The Believer in the World
W Landles, Hawick
We delight in tracing, through the books of the Old Testament, the many beautiful types which prefigured the coming Christ. We revel in the ancient prophecies concerning Him, and marvel at the accuracy of their fulfilment. We build our church-life after the pattern set out by the Apostles, and trace its origins back to the Person and Work of our Lord Jesus Christ, its destiny forward to the glory which is yet to be revealed. Christ indeed is at the back of all our spiritual thinking, and yet it seems that we largely by-pass the very words which He spoke while here in this world. We are more familiar with what others say of Him, than with the moving and authoritative words which He spoke. "Never man spake like this Man," and yet, relatively, we think little of what He said. In the face of this attitude, as one has recently heard said, " the discourses of our Lord Jesus Christ provide the answer to all the practical problems which may beset us as His people." They give us a clear guide to the conduct expected of us who have been redeemed by His blood.
The Sermon on the Mount is not universally accepted as binding upon the Christian, but is often construed to mean only those principles which are yet to obtain during the millennial reign of Christ. This suggestion is sanely considered in Messrs. Hogg and Watson's treatise on the Sermon, but here we need only ask whether God expects a lower standard of conduct from His own people now, than is presumed to be incumbent on all then!
Salt and Light (Matt. 5. 13, 14) are two of life's essentials. In our portion they are used metaphorically of the believer.
Salt is a preservative, staying corruption. This old world will never know the depths from which it has been withheld by the mere presence of Christians within it. Paul knew that it would be more blessed to depart and be with Christ ; but be knew too that it was more needful that he remain ; perhaps he had this thought in mind, as well as the welfare of his co-workers. Our presence here ought to stay evil. We ought not to be popular : which is not to say that we should he unpopular! Our presence, each in his own sphere of influence, will act as a deterrent upon certain forms of sin and licence. It was a surprise to me recently to learn that some of my workmates were given to the use of bad language. I certainly had not heard them use it. Presumably they curbed it when I was around. Such local incidents are multiplied beyond reckoning, with nothing but the best of results universally. Be different. In character we are different; do not let us try to conform, or the salt will have no tang to it.
Salt has a cleansing effect. The Christian who manifests his distinctive character will improve the society in which he lives, and on occasion when flesh threatens to come to the top, his presence will ' keep the party clean.'
A group of students recently discussed the qualities of salt and came to the usual conclusions ; but one, a Chinese girl, made the novel suggestion that ' salt creates thirst.' If we live as we ought in this world, we will create in our fellow-men and women a thirst for the Christ who is the spring of our life and joy. How often it is otherwise ! Rather than such desires, there is often born the attitude, ' That's Christianity! Well, thank you for the tip; I want none of it!' How careful we ought to be in the everyday attitudes of social intercourse. Are we known for our temper or for our patience ? Arc we conspicuous by our liberality, or by our desire to get the ' inside turn ' ? Are we champions of the laws of the land when they come down heavily on criminals, and do we close our eyes to the same law when we fill up our Income Tax returns ? Are we good, or just smart ? Are we known for the unattractiveness of self, or do we manifest the attraction of Christ ? The Psalmist had something like this in view when he spoke of his experience after deliverance from the pit, " Many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord." We underestimate the value of witness in the everyday, wrongly imagining that souls are more readily reached from the platform. Souls will be won, thirst will be created in them, if we, the salt of the earth, so function among them.
Salt thaws ice. Arc we known for our warmth or for our coldness ? One lias heard the accusation levelled at our doctrines that they are as clear as ice—and just as cold ! We can be like this. We may know all the answers theologically, but do we get near the people and warm them by the understanding and sympathy that characterized our Lord and Master, whom ' the common people-heard—gladly ' ?
Salt works quietly—so does Light. The need for salt is the appalling corruption in the world around us. The need for light is the increasing darkness. We have no light within us but what Christ has brought in. Indeed at best we can but function as luminaries, reflecting His great light as the moon reflects, in the night season, the brilliance of that greater light that rules the day.
To fulfil this function successfully, two requirements are necessary : (a) there must be nothing between us and Him, and (b) nothing must obscure our light from our fellows. The first condition demands inward fitness ; the second, outward truth and integrity. The first speaks of unbroken communion with the Lord Jesus Christ; the second denotes continual testimony in the world.
A hill-city cannot be concealed, it is indeed a landmark. Candles are not lit to be hidden. What is it that hides the light we ought to shed around us ? Often our manners, and more often our mannerisms. We do not shine because we do not want to offend. We veil the light because we may be mistaken as seeking to appear better than others. We dim the rays so that we may not appear too different. Fellow-Christians, we are different, and we must appear different, in the right kind of way, or our testimony is worthless.
The salt which does not counteract the natural tendency around it is good for nothing. The light which provides no contrast to darkness does not exist! The Christian who functions as both, may bring no kudos upon himself, but his may be the much-worthier achievement : men, seeing his good works, may glorify his Father in Heaven. May this great possibility fire us with new zeal to live for Him just where He has put us.