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Title: Faith and Duty: Sermons on Free Texts - with reference to the Church-Year
Author: Buchheimer, Louis
Language: English
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[Illustration: cover]

[Illustration: titlepage]



  Faith and Duty


  Sermons on Free Texts

  With Reference to the Church-Year

  By the

  REV. LOUIS BUCHHEIMER

  Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, St. Louis, Mo.

  [Illustration: logo]

  ST. LOUIS, MO.
  CONCORDIA PUBLISHING HOUSE
  1913



CONTENTS.


                                                       PAGE
  First Sunday in Advent. Gen. 7, 1                       1
  Second Sunday in Advent. Rev. 20, 11. 12. 15            7
  Third Sunday in Advent. 2 Cor. 8, 23                   14
  Fourth Sunday in Advent. Luke 1, 78                    20
  Christmas. 2 Cor. 9, 15                                25
  Last Sunday in the Year. Isaiah 64, 6                  31
  New Year's Day. Matt. 6, 9                             37
  Epiphany Sunday. John 8, 12                            43
  First Sunday after Epiphany. Eccl. 12, 1               48
  Second Sunday after Epiphany. Hebr. 14, 4              54
  Third Sunday after Epiphany. John 4, 14. 15            60
  Fourth Sunday after Epiphany. Matt. 14, 22-27          67
  Fifth Sunday after Epiphany. Matt. 13, 47. 48          73
  Septuagesima Sunday. Matt. 20, 15                      79
  Sexagesima Sunday. John 5, 39                          85
  Quinquagesima Sunday. Rom. 3, 23                       90
  First Sunday in Lent. Exodus 17, 8-13                  96
  Second Sunday in Lent. 2 Tim. 4, 10                   102
  Third Sunday in Lent. Luke 7, 39                      108
  Fourth Sunday in Lent. Matt. 18, 7                    114
  Fifth Sunday in Lent. Exodus 12, 13                   119
  Palm Sunday. Gen. 35, 1-3                             124
  Easter. John 5, 28. 29                                129
  First Sunday after Easter. John 21, 4                 134
  Second Sunday after Easter. John 21, 15-17            140
  Third Sunday after Easter. Matt. 5, 15. 16            145
  Fourth Sunday after Easter. Col. 3, 16                150
  Fifth Sunday after Easter. Eph. 6, 18                 156
  Ascension. Mark 16, 19                                161
  Sunday after Ascension. Luke 9, 26                    166
  Pentecost. Zech. 4, 6                                 171
  Trinity Sunday. 2 Cor. 13, 14                         176
  First Sunday after Trinity. Matt. 25, 46              181
  Second Sunday after Trinity. Acts 24, 25              186
  Third Sunday after Trinity. Matt. 9, 9-13             192
  Fourth Sunday after Trinity. Matt. 16, 19             197
  Fifth Sunday after Trinity. Acts 9, 17. 18            202
  Sixth Sunday after Trinity. 2 Tim. 3, 5               208
  Seventh Sunday after Trinity. Luke 12, 6              213
  Eighth Sunday after Trinity. 1 Tim. 6, 20             218
  Ninth Sunday after Trinity. Luke 12, 16-21            225
  Tenth Sunday after Trinity. 1 Cor. 12, 12 and 26      230
  Eleventh Sunday after Trinity. Rom. 3, 28             236
  Twelfth Sunday after Trinity. Prov. 22, 6             241
  Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity. Matt. 25, 40         246
  Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity. 2 Pet. 1, 5-7        252
  Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity. 1 Pet. 5, 7           258
  Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity. 2 Kings 20, 1-6       263
  Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity. 1 Cor. 3, 11-15     269
  Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity. 1 Kings 18, 21       274
  Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity. John 5, 1-9          280
  Twentieth Sunday after Trinity. Luke 12, 54-56        286
  Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity. Luke 14, 28-30     292
  Twenty-second Sunday after Trinity. Gal. 6, 1         297
  Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity. Mark 12, 41-44     303
  Humiliation and Prayer Sunday. Dan. 5, 27             309
  Reformation. Ps. 87, 1-3                              314



FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT.

     Come thou and all thy house into the ark.--_Gen. 7, 1._


The Bible, from beginning to end, is a series of object lessons. God
sets before us certain persons, things, events, and bids us look at
and learn from them, just as the teacher at school draws a diagram
on the blackboard, and tells the children to look at and learn from
it. No word, or single incident, recorded in the Bible, is wasted or
useless; what may, at first glance, sometimes appear trifling and
unimportant to us, may, on closer examination, mean very much, like
the decimal point in arithmetic or the accent on a word. So it is
with the words of the text just quoted. They may seem insignificant,
yet are they most important.

