THE LARGER LIFE.
"Be ye also enlarged." 2 Cor. vi: 11.
The law of growth is a fundamental principle of all nature and redemption.
Whatever ceases to grow begins to die; stagnancy brings corruption; the corpse
belongs to the worm; a self-contained pool becomes a malarious swamp. Vegetation
springs from a seed, the seed grows into a tree, and the tree into a forest.
Human life commences in infancy and develops to maturity. The word of God
has all unfolded from a single promise. The great plan of redemption has
been a ceaseless progression, and will be through the ages upon ages that
are yet to come.
The experience of the soul is a growth. True, it must have a starting point.
We cannot grow into Christianity we must be born from above and then grow.
And so sanctification is progressive, and yet it has a definite beginning.
Christ is completely formed within us, but He is the infant Christ, and grows
up to the maturity of the perfect man in us just as He did in His earthly
It is here that the enlargement of our text meets us. It is only the truly
consecrated Christian that grows. The other treads the ceaseless circle of
the wilderness. But he has crossed the Jordan and begun the conquest of the
land and the progressive experience of which it was the beautiful pattern
and symbol. No book in the Bible has more progress in it than the book of
Joshua, and yet from the very beginning it is the life of one who has wholly
died to self and sin and has taken Christ for full salvation and is walking
in the heavenly places in Him.
And even the book of Joshua only begins its highest advance when it is almost
ended. It is after the whole land is subdued, that the call comes, "How long
are ye slack to go up and possess all the land? There remaineth yet very
much land to be possessed." And then it is that old Caleb, who has the weight
of eighty-four years on his honored head, steps forth and claims the privilege
of entering upon the boldest and hardest campaign of his life, the conquest
of Hebron and the Anakim. It is to us then, who know the Lord Jesus in His
fullness, that He is saying, "Be ye also enlarged."
I. WHAT IT MEANS TO BE ENLARGED.
We need a larger vision. All great movements begin in great ideas. There
is no progress without a new thought as its embryo. China has remained the
same for three thousand years because China has not accepted a new idea.
Her teacher is a man who lived long before Christ, and for nearly thirty
centuries she has followed the ideas of Confucius and is just the same to-day
as she was thirty centuries ago. Let China receive the American idea or the
Christian idea, and she will be revolutionized at once.
So the first step in our advance must be a new conception of the truth as
it is in Jesus and a larger view of His word and will for us. We do not need
a new Bible, but we need new eyes to read our Bible and brighter light to
shine upon its deep and pregnant pages. We need to see, not simply a system
of exegesis or a system of Biblical exposition and criticism; a thorough
knowledge of the letter and its wondrous framework of history; geography,
antiquities and ancient languages; but a vivid, large and spiritual conception
of what it means for us and what God's thought in it for each of us is. We
want to take it as the message of heaven to the nineteenth century and the
last decade, nay, the living voice of the Son of God to us this very hour,
and to see in it the very idea which He Himself has for our life and work;
to take in the promises as He understands them, the commandments as He intends
them to be obeyed, and the hopes of the future as He unfolds them upon the
nearer horizon of their approaching fulfillment. How little have we grasped
the length and breadth and depth and height of this heavenly message! How
little have we realized its authority and its personal directness to us!
"Open thou my eyes, 0 Lord, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy
law!" "I will run in the way of thy commandments when thou shalt enlarge
my heart." That ye may be filled with "the spirit of wisdom and revelation
in the knowledge of Him; the eyes of your heart being enlightened; that ye
may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory
of His inheritance in the saints." May the Lord grant it to each of us in
the largest possible measure in accordance with His will!
We need a larger faith. What is the use of light if we do not use it? We
need a faith that will personally appropriate all that we understand, and
a faith so large that it will reach the fullness of God's great promises;
so large that it will rise to the level of each emergency as it comes into
our life. Do we not often feel that a promise has been brought to us with
a light and power that we have been unable to claim and a need has arisen
that we are persuaded God is able to meet but for which we are conscious
our faith is not grasping the victory, at least according to the full measure
of the exigency? This ought not so to be. If all things are possible to him
that believeth we ought to have all things in His will for every moment of
life's need. The Divine pattern of faith is the faith of God. Oh, let us
be enlarged to this high measure!
