WORD AND DEED

" For he spake, and it was done." PSALM xxxiii. 9. 

WHEN David sang these words in his great Psalm, 
he was calling upon the earth to fear the Lord, and 
all the inhabitants of the world to stand in awe of 
Him, because He was its Maker: "For he spake, 
and it was done; he commanded and it stood fast." 

No truth can ever be opened to man's knowledge 
which can supersede the simple dignity of that con- 
ception, that God made the world. No motive for 
lofty life can be presented which can outshine this : 
that, because God made the world and all that 
therein is, the world must fear its Maker with that 
fear which is the beginning of wisdom. The method 
of men, trying to get at the true explanation of 
things which they see, is to construct an hypothesis, 
to see how that hypothesis will meet the facts which 
they observe, and to modify their hypothesis as the 
facts compel them. Behind all other hypotheses 
there must always stand the first hypothesis of a 
God-Creator. Before any revelation authenticates 
it, man, standing in the midst of the wondrous 
world, says to himself: "Where did it come from? 
What made it?" and the answer springs from his 
own consciousness: "Why, the only creative power 
which I know of must have made it a personal 
Will ! Some He must have spoken the word, and it 
was done." With that hypothesis he tests the 
world, and nowhere does it fail him. Much light 
he gets upon the character and intentions of this 
sublime He who made the world ; but, above it all, 
clearer and clearer it grows to the holder of that 
hypothesis continually that He did make it. And 
so he is ready by and by, when Revelation opens its 
mouth and Incarnation comes, to listen and look and 
understand the nature of the God whose existence 
has been to him the key of the world. 

And so the primal motive of all life must be, as I 
said, this same Creatorship which is the final know- 
ledge. What is the strongest power to make men 
good, to take them from their sins, to turn them to 
new lives? You say, Christ's Love. Yes, but the 
Love of Christ, remember always, is but the reasser- 
tion of Creatorship. It is the Father claiming His 
children, claiming them because they are His child- 
ren; and all that which comes into the Christian s 
heart, and sets it struggling, yearning towards God, 
is only the reawakened childhood. It has been em- 
phasized by danger ; it is full of special gratitude for 
special love ; but, after all, it is the soul of the child 
finding out the Father. It has its root in the crea- 
tive act by which God made man when "He spake 
and it was done." 

These thoughts cannot but arise when we speak 
of God s act of creation, but it is not on these 
thoughts that we will dwell now. I want to have 
you notice with me the singular form of the declara- 
tion, and the way in which it puts what we may call 
the decisiveness of God. "He spake, and it was 
done," says David. Here, you see, is a perfect 
meeting of the Word and the Deed, and those two 
in their combination make the perfect life. 

See what they are. The word is the completed 
thought. It is the reasonable process of a man who 
has come at last up to the point of resolution and 
of declaration. Not yet is there anything to show 
in outward life. No material has yet been touched. 
The world seems the same that it has seemed be- 
fore ; but inside the man everything is altered. The 
thought, the passion, the struggle of motive with 
motive has been going on, and at last has come to 
a decision. The word is ready, and is spoken. The 
conclusion is reached. The resolution is declared. 
That moment always has a special solemnity and in- 
terest when it is recognizable the moment when 
the word is perfect, but the deed not yet begun. 
Such was the moment when Abraham determined 
on his journey, sleeping his last night in Ur of the 
Chaldees, with all the Jewish history before him ; 
when Paul was sitting in the house at Damascus, 
with the determination of his new life made, but not 
one stroke of work yet done for Christ ; when Co 
lumbus uttered his strong conviction to the world, 
waiting only for his ships to find America. 

There are moments in all our lives which have this 
solemnity, as we look back upon them ; moments 
when the word was complete, the resolution made, 
but the deed not yet begun. Before that moment 
there had come the perplexity of puzzled thought ; 
after it, came all the bewildering detail of action. 
But, just there, thought stood clear in its conclu- 
sion, and the coming deed glowed bright and certain 
in its promise ; and that was, what such moments of 
a man's life always are, heroic and inspiring. It 
exalted us when we were in it, and we remember it 
with joy. But yet, on the completed word a deed 
must follow, or the word loses its beauty and dis- 
tresses us. If, as we look back, we see our lives all 
strown with words that never came to deeds, with 
resolutions that never produced actions, we are as 
unsatisfactory to ourselves as if we saw our lives full 
of actions which had no reasonable resolutions out 
of which they sprang, but were the results of 
thoughtless whims. These make the two kinds of 
men who disappoint us always : the men of words, 
but not of deeds; the men of deeds, but not of 
words ; the men who resolve without acting, and the 
men who act without resolving; for remember that 
speech has a deep meaning in the Bible. It is not 
the mere use of words. It is that whole reasonable 
process which culminates in the use of words, in the 
deliberate utterance. This is the high use in which 
the Lord Himself is called the Word of God. 

