Great Texts of the Bible by James Hastings - Jude 1:20 - 1:21

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Great Texts of the Bible by James Hastings - Jude 1:20 - 1:21

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But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.—Jud_1:20-21.

1. Jude is the prophet of the Apostasy. He sounds the final note of warning. The key word is “kept.” Those who embrace the faith and contend for the faith are “preserved” unto the day of presentation; those who reject and oppose the faith are “reserved” unto the day of retribution. Those who kept not their first estate, and are kept for judgment, are contrasted with those who keep themselves in the love of God, and are kept by His power.

Most travellers in foreign countries follow about the same route of travel. They see the same cathedrals, art galleries, and bits of scenery that thousands before them have seen. Once in a while some one insists on leaving the well-beaten routes and exploring less frequented places of interest. It is safe to say that there are many beautiful things in those countries which do not lie along the frequented routes. There are mountains, and lakes, and brooks—scenes of beauty that cannot be counted—which only those who step out of the well-beaten paths ever see.

There are well-beaten routes in the Scripture, chapters that are read over and over again by the multitude who are content to see and know what the multitude sees and knows. But whoever goes into the unfrequented places finds beautiful things. Here in Jude—hidden away where those who follow the usual Biblical route would never see it—is this: “Keep yourselves in the love of God.”1 [Note: G. W. Hinckley.]

2. When this verse occurs, the turning-point of the Epistle has just been passed. The thunder-storm of invective, which the writer has been hurling against certain godless disturbers of the purity and peace of the Church, spends itself almost abruptly, and the Epistle seems to gather to a close among the quiet sunset-light of a sky that has been clarified by the storm. These last calm sentences are directly for the saints whom he loves. “But ye,” says he, “see that ye make a contrast to all this vapid corruption. The contrast which already exists between your condition and theirs, your prospects and theirs, let it be carried forth into a contrast between your conduct and theirs, your habits and theirs. Keep yourselves in the love of God.”

“Keep yourselves in the love of God” does not mean keep yourselves loving God, but keep believing and rejoicing that God loves you. “Conviction” is a good word there, because it comes from con and victum—conquered, or vinculum—a chain. Be conquered, be enchained, by the thought that God loves you. “Keep” means guard, protect, as in a fortress. Live in this castle, and no enemy of doubt or fear can by any means hurt you.1 [Note: M. D. Babcock, Thoughts for Every-Day Living, 16.]


The Duty of Self-Keeping

1. The central thought that lies in this passage is that we are in charge of ourselves. To keep ourselves—to be ever vigilant amid the perils that beset us, and steer our course aright—this is the main work of life.

There is a law pervading all animate and inanimate nature called by the scientists of to-day the law of conformity to type. By this law every living thing is compelled to stamp upon its offspring the image of itself. The fish produces its like, and the bird its like. The basis of all forms of animal and herbal life is one. There is no difference between the protoplasm which is destined to develop into a man, and that which is to become a herb, or one of the lower animals. How then does the difference arise? What is the secret of varieties in Nature? Scientists tell us it is this law of conformity to type. Bird life builds up a bird. Man life builds up a man. Now, if man were only the stuff of which trees are made he would still be subject to this law of conformity to type. But it would be automatically. He would have no conscious individual share in helping on the process. But add the elements of free will, and intellectual faculties, and moral sense, and spiritual affections, and we have a creature both subject to and greater than this law. We cannot, indeed, evade or overcome the law. But we can determine the way in which it will act through us. God gives up to us the power of forming character. Our birth was His. Our vital powers are His. Our heredities are His. But our truest, vitallest, God-aspiring or God-shunning self—that is our own. By what means shall we assist this law of conformity to type to mould our lives after the image of our Creator? Let us keep ourselves in the love of God; let no meaner ends of life so engross us that we lose sight of this our high calling of God.

