Recently in my regular Bible reading I came to that tender appeal of King David to his generals as they were going forth to fight with Absalom: "Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom" (2 Sam. 18:5), and my heart was touched with its likeness to Jesus.
Absalom was in rebellion against David the king, his father, and had driven him forth from his throne, had outraged his father's marital ties, had sacrificed filial affection and trampled upon filial and civic duty, and was now seeking his father's life. But David knew him only as his wayward boy, loved him still, and commanded his warriors to deal gently with him in the coming battle. He would have the rebellion crushed, but the rebel saved; the sin destroyed, but the sinner rescued.
How like Jesus that is! Is not that the way Jesus feels toward the most desperate backslider, the most careless sinner? Does not His heart yearn over them with unutterable tenderness? And is not this written for our admonition? Does He not say to us, "Deal gently for my sake"?
The battle went against Absalom that day, and hardhearted, willful, stubborn old Joab slew him deliberately in spite of the king's wish. And so it often is today. Joab's tribe has increased, and while Jesus would have the backslider and sinner dealt with gently, Joab rises up and thrusts him through with reproaches and bitter words and sharp looks, slays him utterly, and the heart of Jesus is broken afresh, as was the heart of David. The elder brother, with his ungenerous jealousy and cruel words and hardness of heart, as surely grieved the loving old father as did the prodigal with his riotous living.
There are many reasons why we should deal gently.
1. That we may be like Jesus. When Peter denied Jesus and cursed and swore, Jesus loved him still, and turned and gave him a tender look that broke his heart, and he went out and wept bitterly. And after the resurrection Jesus did not rebuke and reproach Peter, but tenderly asked him, "Lovest thou Me?" and then commissioned him to feed His lambs and sheep.
Should we, then, who at our best are only "sinners saved by grace," despise the example of our Lord and deal roughly with His sheep that have gone astray? Since He has freely forgiven us our ten thousand talents, shall we not forgive our brother a hundred pence? (Matt. 18:23-35.)
2. We should deal gently with them lest we ourselves grieve the Spirit and become backsliders. Paul wrote to the brethren in Galatia, saying, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." (Gal. 6:1.) I have noticed that when professing Christians bear hard upon backsliders it is usually only a question of time when they themselves shall backslide. In fact, it is pretty certain that they are already backsliders in heart. In the very act of killing the rebellious Absalom Joab himself rebelled against the expressed wish and command of his king, though he did it under the cloak of loyalty.
And so men today who are severe in their dealings with sinners and backsliders under the cloak of zeal for righteousness and loyalty to truth are themselves rebelling against the example and spirit of Jesus, and unless they repent, the world shall surely soon witness their fall.
I have in mind now two prominent religious leaders who were unsparing in their criticisms and judgment against a notorious backslider until their spirit became as surely un-Christlike as was his in spite of their loud profession and fair outward appearance. At last one of them fell through gross immorality and the other was caught in the same snare, and practically followed in the footsteps of the man he had so fiercely condemned. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed" to his way and spirit in dealing with those who are away from Jesus, "lest he fall" We can only save ourselves as we keep the sweet spirit that impels us to "deal gently" for Jesus' sake.
3. We should deal gently that we may save the backslider. Jesus loves him still, is married to him, seeks him continually and waits to forgive him and cleanse him and restore to him the joy of salvation the moment he returns, and we must not hinder, but help. But we shall not do so unless we deal gently. Harsh dealing would not win us, nor will it win him.
Paul wrote to Timothy, "The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle toward all men, apt to teach, patient; in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil." (2 Tim. 2:24-26.) But this gentleness is not inconsistent with great firmness and unswerving loyalty to the truth. In fact, it is only when it is combined with these sturdy virtues that it commends itself to the judgment and conscience of the wrongdoer, and is likely to really win him from the error of his ways.
Firmness of manner may unite with great gentleness of spirit. I may be as tender in spirit in warning and commanding my child to beware of the fire, as I am in soothing him after he is burned.
While harshness and severity will only harden the wanderer from God on the one hand, a gospel of gush will fill him with indifference or contempt on the other. The soul-winner, then, must not have the hardness and brittleness of glass or cast iron, nor the malleability of wrought iron or putty, but rather the strength and flexibility of finest steel that will bend but never break, that will yield and yet retain its own form.