These two kinds of men, then, there are. The 
men of words who are not men of deeds think, 
speculate, dream, grow vague, intangible, and help- 
less. The men of deeds who are not men of words 
grow shallow and shortsighted, practical only in the 
outside ways and little tricks of things. As men 
grow to be full and complete men, the two come 
together. The word and the deed correspond. Every 
reasonable resolution has its action, and every action 
has its reasonable resolution. The object of all 
education, whether of the family or the school or 
the church, ought to be to bring this union to its 
best completeness. 

Now, when David says of God, "He spake, and 
it was done," he is declaring that in God the word 
and deed unite completely. It is impossible for 
them to be separated. God cannot know a truth, 
involving a conviction, that shall not flash out some 
action, as its consequence, to the very ends of the 
universe. And God cannot do a deed out on the 
farthest confines of His eternal nature, but that 
deed has its root down in the very deepest depths 
of His nature. He never resolves but action fol- 
lows. He never acts but resolution has gone be- 
fore. In this truth lies the solidity, the solemnity, 
the wonderful beauty of the world. God does some- 
thing to you. He opens His hand and fills your cup 
with plenteousness. Or is it the opposite? He 
closes His hand, and takes the joy and pride of your 
life away. Before He did that deed, He spake. It 
was the utterance of a reasonable resolution. It 
was no generous nor cruel whim. The strange 
event, be it all bright with sunshine or black with 
grief, comes in and sits down in your life crowned 
with God s intention. He did it, and He meant to 
do it. 

And so, upon the other hand, no word without 
its deed. God s words are words of righteousness. 
"All sin is bad; all holiness is good." When once 
those words have been spoken, evil must come upon 
wickedness; blessing must come upon goodness. 
No power in the universe can stop it. He who tries 
to be wicked, and yet enjoy, casts himself between 
a word and a deed of God, and must be crushed in 
their inevitable meeting. He who tries to be holy 
and yet thinks he must be wretched, is amazed to see 
how impossible that is. God takes him up and bears 
him, in spite of himself and his feeble expectations, 
into happiness. Ah yes; the necessary union, the 
necessary correspondence of word and deed, in God, 
is what makes the solidity and the solemnity, the 
awfulness and beauty, of the universe and of every 
life. 

If we allow ourselves to ask why it is that God s 
words always produce deeds, why His resolutions 
always produce their actions, while ours so often 
only die away in their own echoes, and have no re- 
sult to show; the answer, the deepest answer, I am 
sure, will be in this: that God s resolutions are real 
resolutions ; or, to put it more simply, that God al- 
ways thoroughly means everything that He says. 
It is not simply the greatness of His power, for there 
are regions where we, too, have power and yet in 
them our resolutions fail, but the real difference is 
here: God s resolutions mean the things they say, 
while ours have only half made up their minds. 

We dwell, indeed, on what we choose to call the 
delays of God. There is nothing more impressive to 
our thoughts. We know that God decrees the sin- 
ner s punishment or the saints' reward at the very 
moment of the sin or holiness; nay, in the very sin 
or holiness itself the punishment or the reward is 
promised ; but years slip by, the man grows old, and 
only on the gray hairs, perhaps, comes the retribu- 
tion of the action which was done in all the flush of 
youth. We watch and wonder at God s patience in 
His treatment of the nations. Jerusalem, Assyria, 
Rome, the judgment of death which they have in- 
curred comes creeping on for centuries before it 
fastens upon them and they die. So everywhere 
we see God's patience. But nowhere is there hesi- 
tation. However slow it comes, it comes with 
absolute sureness the suffering upon the sin, the 
blessing on the goodness, the ruin on the wicked 
nation. And we must always remember that those 
words of our feebleness "slow" and "quick" 
mean nothing in the life of Him who is eternal. 