The present season, beginning with this Sunday, is called Advent.
We are accustomed, in the four weeks before Christmas, to direct
our minds to Christ's advent or coming. This advent, we say, is
threefold: First, there is Christ's coming in the flesh, when as a
little babe He lay in the manger at Bethlehem, taking upon Himself
the form of Abraham, made in the likeness of human flesh, and
performing the pilgrimage of an earthly life that He might thus save
man. Again, we distinguish His second coming, _i. e._, His return,
as we confess in the Creed, "to judge the quick and the dead," when,
arrayed in all the power and majesty of Almightiness, He shall
come to execute vengeance upon the evildoers, vindicate and take
home with Himself those who believed in Him. And between these two
comings lies a third, which we are wont to designate "His spiritual
coming," by which we mean His coming and knocking at the door of
our hearts for admission. This coming is not visible, however,
as the other two, but invisible, yet none the less real on that
account, and it is carried on by means of His Word and sacraments,
through the instrumentality of the preaching of the Gospel and
the administration of Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper, for the
execution of which He has founded a divine institution called the
Church. To that Church He has entrusted the work of Gospel preaching
and sacramental giving. She, if true to her calling and message, is
the conservatory of His truth, the disseminator of His kingdom upon
earth. It is within her pales that He dispenses salvation. Outside
of the Church He does not promise to bestow forgiveness of sin and
the blessings of His grace. How these preliminary remarks bear upon
the selection and consideration of our text, what precious and
instructive lessons we may gather from the comparison, that let us
see, and may we be wise and heed.

"Come thou and all thy house into the ark," reads the command of
God. We immediately perceive with what account of ancient history
that connects. The people of the Old World, the antediluvians, as
they are generally called, had become so corrupt in morals and life
that God determined their destruction and said: "The end of all
flesh is come before me, for the earth is filled with violence,"
yet, to show His desire to save them, He appointed His servant Noah
to preach righteousness to them, and directed him to build an ark
as an evidence that He was minded to carry out His purpose, and as
a means of safety for Noah. Few, however, none, in fact, except
Noah and his immediate family, eight souls in all, took the warning
to heart. Many a one of that perverse generation, we may surmise,
even assisted in the construction of the ark, and the patriarchal
minister would exhort them to forsake their sins and worship God,
only to be sneered at for his credulity and ridiculed for his
nonsensical eccentricity of building such a boathouse.

But the hundred and twenty years given for probation expired, and
Noah receives directions to embark. "Come thou," is the command,
"into the ark." Just one week is allowed to bring into the ark
all his family, and the birds and beasts to be preserved, and
then--what an unusual sound it must have been--the door was shut,
not by Noah's, or any human hand, but by the hand of Jehovah; for
it is written: "And the Lord shut him in," and now, amid the war
of heaven's artillery and the shaking of the earth, the fountains
of the deep burst open, and the windows of the skies break loose,
and the greatest and most terrible calamity Revelation records is
on. Imagination cannot portray the scenes that must have then been
enacted,--how, forgetful of everything but self-preservation, they
fled towards the singular building, which but a little before they
had insolently defied; how, perhaps laboring in their distraction
to scramble up its huge sides, the angry tide of waters keeps
them down, and with a cry of despair they dash into the watery
abyss; how some, climbing up to the loftiest pinnacle and summit
of the mountains, in the hope that perhaps at the end the door
may be opened to receive a few more, they see the wondrous ship
dashing along, gallant and safe, and hear that gurgling sound, the
death requiem of their race, rising higher and higher. Oh! who can
describe the anguish, the woe, the cursing of self. But it was now
too late, and yet, whose fault was it? Provision had been made,
probation time had been granted them; there was none to blame but
themselves. God's warnings are not empty sounds, His institutions
not for ridicule and rejection. And now, more generally, for the
application.