2. There are two sides to this keeping: a Divine side and a human side.

(1) Our Lord keeps us.—Perhaps it is difficult for some to believe that we who are upon the earth can really know ourselves to be always, without interruption, in our Lord’s hands and under His power. How much clearer and more glorious does the truth become when the Spirit discovers to us that Christ is in us; and that, not only as a tenant in a house, or water in a glass, in such a fashion that they continue quite distinct, but rather as the soul is in the body, animating and moving every part of it, and never to be separated from each other except by a violent death. It is thus that Christ dwells in us, penetrating our whole nature with His nature. The Holy Spirit came for the purpose of making Him thus deeply present within us. As the sun is high in the firmament above us, and yet by his heat penetrates our bones and marrow and quickens our whole life, so the Lord Jesus, who is exalted high in heaven, penetrates our whole nature by His Spirit in such a way that all our willing, and thinking, and feeling are animated by Him. Once this fact is fully grasped, we no longer think of an external keeping through a person outside of us in heaven, but rather become convinced that our whole individual life is itself quickened and possessed by One who, not in a human but in a Divine, all-penetrating manner, occupies and fills the heart. Then we see how natural, how certain, how blessed it is that the indwelling Jesus always maintains the fulness of the Spirit.

Some maimed bird from the woods is brought into the house and the children want to tend it with all the gentleness of hospital nurses. They stretch out entreating hands and make pretty speeches, spread for it royal banquets, offer it a generous partnership in the use of their toys. But there is no common groundwork of ideas between them. It cannot read these signs of friendship, and the poor thing is as unhappy as though hawks were hovering in the clouds. If it has not already died of fright, the first time the window sash is open it flies away to the woods. It cannot appreciate or interpret the love which would fain woo its friendship in a strange world. It lacks power to perceive. But God’s love is conscious of all other loves, and has the power, moreover, of interpreting itself to willing and lowly hearts. It knows where to find the first sign of this ethereal affection, and how to enter into fellowship with it.1 [Note: T. G. Selby, The Alienated Crown, 363.]

The love of God in our hearts is a gift from the Lord; it is a fire which lights up all things arid, and whoever is so disposed can instantly feel it warm and inflame his heart.2 [Note: Savonarola.]

Lord, a happy child of Thine,

Patient through the love of Thee,

In the light, the life divine,

Lives and walks at liberty.

Leaning on Thy tender care,

Thou hast led my soul aright;

Fervent was my morning prayer,

Joyful is my song to-night.

O my Saviour, Guardian true,

All my life is Thine to keep;

At Thy feet my work I do,

In Thy arms I fall asleep.3 [Note: A. L. Waring.]

(2) We must keep ourselves.—This can only mean that we ought to love the Lord our God with the full force of decision and purpose. In the sovereign faculty of will metaphysicians find the centre and strength of personality. Our love to God must not be vague sentiment tincturing our talk with a pale poetry, but the settled purpose and determination of the soul commanding, compelling, triumphing in all the crises of life. Love without will is the merest froth; but springing from the depths of the soul, expressing a firm and hearty conviction and resolution, it passes into the master-passion of life. Let it, then, be our settled purpose to keep a warm heart. “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.” I will not permit abounding iniquity to chill my heart, or abounding prosperity to steel it. I will not allow Nature, humanity, self, or any idols of the world, to have dominion over me, but I will love Thee; I will watch, and, lest time and circumstance should spoil the fervour and freshness of the heart, I will ever welcome new awakenings and inspirations.

It is not a command to love Him, but to keep yourselves in His love, objects of His loving. Do you know how to do it? If a mother should write to her boy and at the close of the letter should say, “You have a good teacher, keep yourself in his love,” he would know what to do. He would be careful not to disobey, thoughtful not to displease, watchful to render any service in his power. If there were some sickly boy, and we should tell him he was to be excused from school for a few weeks, and should say to him, “Keep yourself in the sunshine,” would he know what to do? He would keep out of the shadows, and that is easily done. If this building were casting a shadow, he would keep on the sunny side. If yonder tree were casting a shadow, he would keep away from it. He would remember the injunction, “Keep yourself in the sunshine—out of the shadow.” There is a place where the unmanly and the impure congregate. The influence of the place is baleful—a dark, damp shadow. Keep out of it; and keep in the love of God.1 [Note: G. W. Hinckley.]