But with us it is not merely delay. It is a lack of 
power in the word to turn itself into a deed at all. 
It is hesitation. How many times have you said, 
"I will give up this bad habit"? It is not that you 
have seen that it takes a long time to give it up. It 
is not that you began at once and it has taken you 
longer than you thought it would. It is that your 
word was not strong with real intention. You did 
not really mean what you said. Therefore the deed 
never came. How often we say : "I will go into the 
heavenly life. I will not live to myself; I will live 
to God and God s children." We speak and it is 
not done, because our speech was not strong and 
determined. Alas for our poor resolutions ! Oh, the 
woeful, woeful lack in our lives of the decisiveness 
of God ! It grows more and more clear to me the 
power that belongs to self-consecration and absolute 
determination. Men do what they mean to do. 
For the will is a part of God in man, and has some 
of His absoluteness and certainty. 

It seems to me that no thoughtful man watches 
the state of things to-day, without seeing continual 
illustrations of a very curious and important truth 
with regard to this matter of the will and its power 
of decision. That truth is this : Decision is easy in 
the lowest and crudest conditions of human life; and 
it is easy again in the highest conditions of human 
life; but there are middle conditions in which de- 
cision becomes difficult, and men s minds float about 
loose and unsettled. Just consider if that be not so. 
You take a child, and how quickly he decides every- 
thing. Promptly and sharply his word leaps into 
action. He speaks and acts. There are very few 
considerations in his mind. Everything is simple 
to him, so simple that he can hardly conceive how it 
can seem otherwise to any one. Then take the 
other end the full-grown man. He too decides. 
With many more elements to harmonize, with many 
more aspects of the subject to adjust than the child 
had, the mature man feels the necessity of decision, 
and grasps, as it were, the mass of many thoughts 
into his hand, and compacts them into a solid reso- 
lution. But between the two, what have we? the 
irresolute and vague and doubtful years of him who 
is neither boy nor man, the years in which the direct- 
ness of childhood has been lost, and the higher di- 
rectness of manhood not attained, the years when 
crowding thoughts of many kinds make it seem 
often impossible to decide on anything, the misty 
and uncertain years of young manhood and young 
womanhood. 

The same thing is true about the degrees of cul- 
ture, independent of age. The savage or the brute, 
whether he is old or young, decides easily, decides 
instantly. The beast sees his prey, and springs upon 
it. The savage sees his enemy, and the javelin flies. 
On the other hand, the man of highest culture, the 
finished soldier, the accomplished statesman, the ex- 
perienced merchant, he again is quick as lightning. 
He speaks, and it is done. He summons with a 
quick, imperious call one summary result out of the 
complication of the business that lies before him. It 
is the man between the two, the man who has left 
the simpleness of the brute, and come in sight of 
many considerations which the savage never dreamed 
of, but has not yet passed out into the highest cul- 
ture, who, Hamlet-like, hesitates and fears to act. 
There are faith and action at the bottom and faith 
and action at the top of life; between the two lies 
inability to decide. 

It is a sign of where our age stands, of what mul- 
titudes of minds in it have left the lowest without 
having attained the highest culture, that so many 
men in our age are haunted by indecision. Light 
at the bottom of the mountain and light at the top ; 
but half-way up clouds and mist ! This is the order 
of the mental conditions of mankind. First comes 
he who leaps at conclusions without evidence; then 
he who questions everything ; and then he who holds 
truth which he has proved. The dogmatist, the 
skeptic, the believer, such is the order of the phases 
of the growing mind. 

There is in the midst of all indecision and all 
doubt a constant conviction that not these, but de- 
cision and belief, are the highest condition for man- 
kind. The highest men have come out of the mists, 
and are living in action and faith. And what de- 
livers a man from the confusion and helplessness of 
the middle state is really a moral need. This is 
most interesting and important. When a man's in- 
tellectual life has become snarled and confused, and 
with all his thinking he cannot decide what he ought 
to do, then it is that a moral necessity steps in and 
furnishes the point about which all this mental dis- 
turbance crystallizes into coherency and purpose. 
A young man has so perplexed himself with many 
schemes of life that it seems impossible for him to 
settle upon any one thing and do it. But by and 
by his duty to his family, the need of making bread 
to put into his children s mouths, steps in, and he is 
compelled to fix his will on something, to strike the 
balance of his long debate and go to work. A man 
has tossed back and forth the arguments for two 
sorts of doctrine, all the while his heart no more 
holding any faith than the juggler holds the balls 
which he flings from hand to hand in quick succes- 
sion. What finally stops his weary and unsatisfac- 
tory debating is the absolute necessity, for the 
regulation of his life, that he should have something 
to believe. It is the felt power of temptation, the 
absolute inability to meet sorrow with a debate 
instead of a faith. 

