One would think that no words could make it plainer than the words of the Covenant state it - that the one difference between Old and New is, that in the latter everything is to be done by God Himself. And yet believers and even teachers do not take it in. And even those who do, find it hard to live it out. Our whole being is so blinded to the true relation to God, His inconceivable Omnipresent Omnipotence working every moment in us is so far beyond the reach of human conception, our little hearts cannot rise to the reality of His Infinite Love making itself one with us, and delighting to dwell in us, and to work all in us that has to be done there - that, when we think we have accepted the truth, we find it is only a thought. We are such strangers to the knowledge of what A GOD really is, as the actual life by which His creatures live. In Him we live and move and have our being. And specially is the knowledge of the Triune God too high for us, in that wonderful, most real, and most practical indwelling, to make which possible the Son became Incarnate, and the Holy Spirit was sent forth into our hearts. Only they who confess their ignorance, and wait very humbly and persistently on our Blessed God to teach us by His Holy Spirit what that all-working indwelling is, can hope to have it revealed to them.
It is not long since I had occasion, in preparing a series of Bible Lessons for our Students Association here, to make a study of the Gospel of St. John, and of the life of our Lord as set forth there. I cannot say how deeply I have been afresh impressed with that which I cannot but regard as the deepest secret of His life on earth, His dependence on the Father. It has come to me like a new revelation. Some twelve times and more He uses the word not and nothing of Himself. Not My will. Not My words. Not honour. Not Mine own glory. I can do nothing of Myself. I speak not of Myself. I came not of Myself. I do nothing of Myself.
Just think a moment what this means in connection with what He tells us of His life in the Father. "As the Father hath life in Himself, so He hath given to the Son to have life in Himself" (v. 26). "That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father" (v. 23). And yet this Son, who hath life in Himself even as the Father has, immediately adds (v. 30): "I can of mine own self do nothing." We should have thought that with this life in Himself He would have the power of independent action as the Father has. But no. "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do." The chief mark of this Divine life He has in Himself is evidently unceasing dependence, receiving from the Father, by the moment, what He had to speak or do. Nothing of Myself is manifestly as true of Him as it ever could be of the weakest or most sinful man. The life of the Father dwelling in Christ, and Christ in the Father, meant that just as truly as when He was begotten of the Father, He received Divine life and glory from Him, so the continuation of that life came only by an eternal process of giving and receiving, as absolute as is the eternal generation itself. The more closely we study this truth, and Christ's life in the light of it, the more we are compelled to say, the deepest root of Christ's relationship to the Father, the true reason why He was so well-pleasing, the secret of His glorifying the Father, was this: He allowed God to do all in Him. He only received and wrought out what God wrought in Him. His whole attitude was that of the open ear, the servant spirit, the childlike dependence that waited for all on God.
The infinite importance of this truth in the Christian life is easily felt. The life Christ lived in the Father is the life He imparts to us. We are to abide in Him and He in us, even as He in the Father and the Father in Him. And if the secret of His abiding in the Father be this unceasing self-abnegation - "I can do nothing of Myself" - this life of most entire and absolute dependence and waiting upon God, must it not far more be the most marked feature of our Christian life, the first and all-pervading disposition we seek to maintain? In a little book of William Law's, that has just been issued, (Dying to Self: A Golden Dialogue. By William Law. With Notes. The thought is worked out with exceeding power, and the lesson taught that the only thing man can do for his salvation is to deny and cease from himself, that God may work in him.) he specially insists upon this in his so striking repetition of the call, if we would die to self in order to have the birth of Divine love in our souls, to sink down in humility, meekness, patience, and resignation to God. I think that no one who at all enters into this advice, but will feel what new point is given to it by the remembrance of how this entire self-renunciation was not only one of the many virtues in the character of Christ, but, indeed, that first essential one without which God could have wrought nothing in Him, through which God did work all. Let us make Christ's words our own: "I can do nothing of Myself." Take it as the keynote of a single day. Look up and see the Infinite God waiting to do everything as soon as we are ready to give up all to Him, and receive all from Him. Bow down in lowly worship, and wait for the Holy Spirit to work some measure of the mind of Christ in you. Do not be disconcerted if you do not learn the lesson at once: there is the God of love waiting to do everything in him who is willing to be nothing. At moments the teaching appears dangerous, at other times terribly difficult. The Blessed Son of God teaches it us - this was His whole life: I can do nothing of Myself. He is our life; He will work it in us. And when as the Lamb of God He begets this His disposition in us, we shall be prepared for Him to rise on us and shine in us in His heavenly glory.