3. The best way to keep ourselves in the love of God is to be always in the fulness of the Spirit.—There is a touchstone about the Holy Ghost that discovers evil, and evil cannot live before Him. This is a highly organized age. We are all living in the midst of environments of many kinds. There are streams of influences that bear in upon us from without, and there is a peculiar joyousness about the consecrated life,—a spiritual exhilaration—and with that exhilaration there is an accessibility to human sympathy and influence, and in all these there are perpetual dangers which we must be on our guard against so that we may not be drawn away from the love of Jesus Christ.

Love is not to be a rare mood of the soul, but its sublime habit. Travellers in the East tell of the striking difference in the appearance of the same tract of country at different seasons of the year. What at one time is a garden, glowing with brilliant hues, and rich with pasture, at another is an absolute waste, frightful and oppressive from its sterility. So is it too commonly with the soul, which at one time is like a watered garden glowing in the heavenly sunshine and then directly cold and desolate. It ought not so to be. God’s love to us is ever glowing, revealing itself in new and richer tokens, and our love to Him should reflect the same constancy.1 [Note: W. L. Watkinson, Themes for Hours of Meditation, 157.]

The brightest lamp will burn dim in an impure or rarefied atmosphere, but William Burns was enabled so to keep himself “in the love of God” that he was but little affected by his surroundings. Prayer was as natural to him as breathing, and the Word of God his God as necessary as daily food. He was always cheerful, always happy, witnessing to the truth of his own memorable words: I think I can say, through grace, that God’s presence or absence alone distinguishes places to me.2 [Note: Hudson Taylor in Early Years, 346.]

At cool of day, with God I walk

My garden’s grateful shade;

I hear His voice among the trees,

And I am not afraid.

He is my stay and my defence;—

How shall I fail or fall?

My helper is Omnipotence!

My ruler ruleth all.

The powers below and powers above

Are subject to His care;—

I cannot wander from His love

Who loves me everywhere.

Thus dowered, and guarded thus, with Him

I walk this peaceful shade;

I hear His voice among the trees,

And I am not afraid!3 [Note: C. A. Mason.]


The Means of Self-Keeping

The means of self-keeping are twofold—“building up yourselves on your most holy faith,” and “praying in the Holy Spirit.”

1. Jude here employs an architectural expression to set forth his meaning. In the various temples and public buildings of an Eastern city were furnished beautiful and chaste examples of the builder’s art, and the transition to man as a wonderful piece of architecture would be easy. Hence we find such expressions as “Ye are God’s building,” “Ye are temples of the Holy Ghost,” and the words of the text, “Building up yourselves on your most holy faith.”

This metaphor of building, so common in the New Testament, suggests patient industry, thoughtful method, graduated progress, upward aspirations. It indicates a design and plan. The house of the soul is being fashioned. The inward man is growing towards the pattern of the Heavenly Man, the type to which the Spiritual Architect conforms His handiworks. The structural principles are embodied in the faith.

(1) The Christian character is like a mosaic formed of tiny squares in all but infinite numbers, each one of them separately set and bedded in its place. You have to build by a plan; you have to see to it that each day has its task, each day its growth. You have to be content with one brick at a time. It is a lifelong task, till the whole be finished. And not until we pass from earth to heaven does our building work cease. Continuous effort is the condition of progress.

A Christian character is not reared as a coral structure is, by instinct. It demands a sustained effort of intelligent will. The work is laboriously slow—slow, yet urgent. There is need we should bring to bear upon it something of the systematic steadiness which tells so marvellously in the meaner sphere of our worldly work—permitting to ourselves no half-heartedness in it; setting upon it the banded force of all the faculties of body and soul and spirit; pushing it on in frost and rain, and by light of torch when the daylight fails us.1 [Note: J. A. Kerr Bain, For Heart and Life, 87.]