We need a larger love. We need a love that will meet God's claim of perfect
love, that we shall "love the Lord our God with all our soul and with all
our mind and with all our strength." We need a love that will love one another
" even as He has loved us." We need a love that will "love our enemies and
pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us." We need a love
that will love the lost as He loves them, overcoming our repugnance to every
personal condition, and delighting to suffer or sacrifice for their salvation
with the joy that counts it no sacrifice. We need a love that will take our
brother's need and pain as if it were our own, and "remember those in bonds
as bound with them, and them that suffer adversity as being also in the body."
We need a love that "suffers long and is kind; that envieth not: that vaunteth
not itself, is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not provoked, thinketh
no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all
things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things; that
We need a larger joy. We need a joy that will not only rejoice in the gifts
of God, but will rejoice in God Himself and find in Him our portion and our
boundless and everlasting delight. We need a joy that will not only rejoice
in the sunshine but in the hour of darkness and apparent desertion, when
men misunderstand us, when circumstances are against us and when even God
seems to have forgotten us. We need a joy that will not only rejoice in all
things, but rejoice evermore. We need a joy that even when we do not
feel the joy, will "count it all joy," and rejoice by faith. We need a joy
so large, so deep, so divine that it will not feel its sacrifices, will not
talk about its trials, but will "endure the cross, despising the shame,"
"for the joy set before us."
We need a larger experience. We do not mean by this any mere state of emotional
feeling, but a larger range of Christian living, a bringing of Christ more
into everything; an experience that will prove Him in all situations, amid
secular business, exasperating circumstances, baffling perplexities, extreme
vicissitudes; and, going all round the circle of human life, will be able
to say, "I have learned the secret, in every state in which I am therewith
to be content. I know how to be abased and how to abound; I know how to be
full and to be hungry, to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things
through Christ who strengtheneth me." That is a large experience. That is
a degree in the school of Christ that will outweigh all the D.D.'s of all
We need a larger work. We do not mean by this that we need a larger sphere.
That may not be. That certainly is not the case if we are not filling our
present; but we need a better quality of work. We need to finish our unfinished
work. We need to do the things that we have thought of doing, intended to
do, talked about doing, and are abundantly able to do. We need to do the
work that can be done in the intervals and interstices of life, the work
that can be done on the way and on the wing, between times as well
as in times of special service and appointment; the word that can
be spoken as we casually meet people; the work that can be done by the wayside
and on the crossroads of life, where souls meet that never meet again. Sometimes
the ministry that can be performed at such a moment becomes the pivot for
hundreds of souls and eternal ages to turn upon. We need a work that is larger
in its upward direction, more wholly for God, more singly devoted
to His glory, and more satisfied with His approval whether men are pleased
or not. And we need a larger conception and realization of the work that
He expects of us in the special line in which He has been developing our
Christian life. Most of those who read these lines or hear these words have
been called to know Christ in a measure unknown to the great mass of the
people of God, and we have not yet realized what God expects of us in spreading
these special truths and extending this blessed movement, of which Christ
is the centre and substance, over all the land and over all the world. God
is calling us at this time to a larger faith for this special work-the testimony
of Jesus in all His fullness to all the world.
We need a larger hope. We need to realize more vividly, more personally,
more definitely, what the coming of the Lord means, and means to us, until
the future shall become alive with the actual expectation and ever immanent
prospect of His Kingdom and His reward. Oh, how little this great hope has
been to the hearts and lives of most of us until within a few years! How
utterly blind the majority of Christians are to it as an actual experience!
How much inspiration is it fitted to afford to the heart that truly realizes
it! May the Lord enlarge our hopes and intensify them until this becomes,
next to the love of Jesus, the most inspiring, stimulating, quickening
motive of our Christian life and work!
We need a larger baptism of the Holy Spirit, for this is the true summing
up of all that we have said. It is one thing, not many things, that we need;
and, filled with the Spirit in still larger measure, the fruit of the Spirit
shall expand and increase in proportion. We need more room for His indwelling,
more scope for His expanding, more channels for His outflow. We are not
straitened in Him, we are straitened in ourselves. "He giveth not the Spirit
by measure," but we receive Him in very confined and small capacities. He
wants more room; He wants our entire being, and He wants so to fill it that
we shall be expanded into larger possibilities for His inworking and His
Beloved, "be ye enlarged." And not only in all these senses and directions,
which no doubt have searched us and made us realize the limitations of our
present lives, but we want to be enlarged in the quality of our life; we
want not only more breadth and length, but we want depth and height, a more
spiritual, a more mellow, a more mature fruition, and a more established,
settled and immovable standing in and for Him.
