SURRENDER AND CONSECRATION
Acts 22:10:—"What shall I do, Lord?"
When Paul was stricken to the ground on his way to Damascus by the glory of the risen Christ, bursting on him from heaven, he had but two questions to ask: Who art thou, Lord? and What shall I do, Lord? By the first he certified himsell as to the person before whose majesty he lay prone; by the second he entered at once into His willing service.
In this, too, Paul's conversion is typical. No one can call Jesus Lord save by the Holy Ghost; but when the Holy Ghost has moved with power upon the soul, the amazed soul has but two questions to ask: Who art thou, Lord? and What shall I do, Lord? There is no question in its mind as to the legitimacy of the authority claimed, as to its extent and limitations, as to its sphere, as to its sanction. He whose glory has shone into the heart is recognized at once and unquestioningly as Lord, and is so addressed no less in the first question than in the second. Who art thou, Lord? is not a demand for credentials; it is a simple inquiry for information, a cry of wondering adoration and worship. And it is, therefore, followed
at once with the cry of, What shall I do, Lord?
In this latter question there unite the two essential elements of all religion, surrender and consecration—the passive and active aspects of that faith which on the human side is the fundamental element of religion, as grace is on God's side, when dealing with sinful men. "What shall I do, Lord?" In that simple question, as it trembled on the lips of Paul lying prostrate in the presence of the heavenly glory, there pulsated all that abnegation of self, that casting of oneself wholly on Christ, that firm entrusting of oneself in all the future to Him and His guidance,—in a word, the whole of the "assensus" and "fiducia," which (the "notitia" being presupposed) constitute saving faith. And saving faith wherever found is sure to take this position, perhaps not purely—for what faith of man is absolutely pure?—but in direct proportion to its purity, its governing power over the life. Surrender and consecration, we may take it then, are the twin key-notes of the Christian life: "What shall I do, Lord?" the one question which echoes through all the corridors of the Christian heart.
And as our life as ministers of the Gospel is nothing else but one side of our Christian life— the flower and fruit of our Christian life—surrender and consecration must be made also its notes. It is in direct proportion as they are made its key-notes that we may hope for success in our ministry; for only in this proportion are we Christ's ministers and not servitors of our ownselves. Let us, then, approach this holy calling in this spirit, the spirit of Paul before us and of every child of Christ through all the ages. Let us now as we enter these halls to begin or to re-begin our preparation for the great work before us, have no reservations—that we will serve the Lord in this sphere, but not in that; that we will serve Him to this extent, but not to that; that we will serve Him in this mode, but not in that. Let surrender and consecration be our watch-words. "What shall I do, Lord?"—let that question be the spirit of all our lives.
And now let us observe what is involved in such a spirit. I think we may say this much on even a surface survey of the matter—(1) that there is an element of humility that enters into it; (2) that there is an element of true dignity that enters into it, and (3) that there is an element of power that enters into it. Humility, dignity, power— at least these three things.
