The greatest things of the Advent Movement are just ahead of us. The whole world is yet to be illumined with the glory of this message. A thrilling concept, indeed! And one that should in spire every worker. But in that very concept lurks a danger. We may find ourselves secretly longing for the time when all men will speak well of us; when the very great ness of our organization and the magnificence of our institutions will compel the world's admiration; when even we ourselves will come to be recognized as great men leading a great movement. If that day ever comes, we are doomed, and the message with us. Other movements have gone down that same road and have experienced spiritual disaster. The blighting effects of pride and self-glory robbed them of the very things that at first made them great.
How subtle is the sin of pride! It can thrive in the heart of a preacher as easily as in the soul of a layman. Pride is the worst sin because it is the original sin. It inspired Lucifer to covet the throne of God. It robbed him at last of his place in heaven. And it cost the life of the Son of God to save us from pride. Humility, on the other hand, is the greatest virtue, for humility gave us a Saviour.
Years ago the Lord's messenger counseled the ministry of this movement to walk humbly and prayerfully before Him. "We have no great men among us," she wrote, "and none need try to make themselves what they are not." "Be willing to be little men handling great subjects." Evangelism, p. 134. It is not easy to be little. We all secretly long to be great. But our spiritual success lies in being little. To the despised captives of Babylon the Lord said, "Fear not, thou worm Jacob. . . . Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains"! Isa. 41:14.
What a contrast! a worm and a sharp threshing instrument having teeth. Two methods of work are here brought to view that of the flesh and that of the Spirit. Human nature recoils from the figure of the worm. It is unacceptable to modern theology, as is evident in recent hymnbook revisions of a number of the churches. Such hymns as "Alas! and Did My Saviour Bleed?" by Isaac Watts, have been omitted or at least changed. That line "for such a worm as I" was not welcome, so it has been altered to "for such a one as I." Other hymns have been similarly doctored up to meet present-day thought. No, the "worm" idea does not pander to our pride. But the Lord Himself became "a worm, and no man" (Ps. 22:6), in order that He might re deem us.
Someone stated it well when he said, "God can use a worm to thresh a mountain if only He can get all the wiggle out of the worm." But that is the problem. How many things the Lord has to do with us in order to get rid of the flesh! "The flesh profiteth nothing," either in salvation or in service. We are saved by grace alone, and our service must be by grace alone. We do not in tend to do so, but we are actually limiting the Holy One of Israel by our pride. God dare not do spectacular things by us lest we vaunt ourselves and take the credit that is due to Him alone.
God Uses Simple Means
Because Israel was in danger of saying, "Mine own hand hath saved me," the Lord told Gideon to pare down his army. Al though his men numbered only one to thirteen of the enemy, his army was "yet too many." Gideon might well have despaired when he saw but three hundred left. But this handful of fighters were men from whom had been drained all the dregs of self-confidence. They were not schooled in the arts of war. They did not know how to "put it across." Gideon himself was only a farmer. He bore no medals of honor. But he and his three hundred were men of faith and fleshless works. They were willing to hazard their lives and -stand forth with broken pitchers exposed to the enemy, every man an easy target.
We marvel at the simplicity of the method. They were not graduates from a military school, nor did they have the usual weapons of warfare. Ram's horns, shouts, broken pitchers, and lamps certainly seemed foolish. But the victory was Heaven sent. God Himself won the battle. To read about it is thrilling; but if we examine our "hearts, there may be a secret suspicion that, having happened so long ago, it has no practical bearing on our day. What do we really think of the lamp-and-pitcher method? Would we be willing to be a broken pitcher so that the light of God might shine forth, or do we feel the urge to saturate ourselves in worldly philosophy and psychology in order to escape the stigma of the worm? It is easy to be blinded by the world's applause.
"Pitchers for the lamps of God
Hark, the cry goes forth abroad!
Not the beauty of the make,
But ah, the readiness to break,
Marks the vessels of the Lord,
Meet to bear the lighted Word!"
When Paul came to Corinth it was not with excellency of speech or with the wisdom of men. He feared lest he smother the cross with flowers of eloquence, and thus make it of none effect. In fact, to those clever Corinthians his presence was weak, and instead of enticing words, his speech was "contemptible." Yet he raised up the church there.
When he paints the picture of himself as a leader in the church, he says, "For it seems to me that God means us apostles to come in at the very end, like the doomed gladiators in the arena!" 1 Cor. 4:9, Moffatt.* Way's translation reads, "God has ex posed His apostles to public view, like the doomed wretches who close a triumphal procession that we like them have been exposed in the amphitheatre before the eyes of the world, ay, of angels as well as men!" For Christ's sake those leaders became fools. "We are outcasts," Paul says. "To this very moment we endure both hunger and thirst, with scanty clothing and many a blow. Homes we have none. Wearily we toil, working with our own hands. . . . We have come to be regarded as the mere dirt and filth of the world the refuse of the universe, even to this hour." Verses 11-13, Weymouth. Quite a contrast from most of us today!
Yet these were the workers that turned the world upside down. And they did it in a single generation. Popularity, prestige, the possession of "what it takes," had no place with them. They were humble men, so humble that God could make them great. Saul too was great when he was little in his own eyes. But his heart became filled- with self-importance, and he lost the kingdom.
Contrary to human wisdom, God's way up is always down, and in that direction we can go as far and as fast as we want to. The "offense of the cross" is as great today as it was in the days of Paul, but only when we learn to bear about in our body the dying of the Lord Jesus will the world be able to see reflected in us the beauty of the Sun of Righteousness.
A father was showing his small son the beauties of a certain church window, a real masterpiece in glass. "Now you tell me, son," said the father, "which ones are the saints?"
"Oh! I know, Daddy," replied the lad. "The saints are the ones the light shines through." Out of the mouth of babes! We do not have to be dead a hundred years to be a saint. All we need to be is so dead to the flesh and the ways and wisdom of the world that God's light can shine through us.
When the time comes for this message to be given with greatest power, "the Lord will work through humble instruments, leading the minds of those who consecrate themselves to His service. The laborers will be qualified rather by the unction of His Spirit than by the training of literary institutions. . . . Thousands upon thousands will listen who have never heard words like these." Evangelism, pp. 699, 700. Under the power of His Spirit the worms have become threshing instruments.
"During the loud cry, the church, aided by the providential interpositions of her exalted Lord, will diffuse the knowledge of salvation so abundantly that light will be communicated to every city and town. The earth will be filled with the knowledge of salvation. . . . The light of present truth will be seen flashing everywhere." Ibid., p. 694.
May God hasten the day!
* From The Bible: A New Translation by James Moffatt. Copyrighted 1922, 1935 by Harper & Brothers, 1950 by James Moffatt. Used by permission.