The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
In the first verse we read, "Beloved in God the Father" (R.V.),—or, keeping the preposition as we find it, "Beloved by God the Father." Then the exhortation "Keep yourselves in the love of God,"—often read thus: Keep on loving God,—watch the state of your affections; be very careful not to relax the grasp of your love as it lays hold upon God. That is not the meaning of the text:—Keep yourselves in the fact that God loves you, not in the fickle circumstance that you love God. The distinction is vital, the distinction is infinitely consolatory, the distinction is what we need every day to keep us right and to give us peace. Men cannot be lectured into love. Jude is not telling us to be very careful about our love; for then we should be mechanicians, artisans, interested in keeping our love bright and pure, and in an interesting state, so as to attract the Divine complacency—that fickle feeling that rules the universe so waywardly. This would be impossible and absurd. Yet this is the ruin of the Church; this it is that brings so many weaklings to profess Christianity. They are always complaining about themselves, as who should say, My love is weak and feeble, and I am afraid I am not in the right way; my heart misgives me when I think of my relation to God and eternity. That is blasphemy. Your relation means nothing, except in a very secondary and remote sense. What is God"s relation to you? God does not change. The one thing you have to be certain of at the beginning is that God loves you, then leave it. We have had far too much self-analysis, personal vivisection, taking, so to say, the soul to pieces, fibre by fibre, and filament by filament, to see how it is getting on. We have forgotten that we have to keep or guard ourselves by God"s love to us. His is an unchanging love.
What is the consequence of forgetting this simple but vital truth? The consequence is that we have an atmospheric piety: a west wind makes us buoyant in the faith, an east wind plunges us into dejection and covers us with a cloud of fear, wherein we say, The Lord hath forgotten to be gracious, and we seriously think of withdrawing from the Church. No man who belongs to the Church can withdraw from it. Certain men have crept in unawares, crawled in by the interstices, oozed in through the doors when they did not closely fit, crept in in the gloaming before the lamps were lighted: they will go out again; they would leave heaven if they could get into it; they do not belong to celestial quality or society, and they would soon discover the discrepancy between themselves and their circumstances, and they would first endeavour to create an insurrection, and secondly endeavour to creep out more humbly than they crept in. The consequence is that we have a stomachic piety; the question becomes, How is your digestion to-day? Given a good digestion, and we shall have a good creed, and a good hope through anything but grace of acceptance: given an ill-working digestion, and we shall have fears and complaints, and sink into poor creatures and miserable sinners and unworthy worms. That is stomachic. It is not intellectual, it is not moral; there is no point of intelligence in it: these be thy worshippers, O dyspepsia! The consequence is that we have a circumstantial piety. Given an abundant harvest, and we stand up for the creeds one and all, for nine-and-thirty articles, and nine-and-thirty thousand articles if anybody cares to write them: the table is spread plentifully, the vineyard blushes with purple, the herd in the stall is abundant, and as for the fig tree, it droopeth, so heavy is the fruitage; now we shall have song and Psalm, now the Church will be uppermost, and Christian fellowship will be sweet,—being but another aspect of personal covetousness and personal vanity. The true religion is that which continues to sing its psalm as cheerily in the winter as in the summer, as cheerily when there is no herd in the stall as when their owner can hardly count the cattle upon his hills, and worth gold untold:—Though the fig tree shall not blossom I will joy, yea, I will rejoice in God who is my salvation. As if the prophet had said, Mine is not a circumstantial piety, depending altogether upon my business returns, my agricultural success, my social promotion and standing: I believe in God, I guard myself in the love of God. That distinction has often saved a soul from death. Said a young man to one of the greatest Anglican ecclesiastics of this century, "I feel, Mr. Maurice, as if I had lost my love to God." "That may be, but God has not lost his love for you," was the reply. That saved the man.
