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Greatest Thing In The World -by Henry Drummond
Now I have a closing sentence
or two to add about Paul's reason for singling out love
as the supreme possession. It is a very remarkable reason.
In a single word it is this: it lasts. "Love,"
urges Paul, "never faileth." Then he begins again
one of his marvellous lists of the great things of the day,
and exposes them one by one. He runs over the things that
men thought were going to last, and shows that they are
all fleeting, temporary, passing away.
"Whether there be prophecies,
they shall fail" It was the mother's ambition for her
boy in those days that he should become a prophet. For hundreds
of years God had never spoken by means of any prophet, and
at that time the prophet was greater than the king. Men
waited wistfully for another messenger to come, and hung
upon his lips when he appeared as upon the very voice of
God. Paul says, "Whether there be prophecies, they
shall fail" This Book is full of prophecies. One by
one they have "failed"; that is, having been fulfilled
their work is finished; they have nothing more to do now
in the world except to feed a devout man's faith.
Then Paul talks about tongues.
That was another thing that was greatly coveted. "Whether
there be tongues, they shall cease." As we all know,
many, many centuries have passed since tongues have been
known in this world. They have ceased. Take it in any sense
you like. Take it, for illustration merely, as languages
in general--a sense which was not in Paul's mind at all,
and which though it cannot give us the specific lesson will
point the general truth. Consider the words in which these
chapters were written--Greek. It has gone. Take the Latin--the
other great tongue of those days. It ceased long ago. Look
at the Indian language. It is ceasing. The language of Wales,
of Ireland, of the Scottish Highlands is dying before our
eyes. The most popular book in the English tongue at the
present time, except the Bible, is one of Dickens's works,
his Pickwick Papers. It is largely written in the
language of London streetlife; and experts assure us that
in fifty years it will be unintelligible to the average
Then Paul goes farther, and
with even greater boldness adds, "Whether there be
knowledge, it shall vanish away." The wisdom of the
ancients, where is it? It is wholly gone. A schoolboy to-day
knows more than Sir Isaac Newton knew. His knowledge has
vanished away. You put yesterday's newspaper in the fire.
Its knowledge has vanished away. You buy the old editions
of the great encyclopaedias for a few pence. Their knowledge
has vanished away. Look how the coach has been superseded
by the use of steam. Look how electricity has superseded
that, and swept a hundred almost new inventions into oblivion.
One of the greatest living authorities, Sir William Thomson,
said the other day, "The steam-engine is passing away."
"Whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away."
At every workshop you will see, in the back yard, a heap
of old iron, a few wheels, a few levers, a few cranks, broken
and eaten with rust. Twenty years ago that was the pride
of the city Men flocked in from the country to see the great
invention; now it is superseded, its day is done. And all
the boasted science and philosophy of this day will soon
be old. But yesterday, in the University of Edinburgh, the
greatest figure in the faculty was Sir James Simpson, the
discoverer of chloroform. The other day his successor and
nephew, Professor Simpson, was asked by the librarian of
the University to go to the library and pick out the books
on his subject that were no longer needed. And his reply
to the librarian was this: "Take every text-book that
is more than ten years old, and put it down in the cellar."Sir
James Simpson was a great authority only a few years ago:
men came from all parts of the earth to consult him; and
almost the whole teaching of that time is consigned by the
science of to-day to oblivion. And in every branch of science
it is the same. "Now we know in part. We see through
a glass darkly."
Can you tell me anything that
is going to last? Many things Paul did not condescend to
name. He did not mention money, fortune, fame; but he picked
out the great things of his time, the things the best men
thought had something in them, and brushed them peremptorily
aside. Paul had no charge against these things in themselves.
All he said about them was that they would not last They
were great things, but not supreme things. There were things
beyond them. What we are stretches past what we do, beyond
what we possess. Many things that men denounce as sins are
not sins; but they are temporary. And that is a favourite
argument of the New Testament. John says of the world, not
that it is wrong, but simply that it "passeth away."
There is a great deal in the world that is delightful and
beautiful; there is a great deal in it that is great and
engrossing; but it will not last. All that is in the world,
the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride
of life, are but for a little while. Love not the world
therefore. Nothing that it contains is worth the life and
consecration of an immortal soul. The immortal soul must
give itself to something that is immortal. And the only
immortal things are these: "Now abideth faith, hope,
love, but the greatest of these is love."
Some think the time may come
when two of these three things will also pass away --faith
into sight, hope into fruition. Paul does not say so. We
know but little now about the conditions of the life that
is to come. But what is certain is that Love must last.
God, the Eternal God, is Love. Covet therefore that everlasting
gift, that one thing which it is certain is going to stand,
that one coinage which will be current in the Universe when
all the other coinages of all the nations of the world shall
be useless and unhonoured. You will give yourselves to many
things, give yourselves first to Love. Hold things in their
proportion. Hold things in their proportion. Let
at least the first great object of our lives be to achieve
the character defended in these words, the character,--and
it is the character of Christ--which is built around Love.