II. CONSIDERATIONS AND DIRECTIONS WITH
A VIEW TO OUR ENLARGEMENT.
In order to our being enlarged we must be delivered from and lifted above
our old conceptions, ideas and experiences. In a word, we must be delivered
from our past. Old things must pass away before all things can be made new.
We must die to our religious self as well as to our sinful self. It was when
he was far on in the spiritual life that Paul uttered the sublime aspiration,
"Forgetting those things that are behind, and reaching forth unto those things
which are before, I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling
of God in Christ Jesus." In the strata of our globe we find traces of the
wreck of former conditions of organic life. There was a creation and then
there was a disintegration, and on its ruins a new and higher development.
So in the spiritual world, we come to the place where we are conscious that
the old experience fails to satisfy. The old "Rephidims" are dry, and we
must open some new rock of Horeb and receive supplies from a higher source
than before. When you find your old nest ceasing to rest you, be willing
to leave it, and like the eaglets, be hurled into space, that you may be
taught to fly. Let the old things pass away. They are but the basis of something
better. Let the old turnpike be broken up. The King's Highway is to be built
above it, and God's great elevated railway carry us where formerly we trod
with weary feet.
There is nothing that keeps us from advancement more than ruts and drifts,
wheel-tracks into which our chariots roll and then move on in the narrow
line with unchanging monotony, currents in life's stream on which we are
borne in the old direction until the law of habit almost makes advance
impossible. The true remedy for all this is to commence each day anew and
to commence at nothing; taking Christ afresh to be the Alpha and Omega for
a deeper, higher, diviner experience, waiting even for His Conception of
thought, desire, prayer, and afraid lest our highest thought should be below
His great plan of wisdom and love.
Are there not some of us, beloved, who have been trying a good while to get
back an old experience? If we succeeded we should only be where we were,
and if we are only going to get where we were, we have abandoned the law
of progress and begun the downward retrogression. God has Himself withered
by His own consuming breath the flower and fragrance of your former joys,
that He may lead you into something better. Let your old experience go, and
take the living, everlasting Christ instead. Be willing to be enlarged according
to His thought, and exceeding abundantly above all that you have yet been
able to ask or think.
If we would be enlarged according to the thought of God, we must be delivered
from all human standards, opinions and patterns, and accept nothing less
than God's own divine ideal. Multitudes are kept from spiritual progress
by cast-iron systems of doctrine which have settled forever the fact that
holiness is impossible in the present life, and that "no mere man, since
the fall, is able to keep the commandments of God, but doth daily break them
in word, thought and deed." And then a row of human characters is set before
us to prove the impossibility of sanctification, and to show the satisfying
and humbling influence of human imperfection. Multitudes have made up their
minds in advance that they never can have the fullness of Jesus beyond certain
narrow limits, and, of course, they cannot advance beyond their standards.
Now we quite agree with the statement that no mere man can be holy or blameless,
but the Lord Jesus is no mere man, and when He owns and keeps the heart it
is a divine holiness and a divine keeping; and we do assert that what no
mere man can do the living Christ can do and does do for those who abide
in Him. Let us take the divine measure, whatever man may think or
Many also are ever looking to some human example, and, "measuring themselves
by themselves and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise." Either
we shall find ourselves as good as somebody else and be content, or we shall
be satisfied to be as some human ideal, and so shall stop short of the only
perfect pattern. We shall never grow up to the measure of the Lord until
we take the Lord's own word and character as our standard and ideal; until
we take our stand upon the sure and immutable ground that He who commands
holiness expects us to be holy, and that He who promises His own grace and
all-sufficiency to enable us to meet his demands, will not excuse us if we
fail. He has offered us Himself as the life and power of our obedience and
holiness, and nothing less than His own perfect example should ever satisfy
our holy ambition. Looking unto Him and pressing ever closer to His side
and foot-prints, we shall be transformed into the same image, from glory
to glory, and shall thus go from strength to strength.