We, too, have an ark, a New Testament Ark. God, Himself, as the
divine architect and artificer, has built it; He devised the plans,
He selected the material, and employs the Noahs in its construction;
daily do we see before our eyes its towers and walls, hear regularly
and pleadingly the bells sending out the invitation: "Come thou
into the ark." You know what this ark is,--it's the Holy Christian
Church, that divine structure which by Him has been finished these
1900 years. There, in the midst of a world of sin and depravity,
upon which God has pronounced His righteous judgments as clearly as
upon the race of antediluvians, it stands,--the great, the capacious
Gospel Ark, a refuge of safety; come whatever Jehovah may commission
upon our guilty world, it is certain to ride safely above the
tumultuous tempest and bring us gallantly to the celestial mountain,
the Ararat of Heaven.

My dear hearer, have you entered into that ark? Is your name
enrolled among the list of passengers? And why not? Make known the
reason of your backwardness. In other words, without figure, lay
before you the question: Why are you not a church-member? Why do you
stand aloof from the church? Why do you not join? I shall listen
to a few of your reasons, and then tell you why you ought to join.
Perhaps you are laboring under the fear that there is not room
enough for you in the ark, that you are not invited among them to
whom the gracious offer is tendered. Banish that thought instantly
from your mind. "Not room enough in the ark!" "Not wanted!" "Come
thou and thy house into the ark." You know the beautiful parable of
the Great Supper, to which all and sundry were invited, and after
everything had been precisely done as the master had commanded,
the servant comes and tells the master of the house: "Yet there is
room." A striking truth! Those words reveal that the Christian Ark
is not yet fully tenanted, that, as the invitation is still out, you
are yet in time.

"Not _room_--not _wanted_!" God forbid that such a thought should
in your breasts be found. "Come unto me," declared your Savior,
"come thou into the ark." But you say: "I do belong to the church,
the so-called 'Big Church,' _i. e._, to the number of those who
still profess to be Christians, who uphold Christian principles and
live good moral lives, who aim at what is right, and I am just as
good and honest as any in the church." Perhaps so, my dear friend,
perhaps more so, for not all that profess to be church-members
are such; some are slimy and wily hypocrites. But _you_, as an
honorable and professing Christian, ought to be a church-member,
for you know that Christ does not acknowledge the "Big Church" of
which you are speaking. You cannot put asunder what Christ has
joined together. He has joined these two things together, Himself
and the Church; outside of His ark He promises no salvation, and
you have no right to expect it. For what is the Church? It is
Christ's provision for the salvation of man,--how? By the preaching
of His holy Word and the administration of His sacraments, as we
heard. Is the Word of God preached in the "Big Church"? Is Baptism
administered, the Lord's Communion received? How can faith in the
Savior then be wrought, maintained, forgiveness of sins secured,
hope and salvation? "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the
Word of God," says the Bible. "If ye continue in my Word, then are
ye my disciples, indeed," says the Savior. "He that believeth and is
baptized shall be saved." "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man
and drink His blood, ye have no life in you."

I doubt not that many of the antediluvians did not despise the ark
outright. Who knows but what they might have thought there was
something to it,--when the great calamity comes we shall be all
right,--and that they told the preacher of righteousness: "Never
mind about us, Noah, our record is still good." But salvation was in
the ark, and there it is to-day; you cannot separate Christ from His
Church, Christliness from Churchliness, for the Church is Christ's,
and Christ is in His Church; and I know not, from the study of God's
Word, the Bible, what right any man has to stand aloof from the
Christian Church and call himself a Christian. The "Big Church" is
a big delusion.

"Yes, I recognize that I ought to belong to the Church, but I do not
like to bind myself," pleads another. Bind yourself? To what? To a
life of godliness, to a conduct becoming a Christian, to the duties
incumbent upon a member? Why, if you are a Christian at all, you are
bound by these things already. The further few hours occasionally
given to the deliberation of congregational affairs ought not to
deter you. You are bound already, why speak about binding yourself?
And you certainly do not want to be unbound,--for in the ark alone
is your safety.

There are yet other reasons why some do not join the Church. In our
materialistic age, there are hundreds whom the love of money keeps
out of the house of God. It costs something, and they shun costs, no
matter for what purpose--ever so noble. They hold connections which
the Church cannot sanction, belong to organizations against which it
finds itself compelled to testify, and because people cannot bear
to have their connections reproved, and do not stop to weigh and
consider what the Church has to say, they immediately, without any
further ado, break off all relation with the Church, and raise the
cry against it of being too strict, and stay away from the preaching
and the sacraments, none of which have been denied them, and to
which they are warmly invited and heartily welcomed. They will once
have to answer for it. The invitation remains: "Come thou and all
thy house into the ark."--

