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The Instinct Of Saviourhood ( F W Boreham )


DREAMS AT SUNSET (Epworth Press 1954) pgs 60-66

The Instinct of Saviourhood

Humanity is distinguished by an unconquerable instinct for saviourhood. Is there a man living, or a woman, who has not at some time yearned for the opportunity of saving the life of a fellow-man? We read of the awards conferred by the Royal Humane Society on those who, at the hazard of their own lives, have rescued others from fire or from flood; and we instinctively feel that life would be invested with a new luster if we ourselves were presented with so sublime an opportunity and were able to embrace it.

That feeling itself is significant. Carlyle has shown that hero-worship is the protoplasmic germ from which heroism evolves. The instinct of saviourhood impels many of our young men to become doctors and many of our young women to become nurses.

Few of us actually realize our secret ambition. The chance never comes; or, if it comes, our best efforts prove abortive. In the year 1741, an Irishman named Connell was sentenced to death at Northampton. Philip Doddridge, who represents in his own person the natural link between the age of the Puritans that was passing and the age of the Great Revivalists that was just dawning, happened to be in the full flood of his historic ministry at Northampton at the time. At great trouble and expense, Dr. Doddridge instituted a rigid scrutiny into the case, and proved, beyond the possibility of a doubt, that Connell was a hundred and twenty miles away when the crime was committed. The course of judgment could not, however, be deflected. Connell was asked if he had any request to make before setting out for the gallows. He answered that he desired the procession to pause in front of the house of Dr. Philip Doddridge, that he might kneel on the minister’s doorstep and breathe a benediction on the man who had tried to save him.

‘Dr. Doddridge,’ he cried, when the procession halted, ‘every hair of my head thanks you; every throb of my heart thanks you; every drop of my blood thanks you! You did your best to save me, but you couldn’t!’ Dr. Doddridge’s case is typical of millions. The world is largely populated by aspiring and potential saviours.

The thought is suggested by the fact that I hope on Sunday to preach on the text: He saved others; Himself He could not save.

I seem to see four men.

[I] There is the Man Who Can Save neither Himself nor Others.

This morning’s paper tells of an aeroplane, with forty-six people on board, missing over the Gulf of Mexico. It is assumed that the pilot lost his bearings, and, after circling round in a desperate effort to find a landmark, at last plunged into the sea. It is easy to conjure up the pilot’s sensations. How passionately he must have coveted the tribute that the priests and the scribes and the elders paid to Jesus! He saved others; Himself He could not save! He would gladly have died a thousand deaths if only, by the thousand deaths, he could have saved his passengers ! But he can save neither himself nor them. It is the melancholy fate of all captains who go down with their ships, of all officers who die in battle with their men; of all leaders who, like O’Hara Burke and Captain Scott, perish with the expeditions that they led.

It reminds us of Paul. ‘I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.’

But it cannot be. The travail of saviourhood is there; but, as in the case of Dr. Doddridge, it is doomed to disappointment and frustration.

[II] There is the Man Who Can Save Himself but not Others.

There are few other sons of whom Australia is more proud than of Sir Douglas Mawson. But there is one experience of which Sir Douglas hates to speak or even think. With Lieutenant Ninnis and Dr. Mertz, Sir Douglas was making his way across the vast Antarctic wastes when the frozen snow beneath them suddenly collapsed and his two companions simply vanished in the frightful chasm that had opened. Faced by the hourly peril of starvation. Dr. Mawson struggled on for thirty teririble days, and thirty still more terrible nights, by himself. The loneliness was maddening; the dangers terrifying; but the climax of his agony was summed up in the reflection that, though he himself had been saved, he had been unable to save his comrades. In the course of his conversation with the sisters of the Palace Beautiful, Christian was asked a question that, despite his pleasant situation, reduced him to abject wretchedness. It was Charity who made the painful thrust. ‘Art thou a married man?’ she inquired. Christian instantly detected her meaning. Why was he saving himself-but not others?

Christian wept and declared that he would gladly have brought his wife and children on pilgrimage; but, he explained, he was to them as one that mocked; they simply would not listen to his earnest entreaties. Had he prayed for them and pleaded with them? Charity pressed. ‘Over and over and over again!’ replied the broken- hearted man. ‘They could see by my countenance, by my tears and by my trembling that I was agonizingly concerned about the judgment awaiting them; but it was all of no use; they would not come!’

