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´╗┐Title: Parochial and Plain Sermons, Vol. VIII (of 8)
Author: Newman, John Henry, 1801-1890
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Parochial and Plain Sermons, Vol. VIII (of 8)" ***

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VIII (OF 8)***


PAROCHIAL AND PLAIN SERMONS

by

JOHN HENRY NEWMAN, B.D.

Formerly Vicar of St. Mary's, Oxford

In Eight Volumes

VOL. VIII.

New Edition



London
Longmans, Green, and Co.
and New York: 15 East 16th Street
1891



CONTENTS.


SERMON I.

Reverence in Worship.

"_Samuel ministered before the Lord, being a child, girded with a linen
ephod._"--1 Sam. ii. 18


SERMON II.

Divine Calls.

"_And the Lord came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel,
Samuel.  Then Samuel answered, Speak: for Thy servant heareth._"--1
Sam.  iii. 10


SERMON III.

The Trial of Saul.

"_And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace
offerings.  And he offered the burnt offering._"--1 Sam. xiii. 9


SERMON IV.

The Call of David.

"_So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a
stone._"--1 Sam. xvii. 50


SERMON V.

Curiosity of Temptation to Sin.

"_Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil
men.  Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away._"--Prov.
iv. 14, 15


SERMON VI.

Miracles no Remedy for Unbelief.

"_And the Lord said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke Me?
and how long will it be ere they believe Me, for all the signs which I
have showed among them?_"--Num. xiv. 11


SERMON VII.

Josiah, a Pattern for the Ignorant.

"_Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before
the Lord, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and
against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation
and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before Me; I also have
heard thee, saith the Lord.  Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto
thy fathers, and thou shall be gathered into thy grave in peace; and
thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this
place._"--2 Kings xxii. 19, 20


SERMON VIII.

Inward Witness to the Truth of the Gospel.

"_I have more understanding than my teachers, for Thy testimonies
are my study; I am wiser than the aged, because I keep Thy
commandments._"--Psalm cxix. 99, 100


SERMON IX.

Jeremiah, a Lesson for the Disappointed.

"_Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee,
saith the Lord._"--Jer. i. 8


SERMON X.

Endurance of the World's Censure.

"_And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them; neither be afraid of
their words, though briars and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell
among scorpions; be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their
looks, though they be a rebellious house._"--Ezek. ii. 6


SERMON XI.

Doing Glory to God in Pursuits of the World.

"_Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to
the glory of God._"--1 Cor. x. 31


SERMON XII.

Vanity of Human Glory.

"_The world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not._"--1 John iii. 1


SERMON XIII.

Truth hidden when not sought after.

"_They shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned
unto fables._"--2 Tim. iv. 4


SERMON XIV.

Obedience to God the Way to Faith in Christ.

"_When Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, He said unto him, Thou
art not far from the kingdom of God._"--Mark xii. 34


SERMON XV.

Sudden Conversions.

"_By the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed
upon me was not in vain._"--1 Cor. xv. 10


SERMON XVI.

The Shepherd in our Souls.

"_I am the good Shepherd: the good Shepherd gaveth His life for the
sheep._"--John x. 11


SERMON XVII.

Religious Joy.

"_And the Angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good
tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is
born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the
Lord._"--Luke ii. 10, 11


SERMON XVIII.

Ignorance of Evil.

"_And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of Us, to
know good and evil._"--Gen. iii. 22



SERMON I.

Reverence in Worship.

"_Samuel ministered before the Lord, being a child, girded with a linen
ephod._"--1 Samuel ii. 18.


Samuel, viewed in his place in sacred history, that is, in the course
of events which connect Moses with Christ, appears as a great ruler and
teacher of his people; this is his prominent character.  He was the
first of the prophets; yet, when we read the sacred narrative itself,
in which his life is set before us, I suppose those passages are the
more striking and impressive which represent him, in the office which
belonged to him by birth, as a Levite, or minister of God.  He was
taken into God's special service from the first; he lived in His
Temple; nay, while yet a child, he was honoured with the apparel of a
sacred function, as the text tells us, "he ministered before the Lord,
being a child, girded with a linen ephod."

His mother had "given him unto the Lord all the days of his life[1],"
by a solemn vow before his birth; and in him, if in any one, were
fulfilled the words of the Psalmist, "Blessed are they that dwell in
Thy house, they will be always praising Thee[2]."

Such a constant abode in God's house would make common minds only
familiar with holy things, and irreverent; but where God's grace is
present in the heart, the effect is the reverse; which we might be sure
would happen in the case of Samuel.  "The Lord was with him," we are
told; and therefore the more the outward signs of that Lord met his
eye, the more reverent he became, not the more presuming.  The more he
acquainted himself with God, the greater would be his awe and holy fear.

Thus the first notice we have of his ministering before the Lord,
reminds us of the decency and gravity necessary at all times, and in
all persons, in approaching Him.  "He ministered before the Lord, being
a child, girded with a linen ephod."  His mother had made him yearly a
little coat for his common use, but in Divine Service he wore, not
this, but a garment which would both express, and impress upon him,
reverence.

And, in like manner, in his old age, when Saul sent to seek David at
Naioth, where Samuel was, his messengers found Samuel and the prophets
under him all in decent order.  "They saw the company of prophets
prophesying, and Samuel over them."  And this was so impressive a
sight, that it became an instrument of God's supernatural power towards
them, and they prophesied also.

On the other hand, if we would have an example of the want of this
reverence, we have it in Saul himself, the reprobate king, who, when he
was on his way to Naioth, and was visited by God's Holy Spirit, did not
thereupon receive the garment of salvation, nor was clothed in
righteousness, but behaved himself in an unseemly wild way, as one
whose destitution and shame were but detected by the visitation.  He
stript off his clothes and prophesied before Samuel, and lay down in
that state all that day and all that night.

This difference we see even at this day:--of persons professing
religion, some are like Samuel, some like Saul; some (as it were) cast
off their garments and prophesy in disorder and extravagance; others
minister before the Lord, "girded with a linen ephod," with "their
loins girt and their lamps burning," like men awfully expecting the
coming of their great and glorious Judge.  By the latter, I mean the
true children of the Holy Catholic Church, by the former, I mean
heretics and schismatic.

There have ever been from the first these two kinds of
Christians--those who belonged to the Church, and those who did not.
There never was a time since the Apostles' day, when the Church was
not; and there never was a time but men were to be found who preferred
some other way of worship to the Church's way.  These two kinds of
professed Christians ever have been--Church Christians, and Christians
not of the Church; and it is remarkable, I say, that while, on the one
hand, reverence for sacred things has been a characteristic of Church
Christians on the whole, so, want of reverence has been the
characteristic on the whole of Christians not of the Church.  The one
have prophesied after the figure of Samuel, the other after the figure
of Saul.

Of course there are many exceptions to this remark in the case of
individuals.  Of course I am not speaking of inconsistent persons and
exceptional cases, in the Church, or out of it; but of those who act up
to what they profess.  I mean that zealous, earnest, and faithful
members of the Church have generally been reverent; and zealous,
earnest, and faithful members of other religious bodies have generally
been irreverent.  Again, after all, there will be real exceptions in
the case of individuals which we cannot account for; but I mean that,
on, the _whole_, it will be found that reverence is one of the marks or
notes of the Church; true though it may be that some particular
individuals, who have kept apart from it, have not been without a
reverential spirit notwithstanding.

Indeed so natural is the connexion between a reverential spirit in
worshipping God, and faith in God, that the wonder only is, how any one
can for a moment imagine he has faith in God, and yet allow himself to
be irreverent towards Him.  To believe in God, is to believe the being
and presence of One who is All-holy, and All-powerful, and
All-gracious; how can a man really believe thus of Him, and yet make
free with Him? it is almost a contradiction in terms.  Hence even
heathen religions have ever considered faith and reverence identical.
To believe, and not to revere, to worship familiarly, and at one's
ease, is an anomaly and a prodigy unknown even to false religions, to
say nothing of the true one.  Not only the Jewish and Christian
religions, which are directly from God, inculcate the spirit of
"reverence and godly fear," but those other religions which have
existed, or exist, whether in the East or the South, inculcate the
same.  Worship, forms of worship--such as bowing the knee, taking off
the shoes, keeping silence, a prescribed dress, and the like--are
considered as necessary for a due approach to God.  The whole world,
differing about so many things differing in creed and rule of life, yet
agree in this--that God being our Creator, a certain self-abasement of
the whole man is the duty of the creature; that He is in heaven, we
upon earth; that He is All-glorious, and we worms of the earth and
insects of a day.

But those who have separated from the Church of Christ have in this
respect fallen into greater than pagan error.  They may be said to form
an exception to the concordant voice of a whole world, always and every
where; they break in upon the unanimous suffrage of mankind, and
determine, at least by their conduct, that reverence and awe are not
primary religious duties.  They have considered that in some way or
other, either by God's favour or by their own illumination, they are
brought so near to God that they have no need to fear at all, or to put
any restraint upon their words or thoughts when addressing Him.  They
have considered awe to be superstition, and reverence to be slavery.
They have learnt to be familiar and free with sacred things, as it
were, on principle.  I think this is really borne out by facts, and
will approve itself to inquirers as true in substance, however one man
will differ from another in the words in which he would express the
fact itself.

Samuel was a little child who had never fallen away from God, but by
His grace had ever served Him.  Let us take a very different instance,
the instance of a penitent sinner as set before us in the parable of
the Publican and Pharisee.  I need hardly say which of the two was the
most pleasing to God--the Publican; whereas the Pharisee was not
accepted by Him.  Now what did the Pharisee do?  He did not even go so
far as to behave in an unseemly, extravagant way: he was grave and
solemn, and yet what he did was enough to displease God, because he
took too much upon himself, and made too much of himself.  Though grave
and solemn, he was not reverent; he spoke in a haughty, proud way, and
made a long sentence, thanking God that he was not as other men are,
and despising the Publican.  Such was the behaviour of the Pharisee;
but the Publican behaved very differently.  Observe how he came to
worship God; "he stood afar off; he lift not up so much as his eyes
unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a
sinner[3]."  You see his words were few, and almost broken, and his
whole conduct humble and reverent; he felt that God was in heaven, he
upon earth, God All-holy and Almighty, and he a poor sinner.

Now all of us are sinners, all of us have need to come to God as the
Publican did; every one, if he does but search his heart, and watch his
conduct, and try to do his duty, will find himself to be full of sins
which provoke God's wrath.  I do not mean to say that all men are
equally sinners; some are wilful sinners, and of them there is no hope,
till they repent; others sin, but they try to avoid sinning, pray to
God to make them better, and come to Church to be made better; but all
men are quite sinners enough to make it their duty to behave as the
Publican.  Every one ought to come into Church as the Publican did, to
say in his heart, "Lord, I am not worthy to enter this sacred place; my
only plea for coming is the merits of Jesus Christ my Saviour."  When,
then, a man enters Church, as many do, carelessly and familiarly,
thinking of himself, not of God, sits down coldly and at his ease,
either does not say a prayer at all, or merely hides his face for
form's sake, sitting all the while, not standing or kneeling; then
looks about to see who is in the Church, and who is not, and makes
himself easy and comfortable in his seat, and uses the kneeler for no
other purpose than to put his feet upon; in short, comes to Church as a
place, not of meeting God and His holy Angels, but of seeing what is to
be seen with the bodily eyes, and hearing what is to be heard with the
bodily ears, and then goes and gives his judgment about the sermon
freely, and says, "I do not like this or that," or "This is a good
argument, but that is a bad one," or "I do not like this person so much
as that," and so on; I mean when a man acts in all respects as if he
was at home, and not in God's House,--all I can say is, that he
ventures to do in God's presence what neither Cherubim nor Seraphim
venture to do, for they veil their faces, and, as if not daring to
address God, praise Him to each other, in few words, and those
continually repeated, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth.

What I have said has been enough to suggest what it is to serve God
acceptably, viz. "with reverence and godly fear," as St. Paul says.  We
must not aim at forms for their own sake, but we must keep in mind
where we are, and then forms will come into our service naturally.  We
must in all respects act as if we saw God; that is, if we believe that
God is here, we shall keep silence; we shall not laugh, or talk, or
whisper during the Service, as many young persons do; we shall not gaze
about us.  We shall follow the example set us by the Church itself.  I
mean, as the words in which we pray in Church are not our own, neither
will our looks, or our postures, or our thoughts, be our own.  We
shall, in the prophet's words, not "do our own ways" there, nor "find
our own pleasure," nor "speak our own words;" in imitation of all
Saints before us, including the Holy Apostles, who never spoke their
own words in solemn worship, but either those which Christ taught them,
or which the Holy Ghost taught them, or which the Old Testament taught
them.  This is the reason why we always pray from a book in Church; the
Apostles said to Christ, "Lord, teach us to pray," and our Lord
graciously gave them the prayer called the Lord's Prayer.  For the same
reason we too use the Lord's Prayer, and we use the Psalms of David and
of other holy men, and hymns which are given us in Scripture, thinking
it better to use the words of inspired Prophets than our own.  And for
the same reason we use a number of short petitions, such as "Lord, have
mercy upon us," "O Lord, save the Queen," "O Lord, open Thou our lips,"
and the like, not using many words, or rounding our sentences, or
allowing ourselves to enlarge in prayer.

Thus all we do in Church is done on a principle of _reverence_; it is
done with the thought that we are in God's presence.  But irreverent
persons, not understanding this, when they come into Church, and find
nothing there of a striking kind, when they find every thing is read
from a book, and in a calm, quiet way, and still more, when they come a
second and a third time, and find every thing just the same, over and
over again, they are offended and tired.  "There is nothing," they say,
"to rouse or interest them."  They think God's service dull and
tiresome, if I may use such words; for they do not come to Church to
honour God, but to please themselves.  They want something new.  They
think the prayers are long, and wish that there was more preaching, and
that in a striking oratorical way, with loud voice and florid style.
And when they observe that the worshippers in Church are serious and
subdued in their manner, and will not look, and speak, and move as much
at their ease as out of doors, or in their own houses, then (if they
are very profane) they ridicule them, as weak and superstitious.  Now
is it not plain that those who are thus tired, and wearied, and made
impatient by our sacred services below, would most certainly get tired
and wearied with heaven above? because there the Cherubim and Seraphim
"rest not day and night," saying, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God
Almighty."  Such as this, too, will be the way of the Saints in glory,
for we are told that there will be a great voice of much people saying,
Alleluia; and again they said Alleluia, and the four-and-twenty elders
said Alleluia, and a voice of many waters and of mighty thunderings
said Alleluia.  Such, too, was our Lord's way, when in His agony He
three times repeated the same words, "Thy will, not Mine, be done."  It
is the delight of all holy beings, who stand around the Throne, to use
one and the same form of worship; they are not tired, it is ever new
pleasure to them to say the words anew.  They are never tired; but
surely all those persons would be soon tired of hearing them, instead
of taking part in their glorious chant, who are weaned of Church now,
and seek for something more attractive and rousing.

Let all persons, then, know for certain, and be assured beforehand,
that if they come to Church to have their hearts put into strange and
new forms, and their feelings moved and agitated, they come for what
they will not find.  We wish them to join Saints and Angels in
worshipping God; to say with the Seraphim, "Holy Lord God of Sabaoth,"
to say with the Angels, "Glory to God in the highest, and in earth
peace, good-will towards men," to say after our Lord and Saviour, "Our
Father, which art in heaven," and what follows; to say with St. Mary,
"My soul doth magnify the Lord;" with St. Simeon, "Lord, now lettest
Thou Thy servant depart in peace;" with the Three Children who were
cast into the fiery furnace, "O all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the
Lord, praise Him, and magnify Him for ever," with the Apostles, "I
believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in
Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord; and in the Holy Ghost."  We wish to
read to them words of inspired Scripture, and to explain its doctrine
to them soberly after its pattern.  This is what we wish them to say,
again and again: "Lord, have mercy;" "We beseech Thee to hear us, O
Lord;" "Good Lord, deliver us;" "Glory be to the Father, and to the
Son, and to the Holy Ghost."  All holy creatures are praising God
continually--we hear them not, still they are praising Him and praying
to Him.  All the Angels, the glorious company of the Apostles, the
goodly fellowship of the Prophets, the noble army of Martyrs, the Holy
Church universal, all good men all over the earth, all the spirits and
souls of the righteous, all our friends who have died in God's faith
and fear, all are praising and praying to God: we come to Church to
join them; our voices are very feeble, our hearts are very earthly, our
faith is very weak.  We do not deserve to come, surely not;--consider
what a great favour it is to be allowed to join in the praises and
prayers of the City of the Living God, we being such sinners;--we
should not be allowed to come at all but for the merits of our Lord and
Saviour.  Let us firmly look at the Cross, that is the token of our
salvation.  Let us ever remember the sacred Name of Jesus, in which
devils were cast out of old time.  These are the thoughts with which we
should come to Church, and if we come a little before the Service
begins, and want something to think about, we may look, not at who are
coming in and when, but at the building itself, which will remind us of
many good things; or we may look into the Prayer Book for such passages
as the 84th Psalm, which runs thus: "O how amiable are Thy dwellings,
Thou Lord of hosts! my soul hath a desire and longing to enter into the
Courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh rejoice in the Living God."

Such will be our conduct and our thoughts in Church, if we be true
Christians; and I have been giving this description of them, not only
for the sake of those who are not reverent, but for the sake of those
who try to be so,--for the sake of all of us who try to come to Church
soberly and quietly, that we may know why we do so, and may have an
answer if any one asks us.  Such will be our conduct even when we are
out of Church.  I mean, those who come to Church again and again, in
this humble and heavenly way, will find the effect of it, through God's
mercy, in their daily walk.  When Moses came down from Mount Sinai,
where he had been forty days and forty nights, his face quite shone and
dazzled the people, so that he was obliged to put a veil over it.  Such
is the effect of God's grace on those who come to Church in faith and
love; their mode of acting and talking, their very manner and
behaviour, show they have been in God's presence.  They are ever sober,
cheerful, modest, serious, and earnest.  They do not disgrace their
profession, they do not take God's Name in vain, they do not use
passionate language, they do not lie, they do not jest in an unseemly
way, they do not use shameful words, they keep their mouth; they have
kept their mouth in Church, and avoided rashness, so they are enabled
to keep it at home.  They have bright, smiling, pleasant faces.  They
do not wear a mock gravity, and, like the hypocrites whom Christ speaks
of, make themselves sad countenances, but they are easy and natural,
and without meaning it cannot help showing in their look, and voice,
and manner, that they are God's dear children, and have His grace
within them.  They are civil and obliging, kind and friendly; not
envious or jealous, not quarrelsome, not spiteful or resentful, not
selfish, not covetous, not niggardly, not lovers of the world, not
afraid of the world, not afraid of what man can do against them.

Such are they who worship God in spirit and in truth in Church; they
love Him and they fear Him.  And, besides those who profess to love
without fearing, there are two sorts of persons who fall short; first,
and worst, those who neither fear nor love God; and, secondly, those
who fear Him, but do not love Him.  There are, every where, alas! some
bold, proud, discontented persons, who, as far as they dare, speak
against religion altogether; they do not come to Church, or if they
come, come to see about what is going on, not to worship.  These are
those who neither love nor fear; but the more common sort of persons
are they who have a sort of fear of God without the love of Him, who
feel and know that some things are right, and others wrong, yet do not
adhere to the right; who are conscious they sin from time to time, and
that wilfully, who have an uneasy conscience, who fear to die; who
have, indeed, a sort of serious feeling about sacred things, who
reverence the Church and its Ordinances, who would be shocked at open
impiety, who do not make a mock at Baptism, much less at the Holy
Communion, but, still, who have not the heart to love and obey God.
This, I fear, my brethren, may be the state of some of you.  See to it,
that you are clear from the sin of knowing and confessing what is your
duty, and yet not doing it.  If you be such, and make no effort to
become better; if you do not come to Church honestly, for God's grace
to make you better, and seriously strive to be better and to do your
duty more thoroughly, it will profit you nothing to be ever so reverent
in your manner, and ever so regular in coming to Church.  God hates the
worship of the mere lips; He requires the worship of the heart.  A
person may bow, and kneel, and look religious, but he is not at all the
nearer heaven, unless he tries to obey God in all things, and to do his
duty.  But if he does honestly strive to obey God, then his outward
manner will be reverent also; decent forms will become natural to him;
holy ordinances, though coming to him from the Church, will at the same
time come (as it were) from his heart; they will be part of himself,
and he will as little think of dispensing with them as he would
dispense with his ordinary apparel, nay, as he could dispense with
tongue or hand in speaking or doing.  This is the true way of doing
devotional service; not to have feelings without acts, or acts without
feelings; but both to do and to feel;--to see that our hearts and
bodies are both sanctified together, and become one; the heart ruling
our limbs, and making the whole man serve Him, who has redeemed the
whole man, body as well as soul.



[1] Sam. i. 11.

[2] Ps. lxxxiv. 4.

[3] Luke xviii. 13.



SERMON II.

Divine Calls.

"_And the Lord came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel;
Samuel.  Then Samuel answered, Speak; for Thy servant heareth._"--1
Samuel iii. 10.


In the narrative of which these words form part, we have a remarkable
instance of a Divine call, and the manner in which it is our duty to
meet it.  Samuel was from a child brought to the house of the Lord; and
in due time he was called to a sacred office, and made a prophet.  He
was called, and he forthwith answered the call.  God said, "Samuel,
Samuel."  He did not understand at first who called, and what was
meant; but on going to Eli he learned who spoke, and what his answer
should be.  So when God called again, he said, "Speak, Lord, for Thy
servant heareth."  Here is prompt obedience.

Very different in its circumstances was St. Paul's call, but resembling
Samuel's in this respect, that, when God called, he, too, promptly
obeyed.  When St. Paul heard the voice from heaven, he said at once,
trembling and astonished, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do[1]?"
This same obedient temper of his is stated or implied in the two
accounts which he himself gives of his miraculous conversion.  In the
22nd chapter he says, "And I said, What shall I do, Lord?"  And in the
26th, after telling King Agrippa what the Divine Speaker said to him,
he adds what comes to the same thing, "Whereupon, O King Agrippa, _I
was not disobedient_ unto the heavenly vision."  Such is the account
given us in St. Paul's case of that first step in God's gracious
dealings with him, which ended in his eternal salvation.  "Whom He did
foreknow, He also did predestinate[2];"--"whom He did predestinate,
them He also called"--here was the first act which took place in
time--"and whom He called, them He also justified, and whom He
justified, them He also glorified."  Such is the Divine series of
mercies; and you see that it was prompt obedience on St. Paul's part
which carried on the first act of Divine grace into the second, which
knit together the first mercy to the second.  "Whom He called, them He
also justified."  St. Paul was called when Christ appeared to him in
the way; he was justified when Ananias came to baptize him: and it was
prompt obedience which led him from his call to his baptism.  "Lord,
what wilt Thou have me to do?"  The answer was, "Arise, and go into
Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are
appointed for thee to do[3]."  And when he came to Damascus, Ananias
was sent to him by the same Lord who had appeared to him; and he
reminded St. Paul of this when he came to him.  The Lord had appeared
for his call; the Lord appeared for his justification.

This, then, is the lesson taught us by St. Paul's conversion, promptly
to obey the call.  If we do obey it, to God be the glory, for He it is
works in us.  If we do not obey, to ourselves be all the shame, for sin
and unbelief work in us.  Such being the state of the case, let us take
care to act accordingly,--being exceedingly alarmed lest we should not
obey God's voice when He calls us, yet not taking praise or credit to
ourselves if we do obey it.  This has been the temper of all saints
from the beginning--working out their salvation with fear and
trembling, yet ascribing the work to Him who wrought in them to will
and do of His good pleasure; obeying the call, and giving thanks to Him
who calls, to Him who fulfils in them their calling.  So much on the
pattern afforded us by St. Paul.

Very different in its circumstances was Samuel's call, when a child in
the temple, yet resembling St. Paul's in this particular,--that for our
instruction the circumstance of his obedience to it is brought out
prominently even in the words put into his mouth by Eli in the text.
Eli taught him what to say, when called by the Divine voice.
Accordingly, when "the Lord came, and stood, and called as at other
times, Samuel, Samuel.  Then Samuel answered, Speak, Lord, for Thy
servant heareth."

Such, again, is the temper of mind expressed by holy David in the 27th
Psalm, "When Thou saidst, Seek ye My face, my heart said unto Thee, Thy
face, Lord, will I seek."

And this temper, which in the above instances is illustrated in words
spoken, is in the case of many other Saints in Scripture shown in word
and deed; and, on the other hand, is illustrated negatively by being
neglected in the case of others therein mentioned, who might have
entered into life, and did not.

For instance, we read of the Apostles, that "Jesus, walking by the sea
of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his
brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishers.  And He
saith unto them, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.  _And
they straightway_ left their nets and followed Him[4]."  Again; when He
saw James and John with their father Zebedee, "He _called_ them; and
they _immediately left the ship, and their father_, and _followed_
Him."  And so of St. Matthew at the receipt of custom, "He said unto
him, Follow Me, and he left all, rose up, and followed Him."

Again, we are told in St. John's Gospel, "Jesus would go forth into
Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto Him, _Follow_ Me."  Again,
"Philip findeth Nathanael," and in like manner says to him, "Come and
see."  "Jesus saw Nathanael coming unto Him, and saith of him, Behold
an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile."

On the other hand, the young ruler shrunk from the call, and found it a
hard saying, "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and
give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, and
follow Me.  But when the young man heard that saying, he went away
sorrowful, for he had great possessions[5]."  Others who seemed to
waver, or rather who asked for some little delay from human feeling,
were rebuked for want of promptitude in their obedience;--for time
stays for no one; the word of call is spoken and is gone; if we do not
seize the moment, it is lost.  Christ was on His road heavenward.  He
walked by the sea of Galilee[6]; He "passed forth[7];" He "passed
by[8];" He did not stop; all men must join Him, or He would be calling
on others beyond them[9].  "He said to another, Follow Me.  But he
said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.  Jesus said unto
him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom
of God.  And another also said, Lord, I will follow Thee: but let me
first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.  And Jesus
said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking
back, is fit for the kingdom of God[10]."

Not unlike these last instances are the circumstances of the call of
the great prophet Elisha, though he does not seem to have incurred
blame from Elijah for his lingering on the thoughts of what he was
leaving.  "He found Elisha, the son of Shaphat, who was ploughing . . .
Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle over him."  He did not stay;
he passed on, and Elisha was obliged to run after him.  "And he left
the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my
father and my mother, and then I will follow thee."  This the prophet
allowed him to do, and after that "he arose and followed Elijah, and
ministered unto him."

Or once more consider the circumstances of the call of Abraham, the
father of all who believe.  He was called from his father's house, but
was not told whither.  St. Paul was bid go to Damascus, and there he
was to receive further directions.  In like manner Abraham left his
home for a land "that I _will_ show thee[11]," says Almighty God.
Accordingly he went out, "not knowing whither he went."  "Abram
[Transcriber's note: Abraham?] departed as the Lord had spoken unto
him."

Such are the instances of Divine calls in Scripture, and their
characteristic is this; to require instant obedience, and next to call
us we know not to what; to call us on in the darkness.  Faith alone can
obey them.  But it may be urged, How does this concern us now?  We were
all called to serve God in infancy, before we could obey or disobey; we
found ourselves called when reason began to dawn; we have been called
to a state of salvation, we have been living as God's servants and
children, all through our time of trial, having been brought into it in
infancy through Holy Baptism, by the act of our parents.  Calling is
not a thing future with us, but a thing past.

This is true in a very sufficient sense; and yet it is true also that
the passages of Scripture which I have been quoting do apply to us
still,--do concern us, and may warn and guide us in many important
ways; as a few words will show.

For in truth we are not called once only, but many times; all through
our life Christ is calling us.  He called us first in Baptism; but
afterwards also; whether we obey His voice or not, He graciously calls
us still.  If we fall from our Baptism, He calls us to repent; if we
are striving to fulfil our calling, He calls us on from grace to grace,
and from holiness to holiness, while life is given us.  Abraham was
called from his home, Peter from his nets, Matthew from his office,
Elisha from his farm, Nathanael from his retreat; we are all in course
of calling, on and on, from one thing to another, having no
resting-place, but mounting towards our eternal rest, and obeying one
command only to have another put upon us.  He calls us again and again,
in order to justify us again and again,--and again and again, and more
and more, to sanctify and glorify us.

It were well if we understood this; but we are slow to master the great
truth, that Christ is, as it were, walking among us, and by His hand,
or eye, or voice, bidding us follow Him.  We do not understand that His
call is a thing which takes place now.  We think it took place in the
Apostles' days; but we do not believe in it, we do not look out for it
in our own case.  We have not eyes to see the Lord; far different from
the beloved Apostle, who knew Christ even when the rest of the
disciples knew Him not.  When He stood on the shore after His
resurrection, and bade them cast the net into the sea, "that disciple
whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord[12]."

Now what I mean is this: that they who are living religiously, have
from time to time truths they did not know before, or had no need to
consider, brought before them forcibly; truths which involve duties,
which are in fact precepts, and claim obedience.  In this and such-like
ways Christ calls us now.  There is nothing miraculous or extraordinary
in His dealings with us.  He works through our natural faculties and
circumstances of life.  Still what happens to us in providence is in
all essential respects what His voice was to those whom He addressed
when on earth: whether He commands by a visible presence, or by a
voice, or by our consciences, it matters not, so that we feel it to be
a command.  If it is a command, it may be obeyed or disobeyed; it may
be accepted as Samuel or St. Paul accepted it, or put aside after the
manner of the young man who had great possessions.

And these Divine calls are commonly, from the nature of the case,
sudden now, and as indefinite and obscure in their consequences as in
former times.  The accidents and events of life are, as is obvious, one
special way in which the calls I speak of come to us; and they, as we
all know, are in their very nature, and as the word accident implies,
sudden and unexpected.  A man is going on as usual; he comes home one
day, and finds a letter, or a message, or a person, whereby a sudden
trial comes on him, which, if met religiously, will be the means of
advancing him to a higher state of religious excellence, which at
present he as little comprehends as the unspeakable words heard by St.
Paul in paradise.  By a trial we commonly mean, a something which if
encountered well, will confirm a man in his present way; but I am
speaking of something more than this; of what will not only confirm
him, but raise him into a high state of knowledge and holiness.  Many
persons will find it very striking on looking back on their past lives,
to observe what different notions they entertained at different
periods, of what Divine truth was, what was the way of pleasing God,
and what things were allowable or not, what excellence was, and what
happiness.  I do not scruple to say, that these differences may be as
great as that which may be supposed to have existed between St. Peter's
state of mind when quietly fishing on the lake, or Elisha's when
driving his oxen, and that new state of mind of each of them when
called to be Apostle or Prophet.  Elisha and St. Peter indeed were also
called to a new mode of life; that I am not speaking of.  I am not
speaking of cases when persons change their condition, their place in
society, their pursuit, and the like; I am supposing them to remain
pretty much the same as before in outward circumstances; but I say that
many a man is conscious to himself of having undergone inwardly great
changes of view as to what truth is and what happiness.  Nor, again, am
I speaking of changes so great, that a man reverses his former opinions
and conduct.  He may be able to see that there is a connexion between
the two; that his former has led to his latter; and yet he may feel
that after all they differ in kind; that he has got into a new world of
thought, and measures things and persons by a different rule.

Nothing, indeed, is more wonderful and strange than the different views
which different persons take of the same subject.  Take any single
fact, event, or existing thing which meets us in the world; what
various remarks will be made on it by different persons!  For instance,
consider the different lights in which any single action, of a striking
nature, is viewed by different persons; or consider the view of wealth
or a wealthy man, taken by this or that class in the community; what
different feelings does it excite--envy, or respect, or ridicule, or
angry opposition, or indifference, or fear and compassion; here are
states of mind in which different parties may regard it.  These are
broad differences; others are quite as real, though more subtle.
Religion, for instance, may be reverenced by the soldier, the man of
literature, the trader, the statesman, and the theologian; yet how very
distinct their modes of reverencing it, and how separate the standard
which each sets up in his mind!  Well, all these various modes of
viewing things cannot one and all be the best mode, even were they all
good modes; but this even is not the case.  Some are contrary to
others; some are bad.  But even of those that are on the whole good,
some are but in part good, some are imperfect, some have much bad mixed
with them; and only one is best.  Only one is the truth and the perfect
truth; and which that is, none know but those who are in possession of
it, if even they.  But God knows which it is; and towards that one and
only Truth He is leading us forward.  He is leading forward His
redeemed, He is training His elect, one and all, to the one perfect
knowledge and obedience of Christ; not, however, without their
co-operation, but by means of calls which they are to obey, and which
if they do not obey, they lose place, and fall behind in their heavenly
course.  He leads them forward from strength to strength, and from
glory to glory, up the steps of the ladder whose top reacheth to
heaven.  We pass from one state of knowledge to another; we are
introduced into a higher region from a lower, by listening to Christ's
call and obeying it.

Perhaps it may be the loss of some dear friend or relative through
which the call comes to us; which shows us the vanity of things below,
and prompts us to make God our sole stay.  We through grace do so in a
way we never did before; and in the course of years, when we look back
on our life, we find that that sad event has brought us into a new
state of faith and judgment, and that we are as though other men from
what we were.  We thought, before it took place, that we were serving
God, and so we were in a measure; but we find that, whatever our
present infirmities may be, and however far we be still from the
highest state of illumination, then at least we were serving the world
under the show and the belief of serving God.

Or again, perhaps something occurs to force us to take a part for God
or against Him.  The world requires of us some sacrifice which we see
we ought not to grant to it.  Some tempting offer is made us; or some
reproach or discredit threatened us; or we have to determine and avow
what is truth and what is error.  We are enabled to act as God would
have us act; and we do so in much fear and perplexity.  We do not see
our way clearly; we do not see what is to follow from what we have
done, and how it bears upon our general conduct and opinions: yet
perhaps it has the most important bearings.  That little deed, suddenly
exacted of us, almost suddenly resolved on and executed, may be as
though a gate into the second or third heaven--an entrance into a
higher state of holiness, and into a truer view of things than we have
hitherto taken.

Or again, we get acquainted with some one whom God employs to bring
before us a number of truths which were closed on us before; and we but
half understand them, and but half approve of them; and yet God seems
to speak in them, and Scripture to confirm them.  This is a case which
not unfrequently occurs, and it involves a call "to follow on to know
the Lord[13]."

Or again, we may be in the practice of reading Scripture carefully, and
trying to serve God, and its sense may, as if suddenly, break upon us,
in a way it never did before.  Some thought may suggest itself to us,
which is a key to a great deal in Scripture, or which suggests a great
many other thoughts.  A new light may be thrown on the precepts of our
Lord and His Apostles.  We may be able to enter into the manner of life
of the early Christians, as recorded in Scripture, which before was
hidden from us, and into the simple maxims on which Scripture bases it.
We may be led to understand that it is very different from the life
which men live now.  Now knowledge is a call to action: an insight into
the way of perfection is a call to perfection.

Once more, it may so happen that we find ourselves, how or why we
cannot tell, much more able to obey God in certain respects than
heretofore.  Our minds are so strangely constituted, it is impossible
to say whether it is from the growth of habit suddenly showing itself,
or from an unusual gift of Divine grace poured into our hearts, but so
it is; let our temptation be to sloth, or irresolution, or worldly
anxiety, or pride, or to other more base and miserable sins, we may
suddenly find ourselves possessed of a power of self-command which we
had not before.  Or again, we may have a resolution grow on us to serve
God more strictly in His house and in private than heretofore.  This is
a call to higher things; let us beware lest we receive the grace of God
in vain.  Let us beware of lapsing back; let us avoid temptation.  Let
us strive by quietness and caution to cherish the feeble flame, and
shelter it from the storms of this world.  God may be bringing us into
a higher world of religious truth, let us work with Him.

To conclude.  Nothing is more certain in matter of fact, than that some
men do feel themselves called to high duties and works, to which others
are not called.  Why this is we do not know, whether it be that those
who are not called, forfeit the call from having failed in former
trials, or have been called and have not followed, or that though God
gives baptismal grace to all, yet He really does call some men by His
free grace to higher things than others; but so it is; this man sees
sights which that man does not see, has a larger faith, a more ardent
love, and a more spiritual understanding.  No one has any leave to take
another's lower standard of holiness for his own.  It is nothing to us
what others are.  If God calls us to greater renunciation of the world,
and exacts a sacrifice of our hopes and fears, this is our gain, this
is a mark of His love for us, this is a thing to be rejoiced in.  Such
thoughts, when properly entertained, have no tendency to puff us up;
for if the prospect is noble, yet the risk is more fearful.  While we
pursue high excellence, we walk among precipices, and a fall is easy.
Hence the Apostle says, "Work out your own salvation with fear and
trembling, for it is God that worketh in you[14]."  Again, the more men
aim at high things, the more sensitive perception they have of their
own shortcomings; and this again is adapted to humble them especially.
We need not fear spiritual pride then, in following Christ's call, if
we follow it as men in earnest.  Earnestness has no time to compare
itself with the state of other men; earnestness has too vivid a feeling
of its own infirmities to be elated at itself.  Earnestness is simply
set on doing God's will.  It simply says, "Speak, Lord, for Thy servant
heareth," "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?"  Oh that we had more of
this spirit!  Oh that we could take that simple view of things, as to
feel that the one thing which lies before us is to please God!  What
gain is it to please the world, to please the great, nay, even to
please those whom we love, compared with this?  What gain is it to be
applauded, admired, courted, followed, compared with this one aim, of
not being disobedient to a heavenly vision?  What can this world offer
comparable with that insight into spiritual things, that keen faith,
that heavenly peace, that high sanctity, that everlasting
righteousness, that hope of glory, which they have who in sincerity
love and follow our Lord Jesus Christ?