And now, having listened to why some people do not belong to the
Church, let us regard a few reasons why each and every Christian
ought to be a church-member. First, there is the positive command
of God. The Lord said unto Noah--commanded, directed him: "Come
thou and all thy house into the ark." His directions to us and ours
are not less specific. His Third Commandment reads: "Thou shalt
sanctify the holyday." Where does the sanctification of that day
take place but in His Church, in the observance of its institutions?
He warns: "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as
the manner of some is." Again, take all such clear passages in
which He commands us to profess piety as this: "I say unto you,
Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I also confess
before my Father which is in heaven," which, if it means anything,
certainly means that we must either be publicly and openly rated
among His confessors, or He will not consent to acknowledge us among
His saints. How can a man be a proper child of God who will not so
much as give His name as a believer? What guarantee has he to count
securely on salvation if he refuses to say before men whether he
takes Christ as his Redeemer, or not? It is true: "With the heart
man believeth unto righteousness," but it is equally true: "With the
mouth confession is made unto salvation." Church-membership is not
optional; it is imperative, it is based upon God's command.

Another reason for church-membership is, that a Christian must
advance his Master's cause. If you are at liberty to decline
connection with Christ's Church, then I am; if one is, all are,
and how, then, can there be the maintenance of the ministry, the
furtherance of the manifest kingdom of God? We pray daily: "Hallowed
be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in
heaven." When is God's name hallowed? When does His kingdom come?
And by what influences and agencies is His will done on earth but
by this organization established by Himself for that purpose,--His
holy Church? Who keeps up the work of the ministry with its
schools of education, who maintains the propagation of the faith
by the support of missions, and all those other efforts essential
to the preservation and spreading of Christ's kingdom, and you,
as a disciple of Christ, should be found standing aloof from it,
not helping along yourself, yea, by your passive indifference and
non-cooperation setting a bad example unto others? Your duty in this
respect is as plain as Noah's,--you should get into the ark.

And, reason last. It promotes your own good. Aside from what we
have already emphasized, there is something in the simple matter
of being known and feeling committed as a member of a Church which
strengthens and helps a man. It restrains where otherwise there
would be no restraint. It induces to arouse a livelier sense of
religious obligations, stimulates to stricter fidelity in the
observance of things which otherwise are easily neglected, secures
the watch and oversight of experienced Christians, and, withal,
gives a force and quickening which comes from conviction that one is
rated as a disciple of Christ and looked to for example in faith, in
word, and in deeds. It brings spiritual things and Christian duty
closer home. If conscientiously attended to, it is a blessing to
you, and it makes you a blessing to others.

Let this suffice on this subject at this time. Let those who have
held and are holding membership draw a rule from what has been said
for the regulation of their conduct. So divine and essential a cause
enlists their endeavors. Let them make it their business to honor
it, to widen and extend its influences by being punctual at the
services, by being particular in the observance of its sacraments,
by being uncompromising in the belief and defense of its faith, by
being active in encouraging all efforts necessary to its life and
success. And those who have hitherto stood aloof from the Church,
or who are mere lingerers about its gates, let them also learn from
this the unsatisfactoriness of their position, and be admonished of
the duty and necessity that is upon them if they would find God and
salvation.

"Come thou and thy family into the ark,"--what time could be more
opportune than this first day of another year of God's grace?
Consider the matter, and may it lead you to lay your vow upon God's
altar and have your name recorded on the roster of the Church. Amen.



SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT.

     And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it. And I
     saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books
     were opened; and another book was opened which is the book of
     life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were
     written in the books, according to their works; and whosoever
     was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake
     of fire.--_Rev. 20, 11. 12. 15._


We are all acquainted, my beloved, with the verdict that was once
pronounced upon King Belshazzar of Babylon,--how, seated one night
at a royal banquet, with his princes, his wives and concubines,
eating, drinking, and making merry, there suddenly appeared upon the
wall of his palace the ghostly fingers of a man's hand tracing in
clear and distinct letters the words: "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin."
When the king saw the mysterious script and surmised its probable
meaning, his countenance was changed, the joints of his loins were
loosed, and his knees smote one against another. The wisest man in
his realm was sent for, one Daniel, the Lord's prophet, interprets
the words and tells him: "Mene: God has numbered thy kingdom and
finished it. Tekel: Thou art weighed in the balance and found
wanting. Upharsin: Thy kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and
Persians." Nor was it the space of two hours before the verdict met
its fulfillment. Darius, the king of the Medes, by a subterranean
passage, dug under the city's walls, broke into the city. Belshazzar
was slain that night, and his mighty empire shattered like chaff
before the wind.

"Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin," that is the handwriting which one
might appropriately inscribe over the portals of this day. Loving
and warning as was the picture which we contemplated on the last
Lord's Day, where we observed our Savior riding in royal state,
in the City of David, and heard the prophet's prediction: "Tell
ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek
and sitting upon a colt," just as tremendous and awfully solemn is
the account in to-day's Gospel, which presents to us that selfsame
King transformed into a judge, His meekness into righteous display,
His offers of salvation into sentences of sharpness, justice, and
retribution, parceling out to every one, as He did unto Belshazzar
at Babylon, the just verdict of his deed. It is Christ's "Second
Advent," His coming to judge the quick and the dead, that forms
the topic of our present contemplation, and taking up the account
read from Revelations, step by step, may God's Holy Spirit make our
consideration of it a blessing to your souls. Four things enlist our
devotion: _I. The Judge_; _II. the judged_; _III. the books_; _IV.
the results_.

The first thing that arrested the Apostle's eye was the throne. "And
I saw a great white throne," he tells us. Thrones are the seats of
kings and sovereigns, and they are always associated with the idea
of regal splendor and magnificence. Just so the meaning is, that
when the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord
of lords, appears in the clouds of heaven, He will be surrounded
with the manifestations of grandeur, majesty, and dominion, as the
Gospel indicates when it says: "Then shall ye see the Son of Man
coming in great glory," and things are particularly specified, too,
regarding this throne. It is a "great throne," like the one which
Isaiah, the prophet, saw in one of his visions "high and lifted up,"
so that the millions and myriads of earth can easily discern it as
the spot where they shall hear their eternal destiny read out. And
it was also a "white" throne. White, in the language of the Bible
and of all nations, is the mark of purity and holiness, and when,
accordingly, the throne is designated as being "white," it means
that white decisions will be rendered there, stainless judgment,
unspotted by the least prejudice, crookedness, partiality, or
mistakes; none will think of questioning their equity, or dream of
appealing to any higher court. Their verdict will be final and fair.

The next object that attracted the Apostle's eye was the Judge
Himself: "And I saw Him that sat on it." No further description of
the personal appearance of the Judge is given. John simply says: "I
saw Him," whence it follows that He can be seen, and, accordingly,
it could not have been the absolute, invisible God, who cannot be
seen. Who, then, was it? It was none other than Jesus Christ, of
whom we confess in the Second Article that He was born of the Virgin
Mary, was crucified, dead and buried, and the third day rose again,
and, ascending into heaven, shall come again to judge the quick
and the dead. This is the plain teaching of Scripture throughout.
Christ Jesus, the Son of Man, wearing the very nature of those whom
He judges, will be the Judge. "God hath appointed a day in which
He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath
ordained." But not any longer as the gentle, compassionate Savior,
as the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world, but as the
Lion of the tribe of Judah, as the Judge from whose face the earth
and the heavens will flee away, and the unrighteous call out in
despair: "Ye mountains, fall upon us, and ye hills, hide us from Him
that sitteth on the throne." And think not, we would here add, that
we are describing matters of imagination, such as poets and painters
may dwell upon. We are describing things that will really happen.
John saw these things in vision. You and I shall one day see these
things in reality. "Behold, He cometh with clouds, and every eye
shall see Him." Where shall be _our_ place, what _our_ portion at
that time, in that day?

This we learn from the next point of consideration: Who shall be
the judged? "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before
God." By the "dead" here are meant _all mankind_, the entire family
of earth, all of woman born, from Adam down to the last offspring
of human race,--they must all appear before the judgment-seat of
Christ. It is computed that there are more than eighty millions
of inhabitants in our land. This is about one-twentieth part
of the entire population of the globe, which, at this time, is
calculated at one billion five hundred millions. These one billion
five hundred millions will be all gathered together into one
thronging assemblage, and not they only, but also, in addition,
the two hundred generations of men who have preceded us, and
those generations--how many we know not, God knoweth--that will
still live in the earth between these days and the last general
judgment. These all, which no man can number, shall be judged. It
says: "The great and small." There will be no distinction of age,
size, color, or nation, condition or rank, those of high degree and
those of low estate, the rich and the poor, the sovereign and his
subjects, the man of silvery hair and the infant of a span long, the
distinguished scholar and the untutored savage, husband and wife,
pastor and people, apostles and sinners,--all shall stand before
God. All the dead, whose bodies were once consigned by loving hands
to quiet resting-chambers beneath mother earth, those whose bones
lie bleached upon the desert's sands or Alpine mountains, those
whose corpse was lowered down into watery depths,--immaterial how,
when, or where dead,--these all shall yield up their tents when the
trumpet of the archangel sounds to gather the children of men unto
judgment. And with the parties thus arrayed at the bar, we proceed
to the judgment itself.

