of the spirit.

There is no stronger indication of mastery over one's powers than in control of the tongue. When God would break up man's first great ambitious scheme of a self-centred monopoly on the Shinar plains, He simply touched his tongue. The first evidence of God's touch in the re-making of man on that memorable Pentecost day was upon his tongue.

The effect upon his tongue of the break with God has been radical and strange. Dumbness, and slowness or thickness of speech alternate with an unnatural sharpness. Sometimes the spittle has a peculiar oiliness that results in a certain slipperiness of statement. Sometimes it has a bitter, poisonous, acid quality that eats its way into the words. There is a queer backward movement in biting sometimes. Withal a strange looseness of speech regarding the holiest things, and the most awesome truths, and the Holy One Himself.

The moment a man gets a vision of God he is instantly conscious of something the matter with his tongue. The sight that comes to his eyes, the sound to his ears makes him painfully self-conscious regarding the defect in his tongue. Moses found himself slow-tongued. Isaiah felt the need of the cleansing coal for his tongue.

But man's whole inner mental process was affected. A peculiar sense of fear, of dread, is woven inextricably into the very fibre of man's being. His first reported word after that break was, "I was afraid." That sense of fear--a horrid, haunting, nightmare thing--has affected all his thinking and planning and every-day speech. No phrase is oftener on man's tongue than "I'm afraid." Isaiah's classic utterance about ears and eyes has a counterpart equally classic from Paul's pen, about the effect of sin upon man's mental processes. A few lines in the letter to the Ephesian circle of churches give a sort of bill of details of the mental steps down that slope from the Eden gate.

Paul is urging these friends to live no longer as they, in common with all the races, had been living, in "the vanity of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their hearts; who, being past feeling, gave themselves up to lasciviousness to make a greedy trade of all uncleanness." Here are seven steps down. The first five are put in reverse order. Beginning where they have been, he traces the five steps back to the starting point, and then adds the two likely to follow with any who persist past this point.

The start of all sin is in the setting of one's self against God. Choosing some other way than His. It is called here "hardening of the heart." The native juices of the heart are drawn away from God and dry up. In this Book the heart is the seat of both affection and will. It is the pivotal organ of life. Any trouble there quickly and surely affects the whole being. Then follows "ignorance." Of course. The heart controls both ear and eye, the two great channels inward of knowledge. The hardening of the heart locks both doors. And hard on the heels of that comes "Alienated from the life of God." That is, cut off, shut out of fellowship and intimacy. Life is union with God. Through union God's life flows into us. Union is rooted in knowledge and in sympathy, fellow-feeling, a common desire and purpose. The man snapping that tying cord cuts himself off.

The next step is peculiarly pathetic--"darkened in their understanding." The man has shut the shutters close, and pulled the shades down tight. Of course it's dark inside. He is unable to see. First unwilling, now unable. If the only thing that can be gotten for use as light be darkness, how intense is that darkness! Then comes the pitiable result of acting as if darkness were man's native air--"the vanity of the mind." That word vanity means aimlessness. The mind is still keen, even brilliant, but the guiding star is shut out, and that keen mind goes whirring aimlessly around. Sometimes a very earnest aimlessness. The man's on a foggy sea without sun or star. The compass on board is useless.

But more pitiable and pathetic yet; indeed utterly laughable if it were not so terribly serious and pathetic:--this man in the dark proceeds gravely to decide that this darkness of his own making is a superior sort of light, and bows low in worship of its maker. He has even been known to write brilliant essays on the light-giving power of blinding darkness, with earnest protests at the evil of this thing commonly called light. Sometimes having carefully cottoned up the shutters that no scrap of sun light or sun warmth may get in, he strikes a friction match, and sits warming himself, and eloquently sets forth his own greatness as shown by the match, friction match. Most of this sort of light and heat is of the friction sort.

Then with reluctant hand, one who knows Paul's tender heart can well believe, the curtain is drawn aside for the last two stages; the grosser, gutter, animal stages, which, not always by any means, but all too commonly follow. "Past feeling!" The delicate sense of feeling about right and purity dulls and goes. The fine inner judgment blunts and leaves. The shrinking sensitiveness toward the dishonorable and impure loses its edge and departs. Then--pell mell, like a pack of dogs down a steep hill, follows the last--"lasciviousness," the purest, holiest things in the gutter-slime, and then, cold-blooded, greedy trading in these things. That's the picture painted in shadows of Rembrandt blackness, newly blackened, of the effect in man himself of turning away from God.