Let us beg and pray Him day by day to reveal Himself to our souls more
fully, to quicken our senses; to give us sight and hearing, taste and
touch of the world to come, so to work within us that we may sincerely
say, "Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and after that receive me
to glory.  Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth
that I desire in comparison of Thee: my flesh and my heart faileth; but
God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever."



[1] Acts ix. 6.

[2] Rom. viii. 29.

[3] Acts xxii. 10.

[4] Matt. iv. 18-20.

[5] Matt. xix. 21, 22.

[6] Matt. iv. 18.

[7] Matt. ix. 9.

[8] Mark 11. 14.

[9] Matt. xx. 6, 7.

[10] Luke ix. 59-62.

[11] Gen. xii. 1.

[12] John xxi. 7.

[13] Hosea vi. 3.



SERMON III.

The Trial of Saul.

"_And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace
offerings.  And he offered the burnt offering._"--1 Samuel xiii. 9.


We are all on our trial.  Every one who lives is on his trial, whether
he will serve God or not.  And we read in Scripture of many instances
of the trials upon which Almighty God puts us His creatures.  In the
beginning, Adam, when he was first created, was put upon his trial.  He
was placed in a beautiful garden, he had every thing given him for his
pleasure and comfort; he was created innocent and upright, and he had
the great gift of the Holy Spirit given him to enable him to please
God, and to attain to heaven.  One thing alone he was forbidden--to eat
of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; this was his trial.  If
he did not eat of the fruit, he was to live, if he did, he was to die.
Alas, he did eat of the fruit, and he did die.  He was tried and found
wanting; he fell; such was the end of _his_ trial.

Many other trials, besides Adam's, are recorded in Scripture, and that
for our warning and instruction, that we may be reminded that we too
are on trial, that we may be encouraged by the examples of those who
have stood their trial well and not fallen, and may be sobered and put
on our guard by the instances of others who have fallen under their
trial.  Of these latter cases, Saul is one.  Saul, of whom we have been
reading in the course of this service[1], is an instance of a man whom
God blessed and proved, as Adam before him, whom He put on his trial,
and who, like Adam, was found wanting.

Now the history, I say, of this melancholy and awful fall is contained
in the chapter which we have been reading, and from which the text is
taken; and I will now attempt to explain to you its circumstances.

Saul was not born a king, or the son of a great family; he was a man of
humble birth and circumstances, and he was raised by God's free grace
to be the ruler and king of His people Israel.  Samuel, God's prophet,
revealed this to him, anointed him with oil, and after he became king,
instructed him in his duty: and, moreover, put him on his trial.  Now
his trial was this.  God's people, the Israelites, over whom Saul was
appointed to reign, had been very much oppressed and harassed by their
enemies round about; heathen nations, who hated the true God and His
worship, rose and fought against them; and of these nations the
Philistines were the chief at that time.  They overran the country, and
brought the Israelites into captivity.  They tyrannized over them, and
to make sure that they should never be free, they even took away from
them the means of forging weapons to fight with.  "There was no smith
found through all the land of Israel," says the chapter, "for the
Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews (i.e. the Israelites) make them
swords or spears.  But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines,
to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his ax, and his
mattock."  Saul was raised up to throw off this heavy yoke, and to
destroy the cruel oppressors of his people.  He "chose him three
thousand men, and with a third of them Jonathan, his son, smote the
garrison of the Philistines which was in Geba."

Upon this, as was naturally to be supposed, these powerful enemies the
Philistines became highly incensed, and assembled together a great army
to chastise the insurgent people, their subjects as they would call
them, who were making head against them.  They had "thirty thousand
chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on
the sea-shore in multitude."  On the other hand, Saul on his part,
"blew the trumpet through all the land," and summoned all Israelites to
him.  They came together to him at Gilgal.  And the Philistines came
with their great host, and pitched over against him.  Thus the two
armies remained in sight of each other, and then it was that Saul's
trial began.

Before Saul went to battle, it was necessary to offer a burnt sacrifice
to the Lord, and to beg of Him a blessing on the arms of Israel.  He
could have no hope of victory, unless this act of religious worship was
performed.  Now priests only and prophets were God's ministers, and
they alone could offer sacrifice.  Kings could not, unless they were
specially commanded to do so by Almighty God.  Saul had no leave to
offer sacrifice; yet a sacrifice must be offered before he could fight;
what must he do?  He must wait for Samuel, who had said that he would
come to him for that purpose.  "Thou shalt go down before me to
Gilgal," says Samuel to him, "and behold, I will come down unto thee,
to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace
offerings; seven days shalt thou tarry till I come unto thee, and show
thee what thou shalt do[2]."  Saul, you see, was told to wait seven
days till Samuel came; but meanwhile this great trial came upon him.
The people he had gathered together to fight against the Philistines
were far inferior to them in military qualities.  They were not even
soldiers; they were country-people brought together, rising against a
powerful enemy, who was used to rule, as they were used to subjection.
And, as I have already observed, they had no regular arms: "It came to
pass," says Scripture, "in the day of battle, that there was neither
sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with
Saul and Jonathan."  No wonder, under these circumstances, that many
did not come to Saul's army at all; many hid themselves; many fled out
of the country; and of those who joined him, all were in a state of
alarm, and numbers began to desert.  "When the men of Israel," says
Scripture, "saw that they were in a strait, then the people did hide
themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places,
and in pits.  And some of the Hebrews went over Jordan to the land of
Gad and Gilead; as for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, and all the people
followed him trembling.  And he tarried seven days, according to the
set time that Samuel had appointed; but Samuel came not to Gilgal, and
the people were scattered from him."

What a great trial this must have been!  Here was a king who had been
made king for the express purpose of destroying the Philistines; he is
in presence of his powerful enemy, he is anxious to fulfil his
commission; he fears to fail; his reputation is at stake; he has at
best a most difficult task, as his soldiers are very bad ones, and are
all afraid of the enemy.  His only chance, humanly speaking, is to
strike a blow; if he delays, he can expect nothing but total defeat;
the longer he delays, the more frightened his men will become.  Yet he
is told to wait seven days; seven long days must he wait; he does wait
through them, and to his great mortification and despair, his soldiers
begin to desert; day after day more and more leave him: what will be
the end of this?  Yet does he govern his feelings so far, as to wait
all through the seven days.  So far he acquits himself well in the
trial; he was told simply to wait seven days, and in spite of the risk,
he does wait.  Though he sees his army crumbling away, and the enemy
ready to attack him, he obeys God; he obeys His prophet; he does
nothing; he looks out for Samuel's coming.

At length the seven days are gone and over, those weary wearing days,
that long trial of a week, through every hour of which he was tempted
to advance against the enemy, yet every hour had to restrain his fierce
and impatient spirit.  Now then is the time for Samuel to come; he said
he would come at the end of seven days, and the days are ended.  Now at
length is the time for Saul to be relieved.  For seven days the
Philistines, for some cause or other, have not attacked him; a
wonderful chance it is; he may breathe freely; every hour, every minute
he expects to hear that Samuel has joined the camp.  But now, when his
trial seemed over, behold a second trial--Samuel comes not.  The
prophet of God said he would come, the prophet of God does not come as
he said.

Why Samuel did not come, we are not informed; except that we see it was
God's will to try Saul still further; however, he did not come, and now
let us observe what was Saul's conduct.

Hitherto he had acquitted himself well; he had obeyed to the letter the
command of God by His prophet.  He had waited in faith though in fear;
he feared the Philistines, but had faith in God.  Oh that he had
continued in his faith! but his faith gave way when his trial was
prolonged.

When Samuel did not come, there was no one of course to offer
sacrifice; what was to be done?  Saul ought to have waited still
longer, till Samuel did come.  He had had faith in God hitherto, he
should have had faith still.  He had hitherto trusted that God would
save him from the enemy, though his army was scattered, in God's own
way.  God fights not with sword and bow; He can give victory to whom He
will, and when He will; "with His own right hand, and His holy arm,"
can He accomplish His purposes.  Saul was God's servant, and therefore
he might securely trust in God.  He had trusted for seven days; he
might go on trusting for eight, nine, or ten.  And let it be observed,
that this fresh trial was hardly a greater trial than before, for this
reason--that his faith hitherto had met with its reward.  Though the
Philistines were in his front, and his own men were deserting, yet,
strange to say, the Philistines had not attacked him.  Thus he had had
proof that God could defend him from them.  He who had kept him so
safely for seven days, why should He not also on the eighth? however,
he did not feel this, and so he took a very rash and fatal step.

That step was as follows: since Samuel had not come, he determined to
offer the burnt sacrifice instead of him; he determined to do what he
could not do without a great sin; viz. intrude into a sacred office to
which he was not called; nay, to do what he really could not do at all;
for he might call it a sacrifice, but it would not be really such,
unless a priest or prophet offered it.  You know how great a crime it
is for persons now to become teachers and preachers, or to baptize or
administer the Lord's Supper without authority; this was Saul's crime,
he determined on sacrificing, without being an appointed minister of
God.  This is a crime often denounced in Scripture, as in the case of
Korah, and Jeroboam, and Uzziah.  Korah was swallowed up by the earth
on account of it; Jeroboam had his hand withered, and was punished in
his family; and Uzziah was smitten with leprosy.  Yet this was Saul's
sin.  "And Saul said," in the words of the text, "Bring hither a burnt
offering to me, and peace offerings; and he offered the burnt
offering."  Now observe what happened immediately afterwards.  "And it
came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt
offering, behold, Samuel came, and Saul went out to meet him, that he
might salute him."  You see, if he had waited but one hour more, he
would have been saved this sin; in other words, he would have succeeded
in his trial instead of failing.  But he failed, and the consequence
was, he lost God's favour, and forfeited his kingdom.

Let us observe what Samuel said to him, and what he answered; "And
Samuel said, What hast thou done?  And Saul said, Because I saw that
the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the
days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together
to Michmash; therefore, said I, The Philistines will come down now upon
me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the Lord: I forced
myself, therefore, and offered a burnt offering."  Such was his excuse;
and now hear what Samuel thought of it: "And Samuel said to Saul, Thou
hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy
God, which He commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established
thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.  But now thy kingdom shall not
continue: the Lord hath sought Him a man after His own heart, and the
Lord hath commanded him to be captain over His people, because thou
hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee."  Such was the end of
Saul's trial: he fell; he was not obedient; and in consequence he
forfeited God's favour.

How much is there in this melancholy history which applies to us, my
brethren, at this day, though it happened some thousand years ago!  Man
is the same in every age, and God Almighty is the same; and thus what
happened to Saul, the king of Israel, is, alas! daily fulfilled in us,
to our great shame.  We all, as Saul, have been raised by God to great
honour and glory; not, indeed, glory of this world, but unseen
spiritual glory.  We were born in sin, and the children of wrath; and
He has caused us to be baptized with water and the Spirit in the Name
of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and as Saul, by being anointed with oil
by Samuel, was made king of Israel, so we, by baptism, are made kings,
not kings of this world, but kings and princes in the heavenly kingdom
of Christ.  He is our head, and we are His brethren; He has sat down on
His throne on high, and has been crowned by His Eternal Father as Lord
and Christ; and we, too, by being made His brethren, partake His
unseen, His heavenly glory.  Though we be poor in this world, yet, when
we were baptized, we, like Saul, were made strong in the Lord, powerful
princes, with Angels to wait upon us, and with a place on Christ's
throne in prospect.  Hence, I say, we are, like Saul, favoured by God's
free grace; and in consequence we are put on our trial like Saul--we
are all tried in one way or another; and now consider how many there
are who fall like Saul.

1. How many are there who, when in distress of any kind, in want of
means, or of necessaries, forget, like Saul, that their distress,
whatever it is, comes from God; that God brings it on them, and that
God will remove it in His own way, if they trust in Him: but who,
instead of waiting for His time, take their own way, their own bad way,
and impatiently hasten the time, and thus bring on themselves judgment!
Sometimes, telling an untruth will bring them out of their
difficulties, and they are tempted to do so.  They make light of the
sin; they say they cannot help themselves, that they are forced to it,
as Saul said to Samuel; they make excuses to quiet their conscience;
and instead of bearing the trial well, enduring their poverty, or
whatever the trouble may be, they do not shrink from a deliberate lie,
which God hears.  Or, again, in like circumstances, they are tempted to
steal; and they argue that they are in greater want than the person
they injure, or that he will never miss what they take; and that they
would not take it, were not their distress so great.  Thus they act
like Saul, and thus they tempt God in turn to deprive them of their
heavenly inheritance.  Or further, perhaps, they both steal and lie
also; first steal, and then lie in order to hide their theft.

2. Again, how many are there who, when in unpleasant situations, are
tempted to do what is wrong in order to get out of them, instead of
patiently waiting God's time!  They have, perhaps, unkind parents, and
they are so uncomfortable at home, that they take the first opportunity
which presents itself of getting away.  They marry irreligious persons,
not asking themselves the question whether they are irreligious, merely
from impatience to get out of their present discomfort; "Any thing but
this," they say.  What is this but to act like Saul? _he_ had very
little peace or quiet all the time he remained in presence of the
enemy, with his own people falling away from him; and he, too, took an
unlawful means to get out of his difficulty.  And so, again, when
persons have harsh masters and employers, or troublesome neighbours, or
are engaged in employments which they do not like, they often forget
that all this is from God's providence, that to Him they must look up,
that He who imposed it can take it away, can take it away in His good
time, and without their sin.  But they, like Saul, are impatient, and
will not wait.  And, again, are not some of us tempted to be impatient
at the religious disadvantages we lie under; and instead of waiting for
God's time, and God's prophet, take the matter into our own hand, leave
the place where God has put us, and join some other communion, in order
(as we hope) to have clearer light and fuller privileges?

3. Again, how many are there who, though their hearts are not right
before God, yet have some sort of religiousness, and by it deceive
themselves into an idea that they are religious!  Observe, Saul in his
way was a religious man; I say, in _his_ way, but not in God's way; yet
His very disobedience _he_ might consider an act of religion.  He
offered sacrifice _rather_ than go to battle without a sacrifice.  An
openly irreligious man would have drawn up his army and fallen upon the
Philistines without any religious service at all.  Saul did not do
this; no, he wished that an act of worship and prayer should precede
the battle; he desired to have God's blessing upon him; and perversely,
while he felt that blessing to be necessary, he did not feel that the
only way of gaining it was seeking it _in the way_ which God had
appointed; that, whereas God had not made him His minister, he could
not possibly offer the burnt offering acceptably.  Thus he deceived
himself; and thus many men deceive themselves now; not casting off
religion altogether, but choosing their religion for themselves, as
Saul did, and fancying they can be religious without being obedient.

4. Again, how many are there, who bear half the trial God puts on them,
but not the whole of it; who go on well for a time, and then fall away!
Saul bore on for seven days, and fainted not; on the eighth day his
faith failed him.  Oh may we persevere to the end!  Many fall away.
Let us watch and pray.  Let us not get secure.  Let us not think it
enough to have got through one temptation well; through our whole life
we are on trial.  When one temptation is over, another comes; and,
perhaps, our having got through one well, will be the occasion of our
falling under the next, if we be not on our guard; because it may make
us secure and confident, as if we had already conquered, and were safe.

5.  Once more, how many are there, who, in a narrow grudging
cold-hearted way, go by the letter of God's commandments, while they
neglect the spirit!  Instead of considering what Christ wishes them to
do, they take His words one by one, and will only accept them in their
bare necessary meaning.  They do not throw their hearts upon Scripture,
and try to consider it as the voice of a Living and Kind Lord and
Master speaking to them, but they take it to mean as little as it can.
They are wanting in love.  Saul was told to wait seven days--he _did_
wait seven days; and then he thought he might do what he chose.  He, in
effect, said to Samuel, "I have done just what you told me."  Yes, he
fulfilled Samuel's directions literally and rigidly, but not in the
spirit of love.  Had he loved the Word of God, he would not have been
so precise and exact in his reckoning, but would have waited still
longer.  And, in like manner, persons now-a-days, imitating him, too
often say, when taxed with any offence, "Why is it wrong?  Where is it
so said in Scripture?  Show us the text:" all which only shows that
they obey carnally, in the letter, and not in the spirit.

How will all excuses, which sinners now make to blind and deaden their
consciences, fail them in the Last Day!  Saul had his excuses for
disobedience.  He did not confess he was wrong, but he argued; but
Samuel with a word reproved, and convicted, and silenced, and sentenced
him.  And so in the Day of Judgment all our actions will be tried as by
fire.  The All-knowing, All-holy Judge, our Saviour Jesus Christ, will
sit on His throne, and with the breath of His mouth He will scatter
away all idle excuses on which men now depend; and the secrets of men's
hearts will be revealed.  Then shall be seen who it is that serveth
God, and who serveth Him not; who serve Him with the lips, who with the
heart; who are hypocrites, and who are true.

God give us grace to be in the number of those whose faith and whose
love is without hypocrisy or pretence; who obey out of a pure heart and
a good conscience; who sincerely wish to know God's will, and who do it
as far as they know it!



[1] Fourth Sunday after Trinity.

[2] 1 Sam. x. 8.



SERMON IV.

The Call of David.

"_So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a
stone._"--1 Samuel xvii. 50.


These words, which are taken from the chapter which you heard read just
now in the course of the Service[1], declare the victory which David,
the man after God's own heart, gained over Goliath, who came out of the
army of the Philistines to defy the Living God; and they declare the
manner of his gaining it.  He gained it with a sling and with a stone;
that is, by means, which to man might seem weak and hopeless, but which
God Almighty blessed and prospered.  Let no one think the history of
David's calling, and his victory over Goliath, of little importance to
himself; it is indeed interesting to read for its own sake; it raises
the mind of the Christian to God, shows us His power, and reminds us of
the wonderful deliverances with which He visits His Church in every
age; but besides all this, this history is useful to us Christians, as
setting before us our own calling, and our conflict with the world, the
flesh, and the devil; as such I shall now briefly consider it.

David, the son of a man in humble life, and the youngest of his
brethren, was chosen by Almighty God to be His special servant,--to be
a prophet, a king, a psalmist; he was anointed by Samuel to be all
this; and in due time he was brought forward by Almighty God, and as a
first act of might, slew the heathen giant Goliath, as described in the
text.  Now let us apply all this to ourselves.

1. David was the son of a Bethlehemite, one among the families of
Israel, with nothing apparently to recommend him to God; the youngest
of his brethren, and despised by them.  He was sent to feed the sheep;
and his father, though doubtless he loved him dearly, yet seems to have
thought little of him.  For when Samuel came to Jesse at God's command,
in order to choose one of his sons from the rest as God might direct
him, Jesse did not bring David before him, though he did bring all his
other children.  Thus David seemed born to live and die among his
sheep.  His brothers were allowed to engage in occupations which the
world thinks higher and more noble.  Three of them served as soldiers
in the king's army, and in consequence looked down upon David; on his
asking about Goliath, one of them said to him in contempt, "With whom
hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness?"  Yet God took him
from the sheepfolds to make him His servant and His friend.  Now this
is fulfilled in the case of all Christians.  They are by nature poor,
and mean, and nothing worth; but God chooses them, and brings them near
unto Himself.  He looks not at outward things; He chooses and decrees
according to His will, and why He chooses these men, and passes over
those, we know not.  In this country many are chosen, many are not, and
why some are chosen, others not, we cannot tell.  Some men are born
within the bounds of holy Church, and are baptized with her baptism;
others are not even baptized at all.  Some are born of bad parents,
irreligious parents, and have no education, or a bad one.  We, on the
contrary, my brethren, are born in the Church; we have been baptized by
the Church's ministers; and why this is our blessedness, and not the
blessedness of others, we cannot tell.  Here we differ from David.  He
was chosen above his brethren, because he was better than they.  It is
expressly said, that when Samuel was going to choose one of his elder
brethren, God said to him, "I have refused him; for the Lord seeth not
as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord
looketh on the heart[2];" implying, that David's heart was in a better
state than his brother's whom Samuel would have chosen.  But this is
not our case; we are in nowise better by nature than they whom God does
not choose.  You will find good and worthy men, benevolent, charitable,
upright men, among those who have never been baptized.  God hath chosen
all of us to salvation, not for our righteousness, but for His great
mercies.  He has brought us to worship Him in sacred places where His
saints have worshipped for many hundred years.  He has given us the aid
of His ministers, and His Sacraments, and His Holy Scriptures, and the
Ancient Creed.  To others, Scripture is a sealed book, though they hold
it in their hands; but to us it is in good measure an open book,
through God's mercy, if we but use our advantages, if we have but
spiritual eyes and ears, to read and hear it faithfully.  To others,
the Sacraments and other rites are but dead ordinances, carnal
ceremonies, which profit not, like those of the Jewish Law, outward
forms, beggarly elements, as they themselves often confess; but to us,
if we have faith, they are full of grace and power.  Thus all we have
been chosen by God's grace unto salvation, in a special way, in which
many others around us have not been chosen, as God passed over David's
seven brethren, and chose him.

2. Observe, too.  God chose him, whose occupation was that of a
shepherd; for He chooses not the great men of the world.  He passes by
the rich and noble; He chooses "the poor, rich in faith, and heirs of
the kingdom which He hath promised to them that love Him[3]," as St.
James says.  David was a shepherd.  The Angel appeared to the shepherds
as they kept watch over their sheep at night.  The most solitary, the
most unlearned, God hears, God looks upon, God visits, God blesses, God
brings to glory, if he is but "rich in faith."  Many of you are not
great in this world, my brethren, many of you are poor; but the
greatest king upon earth, even Solomon in all his glory, might well
exchange places with you, if you are God's children; for then you are
greater than the greatest of kings.  Our Saviour said, that even the
lilies of the field were more gloriously arrayed than Solomon; for the
lily is a living thing, the work of God; and all the glories of a king,
his purple robe, and his jewelled crown, all this is but the dead work
of man; and the lowest and humblest work of God is far better and more
glorious than the highest work of man.  But if this be true, even of
God's lower works, what shall be said of His higher?  If even the
lilies of the field, which are cut down and cast into the oven, are
more glorious than this world's greatest glory, what shall be said of
God's nobler works in the soul of man? what shall be said of the
dispensation of the Spirit which "exceeds in glory?" of that new
creation of the soul, whereby He makes us His children, who by birth
were children of Adam, and slaves of the devil, gives us a new and
heavenly nature, implants His Holy Spirit within us, and washes away
all our sins?  This is the portion of the Christian, high or low; and
all glories of this world fade away before it; king and subject, man of
war and keeper of sheep, are all on a level in the kingdom of Christ;
for they one and all receive those far exceeding and eternal blessings,
which make this world's distinctions, though they remain distinctions
just as before, yet so little, so unimportant, in comparison of the
"glory that excelleth," that it is not worth while thinking about them.
One person is a king and rules, another is a subject and obeys; but if
both are Christians, both have in common a gift so great, that in the
sight of it, the difference between ruling and obeying is as nothing.
All Christians are kings in God's sight; they are kings in His unseen
kingdom, in His spiritual world, in the Communion of Saints.  They seem
like other men, but they have crowns on their heads, and glorious robes
around them, and Angels to wait on them, though our bodily eyes see it
not.  Such are all Christians, high and low; all Christians who remain
in that state in which Holy Baptism placed them.  Baptism placed you in
this blessed state.  God did not wait till you should do some good
thing before He blessed you.  No!  He knew you could do no good thing
of yourselves.  So He came to you first; He loved you before you loved
Him; He gave you a work which He first made you able to do.  He placed
you in a new and heavenly state, in which, while you remain, you are
safe.  He said not to you, "Obey Me, and I will give you a kingdom;"
but "Lo I give you a kingdom freely and first of all; now obey Me
henceforth, for you can, and you shall remain in it;" not "Obey Me, and
I will then give you the Holy Spirit as a reward," but "I give you that
great gift in order that you may obey Me."  He first gives, and then
commands; He tells us to obey Him, not to gain His favour, but in order
not to lose it.  We are by nature diseased and helpless.  We cannot
please Him; we cannot move hand or foot; He says not to us, "Get well
first, and I will receive you;" but He begins a cure in us, and
receives us, and then says, "Take care not to go back; take care of
yourselves; beware of a relapse; keep out of danger."  Such then is
your state, my brethren, unless you have fallen from Christ.  If you
are living in His faith and fear, you are kings--kings in God's unseen
and spiritual kingdom; and that, though like David, you are but keeping
sheep, or driving cattle, or, again, working with your hands, or
serving in a family, or at any other lowly labour.  God seeth not as
man seeth.  He hath chosen you.

3. Next, observe God chose David by means of the Prophet Samuel.  He
did not think it enough to choose him silently, but He called him by a
voice.  And, in like manner, when God calls us, He does so openly; He
sent His minister, the Prophet Samuel, to David, and He sends His
ministers to us.  He said to Samuel, "Fill thy horn with oil, and go,
and I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite; for I have provided Me
a king among his sons."  God was looking out for a king, and sent
Samuel to David.  And so, in like manner, God is looking out now for
kings to fill thrones in His Son's eternal kingdom, and to sit at His
right hand and His left; and He sends His ministers to those whom He
hath from eternity chosen.  He does not say to them, "Fill thy horn
with oil," but "Fill thy font with water;" for as He chose David by
pouring oil upon his head, so does He choose us by Baptism.  So far,
then, God chooses now as He did then, by an outward sign.  Samuel was
told to do then, what Christ's ministers are told to do now.  The one
chose David by means of oil, and the other choose Christians by means
of water.  In this, however, there is a difference.  Samuel could
choose but one.  He was not allowed to choose more than one; him,
namely, whom God pointed out; but now Christ's ministers (blessed be
His name!) may choose and baptize all whom they meet with; there is no
restriction, no narrowness; they need not wait to be told whom to
choose.  Christ says, "Compel them to come in."  Again, the Prophet
says, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters."  Now every
one by nature thirsteth; every soul born into the world is in a
spiritual sickness, in a wasting fever of mind; he has no rest, no
ease, no peace, no true happiness.  Till he is made partaker of Christ
he is hopeless and miserable.  Christ then, in His mercy, having died
for all, gives His ministers leave to apply His saving death to all
whom they can find.  Not one or two, but thousands upon thousands are
gifted with His high blessings.  "Samuel took the horn of oil, and
anointed" David "in the midst of his brethren."  And so Christ's
ministers take water, and baptize; yet not merely one out of a family,
but all; for God's mercies are poured as wide as the sun's light in the
heavens, they enlighten all they fall upon.

4. When Samuel had anointed David, observe what followed.  "Samuel took
the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren; and the
Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward."  And so,
also, when Christ's ministers baptize, the Spirit of the Lord comes
upon the child baptized henceforth; nay, dwells in him, for the
Christian's gift is far greater even than David's.  God's Spirit did
but come upon David, and visit him from time to time; but He vouchsafes
to dwell within the Christian, so as to make his heart and body His
temple.  Now what was there in the oil, which Samuel used, to produce
so great an effect? nothing at all.  Oil has no power in itself; but
God gave it a power.  In like manner the Prophet Elisha told Naaman the
Syrian to bathe in Jordan, and so he was healed of his leprosy.  Naaman
said, What is Jordan more than other rivers? how can Jordan heal?  It
could not heal, except that God's power made it heal.  Did not our
Saviour feed five thousand persons with a few loaves and fishes? how
could that be? by His power.  How could water become wine? by His
power.  And so now, that same Divine power, which made water wine,
multiplied the bread, gave water power to heal an incurable disease,
and made oil the means of gifting David with the Holy Spirit, that
power now also makes the water of Baptism a means of grace and glory.
The water is like other water; we see no difference by the eye; we use
it, we throw it away; but God is with it.  God is with it, as with the
oil which Samuel took with him.  Water is something more than water in
its effects in the hand of Christ's Minister, with the words of grace;
it does, what by nature it cannot do; it is heavenly water, not earthly.

5. Further, I would have you observe this.  Though David received the
gift of God's Holy Spirit, yet nothing came of it all at once.  He
still seemed like any other man.  He went back to the sheep.  Then Saul
sent for him to play to him on the harp; and then he went back to the
sheep again.  Except that he had strength given him to kill a lion and
a bear which came against his flock, he did no great thing.  The Spirit
of the Lord had come upon him, yet it did not at once make him a
prophet or a king.  All was to come in good time, not at once.  So it
is with Christian Baptism.  Nothing shows, for some time, that the
Spirit of God is come into, and dwells in the child baptized; it looks
like any other child, it is pained, it frets, is weak, is wayward, like
any other child, for "the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh
at the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."  And "He
who seeth the heart," seeth in the child the presence of the Spirit,
"the mind of the Spirit" "which maketh intercession for the Saints."
God the Holy Ghost leads on the heirs of grace marvellously.  You
recollect when our Saviour was baptized, "immediately the Spirit of God
led Him into the wilderness."  What happened one way in our Saviour's
course, happens in ours also.  Sooner or later that work of God is
manifested, which was at first secret.  David went up to see his
brothers, who were in the battle; he had no idea that he was going to
fight the giant Goliath; and so it is now, children are baptized before
they know what is to happen to them.  They sport and play as if there
was no sorrow in the world, and no high destinies upon themselves; they
are heirs of the kingdom without knowing it, but God is with those whom
He has chosen, and in His own time and way He fashions His Saints for
His everlasting kingdom; in His own perfect and adorable counsels He
brings them forward to fight with Goliath.

6. And now, let us inquire who is our Goliath? who is it we have to
contend with?  The answer is plain; the devil is our Goliath: we have
to fight Satan, who is far more fearful and powerful than ten thousand
giants, and who would to a certainty destroy us were not God with us,
but praised be His Name, He is with us.  "Greater is He that is with
us, than he that is in the world."  David was first anointed with God's
Holy Spirit, and then, after a while, brought forward to fight Goliath.
We too are first baptized, and then brought forward to fight the devil.
We are not brought to fight him at once; for some years we are almost
without a fight, when we are infants.  By degrees our work comes upon
us; as children we have to fight with him a little; as time goes on,
the fight opens; and at length we have our great enemy marching against
us with sword and spear, as Goliath came against David.  And when this
war has once begun, it lasts through life.

7. What then ought you to do, my brethren, when thus assailed?  How
must you behave when the devil comes against you? he has many ways of
attack; sometimes he comes openly, sometimes craftily, sometimes he
tempts you, sometimes he frightens you, but whether he comes in a
pleasing or a frightful form, be sure, if you saw him himself with your
eyes, he would always be hateful, monstrous, and abominable.  Therefore
he keeps himself out of sight.  But be sure he is all this; and, as
believing it, take the whole armour of God, that you may be able to
stand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Quit you like
men, be strong.  Be like David, very courageous to do God's will.
Think what would have happened had David played the coward, and refused
to obey God's inward voice stirring him up to fight Goliath.  He would
have lost his calling, he would have been tried, and have failed.  The
Prophet's oil would have profited him nothing, or rather would have
increased his condemnation.  The Spirit of God would have departed from
him as He departed from Saul, who also had been anointed.  So, also,
our privileges will but increase our future punishment, unless we use
them.  _He_ is truly and really born of God in whom the Divine seed
takes root; others are regenerated to their condemnation.  Despise not
the gift that is in you: despise not the blessing which by God's free
grace you have, and others have not.  There is nothing to boast in,
that you are God's people; rather the thought is an anxious one; you
have much more to answer for.

When, then, Satan comes against you, recollect you are already
dedicated, made over, to God; you are God's property, you have no part
with Satan and his works, you are servants to another, you are espoused
to Christ.  When Satan comes against you, fear not, waver not; but pray
to God, and He will help you.  Say to Satan with David, "Thou comest
against me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield; but I
come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts."  Thou comest to me with
temptation; thou wouldest allure me with the pleasures of sin for a
season; thou wouldest kill me, nay, thou wouldest make me kill myself
with sinful thoughts, words, and deeds; thou wouldest make me a
self-murderer, tempting me by evil companions, and light conversation,
and pleasant sights, and strong stirrings of heart; thou wouldest make
me profane the Lord's day by riot; thou wouldest keep me from Church;
thou wouldest make my thoughts rove when they should not; thou wouldest
tempt me to drink, and to curse, and to swear, and to jest, and to lie,
and to steal: but I know thee; thou art Satan, and I come unto thee in
the name of the Living God, in the Name of Jesus Christ my Saviour.
That is a powerful name, which can put to flight many foes: Jesus is a
name at which devils tremble.  To speak it, is to scare away many a bad
thought.  I come against thee in His All-powerful, All-conquering Name.
David came on with a staff; my staff is the Cross--the Holy Cross on
which Christ suffered, in which I glory, which is my salvation.  David
chose five smooth stones out of the brook, and with them he smote the
giant.  We, too, have armour, not of this world, but of God; weapons
which the world despises, but which are powerful in God.  David took
not sword, spear, or shield; but he slew Goliath with a sling and a
stone.  Our weapons are as simple, as powerful.  The Lord's Prayer is
one such weapon; when we are tempted to sin, let us turn away, kneel
down seriously and solemnly, and say to God that prayer which the Lord
taught us.  The Creed is another weapon, equally powerful, through
God's grace, equally contemptible in the eyes of the world.  One or two
holy texts, such as our Saviour used when He was tempted by the devil,
is another weapon for our need.  The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper is
another such, and greater; holy, mysterious, life-giving, but equally
simple.  What is so simple as a little bread and a little wine? but, in
the hands of the Spirit of God, it is the power of God unto salvation.
God grant us grace to use the arms which He gives us; not to neglect
them, not to take arms of our own!  God grant us to use His arms, and
to conquer!



[1] Fifth Sunday after Trinity.

[2] 1 Sam. xvi. 7.

[3] James ii. 6.



SERMON V.

Curiosity a Temptation to Sin.

"_Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil
men.  Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away._"--Proverbs
iv. 14, 15.


The chief cause of the wickedness which is every where seen in the world,
and in which, alas! each of us has more or less his share, is our
curiosity to have some fellowship with darkness, some experience of sin,
to know what the pleasures of sin are like.  I believe it is even thought
unmanly by many persons (though they may not like to say so in plain
words), unmanly and a thing to be ashamed of, to have no knowledge of sin
by experience, as if it argued a strange seclusion from the world, a
childish ignorance of life, a simpleness and narrowness of mind, and a
superstitious, slavish fear.  Not to know sin by experience brings upon a
man the laughter and jests of his companions: nor is it wonderful this
should be the case in the descendants of that guilty pair to whom Satan
in the beginning held out admittance into a strange world of knowledge
and enjoyment, as the reward of disobedience to God's commandment.  "When
the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant
to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the
fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her, and
he did eat[1]." A discontent with the abundance of blessings which were
given, because something was withheld, was the sin of our first parents:
in like manner, a wanton roving after things forbidden, a curiosity to
know what it was to be as the heathen, was one chief source of the
idolatries of the Jews; and we at this day inherit with them a like
nature from Adam.

I say, curiosity strangely moves us to disobedience, in order that we may
have experience of the pleasure of disobedience.  Thus we "rejoice in our
youth, and let our heart cheer us in the days of our youth, and walk in
the ways of our heart, and in the sight of our eyes[2]."  And we thus
intrude into things forbidden, in various ways; in reading what we should
not read, in hearing what we should not hear, in seeing what we should
not see, in going into company whither we should not go, in presumptuous
reasonings and arguings when we should have faith, in acting as if we
were our own masters where we should obey.  We indulge our reason, we
indulge our passions, we indulge our ambition, our vanity, our love of
power; we throw ourselves into the society of bad, worldly, or careless
men; and all the while we think that, after having acquired this
miserable knowledge of good and evil, we can return to our duty, and
continue where we left off; merely going aside a moment to shake
ourselves, as Samson did, and with an ignorance like his, that our true
heavenly strength is departed from us.

Now this delusion arises from Satan's craft, the father of lies, who
knows well that if he can get us once to sin, he can easily make us sin
twice and thrice, till at length we are taken captive at his will[3].  He
sees that curiosity is man's great and first snare, as it was in
paradise; and he knows that, if he can but force a way into his heart by
this chief and exciting temptation, those temptations of other kinds,
which follow in life, will easily prevail over us; and, on the other
hand, that if we resist the beginnings of sin, there is every prospect
through God's grace that we shall continue in a religious way.  His plan
of action then lies plain before him--to tempt us violently, while the
world is new to us, and our hopes and feelings are eager and restless.
Hence is seen the Divine wisdom, as well as the merciful consideration,
of the advice contained in so many parts of Scripture, as in the text,
"Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not into the way of evil
men.  Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away."

Let us, then, now for a few moments give our minds to the consideration
of this plain truth, which we have heard so often that for that very
reason we are not unlikely to forget it--that the great thing in religion
is to set off well, to resist the beginnings of sin, to flee temptation,
to avoid the company of the wicked.  "Enter not into the path of the
wicked . . . . avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, pass away."

1. And for this reason, first of all, because it is hardly possible to
delay our flight without rendering flight impossible.  When I say, resist
the beginnings of evil, I do not mean the first act merely, but the
rising thought of evil.  Whatever the temptation may be, there may be no
time to wait and gaze, without being caught.  Woe to us if Satan (so to
say) sees us first; for, as in the case of some beast of prey, for him to
see us is to master us.  Directly we are made aware of the temptation, we
shall, if we are wise, turn our backs upon it, without waiting to think
and reason about it; we shall engage our mind in other thoughts.  There
are temptations when this advice is especially necessary; but under all
it is highly seasonable.

