By D. M. PANTON.
Not a line written by our Lord’s hand has come down to us. Once, and once only, He wrote (John 8: 6): and that word vanished with the dust in which it was written. Nevertheless, for nearly two thousand years Jesus has been writing millions of letters: what are these?
1. - The Raw Material.
What is Christ’s paper? “Ye are an epistle of Christ, written, not in tables of stone, but in tables that are hearts” (2 Cor. 3: 3). God might write on the mind - yet, knowing what is right, I might refuse it; God might write on the conscience - yet, feeling what is right, I might neglect it; but when He writes on my heart, He grips the centre of my being, and masters my life. “I will put my laws on their heart, and upon their mind also* will I write them” (Heb. 10: 16).
2. - The Parchment.
All writing material - whether reeds, or leaves, or skin, or rag - is utterly unfit to be written on until worked up: the reeds and leaves have to be dried, the skin to be dressed, the rags to be pulped; even stone must be polished before it can take the engraver’s tool. The raw material is the heart: what is the parchment ready for inscription? “Written in tables [or tablets] that are hearts of flesh.” A heart which refuses to absorb the ink, which takes no saving impression from the Gospel, is a ‘hard’ heart, which has no part nor lot in salvation. “I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek. 36: 26). But all rags can make good paper. A manufacturer cares nothing concerning the original state of the rags:- foul, or clean, all he asks is that it should go through the indispensable process: so the cleanest sinner will not enter Heaven because of his cleanness, and the foulest sinner need not keep out of Heaven because of his foulness. Joel 2: 13.
3. - The Pen.
Christ writes no letter with the pen of an angel, or an audible voice from Heaven: what then is His pen? “An epistle of Christ, ministered by us.” The sun takes the photograph, but human hands set the camera: so the penmanship is Christ’s, but the amanuensis is any one who can write God’s truth on other hearts. “My tongue is the pen of a ready writer” (Ps. 45: 1), and that Writer is Christ. 2 Cor. 4: 13.
4. - The Ink.
What is the invisible and mysterious fluid, which,
traced by the finger of Christ, engraves God upon the heart? “Written, not with
ink, but with the Spirit of the living
God!” The Tablets are alive: the
Pen is alive: so must the Fluid be living too: the Holy Ghost is God’s great
Agent of life without Whom salvation is impossible. “If any man hath not the
Spirit of Christ, he is none
of His” (
5. - The Writer.
How can we be sure that the Writer is Christ? The author of a letter is revealed, not alone by the penmanship, or the signature – these can be forged, - but supremely by what he says, and how he says it: that is, by the contents, and the style. “An epistle of Christ” must give “a savour of Christ.” “I saw a terrible object” says a traveller – “propped against a wall. He had lost all semblance of humanity, eyes and face eaten away: he could neither move or speak, but could hear a little. Near him stood a handsome young Chinaman. ‘Do you see that young man?’ said the doctor. ‘When he came to us he was intensely proud, and bitterly opposed to the Gospel. He was converted. His first thought was, What can I do for Jesus? He constituted himself the nurse of his melancholy object, sleeping by his side, feeding him before touching his own food, and lifting him hither and thither.’” As a violet will fall out of an opened letter, or some word of love in it suddenly set all the pulses beating, whose is the aroma of this subtle and exquisite perfume? Whose is the image and superscription? It is ‘a sweet savour of Christ.’
6. - The Correspondent.
No letter was ever written except to convey thoughts to
others: to whom are these letters addressed?
“An epistle known and read of all men:”
that is, read and re-read; the handwriting recognised, and the contents
studied; read within and without. “The godly man is the ungodly man’s Bible.” Everybody knew what the Corinthians had
been: everybody knew what they now were: in every one of them,
7. - The Contents.
What do these letters declare? And who may become living letters? (1) “Ye” - the whole church - “are an epistle.” As there are many copies of the Bible, so there are many Christians, but only one epistle; and as a copy of the Bible may be mutilated or defective, yet the Bible is perfect, so, however defective a Christian, all the grace in the world to-day is lodged in the Church of Jesus Christ. One Christian is a living document overthrowing all infidel argument: how much more the entire Church! It spells a divine Christ. (2) If Christ has written one such letter, He can write a thousand, and He can write a million: and if your neighbour has become God’s love-letter to the world, so can you. (3) Life can hold no higher possibility for a man than to become God’s living letter: for it is Christianity in its most convincing form - the godlike life; in its most persuasive form ‑ a loving voice; in its most enduring form – an immortal heart; and in its divinest form - an autograph of God.
Christ will soon close His correspondence for ever. He will soon have written the last letter. Will you be one? God’s Church is a letter addressed to you: He who wrote it is waiting for an answer.