"Nothing of Myslef" - that word spoken eighteen hundred years ago, coming out of the inmost depths of the heart of the Son of God - is a seed in which the power of the eternal life is hidden. Take it straight from the heart of Christ, and hide it in your heart. Meditate on it till it reveals the beauty of His Divine meekness and humility, and explains how all the power and glory of God could work in Him. Believe in it as containing the very life and disposition which you need, and believe in Christ, whose Spirit dwells in the seed to make it true in you. Begin, in single acts of self-emptying, to offer it to God as the one desire of your heart. Count upon God accepting them, and meeting them with His grace, to make the acts into habits, and the habits into dispositions. And you may depend upon it, there is nothing that will lift you so near to God, nothing that will unite you closer to Christ, nothing that will prepare you for the abiding presence and power of God working in you, as the death to self which is found in the simple word - NOTHING OF MYSELF.
This word is one of the keys to the New Covenant Life. As I believe that God is actually to work all in me, I shall see that the one thing that is hindering me is, my doing something of myself. As I am willing to learn from Christ by the Holy Spirit to say truly, Nothing of myslef, I shall have the true preparation to receive all God has engaged to work, and the power confidently to expect it. I shall learn that the whole secret of the New Covenant is just one thing: GOD WORKS ALL! The seal of the Covenant stands sure: "I the Lord have spoken it, AND I WILL DO IT."
Let me give the principal passages in which the words "the whole heart," "all the heart," are used. A careful study of them will show how wholehearted love and service is what God has always asked, because He can,in the very nature of things, ask nothing less. The prayerful and believing acceptance of the words will waken the assurance that such wholehearted love and service is exactly the blessing the New Covenant was meant to make possible. That assurance will prepare us for turning to the Omnipotence of God to work in us what may have hitherto appeared beyond our reach.
Hear, first, God's word in Deuteronomy -
iv. 29: "If thou seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find Him, if thou seek Him with all thy heart and all thy soul."
vi. 4,5: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might."
x. 12: "What doth the Lord thy God require of thee but to fear the Lord thy God, towalk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve Him with all thy heart and all thy soul."
xi. 13: "Hearken diligently unto My commandments, to love the Lord your God, and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul."
xiii. 3: "The Lord your God proveth you, whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul."
xxvi. 16: "Thou shalt therefore keep these statutes and do them with all thy heart and all thy soul."
xxx. 2: "Thou shalt obey His voice with all thine heart and with all soul."
xxx. 6: "The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart and with all thy soul" (see also v. 9,10).
Take these oft-repeated words as the expression of God's will concerning His people, and concerning yourself; ask if you could wish to give God anything less. Take the last-cited verse as the Divine promise of the New Covenant - that He will circumcise, will so cleanse the heart to love Him with a wholehearted love, that obedience is within your reach; and say whether you will not vow afresh to keep this His first and great commandment.
Listen to Joshua (xxii. 5): "Take diligent heed to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all His ways, and to keep His commandments, and to cleave unto Him, and to serve Him, with all your heart and with all your soul."
Listen to Samuel (1 Sam. xii. 20, 24): "Turn not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart."
Hear David repeating God's promise to Solomon (1 Kings ii. 4): "If thy children take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and all their soul."
Hear God's word concerning David (1 Kings xiv. 8): "My servant David, who followed Me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in Mine eyes."
Hear Solomon in his temple prayer (1 Kings viii. 48): "If they return to Thee with all their heart and all their soul, hear Thou their prayer."
Listen to what is said of Jehu (2 Kings x. 31): "The Lord said unto Jehu, Thou hast done well in executing that which is right in Mine eyes. But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord with all his heart."
