HUMAN METHODS OF DEALING WITH THE “OLD MAN” (I)
is a great pity that men will not allow God to do his work in his own way. One
of the results of the fall is seen in perverted moral perceptions and judgment.
Men do not believe in nor take to God’s ways. The wisdom of the world is set
against and over the wisdom of God. Every sinner starts out at some time to save
himself. Instead of coming to Christ, he tries reformation, morality,
benevolence, churchgoing and every other expedient to be saved outside of
Christ. It is only when he has failed in them all that he gives up in
self-despair, looks to Christ, and receives salvation.
like manner Christians err in seeking for sanctification or holiness of heart
and life. They look in every direction and try every way before coming to
Christ, who is “made unto us sanctification” as well as pardon or
every Christian desires to be rid of the presence of the “old man.” Who
would want to retain him in the heart? That people do not is seen in the
universal hope of finally getting rid of him, and beheld in the various efforts
put forth to secure this deliverance.
is curious to notice that the flight of the centuries has not brought wisdom to
the great mass of the church, and that countless thousands are floundering today
where people struggled hopelessly in the Dark Ages.
is amazing to see how persistent the human heart is to look away from acts of
sovereign grace and try to build up a righteousness of their own. The old desire
to save or purify self is not yet eliminated, we see, in regeneration. The work
and power of Christ is not yet apprehended save in word only. The lip declares
him a perfect Saviour, but the heart has not yet so apprehended him.
was in Paul’s mind when he asked the Galatians who had bewitched them:
“Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”
another time he laments that
method is seclusion. Men and women retired to monasteries and convents, to dens
and caves of the earth, to find deliverance from sin. They thought they could
mope the “old man” to death; that he would gradually expire through the
effect of isolation.
history tells us that the Church was never more corrupt than when it went into
retirement. Christ went among men. Purity is never to be more stalwart than when
it moves among the walks, haunts, and market places of men. It is in the world,
but not of the world.
the other hand, the “old man” is wonderfully vigorous in lonely hours and
sequestered spots. So says experience and history.
method is flagellation.
were plaited and faithfully applied to the body. The crack of the scourge
resounded in lonely cloisters. Every species of physical torture was resorted
to, to compel the lurking principle of evil to vacate the heart.
yet the “old man” remained undisturbed within. The cut of the lash never
troubled him, There never was a whip made, or cracker plaited, no matter how
long or keen, that could reach the “old man.” The flesh might be riven by
the cruel scourge into ghastly seams, and the very bones exposed, but no thong
of leather ever touched him. It does not, so to speak, come in miles of him; for
the “old man” is not in the bone, blood, and muscle at all, but resides in
the soul. Hence the crack of the whip is so much music to him. He smiles at the
stupidity that tries to remedy a spiritual condition with a material weapon.
have smiled at this folly of the Dark Ages, and yet the same mistake is repeated
in what is called evangelical times, and by Protestant people. What is the
beating of the breast, and calling one’s self by harsh and bitter terms, but a
third method is fasting.
centuries men tried to starve out this principle or body of sin. They became
emaciated and looked like skeletons, while the “old man” remained as fresh
and vigorous within as ever.
the regenerated man not noticed on his fast days that his sinful nature was
unusually lively and vigorous; that the tendency to irritability and petulance
was increased with the weakening body?
fact is that the “old man” does not live on bread and meat, but subsists on
controversy. Hence as we grow weak with protracted fasts, in the endeavor to
achieve heart purity, we discover that we make no headway. Our most mortifying
falls have occurred on our fast days.
fourth method is a looking to time for deliverance.
flight of years is trusted to eradicate the evil propensity. Men comfort
themselves with the thought that somehow, in some way, the years as they pass
will soak up or fly away with the inward evil.
of course is exalting time to the plane and place of a Saviour and purifier, and
credits it with a divine work. And of course also there is bound to be
lamentable failure. There is nothing in time to purify the soul. The mere flight
of years can have no transforming effect on the heart. The “old man” has
nothing to fear from time, for he is already six thousand years old. He will
outlive any man or woman who is three score and ten, and will outlive many
generations to come. What does he care for time?
fifth method or hope is seen in a certain dependence on, or expectation from,
idea of some is that gray hairs will settle their many evil propensities and
troubles. Parents say about their children: “O, they will come out all right
when they get older.” Old age is their Saviour. Accumulating years, with their
gathering infirmities, diseases, wrinkled face, and snowy hair, is to be the
“old man” is made to laugh again at the additional folly. He knows that the
flight of years only fastens his grip on the soul; and that all the change that
takes place in the case is that he shifts his perch from one resting place to
another as the years increase, and flaps his sable wings on another roost in the
same soul. For instance, he springs from the appetites of the young man to the
love of money in the old man.
