The Example of the Incarnation

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”—Philippians 2:5–8.

“Christ our Example”: after “Christ our Redeemer,” no words can more deeply stir the Christian heart than these. Every Christian joyfully recognizes the example of Christ, as, in the admirable words of a great Scotch commentator, a body “of living legislation,” as “law, embodied and pictured in a perfect humanity.” In Him, in a word, we find the moral ideal historically realized, and we bow before it as sublime and yearn after it with all the assembled desires of our renewed souls.

How lovingly we follow in thought every footstep of the Son of Man, on the rim of hills that shut in the emerald cup of Nazareth, on the blue marge of Gennesaret, over the mountains of Judea, and long to walk in spirit by His side. He came to save every age, says Irenæus, and therefore He came as an infant, a child, a boy, a youth, and a man. And there is no age that cannot find its example in Him. We see Him, the properest child that ever was given to a mother’s arms, through all the years of childhood at Nazareth “subjecting Himself to His parents.” We see Him a youth, laboring day by day contentedly at His father’s bench, in this lower sphere, too, with no other thought than to be “about His father’s business.” We see Him in His holy manhood, going, “as His custom was,” Sabbath by Sabbath, to the synagogue,—God as He was, not too good to worship with His weaker brethren. And then the horizon broadens. We see Him at the banks of Jordan, because it became Him to fulfil every righteousness, meekly receiving the baptism of repentance for us. We see Him in the wilderness, calmly rejecting the subtlest trials of the evil one: refusing to supply His needs by a misuse of His divine power, repelling the confusion of tempting God with trusting God, declining to seek His Father’s ends by any other than His Father’s means. We see Him among the thousands of Galilee, anointed of God with the Holy Ghost and power, going about doing good: with no pride of birth, though He was a king; with no pride of intellect, though omniscience dwelt within Him; with no pride of power, though all power in Heaven and earth was in His hands; or of station, though the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in Him bodily; or of superior goodness or holiness: but in lowliness of mind esteeming every one better than Himself, healing the sick, casting out devils, feeding the hungry, and everywhere breaking to men the bread of life. We see Him everywhere offering to men His life for the salvation of their souls: and when, at last, the forces of evil gathered thick around Him, walking, alike without display and dismay, the path of suffering appointed for Him, and giving His life at Calvary that through His death the world might live. “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” is too low a question. Who can find in all His life a single lack, a  single failure to set us a perfect example? In what difficulty of life, in what trial, in what danger or uncertainty, when we turn our eyes to Him, do we fail to find just the example that we need? And if perchance we are, by the grace of God, enabled to walk with Him but a step in the way, how our hearts burn within us with longing to be always with Him,—to be strengthened by the almighty power of God in the inner man, to make every footprint which He has left in the world a stepping-stone to climb upward over His divine path. Do we not rightly say that next to our longing to be in Christ is our corresponding longing to be like Christ; that only second in our hearts to His great act of obedience unto death by which He became our Saviour, stands His holy life in our world of sin, by which He becomes our example?

Of course our text is not singular in calling upon us to make Christ our example. “Be ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ Jesus,” is rather the whole burden of the ethical side of Paul’s teaching. And in this, too, he was but the imitator of his Lord, who pleads with us to “learn of Him because He is meek and lowly in heart.” The peculiarity of our present passage is that it takes us back of Christ’s earthly life and bids us imitate Him in the great act of His incarnation itself. Not, of course, as if the implication were that we were equal with Christ and needed to stoop to such service as He performed. “Why art thou proud, O man?” Augustus asks pointedly. “God for thee became low. Thou wouldst perhaps be ashamed to imitate a lowly man; then at least imitate the lowly God. The Son of God came in the character of man and was made low.… He, since He was God, became man: do thou, O man, recognize that thou art man. Thy entire humility is to know thyself.” The very force of the appeal lies, in a word, in the infinite exaltation of Christ above us: and the mention of the incarnation is the Apostle’s reminder to us of the ineffable majesty which was by nature His to whom he would raise our admiring eyes. Paul pries at our hearts here with the great lever of the deity of our exemplar. He calls upon us to do nothing less than to be imitators of God. “What encouragement greater than this?” cries Chrysostom, with his instinctive perception of the motive-springs of the human heart. “Nothing arouses a great soul to the performance of good works, so much as learning that in this it is likened to God.” And here, too, Paul is but the follower of his Lord: “Be ye merciful, as your Father which is in heaven is merciful,” are words which fell from His divine lips, altogether similar in their implication to Paul’s words in the text: “Let it be this mind that is in you, which also was in Christ Jesus.” It is the Spirit which animated our Lord in the act of His incarnation which His apostle would see us imitate. He would have us in all our acts to be like Christ, as He showed Himself to be in the innermost core of His being, when He became poor, He that was rich, that we by His poverty might be made rich.

