Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 1, 1971

Rising To The Occasion


"What we do upon some great occasion will probably depend on what we already are, and what we are will be the result of previous years of self-discipline." This is a quotation from Henry P. Liddon, one of the greatest scholars and preachers that England ever produced. His lectures on "The Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," delivered at the University of Oxford in 1866 are still considered by many scholars to be the greatest work that uninspired man has ever written in defense of the divinity of Christ. In our library is a well-thumbed, much used book containing these Bampton Lectures, and a penciled note on the fly-leaf, now yellowed with age, says simply, "This is high spot of divinity argument — BCG." We suspect, but do not know, that the initials stand for B. C. Goodpasture, since we do know that the book was once in his possession for a time. But whoever the unknown annotator was, we couldn't agree with him more.

What Jesus did in the great moments of his life, his baptism, his temptation, his crucifixion, grew out of what he was; and what he was came from those long years of self-discipline. For let it be remembered that Luke says, "And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit..." "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." Jesus met the crises in his life exactly as we meet crises in our lives, for he "was tempted in all points like as we are." It was in the life-long pattern of little things, small decisions, unimportant choices, trivial preferences and options that he laid the inevitable groundwork for those awesome electives which would make Golgotha inevitable. When he "steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem," (Luke 9:51) he had no illusions at all as to what lay in store for him. He knew he was going to his death. In fact, he had been talking with Moses and Elijah about that very thing when they were on the Mount of Transfiguration. Because of what he was, he really could not have done otherwise than to go to his death. He was the creature of his own past life. . . For all these thirty and three years he had been obedient and submissive to the will of God. It would have now been both morally and psychologically impossible for him to have acted contrary to the life-long patterns of conduct which he had woven.

Why write on this? why devote an entire editorial to such a subject? The answer is simple. Too many parents have failed to understand that it is not the big decisions their children make that are important, but the little ones. The big ones are all too often beyond their control. A teen-ager's decision to "join the gang" in a pot party, to steal a car for a joy-ride, to go shop-lifting "for kicks" is often an impulsive, spur-of-the-moment thing that takes possession of him. Looking back on the incident from a jail cell or a hospital bed, he simply cannot imagine what ever got into him to lead him to such action.

But there is really no mystery at all. There are thousands and multiplied thousands of young people who, given precisely the same opportunity and same inducements he was given, would not have joined the party, stolen the car, become a petty thief. They would have reacted quite differently — because the pattern of their lives had been developed in a different frame-work. Their parents had been careful about the little things, the petty decisions, the trivial and insignificant things in the lives of their children, and had guided their innocent feet into the right pathways. It is profoundly true that in a most vital sense every adult is the slave of the child he used to be. The emotions, habit patterns, attitudes and sensibilities he develops in the early years of his life will control and direct him. They cannot be broken all at once. If he grows up a selfish, intemperate, obstinate and rebellious child, he will be that kind of man.

"What we do upon some great occasion will probably depend on what we are already, and what we are will be the result of previous years of self-discipline," said Canon Liddon. But suppose they have been years of self-indulgence rather than self-discipline? The answer is obvious. We will respond to any occasion, be it temptation, opportunity, success, failure, grief, or whatnot, according to the pattern that has been developed through long years that preceded the occasion. It is the "little things in life that count; for the little things add up to determine what happens when the "big things" confront us.

— F. Y. T.