George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
The Tyranny of Type
There are diversities of operations--1Co 12:6
There is a constant tendency in social life to reduce men to a common level. Society is not only an organ of expression; it is an organ also of repression. Men who have spent their days in lonely places are often of unusual character. They are rugged and intensely individual; they look on the universe with their own eyes. But when they move into a crowded city where a thousand interests are interwoven, immediately a social pressure begins to work which silently brings about uniformity. Conformity, says Emerson in a great essay, is the virtue most in demand in society. Society has its standard, whether low or high, and by that standard it measures everybody. Hence is it that in social life there is increasingly felt the tyranny of type. Hence is it that in advanced societies it is not easy for a man to be himself.
Conformity in Religion
Now if that is true of social life, it is true also of religious life. One might almost take the words of Emerson and say, "The virtue most in demand in religion is conformity." In its origin, regarding it historically, there is nothing so individualistic as religion. It is born in a universe that is untenanted, save for the individual and his God. But gradually this solitary yearning finds itself echoed in the heart of multitudes, and then religion broadens into fellowship. It is no longer a solitary life: it has now risen into a social life. It has its wide and interlacing interests--its complex and multifarious relationships. And so just as in secular society, though with far greater havoc here than there, you have in religion an increasing tendency to reduce everything to common levels. It is the constant danger of the church to have room only for one particular type. She is tempted increasingly to look askance on everything that does not conform to that. And it is when we are likely to be overridden by what I call the tyranny of type that we ought to remember the infinite divergences which are indicated in our text. There is one God who worketh all in all. That is the bond of union and of unity. At the back of everything, as an unfailing reservoir, is the plenitude of His power and His grace. But as from our earthly reservoirs there will flow water to serve a thousand purposes, so with the manifesting of the grace of god. To change the figure, sunshine is but one, yet how diverse are its operations. It touches the hedgerows, and they are green again. It falls on the waters, and the vapors rise. It lights on the sleeping lilies of the field, and they awake and clothe themselves with scarlet so that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Therefore if God works so in nature, shall He not work as variously in grace? It is a temptation we must guard against, that of imposing our standards on the infinite. And on that temptation and some correctives to it, as we see it in certain spheres of our religion, I should like to elaborate.
In some of our old theological treatises we find what is called the ordo salutis. That is to say, everything is handled in a certain definite order of salvation. There are distinct and peculiar experiences following each other in well-defined succession, and it is expected that every child of God will show these in his discipleship. In regard to conversion, this passion for conformity is best witnessed in revival times. It was so in Wesley's day, and it was so in Moody's, and it was so in the late Welsh revival. Men were hardly considered to have come to Christ--they were not soundly converted, as the expression is--unless they could bear personal testimony to a certain definite experience. That experience began in misery, through the convicting power of the Holy Ghost. Then it passed into agonizing prayer, and then in an instant into light and liberty. And always there was the lurking feeling that if a man knew nothing of these depths and heights, it was questionable if he was savingly united to Christ Jesus. That feeling, in our quieter times, is perhaps less prevalent than in revival times. Yet even now when we speak of coming to Christ or when we use that fine old word "conversion," is there not a tendency to exclude everything except one recognized experience?
Diversities of Conversion Experiences
Now against that craving for conformity I want to put you on your guard. It is not by one road that men come to Christ. There are as many roads as there are hearts. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou canst not tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth. And so, says the Lord Jesus Christ, is everyone that is born of the spirit: there is the freedom of the breeze in the new birth. It took the earthquake to convert the Philippian jailer, but it took no earthquake to open Lydia's heart. It took the glare of light to convert Paul, but there was no such light for the Ethiopian eunuch. The one was dazzled and heard a voice from heaven and was smitten to the earth and blinded--and the other was quietly reading in his chariot. There are people who insist that every Christian must have a dated and definite conversion. There are others, and they are poor psychologists, who have no faith in sudden conversion. But who are thou to limit the Almighty, either on this hand or on the other? The wind bloweth where it listeth, saith the Lord. We all know the hour of Paul's conversion--can you give me the hour of Timothy's conversion? From a child he had known the Holy Scriptures and had been cradled in the love of Christ. For him the tide was not like that of Solway, rushing inland faster than the horseman: for him it was like our estuary tide, moving in sweet silence to the flood. There are men who have to starve in a far country before they awaken to a Father's love. There are others who awaken to that love who have never left the shelter of the home. There are men who have to be crushed into the dust by the convicting power of the Holy Ghost. There are others who are gently wooed and won. There is one God who worketh all in all. Beware of putting limits upon Him. Give Him His freedom when He stoops from heaven to get into living touch with living men. On one man He will flash like lightning. On another like the sun He will arise. There are diversities of operations.
