George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
The Unrecognized Christ
John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not--Joh. 1:26
The Presence of Christ Is Perpetual
It is almost a commonplace to say that the world does not know its greatest men. To be very near is often to be blinded. It is only afterwards, in quiet reflection, that the large outlines of greatness are detected. Yesterday and tomorrow may deceive us, and indeed they very often do, but (as Dora Greenwell says) the real deceiver is today. Now our blessed Lord is different from the greatest in that His presence is a perpetual presence. He is continually moving in the world through the acting's of His gracious Spirit. And that is why such a text as we have chosen is not only true of days beside the Jordan, but is true always and to the end of time. There is an unrecognized Christ in every age. There is an unregarded Presence in all history. There is a spiritual Power moving in the world, though (like the wind) men know not whence it cometh. "There standeth one among you whom ye know not."
The Unrecognizable in Our Civic Life
One thinks, for instance, of our civic life--of all that meets the eye in a great city. If an old Roman were to come back to earth and move through the streets of one of our great cities, he would feel at home with our bazaars and barracks: he would say, "We had all these in ancient Rome." But show him the infirmary, the almshouse, the orphanage, the sick children's hospital, and these he would never recognize. It was the spirit of Christ that reared the hospital. It was His hand of love that built the orphanage. And yet how seldom does that thought intrude into the minds of those who throng the streets. In every city of our modern world, as by the banks of Jordan long ago, "there standeth one among you whom ye know not."
The Unrecognizable Ideals of Conduct
Again, think of our ideals of conduct and of the elements unrecognized in them. We might take a very simple illustration. When some poor, useless rascal has an accident and the doctor is summoned to his side, that doctor at once acts on the assumption that he must do everything in his power to save his life. Now why should he save it? Why should he preserve it? Would it not be better to let that rascal die? I want to know where the doctor got his thought that the sorriest life is infinitely precious. He certainly did not get it from his science nor from nature nor from evolution. The preservation of the rascal is the one thing evolution does not teach. When I see that doctor with his sleeves rolled up fighting desperately for a rascal's life, I feel that there is the Christ unrecognized. He is the light of every man who cometh into the world. Whenever a man does anything true and tender, when the fireman enters the flames to save a child, when the common sailor flings himself overboard to rescue someone who is bent on suicide, "there standeth one among you whom ye know not."
The Unrecognizable Ideals in Our Social Lives
Again, one thinks of the social unrest which is so much a feature of our life today. It is evident that the bad old times are gone. Then the poor were content to live in hovels; now they are not content. Then they were content with wretched wages; now they are not content. Then they were content that little children, untaught, should have their playground in the gutter; but such things are intolerable now. What lies at the back of that unrest? It is the dawning sense that the poorest and the humblest have equal rights with the richest in the land. And to discover where that sense originated--the infinite value of the bottom dog--is a matter that is worth consideration. It did not come from Satan; Satan has nothing to do with thoughts that liberate. It sprang from the heart of the Carpenter of Nazareth. Put the leaven in the meal and it ferments. Put the Kingdom of Heaven in society, and like the loaf, it rises. When I see the heavings of the masses now, the fermentation, the sara indignatio, I feel that "there standeth one among you whom ye know not."
The Unrecognizable Solver of Our World Problems
Lastly, take the problems of the world, for the world never had more agonizing problems. It seems to many of us as if the world were getting ready for the second and glorious coming of the Lord. National hatreds are not dead. National jealousies were never more bitter. National memories are rankling yet with the catastrophe of the Great War. It looks sometimes as if the only power abroad were that of the prince of the powers of the air--and then come soberer and wiser thoughts. What of the growing movements for disarmament? What of the slowly altering attitude of white men towards the black? Has the prince of the powers of the air begotten these? Someone is moving, though we recognize Him not. He does not strive nor cry nor lift up His voice in the streets. Evil is always clamorous and strident. He comes as the coming of the morning. So do I feel through all our great world problems, which sometimes chill the heart, that "there standeth one among you whom ye know not."
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