We start the argument from the wrong point. A man of learning says he has been obliged after long studies to surrender certain points in the Christian faith, and inquires what he is to do. He must throw away his long studies; he is working from the wrong point: it is as if he had taken out a ladder, saying, I am in search of the stars. We cannot get at the stars by a ladder, we get at them through a telescope, and the telescope must be the heart,—love, trust, childlikeness, the very spirit of self-renunciation and self-disgust. The secret of the Lord is with hem that fear him: he will do nothing in the city without telling his servant:—Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God: Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. A man who goes forth to keep himself right by what he terms "fact and logic"—the two great murderers of souls—will come home at eventide weary, disappointed, and full of shame. There is nothing so small as "fact"; there is nothing so detestably mean and irresponsive as what is called "logic,"—the little, narrow, syllogistic logic that is not reasoning at all, that lights a match that it may study the universe. We must get rid of this self-analysis and vivisection and pious consideration of what we are doing within: our creed must be—I believe God. Guard yourselves in God"s love to you. Then the Church will become healthy. We have times of trial: what is to be our answer to all the mysteries of probation that tear us and wound us and grieve us? What reply have we to the sharp-toothed tribulum that tears part from part of our nature? We must not offer in reply our own steadfastness, our own evidences of acceptance, or our own anything: we must oppose to all trial the love that God has for us in Christ Jesus. He that spared not his own Song of Solomon, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? In that God hath given us his Son he means to win, he means to complete the work he has begun, he means that he will never erect a pillar and leave it without a capital. Guard yourselves in God"s love for you, as shown in providence, as shown in the Cross, as shown in spiritual ministries operating upon mind and heart and thought. Entrench yourselves behind the fortress of the infinite love. In times of mystery what are we to do? Nothing is so easy as cloud-making. The enemy always tries the evil, easy, little task of asking questions, suggesting doubts, conducting processes of cross-examination; his only object being to bewilder the mind and distract the attention and unsettle the soul. There are mysteries enough to cover any heaven we ever looked upon, and to trouble the whole earth with long-continued night: what have we to do with mysteries? Nothing. Then what have we to do with? Only with God"s love to us. If we doubt that, then the whole life falls; if our doubts relate to God"s sovereignty, God"s fatherhood, God"s redemption of the world through his only begotten Song of Solomon, then there is no answer to us even in God; we do not belong to God, we are ungodly, non-godly, anti-godly; we have sinned against the Holy Ghost. In mysteries we rest on God. In all controversy we take no part. Controversy never does any good when it relates to the supreme subjects. It is useful in commerce, it is useful in politics, it is useful in intellectual education; we must discuss, if we would come to broad and generous conclusions, all matters that come within the sphere of our understanding, and that can be handled by trained fingers: but controversies that relate to eternity, the infinite, the Deity, we have no part or lot in them: we know nothing: what little we do know in practical directions is only in part. Our prophecy therefore should be in part only, and our expectation should be wide as heaven, and more lasting than time.
Are we then conducted to a condition of indolence? Are we invited by Jude to stand still, to do nothing, to throw ourselves simply in wise and tender contemplation upon God"s eternal Fatherhood, and let all the rest take care of itself? No baser interpretation could be put upon a good man"s words. Jude will not give us the comfort unless we attend to the exhortation,—"But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, guard yourselves in the love of God"; build, then rest; edify yourselves in the faith, and then leave all consequences; be industrious, and you shall be blessed; attend to responsibility, and God will do the rest: he will never leave you nor forsake you. We have to proceed upon a policy of increase. "—building" is adding, raising up, strengthening foundations that they may carry the whole superstructure with ease. Our business therefore is practical, not sentimental; not to be examining ourselves, but putting ourselves out to work; not sitting at home, saying, I wonder if I am worthy to go out to-day and plough the field. You have been suffering from poisoned air, you are not yet fully awake, you are half-dazed: go out into the fresh wind, seize the plough with both hands, and the rest will come; your blood will answer the appeal of the fresh air and the sunlight, and you will come back with the hunger that is the beginning of satisfaction. We die for want of fresh air and for want of activity. No worker ever complains; he has no time to complain: he has to find food for a dozen mouths; fifty little children are waiting for him and cannot go to bed until he has found them their supper, and he will go and find it: and will you suspect that man on the road wondering if after all he is accepted? No! When he goes on these errands