Now Jesus is the music of God's heart sounding in man's ears anew, that he may be wooed back the old road to the Eden life. Jesus is the face of God, close up, looking tenderly, yearningly, into man's face, that his eye may be caught and held, and his heart be enchained.

Sin's Brood.

The second great result of that Eden break has been in the growth of sin. In the seventeenth century after that it was said that man's heart was a breeding place of thoughts whose pictured forms were bad, only bad, with no spots of good, nor spurts of good. A thousand years later, Moses giving the Hebrew tribes the ten commandments, adds a crowd of particulars, some of them very grewsome, which serve as mirrors to reveal the common practice of his age. The slant down of those first centuries has evidently been increasing in its downward pitch.

More than a thousand years later yet, there is a summary made by Paul that reveals the stage reached by sin in his day. Probably no one knew the world of his time, which has proved to be the world's crisis time, as did Paul the scholar and philosopher of Tarsus. Himself a city man, well bred and well schooled, a world traveller, with acute, disciplined powers of observation, and a calm scholarly judgment, he had studied every phase of life cultured and lowly.

He pitched upon the great city centres in his active campaigning, and worked out into the country districts. He was a world-bred man. He knew the three over-lapping worlds of his time: the Hebrew, with its ideals of purity and religion; the Greek, with its ideals of culture; and the Roman, with its ideals of organization and conquest. He is writing from Corinth, then the centre of Greek life, to Rome, the centre of the world's life. His letter is the most elaborate of any of his writings preserved to us. In its beginning he speaks of man, universally, morally, as he had come to know him. His arraignment is simply terrific in its sweep and detail.

Let me pause and be measuring the words cautiously and then put this down:--the description of the latter half of the first chapter of Romans is a true description of man to-day. At first flush that sounds shocking, as indeed it is. It seems as if this description can apply only to degraded savages and to earth's darkest corners. But the history of Paul's day, and before, and since, and an under view of the social fabric to-day, only serve to make clear that Paul's description is true for all time, and around the world.

There is a cloak of conventionality thrown over the blacker tints of the picture to-day in advanced Christian lands. It is considered proper to avoid speaking of certain excesses, or, if speech must be used, modestly to say "unnamable." And it is a distinct gain for morality that it is so. Better a standard recognized, even though broken. But commonly the conditions are not changed. The differences found in different civilizations to-day are differences only of degree. In the most advanced cities of Christendom to-day may be found every bit of this chapter's awful details, but properly cloaked. In European lands the cloaks are sewed with the legal-stitch, which is considered the proper finish. In lands where our Christian standards are not recognized the thing is as open as in this chapter.

In four short paragraphs containing sixty-six lines in the American Revision, Paul packs in his terrific philippic. He swings over the ground four times. Nowhere does he reveal better his own fidelity to truth, with the fineness of his own spirit. Here, delicacy of expression is rarely blended with great plainness. No one can fail to understand, and yet that sense of modesty native to both man and woman is not improperly disturbed, even though the recital be shocking.

Here is paragraph one: Man knew God both through nature and by the direct inner light. But he did not want Him as God. It bothered the way he wanted to live. The core of all sin is there. All its fruitage grows about that core. He became vain in his reasonings. He gave himself up to keen, brilliant speculation. Having cut the cord that bound him to God, unanchored, uncompassed, on a shoreless, starless sea, he drifts brilliantly about in the dense gray fog.

Then he befooled himself further by thinking himself wise. He preferred somebody else to God. Whom? Himself! Then--birds; then-beasts on all fours with backbone on a line with the earth, nose and mouth close to the ground; then--gray-black, slimy, crawling, creeping things. He traded off the truth of God for a lie; the sweet purity of God for rank impurity. He dethroned God, and took the seat himself. He bartered God for beasts and grew like that he preferred. God's gracious restraint is withdrawn when he gets down to the animal stage. Only here man out-animalled the animals. The beasts are given points on beastliness. The life he chose to live held down by the throat the truth he knew so well. That's the first summary.