Few things can be so offensive to an architect as a building erected in such a way as to show all the traces of the hurry, carelessness, and incapacity of the workmen. There are structures whose very defects have gained them a world-wide notoriety. We have all heard of the leaning tower of Pisa, the top of which projects fifteen feet farther out than the base, and which presents the appearance of a building about to fall. The same impression is produced by the spire of a certain church in Yorkshire. Both structures are altogether out of plumb, and afford ocular demonstration of bad construction. Such buildings are like some characters we meet with, into the building-up of which there have entered an unskilful handling of tools and a neglect of the proportions requisite in a properly constructed edifice. If we are to have a true character we must build wisely and well, looking for our specifications to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, the dictates of conscience, the precepts of the Bible, and the peerless character of Christ.1 [Note: M. Johnson.]

In the elder days of art,

Builders wrought with equal care

Each minute and unseen part;

For the gods see everywhere.

Let us do our work as well,

Both the unseen and the seen;

Make the House where God should dwell,

Beautiful, entire, and clean.

Else our work is incomplete—

Standing, in these walls of time,

Broken stairways, where the feet

Stumble as they seek to climb.

(2) The only adequate foundation is to be found in a right relation to Jesus Christ. This is involved in the expression, “building up yourselves on your most holy faith.” Faith as a mere act is the same in all cases; it involves the same conditions, and follows the same processes, in all its operations. Considered in itself, faith has nothing in it to make one of its acts higher than another. What, then, constitutes the most holy faith? We answer, the object that faith apprehends and appropriates. The higher and holier the object believed, to that degree the faith exercised becomes higher and holier. And as the infinite Christ of God is the most holy object of faith, so the belief that brings about a right relation to Him deserves to be called the most holy faith. Such a foundation involves every other, just as the greater necessarily includes the lesser. There is involved in it every real good. It embraces every department of life, and enters into all its complex and diversified aspects. The social and political, the mental, moral and religious, are all alike parts of its vast empire; and whatever relates to these in their development and operation receives its sanction and benediction. While it has an essentially Godward aspect, it has, at the same time, to do with all the relations in which men stand to their fellows. It makes our relation to Christ the principle and motive for fulfilling our duties to others.

Ministering, some years ago now, in Switzerland, I was sorry as I left the beautiful little mountain church to observe that the rock upon which one of the buttresses of the chancel was built was crumbling. My friend said to me: “You could not quote that as an illustration of the safety of the house built upon a rock.” I said, “No, but I can quote it as an illustration of the insecurity of a house built upon what looks like a fair foundation. That rock looked fair and strong, or it would never have been chosen.” We know how St. Paul had built for many years upon the fair appearance of morality and ceremonial observance, and how at length he cast them to the winds, “not having his own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”1 [Note: E. W. Moore, in The Keswick Week, 1905, p. 165.]

2. Praying in the Holy Spirit.

(1) Prayer of some sort marks every religion, for prayer in its most general sense is an appeal to God. But Christian prayer is the prayer of faith, and not merely of form; it is prayer of the heart, and not merely of the lips; it is prayer which rests not in bodily posture, but in spiritual power. The Christian prays as he lives and lives as he prays. But his power for prayer is not in himself, for it is the Spirit dwelling within him that enables him to pray. Nor is true prayer merely by the Holy Ghost; it is “in the Holy Ghost,” for spiritual life is the sphere of spiritual prayer. Pray then, pray always, if you would keep in touch with things unseen, if you would keep your hearts open to God and heaven. Pray by the Holy Ghost by yielding your will to Him if you would worship in spirit and in truth, and feel the power of prayer and obtain the blessings you seek. But pray in the Holy Ghost by honouring His presence within you, and hearkening to His voice, if you would know the peace and joy of heavenly fellowship and maintain a lively sense of the love of God.

The prayer which helps us to keep in the love of God is not the petulant and passionate utterance of our own wishes, but is the yielding of our desires to the impulses divinely breathed upon us. As Michael Angelo says, “The prayers I make will then be sweet indeed, If Thou the spirit give by which I pray.” Our own desires may be hot and vehement, but the desires that run parallel with the Divine will, and are breathed into us by God’s own Spirit, are the desires which, in their meek submissiveness, are omnipotent with Him whose omnipotence is perfected in our weakness.1 [Note: A. Maclaren, The Unchanging Christ, 178.]