"And the books were opened, and another book was opened which is the
book of life. And the dead were judged out of those things which
were written in the books." Two sets of books are here spoken of:
first, two books, and then another book. Other passages in God's
Word also speak of books in connection with the Judgment. What
the character of these books spoken of is we are not at a loss to
determine; the one is the book of God's remembrance, and the other
is the book of God's Word. Not as if God in reality employs books
to make His entries; the all-knowing King needs no such helps to
remind Him of men's actions. His all-capacious mind knows all things
and forgets nothing. The idea is: Just as men, in their manifold
dealings, do not trust to their memories, but use memoranda and
records in order to be able to refer to them as occasion requires,
just so, in condescension to our way of thinking, figuratively
speaking, God represents Himself as keeping a book in which He
has an exact record of what has been done by any creature, past,
present, and future. And an exact record it will be, accurate in the
minutest detail. Not only man's general character, the sum total
of his life, whether (taken altogether) he was, on the whole, a
worldly or a pious man, or the like, will be taken into account,
but every trifling act, good or bad, of which his entire life was
composed. The word is: "God shall bring every work into judgment,
with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil."
Everything. Nothing shall be kept back, nothing will be overlooked.
That thought that passed so rapidly through your mind as hardly
to be noticed, that word that so hastily escaped your lips, all
the deliberate and determined actions which have left their stain
upon your life, all these, down to the secret sin that you have
been so successful in hiding from the sight of man, all, whether
done in childhood, youth, manhood, or old age, all that has been
committed or omitted, will be opened out to public view by the
all-seeing, all-remembering Judge. This is the first book, the Book
of Remembrance.

And the divine Arbiter opens another book. We have no difficulty in
recognizing it at once. It is to us a familiar volume,--"The word
that I have spoken, the same shall judge you in the last day," is
the language of the Judge Himself. That book, we contend, is the
guide and rule of our faith and actions in this life; it is also
the statute-book of heaven, the touchstone by which our hearts and
lives are to be tried in the life hereafter. Plain enough are the
directions that book tells you. "Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God,
with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and
thy neighbor as thyself." Plainly does it speak to you and to all
of heaven, of judgment, of eternity, of faith, of holiness, and of
the new birth and conversion; plainly does it inform you of Him
who redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for
us, that he that believeth in the Son hath eternal life, and he
that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God
abideth on him. In brief, according to that opened Bible man shall
be justified or condemned. Here is the standard, the rule.

How important, my beloved, that we should see on what terms we
stand with our Bibles now--whether they justify us, or whether they
condemn us. Oh, for that oft-neglected divine Book!

But there is a third book to be opened. That is the book of life,
and "whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast
into the lake of fire." It was a custom generally observed at the
courts of princes to keep a list of the persons employed in their
service, of the officers of their armies, and sometimes even the
names of the soldiers; and when it is said in the Bible that a
person's name is written in the book of life, it means that he
particularly belongs to God, is enrolled among His friends and
followers. It is also probable that the early Christian churches,
like our churches now, kept lists of their members, and that this
term "book of life" was derived from such a custom, it being
regarded that any one on the list was also an assured member of
heaven. And how may I know whether my name is inscribed in this
book of life? "He that believeth in the Son hath eternal life,"
and "he that believeth not in the Son, shall not see life, but the
wrath of God abideth on him." What determines our eternal destiny,
our acceptance or rejection by the Judge, is our personal belief
and faith in Jesus Christ; on that depends our salvation, our being
enrolled or canceled from the book of life. "Jesus, Thy blood and
righteousness, my jewels are, my glorious dress; in these before my
God I'll stand when summoned to His own right hand." Nothing else
will avail but faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Redeemer.
That places our name in the book of life; with that men will stand
or fall. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he
that believeth not shall be damned."