2. For consider, in the next place, what must in all cases be the
consequence of allowing evil thoughts to be present to us, though we do
not actually admit them into our hearts.  This, namely,--we shall make
ourselves familiar with them.  Now our great security against sin lies in
being shocked at it.  Eve gazed and reflected when she should have fled.
It is sometimes said "Second thoughts are best:" this is true in many
cases, but there are times when it is very false, and when, on the
contrary, first thoughts are best.  For sin is like the serpent, which
seduced our first parents.  We know that some serpents have the power of
what is called "fascinating."  Their eye has the power of subduing--nay,
in a strange way, of alluring--their victim, who is reduced to utter
helplessness, cannot flee away, nay, rather is obliged to approach, and
(as it were) deliver himself up to them; till in their own time they
seize and devour him.  What a dreadful figure this is of the power of sin
and the devil over our hearts!  At first our conscience tells us, in a
plain straightforward way, what is right and what is wrong; but when we
trifle with this warning, our reason becomes perverted, and comes in aid
of our wishes, and deceives us to our ruin.  Then we begin to find, that
there are arguments available in behalf of bad deeds, and we listen to
these till we come to think them true; and then, if perchance better
thoughts return, and we make some feeble effort to get at the truth
really and sincerely, we find our minds by that time so bewildered that
we do not know right from wrong.

Thus, for instance, every one is shocked at cursing and swearing when he
first hears it; and at first he cannot help even showing that he is
shocked; that is, he looks grave and downcast, and feels uncomfortable.
But when he has once got accustomed to such profane talking, and been
laughed out of his strictness, and has begun to think it manly, and has
been persuaded to join in it, then he soon learns to defend it.  He says
he means no harm by it; that it does no one any harm; that it is only so
many words, and that every body uses them.  Here is an instance in which
disobedience to what we know to be right makes us blind.

Again, this same confusion frequently happens in the case of temptations
from the world.  We fear worldly loss or discredit; or we hope some
advantage; and we feel tempted to act so as to secure, at any rate, the
worldly good, or to avoid the evil.  Now in all such cases of conduct
there is no end of arguing about right or wrong, if we once begin; there
are numberless ways of acting, each of which may be speciously defended
by argument, but plain, pure-hearted common sense, generally speaking, at
the very first sight decides the question for us without argument; but if
we do not listen promptly to this secret monitor, its light goes out at
once, and we are left to the mercy of mere conjecture, and grope about
with but second-best guides.  Then seeming arguments in favour of deceit
and evil compliance with the world's wishes, or of disgraceful indolence,
urge us, and either prevail, or at least so confuse us, that we do not
know how to act.  Alas! in ancient days it happened in this way, that
Christians who were brought before their heathen persecutors for
punishment, because they were Christians, sometimes came short of the
crown of martyrdom, "having loved this present world[4]," and so lost
their way in the mazes of Satan's crafty arguments.

Temptations to unbelief may also be mentioned here.  Speculating wantonly
on sacred subjects, and jesting about them, offend us at first; and we
turn away: but if in an evil hour we are seduced by the cleverness or wit
of a writer or speaker, to listen to his impieties, who can say where we
shall stop?  Can we save ourselves from the infection of his profaneness?
we cannot hope to do so.  And when we come to a better mind (if by God's
grace this be afterwards granted to us), what will be our state? like the
state of men who have undergone some dreadful illness, which changes the
constitution of the body.  That ready and clear perception of right and
wrong, which before directed us, will have disappeared, as beauty of
person, or keenness of eye-sight in bodily disorders; and when we begin
to try to make up our minds which way lies the course of duty on
particular trials, we shall bring enfeebled, unsteady powers to the
examination; and when we move to act, our limbs (as it were) will move
the contrary way, and we shall do wrong when we wish to do right.

3. But there is another wretched effect of sinning once, which sometimes
takes place;--not only the sinning that once itself, but being so seduced
by it, as forthwith to continue in the commission of it ever afterwards,
without seeking for arguments to meet our conscience withal; from a mere
brutish, headstrong, infatuate greediness after its bad pleasures.  There
are beasts of prey which are said to abstain from blood till they taste
it, but once tasting it, ever seek it: and, in like manner, there is a
sort of thirst for sin which is born with us, but which grace quenches,
and which is thus kept under _till_ we, by our own act, rouse it again;
and which, when once aroused, never can be allayed.  We sin, while we
confess the wages of sin to be death.

4. Sometimes, I say, this is the immediate effect of a first
transgression; and if not the immediate effect, yet it is always the
tendency and the end of sinning at length, viz. to enslave us to it.
Temptation is very powerful, it is true, when it comes first; but, then,
its power lies in its own novelty; and, on the other hand, there is power
in the heart itself, divinely given, to resist it; but when we have long
indulged sin, the mind has become sinful in its habit and character, and
the Spirit of God having departed, it has no principle within it of
strength sufficient to save it from spiritual death.  What being can
change its own nature? that would be almost ceasing to be itself: fire
cannot cease to burn; the leopard changes not its spots, and ceases not
to rend and devour; and the soul which has often sinned, cannot help
sinning; but in this respect awfully differing from the condition of the
senseless elements or brute animals,--that its present state is all its
own fault; that it might have hindered it, and will have one day to
answer for not having hindered it.

Thus, easy as it is to avoid sin first of all, at length it is (humanly
speaking) impossible.  "Enter not into its path," saith the wise man; the
two paths of right and wrong start from the same point, and at first are
separated by a very small difference, so easy (comparatively) is it to
choose the right instead of the wrong way: but wait awhile, and pursue
the road leading to destruction, and you will find the distance between
the two has widened beyond measurement, and that between them a great
gulf has been sunk, so that you cannot pass from the one to the other,
though you desire it ever so earnestly[5].

Now to what do considerations such as these lead us, but to our Lord's
simple and comprehensive precept, which is the same as Solomon's, but
more impressively and solemnly urged on us by the manner and time of His
giving it?  "Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation."  To enter
not the path of the wicked, to avoid it, and pass by it, what is this but
the exercise of _watching_?  Therefore He insists upon it so much,
knowing that in it our safety lies.  But now, on the other hand, consider
_how_ many are there among us who can be said to watch and pray?  Is not
the utmost we do to offer on Sunday some kind of prayer in Church to God;
or sometimes some short prayer morning and evening in the week; and then
go into the world with the same incaution and forgetfulness as if we had
never entertained a serious thought?  We go through the business of the
day, quite forgetting, to any practical purpose, that all business has
snares in it, and therefore needs caution.  Let us ask ourselves this
question, "How often do we think of Satan in the course of the day as our
great tempter?"  Yet surely he does not cease to be active because we do
not think of him; and surely, too, his powers and devices were revealed
to us by Almighty God for the very purpose, that being not ignorant of
them, we might watch against them.  Who among us will not confess, that
many is the time that he has mixed with the world, forgetting who the god
of this world is? or rather, are not a great many of us living in
habitual forgetfulness that this world is a scene of trial; that is, that
this is its _chief_ character, that all its employments, its pleasures,
its occurrences, even the most innocent, the most acceptable to God, and
the most truly profitable in themselves, are all the while so handled by
Satan as may be the most conducive to our ruin, if he can possibly
contrive it?  There is nothing gloomy or superstitious in this, as the
plain words of Scripture will abundantly prove to every inquirer.  We are
told "that the devil, our adversary, as a roaring lion walketh about,
seeking whom he may devour[6];" and therefore are warned to "be sober, be
vigilant." And assuredly our true comfort lies, not in disguising the
truth from ourselves, but in knowing something more than this;--that
though Satan is against us, God is for us; that greater is He that is in
us, than he that is in the world[7]; and that He in every temptation will
make a way for us to escape, that we may be able to bear it[8].

God does His part most surely; and Satan too does his part: we alone are
unconcerned.  Heaven and hell are at war for us and against us, yet we
trifle, and let life go on at random.  Heaven and hell are before us as
our own future abode, one or other of them; yet our own interest moves us
no more than God's mercy.  We treat sin, not as an enemy to be feared,
abhorred, and shunned, but as a misfortune and a weakness; we do not pity
and shun sinful men, but we enter into their path so far as to keep
company with them; and next, being tempted to copy them, we fall almost
without an effort.

Be not you thus deceived and overcome, my brethren, by an evil heart of
unbelief.  Make up your minds to take God for your portion, and pray to
Him for grace to enable you so to do.  Avoid the great evils of leisure,
avoid the snare of having time on your hands.  Avoid all bad thoughts,
all corrupt or irreligious books, avoid all bad company: let nothing
seduce you into it.  Though you may be laughed at for your strictness;
though you may lose thereby amusements which you would like to partake
of; though you may thereby be ignorant of much which others know, and may
appear to disadvantage when they are talking together; though you appear
behind the rest of the world; though you be called a coward, or a child,
or narrow-minded, or superstitious; whatever insulting words be applied
to you, fear not, falter not, fail not; stand firm, quit you like men; be
strong.  They think that in the devil's service there are secrets worthy
our inquiry, which you share not: yes, there are secrets, and such that
it is a shame even to speak of them; and in like manner you have a secret
which they have not, and which far surpasses theirs.  "The secret of the
Lord is with them that fear Him."  Those who obey God and follow Christ
have secret gains, so great, that, as well might we say heaven were like
hell, as that these are like the gain which sinners have.  They have a
secret gift given them by their Lord and Saviour in proportion to their
faith and love.  They cannot describe it to others; they have not
possession of it all at once; they cannot have the enjoyment of it at
this or that time when they will.  It comes and goes according to the
will of the Giver.  It is given but in small measure to those who begin
God's service.  It is not given at all to those who follow Him with a
divided heart.  To those who love the world, and yet are in a certain
sense religious, and are well contented with such a religious state, to
them it is not given.  But those who give themselves up to their Lord and
Saviour, those who surrender themselves soul and body, those who honestly
say, "I am Thine, new-make me, do with me what Thou wilt," who say so not
once or twice merely, or in a transport, but calmly and habitually; these
are they who gain the Lord's secret gift, even the "white stone, and in
the stone a new name written which no man knoweth, saving he that
receiveth it[9]."  Sinners think that they know all that religion has to
give, and over and above that, they know the pleasures of sin too.  No,
they do not, cannot, never will know the secret gift of God, till they
repent and amend.  They never will know what it is to see God, till they
obey; nay, though they are to see Him at the last day, even that will be
no true sight of Him, for the sight of that Holy One will then impart no
comfort, no joy to them.  They never will know the blessedness which He
has to give.  They do know the satisfaction of sinning, such as it is;
and, alas! if they go on as they are going, they will know not only what
sin is, but what hell is.  But they never will know that great secret
which is hid in the Father and in the Son.

Let us not then be seduced by the Tempter and his promises.  He can show
us no good.  He has no good to give us.  Rather let us listen to the
gracious words of our Maker and Redeemer, "Call unto Me, and I will
answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest
not[10]."



[1] Gen. iii. 6.

[2] Eccles. xi. 9.

[3] 2 Tim. ii. 26.

[4] 2 Tim. iv. 10.

[5] Luke xvi. 26.

[6] 1 Pet. v. 8.

[7] 1 John iv. 4.

[8] 1 Cor. x. 13.

[9] Rev. ii. 17.

[10] Jer. xxxiii. 3



SERMON VI.

Miracles no Remedy for Unbelief.

"_And the Lord said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke Me?
and how long will it be ere they believe Me, for all the signs which I
have showed among them?_"--Numbers xiv. 11.


Nothing, I suppose, is more surprising to us at first reading, than the
history of God's chosen people; nay, on second and third reading, and
on every reading, till we learn to view it as God views it.  It seems
strange, indeed, to most persons, that the Israelites should have acted
as they did, age after age, in spite of the miracles which were
vouchsafed to them.  The laws of nature were suspended again and again
before their eyes, the most marvellous signs were wrought at the word
of God's prophets, and for their deliverance, yet they did not obey
their great Benefactor at all better than men now-a-days who have not
these advantages, as we commonly consider them.  Age after age God
visited them by Angels, by inspired messengers, age after age they
sinned.  At last He sent His beloved Son; and He wrought miracles
before them still more abundant, wonderful, and beneficent than any
before Him.  What was the effect upon them of His coming?  St. John
tells us, "Then gathered the Chief Priests and the Pharisees a council,
and said, What do we? for this Man doeth many miracles. . . . .  Then
from that day forth they took counsel together for to put Him to
death[1]."

In matter of fact, then, whatever be the reason, nothing is gained by
miracles, nothing comes of miracles, as regards our religious views,
principles, and habits.  Hard as it is to believe, miracles certainly
do not make men better; the history of Israel proves it.  And the only
mode of escaping this conclusion, to which some persons feel a great
repugnance, is to fancy that the Israelites were much worse than other
nations, which accordingly has been maintained.  It has often been
said, that they were stiff-necked and hard-hearted beyond the rest of
the world.  Now, even supposing, for argument's sake, I should grant
that they were so, this would not sufficiently account for the strange
circumstance under consideration; for this people was not moved at all.
It is not a question of more or less: surely they must have been
altogether distinct from other men, destitute of the feelings and
opinions of other men, nay, hardly partakers of human nature, if other
men would, as a matter of course, have been moved by those miracles
which had no influence whatever upon them.  That there _are_, indeed,
men in the world who would have been moved, and would have obeyed in
consequence, I do not deny; such were to be found among the Israelites
also; but I am speaking of men in general; and I say, that if the
Israelites had a common nature with us, surely that insensibility which
they exhibited on the whole, must be just what we should exhibit on the
whole under the same circumstances.

It confirms this view of the subject to observe, that the children of
Israel _are_ like other men in all points of their conduct, save this
insensibility, which other men have not had the opportunity to show as
they had.  There is no difference between their conduct and ours in
point of _fact_, the difference is entirely in the external discipline
to which God subjected them.  Whether or not miracles ought to have
influenced them in a way in which God's dealings in Providence do not
influence us, so far is clear, that looking into their modes of living
and of thought, we find a nature just like our own, not better indeed,
but in no respect worse.  Those evil tempers which the people displayed
in the desert, their greediness, selfishness, murmuring, caprice,
waywardness, fickleness, ingratitude, jealousy, suspiciousness,
obstinacy, unbelief, all these are seen in the uneducated multitude
now-a-days, according to its opportunity of displaying them.

The pride of Dathan and the presumption of Korah are still instanced in
our higher ranks and among educated persons.  Saul, Ahithophel, Joab,
and Absalom, have had their parallels all over the world.  I say there
is nothing unlike the rest of mankind in the character or conduct of
the chosen people; the difference solely is in God's dealings with
them.  They _act_ as other men; it is their religion which is not as
other men; it is miraculous; and the question is, how it comes to pass,
their religion being different, their conduct is the same? and there
are two ways of answering it; either by saying that they were worse
than other men, and were not influenced by miracles when others would
have been influenced (as many persons are apt to think), or (what I
conceive to be the true reason) that, after all, the difference between
miracle and no miracle is not so great in any case, in the case of any
people, as to secure the success or account for the failure of
religious truth.  It was not that the Israelites were much more
hard-hearted than other people, but that a miraculous religion is not
much more influential than other religions.

For I repeat, though it be granted that the Israelites were much worse
than others, still that will not account for the fact that miracles
made no impression whatever upon them.  However sensual and obstinate
they may be supposed to have been in natural character, yet if it be
true that a miracle has a necessary effect upon the human mind, it must
be considered to have had some effect on their conduct for good or bad;
if it had not a good effect, at least it must have had a bad; whereas
their miracles left them very much the same in outward appearance as
men are now-a-days, who neglect such warnings as are now sent them,
neither much more lawless and corrupt than they, nor the reverse.  The
point is, that while they were so hardened, as it appears to us, in
their conduct towards their Lord and Governor, they were not much worse
than other men in social life and personal behaviour.  It is a rule
that if men are extravagantly irreligious, profane, blasphemous,
infidel, they are equally excessive and monstrous in other respects;
whereas the Jews were like the Eastern nations around them, with this
one peculiarity, that they had rejected direct and clear miraculous
evidence, and the others had not.  It seems, then, I say, to follow,
that, guilty as were the Jews in disobeying Almighty God, and blind as
they became from shutting their eyes to the light, they were not much
more guilty than others may be in disobeying Him, that it is almost as
great a sin to reject His service in the case of those who do not see
miracles, as in the case of those who do; that the sight of miracles is
not the way in which men come to believe and obey, nor the absence of
them an excuse for not believing and obeying.

Now let me say something in explanation of this, at first sight,
startling truth, that miracles on the whole would not make men in
general more obedient or holy than they are, though they were generally
displayed.  It has sometimes been said by unbelievers, "If the Gospel
were written on the Sun, I would believe it."  Unbelievers have said so
by way of excusing themselves for not believing it, as it actually
comes to them; and I dare say some of us, my brethren, have before now
uttered the same sentiment in our hearts, either in moments of
temptation, or when under the upbraidings of conscience for sin
committed.  Now let us consider, why do we think so?

I ask, why should the sight of a miracle make you better than you are?
Do you doubt at all the being and power of God?  No.  Do you doubt what
you ought to _do_?  No.  Do you doubt at all that the rain, for
instance, and sunshine, come from Him? or that the fresh life of each
year, as it comes, is His work, and that all nature bursts into beauty
and richness at His bidding?  You do not doubt it at all.  Nor do you
doubt, on the other hand, that it is your duty to obey Him who made the
world and who made you.  And yet, with the knowledge of all this, you
find you cannot prevail upon yourselves to do what you know you should
do.  Knowledge is not what you want to make you obedient.  You have
knowledge enough already.  Now what truth would a miracle convey to you
which you do not learn from the works of God around you?  What would it
teach you concerning God which you do not already believe without
having seen it?

But, you will say, a miracle would startle you; true; but would not the
startling pass away? could you be startled for ever?  And what sort of
a religion is that which consists in a state of fright and disturbance?
Are you not continually startled by the accidents of life?  You see,
you hear things suddenly, which bring before your minds the thoughts of
God and judgment, calamities befall you which for the time sober you.
Startling is not conversion, any more than knowledge is practice.

But you urge, that perhaps that startling might issue in amendment of
life; that it might be the beginning of a new course, though it passed
away itself; that a miracle would not indeed convert you, but it would
be the first step towards thorough conversion; that it would be the
turning point in your life, and would suddenly force your path into the
right direction, and that in this way shocks and startlings, and all
the agitation of the passions and affections, are really the means of
conversion, though conversion be something more than they.  This is
very true: sudden emotions--fear, hope, gratitude, and the like, all do
produce such effects sometimes; but why is a miracle necessary to
produce such effects?  Other things startle us besides miracles; we
have a number of accidents sent us by God to startle us.  He has not
left us without warnings, though He has not given us miracles; and if
we are not moved and converted by those which come upon us, the
probability is, that, like the Jews, we should not be converted by
miracles.

Yes, you say; but if one came from the dead, if you saw the spirit of
some departed friend you knew on earth: what then?  What would it tell
you that you do not know now?  Do you now in your sober reason doubt
the reality of the unseen world? not at all; only you cannot get
yourself to act as if it _were_ real.  Would such a sight produce this
effect? you think it would.  Now I will grant this on one supposition.
Do the startling accidents which happen to you now, produce _any_
lasting effect upon you?  Do they lead you to _any habits_ of religion?
If they do produce some effect, then I will grant to you that such a
strange visitation, as you have supposed, would produce a greater
effect; but if the events of life which now happen to you produce no
lasting effect on you, and this I fear is the case, then too sure I am,
that a miracle too would produce no lasting effect on you, though of
course it would startle you more at the time.  I say, I fear that what
happens to you, as it is, produces no lasting effect on you.  I mean,
that the warnings which you really have, do not bring you to any
habitual and regular religiousness; they may make you a little more
afraid of this or that sin, or of this or that particular indulgence of
it; but they do not tend at all to make you break with the world, and
convert you to God.  If they did make you take up religion in earnest,
though in ever so poor a way, then I will grant that miracles would
make you _more_ in earnest.  If God's _ordinary_ warnings moved you,
His extraordinary would move you more.  It is quite true, that a
serious mind would be made more serious by seeing a miracle, but this
gives no ground for saying, that minds which are _not_ serious,
careless, worldly, self-indulgent persons, who are made not at all
better by the warnings which _are_ given them, would be made serious by
those miraculous warnings which are not given.

Of course it might so happen in this or that particular case,--just as
the same person is moved by one warning, not by another, not moved by a
warning to-day, moved by a warning to-morrow; but I am sure, taking men
as we find them, miracles would leave them, as far as their conduct is
concerned, very much as they are.  They would be very much startled and
impressed at first, but the impression would wear away.  And thus our
Saviour's words would come true of all those multitudes who have the
Bible to read, and know what they ought to do, but do it not:--"If they
hear not Moses and the Prophets," He says, "neither will they be
persuaded though one rose from the dead."  Do we never recollect times
when we have said, "We shall never forget this; it will be a warning
all through our lives"? have we never implored God's forgiveness with
the most eager promises of amendment? have we never felt as if we were
brought quite into a new world, in gratitude and joy?  Yet was the
result what we had expected?  We cannot anticipate more from miracles,
than before now we have anticipated from warnings, which came to nought.

And now, what is the real reason why we do not seek God with all our
hearts, and devote ourselves to His service, if the absence of miracles
be not the reason, as most assuredly it is not?  What was it that made
the Israelites disobedient, who _had_ miracles?  St. Paul informs us,
and exhorts _us_ in consequence.  "Harden not your hearts, _as_ in the
provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness . . . take heed
. . . lest there be in any of _you_" (as there was among the Jews) "an
evil heart of unbelief in departing from the Living God."  Moses had
been commissioned to say the same thing at the very time; "Oh that
there were such a heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep My
Commandments always!"  We cannot serve God, because we want the will
and the heart to serve Him.  We like any thing better than religion, as
the Jews before us.  The Jews liked this world; they liked mirth and
feasting.  "The people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to
play;" so do we.  They liked glitter and show, and the world's
fashions.  "Give us a king like the nations," they said to Samuel; so
do we.  They wished to be let alone; they liked ease; they liked their
own way; they disliked to make war against the natural impulses and
leanings of their own minds; they disliked to attend to the state of
their souls, to have to treat themselves as spiritually sick and
infirm, to watch, and rule, and chasten, and refrain, and change
themselves; and so do we.  They disliked to think of God, and to
observe and attend His ordinances, and to reverence Him; they called it
a weariness to frequent His courts; and they found this or that false
worship more pleasant, satisfactory, congenial to their feelings, than
the service of the Judge of quick and dead; and so do we: and therefore
we disobey God as they did,--not that we have not miracles; for they
actually had them, and it made no difference.  We act as they did,
though they had miracles, and we have not; because there is one cause
of it _common_ both to them and us--heartlessness in religious matters,
an evil heart of unbelief, both they and we disobey and disbelieve,
because we do not love.

But this is not all; in another respect we are really far more favoured
than they were, they had outward miracles, we too have miracles, but
they are not outward but inward.  Ours are not miracles of evidence,
but of power and influence.  They are secret, and more wonderful and
efficacious because secret.  Their miracles were wrought upon external
nature; the sun stood still, and the sea parted.  Ours are invisible,
and are exercised upon the soul.  They consist in the sacraments, and
they just do that very thing which the Jewish miracles did not.  They
really touch the heart, though we so often resist their influence.  If
then we sin, as, alas! we do, if we do not love God more than the Jews
did, if we have no heart for those "good things which pass men's
understanding," we are not more excusable than they, but less so.  For
the supernatural works which God showed to them were wrought outwardly,
not inwardly, and did not influence the will; they did but convey
warnings; but the supernatural works which He does towards us are in
the heart, and impart grace; and if we disobey, we are not disobeying
His command only, but resisting His presence.

This is our state; and perhaps so it is that, as the Israelites for
forty years hardened their hearts in the wilderness, in spite of the
manna and the quails, and the water from the rock, so we for a course
of years have been hardening ours in spite of the spiritual gifts which
are the portion of Christians.  Instead of listening to the voice of
conscience, instead of availing ourselves of the aid of heavenly grace,
we have gone on year after year with the vain dream of turning to God
some future day.  Childhood and boyhood are past; youth, perhaps middle
age, perhaps old age is come; and now we find that we cannot "love the
thing which God commandeth, and desire that which He doth promise;" and
then, instead of laying the blame where it is due, on ourselves, for
having hardened ourselves against the influences of grace, we complain
that enough has not been done for us; we complain we have not enough
light, enough help, enough inducements; we complain we have not seen
miracles.  Alas! how exactly are God's words fulfilled in us, which He
deigned to speak to His former people.  "O inhabitants of Jerusalem,
and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt Me and My vineyard.  What
could have been done more to My vineyard that I have not done in it?
wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it
forth wild grapes[2]?"

Let us then put aside vain excuses, and, instead of looking for outward
events to change our course of life, be sure of this, that if our
course of life is to be changed, it must be from within.  God's grace
moves us from within, so does our own will.  External circumstances
have no real power over us.  If we do not love God, it is because we
have not wished to love Him, tried to love Him, prayed to love Him.  We
have not borne the idea and the wish in our mind day by day, we have
not had it before us in the little matters of the day, we have not
lamented that we loved Him not, we have been too indolent, sluggish,
carnal, to attempt to love Him in little things, and begin at the
beginning; we have shrunk from the effort of moving from within; we
have been like persons who cannot get themselves to rise in the
morning; and we have desired and waited for a thing impossible,--to be
changed once and for all, all at once, by some great excitement from
without, or some great event, or some special season; something or
other we go on expecting, which is to change us without our having the
trouble to change ourselves.  We covet some miraculous warning, or we
complain that we are not in happier circumstances, that we have so many
cares, or so few religious privileges, or we look forward for a time
when religion will come easy to us as a matter of course.  This we used
to look out for as boys; we used to think there was time enough yet to
think of religion, and that it was a natural thing, that it came
without trouble or effort, for men to be religious as life went on; we
fancied that all old persons must be religious; and now even, as grown
men, we have not put off this deceit; but, instead of giving our hearts
to God, we are waiting, with Felix, for a convenient season.

Let us rouse ourselves, and act as reasonable men, before it is too
late; let us understand, as a first truth in religion, that _love_ of
heaven is the only _way_ to heaven.  Sight will not move us; else why
did Judas persist in covetousness in the very presence of Christ? why
did Balaam, whose "eyes were opened," remain with a closed heart? why
did Satan fall, when he was a bright Archangel?  Nor will reason subdue
us; else why was the Gospel, in the beginning, "to the Greeks
foolishness"?  Nor will excited feelings convert us; for there is one
who "heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;" yet "hath no
root in himself," and "dureth" only "for a while."  Nor will
self-interest prevail with us; or the rich man would have been more
prudent, whose "ground brought forth plentifully," and would have
recollected that "that night his soul" might be "required of him."  Let
us understand that nothing but the love of God can make us believe in
Him or obey Him; and let us pray Him, who has "prepared for them that
love Him, such good things as pass man's understanding, to pour into
our hearts such love towards Him, that we, loving Him above all things,
may obtain His promises, which exceed all that we can desire."



[1] John xi. 47, 53.

[2] Isa. v. 3, 4.



SERMON VII.

Josiah, a Pattern for the Ignorant.

"_Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before
the Lord, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and
against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation
and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before Me; I also have
heard thee, saith the Lord.  Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto
thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace; and
thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this
place._"--2 Kings xxii. 19, 20.


King Josiah, to whom these words are addressed, was one of the most
pious of the Jewish kings, and the most eminent reformer of them all.
On him, the last sovereign of David's house (for his sons had not an
independent rule), descended the zeal and prompt obedience which raised
the son of Jesse from the sheep-fold to the throne, as a man after
God's own heart.  Thus, as an honour to David, the blessing upon his
posterity remained in its fulness even to the end; its light not waxing
"dim," nor "its natural force abating."

Both the character and the fortunes of Josiah are described in the
text, his character, in its saying that his "heart was tender," and
that he feared God; and his fortunes, viz. an untimely death, designed
as a reward for his obedience: and the text is a part of the answer
which the Prophetess Huldah was instructed to make to him, when he
applied for encouragement and guidance after accidentally finding the
book of Moses' Law in the Temple.  This discovery is the most
remarkable occurrence of his reign, and will fitly serve to introduce
and connect together what I wish now to set before you concerning
Josiah.

The discovery of Moses' Law in the Temple is a very important
occurrence in the history, because it shows us that Holy Scripture had
been for a long while neglected, and to all practical purposes lost.
By the book of the law is meant, I need scarcely say, the five books of
Moses, which stand first in the Bible.  These made up one book or
volume, and were to a Jew the most important part of the Old Testament,
as containing the original covenant between God and His people, and
explaining to them what their place was in the scheme of God's
providence, what were their duties, and what their privileges.  Moses
had been directed to enforce the study of this law on the Israelites in
various ways.  He exhorts them to "lay up his words in their heart and
in their soul, and to bind them for a sign upon their hand, that they
might be as frontlets between their eyes."  "And ye shall teach them
your children," he proceeds, "speaking of them when thou sittest in
thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down,
and when thou risest up.  And thou shalt write them upon the door-posts
of thine house, and upon thy gates[1]."  Besides this general
provision, it was ordered that once in seven years the law should be
read to the whole people assembled at the feast of tabernacles[2].  And
further still, it was provided, that in case they ever had kings, each
king was to write out the whole of it from the original copy which was
kept in the ark.  "And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein
all the days of his life . . . that his heart be not lifted up above
his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the
right hand or to the left; to the end that he may prolong his days in
his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel[3]."

However, considering how soon the nation fell into a general disregard
of the law and worship which God gave them, it is not wonderful that
these wholesome precepts were neglected, which could not be performed
without testifying against their multiplied transgressions.  And much
more when they took to themselves idols, did they neglect, of course,
to read the law which condemned them.  And when they had set a king
over them against the will of God, it is not strange that their kings,
in turn, should neglect the direction given them to copy out the law
for themselves, such kings especially as fell into idolatry.

All this applies particularly to the age in which Josiah succeeded to
the throne, so that it is in no way surprising that he knew nothing of
the law till it was by chance found in the Temple some years after his
accession.  The last good king of Judah before him was Hezekiah, who
had been dead sixty or seventy years.  That religious king had been
succeeded by his son Manasseh, the most profane of all the line of
David.  He it was who committed those inexpiable sins which sealed the
sentence of Judah's destruction.  He had set up an idol in the Temple;
had made his son pass through the fire; had dealt with familiar spirits
and wizards; had "shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled
Jerusalem from one end to another," in a word, had "done wickedly above
all that the Amorites did which were before him[4]."  On his return
from captivity in Babylon, whither he was taken captive, Manasseh
attempted a reformation; but, alas! he found it easier to seduce than
to reclaim his people[5].  Amon, who succeeded him, followed the first
ways of his father during his short reign.  Instead of repenting, as
his father had done, he "trespassed more and more[6]."  After a while,
his subjects conspired and slew him.  Josiah was the son of this wicked
king.

Here, then, we have sufficient explanation of Josiah's ignorance of the
law of Moses.  He was brought up among very wicked men--in a corrupt
court--after an apostasy of more than half a century; far from God's
Prophets, and in the midst of idols.

In such times was Josiah born; and, like Manasseh, he came to the
throne in his boyhood.  As if to show us that religion depends on a
man's self (under God, who gives grace), on the state of his heart, not
on outward circumstances, Manasseh was the son of the pious Hezekiah,
and Josiah was the son of wicked Amon.  Josiah was but eight years old
when his father was slain.  We hear nothing of his boyhood; but
scarcely was he of age to think for himself, and to profess himself a
servant of the true God, but he chose that "good part which could not
be taken away from him[7]."  "In the eighth year of his reign" (i.e.
when he was sixteen years of age), "while he was yet young, he began to
seek after the God of David his father[8]."  Blessed are they who so
seek, for they shall find.  Josiah had not the aid of a revealed
volume, at least not of the Law; he was surrounded by the diversities
of idol-worship, the sophistries of unbelief, the seductions of sinful
pleasure.  He had every temptation to go wrong; and had he done so, we
might have made allowances, and said that he was not so bad as the
other kings, for he knew no better, he had not sinned against light.
Yes, he would have sinned against light--the event shows it; for if he
had light enough to go right (which he had, for he did go right), it
follows, that if he had gone wrong, it would have been against light.
Not, indeed, so strong and clear a light as Solomon disobeyed, or
Joash; still against his better knowledge.  This is very important.
Every one, even the poorest and most ignorant, has knowledge enough to
be religious.  Education does not make a man religious: nor, again, is
it an excuse for a man's disobedience, that he has not been educated in
his duty.  It only makes him less guilty than those who have been
educated, that is all: he is still guilty.  Here, I say, the poorest
and most unlearned among us, may take a lesson from a Jewish king.
Scarcely can any one in a Christian land be in more disadvantageous
circumstances than Josiah--nay, scarcely in a heathen: he had idolatry
around him, and at the age he began to seek God, his mind was unformed.
What, then, was it that guided him? whence his knowledge?  He had that,
which all men have, heathen as well as Christians, till they pervert or
blunt it--a natural sense of right and wrong; and he did not blunt it.
In the words of the text, "his heart was _tender_;" he acknowledged a
constraining force in the Divine voice within him--he heard and obeyed.
Though all the world had told him otherwise, he could not believe and
would not, that he might sin without offence--with impunity; that he
might be sensual, or cruel, after the manner of idolaters, and nothing
would come of it.  And further, amid all the various worships offered
to his acceptance, this same inward sense of his, strengthened by
practice, unhesitatingly chose out the true one, the worship of the God
of Israel.  It chose between the better and the worse, though it could
not have discovered the better of itself.  Thus he was led right.  In
his case was fulfilled the promise, "Who is among you that feareth the
Lord; that obeyeth the voice of His servant, that walketh in darkness,
and hath no light?  Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay
upon his God[9]."  Or, in the Psalmist's words, "The fear of the Lord
is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do
His commandments[10]."  Or (as he elsewhere expresses it), "I
understand more than the ancients, because I keep Thy precepts[11]."

Such was the beginning of Josiah's life.  At sixteen he began to seek
after the God of his fathers; at twenty he commenced his reformation,
with a resolute faith and true-hearted generous devotion.  From the
language of Scripture, it would seem, he began of _himself_; thus he is
left a pattern to all ages of prompt obedience for conscience' sake.
Jeremiah did not begin to prophesy till _after_ the king entered on his
reformation, as if the great prophet's call were delayed on purpose to
try the strength of Josiah's loyalty to his God, while his hands were
yet unaided by the exertions of others, or by the guidance of inspired
men.

What knowledge of God's dealings with his nation and of His revealed
purposes Josiah had at this time, we can only conjecture; from the
priests he might learn much generally, and from the popular belief.
The miraculous destruction of Sennacherib's army was not so long since,
and it proved to him God's especial protection of the Jewish people.
Manasseh's repentance was more recent still; and the Temple itself, and
its service, contained much doctrine to a religious mind, even apart
from the law or the prophets.  But he had no accurate knowledge.

At twenty, then, he commenced his reformation.  At first, not having
the Book of the Law to guide him, he took such measures as natural
conscience suggested; he put away idolatry generally.  Thus he set out,
not knowing whither he went.  But it is the rule of God's providence,
that those who act up to their light, shall be rewarded with clearer
light.  To him that hath, more shall be given.  Accordingly, while he
was thus engaged, after a few years, he found the Book of the Law in
the course of his reformations.  He was seeking God in the way of His
commandments, and God met him there.  He set about repairing the
Temple; and it was in the course of this pious work that the high
priest found a copy of the Law of Moses in the Temple, probably the
original copy which was placed in the ark.  Josiah's conduct on this
discovery marks his character.  Many men, certainly many young men, who
had been so zealous as he had already shown himself for six years,
would have prided themselves on what they had done, and though they
began humbly, by this time would have become self-willed,
self-confident, and hard-hearted.  He had already been engaged in
repressing and punishing God's enemies--this had a tendency to infect
him with spiritual pride: and he had a work of destruction to do--this,
too, might have made him cruel.  Far from it: his peculiar praise is
singleness of mind, a pure conscience.  Even after years of activity
against idolatry, in the words of the text, "his heart was tender," and
he still "humbled himself before God."  He felt full well the
immeasurable distance between himself and his Maker; he felt his own
blindness and weakness; and he still earnestly sought to know his duty
better than he did, and to practise it more entirely.  His was not that
stern enthusiasm which has displayed itself in some so-called
reformations, fancying itself God's peculiar choice, and "despising
others."  Here we have the pattern of reformers; singleness of heart,
gentleness of temper, in the midst of zeal, resoluteness, and decision
in action.  All God's Saints have this union of opposite graces;
Joseph, Moses, Samuel, David, Nehemiah, St. Paul: but in which of them
all is the wonder-working power of grace shown more attractively than
in Josiah?  "Out of the strong came forth sweetness[12];" or perhaps,
as we may say more truly, Out of the sweet came forth strength.

Observe, then, his conduct when the Law was read to him: "When the king
had heard the words of the book of the law, _he rent his clothes_[13]."
He thought far more of what he had not done, than of what he had done.
He felt how incomplete his reformation had been, and he felt how far
more guilty his whole people were than he had supposed, receiving, as
they had, such precise guidance in Scripture what to do, and such
solemn command to do it; and he learned, moreover, the fearful
punishment which was hanging over them; for in that Book of the Law
were contained the threats of vengeance to be fulfilled in case of
transgression.  The passages read to him by the high priest seem to
have been some of those contained in the Book of Deuteronomy, in which
Moses sets good and evil before the people, to choose their portion.
"See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and
evil. . . . .  I call heaven and earth to record this day against you,
that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing[14]."
"A blessing and a curse; a blessing if ye obey the commandments of the
Lord your God: . . . a curse if ye will not obey[15]."  And there was
more than the mere words to terrify him; there had been a fulfilment of
them.  Samaria, the ten revolting tribes, the kingdom of Israel, had
been led away captive.  Doubtless he already knew that their sins had
caused it; but he found in the Book of the Law that it had been even
threatened them beforehand as the punishment; and he discovered that
the same punishment awaited his own people, should they persist in sin.
Nay, a judgment had already taken place in Judah; for Manasseh, his
grandfather, had been carried away into Babylon, and only restored upon
his repentance.

