THE SUCCESS OF FAILURE

 

By B. HINSON, D.D.

 

 

The men who have not succeeded are often the great heroes of God, and heaven is reserved for these conspicuous failures.  The glory of these un-succeeding ones, who were un-seduced by the prizes the world offers,* and un-affrighted at all the hostilities which surround them.  The glory of those who dared while daring was possible, and who died when life could no longer be maintainedIf you dip into the past some two millenniums you arrive at the time when Nero, Emperor of Rome, smeared pitch upon men and women who believed in the Saviourhood of the Son of God and set them on fire, while he pursued his deviltries [i.e., 'devilish practices and behaviour.'] illumined by light emitted from those living torches.  And you go back to the time when the Son of God stood before Pilate who said: "Take him to the cross, and let Him be put to death!" Failed!  These are the failures!  And the Lord write me down among them, among the mighty men who attained unto the glory of conspicuous failure.

 

And Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles, writing his Epistles, preaching his sermons, living his wonderful life for Christ, and then to put his neck down upon the block and lose his head by the axe of a Roman executioner on the Appian Road.  A failure!  And David Livingstone over in Africa, every nerve an avenue for the charges of pain to prance along, writing in his diary the day before he died a prayer that Godís blessing might rest on any man who would help to heal the open sore of the world in poor down-trodden Africa.A failure!And Chinese Gordon, shut up in Khartoum - the man who put a handkerchief outside his tent by which all men knew the great General was at prayer and might not be disturbed - scorning any weapon, and leading his troops to victory after victory with a little cane he held in his hand, and at last cooped up in the city of the alien to be cowardly assassinated.A failure!

 

The men to whom the honours of the world appeared as tinsel; the men who were so large in brain and heart and aspiration and endeavour that nothing in the world could satisfy them, and so they died in faith, not having received The men who cannot be warped, who cannot be bought; the men who will not lie; the men who believe, and believe in the very innermost recess of the soul.  The men who have got the conviction and the men who are held by that conviction; the men about whom nobody would believe the slander.  These failures of time, these failures of the world, who are the heroes of eternity, and the kingly priests in the kingdom of GodThe glory of failure!  I remember reading when I knew very little about the Christian religion, how some man said: "Jesus Christ is the outstanding and conspicuous failure of all history." He is no failure now!

 

He it is who inspired old Latimer in the blaze, to say to Ridley: "Play the man, and by Godís grace we will light a candle in England as we thus blazingly die, that will never be put out." He is the one concerning whom John Brownís wife, when Cleverhouse blew her husbandís dead off, and turning said to her, - "What do you think of your husband now?" replied, - "I always thought well of him, but I never thought so well of him as at this moment!"  He is the one when Jamie Douglas wended his way up the hillside with provisions for hidden Christians and was held up by Popish men over a cliff as they said, - "Unless you tell us where these hiding Christians are, we will drop you down."  He is the one who inspired Jamie Douglas, as he looked down into the deep abyss, to say: "It is not so deep as Hell: I will never tell, and you can drop me down!"

 

I wonder if we dare stand beside Him in these testing days?  Not in vain is the great emblem of the Christian religion a cross.  You have got it in your watch charm, my brother.  You have got it around your neck, my sister. But have you got it in your brain?Have you got it in your heart?Have you got it in your life?How much money have you ever lost because of the Cross?How many opportunities for attaining success have you let slip because of the Cross?Upon what honour have you turned your back because of the Cross?What disparagement have you deliberately incurred and invited because of the Cross?What loneliness has been yours, what vituperation [i.e., 'blame, abuse',] and slander have you endured because of the Cross?  How much has it cost you to be Christís true man, to be Christianityís champion?

 

I wonder how many of us are daring to go without the camp to Christ and share His reproach.  I remember when that cup was put to my own lip, the time when He arrested me; and of all the things in the world there was nothing more repugnant to me than to be baptized into His death and resurrection; and when I read His Word and found I had to do it, it was putting my head in the dust, and it was bending my proud neck in humiliation.  And I do not believe I have ever done an act that called for such denial and self-sacrifice as when I walked down into the water and was baptized into the Name of Jesus Christ and into the company of people I had derided and scorned, who called themselves Baptists.  And the cup He has put to my lip many a time since, asking me to do things I shrank from doing, asking me to say things I would almost as soon have died as spoken them, asking me to take a stand that was the opposite of all that I was inclined to do.  Why, only yesterday I said I was never intended to be a preacher of the Gospel.  But ere five minutes had passed by He came to me again and said, "Now I have been calling you to be without the camp and bear the reproach for forty years. Are you going to fail Me now?"  And once again I looked up into His face and said, "Not while there is a sky above my head and an earth beneath my feet, for where Thou goest I will go; where Thou dwellest I will dwell; and Thou shalt be my God till my life ends, or until the heavens are split, and Thou shalt appear in Thy glory."

 

This is the success of failure.  This is the glory of defeat. That a man can overcome himself, and overcome the world and overcome hell, and stand Godís loyalist and Jesus Christís champion.  Are we standing there?  Do we dare stand there?  I can promise you nothing for to-day because you do it.  But I can promise you a great deal to-morrow, when He shall come, before whose fiery Presence the stars dry up like dew-drops, and the heaven opens, and hell, and He in all His glory will say to you and to me who have tried to do our little bit down here: "Well done, good and faithful servant, ENTER into the joy of thy Lord!" 

 

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FOOTNOTE

"Affliction worketh glory:" "our light affliction worketh an exceeding weight of glory:" "our affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh an eternal weight of glory." Every word is a marked and beautiful antithesis. Strange to say, the Apostle describes the glory by an old earthly metaphor, nay, by the very metaphor he used to apply to his afflictions; he calls it a weight. We speak of a weight of care, a weight of sorrow, a weight of anxiety: but a weight of glory! Surely that is a startling symbol. We do not think of a man [or woman] as being crushed, overwhelmed, weighed down by glory. We should have thought that the old metaphor of care would have been repulsive, that it would have been cast off like a worn-out garment and remembered no more for ever. Nay, but the old garment is not worn out when the glory comes, it is only transfigured; that which made thy weight of care is that which makes thy weight of glory. Thou needest not a new object but a new light - to see by day what thou hast only seen in darkness. Thou who art weighted with some heavy burden, pause ere thou askest its removal; thy weight of present care may be thy weight of future glory - may be, nay, must be when light shall dawn. 

 

- GEORGE MATHESON, D.D.

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