But does not the Record here, verse 12, and the Bible _elsewhere_,
emphasize that we will be judged according to our works, according
to what we have done? Indeed, but this does not contradict salvation
by faith in Christ Jesus; our faith, to prove itself genuine, must
work and does work. If there are no works, we may rest assured
there is no faith. At the last day our works will be inquired into
to ascertain the nature of our faith. If there is no love toward
the brethren of Jesus, no manifestation of Christ's Spirit toward
Christ's suffering members, we may take it for granted that faith
is dead. Our works come into account as fruits of our faith;
but faith in Christ Jesus is the principle on which all stand or
fall, for--what will the outcome of that final judgment be? "And
they shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous
into life eternal." The Bible everywhere speaks, in connection
with the Day of Judgment, of mankind being separated into two
distinct portions. Now the wheat and tares grow together. There is
a difference between them, even at the present, which the skilled
eye in many instances can detect, but, as yet, they run together,
and there is no severance of them into separate fields or pastures.
It will not always be so. Infidels and Christians will one day
cease to live under the same roof, or believers and unbelievers to
be unequally yoked together, or the children of the devil and the
children of God to be intermingled in the same families, firms, and
societies. When men come to appear before their Judge, the record
is: "He shall separate them one from another, and shall set the good
as sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left." In ancient
times the left and right hand of a judge meant much. To be placed on
the right hand signified acceptance, acquittal; on the left hand,
condemnation, rejection. And He shall say to them on His right hand:
"Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you
from the foundation of the world." And, addressing Himself to the
other, there break from the lips of the Judge the dark, desolating
words: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared
for the devil and his angels." One shudders to speak them, but here
are the words from the lips of the almighty Judge Himself. Who can
alter them? On the one side is an inheritance, a realm of divine
blessedness, a kingdom which knows no evil, a life which knows no
death. On the other side gapes a lake of unquenchable fire, never,
indeed, meant or made for men. Punishments are there, and tears
that ever fall, and flames that ever burn, and miseries that never
exhaust. Exactly what it is I cannot tell, and wish that none may
ascertain. I can only rehearse the expressions of God's Word upon
the subject,--"blackness of darkness, worm that dieth not, weeping
and gnashing of teeth"; and no representation is more awful than the
one employed in the text, "a lake of fire," seething, sweltering,
weltering fire, that shall never be quenched, everlasting burning.

And why, brethren, bring before you these solemn truths? Is it
to torment you before the time? No, indeed, but as He Himself in
to-day's Gospel declares, "that ye may be accounted worthy to escape
all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the
Son of Man," that you be sincere believers and worshipers here on
earth, diligent in good works, and on that day be rated among those
who shall inherit their Father's kingdom, and to that end:

    King of Majesty, tremendous,
    Who dost free salvation send us,
    Fount of pity, then befriend us,
    With the favored sheep, O place us!
    Nor amid the goats abase us,
    To Thine own right hand upraise us!

    Amen.



THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT.

     They are the messengers of the churches.--_2 Cor. 8, 23._


St. Paul the Apostle was laboring in Macedonia. He had there learned
that through the famine which then prevailed the pious converts in
Judea were in pecuniary straits. He had applied for aid in their
behalf to the brethren in Macedonia, and they, considering their
poverty, had responded in the most liberal manner to his appeal.
He informs the church of Corinth of this large benevolence, and
states his conviction that the Corinthian believers, who were so
much richer than those of Macedonia, would not allow themselves
to be outdone in the extent of their bounty. Not satisfied with
having informed them by letter, he also sends to them Titus and
other Christian ministers to explain to them fully the wants of
their suffering brethren and to raise the necessary supplies. Now,
it appeared requisite for the information of those who were not
sufficiently acquainted with the men sent that they should carry
with them some introduction, some credentials. St. Paul, therefore,
accredits them in the words of the text: "Whether any do inquire of
Titus or of our brethren, they are the messengers of the churches
and the glory of Christ."

It is not my intention, on the present occasion, to dwell upon
the circumstances to which our text most immediately refers. My
object is to impress upon your minds the solemn character of the
ministerial office as explained by the expression: "messengers of
the churches." The epistle of this Sunday suggests this, and the
fact that it is the ----th anniversary of my ministry among you
lends it a personal coloring. Two chief items commend our thoughts:
_I. The office of Christ's ministers_, _II. the duty of Christ's
people,--what is it?_

The office of Christ's ministers,--what is it? Announces Paul in
the text: "They are the messengers of the churches." We all know
the office of a messenger. It is to bear a message from one person
to another person. This figure is frequently made use of in the
Bible to illustrate the intercourse between God and man. Thus it is
employed in reference to the Lord Himself. From all eternity He had
been in the bosom of the Father, and when the fullness of time was
come, He appeared in the form of a man, to make known, to declare,
the message of the Father. That message was the unfolding of the
everlasting covenant whereby God might be just and yet pardon and
save the sinner. Hence, the Prophet Malachi predicts Christ's coming
under this very name of Messenger: "The Lord whom ye seek, shall
suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the Covenant,
whom ye delight in." Our blessed Lord, accordingly, was a messenger.

