SEEKING LIFE

" For thus saith the Lord unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, 
and ye shall live." AMOS v. 4. 

THESE are Old Testament words, and the Old 
Testament is everywhere a preparation and anticipa- 
tion of the New. Its promises are types of better 
things which men had not yet learned to desire, but 
for which they were made ready by the clear, tangi- 
ble benefits which were put at once into their pos- 
session. You want to prepare a child to receive 
from you the most spiritual blessings. You want 
to give him courage, patience, truth. You want to 
win him to Christ. But how can you begin? It 
may be and it is perfectly legitimate if it is frankly 
done - it may be that you have to gain his confi- 
dence by giving him at once the things which he 
can understand, shelter and food and clothes and 
playthings. Then, when he trusts you and knows 
that you mean his good, you may go on and give 
him the far more precious spiritual gifts. 

Now, these two treatments are really the Old and 
the New Testaments. The Old Testament gave the 
people Moses, who led them out of a bodily slavery 
in Egypt into a physical plenty and luxuriance in 
Canaan. If they had really been won by that mercy 
into confidence in and love for God, they would 
have been ready for the larger gift when the New 
Testament offered them Christ, the spiritual De- 
liverer who came to lead them out of the slavery of 
sin into the freedom and joy of holiness. This is 
the simplest of all the relations between the outward 
and visible mercies of God, on one hand, and the 
inward and spiritual mercies on the other that the 
visible mercies are given us to win our confidence, 
so that He can give us the spiritual mercies. With 
this idea clearly in our minds, we can often see 
issuing from it glimpses of light upon the dark parts 
of God s treatment of us why this mercy was given 
us when we seemed so undeserving, and why that 
other was snatched away when we were making only 
a sensual and selfish use of it. 

These words of Amos, then, out of the Old 
Testament, probably had at first their purely physi- 
cal application: "Thus saith the Lord, Seek ye me, 
and ye shall live." It was that promise of long 
life, as a reward of obedience, which is heard all 
through the older Dispensation. That promise had 
met Abraham at his first calling. It had been re- 
peated in the ears of all the Patriarchs. It had 
dropped in continual reiteration of encouragement 
and warning upon all the various conditions of that 
ever-changing Jewish history: "Be obedient, and 
you shall live. Break my laws, and you shall 
die."

There was great truth and reality in that old 
Jewish motive. We know how many men distrust 
it now, how many men are wholly unable to believe 
that there is any connection between the length of 
men s lives and their faithful keeping of God s laws. 
And yet it is very strange that while, on one side, 
men it seems are learning to doubt this more and 
more; at the same time, on another side, men are 
coming to believe it as their fathers never did. In 
tracing the connection with fearful clearness between 
disease and vice, in showing how the evils which men 
have assigned to chance or fate come really from 
the violation of natural laws, in every new connec 
tion which is traced between the welfare of the 
physical frame and the moralities, such as sobriety, 
purity, peace, in all these departments where our 
modern spirit is so busy, we are really gathering a 
new and mighty emphasis into the old words of God 
to the house of Israel: "Seek ye me, and ye shall 
live." We may be stopping short-sightedly in sec 
ond causes, and talking of "laws of nature " rather 
than of "God," but this belief, which is growing 
stronger and stronger, that moral character and 
physical well-being have to do with one another, 
must finally break through everything between, and 
find the real cause of such a connection in a per 
sonal God, whom to obey is to live, whom to 
disobey is to die. 

