A. E. Long, Nutley
THE SIN FROM WHICH can be said to stem all other sins into which Christians may fall, is that of spiritual tepidness. Christ's indictment of the Ephesian church was that it had left its " first love." This was not to say that it was without love for Him ; lacking this it would have been " anathema " (1 Cor. 16. 22). It meant that it had departed from the freshness of its early love for Christ, " the love of . . . espousals". The Laodicean church was indicated for lukewarmness. It was " neither hot nor cold ", neither wholly for, nor yet wholly indifferent to, Christ. It was in the borderland of spiritual tepidity and, therefore, offensive to Him. The Ephesian condition, if not remedied, ends in that of Laodicea. It would not be unfair comment that these states are to be remarked in many local churches of our day and it may well be wondered whether the sanctions of which these early churches were warned have not been applied to their modern counterparts, despite the continuance of " divine service," for the removal of the lampstand and the spewing forth do not necessarily imply immediate cessation. The appurtenances of worship and service may indeed continue, but not as an effective witness to Christ. Both the Ephesian and Laodicean states suggest divided allegiance. The leaving of " first love " implies rivalry, even as being " neither cold nor hot " indicates vacillation between these two extremes. In Ephesus, religious orthodoxy had been substituted for love, a necessary adjunct, but no substitute for it. In Laodicea, worldliness had ousted love for Christ. Even as Israel's idolatry in Jeremiah's day had supplanted the " love of . . . espousals ", so had orthodoxy and worldliness usurped love for Christ in the first century of the Christian era.
The theme of divided allegiance is an oft-recurring one in Holy Writ. It is variously expressed. Sometimes it is referred to as a " double heart ". In Psalm 12, David laments the failing of faithfulness among men. Dependability was not a notable characteristic of his day, any more than it is of ours. Of men generally he writes, " with flattering lip, and with a double heart, do they speak". They were insincere in speech. They said one thing and meant another. Conversely, among the tribes who came to make David king were these " of Zebulun, such as . . . could keep rank . . . and were not of a double heart". Their allegiance was not divided between David and Saul, but was wholly for David.
It is also spoken of as a " divided heart ", a heart apportioned in its allegiance. In Hosea's day, the multiplication of altars in the pursuit of idolatry caused the prophet to write, " Their heart is divided". It is likewise spoken of as a " heart not perfect ". In his old age, Solomon's " wives turned away his heart after other gods ; and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God". In this he was unlike his father David, whose heart was perfect. This is not to imply perfection of character, for David was certainly not immune from blame, but indicates a settled bent of life and devotion, despite temporary aberrations, to a primary Cause. It is well for us that when, like Solomon, we pray that others may have a " perfect heart", we have regard to the possibility of our own defection in that very thing. (1 Kings 8. 61).
God's requirement of His people Israel was that they should love Him " with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might". This has never been abrogated. It was no part of Christ's mission to do so ; on the contrary, He came " not to destroy, but to fulfil " the law. The ceremonial law passed into disuse upon the death of Christ, but the moral law remained. God would not brook rivalry in His people's affection for Him. He proclaimed Himself as " a jealous God ", in the matter. His attitude finds support in Paul's words to the Corinthians, " I am jealous over you with a jealousy of God", i.e. in regard to their undivided allegiance to Christ. Christ warned His disciples against a divided allegiance. He said, " no man can serve two masters : for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon". We are so constituted that we cannot enter¬tain two major concurrent loves. Christ's words were the application of His teaching concerning " treasures upon the earth " and " treasures in heaven ". Our affections will be where our " treasures " are, whether upon the earth or in heaven. Many try to make the best of both worlds and fail miserably in each. The illustration of the eye enforces His teaching. By the " single " eye is meant the undivided heart, whole and concentrated in its allegiance. By the " evil " eye is intended the divided heart, vacillating between heavenly and earthly interests.
In contradistinction to these doubtful states of heart, the Bible speaks of the " whole heart ". This means a heart wholly for God, undistracted in its basic allegiance. David illustrates this in rare degree. In Psalms 9, 36 and 138 he writes, in slightly different words, " I will praise Thee, 0 Lord my God, with my whole heart ". Psalm 111 also strikes the same note. In this Psalm the " work " and " works " of God are prominently in view, for there is nothing so calculated to inspire whole-hearted praise as the remembrance of these. What kind of response do the works of God elicit from us ? Is there the sense of expectancy, of spiritual alertness and fervour, or are we listless, dull and apathetic ? unmoved by the recital of God's " marvellous works " worthily to proclaim his praise?
Psalm 119 presents the " whole heart " in a variety of ways. In verses 2 and 10, the " whole heart " is dedicated to seeking after God. In verses 34 and 69, it is devoted to the keeping of His precepts. In verses 58 and 145 it is bent upon prayer. Thus there was whole-heartedness in seeking after God, in keeping His commandments and in prayer. Most of us would in honesty have to confess to a somewhat different experience—periods of whole-hearted-ness certainly, in these things, but interspersed with periods of spiritual lassitude and even inertia, when seeking after God, observing His law and intreating His help have been more remarkable for their lack of earnestness than for their whole-heartedness. May the Lord give us more of a " whole heart " in all these expressions of spiritual life!
Paul's words to Timothy, " Be diligent in these things, give thyself wholly to them", are not inapplicable to ourselves. Timothy had a special vocation in the public reading of the Scriptures, exhortation and teaching. In these his gift was not to be neglected. It was to be no perfunctory use of spiritual talent. These matters could not afford to wait upon a grudging performance, as of mere duty, nor upon a leisured dilettantish approach. Timothy must give himself " wholly " to them, to be effective. Is there not far too much partial and grudging giving, both of ourselves and of our substance, to the service of Christ, for us to be truly effective ?