If we would be enlarged we must accept all that God sends us as His own divinely
appointed means of developing and expanding our spiritual life. We are so
content to abide on the old plane that God has often to compel us to rise
to a higher level by bringing us face to face with situations which we cannot
meet without greatly enlarged measures of His grace. To use a suggestive
figure, He has to send the tidal wave to flood the lowlands where we dwell
that we may be compelled to move to the hills beyond; or, to take a more
scriptural and beautiful figure, like the mother bird, He has to break up
our downy nest and to hurl us into empty space, where we must either learn
to use an entirely new and higher method of support or sink into destruction.
Thus He allowed the crisis of His terrible peril to close around Jacob on
the night when he bowed at Peniel in supplication, in order to bring him
to the place where he could take hold of God as he never would have done;
and forth from that narrow pass of peril Jacob came enlarged in his faith
and knowledge of God, and in the power of a new and victorious life. He had
to suffer Israel to be shut in at the Red Sea that they might be compelled
to take hold of God for their supernatural help, or perish. He had to compel
David, by a long and painful discipline of years, to learn the almighty power
and faithfulness of his God, and to grow up into the established principles
of faith and godliness, which were indispensable for his subsequent and glorious
career as the king of Israel. Nothing but the extremities in which Paul was
constantly placed could ever have taught him, and taught the church through
him, the full meaning of the great promise he so learned to claim, "My grace
is sufficient for thee." And nothing but our trials and perils would ever
have led some of us to know Him as we do, to trust Him as we have, and to
draw from Him the measures of grace which our very extremities made
Often He calls us to a work far beyond our natural strength or endowments,
but the emergency only throws us upon Him, and we always find Him equal to
the need which His wisdom and providence have brought in our way. It is said
that good Mrs. Booth, the great associate leader of the Salvation Army, and
perhaps the most gifted Christian woman in England, was led into all her
public work by being compelled unexpectedly to face a large congregation
and fill an appointment of which she had not dreamed. Two courses were open-one
to shrink and evade the unexpected issue, the other to throw herself upon
God for larger resources of wisdom, utterance and power. She was astonished
at the answer which her Father gave as she went forward in simple confidence,
and from that hour she dwelt in the large place of divine sufficiency and
worldwide usefulness, into which she had almost been forced.
Many of us can remember how in the beginning of our Christian work we ventured
to accept positions of responsibility for which we felt we were inadequate,
but, as we threw ourselves upon God and dared to go forward, His grace was
sufficient. When a young minister of twenty-one, and just leaving my theological
seminary, I had the choice of two fields of labor-one an extremely easy one,
in a delightful town with a refined, affectionate and prosperous church,
just large enough to be an ideal field for one who wished to spend a few
years in quiet preparation for future usefulness; the other, a large, absorbing
city church, with many hundred members, and overwhelming and heavy burdens,
which were sure to demand the utmost possible care, labor and responsibility.
All my friends, teachers and counsellors advised me to take the easier place.
But an impulse, which I now believe to have been, at least indirectly, from
God, even though there must have been some human ambition in it, led me to
feel that if I took the easier place I should probably rise to meet it and
no more, and if I took the harder I should not rest short of all its
requirements. I found it even so. My early ministry was developed and the
habit of venturing on difficult undertakings was largely established, by
the grace of God, through the necessities of this difficult
Let us then, beloved, be willing to be enlarged, although it may involve
many a sacrifice, many a peril, many a hazardous undertaking.
If we would be enlarged let us take the Holy Ghost Himself to enlarge us
by filling us with His fullness. The highest enlargement is by the power
of expansion. It is the incoming wave which enlarges the little pool as it
fills it, and then rolls back to the sea to return with still larger fullness
and make yet ampler room. Nothing so sweeps away the littleness of our
conceptions of God, the pettiness of our faith, the narrowness of our love,
the meanness of our self-consciousness, the insignificance of our work, as
to be filled with His glorious presence, to look in His face, to feel the
tides of His love, and to be thrilled with the touch of His own heart and
its mighty thoughts and purposes for us and for the world for which He died.
We need not say that the place to receive Him is the mercy seat. Waiting
before Him in prayer, receiving Him in communion, drinking deeper and deeper
of His life and love, the vessel is not only filled but expanded, until we
know something of the prayer of the apostle in the third chapter of Ephesians,
"that ye might be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man;
that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and
grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the length
and breadth and depth and height, and to know the love of God which passeth
knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God."