(2) Praying in the Spirit is the surest defence against the evils that arise from a low moral temperature. In some parts of the world, malaria and tropical heat speedily turn healthy and capable colonists into sickly loiterers and rickety “ne’er-do-weels.” No race seems able to toil under the frightful conditions of climate which prevail on the Isthmus of Panama. And, on the other hand, some climates are so crisp and exhilarating that the laggard finds it difficult to do less than a fair day’s work. Unknown ingredients in the air seem to accelerate the blood and spur to strenuous exertion. The qualities of the work done by poet, painter, musician, may almost be told in the terms of the atmospheric pressure prevailing at the time. Genius, just as much as the unopened flower bud, needs the bright, bracing day to bring out its splendour.

And the soul requires for the reaching out of its highest powers towards God a refined and well-balanced element, which we can describe only as “climate” or “atmosphere.” The difference between praying on the mere level of our natural perceptions and sympathies, and praying in a realm pervaded by the unfailing inspirations of the Spirit, is not unlike the difference between drudgery on a tropical swamp and movement on a glorious tableland. In the one case prayer is an effort, a burden, a vexation, and an idle penance; in the other, a joy, a sunrise, a melodious outrush of upper springs, glad spontaneity, life pulsating with the sense of power and victory. The prayer imposed upon us by slavish conventions or habits, the prime motives of which have shrivelled away, seems to open all the channels of the life to poison, disease, religious degeneration. But when the breath of the Spirit pervades the shrine in which we pray, and calls up a gracious environment which we can carry about with us in our daily walk, prayer acquires new attributes, assumes fresh attractions, and springs to unknown victories.

The under side of every leaf is furnished with thousands of tiny mouths, through which the leaf breathes back upon the world the air it has purified and sweetened for human uses. And so the foliage of a mighty forest is like a cluster of fountains from which health and quickening alchemies are ever pouring, which supply the needs of all those kingdoms of life gathered under its shadow. And in the same way the Holy Spirit of God breathes upon us from every point of our environment. Through countless mouths His soul-quickening influences flow silently into us, neutralizing the doubt, sloth, and sin exhaled from the lower nature, so that we can breathe back our souls to God in faith and desire continuous as the river from God’s throne.1 [Note: T. G. Selby, The Holy Spirit and Christian Privilege, 176.]


The Inspiration of Self-Keeping

“Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”

1. On what is it that our eye is to be set as the focus and fountain of all our encouragement in the grand task of our life? Is it the abundance of our labours? Is it certain rightful wages that those labours are earning? Is it even the satisfaction that the memory of them may bring us? No, it is nothing so poor as this. “Looking for—mercy.” Still mercy—after all our hard work, our God-given work, in building, praying, keeping? Let us thank God that it is. Our work—it is blundering and inconstant; the worker—he is weak and unworthy; here, smiling around us out of the heaven which it makes so bright, is the Divine yet brotherly compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, no other encouragement could be at all so complete as this. It overflows upon every other. It is the sum of all tenderest things; it is the pledge of all that is most unimaginable in its gloriousness. Is our heart burdened about our passing fatigues or troubles or perils? It may be, till we look onward to that towards which mercy is ripening; then, present ills shall feel lighter, and past ones shall appear more utterly past. We must cultivate a busy-handed expectingness; if we do, it will almost become an expectant seeing—a looking upon the actual dawn of the hastening day.

Heard of a poor woman in Windsor Forest who was asked if she did not feel lonely in that exceeding isolation. “Oh no; for Faith closes the door at night and Mercy opens it in the morning.”1 [Note: 1 Journals of Caroline Fox, ii. 141.]

Now wilt me take for Jesus’ sake,

Nor cast me out at all;

I shall not fear the foe awake,

Saved by Thy City wall;

But in the night with no affright

Shall hear him steal without,

Who may not scale Thy wall of might,

Thy Bastion, nor redoubt.

