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Is the plow more than the field to be furrowed, or the sickle than the ripened grain? Can gold stay the hunger pangs better than the nourishing food that the money may buy?
The context with which occurs the crucial interrogation quoted above points the question sharply: "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's,
the same shall save it."
The cross to be taken up may be heavy, perhaps to be dragged because too burdensome to be borne. We are apt to assume that self-denial is the sole material of our cross; but this is true only as we regard self-denial in its broadest sense, comprising both positive and negative aspects. One man's cross may consist mostly in refraining from doings to which he is inclined, another's in doing what he would fain escape. One's besetting sin is evil indulgence; his neighbor's a lazy inattention to the activities required by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, coupled perchance with puritanical rigor in other observances.
But the great question, striking home to every thoughtful soul, is that of the Master-"For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" (Matt. 16:26).
It is possible then for a man to lose his own soul. To deny is to reject the Lord's own doctrine. The safeguard against such incalculable loss is specifically indicated—to follow the Savior; and this can mean only keeping His commandments, whatever the temporary suffering or worldly sacrifice may be.
The occasion of Christ's question with its accompanying brief but forceful discourse was this: He had reiterated
to the disciples, with greater directness than ever before, the facts of His approaching death and the ignominy that would be forced upon Him. Peter, impetuous and impulsive as ever, exclaimed "Be it far from thee Lord: this shall not be unto thee." In that remark, though well-intended and bold, lay the suggestion that Jesus should avert the impending tragedy to Himself, and save His own life. The Lord's reply to Peter was a rebuke of the severest kind.
Then followed the avowal that one who saves his life at the cost of righteous duty shall lose it, and the comforting assurance that he who is ready to sacrifice his life in the Master's service shall find it. If this be true with life as the stake, how more so shall it be with wealth, station, worldly power, or pet but false theory and doctrine, as the thing to be gained or lost?
Consider the words of Jacob the Nephite:
"O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves-wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. . . . Behold, the way for man is narrow but it lieth in a straight course before him; and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and He employeth no servant there; and there is none other way, save it be by the gate, for He cannot be deceived; for the Lord God is His name. And whoso knocketh, to him will He open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches; yea, they are they, whom He despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them." (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 9).
THE GARDEN OF GOD
And the Weeds of Human Culture
UT He answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up." (Matt. 15:13.)
This significant and comprehensive avowal by the Lord Jesus Christ while in the flesh was spoken by way of rejoinder to a report from certain disciples that the Pharisees were offended at His doctrine. Some of the learned scribes and punctilious Pharisees had voiced the criticism that our Lord's disciples were in transgression because they ignored the tradition respecting the ceremonial washing of hands. The Master's rebuke was incisive and severe. He demanded of the casuistical complainers: "Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?" And He cited the glaring instance of the then current violation of the Divine command respecting the honor due to parents from their children, as occasioned by the hierarchic vagary of the Corban practise, by which undutiful children were enabled to escape their filial obligations. Then, calling to the multitude He loudly proclaimed, in denunciation of the unlawful exaction of arbitrary rule: "Hear and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man."
Who that heard could fail to note the clear differentiation between man-made rules and Divine law, between human tradition and the commandments of God?
Then followed the sweeping declaration cited above.
What were the plants of Pharisaical tradition but noxious tares, doomed to be rooted up and burned?
Only the wheat of Divine planting shall be gathered into the garner of the Lord. But, as so impressively taught in parable, the wholesome grain and the poisonous tares are allowed to grow together for a season, lest perchance the premature extirpation of the weeds imperil the wheat.
Nations and kingdoms rise and fall, sometimes by God's immediate direction and through the instrumentality of men foreordained to the occasion, sometimes by Divine permission or allowance incident to the exercise of individual or national agency.
I cannot believe that God ever planted the noisome fungus of tyranny or kingly despotism. Nevertheless it has been permitted to flourish rankly in the soil of ignorance and false tradition; and its spores have been surreptitiously scattered even in the fields of fair freedom's flowers.
With God as with man there is a time of seeding and a time of harvest. Only now has the world been even measurably prepared for government based on the consent of the people, for the kind of government that shall yet be established in other lands as it has been already developed in America. Fifty, twenty, aye, even ten years ago, to have attempted forcibly to uproot the weeds of autocracy would have endangered the precious wheat of real democracy. There is a dominant element of timeliness in all the works of God: Verily He doeth all things well, and in propitious season.
Have you never read that in the last days all things shall be in commotion? We live in the predicted time of shaking, when every unstable structure shall totter, and only such as are established upon an eternal foundation shall stand. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews so understood, as witness his admonitory precept:
"See that ye refuse not him that speaketh." The reference is to Christ. "For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain." (Heb. 12:25-27.)
The things of God are not to be shaken even by the boom of man's heaviest artillery; they shall abide in spite of bomb and shell. But the works of human craft shall be shattered. Not only so as to material structures, but likewise man's sophistries, erroneous theories, conjectures, philosophy, and such science as is falsely so called.
Institutions of human origin may persist long years, but shall surely come to an end. In and after the resurrection they shall have neither place nor name. Institutions established by the authority of heaven alone can endure.
To administer in the ordinances of God requires an authority distinctively different from any that man can originate or arrogate to himself. Let Cæsar regulate the things of Cæsar, if you will, but let not Cæsar essay to administer the things of God. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is eternal, it shall never be destroyed nor shaken. The laws of God are immutable and compliance therewith, in mode as well as in spirit, is indispensable to salvation. Thus hath the Lord decreed:
"Behold! mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion. Will I accept of an offering, saith the Lord, that is not made in my name! Or, will I receive at your hands that which I have not appointed!