he never takes the devil with him. But your over-fed and over-salaried Christian, and the man who has to pull down his barns and build greater, often wonders whether after all------, and then he is thought to be very humble, and though so wealthy yet so pious—it is a lie! He has his own idol, he is operating on the base of his own love; he wonders how far he is attracting the notice of God: whereas real, healthy, deep, eternal life in Christ says, God loves me, God stooped to die for me in the person of his Song of Solomon, God has given me every pledge of his love: now what I have to do is to build, to edify, to grow higher and higher, to pray more boldly, and to live the life of faith, not to whine the sentiment of doubt. That would reduce the numbers of the Church, you suggest? So it would, thank God! We do not live in Numbers, we live in quality. There are those who are ruining, so far as man can ruin, the Church,—not by argument or doubt or controversy or high intellectual ambitious thinking, but by representing to the world that a new responsibility has been incurred, the responsibility of keeping the garden of the heart, and watching it lest there should be a single weed within the enclosure. That is selfishness. On the other hand, if our assurance and absolute certainty in the love of God leads us to say, "Now I must live a life corresponding to that assurance," then all is well; it is thus that the balance is wrought out. We do not warm God into greater complacency, for he so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son to die for it: we have not therefore to warm the Lord into some higher temperature of love, we have to work so as to redress the balance on our side. No man can have the assurance that God loves him, and yet be idle: if he be idle he destroys the assurance. The sophism is that he should look to himself first, and then to God afterwards, as if his sole business was to please God: whereas God has loved us, died for us, sent his Son to save us, and his Spirit to regenerate and sanctify us: and believing these things we say, "Having then, dearly beloved, these promises, let us purify ourselves." Thus all self-attention comes from the highest motive, thus when we begin to examine ourselves we do so in the right light: not that we may please God when he comes on an unexpected visitation, but that we may answer God"s eternal love with trust, simplicity, and beneficence.
"The Book of Enoch is one of the most important remains of that early apocalyptic literature of which the book of Daniel is the great prototype. From its vigorous style and wide range of speculation the book is well worthy of the attention which it received in the first ages; and recent investigations have still left many points for further inquiry.
"The history of the book is remarkable. The first trace of its existence is generally found in the Epistle of St. Jude ( Judges 14, Judges 15; cf. Enoch), but the words of the Apostle leave it uncertain whether he derived his quotation from tradition or from writing, though the wide spread of the book in the second century seems almost decisive in favour of the latter supposition.
"In its present shape the book consists of a series of revelations supposed to have been given to Enoch and Noah, which extend to the most varied aspects of nature and life, and are designed to offer a comprehensive vindication of the action of Providence. It is divided into five parts. The first part, after a general introduction, contains an account of the fall of the angels ( Genesis 6:1) and of the judgment to come upon them and upon the giants, their offspring (6-16); and this is followed by the description of the journey of Enoch through the earth and lower heaven in company with an angel, who showed to him many of the great mysteries of nature, the treasure houses of the storms and winds, and fires of heaven, the prison of the fallen and the land of the blessed (17-36). The second part (37-71) is styled "a vision of Wisdom of Solomon," and consists of three "parables," in which Enoch relates the revelations of the higher secrets of heaven and of the spiritual world which were given to him. The first parable (38-44) gives chiefly a picture of the future blessings and manifestation of the righteous, with further details as to the heavenly bodies: the second (45-57) describes in splendid imagery the coming of Messiah and the results which it should work among "the elect" and the gainsayers: the third (58-69) draws out at further length the blessedness of the "elect and holy," and the confusion and wretchedness of the sinful rulers of the world. The third part (72-82) is styled "the book of the course of the lights of heaven," and deals with the motions of the sun and moon, and the changes of the seasons; and with this the narrative of the journey of Enoch closes. The fourth part (83-91) is not distinguished by any special name, but contains the record of a dream which was granted to Enoch in his youth, in which he saw the history of the kingdoms of God and of the world up to the final establishment of the throne of Messiah. The fifth part (92-105) contains the last addresses of Enoch to his children, in which the teaching of the former chapters is made the ground-work of earnest exhortation. The signs which attended the birth of Noah are next noticed (106-7); and another short "writing of Enoch" (108) forms the close to the whole book."—Smith"s Dictionary of the Bible.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Jude 1". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24