But now let us take the New Testament meaning 
of this Old Testament promise. When God told 
His people that they should have long lives, that 
their bodies should be so strong and vigorous that 
they should last out many years that was a great 
promise in itself. Physical life is good. To see the 
sun, to tread the earth, to feel life singing through 
our veins is very good; we feel it so. But man, 
when he is at his best, and God, who always is at 
His best, alike refuse to think of this physical life 
as final. At its highest height it means some- 
thing higher than itself. Both as type and as in- 
strument, the body in its best health stands for 
the healthy soul behind it. All that we say of the 
body may be said of the soul as well. It, too, lives 
and dies, is sick or healthy, suffers and enjoys, 
grows and decays. And when we are truly sensible 
of the superior value of the soul, we are ready to 
take every new gift of strength that God gives the 
body, as a token from Him that He means the soul 
to be strong. So the New Testament correspondent 
of the Old Testament promise of physical life, is 
spiritual life, the souls' life. 

We know what is meant by a live soul. The 
young people who are listening to me have begun 
perhaps to discover already how much of their souls 
there is that is really not alive, to feel how impeded 
and restrained they are. Those of you who are 
older know the long struggle against spiritual dead- 
ness only too well. Perhaps you have given it up 
in despair, and have thrown forward into the other 
world all the hope that you have yet left of spiritual 
life. When I get there, then I shall live," you 
say. The life of the soul means the perfectly free 
and healthy action of all its powers on every side. 
When we get sight of that, when we hear that 
promise in its words, then the Old Testament offer, 
"Seek me, and your soul shall live," has turned into 
the New Testament invitation, "He that hath the 
Son hath Life." "Because I live, ye shall live 
also." 

So far we have been trying to see what, in the 
deepest sense, it really is to live. But we want to 
understand also what it is to "seek the Lord," 
which is declared to be the condition of true life. 
When we know that, we shall be ready to bind the 
two together and understand the whole. What is 
it, then, to seek anything which is a condition of 
life? I suppose it is to put one's self into sympathy 
or harmony with that thing and its processes, so 
that we shall not work against it, but work with it, 
and be always carried along by its currents to our 
best results. 

Take one or two universal illustrations of this 
idea. We are all beings living in the midst of 
nature. Natural forces in immense variety are all 
around us. They are working ceaselessly either to 
build up or to destroy our human life. Whether 
they build us or destroy us depends upon how we 
relate ourselves to them. If we are willing to study 
them and obey them, to find the nature of fire, 
water, air, and treat them in conformity with their 
natures, then they are our servants and we live by 
them. If we disregard their natures, and let our 
lives run across their processes at random, how soon 
they sweep us aside and kill us ! The fire burns us 
or the water drowns us ruthlessly. They are not 
life, but death, to us. 

When one has learnt all this, when he has seen 
how positive and imperious, how jealous Nature is, 
how ready to help us, but how determined that it 
must be in her own way, well may he hear Nature 
crying out to him and all his human brethren, "Seek 
me, and ye shall live. With all her myriad voices 
she implores men to understand her, so that they 
may intelligently suit their lives to her, and draw 
her richness from her thousand breasts : " I want to 
help and feed you, but I cannot if you will not seek 
me, bending your intelligence and your will to me." 
What has made the difference between your civilized 
house and the hut of the savage? It is not wholly, 
but in part it is, that man has intelligently sought 
nature, and so has lived more fully. He has learnt 
the nature of wood and stone and clay and iron, 
and has overcome them all by yielding to them, in 
the course of the ages that lie between the mansion 
and the wigwam. 

Or, again, we are all living under a fixed govern- 
ment and certain laws. Our national life and social 
life have running through them certain great shafts 
of law, to which everything must be bound. Those 
laws have life and death within them. By them the 
rich life of our most perfect household is protected ; 
by them our noblest citizen has been led on to the 
influence which he enjoys; and by them the poor 
wretch who was condemned for murder yesterday 
must lose his life. We love the laws and all the 
deeper principles of right and wrong that lie below 
them ; we love them and we live in them, and all 
our life enlarges. We put ourselves into the atti- 
tude of obedience, and every little statute on the 
books becomes the ally of our living. Or, we grow 
obstinate and willful, and every slightest law, every 
small conventionality, is up against us and will not 
rest till we are hunted down. The strong wind of 
righteousness blows across the world. If we will 
walk with it, it all helps us. If we will walk against 
it, every little zephyr in it becomes our enemy and 
buffets us. What has made the difference between 
the well-esteemed citizen who has justly won his 
fellow-men s honor, and your poor outcast and vaga- 
bond who has won every man s contempt or, at the 
best, his pity? Is it not that one has worked with 
the laws all his life, and the other has worked with 
the law in his face all the way? When we see how 
clear and positive all this is, we can hear all the 
laws first the great solemn tones of the funda- 
mental moral law, the law of right and wrong, 
speaking behind all; and then the chorus of its 
children, all the special statutes to which the moral 
law has given birth calling together in our ears, 
" Seek me, and ye shall live. Understand me and 
obey me ; so only in a law-governed world can men s 
lives come to their best." 

