George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
The Conflict of Duties -- Part II
Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father--Luk 9:59
The Concentric Circles of Our Lives and the Various Voices That Call Us to Duty
But still more powerfully do men feel this pressure in regard to the concentric circles of their life. For all of us live within concentric circles that widen out until they reach infinity. We are surrounded firstly by the home, and the poorest home is always rich in duty. We are surrounded next by the community, by the common life in the heart of which we dwell. And then we are surrounded by the Church, and by the teeming life of all the world; and then, for king and peasant and prodigal and saint, the ultimate environment is God. Now one great mark of an advancing life is that it is wakened to the call of these environments. Over the stir and murmur of the self, voices grow audible from further distances. And first they are voices of our wife and children, and then of the lives that need us in the city, and then of the great world that lies in bondage, and waits for the redemption of Christ Jesus. Always when we are walking in the light the range of our duties is infinitely widening. If we hear new music in the summer morning, we hear new calling for succor in the dark. And how to say to every voice that claims us, "Speak, Lord, Thy servant heareth," is sometimes harder than to say to Simon, "Get thee behind me, Satan." There is the call of the slums that many a man has heard, "Come down and help us, for we need you so"; there is the call of the wife, sitting alone at home, and of the children there who hardly know their father. There is the call of the great heathen world for missionaries to go abroad and tell of Jesus Christ; and then, not less divine than that, the call of a desolate and widowed mother. Ah, sir, if it were right and wrong, we could rise up and make a swift decision. In the strength of Christ we could abhor the evil, and cleave in the Holy Ghost to what was good. But the perplexity and anguish of the heart, and the indecision which is always misery, springs from the clashing not of right and wrong, but rather from the clash of right and right. In such an hour there is no help for anybody except in personal fellowship with Jesus. All rules are powerless, all maxims ineffectual, and that is why Christ was no trafficker in maxims. Nothing will guide a man in such a difficulty but the living direction of the living Savior, which is intensely personal, and intensely moral, and to the upward-lifted heart intensely real.
Christ's Temptations Were for Choosing the Lesser Good
May I say in passing that this thought illuminates the temptations of our Lord for me? Men have always felt and always will feel the difficulty of thinking of a tempted Savior. That Christ was sinless--infinitely holy--as a reasonable man I must believe. That Christ was tempted in the most real way I could never dream of doubting for an instant. But how a sinless being could be tempted, and feel the anguish and onset of temptation, is very difficult for any mind to fathom. Now I make no pretence to having fathomed it. "God without mystery were not good news" to me. It makes me eager to see Him in the eternal morning, when I think of all He is keeping back to tell me then. But when I meditate on these deep and dark experiences that emerge at the very heart of human life, I begin to see which way the dawn is crimsoning. When I think how the best and holiest I have known have been tempted not with evil but with good; when I think how in some of the most beautiful and saintly lives the sorest battle has been of right with right; when I recall the fact that as life deepens, there may be conflict without one shadow of disloyalty, I see a gleam on the mystery of Christ. If struggle ceased as life became more glorious, then the temptation of Christ would be inexplicable. If conflict ended when sin was overcome, then it would be mockery to think that Christ was tempted. But when we find that with expanding life there comes the new possibility of anguish, then who can tell what blood and tears were possible to that last expansion of life in Jesus Christ.
The Conflict of Duties God Faces
In closing--for you will remember that I am a Christian minister and not a lecturer on moral problems--in closing will you allow me to show to you the evangelical aspect of these ethics? What I mean is this, that in the Christian Gospel that conflict of duties is not confined to man; it is reflected in its full intensity in the life of the eternal God. That God is righteous and infinitely holy, you and I reverently believe. That God is merciful and infinitely loving, you and I have been taught since we were children. And the whole New Testament on its Godward side is but the story of infinite wisdom, reconciling, in a way most wonderful, infinite righteousness and boundless love. How to maintain that law which binds the universe, and yet to welcome and receive the breaker of it; how to reveal the hate of God for sin, and yet to show His love for every sinner--that was the problem which confronted heaven, and which it took infinite wisdom to resolve, and which solved for me, and I do trust for you, the infinite marvel of the cross of Christ. Once I have understood the cross of Christ, I can never doubt the righteousness of God. Once I have understood the cross of Christ, I never can doubt the love of God again. And so in experience, although it baffle thought, I come to feel in the very depths of being that God hates sin with a consuming hatred, and yet that He loves me with a Father's love. Righteousness without mercy cannot save me, for I have broken every commandment. Mercy without justice cannot save me, for the moral law is engraven on my heart. But when I grasp the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ, and let His love flow down into my being, then righteousness and love are reconciled.
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