The next two paragraphs are devoted to that particular sort of unnatural sin first suggested to man after his disobedience, and which in all time and all lands has been and is the worst, the most unnatural, the most degrading, and the most common. It came first in the imagination. It came early in the history of actual sin. It is put first by Paul in his arraignment here. He gives it chief place by position and by particularity of description. First was the using of a pure, natural function to gratify unnatural desires. Then with strange cunning and lustful ingenuity changing the natural functions to uses not in the plan of nature. Let it all be said in lowest, softest voice, so sadly awful is the recital. Yet let that soft voice be very distinct, that the truth may be known. Then lower down yet the commercializing of such things. Unconcerned barter and trade in man's holy, most potent function. Putting highest price on most ingenious impurity.

Then follows the longest of these paragraphs running up and down the grimy gamut of sin. Beginning with all unrighteousness, he goes on to specify depravity, greedy covetousness, maliciousness. Oozing out of every pore there are envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity. Men are whisperers, backbiters, God-haters, and self-lovers, in that they are insolent, haughty, boastful. They are inventors of evil things, without understanding, breakers of faith, without natural affection, ruthlessly merciless.

The climax is reached in this, that though they know God, and what He has set as the right rule of life, they not only do these things named, but they delight in the fellowship of those who habitually practise them. The stage of impulsiveness is wholly gone. They have settled down to this as the deliberate choice and habit of life. Man is still a king, but all bemired. He is the image and glory of God, but how shrivelled and withered; obscured, all overgrown with ugly poison vines.

Let it be remembered at once that this is a composite picture of the race. Many different sorts of men must be put together to get such a view. Sin works out differently in different persons. A man's activities take on the tinge of his personality. So sin in a man takes on the color and tone of his individuality.

One man has the inner disposition against God, accompanied by no excesses at all. These things disgust him. He is refined in his tastes, perhaps scholarly and intellectual in his thinking. That inner disposition may be a sort of refined ignoring of God either defiant or indifferent. In another, the animal nature swings to the front, stronger perhaps by heredity, and, yielded to, it runs to the excess of riot. Then there is the man with the strange yellow fever, whose love for the bright-colored precious metal burns in his blood and controls every impulse and purpose. And the man with intense love of power, of controlling men and things for the sake of the immense power involved, with himself as the centre of all.

There is every imaginable degree of each of these, and every sort of combination among them. The lines cross and re-cross at every possible angle in various persons. A man is apt to get money-drunk then society-drunk (with a special definition for the word society in this connection), then lust-drunk. Or, he may swing direct from money-intoxication into power-intoxication. Please notice keenly that each of these four grows up out of a perfectly normal, natural desire. Sin always follows nature's grooves. There is nothing wrong in itself. The sin is in the wrong motive underneath, or the wrong relationship round about an act. Or, it is in excess, exaggeration, pushing an act out of its true proportion. Exaggeration floods the stream out of its channel. Wrong motive or wrong relationship sends a bad stream into a good channel.

But sift down under the surface and always is found the same thing. The upper growth is varied by what it finds on the surface to mingle with, but the sub-stuff is ever the same. The root always is self. The whole seed of sin is in preferring one's own way to God's way; one's self to God. The stream of life is turned the wrong way. It is turned in. Its true direction is up. The true centre of gravity for man is not downward, nor inward, but upward and outward.

God's Treatment of Sin.

God's treatment of sin lets in a flood of light on the sort of thing it is. Three times over in this summary Paul says that God "gave them up." As they cast out all acknowledgment of God, He gave them up to an outcast mind. When they turned God out-of-doors, God left them indoors to themselves. It was the worst thing He could do, and the best. Worst--to be left alone with sin. Best, because the sin would get so vile that the man in God's image would want to turn it out, and get God back. Man never turns from sin until he feels its vileness to the sickening point. When things get to the acute stage, and a sharp crisis is on, then as a rule there will be an eager turning to the One who can cleanse and make over new; but usually not until then.