Or, once more, the same is true of humankind. 
We get a large part of the stimulus of our life from 
one another. The most seemingly self-dependent 
of us has not all his springs in himself. He draws 
much of his best subterraneously from his neigh- 
bors. But how do we get life from one another? 

Is it by sympathy or by antagonism? Is it by in- 
telligence or misconception? Ah, you must know 
how dry and fruitless your best friend was to you un- 
til you really understood him. His acts, which now 
are all full of inspiration for you, were dead enough 
until you saw the soul with which he did them. His 
words, which now fire your enthusiasm, were cold 
as ice until you knew the friendly heart they sprang 
from. You know another man, perhaps, who does 
not comprehend this inspiring friend of yours. He 
is always coming up the stream, always coming into 
hostile contact with him. When he meets your 
friend, he is not stimulated to his best, as you are, 
but crushed into stupidity or exasperated into rude- 
ness. You feel that it is better for them not to 
meet. What is the difference? Are you not sure 
that it is a lack of sympathy? Your friend cannot 
give himself to one who will not come to him. To 
you he gives himself more and more. "Seek me, 
and you shall live," he is always crying to you. 
"I sought him, and did live " seems to you, as you 
look back, to tell all the story of your life with him. 
Some men are naturally and always seekers, in 
the sense which I have tried to make plain by all 
these illustrations. I do not mean that they are 
always writhing and struggling after some new thing, 
but they are ready and quick of sympathy, and so 
they enter freely into relations with people and 
things, and get the best out of everything. They 
are not suspicious. They have largeness and spirit- 
uality. They see what people and things are trying 
to do. They discern which way the most sluggish- 
looking stream is really running; and, quickly sym- 
pathizing with its movement, they gain its stimulus. 
Seeking everything with instinctive sympathy, they 
seem to live by everything. All things make con- 
tribution to their lives. For them birds sing and 
breezes blow The laws of the State, the forces of 
Society, seem to work for their good. And every-
where that they go, the taste, the culture, the 
vitality, the character of the men whom they meet, 
seems to be brought out instantly and shared with 
them. Men, women, and children help them. So 
they put everything under tribute, not by exacting 
demands, but by the cordial way with which they 
enter into the life of everything and get its move- 
ment, as a man gets the movement of the stream on 
which he floats. 

But we must leave our illustrations and go on. 
The world is not ultimately governed by either of 
these forces of which we have been speaking by 
natural forces, by law, or by man. Behind them 
all, under them all, is God. It is beautiful to look 
abroad and see how everywhere men, sure that they 
had not got to the end of things until they found 
Him, have always pushed on through everything 
that stood between, and discovered God at last. 
Nature has seemed to men shallow unless His will 
was in it. Law has seemed artificial unless it issued 
from His nature. Man has seemed unaccountable 
save as His child. And so we all feel God behind 
the whole. No doubt we feel Him very differently. 
The boy's heart leaps with one movement at His 
discovered presence, and the old mans' with another. 

One soul discovers Him in the blueness of the peace- 
ful sky, and another sees His fire burn down in the 
red chasm of a sin s punishment ; but most wonder- 
ful of all things in the world is this endless pressure 
of all souls backward, this refusal to be satisfied 
until we find God. 