I have said this thing is
eternal. Did you ever notice how continually John associates
love and faith with eternal life? I was not told when I
was a boy that "God so loved the world that He gave
His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should
have everlasting life." What I was told, I remember,
was, that God so loved the world that, if I trusted in Him,
I was to have a thing called peace, or I was to have rest,
or I was to have joy, or I was to have safety. But I had
to find out for myself that whosoever trusteth in Him--that
is, whosoever loveth Him, for trust is only the avenue to
Love--hath everlasting life The Gospel offers a man
life. Never offer men a thimbleful of Gospel. Do not offer
them merely joy, or merely peace, or merely rest, or merely
safety; tell them how Christ came to give men a more abundant
life than they have, a life abundant in love, and therefore
abundant in salvation for themselves, and large in enterprise
for the alleviation and redemption of the world. Then only
can the Gospel take hold of the whole of a man, body, soul,
and spirit, and give to each part of his nature its exercise
and reward. Many of the current Gospels are addressed only
to a part of man's nature. They offer peace, not life; faith,
not Love; justification, not regeneration. And men slip
back again from such religion because it has never really
held them. Their nature was not all in it. It offered no
deeper and gladder life-current than the life that was lived
before. Surely it stands to reason that only a fuller love
can compete with the love of the world.
To love abundantly is to live
abundantly, and to love for ever is to live for ever. Hence,
eternal life is inextricably bound up with love We want
to live for ever for the same reason that we want to live
tomorrow. Why do you want to live tomorrow? It is because
there is some one who loves you, and whom you want to see
tomorrow, and be with, and love back. There is no other
reason why we should live on than that we love and are beloved.
It is when a man has no one to love him that he commits
suicide. So long as he has friends, those who love him and
whom he loves, he will live; because to live is to love.
Be it but the love of a dog, it will keep him in life; but
let that go and he has no contact with life, no reason to
live. The "energy of life" has failed. Eternal
life also is to know God, and God is love. This is Christ's
own definition. Ponder it. "This is life eternal, that
they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ
whom Thou hast sent." Love must be eternal. It is what
God is. On the last analysis, then, love is life. Love never
faileth, and life never faileth, so long as there is love.
That is the philosophy of what Paul is showing us; the reason
why in the nature of things Love should be the supreme thing--because
it is going to last; because in the nature of things it
is an Eternal Life. That Life is a thing that we are living
now, not that we get when we die; that we shall have a poor
chance of getting when we die unless we are living now.
No worse fate can befall a man in this world than to live
and grow old alone, unloving, and unloved. To be lost is
to live in an unregenerate condition, loveless and unloved;
and to be saved is to love; and he that dwelleth in love
dwelleth already in God. For God is love.
Now I have all but finished.
How many of you will join me in reading this chapter once
a week for the next three months? A man did that once and
it changed his whole life. Will you do it? It is for the
greatest thing in the world. You might begin by reading
it every day, especially the verses which describe the perfect
character. "Love suffereth long, and is kind; love
envieth not; love vaunteth not itself." Get these ingredients
into your life. Then everything that you do is eternal.
It is worth doing. It is worth giving time to. No man can
become a saint in his sleep; and to fulfil the condition
required demands a certain amount of prayer and meditation
and time, just as improvement in any direction, bodily or
mental, requires preparation and care. Address yourselves
to that one thing; at any cost have this transcendent character
exchanged for yours. You will find as you look back upon
your life that the moments that stand out, the moments when
you have really lived, are the moments when you have done
things in a spirit of love. As memory scans the past, above
and beyond all the transitory pleasures of life, there leap
forward those supreme hours when you have been enabled to
do unnoticed kindnesses to those round about you, things
too trifling to speak about, but which you feel have entered
into your eternal life. I have seen almost all the beautiful
things God has made; I have enjoyed almost every pleasure
that He has planned for man; and yet as I look back I see
standing out above all the life that has gone four or five
short experiences when the love of God reflected itself
in some poor imitation, some small act of love of mine,
and these seem to be the things which alone of all one's
life abide. Everything else in all our lives is transitory.
Every other good is visionary. But the acts of love which
no man knows about, or can ever know about--they never fail.
In the Book of Matthew, where
the Judgment Day is depicted for us in the imagery of One
seated upon a throne and dividing the sheep from the goats,
the test of a man then is not, "How have I believed?"
but "How have I loved?" The test of religion,
the final test of religion, is not religiousness, but Love.
I say the final test of religion at that great Day is not
religiousness, but Love; not what I have done, not what
I have believed, not what I have achieved, but how I have
discharged the common charities of life. Sins of commission
in that awful indictment are not even referred to. By what
we have not done, by sins of omission, we are judged.
It could not be otherwise. For the withholding of love is
the negation of the spirit of Christ, the proof that we
never knew Him, that for us He lived in vain. It means that
He suggested nothing in all our thoughts, that He inspired
nothing in all our lives, that we were not once near enough
to Him to be seized with the spell of His compassion for
the world. It means that:--
lived for myself, I thought for myself,
For myself, and none beside--
Just as if Jesus had never lived,
As if He had never died."
is the Son of Man before whom the nations of the
world shall be gathered. It is in the presence of Humanity
that we shall be charged. And the spectacle itself, the
mere sight of it, will silently judge each one. Those will
be there whom we have met and helped: or there, the unpitied
multitude whom we neglected or despised. No other Witness
need be summoned. No other charge than lovelessness shall
be preferred. Be not deceived. The words which all of us
shall one Day hear, sound not of theology but of life, not
of churches and saints but of the hungry and the poor, not
of creeds and doctrines but of shelter and clothing, not
of Bibles and prayer-books but of cups of cold water in
the name of Christ. Thank God the Christianity of to-day
is coming nearer the world's need. Live to help that on.
Thank God men know better, by a hairsbreadth, what religion
is, what God is, who Christ is, where Christ is. Who is
Christ? He who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited
the sick. And where is Christ? Where?--whoso shall receive
a little child in My name receiveth Me. And who are Christ's?
Every one that loveth is born of God.