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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles

Chapter 61 - Hebrews 13:13 - Let us go Forth Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles by Bonar, Horatius




Let Us Go Forth.


"Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach."-Hebrews 13:13.



     This is the sound of a trumpet. It is the voice of one who speaks out, and who speaks with authority; of one who has himself been spoken to by another; who has obeyed and gone forth; who calls on us to follow his example. It is the voice of a leader, like Moses, calling on Israel to follow him, as he puts himself at their head, and bids them quit the land of Egypt and the house of bondage.

     Let us go forth! The call is urgent. It must not be slighted. We dare not linger.

     Who calls? It is Paul the apostle, the servant of Jesus Christ; he who was once Saul of Tarsus, a persecutor, a blasphemer, a murderer; he who assisted in casting out Stephen,-he now cries aloud, Let us go forth! Nay more. He who, years before, had gone forth, leaving all for Christ, counting all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus,-he now, as if he had never gone forth at all, cries aloud, let us go forth! This going forth, then, is not a thing done once, when we believed and were forgiven; it is a lifelong thing, like the taking up of the cross 'daily,' of which the Master speaks (Luke 9:23). We do not go forth once, and then have done with it, like Abraham quitting Ur of the Chaldees, encountering but once the shame, and the scandal, and the reproach, and the bitterness. Then would our conversion be a swift passage to the kingdom of the holy. But in this case there is a constant going forth, and yet a remaining here; a forsaking all for Christ; a coming out and being separate, and yet continuing here on earth, amid the temptations and uncongenialities of a world where all is evil.

     To whom does he call? To the Church of God, the 'redeemed from among men,' the 'delivered from a present evil world.' To the Church of all ages he speaks, and as truly to us as to the Hebrew saints whom he was instructing in this epistle. To each of us he speaks; and leading, as well as pointing the way, like a captain at the head of his troops, or a shepherd at the head of his flock, he says, let us go forth! There is not one of us to whom this appeal is not made,-not one of us who can excuse himself and say, 'This does not apply to me; my circumstances do not require a going forth at all. I am a Christian man among Christian men, the member of a Christian church, engaged in lawful business, living an irreproachable life. It cannot apply to me.' It does apply to you. The servant says, and his voice is but an echo of the Master's, to all His disciples, let us go forth!

     Where are we to go? Without the camp; to the place of shame and reproach, the place where Jesus suffered, that we may be identified with Him, and have fellowship with Him in His endurance, 'filling up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ' (Colossians 1:24), and also of His shame. The camp here spoken of is certainly not 'the camp of the saints' spoken of in Revelations 20:9. It is of the 'camp' of Israel that the apostle speaks; and he is making use of a figure taken from the encampments of that people in the desert. It corresponds to 'the city,' outside of whose gates our great Sin offering went, bearing our sins, and leaving us an example that we should follow His steps. Let us go forth without the camp, and be content to be what He was,-rejected of men; to be what the sin-offering was,-an outcast thing, the off scouring of all things. It is not merely, Let us go forth out of Babylon, or out of Egypt, or out of the world; but it is out of the camp. It was Israel that rejected Christ; it was Jerusalem that cast Him out,-Jerusalem, once the city into which all were to enter and dwell, now out of which all were to flee; it was not the Roman but the Jew that cried, 'Crucify Him, crucify Him! not this man, but Barabbas.' It was professedly religious men, such as the Pharisees, that hated and reviled Christ from first to last, and stirred up the people to seek His death. From all such hollow profession, such formal Christianity, such mere churchism, such nominal religion or religiousness, let us go forth. It is around us on every side; it tempts us, or it opposes us, or it reproaches us, or it maligns us as presumptuous, hypocrites, righteous overmuch, morose, self-sufficient, and imagining that both wisdom and religion will die with us. But let us not, because of these taunts or temptations, give ground, and endeavor to meet it half way. Let us resist; let us go forth. We must come daily into contact with it; let us not become assimilated to it, or lower our protest against it. We must be in the midst of it, but let us stand aloof from it. From all this unreal religion, dubious Christianity, time serving discipleship, let us go forth! If we are to be Christians at all, let us be so out and out,-in word and deed, in the inner and the outer man, in our nonconformity to the world, and in our protest against the lifeless, powerless 'form of godliness' which, in all churches and lands, has shown itself from the beginning, and always shown itself most when religion is in fashion. Out from all this hollowness, this unreality, this heartless formalism, let us go forth, even though in doing so we have to bear the reproach of Christ. The picture, the statue, the mummy,-these are not the living man; and woe be to him who is content with death instead of life, with the shell instead of the kernel, with the dogma instead of the person, with the routine of duty and devotion, instead of the joy and light, the love and liberty, the health and energy of soul, which, under the power of the Holy Ghost, are realized where the gospel is credited, and God's testimony to His own Son accepted as true and divine! Living religion must expect reproach, specially from those to whom Christianity is only a creed, or a church, or a name. Let us count upon this, and be prepared to bear this reproach as the reproach of Christ.

     Let us go forth! And in so doing, let us follow Christ, let us follow Paul, let us follow those saints of whom we read, 'Ye are washed, ye are sanctified.' Let us be decided, consistent, bold; let our trumpet give no uncertain sound, nor let any doubtful inscription be engraved upon our banner. If formalism be religion, take it, use it, and see how it will serve you in the great day. If mere membership of a Christian church will do your turn, try it; see if it will stand the fire.

     Men and brethren, the time is short, and the issues are infinitely momentous. Let us make sure. Is it sand or is it rock on which our house is built? Will it stand the storm and the flood?

     It is good to be called by the name of Christ; but let us remember how it is written, 'Let him that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.' We are responsible for acting up to all that God has revealed; we are specially responsible for acting up to all that our profession implies. And how much does that profession imply? How much is expected of us?

     Let us go forth! Whatever it may cost us, let us shake off all falsehood and uncertainty in the things of God. Let us deal honestly with ourselves, with our consciences, with our Bibles, with the gospel, with our creed, with Christ, with the Spirit of God. All is sincerity on the part of Him with whom we have to do; let all be sincerity on our part. Let us deal boldly alike with error and with truth, with unbelief and with faith. Let us not be cowards in the things of God, or in the battle of the Cross. Let us not hesitate, and doubt, and halt, as if Christ had never come; as if His gospel contained no good news; as if it mattered little whether we served Him believingly or doubtingly, in the liberty of conscious sonship, or in the bondage, and gloom, and feebleness of men who know not whose they are.

     Let us go forth! And let us do so, rejoicing that we are counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. Let us not be afraid of the enemy, nor quail before the sneer, or the taunt, or the worthless jest of the scoffer. Let us not be ashamed of Christ and His gospel, of His cross, and crown, and kingdom. It is but a little, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Let us live as men who believe this. Let the world know our hope; let it see our joy, not once nor twice, but always, day by day, till it become envious of our peace, and never rest till that peace becomes its own. Let our faces shine,-shine with gladness,-the gladness of men who know the Lord. The joy, the love, the patience of the primitive Christians, struck their heathen enemies, and often won them. Let our joy, and love, and patience do the same in these days to all around us.

     Let us go forth! What though this make us strangers here? We have before us something better than the tents we leave,-'the continuing city,'-'the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.' We are citizens of no mean city, though we have not yet reached it. Let us live as men who know their citizenship, and believe in the glory of the city to which they are fighting their way. With such prospects as ours, what is reproach, or hatred, or the loss of all things? The incorruptible inheritance will make up for all, and it will soon be here. Let us be 'separate from sinners;' let us 'keep ourselves unspotted from the world;' let us, on no pretext, lower our standard, as if we could win souls by being unfaithful to Christ. In business, in recreation, in public life, in the family, in the sanctuary, in the shop, or market, or counting-house, or court of law, let us be Christians,-unmistakable Christians,-abstaining from all 'appearance of evil,' and shining ever as lights in the world,-lights not growing dimmer, but brighter; lights not fitful, but constant.

     Let us go forth! To Him! Yes, to Him! for it is with Him, even with Him who died for us, that we are associated here in labour, and suffering, and shame, as we shall be hereafter in rest, and joy, and glory. The companionship of Christ! This is what we are called to partake of and enjoy. We go forth to Him; He comes in to us. 'Lo! I am with you always.' To love Him and to know His love; to lean on Him unceasingly; to taste His boundless grace; to work for Him, counting it no hard service; to speak for Him as He may give us opportunity; to lie down each night under His approving smile; to give as well as to work and speak for Him; to spend and be spent in His service,-this is our calling. Let us not grudge the cost, but count the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures we abandon. He took our reproach; let us gladly take His. Let us rejoice that we are permitted to share His shame. With Him all shame is glory, all sorrow gladness. The wilderness with Him is paradise. And if His companionship can make even the desert bright and green, what will it not make the kingdom?