We perceive, then, that the exhortation of the Apostle gathers force for itself from the deity of Christ, and from the nature of the transaction by which He, being God, was brought into this sphere of dependent, earthly life in which we live by nature. It is altogether natural, then, that he sharpens his appeal by reminding his readers somewhat fully who Christ was and what He did for our salvation, in order that, having the facts more vividly before their minds, they may more acutely feel the spirit by which He was animated. Thus, in a perfectly natural way, Paul is led, not to inform his readers but to remind them, in a few quick and lively phrases which do not interrupt the main lines of discourse but rather etch them in with a deeper color, of what we may call the whole doctrine of the Person of Christ. With such a masterly hand, or let us rather say with such an eager spirit and such a loving clearness and firmness of touch, has he done this, that these few purely incidental words constitute one of the most complete statements of an essential doctrine to be found within the whole compass of the Scriptures. Though compressed within the limits of three short verses, it ranks in fulness of exposition with the already marvellously concise outline of the same doctrine given in the opening verses of the Gospel of John. Whenever the subtleties of heresy confuse our minds as we face the problems which have been raised about the Person of our Lord, it is preëminently to these verses that we flee to have our apprehension purified, and our thinking corrected. The sharp phrases cut their way through every error: or, as we may better say, they are like a flight of swift arrows, each winged to the joints of the harness.

The golden-mouthed preacher of the ancient church, impressed with this fulness of teaching and inspired himself to one of his loftiest flights by the verve of the Apostle’s crisp language, pictures the passage itself as an arena, and the Truth, as it runs burning through the clauses, as the victorious chariot dashing against and overthrowing its contestants one after the other, until at last, amid the clamor of applause which rises from every side to heaven, it springs alone towards the goal, with coursers winged with joy sweeping like a single flash over the ground. One by one he points out the heresies concerning the Person of Christ which had sprung up in the ancient church, as clause by clause the text smites and destroys them; and is not content until he shows how the knees of all half-truths and whole falsehoods alike concerning this great matter are made by these searching words to bow before our Saviour’s perfect deity, His complete humanity, and the unity of His person. The magic of the passage has lost none of its virtue with the millennium and a half which has fled by since John electrified Constantinople with his golden words: this sword of the Spirit is as keen to-day as it was then, and happy is the man who knows its temper and has the arm to wield it. But we must not lose ourselves in a purely theological interest with such a passage before us. Rather let us keep our eyes, for this hour, on Paul’s main purpose, and seek to feel the force of the example of Christ as he here advances it, for the government of our lives. But to do this, as he points it with so full a reference to the Person of Christ, following him we must begin by striving to realize who and what our Lord was, who set us this example.

I. Let us observe, then, first, that the actor to whose example Paul would direct our eyes, is declared by him to have been no other than God Himself. “Who was before in the form of God,” are his words: and they are words than which no others could be chosen which would more explicitly or with more directness assert the deity of the person who is here designated by the name of Christ Jesus. After the wear and tear of two thousand years on the phrases, it would not be surprising if we should fail to feel this as strongly as we ought. Let us remember that the phraseology which Paul here employs was the popular usage of his day, though first given general vogue by the Aristotelian philosophy: and that it was accordingly the most natural language for strongly asserting the deity of Christ which could suggest itself to him. As you know, this mode of speech resolved everything into its matter and its form,—into the bare material out of which it is made, and that body of characterizing qualities which constitute it what it is. “Form,” in a word, is equivalent to our phrase, “specific character.” If we may illustrate great things by small, we may say, in this manner of speech, that the “matter” of a sword, for instance, is steel, while its “form” is that whole body of characterizing qualities which distinguish a sword from all other pieces of steel, and which, therefore, make this particular piece of steel distinctively a sword. In this case, these are, of course, largely matters of shape and contour. But now the steel itself, which constitutes the matter of the sword, has also “its matter” and its “form”: its “matter” being metal, and its “form” being the whole body of qualities that distinguish steel from other metals, and make this metal steel. Going back still a step, metal itself has its “matter” and “form”; its “matter” being material substance and its “form” that body of qualities which distinguish metallic from other kinds of substance. And last of all, matter itself has its “matter”, namely, substance, and its “form”, namely, the qualities which distinguish material from spiritual substance, and make this substance what we call matter. The same mode of speech is, of course, equally applicable to the spiritual sphere. The “matter” of the human spirit is bare spiritual substance, while its “form” is that body of qualities which constitute this spirit a human spirit, and in the absence of which, or by the change of which, this spirit would cease to be human and become some other kind of spirit. The “matter” of an angel, again, is bare spiritual substance, while the “form” is the body of qualities which make this spirit specifically an angel. So, too, with God: the “matter” of God is bare spiritual substance, and the “form” is that body of qualities which distinguish Him from all other spiritual beings, which constitute Him God, and without which He would not be God. What Paul asserts then, when he says that Christ Jesus existed in the “form of God,” is that He had all those characterizing qualities which make God God, the presence of which constitutes God, and in the absence of which God does not exist. He who is “in the form of God,” is God.