Sin has a terrific gait. Give it a loose rein and man will get winded and ready to drop. Only then is he ready to drop it. Sin can't be patched up or mended. Nursing only helps it to its feet for a fresh start. The whole trouble is in the nature of the thing. The heart pumps the hot blood of rebellion. Its lungs can breathe only self-willed air. The worst punishment of sin is that left alone it breeds more sin, and worse sin. The worst of sin is in its brood. It is very prolific. Every sin is a seed-sin. The breeding process gets the sort more refined in its coarseness.

"This is the very curse of evil deed,
That of new sin it becomes the seed."2

And the plain statements of the Book, and the inevitable working of man's nature, reveal all the bad results of sin intensifying indefinitely in the after-life. Jesus is God letting sin do its worst, upon Himself, that man might see its utter, stubborn damnableness, and eagerly turn from it, and back to Him.

A Bright Gleam of Light.

Yet be it keenly marked, there is a very bright gleam of light across this dark picture. In going over the story of sin with its terrific results now and afterward, one needs to be very tender, for he is talking about men--his brothers. And to be very careful not to say things that are not so. Some good, earnest people have been thinking that the whole race except a small minority were given over to eternal misery. The vast majority of men has never heard the name of Jesus. And some very godly people have seemed to think that these are lost forever.

Yet the old Book of God speaks very plainly here. Its meaning can be gotten without any twisting of words. Neither the Jewish nation nor the Christian Church can be regarded as favorites of God. God has no favorites for salvation. The Jewish nation was chosen for service' sake. Through it there came a special after-revelation of God. Through it came the world's new Man. The Church is the repository of God's truth to-day, with its window panes not always quite clear. Its great mission is to tell the whole race of Jesus. Both were chosen for service.

Every nation knew God directly at the first. And be it said thoughtfully, every man has enough of revelation and of inner light to lead him back to God. A man's choice in this life is his choice always. Any student of the ordinary working of man's mind can certify that. Whatever sort of being a man deliberately, persistently chooses to be here and now, he will be always. The only change possible in the after-life will be in the degree. Never in the sort.

The Gospels speak of believing on Jesus, and of the bad results for those who decline or refuse to have anything to do with Him. Of course it is speaking of those who have heard of Him. There can be no believing on Jesus without hearing, and of course in simple fairness no condemning on any such grounds. The gospel message is wholly concerned with those who hear.

But there is clear and plain teaching about the great outside majority of past generations and of our own who have never heard. It was a member of both Jewish nation and Christian Church, whose tongue, touched by the Spirit of God, said, "God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness is acceptable to Him." That is a simple standard, yet a searching one. Anybody, anywhere, with a truly reverential thought upward, and a controlling purpose to be right in his life, will find the door swinging wide. No other badges or tickets required. This would include that remarkable woman of India, Chundra Lelah,3 all those weary years before the simple story of Jesus brought its flood of light and peace, and all of her innumerable class.

Paul puts it as simply and a little more fully in the letter to the Romans, that careful treatise which sums up with marvellous fulness and brevity the gospel he preached to the world. In chapter two, he says, "to them who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption (He will give) eternal life." Note that in his review thus far he has not yet gotten to Jesus the Saviour.

These people of whom he is now speaking have never heard of Jesus. They are the great majority. Mark keenly the simple description of them. It is a description, not of an achievement, but of a purpose. The absorbing aim in their lives is seeking upward. The seeking controls the life. The mastering spirit of these seekers is patience, steadfastness. They are seeking for the highest thing. They are doing what seems to them to be right, while seeking. They are doing right patiently.

Patience! What a world of conflicting experiences in a word! Misunderstandings, breaks, slips, stumblings, failures, falls; but in all, through all, patience, steadfastness. Taking a fresh hold at every turn. And the gripping fingers ever learning a new tenacity. Pulling steadily up a steep mountain side, in a blazing hot sun, blinded by dust, struck by loosened rocks above rolling down, but--patiently, steadily, with dust-blinded eyes, tugging up. To such is given the heart's desire--eternal life. Ah! God judges a man by his direction, by the set of his face. He may not be far up, but his face is turned up. His heels show their backs. His toes point toward the top. That reveals the purpose, the desire of the man inside. His choice is to be up. And it is choice that makes character as well as revealing it. And the one thing that concerns God is the character as revealed in the purpose.