is time to quit deifying gray hairs. They are all right and a crown of glory
when found in the way of righteousness, but a fool’s cap to one who lives in
sin. They look venerable, but we little know what that same gray-haired man is
thinking about. If we did, we might start with surprise.
sixth method is seen in the growth theory.
is the heresy in many churches today, that purity comes by growth in grace. This
teaching, it is seen at a glance, uncrowns Christ, robs him of his peculiar
glory of sanctifying the Church as mentioned in Ephesians, and transforms what
is recognized in the Bible as a divine work into a mere evolution or
remarked in a previous chapter, to prove the growth theory of purity there
should be analogies in nature for the figure, plain statements of the Word of
God, and the confirmation of human testimony. It is hardly necessary to say that
such proof has not been, and never will be, found.
is true that the Bible says, “Grow in grace;” but let the reader mark that
it says “in grace.” It does not say grow up to or into grace. We are told to
“go on to perfection;” but in another connection altogether we are commanded
to “grow in grace”—i.e, grow in the grace into which ye have been inducted
by divine power.
dependence is placed on the saying of Christ about “first the blade, then the
ear, then the full corn in the ear;” but if this proves growth into
sanctification, it also declares the fact of growth into regeneration, which the
Church will hardly allow. If the critics insist that the “full corn” stands
for sanctification, and that it was reached by growth, then the “blade” or
the “ear” was also reached by growth. As the logicians say, this proves too
much, and so proves nothing.
fact is, according to an author in
misunderstood passage, and that has been quoted to prove the growth theory of
holiness, is found in
reader is requested to observe the italicized words in the passage just quoted.
We have done so to show more clearly that the growth referred to here takes
place after we have obtained the blessing of perfection or fullness of Christ.
Paul does not say that we “grow” into a perfect man, but that we “come”
unto a perfect man; and, after that, speaking the truth in love we grow up into
him in all things.”
is painful to see the thousands in Christ’s Church switched off on this side
track, and while there is a great ringing of bells and puffing of engines, the
fact is apparent to all that they are not getting anywhere--that the desired
destination of Purity or Perfect Love is not being reached—in a word, they are
the figure, God’s people are growing the plants of the Christian graces
abundantly, a beautiful arbor is formed out of them, but in the face of their
luxuriance, again and again the “old man” parts the spiritual and Church
shrubbery, and, looking out, says: “I am in here just the same.”
momentary consternation is felt by the Christian after one of these inbred sin
manifestations, and he or she jumps to the conclusion at once: “I must take up
more Church work—join a few more societies—multiply my Christian activities,
and the “old man” will finally be strangled and choked within me by the very
superabundance of blossoms, leaves, flowers, and fruit of the Christian life.”
this the “old man” smiles in the heart, and quietly watches his victim
planting new shrubs, broadening and heightening the Christian graces, and so
forth. When just as a sigh of relief is felt by the growing brother, the “old
man” shakes the religious timber and underbrush and says: “I am in here, and
you must not forget it.”
stewards’ meeting, trustees’ meeting, Quarterly Conference, and District
Conference; from Conventions, Missionary Societies, Ladies’ Aid Societies, and
all such things, the brother or sister returns home and suddenly the “old
man” stands revealed in hot words, hasty acts, resounding slaps, ill-natured
speech before the gaze of astonished servants and frightened children.
that common sense would come to the help of the people here! Let us recall how a
handkerchief is made white and clean. Do we sew new, clean linen around the
edges, and so grow it pure? Do we take two other handkerchiefs and put the dirty
handkerchief between the two, and say: “Here is purity?” We all know better.
We take the soiled linen and plunging it into soap and water that has fire under
it, lo! the handkerchief is washed white.
God says that with refiner’s fire and fuller’s soap he will purify the sons
of Levi, his own servants.
does the mother cleanse the face of her child? Does she look at the dirty
countenance of her boy, and say: “My son, I see that you are not clean, but I
am trusting that in the flight of years and through various processes and
evolutions of your physical nature your face will finally develop or grow into
cleanness.” No, indeed; no mother talks such nonsense; but instead she takes
her earth-soiled boy by the back of the neck with one hand, and with the other
souses a sponge of soap and warm water over his face, and lo! the child is
clean. The boy was her son before; the mother did not disown him on account of
the stained and spotted face. The washing she gave him was not to make the lad
her child, but to make him her clean child.
or the destruction of the “old man” in the heart, does not make us sons and
daughters of the Almighty; that we were before, but it transforms us into his
clean and pure children.