In the twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy, you will see what was to
be the curse of disobedience: or again, consider the words of the
twenty-ninth chapter: "Ye stand this day all of you before the Lord
your God . . . that thou shouldest enter into covenant with Him, and
into His oath; . . . neither with you _only_ do I make this covenant
and this oath; but with him that standeth here with us this day before
the Lord our God, and _also_ with him that is not here with us this
day: . . . lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or
tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the Lord our God" (alas!
as it had happened in the event, even all _ten_ tribes, and then the
whole twelve had fallen away) "to go and serve the gods of these
nations, lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and
wormwood; and it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse,
that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though
I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst:
the Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and His
jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are
written in this book shall lie upon him, . . . so that . . . the
strangers that shall come from a far land . . . when they see the
plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the Lord hath laid upon
it . . . that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth
therein, . . . even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the Lord done
thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?  Then
men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God
of their fathers, . . . for they went and served other gods, . . . and
the Lord rooted them out of their land in anger, and cast them into
another land."  These words, or such as these, either about the people
or relating to his own duties[16], Josiah read in the Book of the Law,
and thinking of the captivity which had overtaken Israel already, and
the sins of his own people Judah, he rent his clothes.  Then he bade
the priests inquire of God for him what he ought to do to avert His
anger.  "Go," he said, "inquire of the Lord for me, and for them that
are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that
is found: for great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out upon
us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do after
all that is written in this book[17]."

It is observable, that not even yet does he seem to have known the
prophets Jeremiah or Zephaniah, though the former had been called to
his office some years.  Such was God's pleasure.  And the priests and
scribes about him, though they seconded his pious designs, were in no
sense his guides: they were unacquainted with the Law of Moses, and
with the prophets, who were interpreters of that Law.  But prophets
were, through God's mercy, in every city: and though Jeremiah might be
silent or might be away, still there were revelations from God even in
Jerusalem.  To one of these prophets the priests applied.  Shallum was
keeper of the king's wardrobe--his wife Huldah was known to be gifted
with the spirit of prophecy.  To her they went.  She answered in the
words of which the text forms a part: "Thus saith the Lord God of
Israel, Tell ye the man that sent you to Me, Thus saith the Lord,
Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants
thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath
read; because they have forsaken Me, and have burnt incense unto other
gods . . .  My wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not
be quenched.  But to the king of Judah, which sent you to inquire of
the Lord, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel,
as touching the words which thou hast heard; because thine heart was
tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the Lord, when thou
heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants
thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast
rent thy clothes, and wept before Me; I also have heard thee, saith the
Lord.  Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou
shall be gathered into thy grave in peace: and thine eyes shall not see
all the evil which I will bring upon this place.  And they brought the
king word again."

How King Josiah conducted himself after this message I need not
describe at any length.  We have heard it in the First Lesson of this
Service[18].  He assembled all Judah at Jerusalem, and publicly read
the words of the Book of the Law, then he made all the people renew the
covenant with the God of their fathers; then he proceeded more exactly
in the work of reformation in Judah and Israel, keeping closely to the
directions of the Law; and after that he held his celebrated passover.
Thus his greater knowledge was followed by stricter obedience: his
accurate attention to the whole ritual is the very praise bestowed on
his passover; "Surely there was not holden such a passover from the
days of the judges[19]."  Whatever he did, he did it with all his
heart: "Like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the
Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might,
according to all the Law of Moses[20]."

Passing by the particulars of his reformation, let us come to the
fulfilment of the promise made to him by Huldah, as the reward of his
obedience.  "Behold therefore, I will gather thee to thy fathers, and
thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace; and thine eyes shall
not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place."  His reward
was an early death; the event proved that it was a violent one also.
The king of Egypt came up against the king of Assyria through the land
of Judah; Josiah, bound perhaps by an alliance to the king of Assyria,
or for some strong reason unknown, opposed him; a battle followed;
Josiah disguised himself that he might not be marked out for death; but
his hour was come--the promise of release was to be accomplished.  "And
the archers shot at king Josiah; and the king said to his servants,
Have me away; for I am sore wounded.  His servants, therefore . . .
brought him to Jerusalem; and he died, and was buried in one of the
sepulchres of his fathers[21]."  Thus the best king of Judah died like
Ahab, the worst king of Israel; so little may we judge of God's love or
displeasure by outward appearances.  "The righteous perisheth, and no
man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none
considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.  He
shall enter into peace; they shall rest in their beds, each one walking
in his uprightness[22]."

The sacred narrative continues: "And all Judah and Jerusalem mourned
for Josiah.  And Jeremiah lamented for Josiah; and all the singing men
and the singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations to this
day, and made them an ordinance in Israel:" probably there was a yearly
commemoration of his death; and so great was the mourning at the time,
that we find it referred to in the Prophet Zechariah[23] almost as a
proverb.  So fell the last sovereign of the house of David.  God
continued His promised mercies to His people through David's line till
they were too corrupt to receive them; the last king of the favoured
family was forcibly and prematurely cut off, in order to make way for
the display of God's vengeance in the captivity of the whole nation.
He was taken out of the way; they were carried off to Babylon.  "Weep
ye not for the dead," says the prophet, "neither bemoan him: but weep
sore for him that goeth away: for he shall return no more, nor see his
native country[24]."  As for Josiah, as it is elsewhere written of him,
"His remembrance . . . is sweet as honey in all mouths, and as music at
a banquet of wine.  He behaved himself uprightly in the conversion of
the people, and took away the abominations of iniquity.  He directed
his heart unto the Lord, and in the time of the ungodly he established
the worship of God.  All, except David, and Ezekias, and Josias, were
defective; for they forsook the law of the Most High, even the kings of
Juda failed[25]."

In conclusion, my brethren, I would have you observe in what Josiah's
chief excellence lay.  This is the character given him when his name is
first mentioned; "He did . . . right in the sight of the Lord, and
walked in all the ways of David his father, and turned not aside to the
right hand or to the left[26]."  He kept the narrow middle way.  Now
what is this strict virtue called? it is called _faith_.  It is no
matter whether we call it faith or conscientiousness, they are in
substance one and the same: where there is faith, there is
conscientiousness--where there is conscientiousness, there is faith;
they may be distinguished from each other in words, but they are not
divided in fact.  They belong to one, and but one, habit of
mind--dutifulness; they show themselves in obedience, in the careful,
anxious observance of God's will, however we learn it.  Hence it is
that St. Paul tells us that "the just shall live by faith" under
_every_ dispensation of God's mercy.  And this is called _faith_,
because it implies a reliance on the mere word of the unseen God
overpowering the temptations of sight.  Whether it be we read and
accept His word in Scripture (as Christians do), or His word in our
conscience, the law written on the heart (as is the case with
heathens); in either case, it is by following it, in spite of the
seductions of the world around us, that we please God.  St. Paul calls
it faith; saying after the prophet, "The just shall live by faith:" and
St. Peter, in the tenth chapter of the Acts, calls it "fearing and
_working righteousness_," where he says, that "in every nation he that
feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted with Him."  It is all
one: both Apostles say that God loves those who prefer Him to the
world; whose _character and frame_ of mind is such.  Elsewhere St. Paul
also speaks like St. Peter, when he declares that God will render
eternal life to them, who by "patient _continuance_ in well-doing seek
for glory[27]."  St. John adds his testimony: "Little children, let no
man deceive you.  He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He
is righteous[28]."  And our Saviour's last words at the end of the
whole Scripture, long after the coming of the Spirit, after the death
of all the Apostles but St. John, are the same: "Blessed are they that
_do His_ commandments, that they may _have right_ to the tree of
life[29]."

And if such is God's mercy, as we trust, to all men, wherever any one
with a perfect heart seeks Him, what think you is His mercy upon
Christians?  Something far greater, and more wonderful; for we are
elected out of the world, in Jesus Christ our Saviour, to a glory
incomprehensible and eternal.  We are the heirs of promise; God has
loved us before we were born.  He had us taken into His Church in our
infancy.  He by Baptism made us new creatures, giving us powers which
we by nature had not, and raising us to the unseen society of Saints
and Angels.  And all this we enjoy on our faith; that is, on our
believing that we have them, and seriously trying to profit by them.
May God grant, that we, like Josiah, may improve our gifts, and trade
and make merchandise with them, so that, when He cometh to reckon with
us, we may be accepted!



[1] Deut. xi. 18-20.

[2] Deut. xxxi. 9-13.

[3] Deut. xvii. 19, 20.

[4] 2 Kings xxi. 11.

[5] 2 Chron. xxxiii. 15-25.

[6] Ibid. 23.

[7] Luke x. 43.

[8] 2 Chron. xxxiv. 3.

[9] Isa. l. 10.

[10] Ps. cxi. 10.

[11] Ps. cxix. 100.

[12] Judges xiv. 14.

[13] 2 Kings xxii. 11.

[14] Deut. xxx. 16, 19.

[15] Deut. xi. 26-28.

[16] Vide Deut. xvii.

[17] 2 Chron. xxxiv. 21.

[18] Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity.

[19] 2 Kings xxiii. 22.

[20] 2 Kings xxiii. 25.

[21] 2 Chron. xxxv. 23-25.

[22] Isa. lvii. 1.

[23] Zech. xii. 11.

[24] Jer. xxii. 10.

[25] Eccles. xlix. 1-4.

[26] 2 Kings xxii. 2.

[27] Rom. ii. 7.

[28] 1 John iii. 7.

[29] Rev. xxii. 14.



SERMON VIII.

Inward Witness to the Truth of the Gospel.

"_I have more understanding than my teachers, for Thy testimonies
are my study; I am wiser than the aged, because I keep Thy
commandments._"--Psalm cxix. 99, 100.


In these words the Psalmist declares, that in consequence of having
obeyed God's commandments he had obtained more wisdom and understanding
than those who had first enlightened his ignorance, and were once more
enlightened than he.  As if he said, "When I was a child, I was
instructed in religious knowledge by kind and pious friends, who told
me who my Maker was, what great things He had done for me, how much I
owed to Him, and how I was to serve Him.  All this I learned from them,
and I rejoice that they taught it me: yet they did more; they set me in
the way to gain a knowledge of religious truth in another and higher
manner.  They not only taught me, but trained me; they were careful
that I should not only know my duty, but do it.  They obliged me to
obey; they obliged me to begin a religious course of life, which
(praised be God!) I have ever pursued; and this obedience to His
commandments has brought me to a clearer knowledge of His truth, than
any mere instruction could convey.  I have been taught, not from
without merely, but from within.  I have been taught by means of a
purified heart, by a changed will, by chastened reins, by a mortified
appetite, by a bridled tongue, by eyes corrected and subdued.  'I have
more understanding than my teachers, for Thy testimonies,' O Lord, 'are
my study; I am wiser than the aged, because I keep Thy commandments.'"

We may sometimes hear men say, "How do you know that the Bible is true?
You are told so in Church; your parents believed it; but might they not
be mistaken? and if so, you are mistaken also."  Now to this objection
it maybe answered, and very satisfactorily, "Is it then nothing toward
convincing us of the truth of the Gospel, that those whom we love best
and reverence most believe it?  Is it against reason to think that they
are right, who have considered the matter most deeply?  Do we not
receive what they tell us in other matters, though we cannot prove the
truth of their information; for instance, in matters of art and
science; why then is it irrational to believe them in religion also?
Have not the wisest and holiest of men been Christians? and have not
unbelievers, on the contrary, been very generally signal instances of
pride, discontent, and profligacy?  Again, are not the principles of
unbelief certain to dissolve human society? and is not this plain fact,
candidly considered, enough to show that unbelief cannot be a right
condition of our nature? for who can believe that we were intended to
live in anarchy?  If we have no good reason for believing, at least we
have no good reason for disbelieving.  If you ask why we are
Christians, we ask in turn, Why should we not be Christians? it will be
enough to remain where we are, till you do what you never can do--prove
to us for certain, that the Gospel is not Divine; it is enough for us
to be on the side of good men, to be under the feet of the Saints, to
'go our way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and to feed our kids
beside the shepherds' tent[1].'"

This would be quite a sufficient answer, had we nothing else to say;
but I will give another, and that in connexion with the text; I will
show you that the most unlearned Christian may have a very real and
substantial argument, an intimate token, of the truth of the Gospel,
quite independent of the authority of his parents and teachers; nay,
that were all the world, even were his teachers, to tell him that
religion was a dream, still he would have a good reason for believing
it true.

This reason, I say, is contained in the text--"I have more
understanding than the aged, _because_ I keep Thy commandments."  By
obeying the commands of Scripture, we learn that these commands really
come from God; by trying we make proof; by doing we come to know.  Now
how comes this to pass?  It happens in several ways.

1. Consider the Bible tells us to be meek, humble, single-hearted, and
teachable.  Now, it is plain that humility and teachableness are
qualities of mind necessary for arriving at the truth in any subject,
and in religious matters as well as others.  By obeying Scripture,
then, in practising humility and teachableness, it is evident we are at
least _in the way_ to arrive at the knowledge of God.  On the other
hand, impatient, proud, self-confident, obstinate men, are generally
wrong in the opinions they form of persons and things.  Prejudice and
self-conceit blind the eyes and mislead the judgment, whatever be the
subject inquired into.  For instance, how often do men mistake the
characters and misconstrue the actions of others! how often are they
deceived in them! how often do the young form acquaintances injurious
to their comfort and good! how often do men embark in foolish and
ruinous schemes! how often do they squander their money, and destroy
their worldly prospects!  And what, I ask, is so frequent a cause of
these many errors as wilfulness and presumption?  The same thing
happens also in religious inquiries.  When I see a person hasty and
violent, harsh and high-minded, careless of what others feel, and
disdainful of what they think,--when I see such a one proceeding to
inquire into religious subjects, I am sure beforehand he cannot go
right--he will not be led into all the truth--it is contrary to the
nature of things and the experience of the world, that he should find
what he is seeking.  I should say the same were he seeking to find out
what to believe or do in any other matter not religious,--but
especially in any such important and solemn inquiry; for the _fear_ of
the Lord (humbleness, teachableness, reverence towards Him) is the very
_beginning_ of wisdom, as Solomon tells us; it leads us to think over
things modestly and honestly, to examine patiently, to bear doubt and
uncertainty, to wait perseveringly for an increase of light, to be slow
to speak, and to be deliberate in deciding.

2. Consider, in the next place, that those who are trained carefully
according to the precepts of Scripture, gain an elevation, a delicacy,
refinement, and sanctity of mind, which is most necessary for judging
fairly of the truth of Scripture.

A man who loves sin does not wish the Gospel to be true, and therefore
is not a fair judge of it; a mere man of the world, a selfish and
covetous man, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, is, from a sense of
interest, against that Bible which condemns him, and would account that
man indeed a messenger of good tidings of peace who could prove to him
that Christ's doctrine was not from God.  "Every one that doeth evil
hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be
reproved[2]."  I do not mean to say that such men necessarily reject
the word of God, as if we could dare to conclude that all who do not
reject it are therefore sure to be not covetous, drunkards,
extortioners, and the like; for it is often a man's interest not openly
to reject it, though it be against him; and the bulk of men are
inconsistent, and have some good feelings left, even amid their sins
and vices, which keep them from going all lengths.  But, while they
still profess to honour, at least they try to pervert and misinterpret
Scripture, and that comes to the same thing.  They try to persuade
themselves that Christ will save them, though they continue in sin; or
they wish to believe that future punishment will not last for ever; or
they conceive that their good deeds or habits, few and miserable as
they are at best, will make up for the sins of which they are too
conscious.  Whereas such men as have been taught betimes to work with
God their Saviour--in ruling their hearts, and curbing their sinful
passions, and changing their wills--though they are still sinners, have
not within them that treacherous enemy of the truth which misleads the
judgments of irreligious men.

Here, then, are two very good reasons at first sight, why men who obey
the Scripture precepts are more likely to arrive at religious truth,
than those who neglect them; first, because such men are teachable men;
secondly, because they are pure in heart; such shall see God, whereas
the proud provoke His anger, and the carnal are His abhorrence.

But to proceed.  Consider, moreover, that those who try to obey God
evidently gain a knowledge of themselves at least; and this may be
shown to be the first and principal step towards knowing God.  For let
us suppose a child, under God's blessing, profiting by his teacher's
guidance, and trying to do his duty and please God.  He will perceive
that there is much in him which ought not to be in him.  His own
natural sense of right and wrong tells him that peevishness,
sullenness, deceit, and self-will, are tempers and principles of which
he has cause to be ashamed, and he feels that these bad tempers and
principles are in his heart.  As he grows older, he will understand
this more and more.  Wishing, then, and striving to act up to the law
of conscience, he will yet find that, with his utmost efforts, and
after his most earnest prayers, he still falls short of what he knows
to be right, and what he aims at.  Conscience, however, being
respected, will become a more powerful and enlightened guide than
before; it will become more refined and hard to please; and he will
understand and perceive more clearly the distance that exists between
his own conduct and thoughts, and perfection.  He will admire and take
pleasure in the holy law of God, of which he reads in Scripture; but he
will be humbled withal, as understanding himself to be a continual
transgressor against it.  Thus he will learn from experience the
doctrine of original sin, before he knows the actual name of it.  He
will, in fact, say to himself, what St. Paul describes all beginners in
religion as saying, "What I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that
do I.  I delight in the law of God after the inward man, but I see
another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and
bringing me into captivity.  I know that in my flesh dwelleth no good
thing[3]."  The effect of this experience will be to make him take it
for granted, as an elementary truth, that he cannot gain heaven for
himself; to make him feel himself guilty before God; and to feel,
moreover, that even were he admitted into the Divine presence, yet,
till his heart be (so to say) made over again, he cannot perfectly
enjoy God.  This, surely, is the state of self-knowledge; these are the
convictions to which every one is brought on, who attempts honestly to
obey the precepts of God.  I do not mean that all that I have been
saying will necessarily pass through his mind, and in the same order,
or that he will be conscious of it, or be able to speak of it, but that
on the whole thus he will feel.

When, then, even an unlearned person thus trained--from his own heart,
from the action of his mind upon itself, from struggles with self, from
an attempt to follow those impulses of his own nature which he feels to
be highest and noblest, from a vivid natural perception (natural,
though cherished and strengthened by prayer, natural, though unfolded
and diversified by practice, natural, though of that new and second
nature which God the Holy Ghost gives), from an innate, though
supernatural perception of the great vision of Truth which is external
to him (a perception of it, not indeed in its fulness, but in glimpses,
and by fits and seasons, and in its persuasive influences, and through
a courageous following on after it, as a man in the dark might follow
after some dim and distant light)--I say, when a person thus trained
from his own heart, reads the declarations and promises of the Gospel,
are we to be told that he believes in them merely because he has been
bid believe in them?  Do we not see he has besides this a something in
his own breast which bears a confirming testimony to their truth?  He
reads that the heart is "deceitful above all things and desperately
wicked[4]," and that he inherits an evil nature from Adam, and that he
is still under its power, except so far as he has been renewed.  Here
is a mystery; but his own actual and too bitter experience bears
witness to the truth of the declaration; he feels the mystery of
iniquity within him.  He reads, that "without holiness no man shall see
the Lord[5];" and his own love of what is true and lovely and pure,
approves and embraces the doctrine as coming from God.  He reads, that
God is angry at sin, and will punish the sinner, and that it is a hard
matter, nay, an impossibility, for us to appease His wrath.  Here,
again, is a mystery: but here, too, his conscience anticipates the
mystery, and convicts him; his mouth is stopped.  And when he goes on
to read that the Son of God has Himself come into the world in our
flesh, and died upon the Cross for us, does he not, amid the awful
mysteriousness of the doctrine, find those words fulfilled in him which
that gracious Saviour uttered, "And I, if I be lifted up from the
earth, will draw all men unto Me"?  He cannot choose but believe in
Him.  He says, "O Lord, Thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed."

Here then, I say, he surely possesses an evidence perfectly distinct
from the authority of superiors and teachers; like St. Paul, he is in
one way not taught of men, "but by the revelation of Jesus Christ[6]."
Others have but bid him look within, and pray for God's grace to be
enabled to know himself; and the more he understands his own heart, the
more are the Gospel doctrines recommended to his reason.  He is assured
that Christ does not speak of Himself, but that His word is from God.
He is ready, with the Samaritan woman, to say to all around him, "Come,
see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the
Christ[7]?"  Or, again, in the words which the Samaritans of the same
city used to the woman after conversing with Christ; "Now we believe,
not because of thy saying" (not merely on the authority of friends and
relatives), "for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is
indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world."

The Bible, then, seems to say,--God is not a hard master to require
belief, without affording grounds for believing; only follow your own
sense of right, and you will gain from that very obedience to your
Maker, which natural conscience enjoins, a conviction of the truth and
power of that Redeemer whom a supernatural message has revealed; do but
examine your thoughts and doings; do but attempt what you know to be
God's will, and you will most assuredly be led on into all the truth:
you will recognize the force, meaning, and awful graciousness of the
Gospel Creed; you will bear witness to the truth of one doctrine, by
your own past experience of yourselves; of another, by seeing that it
is suited to your necessity; of a third, by finding it fulfilled upon
your obeying it.  As the prophet says, "Bring ye" your offering "into
Mine house," saith the Lord, "and prove Me now herewith, if I will not
open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there
shall not be room enough to receive it[8]."

My brethren, it is always reasonable to insist upon these subjects; but
it is peculiarly so in times when a spirit of presumptuous doubting is
in many places abroad.  As many of us as live in the world must expect
to hear our faith despised, and our conscientious obedience ridiculed;
we must expect to be taunted and scorned by those who find it much
easier to attack another's creed than to state their own.  A little
learning is a dangerous thing.  When men think they know more than
others, they often talk for the sake of talking, or to show their
ability (as they think), their shrewdness and depth; and they speak
lightly of the All-Holy God, to gratify their empty self-conceit and
vanity.  And often it answers no purpose to dispute with such persons;
for not having been trained up to obey their conscience, to restrain
their passions, and examine their hearts, they will assent to nothing
you can say; they will be questioning and arguing about every thing;
they have no common ground with you, and when they talk of religion
they are like blind persons talking of colours.  If you urge how great
a gift it is to be at peace with God, or of the arduousness and yet
desirableness of perfection, or the beauty of saintliness, or the
dangerousness of the world, or the blessedness of self-control, or the
glory of virginity, or the answers which God gives to prayer, or the
marvellousness and almost miraculousness of His providences, or the
comfort of religion in affliction, or the strength given you over your
passions in the Most Holy Sacrament, such persons understand you not at
all.  They will laugh, they will scoff, at best they will wonder: any
how what you say is no evidence to _them_.  You cannot convince them,
because you differ from them in first principles; it is not that they
start from the same point as you, and afterwards strike off in some
wayward direction; but their course is altogether distinct, they have
no point in common with you.  For such persons then you can only pray;
God alone can bring down pride, self-conceit, an arrogant spirit, a
presumptuous temper; God alone can dissipate prejudice; God alone can
overcome flesh and blood.  Useful as argument may be for converting a
man, in such cases God seldom condescends to employ it.  Yet, let not
such vain or ignorant reasoners convert you to unbelief in great
matters or little; let them not persuade you, that your faith is built
on the mere teaching of fallible men; do not you be ridiculed out of
your confidence and hope in Christ.  You may, if you will, have an
inward witness arising from obedience: and though you cannot make them
see it, you can see it yourselves, which is the great thing; and it
will be quite sufficient, with God's blessing, to keep you stedfast in
the way of life.

Lastly, let me remark how dangerous their state is who are content to
take the truths of the Gospel on trust, without caring whether or not
those truths are realized in their own heart and conduct.  Such men,
when assailed by ridicule and sophistry, are likely to fall; they have
no root in themselves; and let them be quite sure, that should they
fall away from the faith, it will be a slight thing at the last day to
plead that subtle arguments were used against them, that they were
altogether unprepared and ignorant, and that their seducers prevailed
over them by the display of some little cleverness and human knowledge.
The inward witness to the truth lodged in our hearts is a match for the
most learned infidel or sceptic that ever lived: though, to tell the
truth, such men are generally very shallow and weak, as well as wicked;
generally know only a little, pervert what they know, assume false
principles, and distort or suppress facts: but were they as
accomplished as the very author of evil, the humblest Christian, armed
with sling and stone, and supported by God's unseen might, is, as far
as his own faith is concerned, a match for them.  And, on the other
hand, the most acute of reasoners and most profound of thinkers, the
most instructed in earthly knowledge, is nothing, except he has also
within him the presence of the Spirit of truth.  Human knowledge,
though of great power when joined to a pure and humble faith, is of no
power when opposed to it, and, after ail, for the comfort of the
individual Christian, it is of little value.

May we, then, all grow in heavenly knowledge, and, with that end,
labour to improve what is already given us, be it more or be it less,
knowing that "he that is faithful in little is faithful also in much,"
and that "to him that hath, more shall be given."



[1] Cant. i. 8.

[2] John iii. 20.

[3] Rom. vii. 15, 18, 22, 23.

[4] Jer. xvii. 9.

[5] Heb. xii. 14.

[6] Gal. i. 12.

[7] John iv. 29.

[8] Mal. iii. 10.



SERMON IX.

Jeremiah, a Lesson for the Disappointed.

"_Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith
the Lord._"--Jeremiah i. 8.


The Prophets were ever ungratefully treated by the Israelites, they were
resisted, their warnings neglected, their good services forgotten.  But
there was this difference between the earlier and the later Prophets; the
earlier lived and died in honour among their people,--in outward honour;
though hated and thwarted by the wicked, they were exalted to high
places, and ruled in the congregation.  Moses, for instance, was in
trouble from his people all his life long, but to the end he was their
lawgiver and judge.  Samuel, too, even though rejected, was still held in
reverence; and when he died, "all the Israelites were gathered together
and lamented him, and buried him in his house at Ramah[1]."  David died
on a royal throne.  But in the latter times, the prophets were not only
feared and hated by the enemies of God, but cast out of the vineyard.  As
the time approached for the coming of the true Prophet of the Church, the
Son of God, they resembled Him in their earthly fortunes more and more;
and as He was to suffer, so did they.  Moses was a ruler, Jeremiah was an
outcast: Samuel was buried in peace, John the Baptist was beheaded.  In
St.  Paul's words, they "had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea,
moreover, of bonds and imprisonment.  They were stoned; they were sawn
asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in
sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom
the world was not worthy; they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and
in dens and caves of the earth[2]."

Of these, Elijah, who lived in the wilderness, and the hundred prophets
whom Obadiah fed by fifty in a cave, are examples of the wanderers.  And
Micaiah, who was appointed the bread of affliction and the water of
affliction by an idolatrous king, is the specimen of those who "had trial
of bonds and imprisonment."  Of those who were sawn asunder and slain
with the sword, Isaiah is the chief, who, as tradition goes, was by order
of Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, sawn asunder with a wooden saw.  And of
those who were stoned, none is more famous than Zechariah, the son of
Jehoiada, "who was slain between the temple and the altar[3]."  But of
all the persecuted prophets Jeremiah is the most eminent; i. e. we know
more of his history, of his imprisonments, his wanderings, and his
afflictions.  He may be taken as a representative of the Prophets; and
hence it is that he is an especial type of our Lord and Saviour.  All the
Prophets were types of the Great Prophet whose way they were preparing;
they tended towards and spoke of Christ.  In their sufferings they
foreshadowed His priesthood, and in their teaching His prophetical
office, and in their miracles His royal power.  The history of Jeremiah,
then, as being drawn out in Scripture more circumstantially than that of
the other Prophets, is the most exact type of Christ among them; that is,
next to David, who, of course, was the nearest resemblance to Him of all,
as a sufferer, an inspired teacher, and a king.  Jeremiah comes next to
David; I do not say in dignity and privilege, for it was Elijah who was
taken up to heaven, and appeared at the Transfiguration; nor in
inspiration, for to Isaiah one should assign the higher evangelical
gifts; but in typifying Him who came and wept over Jerusalem, and then
was tortured and put to death by those He wept over.  And hence, when our
Lord came, while some thought Him Elijah, and others John the Baptist,
risen from the dead, there were others who thought Him Jeremiah.  Of
Jeremiah, then, I will now speak, as a specimen of all those Prophets
whom St. Paul sets before us as examples of faith, and St. James as
examples of patience.  Jeremiah's ministry may be summed up in three
words, good hope, labour, disappointment.

It was his privilege to be called to his sacred office from his earliest
years.  Like Samuel, the first prophet, he was of the tribe of Levi,
dedicated from his birth to religious services, and favoured with the
constant presence and grace of God.  "Before I formed thee . . .  I knew
thee[4]," says the word of the Lord to him when He gave him his
commission, "and before thou camest out of the womb I sanctified thee,
and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations."  This commission was
given the year after Josiah began his reformation.  Jeremiah returned for
answer, "Ah! Lord God! behold, I cannot speak; for I am a child." He felt
the arduousness of a prophet's office; the firmness and intrepidity which
were required to speak the words of God.  "But the Lord said unto him,
Say not I am a child; for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee,
and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.  Be not afraid of their
faces, for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord.  Then the Lord
put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and said unto me, Behold I have
put My words in thy mouth."

No prophet commenced his labours with greater encouragement than
Jeremiah.  A king had succeeded to the throne who was bringing back the
times of the man after God's own heart.  There had not been a son of
David so zealous as Josiah since David himself.  The king, too, was
young, at most twenty years of age, in the beginning of his reformation.
What might not be effected in a course of years, however corrupt and
degraded was the existing state of his people?  So Jeremiah might think.
It must be recollected, too, that religious obedience was under the
Jewish covenant awarded with temporal prosperity.  There seemed, then,
every reason for Jeremiah at first to suppose that bright fortunes were
in store for the Church.  Josiah was the very king whose birth was
foretold by name above three hundred years before, when Jeroboam
established idolatry; who was the promised avenger of God's covenant,
"the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in[5]."
Israel (the ten tribes) having gone into captivity, schism had come to
its end; the kings of the house of David again ruled over the whole
extent of the promised land; idolatry was destroyed by Josiah in all the
cities.  Such were the present blessings which the Jewish remnant
enjoyed.  At first sight, then, it seemed reasonable to anticipate
further and permanent improvement.  Every one begins with being sanguine;
doubtless then, as now, many labourers in God's husbandry entered on
their office with more lively hopes than their after fortunes warranted.
Whether or not, however, such hope of success encouraged Jeremiah's first
exertions, very soon, in his case, this cheerful prospect was overcast,
and he was left to labour in the dark.  Huldah's message to the king, on
his finding the Book of the Law in the temple, fixed the coming fortunes
of Judah.  Huldah foretold a woe,--an early removal of the good Josiah to
his rest as a mercy to him, and to the nation, who were unworthy of him,
a fierce destruction.  This prophecy was delivered five years after
Jeremiah entered upon his office; he ministered in all forty years before
the captivity, so early in his course were his hopes cut away.

But even though Huldah's message be supposed not to reach him, still he
was doubtless soon undeceived as to any hopes he might entertain,
whether, by the express Word of God informing him, or by the actual
hardened state of sin in which the nation lay.  Soon, surely, were his
hopes destroyed, and his mind sobered into a more blessed and noble
temper,--resignation.

I call resignation a more blessed frame of mind than sanguine hope of
present success, because it is the truer, and the more consistent with
our fallen state of being, and the more improving to our hearts; and
because it is that for which the most eminent servants of God have been
conspicuous.  To expect great effects from our exertions for religious
objects is natural indeed, and innocent, but it arises from inexperience
of the kind of work we have to do,--to change the heart and will of man.
It is a far nobler frame of mind, to labour, not with the hope of seeing
the fruit of our labour, but for conscience' sake, as a matter of duty;
and again, in faith, trusting good will be done, though we see it not.
Look through the Bible, and you will find God's servants, even though
they began with success, end with disappointment; not that God's purposes
or His instruments fail, but that the time for reaping what we have sown
is hereafter, not here; that here there is no great visible fruit in any
one man's lifetime.  Moses, for instance, began with leading the
Israelites out of Egypt in triumph; he ended at the age of an hundred and
twenty years, before his journey was finished and Canaan gained, one
among the offending multitudes who were overthrown in the wilderness[6].
Samuel's reformations ended in the people's wilfully choosing a king like
the nations around them.  Elijah, after his successes, fled from Jezebel
into the wilderness to mourn over his disappointments.  Isaiah, after
Hezekiah's religious reign, and the miraculous destruction of
Sennacherib's army, fell upon the evil days of his son Manasseh.  Even in
the successes of the first Christian teachers, the Apostles, the same
rule is observed.  After all the great works God enabled them to
accomplish, they confessed before their death that what they experienced,
and what they saw before them, was reverse and calamity, and that the
fruit of their labour would not be seen, till Christ came to open the
books and collect His saints from the four corners of the earth.  "Evil
men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being
deceived[7]," is the testimony of St.  Peter, St. Paul, St. John, and St.
Jude.

Now, in the instance of Jeremiah, we have on record that variety and
vicissitude of feelings, which this transition from hope to
disappointment produces, at least in a sensitive mind.  His trials were
very great, even in Josiah's reign; but when that pious king's
countenance was withdrawn on his early death, he was exposed to
persecution from every class of men.  At one time we read of the people
conspiring against him[8], at another, of the men of his own city,
Anathoth, "seeking his life[9]," on account of his prophesying in the
Lord's name.  At another time he was seized by the priests and the
prophets in order to be put to death, from which he was only saved by
certain of the princes and elders who were still faithful to the memory
of Josiah[10].  Then, again, Pashur, the chief governor of the temple,
smote him and tortured him[11].  At another time, the king, Zedekiah, put
him in prison[12].  Afterwards, when the army of the Chaldeans had
besieged Jerusalem, the Jews accused him of falling away to the
enemy[13], and smote him, and imprisoned him, then they cast him into a
dungeon, where he "sunk in the mire," and almost perished from
hunger[14].  When Jerusalem had been taken by the enemy, Jeremiah was
forcibly carried down to Egypt; by men who at first pretended to
reverence and consult him[15], and there he came to his end--it is
believed, a violent end.  Nebuchadnezzar, the heathen king of Babylon and
conqueror of Jerusalem, was one of the few persons who showed him
kindness.  This great king, who afterwards honoured Daniel, and was at
length brought to acknowledge the God of heaven by a severe chastisement,
on the taking of the city delivered Jeremiah from prison[16], and gave
charge to the captain of his guard concerning him, to "look well to him,
and to do him no harm; but to do unto him even as he should say . . . ."
An Ethiopian, another heathen, is also mentioned as delivering him from
the dungeon.

Such were his trials: his affliction, fear, despondency, and sometimes
even restlessness under them are variously expressed; that succession and
tide of feelings which most persons undergo before their minds settle
into the calm of resignation.  At one time he speaks as astonished at his
failure: "O Lord, art not Thine eyes upon the truth?  Thou hast stricken
them, but they have not grieved; Thou hast consumed them, but they have
refused to receive correction[17]."  Again, "A wonderful and horrible
thing is committed in the land; the prophets prophesy falsely, and the
priests bear rule by their means; and My people love to have it so[18]."
At another time, he expresses his perplexity at the disorder of the
world, and the successes of the wicked: "Righteous art Thou, O Lord, when
I plead with Thee; yet let me talk with Thee of Thy judgments: wherefore
doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that
deal very treacherously? . . . but Thou, O Lord, knowest me; Thou hast
seen me, and tried mine heart towards Thee[19]."  Then, in turn, his mind
frets at the thought of its own anxious labours and perplexities: "Woe is
me, my mother, that thou hast borne me a man of strife and a man of
contention to the whole earth!  I have neither lent on usury, nor men
have lent to me on usury; yet every one of them doth curse me. . .  Why
is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable? . . . wilt Thou be
altogether unto me as a deceiver, and as waters that fail[20]?"  These
are the sorrows of a gentle and peaceable mind, forced against its will
into the troubles of life, and incurring the hatred of those whom it
opposes against its nature.  This he elsewhere expresses thus: "As for
me, I have not . . . desired the woeful day" (which he foretold); "Thou
knowest: that which came out of my lips was right before Thee.  Be not a
terror unto me: Thou art my hope in the day of evil[21]."  When Pashur
put him to torture he was still more agitated, and said, "O Lord, Thou
hast deceived me, and I was deceived.  Thou art stronger than I, and hast
prevailed.  I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me . . .  Cursed be
the day wherein I was born" (here certainly is the language even of
impatience), "let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed[22]."

However, of such changes of feelings what was the end?--resignation.  He
elsewhere uses language which expresses that chastened spirit and weaned
heart, which is the termination of all agitation and anxiety in the case
of religious minds.  He, who at one time could not comfort himself, at
another was sent to comfort a brother, and, in comforting Baruch, he
speaks in that nobler temper of resignation which takes the place of
sanguine hope and harassing fear, and betokens calm and clear-sighted
faith and inward peace.  "Thus saith the Lord the God of Israel unto
thee, O Baruch.  Thou didst say, Woe is me now, for the Lord hath added
grief to my sorrow; I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest. . .
Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have
planted I will pluck up, even this whole land.  And seekest thou great
things for thyself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon
all flesh; . . . but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all
places whither thou goest," that is, seek not success, be not impatient,
fret not thyself--be content, if, after all thy labours, thou dost but
save thyself, without seeing other fruit of them.


And now, my brethren, does what I have been saying apply to all of us, or
only to Prophets?  It applies to all of us.  For all of us live in a
world which promises well, but does not fulfil; and all of us (taking our
lives altogether apart from religious prospects) begin with hope, and end
with disappointment.  Doubtless, there is much difference in our
respective trials here, arising from difference of tempers and fortunes.
Still it is in our nature to begin life thoughtlessly and joyously; to
seek great things in one way or other; to have vague notions of good to
come; to love the world, and to believe its promises, and seek
satisfaction and happiness from it.  And, as it is our nature to hope, so
it is our lot, as life proceeds, to encounter disappointment.  I know
that there are multitudes, in the retired ranks of society, who pass
their days without any great varieties of fortune; though, even in such
cases, thinking persons will have much more to say of themselves than at
first sight might appear.  Still, that disappointment in some shape or
other is the lot of man (that is, looking at our prospects apart from the
next world) is plain, from the mere fact, if nothing else could be said,
that we begin life with health and end it with sickness; or in other
words, that it _comes_ to an _end_, for an end is a failure.  And even in
the quietest walks of life, do not the old feel regret, more or less
vividly, that they are not young?  Do not they lament the days gone by,
and even with the pleasure of remembrance feel the pain?  And why, except
that they think that they have lost something which they once had,
whereas in the beginning of life, they thought of gaining something they
had not?  A double disappointment.

Now is it religion that suggests this sad view of things?  No, it is
experience; it is the _world's_ doing; it is fact, from which we cannot
escape, though the Bible said not a word about the perishing nature of
all earthly pleasures.

Here then it is, that God Himself offers us His aid by His Word, and in
His Church.  Left to ourselves, we seek good from the world, but cannot
find it; in youth we look forward, and in age we look back.  It is well
we should be persuaded of these things betimes, to gain wisdom and to
provide for the evil day.  Seek we great things?  We must seek them where
they really are to be found, and in the way in which they are to be
found; we must seek them as He has set them before us, who came into the
world to enable us to gain them.  We must be willing to give up present
hope for future enjoyment, this world for the unseen.  The truth is
(though it is so difficult for us to admit it heartily), our nature is
not at first in a state to enjoy happiness, even if we had it offered to
us.  We seek for it, and we feel we need it; but (strange though it is to
say, still so it is) we are not fitted to be happy.  If then at once we
rush forward to seek enjoyment, it will be like a child's attempting to
walk before his strength is come.  If we would gain true bliss, we must
cease to seek it as an end; we must postpone the prospect of enjoying it.
For we are by nature in an unnatural state; we must be changed from what
we are when born, before we can receive our greatest good.  And as in
sickness sharp remedies are often used, or irksome treatment, so it is
with our souls; we must go through pain, we must practise self-denial, we
must curb our wills, and purify our hearts, before we are capable of any
lasting solid peace.  To attempt to gain happiness, except in this
apparently tedious and circuitous way, is a labour lost; it is building
on the sand; the foundation will soon give way, though the house looks
fair for a time.  To be gay and thoughtless, to be self-indulgent and
self-willed, is quite out of character with our real state.  We must
learn to know ourselves, and to have thoughts and feelings becoming
ourselves.  Impetuous hope and undisciplined mirth ill-suit a sinner.
Should he shrink from low notions of himself, and sharp pain, and
mortification of natural wishes, whose guilt called down the Son of God
from heaven to die upon the cross for him?  May he live in pleasure here,
and call this world his home, while he reads in the Gospel of his
Saviour's life-long affliction and disappointment?

It cannot be; let us prepare for suffering and disappointment, which
befit us as sinners, and which are necessary for us as saints.  Let us
not turn away from trial when God brings it on us, or play the coward in
the fight of faith.  "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like
men, be strong[23];" such is St. Paul's exhortation.  When affliction
overtakes you, remember to accept it as a means of improving your hearts,
and pray God for His grace that it may do so.  Look disappointment in the
face.  "Take . . . the Prophets . . . for an example of suffering
affliction, and of patience.  Behold, we count them happy who endure."
Give not over your attempts to serve God, though you see nothing come of
them.  Watch and pray, and obey your conscience, though you cannot
perceive your own progress in holiness.  Go on, and you cannot but go
forward; believe it, though you do not see it.  Do the duties of your
calling, though they are distasteful to you.  Educate your children
carefully in the good way, though you cannot tell how far God's grace has
touched their hearts.  Let your light shine before men, and praise God by
a consistent life, even though others do not seem to glorify their Father
on account of it, or to be benefited by your example.  "Cast your bread
upon the waters, for you shall find it after many days. . . .  In the
morning sow your seed, in the evening withhold not your hand; for you
know not whether shall prosper, either this or that; or whether they both
shall be alike good[24]."  Persevere in the narrow way.  The Prophets
went through sufferings to which ours are mere trifles; violence and
craft combined to turn them aside, but they kept right on, and are at
rest.

Now, I know full well, that this whole subject is distasteful to many
men, who say we ought to be cheerful.  "We are bid rejoice, why then do
you bid us mourn?"  I bid you mourn in order that you may rejoice more
perfectly.  "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be
comforted[25]."  "They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy."  I bid you
take up the cross of Christ, that you may wear His crown.  Give your
hearts to Him, and you will for yourselves solve the difficulty, how
Christians can be sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing[26].  You will find that
lightness of heart and cheerfulness are quite consistent with that new
and heavenly character which He gives us, though to gain it in any good
measure, we must for a time be sorrowful, and ever after thoughtful.  But
I give you fair warning, you must at first take His word on trust; and if
you do not, there is no help for it.  He says, "Come unto Me, . . . and I
will give you rest."  You must begin on faith: you cannot see at first
whither He is leading you, and how light will rise out of the darkness.
You must begin by denying yourselves your natural wishes,--a painful
work; by refraining from sin, by rousing from sloth, by preserving your
tongue from insincere words, and your hands from deceitful dealings, and
your eyes from beholding vanity; by watching against the first rising of
anger, pride, impurity, obstinacy, jealousy; by learning to endure the
laugh of irreligious men for Christ's sake; by forcing your minds to
follow seriously the words of prayer, though it be difficult to you, and
by keeping before you the thought of God all through the day.  These
things you will be able to do if you do but seek the mighty help of God
the Holy Spirit which is given you; and while you follow after them,
then, in the Prophet's language, "your light shall rise in obscurity, and
your darkness shall be as the noonday.  And the Lord shall guide you
continually, and satisfy your soul in drought: and you shall be like a
watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not[27]."



[1] 1 Sam. xxv. 1.

[2] Heb. xi. 36-38.

[3] Matt. xxiii. 35.

[4] Jer. i. 6.

[5] Isa. lviii. 12.

[6] 1 Cor. x. 5.

[7] 2 Tim. iii. 13.

[8] Jer. xviii. 18.

[9] Ibid. xi. 21.

[10] Ibid. xxvi. 16, &c.

[11] Ibid. xx. 2.

[12] Ibid. xxxii. 3.

[13] Ibid. xxxvii. 14.

[14] Ibid. xxxviii. 6, 9.

[15] Jer. xlii. xliii.

[16] Ibid. xxxix. 14.

[17] Ibid. v. 3.

[18] Ibid. v. 30, 31.

[19] Jer. xii. 1-3.

[20] Ibid. xv. 10-18.

[21] Ibid. xvii. 16,17.

[22] Jer. xx. 7-14.

[23] 1 Cor. xvi. 13.

[24] Eccl. xi. 1, 6.

[256] Matt. v. 4.

[26] 2 Cor. vi. 10.

[27] Isa. lviii. 10, 11.



SERMON X.

Endurance of the World's Censure.

"_And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them; neither be afraid of
their words, though briars and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell
among scorpions; be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their
looks, though they be a rebellious house._"--Ezekiel ii. 6.


What is here implied, as the trial of the Prophet Ezekiel, was
fulfilled more or less in the case of all the Prophets.  They were not
Teachers merely, but Confessors.  They came not merely to unfold the
Law, or to foretell the Gospel, but to warn and rebuke; not to rebuke
only, but to suffer.  This world is a scene of conflict between good
and evil.  The evil not only avoids, but persecutes the good; the good
cannot conquer, except by suffering.  Good men seem to fail; their
cause triumphs, but their own overthrow is the price paid for the
success of their cause.  When was it that this conflict, and this
character and issue of it, have not been fulfilled?  So it was in the
beginning.  Cain, for instance, was envious of his brother Abel, and
slew him.  Enoch walked with God, and was a preacher of righteousness,
and God took him.  Ishmael mocked at Isaac; Esau was full of wrath with
Jacob, and resolved to kill him.  Joseph's brethren were filled with
bitter hatred of him, debated about killing him, cast him into a pit,
and at last sold him into Egypt.  Afterwards, in like manner, Korah,
Dathan, and Abiram rose up against Moses.  And, later still, Saul
persecuted David; and Ahab and Jezebel, Elijah; and the priests and the
prophets the Prophet Jeremiah.  Lastly, not to dwell on other
instances, the chief priests and Pharisees, full of envy, rose up
against our Lord Jesus Christ, and delivered Him to the heathen
governor, Pontius Pilate, to be crucified.  So the Apostles, after Him,
and especially St. Paul, were persecuted by their fierce and revengeful
countrymen; and from the way in which St. Paul speaks on the subject we
may infer that it is ever so to be: "All that will live godly in Christ
Jesus shall suffer persecution:" or, as he says, after referring to the
history of Isaac and Ishmael, "As then he that was born after the flesh
persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now:" and
indeed we see this fulfilled in its measure before our eyes even at
this day.  Hence our Saviour, to console all who suffer for His sake,
graciously says, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for
righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven[1]."

The case seems to be this:--those who do not serve God with a single
heart, know they ought to do so, and they do not like to be reminded
that they ought.  And when they fall in with any one who does live to
God, he serves to remind them of it, and that is unpleasant to them,
and that is the first reason why they are angry with a religious man;
the sight of him disturbs them and makes them uneasy.

And, in the next place, they feel in their hearts that he is in much
better case than they are.  They cannot help wishing--though they are
hardly conscious of their own wish--they cannot help wishing that they
were like him; yet they have no intention of imitating him, and this
makes them jealous and envious.  Instead of being angry with themselves
they are angry with him.

These are their first feelings: what follows? next they are very much
tempted to deny that he _is_ religious.  They wish to get the thought
of him out of their minds.  Nothing would so relieve their minds as to
find that there were no religious persons in the world, none better
than themselves.  Accordingly, they do all they can to believe that he
is making a pretence of religion, they do their utmost to find out what
looks like inconsistency in him.  They call him a hypocrite and other
names.  And all this, if the truth must be spoken, because they hate
the things of God, and therefore they hate His servants.

Accordingly, as far as they have power to do it, they persecute him,
either, as the text implies, with cruel untrue words, or with cold, or
fierce, or jealous looks, or in some worse ways.  A good man is an
offence to a bad man.  The sight of him is a sort of insult, and he is
irritated at him, and does him what harm he can.  Thus Christians, in
former times, were put to death by the heathen.  As righteous Abel by
Cain, as our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, by the Jews, as St.
Paul too by the heathen; so, many after him were put to death also, and
that by the most cruel torments.  It would not be right to describe the
horrible inflictions which the children of God once endured at the
hands of the children of the flesh; but we have some allusion to what
had taken place in an earlier age, in a passage from St. Paul's Epistle
to the Hebrews, from which you may judge of the more cruel trials which
Christians afterwards endured.  They "had trial of cruel mockings and
scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned,
they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they
wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins; being destitute,
afflicted, tormented, (of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered
in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth[2]."

Praised be God, we live in times when this cannot take place!
Hitherto, at least, He has guarded us in a wonderful way.  If any bad
man did any serious harm to a religious man, he knows he would incur
some punishment from the law of the land.  Religious persons are
protected in this day from all great persecutions, and they cannot
sufficiently be thankful for it.  The utmost they can suffer from the
world is light indeed compared with what men suffered of old time.  Yet
St. Paul calls even his and their sufferings "our light affliction;"
and if their suffering was but light, compared with the glory which was
to follow after death, much more is ours light, who cannot undergo
persecution, if we would, and at best can only suffer very slight
inconveniences from serving God faithfully.

And yet, nevertheless, most true is it, that even now, no one can give
his mind to God, and show by his actions that he fears God, but he will
incur the dislike and opposition of the world; and it is important he
should be aware of this, and be prepared for it.  He must not mind it,
he must bear it, and in time (if God so will) he will overcome it.

There are a number of lesser ways in which careless ungodly persons may
annoy and inconvenience those who desire to do their duty humbly and
fully.  Such, especially, are those, which seem intended in the text,
unkind censure, carping, slander, ridicule, cold looks, rude language,
insult, and, in some cases, oppression and tyranny.  Whoever,
therefore, sets about a religious life, must be prepared for
these,--must be thankful if they do not befall him; but must not be put
out, must not think it a strange thing, if they do.

Now, my brethren, observe this; in bidding you endure reproach for
Christ's sake, I am bidding you nothing which, as a minister of Christ,
I do not wish to practise myself.  Nay, it is what all ministers of
Christ are obliged to practise; for, in all ages, _who_ do you think it
is that the world will first attack and oppose?  Christ's ministers, of
course.  Who is there who can possibly so offend this bad world, as
they whose very office is to remind the world of God and heaven?  If
all serious persons are disliked by the world, because they bring
before it unpleasant truths, which it would fain forget if it could,
this trial surely applies still more to those whose very profession and
business it is to remind men of the truths of religion.  A religious
man does not intend to remind his neighbours; he goes on his own way;
but they see him and cannot help being reminded.  They see that he is
well-conducted, and sober-minded, and reverent, and conscientious; that
he never runs into any excess, that he never uses bad language; that he
is regular at his prayers, regular at Church, regular at the most Holy
Sacrament; they see all this, and, whether he will or no, they _are_
reminded of their duty, and, as disliking to be reminded, they dislike
him who reminds them.  But if this be so in the case of common men, who
wish to go on in a religious way without making any profession, how do
you think it will fare with us, Christ's ministers, whose very duty it
is to make a profession?  Every thing about a clergyman is a warning to
men, or ought to be, of the next world, of death and judgment, heaven
and hell.  His very dress is a memento.  He does not dress like other
men.  His habits are a memento.  His mode of speech is graver than that
of others.  His duties too are a memento.  He is seen in Church reading
prayers, baptizing, preaching; or he is seen teaching children; he is
seen in works of charity; or he is seen studying.  His life is given to
objects out of sight.  All that he does is intended to remind men that
time is short, death is certain, and eternity long.  And, this being
so, do you think that men, being as they mostly are, careless and
irreligious, do you think they like this?  No; and still less, when he
goes on to tell men of their errors and faults, and, as far as he can,
to restrain them.  And so in all ages you will find that the world has
resisted and done its utmost to get rid of the preachers of repentance
and holiness.  It would stone Moses, it cast Daniel into the den of
lions, and the three Children into the fiery furnace: St. Paul it
beheaded, St. Peter it crucified, others it burnt, others it tortured
even to death.  And so it went on for many generations.  But at last,
as I said just now, religious persons have by degrees been sheltered by
the law of the land from persecution, and Christ's ministers among
them.  And the world has got more humane and generous, if not more
religious; and God is sovereign over all.  But though the devil cannot
persecute us, he does what he can to oppose us.  Surely this is so; for
no one can look into the many publications of the day, without having
proof of it; no one can go into places where persons meet together for
refreshment, or for recreation, without hearing it, no one can travel
on the road, without at times being witness to it.  Christ's ministers
are called names, untruths are told of them, they are ridiculed; and
men encourage each other to oppose them, and to deceive them.  And why?
for this simple short reason, because they are God's messengers; and
men in general do not like to be told of God.  They say that they could
do well enough without ministers of Christ; which really means, that
they wish to do without God in the world.

Such is the portion to which all we, ministers of Christ, are called by
our profession; and therefore, when we bid you prepare for the
opposition of the world, we are calling you to nothing which we do not
bear ourselves.  It were well, could we, in all things, do first what
we bid you do.  There is no temptation or trial which you have, which
in its kind we may not have to endure, or at least would not wish to
endure, so far as it is lawful to wish it.  St. Paul said to certain
heathens, "We also are men of like passions with you[3]."  St. Paul,
and the Apostles, and all Christ's ministers after them, are of one
nature with other men.  They have to go through what other men go
through.  They suffer pain, sorrow, bereavement, anxiety, desolateness,
privations; and they have need, as other men, of patience,
cheerfulness, faith, hope, contentment, resignation, firmness, to bear
all that comes on them well.  But even more than other men are they
called on to bear the opposition of the world.  They have to bear being
ridiculed, slandered, ill-treated, overreached, disliked.  All this is
not pleasant to them naturally, any more than to other people.  But
they find it must be so; they cannot alter it; and they learn
resignation and patience.  This patience and resignation then I exhort
you to cherish, my brethren, when the world scorns you for your
religion; and withal cheerfulness and meekness, that you may bear your
cross lightly, and not gloomily, or sadly, or complainingly.

For instance, persons may press you to do something which you know to
be wrong--to tell an untruth, or to do what is not quite honest, or to
go to companies whither you should not go; and they may show that they
are vexed at the notion of your not complying.  Still you must not
comply.  You must not do what you feel to be wrong, though you should
thereby displease even those whom you would most wish to please.

Again: you must not be surprised, should you find that you are called a
hypocrite, and other hard names; you must not mind it.

Again: you may be jeered at and mocked by your acquaintance, for being
strict and religious, for carefully coming to Church, keeping from bad
language, and the like: you must not care for it.

Again, you may, perhaps, discover to your great vexation, that untruths
are told of you by careless persons behind your backs, that what you do
has been misrepresented, and that in consequence a number of evil
things are believed about you by the world at large.  Hard though it
be, you must not care for it; remembering that more untruths were told
of our Saviour and His Apostles than can possibly be told of you.

Again: you may find that not only the common run of men believe what is
said against you, but even those with whom you wish to stand well.  But
if this happens through your conscientiousness you must not mind it,
but must be cheerful, leaving your case in the hand of God, and knowing
that He will bring it out into the light one day or another, in His own
good time.

Again: persons may try to threaten or frighten you into doing something
wrong, but you must not mind that, you must be firm.

In many, very many ways you may be called upon to bear the ill-usage of
the world, or to withstand its attempts to draw you from God; but you
must be firm, and you must not be surprised that they should be made.
You must consider that it is your very calling to bear and to
withstand.  This is what you offer to God as a sort of return for His
great mercies to you.  Did not Christ go through much more for you than
you can possibly be called upon to undergo for Him?  Did He bear the
bitter cross who was sinless, and do you, who are at best so sinful,
scruple to bear such poor trials and petty inconveniences?

In conclusion, I will but call your attention to two points, to which
what I have said leads me.

First; Do not be too eager to suppose you are ill-treated for your
religion's sake.  Make as light of matters as you can.  And beware of
being severe on those who lead careless lives, or whom you think or
know to be ill-treating you.  Do not dwell on such matters.  Turn your
mind away from them.  Avoid all gloominess.  Be kind and gentle to
those who are perverse, and you will very often, please God, gain them
over.  You should pray for those who lead careless lives, and
especially if they are unkind to you.  Who knows but God may hear your
prayers, and turn their hearts, and bring them over to you?  Do every
thing for them but imitate them and yield to them.  This is the true
Christian spirit, to be meek and gentle under ill-usage, cheerful under
slander, forgiving towards enemies, and silent in the midst of angry
tongues.

Secondly, I would say, recollect you cannot do any one thing of all the
duties I have been speaking of, without God's help.  Any one who
attempts to resist the world, or to do other good things by his own
strength, will be sure to fall.  We _can_ do good things, but it is
when God gives us power to do them.  Therefore we must pray to Him for
the power.  When we are brought into temptation of any kind, we should
lift up our hearts to God.  We should say to Him, "Good Lord, deliver
us."  Our Lord, when He was going away, promised to His disciples a
Comforter instead of Himself; that was God the Holy Ghost, who is still
among us (though we see Him not), as Christ was with the Apostles.  He
has come in order to enlighten us, to guide us in the right way, and in
the end to bring us to Christ in heaven.  And He came down, as His name
"Comforter" shows, especially to stand by, and comfort, and strengthen
those who are in any trouble, particularly trouble from irreligious
men.  The disciples, when Christ went, had to go through much trouble,
and therefore He comforted them by the coming of the Holy and Eternal
Spirit, the Third Person in the Blessed Trinity.  "These things I have
spoken unto you," He says, "that in Me ye might have peace; in the
world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome
the world[4]."  When, then, religious persons are in low spirits, or
are any way grieved at the difficulties which the world puts in their
way, when they earnestly desire to do their duty, yet feel how weak
they are, let them recollect that they are "not their own," but "bought
with a price," and the dwelling-places and temples of the All-gracious
Spirit.

Lastly, I am quite sure that none of us, even the best, have resisted
the world as we ought to have done.  Our faces have not been like
flints; we have been afraid of men's words, and dismayed at their
looks, and we have yielded to them at times against our better
judgment.  We have fancied, forsooth, the world could do us some harm
while we kept to the commandments of God.  Let us search our
consciences; let us look back on our past lives.  Let us try to purify
and cleanse our hearts in God's sight.  Let us try to live more like
Christians, more like children of God.  Let us earnestly beg of God to
teach us more simply and clearly what our duty is.  Let us beg of Him
to give us the heart to love Him, and true repentance for what is past.
Let us beg Him to teach us _how_ to confess Him before men; lest if we
deny Him now.  He may deny us before the Angels of God hereafter.



[1] 2 Tim. iii. 12.  Gal. iv. 29.  Matt. v. 10.

[2] Heb. xi. 36-38.

[3] Acts xiv. 15.

[4] John xvi. 33.



SERMON XI.

Doing Glory to God in Pursuits of the World.

"_Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to
the glory of God._"--1 Cor. x. 31.


When persons are convinced that life is short, that it is unequal to
any great purpose, that it does not display adequately, or bring to
perfection the true Christian, when they feel that the next life is all
in all, and that eternity is the only subject that really can claim or
can fill their thoughts, then they are apt to undervalue this life
altogether, and to forget its real importance.  They are apt to wish to
spend the time of their sojourning here in a positive separation from
active and social duties: yet it should be recollected that the
employments of this world, though not themselves heavenly, are, after
all, the way to heaven--though not the fruit, are the seed of
immortality--and are valuable, though not in themselves, yet for that
to which they lead: but it is difficult to realize this.  It is
difficult to realize both truths at once, and to connect both truths
together; steadily to contemplate the life to come, yet to act in this.
Those who meditate, are likely to neglect those active duties which
are, in fact, incumbent on them, and to dwell upon the thought of God's
glory, till they forget to act to His glory.  This state of mind is
chided in figure in the words of the holy Angels to the Apostles, when
they say, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven[1]?"

In various ways does the thought of the next world lead men to neglect
their duty in this, and whenever it does so we may be sure that there
is something wrong and unchristian, not in their thinking of the next
world, but in their manner of thinking of it.  For though the
contemplation of God's glory may in certain times and persons allowably
interfere with the active employments of life, as in the case of the
Apostles when our Saviour ascended, and though such contemplation is
even freely allowed or commanded us at certain times of each day; yet
that is not a real and true meditation on Christ, but some counterfeit,
which makes us dream away our time, or become habitually indolent, or
which withdraws us from our existing duties, or unsettles us.

Yet the thought of the world unseen is apt to do so in various ways,
and the worst way of all is when we have taken up a notion that it
_ought_ to do so.  And indeed this is a temptation to which persons who
desire to be religious are exposed in one shape or another in every
age, and in this age as well as in times past.  Men come to fancy that
to lose taste and patience for the businesses of this life is
renouncing the world and becoming spiritually-minded.  We will say a
person has been thoughtless and irreligious; perhaps openly so; or at
least careless about religion, and though innocent of any flagrant sin,
yet a follower of his own will and fancy, and unpractised in any
regular and consistent course of religion.  He has, perhaps, been
outwardly respectful to sacred things and persons, but has had no
serious thoughts about the next world.  He has taken good and
evil--religion and the world--as they came, first one and then the
other, without much consideration.  He has been fond of gaiety and
amusements, or he has been deeply interested in some pursuit or other
of time and sense,--whether it be his own trade or profession, or some
of the studies and employments now popular.  He has fallen in with the
ways of the company in which he has found himself; has been profane
with the profane; then, again, has had for a season religious
impressions, which in turn have worn away.  Thus he has lived, and
something has then occurred really to rouse him and give him what is
called a serious turn.  Such a person, man or woman, young or old,
certainly does need to take a serious turn, does require a change; and
no one but must be very glad to hear that a change has taken place,
though at the same time there may be changes not much better than the
change which happened to him, whose soul, in our Lord's language, was
but "swept and garnished;" not really changed in a heavenly way, and
having but the semblance of faith and holiness upon it.

Now the cases I am speaking of are somewhat like that which our Saviour
seems to speak of in the passage referred to.  When a man has been
roused to serious resolutions, the chances are, that he fails to take
up with the one and only narrow way which leads to life.  The chances
are that "then cometh the wicked one," and persuades him to choose some
path short of the true one--easier and pleasanter than it.  And _this_
is the kind of course to which he is often seduced, as we frequently
witness it; viz. to feel a sort of dislike and contempt for his
ordinary worldly business as something beneath him.  He knows he must
have what Scripture calls a spiritual mind, and he fancies that to have
a spiritual mind it is absolutely necessary to renounce all earnestness
or activity in his worldly employments, to profess to take no interest
in them, to despise the natural and ordinary pleasures of life,
violating the customs of society, adopting a melancholy air and a sad
tone of voice, and remaining silent and absent when among his natural
friends and relatives, as if saying to himself, "I have much higher
thoughts than to engage in all these perishing miserable things;"
acting with constraint and difficulty in the things about him; making
efforts to turn things which occur to the purpose of what he considers
spiritual reflection; using certain Scripture phrases and expressions;
delighting to exchange Scripture sentiments with persons whom he meets
of his own way of thinking; nay, making visible and audible signs of
deep feeling when Scripture or other religious subjects are mentioned,
and the like.  He thinks he lives out of the world, and out of its
engagements, if he shuts (as it were) his eyes, and sits down doing
nothing.  Altogether he looks upon his worldly occupation simply as a
burden and a cross, and considers it all gain to be able to throw it
off; and the sooner he can release himself from it, and the oftener, so
much the better.

Now I am far from denying that a man's worldly occupation _may_ be his
cross.  Again, I am far from denying that under circumstances it may be
right even to retire from the world.  But I am speaking of cases when
it is a person's duty to remain in his worldly calling, and when he
does remain in it, but when he cherishes dissatisfaction with it:
whereas what he ought to feel is this,--that _while_ in it he is to
glorify God, not _out_ of it, but _in_ it, and _by means_ of it,
according to the Apostle's direction, "not slothful in business,
fervent in spirit, serving the Lord."  The Lord Jesus Christ our
Saviour is best served, and with the most fervent spirit, when men are
not slothful in business, but do their duty in that state of life in
which it has pleased God to call them.

Now what leads such a person into this mistake is, that he sees that
most men who engage cheerfully and diligently in worldly business, do
so from a worldly spirit, from a low carnal love of the world; and so
he thinks it is _his_ duty, on the contrary, _not_ to take a cheerful
part in the world's business at all.  And it cannot be denied that the
greater part of the world is _absorbed_ in the world; so much so that I
am almost afraid to speak of the duty of being active in our worldly
business, lest I should seem to give countenance to that miserable
devotion to the things of time and sense, that love of bustle and
management, that desire of gain, and that aiming at influence and
importance, which abound on all sides.  Bad as it is to be languid and
indifferent in our secular duties, and to account this religion, yet it
is far worse to be the slaves of this world, and to have our hearts in
the concerns of this world.  I do not know any thing more dreadful than
a state of mind which is, perhaps, the characteristic of this country,
and which the prosperity of this country so miserably fosters.  I mean
that ambitious spirit, to use a great word, but I know no other word to
express my meaning--that low ambition which sets every one on the
look-out to succeed and to rise in life, to amass money, to gain power,
to depress his rivals, to triumph over his hitherto superiors, to
affect a consequence and a gentility which he had not before, to affect
to have an opinion on high subjects, to pretend to form a judgment upon
sacred things, to choose his religion, to approve and condemn according
to his taste, to become a partizan in extensive measures for the
supposed temporal benefit of the community, to indulge the vision of
great things which are to come, great improvements, great wonders: all
things vast, all things new,--this most fearfully earthly and
grovelling spirit is likely, alas! to extend itself more and more among
our countrymen,--an intense, sleepless, restless, never-wearied,
never-satisfied, pursuit of Mammon in one shape or other, to the
exclusion of all deep, all holy, all calm, all reverent thoughts.
_This_ is the spirit in which, more or less (according to their
different tempers), men do commonly engage in concerns of this world;
and I repeat it, better, far better, were it to retire from the world
altogether than thus to engage in it--better with Elijah to fly to the
desert, than to serve Baal and Ashtoreth in Jerusalem.

But the persons I speak of, as despising this world, are far removed
from the spirit of Elijah.  To flee from the world, or strenuously to
resist it, implies an energy and strength of mind which they have not.
They do neither one thing nor the other; they neither flee it, nor
engage zealously in its concerns; but they remain in the midst of them,
doing them in an indolent and negligent way, and think this is to be
spiritually minded; or, as in other cases, they really take an interest
in them, and yet speak as if they despised them.

But surely it is possible to "serve the Lord," yet not to be "slothful
in business;" not over devoted to it, but not to retire from it.  We
may do _all things_ whatever we are about to God's glory; we may do all
things _heartily_, as to the Lord, and not to man, being both active
yet meditative; and now let me give some instances to show what I mean.

1. "Do all to the glory of God," says St. Paul, in the text; nay,
"whether we eat or drink;" so that it appears nothing is too slight or
trivial to glorify Him in.  We will suppose then, to take the case
mentioned just now; we will suppose a man who has lately had more
serious thoughts than he had before, and determines to live more
religiously.  In consequence of the turn his mind has taken he feels a
distaste for his worldly occupation, whether he is in trade, or in any
mechanical employment which allows little exercise of mind.  He now
feels he would rather be in some other business, though in itself his
present occupation is quite lawful and pleasing to God.  The
ill-instructed man will at once get impatient and quit it; or if he
does not quit it, at least he will be negligent and indolent in it.
But the true penitent will say to himself, "No; if it be an irksome
employment, so much the more does it suit _me_.  I deserve no better.
I do not deserve to be fed even with husks.  I am bound to afflict my
soul for my past sins.  If I were to go in sackcloth and ashes, if I
were to live on bread and water, if I were to wash the feet of the poor
day by day, it would not be too great an humiliation; and the only
reason I do not, is, that I have no call that way, it would look
ostentatious.  Gladly then will I hail an inconvenience which will try
me without any one's knowing it.  Far from repining, I will, through
God's grace, go cheerfully about what I do not like.  I will deny
myself.  I know that with His help what is in itself painful, will thus
be pleasant as done towards Him.  I know well that there is no pain but
may be borne comfortably, by the thought of Him, and by His grace, and
the strong determination of the will; nay, none but may soothe and
solace me.  Even the natural taste and smell may be made to like what
they naturally dislike; even bitter medicine, which is nauseous to the
palate, may by a resolute will become tolerable.  Nay, even sufferings
and torture, such as martyrs have borne, have before now been rejoiced
in and embraced heartily from love to Christ.  I then, a sinner, will
take this light inconvenience in a generous way, pleased at the
opportunity of disciplining myself, and with self-abasement, as needing
a severe penitence.  If there be parts in my occupation which I
especially dislike, if it requires a good deal of moving about and I
wish to be at home, or if it be sedentary and I wish to be in motion,
or if it requires rising early and I like to rise late, or if it makes
me solitary and I like to be with friends, all this unpleasant part, as
far as is consistent with my health, and so that it is not likely to be
a snare to me, I will choose by preference.  Again, I see my religious
views are a hindrance to me.  I see persons are suspicious of me.  I
see that I offend people by my scrupulousness.  I see that to get on in
life requires far more devotion to my worldly business than I can give
consistently with my duty to God, or without its becoming a temptation
to me.  I know that I ought not, and (please God) I will not, sacrifice
my religion to it.  My religious seasons and hours shall be my own.  I
will not countenance any of the worldly dealings and practices, the
over-reaching ways, the sordid actions in which others indulge.  And if
I am thrown back in life thereby, if I make less gains or lose friends,
and so come to be despised, and find others rise in the world while I
remain where I was, hard though this be to bear, it is an humiliation
which becomes me in requital for my sins, and in obedience to God; and
a very slight one it is, merely to be deprived of worldly successes, or
rather it is a gain.  And this may be the manner in which Almighty God
will make an opening for me, if it is His blessed will, to leave my
present occupation.  But leave it without a call from God, I certainly
must not.  On the contrary, I will work in it the more diligently, as
far as higher duties allow me."

2. A second reason which will animate the Christian will be a desire of
letting his light shine before men.  He will aim at winning others by
his own diligence and activity.  He will say to himself, "My parents"
or "my master" or "employer shall never say of me, Religion has spoiled
him.  They shall see me more active and alive than before.  I will be
punctual and attentive, and adorn the Gospel of God our Saviour.  My
companions shall never have occasion to laugh at any affectation of
religious feeling in me.  No, I will affect nothing.  In a manly way I
will, with God's blessing, do my duty.  I will not, as far as I can
help, dishonour His service by any strangeness or extravagance of
conduct, any unreality of words, any over-softness or constraint of
manner; but they shall see that the fear of God only makes those who
cherish it more respectable in the world's eyes as well as more
heavenly-minded.  What a blessed return it will be for God's mercies to
me, if I, who am like a brand plucked out of the burning, be allowed,
through His great mercy, to recommend that Gospel to others which He
has revealed to me, and to recommend it, as on the one hand by my
strictness in attending God's ordinances, in discountenancing vice and
folly, and by a conscientious walk; so, on the other hand, by all that
is of good report in social life, by uprightness, honesty, prudence,
and straightforwardness, by good temper, good-nature, and brotherly
love!"

3. Thankfulness to Almighty God, nay, and the inward life of the Spirit
itself, will be additional principles causing the Christian to labour
diligently in his calling.  He will see God in all things.  He will
recollect our Saviour's life.  Christ was brought up to a humble trade.
When he labours in his own, he will think of his Lord and Master in
His.  He will recollect that Christ went down to Nazareth and was
subject to His parents, that He walked long journeys, that He bore the
sun's heat and the storm, and had not where to lay His head.  Again, he
knows that the Apostles had various employments of this world before
their calling; St. Andrew and St. Peter fishers, St. Matthew a
tax-gatherer, and St. Paul, even after his calling, still a tent-maker.
Accordingly, in whatever comes upon him, he will endeavour to discern
and gaze (as it were) on the countenance of his Saviour.  He will feel
that the true contemplation of that Saviour lies _in_ his worldly
business, that as Christ is seen in the poor, and in the persecuted,
and in children, so is He seen in the employments which He puts upon
His chosen, whatever they be; that in attending to his own calling he
will be meeting Christ; that if he neglect it, he will not on that
account enjoy His presence at all the more, but that while performing
it, he will see Christ revealed to his soul amid the ordinary actions
of the day, as by a sort of sacrament.  Thus he will take his worldly
business as a gift from Him, and will love it as such.

4. True humility is another principle which will lead us to desire to
glorify God in our worldly employments if possible, instead of
resigning them.  Christ evidently puts His greater blessings on those
whom the world despises.  He has bid His followers take the lowest
seat.  He says that he who would be great must be as the servant of
all, that he who humbleth himself shall be exalted; and He Himself
washed His disciples' feet.  Nay, He tells us, that He will gird
Himself, and serve them who have watched for Him, an astonishing
condescension, which makes us almost dumb with fear and rejoicing.  All
this has its effect upon the Christian, and he sets about his business
with alacrity, and without a moment's delay, delighting to humble
himself, and to have the opportunity of putting himself in that
condition of life which our Lord especially blest.

5. Still further, he will use his worldly business as a means of
keeping him from vain and unprofitable thoughts.  One cause of the
heart's devising evil is, that time is given it to do so.  The man who
has his daily duties, who lays out his time for them hour by hour, is
saved a multitude of sins which have not time to get hold upon him.
The brooding over insults received, or the longing after some good not
granted, or regret at losses which have befallen us, or at the loss of
friends by death, or the attacks of impure and shameful thoughts, these
are kept off from him who takes care to be diligent and well employed.
Leisure is the occasion of all evil.  Idleness is the first step in the
downward path which leads to hell.  If we do not find employment to
engage our minds with, Satan will be sure to find his own employment
for them.  Here we see the difference of motive with which a religious
and a worldly-minded man may do the same thing.  Suppose a person has
had some sad affliction, say a bereavement: men of this world, having
no pleasure in religion, not liking to dwell on a loss to them
irreparable, in order to drown reflection, betake themselves to worldly
pursuits to divert their thoughts and banish gloom.  The Christian
under the same circumstances does the same thing; but it is from a fear
lest he should relax and enfeeble his mind by barren sorrow; from a
dread of becoming discontented; from a belief that he is pleasing God
better, and is likely to secure his peace more fully, by not losing
time; from a feeling that, far from forgetting those whom he has lost
by thus acting, he shall only enjoy the thought of them the more really
and the more religiously.

6. Lastly, we see what judgment to give in a question sometimes
agitated, whether one should retire from our worldly business at the
close of life, to give our thoughts more entirely to God.  To wish to
do so is so natural, that I suppose there is no one who would not wish
it.  A great many persons are not allowed the privilege, a great many
are allowed it through increasing infirmities or extreme old age; but
every one, I conceive, if allowed to choose, would think it a privilege
to be allowed it, though a great many would find it difficult to
determine _when_ was the fit time.  But let us consider what is the
reason of this so natural a wish.  I fear that it is often not a
religious wish, often only partially religious.  I fear a great number
of persons who aim at retiring from the world's business, do so under
the notion of their then enjoying themselves somewhat after the manner
of the rich man in the Gospel, who said, "Soul, thou hast much goods
laid up for many years."  If this is the predominant aim of any one, of
course I need not say that it is a fatal sin, for Christ Himself has
said so.  Others there are who are actuated by a mixed feeling; they
are aware that they do not give so much time to religion as they ought;
they do not live by rule; nay, they are not satisfied with the
correctness or uprightness of some of the practices or customs which
their way of life requires of them, and they get tired of active
business as life goes on, and wish to be at ease.  So they look to
their last years as a time of retirement, in which they may _both_
enjoy themselves _and_ prepare for heaven.  And thus they satisfy both
their conscience and their love of the world.  At present religion is
irksome to them; but then, as they hope, duty and pleasure will go
together.  Now, putting aside all other mistakes which such a frame of
mind evidences, let it be observed, that if they are at present _not_
serving God with all their hearts, but look forward to a time when they
shall do so, then it is plain that, when at length they _do_ put aside
worldly cares and turn to God, if ever they do, that time must
necessarily be a time of deep humiliation, if it is to be acceptable to
Him, not a comfortable retirement.  Who ever heard of a pleasurable,
easy, joyous repentance?  It is a contradiction in terms.  These men,
if they do but reflect a moment, must confess that their present mode
of life, supposing it be not so strict as it should be, is heaping up
tears and groans for their last years, not enjoyment.  The longer they
live as they do at present, not only the more unlikely is it that they
will repent at all; but even if they do, the more bitter, the more
painful must their repentance be.  The only way to escape suffering for
sin hereafter is to suffer for it here.  Sorrow here or misery
hereafter; they cannot escape one or the other.

Not for any worldly reason, then, not on any presumptuous or
unbelieving motive, does the Christian desire leisure and retirement
for his last years.  Nay, he will be content to do without these
blessings, and the highest Christian of all is he whose heart is so
stayed on God, that he does not wish or need it; whose heart is so set
on things above, that things below as little excite, agitate, unsettle,
distress, and seduce him, as they stop the course of nature, as they
stop the sun and moon, or change summer and winter.  Such were the
Apostles, who, as the heavenly bodies, went out "to all lands," full of
business, and yet full too of sweet harmony, even to the ends of the
earth.  Their calling was heavenly, but their work was earthly; they
were in labour and trouble till the last; yet consider how calmly St.
Paul and St. Peter write in their last days.  St. John, on the other
hand, was allowed in a great measure, to retire from the cares of his
pastoral charge, and such, I say, will be the natural wish of every
religious man, whether his ministry be spiritual or secular; but, not
in order to _begin_ to fix his mind on God, but merely because, though
he may contemplate God as truly and be as holy in heart in active
business as in quiet, still it is more becoming and suitable to meet
the stroke of death (if it be allowed us) silently, collectedly,
solemnly, than in a crowd and a tumult.  And hence it is, among other
reasons, that we pray in the Litany to be delivered "from _sudden_
death."

On the whole, then, what I have said comes to this, that whereas Adam
was sentenced to labour as a punishment, Christ has by His coming
sanctified it as a means of grace and a sacrifice of thanksgiving, a
sacrifice cheerfully to be offered up to the Father in His name.

It is very easy to speak and teach this, difficult to do it; very
difficult to steer between the two evils,--to use this world as not
abusing it, to be active and diligent in this world's affairs, yet not
for this world's sake, but for God's sake.  It requires the greater
effort for a minister of Christ to speak of it, for this reason;
because he is not called upon in the same sense in which others are to
practise the duty.  He is not called, as his people are, to the
professions, the pursuits, and cares of this world; his work is
heavenly, and to it he gives himself wholly.  It is a work which, we
trust, is not likely to carry him off from God; not only because it is
His work, but, what is a more sure reason, because commonly it gains no
great thanks from men.  However, for this reason it is difficult for
Christian ministers to speak about your trial in this matter, my
brethren, because it is not theirs.  We are tried by the command to
live out of the world, and you by the command to live in it.

May God give us grace in our several spheres and stations to do His
will and adorn His doctrine; that whether we eat and drink, or fast and
pray, labour with our hands or with our minds, journey about or remain
at rest, we may glorify Him who has purchased us with His own blood!



[1] Acts i. 11.



SERMON XII.

Vanity of Human Glory.

"_The world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not._"--1 John iii. 1


Of St. Simon and St. Jude, the Saints whom we this day commemorate,
little is known[1].  St. Jude, indeed, still lives in the Church in his
Catholic epistle; but of his history we only know that he was brother
to St. James the Less, and nearly related to our Lord and that, like
St. Peter, he had been a married man.  Besides his name of Jude or
Judas, he is also called Thaddaeus and Lebbaeus in the Gospels.  Of St.
Simon we only know that he was called the Canaanite, or Zealot, for the
words have the same meaning, belonging, before his conversion, to a
certain fierce sect, who, under the idea they were doing God service,
took upon themselves to execute the law upon offenders without legal
authority, and without formal accusation or trial.  It is said that
both Apostles were at length martyred in the course of their efforts to
gather together God's elect into His fold.

Little is known of St. Simon and St. Jude; they laboured and they
taught in their generation; they were gifted with miraculous powers,
and by their preaching founded churches and saved souls; they travelled
into the East and West, till at last they were taken away from the
earth.  Yet we know little of their history now.  Although "honoured in
their generation, and the glory of their times," yet they "have no
memorial, but are perished as though they had never been[2]."  St.
Jude's Epistle, indeed, is a standing monument, yet not of his doings,
but of his gifts.  What he wrote leads us to conjecture indeed what he
was; but of his history, we know no more than of that of St. Simon.

And hence we draw an important lesson for ourselves, which, however
obvious, is continually forgotten by us in the actual business of life;
viz. to do our duty without aiming at the world's praise.  Mankind
knows nothing of St. Simon's and St. Jude's deeds and sufferings,
though these were great; yet there is One who "knows their works, and
labour, and patience, . . . and how they bore . . . and for His Name's
sake laboured, and fainted not[3]."  Their deeds are blotted out from
history, but not from the Lamb's book of life; for "blessed are they
who die in Him, . . . that they may rest from their labours; and their
works do follow them[4]."

On this great practical rule, viz. to do what we do heartily, as unto
the Lord, and not unto men, I shall now make some remarks; and in doing
so, I shall be pointing out a mode in which we may follow these blessed
Saints, whose lives at first sight seem to have left no pattern behind
them for our imitation.

In heathen times, when men understood that they had souls, yet did not
know what was the soul's true happiness, or how it was to be gained,
much was thought, and more talked, of what they called _glory, fame,
honour_.  This was natural, as a little consideration will show.  For
before men begin to exercise their minds, while they remain ignorant
and dull, the common pleasures of sense satisfy them--eating, drinking,
and making merry.  They do not think of the morrow.  They have no end
in view, and act on no plan.  But when intelligence is awakened, and
they learn to feel, reflect, hope, plan, and exert themselves, then
mere animal indulgences are not enough for them, and they look about
for some higher pleasures, more lasting and more refined.  This is the
real effect of that civilization which is so much extolled; it gives
men refined wishes, and sets them on gratifying them.  An enlightened
age is one which feels the wants of human nature.  Knowledge and mental
cultivation render men alive to the things around them, busy, and
restless; but they do no more than make men sensible of their wants;
they find no remedy for them; they bring no appropriate food to the
hunger they create: for it is religion alone can do this.

Now the ancient heathen whom I speak of were just in this state; having
minds cultivated and refined intellectually, they felt the capabilities
of man for acting on a large field, and the need of some stimulus to
make him act thus.  They saw that human nature was capable of great
things, and they perceived that some great goods must be attainable in
some way or other, though they did not well know what they were.
Feelings such as these, acting upon men in the tumult of life, with
their passions awake, keenly set on (what are called) political
objects, and averse to those self-denying habits which conscience (if
listened to) would have suggested to be the way to that unknown
happiness which their heart was imagining, led them to think of what
they called glory and popularity as the greatest of goods, and that to
which they ought especially to aspire.

Now what exactly they wished to signify by the word "glory," is
difficult to say, for they were apt to speak of it as if it were some
real thing, and that, too, which one could possess and make one's own;
yet, if we come to consider its real meaning, it plainly stands for
nothing else than the praise of other men, the being admired, honoured,
and feared; or, more commonly, having a celebrated name; that is, for a
something external to ourselves.  But whatever precise notions they
wished to attach to the word, they used to talk in glowing language of
the necessity of going through dangers and sufferings for glory's
sake,--labouring to benefit the world for glory,--and dying for glory.

Now when we read of poor heathens using this language, it is our duty
to pity them, for it is plain enough to any sober reasoner, that
nothing is so vain as to talk of this glory being a real and
substantial good; for there is no better reason for my being happy
because my name is celebrated, than because any thing else is
celebrated which, accidentally, and for a time, is connected with
myself, and called mine.  My name is my own only in the case of those
who use it in speaking of me; i. e. of those who happen to see and know
me.  But when those who never saw me talk much of my name, they do me
no more good or harm than if they celebrated any thing else which _I_
may know to be mine.  They may praise a house that was once mine--that
is not praising me; nor, in like manner, is it doing me any good, or
honouring me, when those who never saw me use my name respectfully.  It
is a mere imagination, which can give no solid or lasting pleasure.
There is some meaning and sense (though great wickedness) in coveting
our neighbour's house or garden, horse or ass; the unjust steward,
though a bad man, at least acted wisely, i. e. according to a worldly
wisdom; but those who covet honour, I mean a great name, really covet
no substantial thing at all, and are not only "the most offending men
alive," inasmuch as this passion for fame may carry them on to the most
atrocious crimes, but also the most foolish of men.

Now, in the ancient heathen we may blame, but we must pity this sin,
because it at least evidenced in them a knowledge of a great want of
human nature, and was so far the sign of a higher state of mind than
that of others who did not feel any wants at all, who had no notion of
any but selfish enjoyments, and were content to live and die like the
brutes that perish.  Their sin lay, not in being anxious for some good
or other, which was not before their eyes, but in not consulting their
own hearts on the subject, and going the way which their conscience
told them.  But, I say, they were heathens,--they had no Bible, no
Church; and therefore we pity them; and by their errors are reminded to
look to ourselves, and see how far we are clean from their sin.

Now it is a most melancholy fact, that Christians are chargeable, for
all their light, with the same foolish irrational sin.  This was not at
first sight to be expected.  This is a peculiar case.  Observe; I do
not say it is wonderful that we should seek the praise of persons we
know.  This I can understand.  We all naturally love to be respected
and admired, and in due limits perhaps we may be allowed to do so; the
love of praise is capable of receiving a religious discipline and
character.  But the surprising thing is, that we should leave the
thought of present goods, whether sensual enjoyments, or the more
refined pleasure which the praise of our friends brings us, yet without
going on to seek the good of the next world; that we should deny
ourselves, yet not deny ourselves for a reality, but for a shadow.  It
is natural, I say, to love to have deference and respect paid us by our
acquaintance; but I am speaking of the desire of glory, that is, the
praise of a vast multitude of persons we never saw, or shall see, or
care about; and this, I say, is a depraved appetite, the artificial
produce of a falsely enlightened intellect; as unmeaning as it is
sinful, or rather more sinful, because it is so very unmeaning;
excusable indeed in heathen, not only because they knew no better, but
because they had no better good clearly proposed to them; but in
Christians, who have the favour of God and eternal life set before
them, deeply criminal, turning away, as they do, from the bread of
heaven, to feed upon ashes, with a deceived and corrupted imagination.

This love of indiscriminate praise, then, is an odious, superfluous,
wanton sin, and we should put it away with a manly hatred, as something
irrational and degrading.  Shall man, born for high ends, the servant
and son of God, the redeemed of Christ, the heir of immortality, go out
of his way to have his mere name praised by a vast populace, or by
various people, of whom he knows nothing, and most of whom (if he saw
them) he would himself be the first to condemn?  It is odious, yet
young persons of high minds and vigorous powers, are especially liable
to be led captive by this snare of the devil.  If reasoning does not
convince them, let facts,--the love of glory has its peculiar
condemnation in its consequences.  No sin has been so productive of
wide-spread enduring ruin among mankind: wars and conquests are the
means by which men have most reckoned on securing it.  A tree is known
by its fruit.

These remarks apply to the love of indiscriminate praise in all its
shapes.  Few persons, indeed, are in a condition to be tempted by the
love of glory; but all persons may be tempted to indulge in vanity,
which is nothing else but the love of general admiration.  A vain
person is one who likes to be praised, whoever is the praiser, whether
good or bad.  Now consider, how few men are not in their measure vain,
till they reach that period of life when by the course of nature vanity
disappears?  Let all Christians carefully ask themselves, whether they
are not very fond, not merely of the praise of their superiors and
friends--this is right,--but of that of any person, any chance-comer,
about whom they know nothing.  Who is not open to flattery? and if he
seems not to be exposed to it, is it not that he is too shrewd or too
refined to be beguiled by any but what is delicate and unostentatious?
A man never considers who it is who praises him.  But the most
dangerous, perhaps, of all kinds of vanity is to be vain of our
personal appearance, most dangerous, for such, persons are ever under
temptation--I may say, ever sinning.  Wherever they go they carry their
snare with them; and their idle love of admiration is gratified without
effort by the very looks of those who gaze upon them.

Now I shall say something upon the natural and rational love of praise,
and how far it may be safely indulged.  As I have already said, it is
_natural_ to desire the esteem of all those with whom we have
intercourse, all whom we love.  Indeed, Almighty God intends us to do
so.  When we love a person, we cannot but wish he should love us; but
he cannot love us, without also feeling respect and esteem towards us.
And as to the question, from whom we should desire praise, and how far,
we have this simple rule--from all who stand to us in Christ's place.
Christ Himself is our great Judge; from Him we must supremely seek
praise; and as far as men are in His place, so far may we seek it from
men.  We may desire the praise of our parents and superiors, and the
praise of good men--in a word, all whom we have a value for; but the
desire of indiscriminate praise, the praise of those for whom we have
no respect or regard, this is the mischief.  We may desire the praise
of those we have never seen, if we believe them to be good men.  St.
Paul not only speaks of the mutual rejoicing between himself and the
Corinthians[5], who knew each other, but likewise returns thanks that
the fame of the faith of the Romans was spread all over the Christian
world[6].  And in this way we may desire the praise of good persons yet
unborn--I mean the Church of God, to the end of time.  St. Mary, in the
hymn we daily use, returns thanks that "from henceforth all generations
shall call her blessed[7]."  But this feeling of hers is very different
from the desire of what is called glory, posthumous fame, fame after
death; as if, forsooth, it were a great thing to have one's name
familiar to the mouths of the mixed multitude of this world, of
swearers, and jesters, and liars, and railers, and blasphemers, and of
all those men, who even if they do not sin grossly in deed, yet use
their tongues for evil, speak the words of the world, slander the
Church, speak evil of dignities, propagate error, and defend sinners; a
great thing truly, and much to be desired, to be honoured by that evil
world which dishonours God and His Son!

One additional caution I must add, about allowing ourselves the praise
of others; not only must we desire the praise of none but good men, but
we must not earnestly desire to be known even by many good men.  The
truth is, we cannot know, really know, many persons at all, and it is
always dangerous to delight in the praises of strangers, even though we
believe them to be good men, and much more to seek their praises, which
is a kind of ambition.  And further than this, it is more agreeable to
the Christian temper to be satisfied rather to know and to be known by
a few, and to grow day by day in their esteem and affection, than to
desire one's name to be on the lips of many, though they profess
religion, and associate us with religious objects.  And it is our great
privilege to have the real blessing in our power, while the fancied
good alone is difficult to be gained.  Few Christians can be great or
can leave a name to posterity; but most Christians will, in the length
of their lives, be able to secure the love and praise of one or two,
who are to them the representatives of Him whom "having not seen they
love," and in whose presence, or at least in whose memory, they may
comfort their heart till He come.  This doubtless has been the
happiness of many saints who have not even left their names behind
them.  It was the privilege doubtless of St. Simon and St. Jude.  They,
indeed, were not simply unknown to the world in their lifetime, but
even hated and persecuted by it.  Upon them came our Saviour's
prophecy, that "men should revile them . . . and say all manner of evil
against them falsely for His sake[8]."  Yet in the affection the Church
bore them, in the love they bore to each other, and, above all, the
praise of that Saviour whom they had followed on earth, and who named
them in the number of those who had continued with Him in His
temptations[9], and were written in heaven, they had a real glory, not
as the world giveth.  Who can estimate, who can imagine the deep, the
wonderful, the awful joy which the approbation of Christ would impart
to them?  When we consider how intimately they were allowed to
associate with Him, how they were witnesses of His heavenly
conversation through the days of His flesh, of His acts of mercy, of
His Divine words, of the grace, the tenderness, the sanctity, the
majesty, the calmness, which reigned within Him; of His knowledge, His
wisdom, His perfect love of God, His zeal for God's service, His
patient obedience,--and much more when they knew the dread secret of
what He was before He came on earth, what He was even while on earth in
presence,--to have had a smile, an encouraging word, from Him, was it
not a privilege to treasure in memory beyond any thing else, a
remembrance so bright that every thing else looked discoloured and dim?
and would it not have amounted to a loss of reason in them to have even
had the thought of seeking the praise of weak, ignorant, sinful mortals?

Let us seek this praise which cometh of God, though we shall not have
that sensible experience of it which the Apostles were vouchsafed.  Let
us seek it, for it is to be obtained; it is given to those worthy of
it.  The poorest, the oldest, and most infirm among us, those who are
living not merely in obscurity, but are despised and forgotten, who
seem to answer no good purpose by living on, and whose death will not
be felt even by their neighbours as a loss, these even may obtain our
Saviour's approving look, and receive the future greeting, "Well done,
good and faithful servant."

Go on, then, contentedly in the path of duty, seeking Christ in His
house and in His ordinances, and He will be your glory at His coming.
He will own you before His Father.  Let the world record in history the
names of heroes, statesmen, and conquerors, and reward courage, and
ability, and skill, and perseverance, with its proud titles of honour.
Verily, these have their reward.  Your names will be written in Heaven,
with those of St. Simon and St. Jude, and the other Apostles.  You will
have the favour of Him whose favour is life.  "The secret of the Lord
is with them that fear Him; and He will show them His covenant[10]."



[1] Preached on the Festival of St. Simon and St. Jude.

[2] Eccles. xliv. 7, 9.

[3] Rev. ii. 2, 3.

[4] Rev. xiv. 18.

[5] 2 Cor. i. 4

[6] Rom. i. 8.

[7] Luke i. 48.

[8] Matt. v. 11.

[9] Luke xxii. 28-30.

[10] Ps. xxv. 14.



SERMON XIII.

Truth hidden when not sought after.

"_They shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned
unto fables._"--2 Tim. iv. 4.


From these words of the blessed Apostle, written shortly before he
suffered martyrdom, we learn, that there is such a thing as religious
truth, and therefore there is such a thing as religious error.  We
learn that religious truth is _one_--and therefore that all views of
religion _but_ one are wrong.  And we learn, moreover, that so it was
to be (for his words are a prophecy) that professed Christians,
forgetting this, should turn away their ears from the one Truth, and
should be turned, not to one, but to many fables.  All this is
fulfilled before our eyes; our religious creeds and professions at this
day are many; but Truth is one: therefore they cannot all be right, or
rather almost all of them must be wrong.  That is, the multitude of men
are wrong, so far as they differ, and as they differ, not about trivial
points, but about great matters, it follows that the multitude of men,
whether by their own fault or not, are wrong even in the greater
matters of religion.

This is a most solemn thought, and a perplexing one.  However, there is
another which, though it ought not to be perplexing, is perplexing
still, and perhaps has greater need to be considered and explained; I
mean that men of learning and ability are so often wrong in religious
matters also.  It is a stumbling-block to many, when they find that
those who seem the legitimate guides furnished by God's providence, who
are in some sense the natural prophets and expounders of the truth,
that these too are on many sides, and therefore many of them on the
side of error also.  There are persons who can despise the opinions of
the _many_, and feel that _they_ are not right, but that truth, if it
be to be found, lies with the _few_; and since men of ability _are_
among the few, they think that truth lies with men of ability, and when
after all they are told that able men are ranged on contrary sides in
religious questions, they either hastily deny the fact, or they are
startled, and stagger in their faith.

But on the contrary, let us honestly confess what is certain, that not
the ignorant, or weakminded, or dull, or enthusiastic, or extravagant
only turn their ears from the Truth and are turned unto fables, but
also men of powerful minds, keen perceptions, extended views, ample and
various knowledge.  Let us, I say, confess it; yet let us not believe
in the Truth the less on account of it.

I say that in the number of the adversaries of the Truth, there are
many men of highly endowed and highly cultivated minds.  Why should we
deny this?  It is unfair to do so; and not only unfair, but very
unnecessary.  What is called ability and talent does not make a man a
Christian; nay, often, as may be shown without difficulty, it is the
occasion of his rejecting Christianity, or this or that part of it.
Not only in the higher ranks of society do we see this; even in the
humble and secluded village, it will commonly be found, that those who
have greater gifts of mind than others around them, who have more
natural quickness, shrewdness, and wit, are the very persons who are
the most likely to turn out ill--who are least under the influence of
religious principles--and neither obey nor even revere the Gospel of
salvation which Christ has brought us.

Now if we consult St. Paul's Epistles to the Corinthians, we shall find
the same state of things existing even in the first age of
Christianity.  Even the Apostle speaks of those who were blind, or to
whom his Gospel was hid; and he elsewhere describes them, not as the
uneducated and dull of understanding, but as the wise of this world,
the scribe and the disputer.  Even then, before the Apostle's prophecy
in the text was fulfilled, there were many who erred from the truth
even in the midst of light, and in spite of superior intellectual
endowments and acquirements.

Does not our Saviour Himself say the same thing, when He thanks His
Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that He hath hid these things from
the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes?

Now it should not surprise us when men of acute and powerful
understandings more or less reject the Gospel, for this reason, that
the Christian revelation addresses itself to our hearts, to our love of
truth and goodness, our fear of sinning, and our desire to gain God's
favour, and quickness, sagacity, depth of thought, strength of mind,
power of comprehension, perception of the beautiful, power of language,
and the like, though they are excellent gifts, are clearly quite of a
different kind from these spiritual excellences--a man may have the one
without having the other.  _This_, then, is the plain reason why able,
or again why learned men are so often defective Christians, because
there is no necessary connexion between faith and ability, because
faith is one thing and ability is another; because ability of mind is a
_gift_, and faith is a _grace_.  Who would ever argue that a man could,
like Samson, conquer lions or throw down the gates of a city, because
he was able, or accomplished, or experienced in the business of life?
Who would ever argue that a man could see because he could hear, or run
with the swift because he had "the tongue of the learned[1]"?  These
gifts are different in kind.  In like manner, powers of mind and
religious principles and feelings are distinct gifts; and as all the
highest spiritual excellence, humility, firmness, patience, would never
enable a man to read an unknown tongue, or to enter into the depths of
science, so all the most brilliant mental endowments, wit, or
imagination, or penetration, or depth, will never of themselves make us
wise in religion.  And as we should fairly and justly deride the savage
who wished to decide questions of science or literature by the sword,
so may we justly look with amazement on the error of those who think
that they can master the high mysteries of spiritual truth, and find
their way to God, by what is commonly called reason, i. e. by the
random and blind efforts of mere mental acuteness, and mere experience
of the world.

That Truth, which St. Paul preached, addresses itself to our spiritual
nature: it will be rightly understood, valued, accepted, by none but
lovers of truth, virtue, purity, humility, and peace.  Wisdom will be
justified of her children.  Those, indeed, who are thus endowed may and
will go on to use their powers of mind, whatever they are, in the
service of religion; none but they can use them aright.  Those who
reject revealed truth wilfully, are such as do not love moral and
religious truth.  It is bad men, proud men, men of hard hearts, and
unhumbled tempers, and immoral lives, these are they who reject the
Gospel.  These are they of whom St. Paul speaks in another Epistle--"If
our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the god of
this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not."  With
this agree the instances of turning the ears from the truth which the
New Testament affords us.  Who were they who were the enemies of Christ
and His Apostles?  The infidel Sadducees, the immoral, hard-hearted,
yet hypocritical Pharisees, Herod, who married his brother Philip's
wife[2], and Felix, who trembled when St. Paul reasoned of
righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come[3].  On the other hand,
men of holy and consistent lives, as Cornelius the Centurion, and those
who were frequenters of religious ordinances, as Simeon and Anna, these
became Christians.  So it is now.  If men turn unto fables of their own
will, they do it on account of their pride, or their love of indolence
and self-indulgence.

This should be kept in mind when Christians are alarmed, as they
sometimes are, on hearing instances of infidelity or heresy among those
who read, reflect, and inquire, whereas, however we may mourn over such
instances, we have no reason to be surprised at them.  It is quite
enough for Christians to be able to show, as they well can, that belief
in revealed religion is not inconsistent with the highest gifts and
acquirements of mind, that men even of the strongest and highest
intellect have been Christians, but they have as little reason to be
perplexed at finding _other_ men of ability not true believers, as at
finding that certain _rich_ men are not true believers, or certain
_poor_ men, or some in every rank and circumstance of life.  A belief
in Christianity has hardly more connexion with what is called talent,
than it has with riches, station, power, or bodily strength.

Now let me explain what I have said by a further remark.  Is it not
plain that earnestness is necessary for gaining religious truth?  On
the other hand, is it not a natural effect of ability to save us
trouble, and even to tempt us to dispense with it, and to lead us to be
indolent?  Do not we see this even in the case of children--the more
clever are the more idle, because they rely on their own quickness and
power of apprehension?  Is indolence the way to gain knowledge from
God?  Yet this surely is continually forgotten in the world.  It is
forgotten in a measure even by the best of Christians, for no man on
earth seeks to know God's will, and to do His duty with an earnestness
suitable to the importance of the object.  But not to speak thus
rigorously, let us consider for an instant how eagerly men in general
pursue objects of this world; now with what portion of this eagerness
do they exert themselves to know the truth of God's word?  Undeniable,
then, as is the doctrine that God does not reveal Himself to those who
do not seek Him, it is certain that its truth is not really felt by us,
or we should seek Him more earnestly than we do.

Nothing is more common than to think that we shall gain religious
knowledge as a thing of course, without express trouble on our part.
Though there is no art or business of this world which is learned
without time and exertion, yet it is commonly conceived that the
knowledge of God and our duty will come as if by accident or by a
natural process.  Men go by their feelings and likings; they take up
what is popular, or what comes first to hand.  They think it much if
they now and then have serious thoughts, if they now and then open the
Bible; and their minds recur with satisfaction to such seasons, as if
they had done some very great thing, never remembering that to seek and
gain religious truth is a long and systematic work.  And others think
that education will do every thing for them, and that if they learn to
read, and use religious words, they understand religion itself.  And
others again go so far as to maintain that exertion is not necessary
for discovering the truth.  They say that religious truth is simple and
easily acquired; that Scripture, being intended for all, is at once
open to all, and that if it had difficulties, that very circumstance
would be an objection to it.  And others, again, maintain that there
are difficulties in religion, and that this shows that it is an
indifferent matter whether they seek or not as to those matters which
are difficult.

In these and other ways do men deceive themselves into a carelessness
about religious truth.  And is not all this varied negligence
sufficient to account for the varieties of religious opinion which we
see all around us?  Do not these two facts just illustrate each other;
the discordance of our religious opinions needing some explanation; and
our actual indolence and negligence in seeking the truth accounting for
it?  How many sects, all professing Christianity, but opposed to each
other, dishonour this country!  Doubtless if men sought the truth with
one tenth part of the zeal with which they seek to acquire wealth or
secular knowledge, their differences would diminish year by year.
Doubtless if they gave a half or a quarter of the time to prayer for
Divine guidance which they give to amusement or recreation, or which
they give to dispute and contention, they would ever be approximating
to each other.  We differ in opinion; therefore we cannot all be right;
many must be wrong; many must be turned from the truth; and why is
this, but on account of that undeniable fact which we see before us,
that we do not pray and seek for the Truth?

But this melancholy diversity is sometimes explained, as I just now
hinted, in another way.  Some men will tell us that this difference of
opinion in religious matters which exists, is a proof, not that the
Truth is withheld from us on account of our negligence in seeking it,
but that religious truth is not worth seeking at all, or that it is not
given us.  The present confused and perplexed state of things, which is
really a proof of God's anger at our negligence, these men say is a
proof that religious truth cannot be obtained; that there is no such
thing as religious truth; that there is no right or wrong in religion;
that, provided we _think_ ourselves right, one set of opinions is as
good as another; that we shall all come right in the end if we do but
mean well, or rather if we do not mean ill.  That is, we create
confusion by our negligence and disobedience, and then excuse our
negligence by the existence of that confusion.  It is no uncommon
thing, I say, for men to say, "that in religious matters God has willed
that men should differ," and to support their opinion by no better
argument than the fact that they _do_ differ; and they go on to
conclude that _therefore_ we need not perplex ourselves about matters
of _faith_, about which, after all, we cannot be certain.  Others,
again, in a similar spirit, argue that forms and ordinances are of no
account; that they are little matters; that it is uncertain what is
right and what is wrong in them, and that to insist on them as
important to religion is the mark of a narrow mind.  And others, again,
it is to be feared, go so far as to think that indulgence of the
passions, or self-will, or selfishness, or avarice, is not wrong,
because it is the way of the world and cannot be prevented.

To all such arguments against religious truth, it is sufficient to
reply, that no one who does not seek the truth with all his heart and
strength, can tell what is of importance and what is not; that to
attempt carelessly to decide on points of faith or morals is a matter
of serious presumption; that no one knows _whither_ he will be carried
_if_ he seeks the Truth perseveringly, and therefore, that since he
cannot see at first starting the course into which his inquiries will
be divinely directed, he cannot possibly say beforehand whether they
may not lead him on to certainty as to things which at present he
thinks trifling or extravagant or irrational.  "What I do," said our
Lord to St. Peter, "thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know
hereafter."  "_Seek_, and ye shall find;" this is the Divine rule, "If
thou _criest_ after knowledge, and _liftest up_ thy voice for
understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as
_for hid_ treasures; _then_ shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord,
and find the knowledge of God[4]."

This is a subject which cannot too strongly be insisted on.  Act up to
your light, though in the midst of difficulties, and you will be
carried on, you do not know how far.  Abraham obeyed the call and
journeyed, not knowing whither he went; so we, if we follow the voice
of God, shall be brought on step by step into a new world, of which
before we had no idea.  This is His gracious way with us: He gives, not
all at once, but by measure and season, wisely.  To him that hath, more
shall be given.  But we must begin at the beginning.  Each truth has
its own order; we cannot join the way of life at any point of the
course we please; we cannot learn advanced truths before we have
learned primary ones.  "Call upon Me," says the Divine Word, "and I
will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou
knowest not[5]."  Religious men are always learning; but when men
refuse to profit by light already granted, their light is turned to
darkness.  Observe our Lord's conduct with the Pharisees.  They asked
Him on what authority He acted.  He gave them no direct answer, but
referred them to the mission of John the Baptist--"The baptism of John,
whence was it? from heaven or from men[6]?"  They refused to say.  Then
He said, "Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things."
That is, they would not profit by the knowledge they already had from
St. John the Baptist, who spoke of Christ--therefore no more was given
them.

All of us may learn a lesson here, for all of us are in danger of
hastily finding fault with others, and condemning their opinions or
practices; not considering, that unless we have faithfully obeyed our
conscience and improved our talents, we are no fit judges of them at
all.  Christ and His Saints are alike destitute of form or comeliness
in the eyes of the world, and it is only as we labour to change our
nature, through God's help, and to serve Him truly, that we begin to
discern the beauty of holiness.  Then, at length, we find reason to
suspect our own judgments of what is truly good, and perceive our own
blindness; for by degrees we find that those whose opinions and conduct
we hitherto despised or wondered at as extravagant or unaccountable or
weak, really know more than ourselves, and are above us--and so, ever
as we rise in knowledge and grow in spiritual illumination, they (to
our amazement) rise also, while we look at them.  The better we are,
the more we understand their excellence; till at length we are taught
something of their Divine Master's perfections also, which before were
hid from us, and see why it is that, though the Gospel is set on a hill
in the midst of the world, like a city which cannot be hid, yet to
multitudes it is notwithstanding hid, since He taketh the wise in their
own craftiness, and the pure in heart alone can see God.

How are the sheep of Christ's flock scattered abroad in the waste
world!  He came to gather them together in one; but they wander again
and faint by the way, as having lost their Shepherd.  What religious
opinion can be named which some men or other have not at some time
held?  All are equally confident in the truth of their own doctrines,
though the many must be mistaken.  In this confusion let us, my
brethren, look to ourselves, each to himself.  There must be a right
and a wrong, and no matter whether others agree with us or not, it is
to us a solemn practical concern not to turn away our ears from the
truth.  Let not the diversity of opinion, in the world dismay you, or
deter you from seeking all your life long true wisdom.  It is not a
search for this day or that, but as you should ever grow in grace, so
should you ever grow also in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour
Jesus Christ.  Care not for the perplexing question which many will put
to you, "How can you be sure that you are right more than others?"
Others are nothing to you, if they are not holy and devout in their
conversation--and we all know what is meant by being holy; we know whom
we should call holy; to be holy is to be like an Apostle.  Seek truth
in the way of _obedience_; try to act up to your conscience, and let
your opinions be the result, not of mere chance reasoning or fancy, but
of an improved heart.  This way, I say, carries with it an evidence to
ourselves of its being the right way, if any way be right; and that
there is a right and a wrong way conscience also tells us.  God surely
will listen to none but those who strive to obey Him.  Those who thus
proceed, watching, praying, taking all means given them of gaining the
truth, studying the Scriptures, and doing their duty; in short, those
who seek religious truth by principle and habit, as the main business
of their lives, humbly not arrogantly, peaceably not contentiously,
shall not be "turned unto fables."  "The secret of the Lord is with
them that fear Him;" but in proportion as we are conscious to ourselves
that we are indolent, and transgress our own sense of right and wrong,
in the same proportion we have cause to fear, not only that we are not
in a safe state, but, further than this, that we do not know what is a
safe state, and what an unsafe--what is light and what is darkness,
what is truth and what is error; which way leads to heaven and which to
hell.  "The way of the wicked is in darkness; they know not at what
they stumble[7]."

I know we shall find it very hard to rouse ourselves, to break the
force of habit, to resolve to serve God, and persevere in doing so.
And assuredly we must expect, even at best, and with all our efforts,
perhaps backslidings, and certainly much continual imperfection all
through our lives, in all we do.  But this should create in us a horror
of disobedience, not a despair at overcoming ourselves.  We are not
under the law of nature, but under grace; we are not bid do a thing
above our strength, because, though our hearts are naturally weak, we
are not left to ourselves.  According to the command, so is the gift.
God's grace is sufficient for us.  Why, then, should we fear?  Rather,
why should we not make any sacrifice, and give up all that is naturally
pleasing to us, rather than that light and truth should have come into
the world, yet we not find them?  Let us be willing to endure toil and
trouble; and should times of comparative quiet be given to us, should
for a while temptation be withdrawn, or the Spirit of comfort poured
upon us, let us not inconsiderately rest in these accidental blessings.
While we thank God for them, let us remember that in its turn the time
of labour and fear, and danger and anxiety, will come upon us; and that
we must act our part well in it.  We live here to struggle and to
endure: the time of eternal rest will come hereafter.

"Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.
Blessed are they that keep His testimonies, and that seek Him with the
whole heart[8]."  "The path of the just is as the shining light, that
shineth more and more unto the perfect day[9]."



[1] Isa. l. 4.

[2] Matt. xiv. 3.

[3] Acts xxiv. 25.

[4] Prov. ii. 3-6.

[5] Jer. xxxiii. 3.

[6] Matt. xxi. 25.

[7] Prov. iv. 19.

[8] Ps. cxix. 1, 2.

[9] Prov. iv. 18.



SERMON XIV.

Obedience to God the Way to Faith in Christ.

"_When Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, He said unto him, Thou
art not far from the kingdom of God._"--Mark xii. 34.


The answer of the scribe, which our blessed Lord here commends, was
occasioned by Christ's setting before him the two great commandments of
the Law.  When He had declared the love of God and of man to comprehend
our whole duty, the scribe said, "Master, Thou hast said the truth: for
there is one God; and there is none other but He: and to love Him with
all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul,
and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is
more than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices."  Upon this
acknowledgment of the duty of general religious obedience, Christ
replied, in the words of the text, "Thou art not far from the kingdom
of God," i. e. Thou art not far from being a Christian.

In these words, then, we are taught, first, that the Christian's faith
and obedience are not the same religion as that of natural conscience,
as being some way beyond it; secondly, that this way is "not far," not
far in the case of those who try to act up to their conscience; in
other words, that obedience to conscience leads to obedience to the
Gospel, which, instead of being something different altogether, is but
the completion and perfection of that religion which natural conscience
teaches.

Indeed, it would have been strange if the God of nature had said one
thing, and the God of grace another; if the truths which our conscience
taught us without the information of Scripture, were contradicted by
that information when obtained.  But it is not so; there are not two
ways of pleasing God; what conscience suggests, Christ has sanctioned
and explained; to love God and our neighbour are the great duties of
the Gospel as well as of the Law; he who endeavours to fulfil them by
the light of nature is in the way towards, is, as our Lord said, "not
far from Christ's kingdom;" for to him that hath more shall be given.

It is not in one or two places merely that this same doctrine is
declared to us; indeed, all revelation is grounded on those simple
truths which our own consciences teach us in a measure, though a poor
measure, even without it.  It is One God, and none other but He, who
speaks first in our consciences, then in His Holy Word; and, lest we
should be in any difficulty about the matter, He has most mercifully
told us so in Scripture, wherein He refers again and again (as in the
passage connected with the text) to the great Moral Law, as the
foundation of the truth, which His Apostles and Prophets, and last of
all His Son, have taught us: "Fear God, and keep His commandments; for
this is the whole duty of man[1]."

Yet though this is so plain, both from our own moral sense, and the
declarations of Scripture, still for many reasons it is necessary to
insist upon it; chiefly, because, it being very hard to keep God's
commandments, men would willingly persuade themselves, if they could,
that strict obedience is not necessary under the Gospel, and that
something else will be taken, for Christ's sake, in the stead of it.
Instead of labouring, under God's grace, to change their wills, to
purify their hearts, and so prepare themselves for the kingdom of God,
they imagine that in that kingdom they may be saved by something short
of this, by their baptism, or by their ceremonial observances (the
burnt offerings and sacrifices which the scribe disparages), or by
their correct knowledge of the truth, or by their knowledge of their
own sinfulness, or by some past act of faith which is to last them
during their lives, or by some strong habitual persuasion that they are
safe; or, again, by the performance of some one part of their duty,
though they neglect the rest, as if God said a thing to us in nature,
and Christ unsaid it; and, when men wish a thing, it is not hard to
find texts in Scripture which may be ingeniously perverted to suit
their purpose.  The error then being so common in practice, of
believing that Christ came to gain for us easier terms of admittance
into heaven than we had before (whereas, in fact, instead of making
obedience less strict, He has enabled us to obey God more strictly, and
instead of gaining _easier_ terms of _admittance_, He has gained us
_altogether_ our admittance into heaven, which before was closed
against us); this error, I say, being so common, it may be right to
insist on the opposite truth, however obvious, that obedience to God is
the way to know and believe in Christ.

1. Now, first, let us consider how plainly we are taught in Scripture
that perfect obedience is the standard of Gospel holiness.  By St.
Paul: "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the
renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and
acceptable, and perfect, will of God[2]."  "Circumcision is nothing,
and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of
God[3]."  "Whatsoever things are true . . . honest . . . just . . .
pure . . . lovely . . . of good report: if there be any virtue, and if
there be any praise, think on these things[4]."  By St. James:
"Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is
guilty of all[5]."  By St. Peter: "Giving all diligence, add to your
faith virtue . . . knowledge . . . temperance . . . patience . . .
godliness . . . brotherly kindness . . . charity[6]."  By St. John:
"Hereby do we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments."
Lastly, by our Lord Himself: "He that hath My commandments, and keepeth
them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me, shall be loved of
My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him[7]."
And, above all, the following clear declaration in the Sermon on the
Mount: "Whosoever . . . shall break one of these least commandments,
and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of
heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called
great in the kingdom of heaven[8]."

These texts, and a multitude of others, show that the Gospel leaves us
just where it found us, as regards the necessity of our obedience to
God; that Christ has not obeyed instead of us, but that obedience is
quite as imperative as if Christ had never come; nay, is pressed upon
us with additional sanctions; the difference being, not that He relaxes
the strict rule of keeping His commandments, but that He gives us
spiritual aids, which we have not except through Him, to enable us to
keep them.  Accordingly Christ's service is represented in Scripture,
not as different from that religious obedience which conscience teaches
us naturally, but as the perfection of it, as I have already said.  We
are told again and again, that obedience to God leads on to faith in
Christ; that it is the only recognized way to Christ; and that,
therefore, to believe in Him, ordinarily implies that we are living in
obedience to God.  For instance: "Every man . . . that hath heard and
hath learned of the Father, cometh unto Me[9];" "He that doeth truth,
cometh to the light[10]," i.e. to Christ; "No man can come to Me,
except the Father which hath sent Me, draw him;" "If any man will do
the will of God, he shall know of the doctrine[11]."  On the other
hand: "He that hateth Me, hateth My Father also[12];" "If ye had known
Me, ye should have known My Father also[13];" "Whosoever denieth the
Son, the same hath not the Father[14];" "Whosoever transgresseth, and
abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in
the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son[15]."

In these and other passages of Scripture we learn, that though Christ
came to be the light of the world, yet He is not and cannot be a light
to all, but to those only who seek Him in the way of His commandments;
and to all others He is hid, the god of this world "blinding the minds
of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of
Christ, who is the Image of God, should shine unto them[16]."

2. And if we look to the history of the first propagation of the
Gospel, we find this view confirmed.  As far as we can trace the
history, we find the early Christian Church was principally composed of
those who had long been in the habit of obeying their consciences
carefully, and so preparing themselves for Christ's religion, that
kingdom of God from which the text says they were not far.  Zacharias
and Elisabeth, to whom the approach of Christ's kingdom was first
revealed, are described as "both righteous before God, walking in all
the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless[17]."  Joseph,
St. Mary's husband, is called "a just man[18];" Simeon is spoken of as
"a just and devout[19]" man; Nathaniel, as "an Israelite in whom was no
guile[20];" Joseph of Arimathea was "a good man and a just[21];"
Cornelius, the centurion, was a "religious man, and one that feared God
with all his house, who gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God
alway[22]."  And in the book of Acts generally, we shall find (as far
as we are told any thing) that those chiefly were addressed and
converted by St. Paul, who had previously trained themselves in a
religious life:--At Perga, St. Paul addressed the Israelites and those
who feared God, not the mere thoughtless heathen; and many of these
followed him[23].  At Thessalonica a great multitude of religious
Greeks believed[24]; and at Athens the Apostle still disputed with the
Jews, and with the professedly religious persons, though he also
addressed the educated heathens who lived there.  Here then is much
evidence that Christ and His Apostles chiefly sought and found their
first followers, not among open sinners, but among those who were
endeavouring, however imperfectly, to obey God.

But it may be asked, Did Christ hold out no hope for those who had
lived in sin?  Doubtless He did, if they determined to forsake their
sin.  He came to save all, whatever their former life, who gave
themselves up to Him as their Lord and Saviour; and in His Church He
gathered together of every kind, those who had departed from God, as
well as those who had ever served Him well.  Open sinners must have a
beginning of repentance, if they are to repent; and on this first
beginning Christ invites them to Him at once, without delay, for pardon
and for aid.  But this is not the question; of course all who come to
Him will be received; none will be cast out[25].  But the question is,
not this, but whether they are likely to come, to hear His voice, and
to follow Him; again, whether they will, generally speaking, prove as
consistent and deeply-taught Christians as those who, compared with
them, have never departed from God at all; and here all the advantage,
doubtless, is on the side of those who (in the words of Scripture) have
walked in the ordinances of the Lord blameless[26].  When sinners truly
repent, then, indeed, they are altogether brothers in Christ's kingdom
with those who have not in the same sense "need of repentance;" but
that they should repent at all is (alas!) so far from being likely,
that when the unexpected event takes place it causes such joy in heaven
(from the marvellousness of it) as is not even excited by the ninety
and nine just persons who need no such change of mind[27].  Of such
changes some instances are given us in the Gospels for the
encouragement of all penitents, such as that of the woman, mentioned by
St. Luke, who "loved much."  Christ most graciously went among sinners,
if so be He might save them; and we know that even those open sinners,
when they knew that they were sinners, were nearer salvation, and in a
better state, than the covetous and irreligious Pharisees, who added to
their other gross sins, hypocrisy, blindness, a contempt of others, and
a haughty and superstitious reliance on the availing virtue of their
religious privileges.

And, moreover, of these penitents of whom I speak--and whom, when they
become penitents, we cannot love too dearly (after our Saviour's
pattern), nay, or reverence too highly, and whom the Apostles, after
Christ's departure, brought into the Church in such vast
multitudes--none, as far as we know, had any sudden change of mind from
bad to good wrought in them; nor do we hear of any of them honoured
with any important station in the Church.  Great as St. Paul's sin was
in persecuting Christ's followers, before his conversion, that sin was
of a different kind; he was not transgressing, but obeying his
conscience (however blinded it was); he was doing what he thought his
duty, when he was arrested by the heavenly vision, which, when
presented to him, he at once "obeyed;" he was not sinning _against
light_, but _in_, darkness.  We know nothing of the precise state of
his mind immediately before his conversion; but we do know thus much,
that years elapsed after his conversion before he was employed as an
Apostle in the Church of God.

I have confined myself to the time of Christ's coming, but not only
then, but at all times and under all circumstances, as all parts of the
Bible inform us, obedience to the light we possess is the way to gain
more light.  In the words of Wisdom, in the book of Proverbs, "I love
them that love Me, and those that seek Me early shall find Me. . . . I
lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of
judgment[28]."  Or, in the still more authoritative words of Christ
Himself, "He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also
in much[29];" and, "He that hath, to him shall be given[30]."

Now let us see some of the consequences which follow from this great
Scripture truth.

1. First of all, we see the hopelessness of waiting for any sudden
change of heart, if we are at present living in sin.  Far more persons
deceive themselves by some such vain expectation than at first sight
may appear.  That there are even many irreligious men, who, from
hearing the false doctrines now so common, and receiving general
impressions from them, look forward for a possible day when God will
change their hearts by His own mere power, in spite of themselves, and
who thus get rid of the troublesome thought that now they are in a
state of fearful peril; who say they can do nothing till His time
comes, while still they acknowledge themselves to be far from Him; even
this I believe to be a fact, strange and gross as the self-deception
may appear to be.  And others, too, many more, doubtless, are there
who, not thinking themselves far from Him, but, on the contrary, high
in His favour, still, by a dreadful deceit of Satan, are led to be
indolent and languid in their obedience to His commandments, from a
pretence that they can do nothing of themselves, and must wait for the
successive motions of God's grace to excite them to action.  The utmost
these persons do is to talk of religion, when they ought to be up and
active, and waiting for the Blessed Spirit of Christ by obeying God's
will.  "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ
shall give thee light[31]."  This is the exhortation.  And doubtless to
all those who live a self-indulgent life, however they veil their
self-indulgence from themselves by a notion of their superior religious
knowledge, and by their faculty of speaking fluently in Scripture
language, to all such the word of life says, "Be not deceived; God is
not mooted," He tries the heart, and disdains the mere worship of the
lips.  He acknowledges no man as a believer in His Son, who does not
anxiously struggle to obey His commandments to the utmost; to none of
those who seek without striving, and who consider themselves safe, to
none of these does He give "power to become sons of God[32]."  Be not
deceived; such have fallen from that state in which their baptism
placed them and are "far from the kingdom of God."  "Whatsoever a man
soweth, that shall he also reap[33]."  And if any one says that St.
Paul was converted suddenly, and without his exerting himself, it is
sufficient to reply, that, guilty as St. Paul was, his guilt was not
that of indolence, and self-indulgence, and indifference.  His sin was
that of _neglecting the study of Scripture_; and thus, missing the
great truth that Jesus was the Christ, he persecuted the Christians;
but though his conscience was ill-informed, and that by his own fault,
yet he obeyed it such as it was.  He did what he did ignorantly.  If
then the case really be that St. Paul _was_ suddenly converted, hence,
it is true, some kind of vague hope may be said to be held out to
furious, intolerant bigots, and bloodthirsty persecutors, if they are
acting in consequence of their own notions of duty; none to the
slothful and negligent and lukewarm; none _but_ to those who can say,
with St. Paul, that they have "lived in all good conscience before God
until this day[34];" and that not under an easy profession, but in a
straitest religious sect, giving themselves up to their duty, and
following the law of God, though in ignorance, yet with all their heart
and soul.

2. But, after all, there are very many more than I have as yet
mentioned, who wait for a time of repentance to come while at present
they live in sin.  For instance, the young, who consider it will be
time enough to think of God when they grow old; that religion will then
come as a matter of course, and that they will then like it naturally,
just as they now like their follies and sins.  Or those who are much
engaged in worldly business, who confess they do not give that
attention to religion which they ought to give; who neglect the
ordinances of the Church; who desecrate the Lord's day; who give little
or no time to the study of God's word; who allow themselves in various
small transgressions of their conscience, and resolutely harden
themselves against the remorse which such transgressions are calculated
to cause them; and all this they do under the idea that at length a
convenient season will come when they may give themselves to religious
duties.  They determine on retiring at length from the world, and of
making up for lost time by greater diligence then.  All such persons,
and how many they are! think that they will be able to seek Christ when
they please, though they have lived all their lives with no true love
either of God or man; i. e. they do not, in their hearts, believe our
Lord's doctrine contained in the text, that to obey God is to be near
Christ, and that to disobey is to be far from Him.

How will this truth be plain to us in that day when the secrets of all
hearts shall be revealed!  _Now_ we do not believe that strict
obedience is as necessary as it is.  I say we do _not_ believe it,
though we say we do.  No one, of course, believes it in its fulness,
but most of us are deceived by words, and say we accept and believe,
when we hardly do more than profess it.  We say, indeed, that obedience
is absolutely necessary, and are surprised to have our real belief in
what we say questioned; but we do not give the truth that place in the
scheme of our religion which this profession requires, and thus we
cheat our consciences.  We put something _before_ it, in our doctrinal
system, as _more_ necessary than it, one man puts faith, another
outward devotion, a third attention to his temporal calling, another
zeal for the Church; that is, we put a part for the whole of our duty,
and so run the risk of losing our souls.  These are the burnt-offerings
and sacrifices which even the scribe put aside before the weightier
matters of the Law.  Or again, we fancy that the means of gaining
heaven are something stranger and rarer than the mere obvious duty of
obedience to God; we are loth to seek Christ in the waters of Jordan
rather than in Pharpar and Abana, rivers of Damascus; we prefer to seek
Him in the height above, or to descend into the deep, rather than to
believe that the word is nigh us, even in our mouth and in our
heart[35].  Hence, in false religions some men have even tortured
themselves and been cruel to their flesh, thereby to become as gods,
and to mount aloft; and in our own, with a not less melancholy, though
less self-denying, error, men fancy that certain strange effects on
their minds--strong emotion, restlessness, and an unmanly excitement
and extravagance of thought and feeling--are the tokens of that
inscrutable Spirit, who is given us, not to make us something _other
than_ men, but to make us, what without His gracious aid we never shall
be, upright, self-mastering men, humble and obedient children of our
Lord and Saviour.

In that day of trial all these deceits will be laid aside; we shall
stand in our own real form, whether it be of heaven or of earth, the
wedding garment, or the old raiment of sin[36]; and then, how many (do
we think) will be revealed as the heirs of light, who have followed
Christ in His narrow way, and humbled themselves after His manner
(though not in His perfection, and with nothing of His merit) to the
daily duties of soberness, mercy, gentleness, self-denial, and the fear
of God?

These, be they many or few, will then receive their prize from Him who
died for them, who has made them what they are, and completes in heaven
what first by conscience, then by His Spirit, He began here.  Surely
they were despised on the earth by the world; both by the open sinners,
who thought their scrupulousness to be foolishness, and by such
pretenders to God's favour as thought it ignorance.  But, in reality,
they had received from their Lord the treasures both of wisdom and of
knowledge, though men knew it not; and they then will be acknowledged
by Him before all creatures, as heirs of the glory prepared for them
before the beginning of the world.



[1] Eccles. xii. 13.

[2] Rom. xii. 2.

[3] 1 Cor. vii. 19.

[4] Phil. iv. 8.

[5] James ii. 10.

[6] 2 Pet. i. 5-7.

[7] John xiv. 21.

[8] Matt. v. 19.

[9] John vi. 46.

[10] John iii. 21.

[11] John vii. 17.

[12] John xv. 23.

[13] John viii. 19.

[14] 1 John ii. 23.

[15] 2 John 9.

[16] 2 Cor. iv. 4.

[17] Luke i. 6.

[18] Matt. i. 19.

[19] Luke ii. 25.

[20] John i. 47.

[21] Luke xxiii. 50.

[22] Acts x. 2.

[23] Acts xiii.

[24] Acts xvii.

[25] John iv. 3, 7.

[26] Luke i. 6.

[27] Luke xv. 7.

[28] Prov. viii. 17, 20.

[29] Luke xvi. 10.

[30] Mark iv. 25.

[31] Eph. v. 14.

[32] John i. 12.

[33] Gal. vi. 7

[34] Acts xxiii. 1.

[35] Rom. x. 8.

[36] Zech. iii. 4.



SERMON XV.

Sudden Conversions.

"_By the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed
upon me was not in vain._"--1 Cor. xv. 10.


We can hardly conceive that grace, such as that given to the great
Apostle who speaks in the text, would have been given in vain; that is,
we should not expect that it would have been given, had it been
foreseen and designed by the Almighty Giver that it would have been in
vain.  By which I do not mean, of course, to deny that God's gifts are
oftentimes abused and wasted by man, which they are; but, when we
consider the wonderful mode of St. Paul's conversion, and the singular
privilege granted him, the only one of men of whom is clearly recorded
the privilege of seeing Christ with his bodily eyes after His
ascension, as is alluded to shortly before the text; I say, considering
these high and extraordinary favours vouchsafed to the Apostle, we
should naturally suppose that some great objects in the history of the
Church were contemplated by means of them, such as in the event were
fulfilled.  We cannot tell, indeed, why God works, or by what rule He
chooses, we must always be sober and humble in our thoughts about His
ways, which are infinitely above our ways; but what would be
speculation, perhaps venturous speculation, before the event, at least
becomes a profitable meditation after it.  At least, now, when we read
and dwell on St. Paul's history, we may discern and insist upon the
suitableness of his character, before his conversion, for that display
of free grace which was made in him.  Not that he could merit such a
great mercy--the idea is absurd as well as wicked; but that such a one
as he was before God's grace, naturally grew by the aid of it into what
he was afterwards as a Christian.

His, indeed, was a "wonderful conversion," as our Church in one place
calls it, because it was so unexpected, and (as far as the appearance
went) so sudden.  Who of the suffering Christians, against whom he was
raging so furiously, could have conceived that their enemy was to be
the great preacher and champion of the despised Cross?  Does God work
miracles to reclaim His open malevolent adversaries, and not rather to
encourage and lead forward those who timidly seek Him?

It may be useful, then, to mention one or two kinds of what may be
called sudden conversions, to give some opinion on the character of
each of them, and to inquire which of them really took place in St.
Paul's case.

1. First; some men turn to religion all at once from some sudden
impulse of mind, some powerful excitement, or some strong persuasion.
It is a sudden resolve that comes upon them.  Now such cases occur very
frequently where religion has nothing to do with the matter, and then
we think little about it, merely calling the persons who thus change
all at once volatile and light-minded.  Thus there are persons who all
of a sudden give up some pursuit which they have been eagerly set upon,
or change from one trade or calling to another, or change their
opinions as regards the world's affairs.  Every one knows the
impression left upon the mind by such instances.  The persons thus
changing may be, and often are, amiable, kind, and pleasant, as
companions; but we cannot depend on them; and we pity them, as
believing they are doing harm both to their temporal interests and to
their own minds.  Others there are who almost profess to love change
for change-sake; they think the pleasure of life consists in seeing
first one thing, then another; variety is their chief good; and it is a
sufficient objection in their minds to any pursuit or recreation, that
it is old.  These, too, pass suddenly and capriciously from one subject
to another.  So far in matters of daily life;--but when such a person
exhibits a similar changeableness in his religious views, then men
begin to be astonished, and look out with curiosity or anxiety to see
what is the meaning of it, and particularly if the individual who thus
suddenly changed, was very decided before in the particular course of
life which he then followed.  For instance, supposing he not merely
professed no deep religious impressions, but actually was unbelieving
or profligate; or, again, supposing he not merely professed himself of
this creed or that, but was very warm, and even bitter in the
enforcement of it; then, I say, men wonder, though they do not wonder
at similar infirmities in matters of this world.

Nor can I say that they are wrong in being alive to such changes; we
_ought_ to feel differently with reference to religious subjects, and
not be as unconcerned about them as we are about the events of time.
Did a man suddenly inform us, with great appearance of earnestness,
that he had seen an accident in the street, or did he say that he had
seen a miracle, I confess it is natural, nay, in the case of most men,
certainly in the case of the uneducated, far more religious, to feel
differently towards these two accounts; to feel shocked, indeed, but
not awed, at the first--to feel a certain solemn astonishment and pious
reverence at the news of the miracle.  For a religious mind is ever
looking towards God, and seeking His traces; referring all events to
Him, and desirous of His explanation of them; and when to such a one
information is brought that God has in some extraordinary way showed
Himself, he _will_ at first sight be tempted to believe it, and it is
only the experience of the number of deceits and false prophecies which
are in the world, his confidence in the Catholic Church which he sees
before him, and which is his guide into the truth, and (if he be
educated) his enlightened views concerning the course and laws of God's
providence, which keep him steady and make him hard to believe such
stories.  On the other hand, men destitute of religion altogether, of
course from the first ridicule such accounts, and, as the event shows,
rightly; and yet, in spite of this, they are not so worthy our regard
as those who at first were credulous, from having some religious
principle without enough religious knowledge.  Therefore, I am not
surprised that such sudden conversions as I have been describing
deceive for a time even the better sort of people--whom I should blame,
if I were called on to do so, not so much for the mere fact of their
believing readily, but for their not believing the Church; for
believing private individuals who have no authority more than the
Church, and for not recollecting St. Paul's words, "If any man . . .
though we, or an Angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you
than that ye have received, let him be accursed[1]."

2. In the cases of sudden conversion I have been speaking of, when men
change at once either from open sin, or again from the zealous
partizanship of a certain creed, to some novel form of faith or
worship, their light-mindedness is detected by their frequent
changing--their changing again and again, so that one can never be
certain of them.  This is the test of their unsoundness;--having no
root in themselves, their convictions and earnestness quickly wither
away.  But there is another kind of sudden conversion, which I proceed
to mention, in which a man perseveres to the end, consistent in the new
form he adopts, and which may be right or wrong, as it happens, but
which _he_ cannot be said to recommend or confirm to us by his own
change.  I mean when a man, for some reason or other, whether in
religion or not, takes a great disgust to his present course of life,
and suddenly abandons it for another.  This is the case of those who
rush from one to the other extreme, and it generally arises from strong
and painful feeling, unsettling and, as it were, revolutionizing the
mind.  A story is told of a spendthrift who, having ruined himself by
his extravagances, went out of doors to meditate on his own folly and
misery, and in the course of a few hours returned home a determined
miser, and was for the rest of his life remarkable for covetousness and
penuriousness.  This is not more extraordinary than the fickleness of
mind just now described.  In like manner, men sometimes will change
suddenly from love to hatred, from over-daring to cowardice.  These are
no amiable changes, whether arising or not from bodily malady, as is
sometimes the case; nor do they impart any credit or sanction to the
particular secular course or habit of mind adopted on the change:
neither do they in religion therefore.  A man who suddenly professes
religion after a profligate life, merely because he is sick of his
vices, or tormented by the thought of God's anger, which is the
consequence of them, and without the love of God, does no honour to
religion, for he might, if it so chanced, turn a miser or a
misanthrope; and, therefore, though religion is not at all the less
holy and true because he submits himself to it, and though doubtless it
is a much better thing for _him_ that he turns to religion than that he
should become a miser or a misanthrope, still, when he acts on such
motives as I have described, he cannot be said to do any honour to the
cause of religion by his conversion.  Yet it is such persons who at
various times have been thought great saints, and been reckoned to
recommend and prove the truth of the Gospel to the world!

Now if any one asks what test there is that this kind of sudden
conversion is not from God, as instability and frequent change are the
test, on the other hand, in disproof of the divinity of the conversions
just now mentioned, I answer,--its moroseness, inhumanity, and
unfitness for this world.  Men who change through strong passion and
anguish become as hard and as rigid as stone or iron; they are not fit
for life; they are only fit for the solitudes in which they sometimes
bury themselves; they can only do one or two of their duties, and that
only in one way; they do not indeed change their principles, as the
fickle convert, but, on the other hand, they cannot apply, adapt,
accommodate, modify, diversify their principles to the existing state
of things, which is the opposite fault.  They do not aim at a perfect
obedience in little things as well as great; and a most serious fault
it is, looking at it merely as a matter of practice, and without any
reference to the views and motives from which it proceeds; most opposed
is it to the spirit of true religion, which is intended to fit us for
all circumstances of life as they come, in order that we may be humble,
docile, ready, patient, and cheerful,--in order that we may really show
ourselves God's servants, who do all things for Him, coming when He
calleth, going when He sendeth, doing this or that at His bidding.  So
much for the practice of such men; and when we go higher, and ask _why_
they are thus formal and unbending in their mode of life, what are the
principles that make them thus harsh and unserviceable, I fear we must
trace it to some form of selfishness and pride; the same principles
which, under other circumstances, would change the profligate into the
covetous and parsimonious.

I think it will appear at once that St. Paul's conversion, however it
was effected, and whatever was the process of it, resembled neither the
one nor the other of these.  That it was not the change of a fickle
mind is shown by his firmness in keeping to his new faith--by his
constancy unto death, a death of martyrdom.  That it was not the change
of a proud and disappointed mind, quitting with disgust what he once
loved too well, is evidenced by the variety of his labours, his active
services, and continued presence in the busy thoroughfares of the
world; by the cheerfulness, alacrity, energy, dexterity, and
perseverance, with which he pleaded the cause of God among sinners.  He
reminds us of his firmness, as well as gentleness, when he declares,
"What mean ye to weep, and break my heart? for I am ready not to be
bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the Name of the Lord
Jesus," and of his ready accommodation of himself to the will of God,
in all its forms, when he says, "I am made all things to all men, that
I might by all means save some[2]."

3. But there is another kind of sudden conversion, or rather what
appears to be such, not uncommonly found, and which may be that to
which St. Paul's conversion is to be referred, and which I proceed to
describe.

When men change their religious opinions really and truly, it is not
merely their opinions that they change, but their hearts; and this
evidently is not done in a moment--it is a slow work; nevertheless,
though gradual, the change is often not uniform, but proceeds, so to
say, by fits and starts, being influenced by external events, and other
circumstances.  This we see in the growth of plants, for instance; it
is slow, gradual, continual; yet one day by chance they grow more than
another, they make a shoot, or at least we are attracted to their
growth on that day by some accidental circumstance, and it remains on
our memory.  So with our souls: we all, by nature, are far from God;
nay, and we have all characters to form, which is a work of time.  All
this must have a beginning; and those who are now leading religious
lives have begun at different times.  Baptism, indeed, is God's time,
when He first gives us grace; but alas! through the perverseness of our
will, we do not follow Him.  There must be a time then for beginning.
Many men do not at all recollect any one marked and definite time
_when_ they began to seek God.  Others recollect a time, not, properly
speaking, when they began, but when they made what may be called a
shoot forward, the fact either being so, in consequence of external
events, or at least for some reason or other their attention being
called to it.  Others, again, continue forming a religious character
and religious opinions as the result of it, though holding at the same
time some outward profession of faith inconsistent with them; as, for
instance, suppose it has been their unhappy condition to be brought up
as heathens, Jews, infidels, or heretics.  They hold the notions they
have been taught for a long while, not perceiving that the character
forming within them is at variance with these, till at length the
inward growth forces itself forward, forces on the opinions
accompanying it, and the dead outward surface of error, which has no
root in their minds, from some accidental occurrence, suddenly falls
off; suddenly,--just as a building might suddenly fall, which had been
going many years, and which falls at this moment rather than that, in
consequence of some chance cause, as it is called, which we cannot
detect.

Now in all these cases one point of time is often taken by religious
men, as if the very time of conversion, and as if it were sudden,
though really, as is plain, in none of them is there any suddenness in
the matter.  In the last of these instances, which might be in a
measure, if we dare say it, St. Paul's case, the time when the formal
outward profession of error fell off, is taken as the time of
conversion.  Others recollect the first occasion when any deep serious
thought came into their minds, and reckon this as the date of their
inward change.  Others, again, recollect some intermediate point of
time when they first openly professed their faith, or dared do some
noble deed for Christ's sake.

I might go on to show more particularly how what I have said applies to
St. Paul; but as this would take too much time I will only observe
generally, that there was much in St. Paul's character which was not
changed on his conversion, but merely directed to other and higher
objects, and purified; it was his creed that was changed, and his soul
by regeneration; and though he was sinning most grievously and awfully
when Christ appeared to him from heaven, he evidenced then, as
afterwards, a most burning energetic zeal for God, a most scrupulous
strictness of life, an abstinence from all self-indulgence, much more
from all approach to sensuality or sloth, and an implicit obedience to
what he considered God's will.  It was pride which was his inward
enemy--pride which needed an overthrow.  He acted rather as a defender
and protector, than a minister of what he considered the truth; he
relied on his own views; he was positive and obstinate; he did not seek
for light as a little child; he did not look out for a Saviour who was
to come, and he missed Him when He came.

But how great was the change in these respects when he became a servant
of Him whom he had persecuted!  As he had been conspicuous for a proud
confidence in self, on his privileges, on his knowledge, on his birth,
on his observances, so he became conspicuous for his humility.  What
self-abasement, when he says, "I am the least of the Apostles, that am
not meet to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of
God; but by the grace of God I am what I am."  What keen and bitter
remembrance of the past, when he says, "Who was before a blasphemer,
and a persecutor, and injurious; but I obtained mercy, because I did it
ignorantly in unbelief[3]."  Ah! what utter self-abandonment, what
scorn and hatred of self, when he, who had been so pleased to be a
Hebrew of Hebrews, and a Pharisee, bore to be called, nay gloried for
Christ's sake in being called, an apostate, the most odious and
miserable of titles!--bore to be spurned and spit upon as a renegade, a
traitor, a false-hearted and perfidious, a fallen, a lost son of his
Church; a shame to his mother, and a curse to his countrymen.  Such was
the light in which those furious zealots looked on the great Apostle,
who bound themselves together by an oath that they would neither eat
nor drink till they had killed him.  It was their justification in
their own eyes, that he was a "pestilent fellow," a "stirrer of
seditions," and an abomination amid sacred institutions which God had
given.

And, lastly, what supported him in this great trial? that special mercy
which converted him, which he, and he only, saw--the Face of Jesus
Christ.  That all-pitying, all-holy eye, which turned in love upon St.
Peter when he denied Him, and thereby roused him to repentance, looked
on St. Paul also, while he persecuted Him, and wrought in him a sudden
conversion.  "Last of all," he says, "He was seen of me also, as of one
born out of due time."  One sight of that Divine Countenance, so
tender, so loving, so majestic, so calm, was enough, first to convert
him, then to support him on his way amid the bitter hatred and fury
which he was to excite in those who hitherto had loved him.

And if such be the effect of a momentary vision of the glorious
Presence of Christ, what think you, my brethren, will be their bliss,
to whom it shall be given, this life ended, to see that Face eternally?



[1] Gal. i. 8, 9.

[2] Acts xxi. 13.  1 Cor. ix. 22.

[3] 1 Tim. i. 13.



SERMON XVI.

The Shepherd of our Souls.

"_I am the good Shepherd: the good Shepherd giveth His life for the
sheep._"--John x. 11.


Our Lord here appropriates to Himself the title under which He had been
foretold by the Prophets.  "David My servant shall be king over them,"
says Almighty God by the mouth of Ezekiel: "and they all shall have one
Shepherd."  And in the book of Zechariah, "Awake, O sword, against My
Shepherd, and against the man that is My fellow, saith the Lord of
Hosts; smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered."  And in
like manner St. Peter speaks of our returning "to the Shepherd and
Bishop of our souls[1]."

"The good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep."  In those countries
of the East where our Lord appeared, the office of a shepherd is not
only a lowly and simple office, and an office of trust, as it is with
us, but, moreover, an office of great hardship and of peril.  Our
flocks are exposed to no enemies, such as our Lord describes.  The
Shepherd here has no need to prove his fidelity to the sheep by
encounters with fierce beasts of prey.  The hireling shepherd is not
tried.  But where our Lord dwelt in the days of His flesh it was
otherwise.  There it was true that the good Shepherd giveth His life
for the sheep--"but he that is an hireling, and whose own the sheep are
not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth, and the
wolf catcheth them and scattereth the sheep.  The hireling fleeth,
because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep."

Our Lord found the sheep scattered; or, as He had said shortly before,
"All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers;" and in
consequence the sheep had no guide.  Such were the priests and rulers
of the Jews when Christ came; so that "when He saw the multitudes He
was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were
scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd[2]."  Such, in like
manner, were the rulers and prophets of Israel in the days of Ahab,
when Micaiah, the Lord's Prophet, "saw all Israel scattered on the
hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd, and the Lord said, These have
no Master, let them return every man to his house in peace[3]."  Such,
too, were the shepherds in the time of Ezekiel, of whom the Prophet
says, "Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves!
should not the shepherd feed the flocks? . . .  They were scattered,
because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of
the field, when they were scattered[4]:" and in the time of the Prophet
Zechariah, who says, "Woe to the idle shepherd that leaveth the
flock[5]!"

So was it all over the world when Christ came in His infinite mercy "to
gather in one the children of God that were scattered abroad."  And
though for a moment, when in the conflict with the enemy the good
Shepherd had to lay down His life for the sheep, they were left without
a guide (according to the prophecy already quoted, "Smite the Shepherd
and the sheep shall be scattered"), yet He soon rose from death to live
for ever, according to that other prophecy which said, "He that
scattered Israel will gather him, as a shepherd doth his flock[6]."
And as He says Himself in the parable before us, "He calleth His own
sheep by name and leadeth them out, and goeth before them, and the
sheep follow Him, for they know His voice," so, on His resurrection,
while Mary wept, He did call her by her name[7], and she turned herself
and knew Him by the ear whom she had not known by the eye.  So, too, He
said, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me[8]?"  And He added, "Follow
Me."  And so again He and His Angel told the women, "Behold He goeth
before you into Galilee . . . go tell My brethren, that they go into
Galilee, and there shall they see Me."

From that time the good Shepherd who took the place of the sheep, and
died that they might live for ever, has gone before them: and "they
follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth[9];" going their way forth by
the footsteps of the flock, and feeding their kids beside the
shepherds' tents[10].

No earthly images can come up to the awful and gracious truth, that God
became the Son of man--that the Word became flesh, and was born of a
woman.  This ineffable mystery surpasses human words.  No titles of
earth can Christ give to Himself, ever so lowly or mean, which will
fitly show us His condescension.  His act and deed is too great even
for His own lips to utter it.  Yet He delights in the image contained
in the text, as conveying to us, in such degree as we can receive it,
some notion of the degradation, hardship, and pain, which He underwent
for our sake.

Hence it was prophesied under this figure by the Prophet Isaiah,
"Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and His arm shall
rule for Him . . . .  He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall
gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall
gently lead those that are with young[11]."  And, again, He promises by
the mouth of Ezekiel, "Behold, I, even I, will both search My sheep,
and seek them out.  As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that
he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out My sheep,
and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered
in the cloudy and dark day[12]."  And the Psalmist says of Him, "The
Lord is my Shepherd, therefore can I lack nothing.  He shall feed me in
a green pasture, and lead me forth beside the waters of comfort[13]."
And he addresses Him, "Hear, O thou Shepherd of Israel, Thou that
leadest Joseph like a sheep, show Thyself also, Thou that sittest upon
the Cherubims[14]."  And He Himself says in a parable, speaking of
Himself, "What man of you having a hundred sheep, if he lose one of
them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go
after that which is lost, until he find it?  And when he hath found it,
he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing[15]."

Observe, my brethren, it is here said that Christ, the Lord of Angels,
condescends to lay the lost sheep on His shoulders: in a former passage
of the Prophet Isaiah it was said that He should "gather them with His
arm, and carry them in His bosom."  By carrying them in His bosom is
meant the love He bears them, and the fulness of His grace; by carrying
them on His shoulders is signified the security of their
dwelling-place; as of old time it was said of Benjamin, "the beloved of
the Lord shall dwell in safety by Him . . . and the Lord shall cover
him all the day long, and he shall dwell between His shoulders[16];"
and again, of Israel, "As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth
over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them
on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange
god with him."  And again, in the Prophet Isaiah, "Bel boweth down,
Nebo stoopeth; their idols were upon the beasts and upon the
cattle . . . hearken unto Me, O house of Jacob . . . which are carried
_by Me_ from the womb . . .  Even to your old age I am He, and even to
hoary hairs will I carry you; I have made and I will bear, even I will
carry, and will deliver you[17]."  He alone, who "bowed Himself and
came down," He alone could do it; He alone could bear a whole world's
weight, the load of a guilty world, the burden of man's sin, the
accumulated debt, past, present, and to come; the sufferings which we
owed but could not pay, the wrath of God on the children of Adam; "in
His own body on the tree[18]," "being made a curse for us[19]," "the
just for the unjust, that He might bring us unto God," "through the
Eternal Spirit offering Himself without spot to God, and purging our
conscience from dead works to serve the Living God[20]."  Such was the
deed of Christ, laying down His life for us: and therefore He is called
the Good Shepherd.

And hence, in like manner, from the time of Adam to that of Christ, a
shepherd's work has been marked out with special Divine favour, as
being a shadow of the good Shepherd who was to come.  "Righteous Abel"
was "a keeper of sheep," "and in process of time" he "brought of the
firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof.  And the Lord had
respect unto Abel and to his offering[21]."  And who were they to whom
the Angels first brought the news that a Saviour was born?  "Shepherds
abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night[22]."
And what is the description given of the chosen family when they
descended into Egypt?  "Thy servants," they say, "are shepherds, both
we and also our fathers[23];" and what, in consequence, was their
repute in Egypt, which surely is a figure of the world?  "Every
shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians[24]."

But there are three favoured servants of God in particular, special
types of the Saviour to come, men raised from low estate to great
honour, in whom it was His will that His pastoral office should be thus
literally fulfilled.  And the first is Jacob, the father of the
patriarchs, who appeared before Pharaoh.  He became, as Abraham before
him, a father of many nations; he "increased exceedingly, and had much
cattle, and maid-servants, and men-servants, and camels, and
asses[25]," and he was visited by supernatural favours, and had a new
name given him--Israel for Jacob.  But at the first he was, as his
descendants solemnly confessed year by year, "a Syrian ready to
perish;" and what was his employment? the care of sheep; and with what
toil and suffering, and for how many years, we learn from his
expostulation with his hard master and relative, Laban--"This twenty
years have I been with thee," he says; "thy ewes and thy she-goats have
not cast their young, and the rams of thy flock have I not eaten.  That
which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of
it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen
by night.  Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the
frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes.  Thus have I been
twenty years in thy house; . . . and thou hast changed my wages ten
times[26]."

Who is more favoured than Jacob, who was exalted to be a Prince with
God, and to prevail by intercession?  Yet, you see, he is a shepherd,
to image to us that mystical and true Shepherd and Bishop of souls who
was to come.  Yet there is a second and a third as highly favoured in
various ways.  The second is Moses, who drove away the rival shepherds
and helped the daughters of the Priest of Midian to water their flock,
and who, while he was keeping the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law,
saw the Angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush.  And the third
is David, the man after God's own heart.  He was "the man who was
raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet
Psalmist of Israel[27];" but he was found among the sheep.  "He took
him away from the sheep-folds; as he was following the ewes great with
young ones, He took him; that he might feed Jacob His people, and
Israel His inheritance.  So he fed them with a faithful and true heart,
and ruled them prudently with all his power[28]."  Samuel came to
Jesse, and looked through his seven sons, one by one, but found not him
whom God had chosen: "And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy
children?  And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold,
he keepeth the sheep."  And when he came "he was ruddy, and withal of a
beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to; and the Lord said, Arise,
anoint him, for this is he[29]."  And again, after he had been in
Saul's court, he "went and returned from Saul, to feed his father's
sheep at Bethlehem[30];" and when he came to the army his brother
reproached him for "leaving those his few sheep in the wilderness;" and
when he was brought before Saul, he gave an account how a lion and a
bear "took a lamb out of the flock," and he went after them, and slew
them both, and delivered it.  Such were the shepherds of old times, men
at once of peace and of war; men of simplicity, indeed, "plain men
living in tents," "the meekest of men," yet not easy, indolent men,
sitting in green meadows, and by cool streams, but men of rough duties,
who were under the necessity to suffer, while they had the opportunity
to do exploits.

And if such were the figures, how much more was the Truth itself, the
good Shepherd, when He came, both guileless and heroic?  If shepherds
are men of simple lives and obscure fortunes, uncorrupted and unknown
in kings' courts and marts of commerce, how much more He who was "the
carpenter's Son," who was "meek and lowly of heart," who "did not
strive nor cry," who "went about doing good," who "when He was reviled,
reviled not again," and who was "despised and rejected of men"?  If, on
the other hand, they are men of suffering and trial, how much more so
He who was "a man of sorrows," and who "laid down His life for the
sheep"?

"That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee," says Jacob; "I
bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it."  And has not
Christ undertaken the charge of our souls?  Has He not made Himself
answerable for us whom the devil had rent?  Like the good Samaritan,
"Take care of him," He says, "and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I
come again I will repay thee[31]."  Or, as in another parable, under
another image: "Lord, let it alone this year also . . . and if it bear
fruit, well; and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down[32]."
"In the day the drought consumed me," says Jacob; and who was He who at
midday sat down at that very Jacob's well, tired with His journey, and
needing some of that water to quench His thirst, whereof "Jacob drank
himself, and his children and his cattle"?  Yet whereas He had a living
water to impart, which the world knew not of.  He preferred, as became
the good Shepherd, to offer it to one of those lost sheep whom He came
to seek and to save, rather than to take at her hand the water from the
well, or to accept the offer of His disciples, when they came with meat
from the city, and said, "Master, eat."  "The frost" consumed me "by
night," says Jacob, "and my sleep departed from mine eyes," and read we
not of One whose wont it was to rise a long while before day, and
continue in prayer to God? who passed nights in the mountain, or on the
sea? who dwelt forty days in the wilderness? who, in the evening and
night of His passion, was forlorn in the bleak garden, or stripped and
bleeding in the cold judgment hall?

Again: Moses, amid his sheep, saw the vision of God and was told of
God's adorable Name; and Christ, the true Shepherd, lived a life of
contemplation in the midst of His laborious ministry; He was
transfigured on the mountain, and no man knew the Son but the Father,
nor the Father but the Son.

Jacob endured, Moses meditated--and David wrought.  Jacob endured the
frost, and heat, and sleepless nights, and paid the price of the lost
sheep; Moses was taken up into the mount for forty days; David fought
with the foe, and recovered the prey--he rescued it from the mouth of
the lion, and the paw of the bear, and killed the ravenous beasts.
Christ, too, not only suffered with Jacob, and was in contemplation
with Moses, but fought and conquered with David.  David defended his
father's sheep at Bethlehem; Christ, born and heralded to the shepherds
at Bethlehem, suffered on the Cross in order to conquer.  He came "from
Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah[33];" but He was "glorious in His
apparel," for He trod the people "in His anger, and trampled them in
His fury, and their blood was sprinkled upon His garments, and He
stained all His raiment."  Jacob was not as David, nor David as Jacob,
nor either of them as Moses; but Christ was all three, as fulfilling
all types, the lowly Jacob, the wise Moses, the heroic David, all in
one--Priest, Prophet, and King.

My brethren, we say daily, "We are His people, and the sheep of His
pasture."  Again, we say, "We have erred and strayed from Thy ways,
like lost sheep:" let us never forget these truths; let us never
forget, on the one hand, that we are sinners; let us never forget, on
the other hand, that Christ is our Guide and Guardian.  He is "the Way,
the Truth, and the Life[34]."  He is a light unto our ways, and a
lanthorn unto our paths.  He is our Shepherd, and the sheep know His
voice.  If we are His sheep, we shall hear it, recognize it, and obey
it.  Let us beware of not following when He goes before: "He goes
before, and His sheep follow Him, for they know His voice."  Let us
beware of receiving His grace in vain.  When God called Samuel, he
answered, "Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth."  When Christ called
St. Paul, he "was not disobedient to the heavenly vision."  Let us
desire to know His voice; let us pray for the gift of watchful ears and
a willing heart.  He does not call all men in one way, He calls us each
in His own way.  To St. Peter He said, "Follow thou Me;" of St. John,
"If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?"  Nor is it
always easy to know His voice.  St. John knew it, and said, "It is the
Lord," before St. Peter.  Samuel did not know it till Eli told him.
St. Paul asked, "Who art Thou, Lord?"  We are bid, "try the spirits,
whether they be of God."  But whatever difficulty there be in knowing
when Christ calls, and whither, yet at least let us look out for His
call.  Let us not be content with ourselves; let us not make our own
hearts our home, or this world our home, or our friends our home; let
us look out for a better country, that is, a heavenly.  Let us look out
for Him who alone can guide us to that better country; let us call
heaven our home, and this life a pilgrimage; let us view ourselves, as
sheep in the trackless desert, who, unless they follow the shepherd,
will be sure to lose themselves, sure to fall in with the wolf.  We are
safe while we keep close to Him, and under His eye; but if we suffer
Satan to gain an advantage over us, woe to us!

Blessed are they who give the flower of their days, and their strength
of soul and body to Him; blessed are they who in their youth turn to
Him who gave His life for them, and would fain save it to them and
implant it in them, that they may live for ever.  Blessed are they who
resolve--come good, come evil, come sunshine, come tempest, come
honour, come dishonour--that He shall be their Lord and Master, their
King and God!  They will come to a perfect end, and to peace at the
last.  They will, with Jacob, confess Him, ere they die, as "the God
that fed them all their life long unto that day, the Angel which
redeemed them from all evil[35];" with Moses, that "as is their day, so
shall their strength be," and with David, that in "the valley of the
shadow of death, they fear no evil, for He is with them, and that His
rod and His staff comfort them," for "when they pass through the waters
He will be with them, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow
them; when they walk through the fire, they shall not be burnt, neither
shall the flame kindle upon them, for He is the Lord their God, the
Holy One of Israel, their Saviour."



[1] Ezek. xxxvii. 24.  Zech. xiii. 7.  1 Pet. ii. 25.

[2] Matt. ix. 36.

[3] 1 Kings xxii. 17.

[4] Ezek. xxxiv. 2, 5.

[5] Zech. xi. 17.

[6] Jer. xxxi. 10.

[7] John xx. 16.

[8] John xxi. 16.

[9] Rev. xiv. 4.

[10] Cant. i. 8.

[11] Isa. xl. 10, 11.

[12] Ezek. xxxiv. 11, 12.

[13] Ps. xxiii. 1, 2.

[14] Ps. lxxx. 1.

[15] Luke xv. 4, 6.

[16] Deut. xxxiii. 12.

[17] Deut. xxxii. 11.  Isa. xlvi. 1-4.

[18] 1 Pet. ii. 24.

[19] Gal. iii. 13.

[20] 1 Pet. iii. 18.  Heb. ix. 14.

[21] Gen. iv. 2, 4.

[22] Luke ii. 8.

[23] Gen. xlvii. 3.

[24] Gen. xlvi. 34.

[25] Gen. xxx. 43.

[26] Gen. xxxi. 38-41.

[27] 2 Sam. xxiii. 1.

[28] Ps. lxxviii. 71-73.

[29] 1 Sam. xvi. 11, 12.

[30] 1 Sam. xvii. 15, 28, 35-37.

[31] Luke x. 35.

[32] Luke xiii. 8, 9.

[33] Isa. lxiii. 1-3.

[34] John xiv. 6.

[35] Gen. xlviii. 15, 16.



SERMON XVII.

Religious Joy.[1]

"_And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good
tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born
this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the
Lord._"--Luke ii. 10, 11.


There are two principal lessons which we are taught on the great Festival
which we this day celebrate, lowliness and joy.  This surely is a day, of
all others, in which is set before us the heavenly excellence and the
acceptableness in God's sight of that state which most men have, or may
have, allotted to them, humble or private life, and cheerfulness in it.
If we consult the writings of historians, philosophers, and poets of this
world, we shall be led to think great men happy; we shall be led to fix
our minds and hearts upon high or conspicuous stations, strange
adventures, powerful talents to cope with them, memorable struggles, and
great destinies.  We shall consider that the highest course of life is
the mere pursuit, not the enjoyment of good.

But when we think of this day's Festival, and what we commemorate upon
it, a new and very different scene opens upon us.  First, we are reminded
that though this life must ever be a life of toil and effort, yet that,
properly speaking, we have not to seek our highest good.  It is found, it
is brought near us, in the descent of the Son of God from His Father's
bosom to this world.  It is stored up among us on earth.  No longer need
men of ardent minds weary themselves in the pursuit of what they fancy
may be chief goods; no longer have they to wander about and encounter
peril in quest of that unknown blessedness to which their hearts
naturally aspire, as they did in heathen times.  The text speaks to them
and to all, "Unto you," it says, "is born this day in the city of David a
Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."

Nor, again, need we go in quest of any of those things which this vain
world calls great and noble.  Christ altogether dishonoured what the
world esteems, when He took on Himself a rank and station which the world
despises.  No lot could be more humble and more ordinary than that which
the Son of God chose for Himself.

So that we have on the Feast of the Nativity these two lessons--instead
of anxiety within and despondence without, instead of a weary search
after great things,--to be cheerful and joyful; and, again, to be so in
the midst of those obscure and ordinary circumstances of life which the
world passes over and thinks scorn of.

Let us consider this more at length, as contained in the gracious
narrative of which the text is part.

1. First, what do we read just before the text? that there were certain
shepherds keeping watch over their flock by night, and Angels appeared to
them.  Why should the heavenly hosts appear to these shepherds?  What was
it in them which attracted the attention of the Angels and the Lord of
Angels?  Were these shepherds learned, distinguished, or powerful?  Were
they especially known for piety and gifts?  Nothing is said to make us
think so.  Faith, we may safely say, they had, or some of them, for to
him that hath more shall be given; but there is nothing to show that they
were holier and more enlightened than other good men of the time, who
waited for the consolation of Israel.  Nay, there is no reason to suppose
that they were better than the common run of men in their circumstances,
simple, and fearing God, but without any great advances in piety, or any
very formed habits of religion.  Why then were they chosen? for their
poverty's sake and obscurity.  Almighty God looks with a sort of especial
love, or (as we may term it) affection, upon the lowly.  Perhaps it is
that man, a fallen, dependent, and destitute creature, is more in his
proper place when he is in lowly circumstances, and that power and
riches, though unavoidable in the case of some, are unnatural appendages
to man, as such.  Just as there are trades and callings which are
unbecoming, though requisite; and while we profit by them, and honour
those the more who engage in them, yet we feel we are glad that they are
not ours; as we feel grateful and respectful towards a soldier's
profession, yet do not affect it; so in God's sight greatness is less
acceptable than obscurity.  It becomes us less.

The shepherds, then, were chosen on account of their lowliness, to be the
first to hear of the Lord's nativity, a secret which none of the princes
of this world knew.

And what a contrast is presented to us when we take into account who were
our Lord's messengers to them!  The Angels who excel in strength, these
did His bidding towards the shepherds.  Here the highest and the lowest
of God's rational creatures are brought together.  A set of poor men,
engaged in a life of hardship, exposed at that very time to the cold and
darkness of the night, watching their flocks, with the view of scaring
away beasts of prey or robbers; they--when they are thinking of nothing
but earthly things, counting over the tale of their sheep, keeping their
dogs by their side, and listening to the noises over the plain,
considering the weather and watching for the day--suddenly are met by far
other visitants than they conceived.  We know the contracted range of
thought, the minute and ordinary objects, or rather the one or two
objects, to and fro again and again without variety, which engage the
minds of men exposed to such a life of heat, cold, and wet, hunger and
nakedness, hardship and servitude.  They cease to care much for any
thing, but go on in a sort of mechanical way, without heart, and still
more without reflection.

To men so circumstanced the Angel appeared, to open their minds, and to
teach them not to be downcast and in bondage because they were low in the
world.  He appeared as if to show them that God had chosen the poor in
this world to be heirs of His kingdom, and so to do honour to their lot.
"Fear not," he said, "for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city
of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."

2. And now comes a second lesson, which I have said may be gained from
the Festival.  The Angel honoured a humble lot by his very appearing to
the shepherds; next he taught it to be joyful by his message.  He
disclosed good tidings so much above this world as to equalize high and
low, rich and poor, one with another.  He said, "Fear not."  This is a
mode of address frequent in Scripture, as you may have observed, as if
man needed some such assurance to support him, especially in God's
presence.  The Angel said, "Fear not," when he saw the alarm which his
presence caused among the shepherds.  Even a lesser wonder would have
reasonably startled them.  Therefore the Angel said, "Fear not."  We are
naturally afraid of any messenger from the other world, for we have an
uneasy conscience when left to ourselves, and think that his coming
forebodes evil.  Besides, we so little realize the unseen world, that
were Angel or spirit to present himself before us we should be startled
by reason of our unbelief, a truth being brought home to our minds which
we never apprehended before.  So for one or other reason the shepherds
were sore afraid when the glory of the Lord shone around about them.  And
the Angel said, "Fear not."  A little religion makes us afraid; when a
little light is poured in upon the conscience, there is a darkness
visible; nothing but sights of woe and terror; the glory of God alarms
while it shines around.  His holiness, the range and difficulties of His
commandments, the greatness of His power, the faithfulness of His word,
frighten the sinner, and men seeing him afraid, think religion has made
him so, whereas he is not yet religious at all.  They call him religious,
when he is merely conscience-stricken.  But religion itself, far from
inculcating alarm and terror, says, in the words of the Angel, "Fear
not;" for such is His mercy, while Almighty God has poured about us His
glory, yet it is a consolatory glory, for it is the light of His glory in
the Face of Jesus Christ[2].  Thus the heavenly herald tempered the too
dazzling brightness of the Gospel on that first Christmas.  The glory of
God at first alarmed the shepherds, so he added the tidings of good, to
work in them a more wholesome and happy temper.  Then they rejoiced.

"Fear not," said the Angel, "for behold I bring you good tidings of great
joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the
city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."  And then, when he
had finished his announcement, "suddenly there was with the Angel a
multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, Glory to God in
the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men." Such were the
words which the blessed Spirits who minister to Christ and His Saints,
spoke on that gracious night to the shepherds, to rouse them out of their
cold and famished mood into great joy; to teach them that they were
objects of God's love as much as the greatest of men on earth; nay more
so, for to them first He had imparted the news of what that night was
happening.  His Son was then born into the world.  Such events are told
to friends and intimates, to those whom we love, to those who will
sympathize with us, not to strangers.  How could Almighty God be more
gracious, and show His favour more impressively to the lowly and the
friendless, than by hastening (if I may use the term) to confide the
great, the joyful secret to the shepherds keeping watch over their sheep
by night?

The Angel then gave the first lesson of mingled humility and joyfulness;
but an infinitely greater one was behind in the event itself, to which he
directed the shepherds, in that birth itself of the Holy Child Jesus.
This he intimated in these words: "Ye shall find the babe wrapped in
swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."  Doubtless, when they heard the
Lord's Christ was born into the world, they would look for Him in kings'
palaces.  They would not be able to fancy that He had become one of
themselves, or that they might approach Him; therefore the Angel thus
warned them where to find Him, not only as a sign, but as a lesson also.

"The shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem,
and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known
to us."  Let us too go with them, to contemplate that second and greater
miracle to which the Angel directed them, the Nativity of Christ.  St.
Luke says of the Blessed Virgin, "She brought forth her first-born Son,
and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger."  What a
wonderful sign is this to all the world, and therefore the Angel repeated
it to the shepherds: "Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling
clothes, lying in a manger."  The God of heaven and earth, the Divine
Word, who had been in glory with the Eternal Father from the beginning,
He was at this time born into this world of sin as a little infant.  He,
as at this time, lay in His mother's arms, to all appearance helpless and
powerless, and was wrapped by Mary in an infant's bands, and laid to
sleep in a manger.  The Son of God Most High, who created the worlds,
became flesh, though remaining what He was before.  He became flesh as
truly as if He had ceased to be what He was, and had actually been
changed into flesh.  He submitted to be the offspring of Mary, to be
taken up in the hands of a mortal, to have a mother's eye fixed upon Him,
and to be cherished at a mother's bosom.  A daughter of man became the
Mother of God--to her, indeed, an unspeakable gift of grace; but in Him
what condescension!  What an emptying of His glory to become man! and not
only a helpless infant, though that were humiliation enough, but to
inherit all the infirmities and imperfections of our nature which were
possible to a sinless soul.  What were His thoughts, if we may venture to
use such language or admit such a reflection concerning the Infinite,
when human feelings, human sorrows, human wants, first became His?  What
a mystery is there from first to last in the Son of God becoming man!
Yet in proportion to the mystery is the grace and mercy of it; and as is
the grace, so is the greatness of the fruit of it.

Let us steadily contemplate the mystery, and say whether any consequence
is too great to follow from so marvellous a dispensation; any mystery so
great, any grace so overpowering, as that which is already manifested in
the incarnation and death of the Eternal Son.  Were we told that the
effect of it would be to make us as Seraphim, that we were to ascend as
high as He descended low--would that startle us after the Angel's news to
the shepherds?  And this indeed is the effect of it, so far as such words
may be spoken without impiety.  Men we remain, but not mere men, but
gifted with a measure of all those perfections which Christ has in
fulness, partaking each in his own degree of His Divine Nature so fully,
that the only reason (so to speak) why His saints are not really like
Him, is that it is impossible--that He is the Creator, and they His
creatures; yet still so, that they are all but Divine, all that they can
be made without violating the incommunicable majesty of the Most High.
Surely in proportion to His glory is His power of glorifying; so that to
say that through Him we shall be made _all but_ gods--though it is to
say, that we are infinitely below the adorable Creator--still is to say,
and truly, that we shall be higher than every other being in the world;
higher than Angels or Archangels, Cherubim or Seraphim--that is, not
here, or in ourselves, but in heaven and in Christ:--Christ, already the
first-fruits of our race, God and man, having ascended high above all
creatures, and we through His grace tending to the same high blessedness,
having the earnest of His glory given here, and (if we be found faithful)
the fulness of it hereafter.

If all these things be so, surely the lesson of joy which the Incarnation
gives us is as impressive as the lesson of humility.  St.  Paul gives us
the one lesson in his epistle to the Philippians: "Let this mind be in
you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God,
thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no
reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the
likeness of men[3]:" and St. Peter gives us the lesson of joyfulness:
"whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet
believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory: receiving
the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls."

Take these thoughts with you, my brethren, to your homes on this festive
day; let them be with you in your family and social meetings.  It is a
day of joy; it is good to be joyful--it is wrong to be otherwise.  For
one day we may put off the burden of our polluted consciences, and
rejoice in the perfections of our Saviour Christ, without thinking of
ourselves, without thinking of our own miserable uncleanness; but
contemplating His glory, His righteousness, His purity, His majesty, His
overflowing love.  We may rejoice in the Lord, and in all His creatures
see Him.  We may enjoy His temporal bounty, and partake the pleasant
things of earth with Him in our thoughts; we may rejoice in our friends
for His sake, loving them most especially because He has loved them.

"God has not appointed us unto wrath, but to obtain salvation through our
Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we
should live together with Him."  Let us seek the grace of a cheerful
heart, an even temper, sweetness, gentleness, and brightness of mind, as
walking in His light, and by His grace.  Let us pray Him to give us the
spirit of ever-abundant, ever-springing love, which overpowers and sweeps
away the vexations of life by its own richness and strength, and which
above all things unites us to Him who is the fountain and the centre of
all mercy, lovingkindness, and joy.



[1] For Christmas Day.

[2] 2 Cor. iv. 6.

[3] Phil. ii. 6-7.  1 Pet. i. 8, 9.



SERMON XVIII.

Ignorance of Evil.

"_And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of Us, to
know good and evil._"--Gen. iii. 22.


It is plain that the temptation under which man fell in paradise was
this, an ambitious curiosity after knowledge which was not allowed him:
next came the desire of the eyes and the flesh, but the forbidden tree
was called the tree of _knowledge_; the Tempter _promised_ knowledge;
and after the fall Almighty God pronounced, as in the text, that man
had gained it.  "Behold, the man is become as one of Us, to _know_ good
and evil."

You see it is said, "man is become _as one of Us_, to know good and
evil," because God does know evil as well as good.  This is His
wonderful incommunicable attribute; and man sought to share in what God
was, but he could not without ceasing to be what God was also, holy and
perfect.  It is the incommunicable attribute of God to know evil
without experiencing it.  But man, when he would be as God, could only
attain the shadow of a likeness which as yet he had not, by losing the
substance which he had already.  He shared in God's knowledge by losing
His image.  God knows evil and is pure from it--man plunged into evil
and so knew it.

Our happiness as well as duty lies in not going beyond our measure--in
being contented with what we are--with what God makes us.  They who
seek after forbidden knowledge, of whatever kind, will find they have
lost their place in the scale of beings in so doing, and are cast out
of the great circle of God's family.

It is, I say, God's incommunicable attribute, as He did not create, so
not to experience sin--and as He permits it, so also to know it; to
permit it without creating it, to know it without experiencing it--a
wonderful and incomprehensible attribute truly, yet involved, perhaps,
in the very circumstance that He permits it.  For He is every where and
in all, and nothing exists except in and through Him.  Mysterious as it
is, the very prison beneath the earth, its chains and fires and
impenitent inmates, the very author of evil himself, is sustained in
existence by God, and without God would fall into nothing.  God is in
hell as well as in heaven, a thought which almost distracts the mind to
think of.  The awful God!  "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit, or
whither shall I go from Thy Presence?  If I climb up into heaven, Thou
art there; if I go down to hell, Thou art there also."  Where life is,
there is He; and though it be but the life of death--the living death
of eternal torment--He is the principle of it.  And being thus
intimately present with the very springs of thought, and the first
elements of all being, being the sustaining cause of all spirits,
whether they be good or evil, He is intimately present with evil, being
pure from it--and knows what it is, as being with and in the wretched
atoms which originate it.

If there be this sort of connexion between God's knowledge and
sufferance of evil, see what an ambition it was in our first parents to
desire to know it without experiencing it; it was, indeed, to desire to
be as gods,--to know the secrets of the prison-house, and to see the
worm that dieth not, yet remain innocent and happy.

This they understood not; they desired something which they knew not
that they could not have, remaining as they were; they did not see how
knowledge and experience went together in the case of human nature; and
Satan did not undeceive them.  They ate of the tree which was to make
them wise, and, alas! they saw clearly what sin was, what shame, what
death, what hell, what despair.  They lost God's presence, and they
gained the knowledge of evil.  They lost Eden, and they gained a
conscience.

This, in fact, is the knowledge of good and evil.  Lost spirits do not
know good.  Angels do not know evil.  Beings like ourselves, fallen
beings, fallen yet not cast away, know good and evil; evil not external
to them, nor yet one with them; but in them, yet not simply of them.
Such was the fruit of the forbidden tree, as it remains in us to this
day.

We do not know in what the duty and happiness of other beings consist;
but at least this seems to have been man's happiness in Paradise, not
to think about himself or to be conscious of himself.  Such, too, to
recur to the parallel especially suggested on this day, seems to be the
state of children.  They do not reflect upon themselves.  Such, too,
seems to be the state of those orders of Angels whose life is said to
consist in contemplation--for what is contemplation but a resting in
the thought of God to the forgetfulness of self?  Hence the Saints are
described as "Virgins who _follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth_."
But Adam, discontented with what he was, pined after a knowledge which
he could not obtain from without--which he could only have from
miserable experience within--from moral disorders within him, and from
having his mind drawn to the contemplation of himself in consequence of
those disorders.  He obtained the wished for knowledge; and his first
recorded act afterwards was one of reflection upon self, and he hid
himself among the trees of the garden.  He was no longer fitted for
contemplating glories without him; his attention was arrested to the
shame that was upon him.

What is so miserably seen in the history of our first parents has been
the temptation and sin of their posterity ever since,--indulgence in
forbidden, unlawful, hurtful, unprofitable knowledge; as some instances
will show.

1. I ought to notice in the first place that evil curiosity which
stimulates young persons to intrude into things of which it is their
blessedness to be ignorant.  Satan gains our souls step by step; and
his first allurement is the knowledge of what is wrong.  He first
tempts them to the knowledge, and then to the commission of sin.
Depend on it that our happiness and our glory, in these matters, is to
be ignorant, as well as to be guiltless.  St. Paul says that "it is a
shame even to speak" of those things which are done by the sons of
Belial in secret.  Oh, thoughtless, and worse, oh, cruel to your own
selves, all ye who read what ye should not read, and hear what ye
should not hear!  Oh, how will you repent of your folly afterwards!
Oh, what bitter feelings, oh, what keen pangs, will shoot through your
souls hereafter, at the memory, when you look back, of what has come of
that baneful curiosity!  Oh, how will you despise yourselves, oh, how
weep at what you have brought on you!  At this day surely there is a
special need of this warning; for this is a day when nothing is not
pried into, nothing is not published, nothing is not laid before all
men.

2. In the next place I would observe, that the pursuit of science,
which characterizes these times, is very likely to draw us aside into a
sin of a particular kind, if we are not on our guard.  We read, in the
book of Acts, of many who used curious arts burning their books; that
is, there are kinds of knowledge which are forbidden to the Christian.
Now this seems strange to the world in this day.  The only forbidden
subjects which they can fancy, are such as are not _true_--fictions,
impostures, superstitions, and the like.  Falsehood they think wrong;
false religions, for instance, _because_ false.  But they are perplexed
when told that there may be branches of real knowledge, yet forbidden.
Yet it has ever been considered in the Church, as in Scripture, that
soothsaying, consulting the stars, magic, and similar arts, are
unlawful--unlawful, even though not false; and Scripture certainly
speaks as if at least some of them were more than merely a pretended
knowledge and a pretended power; whereas men now-a-days have got to
think that they are wrong, merely because _frauds_ and _impostures_;
and if they found them not so, they would be very slow to understand
how still they are unlawful.  They have not mastered the idea that real
knowledge may be forbidden us.

3. Next it is obvious to speak of those melancholy persons who boast
themselves on what they call their knowledge of the world and of life.
There are men, alas not a few, who look upon acquaintance with evil as
if a part of their education.  Instead of shunning vice and sin, they
try it, if for no other reason, simply for this--that they may have
knowledge of it.  They mix with various classes of men, and they throw
themselves into the manners and opinions of all in turn.  They are
ready-witted perhaps, prompt and versatile, and easily adapt themselves
so as to please and get acquainted with those they fall in with.  They
have no scruples of conscience hindering them from complying with
whatever is proposed; they are of any form of religion, have lax or
correct morals, according to the occasion.  They can revel with those
that revel, and they can speak serious things when their society is
serious.  They travel up and down the country perhaps, or they are of
professions or pursuits which introduce them to men of various
languages, or which take them abroad, and they see persons of opposite
creeds and principles, and whatever they fall in with they take as so
many facts, merely as facts of human nature, not as things right or
wrong according to a certain fixed standard independent of themselves.
Now whatever of religion or truth remains in our fallen nature is not
on the surface: these men, then, studying what is uppermost, are in
fact but studying all that is evil in man, and in consequence they have
very low notions of man.  They are very sceptical about the existence
of principle and virtue; they think all men equally swayed by worldly,
selfish, or sensual motives, though some hide their motives better than
others, or have feelings and likings of a more refined character.  And
having given in to sin themselves, they have no higher principle within
them to counteract the effect of what they see without; all their
notions of man's nature, capabilities, and destinies, are derived from,
and are measured by, what goes on in the world, and accordingly they
apply all their knowledge to bad purposes.  They think they know, and
they do know too truly on the whole, the motives and inducements which
will prevail with men; and they use their knowledge to overreach,
deceive, seduce, corrupt, or sway those with whom they have to do.

4. Another very different class of persons who study evil, and pride
themselves upon it, and are degraded by it, are those who indulge
themselves in contemplating and dwelling on the struggle between right
and wrong in their own minds.  There have been from time to time men of
morbid imaginations, of any or no religious creed, who have so
exercised themselves.  Indeed there has been a large school of writers
in very various departments, for years, I may say centuries past,
though happily they are diminishing now, who delight in bringing out
into open day all the weaknesses and inconsistencies of human nature;
nay worse, take pains to describe bad men, and how they feel, and what
they say; who interest the mind in bad men, nay in bad Angels, as if
Satan might be thought of otherwise than with shuddering.  And there
are others, men of mistaken religious views, who think that religion
consists in dwelling on and describing the struggle between grace and
corrupt nature in the soul.  Christ has brought us light and life, and
would have us put off what we are, and follow Him, who knew no sin.
But these men, far from rising even to the aspiration after perfection,
do not advance in their notion of spiritual religion beyond the idea of
declaring and lamenting their want of it.  Confession is with them
perfection; nay, it is almost the test of a Christian, to be able to
discourse upon his inward corruption.  It is well to confess sin in
detail with shame as an act of penitence; it is a snare to speak of it
vaguely and in public.

5. Lastly, even when used rightly, the knowledge of sin is not without
its danger.  As mediciners would not exist were there no illness or
disease, so it is mental disease which gives rise to casuists.  Pain
leads us to think of our bodies, and sin of our souls.  Were our souls
in perfect harmony, they would act like an instrument in tune; we
should with difficulty divide the sounds, even if we would; but it is
the discordance, the jar within us, which leads us to a serious
contemplation of what we are.  The same remark obviously applies to a
great deal of theological knowledge, on which men who have it are
tempted to pride themselves; I mean exact knowledge of heresies and the
like.  The love of God alone can give such knowledge its right
direction.  There is the danger lest men so informed find themselves
scrutinizing when they should be adoring, reasoning when they should be
believing, comparing when they should be choosing, and proving when
they should be acting.  We know two things of the Angels--that they cry
Holy, Holy, Holy, and that they do God's bidding.  Worship and service
make up their blessedness; and such is our blessedness in proportion as
we approach them.  But all exercises of mind which lead us to reflect
upon and ascertain our state; to know what worship is, and why we
worship; what service is, and why we serve; what our feelings imply,
and what our words mean, tend to divert our minds from the one thing
needful, unless we are practised and expert in using them.  All proofs
of religion, evidences, proofs of particular doctrines, scripture
proofs, and the like,--these certainly furnish scope for the exercise
of great and admirable powers of mind, and it would be fanatical to
disparage or disown them; but it requires a mind rooted and grounded in
love not to be dissipated by them.  As for truly religious minds, they,
when so engaged, instead of mere disputing, are sure to turn inquiry
into meditation, exhortation into worship, and argument into teaching.


Reflections such as these, followed up, show us how different is our
state from that for which God made us.  He meant us to be simple, and
we are unreal; He meant us to think no evil, and a thousand
associations, bad, trifling, or unworthy, attend our every thought.  He
meant us to be drawn on to the glories without us, and we are drawn
back and (as it were) fascinated by the miseries within us.  And hence
it is that the whole structure of society is so artificial; no one
trusts another, if he can help it; safeguards, checks, and securities
are ever sought after.  No one means exactly what he says, for our
words have lost their natural meaning, and even an Angel could not use
them naturally, for every mind being different from every other, they
have no distinct meaning.  What, indeed, is the very function of
society, as it is at present, but a rude attempt to cover the
degradation of the fall, and to make men feel respect for themselves,
and enjoy it in the eyes of others, without returning to God.  This is
what we should especially guard against, because there is so much of it
in the world.  I mean, not an abandonment of evil, not a sweeping away
and cleansing out of the corruption which sin has bred within us, but a
smoothing it over, an outside delicacy and polish, an ornamenting the
surface of things while "within are dead men's bones and all
uncleanness;" making the garments, which at first were given for
decency, a means of pride and vanity.  Men give good names to what is
evil, they sanctify bad principles and feelings; and, knowing that
there is vice and error, selfishness, pride, and ambition, in the
world, they attempt, not to root out these evils, not to withstand
these errors;--that they think a dream, the dream of theorists who do
not know the world;--but to cherish and form alliance with them, to use
them, to make a science of selfishness, to flatter and indulge error,
and to bribe vice with the promise of bearing with it, so that it does
but keep in the shade.

But let us, finding ourselves in the state in which we are, take those
means which alone are really left us, which alone become us.  Adam,
when he had sinned, and felt himself fallen, instead of honestly
abandoning what he had become, would fain have hid himself.  He went a
step further.  He did not give up what he now was, partly from dread of
God, partly from dislike of what he had been.  He had learnt to love
sin and to fear God's justice.  But Christ has purchased for us what we
lost in Adam, our garment of innocence.  He has bid us and enabled us
to become as little children; He has purchased for us the grace of
_simplicity_, which, though one of the highest, is very little thought
about, is very little sought after.  We have, indeed, a general idea
what love is, and hope, and faith, and truth, and purity, though a poor
idea; but we are almost blind to what is one of the first elements of
Christian perfection, that simple-mindedness which springs from the
heart's being _whole_ with God, entire, undivided.  And those who think
they have an idea of it, commonly rise no higher than to mistake for it
a mere weakness and softness of mind, which is but its counterfeit.  To
be simple is to be like the Apostles and first Christians.  Our Saviour
says, "Be ye harmless," or simple, "as doves."  And St. Paul, "I would
have you wise unto that which is good, and _simple concerning
evil_[2]."  Again, "That ye may be _blameless_ and _harmless_, the sons
of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse
nation[3]."  And he speaks of the "testimony of" his own "conscience,
that in _simplicity_ and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but
by the grace of God," he had his conversation in the world and towards
his disciples.  Let us pray God to give us this great and precious
gift; that we may blot out from our memory all that offends Him;
unlearn all that knowledge which sin has taught us; rid ourselves of
selfish motives, self-conceit, and vanity, littlenesses, envying,
grudgings, meannesses; turn from all cowardly, low, miserable ways; and
escape from servile fears, the fear of man, vague anxieties of
conscience, and superstitions.  So that we may have the boldness and
frankness of those who are as if they had no sin, from having been
cleansed from it; the uncontaminated hearts, open countenances, and
untroubled eyes of those who neither suspect, nor conceal, nor shun,
nor are jealous; in a word, so that we may have confidence in Him, that
we may stay on Him, and rest in the thoughts of Him, instead of
plunging amid the thickets of this world; that we may bear His eye and
His voice, and know no knowledge but the knowledge of Him and Jesus
Christ crucified, and desire no objects but what He has blessed and bid
us pursue.



[1] for Innocents' Day.

[2] Rom. xvi. 19.

[3] Phil. ii. 16.



END OF VOL. VIII.





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