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Hector MacKinnon, A Memoir
The Law of the Christian Life


A PAPER CONTRIBUTED TO THE BRITISH MESSENGER"

"The whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house."—Ezek. xliii. 12.

THESE words refer in the first instance to the temple which Ezekiel foretold would be erected in Jerusalem upon the release of Israel from the captivity in Babylon. They were, however, never fulfilled in the sense in which the prophet expected, for the temple to which he looked forward was never built.

But his prediction has come to pass in a higher sense than he himself anticipated, for "know ye not that ye are the temple of God," and that "the whole building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord." "Ye are the temple of the living God, and the temple of God Is holy."

We accordingly connect the prophet's words with the temple of redeemed sanctified souls which God is now rearing, and in which He dwells, and intends to dwell. Every believer as "a living stone" has a place in this structure, and to the whole company of believers the verse before us applies. They have been called to holiness, all without exception.

The law imposed, however, has a bearing not only upon the structure as a whole, but upon every unit that goes to form it. If the whole limit of the temple round about shall be "most holy," so shall the whole limit of every stone that has a place in the building. Every individual believer shall be most holy.

I shall try to interpret these words with reference to ourselves. We have all, I trust, been set as stones in this temple, Jesus Christ Himself being the foundation and head corner-stone; in other words, we have been united to Him by faith.

This, then, is the law of our lives—"the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy."

Here there is placed before us the standard at which we are to aim in life. That standard is indicated by these two words—"most holy."

Holiness, as every Bible student knows, means separation —separation unto God. Unto God, mark you! This is to be emphasized. Unto God, first of all; then, from sin, as a direct result. Not a few seek separation from sin first, and consecration to God afterwards, failing to realize that it is consecration to God that itself separates from sin. In thought and experience consecration to God precedes separation from sin, the latter, of course, following as a necessary consequence. It is by laying hold of God, through faith and self-surrender, that freedom from the domination of sin is obtained. God is the object of the faith and the direction of the self-surrender that extricate from the toils of the enemy.

We are commanded to be most holy—that is to say, separated unto the uttermost. Speakers at conventions are sometimes charged with preaching perfectionism to the people. If by perfectionism is meant the doctrine that sinlessness is attainable in this life, no such teaching has been promulgated, as far as I am aware; but if by perfectionism is meant a call to consecration, to God, to the furthest extent to which that is possible in this world for a believer, then we do inculcate perfectionism. We appeal to God's children to be holy to the utmost limit of possibility. We hold that just as a plant, without yet reaching full maturity, may at any stage of its growth be regarded as perfect, provided it make the best of soil, heat, moisture, etc., so a believing soul which makes the most of all the conditions of progress may be said to be perfect—as holy as it is possible for it, in existing circumstances, to be. So that while we frankly own with Paul that we have not "already attained," and are "not already perfect," we at the same time claim the privilege of being "perfect even as our Father who is in heaven is perfect "—He according to the measure of His possibility ; we according to the measure of ours. And we teach men so. Yea, we tell every Christian man and woman here to-day that this is the standard which God has set before them in His Word, and that there is none other. God help us, not only to aim at it, but also to attain to it, through His glorious grace.

And here two or three things may be mentioned which we shall do well to bear in mind-

(1) Genuine holiness will manifest itself within the soul of the believer. There will be holiness of spirit, a surrender unto God in the innermost chamber of the heart. When God is enshrined there it follows that sins of the spirit will be departed from, and temptations to these sins will be successfully resisted. Pride, envy, jealousy, love of praise, and other sins of the spirit will be unreservedly given up.

(2) Holiness within will result in holiness without. Character and action will be most holy. Our lives will not be shaped according to a standard of correctness, in the sense in which that term is used in the polite talk of the day, but rather according to a standard of righteousness, as that is set before us in the Word of God. We shall consider it our duty to do not merely the correct thing, but the right thing, in all circumstances. These two not infrequently clash the one with the other. When they do, the latter is to be chosen at all costs by every faithful follower of the Lord Jesus.

(3) This holiness is demanded from every believer. There is only one standard for all. We are all called to be saints. Nothing would more astonish the saints of the Bible than to be told that one standard of life is to be expected from one section of Christ's followers, and another from another. It would stagger them to even have it suggested to them that one Christian may legitimately live on a lower plane of holiness than another Christian. In the matter of holiness all are on one level—the rank and file of the Church take their place alongside of the leaders. This is reasonable, for the whole sanctifying power which God has provided through Christ is at the disposal of each. While for special phases of service the filling of the spirit may be granted only to a limited number, for purposes of sanctification it is within the reach of all. We may depend upon it that God, if He has commanded His people to be holy, will give, in exceeding abundance, the strength to obey that command.

Attention is called in these words to the range which we have to cover in living the life to which we have been called. "The whole limit thereof round about, etc."

In the case of the Jewish Temple one part of the edifice was regarded as holier than another part. There were the outer courts, the holy place, and the holy of holies. In the Temple of God not made with hands—the temple composed of redeemed human souls, of which we are speaking— gradations of holiness in this sense have no place. 'The whole structure is to be " most holy." The highest possible holiness is demanded from every stone in the building, and that in all sets of circumstances.

