One marked difference between the faith of our fathers as conceived by the fathers and the same faith as understood and lived by their children is that the fathers were concerned with the root of the matter, while their present-day descendants seem concerned only with the fruit.
This appears in our attitude toward certain great Christian souls whose names are honored among the churches, as, for instance, Augustine and Bernard in earlier times, or Luther and Wesley in times more recent. Today we write the biographies of such as these and celebrate their fruit, but the tendency is to ignore the root out of which the fruit sprang. “The root of the righteous yieldeth fruit,” said the wise man in the Proverbs (12:12). Our fathers looked well to the root of the tree and were willing to wait with patience for the fruit to appear. We demand the fruit immediately even though the root may be weak and knobby or missing altogether. Impatient Christians today explain away the simple beliefs of the saints of other days and smile off their serious-minded approach to God and sacred things. They were victims of their own limited religious outlook, but great and sturdy souls withal who managed to achieve a satisfying spiritual experience and do a lot of good in the world in spite of their handicaps. So we’ll imitate their fruit without accepting their theology or inconveniencing ourselves too greatly by adopting their all-or-nothing attitude toward religion.
I must confess that after I became a believer it took some time for me to overcome the feeling that the New Testament was a book of love and the Old Testament a book of judgment. I have given the proposition much time and study, and I am able to make a report. You should know that there are three mentions of mercy in the Old Testament for every one found in the New Testament!
I find there is equally as much recorded in the Old Testament about God’s grace and faithfulness as there is in the New. Go clear back to Noah and you will find the record plain: “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:8). Favor, or grace, is an Old Testament quality. “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy” (Psalm 103:8).
On the other hand, judgment is a New Testament quality. Read the words of Jesus in the Gospels. Read Peter’s warnings. Read the letter of Jude. Read the Revelation. In the New Testament we learn of the terrible judgments God intends to bring upon the world.
Why do I mention these things? Because God is a God of judgment, but He is also the God of all grace. God is always the same. He will never change or falter. And when I say God I refer to the Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
There is an exquisite appropriateness in our celebrating the resurrection of Christ in the spring. When nature is waking to life again after her long winter of sleep, it is then that the thoughts of Christians everywhere are turned to the wonder of the Savior’s coming out of the tomb after His ordeal with sin and death. Christ’s resurrection was an act once accomplished at a given moment in history. It does not in any sense depend upon seasons or celebrations, nor does the miracle of the springtime add anything to the glory of the once-done deed. The workings of God in nature do, however, cast a warm light upon His workings in redemption and the springtime of life in the earth illustrates the miracle of life in the new creation.
Nicolas Herman, at eighteen years of age, was brought to Christ by seeing in midwinter a dry and leafless tree and thinking what a change the spring would make in its condition. He reasoned that if God could make such a difference in a tree, He could change the heart of a sinner, too, and God did not fail him. His heart was changed, and from that day his life was devoted to the service of Christ. Uncounted thousands of Christians over the last 300 years have thanked God that young Nicolas saw that leafless tree.