Nor is it without significance that, out of the possible modes of expression open to him, Paul was led to choose just this mode of asserting the deity of our Lord. His mind in this passage was not on the bare divine essence; it was upon the divine qualities and prerogatives of Christ. It is not the abstract conception that Christ is God that moves us to our deepest admiration for His sublime act of self-sacrifice: but rather our concrete realization that He was all that God is, and had all that God has,—that God’s omnipotence was His, His infinite exaltation, His unapproachable blessedness. Therefore Paul is instinctively led to choose an expression which tells us not the bare fact that Christ was God, but that He was “in the form of God,”—that He had in full possession all those characterizing qualities which, taken together, make God that all-holy, perfect, all-blessed being which we call God. Thus the Apostle prepares his readers for the great example by quickening their apprehension not only of who, but of what Christ was.

II. Let us note, then, secondly, that the Apostle outlines for us very fully the action which this divine being performed. “He took the form of a servant by coming into the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming subject even unto death, and that the death of the cross.” There is no metamorphosis of substance asserted here: the “form of God” is not said to have been transmuted into the “form of a servant”; but He who was “in the form of God” is declared to have taken also to Himself “the form of a servant.” Nor is there, on the other hand, any deceptive show of an unreal humiliation brought before us here: He took, not the appearance, mere state and circumstances, or mere work and performance, but veritably “the form of a servant,”—all those essential qualities and attributes which belong to, and constitute a being “a servant.” The assumption involved the taking of an actually servile nature as well as of a subordinate station and a servant’s is at once further explained in both its mode and its effects. He took the form of a servant “by coming into the likeness of men”: He did not become merely a man, but by taking the form of a servant He came into a state in which He appeared as man. His humanity was real and complete: but it was not all,—He remained God in assuming humanity, and therefore only appeared as man, not became only man. And by taking the form of a servant and thus being found in fashion as a man, He became subject to obedience,—an obedience pressed so far in its humiliation that it extended even unto death, and that the shameful death of the cross. Words cannot adequately paint the depth of this humiliation. But this it was,—the taking of the form of a servant with its resultant necessity of obedience to such a bitter end,—this it was that He who was by nature in the form of God,—in the full possession and use of all the Divine attributes and qualities, powers, and prerogatives,—was willing to do for us.

III. Let us observe, then, thirdly, that the Apostle clearly announces to us the spirit in which our Lord performed this great act. “Although He was in the form of God, He yet did not consider His being on an equality with God a precious prize to be eagerly retained, but made no account of Himself, taking the form of a servant.” It was then in a spirit of pure unselfishness and self-sacrifice, that looked not on its own things but on the things of others, that under the force of love esteemed others more than Himself,—it was in this mind: or, in the Apostle’s own words, it was as not considering His essential equality with God as a precious possession, but making no account of Himself,—it was in this mind, that Christ Jesus who was before in the form of God took the form of a servant. This was the state of mind that led Him to so marvellous an act,—no compulsion from His Father, no desires for Himself, no hope of gain or fear of loss, but simple, unselfish, self-sacrificing love.

