Greater Men and Women of the Bible by James Hastings: 039. Separation

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Greater Men and Women of the Bible by James Hastings: 039. Separation

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The call of Abraham was a call to separate himself. Perhaps election always involves separation. Not outwardly always. In the case of Abraham the outward separation was necessary from his position and circumstances. He was to be the father of the faithful. Faith was new in his time; and its nature had to be taught by a visible representation: and he was called upon to enact the life of faith upon a public stage. But to us now, upon whom the ends of the world are come, when faith has been so long in the world, and when the Son of God, the Author and the Finisher of the faith, has lived His life upon the earth-to us, such sudden breaks, entailing a change in one's outward life, are less needful. And they are contrary to the intention of Christianity, which desires that faith should be so strong as to maintain a life altogether different from the world's life, even under the same outward forms of life with the world. What the religion of Christ desires of us is, not that we should alter the outward form of our life, but that we should infuse a new spirit into it, even the spirit of Christ. It is not that we should renounce the business, or occupation, or profession, formerly ours; but that we should carry it on henceforth, realizing it to be a way in which God is with us, by which He is leading us, through which He will bring us to a promised heritage at the last.

Yet it is a remarkable fact that throughout the history of the world, when a distinct call has come to a man, it has often involved separation. When Abraham was called he “went out.” When St. Paul was called by God's grace and appointed apostle to the uncircumcision, he was compelled to separate himself from the religious community of his fellow-countrymen. When Luther was called to lead a sorely-needed Reformation of religion, he had to separate himself from the Church of his fathers. And when Chalmers heard his call to vindicate the Spiritual Headship of the Lord Jesus Christ over His Church, he had to leave the Church he loved.

But the separation may be, not from country or Church, but from one's own past life or prevalent worldliness. It was as a call to separation that the word of God came to Dr. Augustus Hopkins Strong, who afterwards became President of Rochester Theological Seminary. He says: “I had begun to read my Bible, and one afternoon, several weeks after I went back to college, I was reading by lamplight a chapter in Corinthians, where were these words: ‘Wherefore come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.' ‘Oh,' said I, ‘I never read that before; I have come out from among them; I have tried to be separate; I will not touch the unclean thing. Now, I have the word and promise of God that He will be a Father to me.' Then for the first time in all my life I felt there was a tie between me and God. I looked out through the branches of the elm trees and saw the stars shining in the sky, and I said to myself: ‘When those stars grow old and die, God will be my Father and my Friend.' ”1 [Note: A. H. Strong, One Hundred Chapel-Talks (1913), 17.]