Come Unto Me - Richard Meux Benson
"Come Unto Me" Oh! hear that voice, 'Look unto me, and be ye saved'. 'Look unto me'. Alas, how Satan would have us misread, misunderstand these words. 'Look to me not as I am but as I was' . . . 'Look to me upon Calvary and forget me upon the throne of my glory' . . . 'Look to me and be content to remain far away.' But no, 'Look to me' must ever mean, 'Look to me and behold me as I am'. 'I saw heaven opened and Jesus standing at the right hand of God'. Alas, that we should ever pray without seeking to realise the fullness of that martyr's vision . . . It is a vision which must move our hearts, which must unsettle us from earth, which must bear us onward to Him whom we love. Oh, glorious vision of the most high God! Glorious vision of Jesus Christ! 'Look unto me'. It is but the same command in other words when He says 'Come'. 'Come'. Yes. 'Come nearer'. Thou canst not look unless thou wilt come. Thou canst not come unless thou art careful to look. Look to none other. Look to me. Come onward to me. Come on through all those various stages of approach which I have appointed for thee. Come on through all the various ordinances which I have set before thee as the staircase of the heavenly ascent, through every sacrament and ordinance of grace, through every opportunity of Divine fellowship, in holy obedience, through every act of discipline whereby thou wouldst take vengeance upon thy sin, through every holy aspiration, whereby thou wouldst seek for something which thou hast not yet received, by every holy confession of thy fault, by every holy acknowledgment of my glory, by every vow of dedication that thou wouldst lay at my feet, by every act whereby thou mayst make more sure of the covenant of life to which I call thee.”
Fr Benson speaks at length of the final consummation, the city of new Jerusalem come down from heaven:
As the City is built together in unity, so we shall gaze on the City without any distraction. We shall see all its parts and in each part we shall read a history of the whole. As by examining one part of a body the physiologist is able to determine the character of the organism to which it belongs; so as we gaze on each saintly stone we not only learn what is that individual experience, but also the collective law in which it is built up in the unity of the whole. So we must gaze upon every stone of this glorious City. There is the individual character of each, and the collective unity to which it is subordinated, but there is perfect agreement in the whole: we shall behold, and find it our delight to behold, Jesus in one and all, by the working of the Holy Ghost.
Each of us in the Church has our own work to do, but it is not a mere stray work; as it is done by the power of the Holy Ghost, it is a part toward the completeness of God's design. What each does is not for our individual gratification in accomplishing something we set our mind to do, but we are taking part in the mighty work He is carrying out in the universal Church of all times and all ages.
He adds that the ages of the past were ages in which a certain portion of building up that unity was accomplished, and the unity awaits us to complete it. Fr Benson goes on to say that the purpose of God's sending the Holy Ghost was to build up this temple in which He might dwell, the Body of Christ, and that this was the original purpose of creation, that "all creation was formed to culminate in this one great glory."
This organism of human society was smothered up in the accidents of human corruption. No human effort of reformation could, or ever can, set it free. The old worldly corruption remains inherent in all socialistic efforts, however well intended, and however much impregnated with Christian principles. A new life is necessary in order to remove the corruption, but that new life does not start with tabulae novae, a fresh organization. It is a spiritual power regenerating that social order which makes the antagonistic kingdoms of the world to belong to God and his Christ.
For Benson, this new order will come only with the return of Jesus Christ in glory. Then all things will be renewed and perfected. Then all the world will be rejoined in a single whole organism of humanity, Jesus Christ Incarnate in us, the original unity which was shattered at the Fall.
The voice of the preacher is heard in the land and the words are strong and harsh:
God ordained society, but God did not ordain luxury. God ordained society, but God did not ordain idleness, or that any amount of accumulated wealth should free any from the obligation to work and use all of their powers for the benefit of society. God ordained society, but God did not ordain that any place in society should minister to the diabolical pride of the upper class. If you belong to what is called the upper class, it is your duty to see that you level upwards--that you hold anything you have beyond your daily bread in fellowship with any member of Christ's body who is in need; that you share freely any benefit you possess, lifting up your brethren to any higher enjoyment you may possess beyond them. If you do not, God will not suffer such neglect to remain unavenged; if you will not level upwards, Satan will soon have his way and level downwards.
Think not that poverty is the great eye-sore of our city; if we were all poor together we might have God's blessing on our penury. The great eye-sore of London is your accumulated wealth. If a man can have no crime imputed to him save this, that he has accumulated riches in the bank, that alone is sin enough to send him to hell.
His language is strong and we may not expect this from him, but it is in a place we do not often see. Fr Benson was aware of and outraged by the social conditions of his day, of the poverty of London and the industrial towns. He was, after all, involved in the urban Missions from their inception. He saw and deplored social conditions he saw as repulsive. He speaks of "the extravagances of modern luxury," and of the "aristocracy and ruling classes," he names the "effeminating refinements" of some and the "brutal self indulgence" of others. He speaks of the great London Mission as like the visit of the angels to Sodom, calling out from her midst those whom God would save. He speaks of "the wickedness of the starving poor, less disguised than that of the refined classes," of multitudes "whose very business in life is sin."