Now it is not to be overlooked that some of the clauses the meaning of which we have sought to fathom, are differently explained among expositors. Nevertheless, although I have sought to adduce them so as to bring out the Apostle’s exact meaning, and although I believe that his appeal acquires an additional point and a stronger leverage when they are thus understood, it remains true that the main drift of the passage is unaffected by any of the special interpretations which reasonable expositors have put upon the several clauses. These divergent expositions do seriously affect our doctrine of the Person of Christ. In particular, all the forms of the popular modern doctrine of Kenosis or Exinanition, which teaches that the divine Logos in becoming man “emptied Himself,” and thus, that the very God in a more or less literal sense contracted Himself to the limits of humanity, find their chief, almost their sole Biblical basis in what appears to me a gratuitously erroneous interpretation of one of these clauses,—that one which the Authorized Version renders, “He made Himself of no reputation,” and which I have ventured to render, “He made no account of Himself,” that is, in comparison with the needs of others; but which the theologians in question followed, unfortunately as I think, by the Revised Version, render with an excessive literality, “He emptied Himself,” thereby resurrecting the literal physical sense of the word in an unnatural context. We have many reasons to give why this is an illegitimate rendering; chief among which are, that the word is commonly employed in its figurative sense and that the intrusion of the literal sense here is forbidden by the context. But it is unnecessary to pause to argue the point. Whatever the conclusion might be, the main drift of the passage remains the same. No interpretation of this phrase can destroy the outstanding fact that the passage at large places before our wondering eyes the two termini of “the form of God” and the “form of a servant,” involving obedience even unto a shameful death; and “measures the extent of our Lord’s self-denying grace by the distance between equality with God and a public execution on a gibbet.”1 In any case the emphasis of the passage is thrown upon the spirit of self-sacrificing unselfishness as the impelling cause of Christ’s humiliation, which the Apostle adduces here in order that the sight of it may impel us also to take no account of ourselves, but to estimate lightly all that we are or have in comparison with the claims of others on our love and devotion. The one subject of the whole passage is Christ’s marvellous self-sacrifice. Its one exhortation is, “Let it be this mind that is also in you.” As we read through the passage we may, by contact with the full mind and heart of the Apostle, learn much more than this. But let us not fail to grasp this, his chief message to us here,—that Christ Jesus, though He was God, yet cared less for His equality with God, cared less for Himself and His own things, than He did for us, and therefore gave Himself for us.

Firmly grasping this, then, as the essential content and special message of the passage, there are some inferences that flow from it which we cannot afford not to remind ourselves of.

1.  And first of these is a very great and marvellous one,—that we have a God who is capable of self-sacrifice for us. It was although He was in the form of God, that Christ Jesus did not consider His being on an equality with God so precious a possession that He could not lay it aside, but rather made no account of Himself. It was our God who so loved us that He gave Himself for us. Now, herein is a wonderful thing. Men tell us that God is, by the very necessity of His nature, incapable of passion, incapable of being moved by inducements from without; that He dwells in holy calm and unchangeable blessedness, untouched by human sufferings or human sorrows forever,—haunting

The lucid interspace of world and world,

Where never creeps a cloud, nor moves a wind,

Nor ever falls the least white star of snow,

Nor ever lowest roll of thunder moans,

Nor sound of human sorrow mounts to mar

His sacred, everlasting calm.

Let us bless our God that it is not true. God can feel; God does love. We have Scriptural warrant for believing, as it has been well phrased, that moral heroism has a place within the sphere of the Divine nature: we have Scriptural warrant for believing that, like the old hero of Zurich, God has reached out loving arms and gathered into His own bosom that forest of darts which otherwise had pierced ours.

But is not this gross anthropomorphism? We are careless of names: it is the truth of God. And we decline to yield up the God of the Bible and the God of our hearts to any philosophical abstraction. We have and we must have an ethical God; a God whom we can love, and in whom we can trust. We may feel awe in the presence of the Absolute, as we feel awe in the presence of the storm or of the earthquake: we may feel our dependence in its presence, as we feel our helplessness before the tornado or the flood. But we cannot love it; we cannot trust it; and our hearts, which are just as trustworthy a guide as our dialectics, cry out for a God whom we may love and trust. We decline once for all to subject our whole conception of God to the category of the Absolute, which, as has been truly said, “like Pharaoh’s lean kine, devours all other attributes.”2 Neither is this an unphilosophical procedure. As has recently been set forth renewedly by Andrew Seth,3 “we should be unfaithful to the fundamental principle of the theory of knowledge” “if we did not interpret by means of the highest category within our reach.” “We should be false to ourselves, if we denied in God what we recognize as the source of dignity and worth in ourselves.” In order to escape an anthropomorphic God, we must not throw ourselves at the feet of a zoömorphic or an amorphic one.