It is generally true that holy mothers have more influence with and win more willful boys and girls than do the fathers, not because the mothers are more ready to compromise principle and sacrifice truth, but rather because while unwavering in their fidelity to righteousness, they mingle mercy with judgment and a passion of gentle, unfailing love and tenderest solicitude with firmness and loyalty to the claims of God's perfect and holy law.
But how shall one who has not this spirit of perfect gentleness secure it? There is but one way. It is a fruit of the Spirit, and is to be had only down at Jesus' feet.
Jesus is like a "lamb slain," mutely gentle, and yet again He is "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" -- firm and strong. He combines the strength of the lion with the gentleness of the lamb.
You, then, that would have His Spirit, confess wherein you have it not. Are you hard, harsh, critical, severe and unrelenting? Tell Him and ask Him to destroy this carnal mind and give you His mind. (Phil. 2:5.) And as you ask, believe. "All things are possible to him that believeth."
To maintain this spirit you must walk in the footsteps of Jesus and feed on His words. Only to those who seek Him day by day with the whole heart, and that with joy, is it given to be like Him in these heavenly tempers and dispositions.
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." Amen!
Death Of 'The Old Man'
The Son of God came into this world, and lived, and toiled, and taught, and suffered, and died and rose again in order to accomplish a twofold purpose. The Apostle John explains this twofold work. In I John iii. 5, speaking of Jesus, he says, 'Ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins. This is His justification, and regeneration, which are done for us and in us. In verse 8 he adds, 'For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.' That is entire sanctification, which is a work done in us. Now upon an examination of experience and scripture, we find this is exactly what man needs to have done for him.
First, he needs to get rid of his own sins, and have a new principle of life planted in him. 'For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God' (Rom. iii. 23), and when any man comes to God, he comes burdened with a sense of his own wrongdoings and tempers. His sins condemn him; but, thank God, Jesus came to take away our sins. When a man comes with a penitent heart, acknowledging himself a sinner, and puts his trust in Jesus, he will find himself suddenly freed from his sins. The sense of guilt will vanish. The power of evil will be broken. The burden will roll away. Peace will fill his heart. He will see that his sins were laid on another, even on Jesus, and he will realize that 'with His stripes we are healed ' (Isa. liii. 5).
This is a result of that free pardon, that free justification for all past offenses, that God gives to every one who surrenders himself heartily to, and trusts in, Jesus. At the same time God plants in the man's heart a new life. The man is born of God, and receives what Paul calls the washing of regeneration, which washes away all the man's guilt, and all the sin for which he is responsible.
At this time, too, there will be planted in the man's heart love, joy, peace and the various fruits of the Spirit, and if his experience is very marked, as such experiences frequently are, he will probably think there is nothing more to be done. But, if he walks in 'humbleness of mind' (which, by the way, is a much-neglected fruit of the Spirit), if he speaks often and freely with those who love the Lord, and if he carefully searches the word of God and meditates therein day and night, he will soon find that sin's disease is deeper and more deadly than he thought, and that behind and below his own sins are the 'works of the devil,' that must also be destroyed before the work of grace in his soul can be complete.
He will find a big, dark something in him that wants to get mad when things are against him; something which will not be patient; something that is touchy and sensitive; something that wants to grumble and find fault; something that is proud and shuns the shame of the Cross; something that sometimes suggests hard thoughts against God; something that is self-willed and ugly and sinful. He hates this 'something' in him and wants to get rid of it, and probably condemns himself for it and maybe will feel that he is a greater sinner now than he ever was before he was converted. But he is not. In fact, he is not a sinner at all so long as he resists this something in himself.
Now, what is the trouble with the man? What is the name of this troublesome 'something'? Paul calls it by several names. In Rom. viii. 7 he calls it ' the carnal mind,' and he says it is 'enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.' You cannot fix it up. You cannot whitewash it over. You cannot make it better by culture or growth, or by any effort whatever. It is an enemy of God, and cannot be anything else.
In the seventh chapter ([[verse 24 >> Bible:Rom 7:24]]) he calls it 'the body of this death' and wonders how he can get deliverance from it. In Eph. iv. 22, and in Col. iii. 9, he calls it 'the old man.' In Gal. v.17, he calls it 'the flesh.' James calls it 'superfluity of naughtiness,' which is also well rendered, 'the remainder of iniquity' (Jas. i. 21).