The Twelve Gates of the Heavenly City
That thought is very beautifully hinted at in one of the visions of the Revelation. John saw a city--it was the heavenly city--and it had not one gate, but twelve. On the east three gates, and on the north three gates, and on the south three gates, and on the west three gates --it was John's commentary on his Master's word, "Come unto me, and I will give you rest." He had leaned upon that Master's bosom and known the infinite riches in that little room, and now brooding upon all that, he saw these avenues. On the east three gates--then men shall come to Him with the gladness of the sunrise on their brow. On the north three gates--then men shall come to Him out of a bitter and a barren wind. On the west three gates--then men, whose hopes have sunk like the sun into the sea shall seek the city. On the south three gates--then from a lovely land they will reach One who ir altogether lovely. If you are traveling by the great north road, do not think that yours is the one road. If you have a friend upon the eastern highway, do not imagine that you must go with him. What I mean is, the one important thing is to find Christ; it is not which route you take to come to Him.
Who Are Saints?
There is a word that Paul is fond of using in the opening of his letters to the churches. He addresses his converts by the name of saints--"unto the saints which are in Ephesus." Now mark you, Paul was not writing to a few people only. He was writing to everyone who was in Christ. He was not selecting a few outstanding Christians when he wrote "unto the saints which are in Ephesus." He was thinking of the master and the slave--of the mother--of the soldier in the guardroom, and what varieties of character were there it does not take much genius to discover. Unto the saints which were in Ephesus--and one of them would be a strong stern man, and one would be a shy and shrinking girl, and one would be a blundering agitator interfering with everybody's business, and one would be a dreamer of sweet dreams. Unto the saints which are in Ephesus--the point is that all of them were saints. There was room in the word, in its grand Pauline usage, for every variety of man in Christ. And you have but to think what it means now as you catch it falling from the lips to recognize how it has been contracted. A saint? We all know what that connotes. Perhaps we have known a saint--she was our mother --gentle and unworldly, and there was the light of heaven on her face. My sister, I know she was a saint; but where the spirit of the Lord is there is liberty, and I want to ask you what right you have to narrow to that type the grand old term. Cromwell, in that grim way of his, called his choicest regiment- the saints. They were not childlike: they were grizzled veterans whose ears were ringing with the clash of steel. Saints? It sounds absurd to call them saints; and yet, mind you, Cromwell had the right for he knew that for the battered soldier there was sainthood as well as for the sweet and gentle soul. I want to see room made within the church for every type and variety of character. I want to see the man of action there, and the thinker and the scholar and the laborer. And I want each to feel that in the eyes of Christ there is no favored or peculiar type, for there are diversities of operations.
Of course there is a certain general likeness between all who are in Jesus Christ. If we walk in the light, says the apostle, then have we fellowship one with the other. Just as men engaged in perilous callings are molded broadly into a common likeness such as the miner who has his peculiar stamp and the fisherman his unmistakable bearing, so in the perilous calling of the Christian there are powers as of the mighty deep at work which silently impress a common likeness. A true Christian, whatever be his temperament, will always differ from a true Mohammedan. An ardent Buddhist could never be mistaken for an ardent follower of Jesus Christ. But the wonderful thing about that common life, in which all share who are in Jesus, is that it comes not to repress but to intensify the individuality.
Christianity Preserves Personality
Let me point out in passing how clearly this is shown in the case of the first disciples of our Lord. What you see in them all as they companied with Christ is the intensifying of their personality. One might have thought that a fellowship like Christ's would have had a certain repressing influence. It was so overpowering, that fellowship, it was so penetrative and commanding. But the strange thing is that so far from doing that, somehow it touched the strings of personality, and every man of them became himself when he became a follower of Jesus. Peter never grew like John. John was never the replica of Peter. Thomas--you would have known him anywhere, he was so gloomy and so doubting and so loyal. Each of them was empowered to become --not what his neighbor nor what his brother was --but what he was himself in God's eyes, according to the pattern in the mount.
Variety of Service
Lastly, and in a word or two, let us think of Christian service. One of the most familiar scenes in Scripture is the fight of David and Goliath. To me the choicest moment of that scene is when David was getting ready for the fight. I see Saul lending him his armor, and it was a very honoring bestowal. I see David, restless and uneasy, handling the great sword as if he feared it. And then I see him laying all aside and crying out, "I cannot go in these," and fingering his well-loved sling again. For Saul there was but one way of fighting. He had never dreamed of any other way. There was only one tradition in his chivalry, and every fighter must conform to that. But David, fresh from the uplands and the morning and the whispering of God among the hills, must have liberty to fight in his own way. The one was all for immemorial custom. The other was determined to be free. The one said, "It has been always so," and the other, "I cannot go in these." And remember that it was not Saul who was in the line of God's election, but that young stripling from the Bethlehem pasturage who in his service dared to be himself.
Now in our thought of Christian service, we need to be reminded of that scene. We must guard against narrowing our thought of service into half a dozen recognized activities. When Christ was on earth, the twelve disciples served Him, and it was a noble and a glorious service. But have you exhausted the catalogue of services when you have named their preaching and their teaching? The woman who washed His feet was also serving, and Martha when she made the supper ready, and the mother who caught up her little child and brought it to Him that it might be blessed. "I cannot go with these, I have not proved them. I cannot use the helmet and the shield." Who wants you to? There are hands which can wield no sword but which can carry a cup of water beautifully. There is something thou canst do in thine own way--something for which the church is waiting. Do that, and do it with thine heart, and perchance thou shalt do more than thou hast dreamed.
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