BELOVED: – We do well to consider and understand why we do anything, or one thing instead of something else, and what it is that inclines and moves us to action in all we think and fee], say and do. For no finite or creature action is self-caused, or underived, but it is induced by something else. Creatures are not self-produced, but they are caused to be, and for the same reason no act of theirs is self-existent, but is caused.
We may set it down as an axiom, then, that all finite beings and things are caused. So there is not any creature or thing that arises spontaneously, whether animate or inanimate, ideal or material, thought, word or deed. This needs no proof, being self-evident, because non-existence cannot give itself existence, or something cannot arise out of nothing. I see the green leaves move, but something else moves them. This is true of all motion and of every movement of things created. Anterior to everything that takes place under the sun, there was something else as the cause. This is as true of mind as it is of matter, and applies as well to man as to animal and bird and mineral.
What is it that thus underlies all motion and action in the universe? It is influence. Everything that is done is the result of influence; that is, everything among creatures. All, all are subjected to influence. Man and beast, bird and tree, all things, are placed within certain environments or existing circumstances, and within this radius, circle or sphere, all are influenced in every motion and emotion, in all growth and change, in every action and all that is done. Nothing is done by any creature without influence. Almost countless influences enter into the formation of every life, many of them antedating the individual life, while many others arise day by day. No one is exempt from influence. Let proud and vain man boast as he may, yet no living man can rise above, turn away or free himself from the dominion of influence.
There is a resistless potency in influence, so universal and strong that it sways and controls all finite beings. The word means, to affect, to sway. Influential means, powerful. So whatever affects and sways us in any way is influence, and the extent to which we are affected and moved is the power of influence. Therefore all action is the effect of influence. Change the influence, and the action would be changed, or the conduct different. And so opposite influences will lead to opposite results.
Influence is of two kinds-good and bad or holy and wicked. These two have their source in the holy One, and the wicked one. All holiness is of God, who only is good, but all wickedness is of Satan, who is a murderer, and sinneth from the beginning. "There is none good, but One, that is, God," said his holy Son.
All goodness, therefore, has its source in God, and this includes all natural goodness and every blessing, both earthly and heavenly. When the Lord God finished his whole work of creation, he said all was good and very good. This included the heaven and the earth, with all the host of them. Paul said, "God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshiped with men's hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things: * * * for in him we live, and move, and have our being." And James says, "Every good gift and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."
This Scripture clearly proves two truths. First. All things good and perfect commeth down from above, and they are the gifts of God; therefore not bought. Second. God neither varies, changes nor turns in the least; therefore he alone is never moved by influence, but is highly exalted, infinitely and forever above and independent, of all influence whatever. This is both wonderful and blessed, for in this immutability of God is the perpetuity of the universe, and the safety of his people. "For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." The meaning of this is, if the sins of his people could possibly influence the Lord and change him, he would consume them in their sins; but because he changes not, he consumes their sins only.
Let us dwell a little upon the changelessness of the God of the whole earth, that we may the more revere him, as well as for our profit and comfort. For according to our view of the Lord, so will we either confide and trust in him, or in ourselves; for all either trust and hope in the Lord, or in man. His word is, "I change not." His reason is, "I am the LORD." He is Jehovah, the self-existing, eternal One, the Almighty. He is infinitely high above all other beings, and above the heavens. All others, and the whole unbounded universe, are forever absolutely dependent upon him. "He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things." It is impossible, therefore, that the unchangeable God should in the least be influenced by men, or angels, or anything outside of himself. "How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen." This sweeping challenge and universal affirmation of Paul forever establishes the entire and absolute supremacy and omnipotence and independence of God over all worlds and beings, causes and influences whatsoever, and shows that all, all are under him and subjected to him. His power is almighty, his dominion is universal, and "his kingdom ruleth over all."
God above is forever free, because he is unspeakly high above all influence. His will is his only law or rule of action. "He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?" Daniel had said to the wicked and exalted king of Babylon, that he should "know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will." But he was lifted up with pride, and said, "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty. While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men," &c. "The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon the king."
Many men are like that haughty king, and flatter themselves that they have done much, and will yet do much more, "by the might of their power, and for the honor of their majesty." Daniel extolled the power of God, but Nebuchadnezzar represented boastful man, and praised his own ability, until the hand of God touched him, then he was deeply abased, and said, "Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase." Yes, praise and adore his holy name. Well did the king know this, for he spoke from his own experience of the truth and power of God.
So it is with those who know the Lord, for they have been taught of God, and have fled to Christ for refuge. They have ceased from man, and have no confidence in the flesh. Now they are willingly under the power of the Lord, and are moved and led by the hand of the Almighty, drawn heavenward with loving-kindness, and constrained by the love of Christ.
O, this is a perfect gift and hallowed influence! It cometh down from above, and it raiseth its blessed subjects upward to the Father of lights. The power of this influence is effectual, and it is divinely sanctifying. Its happy effect upon the life is thus expressed: "When thou saidst, Seek ye my face, my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek." The voice of the Lord is full of majesty, and he speaks never in vain, but his word stands fast. He says, that as the rain and snow shall make the earth fruitful, "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." No opposing word, or resisting effort or influence, can possibly prevent this, for "God speaks, and it is done; he commands, and it stands fast" because almighty power attends his word. He abundantly thus reveals himself in the Bible, as also in his work of creation and providence.