If we would be enlarged to the full measure of God's purpose, let us endeavor
to realize something of our own capacities for His filling. We little know
the size of the human soul and spirit. Never, until He renews, cleanses and
enters the heart can we have any adequate conception of the possibilities
of the being whom God made in His very image, and whom He now renews after
the pattern of the Lord Jesus Himself. When we remember that God has made
the human soul to be His temple and abode, and that He knows how to make
the house that can hold His infinite fullness, we may be very sure that there
are capacities in the human spirit which none of us have ever yet begun to
realize. We know something of them as all our nature quickens into spring-tide
life at the coming of the Holy Spirit, and as from time to time new baptisms
awaken the dormant powers and susceptibilities that we did not know we
But all this is but the beginning of an infinite possibility. Oh, how He
has sometimes taken a low, coarse, brutal nature, that for "years has seemed
to possess no capacity except for crime and sensuality, and made it not only
as pure but as bright as an angel's mind, and brought forth from that brain,
that voice, that tongue, that taste, that imagination, when illuminated and
vivified by the Holy Ghost, such glorious fruitions as the life work of a
Harry Moorhouse, the eloquence of a Richard Weaver, the marvelous allegory
of a John Bunyan, and the exquisite hymns and poems of a Newton.
Oh, let us give Him the right to make the best of us, and, with wonder filled,
we shall some day behold the glorious temple which He has reared, and shall
say, "Lord, what is man that thou hast set thine heart upon Him?"
If we would rise to the full measure of God's standard for us, let us realize
the magnitude of God as well as of our own being, for it is with nothing
less than Himself that He means to fill us. Let us take in the full dimensions
of His resources of grace, their length, their breadth, their depth, their
height; and then let us measure, if we can, the magnitude of God who is the
living substance and personal source of all this grace, and we shall have
some approximation at least to what the apostle means when He exclaims, "Now
unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or
think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the
church by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."
And, finally, let us remember that we have eternal years in which to develop
all this divine ideal. Oh, could we see ourselves as we shall some day be,
could we behold this morning that glorious creature that the universe shall
some day come to behold in the image of the Son of God, could we see our
faces shining as the sun in the kingdom of our Father, and hear the songs
of rapture that will yet burst from our lips in higher notes than angels
ever sung, we would wonder at the littleness of our faith to-day and our
fear to ask our Father for the merest fraction in advance of our great
This is no picture of the imagination. This is no soaring dream of hope or
fancy, for He has told us that we shall be like Him when He shall appear.
Oh, could we take you up to heaven this morning and let you gaze a single
moment on the face of Jesus, shining "as the sun shineth in his strength;"
could we comprehend the infinite wisdom that this very moment is taking in
the whole sweep of the universe in the grasp of His thought, listening to
a thousand prayers at once, administering the government of innumerable worlds,
and yet at leisure to listen to our faintest cry; could we measure His
omnipotence as He holds in His hands the reins of universal power and dominion;
could we stand the vision of His beauty and feel the thrill of His love in
all its ecstatic power-we would have some conception of what we are ourselves
yet to be: for "we shall know even as we are known;" we shall share the work
of His omnipotence; we shall shine in all His beauty; we shall reflect His
moral perfections; we shall sit with Him upon His throne; we shall be invested
with His transcendent glory; and all we receive of Him to-day is a mere
instalment in advance of that which is already our own by right of inheritance,
and which shall be actually realized as fast as we can take it in. We have
eternity before us. Beloved, let us rise to the height of such a prospect
even here; let us walk as those who dwell in heavenly places and share the
resurrection and ascension life of their loving Head.
Rise with thy risen Lord,
Ascend with Christ above,
And in the heavenlies walk with
Whom seeing not, you love.
Look on your trials here
As He beholds them now,
Look on this world as it will
When glory crowns your brow.
Walk as a heavenly race,
Princes of royal blood;
Walk as the children of the Lord,
The sons and heirs of God.
Fear not to take your place
With Jesus on the throne,
And bid the powers of earth and
His sovereign sceptre own.
Your full redemption rights
With holy boldness claim,
And to its utmost fullness prove
The power of Jesus' name.
Your life is hidden now,
Your glory none can see,
But when He comes His bride will
All glorious as He.