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
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." "Yeare 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 holythat 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 perfectas 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
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 levelthe 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 handsthe 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
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 selfa 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 asideall 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 onethe 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 glorifiedpossessed 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 sinyour 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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