Now, as the sins and rebellion of the Lord's people could not influence or move him to hate them, so neither is he moved or influenced by their repentance and obedience to love them. In either case they Would change him. The very opposite of this is true, for they are changed by him, and the sanctifying and holy influence of his divine power upon them mightily moves and controls them, causing them to repent and turn away from their sins and ungodliness, and bringing them into obedience unto Christ. "I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the Lord speak righteousness, I declare things that are right." "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness."
The Lord reigns, as well in the spiritual kingdom as in the natural, and on earth as in heaven. He is unlimited in his dominion. "For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God," wrote Paul. God's counsel and purpose, dominion and power, are as unlimited as the worlds or the universe. And hence there is not a creature or being or thing outside of the power of God. The sun and stars, earth and moon, are not more subservient to his determined purpose, or dependent upon "his eternal power and Godhead," in their appointed course, than are all their trains of inhabitants. For none, whether in heaven or on earth, or under the earth, Seraphim or Cherubim, Gabriel or Lucifer, king or subject, saint or sinner, can defeat the counsel of the Almighty, or go beyond his power, but all are chained to his eternal throne. This is the overwhelming testimony of the word. The wisdom of the world denies this, and it affirms that men can and do act upon and influence their Maker, either to hate or love them, and to curse or bless them, just as they will. The worldly wise teach the religious world that in this way only, that is, upon this condition, are they responsible or accountable to God. But this assumption and dogma really reverses accountability from the creature to the Creator, for it holds God accountable to man, to reward him for his optional works, either of merit or demerit. The religion of the world is therefore essentially and necessarily conditional, because it is based upon the assumed claim that conditionality is essential to accountability, and that man is a free moral agent. But this, with every notion of conditional salvation, carries in it the idea that the religious man acts upon the Lord, and influences him to reward him with the salvation which is conditional upon the conduct of the man. It is impossible, therefore, for salvation to be conditional in any sense or part upon the works of man, unless man influences and moves and controls the Lord by his conditional works which the worker may do or not as he will. For if there is a condition in any part of salvation, and the condition is the act or work of man, which he must do in order to obtain such salvation, then the man by his act and work does act upon and move the Lord to bestow time salvation.
O, how shocking this doctrine is! For it represents that the Lord does change, often change, and that he moves towards man, because man moves towards him. Not only does all conditional accountability and salvation deny God's immutability, but it also represents him as subject to the influence amid will of man, and controlled by him. This is monstrous. But it is not so, for it is basely absurd and utterly false.
"The Lord God omnipotent reigneth." The Father hath put all things under the feet of his dear Son, whose arm of power rules for him, and he is "King of kings, and Lord of lords." He reigns in heaven upon his holy Father's great white throne, and he as well reigns in Zion and in the hearts of his people. Every holy emotion of love to God in their hearts, every prayer and thanksgiving, every act of obedient service in his kingdom of grace, all, all are from him as his good and perfect gifts to us. These, with ten thousand other gifts of his love, above all, the mm speakable gift of his dear Son, with whom the Father shall also freely give us all things, these all inspire our songs of praise, move us to loving and willing obedience, and in this work of faith and labor of love there is a blessed reward, but it is the reward of grace. Therefore, beloved people of God, it is only because we are acted upon, moved and led by his Spirit of life and love, and enabled and influenced thereby, that we come unto the Lord and the throne of grace, and into the obedience of faith, and worship God in the beauty of holiness. All else than this is carnal, legal and formal, and is no better than mocking hypocrisy. From the corrupted, fleshly mind arises all sinful and wicked works, all rebellion against God, and as well' all legal or conditional religion, carnal and false worship, which are not of God. O, may he move upon our hearts! then shall the sweet incense thereof flow out in the devotion of adoration and songs of praise to him. "Awake, O north wind ; and come thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out." The church is the garden of the Lord, who says, "A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed." He only can open this sealed fountain, and water the plants in his garden, that their divine fragrance and sweet influences may flow out. So the Lord, in the trial of Job, said to him, "Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?" When Job could reach up to these groups of stars, bind and loose them, and many such mighty works, "Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee," said the Lord to him. God alone, who made all the heavenly bodies, can bind their influences, or loose their bands, as he please. "These things saith he that is holy, line that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth."
Therefore, beloved, the conclusion is, all holy and sanctifying influences, with which the Most high is well pleased, are of his own perfect nature and divine power, and these beautify and sweetly perfume and enrich all the garden of grace, so that the Beloved comes into his garden and eats his pleasant fruits, and rejoices in his saints. "And their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord." "will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me within the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness."
"Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens." "The Lord that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion."
LENANON, Ohio, June 8, 1903.
Signs of the Times
Vol.71, No.21 November 1, 1903