Nevertheless, let us rejoice that our God has not left us by searching to find Him out. Let us rejoice that He has plainly revealed Himself to us in His Word as a God who loves us, and who, because He loves us, has sacrificed Himself for us. Let us remember that the fundamental conception in the Christian idea of God is that God is love; and the fundamental dogma of the Christian religion is that God so loved us that He gave Himself for us. Accordingly, the primary presupposition of our present passage is that our God was capable of, and did actually perform, this amazing act of unselfish self-sacrifice for the good of man.

2.  The second inference that we should draw from our passage consists simply in following the Apostle in his application of this divine example to our human life: a life of self-sacrificing unselfishness is the most divinely beautiful life that man can lead. He whom as our Master we have engaged to obey, whom as our Example we are pledged to imitate, is presented to us here as the great model of self-sacrificing unselfishness. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus,” is the Apostle’s pleading. We need to note carefully, however, that it is not self-depreciation, but self-abnegation, that is thus commended to us. If we would follow Christ, we must, every one of us, not in pride but in humility, yet not in lowness but in lowliness, not degrade ourselves but forget ourselves, and seek every man not his own things but those of others.

Who does not see that in this organism which we call human society, such a mode of life is the condition of all real help and health? There is, no doubt, another ideal of life far more grateful to our fallen human nature, an ideal based on arrogance, assumption, self-assertion, working through strife, and issuing in conquest,—conquest of a place for ourselves, a position, the admiration of man, power over men. We see its working on every side of us: in the competition of business life,—in the struggle for wealth on the one side, forcing a struggle for bare bread on the other; in social life,—in the fierce battle of men and women for leading parts in the farce of social display; even in the church itself, and among the churches, where, too, unhappily, arrogant pretension and unchristian self-assertion do not fail to find their temporal reward. But it is clear that this is not Christ’s ideal, nor is it to this that He has set us His perfect example. “He made no account of Himself ”: though He was in the form of God, He yet looked not upon His equality with God as a possession to be prized when He could by forgetting self rescue those whom He was not ashamed, amid all His glory, to call His brethren.

Are there any whom you and I are ashamed to call our brethren? O that the divine ideal of life as service could take possession of our souls! O that we could remember at all times and in all relations that the Son of Man came into the world to minister, and by His ministry has glorified all ministering for ever. O that we could once for all grasp the meaning of the great fact that self-forgetfulness and self-sacrifice express the divine ideals of life.

3.  And thus we are led to a third inference, which comes to us from the text: that it is difficult to set a limit to the self-sacrifice which the example of Christ calls upon us to be ready to undergo for the good of our brethren. It is comparatively easy to recognize that the ideal of the Christian life is self-sacrificing unselfishness, and to allow that it is required of those who seek to enter into it, to subordinate self and to seek first the kingdom of God. But is it so easy to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that this is to be read not generally merely but in detail, and is to be applied not only to some eminent saints but to all who would be Christ’s servants?—that it is required of us, and that what is required of us is not some self-denial but all self-sacrifice? Yet is it not to this that the example of Christ would lead us?—not, of course, to self-degradation, not to self-effacement exactly, but to complete self-abnegation, entire and ungrudging self-sacrifice? Is it to be unto death itself? Christ died. Are we to endure wrongs? What wrongs did He not meekly bear? Are we to surrender our clear and recognized rights? Did Christ stand upon His unquestioned right of retaining His equality with God? Are we to endure unnatural evils, permit ourselves to be driven into inappropriate situations, unresistingly sustain injurious and unjust imputations and attacks? What more unnatural than that the God of the universe should become a servant in the world, ministering not to His Father only, but also to His creatures,—our Lord and Master washing our very feet? What more abhorrent than that God should die? There is no length to which Christ’s self-sacrifice did not lead Him. These words are dull and inexpressive; we cannot enter into thoughts so high. He who was in the form of God took such thought for us, that He made no account of Himself. Into the immeasurable calm of the divine blessedness He permitted this thought to enter, “I will die for men!” And so mighty was His love, so colossal the divine purpose to save, that He thought nothing of His divine majesty, nothing of His unsullied blessedness, nothing of His equality with God, but, absorbed in us, our needs, our misery, our helplessness—He made no account of Himself. If this is to be our example, what limit can we set to our self-sacrifice? Let us remember that we are no longer our own but Christ’s, bought with the price of His precious blood, and are henceforth to live, not for ourselves but for Him,—for Him in His creatures, serving Him in serving them. Let all thought of our dignity, our possessions, our rights, perish out of sight, when Christ’s service calls to us. Let the mind be in us that was also in Him, when He took no account of Himself, but, God as He was, took the form of a servant and humbled Himself,—He who was Lord,—to lowly obedience even unto death, and that the death of the cross. In such a mind as this, where is the end of unselfishness?

