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The Cross and the Will of God

By L.E. Maxwell


      I AM THINKING of a poor little lassie of India, Mimosa by name. She heard one brief message concerning the love of the great Creator. How that love had been manifested in redemption "she knew just nothing; there had not been time to tell her." She was hastened away by a cruel father, lest she become like her sister, Star, who was in the mission school. She was unseen by the missionary for twenty-two years. How could the little thing be expected to remember that one brief message about the loving Father above? But miracle of miracles, her soul was captured. Then she went home, to face only suffering, betrayal and deception. At length she was deceived into an unfortunate and miserable marriage. But she slaved in the fields to pay her lazy husband's debts. At last, in agony, she cried aloud to the One of whom she had heard so very, very little, "Oh God, my husband has deceived me; his brother has deceived me; even my mother has deceived me; but You will not deceive me." Then waiting a little, and looking up and stretching out her arms, she continued, "Yes, they have all deceived me, but I am not offended with You. Whatever' You do is good." (Untaught, she used the familiar "You!') Later on, in the house of her hateful heathen brother, she was given "a public affront, unforgivable from an Indian point of view, unforgettable." It was so horrible that "it has no English parallel." Shortly before this an old lukewarm Christian she had met by chance (?) had given her the second sermon in her life, a sort of sentence sermon, saying, "In every least thing He win wonderfully guide you." Could it be possible that she had been "guided to that heartless house with its hateful outrage? As she saw it and felt it again, hot shame scorched her. She had been flouted in her brother's house." But by the Divine Presence Mimosa took heart; she forgave; she slept. She accepted. it all from her Father in Heaven; "Whatever You do is good."
      In a somewhat different connection, Amy Carmichael puts in poetry the way most of us meet our sorrows. The first, the most natural way, to get rid of grief is to try to forget it.

      He said, "I will forget the dying faces;
      The empty places--
      They shall be filled again;
      0 voices mourning deep within me, cease."
      Vain, vain the word, vain, vain:
      Not in forgetting lieth peace.

      That failing, we try to fill in every twenty-four hours with a ceaseless round of activity.

      He said, "I will crowd action upon action,
      The strife of faction
      Shall stir my spirit to flame;
      0 tears that drown the fire of manhood, crew.'
      Vain, vain the word; vain, vain:
      Not in endeavor lieth peace.

      Or, we attempt the opposite. (Fleshly wisdom is resourceful.) We try withdrawal, quiet, aloofness.

      He said, "I will withdraw me and be quiet,
      Why meddle in life's riot?
      Shut be my door to pain.
      Desire, thou dost befool me, thou shalt cease."
      Vain, vain the word; vain, vain
      Not in aloofness lieth peace.

      The next resort is to say, "I am a victim, but I'll submit to the inevitable"--a kind of sour submission.

      He said, "I will submit; I am defeated;
      God hath depleted
      My life of its rich gain.
      O futile murmurings; why will ye not cease?"
      Vain, vain the word; vain, vain:
      Not in submission lieth peace.

      He said, "I will submit; I am defeated;
      God hath depleted
      My life of its rich gain.
      O futile murmurings; why will ye not cease?"
      Vain, vain the word; vain, vain:
      Not in submission lieth peace.

      Finally, blessed finally, all the mistaken ways of the flesh having failed, self dies and we learn to say, "I accept the will of my God as good and acceptable and perfect, for loss or for gain."

      He said, "I will accept the breaking sorrow
      Which God tomorrow
      Will to His son explain."
      Then did the turmoil deep within him cease.
      Not vain the word, not vain;
      For in acceptance lieth peace.

      In another chapter we shall show how utter yieldedness to God must precede resistance of the devil. Many souls become nervous wrecks through holding out against and resisting some providential suffering or sickness. They persist in viewing their suffering as the work of the devil, and therefore to be resisted. Poor souls, they know not that, in most all such providences, the way of victory and peace is to accept the difficulty as from the Lord. Certainly if they are His, the trouble must get by Him to get to them. And unless things are manifestly the direct work of a demon and therefore to be resisted, God's way of peace is to accept the difficulty in the spirit of their Master. "The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" Miss Carmichael says: "There is no strength to resist the ravaging lion as he prowls about seeking whom he may devour, unless our own hearts have learned to accept the unexplained in our own lives." We can never do better than to say with the Saviour, "Thy will be done"--not in any sluggish, sleepy resignation as to the inevitable, but in a positive spirit of cooperation with the Lord, actively willing what He wills to "be done."
      For a time we had contact with a circle of dear friends where the phrase, "Thy will be done," was never used in prayer for a sick person. They held that healing was in the atonement in the same sense that sin was there. They therefore consistently refused to add in their prayer for the sick, "Thy will be done." Was it not the will of God to heal everyone, just as He is unwilling that any should perish? Such praying, of course, leads to a resisting and straining of nerve and mind that can drive one almost to insanity. During a sickness, poor untaught Mimosa (perhaps fortunate for her, for she was not mistaught by the Spirit), experienced that when "relief did not always come at once, peace did." She took it for granted that the Lord could heal, but "in acceptance lieth peace." In her simplicity she said, "And is not peace of more importance?"