John calls it 'sin,' as distinct from 'sins,' and the 'works of the devil.' In Ezek. xxxvi. 26 it is called a 'stony heart.' The theologians call it 'inbred sin,' 'original sin' and 'depravity.' Whatever you wish to call it, it is something evil and awful, that remains in the heart after a man has been converted.
Some say that it is dealt with at conversion, but I never saw any people who found it so, and John Wesley, who was a much wiser man than I am, and who had a far wider range of observation, examined thousands of people on this very point, and he said he never knew of one who got rid of this troublesome thing at conversion.
Some people say that growing in grace is the remedy. Others say you never get rid of it while you live. It will remain in you and war against you till you die. They are not altogether prophets of despair, for they say the new life in you will overcome it and keep it down, but that you will have to stand on guard and watch it, club and repress it, as you would a maniac, till death relieves you.
Personally, this subject once gave me great concern. These warring opinions perplexed me, while the 'old man ' made increasing war against all my holy desires and purposes. But while I found man's teachings and theories were perplexing, God's teachings were plain and light as day.
1. God does not admit that we get rid of this at conversion, for all His teachings and exhortations concerning it are addressed to Christians. And those who hold this doctrine will have to admit one of two things either that it is not removed at conversion, or that a great number of earnest professors who claim to be converted have never been converted at all. Personally, I cannot admit the latter for an instant.
2. God does, by the mouth of Peter, exhort us to grow in grace, but that simply means to grow in favor with God, by obedience and faith, and does not touch the subject in hand. Corn may grow beautifully and delight the farmer, but all its growth will not rid the field of weeds, and the farmer will have to look to some other method to get rid of those troublesome things.
4. Nor do I find any warrant in the whole Bible for purgatorial fires being the deliverer from this evil.
5. But I do find that God teaches very plainly how we are to get rid of it. Paul says, 'Put off . . . the old man" (Eph. iv. 22). James says, ' . . . lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness' (Jas. i. 21). John says, '. . . the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin' (I John i. 7), not part or some, sin, but 'all sin.'
And again, John says, Jesus 'was manifested' to 'destroy the works of the devil'; (I John iii. 8), and God says through Ezekiel, 'I will take away the stony heart' (Ezek. xxxvi. 26).
All these passages teach that we are to get rid of something that bothers us and hinders our spiritual life and show plainly that this work is not to be a slow, evolutionary process, but an instantaneous work, wrought in the heart of the humble believer by the Holy Ghost. Blessed be God! And the Bible further teaches that the one thing needful on our part to secure this operation of the Holy Spirit is an obedient faith that laughs at impossibilities, and cries "It shall be done."'
If this Bible teaching is true, then it is a matter that can be proved by experience. If one man proves it to be so, that establishes the Bible testimony against all the doubters in the world. All men used to believe the world was flat. Columbus rose up and said it was round, and he proved it against them all. There may be some ignorant old fogies yet who believe the world is flat, but they can prove it to be round, if they will take the trouble, and whether they prove it or not, their purblind unbelief does not change the fact.
Just so, the greater part of mankind believe that 'the old man' is destined to live to the end. But as Paul asks, ' . . . shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? '(Rom. iii. 3) and humble men and women are rising up every day to declare it is possible, and that all men can prove that he can be destroyed, if they will meet the conditions.
Oh, that we could get men to understand this! Oh, that we could get them to take counsel with faith and not with unbelief! Oh, that we could get them to see what Jesus really came to do!
I proved this fifteen years ago, and ever since I have been walking in a day that has no setting sun, and everlasting joy and gladness have been on my head and in my heart. Glory be to God!
It is no little salvation that Jesus Christ came to work out for us. It is a 'great salvation,' and it saves. Hallelujah! It is not a pretense. It is not a 'make believe.' It is a real salvation from all sin and uncleanness; from all doubt and fear; from all guile and hypocrisy; from all malice and wrath. Bless God!
When I begin to consider it and to write about it, I want to fill the page with praises to God. The hallelujahs of heaven begin to ring all through my soul, and my heart cries out with those four mystical beasts before the throne, 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,' (Rev. iv. 8) and in spirit I fall down with 'the four and twenty elders,' and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever, who has taken away my sins and destroyed the works of the devil out of my heart, and come to dwell in me.
Finally, 'Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief ' 'And to whom sware He that they should not enter into His rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.' 'For we which have believed do enter into rest' (Heb. iii. 12, 18, 19, and [[iv. 3 >> Bible:Heb 4:3]]).