So the poor pilgrim was found among those who, saving themselves, could do nothing for others.

[III] There is the Man Who Saves Himself by Saving Others. It often happens.

Numb and weary on the mountains, wouldst thou sleep amidst the snow?

Chafe that frozen form beside thee, and, together, both shall glow.

Some little time ago, a mountain-guide returned alone from an expedition that had set out to scale one of the snow-capped and sky-piercing summits of New Zealand. Asked at the inquest to account for his solitary survival, he explained, with obvious emotion, that, when he found all the climbers sick and exhausted, he worked so frantically in chafing their limbs, moving them from place to place and ministering to their countless needs that his own blood was kept pulsing through his veins by his activity. Otherwise, he declared, he could never have lived to make the descent. It is a great thing to save yourself by your efforts on behalf of others. I often wonder whether I myself would have maintained through all the years my interest in spiritual things and my love for God, His Word, His House and His people had I never been called to spend my life in endeavouring to lead others into the kingdom.

[IV] And then there is the Man Who Can Save Others but Cannot Save Himself.

At Glenalmond School, in Scotland, there stands a memorial to Alexander Cumine Russell. Soon after he left Glenalmond School, Russell became an officer in the Highland Light Infantry. His regiment was on the Birkenhead when she sank. The women were ordered to the boats. When one of these boats was filled, the captain placed Russell in charge of it with orders to allow nobody else to enter it. Just as the boat was pulling away from the doomed ship, however, a man who had been struggling in the water grasped an oar and pulled himself to a position in which everybody could see his face. A piercing scream rent the air. ‘Save him! He’s my husband!’ a woman cried. Without a second’s hesitation, Alexander Cumine Russell leapt overboard; helped the man into the boat and was seen no more. He had joined that illustrious company of which Jesus is the head, the company of those who, saving others, are unable to save themselves.

[V] But who are these men who raise this strange cry on the gloomy slopes of Calvary? It is the cry of the chief priests and the scribes and the elders, the very men who had instigated and engineered the crucifixion! He saved others, Himself He could not save! they cried. In two ways they were right and in two ways they were wrong.

They were certainly right in saying that He saved others; although why, knowing His skill as a Saviour, they should wish to destroy Him, is beyond human comprehension. That He saved others was obvious to everybody. There were those in the crowd who gazed upon the Cross with eyes that He had given them. There were those who listened to the tumult with ears that He had opened. There were those mingling with the throng, who, not so long ago, were forbidden to mingle with throngs; they had been leprous and unclean. The daughter of Jairus may have been there; or the son of the widow of Nain; or Lazarus of Bethany-those whom He had raised from the dead.

But if they were right in saying that He saved others, they were wrong in saying that Himself He could not save. Of course He could! It is the old tussle between the material and the spiritual. ‘I cannot help it!’ cries a distracted woman, as she bursts into a blazing house to save her child. She can; anybody can stand inactive; but some force within her, mightier than her muscles, denes her control. ‘I cannot help myself,’ exclaims a man who, conscious of his limitations as a swimmer, nevertheless plunges into the boiling surf to save his boy. He can; it requires but little strength to remain upon the beach. But the instinct of saviourhood is stronger than the instinct of self-preservation. The spiritual being infinitely mightier than the physical, he cannot hold back; he must go!

Similarly, Jesus could have saved Himself from the Cross! I have power to lay down my life and I have power to take it again. He could have answered the taunt of his enemies by shaking Himself free of the Cross and all its ghastly appurtenances, as a dog shakes the water from his coat when he leaps from the stream to the bank. He could have done; yet He could not; for a mightier force prevented it. We sometimes sing that ‘His love is as great as His power and neither knows measure nor end.’ It is an understatement. His love is not only as great as His power; it is greater; that is why, having saved others, He cannot save Himself.

They were right in declaring that He saved others! For see! Here, at the end of my Bible, I catch a vision of the shining host of the redeemed, a multitude that no man can number! He saved them, every one!

They were wrong in saying that He cannot save Himself! For see, in this self-same vision, I see Him, the Lamb upon the Throne, crowned with everlasting honour. Neither in the heavens above nor on the earth beneath, is there anyone more triumphantly saved than He! Having saved others. He has gloriously saved Himself! Hallelujah, what a Saviour!


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