4.  Let us not, however, do the Apostle the injustice of fancying that this is a morbid life to which he summons us. The self-sacrifice to which he exhorts us, unlimited as it is, going all lengths and starting back blanched at nothing, is nevertheless not an unnatural life. After all, it issues not in the destruction of self, but only in the destruction of selfishness; it leads us not to a Buddha-like unselfing, but to a Christ-like self-development. It would not make us into

deedless dreamers lazying out a life

Of self-suppression, not of selfless love

but would light the flames of a love within us by which we would literally “ache for souls.” The example of Christ and the exhortation of Paul found themselves upon a sense of the unspeakable value of souls. Our Lord took no account of Himself, only because the value of the souls of men pressed upon His heart. And following Him, we are not to consider our own things, but those of others, just because everything earthly that concerns us is as nothing compared with their eternal welfare.

Our self-abnegation is thus not for our own sake, but for the sake of others. And thus it is not to mere self-denial that Christ calls us, but specifically to self-sacrifice: not to unselfing ourselves, but to unselfishing ourselves. Self-denial for its own sake is in its very nature ascetic, monkish. It concentrates our whole attention on self—self-knowledge, self-control—and can, therefore, eventuate in nothing other than the very apotheosis of selfishness. At best it succeeds only in subjecting the outer self to the inner self, or the lower self to the higher self; and only the more surely falls into the slough of self-seeking, that it partially conceals the selfishness of its goal by refining its ideal of self and excluding its grosser and more outward elements. Self-denial, then, drives to the cloister; narrows and contracts the soul; murders within us all innocent desires, dries up all the springs of sympathy, and nurses and coddles our self-importance until we grow so great in our own esteem as to be careless of the trials and sufferings, the joys and, aspirations, the strivings and failures and successes of our fellow-men. Self-denial, thus understood, will make us cold, hard, unsympathetic,—proud, arrogant, self-esteeming,—fanatical, overbearing, cruel. It may make monks and Stoics,—it cannot make Christians.

It is not to this that Christ’s example calls us. He did not cultivate self, even His divine self: He took no account of self. He was not led by His divine impulse out of the world, driven back into the recesses of His own soul to brood morbidly over His own needs, until to gain His own seemed worth all sacrifice to Him. He was led by His love for others into the world, to forget Himself in the needs of others, to sacrifice self once for all upon the altar of sympathy. Self-sacrifice brought Christ into the world. And self-sacrifice will lead us, His followers, not away from but into the midst of men. Wherever men suffer, there will we be to comfort. Wherever men strive, there we will be to help. Wherever men fail, there will we be to uplift. Wherever men succeed, there will we be to rejoice. Self-sacrifice means not indifference to our times and our fellows: it means absorption in them. It means forgetfulness of self in others. It means entering into every man’s hopes and fears, longings and despairs: it means manysidedness of spirit, multiform activity, multiplicity of sympathies. It means richness of development. It means not that we should live one life, but a thousand lives,—binding ourselves to a thousand souls by the filaments of so loving a sympathy that their lives become ours. It means that all the experiences of men shall smite our souls and shall beat and batter these stubborn hearts of ours into fitness for their heavenly home. It is, after all, then, the path to the highest possible development, by which alone we can be made truly men.

Not that we shall undertake it with this end in view. This were to dry up its springs at their source. We cannot be self-consciously self-forgetful, selfishly unselfish. Only, when we humbly walk this path, seeking truly in it not our own things but those of others, we shall find the promise true, that he who loses his life shall find it. Only, when, like Christ, and in loving obedience to His call and example, we take no account of ourselves, but freely give ourselves to others, we shall find, each in his measure, the saying true of himself also: “Wherefore also God hath highly exalted him.” The path of self-sacrifice is the path to glory.

  1. The phraseology here is borrowed from Eadie’s Com. in loc. []
  2. By Prof. A. B. Bruce, in his Humiliation of Christ. []
  3. Hegelianism and Personality, p. 222. []
No comments yet.

Leave a Reply