And when God once has been discovered, there 
must be one purpose for a man who wants to live 
his fullest life that will overtop every other purpose. 
And that purpose must be to attain the most perfect 
sympathy and co-operation with God. If by deep 
sympathy with nature we get her life ; if by under- 
standing the law and obeying it, we make it build 
us up to our best ; if by knowing and co-operating 
with a man we share his goodness and vitality ; what 
then of God? If we can understand and obey and 
sympathize with and co-operate with Him, then in 
the same way, His life shall be our life, we shall live 
by Him ; in one word, if we seek Him, we shall truly 
live. 

"Seek Him " have we not found out something 
of what that deep word means? It is the living in 
His sympathy, to love His loves and hate His hates, 
to think His thoughts after Him, to see the working 
out of His purposes and make them our own, and 
to rejoice if we can put a fingers' strength to their 
fulfillment, this is to seek God. And He who 
does this gets God's life. He seeks God, and he 
lives. 

I am anxious to make the seeking of God appear 
to be this profound and thorough thing, because so 
often, as I think, the enfeeblement of religion has 
come in just here, by making the search after God 
seem something different from this. Ah, my dear 
friends, it is not seeking God s favor; it is seeking 
God Himself. It is not hurrying to Him with sins 
to be forgiven, merely because it is not safe to stay 
away. The search after forgiveness is a noble thing, 
but only noble as behind it there abides a deep 
dissatisfaction with our absence from the Lord, and 
an eager impatience with the wickedness that stands 
between our souls and Him. "Seek ye the Lord 
while he may be found ; call ye upon him while he 
is near," what is the warning that is given there? 
What is the danger that is threatened in those oft- 
quoted words? Is it that if we do not ask forgive- 
ness, some day God will be angry and say, "I will 
not give you forgiveness now, no matter how you 
beg; "? Is it not and is not that far more terrible? 
that if we will not bind our life to His life, some 
day our life shall die out in all its best parts; that 
the perception and power of holiness will leave us ; 
that God will carry on His great and beautiful pur- 
poses, and we shall have no part in them ; that we 
shall miss all the best that we might be, because we 
would not try to love and be like Him by whom 
only we can be our best? This, this is the dreadful 
death that must come if we do not seek God. 

And so, assuredly, this must be what is meant by 
the work of Christ in reconciling man to God, His 
making peace between man and God. If He did 
this, if by His life and death He made it more possi- 
ble, not for mankind in the aggregate, but for every 
man, for you and me, to enter into such sympathy 
with God, and so understand and work with Him 
that our souls should be filled with His life, then 
is not His spiritual mediatorship clear? As plainly 
as if I saw Him standing there, a mighty Figure with 
one hand taking glowing motives and infinite am- 
bitions like burning coals off the altar that stands 
before God s throne, and with the other touching 
those coals to the lips of a man and sending their 
power into his heart, so plainly stands Jesus Christ 
between man and God; not separating them, but 
bringing them close together; interpreting God to 
man, that so man may be filled with God. 

What does Mary Magdalen know about God? 
What does she care about the way He works? But 
Jesus Christ comes, and see how merciful He is, how 
true, how pure ! Burning in every act He does, she 
sees one great desire, one hunger after holiness for 
Himself and for His brethren. She sees that and 
understands it ; she is taken possession of by it. 
And then Jesus just turns to her and says: "That 
is God. He that hath seen me hath seen the 
Father. Let that new craving grow; seek Him 
more and more earnestly, and more and more you 
shall be purified. His new life in you shall cast 
your old life out. What a mediatorship was there ! 
And when you cannot find God, and the Saviour 
shows Him to you; when you cannot tell which 
way the Father is walking, and the Son comes and 
points Him out to you and says, "There! " so that 
you can run after Him with every perception of 
duty just as clear as sunlight, then Christ is your 
Mediator. 