Humility—what a difference in this regard between Saul the Pharisee and Paul the Christian! Before his conversion Saul seems to have had no doubt of what he should do. His fundamental characteristics seem to have been those of the type of character which we call masterful. He was a man of decision, of energy; somewhat selfsufficient, as indeed a Pharisaic training was apt to make one; little inclined, one would think, to
defer to the guidance of others. We must guard against supposing him to have been a man of violent and wicked impulses, as we may be misled into fancying by his career as a persecutor and his own words of subsequent sharp self-rebuke— after his eyes were opened. A man of deep religious heart at all times, set on serving the Lord, his very vices were but the defects of his virtues. But somewhat headstrong, opinionated, undocile, perhaps; bent on serving God with a pure conscience, but constitutionally apt to go his own way in that service—for the God of Israel had never bidden him persecute the saints, and that was an outgrowth, we may be sure, of his habitual selfdirection. What can I do to glorify the God of Israel—we may be sure that he had often asked himself that very question—nay, that it was always echoing through his soul and was the lode-star of all his life. There was nothing small or little in Paul's Pharisaic life; no reserves in his devotion to his ideal, and no shrinking from labor, or difficulty, or danger. Paul never was a placeseeker, never was a sycophant, never was selfindulgent, or self-sparing. The elements of a great character wrought in him mightily. What he lacked was not readiness to do and dare; what he lacked was humility. And the change that took place in him on the road to Damascus was in this regard no less immense than immediate. It was a totally new note which vibrated through his being, that found expression in the humble inquiry, "What shall I do, Lord?" It is no longer a question directed to himself: "What shall I do?—what shall /, in my learning and strength and devotion—what shall I do to the glory of God?" It is the final and utter renunciation of self and the subjection of the whole life to the guidance of another. "What shall I do, Lord?" Heretofore Paul had been, even in his service to God, self-led; hereafter he was to be, even in the common affairs of life, down to his eating and drinking, God-led. It is the characteristic change that makes the Christian; for the Christian is particularly the Spirit-led man: they that are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. And as the Christian more and more perfectly assumes the attitude of a constant and unreserved "What shall I do, Lord?", he more and more perfectly enters into his Christian heritage, and lives out his Christian life—the very keynote of which is thus easily seen to be humility.
Dignity—there is an element of dignity which enters into this attitude also. For humility is not to be mistaken for a degrading supineness. Lowliness of mind is far from being the same with lowness of mind. When Paul ceased to be selfled and became Christ-led, he did not by that step become low in mind or morals; it was a step upwards, and not downwards. There is a lurking feeling in most of us, no doubt, that our dignity consists just in our self-government. Self-sufficiency is its note, or, as we perhaps prefer to call it, self-dependence. That man is really a man, we are prone to think, who carves out his own fortune, rests on his own efforts, and seeks favour and certainly direction from no one. Now there is a proper basis for this feeling; we need courageous men who call no man master and swear in the words of none; this self-centred, self-poised, and independent nature is one of the best gifts of God—cultivate it! But it is very easy for a proper self-pride and a high-minded independence to pass into a very improper selfsufficiency. We were not intended to defer with servile incapacity to any fellow-creature's direction; but there is a place for authority in the world after all; and as liberty must not be allowed to lapse into licence, so independence must not be permitted to degenerate into self-assertion. God did not create mankind atomistically but as a race; and it is the part of true dignity to find our true relations and to subject ourselves to them. It is not a mark of manhood to separate ourselves from the bands that unite mankind into an organism, but to take each his place in the organism and thoroughly to fill it.
He who hitches his chariot to a star is not thereby sinking to a lower status. True as this is in worldly matters it is superlatively true in spiritual affairs. The man led by the Spirit of God—the Christ-led man—is the man of highest, and not of lowest, dignity. As it is the mark of a Christian man that he is "under orders," so it is the source of all his dignity that he is "under orders." With that odd penetration into the essence of things, which so often characterizes the words of Rudyard Kipling, he seems to have grasped and set forth this fundamental fact of the Christian life in the refrain of one of his "Barrack Room Ballads." He says:
"The 'eathen in 'is blindness bows down to wood and stone— 'E don't obey no orders, unless they is 'is own."
The point is, of course, the fine soldierly conception of the value of order and discipline; the soldier recognizes the fact that he is "under orders" as the source of all that gives value and worth to his life; his coming "under orders" was his transmutation from a "hoodlum" into a "soldier"; the discipline of the army has made, as we say, a man of him. But Rudyard Kipling has so phrased his refrain as to make it hint a far wider and higher truth. The characteristic of heathenism, as he sees it, from this soldier-like point of view, is precisely that the heathen man—like the hoodlum,—that the heathen world—like a mob— obeys no orders; each man goes his own way; is left, as the Scriptures say, to his own devices. On the other hand, the characteristic of the Christian man is that he has orders to obey—he is "under orders." And the soldier, conscious of all that being under orders is to him—of what it has wrought in him—of how it has given him self-respect, a sense of his value, a consciousness of dignity and worth,—sees in this parallel fact the essence of Christianity. The Christian man is the man who is under orders; the heathen, he— who like the man in the slums—obeys nothing but his own caprices.