Full well I know that to the foe

Wilt yield me not for aye,

Unless mine own hand should undo

The gates that are my stay;

My folly and pride should open wide

Thy doors and set me free

’Mid tigers striped and panthers pied

Far from Thy liberty.

Unless by debt myself I set

Outside Thy loving ken,

And yield myself by weight of debt

Unto my fellow-men.

Deal with my guilt Thou as Thou wilt,

And “hold” I shall not cry,

So I be Thine in storm and shine,

Thine only till I die.2 [Note: Katharine Tynan.]

2. Mercy is kindness to the undeserving, and in that point it rises higher than even grace. Grace is kindness to the non-deserving, to those who have no claim upon it, but yet who may be in themselves no unworthy recipients. But mercy implies demerit; it is kindness to the sinful, it is kindness to the lost. Now, this is what Christians have to look for even to the end. Never will they be claimants of right; always will they be suppliants of want. They would have it so. It would be no comfort to them to hear that ten years or a thousand years hence they will have earned their title to stand in an erect posture or with head covered before the great King. They know better. They are making new discoveries day by day, as of grace so of sin, as of good so of vice. Mercy they ask and mercy they look for, only with a growing sureness and certainty that that mercy bought with blood is theirs. Eternal life fills the far horizon of the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ—is its security and its safeguard.

I was one day working hard in my study and a message came to me to say that a certain person was ill. The first feeling in my heart was one of vexation. I crushed that, and rose up and put on my hat and coat, and went away as fast as I could. I was going down one of the Edinburgh streets, and all of a sudden this thought came to me: “Death will come like that. You will be in the midst of your work, and the message of the Master will come all of a sudden, and you will have to rise and go.” Even that one saw as simply an incident in the progress that is to be eternal. Death does not matter. The Master may come and call us right away into the glory, or it may be His will that we should die; but that is just simply an incident, a forward step, as we keep resting daily on mercy unto eternal life.1 [Note: John Smith, in The Keswick Week, 1905, p. 164.]

Though waves and storms go o’er my head,

Though health and strength and friends be gone,

Though joy be withered all and dead,

And every comfort be withdrawn;

On this my steadfast soul relies—

Jesus, Thy mercy never dies!

Fixed on this ground will I remain,

Though my heart fail and flesh decay;

This anchor shall my soul sustain

When earth’s foundations melt away:

Mercy’s full power I then shall prove,

Loved with an everlasting love.



Alford (H.), Quebec Chapel Sermons, i. 395.

Arnold (T.), Sermons, vi. 277.

Bain (J. A. K.), For Heart and Life, 77.

Binney (T.), Sermons Preached in King’s Weigh-House Chapel, 1st Ser., 202.

Burrell (D. J.), The Spirit of the Age, 211.

Davies (T.), Sermons, ii. 392, 395.

Garbett (E.), The Soul’s Life, 305.

Hoare (E.), Fruitful or Fruitless, 130.

Holland (C.), Gleanings from a Ministry, 221.

Hughes (H. P.), The Philanthropy of God, 3.

Jerdan (C.), For the Lambs of the Flock, 33, 155.

Jones (J. M.), The Cup of Cold Water, 63.

Macgregor (G. H. C.), Praying in the Holy Ghost, 1.

Macgregor (G. H. C.), Rabboni, 34.

Meyer (F. B.), Calvary to Pentecost, 52.

Mudie (F.), Bible Truths and Bible Characters, 156, 172, 185, 199, 213, 226.

Murray (A.), The Full Blessing of Pentecost, 92.

Selby (T. G.), The Holy Spirit and Christian Privilege, 161.

Vallings (J. F.), The Holy Spirit of Promise, 189.

Watkinson (W. L.), Themes for Hours of Meditation, 150.

Waugh (T.), Mount and Multitude, 30.

Christian World Pulpit, ii. 24 (Binney); xxviii. 408 (Statham); xxxvii. 165 (Brown).

Church of England Magazine, xl. 256 (Clayton); xliii. 25 (Dwarris); lxiv. 416 (Champneys).