Those are the things that must break up every 
man s indecision at last. If you are a young man 
questioning what you will do with your life, it must 
be the duty of being something for other men. 
Certainly it must be duty somewhere that saves you 
and brings you out a true man, and makes you really 
live a life. If you are an unbeliever, perplexed with 
many doubts, I tell you earnestly that the intellect 
will never clarify itself by its own action. It must 
be duty, duty demanding the power for its task 
which nothing but belief can give it ; this it must be 
which throws light into the darkness, and scatters 
the mist, and makes you a believer. It is the man, 
"perplexed in mind, but pure in deed," of whom it 
is written that "At last he beat his music out." 

I believe with all my heart in this necessity of 
the moral to the intellectual man. I believe it so 
strongly that if a man is not trying to do right, if he 
has not got the idea of duty, I count his judgments, 
upon even the most purely intellectual questions 
of religious faith, of very little worth. The selfish 
man who says that the divine self-sacrifice is in- 
credible ; the man who never grapples with tempta- 
tion and so never feels the need of divine help, and 
yet who says that the miracles of Christ are impos- 
sible ; the man who undertakes no tasks so spiritual 
that they demand eternity for their accomplishment, 
and yet who denies the everlasting life; the man 
who never cares for his own soul, and then says, 
"There is no God" I find but little power in the 
skepticism of such men. It is the soul struggling 
to do right, and yet finding it hard to get hold of 
truth that soul which we do see here and there 
which is terrible. In God Himself the moral and 
the intellectual are but one. His goodness and His 
wisdom perfectly belong together. And it is Duty 
that settles, with strong but gentle touch, the min- 
gled problems of our life. The mother learns a 
faith above her child s cradle that she never knew 
before; and the man setting out to do some hard 
work for his land or his friend calls on a God of 
whom he has been debating with himself whether, 
indeed, there were a God at all. 

I have been speaking about decision in general. 
I want to bring what I have been saying to a point 
and make it bear directly on the great decision of a 
man's life that decision by which he becomes a 
Christian. There is one act which goes beyond 
and includes all other acts. It is the act in which, 
won by the authority and love of Jesus Christ, a 
man takes his whole self and gives it up into the 
mastery of the Lord, making himself thenceforth 
His disciple. That act of consecration and sur- 
render, how differently it looks to different men; 
nay, how differently it looks to the same man at 
two different times ! It is the very hardest or the 
very easiest act in all the world; so hard that it 
seems truly impossible, or so easy that it is amazing 
how any man can keep from doing it. The simplest 
natures often find it very easy. The child learns of 
its Saviour s love, and to accept that Saviour, to ask 
Him to forgive its sins, to make His will its law, 
seems to the child s heart the easiest and most 
natural of all things. The nature of the man in 
penitence is the child s nature over again, and so for 
him, too, the trust in Him who is all-trustworthy 
seems not difficult. But, when the great act of dedi- 
cation is not done at once, there come in all man- 
ner of complicating questions about Christ and His 
mercy, and they make irresoluteness, the condition 
of unresolve in which such hosts of men are standing. 
Oh, how familiar those questions have grown ! 
how dusty and forlorn they sound, as we bring them 
out of the thousand experiences in which they have 
lain and rankled so miserably! "Is Christ ready to 
receive me, and must I not do something before I 
come to Him? Is it indeed necessary that I should 
own my faith in Him? What will happen to me if 
I do not come? Do I believe enough to come? 
How is it with this other man? How is it with 
these heathen?" These are the questions that 
make men hesitate about the Christian act. They 
are always lying in wait. If the soul touched by 
the Saviour does not instantly and spontaneously 
give itself to Him, then they come flocking in. And 
when they have once taken possession of a heart, 
then, you know so many of you there are who 
know what comes, what hesitating, what unrest, 
what a constant sense that there is something which 
you ought to do, which yet you will not do, what 
putting off and putting off, what dissatisfaction 
everywhere year after year, till at last the time 
arrives when, through every hesitation, you step 
right across and do the act, and really give yourself, 
body and soul, to Christ. There is the only escape. 
There is the only daylight. 