Rudyard Kipling was, perhaps, speaking more wisely than he knew; for what is the primary characteristic of Christendom but just this,—that God has taken charge of it, given it His orders, a revelation we call it; while heathendom is without this book of general orders. And what is the characteristic of the Christian man but just this: that he has found his Captain and receives his orders from Him? "What shall I do, Lord?"— that is the note of his life. And is it not clear that it is the source of an added dignity and worth to his life? Just as the soldier is nothing but the hoodlum licked into shape by coming under orders —under the establishing and forming influence of legitimate and wise authority—so the Christian is nothing but the sinner, come under the formative influence of the Captain of us all.
Power—it lies in the very nature of the case that such a coming under orders is the source of a vast increase also of power. For it is at once to find our place in a great and powerful organism. So the soldier finds it, though this is not the primary fact of his betterment which he perceives as a result of his coming under orders. That, as Kipling rightly sees, is the subjective effect on himself, the increase of self-respect and of general dignity and conscious worth which comes to him. But the increase of power also is a factor of high moment. A cog wheel is a useless piece of iron by itself; but in its legitimate place in the machine it works wonders. An individual is as nothing in this seething mass of humanity which we call the world; be he never so energetic he can work no effect, but all his activity is like the aimless dashing of a moth about the destroying flame. But let him find his true place in the organism of humanity, and the weakest of us becomes a factor in the inevitable rush of the whole towards its destined end. See, then, the element of power in the question, "What shall I do, Lord?" For we must keep fully in mind that this human race of which we are members is not simply a chance aggregation of individuals, like a mass of worms crawling restlessly this way and that as the native impulse of each directs. It cannot be atomistically conceived. It is an organism, in which each individual has his appointed place and function. It is not merely the dictate of wisdom but the condition of efficiency and power that we should each find this, our place, and fulfil our own function.
If sin had never entered the world, this would doubtless be an easy task; we should each fit well into the place in which we find ourselves and should fulfil our required functions smoothly and easily, and each in his appointed measure advance the race to its destined goal. But sin has spoiled all; and the disjointed mechanism lies broken and dismantled and unable to work at its task. It is, therefore, that Christ Jesus has come into the world, the head of a new humanity, for the restoration of the race to its harmony with itself, the universe, and its appointed work. It is only through Him and through His direction as the Captain of our salvation that we may discover or occupy our place in His Church, which is only another name for reorganized humanity. Therefore the noble figure of Paul, which compares the Church to a body and us to members in particular. How shall the members of a body act? Each going his own way, independently of and inconsiderately of the others? Where then would be the body? But how find our true place and task in this organism of the body of Christ? There can be but one way and that way is pointed to by Paul's question, "What shall I do, Lord?" He and He only can appoint to their functions the members of His body, and thus the way of continued humility and dignity is easily seen to be also the way of power.
Take another example from military affairs.
What shall the soldier in battle do, if he would wish to be effective as a factor in the result? Go his own way, or obey orders? Let each seek to go his own way, and that army is doomed. But let each only strictly obey orders, and if the leading is wise and sure—as our leading under our Divine Captain is—the end is certain victory. Each soldier may seem to himself isolated as he makes his way through the underbrush; he can see no companion; he can hear no neighbour. It may seem to him that on his sole arm is laid the whole burden and heat of the day. Let him but obey orders and he is, on the contrary, a link in the one great design, and after a while, as the brushwood is threaded and the open plain is reached, the bugle sounds the charge, and out he charges—all by himself—to find suddenly that he is not by himself. Out of the ground as it seems, to the right and to the left of him, others start up—who have obeyed orders like himself— and they sweep a united band to the victory. Brethren, that is the way we are to conquer the world; and our part in it is just to obey orders. "What shall I do, Lord?" is to be our one question, and simple obedience to the response our one duty. Ah, in all our ministerial life, if we value success—the success of Christ—let us make Paul's question the one single, simple matter of our lives. Let "Lord, what shall I do?" be our sole chart for all the journey of life.