There is a simple, pathetic story from mission lands, variously told, and well vouched for, of a missionary pausing long enough in a village to tell the story of Jesus to the crowd that gathered, and then pushing on. This was the first visit of a missionary to this place and so the first news of Jesus. The crowd listened eagerly with various results. There was one listener, an old man, held in repute for his wisdom, who at once accepted the missionary's story, and announced his acceptance of Jesus. His neighbors expressed their surprise at his prompt acceptance of such a new thing. The old man's quiet answer in effect was this: "Oh, I have long trusted this Jesus, but I never knew His name before." There was no change of purpose with this man, but, in the story of Jesus, the burst of light that brought unspeakable peace as he kept on in his upward tug.

Yet all this will not hold back from glad sacrifice, from free giving, from eager going to foreign mission lands a single man or woman who has been caught by Jesus' Spirit. The Master said, "Go ye." That's enough. For the largest wealth that may be given, for the keenest sacrifice that may be endured, for the strongest life that may be devoted--that is quite enough. And if more were needed--then to go, to give, to sacrifice for the sake of helping our struggling brothers yonder know Jesus, and His wondrous sacrifice and His great peace. To make them conscious of the disgustingness of sin, to bring to them a vision of Jesus' face to allure, and enchain, to give a man's will an earnest boost, when he -would choose, but cannot seem to for the suction of sin, inherited and ever growing upon his choosing powers. God sent His best. Jesus sacrificed His all in going. We'll gladly follow in such a train. Jesus is God sending His best, sacrificing His dearest, giving His most, going Himself to get men started up the hill out of the bog.

The Broken Tryst.

Man's break back in Eden was very hard on God. That evening early, in the twilight, God came walking in the garden to have the usual talk with His friend. He came to keep tryst. It was the usual trysting place and trysting hour, and God had the trysting spirit. We may think He came early for this bit of fellowship. He was prompt. Nothing would be allowed to disturb this appointment. But God was disappointed. It was His first disappointment. The first one to be disappointed on this earth was God. Adam had always met Him before. We may easily think met Him eagerly, jubilantly, with glad, free, open face and clinging hands.

But the man was not there this time. He failed God. He broke tryst. He stayed away. Indeed he had gone away. God didn't fail. He was there. The man failed. They had a long distance talk. God called Adam. He was not content to come to the trysting place. He must find the missing tryster. Some folk would make God a sort of hard and dry keeper of His word: A sort of trim syllogism, dry as punk. Some seem to think Him to be as they seem to be. How our poor God has been slandered by His supposed defenders! God was not satisfied to keep the appointment. He wanted the man. He hungered for His friend, upon whom He had imprinted His own image. His heart was hungry for fellowship. He wanted the comfort of a bit of talk. So He starts at once eagerly, insistently to find the man.

That voice of God spoke out, tender, gentle, plaintive, pleading. You can just hear the soft, very soft woodsman's cry, "Hello-alo, hello, Adam, A-a-dam--here I am--waiting for you--I've kept my tryst--where are you?--hello-o--hello--where--are--you?" The voice that spoke worlds into being, that brought life and beauty to all creation, that brought instant reverence and adoration from myriads of the upper world, that voice now speaks to one, two: two who were one. All the heart of God, all the power of God, in the soft voice talking to one man. God has always been after the one man, and still is.

And the breezes hushed to hear that voice with its new pleading tone. The birds stilled their song for this new music in minor mellowing tone. Silence for a moment, the breezes hushed, the birds stilled, the creation near by held its breath, God held His heart still, that He might catch the first response to its cry. The twilight of that day had a pathetic sight. It saw a broken tryst; a lonely God; words of fellowship unspoken. A man and woman hiding. Skulking behind trees. Trees served a new purpose that evening, not a good purpose. They never were meant to hide behind. Sin perverts the use of all things.

All these weary years God has been standing wherever men are: standing, waiting, calling man back to his tryst. Among the trees, in the crowded city of man's making, He is ever calling, and eagerly, wondrously, helping every one who answers. He is so near that a reaching hand always touches Him. The voice of the heart never misses His ear. But His love and grief shine out most on that bit of a hill, outside a city wall, on the east coast of the middle-of-the-earth sea. That is earth's tallest hill. It can be seen farthest away of any. Jesus up on that hill is God calling man back to his broken tryst.