But when it comes, it is not like the first glad 
turning to the Saviour which might have been be- 
fore all these sad years of questioning began. It is 
soberer and calmer. No longer possible for you is 
the happy taking of Christ s service as if there were 
no thought of anything beside ; no longer possible 
for you is the fresh, enthusiastic faith of the young 
Christian all glowing with the joy of giving his 
whole life to Jesus ; but still there is something very 
rich, if you will only take it, the sober, deep, and 
soulvpossessing joy of a man who has hesitated long, 
and asked many and many a question, now at last 
coming in the full strength of manhood, and resting 
his soul, heavy with its long-accumulated need, all 
in one great reasonable act, upon a mercy which 
has convinced him of its mercifulness by the way 
in which it has waited for him through all his 
hesitations. 

And now, observe that when this decision comes, 
when the hesitation of the life gathers itself up at 
last, and with one total consecration gives itself to 
Christ, it is a moral act that does it. The intel- 
lectual elements are already there. "How shall 
they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? " 
says St. Paul. But this man has heard, year after 
year, of Christ. All of His work has been abun- 
dantly familiar. It has lain so long in the mind that 
it has caught the dust of floating difficulties that are 
not really a part of itself. What is needed is not 
more knowledge ; it is something that shall transfer 
the knowledge into action. It is Decision. 

And that, surely, is moral. It grows from moral 
needs. It acts by moral powers. Indeed, it corre- 
sponds exactly to the act which one of those people 
who were with Jesus in Palestine did when he be- 
came the Lord s disciple. He had known all about 
Jesus before. He had heard of Him. He had 
heard Him. He had discussed His claims. He had 
looked up the Scriptures, to see how this Teacher cor- 
responded with the old Teachers. He had watched 
other men who had come to Christ, as interesting 
phenomena. Could you have a truer picture of the 
position in which many a man here and now stands 
concerning the Saviour? But some day there came 
a great need into that Jew s household. Into the 
peace and composure dropped a hot and burning 
pain. Perhaps sickness smote him who had never 
known what it was to feel an ache before. Perhaps 
death came and stood at the door and beckoned ; 
and some one, the dearest in the household, grew 
pale as if he knew the summons was for him, and 
began to gather up his reluctant robes, to follow the 
austere messenger. Perhaps something deeper than 
either of these things came. Perhaps the man s soul 
itself grew troubled. A deep dissatisfaction settled 
on it. Its selfishness, its worldliness, dismayed it. 
It cried out at its own uselessness. It was sorry for 
its sin. 

In either case, what followed? How all that had 
been learned before of the Saviour sprang into 
clearness, grew compact with force! The need 
took everything the man had thought before, and 
crowned it with decision. He who had reasoned 
and reasoned, talked and talked before, now "spake, 
and it was done." Do you not hear the rushing 
of the centurion's horses across the hills to Caper 
naum, to bring Jesus Christ where his servant is 
lying sick? Do you not see the figure of the poor 
woman creeping into the banquet-room in her shame 
and love? Do you not hear the timid knock in 
the darkness of Nicodemus at the Master's humble 
doorway? In every case the relation between the 
intellectual conviction and the moral act is plain. 
The thought and reasoning and observation have 
gathered the material for decision and piled it in the 
life, and then the spark of a need falls into the tinder 
and the decision blazes in an instant. 

People talk about "sudden conversions." "Do 
you believe in them? " says one. "You do not be- 
lieve in them, do you ? " says another. My friends, 
there never was a sudden conversion, and there never 
was a conversion that was not sudden. Never was 
there one that had not been made ready beforehand, 
never one which, having been made ready before 
hand, did not come by one strong resolution, one 
supreme decisive, "I will." There is a sudden con- 
version of which men talk which is no conversion. 
No change of life, no change of heart, nothing but 
just a mood, the momentary impression of the sensi- 
bilities by the sweet sound of a name, or the im- 
perious declamation of a speaker, or the plaintive 
singing of a hymn. The trouble with that is, not 
that it is sudden, but that it is not conversion. But 
the true conversion is always sudden, and never 
sudden. 