      We have often wondered how Job could better have triumphed over the devil, had he known all about that great destroyer's existence. When his despairing wife cried, "Curse God and die," Job replied, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Many mistaught saints today would have said, "The Lord gave and Satan hath taken away--I am therefore going to resist the devil." But job went through the very valley of strip--all, even to the smiting of his body with disease, and came out without the smell of smoke, yea, without the smell of self upon him. "I abhor myself," said the old patriarch. How could he have better foiled the devil than to resign himself completely to the good hand of God? Satan came again and again, but in Job he could find not so much as a toe-hold. Job would not rebel. The devil was foiled. "We conclude. therefore," says Hudson Taylor, "that Job was not mistaken, and that we shall not be mistaken, if we follow his example in accepting all God's providential dealings as from Himself, and are sure that they will issue in ultimate blessing, because God is God, and therefore, 'all things work together for good to them that love God."' Let us then sing with Faber:

      He always wins who sides with God,
      To him no chance is lost;
      God's will is sweetest to him when
      It triumphs at his cost.
      Ill, that He blesses, is our good,
      And unblest good is ill;
      And all is right that seems most wrong,
      If it be His sweet will.

      How easily the great apostle could have argued that it was of the devil for him to be in prison. Surely Nero was of the devil. But Paul never hints that Nero is aught but the jailor. He himself is "Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ." And it was under Nero that Paul wrote, "There is no power but of God." All of which reminds us of Samuel Rutherford, that unique and happy sufferer, who once said, "I go soon to my King's palace at Aberdeen." At Aberdeen he was imprisoned. And from that prison he wrote to a friend, "The Lord is with me, I care not what man can do. No person is provided for better than I am. My chains are even gilded with gold. No pen, no words; nothing can express the beauty of Christ." What could the devil do, pray tell, with such a yielded soul? Surely he would drop him like a hot coal. Such utter submission to Christ as the "Lord of all," (and therefore of every circumstance) is the surest way, the way all divine, to overcome the enemy.

      In order to be more than conqueror in all such things, let me be utterly. abandoned to my Master. With my ear fastened to His doorpost let me say, "I love my master ... I will not go out free."

      Real consecration must be able to abide the testing. Madame Guyon'. the triumphant mystic of the Middle Ages, puts it thus:

      No man can be wholly the Lord's unless he is wholly consecrated to the Lord; and no man can know whether he is thus wholly consecrated except by tribulation. That is the test. To rejoice in God's will, when that will imparts nothing but happiness, is easy even for the natural man. But no one but the renovated man ... can rejoice in the Divine will when it crosses his path, disappoints his expectations, and overwhelms him with sorrow. Trial therefore, instead of being shunned, should be welcomed as the test--and the only true test--of a true state. Beloved souls, there are consolations which pass away, but true and abiding consolation ye will not find except in entire abandonment, and in that love which loves the Cross. He who does not welcome the Cross does not welcome God.

      This last phrase, "He who does not welcome the Cross of Christ does not welcome God," brings us face to face with the mystery of the sufferings of Christ. No sooner had Adam rebelled against King El Shaddai and plunged out into the far country of his own self-will than God held up before him the bruised Redeemer as the only remedy for the rebellion, the ruin and the wretchedness of sin. For what is sin but "the erection of self unto the supreme power within us? And self will reign, until a Mightier One occupy the throne it has usurped." "I was quite willing," said one, "that Jesus Christ should be King, so long as He allowed me to be Prime Minister." But self-will in its very nature--it is inexorable law--is self destructive. "He who will not be sweetly ruled by the divine will," said Bernard of Clairvaux, "is penally governed by himself; and he who casts off the easy yoke and light burden of love, must suffer the intolerable load of self-will."

      With the Almighty dethroned and with self enthroned, God had to begin again with a new Adam as the new Head of a new race. The last Adam came to undo the work of the first and to crush the head of the serpent. Did the first Adam exalt himself? The last Adam emptied Himself. Did pride drive God from the heart of the first Adam? Christ chose not the palace of a Solomon but an oriental stall for the place of His birth, despised Nazareth for His earthly life. Was the first Adam tested with a paradise of plenty with no need of denial? The last Adam chose to be tested in all points like unto His brethren: in a wilderness, with the wild beasts, forty days without food, "then cometh the devil." His whole life was a total self-denial. He had not where to lay His head. Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered. Finally, after that thrice repeated cry, "Not my will, but thine, be done," He embraced the Cross--the logical terminus of His life of utter self-renunciation. But no man took His life from Him. He was a willing victim, "was willing to be spat upon, willing to be reviled, willing to be classed with criminals, willing to hang in ignominy before a jeering rabble upon the accursed tree" (Huegel). "Behold the lamb of God that beareth away the sin of the world" (John 1:29 R.V.). Did He come to save others? "Himself he cannot (and would not) save." Forsaken by His friends, and derided by His enemies, and under the curse of our disobedience-yea, obedient unto such a death He was willing. The last Adam was undoing the willful first. It is eternally true, then, that "he who does not welcome the Cross does not welcome God."

      Willing to take the cross was He,
      Willing to suffer misery,
      Willing to go to Calvary,
      Laying His glory aside;
      Willing to hang there on the tree,
      Willing to bear the agony,
      Willing to die for you and me;

      Jesus the Crucified.

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