God's Wooing.

God seems to have fairly outdone Himself to get man to turn toward the old trysting place. For when a man will turn around enough to get even a glimpse of that God-Face, and a whisper of that God-Voice, he can withstand no longer.

God has taxed all the ingenuity of His love to let man know about Himself. He revealed Himself directly to the whole race at the start. He has in every generation, and in every clime, on every hilltop and valley, in every village and crowded city, been revealing Himself to the heart of every man. There cannot be found one anywhere who has not heard the quiet inner voice drawing up, and away from wrong.

In this world of wondrous beauty God is speaking. The glory-telling heavens, the winsome coloring of trees and all growing things, the soft round hills, the sublime mountains, the sea with its ever-changing mood but never-changing beneficence upon the life of the whole earth, the great blue and gray above, the soothing green below, the brighter colors in their artistic proportion, the wondrous blendings--surely every bush and other green thing, every bright twinkler in the blue, everything is aflame with the presence that burns but in great love consumes not. His eyes are indeed badly bothered that cannot see; his ears in queer fix that do not hear. Yet sometimes the empty shoes seem few enough. But they are ever increasing, and will yet more and more, by retail method, with wholesale result.

But God comes closer yet in His wooing. The web of life's daily run, with its strange mixing and blending, shadings and tints, is of His weaving. He sits at life's loom ever watching and weaving. Were He but recognized oftener and His hand allowed to guide the skein, how different the weaving!

"Children of yesterday,
  Heirs of to-morrow,
What are you weaving--
  Labor and sorrow?
Look to your looms again;
  Faster and faster
Fly the great shuttles
  Prepared by the Master.
Life's in the loom,
  Room for it--room!
"Children of yesterday,
  Heirs of to-morrow,
Lighten the labor
  And sweeten the sorrow:
Now--while the shuttles fly
  Faster and faster,
Up and be at it--
  At work with the Master.
He stands at your loom,
  Room for Him--room!
"Children of yesterday,
  Heirs of to-morrow,
Look at your fabric
  Of labor and sorrow.
Seamy and dark
  With despair and disaster,
Turn it--and lo,
  The design of the Master.
The Lord's at the loom,
  Room for Him--room."4

When men's eyes seemed unable to see clearly these revelations of Himself, God picked out a small tribe, and through long, patient, painstaking discipline, gave to it, for the whole world, a special revelation of Himself. In it, in the Book which preserves its records, in the Man who came through it, God came nearer yet.

In Jesus, God told out His greatness most, and His love most tenderly. Man is the fairest flower of earth's creation. It was love's fine touch that to him God should reveal Himself best and most in the fairest flower of the eternal creation. Only man could fully appreciate Jesus, God's Man, and man's Brother.

But Jesus was known only to one generation--His own generation--to one narrow strip of country, one peculiarly exclusive tribe, the very small majority of all to whom He had come. So there came to be a Book that all after-generations might know Him too. We of later generations know of Jesus through the Book, in some shape or other, before we can come to know Himself direct. And so we prize the Book above all others. Not for the Book's sake, at all, of course, but because through it we come to know Jesus. With loving reverence we handle it, for it tells of Him, our God-brother.

Some learned folk have been much taken up with the make-up of the Book, its paper and type, and punctuation, and binding. And they have done good service in clearing away a lot of dust and cobwebs that had been gathering on it for a long time. But we plain folk, absorbed in getting things done, do not need to wait on their conclusions. If in those pages we have found Jesus, and God in Jesus, the Book has fulfilled its mission to us.

To all directly, in nature's voice, and in our common daily life; to a nation chosen for the special purpose, and through that nation and its books; through Jesus to those who knew Him, and, by a Book telling of Him, to all following, God came, comes in His wooing, and looked, looks tenderly into man's face. Each of these paths leads straight to God, and each comes to include the others.

But chiefly in Jesus God came. Jesus is God going out in the cold black night, over the mountains, down the ravines and gullies, eagerly hunting for His lost man, getting hands, and face, and more, torn on the brambly thorn bushes, and losing His life, in the darkness, on a tree thrust in His path, but saving the man.


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