The perfect illustration of our text is in the life of 
Jesus Himself. He sought God, and He lived. We 
must know far more than we do of the mysterious 
separation which the Incarnation brought between 
the Father and the Son, before we can understand 
what it was for the Son to "seek " the Father; but 
all through the Gospels there is something to which 
we cannot give any other name. Jesus is seeking 
God, reaching after complete sympathy, under- 
standing the eternal purposes and rejoicing to work 
with them, coming near to His Father, and getting 
from that seeking all the wonderful, unceasing, 
beautiful inflow of life that filled His whole career. 
"My Father worketh hitherto, and I work," was 
His story of the whole. 

More important than all our attempts to define 
the relations of the Eternal Son and the Eternal 
Father, I think, it is to apprehend this perfect one- 
ness of their thoughts and plans, which made all the 
life of the Father the life of the Son, too. Some- 
times this seeking of God by Jesus takes a special 
utterance. Christ spends the whole night on a 
mountain, or by the passover table, or from the 
cross prays God to make His way more clear and 
show Himself to Him more perfectly. They are 
most touching utterances, but even in them we 
hardly find such an impression as gathers in us from 
frequent reading of the Gospels that Christ was 
always pressing His life closer to God s life, finding 
out more and more what were God s purposes, giv- 
ing Himself to those purposes more and more com- 
pletely, and so more and more deeply living by 
God. It comes from many little intimations, but it 
leaves with us the perfect picture of a soul always 
in deepening sympathy with God, and so always 
more and more thoroughly alive, but never so alive 
as when the death of the body set it free for perfect 
union with Divinity. 

Have we not then come to something clear about 
this whole command, or let us better call it this in- 
vitation of God? God is the Father and Governor 
of life. If through a childlike love and obedience 
we enter into His sympathy, and catch His mean- 
ings, and are helping in any humble way towards 
His results; then our best powers of life come forth 
and do their work, and we genuinely live. All this 
is warmed into a glorious and inspiring promise as 
God calls to us, Seek ye me, and live." 

There are a few simple inferences to be drawn 
from all this, about the character of the Christian 
life which, I hope, may be of use to some. The 
first is, that the Christian life will be a gradual 
thing, and that we ought not to be surprised if it is 
slow. That very word, "seek" think how it 
sounds. There is no suddenness about it. It does 
not describe a leap which carries one instantly from 
the ground below to the battlements above ; it has 
a sound of perseverance, it makes us think of men 
deep underground digging for treasures, or of ships 
out at sea beating week after week towards their 
harbor, or of students growing gray over their books 
in tracing the long obscure lines that lead toward 
the truth. Certainly it has no promise of complete, 
immediate attainment. And there are many of us, 
and many passages in the experience of all of us, 
when, conscious of the gradualness of our new life, 
earnestly resolved to persevere unto the end, nay, 
meeting encouragement along the way and humbly 
certain that God is showing Himself to us more and 
more, but still wondering why it is so slow, missing 
the sudden leap to peace and perfectness which, it 
may be, we expected, at such times that word 
"seek" falls on us like a benediction with its pro- 
phecy of gradualness, its encouragement to perse- 
verance, and its promise of success. If it is the 
benediction that we need, let us take it to-day ! 