In all sets of circumstances-

(1) There must be holiness in the home, for instance. The home, one has sorrowfully to confess, is the last place in which, in the view of some Christians, the law of holiness applies; but if we do not live a life of holiness at our own fireside, beloved brethren, it is more than doubtful whether we live it genuinely anywhere else. The self-denial which a holy life implies must manifest itself firstly, and chiefly, within our own dwellings, and in the bosom of our own families.

(2) Our Church life must be holy. On the front of the turban of the High Priest of Israel were engraven on a plate of pure gold the words, " Holiness unto the Lord —the intention being to limit the official activities of the chief religious officer of Israel to the worship of the One God. To no other God than Jehovah durst he render service. Every act of worship must have the glory of the Lord as its object. And, of course, the High Priest was only the representative of the people. Israel as a whole was bound by this law. Now, if the law of the religious life of ancient Israel was a law which demanded holiness, this is much more true of the law under which we live. In every act of public worship we should be separated exclusively unto God. Every time we assemble ourselves in God's house, as we take part in the praise and prayers and listen to the preached word, there should be on our part a conscious surrender of self—a setting apart of ourselves, and all that we have, to the will of the Lord.

The service which we render to Christ's cause as members of His Church would then be only a means whereby this self-surrender would be still further extended in range. Every word of kindness we might speak and every deed of charity we might perform would have as their principal end the glory of Him who called us out of darkness into His own marvellous light.

If Church worship and Church work were done under the dominance of this motive, all the materialistic accessories which in the Church of to-day so grievously mar the worship of Him whose worship should be "in spirit and in truth" would be set aside—all the shady methods resorted to in carrying on Christ's work would be relinquished. Both in Christian worship and Christian work there would be a more frank recognition of God Himself as supreme, His people would rely upon His spirit in a greater measure than they do, and in a less measure upon those external aids the use of which is to be ascribed to the fact that some Christians set before themselves too low a standard and too limited a range of holiness in connection with the corporate life of the Church.

And particularly in the matter of Christian liberality— the money contributed to support the Lord's work would be given with a pure heart and received with unstained hands. This would involve that much of the apparent success of Church work would have to go to the wall, but what a blessed harvest would follow.

(3) What holds true in the home and the Church holds equally true with reference to our walk in society. If we Christians made the will of Christ our law we would revolutionize society, and the progress of the Kingdom of Christ would be accelerated beyond speech. If in our going in and out amongst rich and poor we followed the example of conduct set by Jesus Himself, then indeed would the power that rested upon Him overshadow us, and our influence for good would be multiplied a hundredfold. Apart from every other consideration, however, we are called to holiness, and this is in itself a sufficient reason why holiness ought to be pursued and practised in all our conversation.

(4) And then as regards our business and our work we are to take the Lord into our confidence, we are "to serve the Lord Christ." Our "merchandise and our hire" must be "Holiness unto the Lord." Upon the "bells of the horses" and upon "every pot" not only in the house of the Lord but also in our homes must be inscribed the same grand motto, "Holiness unto the Lord." There is no time to enlarge, but the very mention of these things ought to impress us with the extensiveness of the range which a holy life must cover. In fact, nothing in ourselves or in our circumstances must be left beyond the sweep of the operation of this law.

III. I now come to the last point which I desire to lay before you, and it is a very important one—the resource which is at our disposal for attaining to the standard and covering the range. The words before us do not refer to the resource, but we find it clearly set forth elsewhere in this chapter. In verse 7 I read of God saying to Israel, "I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever," and in verse 4 "the glory of the Lord" is spoken of as "coming into the temple." That is to say, the indwelling of God as the glorified Saviour of Israel was to be the resource of Israel in the sanctification of the temple which they purposed building upon their return from captivity. This, translated into New Testament language, means for us that the glorified Jesus will dwell in our hearts by the Holy Ghost and sanctify the temple of our soul.

Let us grasp this truth by faith, fellow-Christians. Christ is glorified—possessed of all power. He is prepared to dwell in you by the Holy Spirit. Will you receive Him ivto your soul? Long ago you received Him as God's salvation for you, saving you from the consequences of sin. Will you receive Him now as God's salvation in you, freeing you from the power of sin—your sanctification from all that defiles?

The Holy Spirit is at the door of your heart. Perhaps He has been admitted into some of its chambers. But will you now throw open to Him all the chambers of your heart? Will you say, meaning it as you say it, "Take possession of every corner of my being. Then, blessed Restorer and Comforter, my spirit, soul, and body I give to Thee for ever to occupy and control"? Take for granted that once you have made this surrender the Holy Spirit has taken Possession, and that so long as you maintain this attitude He will continue His occupancy and control.

He will glorify Christ within you by showing in ever- increasing measure the attractiveness, suitableness, worthiness of the exalted Redeemer, and by applying these to every need of your life.


 


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