Look at the thief upon the cross beside the dying 
Jesus. If ever any man seemed to be suddenly con- 
verted, it was he. But who can tell how much, 
before his crucifixion, in all the wild days of his 
wickedness, he had known of Him who was to be 
the sharer of his suffering? Or, if we allow ourselves 
no such conjecture as that, still we must remember 
that he saw upon the cross beside him the nature of 
Jesus Christ in its supremest manifestation. The 
last veil was drawn aside, and the very heart of the 
Divine Sufferer was laid bare. And the thief, too, 
saw with perceptions quickened by his own agony, 
and by the terrible intensity of his need. No won- 
der if his suffering eyes saw into the Saviour s 
suffering love with most exceptional clearness and 
quickness. No wonder if he gathered a knowledge 
of Christ in that hour while they hung together, 
which less intense perceptions would have taken a 
long time to gather. It was the experience of years 
compressed into the agony of an awful hour. And 
so when at the last, he broke down and gave way, 
and cried out from his cross, "Lord, remember me 
when thou comest into thy kingdom!" it was as 
truly the completion of a process as when, through 
years of study and reflection, some placid soul ac- 
cumulates those thoughts of Christ and His salva- 
tion which some shock of overwhelming need finally 
crystallizes into the strong resolution to come to 
Christ. There comes a moment when the resistance 
gives way before the weight, whether that weight be 
the force of the cannon ball that comes crashing 
through the wall, or the pressure of the snow that 
has gathered flake by flake upon the roof. 

Indeed everything in this world is sudden and not 
sudden. The sunrise that has been creeping up the 
east for hours, and then leaps in a moment from the 
eastern hills ; the onset of an army which has slowly 
gathered its strength together out of cottages and 
cities, and then falls like an eagle on the enemy ; the 
breaking up of a kingdom which has been growing 
rotten at the heart, and in some still noontide of 
history drops into ruin ; the coming of a boy to 
manhood; the bursting of a plant to flower; all 
things are sudden and not sudden. 

And so must be the coming of man to Christ. 
"Coming to Christ !" I love those words. I be- 
lieve there are no words that have meant so much to 
human ears as those words have meant. To come 
to Christ is the completest act that any man can do. 
It is the acceptance of His forgiveness, the reliance 
upon His help, and the gradual growth into His 
character. Is not that plain? Is there anything 
mysterious or unintelligible about it? There is one 
Being, and only one Being, who can forgive you 
for your sins, and that is the God whom Christ 
manifests. There is only one Being who can make 
you live a new life, and that is the present, ever- 
living Christ, to whom you can pray, whose soul 
your soul can touch. There is one Image, growing 
into which you shall be perfect. It is the Image of 
Christ. Now, when you ask Him to forgive you, 
when you ask Him to help you, and, by any culture 
that He will, to make you like Himself, that is 
coming to Christ. When you have done that, you 
have come to Christ. It begins when you lay hold 
upon the borders of His help. It is finished only 
when you have attained His Christliness. When 
you have made up your mind to do that, you have 
resolved to come to Christ. 

Whether it be sudden or gradual, evidently that 
makes no difference. That is a question of curiosity. 
But whether you do it or not, on that hangs every- 
thing. There are men who have been gathering 
material for that resolution for years. Now the 
spark must touch the tinder. Now the resolution 
must be made. Now, having seen Christ so long, 
you must give yourself to Christ. 

One last barrier, perhaps, stands between you and 
the Christian Life. It may be fear! If it is, lay 
hold of Christ s promises. You cannot fear God if 
you really know what He is. Does the child fear 
the mother's bosom? Does the bird fear its home 
nest? Or, it may be pride! If it is, rise to a higher 
pride. Grow indifferent to all that men will say 
about you if you become a Christian, by hearing, 
above everything that they say, the songs of the 
angels, among whom, Christ says, there is joy over 
every sinner that repenteth. Let to-day be the 
strong day of your life, the day when you "spake, 
and it was done " ; the day when you gave yourself 
to the living, loving Christ, and He took you into 
His Life and Love.