Another inference will be that we shall find the 
tests and satisfactions of our service of God in our 
common experiences, in the deepening of our most 
common days. The life that is to be given to us is 
no supernal thing that cannot be recognised except 
in the new light of another world. It is the bring- 
ing out of these familiar powers, the endowment of 
our common relationships with profoundness and 
sanctity. If you seek God, then, what may you 
expect? First of all, most of all, that the simplest 
things which have seemed shallow to you will grow 
deep and sacred. It is like taking a northern seed 
down into the tropics; what does it mean to it? 
You plant it there, and in that richer ground, under 
that gorgeous sun, see how it grows into a luxuriance 
that was hardly hinted by the meagerness of the 
fruitage which it yielded on the rocky, windy New 
England hillside. Or, it is like stooping and lifting 
under water a weight, with all the water's buoyancy 
to help you. You have been trying to do your 
work as father, mother, brother, sister, schoolboy, 
clerk, merchant, citizen, from lower motives, from 
self-interest or mere good-nature. But if you begin 
to seek God through Christ, you throw your life into 
His life and all these things mean more to you ; they 
change their look and are more sacred. The drudgery 
and tiresomeness drop out of them. They are His 
service. As different as an orange-tree struggling 
for life here and getting to nothing after all but 
poor green fruit, and an orange-tree under its own 
southern sky, is the duty of home-life done for one's 
own self, and that done for God. 

Ah ! it is good to look far off and see the heaven 
where we are to live some day, to catch the vision 
of its golden pinnacles and hear some strain of its 
music wafted to us from far away; but it is better 
still to see this present made glorious by present 
grace, to find these streets of duty turned to gold, 
and these words of thanksgiving setting themselves 
to music. That is a surer witness still that we are 
God's. 

Another power of this invitation will be the motive 
it will give you to get rid of sin. The reason why 
men do not think their sins are very bad is, that 
they are not trying to be very good. But if you 
are really trying to be like God, then everything 
that keeps you from Him will declare its wickedness. 
That is the way, poor trifler, to make your trifling 
show its sinfulness ! Do not sit contemplating your 
own poor foolish actions, your self-indulgences, your 
wastings and murderings of time, saying of each of 
them, " There is no harm in this, or this, or this." 
Look away from them ; look at God. Gaze till your 
soul is full upon the glory of His nature and His 
life. Then take in the idea that you have some part 
of His nature, and He has called you to share His 
life. Realize that it is possible for you to under- 
stand Him, and to work for what He is working for. 
Think what your life would be if you did that. Fill 
your soul with such a prospect ; then turn back sud- 
denly and see the idleness, the dissipation, the mis- 
erable self-indulgence, which are keeping you from 
living that life; and then ask yourself if there 
is no harm in it, ask yourself if it is not wicked. 
There is the place for you to see your sin, against 
what your sin hinders. Perhaps that also is the 
way for you to hate your sin, and conquer it and 
escape from its slavery forever. 

No one can doubt what is the true time for this 
seeking of God. It may come at the very end of 
life. Just when the stream is almost dry, when, 
having run for years over the sandy ground of 
selfishness, it has only a few drops left of vital will, 
those few drops, we doubt not, may be taken up 
and poured into the great current of God's life. 
And that great current will not cast them out ; it 
will treasure them, no doubt, and carry them on to 
some success. The dying man may be swept into 
the stream of God, and just as he dies begin to live. 
Of that we feel sure. We love to think of what the 
other world may have in store for such lives as 
the penitent thief s, lives whose dying was the 
beginning of their living. But we never think of 
such lives as more than exceptions. They are poor 
makeshifts after all. It is for such as you, my dear 
friends, young men and women with a full, fresh 
life to give, that giving the life to God really means 
something great and beautiful. 

Think what it means. To take all these powers 
that are just opened or just opening, and say: "All 
these shall be used for doing not what I want, but 
what God wants. If my wants and His wants dis- 
agree, I will defeat myself to serve Him until, as I 
grow like Him, my wants and His wants come to be 
the same, and thenceforth I shall serve myself in 
serving Him. This I will do because He is my 
Father, and has shown me His love by Jesus Christ, 
my Lord." 

O my dear friends, that is Salvation. That is to 
be saved to give the life while it is rich and vigorous 
and young to God. Then it need not run weak and 
shallow at first, and only at last be refreshed ; it may 
grow stronger and deeper all the way from the be- 
ginning, flowing in the ever-deepening channels of 
His love here, until it is received into the ocean of 
His love hereafter.

REV. PHILLIPS BROOKS, D.D.