Of Josiah we read (2 Kings xxiii. 3,25): "The king and all the men of Judah made a covenant with the Lord, to walk after the Lord, with all their heart and with all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. There was no king like him, that turned to the Lord with all his heart, and all his soul, and all his might."
The words concerning Asa, in 2 Chron. xv. 12,15, we had as our text.
Of Jehoshaphat, men said (2 Chron. xxii. 9): "He sought the Lord with all his heart."
And of Hezekiah it is written (2 Chron. xxxi. 21): "In every work that he began, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart and prospered."
Oh that all would ask God to give them, by the Holy Spirit, a simple vision of Himself! - claiming, giving, accepting, blessing, delighting in, the love and service of the whole heart - the sacrifice of the whole burnt-offering. Surely they would fall down and join the ranks of those who have given it; and refuse to think of anything as religious life, or worship, or service, but that in which their whole heart went out to God.
Turn to the Psalms. Hear David (ix. 1, cxi. 1, cxxxviii. 1): "I will praise Thee with my whole heart." And in Psalm cxix., the Psalm of the way of blessedness: "Blessed who seek Him with the whole heart. With my whole heart have I sought Thee. I shall keep Thy law, yea I shall observe it with my whole heart. I entreated Thy favour with my whole heart. I will keep Thy precepts with my whole heart. I cried with my whole heart." Praise and prayer; seeking God and keeping His precepts; all equally with the whole heart.
Shall we not begin asking more earnestly than ever, as often as we see men engaged in their earthly pursuits in search of money, or pleasure, or fame, or power, with their whole heart, Is this the spirit in which Christians consider that God must be served? Is this the spirit in which I serve Him? Is not this the one thing needful in our religion? Lord, reveal unto us Thy will!
Now, just a few owrds more from the Prophets about the new time, the great change that can come into our lives.
Jer. xxiv. 7: "I will give them an heart to know Me that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people and I will be their God; for they shall return to Me with their whole heart."
xxix. 13: "Ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord."
xxxii. 39-41 - Let my reader not be weary of reading carefully these Divine words: they contain the secret, the seed, the living power of a complete transition out of a life in the bondage of half-hearted service, to the glorious liberty of the children of God. - "I will give them one heart, that they may fear Me for ever. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good; but I will put My fear in their heart, that they shall not depart from Me. Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, with My whole heart and My whole soul!"
It is to be all God's doing. And He is to do it with His whole heart and His whole soul. It is the vision of this God with His whole heart loving us, longing and delighting to fulfil His promise, and make us wholly His own, that we need. This vision makes it impossible not to love Him with our whole heart. Lord, open our eyes that we may see!
Joel ii. 12: "Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to Me with all your heart."
Zeph. iii. 14: "Shout, O Israel; BE GLAD AND REJOICE WITH ALL THE HEART; the Lord hath taken away thy judgments. HE HATH CAST OUT THINE ENEMY; THE KING OF ISRAEL, THE LORD, IS IN THE MIDST OF THEE; THOU SHALT NOT SEE EVIL ANY MORE."
Now one word from our Lord Jesus (Matt. xxii. 37): "Jesus said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart." This is the first and great commandment. This is the sum of that law He came to fulfil for us and in us, came to enable us to fulfil. "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His own Son, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk after the Spirit."
Praise God! this righteousness of the law - loving God with all the heart, for love is the fulfilling of the law - this righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us, who walk after the Spirit. Jesus came to make it possible. He gives His Spirit - the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus - to make it actual. Let us not fear to give ourselves a whole burnt-offering, acceptable to God; loving Him with all our heart and mind and strength.
May I ask the reader just once again to peruse Chapter VI., on "The everlasting Covenant," and Chapter XVIII., on "Entering into the Covenant with the Whole Heart." And say then, if you have never yet entered fully into this covenant of the whole heart, whether you are not ready to do it now. God demands, God works, God is, oh, so infinitely worthy of, the whole heart! Fear not to say He shall have it. You may confidently count upon the blessed Lord Jesus, the Surety of the Covenant, whose it is to make it true in you by His Spirit, to enable you to exercise the faith that knows that God's power will work what He has promised. In His Name say: With my whole heart I do love Thee!
THE TWO COVENANTS