And you are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
If we are only to be complete in Christ, then we must be incomplete without Him. It follows then that a soul after being made is still to be completed. It may be a germ to be developed, or a blasted germ to be restored. Here then is the true work of Christ's salvation, the completing of the soul.
I. WHAT DO WE MEAN BY THE COMPLETING OF THE SOUL?
1. We constantly assume the necessity of a great afterwork to be done on the soul of our child to make it the complete man or woman we desire it to be. What we call education is only our attempt to bring it to completeness. The result is a being in higher quantity and finer quality, and of enlarged capacity for action and enjoyment.
2. But it is not to be assumed that we are right in all our conceptions of what takes place in the training of minds.
(1) They will not be complete if only fully educated intellectually. Sometimes they will be hampered by scholarly attainments, drugged by great authorities, and incapacitated by the overload they have taken. Perhaps one hour with God would have done more in the widening of consciousness and the kindling of divinist fires than whole years of school drill.
(2) Sometimes we think our child is only going to be complete when educated away from certain ranges of employment. If he can only be a blacksmith, or a school teacher even, we think that we have not made enough of him. Were he a qualified commander, physician, lawyer, etc., we should think him more nearly up to the measure of his possibilities. But God does not grade our completeness by any such law. He may have rated Bezaleel the brazier far above Aaron the priest. Whoever came nearer to being mated with Shakespeare than the tinker Bunyan? A great soul can be fashioned anywhere if only God is with him. God nowhere allows that souls are kept back from completeness by their employments.
3. No mere schooling, to whatever grade of life or social estimation it may lead, is any but the faintest approximation to the completion of the soul.
II. How DOES IT APPEAR TO NEED ANY SUCH COMPLETION? If this were a question relating to Adam in his innocence, we should say that he was a full-grown, beautiful child, but yet a child; that his perceptions are all to be gotten, his will trained, habits formed, etc. Until then he is so incomplete that he will not stand fast in good, but plunge into wrong. Our first man, commonly thought so grandly perfect, is put on probation only that he may get his nature so matured in good that he will come out able to stand. Our question after this relates to him under the conditions of moral disaster into which he has fallen.
1. The soul scarcely at all answers its true end. There is a feeling everywhere that souls are going wide of the mark. A watch is complete when it keeps time, not when it quarrels with the notations of suns and dials and almanacks. A vintage process is complete when it makes wine, not when it makes vinegar. Souls in like manner are complete when they make the good they were made for.
2. Their enjoyment is not full, but confessedly a great way short of it. Their instincts are unfulfilled, their wants unsupplied, their objects not found. They are tormented with a general unrest. It would not be so if they were complete. They would be exactly full of enjoyment, just as by their inborn necessity they crave to be. No bee misses the shape of its cells, no bird the direction of its flight, no plant the colour and kind of its flower. No more will a soul its enjoyment unless incomplete, sweltering in some torment of inbred disorder.
3. Souls do not fulfil the standards of beauty, truth, and right. These are standards we all admit, just as all flowers and fruits have standard colours and figures of their kind. An apple is not complete when it comes out a gourd; nor a rose when it comes forth blue. When a soul, then, misses its kind, and puts forth itself in deformity, falsity, and wrong, it is a witness to its incompleteness.
4. Take a more surface view, and let the question settle itself under mere first impressions. How then is it that there is so much meanness, passion, want of self-government in individuals; and so many quarrels, acts of injustice, and bloodshed in society? Who can imagine mere creatures complete in their order? Suppose all the grains in a bushel of wheat were to act on themselves and towards one another thus! And the reason why they do not do so is because they are complete creatures, resting in their own perfect mould, and in harmony with each other — they that are at the top lying just as heavily, and those at the bottom supporting the weight just as bravely as they must. Souls completed in their order would do the same, just as all God's finished worlds and societies in glory do, without one rasping of a bad thought, or pang of mutual accusation.
5. We have a way of saying concerning a man that he is rained or blasted by his vices: in which we refer mentally to the incomplete state of the flower which we say is blasted when it does not come to fruit. And the figure is rightly chosen. Such men are incomplete.
6. It is a very curious distinction of souls that, being finite, they have yet infinite wants and aspirations; their very longing is to be completed in the outspreading of some infinite possession. What a falling short, therefore, is it when they fall short of God.
III. How IN CHRIST THEY CAN BE MADE COMPLETE. Here we discover three great agencies provided for the purpose.
(1) Separated from God man is nothing. Existing in mere self-hood he cannot push himself out in any way so as to be complete as from himself. A sponge might as well complete itself in dry air; it must let in and possess the sea. Just so a soul must have God's properties flowing in and through — liberty and life in His life, power in His power; it must be true in His truth, righteous in His righteousness.
(2) Now, it is in this inspiration force that Christ arranges for in His gift of the Spirit. He enters the soul to fill out every lack, configuring it inwardly to all that is most perfect in Himself, turning its very liberty towards all it wants and needs to receive.
2. We have ideals in Christ, who lives God in human figure and relation, so that we have in Him all that requires to be completed in us. Christ is the mirror that glasses God's image before us, and the Spirit is the plastic force within that transfers and photographs that image, so that "beholding as in an image," etc. (2 Corinthians 4:6).
3. To make the provision perfect, we are set in a various scheme of relations that we may have a training in duties and qualities, and be perfected by means of them. And we have as our remarkable advantage Christ the Divine man with us in these relations, so that trying to do the exact Christly thing in them all we are to get benefit in so many forms and degrees, and be brought when all is done and suffered to a completeness in the will of God. In this wondrous mill every blemish is to be removed, till at last there will be no spot or wrinkle or any such thing.
IV. THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST IS THE ONLY POWER ABLE TO BRING MEN THUS FORWARD.
1. We try education, getting much from it, but never anything which approaches a standard of completeness.
2. What we call self-improvement is a poor desultory affair, polishing one thing, while another goes rough by neglect, and all issuing in a great self-consciousness painful to behold, and in itself how dry.
3. We try self-government under the standards of morality, but the most we obtain is to pile up what we think good acts on one another, as a man piles his day's wages, but then they will be as dry and with as little continuity.
4. There is another way greatly praised — philosophy. But its ideals are for ever out-running its possible attainments, and the fine philosophic consciousness will be only a kind of equilibrium under dryness and felt limitation. .And the wars of the mind are perhaps kenneled by it but not composed.
5. There is nothing, in short, but religion that can be looked to for the completing of the soul; because as nothing else does —
(1) It takes hold of the soul s eternity and its sin, to raise up, harmonize, purify, and settle it in a rest of everlasting equilibrium in God.
(2) It takes hold of all possible conditions, completing as truly the menial as the employer, the unlettered as the scholar.
(3) It completes one degree of capacity as certainly as another, preparing the feeblest to fill out his measure as roundly and blissfully as the highest.
(H. Bushnell, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: