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Title: Practical Religion - Being Plain Papers on the Daily Duties, Experience, Dangers, and Privileges of Professing Christians
Author: Ryle, John Charles
Language: English
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PRACTICAL RELIGION

Being Plain Papers on the Daily Duties, Experience, Dangers, and
Privileges of Professing Christians

by

JOHN CHARLES RYLE, D.D.,



Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan



CONTENTS


         PREFACE                v

      I. SELF-INQUIRY           1

     II. SELF-EXERTION         23

    III. REALITY               46

     IV. PRAYER                63

      V. BIBLE-READING         97

     VI. GOING TO THE TABLE   140

    VII. CHARITY              165

   VIII. ZEAL                 183

     IX. FREEDOM              210

      X. HAPPINESS            230

     XI. FORMALITY            261

    XII. THE WORLD            284

   XIII. RICHES AND POVERTY   312

    XIV. THE BEST FRIEND      336

     XV. SICKNESS             352

    XVI. THE FAMILY OF GOD    375

   XVII. OUR HOME             392

  XVIII. HEIRS OF GOD         403

    XIX. THE GREAT GATHERING  429

     XX. THE GREAT SEPARATION 442

    XXI. ETERNITY             472



PREFACE


The volume now in the reader's hands is intended to be a companion to
two other volumes which I have already published, entitled "Knots
Untied," and "Old Paths."

"Knots Untied" consists of a connected series of papers, systematically
arranged, about the principal points which form the subject of
controversy among Churchmen in the present day. All who take interest in
such disputed questions as the nature of the Church, the Ministry,
Baptism, Regeneration, the Lord's Supper, the Real Presence, Worship,
Confession, and the Sabbath, will find them pretty fully discussed in
"Knots Untied."

"Old Paths" consists of a similar series of papers about those leading
doctrines of the Gospel which are generally considered necessary to
salvation. The inspiration of Scripture, sin, justification,
forgiveness, repentance, conversion, faith, the work of Christ, and the
work of the Holy Spirit, are the principal subjects handled in "Old
Paths."

The present volume contains a series of papers about "practical
religion," and treats of the daily duties, dangers, experience, and
privileges of all who profess and call themselves true Christians. Read
in conjunction with another work I have previously put out, called
"Holiness," I think it will throw some light on what every believer
ought to be, to do, and expect.

One common feature will be found in all the three volumes. I avow it
frankly at the outset, and will not keep it back for a moment. The
standpoint I have tried to occupy, from first to last, is that of an
Evangelical Churchman.

I say this deliberately and emphatically. I am fully aware that
Evangelical churchmanship is not popular and acceptable in this day. It
is despised by many, and has "no form or comeliness" in their eyes. To
avow attachment to Evangelical views, in some quarters, is to provoke a
sneer, and to bring on yourself the reproach of being an "unlearned and
ignorant man." But none of these things move me. I am not ashamed of my
opinions. After forty years of Bible-reading and praying, meditation
and theological study, I find myself clinging more tightly than ever to
"Evangelical" religion, and more than ever satisfied with it. It wears
well: it stands the fire. I know no system of religion which is better.
In the faith of it I have lived for the third of a century, and in the
faith of it I hope to die.

The plain truth is, that I see no other ground to occupy, and find no
other rest for the sole of my foot. I lay no claim to infallibility, and
desire to be no man's judge. But the longer I live and read, the more I
am convinced and persuaded that Evangelical principles are the
principles of the Bible, of the Articles and Prayer-book, and of the
leading Divines of the reformed Church of England. Holding these views,
I cannot write otherwise than I have written.

I now send forth this volume with an earnest prayer that God the Holy
Ghost may bless it, and make it useful and helpful to many souls.

                                             J. C. RYLE,

                November, 1878.             _Vicar of Stradbroke._



PRACTICAL RELIGION

I


SELF-INQUIRY

     "_Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we
     have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they
     do._"--Acts xv. 36.


The text which heads this page contains a proposal which the Apostle
Paul made to Barnabas after their first missionary journey. He proposed
to revisit the Churches they had been the means of founding, and to see
how they were getting on. Were their members continuing steadfast in the
faith? Were they growing in grace? Were they going forward, or standing
still? Were they prospering, or falling away?--"Let us go again and
visit our brethren, and see how they do."

This was a wise and useful proposal. Let us lay it to heart, and apply
it to ourselves in the nineteenth century. Let us search our ways, and
find out how matters stand between ourselves and God. Let us "see how we
do." I ask every reader of this volume to begin its perusal by joining
me in self-inquiry. If ever self-inquiry about religion was needed, it
is needed at the present day.

We live in an age of peculiar _spiritual privileges_. Since the world
began there never was such an opportunity for a man's soul to be saved
as there is in England at this time. There never were so many signs of
religion in the land, so many sermons preached, so many services held in
churches and chapels, so many Bibles sold, so many religious books and
tracts printed, so many Societies for evangelizing mankind supported, so
much outward respect paid to Christianity. Things are done everywhere
now-a-days which a hundred years ago would have been thought impossible.
Bishops support the boldest and most aggressive efforts to reach the
unconverted. Deans and Chapters throw open the naves of cathedrals for
Sunday evening sermons! Clergy of the narrowest High Church School
advocate special missions, and vie with their Evangelical brethren in
proclaiming that going to church on Sunday is not enough to take a man
to heaven. In short, there is a stir about religion now-a-days to which
there has been nothing like since England was a nation, and which the
cleverest sceptics and infidels cannot deny. If Romaine, and Venn, and
Berridge, and Rowlands, and Grimshaw, and Hervey, had been told that
such things would come to pass about a century after their deaths, they
would have been tempted to say, with the Samaritan nobleman,--"If the
Lord should make windows of heaven might such a thing be." (2 Kings vii.
19.) But the Lord has opened the windows of heaven. There is more taught
now-a-days in England of the real Gospel, and of the way of salvation by
faith in Jesus Christ, in one week, than there was in a year in
Romaine's time. Surely I have a right to say that we live in an age of
spiritual privileges. But are we any better for it? In an age like this
it is well to ask, "How do we do about our souls?"

We live in an age of peculiar _spiritual danger_. Never perhaps since
the world began was there such an immense amount of mere outward
profession of religion as there is in the present day. A painfully large
proportion of all the congregations in the land consists of unconverted
people, who know nothing of heart-religion, never come to the Lord's
Table, and never confess Christ in their daily lives. Myriads of those
who are always running after preachers, and crowding to hear special
sermons, are nothing better than empty tubs, and tinkling cymbals,
without a jot of real vital Christianity at home.[1] The parable of the
sower is continually receiving most vivid and painful illustrations. The
way-side hearers, the stony-ground hearers, the thorny-ground hearers
abound on every side.

  1: It is curious and instructive to observe how history repeats itself,
  and how much sameness there is in the human heart in every age. Even in
  the Primitive Church, says Canon Robertson, "Many persons were found at
  church for the great Christian ceremonies, and at the theatres, or even
  at the temples, for the heathen spectacles. The ritual of the Church was
  viewed as a theatrical spectacle. The sermons were listened to as the
  display of rhetoricians; and eloquent preachers were cheered, with
  clapping of hands, stamping of feet, waving of handkerchiefs, cries of
  'Orthodox,' 'Thirteenth Apostle,' and such like demonstrations, which
  such teachers as Chrysostom and Augustine tried to restrain, that they
  might persuade their flocks to a more profitable manner of hearing. Some
  went to Church for the sermon only, alleging that they could pray at
  home. And when the more attractive parts of the service were over, the
  great mass of the people departed without remaining for the
  eucharist."--Robertson's "Church History," B. II., ch. vi., p. 356.

The life of many religious professors, I fear, in this age, is nothing
better than a continual course of spiritual dram-drinking. They are
always morbidly craving fresh excitement; and they seem to care little
what it is if they only get it. All preaching seems to come alike to
them; and they appear unable to "see differences," so long as they hear
what is clever, have their ears tickled, and sit in a crowd. Worst of
all, there are hundreds of young unestablished believers who are so
infected with the same love of excitement, that they actually think it a
duty to be always seeking it. Insensibly almost to themselves, they take
up a kind of hysterical, sensational, sentimental Christianity, until
they are never content with the "old paths," and, like the Athenians,
are always running after something new. To see a calm-minded young
believer, who is not stuck up, self-confident, self-conceited, and more
ready to teach than learn, but content with a daily steady effort to
grow up into Christ's likeness, and to do Christ's work quietly and
unostentatiously, at home, is really becoming almost a rarity! Too many
young professors, alas, behave like young recruits who have not spent
all their bounty money. They show how little deep root they have, and
how little knowledge of their own hearts, by noise, forwardness,
readiness to contradict and set down old Christians, and over-weening
trust in their own fancied soundness and wisdom! Well will it be for
many young professors of this age if they do not end, after being tossed
about for a while, and "carried to and fro by every wind of doctrine,"
by joining some petty, narrow-minded, censorious sect, or embracing some
senseless, unreasoning, crotchetty heresy. Surely in times like these
there is great need for self-examination. When we look around us, we may
well ask, "How do we do about our souls?"

In handling this question, I think the shortest plan will be to suggest
a list of subjects for self-inquiry, and to go through them in order. By
so doing I shall hope to meet the case of every one into whose hands
this volume may fall. I invite every reader of this paper to join me in
calm, searching self-examination, for a few short minutes. I desire to
speak to myself as well as to you. I approach you not as an enemy, but
as a friend. "My heart's desire and prayer to God is that you may be
saved." (Rom. x. 1.) Bear with me if I say things which at first sight
look harsh and severe. Believe me, he is your best friend who tells you
the most truth.

(1) Let me ask, in the first place, _Do we ever think about our souls at
all_? Thousands of English people, I fear, cannot answer that question
satisfactorily. They never give the subject of religion any place in
their thoughts. From the beginning of the year to the end they are
absorbed in the pursuit of business, pleasure, politics, money, or
self-indulgence of some kind or another. Death, and judgement, and
eternity, and heaven, and hell, and a world to come, are never calmly
looked at and considered. They live on as if they were never going to
die, or rise again, or stand at the bar of God, or receive an eternal
sentence! They do not openly oppose religion, for they have not
sufficient reflection about it to do so;--but they eat, and drink, and
sleep, and get money, and spend money, as if religion was a mere fiction
and not a reality. They are neither Romanists, nor Socinians, nor
infidels, nor High Church, nor Low Church, nor Broad Church. They are
just _nothing at all_, and do not take the trouble to have opinions. A
more senseless and unreasonable way of living cannot be conceived; but
they do not pretend to reason about it. They simply never think about
God, unless frightened for a few minutes by sickness, death in their
families, or an accident. Barring such interruptions, they appear to
ignore religion altogether, and hold on their way cool and undisturbed,
as if there were nothing worth thinking of except this world.

It is hard to imagine a life more unworthy of an immortal creature than
such a life as I have just described, for it reduces a man to the level
of a beast. But it is literally and truly the life of multitudes in
England; and as they pass away their place is taken by multitudes like
them. The picture, no doubt, is horrible, distressing, and revolting:
but, unhappily, it is only too true. In every large town, in every
market, on every stock-exchange, in every club, you may see specimens of
this class by scores,--men who think of everything under the sun except
the one thing needful,--the salvation of their souls. Like the Jews of
old they do not "consider their ways," they do not "consider their
latter end;" they do not "consider that they do evil." (Isa. i. 3; Hag.
i. 7; Deut. xxxii. 29; Eccles. v. i.) Like Gallio they "care for none of
these things:" they are not in their way. (Acts xviii. 17.) If they
prosper in the world, and get rich, and succeed in their line of life,
they are praised, and admired by their contemporaries. Nothing succeeds
in England like success! But for all this they cannot live for ever.
They will have to die and appear before the bar of God, and be judged;
and then what will the end be? When a large class of this kind exists in
our country, no reader need wonder that I ask whether he belongs to it.
If you do, you ought to have a mark set on your door, as there used to
be a mark on a plague-stricken house two centuries ago, with the words,
"Lord have mercy on us," written on it. Look at the class I have been
describing, and then look at your own soul.

(2) Let me ask, in the second place, _whether we ever do anything about
our souls?_? There are multitudes in England who think occasionally
about religion, but unhappily never get beyond thinking. After a
stirring sermon,--or after a funeral,--or under the pressure of
illness,--or on Sunday evening,--or when things are going on badly in
their families,--or when they meet some bright example of a
Christian,--or when they fall in with some striking religious book or
tract,--they will at the time think a good deal, and even talk a little
about religion in a vague way. But they stop short, as if thinking and
talking were enough to save them. They are always meaning, and
intending, and purposing, and resolving, and wishing, and telling us
that they "know" what is right, and "hope" to be found right at last,
but they never attain to any _action_. There is no actual separation
from the service of the world and sin, no real taking up the cross and
following Christ, no positive _doing_ in their Christianity. Their life
is spent in playing the part of the son in our Lord's parable, to whom
the father said, "Go, work in my vineyard: and he answered, I go, sir,
and went not." (Matt. xxi. 30.) They are like those whom Ezekiel
describes, who liked his preaching, but never practised what he
preached:--"They come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit
before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do
them.... And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that
hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear
thy words, but they do them not." (Ezek. xxxiii. 31, 32.) In a day like
this, when hearing and thinking, without _doing_, is so common, no one
can justly wonder that I press upon men the absolute need of
self-examination. Once more, then, I ask my readers to consider the
question of my text,--"How do we do about our souls?"

(3) Let me ask, in the third place, _whether we are trying to satisfy
our consciences with a mere formal religion_? There are myriads in
England at this moment who are making shipwreck on this rock. Like the
Pharisees of old, they make much ado about the outward part of
Christianity, while the inward and spiritual part is totally neglected.
They are careful to attend all the services of their place of worship,
and regular in using all its forms and ordinances. They are never absent
from Communion when the Lord's Supper is administered. Sometimes they
are most strict in observing Lent, and attach great importance to
Saints' days. They are often keen partisans of their own Church, or
sect, or congregation, and ready to contend with any one who does not
agree with them. Yet all this time there is no _heart_ in their
religion. Any one who knows them intimately can see with half an eye
that their affections are set on things below, and not on things above;
and that they are trying to make up for the want of inward Christianity
by an excessive quantity of outward form. And this formal religion does
them no real good. They are not satisfied. Beginning at the wrong end,
by making the outward things first, they know nothing of inward joy and
peace, and pass their lives in a constant struggle, secretly conscious
that there is something wrong, and yet not knowing why. Well, after all,
if they do not go on from one stage of formality to another, until in
despair they take a fatal plunge, and fall into Popery! When professing
Christians of this kind are so painfully numerous, no one need wonder if
I press upon him the paramount importance of close self-examination. If
you love life, do not be content with the husk, and shell, and
scaffolding of religion. Remember our Saviour's words about the Jewish
formalists of His day: "This people draweth nigh with their mouth, and
honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. In vain do
they worship." (Matt. xv. 9.) It needs something more than going
diligently to church, and receiving the Lord's Supper, to take our souls
to heaven. Means of grace and forms of religion are useful in their way,
and God seldom does anything for His church without them. But let us
beware of making shipwreck on the very lighthouse which helps to show
the channel into the harbour. Once more I ask, "How do we do about our
souls?"

(4) Let me ask, in the fourth place, _whether we have received the
forgiveness of our sins_? Few reasonable Englishmen would think of
denying that they are sinners. Many perhaps would say that they are not
so bad as many, and that they have not been so very wicked, and so
forth. But few, I repeat, would pretend to say that they had always
lived like angels, and never done, or said, or thought a wrong thing all
their days. In short, all of us must confess that we are more or less
"_sinners_," and, as sinners, are guilty before God; and, as guilty, we
must be forgiven, or lost and condemned for ever at the last day.--Now
it is the glory of the Christian religion that it provides for us the
very forgiveness that we need,--full, free, perfect, eternal, and
complete. It is a leading article in that well-known creed which most
Englishmen learn when they are children. They are taught to say, "I
believe in the forgiveness of sins." This forgiveness of sins has been
purchased for us by the eternal Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. He
has purchased it for us by coming into the world to be our Saviour, and
by living, dying, and rising again, as our Substitute, in our behalf. He
has bought it for us at the price of His own most precious blood, by
suffering in our stead on the cross, and making satisfaction for our
sins. But this forgiveness, great, and full, and glorious as it is, does
not become the property of every man and woman, as a matter of course.
It is not a privilege which every member of a Church possesses, merely
because he is a Churchman. It is a thing which each individual must
receive for himself by his own personal faith, lay hold on by faith,
appropriate by faith, and make his own by faith; or else, so far as he
is concerned, Christ will have died in vain. "He that believeth on the
Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not
see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." (John iii. 36.) No terms
can be imagined more simple, and more suitable to man. As good old
Latimer said, in speaking of the matter of justification, "It is but
believe and have." It is only faith that is required; and faith is
nothing more than the humble, heartfelt trust of the soul which desires
to be saved. Jesus is able and willing to save; but man must come to
Jesus and believe. All that believe are at once justified and forgiven:
but without believing there is no forgiveness at all.

Now here is exactly the point, I am afraid, where multitudes of English
people fail, and are in imminent danger of being lost for ever. They
know that there is no forgiveness of sin excepting in Christ Jesus. They
can tell you that there is no Saviour for sinners, no Redeemer, no
Mediator, excepting Him who was born of the Virgin Mary, and was
crucified under Pontius Pilate, dead, and buried. But here they stop,
and get no further! They never come to the point of actually laying hold
on Christ by faith, and becoming one with Christ and Christ in them.
They can say, He is a Saviour, but not 'my Saviour,'--a Redeemer, but
not 'my Redeemer,'--a Priest, but not 'my Priest,'--an Advocate, but not
'my Advocate:' and so they live and die unforgiven! No wonder that
Martin Luther said, "Many are lost because they cannot use possessive
pronouns." When this is the state of many in this day, no one need
wonder that I ask men whether they have received the forgiveness of
sins. An eminent Christian lady once said, in her old age,--"The
beginning of eternal life in my soul, was a conversation I had with an
old gentleman, who came to visit my father, when I was only a little
girl. He took me by the hand one day, and said, 'My dear child, my life
is nearly over, and you will probably live many years after I am gone.
But never forget two things. One is, that there is such a thing as
having our sins forgiven while we live. The other is, that there is such
a thing as knowing and feeling that we are forgiven.' I thank God I have
never forgotten his words."--How is it with us? Let us not rest till we
"know and feel," as the Prayer-book says, that we are forgiven. Once
more let us ask,--In the matter of forgiveness of sins, "How do we do?"

(5) Let me ask, in the fifth place, _whether we know anything by
experience of conversion to God_. Without conversion there is no
salvation. "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye
shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."--"Except a man be born
again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."--"If any man have not the
Spirit of Christ, he is none of His."--"If any man be in Christ he is a
new creature." (Matt. xviii. 3; John iii. 3; Rom. viii. 9; 2 Cor. v.
17.) We are all by nature so weak, so worldly, so earthly-minded, so
inclined to sin, that without a thorough change we cannot serve God in
life, and could not enjoy Him after death. Just as ducks, as soon as
they are hatched, take naturally to water, so do children, as soon as
they can do anything, take to selfishness, lying, and deceit; and none
pray, or love God, unless they are taught. High or low, rich or poor,
gentle or simple, we all need a complete change,--a change which it is
the special office of the Holy Ghost to give us. Call it what you
please,--new birth, regeneration, renewal, new creation, quickening,
repentance,--the thing must be had if we are to be saved: and if we have
the thing it will be _seen_.

Sense of sin and deep hatred to it, faith in Christ and love to Him,
delight in holiness and longing after more of it, love to God's people
and distaste for the things of the world,--these, these are the signs
and evidences which always accompany conversion. Myriads around us, it
may be feared, know nothing about it. They are, in Scripture language,
dead, and asleep, and blind, and unfit for the kingdom of God. Year
after year, perhaps, they go on repeating the words of the Creed, "I
believe in the Holy Ghost;" but they are utterly ignorant of His
changing operations on the inward man. Sometimes they flatter themselves
they are born again, because they have been baptized, and go to church,
and receive the Lord's Supper; while they are totally destitute of the
marks of the new birth, as described by St. John in his first Epistle.
And all this time the words of Scripture are clear and plain,--"Except
ye be converted, ye shall in no case enter the kingdom." (Matt. xviii.
3.) In times like these, no reader ought to wonder that I press the
subject of conversion on men's souls. No doubt there are plenty of sham
conversions in such a day of religious excitement as this. But bad coin
is no proof that there is no good money: nay, rather it is a sign that
there is some money current which is valuable, and is worth imitation.
Hypocrites and sham Christians are indirect evidence that there is such
a thing as real grace among men. Let us search our own hearts then, and
see how it is with ourselves. Once more let us ask, in the matter of
conversion, "How do we do?"

(6) Let me ask, in the sixth place, _whether we know anything of
practical Christian holiness_? It is as certain as anything in the Bible
that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord." (Heb. xii. 14.) It is
equally certain that it is the invariable fruit of saving faith, the
real test of regeneration, the only sound evidence of indwelling grace,
the certain consequence of vital union with Christ.--Holiness is not
absolute perfection and freedom from all faults. Nothing of the kind!
The wild words of some who talk of enjoying "unbroken communion with
God" for many months, are greatly to be deprecated, because they raise
unscriptural expectations in the minds of young believers, and so do
harm. Absolute perfection is for heaven, and not for earth, where we
have a weak body, a wicked world, and a busy devil continually near our
souls. Nor is real Christian holiness ever attained, or maintained,
without a constant fight and struggle. The great Apostle, who said "I
fight,--I labour,--I keep under my body and bring it into subjection" (1
Cor. ix. 27), would have been amazed to hear of _sanctification without
personal exertion_, and to be told that believers only need to sit
still, and everything will be done for them!

Yet, weak and imperfect as the holiness of the best saints may be, it is
a real true thing, and has a character about it as unmistakable as light
and salt. It is not a thing which begins and ends with noisy profession:
it will be _seen_ much more than _heard_. Genuine Scriptural holiness
will make a man do his duty at home and by the fireside, and adorn his
doctrine in the little trials of daily life. It will exhibit itself in
passive graces as well as in active. It will make a man humble, kind,
gentle, unselfish, good-tempered, considerate for others, loving, meek,
and forgiving. It will not constrain him to go out of the world, and
shut himself up in a cave, like a hermit. But it will make him do his
duty in that state to which God has called him, on Christian principles,
and after the pattern of Christ. Such holiness, I know well, is not
common. It is a style of practical Christianity which is painfully rare
in these days. But I can find no other standard of holiness in the Word
of God,--no other which comes up to the pictures drawn by our Lord and
His Apostles. In an age like this no reader can wonder if I press this
subject also on men's attention. Once more let us ask,--In the matter of
holiness, how is it with our souls? "How do we do?"

(7) Let me ask, in the seventh place, _whether we know anything of
enjoying the means of grace_? When I speak of the means of grace, I have
in my mind's eye five principal things,--the reading of the Bible,
private prayer, public worship, the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, and
the rest of the Lord's day. They are means which God has graciously
appointed, in order to convey grace to man's heart by the Holy Ghost, or
to keep up the spiritual life after it has begun. As long as the world
stands, the state of a man's soul will always depend greatly on the
_manner and spirit_ in which he uses means of grace. The manner and
spirit, I say deliberately and of purpose. Many English people use the
means of grace regularly and formally, but know nothing of enjoying
them: they attend to them as a matter of duty, but without a jot of
feeling, interest, or affection. Yet even common sense might tell us
that this formal, mechanical use of holy things, is utterly worthless
and unprofitable. Our _feeling_ about them is just one of the many tests
of the state of our souls. How can that man be thought to love God who
reads about Him and His Christ, as a mere matter of duty, content and
satisfied if he has just moved his mark onward over so many
chapters?--How can that man suppose he is ready to meet Christ, who
never takes any trouble to pour out his heart to Him in private as a
Friend, and is satisfied with saying over a string of words every
morning and evening, under the name of "prayer," scarcely thinking what
he is about?--How could that man be happy in heaven for ever, who finds
the Sunday a dull, gloomy, tiresome day,--who knows nothing of hearty
prayer and praise, and cares nothing whether he hears truth or error
from the pulpit, or scarcely listens to the sermon?--What can be the
spiritual condition of that man whose heart never "burns within him,"
when he receives that bread and wine which specially remind us of
Christ's death on the cross, and the atonement for sin? These inquiries
are very serious and important. If means of grace had no other use, and
were not mighty helps toward heaven, they would be useful in supplying a
test of our real state in the sight of God. Tell me what a man does in
the matter of Bible-reading and praying, in the matter of Sunday, public
worship, and the Lord's Supper, and I will soon tell you what he is, and
on which road he is travelling. How is it with ourselves? Once more let
us ask,--In the matter of means of grace, "How do we do?"

(8) Let me ask, in the eighth place, _whether we ever try to do any good
in the world_? Our Lord Jesus Christ was continually "going about doing
good," while He was on earth. (Acts x. 38.) The Apostles, and all the
disciples in Bible times, were always striving to walk in His steps. A
Christian who was content to go to heaven himself, and cared not what
became of others, whether they lived happy and died in peace or not,
would have been regarded as a kind of monster in primitive times, who
had not the Spirit of Christ. Why should we suppose for a moment that a
lower standard will suffice in the present day? Why should fig trees
which bear no fruit be spared in the present day, when in our Lord's
time they were to be cut down as "cumberers of the ground"? (Luke xiii.
7.) These are serious inquiries, and demand serious answers.

There is a generation of professing Christians now-a-days, who seem to
know nothing of caring for their neighbours, and are wholly swallowed up
in the concerns of number one,--that is, their own and their family's.
They eat, and drink, and sleep, and dress, and work, and get money, and
spend money, year after year; and whether others are happy or miserable,
well or ill, converted or unconverted, travelling toward heaven or
toward hell, appear to be questions about which they are supremely
indifferent. Can this be right? Can it be reconciled with the religion
of Him who spoke the parable of the good Samaritan, and bade us "go and
do likewise"? (Luke x. 37.) I doubt it altogether.

There is much to be done on every side. There is not a place in England
where there is not a field for work, and an open door for being useful,
if any one is willing to enter it. There is not a Christian in England
who cannot find some good work to do for others, if he has only a heart
to do it. The poorest man or woman, without a single penny to give, can
always show his deep sympathy to the sick and sorrowful, and by simple
good-nature and tender helpfulness, can lessen the misery and increase
the comfort of somebody in this troubled world. But alas, the vast
majority of professing Christians, whether rich or poor, Churchmen or
Dissenters, seem possessed with a devil of detestable selfishness, and
know not the luxury of doing good. They can argue by the hour about
baptism, and the Lord's supper, and the forms of worship, and the union
of Church and State, and such-like dry-bone questions. But all this time
they seem to care nothing for their neighbours. The plain practical
point, whether they love their neighbour, as the Samaritan loved the
traveller in the parable, and can spare any time and trouble to do him
good, is a point they never touch with one of their fingers. In too
many English parishes, both in town and country, true love seems almost
dead, both in church and chapel, and wretched party-spirit and
controversy are the only fruits that Christianity appears able to
produce. In a day like this, no reader should wonder if I press this
plain old subject on his conscience. Do we know anything of genuine
Samaritan love to others? Do we ever try to do any good to any one
beside our own friends and relatives, and our own party or cause? Are we
living like disciples of Him who always "went about doing good," and
commanded His disciples to take Him for their "example"? (John xiii.
15.) If not, with what face shall we meet Him in the judgment day? In
this matter also, how is it with our souls? Once more I ask, "How do we
do?"

(9) Let me ask, in the ninth place, _whether we know anything of living
the life of habitual communion with Christ_? By "communion," I mean that
habit of "abiding in Christ" which our Lord speaks of, in the fifteenth
chapter of St. John's Gospel, as essential to Christian fruitfulness.
(John xv. 4-8.) Let it be distinctly understood that union with Christ
is one thing, and communion is another. There can be no communion with
the Lord Jesus without union first; but unhappily there may be union
with the Lord Jesus, and afterwards little or no communion at all. The
difference between the two things is not the difference between two
distinct steps, but the difference between the higher and lower ends of
an inclined plane. Union is the common privilege of all who feel their
sins, and truly repent, and come to Christ by faith, and are accepted,
forgiven, and justified in Him. Too many believers, it may be feared,
_never get beyond this stage_! Partly from ignorance, partly from
laziness, partly from fear of man, partly from secret love of the world,
partly from some unmortified besetting sin, they are content with a
little faith, and a little hope, and a little peace, and a little
measure of holiness. And they live on all their lives in this
condition--doubting, weak, halting, and bearing fruit only "thirty-fold"
to the very end of their days!

Communion with Christ is the privilege of those who are continually
striving to grow in grace, and faith, and knowledge, and conformity to
the mind of Christ in all things,--who do not "look to the things
behind," and "count not themselves to have attained," but "press toward
the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
(Phil. iii. 14.) Union is the bud, but communion is the flower: union is
the babe, but communion is the strong man. He that has union with Christ
does well; but he that enjoys communion with Him does far better. Both
have one life, one hope, one heavenly seed in their hearts,--one Lord,
one Saviour, one Holy Spirit, one eternal home: but union is not so good
as communion! The grand secret of communion with Christ is to be
continually "living the life of faith in Him," and drawing out of Him
every hour the supply that every hour requires. "To me," said St. Paul,
"to live is Christ."--"I live: yet not I, but Christ liveth in me."
(Gal. ii. 20; Phil. i. 21.)

Communion like this is the secret of the abiding "joy and peace in
believing," which eminent saints like Bradford and Rutherford
notoriously possessed. None were ever more humble, or more deeply
convinced of their own infirmities and corruption. They would have
told you that the seventh chapter of Romans precisely described
their own experience. They would have endorsed every word of the
"Confession" put into the mouths of true believers, in our
Prayer-book Communion Service. They would have said continually,
"The remembrance of our sins is grievous unto us; the burden of them
is intolerable." But they were ever looking unto Jesus, and in Him
they were ever able to rejoice.--Communion like this is the secret
of the splendid victories which such men as these won over sin, the
world, and the fear of death. They did not sit still idly, saying,
"I leave it all to Christ to do for me," but, strong in the Lord,
they used the Divine nature He had implanted in them, boldly and
confidently, and were "more than conquerors through Him that loved
them." (Rom. viii. 37.) Like St. Paul they would have said, "I can
do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Phil iv.
13.)--Ignorance of this life of communion is one among many reasons
why so many in this age are hankering after the Confessional, and
strange views of the "real presence" in the Lord's Supper. Such
errors often spring from imperfect knowledge of Christ, and obscure
views of the life of faith in a risen, living, and interceding
Saviour.

Is communion with Christ like this a common thing? Alas! it is very rare
indeed! The greater part of believers seem content with the barest
elementary knowledge of justification by faith, and half-a-dozen other
doctrines, and go doubting, limping, halting, groaning along the way to
heaven, and experience little either of the sense of victory or joy. The
Churches of these latter days are full of weak, powerless, and
uninfluential believers, saved at last, "but so as by fire," but never
shaking the world, and knowing nothing of an "abundant entrance." (1
Cor. iii. 15; 2 Pet. i. 11.) Despondency and Feeble-mind and
Much-afraid, in "Pilgrim's Progress," reached the celestial city as
really and truly as Valiant-for-the-truth and Greatheart. But they
certainly did not reach it with the same comfort, and did not do a tenth
part of the same good in the world! I fear there are many like them in
these days! When things are so in the Churches, no reader can wonder
that I inquire how it is with our souls. Once more I ask,--In the matter
of communion with Christ, "How do we do?"

(10) Let me ask, in the tenth and last place, _whether we know anything
of being ready for Christ's second coming_? That He will come again the
second time is as certain as anything in the Bible. The world has not
yet seen the last of Him. As surely as He went up visibly, and in the
body, on the Mount of Olives, before the eyes of His disciples, so
surely will He come again in the clouds of heaven, with power and great
glory. (Acts i. 11.) He will come to raise the dead, to change the
living, to reward His saints, to punish the wicked, to renew the earth,
and take the curse away,--to purify the world, even as He purified the
temple,--and to set up a kingdom where sin shall have no place, and
holiness shall be the universal rule. The Creeds which we repeat and
profess to believe, continually declare that Christ is coming again. The
ancient Christians made it a part of their religion to look for His
return. _Backward_ they looked to the cross and the atonement for sin,
and rejoiced in Christ crucified. _Upward_ they looked to Christ at the
right hand of God, and rejoiced in Christ interceding. _Forward_ they
looked to the promised return of their Master, and rejoiced in the
thought that they would see Him again. And we ought to do the same.

What have we really got from Christ? and what do we know of Him? and
what do we think of Him? Are we living as if we long to see Him again,
and love His appearing?--Readiness for that appearing is nothing more
than being a real, consistent Christian. It requires no man to cease
from his daily business. The farmer need not give up his farm, nor the
shopkeeper his counter, nor the doctor his patients, nor the carpenter
his hammer and nails, nor the bricklayer his mortar and trowel, nor the
blacksmith his smithy. Each and all cannot do better than be found doing
his duty, but doing it _as a Christian_, and with a heart packed up and
ready to be gone. In the face of truth like this no reader can feel
surprised if I ask, How is it with our souls in the matter of Christ's
second coming? The world is growing old and running to seed. The vast
majority of Christians seem like the men in the time of Noah and Lot,
who were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, planting
and building, up to the very day when flood and fire came. Those words
of our Master are very solemn and heart-searching,--"Remember Lot's
wife."--"Take heed lest at any time your heart be overcharged with the
cares of this life, and that day come upon you unawares." (Luke xvii.
32; xxi. 34.) Once more I ask,--In the matter of readiness for Christ's
second coming, "How do we do?"

I end my inquiries here. I might easily add to them; but I trust I have
said enough, at the beginning of this volume, to stir up self-inquiry
and self-examination in many minds. God is my witness that I have said
nothing that I do not feel of paramount importance to my own soul. I
only want to do good to others. Let me now conclude all with a few words
of practical application.

(_a_) Is any reader of this paper _asleep and utterly thoughtless about
religion_? Oh, awake and sleep no more! Look at the churchyards and
cemeteries. One by one the people around you are dropping into them, and
you must lie there one day. Look forward to a world to come, and lay
your hand on your heart, and say, if you dare, that you are fit to die
and meet God. Ah! you are like one sleeping in a boat drifting down the
stream towards the falls of Niagara! "What meanest thou, oh sleeper!
Arise and call upon thy God!"--"Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from
the dead, and Christ shall give thee light!" (Jonah i. 6; Eph v. 14.)

(_b_) Is any reader of this paper _feeling self-condemned, and afraid
that there is no hope for his soul_? Cast aside your fears, and accept
the offer of our Lord Jesus Christ to sinners. Hear Him saying, "Come
unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you
rest." (Matt. xi. 28.) "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and
drink." (John vii. 37.) "Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast
out." (John vi. 37.) Doubt not that these words are for you as well as
for any one else. Bring all your sins, and unbelief, and sense of guilt,
and unfitness, and doubts, and infirmities,--bring all to Christ. "This
Man receiveth sinners," and He will receive you. (Luke xv. 2.) Do not
stand still, halting between two opinions, and waiting for a convenient
season. "Arise: He calleth thee!" Come to Christ this very day. (Mark x.
49.)

(_c_) Is any reader of this paper a professing believer in Christ, but a
_believer without much joy and peace and comfort_? Take advice this day.
Search your own heart, and see whether the fault be not entirely your
own. Very likely you are sitting at ease, content with a little faith,
and a little repentance, a little grace and a little sanctification, and
unconsciously shrinking back from extremes. You will never be a very
happy Christian at this rate, if you live to the age of Methuselah.
Change your plan, if you love life and would see good days, without
delay. Come out boldly, and act decidedly. Be thorough, thorough, very
thorough in your Christianity, and set your face fully towards the sun.
Lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset you.
Strive to get nearer to Christ, to abide in Him, to cleave to Him, and
to sit at His feet like Mary, and drink full draughts out of the
fountain of life. "These things," says St. John, "we write unto you that
your joy may be full." (1 John i. 4.) "If we walk in the light as He is
in the light, we have fellowship one with another." (1 John i. 7.)

(_d_) Is any reader of this paper _a believer oppressed with doubts and
fears_, on account of his feebleness, infirmity, and sense of sin?
Remember the text that says of Jesus, "A bruised reed will He not break,
and smoking flax shall He not quench." (Matt. xii. 20.) Take comfort in
the thought that this text is for you. What though your faith be feeble?
It is better than no faith at all. The least grain of life is better
than death. Perhaps you are expecting too much in this world. Earth is
not heaven. You are yet in the body. Expect little from self, but much
from Christ. Look more to Jesus, and less to self.

(_e_) Finally, is any reader of this paper _sometimes downcast_ by the
trials he meets with in the way to heaven, bodily trials, family trials,
trials of circumstances, trials from neighbours, and trials from the
world? Look up to a sympathizing Saviour at God's right hand, and pour
out your heart before Him. He can be touched with the feeling of your
infirmities, for He suffered Himself being tempted.--Are you alone? So
was He. Are you misrepresented and calumniated? So was He. Are you
forsaken by friends? So was He. Are you persecuted? So was He. Are you
wearied in body and grieved in spirit? So was He.--Yes! He can feel for
you, and He can help as well as feel. Then learn to draw nearer to
Christ. The time is short. Yet a little time, and all will be over: we
shall soon be "with the Lord." "There is an end; and thine expectation
shall not be cut off." (Prov. xxiii. 18.) "Ye have need of patience,
that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.
For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not
tarry." (Heb. x. 36, 37.)



II


SELF-EXERTION

     "_Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto
     you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able._"--Luke
     xiii. 24.


There was once a man who asked our Lord Jesus Christ a very deep
question. He said to Him, "Lord, are there few that be saved?"

Who this man was we do not know. What his motive was for asking this
question we are not told. Perhaps he wished to gratify an idle
curiosity: perhaps he wanted an excuse for not seeking salvation
himself. The Holy Ghost has kept back all this from us: the name and
motive of the inquirer are both hidden.

But one thing is very clear, and that is the vast importance of the
saying of our Lord to which the question gave rise. Jesus seized the
opportunity to direct the minds of all around Him to their own plain
duty. He knew the train of thought which the man's inquiry had set
moving in their hearts: He saw what was going on within them. "Strive,"
He cries, "to enter in at the strait gate." Whether there be few saved
or many, your course is clear;--strive to enter in. Now is the accepted
time. Now is the day of salvation. A day shall come when many will seek
to enter in and shall not be able. "Strive to enter in now."

I desire to call the serious attention of all who read this paper to the
solemn lessons which this saying of the Lord Jesus is meant to teach.
It is one which deserves special remembrance in the present day. It
teaches unmistakeably that mighty truth, our own personal responsibility
for the salvation of our souls. It shows the immense danger of putting
off the great business of religion, as so many unhappily do. On both
these points the witness of our Lord Jesus Christ in the text is clear.
He, who is the eternal God, and who spoke the words of perfect wisdom,
says to the sons of men,--"Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for
many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able."


    I. Here is a _description_ of the way of salvation. Jesus calls it
    "the strait gate."

    II. Here is a plain _command_. Jesus says, "Strive to enter in."

    III. Here is an awful _prophecy_. Jesus says, "Many will seek to
    enter in, and shall not be able."

May the Holy Ghost apply the subject to the hearts of all into whose
hands this paper may fall! May all who read it know the way of salvation
experimentally, obey the command of the Lord practically, and be found
safe in the great day of His second coming!


I. Here is a _description___ of the way of salvation. Jesus calls it
"_the strait gate_."

There is a gate which leads to pardon, peace with God, and heaven.
Whosoever goes in by that gate shall be saved. Never, surely, was a gate
more needed. Sin is a vast mountain between man and God. How shall a man
climb over it?--Sin is a high wall between man and God. How shall man
get through it?--Sin is a deep gulf between man and God. How shall man
cross over it?--God is in heaven, holy, pure, spiritual, undefiled,
light without any darkness at all, a Being who cannot bear that which
is evil, or look upon iniquity. Man is a poor fallen worm, crawling on
earth for a few years,--sinful, corrupt, erring, defective,--a being
whose imagination is only evil, and whose heart is deceitful above all
things, and desperately wicked. How shall man and God be brought
together? How shall man ever draw near to his Maker without fear and
shame? Blessed be God, there is a way! There is a road. There is a path.
There is a door. It is the gate spoken of in the words of Christ,--"the
strait gate."

This gate was _made for sinners by the Lord Jesus Christ_. From all
eternity He covenanted and engaged that He would make it. In the fulness
of time He came into the world and made it, by His own atoning death on
the cross. By that death He made satisfaction for man's sin, paid man's
debt to God, and bore man's punishment. He built a great gate at the
cost of His own body and blood. He reared a ladder on earth whose top
reached to heaven. He made a door by which the chief of sinners may
enter into the holy presence of God, and not be afraid. He opened a road
by which the vilest of men, believing in Him, may draw near to God and
have peace. He cries to us, "I am the door: by Me if any man enter in,
he shall be saved." (John x. 9.) "I am the way: no man cometh unto the
Father but by Me." (John xiv. 6.) "By Him," says Paul, "we have boldness
and access with confidence." (Eph. iii. 12.) Thus was the gate of
salvation formed.

This gate is called _the strait gate_, and it is not called so without
cause. It is always strait, narrow, and difficult to pass through to
some persons, and it will be so as long as the world stands. It is
narrow to all who love sin, and are determined not to part with it. It
is narrow to all who set their affection on this world, and seek first
its pleasures and rewards. It is narrow to all who dislike trouble, and
are unwilling to take pains and make sacrifices for their souls. It is
narrow to all who like company, and want to keep in with the crowd. It
is narrow to all who are self-righteous, and think they are good people,
and deserve to be saved. To all such the great gate, which Christ made,
is narrow and strait. In vain they seek to pass through. The gate will
not admit them. God is not unwilling to receive them; their sins are not
too many to be forgiven: but they are not willing to be saved in God's
way. Thousands, for the last eighteen centuries, have tried to make the
gate-way wider: thousands have worked and toiled to get to heaven on
lower terms. But the gate never alters. It is not elastic: it will not
stretch to accommodate one man more than another. It is still the strait
gate.

Strait as this gate is, it is _the only one by which men can get to
heaven_. There is no side door; there is no bye-path; there is no gap or
low-place in the wall. All that are ever saved will be saved only by
Christ, and only by simple faith in Him.--Not one will be saved by
repentance. To-day's sorrow does not wipe off yesterday's score.--Not
one will be saved by his own works. The best works that any man can do
are little better than splendid sins.--Not one will be saved by his
formal regularity in the use of the outward means of grace. When we have
done all, we are poor "unprofitable servants." Oh, no! it is mere waste
of time to seek any other road to eternal life. Men may look right and
left, and weary themselves with their own devices, but they will never
find another door. Proud men may dislike the gate if they will.
Profligate men may scoff at it, and make a jest of those who use it.
Lazy men may complain that the way is hard. But men will discover no
other salvation than that of faith in the blood and righteousness of a
crucified Redeemer. There stands between us and heaven one great gate:
it may be strait; but it is the only one. We must either enter heaven by
the strait gate, or not at all.

Strait as this gate is, it is _a gate ever ready to open_. No sinners of
any kind are forbidden to draw near: whosoever will may enter in and be
saved. There is but one condition of admission: that condition is that
you really feel your sins and desire to be saved by Christ in His own
way. Art thou really sensible of thy guilt and vileness? Hast thou a
truly broken and contrite heart? Behold the gate of salvation, and come
in. He that made it declares,--"Him that cometh unto Me I will in no
wise cast out." (John vi. 37.) The question to be considered is not
whether you are a great sinner or a little sinner--whether you are elect
or not,--whether you are converted or not. The question is simply
this, "Do you feel your sins? Do you feel labouring and heavy-laden? Are
you willing to put your soul into Christ's hand?" Then if that be the
case, the gate will open to you at once. Come in this very day.
"Wherefore standest thou without?" (Gen. xxiv. 31.)

Strait as this gate is, it is _one through which thousands have gone in
and been saved_. No sinner was ever turned back, and told he was too bad
to be admitted, if he came really sick of his sins. Thousands of all
sorts have been received, cleansed, washed, pardoned, clothed, and made
heirs of eternal life. Some of them seemed very unlikely to be admitted:
you and I might have thought they were too bad to be saved. But He that
built the gate did not refuse them. As soon as they knocked, He gave
orders that they should be let in.

Manasseh, King of Judah, went up to this gate. None could have been
worse than he. He had despised his good father Hezekiah's example and
advice. He had bowed down to idols. He had filled Jerusalem with
bloodshed and cruelty. He had slain his own children. But as soon as his
eyes were opened to his sins, and he fled to the gate for pardon, the
gate flew wide open, and he was saved.

Saul the Pharisee went up to this gate. He had been a great offender.
He had been a blasphemer of Christ, and a persecutor of Christ's people.
He had laboured hard to stop the progress of the Gospel. But as soon as
his heart was touched, and he found out his own guilt and fled to the
gate for pardon, at once the gate flew wide open, and he was saved.

Many of the Jews who crucified our Lord went up to this gate. They had
been grievous sinners indeed. They had refused and rejected their own
Messiah. They had delivered Him to Pilate, and entreated that He might
be slain. They had desired Barabbas to be let go, and the Son of God to
be crucified. But in the day when they were pricked to the heart by
Peter's preaching, they fled to the gate for pardon, and at once the
gate flew open, and they were saved.

The jailer at Philippi went up to this gate. He had been a cruel, hard,
godless man. He had done all in his power to ill-treat Paul and his
companion. He had thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet
fast in the stocks. But when his conscience was aroused by the
earthquake, and his mind enlightened by Paul's teaching, he fled to the
gate for pardon, and at once the gate flew open, and he was saved.

But why need I stop short in Bible examples? Why should I not say that
multitudes have gone to "the strait gate" since the days of the
Apostles, and have entered in by it and been saved? Thousands of all
ranks, classes, and ages,--learned and unlearned, rich and poor, old and
young,--have tried the gate and found it ready to open,--have gone
through it and found peace to their souls. Yes: thousands of persons yet
living have made proof of the gate, and found it the way to real
happiness. Noblemen and commoners, merchants and bankers, soldiers and
sailors, farmers and tradesmen, labourers and workmen, are still upon
earth, who have found the strait gate to be "a way of pleasantness and a
path of peace." They have not brought up an evil report of the country
inside. They have found Christ's yoke to be easy, and His burden to be
light. Their only regret has been that so few enter in, and that they
themselves did not enter in before.

This is the gate which I want every one to enter, into whose hand this
paper may fall. I want you not merely to go to church or chapel, but to
go with heart and soul to the gate of life. I want you not merely to
believe there is such a gate, and to think it a good thing, but to enter
by faith and be saved.

Think _what a privilege_ it is to have a gate at all. The angels who
kept not their first estate, fell, never to rise again. To them there
was no door of escape opened.--The heathen never heard of any way to
eternal life. What would not many a black man and many a red man give,
if he only heard one plain sermon about Christ?--The Jews in Old
Testament times only saw the gate dimly and far away. "The way into the
holiest was not made manifest, while the first tabernacle was standing."
(Heb. ix. 8.) You have the gate set plainly before you: you have Christ
and full salvation offered to you, without money and without price. You
never need be at a loss which way to turn. Oh, consider what a mercy
this is! Beware that you do not despise the gate and perish in unbelief.
Better a thousand times not to know of the gate than to know of it and
yet tarry outside. How indeed will you escape if you neglect so great
salvation?

Think _what a thankful man_ you ought to be if you have really gone in
at the strait gate. To be a pardoned, forgiven, justified soul,--to be
ready for sickness, death, judgment and eternity,--to be ever provided
for in both worlds,--surely this is matter for daily praise. True
Christians ought to be more full of thanksgivings than they are. I fear
that few sufficiently remember what they were by nature, and what
debtors they are to grace. A heathen remarked that singing hymns of
praise was one special mark of the early Christians. Well would it be
for Christians in the present day, if they knew more of this frame of
mind. It is no mark of a healthy state of soul when there is much
complaining and little praise. It is an amazing mercy that there is any
gate of salvation at all; but it is a still greater mercy when we are
taught to enter in by it and be saved.


II. In the second place, here is a plain _command_.--Jesus says to us,
"_Strive to enter in at the strait gate_." There is often much to be
learned in a single word of Scripture. The words of our Lord Jesus in
particular, are always full of matter for thought. Here is a word which
is a striking example of what I mean. Let us see what the great Teacher
would have us gather out of the word "_Strive_."

"STRIVE" teaches that a man must use means diligently, if he would have
his soul saved. There are means which God has appointed to help man in
his endeavours to approach Him. There are ways in which a man must walk,
if he desires to be found of Christ. Public Worship, reading the Bible,
hearing the Gospel preached,--these are the kind of things to which I
refer. They lie, as it were, in the middle, between man and God.
Doubtless no one can change his own heart, or wipe away one of his sins,
or make himself in the least degree acceptable to God; but I do say that
if man could do nothing but sit still, Christ would never have said
"Strive."

"STRIVE" teaches that man is a free agent, and will be dealt with by God
as a responsible being. The Lord Jesus does not bid us to wait, and
wish, and feel, and hope, and desire. He says, "Strive." I call that
miserable religion which teaches people to be content with saying, "We
can do nothing of ourselves," and makes them continue in sin. It is as
bad as teaching people that it is not their fault if they are not
converted, and that God only is to blame if they are not saved. I find
no such theology in the New Testament. I hear Jesus saying to sinners,
"Come--repent--believe--labour--ask--seek--knock." I see plainly that
our salvation, from first to last, is entirely _of God_; but I see with
no less plainness that our ruin, if lost, is wholly and entirely _of
ourselves_. I maintain that sinners are always addressed as accountable
and responsible; and I want no better proof of this than is contained in
the word "Strive."

"STRIVE" teaches that a man must expect many adversaries and a hard
battle, if he would have his soul saved. And this, as a matter of
experience, is strictly true. There are no "gains without pains" in
spiritual things any more than in temporal. That roaring lion, the
devil, will never let a soul escape from him without a struggle. The
heart which is naturally sensual and earthly will never be turned to
spiritual things without a daily fight. The world, with all its
opposition and temptations, will never be overcome without a conflict.
But why should all this surprise us? What great and good thing was ever
done without trouble? Wheat does not grow without ploughing and sowing;
riches are not obtained without care and attention; success in life is
not won without hardships and toil; and heaven, above all, is not to be
reached without the cross and the battle. The "violent take the kingdom
by force." (Matt xi. 12.) A man must "strive."

"STRIVE" teaches that it is worth while for a man to seek salvation.
That may well be said. If there be anything that deserves a struggle in
this world, it is the prosperity of the soul. The objects for which the
great majority of men strive are comparatively poor and trifling things.
Riches, and greatness, and rank, and learning, are "a corruptible
crown." The incorruptible things are all within the strait gate. The
peace of God which passeth all understanding,--the bright hope of good
things to come,--the sense of the Spirit dwelling in us,--the
consciousness that we are pardoned, safe, ready, insured, provided for
in time and eternity, whatever may happen,--these are true gold, and
durable riches. Well may the Lord Jesus call on us to "strive."

"STRIVE" teaches that laziness in religion is a great sin. It is not
merely a misfortune, as some fancy,--a thing for which people are to be
pitied, and a matter for regret. It is something far more than this. It
is a breach of a plain commandment. What shall be said of the man who
transgresses God's law, and does something which God says, Thou shalt
not do? There can be but one answer. He is a sinner. "Sin is the
transgression of the law." (1 John iii. 4.) And what shall be said of
the man who neglects his soul, and makes no effort to enter the strait
gate? There can be only one reply. He is omitting a positive duty.
Christ says to him, "Strive," and behold, he sits still!

"STRIVE" teaches that all outside the strait gate are in great danger.
They are in danger of being lost for ever. There is but a step between
them and death. If death finds them in their present condition, they
will perish without hope. The Lord Jesus saw that clearly. He knew the
uncertainty of life and the shortness of time: He would fain have
sinners make haste and delay not, lest they put off soul business too
late. He speaks as one who saw the devil drawing near to them daily, and
the days of their life gradually ebbing away. He would have them take
heed they be not too late: therefore He cries, "Strive."

That word "Strive," raises solemn thoughts in my mind. It is brimful of
condemnation for thousands of baptized persons. It condemns the ways and
practices of multitudes who profess and call themselves Christians. Many
there are who neither swear, nor murder, nor commit adultery, nor
steal, nor lie; but one thing unhappily cannot be said of them: they
cannot be said to "strive" to be saved. The "spirit of slumber"
possesses their hearts in everything that concerns religion. About the
things of the world they are active enough: they rise early, and late
take rest; they labour; they toil; they are busy; they are careful: but
about the one thing needful they never "strive" at all.

What shall I say of those who are irregular about public worship on
Sundays? There are thousands all over Great Britain who answer this
description. Sometimes, if they feel disposed, they go to some church or
chapel, and attend a religious service; at other times they stay at home
and read the paper, or idle about, or look over their accounts, or seek
some amusement. _Is this "striving"_? I speak to men of common sense.
Let them judge what I say.

What shall I say of those who come regularly to a place of worship, but
come entirely as a matter of form? There are many in every parish of
Great Britain in this condition. Their fathers taught them to come;
their custom has always been to come: it would not be respectable to
stay away. But they care nothing for the worship of God when they do
come. Whether they hear law or Gospel, truth or error, it is all the
same to them. They remember nothing afterwards. They put off their form
of religion with their Sunday clothes, and return to the world. And _is
this "striving"_? I speak to men of common sense. Let them judge what I
say.

What shall I say of those who seldom or never read the Bible? There are
thousands of persons, I fear, who answer this description. They know the
Book by name; they know it is commonly regarded as the only Book which
teaches us how to live and how to die: but they can never find time for
reading it. Newspapers, reviews, novels, romances, they can read, but
not the Bible. And _is this "striving"_ to enter in? I speak to men of
common sense. Let them judge what I say.

What shall I say of those who never pray? There are multitudes, I firmly
believe, in this condition. Without God they rise in the morning, and
without God they lie down at night. They ask nothing; they confess
nothing; they return thanks for nothing; they seek nothing. They are all
dying creatures, and yet they are not even on speaking terms with their
Maker and their Judge! And _is this "striving"_? I speak to men of
common sense. Let them judge what I say.

It is a solemn thing to be a minister of the Gospel. It is a painful
thing to look on, and notice the ways of mankind in spiritual matters.
We hold in our hands that great statute Book of God, which declares that
without repentance, and conversion, and faith in Christ, and holiness,
no man living can be saved. In discharge of our office we urge on men to
repent, believe, and be saved; but, alas, how frequently we have to
lament that our labour seems all in vain. Men attend our churches, and
listen, and approve, but do not "strive" to be saved. We show the
sinfulness of sin; we unfold the loveliness of Christ; we expose the
vanity of the world; we set forth the happiness of Christ's service; we
offer the living water to the wearied and heavy laden sons of toil: but,
alas, how often we seem to speak to the winds. Our words are patiently
heard on Sundays; our arguments are not refuted: but we see plainly in
the week that men are not "striving" to be saved. There comes the devil
on Monday morning, and offers his countless snares; there comes the
world, and holds out its seeming prizes: our hearers follow them
greedily. They work hard for this world's goods; they toil at Satan's
bidding: but for the one thing needful they will not "strive" at all.

I am not writing from hear-say. I speak what I have seen. I write down
the result of thirty-seven years' experience in the ministry. I have
learned lessons about human nature during that period which I never
knew before. I have seen how true are our Lord's words about the narrow
way. I have discovered how few there are that "strive" to be saved.

Earnestness about temporal matters is common enough. Striving to be rich
and prosperous in this world is not rare at all. Pains about money, and
business, and politics,--pains about trade, and science, and fine arts,
and amusements,--pains about rent, and wages, and labour, and
land,--pains about such matters I see in abundance both in town and
country. But I see few who take pains about their souls. I see few any
where who "strive" to enter in at the strait gate.

I am not surprised at all this. I read in the Bible that it is only what
I am to expect. The parable of the great supper is an exact picture of
things that I have seen with my own eyes ever since I became a minister.
(Luke xiv. 16.) I find, as my Lord and Saviour tells me, that "men make
excuse." One has his piece of land to see; another has his oxen to
prove; a third has his family hindrances. But all this does not prevent
my feeling deeply grieved for the souls of men. I grieve to think that
they should have eternal life so close to them, and yet be lost because
they will not "strive" to enter in and be saved.

I know not in what state of soul many readers of this paper may be. But
I warn you to take heed that you do not perish for ever for want of
"striving." Do not suppose that it needs some great scarlet sin to bring
you to the pit of destruction. You have only to sit still and do
nothing, and you will find yourself there at last. Yes! Satan does not
ask you to walk in the steps of Cain, and Pharaoh, and Ahab, and
Belshazzar, and Judas Iscariot. There is another road to hell quite as
sure,--the road of spiritual indolence, spiritual laziness, and
spiritual sloth. Satan has no objection to your being a respectable
member of the Christian Church. He will let you pay your tithes, and
rates, and pew rents; he will allow you to sit comfortably in church
every Sunday you live. He knows full well, that so long as you do not
"strive," you must come at last to the worm that never dies, and the
fire that is not quenched. Take heed that you do not come to this end. I
repeat it, _you have only to do nothing, and you will be lost_.

If you have been taught to "strive" for your soul's prosperity, I
entreat you never to suppose you can go too far. Never give way to the
idea that you are taking too much trouble about your spiritual
condition, and that there is no need for so much carefulness. Settle it
rather in your mind that "in all labour there is profit," and that no
labour is so profitable as that bestowed on the soul. It is a maxim
among good farmers that the more they do for the land the more the land
does for them. I am sure it should be a maxim among Christians that the
more they do for their religion the more their religion will do for
them. Watch against the slightest inclination to be careless about any
means of grace. Beware of shortening your prayers, your Bible reading,
your private communion with God. Take heed that you do not give way to a
thoughtless, lazy manner of using the public services of God's house.
Fight against any rising disposition to be sleepy, critical, and
fault-finding, while you listen to the preaching of the Gospel. Whatever
you do for God, do it with all your heart and mind and strength. In
other things be moderate, and dread running into extremes. In soul
matters fear moderation just as you would fear the plague. Care not what
men think of you. Let it be enough for you that your Master says,
"STRIVE."


III. The last thing I wish to consider in this paper is the _awful
prophecy which the Lord Jesus delivers_. He says, "Many will seek to
enter in, and shall not be able."

When shall this be? At what period shall the gate of salvation be shut
for ever? When shall "striving" to enter be of no use? These are
serious questions. The gate is now ready to open to the chief of
sinners; but a day comes when it shall open no more.

The time foretold by our Lord is the time of His own second coming to
judge the world. The long-suffering of God will at last have an end. The
throne of grace will at length be taken down, and the throne of judgment
shall be set up in its place. The fountain of living waters shall at
length be closed. The strait gate shall at last be barred and bolted.
The day of grace will be passed and over. The day of reckoning with a
sin-laden world shall at length begin. And then shall be brought to pass
the solemn prophecy of the Lord Jesus,--"Many will seek to enter in, and
shall not be able."

All prophecies of Scripture that have been fulfilled hitherto, have been
fulfilled to the very letter. They have seemed to many unlikely,
improbable, impossible, up to the very time of their accomplishment; but
not one word of them has ever failed.

The promises of _good things_ have come to pass, in spite of
difficulties that seemed insuperable. Sarah had a son when she was past
bearing; the children of Israel were brought out of Egypt and planted in
the promised land; the Jews were redeemed from the captivity of Babylon,
after seventy years, and enabled once more to build the temple; the Lord
Jesus was born of a pure virgin, lived, ministered, was betrayed, and
cut off, precisely as Scripture foretold. The Word of God was pledged in
all these cases, that it should be. _And so it was._

The predictions of _judgments_ on cities and nations have come to pass,
though at the time they were first spoken they seemed incredible. Egypt
is the basest of kingdoms; Edom is a wilderness; Tyre is a rock for
drying nets; Nineveh, that "exceeding great city," is laid waste, and
become a desolation; Babylon is a dry land and a wilderness,--her broad
walls are utterly broken down; the Jews are scattered over the whole
earth as a separate people. In all these cases the Word of God foretold
that it should be so. _And so it was._

The prophecy of the Lord Jesus Christ which I press on your attention
this day, shall be fulfilled in like manner. Not one word of it shall
fail when the time of its accomplishment is due. "Many will seek to
enter in, and shall not be able."

There is a time coming when seeking God shall be useless. Oh, that men
would remember that! Too many seem to fancy that the hour will never
arrive when they shall seek and not find: but they are sadly mistaken.
They will discover their mistake one day to their own confusion, except
they repent. When Christ comes "many shall seek to enter in, and _not be
able_."

There is a time coming when many shall be shut out from heaven for ever.
It shall not be the lot of a few, but of a great multitude; it shall not
happen to one or two in this parish, and one or two in that: it shall be
the miserable end of a vast crowd. "_Many_ will seek to enter in, and
shall not be able."

Knowledge shall come to many too late. They shall see at last the value
of an immortal soul, and the happiness of having it saved. They shall
understand at last their own sinfulness and God's holiness, and the
glorious fitness of the Gospel of Christ. They shall comprehend at last
why ministers seemed so anxious, and preached so long, and entreated
them so earnestly to be converted. But, alas, they shall know all this
_too late_!

Repentance shall come to many too late. They shall discover their own
exceeding wickedness and be thoroughly ashamed of their past folly. They
shall be full of bitter regret and unavailing lamentations, of keen
convictions and of piercing sorrows. They shall weep, and wail, and
mourn, when they reflect on their sins. The remembrance of their lives
will be grievous to them; the burden of their guilt will seem
intolerable. But, alas, like Judas Iscariot, they will repent _too
late_!

Faith shall come to many too late. They will no longer be able to deny
that there is a God, and a devil, a heaven, and a hell. Deism, and
scepticism, and infidelity shall be laid aside for ever; scoffing, and
jesting, and free-thinking shall cease. They will see with their own
eyes, and feel in their own bodies, that the things of which ministers
spoke were not cunningly devised fables, but great real truths. They
will find out to their cost that evangelical religion was not cant,
extravagance, fanaticism, and enthusiasm: they will discover that it was
the one thing needful, and that for want of it they are lost for ever.
Like the devil, they will at length believe and tremble, but _too late_!

A desire of salvation shall come to many too late. They shall long after
pardon, and peace, and the favour of God, when they can no more be had.
They will wish they might have one more Sunday over again, have one more
offer of forgiveness, have one more call to prayer. But it will matter
nothing what they think, or feel, or desire then: the day of grace will
be over; the gate of salvation will be bolted and barred. It will be
_too late_!

I often think what a change there will be one day in the price and
estimation at which things are valued. I look round this world in which
my lot is cast; I mark the current price of everything this world
contains; I look forward to the coming of Christ, and the great day of
God. I think of the new order of things, which that day will bring in; I
read the words of the Lord Jesus, when He describes the master of the
house rising up and shutting the door; and as I read, I say to myself,
"There will be a great change soon."

What are the _dear things_ now? Gold, silver, precious stones, bank
notes, mines, ships, lands, houses, horses, carriages, furniture, meat,
drink, clothes, and the like. These are the things that are thought
valuable; these are the things that command a ready market; these are
the things which you can never get below a certain price. He that has
much of these things is counted a wealthy man. Such is the world!

And what are the _cheap things_ now? The knowledge of God, the free
salvation of the Gospel, the favour of Christ, the grace of the Holy
Ghost, the privilege of being God's son, the title to eternal life, the
right to the tree of life, the reversion of a mansion in heaven, the
promises of an incorruptible inheritance, the offer of a crown of glory
that fadeth not away. These are the things that no man hardly cares for.
They are offered to the sons of men without money and without price:
they may be had for nothing,--freely and gratuitously. Whosoever will
may take his portion. But, alas, there is no demand for these things!
They go a begging. They are scarcely looked at. They are offered in
vain. Such is the world!

But a day is coming upon us all when the value of everything shall be
altered. A day is coming when bank-notes shall be as useless as rags,
and gold shall be as worthless as the dust of the earth. A day is coming
when thousands shall care nothing for the things for which they once
lived, and shall desire nothing so much as the things which they once
despised. The halls and palaces will be forgotten in the desire of a
"house not made with hands." The favour of the rich and great will be no
more remembered, in the longing for the favour of the King of kings. The
silks, and satins, and velvets, and laces, will be lost sight of in the
anxious want of the robe of Christ's righteousness. All shall be
altered, all shall be changed in the great day of the Lord's return.
"Many will seek to enter in, and shall not be able."

It was a weighty saying of some wise man, that "hell is truth known too
late." I fear that thousands of professing Christians in this day will
find this out by experience. They will discover the value of their
souls when it is too late to obtain mercy, and see the beauty of the
Gospel when they can derive no benefit from it. Oh, that men would be
wise betimes! I often think there are few passages of Scripture more
awful than that in the first chapter of Proverbs,--"Because I have
called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man
regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my
reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear
cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh
as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall
they call upon Me, but I will not answer; they shall seek Me early, but
they shall not find Me: for that they hated knowledge, and did not
choose the fear of the Lord: they would none of my counsel; they
despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their
own way, and be filled with their own devices." (Prov. i. 24-31.)

Some reader of this paper may be one of those who neither like the faith
nor practice which the Gospel of Christ requires. You think us extreme
when we beseech you to repent and be converted. You think we ask too
much when we urge you to come out from the world, and take up the cross,
and follow Christ. But take notice that you will one day confess _that
we were right_. Sooner or later, in this world or the next, you will
acknowledge that you were wrong. Yes! it is a melancholy consideration
for the faithful minister of the Gospel, that all who hear him will one
day allow that his counsel was good. Mocked, despised, scorned,
neglected as his testimony may be on earth, a day is coming which shall
prove effectually that truth was on his side. The rich man who hears us
and yet makes a god of this world,--the tradesman who hears us and yet
makes his ledger his Bible,--the farmer who hears us and yet remains
cold as the clay on his land,--the labourer who hears us and feels no
more for his soul than a stone,--all, all will at length acknowledge
before the world that they were wrong. All will at length desire
earnestly that very mercy which we now set before them in vain. "They
will seek to enter in, and shall not be able."

Some reader of this paper may be one of those who love the Lord Jesus
Christ in sincerity. Such an one may well take comfort when he looks
forward. You often suffer persecution now for your religion's sake. You
have to bear hard words and unkind insinuations. Your motives are often
misrepresented, and your conduct slandered. The reproach of the cross
has not ceased. But you may well take courage when you look forward and
think of the Lord's second coming. That day shall make amends for all.
You will see those who now laugh at you because you read the Bible, and
pray, and love Christ, in a very different state of mind. They will come
to you as the foolish virgins came to the wise, saying, "Give us of your
oil, because our lamps are gone out." (Matt. xxv. 8.) You will see those
who now hate you and call you fools because, like Caleb and Joshua, you
bring up a good report of Christ's service, altered, changed, and no
longer like the same men. They will say, "Oh, that we had taken part
with you! You have been the truly wise, and we the foolish." Then fear
not the reproach of men. Confess Christ boldly before the world. Show
your colours, and be not ashamed of your Master. Time is short: eternity
hastens on. The cross is only for a little season: the crown is for
ever. Make sure work about that crown: leave nothing uncertain. "Many
will seek to enter in, and shall not be able."


And now let me offer to every one who reads this paper a few parting
words, in order to apply the whole subject to his soul. You have heard
the words of the Lord Jesus unfolded and expounded. You have seen the
picture of the way of salvation: it is a strait gate.--You have heard
the command of the King: "Strive to enter in."--You have been told of
His solemn warning: "Many shall seek to enter in, and shall not be
able."--Bear with me a little longer while I try to impress the whole
matter on your conscience. I have yet something to say on God's behalf.

(1) For one thing, I will ask you a plain question. _Have you entered in
at the strait gate or not?_ Old or young, rich or poor, churchman or
dissenter, I repeat my question, Have you entered in at the strait gate?

I ask not whether you have heard of it, and believe there is a gate. I
ask not whether you have looked at it, and admired it, and hope one day
to go in. I ask whether you have gone up to it, knocked at it, been
admitted, and _are now inside_?

If you are not inside, what good have you got from your religion? You
are not pardoned and forgiven. You are not reconciled to God. You are
not born again, sanctified, and meet for heaven. If you die as you are,
the devil will have you for ever, and your soul will be eternally
miserable.

Oh, think, think what a state this is to live in! Think, think above all
things, what a state this is to die in! Your life is but a vapour. A few
more years at most and you are gone: your place in the world will soon
be filled up; your house will be occupied by another. The sun will go on
shining; the grass and daises will soon grow thick over your grave; your
body will be food for worms, and your soul will be lost to all eternity.

And all this time there stands open before you a gate of salvation. God
invites you. Jesus Christ offers to save you. All things are ready for
your deliverance. One thing only is wanting, and that is that you should
be willing to be saved.

Oh think of these things, and be wise!

(2) For another thing, I will give plain advice to all who are not yet
inside the strait gate. That advice is simply this: _to enter in without
a day's delay_.

Tell me, if you can, of any one who ever reached heaven excepting
through "the strait gate." I know of none. From Abel, the first who
died, down to the end of the list of Bible names, I see none saved by
any way but that of faith in Christ.

Tell me, if you can, of any one who ever entered in at the strait gate
without "striving." I know of none excepting those who die in infancy.
He that would win heaven must be content to fight for it.

Tell me, if you can, of any one who ever strove earnestly to enter, and
failed to succeed. I know of none. I believe that however weak and
ignorant men may be, they never seek life heartily and conscientiously,
at the right door, and are left without an answer of peace.

Tell me, if you can, of any one who ever entered in at the strait gate,
and was afterwards sorry. I know of none. I believe the footsteps on the
threshold of that gate are all one way. All have found it a good thing
to serve Christ, and have never regretted taking up His cross.

If these things are so, seek Christ without delay, and enter in at the
gate of life while you can! Make a beginning this very day. Go to that
merciful and mighty Saviour in prayer, and pour out your heart before
Him. Confess to Him your guilt and wickedness and sin. Unbosom yourself
freely to Him: keep nothing back. Tell Him that you cast yourself and
all your soul's affairs wholly on His hands, and ask Him to save you
according to His promise, and put His Holy Spirit within you.

There is everything _to encourage you to do this_. Thousands as bad as
you have applied to Christ in this way, and not one of them has been
sent away and refused. They have found a peace of conscience they never
knew before, and have gone on their way rejoicing. They have found
strength for all the trials of life, and none of them have been allowed
to perish in the wilderness. Why should not you also seek Christ?

There is everything to encourage you to do what I tell you _at once_. I
know no reason why your repentance and conversion should not be as
immediate as that of others before you. The Samaritan woman came to the
well an ignorant sinner, and returned to her home a new creature. The
Philippian jailor turned from darkness to light, and became a professed
disciple of Christ in a single day. And why should not others do the
same? Why should not you give up your sins, and lay hold on Christ this
very day?

I know that the advice I have given you is good. The grand question is,
Will you take it?

(3) The last thing I have to say shall be a request to all who have
really entered in at the strait gate. That request is, that you will
_tell others_ of the blessings which you have found.

I want all converted people to be missionaries. I do not want them all
to go out to foreign lands, and preach to the heathen; but I do want all
to be of a missionary spirit, and to strive to do good at home. I want
them to testify to all around them that the strait gate is the way to
happiness, and to persuade them to enter in by it.

When Andrew was converted he found his brother Peter, and said to him,
"We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And
he brought him to Jesus." (John i. 41, 42.) When Philip was converted he
found Nathaniel, and said to him, "We have found Him, of whom Moses in
the law, and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of
Joseph. And Nathaniel said unto him, Can there any good thing come out
of Nazareth? Philip said unto him, Come and see." (John i. 45, 46.) When
the Samaritan woman was converted, she "left her waterpot, and went into
the city, and said to the men, Come, see a man which told me all things
that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" (John iv. 28, 29.) When Saul
the Pharisee was converted, "Straightway he preached Christ in the
synagogues, that He is the son of God." (Acts ix. 20.)

I long to see this kind of spirit among Christians in the present day. I
long to see more zeal to commend the strait gate to all who are yet
outside, and more desire to persuade them to enter in and be saved.
Happy indeed is that Church whose members not only desire to reach
heaven themselves, but desire also to take others with them!

The great gate of salvation is yet ready to open, but the hour draws
near when it will be closed for ever. Let us work while it is called
to-day, for "the night cometh when no man can work." (John ix. 4.) Let
us tell our relatives and friends, that we have proved the way of life
and found it pleasant, that we have tasted the bread of life and found
it good.

I have heard it calculated that if every believer in the world were to
bring one soul to Christ each year, the whole human race would be
converted in less than twenty years. I make no comment on such a
calculation. Whether such a thing might be or not, one thing is sure:
that thing is, that many more _souls might probably be converted to God,
if Christians were more zealous to do good_.

This, at least, we may remember, that God is "not willing that any
should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Pet. iii. 9.)
He that endeavours to show his neighbour the strait gate is doing a work
which God approves. He is doing a work which angels regard with
interest, and with which the building of a pyramid will not compare in
importance. What saith the Scripture? "He which converteth a sinner from
the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a
multitude of sins." (James v. 20.)

Let us all awaken to a deeper sense of our responsibility in this
matter. Let us look round the circle of those among whom we live, and
consider their state before God. Are there not many of them yet outside
the gate, unforgiven, unsanctified, and unfit to die? Let us watch for
opportunities of speaking to them. Let us tell them of the strait gate,
and entreat them to "strive to enter in."

Who can tell what "a word spoken in due season" may do? Who can tell
what it may do when spoken in faith and prayer? It may be the
turning-point in some man's history. It may be the beginning of thought,
prayer, and eternal life. Oh, for more love and boldness among
believers! Think what a blessing to be allowed to speak one converting
word!

I know not what the feelings of my readers may be on this subject. My
heart's desire and prayer is that you may daily remember Christ's solemn
words,--"Many will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." Keep these
words in mind, and then be careless about the souls of others, if you
can.



III


REALITY

     "_Reprobate silver._"--Jer. vi. 30.

     "_Nothing but leaves._"--Mark xi. 13.

     "_Let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and
     in truth._"--1 John iii. 18. "_Thou hast a name that thou
     livest, and art dead._"--Rev. iii. 1.


If we profess to have any religion at all, let us take care that it is
real. I say it emphatically, and I repeat the saying: Let us mind that
our religion is real.

What do I mean when I use the word "real." I mean that which is genuine,
and sincere, and honest, and thorough. I mean that which is not base,
and hollow, and formal, and false, and counterfeit, and sham, and
nominal. "Real" religion is not mere show, and pretence, and skin-deep
feeling, and temporary profession, and outside work. It is something
inward, solid, substantial, intrinsic, living, lasting. We know the
difference between base coin and good money,--between solid gold and
tinsel,--between plated metal and silver,--between real stone and
plaster imitation. Let us think of these things as we consider the
subject of this paper. What is the character of our religion? Is it
real? It may be weak, and feeble, and mingled with many infirmities.
That is not the point before us to-day. Is our religion real? Is it
true?

The times in which we live demand attention to this subject. A want of
reality is a striking feature of a vast amount of religion in the
present day. Poets have sometimes told us that the world has passed
through four different states or conditions. We have had a golden age,
and a silver age, a brazen age, and an iron age. How far this is true, I
do not stop to inquire. But I fear there is little doubt as to the
character of the age in which we live. It is universally an age of base
metal and alloy. If we measure the religion of the age by its apparent
quantity, there is much of it. But if we measure it by its quality,
there is very little indeed. On every side we want MORE REALITY.

I ask attention, while I try to bring home to men's consciences the
question of this paper. There are two things which I propose to do:--

    I. In the first place, I will show the _importance of reality in
    religion_.

    II. In the second place, I will supply _some tests by which we may
    prove whether our own religion is real._

Has any reader of this paper the least desire to go to heaven when he
dies? Do you wish to have a religion which will comfort you in life,
give you good hope in death, and abide the judgment of God at the last
day? Then, do not turn away from the subject before you. Sit down, and
consider calmly, whether your Christianity is real and true, or base and
hollow.


I. I have to show _the importance of reality in religion._

The point is one which, at first sight, may seem to require very few
remarks to establish it. All men, I shall be told, are fully convinced
of the importance of reality.

But is this true? Can it be said indeed that reality is rightly esteemed
among Christians? I deny it entirely. The greater part of people who
profess to admire reality, seem to think that every one possesses
it!--They tell us "that all have got good hearts at bottom,"--that all
are sincere and true in the main, though they may make mistakes. They
call us uncharitable, and harsh, and censorious, if we doubt anybody's
goodness of heart. In short, they destroy the value of reality, by
regarding it as a thing which almost every one has.

This wide-spread delusion is precisely one of the causes why I take up
this subject. I want men to understand that _reality_ is a far more rare
and uncommon thing than is commonly supposed. I want men to see that
_unreality_ is one of the great dangers of which Christians ought to
beware.

What saith the Scripture? This is the only judge that can try the
subject. Let us turn to our Bibles, and examine them fairly, and then
deny, if we can, the importance of reality in religion, and the danger
of not being real.

(1) Let us look then, for one thing, at the parables spoken by our Lord
Jesus Christ. Observe how many of them are intended to put in strong
contrast the true believer and the mere nominal disciple. The parables
of the sower, of the wheat and tares, of the draw-net, of the two sons,
of the wedding garment, of the ten virgins, of the talents, of the great
supper, of the pounds, of the two builders, have all one great point in
common. They all bring out in striking colours the difference between
reality and unreality in religion. They all show the uselessness and
danger of any Christianity which is not real, thorough, and true.

(2) Let us look, for another thing, at the language of our Lord Jesus
Christ about the scribes and the Pharisees. Eight times over in one
chapter we find Him denouncing them as "hypocrites," in words of almost
fearful severity.--"Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers," He says, "How
can ye escape the damnation of hell?" (Matt. xxiii. 33.) What may we
learn from these tremendously strong expressions? How is it that our
gracious and merciful Saviour used such cutting words about people who
at any rate were more moral and decent than the publicans and harlots?
It is meant to teach us the exceeding abominableness of false profession
and mere outward religion in God's sight. Open profligacy and wilful
obedience to fleshly lusts are no doubt ruinous sins, if not given up.
But there seems nothing which is so displeasing to Christ as hypocrisy
and unreality.

(3) Let us look, for another thing, at the startling fact, that there is
hardly a grace in the character of a true Christian of which you will
not find a counterfeit described in the Word of God. There is not a
feature in a believer's countenance of which there is not an imitation.
Give me your attention, and I will show you this in a few particulars.

Is there not an unreal _repentance_? Beyond doubt there is. Saul and
Ahab, and Herod, and Judas Iscariot had many feelings of sorrow about
sin. But they never really repented unto salvation.

Is there not an unreal _faith_? Beyond doubt there is. It is written of
Simon Magus, at Samaria, that he "believed," and yet his heart was not
right in the sight of God. It is even written of the devils that they
"believe and tremble." (Acts viii. 13; James ii. 19.)

Is there not an unreal _holiness_? Beyond doubt there is. Joash, king of
Judah, became to all appearance very holy and good, so long as Jehoiada
the priest lived. But as soon as he died the religion of Joash died at
the same time. (2 Chron. xxiv. 2.)--Judas Iscariot's outward life was as
correct as that of any of the apostles up to the time that he betrayed
his Master. There was nothing suspicious about him. Yet in reality he
was "a thief" and a traitor. (John xii. 6.)

Is there not an unreal _love and charity_? Beyond doubt there is. There
is a love which consists in words and tender expressions, and a great
show of affection, and calling other people "dear brethren," while the
heart does not love at all. It is not for nothing that St. John says,
"Let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth."
It was not without cause that St. Paul said: "Let love be without
dissimulation." (1 John iii. 18; Rom. xii. 19.)

Is there not an unreal _humility_? Beyond doubt there is. There is a
pretended lowliness of demeanour, which often covers over a very proud
heart. St. Paul warns us against a "voluntary humility," and speaks of
"things which had a show of wisdom in will-worship and humility." (Col.
ii. 18, 23.)

Is there not unreal _praying_? Beyond doubt there is. Our Lord denounces
it as one of the special sins of the Pharisees--that for a "pretence
they made long prayers." (Matt. xxiii. 14.) He does not charge them with
not praying, or with praying too shortly. Their sin lay in this, that
their prayers were not real.

Is there not unreal _worship_? Beyond doubt there is. Our Lord says of
the Jews: "This people draw nigh to Me with their mouths, and honour Me
with their lips, but their heart is far from Me." (Matt. xv. 8.) They
had plenty of formal services in their temples and their synagogues. But
the fatal defect about them was want of reality and want of heart.

Is there not unreal _talking_ about religion? Beyond doubt there is.
Ezekiel describes some professing Jews who talked and spoke like God's
people "while their hearts went after their covetousness." (Ezek.
xxxiii. 31.) St. Paul tells us that we may "speak with the tongue of men
and angels," and yet be no better than sounding brass and a tinkling
cymbal. (1 Cor. xiii. 1.)

What shall we say to these things? To say the least they ought to set us
thinking. To my own mind they seem to lead to only one conclusion. They
show clearly the immense importance which Scripture attaches to reality
in religion. They show clearly what need we have to take heed lest our
Christianity turn out to be merely nominal, formal, unreal, and base.

The subject is of deep importance in every age. There has never been a
time, since the Church of Christ was founded, when there has not been a
vast amount of unreality and mere nominal religion among professing
Christians. I am sure it is the case in the present day. Wherever I turn
my eyes I see abundant cause for the warning,--"Beware of base metal in
religion. Be genuine. Be thorough. Be real. Be true."

How much religion among some members of the Church of England consists
of _nothing but churchmanship_! They belong to the Established Church.
They are baptized at her fonts, married at her communion rails, buried
in her churchyards, preached to on Sundays by her ministers. But the
great doctrines laid down in her Articles and Liturgy have no place in
their hearts, and no influence on their lives. They neither think, nor
feel, nor care, nor know anything about them. And is the religion of
these people real Christianity? It is nothing of the kind. It is mere
base metal. It is not the Christianity of Peter, and James, and John,
and Paul. It is _Churchianity_, and no more.

How much religion among some Dissenters from the Church of England
consists of _nothing but dissent_! They pride themselves on having
nothing to do with the Establishment. They rejoice in having no liturgy,
no forms, no bishops. They glory in the exercise of their private
judgment, and the absence of everything like ceremonial in their public
worship. But all this time they have neither grace, nor faith, nor
repentance, nor holiness, nor spirituality of conduct or conversation.
The experimental and practical piety of the old Nonconformists is a
thing of which they are utterly destitute. Their Christianity is as
sapless and fruitless as a dead tree, and as dry and marrowless as an
old bone. And is the Christianity of these people real? It is nothing
of the kind. It is base metal. It is not the Christianity of Owen, and
Manton, and Goodwin, and Baxter, and Traill. It is _Dissentianity_, and
nothing more.

How much Ritualistic religion is utterly unreal! You will sometimes see
men boiling over with zeal about vestments, and gestures, and postures,
and church decorations, and daily services, and frequent communions,
while their hearts are manifestly in the world. Of the inward work of
the Holy Ghost,--of living faith in the Lord Jesus,--of delight in the
Bible and religious conversation,--of separation from worldly follies
and amusements,--of zeal for the conversion of souls to God,--of all
these things they are profoundly ignorant. And is such Christianity as
this real? It is nothing of the kind. It is a mere name.

How much Evangelical religion is completely unreal? You will sometimes
see men professing great affection for the pure "Gospel," while they are
practically inflicting on it the greatest injury. They will talk loudly
of soundness in the faith, and have a keen nose for heresy. They will
run eagerly after popular preachers, and applaud Protestant speakers at
public meetings to the very echo. They are familiar with all the phrases
of evangelical religion, and can converse fluently about its leading
doctrines. To see their faces at public meetings, or in church, you
would think them eminently godly. To hear them talk you would suppose
their lives were bound up in religious Societies, the "Record" or "Rock"
newspapers, and Exeter Hall. And yet these people in private will
sometimes do things of which even some heathens would be ashamed. They
are neither truthful, nor straightforward, nor honest, nor manly, nor
just, nor good-tempered, nor unselfish, nor merciful, nor humble, nor
kind! And is such Christianity as this real? It is not. It is a
miserable imposture, a base cheat and caricature.

How much Revivalist religion in the present day is utterly unreal! You
will find a crowd of false professors bringing discredit on the work of
God wherever the Holy Spirit is poured out. You will see a mixed
multitude of Egyptians accompanying the Israel of God, and doing it
harm, whenever Israel goes out of Egypt. How many now-a-days will
profess to be suddenly convinced of sin,--to find peace in Jesus,--to be
overwhelmed with joys and ecstacies of soul,--while in reality they have
no grace at all. Like the stony-ground hearers, they endure but for a
season. "In the time of temptation they fall away." (Luke viii. 13) As
soon as the first excitement is passed off, they return to their old
ways, and resume their former sins. Their religion is like Jonah's
gourd, which came up in a night and perished in a night. They have
neither root nor vitality. They only injure God's cause and give
occasion to God's enemies to blaspheme. And is Christianity like this
real? It is nothing of the kind. It is base metal from the devil's mint,
=and= is worthless in God's sight.

I write these things with sorrow. I have no desire to bring any section
of the Church of Christ into contempt. I have no wish to cast any slur
on any movement which begins with the Spirit of God. But the times
demand very plain speaking about some points in the prevailing
Christianity of our day. And one point, I am quite persuaded, that
demands attention, is the abounding want of reality which is to be seen
on every side.

No reader, at any rate, can well deny that the subject of the paper
before him is of vast importance.


II. I pass on now to the second thing which I propose to do. _I will
supply some tests by which we may try the reality of our religion._

In approaching this part of my subject, I ask every reader of this paper
to deal fairly, honestly, and reasonably with his soul. Dismiss from
your mind the common idea,--that of course all is right if you go to
church or to chapel. Cast away such vain notions for ever. You must look
further, higher, deeper than this, if you would find out the truth.
Listen to me, and I will give you a few hints. Believe me, it is no
light matter. It is your life.

(1) For one thing, if you would know whether your religion is real, try
it by _the place which it occupies_ in your inner man. It is not enough
that it is in your _head_. You may know the truth, and assent to the
truth, and believe the truth, and yet be wrong in God's sight.--It is
not enough that it is on your _lips_. You may repeat the creed daily.
You may say "Amen" to public prayer in church, and yet have nothing more
than an outward religion.--It is not enough that it is in your
_feelings_. You may weep under preaching one day, and be lifted to the
third heaven by joyous excitement another day, and yet be dead to
God.--Your religion, if it is real, and given by the Holy Ghost, must be
in your _heart_. It must occupy the citadel. It must hold the reins. It
must sway the affections. It must lead the will. It must direct the
tastes. It must influence the choices and decisions. It must fill the
deepest, lowest, inmost seat in your soul. Is this your religion? If
not, you may well doubt whether it is "_real_" and true. (Acts viii. 21;
Rom. x. 10.)

(2) In the next place, if you would know whether your religion is real,
try it by the _feelings towards sin_ which it produces. The Christianity
which is from the Holy Ghost will always have a very deep view of the
sinfulness of sin. It will not merely regard sin as a blemish and
misfortune, which makes men and women objects of pity and compassion. It
will see in sin the abominable thing which God hates, the thing which
makes man guilty and lost in his Maker's sight, the thing which deserves
God's wrath and condemnation. It will look on sin as the cause of all
sorrow and unhappiness, of strife and wars, of quarrels and contentions,
of sickness and death,--the blight which has blighted God's fair
creation, the cursed thing which makes the whole earth groan and travail
in pain. Above all, it will see in sin the thing which will ruin us
eternally, except we can find a ransom,--lead us captive, except we can
get its chains broken,--and destroy our happiness, both here and
hereafter, except we fight against it, even unto death. Is this your
religion? Are these your feelings about sin? If not, you may well doubt
whether your religion is "_real_."

(3) For another thing, if you would know whether your religion is real,
try it by the _feelings toward Christ_ which it produces. Nominal
religion may believe that such a person as Christ existed, and was a
great benefactor to mankind. It may show Him some external respect,
attend His outward ordinances, and bow the head at His name. But it will
go no further. Real religion will make a man glory in Christ, as the
Redeemer, the Deliverer, the Priest, the Friend, without whom he would
have no hope at all. It will produce confidence in Him, love towards
Him, delight in Him, comfort in Him, as the mediator, the food, the
light, the life, the peace of the soul. Is this your religion? Do you
know anything of feelings like these toward Jesus Christ? If not, you
may well doubt whether your religion is "_real_."

(4) For another thing, if you would know whether your religion is real,
try it by _the fruit it bears in your heart and life_. The Christianity
which is from above will always be known by its fruits. It will produce
in the man who has it repentance, faith, hope, charity, humility,
spirituality, kind temper, self-denial, unselfishness, forgivingness,
temperance, truthfulness, brotherly-kindness, patience, forbearance. The
degree in which these various graces appear may vary in different
believers. The germ and seeds of them will be found in all who are the
children of God. By their fruits they may be known. Is this your
religion? If not, you may well doubt whether it is "_real_."

(5) In the last place, if you would know whether your religion is real,
try it by your _feelings and habits about means of grace_. Prove it by
the Sunday. Is that day a season of weariness and constraint, or a
delight and a refreshment, and a sweet foretaste of the rest to come in
heaven?--Prove it by the public means of grace. What are your feelings
about public prayer and public praise, about the public preaching of
God's Word, and the administration of the Lord's Supper? Are they things
to which you give a cold assent, and tolerate them as proper and
correct? Or, are they things in which you take pleasure, and without
which you could not live happy?--Prove it, finally, by your feelings
about private means of grace. Do you find it essential to your comfort
to read the Bible regularly in private, and to speak to God in prayer?
Or, do you find these practices irksome, and either slur them over, or
neglect them altogether? These questions deserve your attention. If
means of grace, whether public or private, are not as necessary to your
soul as meat and drink are to your body, you may well doubt whether your
religion is "_real_."

I press on the attention of all my readers the five points which I have
just named. There is nothing like coming to particulars about these
matters. If you would know whether your religion is "real," genuine, and
true, measure it by the five particulars which I have now named. Measure
it fairly: test it honestly. If your heart is right in the sight of God,
you have no cause to flinch from examination. If it is wrong, the sooner
you find it out the better.


And now I have done what I proposed to do. I have shown from Scripture
the unspeakable importance of reality in religion, and the danger in
which many stand of being lost for ever, for want of it. I have given
five plain tests, by which a man may find out whether his Christianity
is real. I will conclude all by a direct application of the whole
subject to the souls of all who read this paper. I will draw my bow at a
venture, and trust that God will bring an arrow home to the hearts and
consciences of many.

(1) My first word of application shall be _an inquiry_. Is your own
religion real or unreal? genuine or base? I do not ask what you think
about others. Perhaps you may see many hypocrites around you. You may be
able to point to many who have no "reality" at all. This is not the
question. You may be right in your opinion about others. But I want to
know about yourself. Is your own Christianity real and true? or nominal
and base?

If you love life, do not turn away from the question which is now before
you. The time must come when the whole truth will be known. The judgment
day will reveal every man's religion, of what sort it is. The parable of
the wedding-garment will receive an awful fulfilment. Surely it is a
thousand times better to find out _now_ your condition, and to repent,
than to find it out too late in the next world, when there will be no
space for repentance. If you have common prudence, sense, and judgment,
consider what I say. Sit down quietly this day, and examine yourself.
Find out the real character of your religion. With the Bible in your
hand, and honesty in your heart, the thing may be known. Then resolve to
find out.

(2) My second word of application shall be a _warning_. I address it to
all who know, in their own consciences, that their religion is not real.
I ask them to remember the greatness of their danger, and their
exceeding guilt in the sight of God.

An unreal Christianity is specially offensive to that Great God with
whom we have to do. He is continually spoken of in Scripture as the God
of Truth. Truth is peculiarly one of His attributes. Can you doubt for a
moment that He abhors everything that is not genuine and true? Better, I
firmly believe, to be found an ignorant heathen at the last day, than to
be found with nothing better than a nominal religion. If your religion
is of this sort, beware!

An unreal Christianity is sure to fail a man at last. It will wear out;
it will break down; it will leave its possessor like a wreck on a
sandbank, high and dry and forsaken by the tide; it will supply no
comfort in the hour when comfort is most needed,--in the time of
affliction, and on the bed of death. If you want a religion to be of any
use to your soul, beware of unreality! If you would not be comfortless
in death, and hopeless in the judgment day, be genuine, be real, be
true.

(3) My third word of application shall be _advice_. I offer it to all
who feel pricked in conscience by the subject of this paper. I advise
them to cease from all trifling and playing with religion, and to become
honest, thorough-going, whole-hearted followers of the Lord Jesus
Christ.

Apply without delay to the Lord Jesus, and ask Him to become your
Saviour, your Physician, your Priest, and your Friend. Let not the
thought of your unworthiness keep you away: let not the recollection of
your sins prevent your application. Never, never forget that Christ can
cleanse you from any quantity of sins, if you only commit your soul to
Him. But one thing He does ask of those who come to Him: He asks them to
be real, honest, and true.

Let reality be one great mark of your approach to Christ, and there is
everything to give you hope. Your repentance may be feeble, but let it
be real; your faith may be weak, but let it be real; your desires after
holiness may be mingled with much infirmity, but let them be real. Let
there be nothing of reserve, of double-dealing, of part-acting of
dishonesty, of sham, of counterfeit, in your Christianity. Never be
content to wear a cloak of religion. Be all that you profess. Though you
may err, be real. Though you may stumble, be true. Keep this principle
continually before your eyes, and it will be well with your soul
throughout your journey from grace to glory.

(4) My last word of application shall be _encouragement_. I address it
to all who have manfully taken up the cross, and are honestly following
Christ. I exhort them to persevere, and not to be moved by difficulties
and opposition.

You may often find few with you, and many against you. You may often
hear hard things said of you. You may often be told that you go too far,
and that you are extreme. Heed it not. Turn a deaf ear to remarks of
this kind. Press on.

If there is anything which a man ought to do thoroughly, really, truly,
honestly, and with all his heart, it is the business of his soul. If
there is any work which he ought never to slur over, and do in a
slovenly fashion, it is the great work of "working out his own
salvation." (Phil. ii. 12.) Believer in Christ, remember this! Whatever
you do in religion, do it well. Be real. Be thorough. Be honest. Be
true.

If there is anything in the world of which a man need not be ashamed, it
is the service of Jesus Christ. Of sin, of worldliness, of levity, of
trifling, of time-wasting, of pleasure-seeking, of bad temper, of pride,
of making an idol of money, dress, dancing, hunting, shooting,
card-playing, novel-reading, and the like,--of all this a man may well
be ashamed. Living after this fashion he makes the angels sorrow, and
the devils rejoice. But of living for his soul,--caring for his
soul,--thinking of his soul,--providing for his soul,--making his soul's
salvation the principal and chief thing in his daily life,--of all this
a man has no cause to be ashamed at all. Believer in Christ, remember
this! Remember it in your Bible-reading and your private praying.
Remember it on your Sabbaths. Remember it in your worship of God. In all
these things never be ashamed of being whole-hearted, real, thorough,
and true.

The years of our life are fast passing away. Who knows but this year may
be the last in his life? Who can tell but that he may be called this
very year to meet his God? As ever you would be found ready, be a real
and true Christian. Do not be base metal.

The time is fast coming when nothing but reality will stand the fire.
Real repentance towards God,--real faith towards our Lord Jesus
Christ,--real holiness of heart and life,--these, these are the things
which will alone pass current at the last day. It is a solemn saying of
our Lord Jesus Christ, "Many shall say in that day, Lord, Lord, have we
not prophesied in Thy name, and in Thy name have cast out devils, and in
Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I
never knew you. Depart from Me, ye that work iniquity." (Matt. vii. 22,
23.)



IV


PRAYER

     "_Men ought always to pray._"--Luke xviii. 1.

     "_I will that men pray everywhere._"--1 Tim. ii. 8.


Prayer is the most important subject in practical religion. All other
subjects are second to it. Reading the Bible, keeping the Sabbath,
hearing sermons, attending public worship, going to the Lord's
Table,--all these are very weighty matters. But none of them are so
important as private prayer.

I propose in this paper to offer seven plain reasons why I use such
strong language about prayer. I invite to these reasons the attention of
every thinking man into whose hands this paper may fall. I venture to
assert with confidence that they deserve serious consideration.


I. In the first place, _Prayer is absolutely needful to a man's
salvation_.

I say absolutely needful, and I say so advisedly. I am not speaking now
of infants and idiots. I am not settling the state of the heathen. I
remember that where little is given, there little will be required. I
speak especially of those who call themselves Christians, in a land like
our own. And of such I say no man or woman can expect to be saved who
does not pray.

I hold salvation by grace as strongly as any one. I would gladly offer a
free and full pardon to the greatest sinner that ever lived. I would not
hesitate to stand by his dying bed, and say, "Believe on the Lord Jesus
Christ even now, and you shall be saved." But that a man can have
salvation without _asking_ for it, I cannot see in the Bible. That a man
will receive pardon of his sins, who will not so much as lift up his
heart inwardly, and say, "Lord Jesus, give it to me," this I cannot
find. I can find that nobody will be saved by his prayers, but I cannot
find that without prayer anybody will be saved.

It is not absolutely needful to salvation that a man should _read_ the
Bible. A man may have no learning, or be blind, and yet have Christ in
his heart. It is not absolutely needful that a man should _hear_ the
public preaching of the Gospel. He may live where the Gospel is not
preached, or he may be bedridden, or deaf. But the same thing cannot be
said about prayer. It is absolutely needful to salvation that a man
should _pray_.

There is no royal road either to health or learning. Princes and kings,
poor men and peasants, all alike must attend to the wants of their own
bodies and their own minds. No man can eat, drink, or sleep by proxy. No
man can get the alphabet learned for him by another. All these are
things which everybody must do for himself, or they will not be done at
all.

Just as it is with the mind and body, so it is with the soul. There are
certain things absolutely needful to the soul's health and well-being.
Each one must attend to these things for himself. Each must repent for
himself. Each must apply to Christ for himself. And for himself each one
must speak to God and pray. You must do it for yourself, for by nobody
else can it be done.

How can we expect to be saved by an "unknown" God? And how can we know
God without prayer? We know nothing of men and women in this world,
unless we speak with them. We cannot know God in Christ, unless we speak
to Him in prayer. If we wish to be with Him in heaven, we must be His
friends on earth. If we wish to be His friends on earth, _we must pray_.

There will be many at Christ's right hand in the last day. The saints
gathered from North and South, and East and West, will be "a multitude
that no man can number." (Rev. vii. 9.) The song of victory that will
burst from their mouths, when their redemption is at length complete,
will be a glorious song indeed. It will be far above the noise of many
waters, and of mighty thunders. But there will be no discord in that
song. They that sing will sing with one heart as well as one voice.
Their experience will be one and the same. All will have believed. All
will have been washed in the blood of Christ. All will have been born
again. All will have prayed. Yes, we must pray on earth, or we shall
never praise in heaven. We must go through the school of prayer, or we
shall never be fit for the holiday of praise. In short, to be prayerless
is to be without God,--without Christ,--without grace,--without
hope,--and without heaven. It is to be in the road to hell.


II. In the second place, _a habit of prayer is one of the surest marks
of a true Christian_.

All the children of God on earth are alike in this respect. From the
moment there is any life and reality about their religion, they pray.
Just as the first sign of life in an infant when born into the world, is
the act of breathing, so the first act of men and women when they are
born again, is _praying_.

This is one of the common marks of all the elect of God: "They cry unto
Him day and night." (Luke xviii. 1.) The Holy Spirit, who makes them new
creatures, works in them the feeling of adoption, and makes them cry,
"Abba, Father." (Rom. viii. 15.) The Lord Jesus, when He quickens them,
gives them a voice and a tongue, and says to them, "Be dumb no more."
God has no dumb children. It is as much a part of their new nature to
pray, as it is of a child to cry. They see their need of mercy and
grace. They feel their emptiness and weakness. They cannot do otherwise
than they do. They _must_ pray.

I have looked carefully over the lives of God's saints in the Bible. I
cannot find one of whose history much is told us, from Genesis to
Revelation, who was not a man of prayer. I find it mentioned as a
characteristic of the godly, that "they call on the Father," that "they
call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ." I find it recorded as a
characteristic of the wicked, that "they call not upon the Lord." (1
Peter i. 17; 1 Cor. i. 2; Psalm xiv. 4.)

I have read the lives of many eminent Christians who have been on earth
since the Bible days. Some of them, I see, were rich, and some poor.
Some were learned, and some unlearned. Some of them were Episcopalians,
some Presbyterians, some Baptists, some Independents. Some were
Calvinists, and some Arminians. Some have loved to use a liturgy, and
some to use none. But one thing, I see, they all had in common. They
have all been _men of prayer_.

I study the reports of Missionary Societies in our own times. I see with
joy that heathen men and women are receiving the Gospel in various parts
of the globe. There are conversions in Africa, in New Zealand, in
Hindostan, in America. The people converted are naturally unlike one
another in every respect. But one striking thing I observe at all the
Missionary stations. The converted people _always pray_.

I do not deny that a man may pray without heart, and without sincerity.
I do not for a moment pretend to say that the mere fact of a person
praying proves everything about his soul. As in every other part of
religion, so also in this, there is plenty of deception and hypocrisy.

But this I do say,--that not praying is a clear proof that a man is not
yet a true Christian. He cannot really feel his sins. He cannot love
God. He cannot feel himself a debtor to Christ. He cannot long after
holiness. He cannot desire heaven. He has yet to be born again. He has
yet to be made a new creature. He may boast confidently of election,
grace, faith, hope, and knowledge, and deceive ignorant people. But you
may rest assured it is all vain talk _if he does not pray_.

And I say furthermore, that of all the evidences of real work of the
Spirit, a habit of hearty private prayer is one of the most satisfactory
that can be named. A man may preach from false motives. A man may write
books, and make fine speeches, and seem diligent in good works, and yet
be a Judas Iscariot. But a man seldom goes into his closet, and pours
out his soul before God in secret, unless he is in earnest. The Lord
Himself has set His stamp on prayer as the best proof of a true
conversion. When He, sent Ananias to Saul in Damascus, He gave him no
other evidence of his change of heart than this,--"_Behold, he
prayeth_." (Acts ix. 11.)

I know that much may go on in a man's mind before he is brought to pray.
He may have many convictions, desires, wishes, feelings, intentions,
resolutions, hopes, and fears. But all these things are very uncertain
evidences. They are to be found in ungodly people, and often come to
nothing. In many a case they are not more lasting than "the morning
cloud, and the dew that goeth away." (Hos. vi. 4.) A real hearty prayer,
flowing from a broken and contrite spirit, is worth all these things put
together.

I know that the elect of God are chosen to salvation from all eternity.
I do not forget that the Holy Spirit, who calls them in due time, in
many instances leads them by very slow degrees to acquaintance with
Christ. But the eye of man can only judge by what it sees. I cannot
call any one justified until he believes. I dare not say that any one
believes until he prays. I cannot understand a dumb faith. The first act
of faith will be to speak to God. Faith is to the soul what life is to
the body. Prayer is to faith what breath is to life. How a man can live
and not breathe is past my comprehension, and how a man can believe and
not pray is past my comprehension too.

Let no one be surprised if he hears ministers of the Gospel dwelling
much on the importance of prayer. This is the point we want to bring you
to,--we want to know that you pray. Your views of doctrine may be
correct. Your love of Protestantism may be warm and unmistakeable. But
still this may be nothing more than head knowledge and party spirit. The
great point is this,--whether you can speak _to_ God as well as speak
_about_ God.


III. In the third place, _there is no duty in religion so neglected as
private prayer_.

We live in days of abounding religious profession. There are more places
of public worship now than there ever were before. There are more
persons attending them than there ever have been since England was a
nation. And yet in spite of all this public religion, I believe there is
a vast neglect of private prayer.

I should not have said so a few years ago. I once thought, in my
ignorance, that most people said their prayers, and many people prayed.
I have lived to think differently. I have come to the conclusion that
the great majority of professing Christians do not pray at all.

I know this sounds very shocking, and will startle many. But I am
satisfied that prayer is just one of those things which is thought a
"matter of course," and, like many matters of course, is shamefully
neglected. It is "everybody's business;" and, as it often happens in
such cases, it is a business carried on by very few. It is one of those
private transactions between God and our souls which no eye sees, and
therefore one which there is every temptation to pass over and leave
undone.

I believe that thousands _never say a word of prayer at all_. They eat;
they drink; they sleep; they rise; they go forth to their labour; they
return to their homes; they breathe God's air; they see God's sun; they
walk on God's earth; they enjoy God's mercies; they have dying bodies;
they have judgment and eternity before them. But they _never speak to
God_! They live like the beasts that perish; they behave like creatures
without souls; they have not a word to say to Him in whose hand are
their life, and breath, and all things, and from whose mouth they must
one day receive their everlasting sentence. How dreadful this seems! But
if the secrets of men were only known, how common!

I believe there are tens of thousands _whose prayers are nothing but a
mere form_,--a set of words repeated by rote, without a thought about
their meaning. Some say over a few hasty sentences picked up in the
nursery when they were children. Some content themselves with repeating
the Belief, forgetting that there is not a request in it. Some add the
Lord's Prayer, but without the slightest desire that its solemn
petitions may be granted. Some among the poor, even at this day, repeat
the old popish lines:--

    "Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,
     Bless the bed that I lie on."

Many, even of those who use good forms, mutter their prayers over after
they have got into bed, or scramble over them while they wash or dress
in the morning. Men may think what they please, but they may depend that
in the sight of God _this is not praying_. Words said without heart are
as utterly useless to our souls as the drum-beating of the poor heathen
before their idols. Where there is _no heart_, there may be lip-work
and tongue-work, but there is nothing that God listens to,--there is _no
prayer_. Saul, I have no doubt, said many a long prayer before the Lord
met him on the way to Damascus. But it was not till his heart was broken
that the Lord said, "He prayeth."

Does this surprise any reader? Listen to me and I will show you that I
am not speaking as I do without reason. Do you think that my assertions
are extravagant and unwarrantable? Give me your attention, and I will
soon show you that I am only telling you the truth.

Have you forgotten that it is _not natural_ to any one to pray? The
carnal mind is enmity against God. The desire of man's heart is to get
far away from God, and to have nothing to do with Him. His feeling
toward Him is not love but fear. Why then should a man pray when he has
no real sense of sin, no real feeling of spiritual wants,--no thorough
belief in unseen things,--no desire after holiness and heaven? Of all
these things the vast majority of men know and feel nothing. The
multitude walk in the broad way. I cannot forget this. Therefore I say
boldly, I believe that few pray.

Have you forgotten that it is _not fashionable_ to pray? It is just one
of the things that many would be rather ashamed to own. There are
hundreds who would sooner storm a breach, or lead a forlorn hope, than
confess publicly that they make a habit of prayer. There are thousands
who, if obliged by chance to sleep in the same room with a stranger,
would lie down in bed without a prayer. To ride well, to shoot well, to
dress well, to go to balls, and concerts, and theatres, to be thought
clever and agreeable,--all this is fashionable, but not to pray. I
cannot forget this. I cannot think a habit is common which so many seem
ashamed to own. I believe that few pray.

Have you forgotten _the lives that many live_? Can we really suppose
that people are praying against sin night and day, when we see them
plunging right into it? Can we suppose they pray against the world, when
they are entirely absorbed and taken up with its pursuits? Can we think
they really ask God for grace to serve Him, when they do not show the
slightest desire to serve Him at all? Oh, no! It is plain as daylight
that the great majority of men either ask nothing of God, or _do not
mean what they say_ when they do ask,--which is just the same thing.
Praying and sinning will never live together in the same heart. Prayer
will consume sin, or sin will choke prayer. I cannot forget this. I look
at men's lives. I believe that few pray.

Have you forgotten _the deaths that many die_? How many, when they draw
near death, seem entirely strangers to God. Not only are they sadly
ignorant of His Gospel, but sadly wanting in the power of speaking to
Him. There is a terrible awkwardness, and shyness, and newness, and
rawness, in their endeavours to approach Him. They seem to be taking up
a fresh thing. They appear as if they wanted an introduction to God, and
as if they had never talked with Him before. I remember having heard of
a lady who was anxious to have a minister to visit her in her last
illness. She desired that he would pray with her. He asked her what he
should pray for. She did not know and could not tell. She was utterly
unable to name any one thing which she wished him to ask God for her
soul. All she seemed to want was the form of a minister's prayers. I can
quite understand this. Death-beds are great revealers of secrets. I
cannot forget what I have seen of sick and dying people. This also leads
me to believe that few pray.


IV. In the fourth place, _prayer is that act in religion to which there
is the greatest encouragement_.

There is everything on God's part to make prayer easy, if men will only
attempt it. "All things are ready" on His side. (Luke xiv. 17.) Every
objection is anticipated. Every difficulty is provided for. The crooked
places are made straight, and the rough places are made smooth. There is
no excuse left for the prayerless man.

There is _a way_ by which any man, however sinful and unworthy, may draw
near to God the Father. Jesus Christ has opened that way by the
sacrifice He made for us upon the cross. The holiness and justice of God
need not frighten sinners and keep them back. Only let them cry to God
in the name of Jesus,--only let them plead the atoning blood of
Jesus,--and they shall find God upon a throne of grace, willing and
ready to hear. The name of Jesus is a never-failing passport to our
prayers. In that name a man may draw near to God with boldness, and ask
with confidence. God has engaged to hear him. Think of this. Is not this
encouragement?

There is _an advocate_ and intercessor always waiting to present the
prayers of those who will employ Him. That advocate is Jesus Christ. He
mingles our prayers with the incense of His own almighty intercession.
So mingled they go up as a sweet savour before the throne of God. Poor
as they are in themselves, they are mighty and powerful in the hand of
our High Priest and elder brother. The bank-note without a signature at
the bottom is nothing but a worthless piece of paper. A few strokes of a
pen confer on it all its value. The prayer of a poor child of Adam is a
feeble thing in itself, but once endorsed by the hand of the Lord Jesus
it availeth much. There was an officer in the city of Rome who was
appointed to have his doors always open, in order to receive any Roman
citizen who applied to him for help. Just so the ear of the Lord Jesus
is ever open to the cry of all who want mercy and grace. It is His
office to help them. Their prayer is His delight. Think of this. Is not
this encouragement?

There is _the Holy Spirit_ ever ready to help our infirmities in prayer.
It is one part of His special office to assist us in our endeavours to
speak to God. We need not be cast down and distressed by the fear of not
knowing what to say. The Spirit will give us words if we will only seek
His aid. He will supply us with "thoughts that breathe and words that
burn." The prayers of the Lord's people are the inspiration of the
Lord's Spirit,--the work of the Holy Ghost who dwells within them as the
Spirit of grace and supplications. Surely the Lord's people may well
hope to be heard. It is not they merely that pray, but the Holy Ghost
pleading in them. (Rom. viii. 26.) Think of this. Is not this
encouragement?

There are exceeding great and precious _promises_ to those who pray.
What did the Lord Jesus mean when He spoke such words as these, "Ask,
and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall
be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that
seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." (Matt.
vii. 7, 8.) "All things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing, ye
shall receive." (Matt. xxi. 22.) "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name,
that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall
ask any thing in my name, I will do it." (John xiv. 13, 14.) What did
the Lord mean when He spoke the parables of the friend at midnight and
the importunate widow? (Luke xi. 5, and xviii. 1.) Think over these
passages. If this is not encouragement to pray, words have no meaning at
all.

There are wonderful _examples_ in Scripture of the power of prayer.
Nothing seems to be too great, too hard, or too difficult for prayer to
do. It has obtained things that seemed impossible and out of reach. It
has won victories over fire, air, earth, and water. Prayer opened the
Red Sea. Prayer brought water from the rock and bread from heaven.
Prayer made the sun stand still. Prayer brought fire from the sky on
Elijah's sacrifice. Prayer turned the counsel of Ahithophel into
foolishness. Prayer overthrew the army of Sennacherib. Well might Mary,
Queen of Scots, say, "I fear John Knox's prayers more than an army of
ten thousand men." Prayer has healed the sick. Prayer has raised the
dead. Prayer has procured the conversion of souls. "The child of many
prayers," said an old Christian to Augustine's mother, "shall never
perish." Prayer, pains, and faith can do anything. Nothing seems
impossible when a man has the Spirit of adoption. "Let me alone," is the
remarkable saying of God to Moses, when Moses was about to intercede for
the children of Israel. (Exod. xxxii. 10.) The Chaldee version has it
"Leave off praying." So long as Abraham asked mercy for Sodom, the Lord
went on giving. He never ceased to give till Abraham ceased to pray.
Think of this. Is not this encouragement?

What more can a man want to lead him to take any step in religion than
the things I have just told him about prayer? What more could be done to
make the path to the mercy-seat easy, and to remove all occasions of
stumbling from the sinner's way? Surely if the devils in hell had such a
door set open before them they would leap for gladness, and make the
very pit ring with joy.

But where will the man hide his head at last who neglects such glorious
encouragements? What can be possibly said for the man who after all dies
without prayer? God forbid that any reader of this paper should be that
man.


V. In the fifth place, _diligence in prayer is the secret of eminent
holiness_.

Without controversy there is a vast difference among true Christians.
There is an immense interval between the foremost and the hindermost in
the army of God.

They are all fighting the same good fight;--but how much more valiantly
some fight than others! They are all doing the Lord's work;--but how
much more some do than others! They are all light in the Lord;--but how
much more brightly some shine than others! They are all running the same
race;--but how much faster some get on than others! They all love the
same Lord and Saviour;--but how much more some love Him than others! I
ask any true Christian whether this is not the case. Are not these
things so?

There are some of the Lord's people who seem _never able to get on_ from
the time of their conversion. They are born again, but they remain
babies all their lives. They are learners in Christ's school, but they
never seem to get beyond A B C, and the lowest form. They have got
inside the fold, but there they lie down and get no further. Year after
year you see in them the same old besetting sins. You hear from them the
same old experience. You remark in them the same want of spiritual
appetite,--the same squeamishness about anything but the milk of the
Word, and the same dislike to strong meat,--the same childishness,--the
same feebleness,--the same littleness of mind,--the same narrowness of
heart,--the same want of interest in anything beyond their own little
circle, which you remarked ten years ago. They are pilgrims indeed, but
pilgrims like the Gibeonites of old;--their bread is always dry and
mouldy,--their shoes always old and clouted, and their garments always
rent and torn. (Josh. ix. 4, 5.) I say this with sorrow and grief. But I
ask any real Christian, Is it not true?

There are others of the Lord's people who seem to be _always getting
on_. They grow like the grass after rain. They increase like Israel in
Egypt. They press on like Gideon,--though sometimes "faint, yet always
pursuing." (Judges viii. 4.) They are ever adding grace to grace, and
faith to faith, and strength to strength. Every time you meet them
their hearts seem larger, and their spiritual stature bigger, taller,
and stronger. Every year they appear to see more, and know more, and
believe more, and feel more in their religion. They not only have good
works to prove the reality of their faith, but they are _zealous_ of
them. They not only do well, but they are _unwearied_, in well-doing.
(Titus ii. 14; Gal. vi. 9.) They attempt great things, and they do great
things. When they fail they try again, and when they fall they are soon
up again. And all this time they think themselves poor unprofitable
servants, and fancy they do nothing at all!--These are those who make
religion lovely and beautiful in the eyes of all. They wrest praise even
from the unconverted, and win golden opinions even from the selfish men
of the world. These are those whom it does one good to see, to be with,
and to hear. When you meet them, you could believe that, like Moses,
they had just come out from the presence of God. When you part with them
you feel warmed by their company, as if your soul had been near a fire.
I know such people are rare. I only ask, Is it not so?

Now, how can we account for the difference which I have just described?
What is the reason that some believers are so much brighter and holier
than others? I believe the difference, in nineteen cases out of twenty,
arises from different habits about private prayer. I believe that those
who are not eminently holy pray _little_, and those who are eminently
holy pray _much_.

I daresay this opinion will startle some readers. I have little doubt
that many look on eminent holiness as a kind of special gift, which none
but a few must pretend to aim at. They admire it at a distance, in
books: they think it beautiful when they see an example near themselves.
But as to its being a thing within the reach of any but a very few, such
a notion never seems to enter their minds. In short, they consider it a
kind of monopoly granted to a few favoured believers, but certainly not
to all.

Now I believe that this is a most dangerous mistake. I believe that
spiritual, as well as natural, greatness, depends far more on the use of
means within everybody's reach, than on anything else. Of course I do
not say we have a right to expect a miraculous grant of intellectual
gifts. But this I do say, that when a man is once converted to God,
whether he shall be eminently holy or not depends chiefly on his own
diligence in the use of God's appointed means. And I assert confidently,
that the principal means by which most believers have become great in
the Church of Christ is the habit of _diligent private prayer_.

Look through the lives of the brightest and best of God's servants,
whether in the Bible or not. See what is written of Moses, and David,
and Daniel, and Paul. Mark what is recorded of Luther and Bradford, the
Reformers. Observe what is related of the private devotions of
Whitfield, and Cecil, and Venn, and Bickersteth, and M'Cheyne. Tell me
of one of all the goodly fellowship of saints and martyrs, who has not
had this mark most prominently,--he was _a man of prayer_. Oh, depend
upon it, prayer is power!

Prayer obtains fresh and continued outpourings of the Spirit. He alone
begins the work of grace in a man's heart: He alone can carry it forward
and make it prosper. But the good Spirit loves to be entreated. And
those who ask most, will always have most of His influence.

Prayer is the surest remedy against the devil and besetting sins. That
sin will never stand firm which is heartily prayed against: that devil
will never long keep dominion over us which we beseech the Lord to cast
forth. But, then, we must spread out all our case before our Heavenly
Physician, if He is to give us daily relief: we must drag our
indwelling devils to the feet of Christ, and cry to Him to send them
back to the pit.

Do we wish to grow in grace and be very holy Christians? Then let us
never forget the value of prayer.


VI. In the sixth place, _neglect of prayer is one great cause of
backsliding_.

There is such a thing as going back in religion, after making a good
profession. Men may run well for a season, like the Galatians, and then
turn aside after false teachers. Men may profess loudly, while their
feelings are warm, as Peter did; and then, in the hour of trial, deny
their Lord. Men may lose their first love, as the Ephesians did. Men may
cool down in their zeal to do good, like Mark, the companion of Paul.
Men may follow an apostle for a season, and then, like Demas, go back to
the world.--All these things men may do.

It is a miserable thing to be a backslider. Of all unhappy things that
can befall a man, I suppose it is the worst. A stranded ship, a
broken-winged eagle, a garden overrun with weeds, a harp without
strings, a church in ruins,--all these are sad sights; but a backslider
is a sadder sight still. That true grace shall never be extinguished,
and true union with Christ never be broken off, I feel no doubt. But I
do believe that a man may fall away so far that he shall lose sight of
his own grace, and despair of his own salvation. And if this is not
hell, it is certainly the next thing to it! A wounded conscience, a mind
sick of itself, a memory full of self-reproach, a heart pierced through
with the Lord's arrows, a spirit broken with a load of inward
accusation,--all this is _a taste of hell_. It is a hell on earth. Truly
that saying of the wise man is solemn and weighty,--"The backslider in
heart shall be filled with his own ways." (Prov. xiv. 14.)

Now, what is the cause of most backsliding? I believe, as a general
rule, one of the chief causes is neglect of private prayer. Of course
the secret history of falls will not be known till the last day. I can
only give my opinion as a minister of Christ and a student of the heart.
That opinion is, I repeat distinctly, that backsliding generally first
begins with _neglect of private prayer_.

Bibles read without prayer, sermons heard without prayer, marriages
contracted without prayer, journeys undertaken without prayer,
residences chosen without prayer, friendships formed without prayer, the
daily act of private prayer itself hurried over or gone through without
heart,--these are the kind of downward steps by which many a Christian
descends to a condition of spiritual palsy, or reaches the point where
God allows him to have a tremendous fall.

This is the process which forms the lingering Lots, the unstable
Samsons, the wife-idolizing Solomons, the inconsistent Asas, the pliable
Jehoshaphats, the over-careful Marthas, of whom so many are to be found
in the Church of Christ. Often the simple history of such cases is
this,--they became _careless about private prayer_.

We may be very sure that men fall in private long before they fall in
public. They are backsliders on their knees long before they backslide
openly in the eyes of the world. Like Peter, they first disregard the
Lord's warning to watch and pray; and then, like Peter, their strength
is gone, and in the hour of temptation they deny their Lord.

The world takes notice of their fall, and scoffs loudly. But the world
knows nothing of the real reason. The heathen succeeded in making
Origen, the old Christian Father, offer incense to an idol, by
threatening him with a punishment worse than death. They then triumphed
greatly at the sight of his cowardice and apostacy. But the heathen did
not know the fact, which Origen himself tells us, that on that very
morning he had left his bedchamber hastily, and without finishing his
usual prayers.

If any reader of this paper is a Christian indeed I trust he will never
be a backslider. But if you do not wish to be a backsliding Christian,
remember the hint I give you,--Mind your prayers.


VII. In the seventh place, _prayer is one of the best receipts for
happiness and contentment_.

We live in a world where sorrow abounds. This has always been its state
since sin came in. There cannot be sin without sorrow. And till sin is
driven out from the world it is vain for any one to suppose he can
escape sorrow.

Some, without doubt, have a larger cup of sorrow to drink than others.
But few are to be found who live long without sorrows or cares of one
sort or another. Our bodies, our property, our families, our children,
our relations, our servants, our friends, our neighbours, our worldly
callings,--each and all of these are fountains of care. Sicknesses,
deaths, losses, disappointments, partings, separations, ingratitude,
slander,--all these are common things. We cannot get through life
without them. Some day or other they find us out. The greater are our
affections, the deeper are our afflictions; and the more we love, the
more we have to weep.

And what is the best receipt for cheerfulness in such a world as this?
How shall we get through this valley of tears with least pain? I know no
better receipt than the habit of _taking everything to God in prayer_.

This is the plain advice that the Bible gives, both in the Old Testament
and the New. What says the Psalmist? "Call upon Me in the day of
trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me." (Psalm l. 15.)
"Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee: He shall
never suffer the righteous to be moved." (Psalm lv. 22.) What says the
Apostle Paul? "Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and
supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto
God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep
your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Phil. iv. 6, 7.) What says
the Apostle James? "Is any afflicted among you? let him pray." (James v.
13.)

This was the practice of all the saints whose history we have recorded
in the Scriptures. This is what Jacob did, when he feared his brother
Esau. This is what Moses did, when the people were ready to stone him in
the wilderness. This is what Joshua did, when Israel was defeated before
Ai. This is what David did, when he was in danger at Keliah. This is
what Hezekiah did, when he received the letter from Sennacherib. This is
what the Church did, when Peter was put in prison. This is what Paul
did, when he was cast into the dungeon at Philippi.

The only way to be really happy, in such a world as this is to be ever
casting all our cares on God. It is the trying to carry their own
burdens which so often makes believers sad. If they will only tell their
troubles to God He will enable them to bear them as easily as Samson did
the gates of Gaza. If they are resolved to keep them to themselves they
will find one day that the very grasshopper is a burden. (Eccles. xii.
5.)

There is a friend ever waiting to help us, if we will only unbosom to
Him our sorrow,--a friend who pitied the poor, and sick, and sorrowful,
when He was upon earth,--a friend who knows the heart of a man, for He
lived thirty-three years as a man amongst us,--a friend who can weep
with the weepers, for He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with
grief,--a friend who is able to help us, for there never was earthly
pain He could not cure. That friend is Jesus Christ. The way to be happy
is to be always opening our hearts to Him. Oh, that we were all like
that poor Christian negro, who only answered, when threatened and
punished, "_I must tell the Lord_."

Jesus can make those happy who trust Him and call on Him, whatever be
their outward condition. He can give them peace of heart in a
prison,--contentment in the midst of poverty,--comfort in the midst of
bereavements,--joy on the brink of the grave. There is a mighty fulness
in Him for all His believing members,--a fulness that is ready to be
poured out on every one who will ask in prayer. Oh, that men would
understand that happiness does not depend on outward circumstances, but
on the state of the heart!

Prayer can lighten crosses for us however heavy. It can bring down to
our side One who will help us to bear them.--Prayer can open a door for
us when our way seems hedged up. It can bring down One who will say,
"This is the way, walk in it."--Prayer can let in a ray of hope, when
all our earthly prospects seem darkened. It can bring down One who will
say, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee."--Prayer can obtain
relief for us when those we love most are taken away, and the world
feels empty. It can bring down One who can fill the gap in our hearts
with Himself, and say to the waves within, "Peace: be still!" Oh, that
men were not so like Hagar in the wilderness, blind to the well of
living waters close beside them! (Gen. xxi. 19.)

I want the readers of this paper to be really happy Christians. I am
certain I cannot urge on them a more important duty than prayer.


And now it is high time for me to bring this paper to an end. I trust I
have brought before my readers things that will be seriously considered.
I heartily pray God that this consideration may be blessed to their
souls.

(1) Let me speak a parting word _to those who do not pray_. I dare not
suppose that all who read these pages will be praying people. If you are
a prayerless person, suffer me to speak to you this day on God's behalf.

Prayerless friend, I can only warn you; but I do warn you most solemnly.
I warn you that you are in a position of fearful danger. If you die in
your present state you are a lost soul. You will only rise again to be
eternally miserable. I warn you that of all professing Christians you
are most utterly without excuse. There is not a single good reason that
you can show for living without prayer.

It is useless to say you _know not how_ to pray. Prayer is the simplest
act in all religion. It is simply speaking to God. It needs neither
learning, nor wisdom, nor book-knowledge to begin it. It needs nothing
but heart and will. The weakest infant can cry when he is hungry. The
poorest beggar can hold out his hand for an alms, and does not wait to
find fine words. The most ignorant man will find something to say to
God, if he has only a mind.

It is useless to say you have _no convenient place_ to pray in. Any man
can find a place private enough, if he is disposed. Our Lord prayed on a
mountain; Peter on the house-top; Isaac in the field; Nathanael under
the fig-tree; Jonah in the whale's belly. Any place may become a closet,
an oratory, and a Bethel, and be to us the presence of God.

It is useless to say _you have no time_. There is plenty of time, if men
will only employ it. Time may be short, but time is always long enough
for prayer. Daniel had all the affairs of a kingdom on his hands, and
yet he prayed three times a day. David was ruler over a mighty nation,
and yet he says, "Evening and morning and at noon will I pray." (Psalm
lv. 17.) When time is really wanted, time can always be found.

It is useless to say you _cannot pray till you have faith and a new
heart_, and that you must sit still and wait for them. This is to add
sin to sin. It is bad enough to be unconverted and going to hell. It is
even worse to say, "I know it, but I will not cry for mercy." This is a
kind of argument for which there is no warrant in Scripture. "Call ye
upon the Lord," saith Isaiah, "while He is near." (Isaiah lv. 6.) "Take
with you words, and come unto the Lord," says Hosea. (Hosea xiv. 1.)
"Repent and pray," says Peter to Simon Magus. (Acts viii. 22.) If you
want faith and a new heart, go and cry to the Lord for them. The very
attempt to pray has often been the quickening of a dead soul. Alas,
there is no devil so dangerous as a dumb devil.

Oh, prayerless man, who and what are you that you will not ask anything
of God? Have you made a covenant with death and hell? Are you at peace
with the worm and the fire? Have you no sins to be pardoned? Have you no
fear of eternal torment? Have you no desire after heaven? Oh, that you
would awake from your present folly! Oh, that you would consider your
latter end! Oh, that you would arise and call upon God! Alas, there is a
day coming when men shall pray loudly, "Lord, Lord, open to us," but all
too late;--when many shall cry to the rocks to fall on them, and the
hills to cover them, who would never cry to God. In all affection I warn
you. Beware lest this be the end of your soul. Salvation is very near
you. Do not lose heaven for want of asking.

(2) Let me speak in the next place _to those who have real desires for
salvation_, but know not what steps to take or where to begin. I cannot
but hope that some readers may be in this state of mind, and if there be
but one such I must offer him encouragement and advice.

In every journey there must be a first step. There must be a change from
sitting still to moving forward. The journeyings of Israel from Egypt to
Canaan were long and wearisome. Forty years passed away before they
crossed Jordan. Yet there was someone who moved first when they marched
from Rameses to Succoth. When does a man really take his first step in
coming out from sin and the world? He does it in the day when he first
prays with his heart.

In every building the first stone must be laid, and the first blow must
be struck. The ark was 120 years in building. Yet there was a day when
Noah laid his axe to the first tree he cut down to form it. The temple
of Solomon was a glorious building. But there was a day when the first
huge stone was laid at the foot of Mount Moriah. When does the building
of the Spirit really begin to appear in a man's heart? It begins, so far
as we can judge, when he first pours out his heart to God in prayer.

If any reader of this paper desires salvation, and wants to know what to
do, I advise him to go this very day to the Lord Jesus Christ, in the
first private place he can find, and entreat Him in prayer to save his
soul.

Tell Him that you have heard that He receives sinners, and has said,
"Him that cometh unto Me I will in nowise cast out." (John vi. 37.) Tell
Him that you are a poor vile sinner, and that you come to Him on the
faith of His own invitation. Tell Him you put yourself wholly and
entirely in His hands,--that you feel vile and helpless, and hopeless in
yourself,--and that except He saves you, you have no hope to be saved at
all. Beseech Him to deliver you from the guilt, the power, and the
consequences of sin. Beseech Him to pardon you and wash you in His own
blood. Beseech Him to give you a new heart, and plant the Holy Spirit in
your soul. Beseech Him to give you grace, and faith, and will, and power
to be His disciple and servant from this day for ever. Yes: go this very
day, and tell these things to the Lord Jesus Christ, if you really are
in earnest about your soul.

Tell Him in your own way and your own words. If a doctor came to see you
when sick you could tell him where you felt pain. If your soul really
feels its disease you can surely find something to tell Christ.

Doubt not His willingness to save you, because you are a sinner. It is
Christ's office to save sinners. He says Himself, "I came not to call
the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Luke v. 32.)

Wait not, because you feel unworthy. Wait for nothing: wait for nobody.
Waiting comes from the devil. Just as you are, go to Christ. The worse
you are, the more need you have to apply to Him. You will never mend
yourself by staying away.

Fear not because your prayer is stammering, your words feeble, and your
language poor. Jesus can understand you. Just as a mother understands
the first babblings of her infant, so does the blessed Saviour
understand sinners. He can read a sigh, and see a meaning in a groan.

Despair not, because you do not get an answer immediately. While you are
speaking, Jesus is listening. If He delays an answer, it is only for
wise reasons, and to try if you are in earnest. Pray on, and the answer
will surely come. Though it tarry, wait for it: it will surely come at
last.

If you have any desire to be saved, remember the advice I have given you
this day. Act upon it honestly and heartily, and you shall be saved.

(3) Let me speak, lastly, _to those who do pray_. I trust that some who
read this paper know well what prayer is, and have the Spirit of
adoption. To all such I offer a few words of brotherly counsel and
exhortation. The incense offered in the tabernacle was ordered to be
made in a particular way. Not every kind of incense would do. Let us
remember this, and be careful about the matter and manner of our
prayers.

If I know anything of a Christian's heart, you to whom I now speak are
often sick of your own prayers. You never enter into the Apostle's
words, "When I would do good, evil is present with me" (Rom. vii. 21),
so thoroughly as you sometimes do upon your knees. You can understand
David's words, "I hate vain thoughts." You can sympathize with that poor
converted Hottentot, who was overheard praying, "Lord, deliver me from
all my enemies; and, above all, from that bad man myself!"--There are
few children of God who do not often find the season of prayer a season
of conflict. The devil has special wrath against us when he sees us on
our knees. Yet I believe that prayers which cost us no trouble should be
regarded with great suspicion. I believe we are very poor judges of the
goodness of our prayers, and that the prayer which pleases us _least_
often pleases God _most_. Suffer me then, as a companion in the
Christian warfare, to offer you a few words of exhortation. One thing,
at least, we all feel,--we must pray. We cannot give it up: we must go
on.

(_a_) I commend, then, to your attention the importance of _reverence
and humility_ in prayer. Let us never forget what we are, and what a
solemn thing it is to speak with God. Let us beware of rushing into His
presence with carelessness and levity. Let us say to ourselves, "I am on
holy ground. This is no other than the gate of heaven. If I do not mean
what I say, I am trifling with God. If I regard iniquity in my heart,
the Lord will not hear me." Let us keep in mind the words of Solomon:
"Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter
anything before God; for God is in heaven, and thou on earth." (Eccles.
v. 2.) When Abraham spoke to God, he said, "I am dust and ashes." When
Job spoke, he said, "I am vile." (Gen. xviii. 27; Job xl. 4.) Let us do
likewise.

(_b_) I commend to you, in the next place, the importance of praying
_spiritually_. I mean by this that we should labour always to have the
direct help of the Spirit in our prayers, and beware above all things of
formality. There is nothing so spiritual but that it may become a form,
and this is specially true of private prayer. We may insensibly get into
the habit of using the fittest possible words, and offering the most
Scriptural petitions; and yet we may do it all by rote, without feeling
it, and walk daily round an old beaten path, like a horse in a mill. I
desire to touch this point with caution and delicacy. I know that there
are certain great things we daily want, and that there is nothing
necessarily formal in asking for these things in the same words. The
world, the devil, and our hearts, are daily the same. Of necessity we
must daily go over old ground. But this I say,--we must be very careful
on this point. If the skeleton and outline of our prayers be by habit
almost a form, let us strive that the clothing and filling up of our
prayers be as far as possible of the Spirit. As to praying out of a
book, it is a habit I cannot praise. If we can tell our doctors the
state of our bodies without a book, we ought to be able to tell the
state of our souls to God. I have no objection to a man using crutches,
when he is first recovering from a broken limb. It is better to use
crutches than not to walk at all. But if I saw him all his life on
crutches, I should not think it matter for congratulation. I should like
to see him strong enough to throw his crutches away.

(_c_) I commend to you, in the next place, the importance of making
prayer _a regular business of life_. I might say something of the value
of regular times in the day for prayer. God is a God of order. The hours
for morning and evening sacrifice in the Jewish temple were not fixed as
they were without a meaning. Disorder is eminently one of the fruits of
sin. But I would not bring any under bondage. This only I say, that it
is essential to your soul's health to make praying a part of the
business of every twenty-four hours in your life. Just as you allot time
to eating, sleeping, and business, so also allot time to prayer. Choose
your own hours and seasons. At the very least, speak with God in the
morning, before you speak with the world; and speak with God at night,
after you have done with the world. But settle it down in your minds
that prayer is one of the great things of every day. Do not drive it
into a corner. Do not give it the scraps, and leavings, and parings of
your day. Whatever else you make a business of, make a business of
prayer.

(_d_) I commend to you, in the next place, the importance of
_perseverance_ in prayer. Once having begun the habit, never give it up.
Your heart will sometimes say, "We have had family prayers; what mighty
harm if we leave private prayer undone?"--Your body will sometimes say,
"You are unwell, or sleepy, or weary; you need not pray."--Your mind
will sometimes say, "You have important business to attend to to-day;
cut short your prayers." Look on all such suggestions as coming direct
from the devil. They are all as good as saying, "Neglect your soul." I
do not maintain that prayers should always be of the same length;--but I
do say, let no excuse make you give up prayer. It is not for nothing
that Paul said, "Continue in prayer," and "Pray without ceasing."
(Colos. iv. 2; 1 Thess. v. 7.) He did not mean that men should be always
on their knees, as an old sect, called the Euchitæ, supposed. But he did
mean that our prayers should be like the continual burnt offering,--a
thing steadily persevered in every day;--that it should be like
seed-time and harvest, and summer and winter,--a thing that should
unceasingly come round at regular seasons;--that it should be like the
fire on the altar, not always consuming sacrifices, but never completely
going out. Never forget that you may tie together morning and evening
devotions by an endless chain of short ejaculatory prayers throughout
the day. Even in company, or business, or in the very streets, you may
be silently sending up little winged messengers to God, as Nehemiah did
in the very presence of Artaxerxes. (Neh. ii. 4.) And never think that
time is wasted which is given to God. A nation does not become poorer
because it loses one year of working days in seven by keeping the
Sabbath. A Christian never finds he is a loser in the long run by
persevering in prayer.

(_e_) I commend to you, in the next place, the importance of
_earnestness_ in prayer. It is not necessary that a man should shout,
or scream, or be very loud, in order to prove that he is in earnest. But
it is desirable that we should be hearty, and fervent, and warm, and ask
as if we were really interested in what we were doing. It is the
"effectual fervent" prayer that "availeth much," and not the cold,
sleepy, lazy, listless one. This is the lesson that is taught us by the
expressions used in Scripture about prayer. It is called, "crying,
knocking, wrestling, labouring, striving." This is the lesson taught us
by Scripture examples. Jacob is one. He said to the angel at Penuel, "I
will not let thee go, except thou bless me." (Gen. xxxii. 26.) Daniel is
another. Hear how he pleaded with God: "O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O
Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God." (Dan.
ix. 19.) Our Lord Jesus Christ is another. It is written of Him, "In the
days of His flesh He offered up prayer and supplication, with strong
crying and tears." (Heb. v. 7.) Alas, how unlike is this to many of our
supplications! How tame and lukewarm they seem by comparison! How truly
might God say to many of us, "You do not really want what you pray for!"
Let us try to amend this fault. Let us knock loudly at the door of
grace, like Mercy in "Pilgrim's Progress," as if we must perish unless
heard. Let us settle it down in our minds, that cold prayers are a
sacrifice without fire. Let us remember the story of Demosthenes, the
great orator, when one came to him, and wanted him to plead his cause.
He heard him without attention, while he told his story without
earnestness. The man saw this, and cried out with anxiety that it was
all true. "Ah!" said Demosthenes, "I believe you _now_."

(_f_) I commend to you, in the next place, the importance of _praying
with faith_. We should endeavour to believe that our prayers are always
heard, and that if we ask things according to God's will, we shall
always be answered. This is the plain command of our Lord Jesus Christ:
"Whatsoever things ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive
them, and ye shall have them." (Mark xi. 24). Faith is to prayer what
the feather is to the arrow: without it prayer will not hit the mark. We
should cultivate the habit of pleading promises in our prayers. We
should take with us some promise, and say, "Lord, here is Thine own word
pledged. Do for us as Thou hast said." (2 Sam. vii. 25.) This was the
habit of Jacob, and Moses, and David. The 119th Psalm is full of things
asked, "according to Thy word." Above all, we should cultivate the habit
of expecting answers to our prayers. We should do like the merchant who
sends his ships to sea. We should not be satisfied unless we see some
return. Alas, there are few points on which Christians come short so
much as this. The Church at Jerusalem made prayer without ceasing for
Peter in prison; but when the prayer was answered, they would hardly
believe it. (Acts xii. 15.) It is a solemn saying of old Traill's,
"There is no surer mark of trifling in prayer, than when men are
careless what they get by prayer."

(_g_) I commend to you, in the next place, the importance of _boldness_
in prayer. There is an unseemly familiarity in some men's prayers, which
I cannot praise. But there is such a thing as a holy boldness, which is
exceedingly to be desired. I mean such boldness as that of Moses, when
he pleads with God not to destroy Israel: "Wherefore," says he, "should
the Egyptians speak and say, For mischief did He bring them out, to slay
them in the mountains? Turn from Thy fierce anger." (Exod. xxxii. 12.) I
mean such boldness as that of Joshua, when the children of Israel were
defeated before Ai: "What," says he, "wilt Thou do unto Thy great name?"
(Josh. vii. 9.) This is the boldness for which Luther was remarkable.
One who heard him praying said, "What a spirit,--what a confidence was
in his very expressions! With such a reverence he sued, as one begging
of God, and yet with such hope and assurance, as if he spake with a
loving father or friend." This is the boldness which distinguished
Bruce, a great Scotch divine of the 17th century. His prayers were said
to be "like bolts shot up into heaven." Here also I fear we sadly come
short. We do not sufficiently realize the believer's privileges. We do
not plead as often as we might, "Lord, are we not Thine own people? Is
it not for Thy glory that we should be sanctified? Is it not for Thine
honour that thy Gospel should increase?"

(_h_) I commend to you, in the next place, the importance of _fulness_
in prayer. I do not forget that our Lord warns us against the example of
the Pharisees, who for pretence made long prayers, and commands us, when
we pray, not to use vain repetitions. But I cannot forget, on the other
hand, that He has given His own sanction to large and long devotions, by
continuing all night in prayer to God. At all events we are not likely
in this day to err on the side of praying _too much_. Might it not
rather be feared that many believers in this generation pray _too
little_? Is not the actual amount of time that many Christians give to
prayer in the aggregate very small? I am afraid these questions cannot
be answered satisfactorily. I am afraid the private devotions of many
are most painfully scanty and limited,--just enough to prove they are
alive, and no more. They really seem to want little from God. They seem
to have little to confess, little to ask for, and little to thank Him
for. Alas, this is altogether wrong! Nothing is more common than to hear
believers complaining that they do not get on. They tell us that they do
not grow in grace, as they could desire. Is it not rather to be
suspected that many have quite as much grace as they ask for? Is it not
the true account of many, that they have little, because they ask
little? The cause of their weakness is to be found in their own stunted,
dwarfish, clipped, contracted, hurried, little, narrow, diminutive
prayers. _They have not because they ask not._ Oh, reader, we are not
straitened in Christ, but in ourselves. The Lord says, "Open thy mouth
wide, and I will fill it." But we are like the king of Israel who smote
on the ground thrice and stayed, when he ought to have smitten five or
six times. (Psalm lxxxi. 10; 2 Kings xiii. 18, 19.)

(_i_) I commend to you, in the next place, the importance of
_particularity_ in prayer. We ought not to be content with great general
petitions. We ought to specify our wants before the throne of grace. It
should not be enough to confess we are sinners. We should name the sins
of which our conscience tells us we are most guilty. It should not be
enough to ask for holiness. We should name the graces in which we feel
most deficient. It should not be enough to tell the Lord we are in
trouble. We should describe our trouble and all its peculiarities. This
is what Jacob did, when he feared his brother Esau. He tells God exactly
what it is that he fears. (Gen. xxxii. 11.) This is what Eliezer did,
when he sought a wife for his master's son. He spreads before God
precisely what he wants. (Gen. xxiv. 12.) This is what Paul did, when he
had a thorn in the flesh. He besought the Lord. (2 Cor. xii. 8.) This is
true faith and confidence. We should believe that nothing is too small
to be named before God. What should we think of the patient who told his
doctor he was ill, but never went into particulars? What should we think
of the wife who told her husband she was unhappy, but did not specify
the cause? What should we think of the child who told his father he was
in trouble, but nothing more? Let us never forget that Christ is the
true bridegroom of the soul,--the true physician of the heart,--the
real father of all His people. Let us show that we feel this, by being
unreserved in our communications with Him. Let us hide no secrets from
Him. Let us tell Him all our hearts.

(_j_) I commend to you, in the next place, the importance of
_intercession_ in our prayers. We are all selfish by nature, and our
selfishness is very apt to stick to us, even when we are converted.
There is a tendency in us to think only of our own souls,--our own
spiritual conflict,--our own progress in religion, and to forget others.
Against this tendency we have all need to watch and strive, and not
least in our prayers. We should study to be of a public spirit. We
should stir ourselves up to name other names beside our own before the
throne of grace. We should try to bear in our hearts the whole
world,--the heathen,--the Jews,--the Roman Catholics,--the body of true
believers,--the professing Protestant Churches,--the country in which we
live,--the congregation to which we belong,--the household in which we
sojourn,--the friends and relations we are connected with. For each and
all of these we should plead. This is the highest charity. He loves me
best who loves me in his prayers. This is for our soul's health. It
enlarges our sympathies and expands our hearts. This is for the benefit
of the Church. The wheels of all machinery for extending the Gospel are
oiled by prayer. They do as much for the Lord's cause who intercede like
Moses on the mount, as they do who fight like Joshua in the thick of the
battle. This is to be like Christ. He bears the names of His people on
His breast and shoulders as their High Priest before the Father. Oh, the
privilege of being like Jesus! This is to be a true helper to ministers.
If I must needs choose a congregation, give me a people that prays.

(_k_) I commend to you, in the next place, the importance of
_thankfulness_ in prayer. I know well that asking God is one thing, and
praising God is another. But I see so close a connection between prayer
and praise in the Bible, that I dare not call that true prayer in which
thankfulness has no part. It is not for nothing that Paul says, "By
prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made
known unto God." (Phil. iv. 6.) "Continue in prayer, and watch in the
same with thanksgiving." (Coloss. iv. 2.) It is of mercy that we are
not in hell. It is of mercy that we have the hope of heaven. It is of
mercy that we live in a land of spiritual light. It is of mercy that we
have been called by the Spirit, and not left to reap the fruit of our
own ways. It is of mercy that we still live, and have opportunities of
glorifying God actively or passively. Surely, these thoughts should
crowd on our minds whenever we speak with God. Surely, we should never
open our lips in prayer without blessing God for that free grace by
which we live, and for that loving-kindness which endureth for ever.
Never was there an eminent saint who was not full of thankfulness. St.
Paul hardly ever writes an Epistle without beginning with thankfulness.
Men like Whitfield in the last century, and Bickersteth, and Marsh, and
Haldane Stewart, in our own time, were ever running over with
thankfulness. Oh, if we would be bright and shining lights in our day,
we must cherish a spirit of praise! And above all, let our prayers be
thankful prayers.

(_l_) I commend to you, in the last place, the importance of
_watchfulness over your prayers_. Prayer is that point of all others in
religion at which you must be on your guard. Here it is that true
religion begins: here it flourishes, and here it decays. Tell me what a
man's prayers are, and I will soon tell you the state of his soul.
Prayer is the spiritual pulse: by this the spiritual health may always
be tested. Prayer is the spiritual weather-glass: by this we may always
know whether it is fair or foul with our hearts. Oh, let us keep an eye
continually upon our private devotions! Here is the pith, and marrow,
and backbone of our practical Christianity. Sermons, and books, and
tracts, and committee meetings, and the company of good men, are all
good in their way; but they will never make up for the neglect of
private prayer. Mark well the places, and society, and companions, that
unhinge your hearts for communion with God, and make your prayers drive
heavily. _There be on your guard._ Observe narrowly what friends and
what employments leave your soul in the most spiritual frame, and most
ready to speak with God. _To these cleave and stick fast._ If you will
only take care of your prayers, I will engage that nothing shall go very
wrong with your soul.

I offer these points for private consideration. I do it in all humility.
I know no one who needs to be reminded of them more than I do myself.
But I believe them to be God's own truth, and I should like myself and
all I love to feel them more.

I want the times we live in to be praying times. I want the Christians
of our day to be praying Christians. I want the Church of our age to be
a praying Church. My heart's desire and prayer in sending forth this
paper is to promote a spirit of prayerfulness. I want those who never
prayed yet, to arise and call upon God; and I want those who do pray, to
improve their prayers every year, and to see that they are not getting
slack, and praying amiss.



V


BIBLE-READING

     "_Search the Scriptures._"--John v. 39.

     "_How readest thou?_"--Luke x. 26.


Next to praying there is nothing so important in practical religion as
Bible-reading. God has mercifully given us a book which is "able to make
us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." (2 Tim.
iii. 15.) By reading that book we may learn what to believe, what to be,
and what to do; how to live with comfort, and how to die in peace. Happy
is that man who possesses a Bible! Happier still is he who reads it!
Happiest of all is he who not only reads it, but obeys it, and makes it
the rule of his faith and practice!

Nevertheless it is a sorrowful fact that man has an unhappy skill in
abusing God's gifts. His privileges, and power, and faculties, are all
ingeniously perverted to other ends than those for which they were
bestowed. His speech, his imagination, his intellect, his strength, his
time, his influence, his money,--instead of being used as instruments
for glorifying his Maker,--are generally wasted, or employed for his own
selfish ends. And just as man naturally makes a bad use of his other
mercies, so he does of the written Word. One sweeping charge may be
brought against the whole of Christendom, and that charge is neglect and
abuse of the Bible.

To prove this charge we have no need to look abroad: the proof lies at
our own doors. I have no doubt that there are more Bibles in Great
Britain at this moment than there ever were since the world began. There
is more Bible buying and Bible selling,--more Bible printing and Bible
distributing,--than ever was since England was a nation. We see Bibles
in every bookseller's shop,--Bibles of every size, price, and
style,--Bibles great, and Bibles small,--Bibles for the rich, and Bibles
for the poor. There are Bibles in almost every house in the land. But
all this time I fear we are in danger of forgetting, that to _have_ the
Bible is one thing, and to _read_ it quite another.

This neglected Book is the subject about which I address the readers of
this paper to-day. Surely it is no light matter _what you are doing with
the Bible_. Surely, when the plague is abroad, you should search and see
whether the plague-spot is on you. Give me your attention while I supply
you with a few plain reasons why every one who cares for his soul ought
to value the Bible highly, to study it regularly, and to make himself
thoroughly acquainted with its contents.


I. In the first place, _there is no book in existence written in such a
manner as the Bible_.

The Bible was "given by inspiration of God." (2 Tim. iii. 16.) In this
respect it is utterly unlike all other writings. God taught the writers
of it what to say. God put into their minds thoughts and ideas. God
guided their pens in setting down those thoughts and ideas. When you
read it, you are not reading the self-taught compositions of poor
imperfect men like yourself, but the words of the eternal God. When you
hear it, you are not listening to the erring opinions of short-lived
mortals, but to the unchanging mind of the King of kings. The men who
were employed to indite the Bible, spoke not of themselves. They "spake
as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." (2 Peter i. 21.) All other books
in the world, however good and useful in their way, are more or less
defective. The more you look at them the more you see their defects and
blemishes. The Bible alone is absolutely perfect. From beginning to end
it is "the Word of God."

I shall not waste time by attempting any long and laboured proof of
this. I say boldly, that the Book itself is the best witness of its own
inspiration. It is utterly inexplicable and unaccountable in any other
point of view. It is the greatest standing miracle in the world. He that
dares to say the Bible is not inspired, let him give a reasonable
account of it, if he can. Let him explain the peculiar nature and
character of the Book in a way that will satisfy any man of common
sense. The burden of proof seems to my mind to lie on him.

It proves nothing against inspiration, as some have asserted, that the
writers of the Bible have each a different style. Isaiah does not write
like Jeremiah, and Paul does not write like John. This is perfectly
true,--and yet the works of these men are not a whit less equally
inspired. The waters of the sea have many different shades. In one place
they look blue, and in another green. And yet the difference is owing to
the depth or shallowness of the part we see, or to the nature of the
bottom. The water in every case is the same salt sea.--The breath of a
man may produce different sounds, according to the character of the
instrument on which he plays. The flute, the pipe, and the trumpet, have
each their peculiar note. And yet the breath that calls forth the notes,
is in each case one and the same.--The light of the planets we see in
heaven is very various. Mars, and Saturn, and Jupiter, have each a
peculiar colour. And yet we know that the light of the sun, which each
planet reflects, is in each case one and the same. Just in the same way
the books of the Old and New Testaments are all inspired truth, and yet
the aspect of that truth varies according to the mind through which the
Holy Ghost makes it flow. The handwriting and style of the writers
differ enough to prove that each had a distinct individual being; but
the Divine Guide who dictates and directs the whole is always one. All
is alike inspired. Every chapter, and verse, and word, is from God.

Oh, that men who are troubled with doubts, and questionings, and
sceptical thoughts about inspiration, would calmly examine the Bible for
themselves! Oh, that they would act on the advice which was the first
step to Augustine's conversion,--"Take it up and read it!--take it up
and read it!" How many Gordian knots this course of action would cut!
How many difficulties and objections would vanish away at once like mist
before the rising sun! How many would soon confess, "The finger of God
is here! God is in this Book, and I knew it not."

This is the Book about which I address the readers of this paper. Surely
it is no light matter _what you are doing with this Book_. It is no
light thing that God should have caused this Book to be "written for
your learning," and that you should have before you "the oracles of
God." (Rom. iii. 2; xv. 4.) I charge you, I summon you to give an honest
answer to my question. What art thou doing with the Bible?--Dost thou
read it at all?--HOW READEST THOU?


II. In the second place, _there is no knowledge absolutely needful to a
man's salvation, except a knowledge of the things which are to be found
in the Bible_.

We live in days when the words of Daniel are fulfilled before our
eyes:--"Many run to and fro, and knowledge is increased." (Dan. xii. 4.)
Schools are multiplying on every side. New colleges are set up. Old
Universities are reformed and improved. New books are continually coming
forth. More is being taught,--more is being learned,--more is being
read,--than there ever was since the world begun. It is all well. I
rejoice at it. An ignorant population is a perilous and expensive burden
to any nation. It is a ready prey to the first Absalom, or Catiline, or
Wat Tyler, or Jack Cade, who may arise to entice it to do evil. But this
I say,--we must never forget that all the education a man's head can
receive, will not save his soul from hell, unless he knows the truths of
the Bible.

A man _may have prodigious learning, and yet never be saved_. He may be
master of half the languages spoken round the globe. He may be
acquainted with the highest and deepest things in heaven and earth. He
may have read books till he is like a walking cyclopædia. He may be
familiar with the stars of heaven,--the birds of the air,--the beasts of
the earth, and the fishes of the sea. He may be able, like Solomon, to
"speak of trees, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows on
the wall, of beasts also, and fowls, and creeping things, and fishes."
(1 King iv. 33.) He may be able to discourse of all the secrets of fire,
air, earth, and water. And yet, if he dies ignorant of Bible truths, he
dies a miserable man! Chemistry never silenced a guilty conscience.
Mathematics never healed a broken heart. All the sciences in the world
never smoothed down a dying pillow. No earthly philosophy ever supplied
hope in death. No natural theology ever gave peace in the prospect of
meeting a holy God. All these things are of the earth, earthy, and can
never raise a man above the earth's level. They may enable a man to
strut and fret his little season here below with a more dignified gait
than his fellow-mortals, but they can never give him wings, and enable
him to soar towards heaven. He that has the largest share of them, will
find at length that without Bible knowledge he has got no lasting
possession. Death will make an end of all his attainments, and after
death they will do him no good at all.

A man _may be a very ignorant man, and yet be saved_. He may be unable
to read a word, or write a letter. He may know nothing of geography
beyond the bounds of his own parish, and be utterly unable to say which
is nearest to England, Paris or New York. He may know nothing of
arithmetic, and not see any difference between a million and a thousand.
He may know nothing of history, not even of his own land, and be quite
ignorant whether his country owes most to Semiramis, Boadicea, or Queen
Elizabeth. He may know nothing of the affairs of his own times, and be
incapable of telling you whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or the
Commander-in-Chief, or the Archbishop of Canterbury is managing the
national finances. He may know nothing of science, and its
discoveries,--and whether Julius Cæsar won his victories with gunpowder,
or the apostles had a printing press, or the sun goes round the earth,
may be matters about which he has not an idea. And yet if that very man
has heard Bible truth with his ears, and believed it with his heart, he
knows enough to save his soul. He will be found at last with Lazarus in
Abraham's bosom, while his scientific fellow-creature, who has died
unconverted, is lost for ever.

There is much talk in these days about science and "useful knowledge."
But after all a knowledge of the Bible is the one knowledge that is
needful and eternally useful. A man may get to heaven without money,
learning, health, or friends,--but without Bible knowledge he will never
get there at all. A man may have the mightiest of minds, and a memory
stored with all that mighty mind can grasp,--and yet, if he does not
know the things of the Bible, he will make shipwreck of his soul for
ever. Woe! woe! woe to the man who dies in ignorance of the Bible!

This is the Book about which I am addressing the readers of these pages
to-day. It is no light matter _what you do with such a book_. It
concerns the life of your soul. I summon you,--I charge you to give an
honest answer to my question. What are you doing with the Bible? Do you
read it? HOW READEST THOU?


III. In the third place, _no book in existence contains such important
matter as the Bible_.

The time would fail me if I were to enter fully into all the great
things which are to be found in the Bible, and only in the Bible. It is
not by any sketch or outline that the treasures of the Bible can be
displayed. It would be easy to fill this volume with a list of the
peculiar truths it reveals, and yet the half of its riches would be left
untold.

How glorious and soul-satisfying is the description it gives us of God's
plan of salvation, and the way by which our sins can be forgiven! The
coming into the world of Jesus Christ, the God-man, to save
sinners,--the atonement He has made by suffering in our stead, the just
for the unjust,--the complete payment He has made for our sins by His
own blood,--the justification of every sinner who simply believes on
Jesus,--the readiness of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to receive,
pardon, and save to the uttermost,--how unspeakably grand and cheering
are all these truths! We should know nothing of them without the Bible.

How comforting is the account it gives us of the great Mediator of the
New Testament,--the man Christ Jesus! Four times over His picture is
graciously drawn before our eyes. Four separate witnesses tell us of His
miracles and His ministry,--His sayings and His doings,--His life and
His death,--His power and His love,--His kindness and His patience,--His
ways, His words, His works, His thoughts, His heart. Blessed be God,
there is one thing in the Bible which the most prejudiced reader can
hardly fail to understand, and that is the character of Jesus Christ!

How encouraging are the examples the Bible gives us of good people! It
tells us of many who were of like passions with ourselves,--men and
women who had cares, crosses, families, temptations, afflictions,
diseases, like ourselves,--and yet "by faith and patience inherited the
promises," and got safe home. (Heb. vi. 12.) It keeps back nothing in
the history of these people. Their mistakes, their infirmities, their
conflicts, their experience, their prayers, their praises, their useful
lives, their happy deaths,--all are fully recorded. And it tells us the
God and Saviour of these men and women still waits to be gracious, and
is altogether unchanged.

How instructive are the examples the Bible gives us of bad people! It
tells us of men and women who had light, and knowledge, and
opportunities, like ourselves, and yet hardened their hearts, loved the
world, clung to their sins, would have their own way, despised reproof,
and ruined their own souls for ever. And it warns us that the God who
punished Pharaoh, and Saul, and Ahab, and Jezebel, and Judas, and
Ananias and Sapphira, is a God who never alters, and that there is a
hell.

How precious are the promises which the Bible contains for the use of
those who love God! There is hardly any possible emergency or condition
for which it has not some "word in season." And it tells men that God
loves to be put in remembrance of these promises, and that if He has
said He will do a thing, His promise shall certainly be performed.

How blessed are the hopes which the Bible holds out to the believer in
Christ Jesus! Peace in the hour of death,--rest and happiness on the
other side of the grave,--a glorious body in the morning of the
resurrection,--a full and triumphant acquittal in the day of
judgment,--an everlasting reward in the kingdom of Christ,--a joyful
meeting with the Lord's people in the day of gathering together;--these,
these are the future prospects of every true Christian. They are all
written in the book,--in the book which is all true.

How striking is the light which the Bible throws on the character of
man! It teaches =us= what men may be expected to be and do in every
position and station of life. It gives us the deepest insight into the
secret springs and motives of human actions, and the ordinary course of
events under the control of human agents. It is the true "discerner of
the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Heb. iv. 12.) How deep is the
wisdom contained in the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes! I can well
understand an old divine saying, "Give me a candle and a Bible, and shut
me up in a dark dungeon, and I will tell you all that the whole world is
doing."

All these are things which men could find nowhere except in the Bible.
We have probably not the least idea how little we should know about
these things if we had not the Bible. We hardly know the value of the
air we breathe, and the sun which shines on us, because we have never
known what it is to be without them. We do not value the truths on which
I have been just now dwelling, because we do not realize the darkness of
men to whom these truths have not been revealed. Surely no tongue can
fully tell the value of the treasures this one volume contains. Well
might old John Newton say that some books were _copper_ books in his
estimation, some were _silver_, and some few were _gold_;--but the Bible
alone was like a book all made up of _bank notes_.

This is the Book about which I address the reader of this paper this
day. Surely it is no light matter _what you are doing with the Bible_.
It is no light matter in what way you are using this treasure. I charge
you, I summon you to give an honest answer to my question,--What art
thou doing with the Bible?--Dost thou read it?--HOW READEST THOU?


IV. In the fourth place, _no book in existence has produced such
wonderful effects on mankind at large as the Bible_.

(_a_) This is the Book whose doctrines turned the world upside down in
the days of the Apostles.

Eighteen centuries have now passed away since God sent forth a few Jews
from a remote corner of the earth, to do a work which according to man's
judgment must have seemed impossible. He sent them forth at a time when
the whole world was full of superstition, cruelty, lust, and sin. He
sent them forth to proclaim that the established religions of the earth
were false and useless, and must be forsaken. He sent them forth to
persuade men to give up old habits and customs, and to live different
lives. He sent them forth to do battle with the most grovelling
idolatry, with the vilest and most disgusting immorality, with vested
interests, with old associations, with a bigoted priesthood, with
sneering philosophers, with an ignorant population, with bloody-minded
emperors, with the whole influence of Rome. Never was there an
enterprise to all appearance more Quixotic, and less likely to succeed!

And how did He arm them for this battle? He gave them no carnal weapons.
He gave them no worldly power to compel assent, and no worldly riches to
bribe belief. He simply put the Holy Ghost into their hearts, and the
Scriptures into their hands. He simply bade them to expound and explain,
to enforce and to publish the doctrines of the Bible. The preacher of
Christianity in the first century was not a man with a sword and an
army, to frighten people, like Mahomet,--or a man with a license to be
sensual, to allure people, like the priests of the shameful idols of
Hindostan. No! he was nothing more than one holy man with one holy book.

And how did these men of one book prosper? In a few generations they
entirely changed the face of society by the doctrines of the Bible. They
emptied the temples of the heathen gods. They famished idolatry, or left
it high and dry like a stranded ship. They brought into the world a
higher tone of morality between man and man. They raised the character
and position of woman. They altered the standard of purity and decency.
They put an end to many cruel and bloody customs, such as the
gladiatorial fights.--There was no stopping the change. Persecution and
opposition were useless. One victory after another was won. One bad
thing after another melted away. Whether men liked it or not, they were
insensibly affected by the movement of the new religion, and drawn
within the whirlpool of its power. The earth shook, and their rotten
refuges fell to the ground. The flood rose, and they found themselves
obliged to rise with it. The tree of Christianity swelled and grew, and
the chains they had cast round it to arrest its growth, snapped like
tow. And all this was done by the doctrines of the Bible! Talk of
victories indeed! What are the victories of Alexander, and Cæsar, and
Marlborough, and Napoleon, and Wellington, compared with those I have
just mentioned? For extent, for completeness, for results, for
permanence, there are no victories like the victories of the Bible.

(_b_) This is the Book which turned Europe upside down in the days of
the glorious Protestant Reformation.

No man can read the history of Christendom as it was five hundred years
ago, and not see that darkness covered the whole professing Church of
Christ, even a darkness that might be felt. So great was the change
which had come over Christianity, that if an apostle had risen from the
dead he would not have recognised it, and would have thought that
heathenism had revived again. The doctrines of the Gospel lay buried
under a dense mass of human traditions. Penances, and pilgrimages, and
indulgences, relic-worship, and image-worship, and saint-worship, and
worship of the Virgin Mary, formed the sum and substance of most
people's religion. The Church was made an idol. The priests and
ministers of the Church usurped the place of Christ. And by what means
was all this miserable darkness cleared away? By none so much as by
bringing forth once more the Bible.

It was not merely the preaching of Luther and his friends, which
established Protestantism in Germany. The grand lever which overthrew
the Pope's power in that country, was Luther's translation of the Bible
into the German tongue.--It was not merely the writings of Cranmer and
the English Reformers which cast down popery in England. The seeds of
the work thus carried forward were first sown by Wycliffe's translation
of the Bible many years before.--It was not merely the quarrel of Henry
VIII. and the Pope of Rome, which loosened the Pope's hold on English
minds. It was the royal permission to have the Bible translated and set
up in churches, so that every one who liked might read it. Yes! it was
the reading and circulation of Scripture which mainly established the
cause of Protestantism in England, in Germany, and Switzerland. Without
it the people would probably have returned to their former bondage when
the first reformers died. But by the reading of the Bible the public
mind became gradually leavened with the principles of true religion.
Men's eyes became thoroughly open. Their spiritual understandings became
thoroughly enlarged. The abominations of popery became distinctly
visible. The excellence of the pure Gospel became a rooted idea in their
hearts. It was then in vain for Popes to thunder forth excommunications.
It was useless for Kings and Queens to attempt to stop the course of
Protestantism by fire and sword. It was all too late. The people knew
too much. They had seen the light. They had heard the joyful sound. They
had tasted the truth. The sun had risen on their minds. The scales had
fallen from their eyes. The Bible had done its appointed work within
them, and that work was not to be overthrown. The people would not
return to Egypt. The clock could not be put back again. A mental and
moral revolution had been effected, and mainly effected by God's Word.
Those are the true revolutions which the Bible effects. What are all the
revolutions recorded by Vertot,--what are all the revolutions which
France and England have gone through, compared to these? No revolutions
are so bloodless, none so satisfactory, none so rich in lasting results,
as the revolutions accomplished by the Bible!

This is the book on which the well-being of nations has always hinged,
and with which the best interests of every nation in Christendom at this
moment are inseparably bound up. Just in proportion as the Bible is
honoured or not, light or darkness, morality or immorality, true
religion or superstition, liberty or despotism, good laws or bad, will
be found in a land. Come with me and open the pages of history, and you
will read the proofs in time past. Read it in the history of Israel
under the Kings. How great was the wickedness that then prevailed! But
who can wonder? The law of the Lord had been completely lost sight of,
and was found in the days of Josiah thrown aside in a corner of the
temple. (2 Kings xxii. 8.)--Read it in the history of the Jews in our
Lord Jesus Christ's time. How awful the picture of Scribes and
Pharisees, and their religion! But who can wonder? The Scripture was
"made of none effect by man's traditions." (Matt. xv. 6.)--Read it in
the history of the Church of Christ in the middle ages. What can be
worse than the accounts we have of its ignorance and superstition? But
who can wonder? The times might well be dark, when men had not the light
of the Bible.

This is the Book to which the civilized world is indebted for many of
its best and most praise-worthy institutions. Few probably are aware how
many are the good things that men have adopted for the public benefit,
of which the origin may be clearly traced up to the Bible. It has left
lasting marks wherever it has been received. From the Bible are drawn
many of the best laws by which society is kept in order. From the Bible
has been obtained the standard of morality about truth, honesty, and the
relations of man and wife, which prevails among Christian nations, and
which,--however feebly respected in many cases,--makes so great a
difference between Christians and heathen. To the Bible we are indebted
for that most merciful provision for the poor man, the Sabbath day. To
the influence of the Bible we owe nearly every humane and charitable
institution in existence. The sick, the poor, the aged, the orphan, the
lunatic, the idiot, the blind, were seldom or never thought of before
the Bible leavened the world. You may search in vain for any record of
institutions for their aid in the histories of Athens or of Rome. Alas!
there are many who sneer at the Bible, and say the world would get on
well enough without it, who little think how great are their own
obligations to the Bible. Little does the infidel workman think, as he
lies sick in some of our great hospitals, that he owes all his present
comforts to the very book he affects to despise. Had it not been for the
Bible, he might have died in misery, uncared for, unnoticed and alone.
Verily the world we live in is fearfully unconscious of its debts. The
last day alone, I believe, will tell the full amount of benefit
conferred upon it by the Bible.

This wonderful book is the subject about which I address the reader of
this paper this day. Surely it is no light matter _what you are doing
with the Bible_. The swords of conquering Generals,--the ship in which
Nelson led the fleets of England to victory,--the hydraulic press which
raised the tubular bridge at the Menai;--each and all of these are
objects of interest as instruments of mighty power. The Book I speak of
this day is an instrument a thousand-fold mightier still. Surely it is
no light matter whether you are paying it the attention it deserves. I
charge you, I summon you to give me an honest answer this day,--What
art thou doing with the Bible? Dost thou read it? HOW READEST THOU?


V. In the fifth place, _no book in existence can do so much for every
one who reads it rightly as the Bible_.

The Bible does not profess to teach the wisdom of this world. It was not
written to explain geology or astronomy. It will neither instruct you in
mathematics, nor in natural philosophy. It will not make you a doctor,
or a lawyer, or an engineer.

But there is another world to be thought of, beside that world in which
man now lives. There are other ends for which man was created, beside
making money and working. There are other interests which he is meant to
attend to, beside those of his body, and those interests are the
interests of his soul. It is the interests of the immortal soul which
the Bible is especially able to promote. If you would know law, you may
study Blackstone or Sugden. If you would know astronomy or geology, you
may study Herschel and Lyell. But if you would know how to have your
soul saved, you must study the written Word of God.

The Bible is "_able to make a man wise unto salvation, through faith
which is in Christ Jesus_." (2 Tim. iii. 15.) It can show you the way
which leads to heaven. It can teach you everything you need to know,
point out everything you need to believe, and explain everything you
need to do. It can show you what you are,--_a sinner_. It can show you
what God is,--perfectly _holy_. It can show you the great giver of
pardon, peace, and grace,--_Jesus Christ_. I have read of an Englishman
who visited Scotland in the days of Blair, Rutherford, and Dickson,
three famous preachers,--and heard all three in succession. He said that
the first showed him the majesty of God,--the second showed him the
beauty of Christ,--and the third showed him all his heart. It is the
glory and beauty of the Bible that it is always teaching these three
things more or less, from the first chapter of it to the last.

The Bible applied to the heart by the Holy Ghost, is _the grand
instrument by which souls are first converted to God_. That mighty
change is generally begun by some text or doctrine of the Word, brought
home to a man's conscience. In this way the Bible has worked moral
miracles by thousands. It has made drunkards become sober,--unchaste
people become pure,--thieves become honest,--and violent-tempered people
become meek. It has wholly altered the course of men's lives. It has
caused their old things to pass away, and made all their ways new. It
has taught worldly people to seek first the kingdom of God. It has
taught lovers of pleasure to become lovers of God. It has taught the
stream of men's affections to run upwards instead of running downwards.
It has made men think of heaven, instead of always thinking of earth,
and live by faith, instead of living by sight. All this it has done in
every part of the world. All this it is doing still. What are the Romish
miracles which weak men believe, compared to all this, even if they were
true? Those are the truly great miracles which are yearly worked by the
Word.

The Bible applied to the heart by the Holy Ghost, is _the chief means by
which men are built up and stablished in the faith_, after their
conversion. It is able to cleanse them, to sanctify them, to instruct
them in righteousness, and to furnish them thoroughly for all good
works. (Psalm cxix. 9; John xvii. 17; 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17.) The Spirit
ordinarily does these things by the written Word; sometimes by the Word
read, and sometimes by the Word preached, but seldom, if ever, without
the Word. The Bible can show a believer how to walk in this world so as
to please God. It can teach him how to glorify Christ in all the
relations of life, and can make him a good master, servant, subject,
husband, father, or son. It can enable him to bear afflictions and
privations without murmuring, and say, "It is well." It can enable him
to look down into the grave, and say, "I fear no evil." (Psalm xxiii.
4.) It can enable him to think on judgment and eternity, and not feel
afraid. It can enable him to bear persecution without flinching, and to
give up liberty and life rather than deny Christ's truth. Is he drowsy
in soul? It can awaken him.--Is he mourning? It can comfort him.--Is he
erring? It can restore him.--Is he weak? It can make him strong.--Is he
in company? It can keep him from evil.--Is he alone? It can talk with
him.--(Prov. vi. 22.) All this the Bible can do for all believers,--for
the least as well as the greatest,--for the richest as well as the
poorest. It has done it for thousands already, and is doing it for
thousands every day.

The man who has the Bible, and the Holy Spirit in his heart, has
everything which is absolutely needful to make him spiritually wise. He
needs no priest to break the bread of life for him. He needs no ancient
traditions, no writings of the Fathers, no voice of the Church, to guide
him into all truth. He has the well of truth open before him, and what
can he want more? Yes! though he be shut up alone in a prison, or cast
on a desert island,--though he never see a church, or minister, or
sacrament again,--if he has but the Bible, he has got the infallible
guide, and wants no other. If he has but the will to read that Bible
rightly, it will certainly teach him the road that leads to heaven. It
is here alone that infallibility resides. It is not in the Church. It is
not in the Councils. It is not in ministers. It is only in the written
Word.

(_a_) I know well that many say they have found no saving power in the
Bible. They tell us they have tried to read it, and have learned nothing
from it. They can see in it nothing but hard and deep things. They ask
us what we mean by talking of its power.

I answer, that the Bible no doubt contains hard things, or else it would
not be the book of God. It contains things hard to comprehend, but only
hard because we have not grasp of mind to comprehend them. It contains
things above our reasoning powers, but nothing that might not be
explained if the eyes of our understanding were not feeble and dim. But
is not an acknowledgment of our own ignorance the very corner-stone and
foundation of all knowledge? Must not many things be taken for granted
in the beginning of every science, before we can proceed one step
towards acquaintance with it? Do we not require our children to learn
many things of which they cannot see the meaning at first? And ought we
not then to expect to find "deep things" when we begin studying the Word
of God, and yet to believe that if we persevere in reading it the
meaning of many of them will one day be made clear? No doubt we ought so
to expect, and so to believe. We must read with humility. We must take
much on trust. We must believe that what we know not now, we shall know
hereafter,--some part in this world, and all in the world to come.

But I ask that man who has given up reading the Bible because it
contains hard things, whether he did not find many things in it easy and
plain? I put it to his conscience whether he did not see great landmarks
and principles in it all the way through? I ask him whether the things
needful to salvation did not stand out boldly before his eyes, like the
light-houses on English headlands from the Land's-end to the mouth of
the Thames. What should we think of the captain of a steamer who brought
up at night in the entrance of the Channel, on the plea that he did not
know every parish, and village, and creek, along the British coast?
Should we not think him a lazy coward, when the lights on the Lizard,
and Eddystone, and the Start, and Portland, and St. Catherine's, and
Beachy Head, and Dungeness, and the Forelands, were shining forth like
so many lamps, to guide him up to the river? Should we not say, Why did
you not steer by the great leading lights? And what ought we to say to
the man who gives up reading the Bible because it contains hard things,
when his own state, and the path to heaven, and the way to serve God,
are all written down clearly and unmistakably, as with a sunbeam? Surely
we ought to tell that man that his objections are no better than lazy
excuses, and do not deserve to be heard.

(_b_) I know well that many raise the objection, that thousands read the
Bible and are not a whit the better for their reading. And they ask us,
when this is the case, what becomes of the Bible's boasted power?

I answer, that the reason why so many read the Bible without benefit is
plain and simple;--they do not read it in the right way. There is
generally a right way and a wrong way of doing everything in the world;
and just as it is with other things, so it is in the matter of reading
the Bible. The Bible is not so entirely different from all other books
as to make it of no importance in what spirit and manner you read it. It
does not do good, as a matter of course, by merely running our eyes over
the print, any more than the sacraments do good by mere virtue of our
receiving them. It does not ordinarily do good, unless it is read with
humility and earnest prayer. The best steam-engine that was ever built
is useless if a man does not know how to work it. The best sun-dial that
was ever constructed will not tell its owner the time of day if he is so
ignorant as to put it up in the shade. Just as it is with that
steam-engine, and that sun-dial, so it is with the Bible. When men read
it without profit, _the fault is not in the Book, but in themselves_.

I tell the man who doubts the power of the Bible, because many read it,
and are no better for the reading, that the abuse of a thing is no
argument against the use of it. I tell him boldly, that never did man or
woman read that book in a childlike persevering spirit,--like the
Ethiopian eunuch, and the Bereans (Acts viii. 28; xvii. 11),--and miss
the way to heaven. Yes, many a broken cistern will be exposed to shame
in the day of judgment; but there will not rise up one soul who will be
able to say, that he went thirsting to the Bible, and found in it no
living water,--he searched for truth in the Scriptures, and searching,
did not find it. The words which are spoken of Wisdom in the Proverbs
are strictly true of the Bible: "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." (Prov. ii. 3, 4,
5.)

This wonderful Book is the subject about which I address the readers of
this paper this day. Surely it is no light matter _what you are doing
with the Bible_. What should you think of the man who in time of cholera
despised a sure receipt for preserving the health of his body? What must
be thought of you if you despise the only sure receipt for the
everlasting health of your soul? I charge you, I entreat you, to give an
honest answer to my question. What dost thou do with the Bible?--Dost
thou read it?--HOW READEST THOU?


VI. In the sixth place, _the Bible is the only rule by which all
questions of doctrine or of duty can be tried_.

The Lord God knows the weakness and infirmity of our poor fallen
understandings. He knows that, even after conversion, our perceptions of
right and wrong are exceedingly indistinct. He knows how artfully Satan
can gild error with an appearance of truth, and can dress up wrong with
plausible arguments, till it looks like right. Knowing all this, He has
mercifully provided us with an unerring standard of truth and error,
right and wrong, and has taken care to make that standard a written
book,--even the Scripture.

No one can look round the world, and not see the wisdom of such a
provision. No one can live long, and not find out that he is constantly
in need of a counsellor and adviser,--of a rule of faith and practice,
on which he can depend. Unless he lives like a beast, without a soul and
conscience, he will find himself constantly assailed by difficult and
puzzling questions. He will be often asking himself, What must I
believe? and what must I do?

(_a_) The world is full of difficulties about points of _doctrine_. The
house of error lies close alongside the house of truth. The door of one
is so like the door of the other that there is continual risk of
mistakes.

Does a man read or travel much? He will soon find the most opposite
opinions prevailing among those who are called Christians. He will
discover that different persons give the most different answers to the
important question, What shall I do to be saved? The Roman Catholic and
the Protestant,--the Neologian and the Tractarian,--the Mormonite and
the Swedenborgian,--each and all will assert that he alone has the
truth. Each and all will tell him that safety is only to be found in his
party. Each and all say, "Come with us." All this is puzzling. What
shall a man do?

Does he settle down quietly in some English or Scotch parish? He will
soon find that even in our own land the most conflicting views are held.
He will soon discover that there are serious differences among
Christians as to the comparative importance of the various parts and
articles of the faith. One man thinks of nothing but Church
government,--another of nothing but sacraments, services, and forms,--a
third of nothing but preaching the Gospel. Does he apply to ministers
for a solution? He will perhaps find one minister teaching one doctrine,
and another another. All this is puzzling. What shall a man do?

There is only one answer to this question. A man must make the Bible
alone his rule. He must receive nothing, and believe nothing, which is
not according to the Word. He must try all religious teaching by one
simple test,--Does it square with the Bible? What saith the Scripture?

I would to God the eyes of the laity of this country were more open on
this subject. I would to God they would learn to weigh sermons, books,
opinions, and ministers, in the scales of the Bible, and to value all
according to their conformity to the Word. I would to God they would see
that it matters little who says a thing,--whether he be Father or
Reformer,--Bishop or Archbishop,--Priest or Deacon,--Archdeacon or Dean.
The only question is,--Is the thing said Scriptural? If it is, it ought
to be received and believed. If it is not, it ought to be refused and
cast aside. I fear the consequences of that servile acceptance of
everything which "the parson" says, which is so common among many
English laymen. I fear lest they be led they know not whither, like the
blinded Syrians, and awake some day to find themselves in the power of
Rome. (2 Kings vi. 20.) Oh, that men in England would only remember for
what purpose the Bible was given them!

I tell English laymen that it is nonsense to say, as some do, that it is
presumptuous to judge a minister's teaching by the Word. When one
doctrine is proclaimed in one parish, and another in another, people
must read and judge for themselves. Both doctrines cannot be right, and
both ought to be tried by the Word. I charge them, above all things,
never to suppose that any true minister of the Gospel will dislike his
people measuring all he teaches by the Bible. On the contrary, the more
they read the Bible, and prove all he says by the Bible, the better he
will be pleased. A false minister may say, "You have no right to use
your private judgment: leave the Bible to us who are ordained." A true
minister will say, "Search the Scriptures, and if I do not teach you
what is Scriptural, do not believe me." A false minister may cry, "Hear
the Church," and "Hear me." A true minister will say, "Hear the Word of
God."

(_b_) But the world is not only full of difficulties about points of
doctrine; it is equally full of difficulties about points of _practice_.
Every professing Christian, who wishes to act conscientiously, must know
that it is so. The most puzzling questions are continually arising. He
is tried on every side by doubts as to the line of duty, and can often
hardly see what is the right thing to do.

He is tried by questions connected with the management of his _worldly
calling_, if he is in business or in trade. He sometimes sees things
going on of a very doubtful character,--things that can hardly be called
fair, straightforward, truthful, and doing as you would be done by. But
then everybody in the trade does these things. They have always been
done in the most respectable houses. There would be no carrying on a
profitable business if they were not done. They are not things
distinctly named and prohibited by God. All this is very puzzling. What
is a man to do?

He is tried by questions about _worldly amusements_. Races, and balls,
and operas, and theatres, and card parties, are all very doubtful
methods of spending time. But then he sees numbers of great people
taking part in them. Are all these people wrong? Can there really be
such mighty harm in these things? All this is very puzzling. What is a
man to do?

He is tried by questions about the _education of his children_. He
wishes to train them up morally and religiously, and to remember their
souls. But he is told by many sensible people, that young persons will
be young,--that it does not do to check and restrain them too much, and
that he ought to attend pantomimes and children's parties, and give
children's balls himself. He is informed that this nobleman, or that
lady of rank, always does so, and yet they are reckoned religious
people. Surely it cannot be wrong. All this is very puzzling. What is he
to do?

There is only one answer to all these questions. A man must make the
Bible his rule of conduct. He must make its leading principles the
compass by which he steers his course through life. By the letter or
spirit of the Bible he must test every difficult point and question.
"_To the law and to the testimony! What saith the Scripture?_" He ought
to care nothing for what other people may think right. He ought not to
set his watch by the clock of his neighbour, but by the sun-dial of the
Word.

I charge my readers solemnly to act on the maxim I have just laid down,
and to adhere to it rigidly all the days of their lives. You will never
repent of it. Make it a leading principle never to act contrary to the
Word. Care not for the charge of over-strictness, and needless
precision. Remember you serve a strict and holy God. Listen not to the
common objection, that the rule you have laid down is impossible, and
cannot be observed in such a world as this. Let those who make such an
objection speak out plainly, and tell us for what purpose the Bible was
given to man. Let them remember that by the Bible we shall all be judged
at the last day, and let them learn to judge themselves by it here, lest
they be judged and condemned by it hereafter.

This mighty rule of faith and practice is the book about which I am
addressing the readers of this paper this day. Surely it is no light
matter _what you are doing with the Bible_. Surely when danger is abroad
on the right hand and on the left, you should consider what you are
doing with the safe-guard which God has provided. I charge you, I
beseech you, to give an honest answer to my question. What art thou
doing with the Bible?--Dost thou read it? HOW READEST THOU?

VII. In the seventh place, _the Bible is the book which all true
servants of God have always lived on and loved_.

Every living thing which God creates requires food. The life that God
imparts needs sustaining and nourishing. It is so with animal and
vegetable life,--with birds, beasts, fishes, reptiles, insects, and
plants. It is equally so with spiritual life. When the Holy Ghost raises
a man from the death of sin and makes him a new creature in Christ
Jesus, the new principle in that man's heart requires food, and the only
food which will sustain it is the Word of God.

There never was a man or woman truly converted, from one end of the
world to the other, who did not love the revealed will of God. Just as a
child born into the world desires naturally the milk provided for its
nourishment, so does a soul "born again" desire the sincere milk of the
Word. This is a common mark of all the children of God--they "delight in
the law of the Lord." (Psalm, i. 2.)

Show me a person who despises Bible reading, or thinks little of Bible
preaching, and I hold it to be a certain fact that he is not yet "born
again." He may be zealous about forms and ceremonies. He may be diligent
in attending sacraments and daily services. But if these things are more
precious to him than the Bible, I cannot think he is a converted man.
Tell me what the Bible is to a man, and I will generally tell you what
he is. This is the pulse to try,--this is the barometer to look at,--if
we would know the state of the heart. I have no notion of the Spirit
dwelling in a man and not giving clear evidence of His presence. And I
believe it to be a signal evidence of the Spirit's presence when the
Word is really precious to a man's soul.

Love to the Word is one of the characteristics we see in Job. Little as
we know of this Patriarch and his age, this at least stands out clearly.
He says, "I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary
food." (Job xxiii. 12.)

Love to the Word is a shining feature in the character of David. Mark
how it appears all through that wonderful part of Scripture, the cxixth
Psalm. He might well say, "Oh, how I love thy law!" (Psalm cxix. 97.)

Love to the Word is a striking point in the character of St. Paul. What
were he and his companions but men "mighty in the Scriptures?" What were
his sermons but expositions and applications of the Word?

Love to the Word appears pre-eminently in our Lord and Saviour Jesus
Christ. He read it publicly. He quoted it continually. He expounded it
frequently. He advised the Jews to "search" it. He used it as His weapon
to resist the devil. He said repeatedly, "The Scripture must be
fulfilled."--Almost the last thing He did was to "open the understanding
of His disciples, that they might understand the Scriptures." (Luke
xxiv. 45.) I am afraid that man can be no true servant of Christ, who
has not something of his Master's mind and feeling towards the Bible.

Love to the Word has been a prominent feature in the history of all the
saints, of whom we know anything, since the days of the Apostles. This
is the lamp which Athanasius and Chrysostom and Augustine followed. This
is the compass which kept the Vallenses and Albigenses from making
shipwreck of the faith. This is the well which was re-opened by Wycliffe
and Luther, after it had been long stopped up. This is the sword with
which Latimer, and Jewell, and Knox won their victories. This is the
manna which fed Baxter and Owen, and the noble host of the Puritans, and
made them strong to battle. This is the armoury from which Whitefield
and Wesley drew their powerful weapons. This is the mine from which
Bickersteth and M'Cheyne brought forth rich gold. Differing as these
holy men did in some matters, on one point they were all agreed,--they
all delighted in the Word.

Love to the Word is one of the first things that appears in the
converted heathen, at the various Missionary stations throughout the
world. In hot climates and in cold,--among savage people and among
civilized,--in New Zealand, in the South Sea Islands, in Africa, in
Hindostan,--it is always the same. They enjoy hearing it read. They long
to be able to read it themselves. They wonder why Christians did not
send it to them before. How striking is the picture which Moffat draws
of Africaner, the fierce South African chieftain, when first brought
under the power of the Gospel! "Often have I seen him," he says, "under
the shadow of a great rock nearly the live-long day, eagerly perusing
the pages of the Bible."--How touching is the expression of a poor
converted Negro, speaking of the Bible! He said, "It is never old and
never cold."--How affecting was the language of another old negro, when
some would have dissuaded him from learning to read, because of his
great age. "No!" he said, "I will never give it up till I die. It is
worth all the labour to be able to read that one verse, 'God so loved
the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth
in him should not perish, but have eternal life.'"

Love to the Bible is one of the grand points of agreement among all
converted men and women in our own land. Episcopalians and
Presbyterians, Baptists and Independents, Methodists and Plymouth
Brethren,--all unite in honouring the Bible, as soon as they are real
Christians. This is the manna which all the tribes of our Israel feed
upon, and find satisfying food. This is the fountain round which all the
various portions of Christ's flock meet together, and from which no
sheep goes thirsty away. Oh, that believers in this country would learn
to cleave more closely to the written Word! Oh, that they would see that
the more the Bible, and the Bible only, is the substance of men's
religion, the more they agree! It is probable there never was an
uninspired book more universally admired than Bunyan's Pilgrim's
Progress. It is a book which all denominations of Christians delight to
honour. It has won praise from all parties. Now what a striking fact it
is, that the author was pre-eminently a man of one book! He had read
hardly anything but the Bible.

It is a blessed thought that there will be "much people" in heaven at
last. Few as the Lord's people undoubtedly are at any one given time or
place, yet all gathered together at last, they will be "a multitude that
no man can number." (Rev. vii. 9; xix. 1.) They will be of one heart and
mind. They will have passed through like experience. They will all have
repented, believed, lived holy, prayerful, and humble. They will all
have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
But one thing beside all this they will have in common: they will all
love the texts and doctrines of the Bible. The Bible will have been
their food and delight in the days of their pilgrimage on earth. And the
Bible will be a common subject of joyful meditation and retrospect, when
they are gathered together in heaven.

This Book, which all true Christians live upon and love, is the subject
about which I am addressing the readers of this paper this day. Surely
it is no light matter _what you are doing with the Bible_. Surely it is
matter for serious inquiry, whether you know anything of this love to
the Word, and have this mark of walking "in the footsteps of the flock."
(Cant. i. 8.) I charge you, I entreat you to give me an honest answer.
What art thou doing with the Bible?--Dost thou read it?--HOW READEST
THOU?


VIII. In the last place, _the Bible is the only book which can comfort a
man in the last hours of his life_.

Death is an event which in all probability is before us all. There is no
avoiding it. It is the river which each of us must cross. I who write,
and you who read, have each one day to die. It is good to remember
this. We are all sadly apt to put away the subject from us. "Each man
thinks each man mortal but himself." I want every one to do his duty in
life, but I also want every one to think of death. I want every one to
know how to live, but I also want every one to know how to die.

Death is a solemn event to all. It is the winding up of all earthly
plans and expectations. It is a separation from all we have loved and
lived with. It is often accompanied by much bodily pain and distress. It
brings us to the grave, the worm, and corruption. It opens the door to
judgment and eternity,--to heaven or to hell. It is an event after which
there is no change, or space for repentance. Other mistakes may be
corrected or retrieved, but not a mistake on our death-beds. As the tree
falls, there it must lie. No conversion in the coffin! No new birth
after we have ceased to breathe! And death is before us all. It may be
close at hand. The time of our departure is quite uncertain. But sooner
or later we must each lie down alone and die. All these are serious
considerations.

Death is a solemn event even to the believer in Christ. For him no doubt
the "sting of death" is taken away. (1 Cor. xv. 55.) Death has become
one of his privileges, for he is Christ's. Living or dying, he is the
Lord's. If he lives, Christ lives in him; and if he dies, he goes to
live with Christ. To him "to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Phil.
i. 21.) Death frees him from many trials,--from a weak body, a corrupt
heart, a tempting devil, and an ensnaring or persecuting world. Death
admits him to the enjoyment of many blessings. He rests from his
labours:--the hope of a joyful resurrection is changed into a
certainty:--he has the company of holy redeemed spirits:--he is "with
Christ." All this is true,--and yet, even to a believer, death is a
solemn thing. Flesh and blood naturally shrink from it. To part from all
we love, is a wrench and trial to the feelings. The world we go to is a
world unknown, even though it is our home. Friendly and harmless as
death is to a believer, it is not an event to be treated lightly. It
always must be a very solemn thing.

It becomes every thoughtful and sensible man to consider calmly how he
is going to meet death. Gird up your loins, like a man, and look the
subject in the face. Listen to me, while I tell you a few things about
the end to which we are coming.

The good things of the world cannot comfort a man when he draws near
death. All the gold of California and Australia will not provide light
for the dark valley. Money can buy the best medical advice and
attendance for a man's body; but money cannot buy peace for his
conscience, heart, and soul.

Relatives, loved friends, and servants, cannot comfort a man when he
draws near death. They may minister affectionately to his bodily wants.
They may watch by his bed-side tenderly, and anticipate his every wish.
They may smooth down his dying pillow, and support his sinking frame in
their arms. But they cannot "minister to a mind diseased." They cannot
stop the achings of a troubled heart. They cannot screen an uneasy
conscience from the eye of God.

The pleasures of the world cannot comfort a man when he draws near
death. The brilliant ball-room,--the merry dance,--the midnight
revel,--the party to Epsom races,--the card table,--the box at the
opera,--the voices of singing men and singing women,--all these are at
length distasteful things. To hear of hunting and shooting engagements
gives him no pleasure. To be invited to feasts, and regattas, and
fancy-fairs, gives him no ease. He cannot hide from himself that these
are hollow, empty, powerless things. They jar upon the ear of his
conscience. They are out of harmony with his condition. They cannot stop
one gap in his heart, when the last enemy is coming in like a flood.
They cannot make him calm in the prospect of meeting a holy God.

Books and newspapers cannot comfort a man when he draws near death. The
most brilliant writings of Macaulay or Dickens will pall on his ear. The
most able article in the Times will fail to interest him. The Edinburgh
and Quarterly Reviews will give him no pleasure. Punch and the
Illustrated News, and the last new novel, will lie unopened and
unheeded. Their time will be past. Their vocation will be gone. Whatever
they may be in health, they are useless in the hour of death.

There is but one fountain of comfort for a man drawing near to his end,
and that is the Bible. Chapters out of the Bible,--texts out of the
Bible,--statements of truth taken out of the Bible,--books containing
matter drawn from the Bible,--these are a man's only chance of comfort
when he comes to die. I do not at all say that the Bible will do good,
as a matter of course, to a dying man, if he has not valued it before. I
know, unhappily, too much of death-beds to say that. I do not say
whether it is probable that he who has been unbelieving and neglectful
of the Bible in life, will at once believe and get comfort from it in
death. But I do say positively, that no dying man will ever get real
comfort, except from the contents of the Word of God. All comfort from
any other source is a house built upon sand.

I lay this down as a rule of universal application. I make no exception
in favour of any class on earth. Kings and poor men, learned and
unlearned,--all are on a level in this matter. There is not a jot of
real consolation for any dying man, unless he gets it from the Bible.
Chapters, passages, texts, promises, and doctrines of Scripture,--heard,
received, believed, and rested on,--these are the only comforters I dare
promise to any one, when he leaves the world. Taking the sacrament will
do a man no more good than the Popish extreme unction, so long as the
Word is not received and believed. Priestly absolution will no more ease
the conscience than the incantations of a heathen magician, if the poor
dying sinner does not receive and believe Bible truth. I tell every one
who reads this paper, that although men may seem to get on comfortably
without the Bible while they live, they may be sure that without the
Bible they cannot comfortably die. It was a true confession of the
learned Selden,--"There is no book upon which we can rest in a dying
moment but the Bible."

I might easily confirm all I have just said, by examples and
illustrations. I might show you the death-beds of men who have affected
to despise the Bible. I might tell you how Voltaire and Paine, the
famous infidels, died in misery, bitterness, rage, fear, and despair. I
might show you the happy death-beds of those who have loved the Bible
and believed it, and the blessed effect the sight of their death-beds
had on others. Cecil,--a minister whose praise ought to be in all
churches,--says, "I shall never forget standing by the bed-side of my
dying mother. 'Are you afraid to die?' I asked.--'No!' she
replied.--'But why does the uncertainty of another state give you no
concern?'--'Because God has said, Fear not; when thou passest through
the waters I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not
overflow thee.'" (Isa. xliii. 2.) I might easily multiply illustrations
of this kind. But I think it better to conclude this part of my subject
by giving the result of my own observations as a minister.

I have seen not a few dying persons in my time. I have seen great
varieties of manner and deportment among them. I have seen some die
sullen, silent, and comfortless. I have seen others die ignorant,
unconcerned, and apparently without much fear. I have seen some die so
wearied out with long illness that they were quite willing to depart,
and yet they did not seem to me at all in a fit state to go before God.
I have seen others die with professions of hope and trust in God,
without leaving satisfactory evidences that they were on the rock. I
have seen others die who, I believe, were "in Christ," and safe, and yet
they never seemed to enjoy much sensible comfort. I have seen some few
dying in the full assurance of hope, and like Bunyan's "Standfast,"
giving glorious testimony to Christ's faithfulness, even in the river.
But one thing I have never seen. I never saw any one enjoy what I should
call real, solid, calm, reasonable peace on his death-bed, who did not
draw his peace from the Bible. And this I am bold to say, that the man
who thinks to go to his death-bed without having the Bible for his
comforter, his companion, and his friend, is one of the greatest madmen
in the world. There are no comforts for the soul but Bible comforts, and
he who has not got hold of these, has got hold of nothing at all, unless
it be a broken reed.

The only comforter for a death-bed is the book about which I address the
readers of this paper this day. Surely it is no light matter whether you
read that book or not. Surely a dying man, in a dying world, should
seriously consider whether he has got anything to comfort him when his
turn comes to die. I charge you, I entreat you, for the last time, to
give an honest answer to my question. What art thou doing with the
Bible?--Dost thou read it?--HOW READEST THOU?


I have now given the reasons why I press on every reader the duty and
importance of reading the Bible. I have shown that no book is written in
such a manner as the Bible,--that knowledge of the Bible is absolutely
necessary to salvation,--that no book contains such matter,--that no
book has done so much for the world generally,--that no book can do so
much for every one who reads it aright,--that this book is the only rule
of faith and practice,--that it is, and always has been, the food of all
true servants of God,--and that it is the only book which can comfort
men when they die. All these are ancient things. I do not pretend to
tell anything new. I have only gathered together old truths, and tried
to mould them into a new shape. Let me finish all by addressing a few
plain words to the conscience of every class of readers.

(1) This paper may fall into the hands of some who _can read, but never
do read the Bible at all_. Are you one of them? If you are, I have
something to say to you.

I cannot comfort you in your present state of mind. It would be mockery
and deceit to do so. I cannot speak to you of peace and heaven, while
you treat the Bible as you do. You are in danger of losing your soul.

You are in danger, because _your neglected Bible is a plain evidence
that you do not love God_. The health of a man's body may generally be
known by his appetite. The health of a man's soul may be known by his
treatment of the Bible. Now you are manifestly labouring under a sore
disease. Will you not repent?

I know I cannot reach your heart. I cannot make you see and feel these
things. I can only enter my solemn protest against your present
treatment of the Bible, and lay that protest before your conscience. I
do so with all my soul. Oh, beware lest you repent too late! Beware lest
you put off reading the Bible till you send for the doctor in your last
illness, and then find the Bible a sealed book, and dark, as the cloud
between the hosts of Israel and Egypt, to your anxious soul! Beware lest
you go on saying all your life, "Men do very well without all this
Bible-reading," and find at length, to your cost, that men do very ill,
and end in hell! Beware lest the day come when you will feel, "Had I but
honoured the Bible as much as I have honoured the newspaper, I should
not have been left without comfort in my last hours!" Bible-neglecting
reader, I give you a plain warning. The plague-cross is at present on
your door. The Lord have mercy upon your soul!

(2) This paper may fall into the hands of some one who is _willing to
begin reading the Bible, but wants advice_ on the subject. Are you that
man? Listen to me, and I will give a few short hints.

(_a_) For one thing, _begin reading your Bible this very day_. The way
to do a thing is to do it, and the way to read the Bible is actually to
read it. It is not meaning, or wishing, or resolving, or intending, or
thinking about it, which will advance you one step. You must positively
read. There is no royal road in this matter, any more than in the matter
of prayer. If you cannot read yourself, you must persuade somebody else
to read to you. But one way or another, through eyes or ears, the words
of Scripture must actually pass before your mind.

(_b_) For another thing, _read the Bible with an earnest desire to
understand it_. Think not for a moment that the great object is to turn
over a certain quantity of printed paper, and that it matters nothing
whether you understand it or not. Some ignorant people seem to fancy
that all is done if they clear off so many chapters every day, though
they may not have a notion what they are all about, and only know that
they have pushed on their mark so many leaves. This is turning Bible
reading into a mere form. It is almost as bad as the Popish habit of
buying indulgences, by saying an almost fabulous number of ave-marias
and paternosters. It reminds one of the poor Hottentot who ate up a
Dutch hymn-book because he saw it comforted his neighbours' hearts.
Settle it down in your mind as a general principle, that a Bible not
understood is a Bible that does no good. Say to yourself often as you
read, "What is all this about?" Dig for the meaning like a man digging
for Australian gold. Work hard, and do not give up the work in a hurry.

(_c_) For another thing, _read the Bible with child-like faith and
humility_. Open your heart as you open your book, and say, "Speak,
Lord, for thy servant heareth." Resolve to believe implicitly whatever
you find there, however much it may run counter to your own prejudices.
Resolve to receive heartily every statement of truth, whether you like
it or not. Beware of that miserable habit of mind into which some
readers of the Bible fall. They receive some doctrines because they like
them: they reject others because they are condemning to themselves, or
to some lover, or relation, or friend. At this rate the Bible is
useless. Are we to be judges of what ought to be in the Word? Do we know
better than God? Settle it down in your mind that you will receive all
and believe all, and that what you cannot understand you will take on
trust. Remember, when you pray, you are speaking to God, and God hears
you. But, remember, when you read, God is speaking to you, and you are
not to "answer again," but to listen.

(_d_) For another thing, _read the Bible in a spirit of obedience and
self-application_. Sit down to the study of it with a daily
determination that _you_ will live by its rules, rest on its statements,
and act on its commands. Consider, as you travel through every chapter,
"How does this affect _my_ position and course of conduct? What does
this teach _me_?" It is poor work to read the Bible from mere curiosity,
and for speculative purposes, in order to fill your head and store your
mind with opinions, while you do not allow the book to influence your
heart and life. That Bible is read best which is practised most.

(_e_) For another thing, _read the Bible daily_. Make it a part of every
day's business to read and meditate on some portion of God's Word.
Private means of grace are just as needful every day for our souls as
food and clothing are for our bodies. Yesterday's bread will not feed
the labourer to-day, and to-day's bread will not feed the labourer
to-morrow. Do as the Israelites did in the wilderness. Gather your manna
fresh every morning. Choose your own seasons and hours. Do not scramble
over and hurry your reading. Give your Bible the best, and not the worst
part of your time. But whatever plan you pursue, let it be a rule of
your life to visit the throne of grace and the Bible every day.

(_f_) For another thing, _read all the Bible, and read it in an orderly
way_. I fear there are many parts of the Word which some people never
read at all. This is to say the least, a very presumptuous habit. "All
Scripture is profitable." (2 Tim. iii. 16.) To this habit may be traced
that want of broad, well-proportioned views of truth, which is so common
in this day. Some people's Bible-reading is a system of perpetual
dipping and picking. They do not seem to have an idea of regularly going
through the whole book. This also is a great mistake. No doubt in times
of sickness and affliction it is allowable to search out seasonable
portions. But with this exception, I believe it is by far the best plan
to begin the Old and New Testaments at the same time,--to read each
straight through to the end, and then begin again. This is a matter in
which every one must be persuaded in his own mind. I can only say it has
been my own plan for nearly forty years, and I have never seen cause to
alter it.

(_g_) For another thing, _read the Bible fairly and honestly_. Determine
to take everything in its plain, obvious meaning, and regard all forced
interpretations with great suspicion. As a general rule, whatever a
verse of the Bible seems to mean, it does mean. Cecil's rule is a very
valuable one,--"The right way of interpreting Scripture is to take it as
we find it, without any attempt to force it into any particular system."
Well said Hooker, "I hold it for a most infallible rule in the
exposition of Scripture, that when a literal construction will stand,
the furthest from the literal is commonly the worst."

(_h_) In the last place, _read the Bible with Christ continually in
view_. The grand primary object of all Scripture is to testify of
Jesus. Old Testament ceremonies are shadows of Christ. Old Testament
judges and deliverers are types of Christ. Old Testament history shows
the world's need of Christ. Old Testament prophecies are full of
Christ's sufferings, and of Christ's glory yet to come. The first advent
and the second,--the Lord's humiliation and the Lord's kingdom,--the
cross and the crown, shine forth everywhere in the Bible. Keep fast hold
on this clue, if you would read the Bible aright.

I might easily add to these hints, if space permitted. Few and short as
they are, you will find them worth attention. Act upon them, and I
firmly believe you will never be allowed to miss the way to heaven. Act
upon them, and you will find light continually increasing in your mind.
No book of evidence can be compared with that internal evidence which he
obtains who daily uses the Word in the right way. Such a man does not
need the books of learned men, like Paley, and Wilson, and M'Ilvaine. He
has the witness in himself. The book satisfies and feeds his soul. A
poor Christian woman once said to an infidel, "I am no scholar. I cannot
argue like you. But I know that honey is honey, because it leaves a
sweet taste in my mouth. And I know the Bible to be God's book, because
of the taste it leaves in my heart."

(3) This paper may fall into the hands of some one who _loves and
believes the Bible, and yet reads it but little_. I fear there are many
such in this day. It is a day of bustle and hurry. It is a day of
talking, and committee-meetings, and public work. These things are all
very well in their way, but I fear that they sometimes clip and cut
short the private reading of the Bible. Does your conscience tell you
that you are one of the persons I speak of? Listen to me, and I will say
a few things which deserve your serious attention.

You are the man that is likely to _get little comfort from the Bible in
time of need_. Trial is a sifting season. Affliction is a searching
wind, which strips the leaves off the trees, and brings to light the
birds' nests. Now I fear that your stores of Bible consolations may one
day run very low. I fear lest you should find yourself at last on very
short allowance, and come into harbour weak, worn and thin.

You are the man that is likely _never to be established in the truth_. I
shall not be surprised to hear that you are troubled with doubts and
questionings about assurance, grace, faith, perseverance, and the like.
The devil is an old and cunning enemy. Like the Benjamites, he can
"throw stones at a hair-breadth, and not miss." (Judges xx. 16.) He can
quote Scripture readily enough when he pleases. Now you are not
sufficiently ready with your weapons to be able to fight a good fight
with him. Your armour does not fit you well. Your sword sits loosely in
your hand.

You are the man that is likely to _make mistakes in life_. I shall not
wonder if I am told that you have erred about your own marriage,--erred
about your children's education,--erred about the conduct of your
household,--erred about the company you keep. The world you steer
through is full of rocks, and shoals, and sandbanks. You are not
sufficiently familiar either with the lights or charts.

You are the man that is likely to _be carried away by some specious
false teacher for a season_. It will not surprise me if I hear that some
one of those clever, eloquent men, who can "make the worse appear the
better cause," is leading you into many follies. You are wanting in
ballast. No wonder if you are tossed to and fro, like a cork on the
waves.

All these are uncomfortable things. I want every reader of this paper to
escape them all. Take the advice I offer you this day. Do not merely
read your Bible "a little," but read it a great deal. "Let the Word of
Christ dwell in you richly." (Coloss. iii. 16.) Do not be a mere babe
in spiritual knowledge. Seek to become "well instructed in the kingdom
of heaven," and to be continually adding new things to old. A religion
of feeling is an uncertain thing. It is like the tide, sometimes high,
and sometimes low. It is like the moon, sometimes bright, and sometimes
dim. A religion of deep Bible knowledge, is a firm and lasting
possession. It enables a man not merely to say, "I feel hope in
Christ,"--but "I know whom I have believed." (2 Tim. i. 12.)

(4) This paper may fall into the hands of some one who _reads the Bible
much, and yet fancies he is no better for his reading_. This is a crafty
temptation of the devil. At one stage he says, "Do not read the Bible at
all." At another he says, "Your reading does you no good: give it up."
Are you that man? I feel for you from the bottom of my soul. Let me try
to do you good.

Do not think you are getting no good from the Bible, merely because you
do not see that good day by day. The greatest effects are by no means
those which make the most noise, and are most easily observed. The
greatest effects are often silent, quiet, and hard to detect at the time
they are being produced. Think of the influence of the moon upon the
earth, and of the air upon the human lungs. Remember how silently the
dew falls, and how imperceptibly the grass grows. There may be far more
doing than you think in your soul by your Bible-reading.

The Word may be gradually producing deep _impressions_ on your heart, of
which you are not at present aware. Often when the memory is retaining
no facts, the character of a man is receiving some everlasting
impression. Is sin becoming every year more hateful to you? Is Christ
becoming every year more precious? Is holiness becoming every year more
lovely and desirable in your eyes? If these things are so, take courage.
The Bible is doing you good, though you may not be able to trace it out
day by day.

The Bible may be restraining you from some sin or delusion into which
you would otherwise run. It may be daily keeping you back, and hedging
you up, and preventing many a false step. Ah, you might soon find this
out to your cost, if you were to cease reading the Word! The very
familiarity of blessings sometimes makes us insensible to their value.
Resist the devil. Settle it down in your mind as an established rule,
that, whether you feel it at the moment or not, you are inhaling
spiritual health by reading the Bible, and insensibly becoming more
strong.

(5) This paper may fall into the hands of some who _really love the
Bible, live upon the Bible, and read it much_. Are you one of these?
Give me your attention, and I will mention a few things which we shall
do well to lay to heart for time to come.

Let us resolve to _read the Bible more and more_ every year we live. Let
us try to get it rooted in our memories, and engrafted into our hearts.
Let us be thoroughly well provisioned with it against the voyage of
death. Who knows but we may have a very stormy passage? Sight and
hearing may fail us, and we may be in deep waters. Oh, to have the Word
"hid in our hearts" in such an hour as that! (Ps. cxix. 11.)

Let us resolve to be _more watchful over our Bible-reading_ every year
that we live. Let us be jealously careful about the time we give to it,
and the manner that time is spent. Let us beware of omitting our daily
reading without sufficient cause. Let us not be gaping, and yawning, and
dozing over our book, while we read. Let us read like a London merchant
studying the city article in the Times,--or like a wife reading a
husband's letter from a distant land. Let us be very careful that we
never exalt any minister, or sermon, or book, or tract, or friend above
the Word. Cursed be that book, or tract, or human counsel, which creeps
in between us and the Bible, and hides the Bible from our eyes! Once
more I say, let us be very watchful. The moment we open the Bible the
devil sits down by our side. Oh, to read with a hungry spirit, and a
simple desire for edification!

Let us resolve to _honour the Bible more in our families_. Let us read
it morning and evening to our children and households, and not be
ashamed to let men see that we do so. Let us not be discouraged by
seeing no good arise from it. The Bible-reading in a family has kept
many a one from the gaol, the workhouse, and the Gazette, if it has not
kept him from hell.

Let us resolve to _meditate more on the Bible_. It is good to take with
us two or three texts when we go out into the world, and to turn them
over and over in our minds whenever we have a little leisure. It keeps
out many vain thoughts. It clenches the nail of daily reading. It
preserves our souls from stagnating and breeding corrupt things. It
sanctifies and quickens our memories, and prevents them becoming like
those ponds where the frogs live but the fish die.

Let us resolve to _talk more to believers about the Bible_ when we meet
them. Alas, the conversation of Christians, when they do meet, is often
sadly unprofitable! How many frivolous, and trifling, and uncharitable
things are said! Let us bring out the Bible more, and it will help to
drive the devil away, and keep our hearts in tune. Oh, that we may all
strive so to walk together in this evil world, that Jesus may often draw
near, and go with us, as He went with the two disciples journeying to
Emmaus!

Last of all, let us resolve to _live by the Bible more and more_ every
year we live. Let us frequently take account of all our opinions and
practices,--of our habits and tempers,--of our behaviour in public and
in private,--in the world, and by our own firesides. Let us measure all
by the Bible, and resolve, by God's help, to conform to it. Oh that we
may learn increasingly to "cleanse our ways" by the Word! (Ps. cxix.
9.)

I commend all these things to the serious and prayerful attention of
every one into whose hands this paper may fall. I want the ministers of
my beloved country to be Bible-reading ministers,--the congregations,
Bible-reading congregations,--and the nation, a Bible-reading nation. To
bring about this desirable end I cast in my mite into God's treasury.
The Lord grant that it may prove not to have been in vain!



VI


GOING TO THE TABLE

     "_Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread,
     and drink of that cup._"--1 Cor. xi. 28.


The words which form the title of this paper refer to a subject of vast
importance. That subject is the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

Perhaps no part of the Christian religion is so thoroughly misunderstood
as the Lord's Supper. On no point have there been so many disputes,
strifes, and controversies for almost 1800 years. On no point have
mistakes done so much harm. Even at this very day the battle is still
raging, and Christians seem hopelessly divided. The very ordinance which
was meant for our peace and profit has become the cause of discord and
the occasion of sin. These things ought not so to be!

I make no excuse for including the Lord's Supper among the leading
points of _practical_ Christianity. I believe firmly that ignorant views
or false doctrine about this sacrament lie at the root of half the
present divisions of professing Christians. Some neglect it altogether;
some completely misunderstand it; some exalt it to a position it was
never meant to occupy, and turn it into an idol. If I can throw a little
light on it, and clear up the doubts of some minds, I shall feel very
thankful. It is hopeless, I fear, to expect that the controversy about
the Lord's Supper will ever be finally closed until the Lord comes. But
it is not too much to hope that the fog and mystery and obscurity with
which it is surrounded in some minds, may be cleared away by plain Bible
truth.

In examining the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper I shall content myself
with asking four practical questions, and offering answers to them.


    I. Why was the Lord's supper ordained?

    II. Who ought to go to the Table and be communicants?

    III. What may communicants expect from the Lord's Supper?

    IV. Why do many so-called Christians never go to the Lord's Table?


I think it will be impossible to handle these four questions fairly,
honestly, and impartially, without seeing the subject of this paper more
clearly, and getting some distinct and practical ideas about some
leading errors of our day. I say "practical" emphatically. My chief aim
in this volume is to promote practical Christianity.


I. In the first place, _why was the Lord's Supper ordained_?

I answer that question in the words of the Church Catechism. I am sure I
cannot mend them. It was ordained "for the continual remembrance of the
sacrifice of the death of Christ, and of the benefits which we receive
thereby."--The bread which in the Lord's Supper is broken, given, and
eaten, is meant to remind us of Christ's body given on the cross for our
sins. The wine which is poured out and received, is meant to remind us
of Christ's blood shed on the cross for our sins. He that eats that
bread and drinks that wine is reminded, in the most striking and
forcible manner, of the benefits Christ has obtained for his soul, and
of the death of Christ as the hinge and turning point on which all those
benefits depend.

Now is the view here stated the doctrine of the New Testament? If it is
not, for ever let it be rejected, cast aside, and refused by men. If it
is, let us never be ashamed to hold it fast, profess our belief in it,
pin our faith on it, and steadfastly refuse to hold any other view, no
matter by whom it is taught. In subjects like this we must call no man
master. It signifies little what great Bishops and learned divines have
thought fit to put forth about the Lord's Supper. If they teach more
than the Word of God contains they are not to be believed.

I take down my Bible and turn to the New Testament. There I find no less
than four separate accounts of the first appointment of the Lord's
Supper. St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. Paul, all four describe
it: all four agree in telling us what our Lord did on this memorable
occasion.--Two only tell us the reason which our Lord assigned why His
disciples were to eat the bread and drink the cup. St. Paul and St. Luke
both record the remarkable words, "_Do this in remembrance of Me_."--St.
Paul adds his own inspired comment: "As often as ye eat this bread and
drink this cup, ye do shew (or declare or proclaim) the Lord's death
till He come." (Luke xxii. 19; 1 Cor. xi. 25, 26.) When Scripture speaks
so plainly, why cannot men be content with it? Why should we mystify and
confuse a subject which in the New Testament is so simple? The
"continual remembrance of Christ's death" was the one grand object for
which the Lord's Supper was ordained. He that goes further than this is
adding to God's Word, and does so to the great peril of his soul.

Now is it reasonable to suppose that our Lord would appoint an ordinance
for so simple a purpose as the "_keeping His death in remembrance_"?
Most certainly it is. Of all the facts in His earthly ministry none are
equal in importance to that of His death. It was the great satisfaction
for man's sin, which had been appointed in God's covenant from the
foundation of the world. It was the great atonement of almighty power,
to which every sacrifice of animals, from the fall of man, continually
pointed. It was the grand end and purpose for which Messiah came into
the world. It was the corner-stone and foundation of all man's hopes of
pardon and peace with God. In short, Christ would have lived, and
taught, and preached, and prophesied, and wrought miracles in vain, if
He had not _crowned all by dying for our sins as our Substitute_! His
death was our life. His death was the payment of our debt to God.
Without His death we should have been of all creatures most miserable.
No wonder that an ordinance was specially appointed to remind us of our
Saviour's death. It is the very one thing of which poor, weak, sinful
man needs to be continually reminded.

Does the New Testament warrant men in saying that the Lord's Supper was
ordained to be a sacrifice, and that in it Christ's body and blood are
present under the forms of bread and wine? _Most certainly not!_ When
the Lord Jesus said to the disciples, "This is my Body," and "this is my
Blood," He evidently meant, "This bread in my hand is an emblem of my
Body, and this cup of wine in my hand contains an emblem of my Blood."
The disciples were accustomed to hear Him use such language. They
remembered His saying, "The field _is_ the world," "The good seed _are_
the children of the kingdom." (Matt. xiii. 38.) It never entered into
their minds that He meant to say He was holding His own body and His own
blood in His hands, and literally giving them His literal body and blood
to eat and drink. Not one of the writers of the New Testament ever
speaks of the sacrament as a sacrifice, or calls the Lord's Table an
altar, or even hints that a Christian minister is a sacrificing priest.
The universal doctrine of the New Testament is that after the one
offering of Christ there remains no more need of sacrifice.[2]

  2: If any one fancies that St. Paul's words to the Hebrews, "We have an
  altar," are a proof that the Lord's table is an altar, I advise him to
  read what Waterland, no mean theologian, says on the
  subject:--"Christians have an altar whereof they partake. That altar is
  Christ our Lord, who is Altar, Priest, and Sacrifice, all in
  One."--_Waterland's Works_, Vol. V., 268. Oxford edition.

Does the English Prayer-book warrant any Churchman in saying that the
Lord's Supper was meant to be a sacrifice, and that Christ's body and
blood are present under the forms of bread and wine? Once more I reply,
_Most certainly not!_ Not once is the word _altar_ to be found in the
Prayer-book: not once is the Lord's Supper called a _sacrifice_.
Throughout the Communion Service the one idea of the ordinance
continually pressed on our attention is that of a "remembrance" of
Christ's death. As to any presence of Christ's natural body and blood
under the forms of bread and wine, the rubric at the end of the Service
gives the most flat and distinct contradiction to the idea. That rubric
expressly asserts that "the natural body and blood of Christ are in
heaven, and not here." Those many Churchmen, so-called, who delight in
talking of the "altar," the "sacrifice," the "priest," and the "real
presence" in the Lord's Supper, would do well to remember that they are
using language which is entirely unused by the Church of England.

The point before us is one of vast importance. Let us lay hold upon it
firmly, and never let it go. It is the very point on which our Reformers
had their sharpest controversy with the Romanists, and went to the
stake, rather than give way. Sooner than admit that the Lord's Supper
was a sacrifice, they cheerfully laid down their lives. To bring back
the doctrine of the "real presence," and to turn the good old English
communion into the Romish "mass," is to pour contempt on our Martyrs,
and to upset the first principles of the Protestant Reformation. Nay,
rather, it is to ignore the plain teaching of God's Word, and do
dishonour to the priestly office of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible
teaches expressly that the Lord's Supper was ordained to be "a
remembrance of Christ's body and blood," and not an offering. The Bible
teaches that Christ's vicarious death on the cross was the one perfect
sacrifice for sin, which never needs to be repeated. Let us stand fast
in these two great principles of the Christian faith. A clear view of
the intention of the Lord's Supper is one of the soul's best safeguards
against the delusions of modern days.


II. In the second place, let me try to show _who ought to be
communicants_? _What kind of persons were meant to go to the Table and
receive the Lord's Supper?_

It will clear the ground if I first show who ought not to be partakers
of this ordinance. The ignorance which prevails on this, as well as on
every part of the subject, is vast, lamentable, and appalling. If I can
contribute anything that may throw light upon it, I shall feel very
thankful. The principal giants whom John Bunyan describes, in "Pilgrim's
Progress," as dangerous to Christian pilgrims, were two, Pope and Pagan.
If the good old Puritan had foreseen the times we live in, he would have
said something about the giant Ignorance.

(_a_) It is not right to urge all baptized persons to become
communicants. There is such a thing as fitness and preparedness for the
ordinance. It does not work like a medicine, independently of the state
of mind of those who receive it. The teaching of those who press all
their congregation to come to the Lord's Table, as if the coming _must_
necessarily do every one good, is entirely without warrant of Scripture.
Nay, rather, it is teaching which is calculated to do immense harm to
men's souls, and to turn the reception of the sacrament into a mere
form. Ignorance can never be the mother of acceptable worship, and an
ignorant communicant who comes to the Lord's Table without knowing why
he comes, is altogether in the wrong place.--"Let a man examine himself,
and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup."--"To discern
the Lord's body,"--that is to understand what the elements of bread and
wine represent, and why they are appointed, and what is the particular
use of remembering Christ's death,--is an essential qualification of a
true communicant. God "commands all men everywhere to repent" and
believe the Gospel (Acts xvii. 30); but He does not in the same way, or
in the same manner, command every body to come to the Lord's Table. No:
this thing is not to be taken in hand unadvisedly, lightly, or
carelessly! It is a solemn ordinance, and solemnly it ought to be used.

(_b_) But this is not all. Sinners living in open sin, and determined
not to give it up, ought on no account to come to the Lord's Table. To
do so is a positive insult to Christ, and to pour contempt on His
Gospel. It is nonsense to profess we desire to remember Christ's death,
while we cling to the accursed thing which made it needful for Christ to
die. The mere fact that a man is continuing in sin, is plain evidence
that he does not care for Christ, and feels no gratitude for redemption.
The ignorant Papist who goes to the priest's confessional and receives
absolution, may think he is fit to go to the Popish mass, and after mass
may return to his sins. He never reads the Bible, and knows no better!
But the Englishman who habitually breaks any of God's commandments, and
yet goes to the Sacrament, as if it would do him good and wipe away his
sins, is very guilty indeed. So long as he chooses to continue his
wicked habits he cannot receive the slightest benefit from Christ's
ordinances, and is only adding sin to sin. To carry unrepented sin up to
the Communion Rail, and there receive the bread and wine, knowing in our
own hearts that we and wickedness are yet friends, is one of the worst
things a man can do, and one of the most hardening to conscience. If a
man must have his sins, and cannot give them up, let him by all means
stay away from the Lord's Supper. There is such a thing as "eating and
drinking unworthily," and to our own "condemnation." To no one do these
words apply so thoroughly as to an open sinner.

(_c_) But I have not done yet. Self-righteous people, who think that
they are to be saved by their own works, have no business to come to the
Lord's Table. Strange as it may sound at first, these persons are the
least qualified of all to receive the Sacrament. They may be outwardly
correct, moral and respectable in their lives, but so long as they trust
in their own goodness for salvation, they are entirely in the wrong
place at the Lord's Supper. For what do we declare at the Lord's Supper?
We publicly profess that we have no goodness, righteousness, or
worthiness of our own, and that all our hope is in Christ. We publicly
profess that we are guilty, sinful, and corrupt, and naturally deserve
God's wrath and condemnation. We publicly profess that Christ's merit
and not our's, Christ's righteousness and not our's, is the alone cause
why we look for acceptance with God. Now what has a self-righteous man
to do with an ordinance like this? Clearly nothing at all. One thing, at
any rate, is very plain: a self-righteous man has no business to receive
the sacrament in the Church of England. The Communion Service of the
Church bids all communicants declare that "they do not presume to come
to the Table trusting in their own righteousness, but in God's manifold
and great mercies."--It tells them to say,--"We are not worthy so much
as to gather up the crumbs under Thy table,"--"the remembrance of our
sins is grievous unto us; the burden of them is intolerable."--How any
self-righteous Churchman can ever go to the Lord's Table, and take these
words into his mouth, passes my understanding! It only shows that many
professing Christians use excellent "forms" of worship without taking
the trouble to consider what they mean.

The plain truth is that the Lord's Supper was not meant for dead souls,
but for living ones. The careless, the ignorant, the wilfully wicked,
the self-righteous, are no more fit to come to the Communion rail than a
dead corpse is fit to sit down at a king's feast. To enjoy a spiritual
feast we must have a spiritual heart, and taste, and appetite. To
suppose that Christ's ordinances can do good to an unspiritual man, is
as foolish as to put bread and wine into the mouth of a dead person. The
careless, the ignorant, and the wilfully wicked, so long as they
continue in that state, are utterly unfit to be communicants. To urge
them to attend is not to do them good but harm. The Lord's Supper is not
a converting or justifying ordinance. If a man goes to the Table
unconverted or unforgiven, he will come away no better at all.

But, after all, the ground having been cleared of error, the question
still remains to be answered,--Who are the sort of persons who ought to
be communicants? I answer that question in the words of the Church
Catechism. I there find the inquiry made, "What is required of them who
come to the Lord's Supper?" In reply I find it taught that people should
"examine themselves whether they repent them truly of their former sins,
steadfastly purposing to lead a new life;"--whether they "have a lively
faith in God's mercy through Christ, with a thankful remembrance of His
death;"--and whether they "are in charity with all men."--In a word, I
find that a worthy communicant is one who possesses three simple marks
and qualifications,--repentance, faith, and charity. Does a man truly
repent of sin and hate it? Does a man put his trust in Jesus Christ as
his only hope of salvation? Does a man live in charity towards others?
He that can truly say to each of these questions, "I do," he is a man
that is Scripturally qualified for the Lord's Supper. Let him come
boldly. Let no barrier be put in his way. He comes up to the Bible
standard of communicants. He may draw near with confidence, and feel
assured that the great Master of the banquet is not displeased.

Such a man's repentance may be very imperfect. Never mind! Is it real?
Does he truly repent at all?--His faith in Christ may be very weak.
Never mind! Is it real? A penny is as truly the current coin of the
realm, and as really stamped with the Queen's image as a sovereign. His
charity may be very defective in quantity and degree. Never mind! Is it
genuine? The grand test of a man's Christianity is not the quantity of
grace he has got, but whether he has any grace at all. The first twelve
communicants, when Christ Himself gave the bread and wine, were weak
indeed,--weak in knowledge, weak in faith, weak in courage, weak in
patience, weak in love! But eleven of them had that about them which
outweighed all defects: they were real, genuine, sincere, and true.

For ever let this great principle be rooted in our minds,--the only
worthy communicant is the man who is experimentally acquainted with
repentance toward God, faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, and
practical love toward others. Are you that man? Then you may draw
near to the table, and take the sacrament to your comfort. Lower
than this I dare not pitch my standard of a communicant. I will
never help to crowd a communion rail with careless, ignorant,
self-righteous attendants.--Higher than this I will not pitch my
standard. I will never tell any one to keep away till he is perfect,
and to wait till his heart is as unruffled as an angel's. I will not
do so, because I believe that neither my Master nor His Apostles
would have done so. Show me a man that really feels his sins, really
leans on Christ, really struggles to be holy, and I will bid him
welcome in my Master's name. He may feel weak, erring, empty,
feeble, doubting, wretched, and poor. What matter? St. Paul, I
believe, would have received him as a right communicant, and I will
do likewise.


III. In the third place, let us consider _what benefit communicants may
expect to get by going to the Table and attending the Lord's Supper_.
This is a point of grave importance, and one on which vast mistakes
abound. On no point, perhaps, connected with this ordinance, are the
views of Christians so vague and misty and undefined.

One common idea among men is that "taking the sacrament must do them
good." Why, they cannot explain. What good, they cannot exactly say. But
they have a loose general notion that it is the right thing to be a
communicant, and that somehow or other it is of service to their souls!
This is of course nothing better than ignorance. It is unreasonable to
suppose that such communicants can please Christ, or receive any real
benefit from what they do. If there is any principle clearly laid down
in the Bible about any act of religious worship, it is this,--that it
must be _intelligent_. The worshipper must at least understand something
about what he is doing. Mere bodily worship, unaccompanied by mind or
heart, is utterly worthless. The man who walks up to a communion rail,
and eats the bread and drinks the wine, as a mere matter of form,
because his minister tells him, without any clear idea of what it all
means, derives no benefit. He might just as well stay at home!

Another common idea among men is that, "taking the sacrament will help
them to heaven, and take away their sins." To this delusive idea you may
trace up the habit in some parishes of going to the sacrament once a
year, in order, as an old farmer once said, "to wipe off the year's
sins." To this idea again, you may trace the too common practice of
sending for a minister in time of sickness, in order to receive the
sacrament before death. Alas, how many take comfort about their
relatives, after they have lived a most ungodly life, for no better
reason than this,--that _they took the sacrament_ when they were dying!
Whether they repented and believed and had new hearts, they neither seem
to know or care. All they know is that "they took the sacrament before
they died." My heart sinks within me when I hear people resting on such
evidence as this.

Ideas like these are mournful proofs of the ignorance that fills the
minds of men about the Lord's Supper. They are ideas for which there is
not the slightest warrant either in Scripture or the Prayer-book. The
sooner they are cast aside and given up, the better for the Church and
the world.

Let us settle it firmly in our minds that the Lord's Supper was not
given to be a means either of justification or of conversion. It was
never meant to give grace where there is no grace already, or to provide
pardon when pardon is not already enjoyed. It cannot possibly supply the
absence of repentance to God, and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ. It
is an ordinance for the penitent, not for the impenitent,--for the
believing, not for the unbelieving,--for the converted, not for the
unconverted. The unconverted man, who fancies that he can find a
short-cut road to heaven by taking the sacrament, without treading the
well-worn steps of repentance and faith, will find to his cost one day,
that he is totally deceived. The Lord's Supper was meant to increase and
help the grace that a man has, but not to impart the grace that he has
not. It was certainly never intended to make our peace with God, to
justify, or to convert.

The simplest statement of the benefit which a true-hearted communicant
may expect to receive from the Lord's Supper, is that which is supplied
by the Church Catechism,--"The strengthening and refreshing of our
souls."--Clearer views of Christ and His atonement, clearer views of
all the offices which Christ fills as our Mediator and Advocate, clearer
views of the complete redemption Christ has obtained for us by His
vicarious death on the cross, clearer views of our full and perfect
acceptance in Christ before God, fresh reasons for deep repentance for
sin, fresh reasons for lively faith,--these are among the leading
returns which a believer may confidently expect to get from his
attendance at the Lord's Table. He that eats the bread and drinks the
wine in a right spirit, will find himself drawn into closer communion
with Christ, and will feel to know Him more, and understand Him better.

(_a_) Right reception of the Lord's Supper has a _humbling_ effect on
the soul. The sight of these emblems of Christ's body and blood, reminds
us how sinful sin must be, if anything less than the death of God's own
Son could make satisfaction for it, or redeem us from its guilt. Never
surely ought we to be so "clothed with humility," as when we kneel at
the Communion rail.

(_b_) Right reception of the Lord's Supper has a _cheering_ effect on
the soul. The sight of the bread broken, and the wine poured out,
reminds us how full, perfect, and complete is our salvation. Those
lively emblems remind us what an enormous price has been paid for our
redemption. They press on us the mighty truth, that believing on Christ,
we have nothing to fear, because a sufficient payment has been made for
our debt. The "precious blood of Christ" answers every charge that can
be brought against us. God can be a "just God, and yet the justifier of
every one that believeth on Jesus." (Rom. iii. 26.)

(_c_) Right reception of the Lord's Supper has a _sanctifying_ effect on
the soul. The bread and wine remind us how great is our debt of
gratitude to our Lord, and how thoroughly we are bound to live for Him
who died for our sins. They seem to say to us, "Remember what Christ has
done for you, and ask yourself whether there is anything too great to do
for Him."

(_d_) Right reception of the Lord's Supper into hearts, has a
_restraining_ effect on the soul. Every time a believer goes up to the
Communion rail he is reminded what a serious thing it is to be a
Christian, and what an obligation is laid on him to lead a consistent
life. Bought with such a price as that bread and wine call to his
recollection, ought he not to glorify Christ in body and spirit, which
are His? The man that goes regularly and intelligently to the Lord's
Table finds it increasingly hard to yield to sin and conform to the
world.

Such is a brief account of the benefits which a right-hearted
communicant may expect to receive from the Lord's Supper. In eating that
bread and drinking that cup, such a man will have his repentance
deepened, his faith increased, his knowledge enlarged, his habit of holy
living strengthened. He will realize more of the "real presence" of
Christ in his heart. Eating that bread by faith, he will feel closer
communion with the body of Christ. Drinking that wine by faith, he will
feel closer communion with the blood of Christ. He will see more clearly
what Christ is to him, and what he is to Christ. He will understand more
thoroughly what it is to be "one with Christ, and Christ one with him."
He will feel the roots of his soul's spiritual life watered, and the
work of grace in his heart stablished, built up, and carried forward.
All these things may seem and sound foolishness to a natural man, but to
a true Christian these things are light, and health, and life, and
peace. No wonder that a true Christian finds the Lord's Supper a source
of blessing!

Remember, I do not pretend to say that all Christians experience the
full blessing of the Lord's Supper, which I have just attempted to
describe. Nor yet do I say that the same believer will always find his
soul in the same spiritual frame, and always receive the same amount of
benefit from the sacrament. But this I will boldly say: you will rarely
find a true believer who will not say that he reckons the Lord's Supper
one of his best helps and highest privileges. He will tell you that if
he were deprived of the Lord's Supper he should find the loss of it a
great drawback to his soul. There are some things of which we never know
the value till they are taken from us. So I believe it is with the
Lord's Supper. The weakest and humblest of God's children gets a
blessing from this sacrament, to an extent of which he is not aware.


IV. In the last place, I have to consider _why it is that many so-called
Christians never come to the Lord's Supper_.

It is a simple matter of fact, that myriads of baptized persons never
come to the Table of the Lord. They would not endure to be told that
they deny the faith, and are practically not in communion with Christ.
When they worship, they attend a place of Christian worship; when they
hear religious teaching, it is the teaching of Christianity; when they
are married, they use a Christian service; when their children are
baptized, they ask for the Sacrament of Baptism. Yet all this time they
never come to the Lord's Supper! They often live on in this state of
mind for many years, and to all appearance are not ashamed. They often
die in this condition without ever having received the sacrament, and
yet profess to feel hope at the last, and their friends express a hope
about them. And yet they live and die in open disobedience to a plain
command of Christ! These are simple facts. Let any one look around him,
and deny them if he can. I challenge any one to deny that the
non-communicants in all English congregations form the majority, and the
communicants the minority of the worshippers.

Now how is this? What account can we give of it? Our Lord Jesus Christ's
last injunctions to His disciples are clear, plain, and unmistakable. He
says to all, "Eat, drink: do this in remembrance of Me." Did He leave
it to our discretion whether we would attend to His injunction or not?
Did He mean that it did not signify whether His disciples did or did not
keep up the ordinance He had just established? Certainly not. The very
idea is absurd, and one certainly never dreamed of in apostolic
times.--St. Paul evidently takes it for granted that every Christian is
a communicant. A class of Christian worshippers who never came to the
Table, was a class whose existence was unknown to him. What, then, are
we to say of that large multitude of non-communicants which walks out of
our churches every sacrament Sunday, unabashed, unhumbled, not afraid,
not the least ashamed? Why is it? How is it? What does it all mean? Let
us look these questions fairly in the face, and endeavour to give an
answer to them.

(1) For one thing, many are not communicants because they are utterly
careless and thoughtless about religion, and ignorant of the very first
principles of Christianity. They go to church, as a matter of form,
because other people go; but they neither know, nor care anything about
what is done, at church! The faith of Christ has no place either in
their hearts, or heads, or consciences, or wills, or understandings. It
is a mere affair of "words and names," about which they know no more
than Festus or Gallio. There were very few such Christians in St. Paul's
times, if indeed there were any. There are far too many in these last
days of the world, when everything seems to be wearing out and running
to seed. They are the dead-weight of the Churches, and the scandal of
Christianity. What such people need is light, knowledge, grace, a
renewed conscience, a changed heart. In their present state they have no
part or lot in Christ; and dying in this state they are unfit for
heaven. Do I wish them to come to the Lord's Supper? Certainly not, till
they are converted. Except a man be converted he will never enter the
kingdom of God.

(2) For another thing, many are not communicants because they know they
are living in the habitual practice of some sin, or in the habitual
neglect of some Christian duty. Their conscience tells them that so long
as they live in this state, and do not break off from their sins, they
are unfit to come to the Table of the Lord. Well: they are so far quite
right! I wish no man to be a communicant if he cannot give up his sins.
But I warn these people not to forget that if they are unfit for the
Lord's Supper they are unfit to die, and that if they die in their
present condition they will be lost eternally. The same sins which
disqualify them for the sacrament, most certainly disqualify them for
heaven. Do I want them to come to the Lord's Supper as they are?
Certainly not! But I do want them to repent and be converted, to cease
to do evil, and to break off from their sins. For ever let it be
remembered that the man unfit for the Lord's Supper is unfit to die.

(3) For another thing, some are not communicants because they fancy it
will add to their responsibility. They are not, as many, ignorant and
careless about religion. They even attend regularly on the means of
grace, and like the preaching of the Gospel. But they say they dread
coming forward and making a profession. They fear that they might
afterwards fall away, and bring scandal on the cause of Christianity.
They think it wisest to be on the safe side, and not commit themselves
at all. Such people would do well to remember that if they avoid
responsibility of one kind by not coming to the Lord's Table, they incur
responsibility of another kind, quite as grave, and quite as injurious
to the soul. They are responsible for open disobedience to a command of
Christ. They are shrinking from doing that which their Master
continually enjoins on His disciples,--from confessing Him before men.
No doubt it is a serious step to come forward and receive the sacrament.
It is a step that none should take lightly and without self-examination.
But it is _no less a serious step to walk away and refuse the
ordinance_, when we remember Who invites us to receive it, and for what
purpose it was appointed! I warn the people I am now dealing with to
take heed what they are doing. Let them not flatter themselves that it
can ever be a wise, a prudent, a safe line of conduct to neglect a plain
command of Christ. They may find at length, to their cost, that they
have only increased their guilt and forsaken their mercies.

(4) For another thing, some are not communicants because they fancy they
are not yet worthy. They wait and stand still, under the mistaken notion
that no one is qualified for the Lord's Supper unless he feels within
him something like perfection. They pitch their idea of a communicant so
high that they despair of attaining to it. Waiting for inward perfection
they live, and waiting for it too often they die. Now such persons would
do well to understand that they are completely mistaken in their
estimate of what "worthiness" really is. They are forgetting that the
Lord's Supper was not intended for unsinning angels, but for men and
women compassed with infirmity, dwelling in a world full of temptations,
and needing mercy and grace every day they live. A sense of our own
utter unworthiness is the best worthiness we can bring to the Communion
rail. A deep feeling of our own entire indebtedness to Christ for all we
have and hope for, is the best feeling we can bring with us. The people
I now have in view ought to consider seriously whether the ground they
have taken up is tenable, and whether they are not standing in their own
light. If they are waiting till they feel in themselves perfect hearts,
perfect motives, perfect feelings, perfect repentance, perfect love,
perfect faith, they will wait for ever. There never were such
communicants in any age,--certainly not in the days of our Lord and of
the Apostles,--there never will be as long as the world stands. Nay,
rather, the very thought that we feel literally worthy, is a symptom of
secret self-righteousness, and proves us unfit for communion in God's
sight. Sinners we are when we first come to the throne of
grace,--sinners we shall be till we die; converted changed, renewed,
sanctified, but sinners still. In short, no man is a really worthy
communicant who does not deeply feel that he is a "miserable sinner."

(5) In the last place, some object to be communicants because they see
others coming to the Lord's Table who are not worthy, and not in a right
state of mind. Because others eat and drink unworthily, they refuse to
eat and drink at all. Of all the grounds taken up by non-communicants to
justify their own neglect of Christ's ordinance, I must plainly say, I
know none which seems to me so foolish, so weak, so unreasonable, and so
unscriptural as this. It is as good as saying that we will never receive
the Lord's Supper at all! When shall we ever find a body of communicants
on earth of which all the members are converted?--It is setting up
ourselves in the most unhealthy attitude of judging others. "Who art
thou that judgest another?" "What is that to thee? Follow thou Me."--It
is depriving ourselves of a great privilege merely because others
profane it and make a bad use of it.--It is pretending to be wiser than
our Master Himself. If the words of St. Luke mean anything, Judas
Iscariot was present at the first Communion, and received the bread and
wine among others.--It is taking up ground for which there is no warrant
in Scripture. St. Paul rebukes the Corinthians sharply for the
irreverent behaviour of some of the communicants; but I cannot find him
giving a single hint that when some came to the Table unworthily, others
ought to draw back or stay away. Let me advise the non-communicants I
have now in view to beware of being wise above that which was written.
Let them study the parable of the Wheat and Tares, and mark how both
were to "grow together till the harvest." (Matt. xiii. 30.) Perfect
Churches, perfect congregations, perfect bodies of communicants, are
all unattainable in this world of confusion and sin. Let us covet the
best gifts, and do all we can to check sin in others; but let us not
starve our own selves because others are ignorant sinners, and turn
their meat into poison. If others are foolish enough to eat and drink
unworthily, let us not turn our backs on Christ's ordinance, and refuse
to eat and drink at all.

Such are the five common excuses why myriads in the present day, though
professing themselves Christians, never come to the Lord's Supper. One
common remark may be made about them: there is not a single reason among
the five which deserves to be called "good," and which does not condemn
the man who gives it. I challenge any one to deny this. I have said
repeatedly that I want no one to be a communicant who is not properly
qualified. But I ask those who stay away never to forget that the very
reasons they assign for their conduct are their condemnation. I tell
them that they stand convicted before God of either being very ignorant
of what a communicant is, and what the Lord's Supper is; or else of
being persons who are not living rightly, and are unfit to die. In
short, to say, I am a non-communicant, is as good as saying one of three
things:--"I am living in sin, and cannot come;--I know Christ commands
me, but I will not obey Him;--I am an ignorant man, and do not
understand what the Lord's Supper means."


I know not in what state of mind this book may find the reader of this
paper, or what his opinions may be about the Lord's Supper. But I will
conclude the whole subject by offering to all some warnings, which I
venture to think are peculiarly required by the times.

(1) In the first place, _do not neglect_ the Lord's Supper. The man who
coolly and deliberately refuses to use an ordinance which the Lord Jesus
Christ appointed for his profit, may be very sure that his soul is in a
very wrong state. There is a judgment yet to come; there is an account
to be rendered of all our conduct on earth. How any one can look forward
to that day, and expect to meet Christ with comfort and in peace, if he
has refused all his life to meet Christ in His own ordinance, is a thing
that I cannot understand. Does this come home to you? Mind what you are
doing.

(2) In the second place, _do not receive the Lord's Supper carelessly_,
irreverently, and as a matter of form. The man who walks up to the
Communion rail, and eats the bread and drinks the wine, while his heart
is far away, is committing a great sin, and robbing himself of a great
blessing. In this, as in every other means of grace, everything depends
on the state of mind in which the ordinance is used. He that draws near
without repentance, faith, and love, and with a heart full of sin and
the world, will certainly be nothing better, but rather worse. Does this
come home to you? Mind what you are about.

(3) In the third place, _do not make an idol_ of the Lord's Supper. The
man who tells you that it is the first, foremost, chief, and principal
ordinance in Christianity, is telling you that which he will find it
hard to prove. In the great majority of the books of the New Testament
the Lord's Supper is not even named. In the letter to Timothy and Titus,
about a minister's duties, the subject is not even mentioned. To repent
and be converted, to believe and be holy, to be born again and have
grace in our hearts,--all these things are of far more importance than
to be a communicant. Without them we cannot be saved. Without the Lord's
Supper we can. The penitent thief was not a communicant, and Judas
Iscariot was! Are you tempted to make the Lord's Supper override and
overshadow everything in Christianity, and place it above prayer and
preaching? Take care. Mind what you are about.

(4) In the fourth place, _do not use the Lord's Supper irregularly_.
Never be absent when this ordinance is administered. Make every
sacrifice to be in your place. Regular habits are essential to the
maintenance of the health of our bodies. Regular use of every means of
grace is essential to the prosperity of our souls. The man who finds it
a weariness to attend on every occasion when the Lord's Table is spread,
may well doubt whether all is right within him, and whether he is ready
for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. If Thomas had not been absent when
the Lord appeared the first time to the assembled disciples, he would
not have said the foolish things he did. Absence made him miss a
blessing. Does this come home to you? Mind what you are about.

(5) In the fifth place, _do not do anything to bring discredit_ on your
profession as a communicant. The man who after attending the Lord's
Table runs into sin, does more harm perhaps than any sinner. He is a
walking sermon on behalf of the devil. He gives occasion to the enemies
of the Lord to blaspheme. He helps to keep people away from Christ.
Lying, drinking, adulterous, dishonest, passionate communicants are the
helpers of the devil, and the worst enemies of the Gospel. Does this
come home to you? Mind what you are about.

(6) In the last place, _do not despond_ and be cast down, if with all
your desires you do not feel to get great good from the Lord's Supper.
Very likely you are expecting too much. Very likely you are a poor judge
of your own state. Your soul's roots may be strengthening and growing,
while you think you are not getting on. Very likely you are forgetting
that earth is not heaven, and that here we walk by sight and not by
faith, and must expect nothing perfect. Lay these things to heart. Do
not write bitter things against yourself without cause.

To every reader into whose hands this paper may fall, I commend the
whole subject of it as deserving of serious and solemn consideration. I
am nothing better than a poor fallible man myself. But if I have made
up my mind on any point it is this,--that there is no truth which
demands such plain speaking as truth about the Lord's Supper.

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE

     I ask the special attention of my readers to the following
     extracts from the last Charge of the late Dr. Longley,
     Archbishop of Canterbury.

     The office held by the Archbishop, the remarkable gentleness
     and mildness of his character, the fact that this Charge
     contains his last sentiments, and that it was not made public
     till after his death,--all this appears to me to invest these
     extracts about the Lord's Supper with peculiar interest.

     "It is far from my intention to impute to all those who have
     taken the ill-advised step of adopting the Sacrificial
     Vestments (in administering the Lord's Supper) any sympathy
     with Roman error; but I am constrained to avow that there are
     plain indications in some of the publications which have been
     issued as manifestoes of the opinions of that section of our
     Church, that some of its professed members, yea, even of her
     ministers, think themselves at liberty to hold the doctrines of
     the Church of Rome in relation to the Sacrifice of the Mass,
     and yet retain their position within the pale of the Anglican
     Church with the avowed purpose of eliminating from its
     formularies every trace of the Reformation, as regards its
     protest against Romish error. The language they hold with
     respect to it is entirely incompatible with loyalty to the
     Church to which they profess to belong. They call it 'a
     Communion deeply tainted with Protestant heresy:' 'Our duty,'
     they say, 'is the expulsion of the evil, not flight from it.'
     It is no want of charity, therefore, to declare that they
     remain with us in order that they may substitute the Mass for
     the Communion; the obvious aim of our Reformers having been to
     substitute the Communion for the Mass. Doubtless the Church of
     England admits of considerable latitude in the views that may
     be taken of that most mysterious of all mysteries, the
     Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. And so long as those solemn
     words of its original institution, 'This is my Body,' 'This is
     my Blood,' shall remain in the sentence of consecration (and
     they never can be erased from it), so long will there be
     varieties of interpretation of these words, all of which may be
     consistent with a true allegiance to our Church, provided these
     three conditions be observed:--

     "1. That they be not construed to signify that the Natural Body
     of Christ is present in the Sacrament:

     "2. Nor to admit of any adoration either of the Sacramental
     bread and wine there bodily received, or of any corporal
     presence of Christ's Natural Body and Blood:

     "3. Nor to justify the belief that the Body and Blood are again
     offered as a satisfaction for sin; seeing that the offering of
     Christ once made was a perfect redemption, propitiation, and
     satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, original and
     actual.

     "These are the limits which our Church imposes upon the liberty
     of interpretation of the words of our blessed Lord.

     "The use of these sacrificial vestments is in the minds of many
     intimately connected with the idea that an essential element in
     the Holy Communion is the offering to God a Sacrifice of the
     Body and Blood of Christ, which abide with the elements in a
     mysterious manner after the act of Consecration. The minister
     wears the vestments at that time as a sacrificing priest.
     According to this view it would seem that the most important
     part of this Holy Sacrament is what we offer to God, not what
     we receive from Him.

     "This view is not recognised by the Church of England in her
     formularies. The general definition in the XXVth Article states
     that Sacraments are 'certain sure witnesses and effectual signs
     of grace, by the which [God] doth work invisibly in us;' and it
     is said specifically of the Lord's Supper (Art. XXVIII.), that
     it 'is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ's death:
     insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith,
     receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of
     the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a
     partaking of the Blood of Christ.' The idea of the Sacrifice of
     that Body and Blood finds no place in either of these strict
     definitions. The Catechism speaks the same language when it
     defines a Sacrament to be 'an outward and visible sign of an
     inward and spiritual grace given unto us.' Nor will an
     examination of the Office of the Holy Communion itself give any
     countenance to the idea in question. The only distinct oblation
     or offering mentioned in that Office is previous to the
     Consecration of the elements, in the Prayer for the Church
     Militant, and therefore cannot be an offering or sacrifice of
     the Body and Blood of Christ; and the only sacrifice which we
     are spoken of as making, is the offering of 'ourselves, our
     souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively
     sacrifice.'[3] Our Church seems most studiously to have avoided
     any expression which could countenance the notion of a
     perpetual Sacrifice of Christ, while on the other hand it
     speaks of Christ's death upon the cross as 'His own oblation of
     Himself once offered as a full, perfect, and sufficient
     sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.' No room is left for
     the repetition of that sacrifice, or for the admission of any
     other sacrifice for sin."

        *       *       *       *       *

  3: See Proctor on the Common Prayer, p. 320.

"The Romish notion of a true, real, and substantial Sacrifice of the
Body and Blood of Christ, as it is called in the Council of Trent,
entailed the use of the term _altar_. But this term appears nowhere in
the Book of Common Prayer, and was no doubt omitted lest any countenance
should be given to the sacrificial view. The notion, therefore, of
making in the material elements a perpetual offering of the Body and
Blood of Christ, is as foreign to the spirit and the letter of our
Service as I hold it to be to the doctrine of the early Fathers, as well
as of the leading divines of our Church. This latter point also I shall
endeavour to establish hereafter.

"Meanwhile it cannot be denied, on the other hand, that the doctrine of
the Real Presence is, in one sense, the doctrine of the Church of
England. She asserts that the Body and Blood of Christ are 'verily and
indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's Supper.' And she
asserts equally that such presence is not material or corporal; but that
Christ's Body 'is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after a
heavenly and spiritual manner.' (Art. XXVIII.) Christ's presence is
effectual for all those intents and purposes for which His Body was
broken, and His Blood shed. As to a presence elsewhere than in the heart
of the believer, the Church of England is silent, and the words of
Hooker therefore represent her views: 'The real presence of Christ's
most blessed Body and Blood is not to be sought in the Sacrament, but in
the worthy receiver of the Sacrament.'"



VII


CHARITY

     "_Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the
     greatest of these is charity._"--1 Cor. xiii. 13.


Charity is rightly called "the Queen of Christian graces." "The end of
the commandment," says St. Paul, "is charity." (1 Tim. i. 5.) It is a
grace which all people profess to admire. It seems a plain practical
thing which everybody can understand. It is none of "those troublesome
doctrinal points" about which Christians are disagreed. Thousands, I
suspect, would not be ashamed to tell you that they knew nothing about
justification or regeneration, about the work of Christ or the Holy
Spirit. But nobody, I believe, would like to say that he knew nothing
about "charity!" If men possess nothing else in religion, they always
flatter themselves that they possess "charity."

A few plain thoughts about charity may not be without use. There are
false notions abroad about it which require to be dispelled. There are
mistakes about it which require to be rectified. In my admiration of
charity I yield to none. But I am bold to say that in many minds the
whole subject seems completely misunderstood.


    I. Let me show, firstly, _the place the Bible gives to charity_.

    II. Let me show, secondly, _what the charity of the Bible really
    is_.

    III. Let me show, thirdly, _whence true charity comes_.

    IV. Let me show, lastly, _why charity is "the greatest" of the
    graces_.


I ask the best attention of my readers to the subject. My heart's desire
and prayer to God is, that the growth of charity may be promoted in this
sin-burdened world. In nothing does the fallen condition of man show
itself so strongly as in the scarcity of Christian charity. There is
little faith on earth, little hope, little knowledge of Divine things.
But nothing, after all, is so scarce as real charity.


I. Let me show _the place which the Bible gives to charity_.

I begin with this point in order to establish the immense practical
importance of my subject. I do not forget that there are many
high-flying Christians in this present day, who almost refuse to look at
anything _practical_ in Christianity. They can talk of nothing but two
or three favourite doctrines. Now I want to remind my readers that the
Bible contains much about practice as well as about doctrine, and that
one thing to which it attaches great weight is "charity."

I turn to the New Testament, and ask men to observe what it says about
charity. In all religious inquiries there is nothing like letting the
Scripture speak for itself. There is no surer way of finding out truth
than the old way of turning to plain texts. Texts were our Lord's
weapons, both in answering Satan, and in arguing with the Jews. Texts
are the guides we must never be ashamed to refer to in the present
day.--"What saith the Scripture? What is written? How readest thou?"

Let us hear what St. Paul says to the Corinthians: "Though I speak with
the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as
sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of
prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I
have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity,
I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and
though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth
me nothing." (1 Cor. xiii. 1--3.)

Let us hear what St. Paul says to the Colossians: "Above all these
things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness." (Col. iii.
14.)

Let us hear what St. Paul says to Timothy: "The end of the commandment
is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith
unfeigned." (1 Tim. i. 5.)

Let us hear what St. Peter says: "Above all things have fervent charity
among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins." (1
Peter iv. 8.)

Let us hear what our Lord Jesus Christ Himself says about that love,
which is only another name for charity.[4] "A new commandment give I
unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also
love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples,
if ye have love one to another." (John xiii. 34, 35.) Above all, let us
read our Lord's account of the last judgment, and mark that want of love
will condemn millions. (Matt. xxv. 41, 42.)

  4: In the Greek language one and the same word only is used for
  "love" and "charity." In our English version our translators have
  sometimes rendered this word one way and sometimes another.

Let us hear what St. Paul says to the Romans: "Owe no man anything, but
to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law."
(Rom. xiii. 8.)

Let us hear what St. Paul says to the Ephesians: "Walk in love, as
Christ also hath loved us." (Eph. v. 2.)

Let us hear what St. John says: "Beloved, let us love one another: for
love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth
God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love." (1 John iv.
7, 8.)

I shall make no comment upon these texts. I think it better to place
them before my readers in their naked simplicity, and to let them speak
for themselves. If any one is disposed to think the subject of this
paper a matter of light importance, I will only ask him to look at these
texts, and to think again. He that would take down "charity" from the
high and holy place which it occupies in the Bible, and treat it as a
matter of secondary moment, must settle his account with God's Word. I
certainly shall not waste time in arguing with him.

To my own mind the evidence of these texts appears clear, plain, and
incontrovertible. They show the immense importance of charity, as one of
the "things that accompany salvation." They prove that it has a right to
demand the serious attention of all who call themselves Christians, and
that those who despise the subject are only exposing their own ignorance
of Scripture.


II. Let me show, secondly, _what the charity of the Bible really is_.

I think it of great importance to have clear views on this point. It is
precisely here that mistakes about charity begin. Thousands delude
themselves with the idea that they have "charity," when they have not,
from downright ignorance of Scripture. Their charity is not the charity
described in the Bible.

(_a_) The charity of the Bible does not consist in giving to the poor.
It is a common delusion to suppose that it does. Yet St. Paul tells us
plainly, that a man may "bestow all his goods to feed the poor" (1 Cor.
xiii. 3), and not have charity. That a charitable man will "remember the
poor," there can be no question. (Gal. ii. 10.) That he will do all he
can to assist them, relieve them, and lighten their burdens, I do not
for a moment deny. All I say is, that this does not make up "charity."
It is easy to spend a fortune in giving away money, and soup, and wine,
and bread, and coals, and blankets, and clothing, and yet to be utterly
destitute of Bible charity.

(_b_) The charity of the Bible does not consist in never disapproving
anybody's conduct. Here is another very common delusion! Thousands pride
themselves on never condemning others, or calling them wrong, whatever
they may do. They convert the precept of our Lord, "judge not," into an
excuse for having no unfavourable opinion at all of anybody. They
pervert His prohibition of rash and censorious judgments, into a
prohibition of all judgment whatsoever. Your neighbour may be a
drunkard, a liar, a Sabbath-breaker, a passionate man. Never mind! "It
is not charity," they tell you, "to pronounce him, wrong." You are to
believe that he has a good heart at bottom! This idea of charity is,
unhappily, a very common one. It is full of mischief. To throw a veil
over sin, and to refuse to call things by their right names,--to talk of
"hearts" being good, when "lives" are flatly wrong,--to shut our eyes
against wickedness, and say smooth things of immorality,--this is not
Scriptural charity.

(_c_) The charity of the Bible does not consist in never disapproving
anybody's religious opinions. Here is another most serious and growing
delusion. There are many who pride themselves on never pronouncing
others mistaken, whatever views they may hold. Your neighbour, forsooth,
may be an Arian, or a Socinian, a Roman Catholic, or a Mormonite, a
Deist, or a Sceptic, a mere Formalist, or a thorough Antinomian. But the
"charity" of many says that you have no right to think Him wrong! If he
is sincere, it is "uncharitable" to think unfavourably of his spiritual
condition!--From such charity may I ever be delivered! At this rate the
Apostles were wrong in going out to preach to the Gentiles! At this rate
there is no use in missions! At this rate we had better close our
Bibles, and shut up our churches! Everybody is right, and nobody is
wrong! Everybody is going to heaven, and nobody is going to hell! Such
charity is a monstrous caricature. To say that all are equally right in
their opinions, though their opinions flatly contradict one another,--to
say that all are equally in the way to heaven, though their doctrinal
sentiments are as opposite as black and white,--this is not Scriptural
charity. Charity like this pours contempt on the Bible, and talks as if
God had not given us a written test of truth. Charity like this confuses
all our notions of heaven, and would fill it with a discordant
inharmonious rabble. True charity does not think everybody right in
doctrine. True charity cries,--"Believe not every spirit, but try the
spirits whether they be of God: because many false prophets are gone out
into the world."--"If there come any unto you, and bring not this
doctrine, receive him not." (1 John iv. 1; 2 John 10.)

I leave the negative side of the question here. I have dwelt upon it at
some length because of the days in which we live and the strange notions
which abound. Let me now turn to the positive side. Having shown what
charity is not, let me now show what it is.

Charity is that "love," which St. Paul places first among those fruits
which the Spirit causes to be brought forth in the heart of a believer.
"The fruit of the Spirit is love." (Gal. v. 2.) Love to God, such as
Adam had before the fall, is its first feature. He that has charity,
desires to love God with heart, and soul and mind, and strength. Love to
man is its second feature. He that has charity, desires to love his
neighbour as himself. This is indeed that view in which the word
"charity" in Scripture is more especially regarded. When I speak of a
believer having "love" in his heart, I mean that he has love to both God
and man. When I speak of a believer having "charity," I mean more
particularly that he has love to man.

The charity of the Bible will show itself in a _believer's doings_. It
will make him ready to do kind acts to every one within his
reach,--both to their bodies and souls. It will not let him be content
with soft words and kind wishes. It will make him diligent in doing all
that lies in his power to lessen the sorrow and increase the happiness
of others. Like his Master, he will care more for ministering than for
being ministered to, and will look for nothing in return. Like his
Master's great apostle, he will very willingly "spend and be spent" for
others, even though they repay him with hatred, and not with love. True
charity does not want wages. Its work is its reward.

The charity of the Bible will show itself in a believer's _readiness to
bear_ evil as well as to do good. It will make him patient under
provocation, forgiving when injured, meek when unjustly attacked, quiet
when slandered. It will make him bear much and forbear much, put up with
much and look over much, submit often and deny himself often, all for
the sake of peace. It will make him put a strong bit on his temper, and
a strong bridle on his tongue. True charity is not always asking,--"What
are my rights? Am I treated as I deserve?" but, "How can I best promote
peace? How can I do that which is most edifying to others?"

The charity of the Bible will show itself in the _general spirit and
demeanour_ of a believer. It will make him kind, unselfish,
good-natured, good-tempered, and considerate for others. It will make
him gentle, affable, and courteous, in all the daily relations of
private life, thoughtful for others' comfort, tender for others'
feelings, and more anxious to give pleasure than to receive. True
charity never envies others when they prosper, nor rejoices in the
calamities of others when they are in trouble. At all times it will
believe, and hope, and try to put a good construction on others' doings.
And even at the worst, it will be full of pity, mercy, and compassion.

Would we like to know where the true Pattern of charity like this can be
found? We have only to look at the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, as
described in the Gospels, and we shall see it perfectly exemplified.
Charity shone forth in all His doings. His daily life was an incessant
"going about", doing good.--Charity shone forth in all His bearing. He
was continually hated, persecuted, slandered, misrepresented. But He
patiently endured it all. No angry word ever fell from His lips. No
ill-temper ever appeared in His demeanour. "When He was reviled, He
reviled not again: when He suffered, He threatened not." (1 Pet. ii.
23.)--Charity shone forth in all His spirit and deportment. The law of
kindness was ever on His lips. Among weak and ignorant disciples, among
sick and sorrowful petitioners for help and relief, among publicans and
sinners, among Pharisees and Sadducees, He was always one and the
same.--kind and patient to all.

And yet, be it remembered, our blessed Master never flattered sinners,
or connived at sin. He never shrunk from exposing wickedness in its true
colours, or from rebuking those who would cleave to it. He never
hesitated to denounce false doctrine, by whomsoever it might be held, or
to exhibit false practice in its true colours, and the certain end to
which it tends. He called things by their right names. He spoke as
freely of hell and the fire that is not quenched, as of heaven and the
kingdom of glory. He has left on record an everlasting proof that
perfect charity does not require us to approve everybody's life or
opinions, and that it is quite possible to condemn false doctrine and
wicked practice, and yet to be full of love at the same time.

I have now set before my readers the true nature of Scriptural charity.
I have given a slight and very brief account of what it is not, and what
it is. I cannot pass on without suggesting two practical thoughts, which
press home on my mind with weighty force, and I hope may press home on
others.

You have heard of charity. Think, for a moment, how deplorably little
charity there is upon earth! How conspicuous is the absence of true love
among Christians! I speak not of heathen now, I speak of Christians.
What angry tempers, what passions, what selfishness, what bitter
tongues, are to be found in private families! What strifes, what
quarrels, what spitefulness, what malice, what revenge, what envy
between neighbours and fellow-parishioners! What jealousies and
contentions between Churchmen and Dissenters, Calvinists and Arminians,
High Churchmen and Low Churchmen! "Where is charity?" we may well
ask,--"Where is love? where is the mind of Christ?" when we look at the
spirit which reigns in the world. No wonder that Christ's cause stands
still, and infidelity abounds, when men's hearts know so little of
charity! Surely, we may well say,--"When the Son of man cometh, shall He
find charity upon earth?"

Think, for another thing, what a happy world this would be if there was
more charity. It is the want of love which causes half the misery there
is upon earth. Sickness, and death, and poverty, will not account for
more than half the sorrows. The rest come from ill-temper, ill-nature,
strifes, quarrels, lawsuits, malice, envy, revenge, frauds, violence,
wars, and the like. It would be one great step towards doubling the
happiness of mankind, and halving their sorrows, if all men and women
were full of Scriptural charity.


III. Let me show, thirdly, _whence the charity of the Bible comes_.

Charity, such as I have described, is certainly not natural to man.
Naturally, we are all more or less selfish, envious, ill-tempered,
spiteful, ill-natured, and unkind. We have only to observe children,
when left to themselves, to see the proof of this. Let boys and girls
grow up without proper training and education, and you will not see one
of them possessing Christian charity. Mark how some of them think first
of themselves, and their own comfort and advantage! Mark how others are
full of pride, passion, and evil tempers! How can we account for it?
There is but one reply. The natural heart knows nothing of true charity.

The charity of the Bible will never be found except in a heart prepared
by the Holy Ghost. It is a tender plant, and will never grow except in
one soil. You may as well expect grapes on thorns, or figs on thistles,
as look for charity when the heart is not right.

The heart in which charity grows is a heart changed, renewed, and
transformed by the Holy Ghost. The image and likeness of God, which Adam
lost at the fall, has been restored to it, however feeble and imperfect
the restoration may appear. It is a "partaker of the Divine nature," by
union with Christ and sonship to God; and one of the first features of
that nature is love. (2 Pet. i. 4.)

Such a heart is deeply convinced of sin, hates it, flees from it, and
fights with it from day to day. And one of the prime motions of sin
which it daily labours to overcome, is selfishness and want of charity.

Such a heart is deeply sensible of its mighty debt to our Lord Jesus
Christ. It feels continually that it owes to Him who died for us on the
cross, all its present comfort, hope, and peace. How can it show forth
its gratitude? What can it render to its Redeemer? If it can do nothing
else, it strives to be like Him, to drink into His spirit, to walk in
His footsteps, and, like Him, to be full of love. "The love of Christ
shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost" is the surest fountain of
Christian charity. Love will produce love.

I ask my reader's special attention to this point. It is one of great
importance in the present day. There are many who profess to admire
charity, while they care nothing about vital Christianity. They like
some of the fruits and results of the Gospel, but not the root from
which these fruits alone can grow, or the doctrines with which they are
inseparably connected.

Hundreds will praise love and charity, who hate to be told of man's
corruption, of the blood of Christ, and of the inward work of the Holy
Ghost. Many a parent would like his children to grow up unselfish and
good tempered, who would not be much pleased if conversion, and
repentance, and faith, were pressed home on their attention.

Now I desire to protest against this notion, that you can have the
fruits of Christianity without the roots,--that you can produce
Christian tempers without teaching Christian doctrines,--that you can
have charity that will wear and endure without grace in the heart.

I grant, most freely, that every now and then one sees a person who
seems very charitable and amiable, without any distinctive doctrinal
religion. But such cases are so rare and remarkable, that, like
exceptions, they only prove the truth of the general rule. And often,
too often, it may be feared in such cases the apparent charity is only
seeming, and in private completely fails. I firmly believe, as a general
rule, you will not find such charity as the Bible describes, except in
the soil of a heart thoroughly imbued with Bible religion. Holy practice
will not flourish without sound doctrine. What God has joined together,
it is useless to expect to have separate and asunder.

The delusion which I am trying to combat is helped forward to a most
mischievous degree by the vast majority of novels, romances, and tales
of fiction. Who does not know that the heroes and heroines of these
works are constantly described as patterns of perfection? They are
always doing the right thing, saying the right thing, and showing the
right temper! They are always kind, and amiable, and unselfish, and
forgiving! And yet you never hear a word about their religion! In short,
to judge by the generality of works of fiction, it is possible to have
excellent practical religion without doctrine, the fruits of the Spirit
without the grace of the Spirit, and the mind of Christ without union
with Christ!

Here, in short, is the great danger of reading most novels, romances,
and works of fiction. The greater part of them give a false or incorrect
view of human nature. They paint their model men and women as they ought
to be, and not as they really are. The readers of such writings get
their minds filled with wrong conceptions of what the world is. Their
notions of mankind become visionary and unreal. They are constantly
looking for men and women such as they never meet, and expecting what
they never find.

Let me entreat my readers, once for all, to draw their ideas of human
nature from the Bible, and not from novels. Settle it down in your mind,
that there cannot be true charity without a heart renewed by grace. A
certain degree of kindness, courtesy, amiability, good nature, may
undoubtedly be seen in many who have no vital religion. But the glorious
plant of Bible charity, in all its fulness and perfection, will never be
found without union with Christ, and the work of the Holy Ghost. Teach
this to your children, if you have any. Hold it up in schools, if you
are connected with any. Lift up charity. Make much of charity. Give
place to none in exalting the grace of kindness, love, good nature,
unselfishness, good temper. But never, never forget, that there is but
one school in which these things can be thoroughly learned, and that is
the school of Christ. Real charity comes down from above. True love is
the fruit of the Spirit. He that would have it must sit at Christ's
feet, and learn of Him.


IV. Let me show, lastly, _why charity is called the "greatest" of the
graces_.

The words of St. Paul, on this subject, are distinct and unmistakable.
He winds up his wonderful chapter on charity in the following manner:
"Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three: but the greatest of
these is charity." (1 Cor. xiii. 13.)

This expression is very remarkable. Of all the writers in the New
Testament, none, certainly, exalts "faith" so highly as St. Paul. The
Epistles to the Romans and Galatians abound in sentences showing its
vast importance. By it the sinner lays hold on Christ and is saved.
Through it we are justified, and have peace with God. Yet here the same
St. Paul speaks of something which is even greater than faith. He puts
before us the three leading Christian graces, and pronounces the
following judgment on them,--"The greatest is charity." Such a sentence
from such a writer demands special attention. What are we to understand
when we hear of charity being greater than faith and hope?

We are not to suppose, for a moment, that charity can atone for our
sins, or make our peace with God. Nothing can do that for us but the
blood of Christ, and nothing can give us an interest in Christ's blood
but faith. It is unscriptural ignorance not to know this. The office of
justifying and joining the soul to Christ belongs to faith alone. Our
charity, and all our other graces, are all more or less imperfect, and
could not stand the severity of God's judgment. When we have done all,
we are "unprofitable servants." (Luke xvii. 10.)

We are not to suppose that charity can exist independently of faith. St.
Paul did not intend to set up one grace in rivalry to the other. He did
not mean that one man might have faith, another hope, and another
charity, and that the best of these was the man who had charity. The
three graces are inseparably joined together. Where there is faith,
there will always be love; and where there is love, there will be faith.
Sun and light, fire and heat, ice and cold, are not more intimately
united than faith and charity.

The reasons why charity is called the greatest of the three graces,
appear to me plain and simple. Let me show what they are.

(_a_) Charity is called the greatest of graces, because it is the one in
which there is _some likeness between the believer and his God_. God has
no need of faith. He is dependent on no one. There is none superior to
Him in whom He must trust.--God has no need of hope. To Him all things
are certain, whether past, present, or to come.--But "God is love:" and
the more love His people have, the more like they are to their Father in
heaven.

(_b_) Charity, for another thing, is called the greatest of the graces,
because _it is most useful to others_. Faith and hope, beyond doubt,
however precious, have special reference to a believer's own private
individual benefit. Faith unites the soul to Christ, brings peace with
God, and opens the way to heaven. Hope fills the soul with cheerful
expectation of things to come, and, amid the many discouragements of
things seen, comforts with visions of the things unseen. But charity is
pre-eminently the grace which makes a man useful. It is the spring of
good works and kindnesses. It is the root of missions, schools, and
hospitals. Charity made apostles spend and be spent for souls. Charity
raises up workers for Christ, and keeps them working. Charity smooths
quarrels, and stops strife, and in this sense "covers a multitude of
sins." (1 Pet. iv. 8.) Charity adorns Christianity, and recommends it to
the world. A man may have real faith, and feel it, and yet his faith may
be invisible to others. But a man's charity cannot be hid.

(_c_) Charity, in the last place, is the greatest of the graces, because
it is the one which _endures the longest_. In fact, it will never die.
Faith will one day be swallowed up in sight, and hope in certainty.
Their office will be useless in the morning of the resurrection, and,
like old almanacs, they will be laid aside. But love will live on
through the endless ages of eternity. Heaven will be the abode of love.
The inhabitants of heaven will be full of love. One common feeling will
be in all their hearts, and that will be charity.

I leave this part of my subject here, and pass on to a conclusion. On
each of the three points of comparison I have just named, between
charity and the other graces, it would be easy to enlarge. But time and
space both forbid me to do so. If I have said enough to guard men
against mistakes about the right meaning of the "greatness" of charity,
I am content. Charity, be it ever remembered, cannot justify and put
away our sins. It is neither Christ, nor faith. But charity makes us
somewhat like God. Charity is of mighty use to the world. Charity will
live and flourish when faith's work is done. Surely, in these points of
view, charity well deserves the crown.

(1) And now let me ask every one into whose hands this paper may come a
simple question. Let me press home on your conscience the whole subject
of this paper. Do you know anything of the grace of which I have been
speaking? _Have you charity?_

The strong language of the Apostle St. Paul must surely convince you
that the inquiry is not one that ought to be lightly put aside. The
grace, without which that holy man could say, "I am nothing," the grace
which the Lord Jesus says expressly is the great mark of being His
disciple,--such a grace as this demands the serious consideration of
every one who is in earnest about the salvation of his soul. It should
set him thinking,--"How does this affect me? Have I charity?"

You have some knowledge, it may be, of religion. You know the difference
between true and false doctrine. You can, perhaps, even quote texts, and
defend the opinions you hold. But, remember the knowledge which is
barren of practical results in life and temper is a useless possession.
The words of the Apostle are very plain: "Though I understand all
knowledge, and have not charity, I am nothing." (1 Cor. xiii. 3.)

You think you have faith, perhaps. You trust you are one of God's elect,
and rest in that. But surely you should remember that there is a faith
of devils, which is utterly unprofitable, and that the faith of God's
elect is a "faith that worketh by love." It was when St. Paul remembered
the "love" of the Thessalonians, as well as their faith and hope, that
he said,--"I know your election of God." (1 Thess. i. 4.)

Look at your own daily life, both at home and abroad, and consider what
place the charity of Scripture has in it. What is your temper? What are
your ways of behaving toward all around you in your own family? What is
your manner of speaking, especially in seasons of vexation and
provocation? Where is your good-nature, your courtesy, your patience,
your meekness, your gentleness, your forbearance? Where are your
practical actions of love in your dealing with others? What do you know
of the mind of Him who "went about doing good,"--who loved all, though
specially His disciples,--who returned good for evil, and kindness for
hatred, and had a heart wide enough to feel for all?

What would you do in heaven, I wonder, if you got there without charity?
What comfort could you have in an abode where love was the law, and
selfishness and ill-nature completely shut out? Alas! I fear that heaven
would be no place for an uncharitable and ill-tempered man!--What said a
little boy one day? "If grandfather goes to heaven, I hope I and brother
will not go there." "Why do you say that?" he was asked. He
replied,--"If he sees us there, I am sure he will say, as he does
now,--'What are these boys doing here? Let them get out of the way.' He
does not like to see us on earth, and I suppose he would not like to see
us in heaven."

Give yourself no rest till you know something by experience of real
Christian charity. Go and learn of Him who is meek and lowly of heart,
and ask Him to teach you how to love. Ask the Lord Jesus to put His
Spirit within you, to take away the old heart, to give you a new nature,
to make you know something of His mind. Cry to Him night and day for
grace, and give Him no rest until you feel something of what I have been
describing in this paper. Happy indeed will your life be when you really
understand "walking in love."

(2) But I do not forget that I am writing to some who are not ignorant
of the charity of Scripture, and who long to feel more of it every year.
I will give you two simple words of exhortation. They are
these,--"Practice and teach the grace of charity."

Practice charity diligently. It is one of those graces, above all, which
grow by constant exercise. Strive more and more to carry it into every
little detail of daily life. Watch over your own tongue and temper
throughout every hour of the day,--and especially in your dealings with
servants, children, and near relatives. Remember the character of the
excellent woman:--"In her tongue is the law of kindness." (Prov. xxxi.
26.)--Remember the words of St. Paul: "Let ALL your things be done with
charity." (1 Cor. xvi. 14.) Charity should be seen in little things as
well as in great ones.--Remember, not least, the words of St. Peter:
"Have fervent charity among yourselves;" not a charity which just keeps
alight, but a burning shining fire, which all around can see. (1 Pet.
iv. 8.) It may cost pains and trouble to keep these things in mind.
There may be little encouragement from the example of others. But
persevere. Charity like this brings its own reward.

Finally, teach charity to others. Press it continually on servants, if
you have any. Tell them the great duty of kindness, helpfulness, and
considerateness, one for another. Press it, above all, on children, it
you have any. Remind them constantly that kindness, good nature, and
good temper, are among the first evidences which Christ requires in
children. If they cannot know much, or explain doctrines, they can
understand love. A child's religion is worth very little if it only
consists in repeating texts and hymns. Useful as they are, they are
often learned without thought, remembered without feeling, said over
without consideration of their meaning, and forgotten when childhood is
gone. By all means let children be taught texts and hymns; but let not
such teaching be made everything in their religion. Teach them to keep
their tempers, to be kind one to another, to be unselfish, good-natured,
obliging, patient, gentle, forgiving. Tell them never to forget to their
dying day, if they live as long as Methuselah, that without charity, the
Holy Ghost says, "we are nothing." Tell them "_above all things_ to put
on charity, which is the bond of perfectness." (Colos. iii. 14.)



VIII


ZEAL

     "_It is good to be zealously affected always in a good
     thing._"--Gal. iv. 18.


Zeal is a subject, like many others in religion, most sadly
misunderstood. Many would be ashamed to be thought "zealous" Christians.
Many are ready to say of zealous people what Festus said of Paul: "They
are beside themselves,--they are mad." (Acts xxvi. 24)

But zeal is a subject which no reader of the Bible has any right to pass
over. If we make the Bible our rule of faith and practice, we cannot
turn away from it. We must look it in the face. What says the Apostle
Paul to Titus? "Christ gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from
all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, _zealous_ of
good works." (Titus ii. 14.) What says the Lord Jesus to the Laodicean
Church? "Be _zealous_ and repent." (Rev. iii. 19.)

My object in this paper is to plead the cause of zeal in religion. I
believe we ought not to be afraid of it, but rather to love and admire
it. I believe it to be a mighty blessing to the world, and the origin of
countless benefits to mankind. I want to strike a blow at the lazy,
easy, sleepy Christianity of these latter days, which can see no beauty
in zeal, and only uses the word "zealot" as a word of reproach. I want
to remind Christians that "Zealot" was a name given to one of our Lord
Jesus Christ's Apostles, and to persuade them to be zealous men.

I ask every reader of this paper to give me his attention while I tell
him something about zeal. Listen to me for your own sake,--for the sake
of the world,--for the sake of the Church of Christ. Listen to me, and
by God's help I will show you that to be "zealous" is to be wise.


    I. Let me show, in the first place, _what is zeal in religion_.

    II. Let me show, in the second place, _when a man can be called
    rightly zealous in religion_?

    III. Let me show, in the third place, _why it is a good thing for a
    man to be zealous in religion_?


I. First of all, I propose to consider this question. "What is _zeal_ in
religion?"

Zeal in religion is a burning desire to please God, to do His will, and
to advance His glory in the world in every possible way. It is a desire
which no man feels by nature,--which the Spirit puts in the heart of
every believer when he is converted,--but which some believers feel so
much more strongly than others that they alone deserve to be called
"zealous" men.

This desire is so strong, when it really reigns in a man, that it impels
him to make any sacrifice,--to go through any trouble,--to deny himself
to any amount,--to suffer, to work, to labour, to toil,--to spend
himself and be spent, and even to die,--if only he can please God and
honour Christ.

A zealous man in religion is pre-eminently _a man of one thing_. It is
not enough to say that he is earnest, hearty, uncompromising,
thorough-going, whole-hearted, fervent in spirit. He only sees one
thing, he cares for one thing, he lives for one thing, he is swallowed
up in one thing; and that one thing is to please God. Whether he lives,
or whether he dies,--whether he has health, or whether he has
sickness,--whether he is rich, or whether he is poor,--whether he
pleases man, or whether he gives offence,--whether he is thought wise,
or whether he is thought foolish,--whether he gets blame, or whether he
gets praise,--whether he gets honour, or whether he gets shame,--for all
this the zealous man cares nothing at all. He burns for one thing; and
that one thing is to please God, and to advance God's glory. If he is
consumed in the very burning, he cares not for it,--he is content. He
feels that, like a lamp, he is made to burn; and if consumed in burning,
he has but done the work for which God appointed him. Such an one will
always find a sphere for his zeal. If he cannot preach, and work, and
give money, he will cry, and sigh, and pray. Yes: if he is only a
pauper, on a perpetual bed of sickness, he will make the wheels of sin
around him drive heavily, by continually interceding against it. If he
cannot fight in the valley with Joshua, he will do the work of Moses,
Aaron, and Hur, on the hill. (Exod. xvii. 9--13.) If he is cut off from
working himself, he will give the Lord no rest till help is raised up
from another quarter, and the work is done. This is what I mean when I
speak of "zeal" in religion.

We all know the habit of mind that makes men great in this world,--that
makes such men as Alexander the Great, or Julius Cæsar, or Oliver
Cromwell, or Peter the Great, or Charles XII., or Marlborough, or
Napoleon, or Pitt. We know that, with all their faults, they were all
men of one thing. They threw themselves into one grand pursuit. They
cared for nothing else. They put every thing else aside. They counted
every thing else as second-rate, and of subordinate importance, compared
to the one thing that they put before their eyes every day they lived. I
say that the same habit of mind applied to the service of the Lord
Jesus Christ becomes religious _zeal_.

We know the habit of mind that makes men great in the sciences of this
world,--that makes such men as Archimedes, or Sir Isaac Newton, or
Galileo, or Ferguson the astronomer, or James Watt. All these were men
of one thing. They brought the powers of their minds into one single
focus. They cared for nothing else beside. And this was the secret of
their success. I say that this same habit consecrated to the service of
God becomes religious _zeal_.

We know the habit of mind that makes men rich,--that makes men amass
mighty fortunes, and leave millions behind them. What kind of people
were the bankers, and merchants, and tradesmen, who have left a name
behind them, as men who acquired immense wealth and became rich from
being poor? They were all men that threw themselves entirely into their
business, and neglected every thing else for the sake of that business.
They gave their first attention, their first thoughts, the best of their
time, and the best part of their mind, to pushing forward the
transactions in which they were engaged. They were men of one thing.
Their hearts were not divided. They devoted themselves, body, soul, and
mind to their business. They seemed to live for nothing else. I say that
if you turn that habit of mind to the service of God and His Christ it
makes religious _zeal_.

(_a_) Now this habit of mind,--this zeal was _the characteristic of
all the Apostles_. See for example the Apostle Paul. Hear him when
he speaks to the Ephesian elders for the last time: "None of these
things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I
might finish my course with joy, and the ministry that I have
received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of
God." (Acts xx. 24.) Hear him again, when he writes to the
Philippians: "This one thing I do; I press towards the mark for the
prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Phil. iii.
13, 14.) See him from the day of his conversion, giving up his
brilliant prospects,--forsaking all for Christ's sake,--and going
forth to preach that very Jesus whom he had once despised. See him
going to and fro throughout the world from that time,--through
persecution,--through oppression,--through opposition,--through
prisons,--through bonds,--through afflictions,--through things next
to death itself, up to the very day when he sealed his faith with
his blood, and died at Rome, a martyr for that Gospel which he had
so long proclaimed. This was true religious _zeal_.

(_b_) This again was the _characteristic of the early Christians_. They
were men "every where spoken against." (Acts xxviii. 22.) They were
driven to worship God in dens and caves of the earth. They often lost
every thing in the world for their religion's sake. They generally
gained nothing but the cross, persecution, shame, and reproach. But they
seldom, very seldom, went back. If they could not dispute, at least they
could suffer. If they could not convince their adversaries by argument,
at any rate they could die, and prove that they themselves were in
earnest. Look at Ignatius cheerfully travelling to the place where he
was to be devoured by lions, and saying as he went, "Now do I begin to
be a disciple of my Master, Christ." Hear old Polycarp before the Roman
Governor, saying boldly, when called upon to deny Christ, "Four score
and six years have I served Christ, neither hath He ever offended me in
any thing, and how then can I revile my King?" This was true _zeal_.

(_c_) This again was _the characteristic of Martin Luther_. He boldly
defied the most powerful hierarchy that the world has ever seen. He
unveiled its corruptions with an unflinching hand. He preached the
long-neglected truth of justification by faith, in spite of anathemas
and excommunications, fast and thickly poured upon him. See him going
to the Diet at Worms, and pleading his cause before the Emperor and the
Legate, and a host of the children of this world. Hear him saying,--when
men were dissuading him from going, and reminding him of the fate of
John Huss, "Though there were a devil under every tile on the roofs of
Worms, in the name of the Lord I shall go forward." This was true
_zeal_.

(_d_) This again was _the characteristic of our own English Reformers_.
You have it in our first Reformer, Wickliffe, when he rose up on his
sick bed, and said to the Friars, who wanted him to retract all he had
said against the Pope, "I shall not die, but live to declare the
villanies of the Friars." You have it in Cranmer, dying at the stake,
rather than deny Christ's Gospel, holding forth that hand to be first
burned which, in a moment of weakness, had signed a recantation, and
saying, as he held it in the flames, "This unworthy hand!" You have it
in old father Latimer, standing boldly on his faggot, at the age of
seventy years, and saying to Ridley, "Courage, brother Ridley! we shall
light such a candle this day as, by God's grace, shall never be put
out." This was _zeal_.

(_e_) This again has been _the characteristic of all the greatest
Missionaries_. You see it in Dr. Judson, in Carey, in Morrison, in
Schwartz, in Williams, in Brainerd, in Elliott. You see it in none more
brightly than in Henry Martyn. Here was a man who had reached the
highest academical honours that Cambridge could bestow. Whatever
profession he chose to follow, he had the most dazzling prospects of
success. He turned his back upon it all. He chose to preach the Gospel
to poor benighted heathen. He went forth to an early grave, in a foreign
land. He said when he got there and saw the condition of the people, "I
could bear to be torn in pieces, if I could but hear the sobs of
penitence,--if I could but see the eyes of faith directed to the
Redeemer!" This was _zeal_.

(_f_) But let us look away from all earthly examples,--and remember
that zeal was pre-eminently the characteristic of our Lord and Saviour
Jesus Christ Himself. Of Him it was written hundreds of years before He
came upon earth, that He was "clad with _zeal_ as with a cloak," and
"the _zeal_ of thine house hath even eaten me." And His own words were
"My meat is to do my Father's will, and to finish His work." (Psalm
lxix. 9; Isaiah lix. 17; John iv. 34.)

Where shall we begin, if we try to give examples of His zeal? Where
should we end, if we once began? Trace all the narratives of His life in
the four Gospels. Read all the history of what He was from the beginning
of His ministry to the end. Surely if there ever was one who was _all
zeal_, it was our great Example,--our Head,--our High Priest,--the great
Shepherd of our profession, the Lord Jesus Christ.

If these things are so, we should not only beware of running down zeal,
but we should also beware of allowing zeal to be run down in our
presence. It may be badly directed, and then it becomes a curse;--but it
may be turned to the highest and best ends, and then it is a mighty
blessing. Like fire, it is one of the best of servants;--but, like fire
also, if not well directed, it may be the worst of masters. Listen not
to those people who talk of zeal as weakness and enthusiasm. Listen not
to those who see no beauty in missions, who laugh at all attempts at the
conversion of souls,--who call Societies for sending the Gospel to the
world useless,--and who look upon City Missions, and District Visiting,
and Ragged Schools and Open Air Preaching, as nothing but foolishness
and fanaticism. Beware, lest in joining a cry of that kind you condemn
the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Beware lest you speak against Him who has
"left us an example that we should follow His steps." (1 Pet. ii. 21.)

Alas! I fear there are many professing Christians who if they had lived
in the days when our Lord and His Apostles walked upon earth would have
called Him and all His followers enthusiasts and fanatics. There are
many, I fear, who have more in common with Annas and Caiaphas,--with
Pilate and Herod,--with Festus and Agrippa,--with Felix and
Gallio,--than with St. Paul and the Lord Jesus Christ.


II. I pass on now to the second thing I proposed to speak of. _When is a
man truly zealous in religion?_

There never was a grace of which Satan has not made a counterfeit. There
never was a good coin issued from the mint but forgers at once have
coined something very like it. It was one of Nero's cruel practices
first to sew up Christians in the skins of wild beasts, and then bait
them with dogs. It is one of Satan's devices to place distorted copies
of the believer's graces before the eyes of men, and so to bring the
true graces into contempt. No grace has suffered so much in this way as
zeal. Of none perhaps are there so many shams and counterfeits abroad.
We must therefore clear the ground of all rubbish on this question. We
must find out when zeal in religion is really good, and true, and of
God.

(1) If zeal be true, it will be a _zeal according to knowledge_. It must
not be a blind, ignorant zeal. It must be a calm, reasonable,
intelligent principle, which can show the warrant of Scripture for every
step it takes. The unconverted Jews had zeal. Paul says, "I bear them
record that they have a zeal of God, _but not according to knowledge_."
(Rom. x. 2.) Saul had zeal when he was a persecuting Pharisee. He says
himself, in one of his addresses to the Jews, "I was _zealous_ toward
God as ye all are this day." (Acts xxii. 3.)--Manasseh had zeal in the
days when he was an idolater. The man who made his own children pass
through the fire,--who gave up the fruit of his body to Moloch, to atone
for the sin of his soul,--that man had zeal.--James and John had zeal
when they would have called down fire on a Samaritan village. But our
Lord rebuked them.--Peter had zeal when he drew his sword and cut off
the ear of Malchus. But he was quite wrong.--Bonner and Gardiner had
zeal when they burned Latimer and Cranmer. Were they not in earnest? Let
us do them justice. They were zealous, though it was for an unscriptural
religion.--The members of the Inquisition in Spain had zeal when they
tortured men, and put them to horrible deaths, because they would not
forsake the Gospel. Yes! they marched men and women to the stake in
solemn procession, and called it "An Act of Faith," and believed they
were doing God service.--The Hindoos, who used to lie down before the
car of Juggernaut and allow their bodies to be crushed under its
wheels:--had not they zeal?--The Indian widows, who used to burn
themselves on the funeral pile of their deceased husbands,--the Roman
Catholics, who persecuted to death the Vaudois and Albigenses, and cast
down men and women from rocks and precipices, because they were
heretics;--had not they zeal?--The Saracens--the Crusaders,--the
Jesuits,--the Anabaptists of Munster--the followers of Joanna
Southcote,--had they not all zeal? Yes! Yes! I do not deny it. All these
had zeal beyond question. They were all zealous. They were all in
earnest. But their zeal was not such zeal as God approves,--it was not a
"zeal according to knowledge."

(2) Furthermore, if zeal be true, it will be a zeal _from true motives_.
Such is the subtlety of the heart that men will often do right things
from wrong motives. Amaziah and Joash, kings of Judah, are striking
proofs of this. Just so a man may have zeal about things that are good
and right, but from second-rate motives, and not from a desire to please
God. And such zeal is worth nothing. It is reprobate silver. It is
utterly wanting when placed in the balance of God. Man looks only at the
action: God looks at the motive. Man only thinks of the quantity of work
done: God considers the doer's heart.

There is such a thing as zeal from _party spirit_. It is quite possible
for a man to be unwearied in promoting the interests of his own Church
or denomination, and yet to have no grace in his own heart,--to be ready
to die for the peculiar opinions of his own section of Christians, and
yet to have no real love to Christ. Such was the zeal of the Pharisees.
They "compassed sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he was
made, they made him two-fold more the child of hell than themselves."
(Matt. xxiii. 15.) This zeal is not true.

There is such a thing as zeal from mere _selfishness_. There are times
when it is men's interest to be zealous in religion. Power and patronage
are sometimes given to godly men. The good things of the world are
sometimes to be attained by wearing a cloak of religion. And whenever
this is the case there is no lack of false zeal. Such was the zeal of
Joab, when he served David. Such was the zeal of only too many
Englishmen in the days of the Commonwealth, when the Puritans were in
power.

There is such a thing as zeal from the _love of praise_. Such was the
zeal of Jehu, when he was putting down the worship of Baal. Remember how
he met Jonadab the son of Rechab, and said, "Come with me, and see my
zeal for the Lord." (2 Kings x. 16.) Such is the zeal that Bunyan refers
to in "Pilgrim's Progress," when he speaks of some who went "for praise"
to mount Zion. Some people feed on the praise of their fellow-creatures.
They would rather have it from Christians than have none at all.

It is a sad and humbling proof of man's corruption that there is no
degree of self-denial and self-sacrifice to which men may not go from
false motives. It does not follow that a man's religion is true because
he "gives his body to be burned," or because he "gives his goods to feed
the poor." The Apostle Paul tells us that a man may do this, and yet not
have true charity. (1 Cor. xiii. 1, etc.) It does not follow because men
go into a wilderness, and become hermits, that therefore they know what
true self-denial is. It does not follow because people immure themselves
in monasteries and nunneries, or become "sisters of charity," and
"sisters of mercy," that therefore they know what true crucifixion of
the flesh and self-sacrifice is in the sight of God. All these things
people may do on wrong principles. They may do them from wrong
motives,--to satisfy a secret pride and love of notoriety,--but not from
the true motive of zeal for the glory of God. All such zeal, let us
understand, is false. It is of earth, and not of heaven.

(3) Furthermore, if zeal be true, it will be a zeal _about things
according to God's mind, and sanctioned by plain examples in God's
Word_. Take, for one instance, that highest and best kind of zeal,--I
mean zeal for our own growth in personal holiness. Such zeal will make a
man feel incessantly that sin is the mightiest of all evils, and
conformity to Christ the greatest of all blessings. It will make him
feel that there is nothing which ought not to be done, in order to keep
up a close walk with God. It will make him willing to cut off the right
hand, or pluck out the right eye, or make any sacrifice, if only he can
attain a closer communion with Jesus. Is not this just what you see in
the Apostle Paul? He says, "I keep under my body and bring it into
subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I
myself should be a castaway."--"I count not myself to have apprehended:
but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and
reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the
mark." (1 Cor. ix. 27; Phil. iii. 13, 14.)

Take, for another instance, zeal for the salvation of souls. Such zeal
will make a man burn with desire to enlighten the darkness which covers
the souls of multitudes, and to bring every man, woman, and child he
sees to the knowledge of the Gospel. Is not this what you see in the
Lord Jesus? It is said that He neither gave Himself nor His disciples
leisure so much as to eat. (Mark vi. 31.) Is not this what you see in
the Apostle Paul? He says, "I am made all things to all men, that I
might by all means save some." (1 Cor. ix. 22.)

Take, for another instance, zeal against evil practices. Such zeal will
make a man hate everything which God hates, such as drunkenness,
slavery, or infanticide, and long to sweep it from the face of the
earth. It will make him jealous of God's honour and glory, and look on
everything which robs him of it as an offence. Is not this what you see
in Phinehas, the son of Eleazar?--or in Hezekiah and Josiah, when they
put down idolatry?

Take, for another instance, zeal for maintaining the doctrines of the
Gospel. Such zeal will make a man hate unscriptural teaching, just as he
hates sin. It will make him regard religious error as a pestilence which
must be checked, whatever may be the cost. It will make him scrupulously
careful about every jot and tittle of the counsel of God, lest by some
omission the whole Gospel should be spoiled. Is not this what you see in
Paul at Antioch, when he withstood Peter to the face, and said he was to
be blamed? (Gal. ii. 11.) These are the kind of things about which true
zeal is employed. Such zeal, let us understand, is honourable before
God.

(4) Furthermore, if zeal be true, it will be a zeal _tempered with
charity and love_. It will not be a bitter zeal. It will not be a fierce
enmity against persons. It will not be a zeal ready to take the sword,
and to smite with carnal weapons. The weapons of true zeal are not
carnal, but spiritual. True zeal will hate sin, and yet love the sinner.
True zeal will hate heresy, and yet love the heretic. True zeal will
long to break the idol, but deeply pity the idolater. True zeal will
abhor every kind of wickedness, but labour to do good even to the vilest
of transgressors.

True zeal will warn as St. Paul warned the Galatians, and yet feel
tenderly, as a nurse or a mother over erring children. It will expose
false teachers, as Jesus did the Scribes and Pharisees, and yet weep
tenderly, as Jesus did over Jerusalem when He came near to it for the
last time. True zeal will be decided, as a surgeon dealing with a
diseased limb; but true zeal will be gentle, as one that is dressing the
wounds of a brother. True zeal will speak truth boldly, like Athanasius,
against the world, and not care who is offended; but true zeal will
endeavour, in all its speaking, to "speak the truth in love."

(5) Furthermore, if zeal be true, _it will be joined to a deep
humility_. A truly zealous man will be the last to discover the
greatness of his own attainments. All that he is and does will come so
immensely short of his own desires, that he will be filled with a sense
of his own unprofitableness, and amazed to think that God should work by
him at all. Like Moses, when he came down from the Mount, he will not
know that his face shines. Like the righteous, in the twenty-fifth
chapter of St. Matthew, he will not be aware of his own good works. Dr.
Buchanan is one whose praise is in all the churches. He was one of the
first to take up the cause of the perishing heathen. He literally spent
himself, body and mind, in labouring to arouse sleeping Christians to
see the importance of missions. Yet he says in one of his letters, "I do
not know that I ever had what Christians call zeal." Whitefield was one
of the most zealous preachers of the Gospel the world has ever seen.
Fervent in spirit, instant in season and out of season, he was a burning
and shining light, and turned thousands to God. Yet he says after
preaching for thirty years, "Lord help me to begin to begin." M'Cheyne
was one of the greatest blessings that God ever gave to the Church of
Scotland. He was a minister insatiably desirous of the salvation of
souls. Few men ever did so much good as he did, though he died at the
age of twenty-nine. Yet he says in one of his letters, "None but God
knows what an abyss of corruption is in my heart. It is perfectly
wonderful that ever God could bless such a ministry." We may be very
sure where there is self-conceit there is little true zeal.

I ask the readers of this paper particularly to remember the description
of true zeal which I have just given. Zeal according to knowledge,--zeal
from true motives,--zeal warranted by Scriptural examples,--zeal
tempered with charity,--zeal accompanied by deep humility,--this is true
genuine zeal,--this is the kind of zeal which God approves. Of such zeal
you and I never need fear having too much.

I ask you to remember the description, because of the times in which you
live. Beware of supposing that sincerity alone can ever make up true
zeal,--that earnestness, however ignorant, makes a man a really zealous
Christian in the sight of God. There is a generation in these days which
makes an idol of what it is pleased to call "_earnestness_" in religion.
These men will allow no fault to be found with an "_earnest man_."
Whatever his theological opinions may be,--if he be but an earnest man,
that is enough for these people, and we are to ask no more. They tell
you we have nothing to do with minute points of doctrine, and with
questions of "words and names," about which Christians are not agreed.
Is the man an earnest man? If he is, we ought to be satisfied.
"Earnestness" in their eyes covers over a multitude of sins. I warn you
solemnly to beware of this specious doctrine. In the name of the Gospel,
and in the name of the Bible, I enter my protest against the theory that
mere earnestness can make a man a truly zealous and pious man in the
sight of God.

These idolaters of earnestness would make out that God has given us no
standard of truth and error, or that the true standard, the Bible, is so
obscure, that no man can find out what truth is by simply going to it.
They pour contempt upon the Word, the written Word, and therefore they
must be wrong.

These idolaters of earnestness would make us condemn every witness for
the truth, and every opponent of false teaching, from the time of the
Lord Jesus down to this day. The Scribes and Pharisees were "in
earnest," and yet our Lord opposed them. And shall we dare even to hint
a suspicion that they ought to have been let alone?--Queen Mary, and
Bonner, and Gardiner were "in earnest" in restoring Popery, and trying
to put down Protestantism, and yet Ridley and Latimer opposed them to
the death. And shall we dare to say that as both parties were "in
earnest," both were in the right?--Devil-worshippers and idolaters at
this day are in earnest, and yet our missionaries labour to expose their
errors. And shall we dare to say that "earnestness" would take them to
heaven, and that missionaries to heathen and Roman Catholics had better
stay at home?--Are we really going to admit that the Bible does not show
us what is truth? Are we really going to put a mere vague thing called
"earnestness," in the place of Christ, and to maintain that no "earnest"
man can be wrong? God forbid that we should give place to such doctrine!
I shrink with horror from such theology. I warn men solemnly to beware
of being carried away by it, for it is common and most seductive in this
day. Beware of it, for it is only a new form of an old error,--that old
error which says that a man "Can't be wrong whose life is in the right."
Admire zeal. Seek after zeal. Encourage zeal. But see that your own zeal
be true. See that the zeal which you admire in others is a zeal
"according to knowledge,"--a zeal from right motives,--a zeal that can
bring chapter and verse out of the Bible for its foundation. Any zeal
but this is but a false fire. It is not lighted by the Holy Ghost.


III. I pass on now to the third thing I proposed to speak of. Let me
show _why it is good for a man to be zealous_.

It is certain that God never gave man a commandment which it was not
man's interest as well as duty to obey. He never set a grace before His
believing people which His people will not find it their highest
happiness to follow after. This is true of all the graces of the
Christian character. Perhaps it is pre-eminently true in the case of
zeal.

(_a_) Zeal is _good for a Christian's own soul_. We all know that
exercise is good for the health, and that regular employment of our
muscles and limbs promotes our bodily comfort, and increases our bodily
vigour. Now that which exercise does for our bodies, zeal will do for
our souls. It will help mightily to promote inward feelings of joy,
peace, comfort, and happiness. None have so much enjoyment of Christ as
those who are ever zealous for His glory,--jealous over their own
walk,--tender over their own consciences,--full of anxiety about the
souls of others,--and ever watching, working, labouring, striving, and
toiling to extend the knowledge of Jesus Christ upon earth. Such men
live in the full light of the sun, and therefore their hearts are always
warm. Such men water others, and therefore they are watered themselves.
Their hearts are like a garden daily refreshed by the dew of the Holy
Ghost. They honour God, and so God honours them.

I would not be mistaken in saying this. I would not appear to speak
slightingly of any believer. I know that "the Lord takes pleasure in all
His people." (Ps. cxlix. 4.) There is not one, from the least to the
greatest,--from the smallest child in the kingdom of God, to the oldest
warrior in the battle against Satan,--there is not one in whom the Lord
Jesus Christ does not take great pleasure. We are all His children,--and
however weak and feeble some of us may be, "as a father pitieth his
children, so does the Lord pity them that love and fear Him." (Ps. ciii.
13.) We are all the plants of His own planting;--and though many of us
are poor, weakly exotics, scarcely keeping life together in a foreign
soil,--yet as the gardener loves that which his hands have reared, so
does the Lord Jesus love the poor sinners that trust in Him. But while I
say this, I do also believe that the Lord takes special pleasure in
those who are _zealous_ for Him,--in those who give themselves body,
soul, and spirit, to extend His glory in this world. To them He reveals
Himself, as he does not to others. To them He shows things that other
men never see. He blesses the work of their hands. He cheers them with
spiritual consolations, which others only know by the hearing of the
ear. They are men after His own heart, for they are men more like
Himself than others. None have such joy and peace in believing,--none
have such sensible comfort in their religion,--none have so much of
"heaven upon earth" (Deut. xi. 21),--none see and feel so much of the
consolations of the Gospel as those who are zealous, earnest,
thorough-going, devoted Christians. For the sake of our own souls, if
there were no other reason, it is good to be zealous,--to be very
zealous in our religion.

(_b_) As zeal is good for ourselves individually, so it is also _good
for the professing Church of Christ generally_. Nothing so much keeps
alive true religion as a leaven of zealous Christians scattered to and
fro throughout a Church. Like salt, they prevent the whole body falling
into a state of corruption. None but men of this kind can revive
Churches when ready to die. It is impossible to over-estimate the debt
that all Christians owe to zeal. The greatest mistake the rulers of a
Church can make is to drive zealous men out of its pale. By so doing
they drain out the life-blood of the system, and hasten on
ecclesiastical decline and death.

Zeal is in truth that grace which God seems to delight to honour. Look
through the list of Christians who have been eminent for usefulness. Who
are the men that have left the deepest and most indelible marks on the
Church of their day? Who are the men that God has generally honoured to
build up the walls of His Zion, and turn the battle from the gate? Not
so much men of learning and literary talents, as men of zeal.

Bishop Latimer was not such a deeply-read scholar as Cranmer or Ridley.
He could not quote Fathers from memory, as they did. He refused to be
drawn into arguments about antiquity. He stuck to his Bible. Yet it is
not too much to say that no English reformer made such a lasting
impression on the nation as old Latimer did. And what was the reason?
His simple zeal.

Baxter, the Puritan, was not equal to some of his contemporaries in
intellectual gifts. It is no disparagement to say that he does not stand
on a level with Manton or Owen. Yet few men probably exercised so wide
an influence on the generation in which he lived. And what was the
reason? His burning zeal.

Whitefield, and Wesley, and Berridge, and Venn were inferior in mental
attainments to Bishops Butler and Watson. But they produced effects on
the people of this country which fifty Butlers and Watsons would
probably never have produced. They saved the Church of England from
ruin. And what was one secret of their power? Their zeal.

These men stood forward at turning points in the history of the Church.
They bore unmoved storms of opposition and persecution.--They were not
afraid to stand alone. They cared not though their motives were
misinterpreted.--They counted all things but loss for the truth's
sake.--They were each and all and every one eminently _men of one
thing_:--and that one thing was to advance the glory of God, and to
maintain His truth in the world. They were all fire, and so they lighted
others.--They were wide awake, and so they awakened others.--They were
all alive, and so they quickened others.--They were always working, and
so they shamed others into working too.--They came down upon men like
Moses from the mount.--They shone as if they had been in the presence
of God.--They carried to and fro with them, as they walked their course
through the world, something of the atmosphere and savour of heaven
itself.

There is a sense in which it may be said that zeal is contagious.
Nothing is more useful to the professors of Christianity than to see a
real live Christian, a thoroughly zealous man of God. They may rail at
him,--they may carp at him,--they may pick holes in his conduct,--they
may look shy upon him,--they may not understand him any more than men
understand a new comet when a new comet appears;--but insensibly a
zealous man does them good. He opens their eyes. He makes them feel
their own sleepiness. He makes their own great darkness visible. He
obliges them to see their own barrenness. He compels them to think,
whether they like it or not--"What are we doing? Are we not no better
than mere cumberers of the ground?" It may be sadly true that "one
sinner _destroyeth_ much good;" but it is also a blessed truth that one
zealous Christian can _do_ much good. Yes: one single zealous man in a
town,--one zealous man in a congregation,--one zealous man in a
society,--one zealous man in a family, may be a great, a most extensive
blessing. How many machines of usefulness such a man sets a going! How
much Christian activity he often calls into being which would otherwise
have slept! How many fountains he opens which would otherwise have been
sealed! Verily there is a deep mine of truth in those words of the
Apostle Paul to the Corinthians: "Your zeal hath provoked very many." (2
Cor. ix, 2.)

(_c_) But, as zeal is good for the Church and for individuals, so zeal
is _good for the world_. Where would the Missionary work be if it were
not for zeal? Where would our City Missions and Ragged Schools be if it
were not for zeal? Where would our District-Visiting and Pastoral Aid
Societies be if it were not for zeal? Where would be our Societies for
rooting out sin and ignorance, for finding out the dark places of the
earth, and recovering poor lost souls? Where would be all these glorious
instruments for good if it were not for Christian zeal? Zeal called
these institutions into being, and zeal keeps them at work when they
have begun. Zeal gathers a few despised men, and makes them the nucleus
of many a powerful Society. Zeal keeps up the collections of a Society
when it is formed. Zeal prevents men from becoming lazy and sleepy when
the machine is large and begins to get favour from the world. Zeal
raises up men to go forth, putting their lives in their hands, like
Moffatt and Williams in our own day. Zeal supplies their place when they
are gathered into the garner, and taken home.

What would become of the ignorant masses who crowd the lanes and alleys
of our overgrown cities, if it were not for Christian zeal? Governments
can do nothing with them: they cannot make laws that will meet the evil.
The vast majority of professing Christians have no eyes to see it: like
the priest and Levite, they pass by on the other side. But zeal has eyes
to see, and a heart to feel, and a head to devise, and a tongue to
plead, and hands to work, and feet to travel, in order to rescue poor
souls, and raise them from their low estate. Zeal does not stand poring
over difficulties, but simply says, "Here are souls perishing, and
something _shall_ be done." Zeal does not shrink back because there are
Anakims in the way: it looks over their heads, like Moses on Pisgah, and
says, "The land _shall_ be possessed." Zeal does not wait for company,
and tarry till good works are fashionable: it goes forward like a
forlorn hope, and trusts that others will follow by and bye. Ah! the
world little knows what a debt it owes to Christian zeal. How much crime
it has checked! How much sedition it has prevented! How much public
discontent it has calmed! How much obedience to law and love of order it
has produced! How many souls it has saved! Yes! and I believe we little
know what might be done if every Christian was a zealous man! How much
if ministers were more like Bickersteth, and Whitefield, and M'Cheyne!
How much if laymen were more like Howard, and Wilberforce, and Thornton,
and Nasmith, and George Moore! Oh, for the world's sake, as well as your
own, resolve, labour, strive to be a zealous Christian!

Let every one who professes to be a Christian beware of checking zeal.
Seek it. Cultivate it. Try to blow up the fire in your own heart, and
the hearts of others, but never, never check it. Beware of throwing cold
water on zealous souls, whenever you meet with them. Beware of nipping
in the bud this precious grace when first it shoots. If you are a
parent, beware of checking it in your children;--if you are a husband,
beware of checking it in your wife;--if you are a brother, beware of
checking it in your sisters,--and if you are a minister, beware of
checking it in the members of your congregation. It is a shoot of
heaven's own planting. Beware of crushing it, for Christ's sake. Zeal
may make mistakes.--Zeal may need directing.--Zeal may want guiding,
controlling, and advising. Like the elephants on ancient fields of
battle, it may sometimes do injury to its own side. But zeal does not
need damping in a wretched, cold, corrupt, miserable world like this.
Zeal, like John Knox pulling down the Scotch monasteries, may hurt the
feelings of narrow-minded and sleepy Christians. It may offend the
prejudices of those old-fashioned religionists who hate everything new,
and (like those who wanted soldiers and sailors to go on wearing
pigtails) abhor all change. But zeal in the end will be justified by its
results. Zeal, like John Knox, in the long run of life will do
infinitely more good than harm. There is little danger of there ever
being too much zeal for the glory of God. God forgive those who think
there is! You know little of human nature. You forget that sickness is
far more contagious than health, and that it is much easier to catch a
chill than impart a glow. Depend upon it, the Church seldom needs a
bridle, but often needs a spur. It seldom needs to be checked, it often
needs to be urged on.


And now, in conclusion, let me try to apply this subject to the
conscience of every person who reads this paper. It is a warning
subject, an arousing subject, an encouraging subject, according to the
state of our several hearts. I wish, by God's help, to give every reader
his portion.

(1) First of all, let me offer a warning to all _who make no decided
profession of religion_. There are thousands and tens of thousands, I
fear, in this condition. If you are one, the subject before you is full
of solemn warning. Oh, that the Lord in mercy may incline your heart to
receive it!

I ask you, then, in all affection, Where is your zeal in religion? With
the Bible before me, I may well be bold in asking. But with your life
before me, I may well tremble as to the answer. I ask again, Where is
your zeal for the glory of God? Where is your zeal for extending
Christ's Gospel through an evil world? Zeal, which was the
characteristic of the Lord Jesus; zeal, which is the characteristic of
the angels; zeal, which shines forth in all the brightest Christians:
where is your zeal, unconverted reader?--where is your zeal indeed! You
know well it is nowhere at all; you know well you see no beauty in it;
you know well it is scorned and cast out as evil by you and your
companions; you know well it has no place, no portion, no standing
ground, in the religion of your soul. It is not perhaps that you know
not what it is to be zealous in a certain way. You have zeal, but it is
all misapplied. It is all earthly: it is all about the things of time.
It is not zeal for the glory of God: it is not zeal for the salvation of
souls. Yes: many a man has zeal for the newspaper, but not for the
Bible,--zeal for the daily reading of the _Times_, but no zeal for the
daily reading of God's blessed Word. Many a man has zeal for the account
book and the business book, but no zeal about the Book of Life and the
last great account,--zeal about Australian and Californian gold, but no
zeal about the unsearchable riches of Christ. Many a man has zeal about
his earthly concerns,--his family, his pleasures, his daily pursuits;
but no zeal about God, and heaven, and eternity.

If this is the state of any one who is reading this paper, awake, I do
beseech you, to see your gross _folly_. You cannot live for ever. You
are not ready to die. You are utterly unfit for the company of saints
and angels. Awake: be zealous and repent!--Awake to see the _harm_ you
are doing! You are putting arguments in the hands of infidels by your
shameful coldness. You are pulling down as fast as ministers build. You
are helping the devil. Awake: be zealous, and repent!--Awake to see your
childish _inconsistency_! What can be more worthy of zeal than eternal
things, than the glory of God, than the salvation of souls? Surely if it
is good to labour for rewards that are temporal, it is a thousand times
better to labour for those that are eternal. Awake: be zealous and
repent! Go and read that long-neglected Bible. Take up that blessed Book
which you have, and perhaps never use. Read that New Testament through.
Do you find nothing there to make you zealous,--to make you earnest
about your soul? Go and look at the cross of Christ. Go and see how the
Son of God there shed His precious blood for you,--how He suffered and
groaned, and died for you,--how He poured out His soul as an offering
for sin, in order that you, sinful brother or sister, might not perish,
but have eternal life. Go and look at the cross of Christ, and never
rest till you feel some zeal for your own soul,--some zeal for the glory
of God,--some zeal for extension of the Gospel throughout the world.
Once more I say, awake: be zealous, and repent!

(2) Let me, in the next place, say something to arouse those _who make a
profession of being decided Christians, and are yet lukewarm in their
practice_. There are only too many, I regret to say, in this state of
soul. If you are one, there is much in this subject which ought to lead
you to searchings of heart.

Let me speak to your conscience. To you also I desire to put the
question in all brotherly affection, Where is your zeal?--Where is your
zeal for the glory of God, and for extending the gospel throughout the
world? You know well it is very low. You know well that your zeal is a
little feeble glimmering spark, that just lives, and no more;--it is
like a thing "ready to die." (Rev. iii. 2.) Surely, there is a fault
somewhere, if this is the case. This state of things ought not to be.
You, the child of God,--you, redeemed at so glorious a price,--you,
ransomed with such precious blood, you, who are an heir of glory such as
no tongue ever yet told, or eye saw;--surely you ought to be a man of
another kind. Surely your zeal ought not to be so small.

I deeply feel that this is a painful subject to touch upon. I do it with
reluctance, and with a constant remembrance of my own unprofitableness.
Nevertheless, truth ought to be spoken. The plain truth is that many
believers in the present day seem so dreadfully afraid of doing harm
that they hardly ever dare to do good. There are many who are fruitful
in objections, but barren in actions;--rich in wet blankets, but poor in
anything like Christian fire. They are like the Dutch deputies, recorded
in the history of last century, who would never allow Marlborough to
venture anything, and by their excessive caution prevented many a
victory being won. Truly, in looking round the Church of Christ, a man
might sometimes think that God's kingdom had come, and God's will was
being done upon earth, so small is the zeal that some believers show. It
is vain to deny it. I need not go far for evidence. I point to Societies
for doing good to the heathen, the colonies, and the dark places of our
own land, languishing and standing still for want of active support. I
ask, _Is this zeal?_ I point to thousands of miserable guinea
subscriptions which are never missed by the givers, and yet make up the
sum of their Christian liberality. I ask, _Is this zeal?_ I point to
false doctrine allowed to grow up in parishes and families without an
effort being made to check it, while so-called believers look on, and
content themselves with wishing it was not so. I ask, _Is this zeal?_
Would the apostles have been satisfied with such a state of things? We
know they would not.

If the conscience of any one who read this paper pleads guilty to any
participation in the short-comings I have spoken of, I call upon him, in
the name of the Lord, to awake, be zealous, and repent. Let not zeal be
confined to Lincoln's Inn, the Temple, and Westminster;--to banks, and
shops, and counting houses. Let us see the same zeal in the Church of
Christ. Let not zeal be abundant to lead forlorn hopes, or get gold from
Australia, or travel over thick ribbed ice in voyages of discovery, but
defective to send the Gospel to the heathen, or to pluck Roman Catholics
like brands from the fire, or to enlighten the dark places of the
colonies of this great land. Never were there such doors of usefulness
opened,--never were there so many opportunities for doing good. I loathe
that squeamishness which refuses to help religious works if there is a
blemish about the instrument by which the work is carried on. At this
rate we might never do anything at all. Let us resist the feeling, if we
are tempted by it. It is one of Satan's devices. It is better to work
with feeble instruments than not to work at all. At all events, try to
do something for God and Christ,--something against ignorance and sin.
Give, collect, teach, exhort, visit, pray, according as God enables you.
Only make up your mind that all can do something, and resolve that by
you, at any rate, something shall be done. If you have only one talent,
do not bury it in the ground. Try to live so as to be missed. There is
far more to be done in twelve hours than most of us have ever yet done
on any day in our lives.

Think of the _precious souls_ which are perishing while you are
sleeping. Be taken up with your inward conflicts if you will. Go on
anatomizing your own feelings, and poring over your own corruptions, if
you are so determined. But remember all this time souls are going to
hell, and you might do something to save them by working, by giving, by
writing, by begging, and by prayer. Oh, awake! be zealous, and repent!

Think of the _shortness of time_. You will soon be gone. You will have
no opportunity for works of mercy in another world. In heaven there will
be no ignorant people to instruct, and no unconverted to reclaim.
Whatever you do must be done now. Oh, when are you going to begin?
Awake! be zealous, and repent.

Think of _the devil_, and his zeal to do harm. It was a solemn saying of
old Bernard when he said that "Satan would rise up in judgment against
some people at the last day, because he had shown more zeal to ruin
souls than they had to save them." Awake! be zealous, and repent.

Think of _your Saviour_, and all His zeal for you. Think of Him in
Gethsemane and on Calvary, shedding His blood for sinners. Think of His
life and death,--His sufferings and His doings. This He has done for
you. What are you doing for Him? Oh, resolve that for the time to come
you will spend and be spent for Christ! Awake! be zealous and repent.

(3) Last of all, let me encourage _all readers of this paper who are
truly zealous Christians_.

I have but one request to make, and that is _that you will persevere_. I
do beseech you to hold fast your zeal, and never let it go. I do beseech
you never to go back from your first works, never to leave your first
love, never to let it be said of you that your first things were better
than your last.--Beware of cooling down. You have only to be lazy, and
to sit still, and you will soon lose all your warmth. You will soon
become another man from what you are now. Oh, do not think this a
needless exhortation!

It may be very true that wise young believers are very rare. But it is
no less true that zealous old believers are very rare also. Never allow
yourself to think that you can do too much,--that you can spend and be
spent too much for Christ's cause. For one man that does too much I will
show you a thousand who do not do enough. Rather think that "the night
cometh, when no man can work" (John ix. 4),--and give, collect, teach,
visit, work, pray, as if you were doing it for the last time. Lay to
heart the words of that noble-minded Jansenist, who said, when told that
he ought to rest a little, "What should we rest for? have we not all
eternity to rest in?"

Fear not the reproach of men. Faint not because you are sometimes
abused. Heed it not if you are sometimes called bigot, enthusiast,
fanatic, madman, and fool. There is nothing disgraceful in these titles.
They have often been given to the best and wisest of men. If you are
only to be zealous when you are praised for it,--if the wheels of your
zeal must be oiled by the world's commendation, your zeal will be but
short-lived. Care not for the praise or frown of man. There is but one
thing worth caring for, and that is the praise of God. There is but one
question worth asking about our actions: "How will they look in the day
of judgment?"



IX


FREEDOM

     "_If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free
     indeed._"--John viii. 36.


The subject before our eyes deserves a thousand thoughts. It should ring
in the ears of Englishmen and Scotchmen like the voice of a trumpet. We
live in a land which is the very cradle of freedom. But are we ourselves
free?

The question is one which demands special attention at the present state
of public opinion in Great Britain. The minds of many are wholly
absorbed in politics. Yet there is a freedom, within the reach of all,
which few, I am afraid, ever think of,--a freedom independent of all
political changes,--a freedom which neither Queen, Lords and Commons,
nor the cleverest popular leaders can bestow. This is the freedom about
which I write this day. Do we know anything of it? Are we free?

In opening this subject, there are three points which I wish to bring
forward.


    I. I will show, in the first place, _the general excellence of
    freedom_.

    II. I will show, in the second place, _the best and truest kind of
    freedom_.

    III. I will show, in the last place, _the way in which the best kind
    of freedom may become your own_.

Let no reader think for a moment that this is going to be a political
paper. I am no politician: I have no politics but those of the Bible.
The only party I care for is the Lord's side: show me where that is, and
it shall have my support. The only election I am very anxious about is
the election of grace. My one desire is, that sinners should make their
own calling and election sure.--The liberty I desire above all things to
make known, and further, is the glorious liberty of the children of
God.--The Government I care to support is the government which is on the
shoulder of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Before Christ I want every
knee to bow, and every tongue to confess that He is Lord. I ask
attention while I canvass these subjects. If you are not free, I want to
guide you into true liberty. If you are free, I want you to know the
full value of your freedom.


I. The first thing I have to show is _the general excellence of
freedom_.

On this point some readers may think it needless to say anything: they
imagine that all men know the value of freedom, and that to dwell on it
is mere waste of time. I do not agree with such people at all. I believe
that myriads of Englishmen know nothing of the blessings which they
enjoy in their own land: they have grown up from infancy to manhood in
the midst of free institutions. They have not the least idea of the
state of things in other countries: they are ignorant alike of those two
worst forms of tyranny,--the crushing tyranny of a cruel military
despot, and the intolerant tyranny of an unreasoning mob. In short, many
Englishmen know nothing of the value of liberty, just because they have
been born in the middle of it, and have never been for a moment without
it.

I call then on every one who reads this paper to remember that liberty
is one of the greatest temporal blessings that man can have on this side
the grave. We live in a land where our _bodies_ are free. So long as we
hurt nobody's person, or property, or character, no one can touch us:
the poorest man's house is his castle.--We live in a land where our
_actions_ are free. So long as we support ourselves, we are free to
choose what we will do, where we will go, and how we will spend our
time.--We live in a land where our _consciences_ are free. So long as we
hold quietly on our own way, and do not interfere with others, we are
free to worship God as we please, and no man can compel us to take his
way to heaven. We live in a land where no foreigner rules over us. Our
laws are made and altered by Englishmen like ourselves, and our
Governors dwell by our side, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.

In short, we have every kind of freedom to an extent which no other
nation on earth can equal. We have personal freedom, civil freedom,
religious freedom, and national freedom. We have free bodies, free
consciences, free speech, free thought, free action, free Bibles, a free
press, and free homes. How vast is this list of privileges! How endless
the comforts which it contains! The full value of them can never perhaps
be known. Well said the Jewish Rabbins in ancient days: "If the sea were
ink and the world parchment, it would never serve to describe the
praises of liberty."

The want of this freedom has been the most fertile cause of misery to
nations in every age of the world. What reader of the Bible can fail to
remember the sorrows of the children of Israel, when they were bondmen
under Pharaoh in Egypt, or under Philistines in Canaan? What student of
history needs to be reminded of the woes inflicted on the Netherlands,
Poland, Spain, and Italy by the hand of foreign oppressors, or the
Inquisition? Who, even in our own time, has not heard of that enormous
fountain of wretchedness, the slavery of the Negro race? No misery
certainly is so great as the misery of slavery.

To win and preserve freedom has been the aim of many national struggles
which have deluged the earth with blood. Liberty has been the cause in
which myriads of Greeks, and Romans, and Germans, and Poles, and Swiss,
and Englishmen, and Americans have willingly laid down their lives. No
price has been thought too great to pay in order that nations might be
free.

The champions of freedom in every age have been justly esteemed among
the greatest benefactors of mankind. Such names as Moses and Gideon in
Jewish history, such names as the Spartan Leonidas, the Roman Horatius,
the German Martin Luther, the Swedish Gustavus Vasa, the Swiss William
Tell, the Scotch Robert Bruce and John Knox, the English Alfred and
Hampden and the Puritans, the American George Washington, are deservedly
embalmed in history, and will never be forgotten. To be the mother of
many patriots is the highest praise of a nation.

The enemies of freedom in every age have been rightly regarded as the
pests and nuisances of their times. Such names as Pharaoh in Egypt,
Dionysius at Syracuse, Nero at Rome, Charles IX. in France, bloody Mary
in England, are names which will never be rescued from disgrace. The
public opinion of mankind will never cease to condemn them, on the one
ground that they would not let people be free.

But why should I dwell on these things? Time and space would fail me if
I were to attempt to say a tenth part of what might be said in praise of
freedom. What are the annals of history but a long record of conflicts
between the friends and foes of liberty? Where is the nation upon earth
that has ever attained greatness, and left its mark on the world,
without freedom? Which are the countries on the face of the globe at
this very moment which are making the most progress in trade, in arts,
in sciences, in civilization, in philosophy, in morals, in social
happiness? Precisely those countries in which there is the greatest
amount of true freedom. Which are the countries at this very day where
is the greatest amount of internal misery, where we hear continually of
secret plots, and murmuring, and discontent, and attempts on life and
property? Precisely those countries where freedom does not exist, or
exists only in name,--where men are treated as serfs and slaves, and are
not allowed to think and act for themselves. No wonder that a mighty
Transatlantic Statesman declared on a great occasion to his assembled
countrymen: "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at
the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, almighty God! I know not
what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me
death!"[5]

  5: To prevent mistakes, I think it well to say that the man I refer to
  is Patrick Henry, an American Statesman of the last century.

Let us beware of _undervaluing_ the liberty we enjoy in this country of
ours, as Englishmen. I am sure there is need of this warning. There is,
perhaps, no country on earth where there is so much grumbling and
fault-finding as there is in England. Men look at the fancied evils
which they see around them, and exaggerate both their number and their
intensity. They refuse to look at the countless blessings and privileges
which surround us, or underrate the advantages of them. They forget that
comparison should be applied to everything. With all our faults and
defects there is at this hour no country on earth where there is so much
liberty and happiness for all classes, as there is in England. They
forget that as long as human nature is corrupt, it is vain to expect
perfection here below. No laws or government whatever can possibly
prevent a certain quantity of abuses and corruptions. Once more then, I
say, let us beware of undervaluing English liberty, and running eagerly
after every one who proposes sweeping changes. Changes are not always
improvements. The old shoes may have some holes and defects, but the new
shoes may pinch so much that we cannot walk at all. No doubt we might
have better laws and government than we have: but I am quite sure we
might easily have worse. At this very day there is no country on the
face of the globe where there is so much care taken of the life, and
health, and property, and character, and personal liberty of the meanest
inhabitant, as there is in England. Those who want to have more liberty,
would soon find, if they crossed the seas, that there is no country on
earth where there is so much real liberty as our own.[6]

  6: The following weighty passage, from the pen of the judicious Hooker,
  is commended to the attention of all in the present day. It is the
  opening passage of the first book of his "Ecclesiastical Polity."

  "He that goeth about to persuade a multitude that they are not
  so well governed as they ought to be, shall never want
  attentive and favourable hearers, because they know the
  manifold defects whereunto every kind of regiment or government
  is subject; but the secret lets and difficulties, which in
  public proceedings are innumerable and inevitable, they have
  not ordinarily the judgment to consider. And because such as
  openly reprove disorders of States are taken for principal
  friends to the common benefit of all, and for men that carry
  singular freedom of mind, under this fair and plausible colour
  whatsoever they utter passeth for good and current. That which
  is wanting in the weight of their speech is supplied by the
  aptness of men's minds to accept and believe it. Whereas, on
  the other side, if we maintain things that are established, we
  have not only to strive with a number of heavy prejudices,
  deeply rooted in the breasts of men, who think that herein we
  serve the times, and speak in favour of the present state,
  because we either hold or seek preferment; but also to bear
  such reception as minds so averted beforehand usually take
  against that which they are loth should be poured into them."

But while I bid men not undervalue English liberty, so also on the other
hand I charge them not to _overvalue_ it. Never forget that temporal
slavery is not the only slavery, and temporal freedom not the only
freedom. What shall it profit you to be a citizen of a free country, so
long as your soul is not free? What is the use of living in a free land
like England, with free thought, free speech, free action, free
conscience, so long as you are a slave to sin, and a captive to the
devil? Yes: there are tyrants whom no eye can see, as real and
destructive as Pharaoh or Nero! There are chains which no hands can
touch, as true and heavy and soul-withering as ever crushed the limbs of
an African! It is these tyrants whom I want you this day to remember. It
is these chains from which I want you to be free. Value by all means
your English liberty, but do not overvalue it. Look higher, further than
any temporal freedom. In the highest sense let us take care that "we are
free."


II. The second thing I have to show is _the truest and best kind of
freedom_.

The freedom I speak of is a freedom that is within the reach of every
child of Adam who is willing to have it. No power on earth can prevent a
man or woman having it, if they have but the will to receive it. Tyrants
may threaten and cast in prison, but nothing they can do can stop a
person having this liberty. And, once our own, nothing can take it away.
Men may torture us, banish us, hang us, behead us, burn us, but they can
never tear from us true freedom. The poorest may have it no less than
the richest: the most unlearned may have it as well as the most learned,
and the weakest as well as the strongest. Laws cannot deprive us of it:
Pope's bulls cannot rob us of it. Once our own, it is an everlasting
possession.

Now, what is this glorious freedom? Where is it to be found? What is it
like? Who has obtained it for man? Who has got it at this moment to
bestow? I ask my readers to give me their attention, and I will supply a
plain answer to these questions.

The true freedom =I= speak of is spiritual freedom,--freedom of soul. It
is the freedom which Christ bestows, without money and without price, on
all true Christians. Those whom the Son makes free are free indeed:
"Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." (2 Cor. iii. 17.)
Let men talk what they please of the comparative freedom of monarchies
and republics; let them struggle, if they will, for universal liberty,
fraternity, and equality: we never know the highest style of liberty
till we are enrolled citizens of the kingdom of God. We are ignorant of
the best kind of freedom if we are not Christ's freemen.

Christ's freemen are free from the _guilt of sin_. That heavy burden of
unforgiven transgressions, which lies so heavy on many consciences, no
longer presses them down. Christ's blood has cleansed it all away. They
feel pardoned, reconciled, justified, and accepted in God's sight. They
can look back to their old sins, however black and many, and say,--"Ye
cannot condemn me." They can look back on long years of carelessness and
worldliness and say,--"Who shall lay anything to my charge?" This is
true liberty. This is to be free.

Christ's freemen are free from the _power of sin_. It no longer rules
and reigns in their hearts, and carries them before it like a flood.
Through the power of Christ's Spirit they mortify the deeds of their
bodies, and crucify their flesh with its affections and lusts. Through
His grace working in them they get the victory over their evil
inclinations. The flesh may fight, but it does not conquer them; the
devil may tempt and vex, but does not overcome them: they are no longer
the bondslaves of lusts and appetites, and passions, and tempers. Over
all these things they are more than conquerors, through Him that loved
them. This is true liberty. This is to be free.

Christ's freemen are free from the _slavish fear of God_. They no longer
look at Him with dread and alarm, as an offended Maker; they no longer
hate Him, and get away from Him, like Adam among the trees of the
garden; they no longer tremble at the thought of His judgment. Through
the Spirit of adoption which Christ has given them, they look on God as
a reconciled Father, and rejoice in the thought of His love. They feel
that anger is passed away. They feel that when God the Father looks down
upon them, He sees them in Christ, and unworthy as they are in
themselves, is well-pleased. This is true liberty. This is to be free.

Christ's freemen are free from the _fear of man_. They are no longer
afraid of man's opinions, or care much what man thinks of them; they are
alike indifferent to his favour or his enmity, his smile or his frown.
They look away from man who can be seen, to Christ who is not seen, and
having the favour of Christ, they care little for the blame of man. "The
fear of man" was once a snare to them. They trembled at the thought of
what man would say, or think, or do: they dared not run counter to the
fashions and customs of those around them; they shrank from the idea of
standing alone. But the snare is now broken and they are delivered. This
is true liberty. This is to be free.

Christ's freemen are free from the _fear of death_. They no longer look
forward to it with silent dismay, as a horrible thing which they do not
care to think of. Through Christ they can look this last enemy calmly in
the face, and say,--"Thou canst not harm me." They can look forward to
all that comes after death,--decay, resurrection, judgment, and
eternity,--and yet not feel cast down. They can stand by the side of an
open grave, and say, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy
victory?" They can lay them down on their death-beds, and say, "Though I
walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil."
(Ps. xxiii. 4.) "Not a hair of my head shall perish." This is true
liberty. This is to be free.

Best of all, Christ's freemen are _free for ever_. Once enrolled in the
list of heavenly citizens, their names shall never be struck off. Once
presented with the freedom of Christ's kingdom, they shall possess it
for evermore. The highest privileges of this world's freedom can only
endure for a life-time; the freest citizen on earth must submit at
length to die, and lose his franchise for ever: but the franchise of
Christ's people is eternal. They carry it down to the grave, and it
lives still; they will rise again with it at the last day, and enjoy the
privileges of it for evermore. This is true liberty. This is to be free.

Does anyone ask how and in what way Christ has obtained these mighty
privileges for His people? You have a right to ask the question, and it
is one that can never be answered too clearly. Give me your attention,
and I will show you by what means Christ has made His people free.

The freedom of Christ's people has been procured, like all other
freedom, at a mighty cost and by a mighty sacrifice. Great was the
bondage in which they were naturally held, and great was the price
necessary to be paid to set them free: mighty was the enemy who claimed
them as his captives, and it needed mighty power to release them out of
his hands. But, blessed be God, there was grace enough, and power enough
ready in Jesus Christ. He provided to the uttermost everything that was
required to set His people free. The price that Christ paid for His
people was nothing less than His own life-blood. He became their
Substitute, and suffered for their sins on the cross: He redeemed them
from the curse of the law, by being made a curse for them. (Gal. iii.
13.) He paid all their debt in His own person, by allowing the
chastisement of their peace to be laid on Him. (Isaiah liii. 5.) He
satisfied every possible demand of the law against them, by fulfilling
its righteousness to the uttermost. He cleared them from every
imputation of sin, by becoming sin for them. (2 Cor. v. 21.) He fought
their battle with the devil, and triumphed over him on the cross. As
their Champion, He spoiled principalities and powers, and made a show of
them openly on Calvary. In a word, Christ having given Himself for us,
has purchased the full right of redemption for us. Nothing can touch
those to whom He gives freedom: their debts are paid, and paid a
thousand times over; their sins are atoned for by a full, perfect, and
sufficient atonement. A Divine Substitute's death meets completely the
justice of God, and provides completely redemption for man.

Let us look well at this glorious plan of redemption, and take heed that
we understand it. Ignorance on this point is one great secret of faint
hopes, little comfort, and ceaseless doubts in the minds of Christians.
Too many are content with a vague idea that Christ will somehow save
sinners: but how or why they cannot tell. I protest against this
ignorance. Let us set fully before our eyes the doctrine of Christ's
vicarious death and substitution, and rest our souls upon it. Let us
grasp firmly the mighty truth, that Christ on the cross, stood in the
place of His people, died for His people, suffered for His people, was
counted a curse and sin for His people, paid the debts of His people,
made satisfaction for His people, became the surety and representative
of His people, and in this way procured His people's freedom. Let us
understand this clearly, and then we shall see what a mighty privilege
it is to be made free by Christ.

This is the freedom which, above all other, is worth having. We can
never value it too highly: there is no danger of overvaluing it. All
other freedom is an unsatisfying thing at the best, and a poor uncertain
possession at any time. Christ's freedom alone can never be overthrown.
It is secured by a covenant ordered in all things and sure: its
foundations are laid in the eternal councils of God, and no foreign
enemy can overthrow them. They are cemented and secured by the blood of
the Son of God Himself, and can never be cast down. The freedom of
nations often lasts no longer than a few centuries: the freedom which
Christ gives to any one of His people is a freedom that shall outlive
the solid world.

This is the truest, highest kind of freedom. This is the freedom which
in a changing, dying world, I want men to possess.


III. I have now to show, in the last place, _the way in which the best
kind of freedom is made our own_.

This is a point of vast importance, on account of the many mistakes
which prevail about it. Thousands, perhaps, will allow that there is
such a thing as spiritual freedom, and that Christ alone has purchased
it for us: but when they come to the application of redemption, they go
astray. They cannot answer the question, "Who are those whom Christ
effectually makes free?" and for want of knowledge of the answer, they
sit still in their chains. I ask every reader to give me his attention
once more, and I will try to throw a little light on the subject.
Useless indeed is the redemption which Christ has obtained, unless you
know how the fruit of that redemption can become your own. In vain have
you read of the freedom wherewith Christ makes people free, unless you
understand how you yourself may have an interest in it.

We are not born Christ's freemen. The inhabitants of many a city enjoy
privileges by virtue of their birth-place. St. Paul, who drew
life-breath first at Tarsus in Cilicia, could say to the Roman
Commander, "I was free-born." But this is not the case with Adam's
children, in spiritual things. We are born slaves and servants of sin:
we are by nature "children of wrath," and destitute of any title to
heaven.

We are not made Christ's freemen by baptism. Myriads are every year
brought to the font, and solemnly baptized in the name of the Trinity,
who serve sin like slaves, and neglect Christ all their days. Wretched
indeed is that man's state of soul who can give no better evidence of
his citizenship of heaven than the mere naked fact of his baptism!

We are not made Christ's freemen by mere membership of Christ's Church.
There are Companies and Corporations whose members are entitled to vast
privileges, without any respect to their personal character, if their
names are only on the list of members. The kingdom of Christ is not a
corporation of this kind. The grand test of belonging to it is personal
character.

Let these things sink down into our minds. Far be it from me to narrow
the extent of Christ's redemption: the price He paid on the cross is
sufficient for the whole world. Far be it from me to undervalue baptism
or Church-membership: the ordinance which Christ appointed, and the
Church which He maintains in the midst of a dark world, ought neither of
them to be lightly esteemed.--All I contend for is the absolute
necessity of not being content either with baptism or Church-membership.
If our religion stops short here it is unprofitable and unsatisfying. It
needs something more than this to give us an interest in the redemption
which Christ has purchased.

There is no other way to become Christ's freemen than that of simply
believing. It is by faith, simple faith in Him as our Saviour and
Redeemer, that men's souls are made free. It is by receiving Christ,
trusting Christ, committing ourselves to Christ, reposing our whole
weight on Christ,--it is by this, and by no other plan, that spiritual
liberty is made our own. Mighty as are the privileges which Christ's
freemen possess, they all become a man's property in the day that he
first believes. He may not yet know their full value, but they are all
his own. He that believeth in Christ is not condemned,--is justified, is
born again, is an heir of God, and hath everlasting life.

The truth before us is one of priceless importance. Let us cling to it
firmly, and never let it go. If you desire peace of conscience, if you
want inward rest and consolation, stir not an inch off the ground that
faith is the grand secret of an interest in Christ's redemption.--Take
the simplest view of faith: beware of confusing your mind by complicated
ideas about it. Follow holiness as closely as you can: seek the fullest
and clearest evidence of the inward work of the Spirit. But in the
matter of an interest in Christ's redemption remember that faith stands
alone. It is by believing, simply believing, that souls become free.

No doctrine like this to suit the ignorant and unlearned! Visit the
poorest and humblest cottager, who knows nothing of theology, and cannot
even repeat the creed. Tell him the story of the cross, and the good
news about Jesus Christ, and His love to sinners; show him that there is
freedom provided for him, as well as for the most learned in the
land,--freedom from guilt, freedom from the devil, freedom from
condemnation, freedom from hell. And then tell him plainly, boldly,
broadly, unreservedly, that this freedom may be all his own, if he will
but trust in Christ and believe.

No doctrine like this to suit the sick and dying! Go to the bedside of
the vilest sinner, when death is coming nigh, and tell him lovingly that
there is a hope even for him, if he can receive it. Tell him that Christ
came into the world to save sinners, even the chief of them; tell him
that Christ has done all, paid all, performed all, purchased all that
the soul of man can possibly need for salvation. And then assure him
that he, even he, may be freed at once from all his guilt, if he will
only believe. Yes, say to him, in the words of Scripture, "If thou shalt
confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thine heart that
God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." (Rom. x. 9.)

Let us never forget that this is the point to which we must turn our own
eyes, if we would know whether we have a saving interest in Christ's
redemption. Waste not your time in speculations whether you are elect,
and converted, and a vessel of grace. Stand not poring over the
unprofitable question whether Christ died for you or not. That is a
point of which no one ever made any question in the Bible. Settle your
thoughts on this one simple inquiry,--"Do I really trust in Christ, as a
humble sinner? Do I cast myself on Him? Do I believe?"--Look not to
anything else. Look at this alone. Fear not to rest your soul on plain
texts and promises of Scripture. If you believe, you are free.

(1) And now as I bring this paper to a conclusion, let me affectionately
press upon every reader the inquiry which grows naturally out of the
whole subject. Let me ask every one a plain question: "Are you free?"

I know not who or what you are into whose hands this paper has fallen.
But this I do know, there never was an age when the inquiry I press upon
you was more thoroughly needed. Political liberty, civil liberty,
commercial liberty, liberty of speech, liberty of the press,--all these,
and a hundred other kindred subjects, are swallowing up men's attention.
Few, very few, find time to think of spiritual liberty. Many, too many,
forget that no man is so thoroughly a slave, whatever his position, as
the man who serves sin. Yes! there are thousands in this country who are
slaves of beer and spirits, slaves of lust, slaves of ambition, slaves
of political party, slaves of money, slaves of gambling, slaves of
fashion, or slaves of temper! You may not see their chains with the
naked eye, and they themselves may boast of their liberty: but for all
that they are thoroughly slaves. Whether men like to hear it or not, the
gambler and the drunkard, the covetous and the passionate, the glutton
and the sensualist, are not free, but slaves. They are bound hand and
foot by the devil. "He that committeth sin is the servant of sin."
(Rom. viii. 34.) He that boasts of liberty, while he is enslaved by
lusts and passions, is going down to hell with a lie in his right hand.

Awake to see these things, while health, and time, and life are granted
to you. Let not political struggles and party strife make you forget
your precious soul. Take any side in politics you please, and follow
honestly your conscientious convictions; but never, never forget that
there is a liberty far higher and more lasting than any that politics
can give you. Rest not till that liberty is your own. Rest not till YOUR
SOUL IS FREE.

(2) Do you feel any desire to be free? Do you find any longing within
you for a higher, better liberty than this world can give--a liberty
that will not die at your death, but will go with you beyond the grave?
Then take the advice I give you this day. Seek Christ, repent, believe,
and be free. Christ has a glorious liberty to bestow on all who humbly
cry to Him for freedom. Christ can take burdens off your heart, and
strike chains off your inward man. "If the Son shall make you free, you
shall be free indeed." (John viii. 36.)

Freedom like this is the secret of true happiness. None go through the
world with such ease and content as those who are citizens of a heavenly
country. Earth's burdens press lightly upon their shoulders; earth's
disappointments do not crush them down as they do others; earth's duties
and anxieties do not drink up their spirit. In their darkest hours they
have always this sustaining thought to fall back on,--"I have something
which makes me independent of this world: I am spiritually free."

Freedom like this is the secret of being a good politician. In every age
Christ's freemen have been the truest friends to law and order, and to
measures for the benefit of all classes of mankind. Never, =never= let
it be forgotten that the despised Puritans, two hundred years ago, did
more for the cause of real liberty in England than all the Governments
which ever ruled this land. No man ever made this country so feared and
respected as Oliver Cromwell. The root of the most genuine patriotism is
to be one of those whom Christ has made free.

(3) Are you spiritually free? Then rejoice, and be thankful for your
freedom. Care not for the scorn and contempt of man: you have no cause
to be ashamed of your religion or your Master. He whose citizenship is
in heaven (Phil. iii. 20), who has God for his Father, and Christ for
his Elder Brother, angels for his daily guards, and heaven itself for
his home, is one that is well provided for. No change of laws can add to
his greatness: no extension of franchise can raise him higher than he
stands in God's sight. "The lines are fallen to him in pleasant places,
and he has a goodly heritage." (Psalm xvi. 6.) Grace now, and the hope
of glory hereafter, are more lasting privileges than the power of voting
for twenty boroughs or counties.

Are you free? Then stand fast in your liberty, and be not entangled
again in the yoke of bondage. Listen not to those who by good words and
fair speeches would draw you back to the Church of Rome. Beware of those
who would fain persuade you that there is any mediator but the one
Mediator, Christ Jesus,--any sacrifice but the one Sacrifice offered on
Calvary,--any priest but the great High Priest Emmanuel,--any incense
needed in worship but the savour of His name who was crucified,--any
rule of faith and practice but God's Word,--any confessional but the
throne of grace,--any effectual absolution but that which Christ bestows
on the hearts of His believing people,--any purgatory but the one
fountain open for all sins, the blood of Christ, to be only used while
we are alive. On all these points stand fast, and be on your guard.
Scores of misguided teachers are trying to rob Christians of Gospel
liberty, and to bring back among us exploded superstitions. Resist them
manfully, and do not give way for a moment. Remember what Romanism was
in this country before the blessed Reformation. Remember at what mighty
cost our martyred Reformers brought spiritual freedom to light by the
Gospel. Stand fast for this freedom like a man, and labour to hand it
down to your children, whole and unimpaired.

Are you free? Then think every day you live of the millions of your
fellow-creatures who are yet bound hand and foot in spiritual darkness.
Think of six hundred millions of heathens who never yet heard of Christ
and salvation. Think of the poor homeless Jews, scattered and wandering
over the face of the earth, because they have not yet received their
Messiah. Think of the millions of Roman Catholics who are yet in
captivity under the Pope, and know nothing of true liberty, light, and
peace. Think of the myriads of your own fellow-countrymen in our great
cities, who, without Sabbaths and without means of grace, are
practically heathens, and whom the devil is continually leading captive
at his will. Think of them all, and feel for them. Think of them all,
and often say to yourself,--"What can I do for them? How can I help to
set them free?"

What! Shall it be proclaimed at the last day that Pharisees and Jesuits
have compassed sea and land to make proselytes,--that politicians have
leagued and laboured night and day to obtain catholic emancipation and
free trade,--that philanthropists have travailed in soul for years to
procure the suppression of negro slavery,--and shall it appear at the
same time that Christ's freemen have done little to rescue men and women
from hell? Forbid it, faith! Forbid it, charity! Surely if the children
of this world are zealous to promote temporal freedom, the children of
God ought to be much more zealous to promote spiritual freedom. Let the
time past suffice us to have been selfish and indolent in this matter.
For the rest of our days let us use =every= effort to promote spiritual
emancipation. If we have tasted the blessings of freedom, let us spare
no pains to make others free.

Are you free? Then look forward in faith and hope for good things yet to
come. Free as we are, if we believe on Christ, from the guilt and power
of sin, we must surely feel every day that we are not free from its
presence and the temptations of the devil. Redeemed as we are from the
eternal consequences of the fall, we must often feel that we are not yet
redeemed from sickness and infirmity, from sorrow and from pain. No,
indeed! Where is the freeman of Christ on earth who is not often
painfully reminded that we are not yet in heaven? We are yet in the
body; we are yet travelling through the wilderness of this world: we are
not at home. We have shed many tears already, and probably we shall have
to shed many more; we have got yet within us a poor weak heart: we are
yet liable to be assaulted by the devil. Our redemption is begun indeed,
but it is not yet completed. We have redemption now in the root, but we
have it not in the flower.

But let us take courage: there are better days yet to come. Our great
Redeemer and Liberator has gone before us to prepare a place for His
people, and when He comes again our redemption will be complete. The
great jubilee year is yet to come. A few more returns of Christmas and
New Year's Days,--a few more meetings and partings,--a few more births
and deaths,--a few more weddings and funerals,--a few more tears and
struggles,--a few more sicknesses and pains,--a few more Sabbaths and
sacraments,--a few more preachings and prayings,--a few more, and the
end will come! Our Master will come back again. The dead saints shall be
raised. The living saints shall be changed. Then, and not till then, we
shall be completely free. The liberty which we enjoyed by faith shall be
changed into the liberty of sight, and the freedom of hope into the
freedom of certainty.

Come, then, and let us resolve to wait, and watch, and hope, and pray,
and live like men who have something laid up for them in heaven. The
night is far spent, and the day is at hand. Our King is not far off: our
full redemption draweth nigh. Our full salvation is nearer than when we
believed. The signs of the times are strange, and demand every
Christian's serious attention. The kingdoms of this world are in
confusion: the powers of this world, both temporal and ecclesiastical,
are everywhere reeling and shaken to their foundations. Happy, thrice
happy, are those who are citizens of Christ's eternal kingdom, and ready
for anything that may come. Blessed indeed are those men and women who
know and feel that they are free!



X


HAPPINESS

     "_Happy is that people whose God is the Lord._"--Psalm cxliv.
     15.


An infidel was once addressing a crowd of people in the open air. He was
trying to persuade them that there was no God and no devil no heaven,
and no hell, no resurrection, no judgment, and no life to come. He
advised them to throw away their Bibles, and not to mind what parsons
said. He recommended them to think as he did, and to be like him. He
talked boldly. The crowd listened eagerly. It was "the blind leading the
blind." Both were falling into the ditch. (Matt. xv. 14.)

In the middle of his address a poor old woman suddenly pushed her way
through the crowd, to the place where he was standing. She stood before
him. She looked him full in the face. "Sir," she said, in a loud voice,
"Are you happy?" The infidel looked scornfully at her, and gave her no
answer. "Sir," she said again, "I ask you to answer my question. Are you
happy? You want us to throw away our Bibles. You tell us not to believe
what parsons say about religion. You advise us to think as you do, and
be like you. Now before we take your advice we have a right to know what
good we shall get by it. Do your fine new notions give you much comfort?
Do you yourself really feel happy?"

The infidel stopped, and attempted to answer the old woman's question.
He stammered, and shuffled, and fidgetted, and endeavoured to explain
his meaning. He tried hard to turn the subject. He said, he "had not
come there to preach about happiness." But it was of no use. The old
woman stuck to her point. She insisted on her question being answered,
and the crowd took her part. She pressed him hard with her inquiry, and
would take no excuse. And at last the infidel was obliged to leave the
ground, and sneak off in confusion. He could not reply to the question.
His conscience would not let him: he dared not say that he was happy.

The old woman showed great wisdom in asking the question that she did.
The argument she used may seem very simple, but in reality it is one of
the most powerful that can be employed. It is a weapon that has more
effect on some minds than the most elaborate reasoning of Butler, or
Paley, or Chalmers. Whenever a man begins to take up new views of
religion, and pretends to despise old Bible Christianity, thrust home at
his conscience the old woman's question. Ask him whether his new views
make him feel comfortable within. Ask him whether he can say, with
honesty and sincerity, that he is happy. The grand test of a man's faith
and religion is, "Does it make him happy?"

Let me now affectionately invite every reader to consider the subject of
this paper. Let me warn you to remember that the salvation of your soul,
and nothing less, is closely bound up with the subject. The heart cannot
be right in the sight of God which knows nothing of happiness. That man
or woman cannot be in a safe state of soul who feels nothing of peace
within.

There are three things which I purpose to do, in order to clear up the
subject of happiness. I ask special attention to each one of them. And I
pray the Spirit of God to apply all to the souls of all who read this
paper.

    I. Let me point out some things which are absolutely essential to
    all happiness.

    II. Let me expose some common mistakes about the way to be happy.

    III. Let me show the way to be truly happy.


I. First of all I have _to point out some things which are absolutely
essential to all true happiness_.

Happiness is what all mankind want to obtain: the desire of it is deeply
planted in the human heart. All men naturally dislike pain, sorrow, and
discomfort. All men naturally like ease, comfort, and gladness. All men
naturally hunger and thirst after happiness. Just as the sick man longs
for health, and the prisoner of war for liberty,--just as the parched
traveller in hot countries longs to see the cooling fountain, or the
ice-bound polar voyager the sun rising above the horizon,--just in the
same way does poor mortal man long to be happy. But, alas, how few
consider what they really mean when they talk of happiness! How vague
and indistinct and undefined the ideas of most men are upon the subject!
They think some are happy who in reality are miserable: they think some
are gloomy and sad who in reality are truly happy. They dream of a
happiness which in reality would never satisfy their nature's wants. Let
me try this day to throw a little light on the subject.

True happiness _is not perfect freedom from sorrow and discomfort_. Let
that never be forgotten. If it were so there would be no such thing as
happiness in the world. Such happiness is for angels who have never
fallen, and not for man. The happiness I am inquiring about is such as a
poor, dying, sinful creature may hope to attain. Our whole nature is
defiled by sin. Evil abounds in the world. Sickness, and death, and
change are daily doing their sad work on every side. In such a state of
things the highest happiness man can attain to on earth must
necessarily be a mixed thing. If we expect to find any literally perfect
happiness on this side of the grave, we expect what we shall not find.

True happiness _does not consist in laughter and smiles_. The face is
very often a poor index of the inward man. There are thousands who laugh
loud and are merry as a grasshopper in company, but are wretched and
miserable in private, and almost afraid to be alone. There are hundreds
who are grave and serious in their demeanour, whose hearts are full of
solid peace. A poet of our own has truly told us that smiles are worth
but little:--

    "A man may smile and smile and be a villain."

And the eternal Word of God teaches us that "even in laughter the heart
is sorrowful." (Prov. xiv. 13.) Tell me not merely of smiling and
laughing faces: I want to hear of something more than that when I ask
whether a man is happy. A truly happy man no doubt will often show his
happiness in his countenance; but a man may have a very merry face and
yet not be happy at all.

Of all deceptive things on earth nothing is so deceptive as mere gaiety
and merriment. It is a hollow empty show, utterly devoid of substance
and reality. Listen to the brilliant talker in society, and mark the
applause which he receives from an admiring company: follow him to his
own private room, and you will very likely find him plunged in
melancholy despondency. Colonel Gardiner confessed that even when he was
thought most happy he often wished he was a dog.--Look at the smiling
beauty in the ball-room, and you might suppose she knew not what it was
to be unhappy; see her next day at her own home, and you may probably
find her out of temper with herself and everybody else besides.--Oh, no:
worldly merriment is not real happiness! There is a certain pleasure
about it, I do not deny. There is an animal excitement about it, I make
no question. There is a temporary elevation of spirits about it, I
freely concede. But call it not by the sacred name of happiness. The
most beautiful cut flowers stuck into the ground do not make a garden.
When glass is called diamond, and tinsel is called gold, then, and not
till then, your people who can laugh and smile will deserve to be called
happy men.[7]

  7: Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, at a time when all Spain was
  laughing at his humorous work, was overwhelmed with a deep cloud of
  melancholy.

  Molière, the first of French comic writers, carried into his domestic
  circle a sadness which the greatest worldly prosperity could never
  dispel.

  Samuel Foote, the noted wit of the last century, died of a broken heart.

  Theodore Hooke, the facetious novel writer, who could set everybody
  laughing, says of himself in his diary, "I am suffering under a constant
  depression of spirits, which no one who sees me in society dreams of."

  A wobegone stranger consulted a physician about his health. The
  physician advised him to keep up his spirits by going to hear the great
  comic actor of the day. "You should go and hear Matthews. He would make
  you well." "Alas, sir," was the reply, "I am Matthews
  himself!"--_Pictorial Pages._

To be truly happy _the highest wants of a man's nature must be met and
satisfied_. The requirements of his curiously wrought constitution must
all be filled up. There must be nothing about him that cries, "Give,
give," but cries in vain and gets no answer. The horse and the ox are
happy as long as they are warmed and filled. And why? It is because they
are satisfied. The little infant looks happy when it is clothed, and
fed, and well, and in its mother's arms. And why? Because it is
satisfied. And just so it is with man. His highest wants must be met and
satisfied before he can be truly happy. All must be filled up. There
must be no void, no empty places, no unsupplied cravings. Till then he
is never truly happy.

And what are _man's principal wants_? Has he a body only? No: he has
something more! He has a soul.--Has he sensual faculties only? Can he
do nothing but hear, and see, and smell, and taste, and feel? No: he has
a thinking mind and a conscience!--Has he no consciousness of any world
but that in which he lives and moves? He has. There is a still small
voice within him which often makes itself heard: "This life is not all!
There is a world unseen: there is a life beyond the grave." Yes! it is
true. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. All men know it: all men
feel it, if they would only speak the truth. It is utter nonsense to
pretend that food and raiment and earthly good things alone can make men
happy. There are soul-wants. There are conscience-wants. There can be no
true happiness until these wants are satisfied.

To be truly happy _a man must have sources of gladness which are not
dependent on anything in this world_. There is nothing upon earth which
is not stamped with the mark of instability and uncertainty. All the
good things that money can buy are but for a moment: they either leave
us or we are obliged to leave them. All the sweetest relationships in
life are liable to come to an end: death may come any day and cut them
off. The man whose happiness depends entirely on things here below is
like him who builds his house on sand, or leans his weight on a reed.

Tell me not of your happiness if it daily hangs on the uncertainties of
earth. Your home may be rich in comforts; your wife and children may be
all you could desire; your means may be amply sufficient to meet all
your wants. But oh, remember, if you have nothing more than this to look
to, that you stand on the brink of a precipice! Your rivers of pleasure
may any day be dried up. Your joy may be deep and earnest, but it is
fearfully short-lived. It has no root. It is not true happiness.

To be really happy _a man must be able to look on every side without
uncomfortable feelings_. He must be able to look back to the past
without guilty fears; he must be able to look around him without
discontent; he must be able to look forward without anxious dread.
He must be able to sit down and think calmly about things past,
present, and to come, and feel prepared. The man who has a weak side
in his condition,--a side that he does not like looking at or
considering,--that man is not really happy.

Talk not to me of your happiness, if you are unable to look steadily
either before or behind you. Your present position may be easy and
pleasant. You may find many sources of joy and gladness in your
profession, your dwelling-place, your family, and your friends. Your
health may be good, your spirits may be cheerful. But stop and think
quietly over your past life. Can you reflect calmly on all the omissions
and commissions of by-gone years? How will they bear God's inspection?
How will you answer for them at the last day?--And then look forward,
and think on the years yet to come. Think of the certain end towards
which you are hastening; think of death; think of judgment; think of the
hour when you will meet God face to face. Are you ready for it? Are you
prepared? Can you look forward to these things without alarm?--Oh, be
very sure if you cannot look comfortably at any season but the present,
your boasted happiness is a poor unreal thing! It is but a whitened
sepulchre,--fair and beautiful without, but bones and corruption within.
It is a mere thing of a day, like Jonah's gourd. It is not real
happiness.

I ask my readers to fix in their minds the account of things essential
to happiness, which I have attempted to give. Dismiss from your thoughts
the many mistaken notions which pass current on this subject, like
counterfeit coin. To be truly happy, the wants of your soul and
conscience must be satisfied; to be truly happy, your joy must be
founded on something more than this world can give you; to be truly
happy, you must be able to look on every side,--above, below, behind,
before,--and feel that all is right. This is real, sterling, genuine
happiness: this is the happiness I have in view when I urge on your
notice the subject of this paper.


II. In the next place, _let me expose some common mistakes about the way
to be happy_.

There are several roads which are thought by many to lead to happiness.
In each of these roads thousands and tens of thousands of men and women
are continually travelling. Each fancies that if he could only attain
all he wants he would be happy. Each fancies, if he does not succeed,
that the fault is not in his road, but in his own want of luck and good
fortune. And all alike seem ignorant that they are hunting shadows. They
have started in a wrong direction: they are seeking that which can never
be found in the place where they seek it.

I will mention by name some of the principal delusions about happiness.
I do it in love, and charity, and compassion to men's souls. I believe
it to be a public duty to warn people against cheats, quacks, and
impostors. Oh, how much trouble and sorrow it might save my readers, if
they would only believe what I am going to say!

It is an utter mistake to suppose that _rank and greatness alone_ can
give happiness. The kings and rulers of this world are not necessarily
happy men. They have troubles and crosses, which none know but
themselves; they see a thousand evils, which they are unable to remedy;
they are slaves working in golden chains, and have less real liberty
than any in the world; they have burdens and responsibilities laid upon
them, which are a daily weight on their hearts. The Roman Emperor
Antonine often said, that "the imperial power was an ocean of miseries."
Queen Elizabeth, when she heard a milk-maid singing, wished that she had
been born to a lot like her's. Never did our great Poet write a truer
word than when he said,

    "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown."

It is an utter mistake to suppose that _riches alone_ can give
happiness. They can enable a man to command and possess everything but
inward peace. They cannot buy a cheerful spirit and a light heart. There
is care in the getting of them, and care in the keeping of them, care in
the using of them, and care in the disposing of them, care in the
gathering, and care in the scattering of them. He was a wise man who
said that "money" was only another name for "trouble," and that the same
English letters which spelt "acres" would also spell "cares."

It is an utter mistake to suppose that _learning and science alone_ can
give happiness. They may occupy a man's time and attention, but they
cannot really make him happy. They that increase knowledge often
"increase sorrow:" the more they learn, the more they discover their own
ignorance. (Eccles. i. 18.) It is not in the power of things on earth or
under the earth to "minister to a mind diseased." The heart wants
something as well as the head: the conscience needs food as well as the
intellect. All the secular knowledge in the world will not give a man
joy and gladness, when he thinks on sickness, and death, and the grave.
They that have climbed the highest, have often found themselves
solitary, dissatisfied, and empty of peace. The learned Selden, at the
close of his life, confessed that all his learning did not give him such
comfort as four verses of St. Paul. (Titus ii. 11--14.)

It is an utter mistake to suppose that _idleness alone_ can give
happiness. The labourer who gets up at five in the morning, and goes out
to work all day in a cold clay ditch, often thinks, as he walks past the
rich man's door, "What a fine thing it must be to have no work to do."
Poor fellow! he little knows what he thinks. The most miserable
creature on earth is the man who has nothing to do. Work for the hands
or work for the head is absolutely essential to human happiness. Without
it the mind feeds upon itself, and the whole inward man becomes
diseased. The machinery within _will_ work, and without something to
work upon, will often wear itself to pieces. There was no idleness in
Eden. Adam and Eve had to "dress the garden and keep it." There will be
no idleness in heaven: God's "servants shall serve Him." Oh, be very
sure the idlest man is the man most truly unhappy! (Gen. ii. 15; Rev.
xxii. 3.)

It is an utter mistake to suppose that _pleasure-seeking and amusement
alone_ can give happiness. Of all roads that men can take in order to be
happy, this is the one that is most completely wrong. Of all weary,
flat, dull, and unprofitable ways of spending life, this exceeds all. To
think of a dying creature, with an immortal soul, expecting happiness in
feasting and revelling,--in dancing and singing,--in dressing and
visiting,--in ball-going and card-playing,--in races and fairs,--in
hunting and shooting,--in crowds, in laughter, in noise, in music, in
wine! Surely it is a sight that is enough to make the devil laugh and
the angels weep. Even a child will not play with its toys all day long.
It must have food. But when grown up men and women think to find
happiness in a constant round of amusement they sink far below a child.

I place before every reader of this paper these common mistakes about
the way to be happy. I ask you to mark them well. I warn you plainly
against these pretended short cuts to happiness, however crowded they
may be. I tell you that if you fancy any one of them can lead you to
true peace you are entirely deceived. Your conscience will never feel
satisfied; your immortal soul will never feel easy: your whole inward
man will feel uncomfortable and out of health. Take any one of these
roads, or take all of them, and if you have nothing besides to look to,
you will never find happiness. You may travel on and on and on, and the
wished for object will seem as far away at the end of each stage of life
as when you started. You are like one pouring water into a sieve, or
putting money into a bag with holes. You might as well try to make an
elephant happy by feeding him with a grain of sand a day, as try to
satisfy that heart of your's with rank, riches, learning, idleness, or
pleasure.

Do you doubt the truth of all I am saying? I dare say you do. Then let
us turn to the great Book of human experience, and read over a few lines
out of its solemn pages. You shall have the testimony of a few competent
witnesses on the great subject I am urging on your attention.

A King shall be our first witness: I mean Solomon, King of Israel. We
know that he had power, and wisdom, and wealth, far exceeding that of
any ruler of his time. We know from his own confession, that he tried
the great experiment how far the good things of this world can make man
happy. We know, from the record of his own hand, the result of this
curious experiment. He writes it by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost,
for the benefit of the whole world, in the book of Ecclesiastes. Never,
surely, was the experiment tried under such favourable circumstances:
never was any one so likely to succeed as the Jewish King. Yet what is
Solomon's testimony? You have it in his melancholy words: "All is vanity
and vexation of spirit." (Eccles. i. 14.)

A famous French lady shall be our next witness: I mean Madam De
Pompadour. She was the friend and favourite of Louis the Fifteenth. She
had unbounded influence at the Court of France. She wanted nothing that
money could procure. Yet what does she say herself? "What a situation is
that of the great! They only live in the future, and are only happy in
hope. There is no peace in ambition. I am always gloomy, and often so
unreasonably. The kindness of the King, the regard of courtiers, the
attachment of my domestics, and the fidelity of a large number of
friends,--motives like these, which ought to make me happy, affect me no
longer. I have no longer inclinations for all which once pleased me. I
have caused my house at Paris to be magnificently furnished: well; it
pleased for two days! My residence at Bellevue is charming; and I alone
cannot endure it. Benevolent people relate to me all the news and
adventures of Paris: they think I listen, but when they have done I ask
them what they said. In a word, I do not live: I am dead before my time.
I have no interest in the world. Everything conspires to embitter my
life. My life is a continual death." To such testimony I need not add a
single word. (_Sinclair's Anecdotes and Aphorisms_ p. 33)

A famous German writer shall be our next witness: I mean Goethe. It is
well known that he was almost idolized by many during his life. His
works were read and admired by thousands. His name was known and
honoured, wherever German was read, all over the world. And yet the
praise of man, of which he reaped such an abundant harvest, was utterly
unable to make Goethe happy. "He confessed, when about eighty years old,
that he could not remember being in a really happy state of mind even
for a few weeks together; and that when he wished to feel happy, he had
to veil his self-consciousness." (_See Sinclair's Anecdotes and
Aphorisms, p. 280._)

An English peer and poet shall be our next witness: I mean Lord Byron.
If ever there was one who ought to have been happy according to the
standard of the world, Lord Byron was the man. He began life with all
the advantages of English rank and position. He had splendid abilities
and powers of mind, which the world soon discovered and was ready to
honour. He had a sufficiency of means to gratify every lawful wish, and
never knew anything of real poverty. Humanly speaking, there seemed
nothing to prevent him enjoying life and being happy. Yet it is a
notorious fact that Byron was a miserable man. Misery stands out in his
poems: misery creeps out in his letters. Weariness, satiety, disgust,
and discontent appear in all his ways. He is an awful warning that rank,
and title, and literary fame, alone, are not sufficient to make a man
happy.

A man of science shall be our next witness: I mean Sir Humphrey Davy. He
was a man eminently successful in the line of life which he chose, and
deservedly so. A distinguished philosopher,--the inventor of the famous
safety-lamp which bears his name, and has preserved so many poor miners
from death by fire-damp,--a Baronet of the United Kingdom and President
of the Royal Society;--his whole life seemed a continual career of
prosperity. If learning alone were the road to happiness, this man at
least ought to have been happy. Yet what was the true record of Davy's
feelings? We have it in his own melancholy journal at the latter part of
his life. He describes himself in two painful words: "Very miserable!"

A man of wit and pleasure shall be our next witness: I mean Lord
Chesterfield. He shall speak for himself: his own words in a letter
shall be his testimony. "I have seen the silly round of business and
pleasure, and have done with it all. I have enjoyed all the pleasures of
the world, and consequently know their futility, and do not regret their
loss. I appraise them at their real value, which in truth is very low;
whereas those who have not experience always overrate them. They only
see their gay outside, and are dazzled with their glare; but I have been
behind the scenes. I have seen all the coarse pullies and dirty ropes
which exhibit and move the gaudy machine, and I have seen and smelt the
tallow candles which illuminate the whole decoration, to the
astonishment and admiration of the ignorant audience. When I reflect on
what I have seen, what I have heard, and what I have done, I cannot
persuade myself that all that frivolous hurry of bustle and pleasure of
the world had any reality. I look on all that is past as one of those
romantic dreams which opium occasions, and I do by no means wish to
repeat the nauseous dose for the sake of the fugitive dream." These
sentences speak for themselves. I need not add to them one single word.

The Statesmen and Politicians who have swayed the destinies of the
world, ought by good right to be our last witnesses. But I forbear, in
Christian charity, to bring them forward. It makes my heart ache when I
run my eye over the list of names famous in English history, and think
how many have worn out their lives in a breathless struggle after place
and distinction. How many of our greatest men have died of broken
hearts,--disappointed, disgusted, and tried with constant failure! How
many have left on record some humbling confession that in the plentitude
of their power they were pining for rest, as the caged eagle for
liberty! How many whom the world is applauding as "masters of the
situation," are in reality little better than galley-slaves, chained to
the oar and unable to get free! Alas, there are many sad proofs, both
among the living and the dead, that to be great and powerful is not
necessarily to be happy.

I think it very likely that men do not believe what I am saying. I know
something of the deceitfulness of the heart on the subject of happiness.
There are few things which man is so slow to believe as the truths I am
now putting forth about the way to be happy. Bear with me then while I
say something more.

Come and stand with me some afternoon in the heart of the city of
London. Let us watch the faces of most of the wealthy men whom we shall
see leaving their houses of business at the close of the day. Some of
them are worth hundreds of thousands: some of them are worth millions of
pounds. But what is written in the countenances of these grave men whom
we see swarming out from Lombard Street and Cornhill, from the Bank of
England and the Stock Exchange? What mean those deep lines which furrow
so many a cheek and so many a brow? What means that air of anxious
thoughtfulness which is worn by five out of every six we meet? Ah, these
things tell a serious tale. They tell us that it needs something more
than gold and bank notes to make men happy.

Come next and stand with me near the Houses of Parliament, in the middle
of a busy session. Let us scan the faces of Peers and Commoners, whose
names are familiar and well-known all over the civilized world. There
you may see on some fine May evening the mightiest Statesmen in England
hurrying to a debate, like eagles to the carcase. Each has a power of
good or evil in his tongue which it is fearful to contemplate. Each may
say things before to-morrow's sun dawns, which may affect the peace and
prosperity of nations, and convulse the world. There you may see the men
who hold the reins of power and government already; there you may see
the men who are daily watching for an opportunity of snatching those
reins out of their hands, and governing in their stead. But what do
their faces tell us as they hasten to their posts? What may be learned
from their care-worn countenances? What may be read in many of their
wrinkled foreheads,--so absent-looking and sunk in thought? They teach
us a solemn lesson. They teach us that it needs something more than
political greatness to make men happy.

Come next and stand with me in the most fashionable part of London, in
the height of the season. Let us visit Regent Street or Pall Mall, Hyde
Park or May Fair. How many fair faces and splendid equipages we shall
see! How many we shall count up in an hour's time who seem to possess
the choicest gifts of this world,--beauty, wealth, rank, fashion, and
troops of friends! But, alas, how few we shall see who appear happy! In
how many countenances we shall read weariness, dissatisfaction,
discontent, sorrow, or unhappiness, as clearly as if it was written with
a pen! Yes: it is a humbling lesson to learn, but a very wholesome one.
It needs something more than rank, and fashion, and beauty, to make
people happy.

Come next and walk with me through some quiet country parish in merry
England. Let us visit some secluded corner in our beautiful old
father-land, far away from great towns, and fashionable dissipation and
political strife. There are not a few such to be found in the land.
There are rural parishes where there is neither street, nor public
house, nor beershop,--where there is work for all the labourers, and a
church for all the population, and a school for all the children, and a
minister of the Gospel to look after the people. Surely, you will say,
we shall find happiness here! Surely such parishes must be the very
abodes of peace and joy!--Go into those quiet-looking cottages, one by
one, and you will soon be undeceived. Learn the inner history of each
family, and you will soon alter your mind. You will soon discover that
backbiting, and lying, and slandering, and envy, and jealousy, and
pride, and laziness, and drinking, and extravagance, and lust, and petty
quarrels, can murder happiness in the country quite as much as in the
town. No doubt a rural village sounds pretty in poetry, and looks
beautiful in pictures; but in sober reality human nature is the same
evil thing everywhere. Alas, it needs something more than a residence in
a quiet country parish to make any child of Adam a happy man!

I know these are ancient things. They have been said a thousand times
before without effect, and I suppose they will be said without effect
again. I want no greater proof of the corruption of human nature than
the pertinacity with which we seek happiness where happiness cannot be
found. Century after century wise men have left on record their
experience about the way to be happy. Century after century the children
of men will have it that they know the way perfectly well, and need no
teaching. They cast to the winds our warnings; they rush, every one, on
his own favourite path; they walk in a vain shadow, and disquiet
themselves in vain, and wake up when too late to find their whole life
has been a grand mistake. Their eyes are blinded: they will not see that
their visions are as baseless and disappointing as the mirage of the
African desert. Like the tired traveller in those deserts, they think
they are approaching a lake of cooling waters; like the same traveller,
they find to their dismay that this fancied lake was a splendid optical
delusion, and that they are still helpless in the midst of burning
sands.

Are you a young person? I entreat you to accept the affectionate warning
of a minister of the Gospel, and not to seek happiness where happiness
cannot be found. Seek it not in riches; seek it not in power and rank;
seek it not in pleasure; seek it not in learning. All these are bright
and splendid fountains: their waters taste sweet. A crowd is standing
round them, which will not leave them; but, oh, remember that God has
written over each of these fountains, "He that drinketh of this water
shall thirst again." (John iv. 13.) Remember this, and be wise.

Are you poor? Are you tempted to fancy that if you had the rich man's
place you would be quite happy? Resist the temptation, and cast it
behind you. Envy not your wealthy neighbours: be content with such
things as you have. Happiness does not depend on houses or land; silks
and satins cannot shut out sorrow from the heart; castles and halls
cannot prevent anxiety and care coming in at their doors. There is as
much misery riding and driving about in carriages as there is walking
about on foot: there is as much unhappiness in ceiled houses as in
humble cottages. Oh, remember the mistakes which are common about
happiness, and be wise!


III. Let me now, in the last place, _point out the way to be really
happy_.

There is a sure path which leads to happiness, if men will only take it.
There never lived the person who travelled in that path, and missed the
object that he sought to attain.

It is a path open to all. It needs neither wealth, nor rank, nor
learning in order to walk in it. It is for the servant as well as for
the master: it is for the poor as well as for the rich. None are
excluded but those who exclude themselves.

It is the one only path. All that have ever been happy, since the days
of Adam, have journeyed on it. There is no royal road to happiness.
Kings must be content to go side by side with their humblest subjects,
if they would be happy.

Where is this path? Where is this road? Listen, and you shall hear.

The way to be happy is _to be a real, thorough-going, true-hearted
Christian_. Scripture declares it: experience proves it. The converted
man, the believer in Christ, the child of God,--he, and he alone, is the
happy man.

It sounds too simple to be true: it seems at first sight so plain a
receipt that it is not believed. But the greatest truths are often the
simplest. The secret which many of the wisest on earth have utterly
failed to discover, is revealed to the humblest believer in Christ. I
repeat it deliberately, and defy the world to disprove it: the true
Christian is the only happy man.

What do I mean when I speak of a true Christian? Do I mean everybody who
goes to church or chapel? Do I mean everybody who professes an orthodox
creed, and bows his head at the belief? Do I mean everybody who
professes to love the Gospel? No: indeed! I mean something very
different. All are not Christians who are called Christians. The man I
have in view is _the Christian in heart and life_. He who has been
taught by the Spirit really to feel his sins,--he who really rests all
his hopes on the Lord Jesus Christ, and His atonement,--he who has been
born again and really lives a spiritual, holy life,--he whose religion
is not a mere Sunday coat, but a mighty constraining principle governing
every day of his life,--he is the man I mean, when I speak of a true
Christian.

What do I mean when I say the true Christian is happy? Has he no doubts
and no fears? Has he no anxieties and no troubles? Has he no sorrows and
no cares? Does he never feel pain, and shed no tears? Far be it from me
to say anything of the kind. He has a body weak and frail like other
men; he has affections and passions like every one born of woman: he
lives in a changeful world. But deep down in his heart he has a mine of
solid peace and substantial joy which is never exhausted. This is true
happiness.

Do I say that all true Christians are equally happy? No: not for a
moment! There are babes in Christ's family as well as old men; there are
weak members of the mystical body as well as strong ones; there are
tender lambs as well as sheep. There are not only the cedars of Lebanon
but the hyssop that grows on the wall. There are degrees of grace and
degrees of faith. Those who have most faith and grace will have most
happiness. But all, more or less, compared to the children of the world,
are happy men.

Do I say that real true Christians are equally happy at all times? No:
not for a moment! All have their ebbs and flows of comfort: some, like
the Mediterranean sea, almost insensibly; some, like the tide at
Chepstow, fifty or sixty feet at a time. Their bodily health is not
always the same; their earthly circumstances are not always the same;
the souls of those they love fill them at seasons with special anxiety:
they themselves are sometimes overtaken by a fault, and walk in
darkness. They sometimes give way to inconsistencies and besetting sins,
and lose their sense of pardon. But, as a general rule, the true
Christian has a deep pool of peace within him, which even at the lowest
is never entirely dry.[8]

  8: I use the words, "as a general rule," advisedly. When a believer
  falls into such a horrible sin as that of David, it would be monstrous
  to talk of his feeling inward peace. If a man professing to be a true
  Christian talked to me of being happy in such a case,--before giving any
  evidence of the deepest, most heart-abasing repentance,--I should feel
  great doubts whether he ever had any grace at all.

The true Christian is the only happy man, because _his conscience is at
peace_. That mysterious witness for God, which is so mercifully placed
within us, is fully satisfied and at rest. It sees in the blood of
Christ a complete cleansing away of all its guilt. It sees in the
priesthood and mediation of Christ a complete answer to all its fears.
It sees that through the sacrifice and death of Christ, God can now be
just, and yet be the justifier of the ungodly. It no longer bites and
stings, and makes its possessor afraid of himself. The Lord Jesus Christ
has amply met all its requirements. Conscience is no longer the enemy of
the true Christian, but his friend and adviser. Therefore he is happy.

The true Christian is the only happy man, because he can _sit down
quietly and think about his soul_. He can look behind him and before
him, he can look within him and around him, and feel, "All is well."--He
can think calmly on his past life, and however many and great his sins,
take comfort in the thought that they are all forgiven. The
righteousness of Christ covers all, as Noah's flood overtopped the
highest hills.--He can think calmly about things to come, and yet not be
afraid. Sickness is painful; death is solemn; the judgment day is an
awful thing: but having Christ for him, he has nothing to fear.--He can
think calmly about the Holy God, whose eyes are on all his ways, and
feel, "He is my Father, my reconciled Father in Christ Jesus. I am weak;
I am unprofitable: yet in Christ He regards me as His dear child, and is
well-pleased." Oh, what a blessed privilege it is to be able to _think_,
and not be afraid! I can well understand the mournful complaint of the
prisoner in solitary confinement. He had warmth, and food, and clothing,
and work, but he was not happy. And why? He said, "He was obliged to
think."

The true Christian is the only happy man, because _he has sources of
happiness entirely independent of this world_. He has something which
cannot be affected by sickness and by deaths, by private losses and by
public calamities, the "peace of God, which passeth all understanding."
He has a hope laid up for him in heaven; he has a treasure which moth
and rust cannot corrupt; he has a house which can never be taken down.
His loving wife may die, and his heart feel rent in twain; his darling
children may be taken from him, and he may be left alone in this cold
world; his earthly plans may be crossed; his health may fail: but all
this time he has a portion which nothing can hurt. He has one Friend who
never dies; he has possessions beyond the grave, of which nothing can
deprive him: his nether springs may fail, but his upper springs are
never dry. This is real happiness.

The true Christian is happy, because he is _in his right position_. All
the powers of his being are directed to right ends. His affections are
not set on things below, but on things above; his will is not bent on
self-indulgence, but is submissive to the will of God; his mind is not
absorbed in wretched perishable trifles. He desires useful employment:
he enjoys the luxury of doing good. Who does not know the misery of
disorder? Who has not tasted the discomfort of a house where everything
and everybody are in their wrong places,--the last things first and the
first things last? The heart of an unconverted man is just such a house.
Grace puts everything in that heart in its right position. The things of
the soul come first, and the things of the world come second. Anarchy
and confusion cease: unruly passions no longer do each one what is right
in his eyes. Christ reigns over the whole man, and each part of him does
his proper work. The new heart is the only really light heart, for it is
the only heart that is in order.--The true Christian has found out his
place. He has laid aside his pride and self-will; he sits at the feet of
Jesus, and is in his right mind: he loves God and loves man, and so he
is happy. In heaven all are happy because all do God's will perfectly.
The nearer a man gets to this standard the happier he will be.

The plain truth is that without Christ there is no happiness in this
world. He alone can give the Comforter who abideth for ever. He is the
sun; without Him men never feel warm. He is the light; without Him men
are always in the dark. He is the bread; without Him men are always
starving. He is the living water; without Him men are always athirst.
Give them what you like,--place them where you please,--surround them
with all the comforts you can imagine,--it makes no difference. Separate
from Christ, the Prince of Peace, a man cannot be happy.

Give a man a sensible interest in Christ, and he will be happy _in spite
of poverty_. He will tell you that he wants nothing that is really good.
He is provided for: he has riches in possession, and riches in
reversion; he has meat to eat that the world knows not of; he has
friends who never leave him nor forsake him. The Father and the Son come
to him, and make their abode with him: the Lord Jesus Christ sups with
him, and he with Christ. (Rev. iii. 20.)

Give a man a sensible interest in Christ, and he will be happy _in
spite of sickness_. His flesh may groan, and his body be worn out with
pain, but his heart will rest and be at peace. One of the happiest
people I ever saw was a young woman who had been hopelessly ill for many
years with disease of the spine. She lay in a garret without a fire; the
straw thatch was not two feet above her face. She had not the slightest
hope of recovery. But she was always rejoicing in the Lord Jesus. The
spirit triumphed mightily over the flesh. She was happy, because Christ
was with her.[9]

   9: John Howard, the famous Christian philanthropist, in his last
  journey said, "I hope I have sources of enjoyment that depend not on
  the particular spot I inhabit. A rightly cultivated mind, under the
  power of religion and the exercises of beneficent dispositions,
  affords a ground of satisfaction little affected by _heres and
  theres_."

Give a man a sensible interest in Christ, and he will be happy _in spite
of abounding public calamities_. The government of his country may be
thrown into confusion, rebellion and disorder may turn everything upside
down, laws may be trampled under foot; justice and equity may be
outraged; liberty may be cast down to the ground; might may prevail over
right: but still his heart will not fail. He will remember that the
kingdom of Christ will one day be set up. He will say, like the old
Scotch minister who lived unmoved throughout the turmoil of the first
French revolution: "It is all right: it shall be well with the
righteous."

I know well that Satan hates the doctrine which I am endeavouring to
press upon you. I have no doubt he is filling your mind with objections
and reasonings, and persuading you that I am wrong. I am not afraid to
meet these objections face to face. Let us bring them forward and see
what they are.

You may tell me that "_you know many very religious people who are not
happy at all_." You see them diligent in attending public worship. You
know that they are never missing at the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.
But you see in them no marks of the peace which I have been describing.

But are you sure that these people you speak of are true believers in
Christ? Are you sure that, with all their appearance of religion, they
are born again and converted to God? Is it not very likely that they
have nothing but the name of Christianity, without the reality; and a
form of godliness, without the power? Alas! you have yet to learn that
people may do many religious acts, and yet possess no saving religion!
It is not a mere formal, ceremonial Christianity that will ever make
people happy. We want something more than going to Church, and going to
sacraments, to give us peace. There must be real, vital union with
Christ. It is not the formal Christian, but the true Christian, that is
the happy man.

You may tell me that "_you know really spiritually-minded and converted
people who do not seem happy_." You have heard them frequently
complaining of their own hearts, and groaning over their own corruption.
They seem to you all doubts, and anxieties, and fears; and you want to
know where is the happiness in these people of which I have been saying
so much.

I do not deny that there are many saints of God such as these whom you
describe, and I am sorry for it. I allow that there are many believers
who live far below their privileges, and seem to know nothing of joy and
peace in believing. But did you ever ask any of these people whether
they would give up the position in religion they have reached, and go
back to the world? Did you ever ask them, after all their groanings, and
doubtings, and fearings, whether they think they would be happier if
they ceased to follow hard after Christ? _Did you ever ask those
questions?_ I am certain if you did, that the weakest and lowest
believers would all give you one answer. I am certain they would tell
you that they would rather cling to their little scrap of hope in
Christ, than possess the world. I am sure they would all answer, "Our
faith is weak, if we have any; our grace is small, if we have any; our
joy in Christ is next to nothing at all: but we cannot give up what we
have got. Though the Lord slay us, we must cling to Him." The root of
happiness lies deep in many a poor weak believer's heart, when neither
leaves nor blossoms are to be seen!

But you will tell me, in the last place, that "_you cannot think most
believers are happy, because they are so grave and serious_." You think
that they do not really possess this happiness I have been describing,
because their countenances do not show it. You doubt the reality of
their joy, because it is so little seen.

I might easily repeat what I told you at the beginning of this
paper,--that a merry face is no sure proof of a happy heart. But I will
not do so. I will rather ask you whether you yourself may not be the
cause why believers look grave and serious when you meet them? If you
are not converted yourself, you surely cannot expect them to look at you
without sorrow. They see you on the high road to destruction, and that
alone is enough to give them pain: they see thousands like you, hurrying
on to weeping and wailing and endless woe. Now, is it possible that such
a daily sight should not give them grief? Your company, very likely, is
one cause why they are grave. Wait till you are a converted man
yourself, before you pass judgment on the gravity of converted people.
See them in companies where all are of one heart, and all love Christ,
and so far as my own experience goes, you will find no people so truly
happy as true Christians.[10]

  10: When the infidel Hume asked Bishop Horne why religious people
  always looked melancholy, the learned prelate replied, "The sight of
  you, Mr. Hume, would make any Christian melancholy."--_Sinclair's
  Aphorisms._ Page 13.

I repeat my assertion in this part of my subject. I repeat it boldly,
confidently, deliberately. I say that there is no happiness among men
that will at all compare with that of the true Christian. All other
happiness by the side of his is moonlight compared to sunshine, and
brass by the side of gold. Boast, if you will, of the laughter and
merriment of irreligious men; sneer, if you will, at the gravity and
seriousness, which appear in the demeanour of many Christians. I have
looked the whole subject in the face, and am not moved. I say that the
true Christian alone is the truly happy man, and the way to be happy is
to be a true Christian.

And now I am going to close this paper by a few words of plain
application. I have endeavoured to show what is essential to true
happiness. I have endeavoured to expose the fallacy of many views which
prevail upon the subject. I have endeavoured to point out, in plain and
unmistakable words, where true happiness alone can be found. Suffer me
to wind up all by an affectionate appeal to the consciences of all into
whose hands this volume may fall.

(1) In the first place, _let me entreat every reader of this paper to
apply to his own heart the solemn inquiry, Are you happy_?

High or low, rich or poor, master or servant, farmer or labourer, young
or old, here is a question that deserves an answer,--_Are you really
happy_?

Man of the world, who art caring for nothing but the things of time,
neglecting the Bible, making a god of business or money, providing for
everything but the day of judgment, scheming and planning about
everything but eternity: are you happy? _You know you are not._

Foolish woman, who art trifling life away in levity and frivolity,
spending hours after hours on that poor frail body which must soon feed
the worms, making an idol of dress and fashion, and excitement, and
human praise, as if this world was all: are you happy? _You know you are
not._

Young man, who art bent on pleasure and self-indulgence, fluttering from
one idle pastime to another, like the moth about the candle,--fancying
yourself clever and knowing, and too wise to be led by parsons, and
ignorant that the devil is leading you captive, like the ox that is led
to the slaughter: are you happy? _You know you are not._

Yes: each and all of you, you are not happy! and in your own consciences
you know it well. You may not allow it, but it is sadly true. There is a
great empty place in each of your hearts, and nothing will fill it. Pour
into it money, learning, rank, and pleasure, and it will be empty still.
There is a sore place in each of your consciences, and nothing will heal
it. Infidelity cannot; free-thinking cannot; Romanism cannot: they are
all quack medicines. Nothing can heal it, but that which at present you
have not used,--the simple Gospel of Christ. Yes: you are indeed a
miserable people!

Take warning this day, that you never will be happy till you are
converted. You might as well expect to feel the sun shine on your face
when you turn your back to it, as to feel happy when you turn your back
on God and on Christ.

(2) In the next place, _let me warn all who are not true Christians of
the folly of living a life which cannot make them happy_.

I pity you from the bottom of my heart, and would fain persuade you to
open your eyes and be wise. I stand as a watchman on the tower of the
everlasting Gospel. I see you sowing misery for yourselves, and I call
upon you to stop and think, before it is too late. Oh, that God may show
you your folly!

You are hewing out for yourselves cisterns, broken cisterns, which can
hold no water. You are spending your time, and strength, and affections
on that which will give you no return for your labour,--"spending your
money on that which is not bread, and your labour for that which
satisfieth not." (Isa. lv. 2.) You are building up Babels of your own
contriving, and ignorant that God will pour contempt on your schemes for
procuring happiness, because you attempt to be happy without Him.

Awake from your dreams, I entreat you, and show yourselves men. Think of
the uselessness of living a life which you will be ashamed of when you
die, and of having a mere nominal religion, which will just fail you
when it is most wanted.

Open your eyes and look round the world. Tell me who was ever really
happy without God and Christ and the Holy Spirit. Look at the road in
which you are travelling. Mark the footsteps of those who have gone
before you: see how many have turned away from it, and confessed they
were wrong.

I warn you plainly, that if you are not a true Christian you will miss
happiness in the world that now is, as well as in the world to come. Oh,
believe me, the way of happiness, and the way of salvation are one and
the same! He that will have his own way, and refuses to serve Christ,
will never be really happy. But he that serves Christ has the promise of
both lives. He is happy on earth, and will be happier still in heaven.

If you are neither happy in this world nor the next, it will be all your
own fault. Oh, think of this! Do not be guilty of such enormous folly.
Who does not mourn over the folly of the drunkard, the opium eater, and
the suicide? But there is no folly like that of the impenitent child of
the world.

(3) In the next place, _let me entreat all readers of this book, who are
not yet happy, to seek happiness where alone it can be found_.

The keys of the way to happiness are in the hands of the Lord Jesus
Christ. He is sealed and appointed by God the Father, to give the bread
of life to them that hunger, and to give the water of life to them that
thirst. The door which riches and rank and learning have so often tried
to open, and tried in vain, is now ready to open to every humble,
praying believer. Oh, if you want to be happy, come to Christ!

Come to Him, confessing that you are weary of your own ways, and want
rest,--that you find you have no power and might to make yourself holy
or happy or fit for heaven, and have no hope but in Him. Tell Him this
unreservedly. This is coming to Christ.

Come to Him, imploring Him to show you His mercy, and grant you His
salvation,--to wash you in His own blood, and take your sins away,--to
speak peace to your conscience, and heal your troubled soul. Tell Him
all this unreservedly. This is coming to Christ.

You have everything to encourage you. The Lord Jesus Himself invites
you. He proclaims to you as well as to others, "Come unto Me, all ye
that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke
upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye
shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is
light." (Matt. xi. 28--30.) Wait for nothing. You may feel unworthy. You
may feel as if you did not repent enough. But wait no longer. Come to
Christ.

You have everything to encourage you. Thousands have walked in the way
you are invited to enter, and have found it good. Once, like yourself,
they served the world, and plunged deeply into folly and sin. Once, like
yourself, they became weary of their wickedness, and longed for
deliverance and rest. They heard of Christ, and His willingness to help
and save: they came to Him by faith and prayer, after many a doubt and
hesitation; they found Him a thousand times more gracious than they had
expected. They rested on Him and were happy: they carried His cross and
tasted peace. Oh, walk in their steps!

I beseech you, by the mercies of God, to come to Christ. As ever you
would be happy, I entreat you to come to Christ. Cast off delays. Awake
from your past slumber: arise, and be free! This day come to Christ.

(4) In the last place, _let me offer a few hints to all true Christians
for the increase and promotion of their happiness_.

I offer these hints with diffidence. I desire to apply them to my own
conscience as well as to your's. You have found Christ's service happy.
I have no doubt that you feel such sweetness in Christ's peace that you
would fain know more of it. I am sure that these hints deserve
attention.

Believers, if you would have an increase of happiness in Christ's
service, _labour every year to grow in grace_. Beware of standing still.
The holiest men are always the happiest. Let your aim be every year to
be more holy,--to know more, to feel more, to see more of the fulness of
Christ. Rest not upon old grace: do not be content with the degree of
religion whereunto you have attained. Search the Scriptures more
earnestly; pray more fervently; hate sin more; mortify self-will more;
become more humble the nearer you draw to your end; seek more direct
personal communion with the Lord Jesus; strive to be more like
Enoch,--daily walking with God; keep your conscience clear of little
sins; grieve not the Spirit; avoid wranglings and disputes about the
lesser matters of religion: lay more firm hold upon those great truths,
without which no man can be saved. Remember and practise these things,
and you will be more happy.

Believers, if you would have an increase of happiness in Christ's
service, _labour every year to be more thankful_. Pray that you may know
more and more what it is to "rejoice in the Lord." (Phil. iii. 1.) Learn
to have a deeper sense of your own wretched sinfulness and corruption,
and to be more deeply grateful, that by the grace of God you are what
you are. Alas, there is too much complaining and too little thanksgiving
among the people of God! There is too much murmuring and poring over the
things that we have not. There is too little praising and blessing for
the many undeserved mercies that we have. Oh, that God would pour out
upon us a great spirit of thankfulness and praise!

Believers, if you would have an increase of happiness in Christ's
service, _labour every year to do more good_. Look round the circle in
which your lot is cast, and lay yourself out to be useful. Strive to be
of the same character with God: He is not only good, but "doeth good."
(Ps. cxix. 68.) Alas, there is far too much selfishness among believers
in the present day! There is far too much lazy sitting by the fire
nursing our own spiritual diseases, and croaking over the state of our
own hearts. Up; and be useful in your day and generation! Is there no
one in all the world that you can read to? Is there no one that you can
speak to? Is there no one that you can write to? Is there literally
nothing that you can do for the glory of God, and the benefit of your
fellow-men? Oh I cannot think it! I cannot think it. There is much that
you might do, if you had only the will. For your own happiness' sake,
arise and do it, without delay. The bold, outspeaking, working
Christians are always the happiest. The more you do for God, the more
God will do for you.

The compromising lingering Christian must never expect to taste perfect
peace. THE MOST DECIDED CHRISTIAN WILL ALWAYS BE THE HAPPIEST MAN.



XI


FORMALITY

     "_Having a form of godliness, but denying the power
     thereof._"--2 Tim. iii. 5.

     "_He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that
     circumcision, which is outward in the flesh_:

     "_But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is
     that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose
     praise is not of men, but of God._"--Rom. ii. 28, 29.


The texts which head this page deserve serious attention at any time.
But they deserve especial notice in this age of the Church and world.
Never since the Lord Jesus Christ left the earth, was there so much
formality and false profession as there is at the present day. Now, if
ever, we ought to examine ourselves, and search our religion, that we
may know of what sort it is. Let us try to find out whether our
Christianity is a thing of form or a thing of heart.

I know no better way of unfolding the subject than by turning to a plain
passage of the Word of God. Let us hear what St. Paul says about it. He
lays down the following great principles in his Epistle to the Romans:
"He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision,
which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly;
and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter;
whose praise is not of men, but of God." (Rom. ii. 28, 29.) Three most
instructive lessons appear to me to stand out on the face of that
passage. Let us see what they are.


    I. We learn, firstly, that formal religion is not religion, and a
    formal Christian is not a Christian in God's sight.

    II. We learn, secondly, that the heart is the seat of true religion,
    and that the true Christian is the Christian in heart.

    III. We learn, thirdly, that true religion must never expect to be
    popular. It will not have the "praise of man, but of God."

Let us thoroughly consider these great principles. Two hundred years
have passed away since a mighty Puritan divine said, "Formality,
formality, formality is the great sin of England at this day, under
which the land groans.--There is more light than there was, but less
life; more shadow, but less substance; more profession, but less
sanctification." (_Thomas Hall, on 2 Tim. iii. 5, 1658._) What would
this good man have said if he had lived in our times?


I. We learn first, that _formal religion is not religion, and a formal
Christian is not a Christian in God's sight_.

What do I mean when I speak of formal religion? This is a point that
must be made clear. Thousands, I suspect, know nothing about it. Without
a distinct understanding of this point my whole paper will be useless.
My first step shall be to paint, describe, and define.

When a man is a Christian in name only, and not in reality,--in outward
things only, and not in his inward feelings,--in profession only, and
not in practice,--when his Christianity in short is a mere matter of
form, or fashion, or custom, without any influence on his heart or
life,--in such a case as this the man has what I call a "formal
religion." He possesses indeed the _form_, or husk, or skin of religion,
but he does not possess its substance or its _power_.

Look for example at those thousands of people whose whole religion seems
to consist in keeping religious ceremonies and ordinances. They attend
regularly on public worship. They go regularly to the Lord's table. But
they never get any further. They know nothing of experimental
Christianity. They are not familiar with the Scriptures, and take no
delight in reading them. They do not separate themselves from the ways
of the world. They draw no distinction between godliness and ungodliness
in their friendships, or matrimonial alliances. They care little or
nothing about the distinctive doctrines of the Gospel. They appear
utterly indifferent as to what they hear preached. You may be in their
company for weeks, and for anything you may hear or see on a week day
you might suppose they were infidels or deists. What can be said about
these people? They are Christians undoubtedly, by profession; and yet
there is neither heart nor life in their Christianity. There is but one
thing to be said about them.--They are formal Christians. Their religion
is a FORM.

Look in another direction at those hundreds of people whose whole
religion seems to consist in talk and high profession. They know the
theory of the Gospel with their heads, and profess to delight in
Evangelical doctrine. They can say much about the "soundness" of their
own views, and the "darkness" of all who disagree with them. But they
never get any further! When you examine their inner lives you find that
they know nothing of practical godliness. They are neither truthful, nor
charitable, nor humble, nor honest, nor kind-tempered, nor gentle, nor
unselfish, nor honourable. What shall we say of these people? They are
Christians, no doubt, in name, and yet there is neither substance nor
fruit in their Christianity. There is but one thing to be said.--They
are formal Christians. Their religion is an empty FORM.

Such is the formal religion against which I wish to raise a warning
voice this day. Here is the rock on which myriads on every side are
making miserable shipwreck of their souls. One of the wickedest things
that Machiavel ever said was this: "Religion itself should not be cared
for, but only the appearance of it. The credit of it is a help; the
reality and use is a cumber." Such notions are of the earth, earthy.
Nay, rather they are from beneath: they smell of the pit. Beware of
them, and stand upon your guard. If there is anything about which the
Scripture speaks expressly, it is the sin and uselessness of FORMALITY.

Hear what St. Paul tells the Romans: "He is not a Jew which is one
outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh."
(Rom. ii. 28.) These are strong words indeed! A man might be a son of
Abraham according to the flesh,--a member of one of the twelve
tribes,--circumcised the eighth day,--a keeper of all the feasts,--a
regular worshipper in the temple,--and yet in God's sight not be a
Jew!--Just so a man may be a Christian by outward profession,--a member
of a Christian Church,--baptized with Christian baptism,--an attendant
on Christian ordinances,--and yet, in God's sight, not a Christian at
all.

Hear what the prophet Isaiah says: "To what purpose is the multitude of
your sacrifices unto Me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt
offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the
blood of bullocks or of lambs, or of he-goats. When ye come to appear
before Me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?
Bring no more vain oblations: incense is an abomination unto Me; the new
moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it
is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed
feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto Me: I am weary to bear
them. And when ye spread forth your hands I will hide mine eyes from
you; yea, when ye make many prayers I will not hear: your hands are full
of blood." (Isaiah i. 10--15.) These words, when duly weighed, are very
extraordinary. The sacrifices which are here declared to be useless were
appointed by God Himself! The feasts and ordinances which God says He
"hates," had been prescribed by Himself! God Himself pronounces His own
institutions to be useless when they are used formally and without heart
in the worshipper! In fact they are worse than useless; they are even
offensive and hurtful. Words cannot be imagined more distinct and
unmistakeable. They show that formal religion is worthless in God's
sight. It is not worth calling religion at all.

Hear, lastly, what our Lord Jesus Christ says. We find Him saying of the
Jews of His day, "This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and
honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me. But in
vain do they worship Me." (Matt. xv. 8.) We see Him repeatedly
denouncing the formalism and hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, and
warning His disciples against it. Eight times in one chapter (Matt.
xxiii. 13) He says to them, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees,
hypocrites!" For sinners of the worst description He always had a word
of kindness, and held out to them an open door. But formalism, He would
have us know, is a desperate disease, and must be exposed in the
severest language. To the eye of an ignorant man a formalist may seem to
have a very decent _quantity_ of religion, though not perhaps of the
best _quality_. In the eye of Christ, however, the case is very
different. In His sight formality is no religion at all.

What shall we say to these testimonies of Scripture? It would be easy
to add to them. They do not stand alone. If words mean anything, they
are a clear warning to all who profess and call themselves Christians.
They teach us plainly that as we dread sin and avoid sin, so we ought to
dread formality and avoid formality. Formalism may take our hand with a
smile, and look like a brother, while sin comes against us with sword
drawn, and strikes at us like an open enemy. But both have one end in
view. Both want to ruin our souls; and of the two, formalism is far the
most likely to do it. If we love life, let us beware of formality in
religion.

Nothing is _so common_. It is one of the great family diseases of the
whole race of mankind. It is born with us, grows with us, and is never
completely cast out of us till we die. It meets us in church, and it
meets us in chapel. It meets us among rich, and it meets us among poor.
It meets us among learned people, and it meets us among unlearned. It
meets us among Romanists, and it meets us among Protestants. It meets us
among High Churchmen, and it meets us among Low Churchmen. It meets us
among Evangelicals, and it meets us among Ritualists. Go where we will,
and join what Church we may, we are never beyond the risk of its
infection. We shall find it among Quakers and Plymouth Brethren, as well
as at Rome. The man who thinks that, at any rate, there is no formal
religion in his own camp, is a very blind and ignorant person. If you
love life, beware of formality.

Nothing is _so dangerous_ to a man's own soul. Familiarity with the form
of religion, while we neglect its reality, has a fearfully deadening
effect on the conscience. It brings up by degrees a thick crust of
insensibility over the whole inner man. None seem to become so
desperately hard as those who are continually repeating holy words and
handling holy things, while their hearts are running after sin and the
world. Landlords who only go to church formally, to set an example to
their tenants,--masters who have family prayers formally, to keep up a
good appearance in their households,--unconverted clergymen, who are
every week reading prayers and lessons of Scripture, in which they feel
no real interest,--unconverted clerks, who are constantly reading
responses and saying "Amen," without feeling what they say,--unconverted
singers, who sing the most spiritual hymns every Sunday, merely because
they have good voices, while their affections are entirely on things
below,--all, all, all are in awful danger. They are gradually hardening
their hearts, and searing the skin of their consciences. If you love
your own soul, beware of formality.

Nothing, finally, is _so foolish_, senseless, and unreasonable. Can a
formal Christian really suppose that the mere outward Christianity he
professes will comfort him in the day of sickness and the hour of death?
The thing is impossible. A painted fire cannot warm, and a painted
banquet cannot satisfy hunger, and a formal religion cannot bring peace
to the soul.--Can he suppose that God does not see the heartlessness and
deadness of his Christianity? Though he may deceive neighbours,
acquaintances, fellow-worshippers, and ministers with a form of
godliness, does he think that he can deceive God? The very idea is
absurd. "He that formed the eye, shall He not see?" He knows the very
secrets of the heart. He will "judge the secrets of men" at the last
day. He who said to each angel of the seven Churches, "I know thy
works," is not changed. He who said to the man without the wedding
garment, "Friend, how camest thou in hither?" will not be deceived by a
little cloak of outward religion. If you would not be put to shame at
the last day, once more I say, beware of formality. (Psalm xciv. 9; Rom.
ii. 16; Rev. ii. 2; Matt. xxii. 11.)


II. I pass on to the second thing which I proposed to consider. _The
heart is the seat of true religion, and the true Christian is the
Christian in heart._

The heart is the real test of a man's character. It is not what he says
or what he does by which the man may be always known. He may say and do
things that are right, from false and unworthy motives, while his heart
is altogether wrong. The heart is the man. "As he thinketh in his heart,
so is he." (Prov. xxiii. 7.)

The heart is the right test of a man's religion. It is not enough that a
man holds a correct creed of doctrine, and maintains a proper outward
form of godliness. What is his heart?--That is the grand question. This
is what God looks at. "Man looketh at the outward appearance, but the
Lord looketh at the heart." (1 Sam. xvi. 7.) This is what St. Paul lays
down distinctly as the standard measure of the soul: "He is a Jew, which
is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart." (Rom. ii. 28.)
Who can doubt that this mighty sentence was written for Christians as
well as for Jews? He is a Christian, the apostle would have us know,
which is one inwardly, and baptism is that of the heart.

The heart is the place where saving religion must begin. It is naturally
irreligious, and must be renewed by the Holy Ghost. "A new heart will I
give unto you."--It is naturally hard, and must be made tender and
broken. "I will take away the heart of stone, and I will give you a
heart of flesh." "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken
and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."--It is naturally
closed and shut against God, and must be opened. The Lord "opened the
heart" of Lydia. (Ezek. xxxvi. 26; Psalm li. 17; Acts xvi. 14.)

The heart is the seat of true saving faith. "With the heart man
believeth unto righteousness." (Rom. x. 10.) A man may believe that
Jesus is the Christ, as the devils do, and yet remain in his sins. He
may believe that he is a sinner, and that Christ is the only Saviour,
and feel occasional lazy wishes that he was a better man. But no one
ever lays hold on Christ, and receives pardon and peace, until he
believes with the heart. It is heart-faith that justifies.

The heart is the spring of true holiness and steady continuance in
well-doing. True Christians are holy because their hearts are
interested. They obey from the heart. They do the will of God from the
heart. Weak, and feeble, and imperfect as all their doings are, they
please God, because they are done from a loving heart. He who commended
the widow's mite more than all the offerings of the wealthy Jews,
regards quality far more than quantity. What He likes to see is a thing
done from "an honest and good heart." (Luke viii. 15.) There is no real
holiness without a right heart.

The things I am saying may sound strange. Perhaps they run counter to
all the notions of some into whose hands this paper may fall. Perhaps
you have thought that if a man's religion is correct outwardly, he must
be one with whom God is well pleased. You are completely mistaken. You
are rejecting the whole tenor of Bible teaching. Outward correctness
without a right heart is neither more nor less than Pharisaism. The
outward things of Christianity,--baptism, the Lord's Supper,
Church-membership, almsgiving, and the like,--will never take any man's
soul to heaven, unless his heart is right. There must be inward things
as well as outward,--and it is on the inward things that God's eyes are
chiefly fixed.

Hear how St. Paul teaches us about this matter in three most striking
texts: "In Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor
uncircumcision; but faith that worketh by love."--"In Christ Jesus
neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new
creature."--"Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but
the keeping of the commandments of God." (1 Cor. vii. 19; Galat. v. 6;
Galat. vi. 15.) Did the Apostle only mean in these texts, that
circumcision was no longer needed under the Gospel? Was that all? No
indeed! I believe he meant much more. He meant that true religion did
not consist of forms, and that its essence was something far greater
than being circumcised or not circumcised. He meant that under Christ
Jesus, everything depended on being born again,--on having true saving
faith,--on being holy in life and conduct. He meant that these are the
things we ought to look at chiefly, and not at outward forms. "Am I a
new creature? Do I really believe on Christ? Am I a holy man?" These are
the grand questions that we must seek to answer.

_When the heart is wrong all is wrong in God's sight._ Many right things
may be done. The forms and ordinances which God Himself has appointed
may seem to be honoured. But so long as the heart is at fault God is not
pleased. He will have man's heart or nothing.

The ark was the most sacred thing in the Jewish tabernacle. On it was
the mercy-seat. Within it were the tables of the law, written by God's
own finger. The High Priest alone was allowed to go into the place where
it was kept, within the veil, and that only once every year. The
presence of the ark with the camp was thought to bring a special
blessing. And yet this very ark could do the Israelites no more good
than any common wooden box, when they trusted to it like an idol, with
their hearts full of wickedness. They brought it into the camp, on a
special occasion, saying, "Let us fetch the ark, that it may save us out
of the hand of our enemies." (1 Sam iv. 3.) When it came in the camp
they showed it all reverence and honour. "They shouted with a great
shout, so that the earth rang again." But it was all in vain. They were
smitten before the Philistines, and the ark itself was taken. And why
was this? It was because their religion was a mere form. They honoured
the ark, but did not give the God of the ark their hearts.

There were some kings of Judah and Israel who did many things that were
right in God's sight, and yet were never written in the list of godly
and righteous men. Rehoboam began well, and "for three years walked in
the way of David and Solomon." (2 Chron. xi. 17.) But afterwards "he did
evil, because he prepared not his _heart_ to seek the Lord." (2 Chron.
xii. 14.)--Abijah, according to the book of Chronicles, said many things
that were right, and fought successfully against Jeroboam. Nevertheless
the general verdict is against him. We read, in Kings, that "his _heart_
was not perfect with the Lord his God." (1 Kings xv. 3.)--Amaziah, we
are expressly told, "did that which was right in the sight of the Lord,
but not with a perfect _heart_." (2 Chron. xxv. 2.)--Jehu, King of
Israel, was raised up, by God's command, to put down idolatry. He was a
man of special zeal in doing God's work. But unhappily it is written of
him: "He took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with
all his _heart_: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which
made Israel to sin." (2 Kings x. 31.) In short, one general remark
applies to all these kings. They were all wrong inwardly. They were
rotten at heart.

There are places of worship in England at this very day where all the
outward things of religion are done to perfection. The building is
beautiful. The service is beautiful. The singing is beautiful. The forms
of devotion are beautiful. There is everything to gratify the senses.
Eye, and ear, and natural sentimentality are all pleased. But all this
time God is not pleased. One thing is lacking, and the want of that one
thing spoils all. What is that one thing? It is heart! God sees under
all this fair outward show the form of religion put in the place of the
substance, and when He sees that He is displeased. He sees nothing with
an eye of favour in the building, the service, the minister, or the
people, if He does not see converted, renewed, broken, penitent hearts.
Bowed heads, bended knees, loud amens, crossed hands, faces turned to
the east, all, all are nothing in God's sight without right hearts.

_When the heart is right God can look over many things that are
defective._ There may be faults in judgment, and infirmities in
practice. There may be many deviations from the best course in the
outward things of religion. But if the heart is sound in the main, God
is not extreme to mark that which is amiss. He is merciful and gracious,
and will pardon much that is imperfect, when He sees a true heart and a
single eye.

Jehoshaphat and Asa were Kings of Judah, who were defective in many
things. Jehoshaphat was a timid, irresolute man, who did not know how to
say "No," and joined affinity with Ahab, the wickedest king that ever
reigned over Israel. Asa was an unstable man, who at one time trusted in
the King of Syria more than in God, and at another time was wroth with
God's prophet for rebuking him. (2 Chron. xvi. 10.) Yet both of them had
one great redeeming point in their characters. With all their faults
they had right _hearts_.

The passover kept by Hezekiah was one at which there were many
irregularities. The proper forms were not observed by many. They ate the
passover "otherwise than the commandment" ordered. But they did it with
true and honest _hearts_. And we read that Hezekiah prayed for them,
saying, "The good Lord pardon every one that prepareth his heart to seek
God,--though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the
sanctuary. And the Lord hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people."
(2 Chron. xxx. 20.)

The passover kept by Josiah must have been far smaller and worse
attended than scores of passovers in the days of David and Solomon, or
even in the reign of Jehoshaphat and Hezekiah. How then can we account
for the strong language used in Scripture about it? "There was no
passover like to that kept in Israel from the days of Samuel the
prophet; neither did all the Kings of Israel keep such a passover as
Josiah kept, and the Priests, and the Levites, and all Judah and
Jerusalem that were present." (2 Chron. xxxv. 18.) There is but one
explanation. There never was a passover at which the _hearts_ of the
worshippers were so truly in the feast. The Lord does not look at the
quantity of worshippers so much as the quality. The glory of Josiah's
passover was the state of people's hearts.

There are many assemblies of Christian worshippers on earth at this very
day in which there is literally nothing to attract the natural man. They
meet in miserable dirty chapels, so-called, or in wretched upper-rooms
and cellars. They sing unmusically. They hear feeble prayers, and more
feeble sermons. And yet the Holy Ghost is often in the midst of them!
Sinners are often converted in them, and the kingdom of God prospers far
more than in any Roman Catholic Cathedral, or than in many gorgeous
Protestant Churches. How is this? How can it be explained? The cause is
simply this, that in these humble assemblies heart-religion is taught
and held. Heart-work is aimed at. Heart-work is honoured. And the
consequence is that God is pleased and grants His blessing.

I leave this part of my subject here. I ask men to weigh well the things
that I have been saying. I believe that they will bear examination, and
are all true. Resolve this day, whatever Church you belong to, to be a
Christian in _heart_. Whether Episcopalian or Presbyterian, Baptist or
Independent, be not content with a mere form of godliness, without the
power. Settle it down firmly in your mind that formal religion is not
saving religion, and that heart-religion is the only religion that leads
to heaven.

I only give one word of caution. Do not suppose, because formal religion
will not save, that forms of religion are of no use at all. Beware of
any such senseless extreme. The misuse of a thing is no argument
against the right use of it. The blind idolatry of forms which prevails
in some quarters is no reason why you should throw all forms aside. The
ark, when made an idol of by Israel and put in the place of God, was
unable to save them from the Philistines. And yet the same ark, when
irreverently and profanely handled, brought death on Uzza; and when
honoured and reverenced, brought a blessing on the house of Obed-edom.
The words of Bishop Hall are strong, but true: "He that hath but a form
is a hypocrite; but he that hath not a form is an Atheist." (_Hall's
Sermons_, No. 28.) Forms cannot save us, but they are not therefore to
be despised. A lantern is not a man's home, and yet it is a help to a
man if he travels towards his home in a dark night. Use the forms of
Christianity diligently, and you will find them a blessing. Only
remember, in all your use of forms, the great principle, that the first
thing in religion is the state of the heart.


III. I come now to the last thing which I proposed to consider. I said
_that true religion must never expect to be popular. It will not have
the praise of man, but of God._

I dare not turn away from this part of my subject, however painful it
may be. Anxious as I am to commend heart-religion to every one who reads
this paper, I will not try to conceal what heart-religion entails. I
will not gain a recruit for my Master's army under false pretences. I
will not promise anything which the Scripture does not warrant. The
words of St. Paul are clear and unmistakable. Heart-religion is a
religion "whose praise is not of men, but of God." (Rom. ii. 29.)

God's truth and Scriptural Christianity are never really popular. They
never have been. They never will be as long as the world stands. No one
can calmly consider what human nature is, as described in the Bible,
and reasonably expect anything else. As long as man is what man is, the
majority of mankind will always like a religion of form far better than
a religion of heart.

Formal religion just suits an unenlightened conscience. Some religion a
man will have. Atheism and downright infidelity, as a general rule, are
never very popular. But a man must have a religion which does not
require much,--trouble his heart much,--interfere with his sins much.
Formal Christianity satisfies him. It seems the very thing that he
wants.

Formal religion gratifies the secret self-righteousness of man. We are
all of us more or less Pharisees. We all naturally cling to the idea
that the way to be saved is to do so many things, and go through so many
religious observances, and that at last we shall get to heaven.
Formalism meets us here. It seems to show us a way by which we can make
our own peace with God.

Formal religion pleases the natural indolence of man. It attaches an
excessive importance to that which is the easiest part of
Christianity,--the shell and the form. Man likes this. He hates trouble
in religion. He wants something which will not meddle with his
conscience and inner life. Only leave conscience alone, and, like Herod,
he will "do many things." Formalism seems to open a wider gate, and a
more easy way to heaven. (Mark vi. 20.)

Facts speak louder than assertions. Facts are stubborn things. Look over
the history of religion in every age of the world, and observe what has
always been popular. Look at the history of Israel from the beginning of
Exodus to the end of the Acts of the Apostles, and see what has always
found favour. Formalism was one main sin against which the Old Testament
prophets were continually protesting. Formalism was the great plague
which had overspread the Jews, when our Lord Jesus Christ came into the
world.--Look at the history of the Church of Christ after the days of
the apostles. How soon formalism ate out the life and vitality of the
primitive Christians!--Look at the middle ages, as they are called.
Formalism so completely covered the face of Christendom that the Gospel
lay as one dead.--Look, lastly, at the history of Protestant Churches in
the three last centuries. How few are the places where religion is a
living thing! How many are the countries where Protestantism is nothing
more than a form! There is no getting over these things. They speak with
a voice of thunder. They all show that formal religion is a popular
thing. It has the praise of man.

But why should we look at facts in history? Why should we not look at
facts under our own eyes, and by our own doors? Can any one deny that a
mere outward religion, a religion of downright formality, is the
religion which is popular in England at the present day? It is not for
nothing that St. John says of certain false teachers, "They are of the
world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth
them." (1 John iv. 5.) Only say your prayers,--and go to church with
tolerable regularity,--and receive the sacrament occasionally,--and
the vast majority of Englishmen will set you down as an excellent
Christian.--"What more would you have?" they say: "If this is not
Christianity, what is?"--To require more of anyone is thought bigotry,
illiberality, fanaticism, and enthusiasm! To insinuate a doubt whether
such a man as this will go to heaven is called the height of
uncharitableness! When these things are so it is vain to deny that
formal religion is popular. It is popular. It always was popular. It
always will be popular till Christ comes again. It always has had and
always will have "the praise of man."

Turn now to the religion of the heart, and you will hear a very
different report. As a general rule it has never had the good word of
mankind. It has entailed on its professors laughter, mockery, ridicule,
scorn, contempt, enmity, hatred, slander, persecution, imprisonment, and
even death. Its lovers have been faithful and ardent,--but they have
always been few. It has never had, comparatively, "the praise of man."

Heart-religion is too _humbling_ to be popular. It leaves natural man no
room to boast. It tells him that he is a guilty, lost, hell-deserving
sinner, and that he must flee to Christ for salvation. It tells him that
he is dead, and must be made alive again, and born of the Spirit. The
pride of man rebels against such tidings as these. He hates to be told
that his case is so bad.

Heart-religion is too _holy_ to be popular. It will not leave natural
man alone. It interferes with his worldliness and his sins. It requires
of him things that he loathes and abominates,--conversion, faith,
repentance, spiritual-mindedness, Bible-reading, prayer. It bids him
give up many things that he loves and clings to, and cannot make up his
mind to lay aside. It would be strange indeed if he liked it. It crosses
his path as a kill-joy and a mar-plot, and it is absurd to expect that
he will be pleased.

Was heart-religion popular in Old Testament times? We find David
complaining: "They that sit in the gate speak against me; and I was the
song of the drunkards." (Psalm lxix. 12.) We find the prophets
persecuted and ill-treated because they preached against sin, and
required men to give their hearts to God. Elijah, Micaiah, Jeremiah,
Amos, are all cases in point. To formalism and ceremonialism the Jews
never seem to have made objection. What they did dislike was serving God
with their hearts.

Was heart-religion popular in New Testament times? The whole history of
our Lord Jesus Christ's ministry and the lives of His apostles are a
sufficient answer. The scribes and Pharisees would have willingly
received a Messiah who encouraged formalism, and a Gospel which exalted
ceremonialism. But they could not tolerate a religion of which the first
principles were humiliation and sanctification of heart.

Has heart-religion even been popular in the professing Church of Christ
during the last eighteen centuries? Never hardly, except in the early
centuries when the primitive Church had not left her first love. Soon,
very soon, the men who protested against formalism and sacramentalism
were fiercely denounced as "troublers of Israel." Long before the
Reformation, things came to this pass, that anyone who cried up
heart-holiness and cried down formality was treated as a common enemy.
He was either silenced, excommunicated, imprisoned, or put to death like
John Huss.--In the time of the Reformation itself, the work of Luther
and his companions was carried on under an incessant storm of calumny
and slander. And what was the cause? It was because they protested
against formalism, ceremonialism, monkery, and priestcraft, and taught
the necessity of heart-religion.

Has heart-religion ever been popular in our own land in days gone by?
Never, excepting for a little season. It was not popular in the days of
Queen Mary, when Latimer and his brother-martyrs were burned.--It was
not popular in the days of the Stuarts, when to be a Puritan was worse
for a man than to get drunk or swear.--It was not popular in the middle
of last century, when Wesley and Whitfield were shut out of the
established Church. The cause of our martyred Reformers, of the early
Puritans, and of the Methodists, was essentially one and the same. They
were all hated because they preached the uselessness of formalism, and
the impossibility of salvation without repentance, faith, regeneration,
spiritual-mindedness, and holiness of heart.

Is heart-religion popular in England at this very day? I answer
sorrowfully that I do not believe it is. Look at the followers of it
among the laity. They are always comparatively few in number. They
stand alone in their respective congregations and parishes. They have to
put up with many hard things, hard words, hard imputations, hard
treatment, laughter, ridicule, slander, and petty persecution. This is
not popularity!--Look at the teachers of heart-religion in the pulpit.
They are loved and liked, no doubt, by the few hearers who agree with
them. They are sometimes admired for their talents and eloquence by the
many who do not agree with them. They are even called "popular
preachers," because of the crowds who listen to their preaching. But
none know so well as the faithful teachers of heart-religion that few
really like them. Few really help them. Few sympathize with them. Few
stand by them in any time of need. They find, like their Divine Master,
that they must work almost alone. I write these things with sorrow, but
I believe they are true. Real heart-religion at this day, no less than
in days gone by, has not "the praise of man."

But after all it signifies little what man thinks, and what man praises.
He that judgeth us is the Lord. Man will not judge us at the last day.
Man will not sit on the great white throne, examine our religion, and
pronounce our eternal sentence. Those only whom God commends will be
commended at the bar of Christ. Here lies the value and glory of
heart-religion. It may not have the praise of man, but it has "the
praise of God."

God approves and honours heart-religion in the life that now is. He
looks down from heaven, and reads the hearts of all the children of men.
Wherever He sees heart-repentance for sin,--heart-faith in
Christ,--heart-holiness of life,--heart-love to His Son, His law, His
will, and His Word,--wherever God sees these things He is well pleased.
He writes a book of remembrance for that man, however poor and unlearned
he may be. He gives His angels special charge over Him. He maintains in
him the work of grace, and gives Him daily supplies of peace, hope, and
strength. He regards him as a member of His own dear Son, as one who is
witnessing for the truth, as His Son did. Weak as the man's heart may
seem to himself, it is the living sacrifice which God loves, and the
heart which He has solemnly declared He will not despise. Such praise is
worth more than the praise of man!

God will proclaim His approval of heart-religion before the assembled
world at the last day. He will command His angels to gather together His
saints, from every part of the globe, into one glorious company. He will
raise the dead and change the living, and place them at the right hand
of His beloved Son's throne. Then all that have served Christ with the
heart shall hear Him say, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the
kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:--you were
faithful over few things, and I will make you rulers over many things;
enter into the joy of your Lord.--Ye confessed Me before men, and I will
confess you before my Father and His holy angels.--Ye are they who
continued with Me in my temptations, and I appoint unto you a kingdom as
my Father hath appointed unto Me." (Matt. xxv. 21--34; Luke xii. 8;
xxii. 28, 29.) These words will be addressed to none but those who have
given Christ their hearts! They will not be addressed to the formalist,
the hypocrite, the wicked, and the ungodly. _They_ will, indeed, stand
by and see the fruits of heart-religion, but they will not eat of them.
We shall never know the full value of heart-religion until the last day.
Then, and only then, we shall fully understand how much better it is to
have the praise of God than the praise of man.

If you take up heart-religion I cannot promise you the praise of man.
Pardon, peace, hope, guidance, comfort, consolation, grace according to
your need, strength according to your day, joy which the world can
neither give nor take away,--all this I can boldly promise to the man
who comes to Christ, and serves Him with his heart. But I cannot promise
him that his religion will be popular with man. I would rather warn him
to expect mockery and ridicule, slander and unkindness, opposition and
persecution. There is a cross belonging to heart-religion, and we must
be content to carry it. "Through much tribulation we must enter the
kingdom."--"All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer
persecution." (Acts xiv. 22; 2 Tim. iii. 12.) But if the world hates
you, God will love you. If the world forsakes you, Christ has promised
that He will never forsake and never fail. Whatever you may lose by
heart-religion, be sure that the praise of God will make up for all.


And now I close this paper with three plain words of application. I want
it to strike and stick to the conscience of every one into whose hands
it falls. May God make it a blessing to many a soul both in time and
eternity!

(1) In the first place, Is your religion a matter of form and not of
heart? Answer this question honestly, and as in the sight of God. If it
is, _consider solemnly the immense danger in which you stand_.

You have got nothing to comfort your soul in the day of trial, nothing
to give you hope on your death-bed, nothing to save you at the last day.
Formal religion never took any man to heaven. Like base metal, it will
not stand the fire. Continuing in your present state you are in imminent
peril of being lost for ever.

I earnestly beseech you this day to know your danger, to open your eyes
and repent. Churchman or Dissenter, High Church or Low Church, if you
have only a name to live, and a form of godliness without the power,
awake and repent. Awake, above all, if you are an Evangelical formalist.
"There is no devil," said the quaint old Puritans, "like a white
devil." There is no formalism so dangerous as Evangelical formalism.

I can only warn you. I do so with all affection. God alone can apply the
warning to your soul. Oh, that you would see the folly as well as the
danger of a heartless Christianity! It was sound advice which a dying
man, in Suffolk, once gave to his son: "Son," he said, "whatever
religion you have, never be content with wearing a cloak."

(2) In the second place, if your heart condemns you, and you wish to
know what to do, _consider seriously the only course that you can safely
take_.

Apply to the Lord Jesus Christ without delay, and spread before Him the
state of your soul. Confess before Him your formality in time past, and
ask Him to forgive it. Seek from Him the promised grace of the Holy
Ghost, and entreat Him to quicken and renew your inward man.

The Lord Jesus is appointed and commissioned to be the Physician of
man's soul. There is no case too hard for Him. There is no condition of
soul that He cannot cure. There is no devil He cannot cast out. Seared
and hardened as the heart of a formalist may be, there is balm in Gilead
which can heal him, and a Physician who is mighty to save. Go and call
on the Lord Jesus Christ this very day. "Ask, and it shall be given you;
seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you." (Luke
xi. 9.)

(3) In the last place, if your heart condemns you not, and you have real
well-grounded confidence towards God, _consider seriously the many
responsibilities of your position_.

Praise Him daily who hath called you out of darkness into light, and
made you to differ. Praise Him daily, and ask Him never to forsake the
work of His own hands.

Watch with a jealous watchfulness every part of your inward man.
Formality is ever ready to come in upon us, like the Egyptian plague of
frogs, which went even into the king's chamber. Watch, and be on your
guard.--Watch over your Bible-reading,--your praying,--your temper and
your tongue,--your family life and your Sunday religion. There is
nothing so good and spiritual that we may not fall into formal habits
about it. There is none so spiritual but that he may have a heavy fall.
Watch, therefore, and be on your guard.

Look forward, finally, and hope for the coming of the Lord. Your best
things are yet to come. The second coming of Christ will soon be here.
The time of temptation will soon be past and gone. The judgment and
reward of the saints shall soon make amends for all. Rest in the hope of
that day. Work, watch, and look forward.--One thing, at any rate, that
day will make abundantly clear. It will show that there was never an
hour in our lives in which we gave our hearts too thoroughly to Christ.



XII


THE WORLD

     "_Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the
     Lord._" 2 Cor. vi. 17.


The text which heads this page touches a subject of vast importance in
religion. That subject is the great duty of separation from the world.
This is the point which St. Paul had in view when he wrote to the
Corinthians, "Come out,--be separate."

The subject is one which demands the best attention of all who profess
and call themselves Christians. In every age of the Church separation
from the world has always been one of the grand evidences of a work of
grace in the heart. He that has been really born of the Spirit, and made
a new creature in Christ Jesus, has always endeavoured to "come out from
the world," and live a separate life. They who have only had the name of
Christian, without the reality, have always refused to "come out and be
separate" from the world.

The subject perhaps was never more important than it is at the present
day. There is a widely-spread desire to make things pleasant in
religion,--to saw off the corners and edges of the cross, and to avoid,
as far as possible, self-denial. On every side we hear professing
Christians declaring loudly that we must not be "narrow and exclusive,"
and that there is no harm in many things which the holiest saints of old
thought bad for their souls. That we may go anywhere, and do anything,
and spend our time in anything, and read anything, and keep any company,
and plunge into anything, and all the while may be very good
Christians,--this, this is the maxim of thousands. In a day like this I
think it good to raise a warning voice, and invite attention to the
teaching of God's Word. It is written in that Word, "Come out, and be
separate."

There are four points which I shall try to show my readers, in examining
this mighty subject.


    I. First, I shall try to show _that the world is a source of great
    danger to the soul_.

    II. Secondly, I shall try to show _what is not meant by separation
    from the world_.

    III. Thirdly, I shall try to show in _what real separation from the
    world consists_.

    IV. Fourthly, I shall try _to show the secret of victory over the
    world_.

       *       *       *       *       *

And now, before I go a single step further, let me warn every reader of
this paper that he will never understand this subject unless he first
understands what a true Christian is. If you are one of those unhappy
people who think everybody is a Christian who goes to a place of
worship, no matter how he lives, or what he believes, I fear you will
care little about separation from the world. But if you read your Bible,
and are in earnest about your soul, you will know that there are two
classes of Christians,--converted and unconverted. You will know that
what the Jews were among the nations under the Old Testament, this the
true Christian is meant to be under the New. You will understand what I
mean when I say that true Christians are meant, in like manner, to be a
"peculiar people" under the Gospel, and that there must be a difference
between believers and unbelievers. To you, therefore, I make a special
appeal this day. While many avoid the subject of separation from the
world, and many positively hate it, and many are puzzled by it, give me
your attention while I try to show you "the thing as it is."


I. First of all, let me show that _the world is a source of great danger
to the soul_.

By "the world," be it remembered, I do not mean the material world on
the face of which we are living and moving. He that pretends to say that
anything which God has created in the heavens above, or the earth
beneath, is in itself harmful to man's soul, says that which is
unreasonable and absurd. On the contrary, the sun, moon, and stars,--the
mountains, the valleys, and the plains,--the seas, lakes, and
rivers,--the animal and vegetable creation,--all are in themselves "very
good." (Gen. i. 31.) All are full of lessons of God's wisdom and power,
and all proclaim daily, "The hand that made us is Divine." The idea that
"matter" is in itself sinful and corrupt is a foolish heresy.

When I speak of "the world" in this paper, I mean those people who think
only, or chiefly, of this world's things, and neglect the world to
come,--the people who are always thinking more of earth than of heaven,
more of time than of eternity, more of the body than of the soul, more
of pleasing man than of pleasing God. It is of them and their ways,
habits, customs, opinions, practices, tastes, aims, spirit, and tone,
that I am speaking when I speak of "the world." This is the world from
which St. Paul tells us to "Come out and be separate."

Now that "the world," in this sense, is an enemy to the soul, the
well-known Church Catechism teaches us at its very beginning. It tells
us that there are three things which a baptized Christian is bound to
renounce and give up, and three enemies which he ought to fight with and
resist. These three are the flesh, the devil, and "the world." All three
are terrible foes, and all three must be overcome if we would be saved.

But, whatever men please to think about the Catechism, we shall do well
to turn to the testimony of Holy Scripture. If the texts I am about to
quote do not prove that the world is a source of danger to the soul,
there is no meaning in words.

(_a_) Let us hear what St. Paul says:--

"Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing
of your mind." (Rom. xii. 2.)

"We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is
of God." (1 Cor. ii. 12.)

"Christ gave Himself for us, that He might deliver us from this present
evil world." (Gal. i. 4.)

"In time past ye walked according to the course of this world." (Eph.
ii. 2.)

"Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world." (2 Tim. iv.
10.)

(_b_) Let us hear what St. James says:--

"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit
the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself
unspotted from the world." (James i. 27.)

"Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?
Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God."
(James iv. 4.)

(_c_) Let us hear what St. John says:--

"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any
man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

"For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of
the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the
world.

"And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the
will of God abideth for ever." (1 John ii. 15--17.)

"The world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not." (1 John iii. 1.)

"They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world
heareth them." (1 John iv. 5.)

"Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world." (1 John v. 4.)

"We know that we are of God and the whole world lieth in wickedness." (1
John v. 19.)

(_d_) Let us hear, lastly, what the Lord Jesus Christ says:--

"The cares of this world choke the Word, and it becometh unfruitful."
(Matt. xiii. 22.)

"Ye are of this world: I am not of this world." (John viii. 23.)

"The Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth
Him not, neither knoweth Him." (John xiv. 17.)

"If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you."
(John xv. 18.)

"If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye
are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore
the world hateth you." (John xv. 19.)

"In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have
overcome the world." (John xvi. 33.)

"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." (John xvii.
16.)

I make no comment on these twenty-one texts. They speak for themselves.
If any one can read them carefully, and fail to see that "the world" is
an enemy to the Christian's soul, and that there is an utter opposition
between the friendship of the world and the friendship of Christ, he is
past the reach of argument, and it is waste of time to reason with him.
To my eyes they contain a lesson as clear as the sun at noon day.

I turn from Scripture to matters of fact and experience. I appeal to any
old Christian who keeps his eyes open, and knows what is going on in the
Churches. I ask him whether it be not true that nothing damages the
cause of religion so much as "the world"? It is not open sin, or open
unbelief, which robs Christ of His professing servants, so much as the
love of the world, the fear of the world, the cares of the world, the
business of the world, the money of the world, the pleasures of the
world, and the desire to keep in with the world. This is the great rock
on which thousands of young people are continually making shipwreck.
They do not object to any article of the Christian faith. They do not
deliberately choose evil, and openly rebel against God. They hope
somehow to get to heaven at last; and they think it proper to have some
religion. But they cannot give up their idol: they must have the world.
And so after running well and bidding fair for heaven, while boys and
girls, they turn aside when they become men and women, and go down the
broad way which leads to destruction. They begin with Abraham and Moses,
and end with Demas and Lot's wife.

The last day alone will prove how many souls "the world" has slain.
Hundreds will be found to have been trained in religious families, and
to have known the Gospel from their very childhood, and yet missed
heaven. They left the harbour of home with bright prospects, and
launched forth on the ocean of life with a father's blessing and a
mother's prayers, and then got out of the right course through the
seductions of the world, and ended their voyage in shallows and in
misery. It is a sorrowful story to tell; but, alas, it is only too
common! I cannot wonder that St. Paul says, "Come out and be separate."


II. Let me now try to show _what does not constitute separation from the
world_.

The point is one which requires clearing up. There are many mistakes
made about it. You will sometimes see sincere and well-meaning
Christians doing things which God never intended them to do, in the
matter of separation from the world, and honestly believing that they
are in the path of duty. Their mistakes often do great harm. They give
occasion to the wicked to ridicule all religion, and supply them with an
excuse for having none. They cause the way of truth to be evil spoken
of, and add to the offence of the cross. I think it a plain duty to make
a few remarks on the subject. We must never forget that it is possible
to be very much in earnest, and to think we are "doing God service,"
when in reality we are making some great mistake. There is such a thing
as "zeal not according to knowledge." (John xvi. 2, Rom. x. 2.) There
are few things about which it is so important to pray for a right
judgment and sanctified common sense, as about separation from the
world.

(_a_) When St. Paul said, "Come out and be separate," he did not mean
that Christians ought to give up all worldly callings, trades,
professions, and business. He did not forbid men to be soldiers,
sailors, lawyers, doctors, merchants, bankers, shop-keepers, or
tradesmen. There is not a word in the New Testament to justify such a
line of conduct. Cornelius the centurion, Luke the physician, Zenas the
lawyer, are examples to the contrary. Idleness is in itself a sin. A
lawful calling is a remedy against temptation. "If any man will not
work, neither shall he eat." (2 Thess. iii. 10.) To give up any business
of life, which is not necessarily sinful, to the wicked and the devil,
from fear of getting harm from it, is lazy, cowardly conduct. The right
plan is to carry our religion into our business, and not to give up
business under the specious pretence that it interferes with our
religion.

(_b_) When St. Paul said, "Come out and be separate," he did not mean
that Christians ought to decline all intercourse with unconverted
people, and refuse to go into their society. There is no warrant for
such conduct in the New Testament. Our Lord and His disciples did not
refuse to go to a marriage feast, or to sit at meat at a Pharisee's
table. St. Paul does not say, "If any of them that believe not bid you
to a feast," you must not go, but only tells us how to behave if we do
go. (1 Cor. x. 27.) Moreover, it is a dangerous thing to begin judging
people too closely, and settling who are converted and who are not, and
what society is godly and what ungodly. We are sure to make mistakes.
Above all, such a course of life would cut us off from many
opportunities of doing good. If we carry our Master with us wherever we
go, who can tell but we may "save some," and get no harm? (1 Cor. ix.
22.)

(_c_) When St. Paul says, "Come out and be separate," he did not mean
that Christians ought to take no interest in anything on earth except
religion. To neglect science, art, literature, and politics,--to read
nothing which is not directly spiritual,--to know nothing about what is
going on among mankind, and never to look at a newspaper,--to care
nothing about the government of one's country, and to be utterly
indifferent as to the persons who guide its counsels and make its
laws,--all this may seem very right and proper in the eyes of some
people. But I take leave to think that it is an idle, selfish neglect of
duty. St. Paul knew the value of good government, as one of the main
helps to our "living a quiet and peaceable life in godliness and
honesty." (1 Tim. ii. 2.) St. Paul was not ashamed to read heathen
writers, and to quote their words in his speeches and writings. St. Paul
did not think it beneath him to show an acquaintance with the laws and
customs and callings of the world, in the illustrations he gave from
them. Christians who plume themselves on their ignorance of secular
things are precisely the Christians who bring religion into contempt. I
knew the case of a blacksmith who would not come to hear his clergyman
preach the Gospel, until he found out that he knew the properties of
iron. Then he came.

(_d_) When St. Paul said, "Come out and be separate," he did not mean
that Christians should be singular, eccentric, and peculiar in their
dress, manners, demeanour, and voice. Anything which attracts notice in
these matters is most objectionable, and ought to be carefully avoided.
To wear clothes of such a colour, or made in such a fashion, that when
you go into company every eye is fixed on you, and you are the object of
general observation, is an enormous mistake. It gives occasion to the
wicked to ridicule religion, and looks self-righteous and affected.
There is not the slightest proof that our Lord and His apostles, and
Priscilla, and Persis, and their companions, did not dress and behave
just like others in their own ranks of life. On the other hand, one of
the many charges our Lord brings against the Pharisees was that of
"making broad their phylacteries, and enlarging the borders of their
garments," so as to be "seen of men." (Matt. xxiii. 5.) True sanctity
and sanctimoniousness are entirely different things. Those who try to
show their unworldliness by wearing conspicuously ugly clothes, or by
speaking in a whining, snuffling voice, or by affecting an unnatural
slavishness, humility, and gravity of manner, miss their mark
altogether, and only give occasion to the enemies of the Lord to
blaspheme.

(_e_) When St. Paul said, "Come out and be separate," he did not mean
that Christians ought to retire from the company of mankind, and shut
themselves up in solitude. It is one of the crying errors of the Church
of Rome to suppose that eminent holiness is to be attained by such
practices. It is the unhappy delusion of the whole army of monks, nuns,
and hermits. Separation of this kind is not according to the mind of
Christ. He says distinctly in His last prayer, "I pray not that Thou
shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them
from the evil." (John xvii. 15.) There is not a word in the Acts or
Epistles to recommend such a separation. True believers are always
represented as mixing in the world, doing their duty in it, and
glorifying God by patience, meekness, purity, and courage in their
several positions, and not by cowardly desertion of them. Moreover, it
is foolish to suppose that we can keep the world and the devil out of
our hearts by going into holes and corners. True religion and
unworldliness are best seen, not in timidly forsaking the post which God
has allotted to us, but in manfully standing our ground, and showing the
power of grace to overcome evil.

(_f_) Last, but not least, when St. Paul said, "Come out and be
separate," he did not mean that Christians ought to withdraw from every
Church in which there are unconverted members, or to refuse to worship
in company with any who are not believers, or to keep away from the
Lord's table if any ungodly people go up to it. This is a very common
but a very grievous mistake. There is not a text in the New Testament to
justify it, and it ought to be condemned as a pure invention of man. Our
Lord Jesus Christ Himself deliberately allowed Judas Iscariot to be an
apostle for three years, and gave him the Lord's Supper. He has taught
us, in the parable of the wheat and tares, that converted and
unconverted will be "together till the harvest," and cannot be divided.
(Matt. xiii. 30.) In His Epistles to the Seven Churches, and in all St.
Paul's Epistles, we often see faults and corruptions mentioned and
reproved; but we are never told that they justify desertion of the
assembly, or neglect of ordinances. In short, we must not look for a
perfect Church, a perfect congregation, and a perfect company of
communicants, until the marriage supper of the Lamb. If others are
unworthy Churchmen, or unworthy partakers of the Lord's Supper, the sin
is theirs and not ours: we are not their judges. But to separate
ourselves from Church assemblies, and deprive ourselves of Christian
ordinances, because others use them unworthily, is to take up a foolish,
unreasonable, and unscriptural position. It is not the mind of Christ,
and it certainly is not St. Paul's idea of separation from the world.

I commend these six points to the calm consideration of all who wish to
understand the subject of separation from the world. About each and all
of them far more might be said than I have space to say in this paper.
About each and all of them I have seen so many mistakes made, and so
much misery and unhappiness caused by those mistakes, that I want to put
Christians on their guard. I want them not to take up positions hastily,
in the zeal of their first love, which they will afterwards be obliged
to give up.

I leave this part of my subject with two pieces of advice, which I offer
especially to young Christians.

I advise them, for one thing, if they really desire to come out from the
world, to remember that the shortest path is not always the path of
duty. To quarrel with all our unconverted relatives, to "cut" all our
old friends, to withdraw entirely from mixed society, to live an
exclusive life, to give up every act of courtesy and civility in order
that we may devote ourselves to the direct work of Christ,--all this may
seem very right, and may satisfy our consciences and save us trouble.
But I venture a doubt whether it is not often a selfish, lazy,
self-pleasing line of conduct, and whether the true cross and true line
of duty may not be to deny ourselves, and adopt a very different course
of action.

I advise them, for another thing, if they want to come out from the
world, to watch against a sour, morose, ungenial, gloomy, unpleasant,
bearish demeanour, and never to forget that there is such a thing as
"winning without the Word." (1 Peter iii. 1.) Let them strive to show
unconverted people that their principles, whatever may be thought of
them, make them cheerful, amiable, good-tempered, unselfish, considerate
for others, and ready to take an interest in everything that is innocent
and of good report. In short, let there be no needless separation
between us and the world. In many things, as I shall soon show, we must
be separate; but let us take care that it is separation of the right
sort. If the world is offended by such separation we cannot help it. But
let us never give the world occasion to say that our separation is
foolish, senseless, ridiculous, unreasonable, uncharitable, and
unscriptural.


III. In the third place, I shall try to show _what true separation from
the world really is_.

I take up this branch of my subject with a very deep sense of its
difficulty. That there is a certain line of conduct which all true
Christians ought to pursue with respect to "the world, and the things of
the world," is very evident. The texts already quoted make that plain.
The key to the solution of that question lies in the word "separation."
But in what separation consists it is not easy to show. On some points
it is not hard to lay down particular rules; on others it is impossible
to do more than state general principles, and leave every one to apply
them according to his position in life. This is what I shall now attempt
to do.

(_a_) First and foremost, he that desires to "come out from the world,
and be separate," _must steadily and habitually refuse to be guided by
the world's standard of right and wrong_.

The rule of the bulk of mankind is to go with the stream, to do as
others, to follow the fashion, to keep in with the common opinion, and
to set your watch by the town-clock. The true Christian will never be
content with such a rule as that. He will simply ask, What saith the
Scripture? What is written in the Word of God? He will maintain firmly
that nothing can be right which God says is wrong, and that the customs
and opinions of his neighbours can never make that to be a trifle which
God calls serious, or that to be no sin which God calls sin. He will
never think lightly of such sins as drinking, swearing, gambling, lying,
cheating, swindling, or breach of the seventh commandment, because they
are common, and many say, "Where is the mighty harm?" That miserable
argument,--"Everybody thinks so, everybody says so, everybody does it,
everybody will be there,"--goes for nothing with him. Is it condemned or
approved by the Bible? That is his only question. If he stands alone in
the parish, or town, or congregation, he will not go against the Bible.
If he has to come out from the crowd, and take a position by himself, he
will not flinch from it rather than disobey the Bible. This is genuine
Scriptural separation.

(_b_) He that desires to "come out from the world and be separate,"
_must be very careful how he spends his leisure time_.

This is a point which at first sight appears of little importance. But
the longer I live, the more I am persuaded that it deserves most serious
attention. Honourable occupation and lawful business are a great
safeguard to the soul, and the time that is spent upon them is
comparatively the time of our least danger. The devil finds it hard to
get a hearing from a busy man. But when the day's work is over, and the
time of leisure arrives, then comes the hour of temptation.

I do not hesitate to warn every man who wants to live a Christian life,
to be very careful how he spends his evenings. Evening is the time when
we are naturally disposed to unbend after the labours of the day; and
evening is the time when the Christian is too often tempted to lay aside
his armour, and consequently brings trouble on his soul. "Then cometh
the devil," and with the devil the world. Evening is the time when the
poor man is tempted to go to the public-house, and fall into sin.
Evening is the time when the tradesman too often goes to the Inn
parlour, and sits for hours hearing and seeing things which do him no
good. Evening is the time which the higher classes choose for dancing,
card playing, and the like; and consequently never get to bed till late
at night. If we love our souls, and would not become worldly, let us
mind how we spend our evenings. Tell me how a man spends his evenings,
and I can generally tell what his character is.

The true Christian will do well to make it a settled rule never to
_waste_ his evenings. Whatever others may do, let him resolve always to
make time for quiet, calm thought,--for Bible-reading and prayer. The
rule will prove a hard one to keep. It may bring on him the charge of
being unsocial and over strict. Let him not mind this. Anything of this
kind is better than habitual late hours in company, hurried prayers,
slovenly Bible reading, and a bad conscience. Even if he stands alone in
his parish or town, let him not depart from his rule. He will find
himself in a minority, and be thought a peculiar man. But this is
genuine Scriptural separation.

(_c_) He that desires to "come out from the world and be separate," must
_steadily and habitually determine not to be swallowed up and absorbed
in the business of the world_.

A true Christian will strive to do his duty in whatever station or
position he finds himself, and to do it well. Whether statesman, or
merchant, or banker, or lawyer, or doctor, or tradesman, or farmer, he
will try to do his work so that no one can find occasion for fault in
him. But he will not allow it to get between him and Christ. If he
finds his business beginning to eat up his Sundays, his Bible-reading,
his private prayer, and to bring clouds between him and heaven, he will
say, "Stand back! There is a limit. Hitherto thou mayest go, but no
further. I cannot sell my soul for place, fame, or gold." Like Daniel,
he will make time for his communion with God, whatever the cost may be.
Like Havelock, he will deny himself anything rather than lose his
Bible-reading and his prayers. In all this he will find he stands almost
alone. Many will laugh at him, and tell him they get on well enough
without being so strict and particular. He will heed it not. He will
resolutely hold the world at arm's length, whatever present loss or
sacrifice it may seem to entail. He will choose rather to be less rich
and prosperous in this world, than not to prosper about his soul. To
stand alone in this way, to run counter to the ways of others, requires
immense self denial. But this is genuine Scriptural separation.

(_d_) He that desires to "come out from the world and be separate" must
steadily _abstain from all amusements and recreations which are
inseparably connected with sin_.

This is a hard subject to handle, and I approach it with pain. But I do
not think I should be faithful to Christ, and faithful to my office as a
minister, if I did not speak very plainly about it, in considering such
a matter as separation from the world.

Let me, then, say honestly, that I cannot understand how any one who
makes any pretence to real vital religion can allow himself to attend
races and theatres. Conscience no doubt, is a strange thing, and every
man must judge for himself and use his liberty. One man sees no harm in
things which another regards with abhorrence as evil. I can only give my
own opinion for what it is worth, and entreat my readers to consider
seriously what I say.

That to look at horses running at full speed is in itself perfectly
harmless, no sensible man will pretend to deny. That many plays, such as
Shakespeare's, are among the finest productions of the human intellect,
is equally undeniable. But all this is beside the question. The question
is whether horse-racing and theatres, as they are now conducted, in
England, are not inseparably bound up with things that are downright
wicked. =I= assert without hesitation that they are so bound up. =I=
assert that the breach of God's commandments so invariably accompanies
the race and the play, that you cannot go to the amusement without
helping sin.

I entreat all professing Christians to remember this, and to take heed
what they do. I warn them plainly that they have no right to shut their
eyes to facts which every intelligent person knows, for the mere
pleasure of seeing a horse-race, or listening to good actors or
actresses. I warn them that they must not talk of separation from the
world, if they can lend their sanction to amusements which are
invariably connected with gambling, betting, drunkenness, and
fornication. These are the things "which God will judge."--"The end of
these things is death." (Heb. xiii. 4; Rom. vi. 21.)

Hard words these, no doubt! But are they not true? It may seem to your
relatives and friends very strait-laced, strict, and narrow, if you tell
them you cannot go to the races or the theatre with them. But we must
fall back on first principles. Is the world a danger to the soul, or is
it not? Are we to come out from the world, or are we not? These are
questions which can only be answered in one way.

If we love our souls we must have nothing to do with amusements which
are bound up with sin. Nothing short of this can be called genuine
scriptural separation from the world.[11]

  11: See Note, page 310.

(_e_) He that desires to "come out from the world, and be separate,"
must be _moderate in the use of lawful and innocent recreations_.

No sensible Christian will ever think of condemning all recreations. In
a world of wear and tear like that we live in, occasional unbending and
relaxation are good for all. Body and mind alike require seasons of
lighter occupation, and opportunities of letting off high spirits, and
especially when they are young. Exercise itself is a positive necessity
for the preservation of mental and bodily health. I see no harm in
cricket, rowing, running, and other manly athletic recreations. I find
no fault with those who play at chess and such-like games of skill. We
are all fearfully and wonderfully made. No wonder the poet says,--

    "Strange that a harp of thousand strings
        Should keep in tune so long!"

Anything which strengthens nerves, and brain, and digestion, and lungs,
and muscles, and makes us more fit for Christ's work, so long as it is
not in itself sinful, is a blessing, and ought to be thankfully used.
Anything which will occasionally divert our thoughts from their usual
grinding channel, in a healthy manner, is a good and not an evil.

But it is the excess of these innocent things which a true Christian
must watch against, if he wants to be separate from the world. He must
not devote his whole heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, and time
to them, as many do, if he wishes to serve Christ. There are hundreds of
lawful things which are good in moderation, but bad when taken in
excess: healthful medicine in small quantities,--downright poison when
swallowed down in huge doses. In nothing is this so true as it is in the
matter of recreations. The use of them is one thing, and the abuse of
them is another. The Christian who uses them must know when to stop,
and how to say "Hold: enough!"--Do they interfere with his private
religion? Do they take up too much of his thoughts and attention? Have
they a secularizing effect on his soul? Have they a tendency to pull him
down to earth? Then let him hold hard and take care. All this will
require courage, self-denial, and firmness. It is a line of conduct
which will often bring on us the ridicule and contempt of those who know
not what moderation is, and who spend their lives in making trifles
serious things and serious things trifles. But if we mean to come out
from the world we must not mind this. We must be "temperate" even in
lawful things, whatever others may think of us. This is genuine
Scriptural separation.

(_f_) Last, but not least, he that desires to "come out from the world
and be separate" must be _careful how he allows himself in friendships,
intimacies, and close relationships with worldly people_.

We cannot help meeting many unconverted people as long as we live. We
cannot avoid having intercourse with them, and doing business with them,
unless "we go out of the world." (1 Cor. v. 10.) To treat them with the
utmost courtesy, kindness, and charity, whenever we do meet them, is a
positive duty. But acquaintance is one thing, and intimate friendship is
quite another. To seek their society without cause, to choose their
company, to cultivate intimacy with them, is very dangerous to the soul.
Human nature is so constituted that we cannot be much with other people
without effect on our own character. The old proverb will never fail to
prove true: "Tell me with whom a man chooses to live, and I will tell
you what he is." The Scripture says expressly, "He that walketh with
wise men shall be wise; but a companion of fools shall be destroyed."
(Prov. xiii. 20.) If then a Christian, who desires to live consistently,
chooses for his friends those who either do not care for their souls, or
the Bible, or God, or Christ, or holiness, or regard them as of
secondary importance, it seems to me impossible for him to prosper in
his religion. He will soon find that their ways are not his ways, nor
their thoughts his thoughts, nor their tastes his tastes; and that,
unless they change, he must give up intimacy with them. In short, there
must be separation. Of course such separation will be painful. But if we
have to choose between the loss of a friend and the injury of our souls,
there ought to be no doubt in our minds. If friends will not walk in the
narrow way with us, we must not walk in the broad way to please them.
But let us distinctly understand that to attempt to keep up close
intimacy between a converted and an unconverted person, if both are
consistent with their natures, is to attempt an impossibility.

The principle here laid down ought to be carefully remembered by all
unmarried Christians in the choice of a husband or wife. I fear it is
too often entirely forgotten. Too many seem to think of everything
except religion in choosing a partner for life, or to suppose that it
will come somehow as a matter of course. Yet when a praying,
Bible-reading, God-fearing, Christ-loving, Sabbath-keeping Christian
marries a person who takes no interest whatever in serious religion,
what can the result be but injury to the Christian, or immense
unhappiness? Health is not infectious, but disease is. As a general
rule, in such cases, the good go down to the level of the bad, and the
bad do not come up to the level of the good. The subject is a delicate
one, and I do not care to dwell upon it. But this I say confidently to
every unmarried Christian man or woman,--if you love your soul, if you
do not want to fall away and backslide, if you do not want to destroy
your own peace and comfort for life, resolve never to marry any person
who is not a thorough Christian, whatever the resolution may cost you.
You had better die than marry an unbeliever. Stand to this resolution,
and let no one ever persuade you out of it. Depart from this resolution,
and you will find it almost impossible to "come out and be separate."
You will find you have tied a mill-stone round your own neck in running
the race towards heaven; and, if saved at last, it will be "so as by
fire." (1 Cor. iii. 15.)

I offer these six general hints to all who wish to follow St. Paul's
advice, and to come out from the world and be separate. In giving them,
I lay no claim to infallibility; but I believe they deserve
consideration and attention. I do not forget that the subject is full of
difficulties, and that scores of doubtful cases are continually arising
in a Christian's course, in which it is very hard to say what is the
path of duty, and how to behave. Perhaps the following bits of advice
may be found useful.--In all doubtful cases we should first pray for
wisdom and sound judgment. If prayer is worth anything, it must be
specially valuable when we desire to do right, but do not see our
way.--In all doubtful cases let us often try ourselves by recollecting
the eye of God. Should I go to such and such a place, or do such and
such a thing, if I really thought God was looking at me?--In all
doubtful cases let us never forget the second advent of Christ and the
day of judgment. Should I like to be found in such and such company, or
employed in such and such ways?--Finally, in all doubtful cases let us
find out what the conduct of the holiest and best Christians has been
under similar circumstances. If we do not clearly see our own way, we
need not be ashamed to follow good examples. I throw out these
suggestions for the use of all who are in difficulties about disputable
points in the matter of separation from the world. I cannot help
thinking that they may help to untie many knots, and solve many
problems.


IV. I shall now conclude the whole subject by trying to _show the
secrets of real victory over the world_.

To come out from the world of course is not an easy thing. It cannot be
easy so long as human nature is what it is, and a busy devil is always
near us. It requires a constant struggle and exertion; it entails
incessant conflict and self-denial; it often places us in exact
opposition to members of our own families, to relations and neighbours;
it sometimes obliges us to do things which give great offence, and bring
on us ridicule and petty persecution. It is precisely this which makes
many hang back and shrink from decided religion. They know they are not
right; they know that they are not so "thorough" in Christ's service as
they ought to be, and they feel uncomfortable and ill at ease. But the
fear of man keeps them back. And so they linger on through life with
aching, dissatisfied hearts,--with too much religion to be happy in the
world, and too much of the world to be happy in their religion. I fear
this is a very common case, if the truth were known.

Yet there are some in every age who seem to get the victory over the
world. They come out decidedly from its ways, and are unmistakably
separate. They are independent of its opinions, and unshaken by its
opposition. They move on like planets in an orbit of their own, and seem
to rise equally above the world's smiles and frowns. And what are the
secrets of their victory? I will set them down.

(_a_) The first secret of victory over the world is a _right heart_. By
that I mean a heart renewed, changed and sanctified by the Holy
Ghost,--a heart in which Christ dwells, a heart in which old things have
passed away, and all things become new. The grand mark of such a heart
is the bias of its tastes and affections. The owner of such a heart no
longer likes the world, and the things of the world, and therefore finds
it no trial or sacrifice to give them up. He has no longer any appetite
for the company, the conversation, the amusements, the occupations, the
books which he once loved, and to "come out" from them seems natural to
him. Great indeed is the expulsive power of a new principle! Just as the
new spring-buds in a beech hedge push off the old leaves and make them
quietly fall to the ground, so does the new heart of a believer
invariably affect his tastes and likings, and make him drop many things
which he once loved and lived in, because he now likes them no more. Let
him that wants to "come out from the world and be separate," make sure
first and foremost that he has got a new heart. If the heart is really
right, everything else will be right in time. "If thine eye be single,
thy whole body shall be full of light." (Matt. vi. 22.) If the
affections are not right, there never will be right action.

(_b_) The second secret of victory over the world is a _lively practical
faith_ in unseen things. What saith the Scripture? "This is the victory
that overcometh the world, even our faith." (1 John v. 4.) To attain and
keep up the habit of looking steadily at invisible things, as if they
were visible,--to set before our minds every day, as grand realities,
our souls, God, Christ, heaven, hell, judgment, eternity,--to cherish an
abiding conviction that what we do not see is just as real as what we do
see, and ten thousand times more important,--this, this is one way to be
conquerors over the world. This was the faith which made the noble army
of saints, described in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, obtain such a
glorious testimony from the Holy Ghost. They all acted under a firm
persuasion that they had a real God, a real Saviour, and a real home in
heaven, though unseen by mortal eyes. Armed with this faith, a man
regards this world as a shadow compared to the world to come, and cares
little for its praise or blame, its enmity or its rewards. Let him that
wants to come out from the world and be separate, but shrinks and hangs
back for fear of the things seen, pray and strive to have this faith.
"All things are possible to him that believes." (Mark ix. 23.) Like
Moses, he will find it possible to forsake Egypt, seeing Him that is
invisible. Like Moses, he will not care what he loses and who is
displeased, because he sees afar off, like one looking through a
telescope, a substantial recompense of reward. (Heb. xi. 26.)

(_c_) The third and last secret of victory over the world, is to attain
and cultivate the _habit of boldly confessing Christ_ on all proper
occasions. In saying this I would not be mistaken. I want no one to blow
a trumpet before him, and thrust his religion on others at all seasons.
But I do wish to encourage all who strive to come out from the world to
show their colours, and to act and speak out like men who are not
ashamed to serve Christ. A steady, quiet assertion of our own
principles, as Christians,--an habitual readiness to let the children of
the world see that we are guided by other rules than they are, and do
not mean to swerve from them,--a calm, firm, courteous maintenance of
our own standard of things in every company,--all this will insensibly
form a habit within us, and make it comparatively easy to be a separate
man. It will be hard at first, no doubt, and cost us many a struggle;
but the longer we go on, the easier will it be. Repeated acts of
confessing Christ will produce habits. Habits once formed will produce a
settled character. Our characters once known, we shall be saved much
trouble. Men will know what to expect from us, and will count it no
strange thing if they see us living the lives of separate peculiar
people. He that grasps the nettle most firmly will always be less hurt
than the man who touches it with a trembling hand. It is a great thing
to be able to say "No" decidedly, but courteously, when asked to do
anything which conscience says is wrong. He that shows his colours
boldly from the first, and is never ashamed to let men see "whose he is
and whom he serves," will soon find that he has overcome the world, and
will be let alone. Bold confession is a long step towards victory.


It only remains for me now to conclude the whole subject with a few
short words of application. The danger of the world ruining the soul,
the nature of true separation from the world, the secrets of victory
over the world, are all before the reader of this paper. I now ask him
to give me his attention for the last time, while I try to say something
directly for his personal benefit.

(1) My first word shall be _a question_. Are you overcoming the world,
or are you overcome by it? Do you know what it is to come out from the
world and be separate, or are you yet entangled by it, and conformed to
it? If you have any desire to be saved, I entreat you to answer this
question.

If you know nothing of "separation," I warn you affectionately that your
soul is in great danger. The world passeth away; and they who cling to
the world, and think only of the world, will pass away with it to
everlasting ruin. Awake to know your peril before it be too late. Awake
and flee from the wrath to come. The time is short. The end of all
things is at hand. The shadows are lengthening. The sun is going down.
The night cometh when no man can work. The great white throne will soon
be set. The judgment will begin. The books will be opened. Awake, and
come out from the world while it is called to-day.

Yet a little while, and there will be no more worldly occupations and
worldly amusements,--no more getting money and spending money,--no more
eating, and drinking, and feasting, and dressing, and ball-going, and
theatres, and races, and cards, and gambling. What will you do when all
these things have passed away for ever? How can you possibly be happy in
an eternal heaven, where holiness is all in all, and worldliness has no
place? Oh consider these things, and be wise! Awake, and break the
chains which the world has thrown around you. Awake, and flee from the
wrath to come.

(2) My second word shall be _a counsel_. If you want to come out from
the world, but know not what to do, take the advice which I give you
this day. Begin by applying direct, as a penitent sinner, to our Lord
Jesus Christ, and put your case in His hands. Pour out your heart before
Him. Tell Him your whole story, and keep nothing back. Tell Him that you
are a sinner wanting to be saved from the world, the flesh, and the
devil, and entreat Him to save you.

That blessed Saviour "gave Himself for us that He might deliver us from
this present evil world." (Gal. i. 2.) He knows what the world is, for
He lived in it thirty and three years. He knows what the difficulties of
a man are, for He was made man for our sakes, and dwelt among men. High
in heaven, at the right hand of God, He is able to save to the uttermost
all who come to God by Him,--able to keep us from the evil of the world
while we are still living in it,--able to give us power to become the
sons of God,--able to keep us from falling,--able to make us more than
conquerors. Once more I say, Go direct to Christ with the prayer of
faith, and put yourself wholly and unreservedly in His hands. Hard as it
may seem to you now to come out from the world and be separate, you
shall find that with Jesus nothing is impossible. You, even you, shall
overcome the world.

(3) My third and last word shall be _encouragement_. If you have learned
by experience what it is to come out from the world, I can only say to
you, Take comfort, and persevere. You are in the right road; you have no
cause to be afraid. The everlasting hills are in sight. Your salvation
is nearer than when you believed. Take comfort and press on.

No doubt you have had many a battle, and made many a false step. You
have sometimes felt ready to faint, and been half disposed to go back to
Egypt. But your Master has never entirely left you, and He will never
suffer you to be tempted above that you are able to bear. Then persevere
steadily in your separation from the world, and never be ashamed of
standing alone. Settle it firmly in your mind that the most decided
Christians are always the happiest, and remember that no one ever said
at the end of his course that he had been too holy, and lived too near
to God.

Hear, last of all, what is written in the Scriptures of truth:

"Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him shall the Son of man also
confess before the angels of God." (Luke xii. 8.)

"There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or
father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the
gospel's,

"But he shall receive an hundred-fold now in this time, houses, and
brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with
persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life." (Mark x. 29, 30.)

"Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of
reward.

"For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God,
ye might receive the promise.

"For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not
tarry." (Heb. x. 35--37.)

Those words were written and spoken for our sakes. Let us lay hold on
them, and never forget them. Let us persevere to the end, and never be
ashamed of coming out from the world, and being separate. We may be sure
it brings its own reward.


NOTE

     Thoughtful and intelligent readers will probably observe that,
     under the head of worldly amusements, I have said nothing about
     ball-going and card-playing. They are delicate and difficult
     subjects, and many classes of society are not touched by them.
     But I am quite willing to give my opinion, and the more so
     because I do not speak of them without experience in the days
     of my youth.

     (_a_) Concerning _ball-going_, I only ask Christians to judge
     the amusement by its tendencies and accompaniments. To say
     there is anything morally wrong in the mere bodily act of
     dancing would be absurd. David danced before the ark. Solomon
     said, "There is a time to dance." (Eccle. iii 4.) Just as it is
     natural to lambs and kittens to frisk about, so it seems
     natural to young people, all over the world, to jump about to a
     lively tune of music. If dancing were taken up for mere
     exercise, if dancing took place at early hours, and men only
     danced with men, and women with women, it would be needless and
     absurd to object to it. But everybody knows that this is not
     what is meant by modern ball-going. This is an amusement which
     involves very late hours, extravagant dressing, and an immense
     amount of frivolity, vanity, jealousy, unhealthy excitement,
     and vain conversation. Who would like to be found in a modern
     ball-room when the Lord Jesus Christ comes the second time? Who
     that has taken much part in balls, as I myself once did, before
     I knew better, can deny that they have a most dissipating
     effect on the mind, like opium-eating and dram-drinking on the
     body? I cannot withhold my opinion that ball-going is one of
     those worldly amusements which "war against the soul," and
     which it is wisest and best to give up. And as for those
     parents who urge their sons and daughters, against their wills
     and inclinations, to go to balls, I can only say that they are
     taking on themselves a most dangerous responsibility, and
     risking great injury to their children's souls.

     (_b_) Concerning _card-playing_, my judgment is much the same.
     I ask Christian people to try it by its tendencies and
     consequences. Of course it would be nonsense to say there is
     positive wickedness in an innocent game of cards, for
     diversion, and not for money. I have known instances of old
     people of lethargic and infirm habit of body, unable to work or
     read, to whom cards in an evening were really useful, to keep
     them from drowsiness, and preserve their health. But it is vain
     to shut our eyes to facts. If masters and mistresses once begin
     to play cards in the parlour, servants are likely to play cards
     in the kitchen; and then comes in a whole train of evils.
     Moreover, from simple card-playing to desperate gambling there
     is but a chain of steps. If parents teach young people that
     there is no harm in the first step, they must never be
     surprised if they go on to the last.

     I give this opinion with much diffidence. I lay no claim to
     infallibility. Let every one be persuaded in his own mind. But,
     considering all things, it is my deliberate judgment that the
     Christian who wishes to keep his soul right, and to "come out
     from the world," will do wisely to have nothing to do with
     card-playing. It is a habit which seems to grow on some people
     so much that it becomes at last a necessity, and they cannot
     live without it. "Madam," said Romaine to an old lady at Bath,
     who declared she could not do without her cards,--"Madam, if
     this is the case, cards are your god, and your god is a very
     poor one." Surely in doubtful matters like these it is well to
     give our souls the benefit of the doubt, and to refrain.

     (_c_) Concerning _field-sports_, I admit that it is not easy to
     lay down a strict rule. I cannot go the length of some, and say
     that galloping across country, or shooting grouse, partridges,
     or pheasants, or catching salmon or trout, are in themselves
     positively sinful occupations, and distinct marks of an
     unconverted heart. There are many persons, I know, to whom
     violent out-door exercise and complete diversion of mind are
     absolute necessities, for the preservation of their bodily and
     mental health. But in all these matters the chief question is
     one of degree. Much depends on the company men are thrown into,
     and the extent to which the thing is carried. The great danger
     lies in excess. It is possible to be _intemperate_ about
     hunting and shooting as well as about drinking. We are
     commanded in Scripture to be "temperate in all things," if we
     would so run as to obtain; and those who are addicted to
     field-sports should not forget this rule.

     The question, however, is one about which Christians must be
     careful in expressing an opinion, and moderate in their
     judgments. The man who can neither ride, nor shoot, nor throw a
     fly, is hardly qualified to speak dispassionately about such
     matters. It is cheap and easy work to condemn others for doing
     things which you cannot do yourself, and are utterly unable to
     enjoy! One thing only is perfectly certain,--all intemperance
     or excess is sin. The man who is wholly absorbed in
     field-sports, and spends all his years in such a manner that he
     seems to think God only created him to be a "hunting, shooting,
     and fishing animal," is a man who at present knows very little
     of Scriptural Christianity. It is written, "Where your treasure
     is, there will your heart be also." (Matt. vi. 21.)



XIII


RICHES AND POVERTY

     "_There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and
     fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day_:

     "_And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid
     at his gate, full of sores_,

     "_And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the
     rich man's table: moreover, the dogs came and licked his
     sores._

     "_And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by
     the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and
     was buried_;

     "_And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth
     Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom._"--

     Luke xvi. 19--23.

There are probably few readers of the Bible who are not familiar with
the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. It is one of those passages of
Scripture which leave an indelible impression on the mind. Like the
parable of the Prodigal Son, once read it is never forgotten.

The reason of this is clear and simple. The whole parable is a most
vividly painted picture. The story, as it goes on, carries our
senses with it with irresistible power. Instead of readers, we
become lookers on. We are witnesses of all the events described. We
see. We hear. We fancy we could almost touch. The rich man's
banquet,--the purple,--the fine linen,--the gate,--the beggar lying
by it,--the sores,--the dogs,--the crumbs,--the two deaths,--the
rich man's burial,--the ministering angels,--the bosom of
Abraham,--the rich man's fearful waking up,--the fire,--the
gulf,--the hopeless remorse,--all, all stand out before our eyes in
bold relief, and stamp themselves upon our minds. This is the
perfection of language. This is the attainment of the famous Arabian
standard of eloquence,--"He speaks the =best= who turns the ear into
an eye."

But, after all, it is one thing to admire the masterly composition of
this parable, and quite another to receive the spiritual lessons it
contains. The eye of the intellect can often see beauties while the
heart remains asleep, and sees nothing at all. Hundreds read Pilgrim's
Progress with deep interest, to whom the struggle for the celestial city
is foolishness. Thousands are familiar with every word of the parable
before us this day, who never consider how it comes home to their own
case. Their conscience is deaf to the cry which ought to ring in their
ears as they read,--"Thou art the man." Their heart never turns to God
with the solemn inquiry,--"Lord, is this my picture?--Lord, is it I?"

I invite my readers this day to consider the leading truths which this
parable is meant to teach us. I purposely omit to notice any part of it
but that which stands at the head of this paper. May the Holy Ghost give
us a teachable spirit, and an understanding heart, and so produce
lasting impressions on our souls!


I. Let us observe, first of all, _how different are the conditions which
God allots to different men_.

The Lord Jesus begins the parable by telling us of a rich man and a
beggar. He says not a word in praise either of poverty or of riches. He
describes the circumstances of a wealthy man and the circumstances of a
poor man; but He neither condemns the temporal position of one, nor
praises that of the other.

The contrast between the two men is painfully striking. Look on this
picture, and on that.

Here is one who possessed abundance of this world's good things. "He was
clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day."

Here is another who has literally nothing. He is a friendless, diseased,
half-starved pauper. "He lies at the rich man's gate full of sores," and
begs for crumbs.

Both are children of Adam. Both came from the same dust, and belonged to
one family. Both are living in the same land and subjects of the same
government. And yet how different is their condition!

But we must take heed that we do not draw lessons from the parable which
it was never meant to teach. The rich are not always bad men, and do not
always go to hell. The poor are not always good men, and do not always
go to heaven. We must not rush into the extreme of supposing that it is
sinful to be rich. We must not run away with the idea that there is
anything wicked in the difference of condition here described, and that
God intended all men to be equal. There is nothing in our Lord Jesus
Christ's words to warrant any such conclusion. He simply describes
things as they are often seen in the world, and as we must expect to see
them.

Universal equality is a very high-sounding expression, and a favourite
idea with visionary men. Many in every age have disturbed society by
stirring up the poor against the rich, and by preaching up the popular
doctrine that all men ought to be equal. But so long as the world is
under the present order of things this universal equality cannot be
attained. Those who declaim against the vast inequality of men's lots
will doubtless never be in want of hearers; but so long as human nature
is what it is, this inequality cannot be prevented.

So long as some are wise and some are foolish,--some strong and some
weak,--some healthy and some diseased,--some lazy and some
diligent,--some provident and some improvident;--so long as children
reap the fruit of their parent's misconduct;--so long as sun, and rain,
and heat, and cold, and wind, and waves, and drought, and blight, and
storms, and tempests are beyond man's control,--so long there always
will be some rich and some poor. All the political economy in the world
will never make the poor altogether "cease out of the land." (Deut. xv.
11.)

Take all the property in England by force this day, and divide it
equally among the inhabitants. Give every man above twenty years old an
equal portion. Let all take share and share alike, and begin the world
over again. Do this, and see where you would be at the end of fifty
years. You would just have come round to the point where you began. You
would just find things as unequal as before. Some would have worked, and
some would have been idle. Some would have been always careless, and
some always scheming. Some would have sold, and others would have
bought. Some would have wasted, and others would have saved. And the end
would be that some would be rich and others poor.

Let no man listen to those vain and foolish talkers who say that all men
were meant to be equal. They might as well tell you that all men ought
to be of the same height, weight, strength, and cleverness,--or that all
oak trees ought to be of the same shape and size,--or that all blades of
grass ought to be of the same length.

Settle it in your mind that the main cause of all the suffering you see
around you is sin. Sin is the grand cause of the enormous luxury of the
rich, and the painful degradation of the poor,--of the heartless
selfishness of the highest classes, and the helpless poverty of the
lowest. Sin must be first cast out of the world. The hearts of all men
must be renewed and sanctified. The devil must be bound. The Prince of
Peace must come down and take His great power and =reign=. All this must
be before there ever can be universal happiness, or the gulf be filled
up which now divides the rich and poor.

Beware of expecting a millennium to be brought about by any method of
government, by any system of education, by any political party. Labour
might and main to do good to all men. Pity your poorer brethren, and
help every reasonable endeavour to raise them from their low estate.
Slack not your hand from any endeavour to increase knowledge, to promote
morality, to improve the temporal condition of the poor. But never,
never forget that you live in a fallen world, that sin is all around
you, and that the devil is abroad. And be very sure that the rich man
and Lazarus are emblems of two classes which will always be in the world
until the Lord comes.


II. Let us observe, in the next place, that _a man's temporal condition
is no test of the state of his soul_.

The rich man in the parable appears to have been the world's pattern of
a prosperous man. If the life that now is were all, he seems to have had
everything that heart could wish. We know that he was "clothed in purple
and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day." We need not doubt that
he had everything else which money could procure. The wisest of men had
good cause for saying, "Money answereth all things." "The rich hath many
friends." (Eccles. x. 19; Prov. xiv. 20.)

But who that reads the story through can fail to see that in the highest
and best sense the rich man was pitiably _poor_? Take away the good
things of this life, and he had nothing left,--nothing after
death,--nothing beyond the grave,--nothing in the world to come. With
all his riches he had no "treasure laid up in heaven." With all his
purple and fine linen he had no garment of righteousness. With all his
boon companions he had no Friend and Advocate at God's right hand. With
all his sumptuous fare he had never tasted the bread of life. With all
his splendid palace he had no home in the eternal world. Without God,
without Christ, without faith, without grace, without pardon, without
holiness, he lives to himself for a few short years, and then goes down
hopelessly into the pit. How hollow and unreal was all his prosperity!
Judge what I say,--_The rich man was very poor_.

Lazarus appears to have been one who had literally nothing in the world.
It is hard to conceive a case of greater misery and destitution than
his. He had neither house, nor money, nor food, nor health, nor, in all
probability, even clothes. His picture is one that can never be
forgotten. He "lay at the rich man's gate, covered with sores." He
desired to be "fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table."
Moreover, the dogs came and "licked his sores." Verily the wise man
might well say, "The poor is hated even of his neighbour." "The
destruction of the poor is their poverty." (Prov. xiv. 20; x. 15.)

But who that reads the parable to the end can fail to see that in the
highest sense Lazarus was not poor, but _rich_? He was a child of God.
He was an heir of glory. He possessed durable riches and righteousness.
His name was in the book of life. His place was prepared for Him in
heaven. He had the best of clothing,--the righteousness of a Saviour. He
had the best of friends,--God Himself was his portion. He had the best
of food,--he had meat to eat the world knew not of. And, best of all, he
had these things for ever. They supported him in life. They did not
leave him in the hour of death. They went with him beyond the grave.
They were his to eternity. Surely in this point of view we may well say,
not "poor Lazarus," but "rich Lazarus."

We should do well to measure all men by God's standard,--to measure them
not by the amount of their income, but by the condition of their souls.
When the Lord God looks down from heaven and sees the children of men,
He takes no account of many things which are highly esteemed by the
world. He looks not at men's money, or lands, or titles. He looks only
at the state of their souls, and reckons them accordingly. Oh, that you
would strive to do likewise! Oh, that you would value grace above
titles, or intellect, or gold! Often, far too often, the only question
asked about a man is, "How much is he worth?" It would be well for us
all to remember that every man is pitiably poor until he is rich in
faith, and rich toward God. (James ii. 5.)

Wonderful as it may seem to some, all the money in the world is
worthless in God's balances, compared to grace! Hard as the saying may
sound, I believe that a converted beggar is far more important and
honourable in the sight of God than an unconverted king. The one may
glitter like the butterfly in the sun for a little season, and be
admired by an ignorant world; but his latter end is darkness and misery
for ever. The other may crawl through the world like a crushed worm, and
be despised by every one who sees him; but his latter end is a glorious
resurrection and a blessed eternity with Christ. Of him the Lord says,
"I know thy poverty (but thou art rich)." (Rev. ii. 9.)

King Ahab was ruler over the ten tribes of Israel. Obadiah was nothing
more than a servant in his household. Yet who can doubt which was most
precious in God's sight, the servant or the king?

Ridley and Latimer were deposed from all their dignities, cast into
prison as malefactors, and at length burnt at the stake. Bonner and
Gardiner, their persecutors, were raised to the highest pitch of
ecclesiastical greatness, enjoyed large incomes, and died unmolested in
their beds. Yet who can doubt which of the two parties was on the Lord's
side?

Baxter, the famous divine, was persecuted with savage malignity, and
condemned to a long imprisonment by a most unjust judgment. Jeffreys,
the Lord Chief Justice, who sentenced him, was a man of infamous
character, without either morality or religion. Baxter was sent to jail
and Jeffreys was loaded with honours. Yet who can doubt which was the
good man of the two, the Lord Chief Justice or the author of the
"Saint's Rest"?

We may be very sure that riches and worldly greatness are no certain
marks of God's favour. They are often, on the contrary, a snare and
hindrance to a man's soul. They make him love the world and forget God.
What says Solomon? "Labour not to be rich." (Prov. xxiii. 4.) What says
St. Paul? "They that _will_ be rich, fall into temptation and a snare,
and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction
and perdition." (1 Tim. vi. 9.)

We may be no less sure that poverty and trial are no certain proof of
God's anger. They are often blessings in disguise. They are always sent
in love and wisdom. They often serve to wean man from the world. They
teach him to set his affections on things above. They often show the
sinner his own heart. They often make the saint fruitful in good works.
What says the book of Job? "Happy is the man whom God correcteth;
therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty." (Job v. 17.)
What says St. Paul? "Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth." (Heb. xii. 6.)

One great secret of happiness in this life is to be of a patient,
contented spirit. Strive daily to realize the truth that this life is
not the place of reward. The time of retribution and recompense is yet
to come. Judge nothing hastily before that time. Remember the words of
the wise man: "If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent
perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the
matter: for He that is higher than the highest regardeth, and there be
higher than they." (Eccles. v. 8.) Yes! there is a day of judgment yet
to come. That day shall put all in their right places. At last there
shall be seen a mighty difference "between him that serveth God; and him
that serveth Him not." (Malachi iii. 18.) The children of Lazarus and
the children of the rich man shall, at length be seen in their true
colours, and every one shall receive according to his works.


III. Let us observe, in the next place, how _all classes alike come to
the grave_.

The rich man in the parable died, and Lazarus died also. Different and
divided as they were in their lives, they had both to drink of the same
cup at the last. Both went to the house appointed for all living. Both
went to that place where rich and poor meet together. Dust they were,
and unto dust they returned. (Gen. iii. 19.)

This is the lot of all men. It will be our own, unless the Lord shall
first return in glory. After all our scheming, and contriving, and
planning, and studying,--after all our inventions, and discoveries, and
scientific attainments,--there remains one enemy we cannot conquer and
disarm, and that is death. The chapter in Genesis which records the long
lives of Methuselah and the rest who lived before the flood, winds up
the simple story of each by two expressive words: "he died." And now,
after 4,800 years, what more can be said of the greatest among
ourselves? The histories of Marlborough, and Washington, and Napoleon,
and Wellington, arrive at just the same humbling conclusion. The end of
each, after all his greatness is just this,--"he died."

Death is a mighty leveller. He spares none, he waits for none, and
stands on no ceremony. He will not tarry till you are ready. He will not
be kept out by moats, and doors, and bars, and bolts. The Englishman
boasts that his home is his castle, but with all his boasting, he cannot
exclude death. An Austrian nobleman forbade death and the smallpox to
be named in his presence. But, named or not named, it matters little, in
God's appointed hour death will come.

One man rolls easily along the road in the easiest and handsomest
carriage that money can procure. Another toils wearily along the path on
foot. Yet both are sure to meet at last in the same home.

One man, like Absalom, has fifty servants to wait upon him and do his
bidding. Another has none to lift a finger to do him a service. But both
are travelling to a place where they must lie down alone.

One man is the owner of hundreds of thousands. Another has scarce a
shilling that he can call his own property. Yet neither one nor the
other can carry one farthing with him into the unseen world.

One man is the possessor of half a county. Another has not so much as a
garden of herbs. And yet two paces of the vilest earth will be amply
sufficient for either of them at the last.

One man pampers his body with every possible delicacy, and clothes it in
the richest and softest apparel. Another has scarce enough to eat, and
seldom enough to put on. Yet both alike are hurrying on to a day when
"ashes to ashes, and dust to dust," shall be proclaimed over them, and
fifty years hence none shall be able to say, "This was the rich man's
bone, and this the bone of the poor."

I know that these are ancient things. I do not deny it for a moment. I
am writing stale old things that all men _know_. But I am also writing
things that all men do not _feel_. Oh, no! if they did feel them they
would not speak and act as they do.

You wonder sometimes at the tone and language of ministers of the
Gospel. You marvel that we press upon you immediate decision. You think
us extreme, and extravagant, and ultra in our views, because we urge
upon you to close with Christ,--to leave nothing uncertain,--to make
sure that you are born again and ready for heaven. You hear, but do not
approve. You go away, and say to one another,--"The man means well, but
he goes too far."

But do you not see that the reality of death is continually forbidding
us to use other language? We see him gradually thinning our
congregations. We miss face after face in our assemblies. We know not
whose turn may come next. We only know that as the tree falls there it
will lie, and that "after death comes the judgment." We _must_ be bold
and decided, and uncompromising in our language. We would rather run the
risk of offending some, than of losing any. We would aim at the standard
set up by old Baxter:--

    "I'll preach as though I ne'er should preach again,
    And as a dying man to dying men!"

We would realize the character given by Charles II. of one of his
preachers: "That man preaches as though death was behind his back. When
I hear him I cannot go to sleep."

Oh, that men would learn to live as those who may one day die! Truly it
is poor work to set our affections on a dying world and its shortlived
comforts, and for the sake of an inch of time to lose a glorious
immortality! Here we are toiling, and labouring, and wearying ourselves
about trifles, and running to and fro like ants upon a heap; and yet
after a few years we shall all be gone, and another generation will fill
our place. Let us live for eternity. Let us seek a portion that can
never be taken from us. And let us never forget John Bunyan's golden
rule: "He that would live well, let him make his dying day his
company-keeper."


IV. Let us observe, in the next place, _how precious a believer's soul
is in the sight of God_.

The rich man, in the parable, dies and is buried. Perhaps he had a
splendid funeral,--a funeral proportioned to his expenditure while he
was yet alive. But we hear nothing further of the moment when soul and
body were divided. The next thing we hear of is that he is in _hell_.

The poor man, in the parable, dies also. What manner of burial he had we
know not. A pauper's funeral among ourselves is a melancholy business.
The funeral of Lazarus was probably no better. But this we do
know,--that the moment Lazarus dies he is carried by the angels into
Abraham's bosom,--carried to a place of rest, where all the faithful are
waiting for the resurrection of the just.

There is something to my mind very striking, very touching, and very
comforting in this expression of the parable. I ask your especial
attention to it. It throws great light on the relation of all sinners of
mankind who believe in Christ, to their God and Father. It shows a
little of the care bestowed on the least and lowest of Christ's
disciples, by the King of kings.

No man has such friends and attendants as the believer, however little
he may think it. Angels rejoice over him in the day that he is born
again of the Spirit. Angels minister to him all through life. Angels
encamp around him in the wilderness of this world. Angels take charge of
his soul in death, and bear it safely home. Yes! vile as he may be in
his own eyes, and lowly in his own sight, the very poorest and humblest
believer in Jesus is cared for by his Father in heaven, with a care that
passeth knowledge. The Lord has become his Shepherd, and he can "want
nothing." (Ps. xxiii. 1.) Only let a man come unfeignedly to Christ, and
be joined to Him, and he shall have all the benefits of a covenant
ordered in all things and sure.

Is he laden with many sins? Though they be as scarlet they shall be
white as snow.

Is his heart hard and prone to evil? A new heart shall be given to him,
and a new spirit put in him.

Is he weak and cowardly? He that enabled Peter to confess Christ before
his enemies shall make him bold.

Is he ignorant? He that bore with Thomas' slowness shall bear with him,
and guide him into all truth.

Is he alone in his position? He that stood by Paul when all men forsook
him shall also stand by his side.

Is he in circumstances of special trial? He that enabled men to be
saints in Nero's household shall also enable him to persevere.

The very hairs of his head are all numbered. Nothing can harm him
without God's permission. He that hurteth him, hurteth the apple of
God's eye, and injures a brother and member of Christ Himself.

His trials are all wisely ordered. Satan can only vex him, as he did
Job, when God permits him. No temptation can happen to him above what he
is able to bear. All things are working together for his good.

His steps are all ordered from grace to glory. He is kept on earth till
he is ripe for heaven, and not one moment longer. The harvest of the
Lord must have its appointed proportion of sun and wind, of cold and
heat, of rain and storm. And then when the believer's work is done, the
angels of God shall come for him, as they did for Lazarus, and carry him
safe home.

Alas! the men of the world little think whom they are despising, when
they mock Christ's people. They are mocking those whom angels are not
ashamed to attend upon. They are mocking the brethren and sisters of
Christ Himself. Little do they consider that these are they for whose
sakes the days of tribulation are shortened. These are they by whose
intercession kings reign peacefully. Little do they reck that the
prayers of men like Lazarus have more weight in the affairs of nations
than hosts of armed men.

Believers in Christ, who may possibly read these pages, you little know
the full extent of your privileges and possessions. Like children at
school, you know not half that your Father is doing for your welfare.
Learn to live by faith more than you have done. Acquaint yourselves with
the fulness of the treasure laid up for you in Christ even now. This
world, no doubt, must always be a place of trial while we are in the
body. But still there are comforts provided for the brethren of Lazarus
which many never enjoy.


V. Observe, in the last place, _what a dangerous and soul-ruining sin is
the sin of selfishness_.

You have the rich man, in the parable, in a hopeless state. If there was
no other picture of a lost soul in hell in all the Bible you have it
here. You meet him in the beginning, clothed in purple and fine linen.
You part with him at the end, tormented in the everlasting fire.

And yet there is nothing to show that this man was a murderer, or a
thief, or an adulterer, or a liar. There is no reason to say that he was
an atheist, or an infidel, or a blasphemer. For anything we know, he
attended to all the ordinances of the Jewish religion. But we do know
that he was lost for ever!

There is something to my mind very solemn in this thought. Here is a man
whose outward life in all probability was correct. At all events we know
nothing against him. He dresses richly; but then he had money to spend
on his apparel. He gives splendid feasts and entertainments; but then he
was wealthy, and could well afford it. We read nothing recorded against
him that might not be recorded of hundreds and thousands in the present
day, who are counted respectable and good sort of people. And yet the
end of this man is that he goes to hell. Surely this deserves serious
attention.

(_a_) I believe it is meant to teach us _to beware of living only for
ourselves_. It is not enough that we are able to say, "I live correctly.
I pay every one his due. I discharge all the relations of life with
propriety. I attend to all the outward requirements of Christianity."
There remains behind another question, to which the Bible requires an
answer. "To whom do you live? to yourself or to Christ? What is the
great end, aim, object, and ruling motive in your life?" Let men call
the question extreme if they please. For myself, I can find nothing
short of this in St. Paul's words: "He died for all, that they which
live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died
for them and rose again." (2 Cor. v. 15.) And I draw the conclusion,
that if, like the rich man, we live only to ourselves, we shall ruin our
souls.

(_b_) I believe, further, that this passage is meant to teach us _the
damnable nature of sins of omission_. It does not seem that it was so
much the things the rich man did, but the things he left undone, which
made him miss heaven. Lazarus was at his gate, and he let him alone. But
is not this exactly in keeping with the history of the judgment, in the
twenty-fifth of St. Matthew? Nothing is said there of the sins of
commission of which the lost are guilty. How runs the charge?--"I was an
hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no
drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me
not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not." (Matt. xxv. 42, 43.)
The charge against them is simply that they did not do certain things.
On this their sentence turns. And I draw the conclusion again, that,
except we take heed, sins of omission may ruin our souls. Truly it was a
solemn saying of good Archbishop Usher, on his death-bed: "Lord, forgive
me all my sins, but specially my sins of omission."

(_c_) I believe, further, that the passage is meant to teach us that
_riches bring special danger with them_. Yes! riches, which the vast
majority of men are always seeking after,--riches for which they spend
their lives, and of which they make an idol,--riches entail on their
possessors immense spiritual peril! The possession of them has a very
hardening effect on the soul. They chill. They freeze. They petrify the
inward man. They close the eye to the things of faith. They insensibly
produce a tendency to forget God.

And does not this stand in perfect harmony with all the language of
Scripture on the same subject? What says our Lord? "How hardly shall
they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a
camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter
the kingdom of God!" (Mark x. 23, 25.) What says St. Paul? "The love of
money is the root of all evil; which while some coveted after, they have
erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."
(1 Tim vi. 10.) What can be more striking than the fact that the Bible
has frequently spoken of money as a most fruitful cause of sin and evil?
For money Achan brought defeat on the armies of Israel, and death on
himself. For money Balaam sinned against light, and tried to curse God's
people. For money Delilah betrayed Sampson to the Philistines. For money
Gehazi lied to Naaman and Elisha, and became a leper. For money Ananias
and Sapphira became the first hypocrites in the early Church, and lost
their lives. For money Judas Iscariot sold Christ, and was ruined
eternally. Surely these facts speak loudly.

Money, in truth, is one of the most _unsatisfying_ of possessions. It
takes away some cares, no doubt; but it brings with it quite as many
cares as it takes away. There is trouble in the getting of it. There is
anxiety in the keeping of it. There are temptations in the use of it.
There is guilt in the abuse of it. There is sorrow in the losing of it.
There is perplexity in the disposing of it. Two-thirds of all the
strifes, quarrels, and lawsuits in the world, arise from one simple
cause,--_money_!

Money most certainly is one of the most _ensnaring and heart-changing_
of possessions. It seems desirable at a distance. It often proves a
poison when in our hand. No man can possibly tell the effect of money on
his soul, if it suddenly falls to his lot to possess it. Many an one did
run well as a poor man, who forgets God when he is rich.

I draw the conclusion that those who have money, like the rich man in
the parable, ought to take double pains about their souls. They live in
a most unhealthy atmosphere. They have double need to be on their guard.

(_d_) I believe, not least, that the passage is meant to _stir up
special carefulness about selfishness in these last days_. You have a
special warning in 2 Tim. iii. 1, 2: "In the last days perilous times
shall come: for men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous." I
believe we have come to the last days, and that we ought to beware of
the sins here mentioned, if we love our souls.

Perhaps we are poor judges of our own times. We are apt to exaggerate
and magnify their evils, just because we see and feel them. But, after
every allowance, I doubt whether there ever was more need of warnings
against selfishness than in the present day. I am sure there never was a
time when all classes in England had so many comforts and so many
temporal good things. And yet I believe there is an utter disproportion
between men's expenditure on themselves and their outlay on works of
charity and works of mercy. I see this in the miserable one guinea
subscriptions to which many rich men confine their charity. I see it in
the languishing condition of many of our best religious Societies, and
the painfully slow growth of their annual incomes. I see it in the small
number of names which appear in the list of contributions to any good
work. There are, I believe, thousands of rich people in this country who
literally give away nothing at all. I see it in the notorious fact, that
few, even of those who give, give anything proportioned to their means.
I see all this, and mourn over it. I regard it as the selfishness and
covetousness predicted as likely to arise in "the last days."

I know that this is a painful and delicate subject. But it must not on
that account be avoided by the minister of Christ. It is a subject for
the times, and it needs pressing home. I desire to speak to myself, and
to all who make any profession of religion. Of course I cannot expect
worldly and utterly ungodly persons to view this subject in Bible light.
To them the Bible is no rule of faith and practice. To quote texts to
them would be of little use.

But I do ask all professing Christians to consider well what Scripture
says against covetousness and selfishness, and on behalf of liberality
in giving money. Is it for nothing that the Lord Jesus spoke the parable
of the rich fool, and blamed him because he was not "rich towards God"?
(Luke xii. 21.) Is it for nothing that in the parable of the sower He
mentions the "deceitfulness of riches" as one reason why the seed of the
Word bears no fruit? (Matt. xiii. 22.) Is it for nothing that He says,
"Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness"? (Luke
xvi. 9.) Is it for nothing that He says, "When thou makest a dinner or a
supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor
thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be
made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the
lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense
thee; for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just"?
(Luke xiv. 14.) Is it for nothing that He says, "Sell that ye have and
give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the
heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth
corrupteth"? (Luke xii. 33.) Is it for nothing that He says, "It is more
blessed to give than to receive"? (Acts xx. 35.) Is it for nothing that
He warns us against the example of the priest and Levite, who saw the
wounded traveller, but passed by on the other side? Is it for nothing
that He praises the good Samaritan, who denied himself to show kindness
to a stranger? (Luke x. 34.) Is it for nothing that St. Paul classes
covetousness with sins of the grossest description, and denounces it as
idolatry? (Coloss. iii. 5.) And is there not a striking and painful
difference between this language and the habits and feeling of society
about money? I appeal to any one who knows the world. Let him judge what
I say.

I only ask my reader to consider calmly the passages of Scripture to
which I have referred. I cannot think they were meant to teach nothing
at all. That the habits of the East and our own are different, I freely
allow. That some of the expressions I have quoted are figurative, I
freely admit. But still, after all, a principle lies at the bottom of
all these expressions. Let us take heed that this principle is not
neglected. I wish that many a professing Christian in this day, who
perhaps dislikes what I am saying, would endeavour to write a commentary
on these expressions, and try to explain to himself what they mean.

To know that alms-giving cannot atone for sin is well. To know that our
good works cannot justify us is excellent. To know that we may give all
our goods to feed the poor, and build hospitals and cathedrals, without
any real charity, is most important. But let us beware lest we go into
the other extreme, and because our money cannot save us, give away no
money at all.

Has any one money who reads these pages? Then "take heed and beware of
covetousness." (Luke xii. 15.) Remember you carry weight in the race
towards heaven. All men are naturally in danger of being lost for ever,
but you are doubly so because of your possessions. Nothing is said to
put out fire so soon as earth thrown upon it. Nothing I am sure has such
a tendency to quench the fire of religion as the possession of money.
It was a solemn message which Buchanan, on his death-bed, sent to his
old pupil, James I.: "He was going to a place where few kings and great
men would come." It is possible, no doubt, for you to be saved as well
as others. With God nothing is impossible. Abraham, Job, and David were
all rich, and yet saved. But oh, take heed to yourself! Money is a good
servant, but a bad master. Let that saying of our Lord's sink down into
your heart: "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the
kingdom of God." (Mark x. 23.) Well said an old divine: "The surface
above gold mines is generally very barren." Well might old Latimer begin
one of his sermons before Edward VI by quoting three times over our
Lord's words: "Take heed and beware of covetousness," and then saying,
"What if I should say nothing else these three or four hours?" There are
few prayers in our Litany more wise and more necessary than that
petition, "In all time of our _wealth_, good Lord deliver us."

Has any one little or no money who reads these pages? Then do not envy
those who are richer than yourself. Pray for them. Pity them. Be
charitable to their faults. Remember that high places are giddy places,
and be not too hasty in your condemnation of their conduct. Perhaps if
you had their difficulties you would do no better yourself. Beware of
the "love of money." It is the "root of all evil." (1 Tim. vi. 10.) A
man may love money over-much without having any at all. Beware of the
love of self. It may be found in a cottage as well as in a palace. And
beware of thinking that poverty alone will save you. If you would sit
with Lazarus in glory, you must not only have fellowship with him in
suffering, but in grace.

Does any reader desire to know the remedy against that love of self
which ruined the rich man's soul, and cleaves to us all by nature, like
our skin? I tell him plainly there is only one remedy, and I ask Him to
mark well what that remedy is. It is not the fear of hell. It is not the
hope of heaven. It is not any sense of duty. Oh, no! The disease of
selfishness is far too deeply rooted to yield to such secondary motives
as these. Nothing will ever cure it but an experimental knowledge of
Christ's redeeming love. You must know the misery and guilt of your own
estate by nature. You must experience the power of Christ's atoning
blood sprinkled upon your conscience, and making you whole. You must
taste the sweetness of peace with God through the mediation of Jesus,
and feel the love of a reconciled Father shed abroad in your heart by
the Holy Ghost.

_Then_, and not till then, the mainspring of selfishness will be broken.
_Then_, knowing the immensity of your debt to Christ, you will feel that
nothing is too great and too costly to give to Him. Feeling that you
have been loved much when you deserved nothing, you will heartily love
in return, and cry, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His
benefits?" (Ps. cxvi. 12.) Feeling that you have freely received
countless mercies, you will think it a privilege to do anything to
please Him to whom you owe all. Feeling that you have been "bought with
a price," and are no longer your own, you will labour to glorify God
with body and spirit, which are His. (1 Cor. vi. 20.)

Yes: I repeat it this day. I know no _effectual_ remedy for the love of
self, but a believing apprehension of the love of Christ. Other remedies
may palliate the disease: this alone will heal it. Other antidotes may
hide its deformity: this alone will work a perfect cure.

An easy, good-natured temper may cover over selfishness in one man. A
love of praise may conceal it in a second. A self-righteous asceticism
and an affected spirit of self-denial may keep it out of sight in a
third. But nothing will ever cut up selfishness by the roots but the
love of Christ revealed in the mind by the Holy Ghost, and felt in the
heart by simple faith. Once let a man see the full meaning of the words,
"Christ loved me and gave Himself for me," and then he will delight to
give himself to Christ, and all that he has to His service. He will live
to Him, not in order that he may be secure, but because he is secure
already. He will work for Him, not that he may have life and peace, but
because life and peace are his own already.

Go to the cross of Christ, all you that want to be delivered from the
power of selfishness. Go and see what a price was paid there to provide
a ransom for your soul. Go and see what an astounding sacrifice was
there made, that a door to eternal life might be provided for poor
sinners like you. Go and see how the Son of God gave Himself for you,
and learn to think it a small thing to give yourself to Him.

The disease which ruined the rich man in the parable may be cured. But
oh, remember, there is only one real remedy! If you would not live to
yourself you must live to Christ. See to it that this remedy is not only
known, but applied,--not only heard of, but used.

(1) And now let me conclude all by _urging on every reader of these
pages, the great duty of self-inquiry_.

A passage of Scripture like this parable ought surely to raise in many
an one great searchings of heart.--"What am I? Where am I going? What am
I doing? What is likely to be my condition after death? Am I prepared to
leave the world? Have I any home to look forward to in the world to
come? Have I put off the old man and put on the new? Am I really one
with Christ, and a pardoned soul?" Surely such questions as these may
well be asked when the story of the rich man and Lazarus has been heard.
Oh, that the Holy Ghost may incline many a reader's heart to ask them!

(2) In the next place, _I invite_ all readers who desire to have their
souls saved, and have no good account to give of themselves at present,
to seek salvation while it can be found. I do entreat you to apply to
Him by whom alone man can enter heaven and be saved,--even Jesus Christ
the Lord. He has the keys of heaven. He is sealed and appointed by God
the Father to be the Saviour of all that will come to Him. Go to Him in
earnest and hearty prayer, and tell Him your case. Tell Him that you
have heard that "He receiveth sinners," and that you come to Him as
such. (Luke xv. 2.) Tell Him that you desire to be saved by Him in His
own way, and ask Him to save you. Oh, that you may take this course
without delay! Remember the hopeless end of the rich man. Once dead
there is no more change.

(3) Last of all, _I entreat_ all professing Christians to encourage
themselves in habits of liberality towards all causes of charity and
mercy. Remember that you are God's stewards, and give money liberally,
freely, and without grudging, whenever you have an opportunity. You
cannot keep your money for ever. You must give account one day of the
manner in which it has been expended. Oh, lay it out with an eye to
eternity while you can!

I do not ask rich men to leave their situations in life, give away all
their property, and go into the workhouse. This would be refusing to
fill the position of a steward for God. I ask no man to neglect his
worldly calling, and to omit to provide for his family. Diligence in
business is a positive Christian duty. Provision for those dependent on
us is proper Christian prudence. But I ask all to look around
continually as they journey on, and to remember the poor,--the poor in
body and the poor in soul. Here we are for a few short years. How can we
do most good with our money while we are here? How can we so spend it as
to leave the world somewhat happier and somewhat holier when we are
removed? Might we not abridge some of our luxuries? Might we not lay
out less upon ourselves, and give more to Christ's cause and Christ's
poor? Is there none we can do good to? Are there no sick, no poor, no
needy, whose sorrows we might lessen, and whose comforts we might
increase? Such questions will never fail to elicit an answer from some
quarter. I am thoroughly persuaded that the income of every religious
and charitable Society in England might easily be multiplied tenfold, if
English Christians would give in proportion to their means.

There are none surely to whom such appeals ought to come home with such
power as professing believers in the Lord Jesus. The parable of the text
is a striking illustration of our position by nature, and our debt to
Christ. We all lay, like Lazarus, at heaven's gate, sick unto the death,
helpless, and starving. Blessed be God! we were not neglected, as he
was. Jesus came forth to relieve us. Jesus gave Himself for us, that we
might have hope and live. For a poor Lazarus-like world He came down
from heaven, and humbled Himself to become a man. For a poor
Lazarus-like world He went up and down doing good, caring for men's
bodies as well as souls, until He died for us on the cross.

I believe that in giving to support works of charity and mercy, we are
doing that which is according to Christ's mind,--and I ask readers of
these pages to begin the habit of giving, if they never began it before;
and to go on with it increasingly, if they have begun.

I believe that in offering a warning against worldliness and
covetousness, I have done no more than bring forward a warning specially
called for by the times, and I ask God to bless the consideration of
these pages to many souls.



XIV


THE BEST FRIEND

     "_This is my friend._"--Cant. v. 16.


A friend is one of the greatest blessings on earth. Tell me not of
money: affection is better than gold; sympathy is better than lands. He
is the poor man who has no friends.

This world is full of sorrow because it is full of sin. It is a dark
place. It is a lonely place. It is a disappointing place. The brightest
sunbeam in it is a friend. Friendship halves our troubles and doubles
our joys.

A real friend is scarce and rare. There are many who will eat, and
drink, and laugh with us in the sunshine of prosperity. There are few
who will stand by us in the days of darkness,--few who will love us when
we are sick, helpless, and poor,--few, above all, who will care for our
souls.

Does any reader of this paper want a real friend? I write to recommend
one to your notice this day. I know of One "who sticketh closer than a
brother." (Prov. xviii. 24.) I know of One who is ready to be your
friend for time and for eternity, if you will receive Him. Hear me,
while I try to tell you something about Him.

The friend I want you to know is Jesus Christ. Happy is that family in
which Christ has the foremost place! Happy is that person whose chief
friend is Christ!


I. Do we want _a friend in need_? Such a friend is the Lord Jesus
Christ.

Man is the neediest creature on God's earth, because he is a sinner.
There is no need so great as that of sinners: poverty, hunger, thirst,
cold, sickness, all are nothing in comparison. Sinners need pardon, and
they are utterly unable to provide it for themselves; they need
deliverance from a guilty conscience and the fear of death, and they
have no power of their own to obtain it. This need the Lord Jesus Christ
came into the world to relieve. "He came into the world to save
sinners." (1 Tim. i. 15.)

We are all by nature poor dying creatures. From the king on his throne
to the pauper in the workhouse, we are all sick of a mortal disease of
soul. Whether we know it or not, whether we feel it or not, we are all
dying daily. The plague of sin is in our blood. We cannot cure
ourselves: we are hourly getting worse and worse. All this the Lord
Jesus undertook to remedy. He came into the world "to bring in health
and cure;" He came to deliver us "from the second death;" He came "to
abolish death, and bring life and immortality to light through the
Gospel." (Jer. xxxiii. 6; Rev. ii. 11; 2 Tim. i. 10.)

We are all by nature imprisoned debtors. We owed our God ten thousand
talents, and had nothing to pay. We were wretched bankrupts, without
hope of discharging ourselves. We could never have freed ourselves from
our load of liabilities, and were daily getting more deeply involved.
All this the Lord Jesus saw, and undertook to remedy. He engaged to
"ransom and redeem us;" He came to "proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;" "He came to
redeem us from the curse of the law." (Hos. xiii. 14; Isai. lxi. 1; Gal.
iii. 13.)

We were all by nature shipwrecked and cast away. We could never have
reached the harbour of everlasting life. We were sinking in the midst of
the waves, shiftless, hopeless, helpless, and powerless; tied and bound
by the chain of our sins, foundering under the burden of our own guilt,
and like to become a prey to the devil. All this the Lord Jesus saw and
undertook to remedy. He came down from heaven to be our mighty "helper;"
He came to "seek and to save that which was lost;" and to "deliver us
from going down into the pit." (Psalm lxxxix. 19; Luke xix. 10; Job
xxxiii. 24.)

Could we have been saved without the Lord Jesus Christ coming down from
heaven? It would have been impossible, so far as our eyes can see. The
wisest men of Egypt, and Greece, and Rome never found out the way to
peace with God. Without the friendship of Christ we should all have been
lost for evermore in hell.

Was the Lord Jesus Christ obliged to come down to save us? Oh, no! no!
It was His own free love, mercy, and pity that brought Him down. He came
unsought and unasked because He was gracious.

Let us think on these things. Search all history from the beginning of
the world,--look round the whole circle of those you know and love: you
never heard of such friendship among the sons of men. There never was
such a real friend in need as Jesus Christ.


II. Do you want _a friend in deed_? Such a friend is the Lord Jesus
Christ.

The true extent of a man's friendship must be measured by his deeds.
Tell me not what he says, and feels, and wishes; tell me not of his
words and letters: tell me rather what he does. "Friendly is that
friendly does."

The doings of the Lord Jesus Christ for man are the grand proof of His
friendly feeling towards him. Never were there such acts of kindness and
self-denial as those which He has performed on our behalf. He has not
loved us in word only but in deed.

For our sakes He took our nature upon Him, and was born of a woman. He
who was very God, and equal with the Father, laid aside for a season His
glory, and took upon Him flesh and blood like our own. The almighty
Creator of all things became a little babe like any of us, and
experienced all our bodily weaknesses and infirmities, sin only
excepted. "Though He was rich He became poor, that we through His
poverty might be rich." (2 Cor. viii. 9.)

For our sakes He lived thirty-three years in this evil world, despised
and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. Though
He was King of kings, He had not where to lay His head: though He was
Lord of lords, He was often weary, and hungry, and thirsty, and poor.
"He took on Him the form of a servant, and humbled Himself." (Philipp.
iii. 7, 8.)

For our sakes He suffered the most painful of all deaths, even the death
of the cross. Though innocent, and without fault, He allowed Himself to
be condemned, and found guilty. He who was the Prince of Life was led as
a lamb to the slaughter, and poured out His soul unto death. He "died
for us." (1 Thess. v. 10.)

Was He obliged to do this? Oh, no! He might have summoned to His help
more than twelve legions of angels, and scattered His enemies with a
word. He suffered voluntarily and of His own free will, to make
atonement for our sins. He knew that nothing but the sacrifice of His
body and blood could ever make peace between sinful man and a holy God.
He laid down His life to pay the price of our redemption: He died that
we might live; He suffered that we might reign; He bore shame that we
might receive glory. "He suffered for sins, the just for the unjust,
that He might bring us to God." "He was made sin for us, who knew no
sin: that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." (1 Peter
iii. 18; 2 Cor. v. 21.)

Such friendship as this passes man's understanding. Friends who would
die for those who love them, we may have heard of sometimes. But who can
find a man who would lay down his life for those that hate him? Yet this
is what Jesus has done for us. "God commendeth His love towards us, in
that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. v. 8.)

Ask all the tribes of mankind, from one end of the world to the other,
and you will nowhere hear of a deed like this. None was ever so high and
stooped down so low as Jesus the Son of God: none ever gave so costly a
proof of his friendship; none ever paid so much and endured so much to
do good to others. Never was there such a friend in deed as Jesus
Christ!


III. Do we want _a mighty and powerful friend_? Such a friend is Jesus
Christ.

Power to help is that which few possess in this world. Many have will
enough to do good to others, but no power. They feel for the sorrows of
others, and would gladly relieve them if they could: they can weep with
their friends in affliction, but are unable to take their grief away.
But though man is weak, Christ is strong,--though the best of our
earthly friends is feeble, Christ is almighty: "All power is given unto
Him in heaven and earth." (Matt. xxviii. 18.) No one can do so much for
those whom He befriends as Jesus Christ. Others can befriend their
bodies a little: He can befriend both body and soul. Others can do a
little for them in time: He can be a friend both for time and eternity.

(_a_) He is _able to pardon_ and save the very chief of sinners. He can
deliver the most guilty conscience from all its burdens, and give it
perfect peace with God. He can wash away the vilest stains of
wickedness, and make a man whiter than snow in the sight of God. He can
clothe a poor weak child of Adam in everlasting righteousness, and give
him a title to heaven that can never be overthrown. In a word, He can
give any one of us peace, hope, forgiveness, and reconciliation with
God, if we will only trust in Him. "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth
from all sin." (1 John i. 7.)

(_b_) He is _able to convert_ the hardest of hearts, and create in man a
new spirit. He can take the most thoughtless and ungodly people, and
give them another mind by the Holy Ghost, which He puts in them. He can
cause old things to pass away, and all things to become new. He can make
them love the things which they once hated, and hate the things which
they once loved. "He can give them power to become the sons of God." "If
any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." (John i. 12; 2 Cor. v. 17.)

(_c_) He is _able to preserve_ to the end all who believe in Him, and
become His disciples. He can give them grace to overcome the world, the
flesh and the devil, and fight a good fight at the last. He can lead
them on safely in spite of every temptation, carry them home through a
thousand dangers, and keep them faithful, though they stand alone and
have none to help them. "He is able to save them to the uttermost that
come unto God by Him." (Heb. vii. 25.)

(_d_) He is _able to give_ those that love Him the best of gifts. He can
give them in life inward comforts, which money can never buy,--peace in
poverty, joy in sorrow, patience in suffering. He can give them in death
bright hopes, which enable them to walk through the dark valley without
fear. He can give them after death a crown of glory, which fadeth not
away, and a reward compared to which the Queen of England has nothing to
bestow.

This is power indeed: this is true greatness; this is real strength. Go
and look at the poor Hindoo idolater, seeking peace in vain by
afflicting his body; and, after fifty years of self-imposed suffering,
unable to find it. Go and look at the benighted Romanist, giving money
to his priest to pray for his soul, and yet dying without comfort. Go
and look at rich men, spending thousands in search of happiness, and yet
always discontented and unhappy. Then turn to Jesus, and think what He
can do, and is daily doing for all who trust Him. Think how He heals all
the broken-hearted, comforts all the sick, cheers all the poor that
trust in Him, and supplies all their daily need. The fear of man is
strong, the opposition of this evil world is mighty, the lusts of the
flesh rage horribly, the fear of death is terrible, the devil is a
roaring lion seeking whom he may devour; but Jesus is stronger than them
all. Jesus can make us conquerors over all these foes. And then say
whether it be not true, that there never was so mighty a friend as Jesus
Christ.


IV. Do we want _a loving and affectionate friend_? Such a friend is
Jesus Christ.

Kindness is the very essence of true friendship. Money and advice and
help lose half their grace, if not given in a loving manner. What kind
of love is that of the Lord Jesus toward man? It is called, "A love that
passeth knowledge." (Ephes. iii. 19.)

Love shines forth in His _reception of sinners_. He refuses none that
come to Him for salvation, however unworthy they may be. Though their
lives may have been most wicked, though their sins may be more in number
than the stars of heaven, the Lord Jesus is ready to receive them, and
give them pardon and peace. There is no end to His compassion: there are
no bounds to His pity. He is not ashamed to befriend those whom the
world casts off as hopeless. There are none too bad, too filthy, and too
much diseased with sin, to be admitted into His home. He is willing to
be the friend of any sinner: He has kindness and mercy and healing
medicine for all. He has long proclaimed this to be His rule: "Him that
cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out." (John vi. 37.)

Love shines forth in His _dealings with sinners_, after they have
believed in Him and become His friends. He is very patient with them,
though their conduct is often very trying and provoking. He is never
tired of hearing their complaints, however often they may come to Him.
He sympathizes deeply in all their sorrows. He knows what pain is: He is
"acquainted with grief." (Is. liii. 3.) In all their afflictions He is
afflicted. He never allows them to be tempted above what they are able
to bear: He supplies them with daily grace for their daily conflict.
Their poor services are acceptable to Him: He is as well pleased with
them as a parent is with his child's endeavours to speak and walk. He
has caused it to be written in His book, that "He taketh pleasure in His
people," and that "He taketh pleasure in them that fear Him." (Ps.
cxlvii. 11; cxlix. 4.)

There is no love on earth that can be named together with this! We love
those in whom we see something that deserves our affection, or those who
are our bone or our flesh: the Lord Jesus loves sinners in whom there is
no good thing. We love those from whom we get some return for our
affection: the Lord Jesus loves those who can do little or nothing for
Him, compared to what He does for them. We love where we can give some
reason for loving: the great Friend of sinners draws His reasons out of
His own everlasting compassion. His love is purely disinterested, purely
unselfish, purely free. Never, never was there so truly loving a friend
as Jesus Christ.


V. Do we want _a wise and prudent friend_? Such a friend is the Lord
Jesus Christ.

Man's friendship is sadly blind. He often injures those he loves by
injudicious kindness: he often errs in the counsel he gives; he often
leads his friends into trouble by bad advice, even when he means to help
them. He sometimes keeps them back from the way of life, and entangles
them in the vanities of the world, when they have well nigh escaped. The
friendship of the Lord Jesus is not so: it always does us good, and
never evil.

The Lord Jesus _never spoils_ His friends by extravagant indulgence. He
gives them everything that is really for their benefit; He withholds
nothing from them that is really good; but He requires them to take up
their cross daily and follow Him. He bids them endure hardships as good
soldiers: He calls on them to fight the good fight against the world,
the flesh, and the devil. His people often dislike it at the time, and
think it hard; but when they reach heaven they will see it was all well
done.

The Lord Jesus _makes no mistakes_ in managing His friends' affairs. He
orders all their concerns with perfect wisdom: all things happen to them
at the right time, and in the right way. He gives them as much of
sickness and as much of health, as much of poverty and as much of
riches, as much of sorrow and as much of joy, as He sees their souls
require. He leads them by the right way to bring them to the city of
habitation. He mixes their bitterest cups like a wise physician, and
takes care that they have not a drop too little or too much. His people
often misunderstand His dealings; they are silly enough to fancy their
course of life might have been better ordered: but in the
resurrection-day they will thank God that not their will, but Christ's
was done.

Look round the world and see the harm which people are continually
getting from their friends. Mark how much more ready men are to
encourage one another in worldliness and levity, than to provoke to love
and good works. Think how often they meet together, not for the better,
but for the worse,--not to quicken one another's souls in the way to
heaven, but to confirm one another in the love of this present world.
Alas, there are thousands who are wounded unexpectedly in the house of
their friends!

And then turn to the great Friend of sinners, and see how different a
thing is His friendship from that of man. Listen to Him as He walks by
the way with His disciples; mark how He comforts, reproves, and exhorts
with perfect wisdom. Observe how He times His visits to those He loves,
as to Mary and Martha at Bethany. Hear how He converses, as He dines on
the shore of the sea of Galilee: "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me?"
(John xxi. 16.) His company is always sanctifying. His gifts are always
for our soul's good; His kindness is always wise; His fellowship is
always to edification. One day of the Son of Man is better than a
thousand in the society of earthly friends: one hour spent in private
communion with Him, is better than a year in kings' palaces. Never,
never was there such a wise friend as Jesus Christ.


VI. Do we want _a tried and proved friend_? Such a friend is Jesus
Christ.

Six thousand years have passed away since the Lord Jesus began His work
of befriending mankind. During that long period of time He has had many
friends in this world. Millions on millions, unhappily, have refused His
offers and been miserably lost for ever; but thousands on thousands have
enjoyed the mighty privilege of His friendship and been saved. He has
had great experience.

(_a_) He has had friends of _every rank and station_ in life. Some of
them were kings and rich men, like David, and Solomon, and Hezekiah, and
Job; some of them were very poor in this world, like the shepherds of
Bethlehem, and James, and John, and Andrew: but they were all alike
Christ's friends.

(_b_) He has had friends _of every age_ that man can pass through. Some
of them never knew Him till they were advanced in years, like Manasseh,
and Zacchæus, and probably the Ethiopian Eunuch. Some of them were His
friends even from their earliest childhood, like Joseph, and Samuel, and
Josiah, and Timothy. But they were all alike Christ's friends.

(_c_) He has had friends _of every possible temperament and
disposition_. Some of them were simple plain men, like Isaac; some of
them were mighty in word and deed, like Moses; some of them were fervent
and warm-hearted, like Peter; some of them were gentle and retiring
spirits, like John; some of them were active and stirring, like Martha;
some of them loved to sit quietly at His feet, like Mary; some dwelt
unknown among their own people, like the Shunamite; some have gone
everywhere and turned the world upside down, like Paul. But they were
all alike Christ's friends.

(_d_) He has had friends _of every condition in life_. Some of them were
married, and had sons and daughters, like Enoch; some of them lived and
died unmarried, like Daniel and John the Baptist; some of them were
often sick, like Lazarus and Epaphroditus; some of them were strong to
labour, like Persis, and Tryphena, and Tryphosa; some of them were
masters, like Abraham and Cornelius; some of them were servants, like
the saints in Nero's household; some of them had bad servants, like
Elisha; some of them had bad masters like Obadiah; some of them had bad
wives and children, like David. But they were all alike Christ's
friends.

(_e_) He has had friends _of almost every nation, and people, and
tongue_. He has had friends in hot countries and in cold; friends among
nations highly civilized, and friends among the simplest and rudest
tribes. His book of life contains the names of Greeks and Romans, of
Jews and Egyptians, of bond and of free. There are to be found on its
lists reserved Englishmen and cautious Scotchmen, impulsive Irishmen and
fiery Welchmen, volatile Frenchmen and dignified Spaniards, refined
Italians and solid Germans, rude Africans and refined Hindoos,
cultivated Chinese and half-savage New Zealanders. But they were all
alike Christ's friends.

All these have made trial of Christ's friendship, and proved it to be
good. They all found nothing wanting when they began: they all found
nothing wanting as they went on. No lack, no defect, no deficiency was
ever found by any one of them in Jesus Christ. Each found his own soul's
wants fully supplied; each found every day, that in Christ there was
enough and to spare. Never, never was there a friend so fully tried and
proved as Jesus Christ.


VII. Last, but not least, do we want _an unfailing friend_? Such a
friend is the Lord Jesus Christ.

The saddest part of all the good things of earth is their instability.
Riches make themselves wings and flee away; youth and beauty are but for
a few years; strength of body soon decays; mind and intellect are soon
exhausted. All is perishing. All is fading. All is passing away. But
there is one splendid exception to this general rule, and that is the
friendship of Jesus Christ.

The Lord Jesus is _a friend who never changes_. There is no fickleness
about Him: those whom He loves, He loves unto the end. Husbands have
been known to forsake their wives; parents have been known to cast off
their children; human vows and promises of faithfulness have often been
forgotten. Thousands have been neglected in their poverty and old age,
who were honoured by all when they were rich and young. But Christ never
changed His feelings towards one of His friends. He is "the same
yesterday, to-day, and for ever." (Heb. xiii. 8.)

The Lord Jesus _never goes away from His friends_. There is never a
parting and good-bye between Him and His people. From the time that He
makes His abode in the sinner's heart, He abides in it for ever. The
world is full of leave-takings and departures: death and the lapse of
time break up the most united family; sons go forth to make their way in
life; daughters are married, and leave their father's house for ever.
Scattering, scattering, scattering, is the yearly history of the
happiest home. How many we have tearfully watched as they drove away
from our doors, whose pleasant faces we have never seen again! How many
we have sorrowfully followed to the grave, and then come back to a cold,
silent, lonely, and blank fireside! But, thanks be to God, there is One
who never leaves His friends! The Lord Jesus is He who has said, "I will
never leave thee nor forsake thee." (Heb. xiii. 5.)

The Lord Jesus _goes with His friends wherever they go_. There is no
possible separation between Him and those whom He loves. There is no
place or position on earth, or under the earth, that can divide them
from the great Friend of their souls. When the path of duty calls them
far away from home, He is their companion; when they pass through the
fire and water of fierce tribulation, He is with them; when they lie
down on the bed of sickness, He stands by them and makes all their
trouble work for good; when they go down the valley of the shadow of
death, and friends and relatives stand still and can go no further, He
goes down by their side. When they wake up in the unknown world of
Paradise, they are still with Him; when they rise with a new body at the
judgment day, they will not be alone. He will own them for His friends,
and say, "They are mine: deliver them and let them go free." He will
make good His own words: "I am with you alway, even unto the end of the
world." (Matt. xxviii. 20.)

Look round the world, and see how failure is written on all men's
schemes. Count up the partings, and separations, and disappointments,
and bereavements which have happened under your own knowledge. Think
what a privilege it is that there is One at least who never fails, and
in whom no one was ever disappointed! Never, never was there so
unfailing a friend as Jesus Christ.


And now, suffer me to conclude this paper with a few plain words of
application. I know not who you are or in what state your soul may be;
but I am sure that the words I am about to say deserve your serious
attention. Oh, that this paper may not find you heedless of spiritual
things! Oh, that you may be able to give a few thoughts to Christ!

(1) Know then, for one thing, that I call upon you to _consider solemnly
whether Christ is your Friend and you are His_.

There are thousands on thousands, I grieve to say, who are not Christ's
friends. Baptized in His name, outward members of His Church, attendants
on His means of grace,--all this they are, no doubt. But they are not
Christ's _friends_. Do they hate the sins which Jesus died to put away?
No.--Do they love the Saviour who came into the world to save them?
No.--Do they care for the souls which were so precious in His sight?
No.--Do they delight in the word of reconciliation? No.--Do they try to
speak with the Friend of sinners in prayer? No.--Do they seek close
fellowship with Him? No.--Oh, reader, is this your case? How is it with
you? Are you or are you not one of Christ's friends?

(2) Know, in the next place, that _if you are not one of Christ's
friends, you are a poor miserable being_.

I write this down deliberately. I do not say it without thought. I say
that if Christ be not your friend, you are a poor, miserable being.

You are in the midst of a failing, sorrowful world, and you have no real
source of comfort, or refuge for a time of need. You are a dying
creature, and you are not ready to die. You have sins, and they are not
forgiven. You are going to be judged, and you are not prepared to meet
God: you might be, but you refuse to use the one only Mediator and
Advocate. You love the world better than Christ. You refuse the great
Friend of sinners, and you have no friend in heaven to plead your cause.
Yes: it is sadly true! You are a poor, miserable being. It matters
nothing what your income is: without Christ's friendship you are very
poor.

(3) Know, in the third place, that _if you really want a friend, Christ
is willing to become your friend_.

He has long wanted you to join His people, and He now invites you by my
hand. He is ready to receive you, all unworthy as you may feel, and to
write your name down in the list of His friends. He is ready to pardon
all the past, to clothe you with righteousness, to give you His Spirit,
to make you His own dear child. All He asks you to do is to come to Him.

He bids you come with all your sins; only acknowledging your vileness,
and confessing that you are ashamed. Just as you are,--waiting for
nothing,--unworthy of anything in yourself,--Jesus bids you come and be
His friend.

Oh, come and be wise! Come and be safe. Come and be happy. Come and be
Christ's friend.

(4) Know, in the last place, that _if Christ is your friend, you have
great privileges, and ought to walk worthy of them_.

Seek every day to have closer communion with Him who is your Friend, and
to know more of His grace and power. True Christianity is not merely the
believing a certain set of dry abstract propositions: it is to live in
daily personal communication with an actual living person--Jesus the Son
of God. "To me," said Paul, "to live is Christ." (Phil. i. 21.)

Seek every day to glorify your Lord and Saviour in all your ways. "He
that hath a friend should show himself friendly" (Prov. xviii. 24), and
no man surely is under such mighty obligations as the friend of Christ.
Avoid everything which would grieve your Lord. Fight hard against
besetting sins, against inconsistency, against backwardness to confess
Him before men. Say to your soul, whenever you are tempted to that which
is wrong, "Soul, soul, is this thy kindness to thy Friend?"

Think, above all, of the mercy which has been shown thee, and learn to
rejoice daily in thy Friend! What though thy body be bowed down with
disease? What though thy poverty and trials be very great? What though
thine earthly friends forsake thee, and thou art alone in the world? All
this may be true: but if thou art in Christ thou hast a Friend, a mighty
Friend, a loving Friend, a wise Friend, a Friend that never fails. Oh,
think, think much upon thy friend!

Yet a little time and thy Friend shall come to take thee home, and thou
shalt dwell with Him for ever. Yet a little time and thou shalt see as
thou hast been seen, and know as thou hast been known. And then thou
shalt hear assembled worlds confess, that HE IS THE RICH AND HAPPY MAN
WHO HAS HAD CHRIST FOR HIS FRIEND.



XV


SICKNESS

"_He whom Thou lovest is sick._"--John xi. 3.


The chapter from which this text is taken is well known to all Bible
readers. In life-like description, in touching interest, in sublime
simplicity, there is no writing in existence that will bear comparison
with that chapter. A narrative like this is to my own mind one of the
great proofs of the inspiration of Scripture. When I read the story of
Bethany, I feel "There is something here which the infidel can never
account for."--"This is nothing else but the finger of God."

The words which I specially dwell upon in this chapter are singularly
affecting and instructive. They record the message which Martha and Mary
sent to Jesus when their brother Lazarus was sick: "Lord, behold he whom
Thou lovest is sick." That message was short and simple. Yet almost
every word is deeply suggestive.

Mark the child-like faith of these holy women. They turned to the Lord
Jesus in their hour of need, as the frightened infant turns to its
mother, or the compass-needle turns to the Pole. They turned to Him as
their Shepherd, their almighty Friend, their Brother born for adversity.
Different as they were in natural temperament, the two sisters in this
matter were entirely agreed. Christ's help was their first thought in
the day of trouble. Christ was the refuge to which they fled in the
hour of need. Blessed are all they that do likewise!

Mark the simple humility of their language about Lazarus. They call Him
"He whom Thou lovest." They do not say, "He who loves Thee, believes in
Thee, serves Thee," but "He whom Thou lovest." Martha and Mary were
deeply taught of God. They had learned that Christ's love towards us,
and not our love towards Christ, is the true ground of expectation, and
true foundation of hope. Blessed, again, are all they that are taught
likewise! To look inward to our love towards Christ is painfully
unsatisfying: to look outward to Christ's love towards us is peace.

Mark, lastly, the touching circumstance which the message of Martha and
Mary reveals: "He whom Thou lovest is sick." Lazarus was a good man,
converted, believing, renewed, sanctified, a friend of Christ, and an
heir of glory. And yet Lazarus was sick! Then sickness is no sign that
God is displeased. Sickness is intended to be a blessing to us, and not
a curse. "All things work together for good to them that love God, and
are called according to His purpose." "All things are yours,--life,
death, things present, or things to come: for ye are Christ's; and
Christ is God's." (Rom. viii. 28; 1 Cor. iii. 22.) Blessed, I say again,
are they that have learned this! Happy are they who can say, when they
are ill, "This is my Father's doing. It must be well."

I invite the attention of my readers to the subject of sickness. The
subject is one which we ought frequently to look in the face. We cannot
avoid it. It needs no prophet's eye to see sickness coming to each of us
in turn one day. "In the midst of life we are in death." Let us turn
aside for a few moments, and consider sickness as Christians. The
consideration will not hasten its coming, and by =God's= blessing may
teach us wisdom.

In considering the subject of sickness, three points appear to me to
demand attention. On each I shall say a few words.


    I. The _universal prevalence_ of sickness and disease.

    II. The _general benefits_ which sickness confers on mankind.

    III. The _special duties_ to which sickness calls us.


I. The _universal prevalence of sickness_.

I need not dwell long on this point. To elaborate the proof of it would
only be multiplying truisms, and heaping up common-places which all
allow.

Sickness is everywhere. In Europe, in Asia, in Africa, in America; in
hot countries and in cold, in civilized nations and in savage
tribes,--men, women, and children sicken and die.

Sickness is among all classes. Grace does not lift a believer above the
reach of it. Riches will not buy exemption from it. Rank cannot prevent
its assaults. Kings and their subjects, masters and servants, rich men
and poor, learned and unlearned, teachers and scholars, doctors and
patients, ministers and hearers, all alike go down before this great
foe. "The rich man's wealth is his strong city." (Prov. xviii. 11.) The
Englishman's house is called his castle; but there are no doors and bars
which can keep out disease and death.

Sickness is of every sort and description. From the crown of our head to
the sole of our foot we are liable to disease. Our capacity of suffering
is something fearful to contemplate. Who can count up the ailments by
which our bodily frame may be assailed? Who ever visited a museum of
morbid anatomy without a shudder? "Strange that a harp of thousand
strings should keep in tune so long." It is not, to my mind, so
wonderful that men should die so soon, as it is that they should live so
long.

Sickness is often one of the most humbling and distressing trials that
can come upon man. It can turn the strongest into a little child, and
make him feel "the grasshopper a burden." (Eccles. xii. 5.) It can
unnerve the boldest, and make him tremble at the fall of a pin. We are
"fearfully and wonderfully made." (Psalm cxxxix. 14.) The connection
between body and mind is curiously close. The influence that some
diseases can exercise upon the temper and spirits is immensely great.
There are ailments of brain, and liver, and nerves, which can bring down
a Solomon in mind to a state little better than that of a babe. He that
would know to what depths of humiliation poor man can fall, has only to
attend for a short time on sick-beds.

Sickness is not preventible by anything that man can do. The average
duration of life may doubtless be somewhat lengthened. The skill of
doctors may continually discover new remedies, and effect surprising
cures. The enforcement of wise sanitary regulations may greatly lower
the death-rate in a land. But, afterall,--whether in healthy or
unhealthy localities,--whether in mild climates or in cold,--whether
treated by homeopathy or allopathy,--men will sicken and die. "The days
of our years are three-score years and ten; and if by reason of strength
they be four-score years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for
it is soon cut off, and we fly away." (Psalm xc. 10.) That witness is
indeed true. It was true 3300 years ago.--It is true still.

Now what can we make of this great fact,--the universal prevalence of
sickness? How shall we account for it? What explanation can we give of
it? What answer shall we give to our inquiring children when they ask
us, "Father, why do people get ill and die?" These are grave questions.
A few words upon them will not be out of place.

Can we suppose for a moment that God created sickness and disease at
the beginning? Can we imagine that He who formed our world in such
perfect order was the Former of needless suffering and pain? Can we
think that He who made all things "very good," made Adam's race to
sicken and to die? The idea is, to my mind, revolting. It introduces a
grand imperfection into the midst of God's perfect works. I must find
another solution to satisfy my mind.

The only explanation that satisfies me is that which the Bible gives.
Something has come into the world which has dethroned man from his
original position, and stripped him of his original privileges.
Something has come in, which, like a handful of gravel thrown into the
midst of machinery, has marred the perfect order of God's creation. And
what is that _something_? I answer, in one word, It is sin. "Sin has
entered into the world, and death by sin." (Rom. v. 12.) Sin is the
cause of all the sickness, and disease, and pain, and suffering, which
prevail on the earth. They are all a part of that curse which came into
the world when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and fell. There
would have been no sickness, if there had been no fall. There would have
been no disease, if there had been no sin.

I pause for a moment at this point, and yet in pausing I do not depart
from my subject. I pause to remind my readers that there is no ground so
untenable as that which is occupied by the Atheist, the Deist, or the
unbeliever in the Bible. I advise every young reader of this paper, who
is puzzled by the bold and specious arguments of the infidel, to study
well that most important subject,--the _Difficulties of Infidelity_. I
say boldly that it requires far more credulity to be an infidel than to
be a Christian. I say boldly, that there are great broad patent facts in
the condition of mankind, which nothing but the Bible can explain, and
that one of the most striking of these facts is the universal prevalence
of pain, sickness, and disease. In short, one of the mightiest
difficulties in the way of Atheists and Deists, is the body of man.

You have doubtless heard of Atheists. An Atheist is one who professes to
believe that there is no God, no Creator, no First Cause, and that all
things came together in this world by mere chance.--Now shall we listen
to such a doctrine as this? Go, take an Atheist to one of the excellent
surgical schools of our land, and ask him to study the wonderful
structure of the human body. Show him the matchless skill with which
every joint, and vein, and valve, and muscle, and sinew, and nerve, and
bone, and limb, has been formed. Show him the perfect adaptation of
every part of the human frame to the purpose which it serves. Show him
the thousand delicate contrivances for meeting wear and tear, and
supplying daily waste of vigour. And then ask this man who denies the
being of a God, and a great First Cause, if all this wonderful mechanism
is the result of chance? Ask him if it came together at first by luck
and accident? Ask him if he so thinks about the watch he looks at, the
bread he eats, or the coat he wears? Oh, no! Design is an insuperable
difficulty in the Atheist's way. _There is a God._

You have doubtless heard of Deists. A Deist is one who professes to
believe that there is a God, who made the world and all things therein.
But He does not believe the Bible. "A God, but no Bible!--a Creator, but
no Christianity!" This is the Deist's creed.--Now, shall we listen to
this doctrine? Go again, I say, and take a Deist to an hospital, and
show him some of the awful handiwork of disease. Take him to the bed
where lies some tender child, scarce knowing good from evil, with an
incurable cancer. Send him to the ward where there is a loving mother of
a large family in the last stage of some excruciating disease. Show him
some of the racking pains and agonies to which flesh is heir, and ask
him to account for them. Ask this man, who believes there is a great
and wise God who made the world, but cannot believe the Bible,--ask him
how he accounts for these traces of disorder and imperfection in his
God's creation. Ask this man, who sneers at Christian theology and is
too wise to believe the fall of Adam,--ask him upon his theory to
explain the universal prevalence of pain and disease in the world. You
may ask in vain! You will get no satisfactory answer. Sickness and
suffering are insuperable difficulties in the Deist's way. _Man has
sinned, and therefore man suffers._ Adam fell from his first estate, and
therefore Adam's children sicken and die.

The universal prevalence of sickness is one of the indirect evidences
that the Bible is true. The Bible explains it. The Bible answers the
questions about it which will arise in every inquiring mind. No other
systems of religion can do this. They all fail here. They are silent.
They are confounded. The Bible alone looks the subject in the face. It
boldly proclaims the fact that man is a fallen creature, and with equal
boldness proclaims a vast remedial system to meet his wants. I feel shut
up to the conclusion that the Bible is from God. Christianity is a
revelation from heaven. "Thy word is truth." (John xvii. 17.)

Let us stand fast on the old ground, that the Bible, and the Bible only,
is God's revelation of Himself to man. Be not moved by the many new
assaults which modern scepticism is making on the inspired volume. Heed
not the hard questions which the enemies of the faith are fond of
putting about Bible difficulties, and to which perhaps you often feel
unable to give an answer. Anchor your soul firmly on this safe
principle,--that the whole book is God's truth. Tell the enemies of the
Bible that, in spite of all their arguments, there is no book in the
world which will bear comparison with the Bible,--none that so
thoroughly meets man's wants,--none that explains so much of the state
of mankind. As to the hard things in the Bible, tell them you are
content to wait. You find enough plain truth in the book to satisfy your
conscience and save your soul. The hard things will be cleared up one
day. What you know not now, you will know hereafter.


II. The second point I propose to consider is _the general benefits
which sickness confers on mankind_.

I use that word "benefits" advisedly. I feel it of deep importance to
see this part of our subject clearly. I know well that sickness is one
of the supposed weak points in God's government of the world, on which
sceptical minds love to dwell.--"Can God be a God of love, when He
allows pain? Can God be a God of mercy, when He permits disease? He
might prevent pain and disease; but He does not. How can these things
be?" Such is the reasoning which often comes across the heart of man.

I reply to all such reasoners, that their doubts and questionings are
most unreasonable. They might us well doubt the existence of a Creator,
because the order of the universe is disturbed by earthquakes,
hurricanes, and storms. They might as well doubt the providence of God,
because of the horrible massacres of Delhi and Cawnpore. All this would
be just as reasonable as to doubt the mercy of God, because of the
presence of sickness in the world.

I ask all who find it hard to reconcile the prevalence of disease and
pain with the love of God, to cast their eyes on the world around them,
and to mark what is going on. I ask them to observe the extent to which
men constantly submit to present loss for the sake of future
gain,--present sorrow for the sake of future joy,--present pain for the
sake of future health. The seed is thrown into the ground, and rots: but
we sow in the hope of a future harvest. The boy is sent to school amidst
many tears: but we send him in the hope of his getting future wisdom.
The father of a family undergoes some fearful surgical operation: but
he bears it, in the hope of future health.--I ask men to apply this
great principle to God's government of the world. I ask them to believe
that God allows pain, sickness, and disease, not because He loves to vex
man, but because He desires to benefit man's heart, and mind, and
conscience, and soul, to all eternity.

Once more I repeat, that I speak of the "benefits" of sickness on
purpose and advisedly. I know the suffering and pain which sickness
entails. I admit the misery and wretchedness which it often brings in
its train. But I cannot regard it as an unmixed evil. I see in it a wise
permission of God. I see in it a useful provision to check the ravages
of sin and the devil among men's souls. If man had never sinned I should
have been at a loss to discern the benefit of sickness. But since sin is
in the world, I can see that sickness is a good. It is a blessing quite
as much as a curse. It is a rough schoolmaster, I grant. But it is a
real friend to man's soul.

(_a_) Sickness helps to _remind men of death_. The most live as if they
were never going to die. They follow business, or pleasure, or politics,
or science, as if earth was their eternal home. They plan and scheme for
the future, like the rich fool in the parable, as if they had a long
lease of life, and were not tenants at will. A heavy illness sometimes
goes far to dispel these delusions. It awakens men from their
day-dreams, and reminds them that they have to die as well as to live.
Now this I say emphatically is a mighty good.

(_b_) Sickness helps to _make men think seriously of God_, and their
souls, and the world to come. The most in their days of health can find
no time for such thoughts. They dislike them. They put them away. They
count them troublesome and disagreeable. Now a severe disease has
sometimes a wonderful power of mustering and rallying these thoughts,
and bringing them up before the eyes of a man's soul. Even a wicked king
like Benhadad, when sick, could think of Elisha. (2 Kings viii. 8.)
Even heathen sailors, when death was in sight, were afraid, and "cried
every man to his god." (Jonah i. 5.) Surely anything that helps to make
men think is a good.

(_c_) Sickness helps to _soften men's hearts_, and teach them wisdom.
The natural heart is as hard as a stone. It can see no good in anything
which is not of this life, and no happiness excepting in this world. A
long illness sometimes goes far to correct these ideas. It exposes the
emptiness and hollowness of what the world calls "good" things, and
teaches us to hold them with a loose hand. The man of business finds
that money alone is not everything the heart requires. The woman of the
world finds that costly apparel, and novel-reading, and the reports of
balls and operas, are miserable comforters in a sick room. Surely
anything that obliges us to alter our weights and measures of earthly
things is a real good.

(_d_) Sickness helps to _level and humble us_. We are all naturally
proud and high-minded. Few, even of the poorest, are free from the
infection. Few are to be found who do not look down on somebody else,
and secretly flatter themselves that they are "not as other men." A sick
bed is a mighty tamer of such thoughts as these. It forces on us the
mighty truth that we are all poor worms, that we "dwell in houses of
clay," and are "crushed before the moth" (Job iv. 19), and that kings
and subjects, masters and servants, rich and poor, are all dying
creatures, and will soon stand side by side at the bar of God. In the
sight of the coffin and the grave it is not easy to be proud. Surely
anything that teaches that lesson is good.

(_e_) Finally, sickness helps _to try men's religion_, of what sort it
is. There are not many on earth who have on religion at all. Yet few
have a religion that will bear inspection. Most are content with
traditions received from their fathers, and can render no reason of the
hope that is in them. Now disease is sometimes most useful to a man in
exposing the utter worthlessness of his soul's foundation. It often
shows him that he has nothing solid under his feet, and nothing firm
under his hand. It makes him find out that, although he may have had a
form of religion, he has been all his life worshipping "an unknown God."
Many a creed looks well on the smooth waters of health, which turns out
utterly unsound and useless on the rough waves of the sick bed. The
storms of winter often bring out the defects in a man's dwelling, and
sickness often exposes the gracelessness of a man's soul. Surely
anything that makes us find out the real character of our faith is a
good.

I do not say that sickness confers these benefits on all to whom it
comes. Alas, I can say nothing of the kind! Myriads are yearly laid low
by illness, and restored to health, who evidently learn no lesson from
their sick beds, and return again to the world. Myriads are yearly
passing through sickness to the grave, and yet receiving no more
spiritual impression from it than the beasts that perish. While they
live they have no feeling, and when they die there are "no bands in
their death." (Psalm lxxiii. 4.) These are awful things to say. But they
are true. The degree of deadness to which man's heart and conscience may
attain, is a depth which I cannot pretend to fathom.

But does sickness confer the benefits of which I have been speaking on
only a few? I will allow nothing of the kind. I believe that in very
many cases sickness produces impressions more or less akin to those of
which I have just been speaking. I believe that in many minds sickness
is God's "day of visitation," and that feelings are continually aroused
on a sick bed which, if improved, might, by God's grace, result in
salvation. I believe that in heathen lands sickness often paves the way
for the missionary, and makes the poor idolater lend a willing ear to
the glad tidings of the Gospel. I believe that in our own land sickness
is one of the greatest aids to the minister of the Gospel, and that
sermons and counsels are often brought home in the day of disease which
we have neglected in the day of health. I believe that sickness is one
of God's most important subordinate instruments in the saving of men,
and that though the feelings it calls forth are often temporary, it is
also often a means whereby the Spirit works effectually on the heart. In
short, I believe firmly that the sickness of men's bodies has often led,
in God's wonderful providence, to the salvation of men's souls.

I leave this branch of my subject here. It needs no further remark. If
sickness can do the things of which I have been speaking (and who will
gainsay it?), if sickness in a wicked world can help to make men think
of God and their souls, then sickness confers benefits on mankind.

We have no right to murmur at sickness, and repine at its presence in
the world. We ought rather to thank God for it. It is God's witness. It
is the soul's adviser. It is an awakener to the conscience. It is a
purifier to the heart. Surely I have a right to tell you that sickness
is a blessing and not a curse,--a help and not an injury,--a gain and
not a loss,--a friend and not a foe to mankind. So long as we have a
world wherein there is sin, it is a mercy that it is a world wherein
there is sickness.


III. The third and last point which I propose to consider, is _the
special duties which the prevalence of sickness entails on each one of
ourselves_.

I should be sorry to leave the subject of sickness without saying
something on this point. I hold it to be of cardinal importance not to
be content with generalities in delivering God's message to souls. I am
anxious to impress on each one into whose hands this paper may fall, his
own personal responsibility in connection with the subject. I would fain
have no one lay down this paper unable to answer the questions,--"What
practical lesson have I learned? What, in a world of disease and death,
what ought I to do?"

(_a_) One paramount duty which the prevalence of sickness entails on
man, is that of _living habitually prepared to meet God_. Sickness is a
remembrancer of death. Death is the door through which we must all pass
to judgment. Judgment is the time when we must at last see God face to
face. Surely the first lesson which the inhabitant of a sick and dying
world should learn should be to prepare to meet his God.

When are you prepared to meet God? Never till your iniquities are
forgiven, and your sin covered! Never till your heart is renewed, and
your will taught to delight in the will of God! You have many sins. If
you go to church your own mouth is taught to confess this every Sunday.
The blood of Jesus Christ can alone cleanse those sins away. The
righteousness of Christ can alone make you acceptable in the sight of
God. Faith, simple childlike faith, can alone give you an interest in
Christ and His benefits. Would you know whether you are prepared to meet
God? Then where is your faith?--Your heart is naturally unmeet for God's
company. You have no real pleasure in doing His will. The Holy Ghost
must transform you after the image of Christ. Old things must pass away.
All things must become new. Would you know whether you are prepared to
meet God? Then, where is your grace? Where are the evidences of your
conversion and sanctification?

I believe that this, and nothing less than this, is preparedness to meet
God. Pardon of sin and meetness for God's presence,--justification by
faith and sanctification of the heart,--the blood of Christ sprinkled on
us, and the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us,--these are the grand
essentials of the Christian religion. These are no mere words and names
to furnish bones of contention for wrangling theologians. These are
sober, solid, substantial realities. To live in the actual possession
of these things, in a world full of sickness and death, is the first
duty which I press home upon your soul.

(_b_) Another paramount duty which the prevalence of sickness entails on
you, is that of _living habitually ready to bear it patiently_. Sickness
is no doubt a trying thing to flesh and blood. To feel our nerves
unstrung, and our natural force abated,--to be obliged to sit still and
be cut off from all our usual avocations,--to see our plans broken off
and our purposes disappointed,--to endure long hours, and days, and
nights of weariness and pain,--all this is a severe strain on poor
sinful human nature. What wonder if peevishness and impatience are
brought out by disease! Surely in such a dying world as this we should
study patience.

How shall we learn to bear sickness patiently, when sickness comes to
our turn? We must lay up stores of grace in the time of health. We must
seek for the sanctifying influence of the Holy Ghost over our unruly
tempers and dispositions. We must make a real business of our prayers,
and regularly ask for strength to endure God's will as well as to do it.
Such strength is to be had for the asking: "If ye shall ask anything in
my name, I will do it for you." (John xiv. 14.)

I cannot think it needless to dwell on this point. I believe the passive
graces of Christianity receive far less notice than they deserve.
Meekness, gentleness, long-suffering, faith, patience, are all mentioned
in the Word of God as fruits of the Spirit. They are passive graces
which specially glorify God. They often make men think, who despise the
active side of the Christian character. Never do these graces shine so
brightly as they do in the sick room. They enable many a sick person to
preach a silent sermon, which those around him never forget. Would you
adorn the doctrine you profess? Would you make your Christianity
beautiful in the eyes of others? Then take the hint I give you this
day. Lay up a store of patience against the time of illness. Then,
though your sickness be not to death, it shall be for the "glory of
God." (John xi. 4.)

(_c_) One more paramount duty which the prevalence of sickness entails
on you, is that of _habitual readiness to feel with and help your
fellow-men_. Sickness is never very far from us. Few are the families
who have not some sick relative. Few are the parishes where you will not
find some one ill. But wherever there is sickness, there is a call to
duty. A little timely assistance in some cases,--a kindly visit in
others,--a friendly inquiry,--a mere expression of sympathy, may do a
vast good. These are the sort of things which soften asperities, and
bring men together, and promote good feeling. These are ways by which
you may ultimately lead men to Christ and save their souls. These are
good works to which every professing Christian should be ready. In a
world full of sickness and disease we ought to "bear one another's
burdens," and be "kind one to another." (Gal. vi. 2; Ephes. iv. 32.)

These things, I dare say, may appear to some little and trifling. They
must needs be doing something great, and grand, and striking, and
heroic! I take leave to say that conscientious attention to these little
acts of brotherly-kindness is one of the clearest evidences of having
"the mind of Christ." They are acts in which our blessed Master Himself
was abundant. He was ever "going about doing good" to the sick and
sorrowful. (Acts x. 38.) They are acts to which He attaches great
importance in that most solemn passage of Scripture, the description of
the last judgment. He says there: "I was sick, and ye visited Me."
(Matt. xxv. 36.)

Have you any desire to prove the reality of your charity,--that blessed
grace which so many talk of, and so few practise? If you have, beware of
unfeeling selfishness and neglect of your sick brethren. Search them
out. Assist them if they need aid. Show your sympathy with them. Try to
lighten their burdens. Above all, strive to do good to their souls. It
will do you good if it does no good to them. It will keep your heart
from murmuring. It may prove a blessing to your own soul. I firmly
believe that God is testing and proving us by every case of sickness
within our reach. By permitting suffering, He tries whether Christians
have any feeling. Beware, lest you be weighed in the balances and found
wanting. If you can live in a sick and dying world and not feel for
others, you have yet much to learn.

I leave this branch of my subject here. I throw out the points I have
named as suggestions, and I pray God that they may work in many minds. I
repeat, that habitual preparedness to meet God,--habitual readiness to
suffer patiently,--habitual willingness to sympathize heartily,--are
plain duties which sickness entails on all. They are duties within the
reach of every one. In naming them I ask nothing extravagant or
unreasonable. I bid no man retire into a monastery and ignore the duties
of his station. I only want men to realize that they live in a sick and
dying world, and to live accordingly. And I say boldly, that the man who
lives the life of faith, and holiness, and patience, and charity, is not
only the most true Christian, but the most wise and reasonable man.


And now I conclude all with four words of practical application. I want
the subject of this paper to be turned to some spiritual use. My heart's
desire and prayer to God in placing it in this volume is to do good to
souls.

(1) In the first place, I offer a _question_ to all who read this paper,
to which, as God's ambassador, I entreat their serious attention. It is
a question which grows naturally out of the subject on which I have been
writing. It is a question which concerns all, of every rank, and class,
and condition. I ask you, What will you do when you are ill?

The time must come when you, as well as others, must go down the dark
valley of the shadow of death. The hour must come when you, like all
your forefathers, must sicken and die. The time may be near or far off.
God only knows. But whenever the time may be, I ask again. What are you
going to do? Where do you mean to turn for comfort? On what do you mean
to rest your soul? On what do you mean to build your hope? From whence
will you fetch your consolations?

I do entreat you not to put these questions away. Suffer them to work on
your conscience, and rest not till you can give them a satisfactory
answer. Trifle not with that precious gift, an immortal soul. Defer not
the consideration of the matter to a more convenient season. Presume not
on a death-bed repentance. The greatest business ought surely not to be
left to the last. One dying thief was saved that men might not despair,
but only one that none might presume. I repeat the question. I am sure
it deserves an answer, "What will you do when you are ill?"

If you were going to live for ever in this world I would not address you
as I do. But it cannot be. There is no escaping the common lot of all
mankind. Nobody can die in our stead. The day must come when we must
each go to our long home. Against that day I want you to be prepared.
The body which now takes up so much of your attention--the body which
you now clothe, and feed, and warm with so much care,--that body must
return again to the dust. Oh, think what an awful thing it would prove
at last to have provided for everything except the one thing
needful,--to have provided for the body, but to have neglected the
soul,--to die, in fact, like Cardinal Beaufort, and "give no sign" of
being saved! Once more I press my question on your conscience: "What
will you do when you are ill?"

(2) In the next place, I offer _counsel_ to all who feel they need it
and are willing to take it,--to all who feel they are not yet prepared
to meet God. That counsel is short and simple. Acquaint yourself with
the Lord Jesus Christ without delay. Repent, be converted, flee to
Christ, and be saved.

Either you have a soul or you have not. You will surely never deny that
you have. Then if you have a soul, seek that soul's salvation. Of all
gambling in the world, there is none so reckless as that of the man who
lives unprepared to meet God, and yet puts off repentance.--Either you
have sins or you have none. If you have (and who will dare to deny it?),
break off from those sins, cast away your transgressions, and turn away
from them without delay.--Either you need a Saviour or you do not. If
you do, flee to the only Saviour this very day, and cry mightily to Him
to save your soul. Apply to Christ at once. Seek Him by faith. Commit
your soul into His keeping. Cry mightily to Him for pardon and peace
with God. Ask Him to pour down the Holy Spirit upon you, and make you a
thorough Christian. He will hear you. No matter what you have been, He
will not refuse your prayer. He has said, "Him that cometh to Me I will
in no wise cast out." (John vi. 37.)

Beware, I beseech you, of a vague and indefinite Christianity. Be not
content with a general hope that all is right because you belong to the
old Church of England, and that all will be well at last because God is
merciful. Rest not, rest not without personal union with Christ Himself.
Rest not, rest not till you have the witness of the Spirit in your
heart, that you are washed, and sanctified, and justified, and one with
Christ, and Christ in you. Rest not till you can say with the apostle,
"I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep
that which I have committed to Him against that day." (2 Tim. i. 12.)

Vague, and indefinite, and indistinct religion may do very well in time
of health. It will never do in the day of sickness. A mere formal,
perfunctory Church-membership may carry a man through the sunshine of
youth and prosperity. It will break down entirely when death is in
sight. Nothing will do then but real heart-union with Christ. Christ
interceding for us at God's right hand,--Christ known and believed as
our Priest, our Physician, our Friend,--Christ alone can rob death of
its sting and enable us to face sickness without fear. He alone can
deliver those who through fear of death are in bondage. I say to every
one who wants advice, Be acquainted with Christ. As ever you would have
hope and comfort on the bed of sickness, be acquainted with Christ. Seek
Christ. Apply to Christ.

Take every care and trouble to Him when you are acquainted with Him. He
will keep you and carry you through all. Pour out your heart before Him,
when your conscience is burdened. He is the true Confessor. He alone can
absolve you and take the burden away. Turn to Him first in the day of
sickness, like Martha and Mary. Keep on looking to Him to the last
breath of your life. Christ is worth knowing. The more you know Him the
better you will love Him. Then be acquainted with Jesus Christ.

(3) In the third place, I exhort all true Christians who read this paper
to remember how much they may glorify God in the time of sickness, and
to _lie quiet in God's hand when they are ill_.

I feel it very important to touch on this point. I know how ready the
heart of a believer is to faint, and how busy Satan is in suggesting
doubts and questionings, when the body of a Christian is weak. I have
seen something of the depression and melancholy which sometimes comes
upon the children of God when they are suddenly laid aside by disease,
and obliged to sit still. I have marked how prone some good people are
to torment themselves with morbid thoughts at such seasons, and to say
in their hearts, "God has forsaken me: I am cast out of His sight."

I earnestly entreat all sick believers to remember that they may honour
God as much by patient suffering as they can by active work. It often
shows more grace to sit still than it does to go to and fro, and perform
great exploits. I entreat them to remember that Christ cares for them as
much when they are sick as He does when they are well, and that the very
chastisement they feel so acutely is sent in love, and not in anger.
Above all, I entreat them to recollect the sympathy of Jesus for all His
weak members. They are always tenderly cared for by Him, but never so
much as in their time of need. Christ has had great experience of
sickness. He knows the heart of a sick man. He used to see "all manner
of sickness, and all manner of disease" when He was upon earth. He felt
specially for the sick in the days of His flesh. He feels for them
specially still. Sickness and suffering, I often think, make believers
more like their Lord in experience, than health. "Himself took our
infirmities, and bare our sicknesses." (Isaiah liii. 3; Matt. viii. 17.)
The Lord Jesus was a "Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." None
have such an opportunity of learning the mind of a suffering Saviour as
suffering disciples.

(4) I conclude with a word of _exhortation_ to all believers, which I
heartily pray God to impress upon their souls. I exhort you to keep up a
habit of close communion with Christ, and never to be afraid of "going
too far" in your religion. Remember this, if you wish to have "great
peace" in your times of sickness.

I observe with regret a tendency in some quarters to lower the standard
of practical Christianity, and to denounce what are called "extreme
views" about a Christian's daily walk in life. I remark with pain that
even religious people will sometimes look coldly on those who withdraw
from worldly society, and will censure them as "exclusive,
narrow-minded, illiberal, uncharitable, sour-spirited," and the like. I
warn every believer in Christ who reads this paper to beware of being
influenced by such censures. I entreat him, if he wants light in the
valley of death, to "keep himself unspotted from the world," to "follow
the Lord very fully," and to walk very closely with God. (James i. 27;
Num. xiv. 24.)

I believe that the want of "thoroughness" about many people's
Christianity is one secret of their little comfort, both in health and
sickness. I believe that the "half-and-half,"--"keep-in-with-everybody"
religion, which satisfies many in the present day, is offensive to God,
and sows thorns in dying pillows, which hundreds never discover till too
late. I believe that the weakness and feebleness of such a religion
never comes out so much as it does upon a sick bed.

If you and I want "strong consolation" in our time of need, we must not
be content with a bare union with Christ. (Heb. vi. 18.) We must seek to
know something of heart-felt, experimental _communion_ with Him. Never,
never let us forget, that "union" is one thing, and "communion" another.
Thousands, I fear, who know what "union" with Christ is, know nothing of
"communion."

The day may come when after a long fight with disease, we shall feel
that medicine can do no more, and that nothing remains but to die.
Friends will be standing by, unable to help us. Hearing, eyesight, even
the power of praying, will be fast failing us. The world and its shadows
will be melting beneath our feet. Eternity, with its realities, will be
looming large before our minds. What shall support us in that trying
hour? What shall enable us to feel, "I fear no evil"? (Psalm xxiii. 4.)
Nothing, nothing can do it but close communion with Christ. Christ
dwelling in our hearts by faith,--Christ putting His right arm under our
heads,--Christ felt to be sitting by our side,--Christ can alone give us
the complete victory in the last struggle.

Let us cleave to Christ more closely, love Him more heartily, live to
Him more thoroughly, copy Him more exactly, confess Him more boldly,
follow Him more fully. Religion like this will always bring its own
reward. Worldly people may laugh at it. Weak brethren may think it
extreme. But it will wear well. At even time it will bring us light. In
sickness it will bring us peace. In the world to come it will give us a
crown of glory that fadeth not away.

The time is short. The fashion of this world passeth away. A few more
sicknesses, and all will be over. A few more funerals, and our own
funeral will take place. A few more storms and tossings, and we shall be
safe in harbour. We travel towards a world where there is no more
sickness,--where parting, and pain, and crying, and mourning, are done
with for evermore. Heaven is becoming every year more full, and earth
more empty. The friends ahead are becoming more numerous than the
friends astern. "Yet a little time and He that shall come will come, and
will not tarry." (Heb. x. 37.) In His presence shall be fulness of joy.
Christ shall wipe away all tears from His people's eyes. The last enemy
that shall be destroyed is Death. But he shall be destroyed. Death
himself shall one day die. (Rev. xx. 14.)

In the meantime let us live the life of faith in the Son of God. Let us
lean all our weight on Christ, and rejoice in the thought that He lives
for evermore.

Yes: blessed be God! Christ lives, though we may die. Christ lives,
though friends and families are carried to the grave. He lives who
abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light by the
Gospel. He lives who said, "O death, I will be thy plagues: O grave, I
will be thy destruction." (Hos. xiii. 14.) He lives who will one day
change our vile body, and make it like unto His glorious body. In
sickness and in health, in life and in death, let us lean confidently on
Him. Surely we ought to say daily with one of old, "Blessed be God for
Jesus Christ!"



XVI


THE FAMILY OF GOD

     "_The whole family in heaven and earth._"--Ephes. iii. 15.


The words which form the title of this paper ought to stir some feelings
in our minds at any time. There lives not the man or woman on earth who
is not member of some "family." The poorest as well as the richest has
his kith and kin, and can tell you something of his "family."

Family gatherings at certain times of the year, such as Christmas, we
all know, are very common. Thousands of firesides are crowded then, if
at no other time of the year. The young man in town snatches a few days
from business, and takes a run down to the old folks at home. The young
woman in service gets a short holiday, and comes to visit her father and
mother. Brothers and sisters meet for a few hours. Parents and children
look one another in the face. How much there is to talk about! How many
questions to be asked! How many interesting things to be told! Happy
indeed is that fireside which sees gathered round it at Christmas "the
whole family!"

Family gatherings are natural, and right, and good. I approve them with
all my heart. It does me good to see them kept up. They are one of the
very few pleasant things which have survived the fall of man. Next to
the grace of God, I see no principle which unites people so much in
this sinful world as family feeling. Community of blood is a most
powerful tie. It was a fine saying of an American naval officer, when
his men insisted on helping the English sailors in fighting the Taku
forts in China,--"I cannot help it: blood is thicker than water." I have
often observed that people will stand up for their relations, merely
because they _are_ their relations,--and refuse to hear a word against
them,--even when they have no sympathy with their tastes and ways.
Anything which helps to keep up family feeling ought to be commended. It
is a wise thing, when it can be done, to gather together at Christmas
"the whole family."

Family gatherings, nevertheless, are often sorrowful things. It would be
strange indeed, in such a world as this, if they were not. Few are the
family circles which do not show gaps and vacant places as years pass
away. Changes and deaths make sad havoc as time goes on. Thoughts will
rise up within us, as we grow older, about faces and voices no longer
with us, which no Christmas merriment can entirely keep down. When the
young members of the family have once begun to launch forth into the
world, the old heads may long survive the scattering of the nest; but
after a certain time, it seldom happens that you see together "the whole
family."

There is one great family to which I want all the readers of this paper
to belong. It is a family despised by many, and not even known by some.
But it is a family of far more importance than any family on earth. To
belong to it entitles a man to far greater privileges than to be the son
of a king. It is the family of which St. Paul speaks to the Ephesians,
when he tells them of the "whole family in heaven and earth." It is the
family of God.

I ask the attention of every reader of this paper while I try to
describe this family, and recommend it to his notice. I want to tell you
of the amazing benefits which membership of this family conveys. I want
you to be found one of this family, when its gathering shall come at
last,--a gathering without separation, or sorrow, or tears. Hear me
while, as a minister of Christ, and friend to your soul, I speak to you
for a few minutes about "the whole family in heaven and earth:"--


    I. First of all, _what is this family_?

    II. Secondly, _what is its present position_?

    III. Thirdly, _what are its future prospects_?


I wish to unfold these three things before you, and I invite your
serious consideration of them. Our family gatherings on earth must have
an end one day. Our last earthly Christmas must come. Happy indeed is
that Christmas which finds us prepared to meet God!


I. _What is that family_ which the Bible calls "the whole family in
heaven and earth"? Of whom does it consist?

The family before us consists of all real Christians,--of all who have
the Spirit,--of all true believers in Christ,--of the saints of every
age, and Church, and nation, and tongue. It includes the blessed company
of all faithful people. It is the same as the election of God,--the
household of faith,--the mystical body of Christ,--the bride,--the
living temple,--the sheep that never perish,--the Church of the
first-born,--the holy Catholic Church. All these expressions are only
"the family of God" under other names.

Membership of the family before us does not depend on any earthly
connection. It comes not by natural birth, but by new birth. Ministers
cannot impart it to their hearers. Parents cannot give it to their
children. You may be born in the godliest family in the land, and enjoy
the richest means of grace a Church can supply, and yet never belong to
the family of God. To belong to it you must be born again. None but the
Holy Ghost can make a living member of His family. It is His special
office and prerogative to bring into the true Church such as shall be
saved. They that are born again are born, "not of blood, nor of the will
of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John i. 13.)

Do you ask the reason, of this name which the Bible gives to the company
of all true Christians? Would you like to know why they are called "a
family"? Listen and I will tell you.

(_a_) True Christians are called "a family" because they have all _one
Father_. They are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. They are
all born of one Spirit. They are all sons and daughters of the Lord
Almighty. They have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby they cry,
Abba Father. (Gal. iii. 26; John iii. 8; 2 Cor. vi. 18; Rom. viii. 15.)
They do not regard God with slavish fear, as an austere Being, only
ready to punish them. They look up to Him with tender confidence, as a
reconciled and loving parent,--as one forgiving iniquity, transgression,
and sin, to all who believe on Jesus,--and full of pity even to the
least and feeblest. The words, "Our Father which art in heaven," are no
mere form in the mouth of true Christians. No wonder they are called
God's "family."

(_b_) True Christians are called "a family," because they all _rejoice
in one name_. That name is the name of their great Head and Elder
Brother, even Jesus Christ the Lord. Just as a common family name is the
uniting link to all the members of a Highland clan, so does the name of
Jesus tie all believers together in one vast family. As members of
outward visible Churches they have various names and distinguishing
appellations. As living members of Christ, they all, with one heart and
mind, rejoice in one Saviour. Not a heart among them but feels drawn to
Jesus as the only object of hope. Not a tongue among them but would
tell you that "Christ is all." Sweet to them all is the thought of
Christ's death for them on the cross. Sweet is the thought of Christ's
intercession for them at the right hand of God. Sweet is the thought of
Christ's coming again to unite them to Himself in one glorified company
for ever. In fact, you might as well take away the sun out of heaven, as
take away the name of Christ from believers. To the world there may seem
little in His name. To believers it is full of comfort, hope, joy, rest,
and peace. No wonder they are called "a family."

(_c_) True Christians, above all, are called "a family" because there is
so strong _a family likeness_ among them. They are all led by one
Spirit, and are marked by the same general features of life, heart,
taste, and character. Just as there is a general bodily resemblance
among the brothers and sisters of a family, so there is a general
spiritual resemblance among all the sons and daughters of the Lord
Almighty. They all hate sin and love God. They all rest their hope of
salvation on Christ, and have no confidence in themselves. They all
endeavour to "come out and be separate" from the ways of the world, and
to set their affections on things above. They all turn naturally to the
same Bible, as the only food of their souls and the only sure guide in
their pilgrimage toward heaven: they find it a "lamp to their feet, and
a light to their path." (Psa. cxix. 105.) They all go to the same throne
of grace in prayer, and find it as needful to speak to God as to
breathe. They all live by the same rule, the Word of God, and strive to
conform their daily life to its precepts. They have all the same inward
experience. Repentance, faith, hope, charity, humility, inward conflict,
are things with which they are all more or less acquainted. No wonder
they are called "a family."

This family likeness among true believers is a thing that deserves
special attention. To my own mind it is one of the strongest indirect
evidences of the truth of Christianity It is one of the greatest proofs
of the reality of the work of the Holy Ghost. Some true Christians live
in civilized countries, and some in the midst of heathen lands. Some are
highly educated, and some are unable to read a letter. Some are rich and
some are poor. Some are Churchmen and some are Dissenters. Some are old
and some are young. And yet, notwithstanding all this, there is a
marvellous oneness of heart and character among them. Their joys and
their sorrows, their love and their hatred, their likes and their
dislikes, their tastes and their distastes, their hopes and their fears,
are all most curiously alike. Let others think what they please, I see
in all this the finger of God. His handiwork is always one and the same.
No wonder that true Christians are compared to "a family."

Take a converted Englishman and a converted Hindoo, and let them
suddenly meet for the first time. I will engage, if they can understand
one another's language, they will soon find common ground between them,
and feel at home. The one may have been brought up at Eton and Oxford,
and enjoyed every privilege of English civilization. The other may have
been trained in the midst of gross heathenism, and accustomed to habits,
ways, and manners as unlike the Englishman's as darkness compared to
light. And yet now in half an hour they feel that they are friends! The
Englishman finds that he has more in common with his Hindoo brother than
he has with many an old college companion or school-fellow! Who can
account for this? How can it be explained? Nothing can account for it
but the unity of the Spirit's teaching. It is "one touch" of grace (not
nature) "that makes the whole world kin." God's people are in the
highest sense "a family."

This is the family to which I wish to direct the attention of my readers
in this paper. This is the family to which I want you to belong. I ask
you this day to consider it well, if you never considered it before. I
have shown you the Father of the family,--the God and Father of our Lord
Jesus Christ. I have shown you the Head and Elder Brother of the
family,--the Lord Jesus Himself. I have shown you the features and
characteristics of the family. Its members have all great marks of
resemblance. Once more I say, consider it well.

Outside this family, remember, there is no salvation. None but those who
belong to it, according to the Bible, are in the way that leads to
heaven. The salvation of our souls does not depend on union with one
Church or separation from another. They are miserably deceived who think
that it does, and will find it out to their cost one day, except they
awake. No! the life of our souls depends on something far more
important. This is life eternal, to be a member of "the whole family in
heaven and earth."


II. I will now pass on to the second thing which I promised to consider.
_What is the present position_ of the whole family in heaven and earth?

The family to which I am directing the attention of my readers this day
is divided into two great parts. Each part has its own residence or
dwelling-place. Part of the family is in heaven, and part is on earth.
For the present the two parts are entirely separated from one another.
But they form one body in the sight of God, though resident in two
places; and their union is sure to take place one day.

Two places, be it remembered, and two only, contain the family of God.
The Bible tells us of no third habitation. There is no such thing as
purgatory, whatever some Christians may think fit to say. There is no
house of purifying, training, or probation for those who are not true
Christians when they die. Oh no! There are but two parts of the
family,--the part that is seen and the part that is unseen, the part
that is in "heaven" and the part that is on "earth." The members of the
family that are not in heaven are on earth, and those that are not on
earth are in heaven. Two parts, and two only! Two places, and two only!
Let this never be forgotten.

Some of God's family are safe _in heaven_. They are at rest in that
place which the Lord Jesus expressly calls "Paradise." (Luke xxiii. 43.)
They have finished their course. They have fought their battle. They
have done their appointed work. They have learned their lessons. They
have carried their cross. They have passed through the waves of this
troublesome world and reached the harbour. Little as we know about them,
we know that they are happy. They are no longer troubled by sin and
temptation. They have said good-bye for ever to poverty and anxiety, to
pain and sickness, to sorrow and tears. They are with Christ Himself,
who loved them and gave Himself for them, and in His company they must
needs be happy. (Phil. i. 23.) They have nothing to fear in looking back
to the past. They have nothing to dread in looking forward to things to
come. Three things only are lacking to make their happiness complete.
These three are the second advent of Christ in glory, the resurrection
of their own bodies, and the gathering together of all believers. And of
these three things they are sure.

Some of God's family are still _upon earth_. They are scattered to and
fro in the midst of a wicked world, a few in one place and a few in
another. All are more or less occupied in the same way, according to the
measure of their grace. All are running a race, doing a work, warring a
warfare, carrying a cross, striving against sin, resisting the devil,
crucifying the flesh, struggling against the world, witnessing for
Christ, mourning over their own hearts, hearing, reading, and praying,
however feebly, for the life of their souls. Each is often disposed to
think no cross so heavy as his own, no work so difficult, no heart so
hard. But each and all hold on their way,--a wonder to the ignorant
world around them, and often a wonder to themselves.

But, however divided God's family may be at present in dwelling-place
and local habitation, it is still one family. Both parts of it are still
one in character, one in possessions, and one in relation to God. The
part in heaven has not so much superiority over the part on earth as at
first sight may appear. The difference between the two is only one of
degree.

(_a_) Both parts of the family love the same Saviour, and delight in the
same perfect will of God. But the part on earth loves with much
imperfection and infirmity, and lives by faith, not by sight.--The part
in heaven loves without weakness, or doubt, or distraction. It walks by
sight and not by faith, and sees what it once believed.

(_b_) Both parts of the family are saints. But the saints on earth are
often poor weary pilgrims, who find the "flesh lusting against the
spirit and the spirit lusting against the flesh, so that they cannot do
the things they would." (Gal. v. 17.) They live in the midst of an evil
world, and are often sick of themselves and of the sin they see around
them.--The saints in heaven, on the contrary, are delivered from the
world, the flesh, and the devil, and enjoy a glorious liberty. They are
called "the spirits of just men made perfect." (Heb. xii. 23.)

(_c_) Both parts of the family are alike God's children. But the
children in heaven have learned all their lessons, have finished their
appointed tasks, have begun an eternal holiday.--The children on earth
are still at school. They are daily learning wisdom, though slowly and
with much trouble, and often needing to be reminded of their past
lessons by chastisement and the rod. Their holidays are yet to come.

(_d_) Both parts of the family are alike God's soldiers. But the
soldiers on earth are yet militant. Their warfare is not accomplished.
Their fight is not over. They need every day to put on the whole armour
of God.--The soldiers in heaven are all triumphant. No enemy can hurt
them now. No fiery dart can reach them. Helmet and shield may both be
laid aside. They may at last say to the sword of the Spirit, "Rest and
be still." They may at length sit down, and need not to watch and stand
on their guard.

(2) Last, but not least, both parts of the family are alike safe and
secure. Wonderful as this may sound, it is true. Christ cares as much
for His members on earth as His members in heaven. You might as well
think to pluck the stars out of heaven, as to pluck one saint, however
feeble, out of Christ's hand. Both parts of the family are alike secured
by "an everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure." (2 Sam.
xxiii. 5.) The members on earth, through the burden of the flesh and the
dimness of their faith, may neither see, nor know, nor feel their own
safety. But they are safe, though they may not see it. The whole family
is "kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation." (1 Peter i.
5.) The members yet on the road are as secure as the members who have
got home. Not one shall be found missing at the last day. The words of
the Christian poet shall be found strictly true:--

    "More happy, but not more secure,
    The glorified spirits in heaven."

Before I leave this part of my subject, I ask every reader of this paper
to understand thoroughly the present position of God's family, and to
form a just estimate of it. Learn not to measure its numbers or its
privileges by what you see with your eyes. You see only a small body of
believers in this present time. But you must not forget that a great
company has got safe to heaven already, and that when all are assembled
at the last day they will be "a multitude which no man can number."
(Rev. vii. 9.) You only see that part of the family which is struggling
on earth. You must never forget that the greater part of the family has
got home and is resting in heaven.--You see the militant part, but not
the triumphant. You see the part that is carrying the cross, but not the
part which is safe in Paradise. The family of God is far more rich and
glorious than you suppose. Believe me, it is no small thing to belong to
the "whole family in heaven and earth."


III. I will now pass on to the last thing which I promised to
consider.--_What are the future prospects_ of the whole family in heaven
and earth?

The future prospects of a family! What a vast amount of uncertainty
these words open up when we look at any family now in the world! How
little we can tell of the things coming on any of us! What a mercy that
we do not know the sorrows and trials and separations through which our
beloved children may have to pass, when we have left the world! It is a
mercy that we do not know "what a day may bring forth," and a far
greater mercy that we do not know what may happen in twenty years.
(Prov. xxvii. 1.) Alas, foreknowledge of the future prospects of our
belongings would spoil many a family gathering, and fill the whole party
with gloom!

Think how many a fine boy, who is now the delight of his parents, will
by and by walk in the prodigal's footsteps, and never return home! Think
how many a fair daughter, the joy of a mother's heart, will follow the
bent of her self-will after a few years, and insist on some miserably
mistaken marriage! Think how disease and pain will often lay low the
loveliest of a family circle, and make her life a burden and weariness
to herself, if not to others! Think of the endless breaches and
divisions arising out of money matters! Alas, there is many a life-long
quarrel about a few pounds, between those who once played together in
the same nursery! Think of these things. The "future prospects" of many
a family which meets together every Christmas are a solemn and serious
subject. Hundreds, to say the least, are gathering together for the last
time: when they part, they will never meet again.

But, thank God, there is one great family whose "prospects" are very
different. It is the family of which I am speaking in this paper, and
commending to your attention. The future prospects of the family of God
are not uncertain. They are good, and only good,--happy, and only happy.
Listen to me, and I will try to set them in order before you.

(_a_) The members of God's family shall all be _brought safe home_ one
day. Here upon earth they may be scattered, tried, tossed with tempests,
and bowed down with afflictions. But not one of them shall perish. (John
x. 28.) The weakest lamb shall not be left to perish in the wilderness:
the feeblest child shall not be missing when the muster-roll is brought
out at the last day. In spite of the world, the flesh, and the devil,
the whole family shall get home. "If, when we were enemies, we were
reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled,
we shall be saved by His life." (Rom. v. 10.)

(_b_) The members of God's family _shall all have glorious bodies_ one
day. When the Lord Jesus Christ comes the second time, the dead saints
shall all be raised and the living shall all be changed. They shall no
longer have a vile mortal body, full of weaknesses and infirmities: they
shall have a body like that of their risen Lord, without the slightest
liability to sickness and pain. They shall no longer be clogged and
hindered by an aching frame, when they want to serve God: they shall be
able to serve Him night and day without weariness, and to attend upon
Him without distraction. The former things will have passed away. That
word will be fulfilled, "I make all things new." (Rev. xxi. 5.)

(_c_) The members of God's family shall all be _gathered into one
company_ one day. It matters nothing where they have lived or where they
have died. They may have been separated from one another both by time
and space. One may have lived in tents, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
and another travelled by railway in our own day. One may have laid his
bones in an Australian desert, and another may have been buried in an
English churchyard. It makes no difference. All shall be gathered
together from north and south, and east and west, and meet in one happy
assembly, to part no more. The earthly partings of God's family are only
for a few days. Their meeting is for eternity. It matters little where
we live. It is a time of scattering now, and not of gathering. It
matters little where we die. All graves are equally near to Paradise.
But it does matter much whether we belong to God's family. If we do we
are sure to meet again at last.

(_d_) The members of God's family shall all be _united in mind and
judgment_ one day. They are not so now about many little things. About
the things needful to salvation there is a marvellous unity among them.
About many speculative points in religion, about forms of worship and
Church government, they often sadly disagree. But there shall be no
disagreement among them one day. Ephraim shall no longer vex Judah, nor
Judah Ephraim. Churchmen shall no more quarrel with Dissenters, nor
Dissenters with Churchmen. Partial knowledge and dim vision shall be at
an end for ever. Divisions and separations, misunderstandings and
misconstructions, shall be buried and forgotten. As there shall only be
one language, so there shall only be one opinion. At last, after six
thousand years of strife and jangling, perfect unity and harmony shall
be found. A family shall at length be shown to angels and men in which
all are of one mind.

(_e_) The members of God's family shall all be _perfected in holiness_
one day. They are not literally perfect now, although "complete in
Christ." (Col. ii. 10.) Though born again, and renewed after the image
of Christ, they offend and fall short in many things. (James iii, 2.)
None know it better than they do themselves. It is their grief and
sorrow that they do not love God more heartily and serve Him more
faithfully. But they shall be completely freed from all corruption one
day. They shall rise again at Christ's second appearing without any of
the infirmities which cleave to them in their lives. Not a single evil
temper or corrupt inclination shall be found in them. They shall be
presented by their Head to the Father, without spot, or wrinkle, or any
such thing,--perfectly holy and without blemish,--fair as the moon, and
clear as the sun. (Eph. v. 27; Cant. v. 10.) Grace, even now, is a
beautiful thing, when it lives, and shines, and flourishes in the midst
of imperfection. But how much more beautiful will grace appear when it
is seen pure, unmixed, unmingled, and alone! And it shall be seen so
when Christ comes to be glorified in His saints at the last day.

(_f_) Last, but not least, the members of God's family shall all be
_eternally provided for_ one day. When the affairs of this sinful world
are finally wound up and settled, there shall be an everlasting portion
for all the sons and daughters of the Lord almighty. Not even the
weakest of them shall be overlooked and forgotten. There shall be
something for everyone, according to his measure. The smallest vessel of
grace, as well as the greatest, shall be filled to the brim with glory.
The precise nature of that glory and reward it would be folly to pretend
to describe. It is a thing which eye has not seen, nor mind of man
conceived. Enough for us to know that each member of God's family, when
he awakes up after His Master's likeness, shall be "satisfied." (Psalm
xvii. 15.) Enough, above all, to know that their joy, and glory, and
reward shall be for ever. What they receive in the day of the Lord they
will never lose. The inheritance reserved for them, when they come of
age, is "incorruptible, undefiled, and fadeth not away." (1 Peter i. 4.)

These prospects of God's family are great realities. They are not vague
shadowy talk of man's invention. They are real true things, and will be
seen as such before long. They deserve your serious consideration.
Examine them well.

Look round the families of earth with which you are acquainted, the
richest, the greatest, the noblest, the happiest. Where will you find
one among them all which can show prospects to compare with those of
which you have just heard. The earthly riches, in many a case, will be
gone in a hundred years hence. The noble blood, in many a case, will not
prevent some disgraceful deed staining the family name. The happiness,
in many a case, will be found hollow and seeming. Few, indeed, are the
homes which have not a secret sorrow, or "a skeleton in the closet."
Whether for present possessions or future prospects, there is no family
so well off as "the whole family in heaven and earth." Whether you look
at what they have now, or will have hereafter, there is no family like
the family of God.


My task is done. My paper is drawing to a close. It only remains to
close it with a few words of practical application. Give me your
attention for the last time. May God bless what I am going to say to the
good of your soul!

(1) I ask you a plain question. Take it with you to every family
gathering which you join at any season of the year. Take it with you,
and amidst all your happiness make time for thinking about it. It is a
simple question, but a solemn one,--_Do you yet belong to the family of
God_?

To the family of God, remember! This is the point of my question. It is
no answer to say that you are a Protestant, or a Churchman, or a
Dissenter. I want to hear of something more and better than that. I want
you to have some soul-satisfying and soul-saving religion,--a religion
that will give you peace while you live, and hope when you die. To have
such peace and hope you must be something more than a Protestant, or a
Churchman, or a Dissenter. You must belong to "the family of God."
Thousands around you do not belong to it, I can well believe. But that
is no reason why you should not.

If you do not yet belong to God's family, I invite you this day to join
it without delay. Open your eyes to see the value of your soul, the
sinfulness of sin, the holiness of God, the danger of your present
condition, the absolute necessity of a mighty change. Open your eyes to
see these things, and repent this very day.--Open your eyes to see the
great Head of God's family, even Christ Jesus, waiting to save your
soul. See how He has loved you, lived for you, died for you, risen again
for you, and obtained complete redemption for you. See how He offers you
free, full, immediate pardon, if you will believe in Him. Open your eyes
to see these things. Seek Christ at once. Come and believe on Him, and
commit your soul to His keeping this very day.

I know nothing of your family or past history. I know not where you go
to spend your leisure weeks, or what company you are going to be in. But
I am bold to say, that if you join the family of God you will find it
the best and happiest family in the world.

(2) If you really belong to the whole family in heaven and earth, count
up your privileges, and _learn to be more thankful_. Think what a mercy
it is to have something which the world can neither give nor take
away,--something which makes you independent of sickness or
poverty,--something which is your own for evermore. The old family
fireside will soon be cold and tenantless. The old family gatherings
will soon be past and gone for ever. The loving faces we now delight to
gaze on are rapidly leaving us. The cheerful voices which now welcome us
will soon be silent in the grave. But, thank God, if we belong to
Christ's family there is a better gathering yet to come. Let us often
think of it, and be thankful!

The family gathering of all God's people will make amends for all that
their religion now costs them. A meeting where none are missing,--a
meeting where there are no gaps and empty places,--a meeting where there
are no tears,--a meeting where there is no parting,--such a meeting as
this is worth a fight and a struggle. And such a meeting is yet to come
to "the whole family in heaven and earth."

In the meantime let us strive to live worthy of the family to which we
belong. Let us labour to do nothing that may cause our Father's house to
be spoken against. Let us endeavour to make our Master's name beautiful
by our temper, conduct, and conversation. Let us love as brethren, and
abhor all quarrels. Let us behave as if the honour of "the family"
depended on our behaviour.

So living, by the grace of God, we shall make our calling and election
sure, both to ourselves and others. So living, we may hope to have an
abundant entrance, and to enter harbour in full sail, whenever we change
earth for heaven. (2 Peter i. 11.) So living, we shall recommend our
Father's family to others, and perhaps by God's blessing incline them to
say, "We will go with you."



XVII


OUR HOME!

     "_Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations._"

     Psalm xc. 1.


There are two reasons why the text which heads this paper should ring in
our hearts with special power. It is the first verse of a deeply solemn
Psalm,--the first bar of a wondrous piece of spiritual music. How others
feel when they read the ninetieth Psalm I cannot tell. It always makes
me lean back in my chair and think.

For one thing, this ninetieth Psalm is the only Psalm composed by
"Moses, the man of God."[12] It expresses that holy man's feelings, as
he saw the whole generation whom he had led forth from Egypt, dying in
the wilderness. Year after year he saw that fearful judgment fulfilling,
which Israel brought on itself by unbelief:--"Your carcases shall fall
in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your
whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured
against Me, doubtless ye shall not come into the land." (Num. xiv. 29.)
One after another he saw the heads of the families whom he had led forth
from Egypt, laying their bones in the desert. For forty long years he
saw the strong, the swift, the wise, the tender, the beautiful, who had
crossed the Red Sea with him in triumph, cut down and withering like
grass. For forty years he saw his companions continually changing,
consuming, and passing away. Who can wonder that he should say, "Lord,
Thou art our dwelling-place." We are all pilgrims and strangers upon
earth, and there is none abiding. "Lord, Thou art our home."

  12: I am quite aware that I have no direct authority for this
  statement, except the prefatory heading at the beginning of the
  Psalm. However ancient those headings may be, it is agreed among
  learned men that they were not given by inspiration, and must not be
  regarded as a part of God's Word. There is, nevertheless, a curious
  amount of agreement among critics, that in the case of this
  ninetieth Psalm the tradition about its authorship is not without
  foundation.

For another thing, the ninetieth Psalm forms part of the Burial Service
of the Church of England. Whatever fault men may find with the
Prayer-book, I think no one can deny the singular beauty of the Burial
Service. Beautiful are the texts which it puts into the minister's mouth
as he meets the coffin at the churchyard gate, and leads the mourners
into God's house. Beautiful is the chapter from the first Epistle to the
Corinthians about the resurrection of the body. Beautiful are the
sentences and prayers appointed to be read as the body is laid in its
long home. But specially beautiful, to my mind, are the Psalms which are
selected for reading when the mourners have just taken their places in
church. I know nothing which sounds so soothing, solemnizing,
heart-touching, and moving to man's spirit, at that trying moment, as
the wondrous utterance of the old inspired law-giver: "Lord, Thou hast
been our dwelling-place." "Lord, Thou art our home."

I want to draw from these words two thoughts that may do the readers of
this paper some good. An English home is famous all over the world for
its happiness and comfort. It is a little bit of heaven left upon earth.
But even an English home is not for ever. The family nest is sure to be
taken down, and its inmates are sure to be scattered. Bear with me for
a few short minutes, while I try to set before you the best, truest, and
happiest home.


I. The first thought that I will offer you is this:--I will show you
_what the world is_.

It is a beautiful world in many respects, I freely admit. Its seas and
rivers, its sunrises and sunsets, its mountains and valleys, its
harvests and its forests, its fruits and its flowers, its days and its
nights, all, all are beautiful in their way. Cold and unfeeling must
that heart be which never finds a day in the year when it can admire
anything in nature! But beautiful as the world is, there are many things
in it to remind us that it is not home. It is an inn, a tent, a
tabernacle, a lodging, a training school. But it is not home.

(_a_) It is a _changing_ world. All around us is continually moving,
altering, and passing away. Families, properties, landlords, tenants,
farmers, labourers, tradesmen, all are continually on the move. To find
the same name in the same dwelling for three generations running is so
uncommon, that it is the exception and not the rule. A world so full of
change cannot be called home.

(_b_) It is a _trying and disappointing_ world. Who ever lives to be
fifty years old and does not find to his cost that it is so? Trials in
married life and trials in single life,--trials in children and trials
in brothers and sisters,--trials in money matters and trials in
health,--how many they are! Their name is legion. And not the tenth part
of them perhaps ever comes to light. Few indeed are the families which
have not "a skeleton in the closet." A world so full of trial and
disappointment cannot be called home.

(_c_) It is a _dying_ world. Death is continually about us and near us,
and meets us at every turn. Few are the family gatherings, when
Christmas comes round, in which there are not some empty chairs and
vacant places. Few are the men and women, past thirty, who could not
number a long list of names, deeply cut for ever in their hearts, but
names of beloved ones now dead and gone. Where are our fathers and
mothers? Where are our ministers and teachers? Where are our brothers
and sisters? Where are our husbands and wives? Where are our neighbours
and friends? Where are the old grey-headed worshippers, whose reverent
faces we remember so well, when we first went to God's house? Where are
the boys and girls we played with when we went to school? How many must
reply, "Dead, dead, dead! The daisies are growing over their graves, and
we are left alone." Surely a world so full of death can never be called
a home.

(_d_) It is a _scattering and dividing_ world. Families are continually
breaking up, and going in different directions. How rarely do the
members of a family ever meet together again, after the surviving parent
is laid in the grave! The band of union seems snapped, and nothing welds
it again. The cement seems withdrawn from the parts of the building, and
the whole principle of cohesion is lost. How often some miserable
squabble about trinkets, or some wretched wrangle about money, makes a
breach that is never healed, and, like a crack in china, though riveted,
can never be quite cured! Rarely indeed do those who played in the same
nursery lie down at length in the same churchyard, or keep peace with
one another till they die. A world so full of division can never be
home.

These are ancient things. It is useless to be surprised at them. They
are the bitter fruit of sin, and the sorrowful consequence of the fall.
Change, trial, death, and division, all entered into the world when Adam
and Eve transgressed. We must not murmur. We must not fret. We must not
complain. We must accept the situation in which we find ourselves. We
must each do our best to lighten the sorrows, and increase the comforts
of our position. We must steadily resolve to make the best of everybody
and everything around us. But we must never, never, never, forget that
the world is not home.

Are you young? Does all around and before you seem bright, and cheerful,
and happy? Do you secretly think in your own mind that I take too gloomy
a view of the world? Take care. You will not say so by and by. Be wise
betimes. Learn to moderate your expectations. Depend on it, the less you
expect from people and things here below the happier you will be.

Are you prosperous in the world? Have death, and sickness, and
disappointment, and poverty, and family troubles, passed over your door
up to this time, and not come in? Are you secretly saying to yourself,
"Nothing can hurt me much. I shall die quietly in my bed, and see no
sorrow." Take care. You are not yet in harbour. A sudden storm of
unexpected trouble may make you change your note. Set not your affection
on things below. Hold them with a very loose hand, and be ready to
surrender them at a moment's notice. Use your prosperity well while you
have it; but lean not all your weight on it, lest it break suddenly and
pierce your hand.

Have you a happy home? Are you going to spend Christmas round a family
hearth, where sickness, and death, and poverty, and partings, and
quarrellings, have never yet been seen? Be thankful for it: oh, be
thankful for it! A really happy Christian home is the nearest approach
to heaven on earth. But take care. This state of things will not last
for ever. It must have an end; and if you are wise, you will never
forget that--"the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have
wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they
wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they
that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as
not abusing it; for the fashion of this world passeth away." (1 Cor.
vii. 29--31.)


II. The second thought that I will offer you is this: I will show you
_what Christ is, even in this life, to true Christians_.

Heaven, beyond doubt, is the final home in which a true Christian will
dwell at last. Towards that he is daily travelling: nearer to that he is
daily coming. "We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were
dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands,
eternal in the heavens." (2 Cor. v. 1.) Body and soul united once more,
renewed, beautified, and perfected, will live for ever in the Father's
great house in heaven. To that home we have not yet come. We are not yet
in heaven.

But is there meanwhile no home for our souls? Is there no spiritual
dwelling-place to which we may continually repair in this desolate
world, and, repairing to it, find rest and peace? Thank God, there is no
difficulty in finding an answer to that question. There is a home
provided for all labouring and heavy-laden souls, and that home is
Christ. To know Christ by faith, to live the life of faith in Him, to
abide in Him daily by faith, to flee to Him in every storm of
conscience, to use Him as our refuge in every day of trouble, to employ
Him as our Priest, Confessor, Absolver, and spiritual Director, every
morning and evening in our lives,--this is to be at home spiritually,
even before we die. To all sinners of mankind who by faith use Christ in
this fashion, Christ is in the highest sense a dwelling-place. They can
say with truth, "We are pilgrims and strangers on earth, and yet we have
a home."

Of all the emblems and figures under which Christ is set before man, I
know few more cheering and comforting than the one before us. Home is
one of the sweetest, tenderest words in the English language. Home is
the place with which our pleasantest thoughts are closely bound up. All
that the best and happiest home is to its inmates, that Christ is to
the soul that believes on Him. In the midst of a dying, changing,
disappointing world, a true Christian has always something which no
power on earth can take away. Morning, noon, and night, he has near him
a living Refuge,--a living home for his soul. You may rob him of life,
and liberty, and money; you may take from him health, and lands, and
house, and friends; but, do what you will, you cannot rob him of his
home. Like those humblest of God's creatures which carry their shells on
their backs, wherever they are, so the Christian, wherever he goes,
carries his home. No wonder that holy Baxter sings,--

    "What if in prison I must dwell,
       May I not then converse with Thee?
     Save me from sin, Thy wrath, and hell,--
       Call me Thy child, and I am free!"

(_a_) No home like Christ! In Him there is _room for all_, and room for
all sorts. None are unwelcome guests and visitors, and none are refused
admission. The door is always on the latch, and never bolted. The best
robe, the fatted calf, the ring, the shoes are always ready for all
comers. What though in time past you have been the vilest of the vile, a
servant of sin, an enemy of all righteousness, a Pharisee of Pharisees,
a Sadducee of Sadducees, a publican of publicans? It matters nothing:
there is yet hope. All may be pardoned, forgiven, and forgotten. There
is a home and refuge where your soul may be admitted this very day. That
home is Christ. "Come unto Me," He cries: "Knock, and it shall be opened
unto you." (Matt. xi. 28; vii. 7.)

(_b_) No home like Christ! In Him there is boundless and unwearied
_mercy for all_, even after admission. None are rejected and cast forth
again after probation, because they are too weak and bad to stay. Oh,
no! Whom He receives, them He always keeps. Where He begins, there He
makes a good end. Whom He admits, them He at once fully justifies. Whom
He justifies, them He also sanctifies. Whom He sanctifies, them He also
glorifies. No hopeless characters are ever sent away from His house. No
men or women are ever found too bad to heal and renew. Nothing is too
hard for Him to do who made the world out of nothing. He who is Himself
the Home, hath said it, and will stand to it: "Him that cometh unto Me,
I will in no wise cast out." (John vi. 37.)

(_c_) No home like Christ! In Him there is unvarying _kindness_,
_patience_, _and gentle dealing for all_. He is not "an austere man,"
but "meek and lowly in heart." (Matt. xi. 29.) None who apply to Him are
ever treated roughly, or made to feel that their company is not welcome.
A feast of fat things is always provided for them. The holy Spirit is
placed in their hearts, and dwells in them as in a temple. Leading,
guiding, and instruction are daily provided for them. If they err, they
are brought back into the right way; if they fall, they are raised
again; if they transgress wilfully, they are chastised to make them
better. But the rule of the whole house is love.

(_d_) No home like Christ! In Him there is _no change_. From youth to
age He loves all who come to Him, and is never tired of doing them good.
Earthly homes, alas, are full of fickleness and uncertainty. Favour is
deceitful. Courtesy and civility are often on men's lips, while inwardly
they are weary of your company and wish you were gone. You seldom know
how long your presence is welcome, or to what extent your friends really
care to see you. But it is not so with Christ. "He is the same
yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." (Heb. xiii. 8.)

(_e_) No home like Christ! Communion once begun with Him shall _never be
broken off_. Once joined to the Lord by faith, you are joined to Him for
an endless eternity. Earthly homes always come to an end sooner or
later: the dear old furniture is sold and dispersed; the dear old heads
of the family are gathered to their fathers; the dear old nest is pulled
to pieces. But it is not so with Christ. Faith will at length be
swallowed up in sight: hope shall at last be changed into certainty. We
shall see one day with our eyes, and no longer need to believe. We shall
be moved from the lower chamber to the upper, and from the outer court
to the Holy of Holies. But once in Christ, we shall never be out of
Christ. Once let our name be placed in the Lamb's book of life, and we
belong to a home which shall continue for evermore.

(1) And now, before I conclude, let me ask every reader of this paper a
plain question. _Have you got a home for your soul?_ Is it safe? Is it
pardoned? Is it justified? Is it prepared to meet God? With all my heart
I wish you a happy home. But remember my question. Amidst the greetings
and salutations of home, amidst the meetings and partings, amidst the
laughter and merriment, amidst the joys and sympathies and affections,
think, think of my question,--Have you got a home for your soul?

Our earthly homes will soon be closed for ever. Time hastens on with
giant strides. Old age and death will be upon us before many years have
passed away. Oh, seek an abiding home for the better part of you,--the
part that never dies! Before it be too late seek a home for your soul.

Seek Christ, that you may be safe. Woe to the man who is found outside
the ark when the flood of God's wrath bursts at length on a sinful
world!--Seek Christ, that you may be happy. None have a real right to be
cheerful, merry, light-hearted, and at ease, excepting those who have
got a home for their souls. Once more I say, Seek Christ without delay.

(2) If Christ is the home of your soul, _accept a friendly caution_.
Beware of being ashamed of your home in any place or company.

The man who is ashamed of the home where he was born, the parents that
brought him up when a baby, the brothers and sisters that played with
him,--that man, as a general rule, may be set down as a mean and
despicable being. But what shall we say of the man who is ashamed of Him
who died for him on the cross? What shall we say of the man who is
ashamed of his religion, ashamed of his Master, ashamed of his home?

Take care that you are not that man. Whatever others around you please
to think, do you never be ashamed of being a Christian. Let them laugh,
and mock, and jest, and scoff, if they will. They will not scoff in the
hour of death and in the day of judgment. Hoist your flag; show your
colours; nail them to the mast. Of drinking, gambling, lying, swearing,
Sabbath-breaking, idleness, pride, you may well be ashamed. Of
Bible-reading, praying, and belonging to Christ, you have no cause to be
ashamed at all. Let those laugh that win. A good soldier is never
ashamed of his Queen's colours, and his uniform. Take care that you are
never ashamed of your Master. Never be ashamed of your home.

(3) If Christ is the home of your soul, _accept a piece of friendly
advice_. Let nothing tempt you to stray away from home.

The world and the devil will often try hard to make you drop your
religion for a little season, and walk with them. Your own flesh will
whisper that there is no danger in going a little with them, and that it
can do you no mighty harm. Take care, I say: take care when you are
tempted in this fashion. Take care of looking back, like Lot's wife.
Forsake not your home.

There are pleasures in sin no doubt, but they are not real and
satisfactory. There is an excitement and short-lived enjoyment in the
world's ways, beyond all question, but it is joy that leaves a bitter
taste behind it. Oh, no! wisdom's ways alone are ways of pleasantness,
and wisdom's paths alone are paths of peace. Cleave to them strictly
and turn not aside. Follow the Lamb whithersoever He goes. Stick to
Christ and His rule, through evil report and good report. The longer you
live the happier you will find His service: the more ready will you be
to sing, in the highest sense, "There is no place like home."

(4) If Christ is the home of your soul, _accept a hint about your duty_.
Mind that you take every opportunity of telling others about your
happiness. Tell them THAT, wherever you are. Tell them that you have a
happy home.

Tell them, if they will hear you, that you find Christ a good Master,
and Christ's service a happy service. Tell them that His yoke is easy,
and His burden is light. Tell them that, whatever the devil may say, the
rules of your home are not grievous, and that your Master pays far
better wages than the world does! Try to do a little good wherever you
are. Try to enlist more inmates for your happy home. Say to your friends
and relatives, if they will listen, as one did of old, "Come with us,
and we will do you good; for the Lord hath spoken good concerning
Israel." (Numbers x. 29.)



XVIII


HEIRS OF GOD

     "_As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of
     God._

     "_For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear;
     but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry,
     Abba, Father._

     "_The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we
     are the children of God_:

     "_And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs
     with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be
     also glorified together._"--(Romans viii. 14--17.)


The people of whom St. Paul speaks in the verses before our eyes are the
richest people upon earth. It must needs be so. They are called "heirs
of God, and joint heirs with Christ."

The inheritance of these people is the only inheritance _really worth
having_. All others are unsatisfying and disappointing. They bring with
them many cares. They cannot cure an aching heart, or lighten a heavy
conscience. They cannot keep off family troubles. They cannot prevent
sicknesses, bereavements, separations, and deaths. But there is no
disappointment among the "heirs of God."

The inheritance =I= speak of is the only inheritance _which can be kept
for ever_. All others must be left in the hour of death, if they have
not been taken away before. The owners of millions of pounds can carry
nothing with them beyond the grave. But it is not so with the "heirs of
God." Their inheritance is eternal.

The inheritance I speak of is the only inheritance _which is within
every body's reach_. Most men can never obtain riches and greatness,
though they labour hard for them all their lives. But glory, honour, and
eternal life, are offered to every man freely, who is willing to accept
them on God's terms. "Whosoever will," may be an "heir of God, and joint
heir with Christ."

If any reader of this paper wishes to have a portion of this
inheritance, let him know that he must be a member of that one family on
earth to which it belongs, and that is the family of all true
Christians. You must become one of God's children on earth, if you
desire to have glory in heaven. I write this paper in order to persuade
you to become a child of God this day, if you are not one already. I
write it to persuade you to make sure work that you are one, if at
present you have only a vague hope, and nothing more. None but true
Christians are the children of God! None but the children of God are
heirs of God! Give me your attention, while I try to unfold to you these
things, and to show the lessons contained in the verses which head this
page.


    I. Let me show _the relation of all true Christians to God. They are
    "sons of God._"

    II. Let me show _the special evidences of this relation_. True
    Christians are "_led by the Spirit_." They have "_the Spirit of
    adoption_." They have the "_witness of the Spirit_." They "_suffer
    with Christ_."

    III. Let me show _the privileges of this relation_. True Christians
    are "_heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ_."


I. First let me show _the relation of all true Christians to God_. They
are God's "Sons."

I know no higher and more comfortable word that could have been chosen.
To be servants of God,--to be subjects, soldiers, disciples,
friends,--all these are excellent titles; but to be the "sons" of God is
a step higher still. What says the Scripture? "The servant abideth not
in the house for ever, but the Son abideth ever." (John viii. 35.)

To be son of the rich and noble in this world,--to be son of the princes
and kings of the earth,--this is commonly reckoned a great temporal
advantage and privilege. But to be a son of the King of kings, and Lord
of lords,--to be a son of the High and Holy One, who inhabiteth
eternity,--this is something far higher. And yet this is the portion of
every true Christian.

The son of an earthly parent looks naturally to his father for
affection, maintenance, provision, and education. There is a home always
open to him. There is a love which, generally speaking, no bad conduct
can completely extinguish. All these are things belonging even to the
sonship of this world. Think then how great is the privilege of that
poor sinner of mankind who can say of God, "He is my Father."

But HOW can sinful men like ourselves become sons of God? When do we
enter into this glorious relationship? We are not the sons of God by
nature. We were not born so when we came into the world. No man has a
natural right to look to God as his Father. It is a vile heresy to say
that he has. Men are said to be born poets and painters,--but men are
never born sons of God. The Epistle to the Ephesians tells us, "Ye were
by nature children of wrath, even as others." (Ephes. ii. 3.) The
Epistle of St. John says, "The children of God are manifest, and the
children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God."
(1 John iii. 10.) The Catechism of the Church of England wisely follows
the doctrine of the Bible, and teaches us to say, "By nature we are
born in sin, and children of wrath." Yes: we are all rather children of
the devil, than children of God! Sin is indeed hereditary, and runs in
the family of Adam. Grace is anything but hereditary, and holy men have
not, as a matter of course, holy sons. How then and when does this
mighty change and translation come upon men? When and in what manner do
sinners become the "sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty?" (2 Cor vi.
18.)

Men become sons of God in the day that the Spirit leads them to believe
on Jesus Christ for salvation, and not before.[13] What says the Epistle
to the Galatians? "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ
Jesus." (Gal. iii. 26.) What says the first Epistle to the Corinthians?
"Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus." (1 Cor. i. 30.) What says the Gospel of
John? "As many as received Christ, to them gave He power (or privilege)
to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name." (John
i. 12.) Faith unites the sinner to the Son of God, and makes him one of
His members. Faith makes him one of those in whom the Father sees no
spot, and is well-pleased. Faith marries him to the beloved Son of God,
and entitles him to be reckoned among the sons. Faith gives him
"fellowship with the Father and the Son." (1 John i. 3.) Faith grafts
him into the Father's family, and opens up to him a room in the Father's
house. Faith gives him life instead of death, and makes him, instead of
being a servant, a son. Show me a man that has this faith, and, whatever
be his church or denomination, I say that he is a son of God.

  13: The reader will of course understand that I am not speaking now
  of children who die in infancy, or of persons who live and die
  idiots.

This is one of those points we should never forget. You and I know
nothing of a man's sonship _until he believes_. No doubt the sons of God
are foreknown and chosen from all eternity, and predestinated to
adoption. But, remember, it is not till they are called in due time, and
believe,--it is not till then that you and I can be certain they are
sons. It is not till they repent and believe, that the angels of God
rejoice over them. The angels cannot read the book of God's election:
they know not who are "His hidden ones" in the earth. (Ps. lxxxiii. 3.)
They rejoice over no man till he believes. But when they see some poor
sinner repenting and believing, then there is joy among them,--joy that
one more brand is plucked from the burning, and one more son and heir
born again to the Father in heaven. (Luke xv. 10.) But once more I say,
you and I know nothing certain about a man's sonship to God _until he
believes on Christ_.

I warn you to beware of the delusive notion that all men and women are
alike children of God, whether they have faith in Christ or not. It is a
wild theory which many are clinging to in these days, but one which
cannot be proved out of the Word of God. It is a perilous dream, with
which many are trying to soothe themselves, but one from which there
will be a fearful waking up at the last day.

That God in a certain sense is the universal Father of all mankind, I do
not pretend to deny. He is the Great First Cause of all things. He is
the Creator of all mankind, and in Him alone, all men, whether
Christians or heathens, "live and move and have their being." All this
is unquestionably true. In this sense Paul told the Athenians, a poet of
their own had truly said, "we are His offspring." (Acts xvii. 28.) But
this sonship gives no man a title to heaven. The sonship which we have
by creation is one which belongs to stones, trees, beasts, or even to
the devils, as much as to us. (Job i. 6.)

That God loves all mankind with a love of pity and compassion, I do not
deny. "His tender mercies are over all His works."--"He is not willing
that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."--"He
has no pleasure in the death of him that dieth." All this I admit to the
full. In this sense our Lord Jesus tells us, "God so loved the world,
that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him
should not perish, but have eternal life." (Ps. cxlv. 9; 2 Peter iii. 9;
Ezek. xviii. 32; John iii. 16.)

But that God is a reconciled and pardoning Father to any but the members
of His Son Jesus Christ, and that any are members of Jesus Christ who do
not believe on Him for salvation,--this is a doctrine which I utterly
deny. The holiness and justice of God are both against the doctrine.
They make it impossible for sinful men to approach God, excepting
through the Mediator. They tell us that God out of Christ is "a
consuming fire." (Heb. xii. 29.) The whole system of the new Testament
is against the doctrine. That system teaches that no man can claim
interest in Christ unless he will receive Him as his Mediator, and
believe on Him as his Saviour. Where there is no faith in Christ it is a
dangerous error to say that a man may take comfort in God as his Father.
God is a reconciled Father to none but the members of Christ.

It is unreasonable to talk of the view I am now upholding as
narrow-minded and harsh. The Gospel sets an open door before every man.
Its promises are wide and full. Its invitations are earnest and tender.
Its requirements are simple and clear. "Only believe on the Lord Jesus
Christ, and, whosoever thou art, thou shalt be saved." But to say that
proud men, who will not bow their necks to the easy yoke of Christ, and
worldly men who are determined to have their own way and their sins,--to
say that such men have a right to claim an interest in Christ, and a
right to call themselves sons of God, is to say what never can be proved
from Scripture. God offers to be their Father; but He does it on certain
distinct terms:--they must draw near to Him through Christ. Christ
offers to be their Saviour; but in doing it He makes one simple
requirement:--they must commit their souls to Him, and give Him their
hearts. They refuse the _terms_, and yet dare to call God their Father!
They scorn the _requirement_, and yet dare to hope that Christ will save
them! God is to be their Father,--but on their own terms! Christ is to
be their Saviour,--but on their own conditions! What can be more
unreasonable? What can be more proud? What can be more unholy than such
a doctrine as this? Let us beware of it, for it is a common doctrine in
these latter days. Let us beware of it, for it is often speciously put
forward, and sounds beautiful and charitable in the mouth of poets,
novelists, sentimentalists, and tender-hearted women. Let us beware of
it, unless we mean to throw aside our Bible altogether, and set up
ourselves to be wiser than God. Let us stand fast on the old Scriptural
ground: _No sonship to God without Christ! No interest in Christ without
faith!_

I would to God there was not so much cause for giving warnings of this
kind. I have reason to think they need to be given clearly and
unmistakably. There is a school of theology rising up in this day, which
appears to me most eminently calculated to promote infidelity, to help
the devil, and to ruin souls. It comes to us like Joab to Amasa, with
the highest professions of charity, liberality, and love. God is all
mercy and love, according to this theology:--His holiness and justice
are completely left out of sight! Hell is never spoken of in this
theology:--its talk is all of heaven! Damnation is never mentioned:--it
is treated as an impossible thing:--all men and women are to be saved!
Faith, and the work of the Spirit, are refined away into nothing at all!
"Everybody who believes anything has faith! Everybody who thinks
anything has the Spirit! Everybody is right! Nobody is wrong! Nobody is
to blame for any action he may commit! It is the result of his position.
It is the effect of circumstances! He is not accountable for his
opinions, any more than for the colour of his skin! He must be what he
is! The Bible is a very imperfect book! It is old-fashioned! It is
obsolete! We may believe just as much of it as we please, and no
more!"--Of all this theology I warn men solemnly to beware. In spite of
big swelling words about "liberality," and "charity," and "broad views,"
and "new lights," and "freedom from bigotry," and so forth, I do believe
it to be a theology that leads to hell.

(_a_) _Facts_ are directly against the teachers of this theology. Let
them visit Mesopotamia, and see what desolation reigns where Nineveh and
Babylon once stood. Let them go to the shores of the Dead Sea, and look
down into its mysterious bitter waters. Let them travel in Palestine,
and ask what has turned that fertile country into a wilderness. Let them
observe the wandering Jews, scattered over the face of the world,
without a land of their own, and yet never absorbed among other nations.
And then let them tell us, if they dare, that God is so entirely a God
of mercy and love that He never does and never will punish sin.

(_b_) _The conscience of man_ is directly against these teachers. Let
them go to the bedside of some dying child of the world, and try to
comfort him with their doctrines. Let them see if their vaunted theories
will calm his gnawing, restless anxiety about the future, and enable him
to depart in peace. Let them show us, if they can, a few
well-authenticated cases of joy and happiness in death without Bible
promises,--without conversion,--and without that faith in the blood of
Christ, which old-fashioned theology enjoins. Alas! when men are leaving
the world, conscience makes sad work of the new systems of these latter
days. Conscience is not easily satisfied, in a dying hour, that there is
no such thing as hell.

(_c_) _Every reasonable conception that we can form of a future state_
is directly against these teachers. Fancy a heaven which should contain
all mankind! Fancy a heaven in which holy and unholy, pure and impure,
good and bad, would be all gathered together in one confused mass! What
point of union would there be in such a company? What common bond of
harmony and brotherhood? What common delight in a common service? What
concord, what harmony, what peace, what oneness of spirit could exist?
Surely the mind revolts from the idea of a heaven in which there would
be no distinction between the righteous and the wicked,--between Pharaoh
and Moses, between Abraham and the Sodomites, between Paul and Nero,
between Peter and Judas Iscariot, between the man who dies in the act of
murder or drunkenness, and men like Baxter, George Herbert, Wilberforce,
and M'Cheyne! Surely an eternity in such a miserably confused crowd
would be worse than annihilation itself! Surely such a heaven would be
no better than hell!

(_d_) The _interests of all holiness and morality_ are directly against
these teachers. If all men and women alike are God's children, whatever
is the difference between them in their lives,--and all alike going to
heaven, however different they may be from one another here in the
world,--where is the use of labouring after holiness at all? What motive
remains for living soberly, righteously, and godly? What does it matter
how men conduct themselves, if all go to heaven, and nobody goes to
hell? Surely the heathen poets and philosophers of Greece and Rome could
tell us something better and wiser than this! Surely a doctrine which is
subversive of holiness and morality, and takes away all motives to
exertion, carries on the face of it the stamp of its origin. It is of
earth, and not of heaven. It is of the devil, and not of God.

(_e_) _The Bible_ is against these teachers from first to last. Hundreds
of texts might be quoted which are diametrically opposed to their
theories. These texts must be rejected summarily, if the Bible is to
square with their views. There may be no reason why they should be
rejected,--but to suit the theology I speak of they must be thrown away!
At this rate the authority of the whole Bible is soon at an end. And
what do men give us in its place? Nothing,--nothing at all! They rob us
of the bread of life, and do not give us in its stead so much as a
stone.

Once more I warn all into whose hands this volume may fall to beware of
this theology. I charge you to hold fast the doctrine which I have been
endeavouring to uphold in this paper. Remember what I have said, and
never let it go. No inheritance of glory without sonship to God! No
sonship to God without an interest in Christ! No interest in Christ
without your own personal faith! This is God's truth. Never forsake it.

Who now among the readers of this paper _desires to know whether he is a
son of God_? Ask yourself this question, and ask it this day,--and ask
it as in God's sight, whether you have repented and believed. Ask
yourself whether you are experimentally acquainted with Christ, and
united to Him in heart. If not you may be very sure you are no son of
God. You are not yet born again. You are yet in your sins. Your Father
in creation God may be, but your reconciled and pardoning Father God is
not. Yes! though Church and world may agree to tell you to the
contrary,--though clergy and laity unite in flattering you,--your
sonship is worth little or nothing in the sight of God. Let God be true
and every man a liar. Without faith in Christ you are no son of God: you
are not born again.

Who is there among the readers of this paper who _desires to become a
son of God_? Let that person see and feel his sins, and flee to Christ
for salvation, and this day he shall be placed among the children.--Only
acknowledge thine iniquity, and lay hold on the hand that Jesus holds
out to thee this day, and sonship, with all it privileges, is thine
own. Only confess thy sins, and bring them unto Christ, and God is
"faithful and just to forgive thee thy sins, and cleanse thee from all
unrighteousness." (1 John i. 9.) This very day old things shall pass
away, and all things become new. This very day thou shalt be forgiven,
pardoned, "accepted in the Beloved." (Ephes. i. 6.) This very day thou
shalt have a new name given to thee in heaven. Thou didst take up this
book a child of wrath. Thou shalt lie down to night a child of God. Mark
this, if thy professed desire after sonship is sincere,--if thou art
truly weary of thy sins, and hast really something more than a lazy wish
to be free,--there is real comfort for thee. It is all true. It is all
written in Scripture, even as I have put it down. I dare not raise
barriers between thee and God. This day I say, Believe on the Lord Jesus
Christ, and thou shalt be "a son," and be saved.

Who is there among the readers of this paper that _is a son of God
indeed_? Rejoice, I say, and be exceeding glad of your privileges.
Rejoice, for you have good cause to be thankful. Remember the words of
the beloved apostle: "Behold what manner of love the Father hath
bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." (1 John
iii. 1.) How wonderful that heaven should look down on earth,--that the
holy God should set His affections on sinful man, and admit him into His
family! What though the world does not understand you! What though the
men of this world laugh at you, and cast out your name as evil! Let them
laugh if they will. God is your Father. You have no need to be ashamed.
The Queen can create a nobleman. The Bishops can ordain clergymen. But
Queen, Lords, and Commons,--bishops, priests, and deacons,--all together
cannot, of their own power, make one son of God, or one of greater
dignity than a son of God. The man that can call God his Father, and
Christ his elder brother,--that man may be poor and lowly, yet he never
need be ashamed.


II. Let me show, in the second place, _the special evidences of the true
Christians relation to God_.

How shall a man make sure work of his own sonship? How shall he find out
whether he is one that has come to Christ by faith and been born again?
What are the marks and signs, and tokens, by which the "sons of God" may
be known? This is a question which all who love eternal life ought to
ask. This is a question to which the verses of Scripture I am asking you
to consider, like many others, supply an answer.

(1) The sons of God, for one thing, are all _led by His Spirit_. What
says the Scripture which heads this paper? "As many as are led by the
Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." (Rom. viii. 14.)

They are all under the leading and teaching of a power which is
Almighty, though unseen,--even the power of the Holy Ghost. They no
longer turn every man to his own way, and walk every man in the light of
His own eyes, and follow every man his own natural heart's desire. The
Spirit leads them. The Spirit guides them. There is a movement in their
hearts, lives, and affections, which they feel, though they may not be
able to explain, and a movement which is always more or less in the same
direction.

They are led away from sin,--away from self-righteousness,--away from
the world. This is the road by which the Spirit leads God's children.
Those whom God adopts He teaches and trains. He shows them their own
hearts. He makes them weary of their own ways. He makes them long for
inward peace.

They are led to Christ. They are led to the Bible. They are led to
prayer. They are led to holiness. This is the beaten path along which
the Spirit makes them to travel. Those whom God adopts He always
sanctifies. He makes sin very bitter to them. He makes holiness very
sweet.

It is the Spirit who leads them to Sinai, and first shows them the law,
that their hearts may be broken. It is He who leads them to Calvary, and
shows them the cross, that their hearts may be bound up and healed. It
is He who leads them to Pisgah, and gives them distinct views of the
promised land, that their hearts may be cheered. When they are taken
into the wilderness, and taught to see their own emptiness, it is the
leading of the Spirit. When they are carried up to Tabor or Hermon, and
lifted up with glimpses of the glory to come, it is the leading of the
Spirit. Each and all of God's sons is the subject of these leadings.
Each and every one is "willing in the day of the Spirit's power," and
yields himself to it. And each and all is led by the right way, to bring
him to a city of habitation. (Ps. cx. 3; cvii. 7.)

Settle this down in your heart, and do not let it go. The sons of God
are a people "led by the Spirit of God," and always led more or less in
the same way. Their experience will tally wonderfully when they compare
notes in heaven. This is one mark of sonship.

(2) Furthermore, all the sons of God _have the feelings of adopted
children towards their Father in heaven_. What says the Scripture which
heads this paper? "Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to
fear, but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba
Father." (Rom. viii. 15.)

The sons of God are delivered from that slavish fear of God which sin
begets in the natural heart. They are redeemed from that feeling of
guilt which made Adam "hide himself in the trees of the garden," and
Cain "go out from the presence of the Lord." (Gen. iii. 8; iv. 16.) They
are no longer afraid of God's holiness, and justice, and majesty. They
no longer feel as if there was a great gulf and barrier between
themselves and God, and as if God was angry with them, and must be angry
with them, because of their sins. From these chains and fetters of the
soul the sons of God are delivered.

Their feelings towards God are now those of peace and confidence. They
see Him as a Father reconciled in Christ Jesus. They look on Him as a
God whose attributes are all satisfied by their great Mediator and
Peacemaker, the Lord Jesus,--as a God who is "just, and yet the
Justifier of every one that believeth on Jesus." (Rom. iii. 26.) As a
Father, they draw near to Him with boldness: as a Father, they can speak
to Him with freedom. They have exchanged the spirit of bondage for that
of liberty, and the spirit of fear for that of love. They know that God
is holy, but they are not afraid: they know that they are sinners, but
they are not afraid. Though holy, they believe that God is completely
reconciled: though sinners, they believe they are clothed all over with
Jesus Christ. Such is the feeling of the sons of God.

I allow that some of them have this feeling more vividly than others.
Some of them carry about scraps and remnants of the old spirit of
bondage to their dying day. Many of them have fits and paroxysms of the
old man's complaint of fear returning upon them at intervals. But very
few of the sons of God could be found who would not say, if
cross-examined, that since they knew Christ they have had very different
feelings towards God from what they ever had before. They feel as if
something like the old Roman form of adoption had taken place between
themselves and their Father in heaven. They feel as if He had said to
each one of them, "Wilt thou be my son?" and as if their hearts had
replied, "I will."

Let us try to grasp this also, and hold it fast. The sons of God are a
people who feel towards God in a way that the children of the world do
not. They feel no more slavish fear towards Him: they feel towards Him
as a reconciled parent. This, then, is another mark of sonship.

(3) But, again, the sons of God _have the witness of the Spirit in their
consciences_. What says the Scripture which heads this paper? "The
Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children
of God." (Rom. viii. 16.)

The sons of God have got something within their hearts which tells them
there is a relationship between themselves and God. They feel something
which tells them that old things are passed away, and all things become
new: that guilt is gone, that peace is restored, that heaven's door is
open, and hell's door is shut. They have, in short, what the children of
the world have not,--a felt, positive, reasonable hope. They have what
Paul calls the "seal" and "earnest" of the Spirit. (2 Cor. i. 22; Eph.
i. 13.)

I do not for a moment deny that this witness of the Spirit is
exceedingly various in the extent to which the sons of God possess it.
With some it is a loud, clear, ringing, distinct testimony of
conscience: "I am Christ's, and Christ is mine." With others it is a
little, feeble, stammering whisper, which the devil and the flesh often
prevent being heard. Some of the children of God speed on their course
towards heaven under the full sails of assurance. Others are tossed to
and fro all their voyage, and will scarce believe they have got faith.
But take the least and lowest of the sons of God. Ask him if he will
give up the little bit of religious hope which he has attained? Ask him
if he will exchange his heart, with all its doubts and conflicts, its
fightings and fears,--ask him if he will exchange that heart for the
heart of the downright worldly and careless man? Ask him if he would be
content to turn round and throw down the things he has got hold of, and
go back to the world? Who can doubt what the answer would be I? "I
cannot do that," he would reply. "I do not know whether I have faith, I
do not feel sure I have got grace; but I have got something within me I
would not like to part with." And what is that "_something_"? I will
tell you.--It is the witness of the Spirit.

Let us try to understand this also. The sons of God have the witness of
the Spirit in their consciences. This is another mark of sonship.

(4) One thing more let me add. All the sons of God _take part in
suffering with Christ_. What says the Scripture which heads this paper?
"If children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if
so be that we suffer with Him." (Rom. viii. 17.)

All the children of God have a cross to carry. They have trials,
troubles, and afflictions to go through for the Gospel's sake. They have
trials from the world,--trials from the flesh,--and trials from the
devil. They have trials of feeling from relations and friends,--hard
words, hard treatment, and hard judgment. They have trials in the matter
of character;--slander, misrepresentation, mockery, insinuation of false
motives,--all these often rain thick upon them. They have trials in the
matter of worldly interests. They have often to choose whether they will
please man and lose glory, or gain glory and offend man. They have
trials from their own hearts. They have each generally their own thorn
in the flesh,--their own home-devil, who is their worst foe. This is the
experience of the sons of God.

Some of them suffer more, and some less. Some of them suffer in one way,
and some in another. God measures out their portions like a wise
physician, and cannot err. But never, I believe, was there one child of
God who reached paradise without a cross.

Suffering is the diet of the Lord's family. "Whom the Lord loveth He
chasteneth."--"If ye be without chastisement, then are ye bastards, and
not sons."--"Through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom of
God."--"All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer
persecution." (Heb. xii. 6, 8; Acts xiv. 22; 2 Tim. iii. 12.) When
Bishop Latimer was told by his landlord that he had never had a trouble,
"Then," said he, "God cannot be here."

Suffering is a part of the process by which the sons of God are
sanctified. They are chastened to wean them from the world, and make
them partakers of God's holiness. The Captain of their salvation was
"made perfect through suffering," and so are they. (Heb. ii. 10; xii.
10.) There never yet was a great saint who had not either great
afflictions or great corruptions. Well said Philip Melancthon: "Where
there are no cares there will generally be no prayers."

Let us try to settle this down into our hearts also. The sons of God
have all to bear a cross. A suffering Saviour generally has suffering
disciples. The Bridegroom was a man of sorrows. The Bride must not be a
woman of pleasures and unacquainted with grief. Blessed are they that
mourn! Let us not murmur at the cross. This also is a sign of sonship.

I warn men never to suppose that they are sons of God except they have
the scriptural marks of sonship. Beware of a sonship without evidences.
Again I say, Beware. When a man has no leading of the Spirit to show me,
no spirit of adoption to tell of, no witness of the Spirit in his
conscience, no cross in his experience,--is this man a son of God?
Whatever others may think I dare not say so! His spot is "not the spot
of God's children." (Deut. xxxii. 5.) He is no heir of glory.

Tell me not that you have been baptized and taught the catechism of the
Church of England, and therefore must be a child of God. I tell you that
the parish register is not the book of life. I tell you that to be
styled a child of God, and called regenerate in infancy by the faith and
charity of the Prayer-book, is one thing; but to be a child of God in
deed, another thing altogether. Go and read that catechism again. It is
the "death unto sin and the new birth unto righteousness," which makes
men _children of grace_. Except you know these by experience, you are no
son of God.

Tell me not that you are a member of Christ's Church, and so must be a
son. I answer that the sons of the Church are not necessarily the sons
of God. Such sonship is not the sonship of the eighth of Romans. That is
the sonship you must have if you are to be saved.

And now, I doubt not some reader of this paper will want to know if he
may not be saved without the witness of the Spirit.

I answer, If you mean by the witness of the Spirit, the full assurance
of hope,--You may be so saved, without question. But if you want to know
whether a man can be saved without _any_ inward sense, or knowledge, or
hope of salvation, I answer, that ordinarily He cannot. I warn you
plainly to cast away all indecision as to your state before God, and to
make your calling sure. Clear up your position and relationship. Do not
think there is anything praiseworthy in always doubting. Leave that to
the Papists. Do not fancy it wise and humble to be ever living like the
borderers of old time, on the "debateable ground." "Assurance," said old
Dod, the puritan, "may be attained: and what have we been doing all our
lives, since we became Christians, if we have not attained it?"

I doubt not some true Christians who read this paper will think their
evidence of sonship is too small to be good, and will write bitter
things against themselves. Let me try to cheer them. Who gave you the
feelings you possess? Who made you hate sin? Who made you love Christ?
Who made you long and labour to be holy? Whence did these feelings come?
Did they come from nature? There are no such products in a natural man's
heart.--Did they come from the devil? He would fain stifle such feelings
altogether.--Cheer up, and take courage. Fear not, neither be cast down.
Press forward, and go on. There is hope for you after all. Strive.
Labour. Seek. Ask. Knock. Follow on. You shall yet see that you are
"sons of God."


III. Let me show, in the last place, _the privileges of the true
Christian's relation to God_.

Nothing can be conceived more glorious than the prospects of the sons of
God. The words of Scripture which head this paper contain a rich mine of
good and comfortable things. "If we are children," says Paul, "we are
heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ,--to be glorified
together with Him." (Rom. viii. 17.)

True Christians then are "heirs."--Something is prepared for them all
which is yet to be revealed.

They are "heirs of God."--To be heirs of the rich on earth is something.
How much more then is it to be son and heir of the King of kings!

They are "joint heirs with Christ." They shall share in His majesty, and
take part in His glory. They shall be glorified together with Him.

And this, we must remember, is for _all_ the children. Abraham took care
to provide for all his children, and God takes care to provide for His.
None of them are disinherited. None will be cast out. None will be cut
off. Each shall stand in his lot, and have a portion, in the day when
the Lord brings many sons to glory.

Who can tell the full nature of the inheritance of the saints in light?
Who can describe the glory which is yet to be revealed and given to the
children of God? Words fail us. Language falls short. Mind cannot
conceive fully, and tongue cannot express perfectly, the things which
are comprised in the glory yet to come upon the sons and daughters of
the Lord Almighty. Oh, it is indeed a true saying of the Apostle John:
"It doth not yet appear what we shall be." (1 John iii. 2.)

The very Bible itself only lifts a little of the veil which hangs over
this subject. How could it do more? We could not thoroughly understand
more if more had been told us. Our mental constitution is as yet too
earthly,--our understanding is as yet too carnal to appreciate more if
we had it. The Bible generally deals with the subject in negative terms
and not in positive assertions. It describes what there will not be in
the glorious inheritance, that thus we may get some faint idea of what
there will be. It paints the _absence_ of certain things, in order that
we may drink in a little the blessedness of the things _present_. It
tells us that the inheritance is "incorruptible, undefiled, and fadeth
not away." It tells us that "the crown of glory fadeth not away." It
tells us that the devil is to be "bound," that there shall be "no more
night and no more curse," that "death shall be cast into the lake of
fire," that "all tears shall be wiped away," and that the inhabitant
shall no more say, "I am sick." And these are glorious things indeed. No
corruption!--No fading!--No withering!--No devil!--No curse of sin!--No
sorrow!--No tears!--No sickness!--No death! Surely the cup of the
children of God will indeed run over! (1 Pet. i. 4; v. 4; Rev. xx. 2;
xxi. 25; xxii. 3; xx. 14; xxi. 4; Is. xxxiii. 24.)

But there are positive things told us about the glory yet to come upon
the heirs of God, which ought not to be kept back. There are many sweet,
pleasant, and unspeakable comforts in their future inheritance, which
all true Christians would do well to consider. There are cordials for
fainting pilgrims in many words and expressions of Scripture, which you
and I ought to lay up against time of need.

(_a_) Is _knowledge_ pleasant to us now? Is the little that we know
of God and Christ, and the Bible precious to our souls, and do we
long for more? We shall have it perfectly in glory. What says the
Scripture? "Then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Cor.
xiii. 12.) Blessed be God, there will be no more disagreements among
believers! Episcopalians and Presbyterians,--Calvinists and
Arminians,--Millennarians and Anti-millennarians,--friends of
Establishments and friends of the Voluntary system,--advocates of
infant baptism and advocates of adult baptism,--all will at length
see eye to eye. The former ignorance will have passed away. We shall
marvel to find how childish and blind we have been.

(_b_) Is _holiness_ pleasant to us now? Is sin the burden and bitterness
of our lives? Do we long for entire conformity to the image of God? We
shall have it perfectly in glory. What says the Scripture? "Christ gave
Himself for the Church," not only that He might sanctify it on earth,
but also "that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not
having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing." (Ephes. v. 27.) Oh, the
blessedness of an eternal good-bye to sin! Oh, how little the best of
us do at present! Oh, what unutterable corruption sticks, like birdlime,
to all our motives, all our thoughts, all our words, all our actions!
Oh, how many of us, like Naphtali, are goodly in our words, but, like
Reuben, unstable in our works! Thank God, all this shall be changed.
(Gen. xlix. 4, 21.)

(_c_) Is _rest_ pleasant to us now? Do we often feel "faint though
pursuing?" (Judges viii. 4.) Do we long for a world in which we need not
to be always watching and warring? We shall have it perfectly in glory.
What saith the Scripture? "There remaineth a rest for the people of
God." (Heb. iv. 9.) The daily, hourly conflict with the world, the
flesh, and the devil, shall at length be at an end. The enemy shall be
bound. The warfare shall be over. The wicked shall at last cease from
troubling. The weary shall at length be at rest. There shall be a great
calm.

(_d_) Is _service_ pleasant to us now? Do we find it sweet to work for
Christ, and yet groan being burdened by a feeble body? Is our spirit
often willing, but hampered and clogged by the poor weak flesh? Have our
hearts burned within us, when we have been allowed to give a cup of cold
water for Christ's sake, and have we sighed to think what unprofitable
servants we are? Let us take comfort. We shall be able to serve
perfectly in glory, and without weariness. What saith the Scripture?
"They serve Him day and night in His temple." (Rev. vii. 15.)

(_e_) Is _satisfaction_ pleasant to us now? Do we find the world empty?
Do we long for the filling up of every void place and gap in our hearts?
We shall have it perfectly in glory. We shall no longer have to mourn
over cracks in all our earthen vessels, and thorns in all our roses, and
bitter dregs in all our sweet cups. We shall no longer lament with Jonah
over withered gourds. We shall no longer say with Solomon, "All is
vanity and vexation of spirit." We shall no longer cry with aged David,
"I have seen an end of all perfection." What saith the Scripture? "I
shall be satisfied when I awake with Thy likeness." (Eccles. i. 14; Ps.
cxix. 96; xvii. 15.)

(_f_) Is _communion with the saints_ pleasant to us now? Do we feel that
we are never so happy as when we are with the "excellent of the earth?"
Are we never so much at home as in their company? (Ps. xvi. 3.) We shall
have it perfectly in glory. What saith the Scripture? "The Son of man
shall send His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all they
that offend, and them which work iniquity." "He shall send His angels
with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His
elect from the four winds." (Matt. xiii. 41; xxiv. 31.) Praised be God!
We shall see all the saints of whom we have read in the Bible, and in
whose steps we have tried to walk. We shall see apostles, prophets,
patriarchs, martyrs, reformers, missionaries, and ministers, of whom the
world was not worthy. We shall see the faces of those we have known and
loved in Christ on earth, and over whose departure we shed bitter tears.
We shall see them more bright and glorious than they ever were before.
And, best of all, we shall see them without hurry and anxiety, and
without feeling that we only meet to part again. In the coming glory
there is no death, no parting, no farewell.

(_g_) Is _communion with Christ_ pleasant to us now? Do we find His
name precious to us? Do we feel our hearts burn within us at the thought
of His dying love? We shall have perfect communion with Him in glory.
"We shall ever be with the Lord." (1 Thess. iv. 17.) We shall be with
Him in paradise. (Luke xxiii. 43.) We shall see His face in the kingdom.
These eyes of ours will behold those hands and feet which were pierced
with nails, and that head which was crowned with thorns. Where He is,
there will the sons of God be. When He comes, they will come with Him.
When He sits down in His glory, they shall sit down by His side. Blessed
prospect indeed! I am a dying man in a dying world. All before me is
dark. The world to come is a harbour unknown. But Christ is there, and
that is enough. Surely if there is rest and peace in following Him by
faith on earth, there will be far more rest and peace when we see Him
face to face. If we have found it good to follow the pillar of cloud and
fire in the wilderness, we shall find it a thousand times better to sit
down in our eternal inheritance, with our Joshua, in the promised land.

If any one among the readers of this paper is not yet among the sons and
heirs, I do pity you with all my heart! How much you are missing! How
little true comfort you are enjoying! There you are, struggling on, and
toiling in the fire, and wearying yourself for mere earthly
ends,--seeking rest and finding none,--chasing shadows and never
catching them,--wondering why you are not happy, and yet refusing to see
the cause,--hungry, and thirsty, and empty, and yet blind to the plenty
within your reach. Oh, that you were wise! Oh, that you would hear the
voice of Jesus, and learn of Him!

If you are one of those who are sons and heirs, you may well rejoice and
be happy. You may well wait, like the boy Patience in Pilgrim's
Progress: your best things are yet to come. You may well bear crosses
without murmuring: your light affliction is but for a moment. "The
sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the
glory which is to be revealed."--"When Christ our life appears, then you
also shall appear with Him in glory." (Rom. viii. 18; Colos. iii. 4.)
You may well not envy the transgressor and his prosperity. You are the
truly rich. Well said a dying believer in my own parish: "I am more rich
than I ever was in my life." You may say as Mephibosheth said to David:
"Let the world take all, my king is coming again in peace." (2 Sam. xix.
30.) You may say as Alexander said when he gave all his riches away, and
was asked what he kept for himself: "I have hope." You may well not be
cast down by sickness: the eternal part of you is safe and provided for,
whatever happens to your body. You may well look calmly on death: it
opens a door between you and your inheritance. You may well not sorrow
excessively over the things of the world,--over partings and
bereavements, over losses and crosses: the day of gathering is before
you. Your treasure is beyond reach of harm. Heaven is becoming every
year more full of those you love, and earth more empty. Glory in your
inheritance. It is all yours if you are a son of God: "If we are
children, then we are heirs."

(1) And now, in concluding this paper, _let me ask every one who reads
it Whose child are you_? Are you the child of nature or the child of
grace? Are you the child of the devil or the child of God? You cannot be
both at once. Which are you?

Settle the question without delay, for you must die at last either one
or the other. Settle it, for it can be settled, and it is folly to leave
it doubtful. Settle it, for time is short, the world is getting old, and
you are fast drawing near to the judgment seat of Christ. Settle it, for
death is nigh, the Lord is at hand, and who can tell what a day might
bring forth? Oh, that you would never rest till the question is
settled! Oh, that you may never feel satisfied till you can say, "I have
been born again: I am a son of God!"

(2) _If you are not a son and heir of God, let me entreat you to become
one without delay._ Would you be rich? There are unsearchable riches in
Christ. Would you be noble? You shall be a king. Would you be happy? You
shall have a peace which passeth understanding, and which the world can
never give and never take away. Oh, come out, and take up the cross and
follow Christ! Come out from among the thoughtless and worldly, and hear
the word of the Lord: "I will receive you, and will be a Father unto
you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord almighty." (2
Cor. vi. 18.)

(3) _If you are a son of God, I beseech you to walk worthy of your
Father's house._ I charge you solemnly to honour Him in your life; and
above all to honour Him by implicit obedience to all His commands, and
hearty love to all His children. Labour to travel through the world like
a child of God and heir to glory. Let men be able to trace a family
likeness between you and Him that begat you. Live a heavenly life. Seek
things that are above. Do not seem to be building your nest below.
Behave like a man who seeks a city out of sight, whose citizenship is in
heaven, and who would be content with many hardships till he gets home.

Labour _to feel like a son of God_ in every condition in which you are
placed. Never forget you are on your Father's ground so long as you are
here on earth. Never forget that a Father's hand sends all your mercies
and crosses. Cast every care on Him. Be happy and cheerful in Him. Why
indeed art thou ever sad if thou art the King's son? Why should men ever
doubt, when they look at you, whether it is a pleasant thing to be one
of God's children?

Labour _to behave towards others like a son of God_. Be blameless and
harmless in your day and generation. Be a "peacemaker among all =you=
know." (Matt. v. 9.) Seek for your children sonship to God, above
everything else: seek for them an inheritance in heaven, whatever else
you do for them. No man leaves his children so well provided for as he
who leaves them sons and heirs of God.

Persevere in your Christian calling, if you are a son of God, and press
forward more and more. Be careful to lay aside every weight, and the sin
which most easily besets you. Keep your eyes steadily fixed on Jesus.
Abide in Him. Remember that without Him you can do nothing, and with Him
you can do all things. (John xv. 5; Philip. iv. 13.) Watch and pray
daily. Be steadfast, unmoveable, and always abounding in the work of the
Lord. Settle it down in your heart that not a cup of cold water given in
the name of a disciple shall lose its reward, and that every year you
are so much nearer home.

"Yet a little time and He that shall come will come, and will not
tarry." (Heb. x. 37.) Then shall be the glorious liberty, and the full
manifestation of the sons of God. (Rom. viii. 19, 21.) Then shall the
world acknowledge that they were the truly wise. Then shall the sons of
God at length come of age, and be no longer heirs in expectancy, but
heirs in possession. Then shall they hear with exceeding joy those
comfortable words: "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom
prepared for you from the foundation of the world." (Matt. xxv. 34.)
Surely that day will make amends for all!



XIX


THE GREAT GATHERING

     "_Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus
     Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him._"--2 Thess. ii.
     1.


The text which heads this page contains an expression which deserves no
common attention. That expression is,--"Our gathering together."

"Our gathering together!" Those three words touch a note which ought to
find a response in every part of the world. Man is by nature a social
being: he does not like to be alone. Go where you will on earth, people
generally like meeting together, and seeing one another's faces. It is
the exception, and not the rule, to find children of Adam who do not
like "gathering together."

For example, Christmas is peculiarly a time when English people "gather
together." It is the season when family meetings have become almost a
national institution. In town and in country, among rich and among poor,
from the palace to the workhouse, Christmas cheer and Christmas parties
are proverbial things. It is the one time in the twelvemonth with many
for seeing their friends at all. Sons snatch a few days from London
business to run down and see their parents; brothers get leave of
absence from the desk to spend a week with their sisters; friends accept
long-standing invitations, and contrive to pay a visit to their
friends; boys rush home from school, and glory in the warmth and comfort
of the old house. Business for a little space comes to a standstill: the
weary wheels of incessant labour seem almost to cease revolving for a
few hours. In short, from the Isle of Wight to Berwick-on-Tweed, and
from the Land's End to the North Foreland, there is a general spirit of
"gathering together."

Happy is the land where such a state of things exists! Long may it last
in England, and never may it end! Poor and shallow is that philosophy
which sneers at Christmas gatherings. Cold and hard is that religion
which pretends to frown at them, and denounces them as wicked. Family
affection lies at the very roots of well-ordered society. It is one of
the few good things which have survived the fall, and prevent men and
women from being mere devils. It is the secret oil on the wheels of our
social system which keeps the whole machine going, and without which
neither steam nor fire would avail. Anything which helps to keep up
family affection and brotherly love is a positive good to a country. May
the Christmas day never arrive in England when there are no family
meetings and no gatherings together!

But earthly gatherings after all have something about them that is sad
and sorrowful. The happiest parties sometimes contain uncongenial
members: the merriest meetings are only for a very short time. Moreover,
as years roll on, the hand of death makes painful gaps in the family
circle. Even in the midst of Christmas merriment we cannot help
remembering those who have passed away. The longer we live, the more we
feel to stand alone. The old faces will rise before the eyes of our
minds, and the old voices will sound in our ears, even in the midst of
holiday mirth and laughter. People do not talk much of such things; but
there are few that do not feel them. We need not intrude our inmost
thoughts on others, and especially when all around us are bright and
happy. But there are not many, I suspect, who reach middle age, who
would not admit, if they spoke the truth, that there are sorrowful
things inseparably mixed up with a Christmas party. In short, there is
no unmixed pleasure about any earthly "gathering."

But is there no better "gathering" yet to come? Is there no bright
prospect in our horizon of an assembly which shall far outshine the
assemblies of Christmas and New Year,--an assembly in which there shall
be joy without sorrow, and mirth without tears? I thank God that I can
give a plain answer to these questions; and to give it is the simple
object of this paper. I ask my readers to give me their attention for a
few minutes, and I will soon show them what I mean.


I. There is a "gathering together" of true Christians which is to come.
_What is it, and when shall it be?_

The gathering I speak of shall take place at the end of the world, in
the day when Christ returns to earth the second time. As surely as He
came the first time, so surely shall He come the second time. In the
clouds of heaven He went away, and in the clouds of heaven He shall
return. Visibly, in the body, He went away, and visibly, in the body, He
will return. And the very first thing that Christ will do will be to
"gather together" His people. "He shall send His angels with a great
sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the
four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (Matt. xxiv. 31.)

The _manner_ of this "gathering together" is plainly revealed in
Scripture. The dead saints shall all be raised, and the living saints
shall all be changed. It is written, "The sea shall give up the dead
which are in it, and death and hell shall give up the dead that are in
them."--"The dead in Christ shall rise first. Those which are alive and
remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the
Lord in the air."--"We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the
trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we
shall be changed." (Rev. xx. 13; 1 Thess. iv. 16, 17; 1 Cor. xv. 51,
52.) And then, when every member of Christ is found, and not one left
behind, when soul and body, those old companions, are once more
reunited, then shall be the grand "gathering together."

The _object_ of this "gathering together" is as clearly revealed in
Scripture as its manner. It is partly for the final reward of Christ's
people: that their complete justification from all guilt may be declared
to all creation; that they may receive the "crown of glory which fadeth
not away," and the "kingdom prepared before the foundation of the
world;" that they may be admitted publicly into the joy of their
Lord.--It is partly for the safety of Christ's people, that, like Noah
in the ark and Lot in Zoar, they may be hid and covered before the storm
of God's judgment comes down on the wicked; that when the last plagues
are falling on the enemies of the Lord, they may be untouched, as
Rahab's family in the fall of Jericho, and unscathed as the three
children in the midst of the fire. The saints have no cause to fear the
day of gathering, however fearful the signs that may accompany it.
Before the final crash of all things begins, they shall be hidden in the
secret place of the Most High. The grand gathering is for their safety
and their reward. "Fear not ye," shall the angel-reapers say, "for ye
seek Jesus which was crucified."--"Come, my people," shall their Master
say: "enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide
thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be
overpast." (Matt. xxviii. 5; Isa. xxvi. 20.)

(_a_) This gathering will be a _great_ one. All children of God who have
ever lived, from Abel the first saint down to the last born in the day
that our Lord comes,--all of every age, and nation, and church, and
people, and tongue,--all shall be assembled together. Not one shall be
overlooked or forgotten. The weakest and feeblest shall not be left
behind. Now, when "scattered," true Christians seem a little flock;
then, when "gathered," they shall be found a multitude which no man can
number.

(_b_) This gathering will be a _wonderful_ one. The saints from distant
lands, who never saw each other in the flesh, and could not understand
each other's speech if they met, shall all be brought together in one
harmonious company. The dwellers in Australia shall find they are as
near heaven, and as soon there, as the dwellers in England. The
believers who died five thousand years ago, and whose bones are mere
dust, shall find their bodies raised and renewed as quickly as those who
are alive when the trumpet sounds. Above all, miracles of grace will be
revealed. We shall see some in heaven who we never expected would have
been saved at all. The confusion of tongues shall at length be reversed,
and done away. The assembled multitude will cry with one heart and in
one language, "What hath God wrought!" (Num. xxiii. 23.)

(_c_) This gathering shall be a _humbling_ one. It shall make an end of
bigotry and narrow-mindedness for ever. The Christians of one
denomination shall find themselves side by side with those of another
denomination. If they would not tolerate them on earth, they will be
obliged to tolerate them in heaven. Churchmen and Dissenters, who will
neither pray together nor worship together now, will discover to their
shame that they must praise together hereafter to all eternity. The very
people who will not receive us at their ordinances now, and keep us back
from their Table, will be obliged to acknowledge us before our Master's
face, and to let us sit down by their side. Never will the world have
seen such a complete overthrow of sectarianism, party spirit,
unbrotherliness, religious jealousy, and religious pride. At last we
shall all be completely "clothed with humility." (1 Pet. v. 5.)

This mighty, wonderful "gathering together," is the gathering which
ought to be often in men's thoughts. It deserves consideration: it
demands attention. Gatherings of other kinds are incessantly occupying
our minds, political gatherings, scientific gatherings, gatherings for
pleasure, gatherings for gain. But the hour comes, and will soon be
here, when gatherings of this kind will be completely forgotten. One
thought alone will swallow up men's minds: that thought will be, "Shall
I be gathered with Christ's people into a place of safety and honour, or
be left behind to everlasting woe?" LET US TAKE CARE THAT WE ARE NOT
LEFT BEHIND.


II. _Why is this "gathering together" of true Christians a thing to be
desired?_ Let us try to get an answer to that question.

St. Paul evidently thought that the gathering at the last day was a
cheering object which Christians ought to keep before their eyes. He
classes it with that second coming of our Lord, which he says elsewhere
believers love and long for. He exalts it in the distant horizon as one
of those "good things to come," which should animate the faith of every
pilgrim in the narrow way. Not only, he seems to say, will each servant
of God have rest, and a kingdom, and a crown; he will have besides a
happy "gathering together." Now, where is the peculiar blessedness of
this gathering? Why is it a thing that we ought to look forward to with
joy, and expect with pleasure? Let us see.

(1) For one thing, the "gathering together" of all true Christians will
be a _state of things totally unlike their present condition._ To be
scattered, and not gathered, seems the rule of man's existence now. Of
all the millions who are annually born into the world, how few continue
together till they die! Children who draw their first breath under the
same roof, and play by the same fireside, are sure to be separated as
they grow up, and to draw their last breath far distant from one
another.--The same law applies to the people of God. They are spread
abroad like salt, one in one place and one in another, and never allowed
to continue long side by side. It is doubtless good for the world that
it is so. A town would be a very dark place at night if all the lighted
candles were crowded together into one room.--But, good as it is for the
world, it is no small trial to believers. Many a day they feel desolate
and alone; many a day they long for a little more communion with their
brethren, and a little more companionship with those who love the Lord!
Well, they may look forward with hope and comfort. The hour is coming
when they shall have no lack of companions. Let them lift up their heads
and rejoice. There will be a "gathering together" by and by.

(2) For another thing, the gathering together of all true Christians
will be _an assembly entirely of one mind_. There are no such assemblies
now. Mixture, hypocrisy, and false profession, creep in everywhere.
Wherever there is wheat there are sure to be tares. Wherever there are
good fish there are sure to be bad. Wherever there are wise virgins
there are sure to be foolish. There is no such thing as a perfect Church
now. There is a Judas Iscariot at every communion table, and a Demas in
every Apostolic company; and wherever the "sons of God" come together
Satan is sure to appear among them. (Job i. 6.) But all this shall come
to an end one day. Our Lord shall at length present to the Father a
perfect Church, "having neither spot nor wrinkle, nor any such thing."
(Eph. v. 27.) How glorious such a Church will be! To meet with
half-a-dozen believers together now is a rare event in a Christian's
year, and one that cheers him like a sunshiny day in winter: it makes
him feel his heart burn within him, as the disciples felt on the way to
Emmaus. But how much more joyful will it be to meet a "multitude that no
man can number!" To find too, that all we meet are at last of one
opinion and one judgment, and see eye to eye,--to discover that all our
miserable controversies are buried for ever, and that Calvinists no
longer hate Arminians, nor Arminians Calvinists, Churchmen no longer
quarrel with Dissenters, nor Dissenters with Churchmen,--to join a
company of Christians in which there is neither jarring, squabbling, nor
discord,--every man's graces fully developed, and every man's besetting
sins dropped off like beech-leaves in spring,--all this will be
happiness indeed! No wonder that St. Paul bids us look forward.

(3) For another thing, the gathering together of true Christians will be
_a meeting at which none shall be absent_. The weakest lamb shall not be
left behind in the wilderness: the youngest babe that ever drew breath
shall not be overlooked or forgotten. We shall once more see our beloved
friends and relatives who fell asleep in Christ, and left us in sorrow
and tears,--better, brighter, more beautiful, more pleasant than ever we
found them on earth. We shall hold communion with all the saints of God
who have fought the good fight before us, from the beginning of the
world to the end. Patriarchs and Prophets, Apostles and Fathers, Martyrs
and Missionaries, Reformers and Puritans, all the host of God's elect
shall be there. If to read their words and works has been pleasant, how
much better shall it be to see them! If to hear of them, and be stirred
by their example, has been useful, how much more delightful to talk with
them, and ask them questions! To sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob, and hear how they kept the faith without any Bible,--to converse
with Moses, and Samuel, and David, and Isaiah, and Daniel, and hear how
they could believe in a Christ yet to come,--to converse with Peter, and
Paul, and Lazarus, and Mary, and Martha, and listen to their wondrous
tale of what their Master did for them,--all this will be sweet indeed!
No wonder that St. Paul bids us look forward.

(4) In the last place, the gathering of all true Christians shall be _a
meeting without a parting_. There are no such meetings now. We seem to
live in an endless hurry, and can hardly sit down and take breath before
we are off again. "Good-bye" treads on the heels of "How do you do?" The
cares of this world, the necessary duties of life, the demands of our
families, the work of our various stations and callings,--all these
things appear to eat up our days, and to make it impossible to have long
quiet times of communion with God's people. But, blessed be God, it
shall not always be so. The hour cometh, and shall soon be here, when
"good-bye" and "farewell" shall be words that are laid aside and buried
for ever. When we meet in a world where the former things have passed
away, where there is no more sin and no more sorrow,--no more poverty
and no more money,--no more work of body or work of brains,--no more
need of anxiety for families,--no more sickness, no more pain, no more
old age, no more death, no more change,--when we meet in that endless
state of being, calm, and restful, and unhurried,--who can tell what the
blessedness of the change will be? I cannot wonder that St. Paul bids us
look up and look forward.


I lay these things before all who read this paper, and ask their serious
attention to them. If I know anything of a Christian's experience, I am
sure they contain food for reflection. This, at least, I say
confidently: the man who sees nothing much in the second coming of
Christ and the public "gathering" of Christ's people,--nothing happy,
nothing joyful, nothing pleasant, nothing desirable,--such a man may
well doubt whether he himself is a true Christian and has got any grace
at all.

(1) _I ask you a plain question._ Do not turn away from it and refuse
to look it in the face. Shall you be gathered by the angels into God's
home when the Lord returns, or shall you be left behind?

One thing, at any rate, is very certain. There will only be two parties
of mankind at the last great day: those who are on the right hand of
Christ, and those who are on the left;--those who are counted righteous,
and those who are wicked;--those who are safe in the ark, and those who
are outside;--those who are gathered like wheat into God's barn, and
those who are left behind like tares to be burned. Now, what will your
portion be?

Perhaps you do not know yet. You cannot say. You are not sure. You hope
the best. You trust it will be all right at last: but you won't
undertake to give an opinion. Well! I only hope you will never rest till
you do know. The Bible will tell you plainly who are they that will be
gathered. Your own heart, if you deal honestly, will tell you whether
you are one of the number. Rest not, rest not, till you know!

How men can stand the partings and separations of this life if they have
no hope of anything better,--how they can bear to say "good-bye" to sons
and daughters, and launch them on the troublesome waves of this world,
if they have no expectation of a safe "gathering" in Christ at
last,--how they can part with beloved members of their families, and let
them journey forth to the other side of the globe, not knowing if they
shall ever meet happily in this life or a life to come,--how all this
can be, completely baffles my understanding. I can only suppose that the
many never think, never consider, never look forward. Once let a man
begin to think, and he will never be satisfied till he has found Christ
and is safe.

(2) _I offer you a plain means of testing your own soul's condition_, if
you want to know your own chance of being gathered into God's home. Ask
yourself what kind of gatherings you like best here upon earth? Ask
yourself whether you really love the assembling together of God's
people?

How could that man enjoy the meeting of true Christians in heaven who
takes no pleasure in meeting true Christians on earth? How can that
heart which is wholly set on balls, and races, and feasts, and
amusements, and worldly assemblies, and thinks earthly worship a
weariness--how can such a heart be in tune for the company of saints,
and saints alone? The thing is impossible. It cannot be.

Never, never let it be forgotten, that our tastes on earth are a sure
evidence of the state of our hearts; and the state of our hearts here is
a sure indication of our position hereafter. Heaven is a prepared place
for a prepared people. He that hopes to be gathered with saints in
heaven while he only loves the gathering of sinners on earth is
deceiving himself. If he lives and dies in that state of mind he will
find at last that he had better never have been born.

(3) If you are a true Christian, _I exhort you to be often looking
forward_. Your good things are yet to come. Your redemption draweth
nigh. The night is far spent. The day is at hand. Yet a little time, and
He whom you love and believe on will come, and will not tarry. When He
comes, He will bring His dead saints with Him and change His living
ones. Look forward! There is a "gathering together" yet to come.

The morning after a shipwreck is a sorrowful time. The joy of
half-drowned survivors, who have safely reached the land, is often sadly
marred by the recollection of shipmates who have sunk to rise no more.
There will be no such sorrow when believers gather together round the
throne of the Lamb. Not one of the ship's company shall be found absent.
"Some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship,--all will get
safe to shore at last." (Acts xxvii. 44.) The great waters and raging
waves shall swallow none of God's elect. When the sun rises they shall
be seen all safe, and "gathered together."

Even the day after a great victory is a sorrowful time. The triumphant
feelings of the conquerors are often mingled with bitter regrets for
those who fell in action, and died on the field. The list of "killed,
wounded, and missing," breaks many a heart, fills many a home with
mourning, and brings many a grey head sorrowing to the grave. The great
Duke of Wellington often said, "there was but one thing worse than a
victory, and that was a defeat." But, thanks be to God, there will be no
such sorrow in heaven! The soldiers of the great Captain of our
salvation shall all answer to their names at last. The muster-roll shall
be as complete after the battle as it was before. Not one believer shall
be "missing" in the great "gathering together."

Does Christmas, for instance, bring with it sorrowful feelings and
painful associations? Do tears rise unbidden in your eyes when you mark
the empty places round the fireside? Do grave thoughts come sweeping
over your mind, even in the midst of your children's mirth, when you
recollect the dear old faces and much loved voices of some that sleep in
the churchyard? Well, look up and look forward! The time is short. The
world is growing old. The coming of the Lord draweth nigh. There is yet
to be a meeting without parting, and a gathering without separation.
Those believers whom you laid in the grave with many tears are in good
keeping: you will yet see them again with joy. Look up! I say once more.
Lay hold by faith on the "coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our
gathering together unto Him." Believe it, think of it, rest on it. It is
all true.

Do you feel lonely and desolate as every December comes round? Do you
find few to pray with, few to praise with, few to open your heart to,
few to exchange experience with? Do you learn increasingly, that heaven
is becoming every year more full and earth more empty? Well, it is an
old story. You are only drinking a cup which myriads have drunk before.
Look up and look forward. The lonely time will soon be past and over:
you will have company enough by and by. "When you wake up after your
Lord's likeness you shall be satisfied." (Ps. xvii. 15.) Yet a little
while and you shall see a congregation that shall never break up, and a
sabbath that shall never end. "The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and
our gathering together unto Him," shall make amends for all.



XX


THE GREAT SEPARATION

     "_Whose fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His
     floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn
     up the chaff with unquenchable fire._"--Matt. iii. 12.


The verse of Scripture which is now before our eyes contains words which
were spoken by John the Baptist. They are a prophecy about our Lord
Jesus Christ, and a prophecy which has not yet been fulfilled. They are
a prophecy which we shall all see fulfilled one day, and God alone knows
how soon.

I invite every reader of this paper to consider seriously the great
truths which this verse contains. I invite you to give me your
attention, while I unfold them, and set them before you in order. Who
knows but this text may prove a word in season to your soul? Who knows
but this text may help to make this day the happiest day in your life?


I. Let me show, in the first place, _the two great classes into which
mankind may be divided_.

There are only two classes of people in the world in the sight of God,
and both are mentioned in the text which begins this paper. There are
those who are called _the wheat_, and there are those who are called
_the chaff_.

Viewed with the eye of man, the earth contains many different sorts of
inhabitants. Viewed with the eye of God it only contains two. Man's eye
looks at the outward appearance:--this is all he thinks of. The eye of
God looks at the heart:--this is the only part of which He takes any
account. And tried by the state of their hearts, there are but two
classes into which people can be divided:--either they are wheat, or
they are chaff.

_Who are the wheat in the world?_ This is a point which demands special
consideration.

The wheat means all men and women who are believers in the Lord Jesus
Christ,--all who are led by the Holy Spirit,--all who have felt
themselves sinners, and fled for refuge to the salvation offered in the
Gospel,--all who love the Lord Jesus and live to the Lord Jesus, and
serve the Lord Jesus,--all who have taken Christ for their only
confidence, and the Bible for their only guide, and regard sin as their
deadliest enemy, and look to heaven as their only home. All such, of
every Church, name, nation, people, and tongue,--of every rank, station,
condition, and degree,--all such are God's "wheat."

Show me people of this kind anywhere, and I know what they are. I know
not that they and I may agree in all particulars, but I see in them the
handiwork of the King of kings, and I ask no more. I know not whence
they came, and where they found their religion; but I know where they
are going, and that is enough for me. They are the children of my Father
in heaven. They are part of His "wheat."

All such, though sinful and vile, and unworthy in their own eyes, are
the precious part of mankind. They are the sons and daughters of God the
Father. They are the delight of God the Son. They are the habitation of
God the Spirit. The Father beholds no iniquity in them:--they are the
members of His dear Son's mystical body: in Him He sees them, and is
well-pleased. The Lord Jesus discerns in them the fruit of His own
travail and work upon the cross, and is well satisfied. The Holy Ghost
regards them as spiritual temples which He Himself has reared, and
rejoices over them. In a word, they are the "wheat" of the earth.

_Who are the chaff in the world?_ This again is a point which demands
special attention.

The chaff means all men and women who have no saving faith in Christ,
and no sanctification of the Spirit, whosoever they may be. Some of them
perhaps are infidels, and some are formal Christians. Some are sneering
Sadducees, and some self-righteous Pharisees. Some of them make a point
of keeping up a kind of Sunday religion, and others are utterly careless
of everything except their own pleasure and the world. But all alike,
who have the two great marks already mentioned--_no faith and no
sanctification_,--all such are "chaff." From Paine and Voltaire to the
dead Churchman who can think of nothing but outward ceremonies,--from
Julian and Porphyry to the unconverted admirer of sermons in the present
day,--all, all are standing in one rank before God: all, all are
"chaff."

They bring no glory to God the Father. "They honour not the Son, and so
do not honour the Father that sent Him." (John v. 23.) They neglect that
mighty salvation which countless millions of angels admire. They disobey
that Word which was graciously written for their learning. They listen
not to the voice of Him who condescended to leave heaven and die for
their sins. They pay no tribute of service and affection to Him who gave
them "life, and breath, and all things." And therefore God takes no
pleasure in them. He pities them, but He reckons them no better than
"chaff."

Yes! you may have rare intellectual gifts and high mental attainments:
you may sway kingdoms by your counsel, move millions by your pen, or
keep crowds in breathless attention by your tongue; but if you have
never submitted yourself to the yoke of Christ, and never honoured His
Gospel by heartfelt reception of it, you are nothing in His sight.
Natural gifts without grace are like a row of cyphers without an unit
before them: they look big, but they are of no value. The meanest insect
that crawls is a nobler being than you are: it fills its place in
creation, and glorifies its Maker with all its power, and you do not.
You do not honour God with heart, and will, and intellect, and members,
which are all His. You invert His order and arrangement, and live as if
time was of more importance than eternity, and body better than soul.
You dare to neglect God's greatest gift,--His own incarnate Son. You are
cold about that subject which fills all heaven with hallelujahs. And so
long as this is the case you belong to the worthless part of mankind.
You are the "chaff" of the earth.

Let this thought be graven deeply in the mind of every reader of this
paper, whatever else he forgets. Remember there are only two sorts of
people in the world. There are wheat, and there are chaff.

There are many nations in Europe. Each differs from the rest. Each has
its own language, its own laws, its own peculiar customs. But God's eye
divides Europe into two great parties,--the wheat and the chaff.

There are many classes in England. There are peers and
commoners,--farmers and shopkeepers,--masters and servants,--rich and
poor. But God's eye only takes account of two orders,--the wheat and the
chaff.

There are many and various minds in every congregation that meets for
religious worship. There are some who attend for a mere form, and some
who really desire to meet Christ,--some who come there to please others,
and some who come to please God,--some who bring their hearts with them
and are not soon tired, and some who leave their hearts behind them, and
reckon the whole service weary work. But the eye of the Lord Jesus only
sees two divisions in the congregation,--the wheat and the chaff.

There were millions of visitors to the Great Exhibition of 1851. From
Europe, Asia, Africa, and America,--from North and South, and East and
West,--crowds came together to see what skill and industry could do.
Children of our first father Adam's family, who had never seen each
other before, for once met face to face under one roof. But the eye of
the Lord only saw two companies thronging that large palace of
glass,--the wheat and the chaff.

I know well the world dislikes this way of dividing professing
Christians. The world tries hard to fancy there are _three_ sorts of
people, and not _two_. To be very good and very strict does not suit the
world:--they cannot, will not be saints. To have no religion at all does
not suit the world:--it would not be respectable.--"Thank God," they
will say, "we are not so bad as that." But to have religion enough to be
saved, and yet not go into extremes,--to be sufficiently good, and yet
not be peculiar,--to have a quiet, easy-going, moderate kind of
Christianity, and go comfortably to heaven after all,--this is the
world's favourite idea. There is a third class,--a safe middle
class,--the world fancies, and in this middle class the majority of men
persuade themselves they will be found.

I denounce this notion of a middle class, as an immense and soul-ruining
delusion. I warn you strongly not to be carried away by it. It is as
vain an invention as the Pope's purgatory. It is a refuge of lies,--a
castle in the air,--a Russian ice-palace,--a vast unreality,--an empty
dream. This middle class is a class of Christians nowhere spoken of in
the Bible.

There were two classes in the day of Noah's flood, those who were inside
the ark, and those who were without;--two in the parable of the
Gospel-net, those who are called the good fish, and those who are called
the bad;--two in the parable of the ten virgins, those who are described
as wise, and those who are described as foolish;--two in the account of
the judgment day, the sheep and the goats;--two sides of the throne, the
right hand and the left;--two abodes when the last sentence has been
passed, heaven and hell.

And just so there are only two classes in the visible Church on
earth,--those who are in the state of nature, and those who are in the
state of grace,--those who are in the narrow way, and those who are in
the broad,--those who have faith, and those who have not faith,--those
who have been converted, and those who have not been converted,--those
who are with Christ, and those who are against Him,--those who gather
with Him, and those who scatter abroad,--those who are "wheat," and
those who are "chaff." Into these two classes the whole professing
Church of Christ may be divided. Beside these two classes there is none.

See now what cause there is for self-inquiry. Are you among the wheat,
or among the chaff? Neutrality is impossible. Either you are in one
class, or in the other. Which is it of the two?

You attend church, perhaps. You go to the Lord's table. You like good
people. You can distinguish between good preaching and bad. You think
Popery false, and oppose it warmly. You think Protestantism true, and
support it cordially. You subscribe to religious Societies. You attend
religious meetings. You sometimes read religious books. It is well: it
is very well. It is good: it is all very good. It is more than can be
said of many. But still this is not a straightforward answer to my
question.--Are you wheat or are you chaff?

Have you been born again? Are you a new creature? Have you put off the
old man, and put on the new? Have you ever felt your sins, and repented
of them? Are you looking simply to Christ for pardon and life eternal?
Do you love Christ? Do you serve Christ? Do you loathe heart-sins, and
fight against them? Do you long for perfect holiness, and follow hard
after it? Have you come out from the world? Do you delight in the Bible?
Do you wrestle in prayer? Do you love Christ's people? Do you try to do
good to the world? Are you vile in your own eyes, and willing to take
the lowest place? Are you a Christian in business, and on week-days, and
by your own fireside? Oh, think, think, think on these things, and then
perhaps you will be better able to tell the state of your soul.

I beseech you not to turn away from my question, however unpleasant it
may be. Answer it, though it may prick your conscience, and cut you to
the heart. Answer it, though it may prove you in the wrong, and expose
your fearful danger. Rest not, rest not, till you know how it is between
you and God. Better a thousand times find out that you are in an evil
case, and repent betimes, than live on in uncertainty, and be lost
eternally.


II. Let me show, in the second place, _the time when the two great
classes of mankind shall be separated_.

The text at the beginning of this paper foretells a separation. It says
that Christ shall one day do to His professing Church what the farmer
does to his corn. He shall winnow and sift it. He "shall throughly purge
His floor." And then the wheat and the chaff shall be divided.

There is no separation yet. Good and bad are now all mingled together in
the visible Church of Christ. Believers and unbelievers,--converted and
unconverted,--holy and unholy,--all are to be found now among those who
call themselves Christians. They sit side by side in our assemblies.
They kneel side by side in our pews. They listen side by side to our
sermons. They sometimes come up side by side to the Lord's table, and
receive the same bread and wine from our hands.

But it shall not always be so. Christ shall come the second time with
His fan in His hand. He shall purge His Church, even as He purified the
temple. And then the wheat and the chaff shall be separated, and each
shall go to its own place.

(_a_) Before Christ comes _separation is impossible_. It is not in man's
power to effect it. There lives not the minister on earth who can read
the hearts of every one in his congregation. About some he may speak
decidedly;--he cannot about all. Who have oil in their lamps, and who
have not,--who have grace as well as profession,--and who have
profession only and no grace,--who are children of God, and who of the
devil,--all these are questions which in many cases we cannot accurately
decide. The winnowing fan is not put into our hands.

Grace is sometimes so weak and feeble, that it looks like nature. Nature
is sometimes so plausible and well-dressed, that it looks like grace. I
believe we should many of us have said that Judas was as good as any of
the Apostles; and yet he proved a traitor. I believe we should have said
that Peter was a reprobate when he denied his Lord; and yet he repented
immediately, and rose again. We are but fallible men. "We know in part
and we prophesy in part." (1 Cor. xiii. 9.) We scarcely understand our
own hearts. It is no great wonder if we cannot read the hearts of
others.

But it will not always be so. There is One coming who never errs in
judgment, and is perfect in knowledge. Jesus shall purge His floor.
Jesus shall sift the chaff from the wheat. I wait for this. Till then I
will lean to the side of charity in my judgments. I would rather
tolerate much chaff in the Church than cast out one grain of wheat. He
shall soon come "who has His fan in His hand," and then the certainty
about every one shall be known.

(_b_) Before Christ comes it is useless to _expect to see a perfect
Church_. There cannot be such a thing. The wheat and the chaff, in the
present state of things, will always be found together. I pity those who
leave one Church and join another, because of a few faults and unsound
members. I pity them, because they are fostering ideas which can never
be realized. I pity them, because they are seeking that which cannot be
found. I see "chaff" everywhere. I see imperfections and infirmities of
some kind in every communion on earth. I believe there are few tables of
the Lord, if any, where all the communicants are converted. I often see
loud-talking professors exalted as saints. I often see holy and contrite
believers set down as having no grace at all. I am satisfied if men are
too scrupulous, they may go fluttering about, like Noah's dove, all
their days, and never find rest.

Does any reader of this paper desire a perfect Church? You must wait for
the day of Christ's appearing. Then, and not till then, you will see a
"glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing." (Eph.
v. 27.) Then, and not till then, the floor will be purged.

(_c_) Before Christ comes it is vain to _look for the conversion of the
world_. How can it be, if He is to find wheat and chaff side by side in
the day of His second coming? I believe some Christians expect that
missions will fill the earth with the knowledge of Christ, and that
little by little sin will disappear, and a state of perfect holiness
gradually glide in. I cannot see with their eyes. I think they are
mistaking God's purposes, and sowing for themselves bitter
disappointment. I expect nothing of the kind. I see nothing in the
Bible, or in the world around me, to make me expect it. I have never
heard of a single congregation entirely converted to God, in England or
Scotland, or of anything like it.--And why am I to look for a different
result from the preaching of the Gospel in other lands? I only expect to
see a few raised up as witnesses to Christ in every nation, some in one
place and some in another. Then I expect the Lord Jesus will come in
glory, with His fan in His hand. And when He has purged His floor, and
not till then, His kingdom will begin.

_No separation and no perfection till Christ comes!_ This is my creed. I
am not moved when the infidel asks me why all the world is not
converted, if Christianity is really true. I answer, It was never
promised that it would be so in the present order of things. The Bible
tells me that believers will always be few,--that corruptions and
divisions and heresies will always abound, and that when my Lord returns
to earth He will find plenty of chaff.

_No perfection till Christ comes!_ I am not disturbed when men say, "Make
all the people good Christians at home before you send missionaries to
the heathen abroad." I answer, If I am to wait for that, I may wait for
ever. When we have done all at home, the Church will still be a mixed
body,--it will contain some wheat and much chaff.

But Christ will come again. Sooner or later there shall be a separation
of the visible Church into two companies, and fearful shall that
separation be. The wheat shall make up one company. The chaff shall make
up another. The one company will be all godly. The other company will be
all ungodly. Each shall be by themselves, and a great gulf between, that
none can pass. Blessed indeed shall the righteous be in that day! They
shall shine like stars, no longer obscured with clouds. They shall be
beautiful as the lily, no longer choked with thorns. (Cant. ii. 2.)
Wretched indeed will the ungodly be! How corrupt will corruption be when
left without one grain of salt to season it! How dark will darkness be
when left without one spark of light! Ah, it is not enough to respect
and admire the Lord's people! You must belong to them, or you will one
day be parted from them for ever. There will be no chaff in heaven.
Many, many are the families where one will be taken and another left.
(Luke xvii. 34.)

Who is there now among the readers of this paper that loves the Lord
Jesus Christ in sincerity? If I know anything of the heart of a
Christian, your greatest trials are in the company of worldly
people,--your greatest joys in the company of the saints. Yes! there are
many weary days, when your spirit feels broken and crushed by the
earthly tone of all around you,--days when you could cry with David,
"Woe is me that I dwell in Mesech, and have my habitation in the tents
of Kedar." (Ps. cxx. 5.) And yet there are hours when your soul is so
refreshed and revived by meeting some of God's dear children, that it
seems like heaven on earth. Do I not speak to your heart? Are not these
things true? See then how you should long for the time when Christ shall
come again. See how you should pray daily that the Lord would hasten His
kingdom, and say to Him, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus." (Rev. xxii. 20.)
Then, and not till then, shall be a pure unmixed communion. Then, and
not till then, the saints shall all be together, and shall go out from
one another's presence no more. Wait a little. Wait a little. Scorn and
contempt will soon be over. Laughter and ridicule shall soon have an
end. Slander and misrepresentation will soon cease. Your Saviour shall
come and plead your cause. And then, as Moses said to Korah, "the Lord
will show who are His,"[14] (Num. xvi. 5.)

  14: "This is certain,--when the elect are all converted, then Christ
  will come to judgment. As he that rows a boat stays till all the
  passengers are taken into his boat, and then he rows away; so Christ
  stays till all the elect are gathered in, and then He will hasten
  away to judgment."--_Thomas Watson._ 1660

Who is there among the readers of this paper that knows his heart is not
right in the sight of God? See how you should fear and tremble at the
thought of Christ's appearing. Alas, indeed for the man that lives and
dies with nothing better than a cloak of religion! In the day when
Christ shall purge His floor, you will be shown up and exposed in your
true colours. You may deceive ministers, and friends, and
neighbours,--but you cannot deceive Christ. The paint and varnish of a
heartless Christianity will never stand the fire of that day. The Lord
is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed. You will find
that the eye which saw Achan and Gehazi, has read your secrets, and
searched out your hidden things. You will hear that awful word, "Friend,
how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding garment?" (Matt. xxii.
12.) Oh, tremble at the thought of the day of sifting and separation!
Surely hypocrisy is a most losing game. Surely it never answers to act a
part. Surely it never answers, like Ananias and Sapphira, to pretend to
give God something, and yet to keep back your heart. It all fails at
last. Your joy is but for a moment. Your hopes are no better than a
dream. Oh, tremble, tremble: tremble and repent!


III. Let me show, in the third place, _the portion which Christ's people
shall receive when He comes to purge His floor_.

The text at the beginning of this paper tells us that, in good and
comfortable words. It tells us that Christ shall "gather His wheat into
the garner."

When the Lord Jesus comes the second time, He shall collect His
believing people into a place of safety. He will send His angels and
gather them from every quarter. The sea shall give up the dead that are
in it, and the graves the dead that are in them, and the living shall be
changed. Not one poor sinner of mankind who has ever laid hold on Christ
by faith shall be wanting in that company. Not one single grain of wheat
shall be missing and left outside, when judgments fall upon a wicked
world. There shall be a garner for the wheat of the earth, and into that
garner all the wheat shall be brought.

It is a sweet and comfortable thought, that "the Lord taketh pleasure in
His people" and "careth for the righteous." (Ps. cxlix. 4; 1 Pet. v. 7.)
But how much the Lord cares for them, I fear is little known, and dimly
seen. Believers have their trials, beyond question, and these both many
and great. The flesh is weak. The world is full of snares. The cross is
heavy. The way is narrow. The companions are few. But still they have
strong consolations, if their eyes were but open to see them. Like
Hagar, they have a well of water near them, even in the wilderness,
though they often do not find it out. Like Mary, they have Jesus
standing by their side, though often they are not aware of it for very
tears. (Gen. xxi. 19; John xx. 14.)

Bear with me while I try to tell you something about Christ's care for
poor sinners that believe in Him. Alas, indeed, that it should be
needful! But we live in a day of weak and feeble statements. The danger
of the state of nature is feebly exposed. The privileges of the state of
grace are feebly set forth. Hesitating souls are not encouraged.
Disciples are not established and confirmed. The man out of Christ is
not rightly alarmed. The man in Christ is not rightly built up. The one
sleeps on, and seldom has his conscience pricked. The other creeps and
crawls all his days, and never thoroughly understands the riches of his
inheritance. Truly this is a sore disease, and one that I would gladly
help to cure. Truly it is a melancholy thing that the people of God
should never go up to mount Pizgah, and never know the length and
breadth of their possessions. To be brethren of Christ, and sons of God
by adoption,--to have full and perfect forgiveness, and the renewing of
the Holy Ghost,--to have a place in the book of life, and a name on the
breast-plate of the Great High Priest in heaven,--all these are glorious
things indeed. But still they are not the whole of a believer's portion.
They are upper springs indeed, but still there are nether springs
beside.

(_a_) The Lord _takes pleasure in His believing people_. Though black in
their own eyes, they are comely and honourable in His. They are all
fair. He sees "no spot" in them. (Cant. iv. 7.) Their weaknesses and
short-comings do not break off the union between Him and them. He chose
them, knowing all their hearts. He took them for his own, with a perfect
understanding of all their debts, liabilities, and infirmities, and He
will never break His covenant and cast them off. When they fall, He will
raise them again. When they wander, He will bring them back. Their
_prayers_ are pleasant to Him. As a father loves the first stammering
efforts of his child to speak, so the Lord loves the poor feeble
petitions of His people. He endorses them with His own mighty
intercession, and gives them power on high. Their _services_ are
pleasant to Him. As a father delights in the first daisy that his child
picks up and brings him, even so the Lord is pleased with the weak
attempts of His people to serve Him. Not a cup of cold water shall lose
its reward. Not a word spoken in love shall ever be forgotten. The Holy
Ghost inspired St. Paul to tell the Hebrews of Noah's faith, but not of
his drunkenness,--of Rahab's faith, but not of her lie. It is a blessed
thing to be God's wheat!

(_b_) The Lord _cares for His believing people in their lives_. Their
dwelling-place is well known. The street called "straight," where Judas
dwelt, and Paul lodged,--the house by the sea-side, where Peter prayed,
were all familiar to their Lord. None have such attendants as they
have:--angels rejoice when they are born again; angels minister to them;
and angels encamp around them. None have such food;--their bread is
given them and their water is sure, and they have meat to eat of which
the world knows nothing. None have such company as they have: the Spirit
dwelleth with them; the Father and the Son come to them, and make their
abode with them. (John xiv. 23.) Their steps are all ordered from grace
to glory: they that persecute them persecute Christ Himself, and they
that hurt them hurt the apple of the Lord's eye. Their trials and
temptations are all measured out by a wise Physician:--not a grain of
bitterness is ever mingled in their cup that is not good for the health
of their souls. Their temptations, like Job's, are all under God's
control.--Satan cannot touch a hair of their head without their Lord's
permission, nor even tempt them above that which they shall be able to
bear. "As a father pitieth his own children, so does the Lord pity them
that fear Him." He never afflicts them willingly. (Ps. ciii. 13; Lam.
iii. 33.) He leads them by the right way. He withholds nothing that is
really for their good. Come what will, there is always a "needs-be."
When they are placed in the furnace, it is that they may be purified.
When they are chastened, it is that they may become more holy. When they
are pruned, it is to make them more fruitful. When they are transplanted
from place to place, it is that they may bloom more brightly. All things
are continually working together for their good. Like the bee, they
extract sweetness even out of the bitterest flowers.

(_c_) The Lord _cares for His believing people in their deaths_. Their
times are all in the Lord's hand. The hairs of their heads are all
numbered, and not one can ever fall to the ground without their Father.
They are kept on earth till they are ripe and ready for glory, and not
one moment longer. When they have had sun and rain enough, wind and
storm enough, cold and heat enough,--when the ear is perfected,--then,
and not till then, the sickle is put in. They are all immortal till
their work is done. There is not a disease that can loosen the pins of
their tabernacle, until the Lord gives the word. A thousand may fall at
their right hand, but there is not a plague that can touch them till the
Lord sees good. There is not a physician that can keep them alive, when
the Lord gives the word. When they come to their death-bed, the
everlasting arms are round about them, and make all their bed in their
sickness. When they die, they die like Moses, "according to the word of
the Lord," at the right time, and in the right way. (Deut. xxxiv. 5.)
And when they breathe their last, they fall asleep in Christ, and are at
once carried, like Lazarus, into Abraham's bosom. Yes! it is a blessed
thing to be Christ's wheat! When the sun of other men is setting, the
sun of the believer is rising. When other men are laying aside their
honours, he is putting his on. Death locks the door on the unbeliever,
and shuts him out from hope. But death opens the door to the believer,
and lets him into paradise.

(_d_) And the Lord _will care for His believing people in the dreadful
day of His appearing_. The flaming fire shall not come nigh them. The
voice of the Archangel and the trump of God shall proclaim no terrors to
their ears. Sleeping or waking, quick or dead, mouldering in the coffin,
or standing at the post of daily duty,--believers shall be secure and
unmoved. They shall lift up their heads with joy when they see
redemption drawing nigh. They shall be changed, and put on their
beautiful garments in the twinkling of an eye. They shall be "caught up
to meet the Lord in the air." (1 Thess. iv. 17.) Jesus will do nothing
to a sin-laden world till all his people are safe. There was an ark for
Noah when the flood began. There was a Zoar for Lot when the fire fell
on Sodom. There was a Pella for early Christians when Jerusalem was
besieged. There was a Zurich for English reformers when Popish Mary came
to the throne. And there will be a garner for all the wheat of the earth
in the last day. Yes! it is a blessed thing to be Christ's wheat!

I often wonder at the miserable faithlessness of those among us who are
believers. Next to the hardness of the unconverted heart, I call it one
of the greatest wonders in the world. I wonder that with such mighty
reasons for confidence we can still be so full of doubts. I marvel,
above all things, how any can deny the doctrine that Christ's people
persevere unto the end, and can fancy that He who loved them so as to
die for them upon the cross, will ever let them be cast away. I cannot
think so. I do not believe the Lord Jesus will ever lose one of His
flock. He will not let Satan pluck away from Him so much as one sick
lamb. He will not allow one bone of His mystical body to be broken. He
will not suffer one jewel to fall from His crown. He and His bride have
been once joined in an everlasting covenant, and they shall never, never
be put asunder. The trophies won by earthly conquerors have often been
wrested from them, and carried off; but this shall never be said of the
trophies of Him who triumphed for us on the cross. "My sheep," He says,
"shall never perish." (John x. 28.) I take my stand on that text. I know
not how it can be evaded. If words have any meaning, the perseverance of
Christ's people is there.

I do not believe, when David had rescued the lamb from the paws of the
lion, that he left it weak and wounded to perish in the wilderness. I
cannot believe when the Lord Jesus has delivered a soul from the snare
of the devil that He will ever leave that soul to take his chance, and
wrestle on in his own feebleness, against sin, the devil, and the world.

I dare be sure, if you were present at a shipwreck, and seeing some
helpless child tossing on the waves were to plunge into the sea and save
him at the risk of your own life,--I dare be sure you would not be
content with merely bringing that child safe to shore. You would not lay
him down when you had reached the land, and say, "I will do no more. He
is weak,--he is insensible,--he is cold: it matters not. I have done
enough,--I have delivered him from the waters: he is not drowned." You
would not do it. You would not say so. You would not treat that child in
such a manner. You would lift him in your arms; you would carry him to
the nearest house; you would try to bring back warmth and animation; you
would use every means to restore health and vigour: you would never
leave him till his recovery was a certain thing.

And can you suppose the Lord Jesus Christ is less merciful and less
compassionate? Can you think He would suffer on the cross and die, and
yet leave it uncertain whether believers in Him would be saved? Can you
think He would wrestle with death and hell, and go down to the grave for
our sakes, and yet allow our eternal life to hang on such a thread as
our poor miserable endeavours.

Oh, no: He does not do so! He is a perfect and complete Saviour. Those
whom He loves, He loves unto the end. Those whom He washes in His blood
He never leaves nor forsakes. He puts His fear into their hearts, so
that they shall not depart from Him. Where He begins a work, there He
also finishes. All whom He plants in His "garden inclosed" on earth, He
transplants sooner or later into paradise. All whom He quickens by His
Spirit He will also bring with Him when He enters His kingdom. There is
a garner for every grain of the wheat. All shall appear in Zion before
God.

From false grace man may fall, and that both finally and foully. I never
doubt this. I see proof of it continually. From true grace men never do
fall totally. They never did, and they never will. If they commit sin,
like Peter, they shall repent and rise again. If they err from the right
way, like David, they shall be brought back. It is not any strength or
power of their own that keeps them from apostacy. They are kept because
the power, and love, and promises of the Trinity are all engaged on
their side. The election of God the Father shall not be fruitless; the
intercession of God the Son shall not be ineffectual; the love of God
the Spirit shall not be labour in vain. The Lord "shall keep the feet of
His saints." (1 Sam. ii. 9) They shall all be more than conquerors
through Him that loved them. They all shall conquer, and none die
eternally.[15]

  15: "Blessed for ever and ever be that mother's child whose faith
  hath made him the child of God. The earth may shake, the pillars of
  the world may tremble under us, the countenance of the heaven may be
  appalled, the sun may lose his light, the moon her beauty, the stars
  their glory: but concerning the man that trusteth in God,--what is
  there in the world that shall change his heart, overthrow his faith,
  alter his affection towards God, or the affection of God to
  him?"--_Richard Hooker_, 1585.

If you have not yet taken up the cross and become Christ's disciple, you
little know what privileges you are missing. Peace with God now and
glory hereafter,--the everlasting arms to keep you by the way, and the
garner of safety in the end,--all these are freely offered to you
without money and without price. You may say that Christians have
tribulations;--you forget that they have also consolations. You may say
they have peculiar sorrows;--you forget they have also peculiar joys.
You see but half the Christian life. You see not all. You see the
warfare;--but not the meat and the wages. You see the tossing and
conflict of the outward part of Christianity; you see not the hidden
treasures which lie deep within. Like Elisha's servant, you see the
enemies of God's children; but you do not, like Elisha, see the chariots
and horses of fire which protect them. Oh, judge not by outward
appearances! Be sure that the least drop of the water of life is better
than all the rivers of the world. Remember the garner and the crown. Be
wise in time.

If you feel that you are a weak disciple, think not that weakness shuts
you out from any of the privileges of which I have been speaking. Weak
faith is true faith, and weak grace is true grace; and both are the gift
of Him who never gives in vain. Fear not, neither be discouraged. Doubt
not, neither despair. Jesus will never "break the bruised reed, nor
quench the smoking flax." (Isa. xlii. 3.) The babes in a family are as
much loved and thought of as the elder brothers and sisters. The tender
seedlings in a garden are as diligently looked after as the old trees.
The lambs in the flock are as carefully tended by the good shepherd as
the old sheep. Oh, rest assured it is just the same in Christ's family,
in Christ's garden, in Christ's flock! All are loved. All are tenderly
thought of. All are cared for. And all shall be found in His garner at
last.


IV. Let me show, in the last place, the _portion which remains for all
who are not Christ's people_.

The text at the beginning of this paper describes this in words which
should make our ears tingle: Christ shall "burn up the chaff with fire
unquenchable."

When the Lord Jesus Christ comes to purge His floor, He shall punish all
who are not His disciples with a fearful punishment. All who are found
impenitent and unbelieving,--all who have held the truth in
unrighteousness,--all who have clung to sin, stuck to the world, and set
their affections on things below,--all who are without Christ,--all such
shall come to an awful end. Christ shall "burn up the chaff."

Their punishment shall be _most severe_. There is no pain like that of
burning. Put your finger in the candle for a moment, if you doubt this,
and try. Fire is the most destructive and devouring of all elements.
Look into the mouth of a blast-furnace, and think what it would be to be
there. Fire is of all elements most opposed to life. Creatures can live
in air, and earth, and water; but nothing can live in fire. Yet fire is
the portion to which the Christless and unbelieving will come. Christ
will "burn up the chaff with fire."

Their punishment shall be _eternal_. Millions of ages shall pass away,
and the fire into which the chaff is cast shall still burn on. That fire
shall never burn low and become dim. The fuel of that fire shall never
waste away and be consumed. It is "unquenchable fire."

Alas, these are sad and painful things to speak of! I have no pleasure
in dwelling on them. I could rather say with the Apostle Paul, as I
write, "I have great heaviness and continual sorrow." (Rom. ix. 2.) But
they are things written for our learning, and it is good to consider
them. They are a part of that Scripture which is "all profitable," and
they ought to be heard. Painful as the subject of hell is, it is one
about which I dare not, cannot, must not be silent. Who would desire to
speak of hell-fire if God had not spoken of it? When God has spoken of
it so plainly, who can safely hold his peace?

I dare not shut my eyes to the fact that a deep-rooted infidelity lurks
in men's minds on the subject of hell. I see it oozing out in the utter
apathy of some: they eat, and drink, and sleep, as if there was no wrath
to come. I see it creeping forth in the coldness of others about their
neighbours' souls: they show little anxiety to pluck brands from the
fire. I desire to denounce such infidelity with all my might. Believing
that there are "terrors of the Lord," as well as the "recompense of
reward," I call on all who profess to believe the Bible, to be on their
guard.

(_a_) I know that some do not believe there is any hell at all. They
think it impossible there can be such a place. They call it inconsistent
with the mercy of God. They say it is too awful an idea to be really
true. The devil of course rejoices in the views of such people. They
help his kingdom mightily. They are preaching up his own favourite
doctrine: "Ye shall not surely die." (Gen. iii. 4.)

(_b_) I know, furthermore, that some do not believe that hell is
eternal. They tell us it is incredible that a compassionate God will
punish men for ever. He will surely open the prison doors at last. This
also is a mighty help to the devil's cause. "Take your ease," he
whispers to sinners: "if you do make a mistake, never mind, it is not
for ever." A wicked woman was overheard in the streets of London saying
to a bad companion, "Come along: who is afraid? Some parsons say there
is no hell."

(_c_) I know also that some believe there is a hell, but never allow
that anybody is going there. All people, with them, are good as soon as
they die,--all were sincere,--all meant well,--and all, they hope, got
to heaven. Alas, what a common delusion is this! I can well understand
the feeling of the little girl who asked her mother where all the wicked
people were buried, "for she found no mention on the grave-stones of any
except the good."

(_d_) And I know very well that some believe there is a hell, and never
like it to be spoken of. It is a subject that should always be kept
back, in their opinion. They see no profit in bringing it forward, and
are rather shocked when it is mentioned. This also is an immense help to
the devil. "Hush, hush!" says Satan, "say nothing about hell." The
fowler wishes to hear no noise when he lays his snares. The wolf would
like the shepherd to sleep while he prowls round the fold. The devil
rejoices when Christians are silent about hell.

All these notions are the opinions of man. But what is it to you and me
what man thinks in religion? Man will not judge us at the last day.
Man's fancies and traditions are not to be our guide in this life. There
is but one point to be settled: "What says the Word of God?"

(_a_) Do you believe the Bible? Then depend upon it, _hell is real and
true_. It is true as heaven,--as true as justification by faith,--as
true as the fact that Christ died upon the cross,--as true as the Dead
Sea. There is not a fact or doctrine which you may not lawfully doubt if
you doubt hell. Disbelieve hell, and you unscrew, unsettle, and unpin
everything in Scripture. You may as well throw your Bible away at once.
From "no hell" to "no God" there is but a series of steps.

(_b_) Do you believe the Bible? Then depend upon it, _hell will have
inhabitants_. The wicked shall certainly be turned into hell, and all
the people that forget God. "These shall go away into everlasting
punishment." (Matt. xxv. 46.) The same blessed Saviour who now sits on a
throne of grace, will one day sit on a throne of judgment, and men will
see there is such a thing as "the wrath of the Lamb." (Rev. vi. 16.) The
same lips which now say, "Come: come unto Me!" will one day say,
"Depart, ye cursed!" Alas, how awful the thought of being condemned by
Christ Himself, judged by the Saviour, sentenced to misery by the Lamb!

(_c_) Do you believe the Bible? Then depend upon it, _hell will be
intense and unutterable woe_. It is vain to talk of all the expressions
about it being only figures of speech. The pit, the prison, the worm,
the fire, the thirst, the blackness, the darkness, the weeping, the
gnashing of teeth, the second death,--all these may be figures of speech
if you please. But Bible figures mean something, beyond all question,
and here they mean something which man's mind can never fully conceive.
The miseries of mind and conscience are far worse than those of the
body. The whole extent of hell, the present suffering, the bitter
recollection of the past, the hopeless prospect of the future, will
never be thoroughly known except by those who go there.

(_d_) Do you believe the Bible? Then depend upon it, _hell is eternal_.
It must be eternal, or words have no meaning at all. For ever and
ever--everlasting--unquenchable--never-dying,--all these are expressions
used about hell, and expressions that cannot be explained away. It must
be eternal, or the very foundations of heaven are cast down. If hell has
an end, heaven has an end too. They both stand or fall together.--It
must be eternal, or else every doctrine of the Gospel is undermined. If
a man may escape hell at length without faith in Christ, or
sanctification of the Spirit, sin is no longer an infinite evil, and
there was no such great need for Christ making an atonement. And where
is there warrant for saying that hell can ever change a heart, or make
it fit for heaven?--It must be eternal, or hell would cease to be hell
altogether. Give a man hope, and he will bear anything. Grant a hope of
deliverance, however distant, and hell is but a drop of water. Ah, these
are solemn things! Well said old Caryl: "FOR EVER is the most solemn
saying in the Bible." Alas, for that day which will have no
to-morrow,--that day when men shall seek death and not find it, and
shall desire to die, but death shall flee from them! Who shall dwell
with devouring fire? Who shall dwell with everlasting burnings? (Rev.
ix. 6; Isa. xxxiii. 14.)

(_e_) Do you believe the Bible? Then depend upon it, _hell is a subject
that ought not to be kept back_. It is striking to observe the many
texts about it in Scripture. It is striking to observe that none say so
much about it as our Lord Jesus Christ, that gracious and merciful
Saviour; and the apostle John, whose heart seems full of love. Truly it
may well be doubted whether we ministers speak of it as much as we
ought. I cannot forget the words of a dying hearer of Mr. Newton's:
"Sir, you often told me of Christ and salvation: why did you not oftener
remind me of hell and danger?"

Let others hold their peace about hell if they will;--I dare not do so.
I see it plainly in Scripture, and I must speak of it. I fear that
thousands are on that broad way that leads to it, and I would fain
arouse them to a sense of the peril before them. What would you say of
the man who saw his neighbour's house in danger of being burned down,
and never raised the cry of "Fire"? What ought to be said of us as
ministers, if we call ourselves watchmen for souls, and yet see the
fires of hell raging in the distance, and never give the alarm? Call it
bad taste, if you like, to speak of hell. Call it charity to make things
pleasant, and speak smoothly, and soothe men with a constant lullaby of
peace. From such notions of taste and charity may I ever be delivered!
My notion of charity is to warn men plainly of danger. My notion of
taste in the ministerial office is to declare all the counsel of God. If
I never spoke of hell, I should think I had kept back something that was
profitable, and should look on myself as an accomplice of the devil.

I beseech every reader of this paper, in all tender affection, to beware
of false views of the subject on which I have been dwelling. Beware of
new and strange doctrines about hell and the eternity of punishment.
Beware of manufacturing a God of your own,--a God who is all mercy, but
not just,--a God who is all love, but not holy,--a God who has a heaven
for everybody, but a hell for none,--a God who can allow good and bad to
be side by side in time, but will make no distinction between good and
bad in eternity. Such a God is an idol of your own, as really as Jupiter
or Moloch,--as true an idol as any snake or crocodile in an Egyptian
temple,--as true an idol as was ever moulded out of brass or clay. The
hands of your own fancy and sentimentality have made him. He is not the
God of the Bible, and besides the God of the Bible there is no God at
all. Your heaven would be no heaven at all. A heaven containing all
sorts of characters indiscriminately would be miserable discord indeed.
Alas, for the eternity of such a heaven! there would be little
difference between it and hell. There is a hell! There is a fire for the
chaff! Take heed lest you find it out, to your cost, too late.

Beware of being wise above that which is written. Beware of forming
fanciful theories of your own, and then trying to make the Bible square
in with them. Beware of making selections from your Bible to suit your
taste,--refusing, like a spoilt child, whatever you think
bitter,--seizing, like a spoilt child, whatever you think sweet. What is
all this but taking Jehoiakim's penknife? (Jer. xxxvi. 23.) What does it
amount to but telling God, that you, a poor short-lived worm, know what
is good for you better than He. It will not do: it will not do. You must
take the Bible as it is. You must read it all, and believe it all. You
must come to the reading of it in the spirit of a little child. Dare not
to say, "I believe this verse, for I like it. I reject that, for I do
not like it. I receive this, for I can understand it. I refuse that, for
I cannot reconcile it with my views." Nay, but, O man, "who art thou
that repliest against God?" (Rom. ix. 20.) By what right do you talk in
this way? Surely it were better to say over every chapter in the Word,
"Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth."--If men would do this, they
would never deny hell, the chaff, and the fire.


And now, let me say four things in conclusion, and then I have done. I
have shown the two great classes of mankind, the wheat and the chaff.--I
have shown the separation which will one day take place.--I have shown
the safety of the Lord's people.--I have shown the fearful portion of
the Christless and unbelieving.--I commend these things to the
conscience of every reader of this paper, as in the sight of God.

(1) First of all, settle it down in your mind that the things of which I
have been speaking are _all real and true_.

I do believe that many never see the great truths of religion in this
light. I firmly believe that many never listen to the things they hear
from ministers as realities. They regard it all, like Gallio, as a
matter of "names and words," and nothing more; a huge shadow,--a formal
part-acting,--a vast sham. The last novel, the latest news from France,
India, Australia, Turkey, or New York,--all these are things they
realize: they feel interested and excited about them. But as to the
Bible, and heaven, and the kingdom of Christ, and the judgment
day,--these are subjects that they hear unmoved: they do not really
believe them. If Layard had dug up at Nineveh anything damaging the
truth and authority of the Old Testament Scriptures, it would not have
interfered with their peace for an hour.

If you have unhappily got into this frame of mind, I charge you to cast
it off for ever. Whether you mean to hear or forbear, awaken to a
thorough conviction that the things I have brought before you are real
and true. The wheat, the chaff, the separation, the garner, the
fire,--all these are great realities,--as real as the sun in heaven,--as
real as the paper which your eyes behold. For my part, I believe in
heaven, and I believe in hell. I believe in a coming judgment. I believe
in a day of sifting. I am not ashamed to say so. I believe them all, and
therefore write as I do. Oh, take a friend's advice,--live as if these
things were true.

(2) Settle it down in your mind, in the second place, that the things of
which I write _concern yourself_. They are your business, your affair,
and your concern.

Many, I am satisfied, never look on religion as a matter that concerns
themselves. They attend on its outward part, as a decent and proper
fashion. They hear sermons. They read religious books. They have their
children christened. But all the time they never ask themselves, "What
is all this to me?" They sit in our churches like spectators in a
theatre or court of law. They read our writings as if they were reading
a report of an interesting trial, or of some event far away. But they
never say to themselves, "I am the man."

If you have this kind of feeling, depend upon it it will never do. There
must be an end of all this if ever you are to be saved. You are the man
I write to, whoever you may be who reads this paper. I write not
specially to the rich. I write not specially to the poor. I write to
everybody who will read, whatever his rank may be. It is on your soul's
account that I am pleading, and not another's. You are spoken of in the
text that begins this paper. You are this very day either among the
"wheat" or among the "chaff." Your portion will one day either be the
garner or the fire. Oh, that men were wise, and would lay these things
to heart! Oh, that they would not trifle, dally, linger, live on
half-and-half Christians, meaning well, but never acting boldly, and at
last awake when it is too late!

(3) Settle it down in your mind, in the third place, that if you are
willing to be one of the wheat of the earth, _the Lord Jesus Christ is
willing to receive you_.

Does any man suppose that Jesus is not willing to see His garner filled?
Do you think He does not desire to bring many sons to glory? Oh, but you
little know the depth of His mercy and compassion, if you can think such
a thought! He wept over unbelieving Jerusalem. He mourns over the
impenitent and the thoughtless in the present day. He sends you
invitations by my mouth this hour. He invites you to hear and live, to
forsake the way of the foolish and go in the paths of understanding. "As
I live," He says, "I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth.
Turn ye, turn ye: why will ye die?" (Ezek. xviii. 32.)

Oh, if you never came to Christ for life before, come to Him this very
day! Come to Him with the penitent's prayer for mercy and grace. Come to
Him without delay. Come to Him while the subject of this paper is still
fresh on your mind. Come to Him before another sun rises on the earth,
and let the morning find you a new creature.

If you are determined to have the world, and the things of the
world,--its pleasures and its rewards,--its follies and its sins;--if
you must have your own way, and cannot give up anything for Christ and
your soul;--if this be your case, there is but one end before you. I
fairly warn you,--I plainly tell you:--You will sooner or later come to
the unquenchable fire.

But if any man is willing to be saved, the Lord Jesus Christ stands
ready to save him. "Come unto Me," He says, "weary soul, and I will give
you rest. Come, guilty and sinful soul, and I will give you free pardon.
Come, lost and ruined soul, and I will give you eternal life." (Matt.
xi. 28.)

Let that passage be a word in season. Arise and call upon the Lord. Let
the angels of God rejoice over one more saved soul. Let the courts of
heaven hear the good tidings that one more lost sheep is found.

(4) Settle it down in your mind, last of all, that if you have committed
your soul to Christ, _Christ will never allow that soul to perish_.

The everlasting arms are round about you. Lean back in them and know
your safety. The same hand that was nailed to the cross is holding you.
The same wisdom that framed the heavens and the earth is engaged to
maintain your cause. The same power that redeemed the twelve tribes from
the house of bondage is on your side. The same love that bore with and
carried Israel from Egypt to Canaan is pledged to keep you. Yes! they
are well kept whom Christ keeps! Our faith may repose calmly on such a
bed as Christ's omnipotence.

Take comfort, doubting believer. Why are you cast down? The love of
Jesus is no summer-day fountain: no man ever yet saw its bottom. The
compassion of Jesus is a fire that never yet burned low: the cold, grey
ashes of that fire have never yet been seen. Take comfort. In your own
heart you may find little cause for rejoicing. But you may always
rejoice in the Lord.

You say your faith is so small. But where is it said that none shall be
saved except their faith be great? And after all, "Who gave thee any
faith at all?" The very fact that you have any faith is a token for
good.

You say your sins are so many. But where is the sin, or the heap of
sins, that the blood of Jesus cannot wash away? And after all, "Who
told thee thou hadst any sins?" That feeling never came from thyself.
Blessed indeed is that mother's child who really knows and feels that he
is a sinner.

Take comfort, I say once more, if you have really come to
Christ. Take comfort, and know your privileges. Cast every care
on Jesus. Tell every want to Jesus. Roll every burden on Jesus:
sins,--unbelief,--doubts,--fears,--anxieties,--lay them all on
Christ. He loves to see you doing so. He loves to be employed as
your High Priest. He loves to be trusted. He loves to see His
people ceasing from the vain effort to carry their burdens for
themselves.


I commend these things to the notice of every one into whose hands this
volume may fall. Only be among Christ's "wheat" now, and then, in the
great day of separation, as sure as the Bible is true, you shall be in
Christ's "garner" hereafter.



XXI


ETERNITY!

     "_The things which are seen are temporal; but the things which
     are not seen are eternal._"--2 Cor. iv. 18.


A subject stands out on the face of this text which is one of the most
solemn and heart-searching in the Bible. That subject is _eternity_.[16]

  16: The following pages contain the _substance_ of a sermon which I
  preached, by invitation, in the nave of Peterborough Cathedral, on
  the fourth Sunday in Advent, 1877,--the _substance_ and not the
  precise words. The plain truth is, that the sermon was not intended
  for publication. It was preached from notes, and was one of those
  popular addresses which will not bear close reporting. A style of
  language which satisfies the ear when listened to, will seldom
  satisfy the mind when read. On receiving a manuscript report from
  the publisher, I soon found that it would require far more labour to
  condense, correct, paragraph, punctuate, and prepare the sermon for
  the press, than to write it out roughly from my own notes and
  recollection. From want of time I had no alternative but to adopt
  this course, or to object altogether to publication. The result is
  that the reader has before him the matter, order, heads,
  arrangement, and principal thoughts of my sermon, but not, I repeat,
  the precise words.

The subject is one of which the wisest man can only take in a little. We
have no eyes to see it fully, no line to fathom it, no mind to grasp it;
and yet we must not refuse to consider it. There are star-depths in the
heavens above us, which the most powerful telescope cannot pierce; yet
it is well to look into them and learn something, if we cannot learn
everything. There are heights and depths about the subject of eternity
which mortal man can never comprehend; but God has spoken of it, and we
have no right to turn away from it altogether.

The subject is one which we must never approach without the Bible in our
hands. The moment we depart from "God's Word written," in considering
eternity and the future state of man, we are likely to fall into error.
In examining points like these we have nothing to do with preconceived
notions as to what is God's character, and what _we think_ God ought to
be, or ought to do with man after death.[17] We have only to find out
what is written. What saith the Scripture? What saith the Lord? It is
wild work to tell us that we ought to have "noble thoughts about God,"
independent of, and over and above, Scripture. Natural religion soon
comes to a standstill here. The noblest thoughts about God which we have
a right to hold are the thoughts which He has been pleased to reveal to
us in His "written Word."

  17: "What sentence can we expect from a judge, who at the same time
  that he calls in witnesses and pretends to examine them, makes a
  declaration that however, let them say what they will, the cause is
  so absurd, is so unjust, that no evidence will be sufficient to
  prove it?"--_Horbery_, vol. ii. p. 137.

I ask the attention of all into whose hands this paper may fall, while I
offer a few suggestive thoughts about eternity. As a mortal man I feel
deeply my own insufficiency to handle this subject. But I pray that God
the Holy Ghost, whose strength is made perfect in weakness, may bless
the words I speak, and make them seeds of eternal life in many minds.


I. The first thought which I commend to the attention of my readers is
this:--_We live in a world where all things are temporal and passing
away_.

That man must be blind indeed who cannot realize this. Everything around
us is decaying, dying, and coming to an end. There is a sense no doubt
in which "matter" is eternal. Once created, it will never entirely
perish. But in a popular practical sense, there is nothing undying about
us except our souls. No wonder the poet says:--

    "Change and decay in all around I see:
     O Thou that changest not, abide with me!"

We are all going, going, going, whether high or low, gentle or simple,
rich or poor, old or young. We are all going, and shall soon be gone.

Beauty is only temporal. Sarah was once the fairest of women, and
the admiration of the Court of Egypt; yet a day came when even
Abraham, her husband, said, "Let me bury my dead out of my sight."
(Gen. xxiii. 4.)--Strength of body is only temporal. David was once
a mighty man of valour, the slayer of the lion and the bear, and the
champion of Israel against Goliath; yet a day came when even David
had to be nursed and ministered to in his old age like a
child.--Wisdom and power of brain are only temporal. Solomon was
once a prodigy of knowledge, and all the kings of the earth came to
hear his wisdom; yet even Solomon in his latter days played the fool
exceedingly, and allowed his wives to "turn away his heart."
(1 Kings xi. 2.)

Humbling and painful as these truths may sound, it is good for us all to
realize them and lay them to heart. The houses we live in, the homes we
love, the riches we accumulate, the professions we follow, the plans we
form, the relations we enter into,--they are only for a time. "The
things seen are temporal." "The fashion of this world passeth away."
(1 Cor. vii. 31.)

The thought is one which ought to rouse every one who is living only for
this world. If his conscience is not utterly seared, it should stir in
him great searchings of heart. Oh, take care what you are doing! Awake
to see things in their true light before it be too late. The things you
live for now are all temporal and passing away. The pleasures, the
amusements, the recreations, merry-makings, the profits, the earthly
callings, which now absorb all your heart and drink up all your mind,
will soon be over. They are poor ephemeral things which cannot last. Oh,
love them not too well; grasp them not too tightly; make them not your
idols! You cannot keep them, and you must leave them. Seek first the
kingdom of God, and then everything else shall be added to you. "Set
your affections on things above, not on things on the earth." Oh, you
that love the world, be wise in time! Never, never forget that it is
written, "The world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that
doeth the will of God abideth for ever." (Col. iii. 2; 1 John ii. 17.)

The same thought ought to cheer and comfort every true Christian. Your
trials, crosses, and conflicts, are all temporal. They will soon have an
end; and even now they are working for you "a far more exceeding and
eternal weight of glory." (2 Cor. iv. 17.) Take them patiently: bear
them quietly: look upward, forward, onward, and far beyond them. Fight
your daily fight under an abiding conviction that it is only for a
little time, and that rest is not far off. Carry your daily cross with
an abiding recollection that it is one of the "things seen" which are
temporal. The cross shall soon be exchanged for a crown, and you shall
sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God.


II. The second thought which I commend to the attention of my readers is
this:--_We are all going towards a world where everything is eternal_.

That great unseen state of existence which lies behind the grave, is for
ever. Whether it be happy or miserable, whether it be a condition of joy
or sorrow, in one respect it is utterly unlike this world,--it is for
ever. _There_ at any rate will be no change and decay, no end, no
good-bye, no mornings and evenings, no alteration, no annihilation.
Whatever there is beyond the tomb, when the last trumpet has sounded,
and the dead are raised, will be endless, everlasting, and eternal. "The
things unseen are eternal."

We cannot fully realize this condition. The contrast between now and
then, between this world and the next, is so enormously great that our
feeble minds will not take it in. The consequences it entails are so
tremendous, that they almost take away our breath, and we shrink from
looking at them. But when the Bible speaks plainly we have no right to
turn away from a subject, and with the Bible in our hands we shall do
well to look at the "things which are eternal."

Let us settle it then in our minds, for one thing, that the _future
happiness_ of those who are saved is eternal. However little we may
understand it, it is something which will have no end: it will never
cease, never grow old, never decay, never die. At God's "right hand are
pleasures for evermore." (Ps. xvi. 11.) Once landed in paradise, the
saints of God shall go out no more. The inheritance is "incorruptible,
undefiled, and fadeth not away." They shall "receive a crown of glory
that fadeth not away." (1 Pet. i. 4; v. 4.) Their warfare is
accomplished; their fight is over; their work is done. They shall hunger
no more, neither thirst any more. They are travelling on towards an
"eternal weight of glory," towards a home which shall never be broken
up, a meeting without a parting, a family gathering without a
separation, a day without night. Faith shall be swallowed up in sight,
and hope in certainty. They shall see as they have been seen, and know
as they have been known, and "be for ever with the Lord." I do not
wonder that the apostle Paul adds, "Comfort one another with these
words." (1 Thess. iv. 17, 18.)

Let us settle it, for another thing, in our minds, that the _future
misery_ of those who are finally lost is eternal. This is an awful
truth, I am aware, and flesh and blood naturally shrink from the
contemplation of it. But I am one of those who believe it to be plainly
revealed in Scripture, and I dare not keep it back in the pulpit. To my
eyes eternal future happiness and eternal future misery appear to stand
side by side. I fail to see how you can distinguish the duration of one
from the duration of the other. If the joy of the believer is for ever,
the sorrow of the unbeliever is also for ever. If heaven is eternal, so
likewise is hell. It may be my ignorance, but I know not how the
conclusion can be avoided.

I cannot reconcile the non-eternity of punishment with the _language of
the Bible_. Its advocates talk loudly about love and charity, and say
that it does not harmonize with the merciful and compassionate character
of God. But what saith the Scripture? Who ever spoke such loving and
merciful words as our Lord Jesus Christ? Yet His are the lips which
three times over describe the consequence of impenitence and sin, as
"the worm that never dies and the fire that is not quenched." He is the
Person who speaks in one sentence of the wicked going away into
"everlasting punishment" and the righteous into "life eternal." (Mark
ix. 43--48; Matt. xxv. 46.)[18]--Who does not remember the Apostle
Paul's words about charity? Yet he is the very Apostle who says, the
wicked "shall be punished with everlasting destruction." (2 Thess. i.
9.)--Who does not know the spirit of love which runs through all St.
John's Gospel and Epistles? Yet the beloved Apostle is the very writer
in the New Testament who dwells most strongly, in the book of
Revelation, on the reality and eternity of future woe. What shall we say
to these things? Shall we be wise above that which is written? Shall we
admit the dangerous principle that words in Scripture do not mean what
they appear to mean? Is it not far better to lay our hands on our mouths
and say, "Whatever God has written must be true." "Even so, Lord God
Almighty, true and righteous are Thy judgments." (Rev. xvi. 7.)

  18: "If God had intended to have told us that the punishment of
  wicked man shall have no end, the languages wherein the Scriptures
  are written do hardly afford fuller and more certain words than
  those that are used in this case, whereby to express a duration
  without end; and likewise, which is almost a peremptory decision of
  the thing, the duration of the punishment of wicked men is in the
  very same sentence expressed by the very same word which is used for
  the duration of happiness of the righteous."--_Archbishop Tillotson
  on Hell Torments._ See _Horbery_, vol. ii. p. 42.

I cannot reconcile the non-eternity of punishment with the _language of
our Prayer-book_. The very first petition in our matchless Litany
contains this sentence, "From everlasting damnation, good Lord, deliver
us."--The Catechism teaches every child who learns it, that whenever we
repeat the Lord's Prayer we desire our Heavenly Father to "keep us from
our ghostly enemy and from everlasting death."--Even in our Burial
Service we pray at the grave side, "Deliver us not into the bitter pains
of eternal death."--Once more I ask, "What shall we say to these
things?" Shall our congregations be taught that even when people live
and die in sin we may hope for their happiness in a remote future?
Surely the common sense of many of our worshippers would reply, that if
this is the case Prayer-book words mean nothing at all.

I lay no claim to any peculiar knowledge of Scripture. I feel daily that
I am no more infallible than the Bishop of Rome. But I must speak
according to the light which God has given to me; and I do not think I
should do my duty if I did not raise a warning voice on this subject,
and try to put Christians on their guard. Six thousand years ago sin
entered into the world by the devil's daring falsehood,--"Ye shall not
surely die." (Gen. iii. 4.) At the end of six thousand years the great
enemy of mankind is still using his old weapon, and trying to persuade
men that they may live and die in sin, and yet at some distant period
may be finally saved. Let us not be ignorant of his devices. Let us walk
steadily in the old paths. Let us hold fast the old truth, and believe
that as the happiness of the saved is eternal, so also is the misery of
the lost.[19]

  19: "There is nothing that Satan more desires than that we should
  believe that he does not exist, and that there is no such a place as
  hell, and no such things as eternal torments. He whispers all this
  into our ears, and he exults when he hears a layman, and much more
  when he hears a clergyman, deny these things, for then he hopes to
  make them and others his victims."--_Bishop Wordsworth's Sermons on
  Future Rewards and Punishments_, p. 36.

(_a_) Let us hold it fast _in the interest of the whole system of
revealed religion_. What was the use of God's Son becoming incarnate,
agonizing in Gethsemane, and dying on the cross to make atonement, if
men can be finally saved without believing on Him? Where is the
slightest proof that saving faith in Christ's blood can ever begin after
death? Where is the need of the Holy Ghost, if sinners are at last to
enter heaven without conversion and renewal of heart? Where can we find
the smallest evidence that any one can be born again, and have a new
heart, if he dies in an unregenerate state? If a man may escape eternal
punishment at last, without faith in Christ or sanctification of the
Spirit, sin is no longer an infinite evil, and there was no need for
Christ making an atonement.

(_b_) Let us hold it fast _for the sake of holiness and morality_. I can
imagine nothing so pleasant to flesh and blood as the specious theory
that we may live in sin, and yet escape eternal perdition; and that
although we "serve divers lusts and pleasures" while we are here, we
shall somehow or other all get to heaven hereafter! Only tell the young
man who is "wasting his substance in riotous living" that there is
heaven at last even for those who live and die in sin, and he is never
likely to turn from evil. Why should he repent and take up the cross, if
he can get to heaven at last without trouble?

(_c_) Finally, let us hold it fast, _for the sake of the common hopes of
all God's saints_. Let us distinctly understand that every blow struck
at the eternity of punishment is an equally heavy blow at the eternity
of reward. It is impossible to separate the two things. No ingenious
theological definition can divide them. They stand or fall together. The
same language is used, the same figures of speech are employed, when the
Bible speaks about either condition. Every attack on the duration of
hell is also an attack on the duration of heaven.[20] It is a deep and
true saying, "With the sinner's fear our hope departs."

  20: "If the punishment of the wicked is only temporary, such will
  also be the happiness of the righteous, which is repugnant to the
  whole teaching of Scripture; but if the happiness of the righteous
  will be everlasting (who will be equal to the angels, and their
  bodies will be like the body of Christ), such also will be the
  punishment of the wicked."--_Bishop Wordsworth's Sermon on Future
  Rewards and Punishments, p. 31._

I turn from this part of my subject with a deep sense of its
painfulness. I feel strongly with Robert M'Cheyne, that "it is a hard
subject to handle lovingly." But I turn from it with an equally deep
conviction that if we believe the Bible we must never give up anything
which it contains. From hard, austere, and unmerciful theology, good
Lord, deliver us! If men are not saved it is because they "will not come
to Christ." (John v. 40.) But we must not be wise above that which is
written. No morbid love of liberality, so called, must induce us to
reject anything which God has revealed about eternity. Men sometimes
talk exclusively about God's mercy and love and compassion, as if He had
no other attributes, and leave out of sight entirely His holiness and
His purity, His justice and His unchangeableness, and His hatred of sin.
Let us beware of falling into this delusion. It is a growing evil in
these latter days. Low and inadequate views of the unutterable vileness
and filthiness of sin, and of the unutterable purity of the eternal God,
are fertile sources of error about man's future state. Let us think of
the mighty Being with whom we have to do, as he Himself declared His
character to Moses, saying, "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and
gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping
mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression and sin." But
let us not forget the solemn clause which concludes the sentence: "And
_that will by no means clear the guilty_." (Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7.)
Unrepented sin is an eternal evil, and can never cease to be sin; and He
with whom we have to do is an eternal God.

The words of Psalm cxlv. are strikingly beautiful: "The Lord is
gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The
Lord is good to all: and His tender mercies are over all His works.--The
Lord upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed
down.--The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works.
The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him, to all that call upon
Him in truth.--The Lord preserveth all them that love Him." Nothing can
exceed the mercifulness of this language! But what a striking fact it is
that the passage goes on to add the following solemn conclusion, "_All
the wicked will He destroy_." (Psalm cxlv. 8-20.)


III. The third thought which I commend to the attention of my readers is
this:--_Our state in the unseen world of eternity depends entirely on
what we are in time_.

The life that we live upon earth is short at the very best, and soon
gone. "We spend our days as a tale that is told."--"What is our life? It
is a vapour: so soon passeth it away, and we are gone." (Psalm xc. 9;
James iv. 14.) The life that is before us when we leave this world is an
endless eternity, a sea without a bottom, and an ocean without a shore.
"One day in Thy sight," eternal God, "is as a thousand years, and a
thousand years as one day." (2 Pet. iii. 8.) In that world time shall be
no more.--But short as our life is here, and endless as it will be
hereafter, it is a tremendous thought that eternity hinges upon time.
Our lot after death depends, humanly speaking, on what we are while we
are alive. It is written, God "will render to every man according to his
deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory
and honour and immortality, eternal life: but to them that are
contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness,
indignation and wrath." (Rom. ii. 6, 7.)

We ought never to forget, that we are all, while we live, in a state of
probation. We are constantly sowing seeds which will spring up and bear
fruit, every day and hour in our lives. There are eternal consequences
resulting from all our thoughts and words and actions, of which we take
far too little account. "For every idle word that men speak they shall
give account in the day of judgment." (Matt. xii. 36.) Our thoughts are
all numbered, our actions are weighed. No wonder that St. Paul says, "He
that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that
soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." (Gal.
vi. 8.) In a word, what we sow in life we shall reap after death, and
reap to all eternity.

There is no greater delusion than the common idea that it is possible to
live wickedly, and yet rise again gloriously; to be without religion in
this world, and yet to be a saint in the next. When the famous
Whitefield revived the doctrine of conversion last century, it is
reported that one of his hearers came to him after a sermon and
said,--"It is all quite true, sir. I hope I shall be converted and born
again one day, but not till after I am dead." I fear there are many like
him. I fear the false doctrine of the Romish _purgatory_ has many secret
friends even within the pale of the Church of England! However
carelessly men may go on while they live, they secretly cling to the
hope that they shall be found among the saints when they die. They seem
to hug the idea that there is some cleansing, purifying effect produced
by death, and that, whatever they may be in this life, they shall be
found "meet for the inheritance of the saints" in the life to come. But
it is all a delusion.[21]

  21: "The Scripture never represents the state of future misery, as a
  state of purgation and purification, or anything like analogous to a
  state of trial, where men may fit and qualify themselves for some
  better state of existence: but always as a state of retribution,
  punishment, and righteous vengeance, in which God's justice (a
  perfection of which some men seem to render no account) vindicates
  the power of His majesty, His government, and His love, by punishing
  those who have despised them."--_Horbery_, vol. ii. p. 183.

    "Life is the time to serve the Lord,
     The time to insure the great reward."

The Bible teaches plainly, that as we die, whether converted or
unconverted, whether believers or unbelievers, whether godly or ungodly,
so shall we rise again when the last trumpet sounds. There is no
repentance in the grave: there is no conversion after the last breath is
drawn. Now is the time to believe in Christ, and to lay hold on eternal
life. Now is the time to turn from darkness unto light, and to make our
calling and election sure. The night cometh when no man can work. As the
tree falls, there it will lie. If we leave this world impenitent and
unbelieving, we shall rise the same in the resurrection morning, and
find it had been "good for us if we had never been born."[22]

  22: "This life is the time of our preparation for our future state.
  Our souls will continue for ever what we make them in this world.
  Such a taste and disposition of mind as a man carries with him out
  of this life, he shall retain in the next. It is true, indeed,
  heaven perfects those holy and virtuous dispositions which are begun
  here; but the other world alters no man as to his main state. He
  that is filthy will be filthy still; and he that is unrighteous will
  be unrighteous still."--_Archbishop Tillotson's Sermon on Phil. iii.
  20._ (See _Horbrey_, vol. ii. p. 133.)

I charge every reader of this paper to remember this, and to make a good
use of time. Regard it as the stuff of which life is made, and never
waste it or throw it away. Your hours and days and weeks and months and
years have all something to say to an eternal condition beyond the
grave. What you sow in life you are sure to reap in a life to come. As
holy Baxter says, it is "now or never." Whatever we do in religion must
be done now.

Remember this in your use of all the means of grace, from the least to
the greatest. Never be careless about them. They are given to be your
helps toward an eternal world, and not one of them ought to be
thoughtlessly treated or lightly and irreverently handled. Your daily
prayers and Bible-reading, your weekly behaviour on the Lord's day, your
manner of going through public worship,--all, all these things are
important. Use them all as one who remembers eternity.

Remember it, not least, whenever you are tempted to do evil. When
sinners entice you, and say, "It is only a little one,"--when Satan
whispers in your heart, "Never mind: where is the mighty harm? Everybody
does so,"--then look beyond time to a world unseen, and place in the
face of the temptation the thought of eternity. There is a grand saying
recorded of the martyred Reformer, Bishop Hooper, when one urged him to
recant before he was burned, saying, "Life is sweet and death is
bitter." "True," said the good Bishop, "quite true! But eternal life is
more sweet, and eternal death is more bitter."


IV. The last thought which I commend to the attention of my readers is
this:--_The Lord Jesus Christ is the great Friend to whom we must all
look for help, both for time and eternity_.

The purpose for which the eternal Son of God came into the world can
never be declared too fully, or proclaimed too loudly. He came to give
us hope and peace while we live among the "things seen, which are
temporal," and glory and blessedness when we go into the "things unseen,
which are eternal." He came to "bring life and immortality to light,"
and to "deliver those who, through fear of death, were all their
life-time subject to bondage." (2 Tim. i. 10; Heb. ii. 15.) He saw our
lost and bankrupt condition, and had compassion on us. And now, blessed
be His name, a mortal man may pass through "things temporal" with
comfort, and look forward to "things eternal" without fear.

These mighty privileges our Lord Jesus Christ has purchased for us at
the cost of His own precious blood. He became our Substitute, and bore
our sins in His own body on the cross, and then rose again for our
justification. "He suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He
might bring us unto God." He was made sin for us who knew no sin, that
we poor sinful creatures might have pardon and justification while we
live, and glory and blessedness when we die. (1 Peter ii. 24; iii. 18; 2
Cor. v. 21.)

And all that our Lord Jesus Christ has purchased for us He offers freely
to every one who will turn from his sins, come to Him, and believe. "I
am the light of the world," He says: "he that followeth Me shall not
walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."--"Come unto Me, all
ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."--"If any
man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink."--"Him that cometh unto Me
I will in no wise cast out."--And the terms are as simple as the offer
is free: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be
saved."--"Whosoever believeth on Him shall not perish but have eternal
life." (John viii. 12; Matt. xi. 28; John vii. 37; vi. 37; Acts xvi. 31;
John iii. 16.)

He that has Christ, has life. He can look round him on the "things
temporal," and see change and decay on every side without dismay. He has
got treasure in heaven, which neither rust nor moth can corrupt, nor
thieves break through and steal. He can look forward to the "things
eternal," and feel calm and composed. His Saviour has risen, and gone to
prepare a place for him. When he leaves this world he shall have a crown
of glory, and be for ever with his Lord. He can look down even into the
grave, as the wisest Greeks and Romans could never do, and say, "Oh,
death, where is thy sting? oh, grave, where is thy victory? oh,
eternity, where are thy terrors?" (1 Cor. xv. 55.)

Let us all settle it firmly in our minds that the only way to pass
through "things seen" with comfort, and look forward to "things unseen"
without fear, is to have Christ for our Saviour and Friend, to lay hold
on Christ by faith, to become one with Christ and Christ in us, and
while we live in the flesh to live the life of faith in the Son of God.
(Gal. ii. 20.) How vast is the difference between the state of him who
has faith in Christ, and the state of him who has none! Blessed indeed
is that man or woman who can say, with truth, "I trust in Jesus: I
believe." When Cardinal Beaufort lay upon his death-bed, our mighty poet
describes King Henry as saying, "He dies, but gives no sign." When John
Knox, the Scotch Reformer, was drawing to his end, and unable to speak,
a faithful servant asked him to give some proof that the Gospel he had
preached in life gave him comfort in death, by raising his hand. He
heard; and raised his hand toward heaven three times, and then
departed. Blessed, I say again, is he that believes! He alone is rich,
independent, and beyond the reach of harm. If you and I have no comfort
amidst things temporal, and no hope for the things eternal, the fault is
all our own. It is because we "will not come to Christ, that we may have
life." (John v. 40.)


I leave the subject of eternity here, and pray that God may bless it to
many souls. In conclusion, I offer to every one who reads this volume
some food for thought, and matter for self-examination.

(1) First of all, how are you _using your time_? Life is short and very
uncertain. You never know what a day may bring forth. Business and
pleasure, money-getting and money-spending, eating and drinking,
marrying and giving in marriage,--all, all will soon be over and done
with for ever. And you, what are you doing for your immortal soul? Are
you wasting time, or turning it to good account? Are you preparing to
meet God?

(2) Secondly, where _shall you be in eternity_? It is coming, coming,
coming very fast upon us. You are going, going, going very fast into it.
But where will you be? On the right hand or on the left, in the day of
judgment? Among the lost or among the saved? Oh, rest not, rest not till
your soul is insured! Make sure work: leave nothing uncertain. It is a
fearful thing to die unprepared, and fall into the hands of the living
God.

(3) Thirdly, would you be _safe for time and eternity_? Then seek
Christ, and believe in Him. Come to Him just as you are. Seek Him while
He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. There is still a throne
of grace. It is not too late. Christ waits to be gracious: He invites
you to come to Him. Before the door is shut and the judgment begins,
repent, believe, and be saved.

(4) Lastly, _would you be happy_? Cling to Christ, and live the life of
faith in Him. Abide in Him, and live near to Him. Follow Him with heart
and soul and mind and strength, and seek to know Him better every day.
So doing you shall have great peace while you pass through "things
temporal," and in the midst of a dying world shall "never die." (John
xi. 26.) So doing, you shall be able to look forward to "things eternal"
with unfailing confidence, and to feel and "know that if our earthly
house of this tabernacle be dissolved we have a building of God, a house
not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." (2 Cor. v. 1.)

       *       *       *       *       *

P. S.

Since preaching the above Sermon I have read Canon Farrar's volume,
"Eternal Hope." With much that this book contains I cannot at all agree.
Anything that comes from the pen of such a well-known writer of course
deserves respectful consideration. But I must honestly confess, after
reading "Eternal Hope," that I see no reason to withdraw anything I have
said in my Sermon on "Eternity," and that I laid down the volume with
regret and dissatisfaction, unconvinced and unshaken in my opinions.

I can find nothing new in Canon Farrar's statements. He says hardly
anything that has not been said before, and refuted before. To all who
wish to examine fully the subject of the reality and eternity of future
punishment, I venture to recommend some works which are far less known
than they ought to be, and which appear to me far sounder, and more
Scriptural, than "Eternal Hope." These are "_Horbery's Enquiry into the
Scripture Doctrine of the Duration of Future Punishment_,"
"_Girdlestone's Dies Iræ_," the Rev. C. F. Childe's "_Unsafe Anchor_"
and the Rev. Flavel Cook's "_Righteous Judgment_." "_Bishop Pearson on
the Creed_," under the head "Resurrection," and "_Hodge's Systematic
Theology_," vol. iii. p. 868. will also repay a careful perusal.

The plain truth is, that there are vast difficulties bound up with the
subject of the future state of the wicked, which Canon Farrar seems to
me to leave untouched. The amazing mercifulness of God, and the
awfulness of supposing that many around us will be lost eternally, he
has handled fully and with characteristic rhetoric. No doubt the
compassions of God are unspeakable. He is "not willing that any should
perish." He "would have all men to be saved." His love in sending Christ
into the world to die for sinners is an inexhaustible subject.--But this
is only one side of God's character, as we have it revealed in
Scripture. His character and attributes need to be looked at all round.
The infinite holiness and justice of an eternal God,--His hatred of
evil, manifested in Noah's flood and at Sodom, and in the destruction of
the seven nations of Canaan,--the unspeakable vileness and guilt of sin
in God's sight,--the wide gulf between natural man and his perfect
Maker,--the enormous spiritual change which every child of Adam must go
through, if he is to dwell for ever in God's presence,--and the utter
absence of any intimation in the Bible that this change can take place
after death,--all, all these are points which seem to me comparatively
put on one aside, or left alone, in Canon Farrar's volume. My mind
demands satisfaction on these points before I can accept the views
advocated in "Eternal Hope," and that satisfaction I fail to find in the
book.

The position that Canon Farrar has taken up was first formally advocated
by Origen, a Father who lived in the third century after Christ. He
boldly broached the opinion that future punishment would be only
temporary; but his opinion was rejected by almost all his
contemporaries. Bishop Wordsworth says,--"The Fathers of the Church in
Origen's time and in the following centuries, among whom were many to
whom the original language of the New Testament was their mother tongue,
and who _could not be misled by translations_, examined minutely the
opinion and statements of Origen, and agreed for the most part in
rejecting and condemning them. Irenæus, Cyril of Jerusalem, Chrysostom,
Basil, Cyril of Alexandria, and others of the Eastern Church, and
Tertullian, Cyprian, Lactantius, Augustine, Gregory the Great, Bede, and
many more of the Western Church, were unanimous in teaching that the
joys of the righteous and the punishments of the wicked will not be
temporary, but everlasting."

"Nor was this all. The Fifth General Council, held at Constantinople
under the Emperor Justinian, in 553, A.D. examined the tenets of Origen,
and passed a synodical decree condemnatory of them. And for a thousand
years after that time there was an unanimous consent in Christendom in
this sense." (Bishop Wordsworth's "Sermons," p. 34.)

Let me add to this statement the fact that the eternity of future
punishment has been held by almost all the greatest theologians from the
time of the Reformation down to the present day. It is a point on which
Lutherans, Calvinists, and Arminians, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and
Independents have always, with a few exceptions, been of one mind.
Search the writings of the most eminent and learned Reformers, search
the works of the Puritans, search the few literary remains of the men
who revived English Christianity in the eighteenth century, and, as a
rule, you will always get one harmonious answer. Within the last few
years, no doubt, the "non-eternity of future punishment" has found
several zealous advocates. But up to a comparatively modern date, I
unhesitatingly assert, the supporters of Canon Farrar's views have
always been an extremely small minority among orthodox Christians. That
fact is, at any rate, worth remembering.

As to the _difficulties_ besetting the old or common view of future
punishment, I admit their existence, and I do not pretend to explain
them. But I always expect to find many mysteries in revealed religion,
and I am not stumbled by them. I see other difficulties in the world
which I cannot solve, and I am content to wait for their solution. What
a mighty divine has called, "The mystery of God, the great mystery of
His suffering vice and confusion to prevail,"--the origin of evil,--the
permission of cruelty, oppression, poverty, and disease,--the allowed
sickness and death of infants before they know good from evil,--the
future prospects of the heathen who never heard the Gospel,--the times
of ignorance which God has winked at,--the condition of China,
Hindostan, and Central Africa, for the last 1800 years,--all these
things are to my mind great knots which I am unable to untie, and depths
which I have no line to fathom. But I wait for light, and I have no
doubt all will be made plain. I rest in the thought that I am a poor
ignorant mortal, and that God is a Being of infinite wisdom, and is
doing all things well. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right."
(Gen. xviii. 25.) It is a wise sentence of Bishop Butler: "All shadow of
injustice, and indeed all harsh appearances in the various economy of
God, would be lost, if we would keep in mind that every merciful
allowance shall be made, and no more shall be required of any one, than
what might have been equitably expected of him from the circumstances in
which he was placed, and not what might have been expected from him had
he been placed in other circumstances." ("Analogy," part ii. ch. vi. p.
425. Wilson's edition.) It is a grand saying of Elihu, in Job, "Touching
the Almighty, we cannot find Him out: He is excellent in power, and in
judgment, and in plenty of justice: He will not afflict." (Job xxxvii.
23.)

It may be perfectly true that many Romish divines, and even some
Protestants, have made extravagant and offensive statements about the
bodily sufferings of the lost in another world. It may be true that
those who believe in eternal punishment have occasionally misunderstood
or mistranslated texts, and have pressed figurative language too far.
But it is hardly fair to make Christianity responsible for the mistakes
of its advocates. It is an old saying that "Christian errors are infidel
arguments." Thomas Aquinas, and Dantè, and Milton, and Boston, and
Jonathan Edwards were not inspired and infallible, and I decline to be
answerable for all they may have written about the physical torments of
the lost. But after every allowance, admission, and deduction, there
remains, in my humble opinion, a mass of Scripture evidence in support
of the doctrine of eternal punishment, which can never be explained
away, and which no revision or new translation of the English Bible will
ever overthrow.[23] That there are degrees of misery as well as degrees
of glory in the future state, that the condition of some who are lost
will be far worse than that of others, all this is undeniable. But that
the punishment of the wicked will ever have an end, or that length of
time alone can ever change a heart, or that the Holy Spirit ever works
on the dead, or that there is any purging, purifying process beyond the
grave, by which the wicked will be finally fitted for heaven, these are
positions which I maintain it is utterly impossible to prove by texts of
Scripture. Nay, rather, there are texts of Scripture which teach an
utterly different doctrine. "It is surprising," says Horbery, "if hell
be such a state of purification, that it should always be represented in
Scripture as a place of punishment." (Vol. ii. p. 223.) "Nothing," says
Girdlestone, "but clear statements of Scripture could justify us in
holding, or preaching to ungodly men, the doctrine of repentance after
death; and not one clear statement on this subject is to be found."
("Dies Iræ," p. 269.) If we once begin to invent doctrines which we
cannot prove by texts, or to refuse the evidence of texts in Scripture
because they land us in conclusions we do not like, we may as well throw
aside the Bible altogether, and discard it as the judge of controversy.

  23: Horbery alone alleges and examines no less than one hundred and
  three texts, on his side, in his reply to Whiston.

The favourite argument of some, that no religious doctrine can be
true which is rejected by the "common opinion" and popular feeling
of mankind,--that any texts which contradict this common popular
feeling must be wrongly interpreted,--and that therefore eternal
punishment cannot be true, because the inward feeling of the
multitude revolts against it,--this argument appears to me alike
most dangerous and unsound. It is _dangerous_, because it strikes a
direct blow at the authority of Scripture as the only rule of faith.
Where is the use of the Bible, if the "common opinion" of mortal man
is to be regarded as of more weight than the declarations of God's
Word?--It is _unsound_, because it ignores the great fundamental
principle of Christianity,--that man is a fallen creature, with a
corrupt heart and understanding, and that in spiritual things his
judgment is worthless. There is a veil over our hearts. "The natural
man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are
foolishness to him." (1 Cor. ii. 14.) To say, in the face of such a
text, that any doctrine which the majority of men dislike, such as
eternal punishment, _must_ therefore be untrue, is simply absurd!
The "common opinion" is more likely to be wrong than right! No doubt
Bishop Butler has said, "If in revelation there be found any passage
the seeming meaning of which is contrary to natural religion, we may
most certainly conclude such seeming meaning not to be the real
one." But those who triumphantly quote these words would do well to
observe the sentence which immediately follows: "But it is not any
degree of a presumption against an interpretation of Scripture, that
such an interpretation contains a doctrine which the light of nature
cannot discover." ("Analogy," part i. chap. ii. p. 358. Wilson's
edition.)

After all, what the "common feeling" or opinion of the majority of
mankind is about the duration of future punishment, is a question which
admits of much doubt. Of course we have no means of ascertaining: and it
signifies little either way. In such a matter the only point is, What
saith the Scripture? But I have a strong suspicion, if the world could
be polled, that we should find the greater part of mankind believed in
eternal punishment! About the opinion of the Greeks and Romans at any
rate there can be little dispute. If anything is clearly taught in the
stories of their mythology it is the endless nature of the sufferings of
the wicked. Bishop Butler says, "Gentile writers, both moralist and
poetic, speak of the future punishment of the wicked, both as to
duration and degree, in a like manner of expression and description as
the Scripture does." ("Analogy," part i. chap. ii. p. 218.) The strange
and weird legends of Tantalus, Sisyphus, Ixion, Prometheus, and the
Danaides, have all one common feature about them. In each case the
punishment is eternal! This is a fact worth noticing. It is worth what
it is worth. But it shows, at all events, that the opponents of eternal
punishment should not talk too confidently about the "common opinion of
mankind."

As to the doctrine of the _Annihilation of the Wicked_, to which many
adhere, it appears to me so utterly irreconcilable with our Lord Jesus
Christ's words about "the resurrection of damnation," and "the worm that
never dies, and the fire that is not quenched," and St. Paul's words
about "the resurrection of the unjust" (John v. 29; Mark ix. 43-48; Acts
xxiv. 15), that until those words can be proved to form no part of
inspired Scripture it seems to me mere waste of time to argue about it.

The favourite argument of the advocates of this doctrine, that "death,
dying, perishing, destruction," and the like, are phrases which can only
mean "cessation of existence," is so ridiculously weak that it is
scarcely worth noticing. Every Bible reader knows that God said to Adam,
concerning the forbidden fruit, "In the day thou eatest thereof thou
shalt surely _die_." (Gen. ii. 17.) But every well-taught Sunday scholar
knows that Adam did not "cease to exist," when he broke the commandment.
He died spiritually, but he did not cease to be!--So also St. Peter says
of the flood: "The world that then was, being overflowed with water,
_perished_." (2 Peter iii. 6.) Yet, though temporarily drowned, it
certainly did not cease to be; and when the water was dried up Noah
lived on it again.

It only remains for me now to add one more last word, by way of
information. Those who care to investigate the meaning of the words
"eternal" and "everlasting," as used in Scripture, will find the subject
fully and exhaustively considered in _Girdlestone's "Old Testament
Synonyms_," ch. 30, p. 495; and in the same writer's "_Dies Iræ_," ch.
10 and 11, p. 128.



       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's note:

   p.8 thing changed to think
   p.38 the burden o changed to the burden of
   p.77 beecome changed to become
   p.148 still remain to be changed to still remains to be
   p.241 Aphorisims changed to Aphorisms
   p.320 all lasses changed to all classes
   p.335 thorougly changed to thoroughly
   p.469 still fresh on you mind changed to still fresh on your mind
   Hyphenation of words is inconsistent and has been left as in the
   original.





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