The angels, also, have often been employed to bring messages
from God to man. They, likewise, are spoken of under this title.
The Greek word which we translate "angel" means "messenger." The
vision which Jacob saw at Bethel, the angels of God ascending and
descending upon the ladder, aptly represents the services of those
heavenly beings who are continually descending and ascending with
tidings respecting the business which is being transacted between
heaven and earth. Hence, the angel, or messenger, who appeared to
Zacharias and told the purpose of his visit from the courts above:
"I am Gabriel," said he, "that stand in the presence of God, and am
sent to speak unto thee and to show thee these glad tidings."

But, besides the Lord Jesus and the angels, it has pleased God in
His mercy and condescension to make use of _men_ as His messengers
to the human race, and so they are described in the Word of God.
We read: "Thus spake Haggai, the Lord's messenger," and St. Paul,
in writing to the Philippians, respecting their minister, says: "I
supposed it necessary to send unto you Epaphroditus, my brother and
companion in labor, but your messenger."

But, alas, through the corruption of our common nature, everything
human is liable to be perverted. There are many who profess to
be the Lord's messengers, who are not such. It is, accordingly,
intimated in the Scripture, for the warning of Lord's people,
that there are two classes of messengers, the evil and the good.
In the history and prophecies of the Old Testament we read of
false prophets who were not sent, and yet they ran and taught the
people perverse doctrines and led many away from the true service
of the living God. In the days of Israel in the wilderness there
were Korah, Dathan and Abiram, who, contrary to the spirit of God,
taught the people to rebel against Moses and Aaron. The Prophet
Jeremiah speaks of a very busy set of false prophets who did not
stand in the Lord's counsel and misled His people. And in the New
Testament they are not missing,--there were the Pharisees, Judas,
Hymenaeus, and Alexander. St. Paul bitterly complains about some
who, to gain their own selfish purposes, pretended to be apostles,
but who were not. Our Lord admonishes that, at all times of the
Christian dispensation, we may expect false prophets wearing the
clothing of sheep. Now, how are we to distinguish between the real
and pretended messengers of Christ? The Lord Himself has told us:
"By their fruits ye shall know them." If, therefore, a minister does
not bring forth the proper fruits, say what he will to the contrary,
he is not accredited by Christ,--he is not the Lord's messenger.
One chief point by which we may judge is the "fruits of the lips."
What message does he deliver? Is it the Lord's message, or is it
some conceit of his own? The popish priest, who preaches salvation
by works, the intercession of the Virgin, the lying delusion of
purgatory, delivers not the Lord's message. The Unitarian minister,
who talks of the virtues of humanity, who denies the Trinity, the
atonement of the Redeemer, the converting and sanctifying operations
of the Holy Spirit, he, too, certainly does not deliver the Lord's
message. And to come nearer to ourselves, he who professes to be a
Lutheran minister, and who yet denies the doctrine of Justification
by Faith only, who does not preach the regenerating power of the
Holy Sacrament of Baptism, and the real presence of Christ's body
and blood in the Lord's Supper, he, likewise, whatever may be his
profession to the contrary, does not deliver the Lord's message.

What is the Lord's message? The voice said: "Cry," and the faithful
messenger said: "What shall I cry?" "All flesh is grass. The grass
withereth, the flower fadeth, but the Word of our God shall stand
forever." "The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and
he that hath _my Word_, let him speak my Word faithfully."

"Preach the Word," was St. Paul's advice to Timothy. "Preach the
Word"; "be instant" with that word "in season and out of season";
in the pulpit and out of the pulpit; in the schoolroom and on the
platform; in the sick chamber and in the abodes of health; in the
highways and in the byways. Only one-half of a minister's duty is
done when the services of the sanctuary are over, and the marriages,
funerals, and baptisms are performed. "The minister," one has
remarked, "is a physician. He has a vast field before him. He has
to study a variety of constitutions. He has to furnish himself with
the knowledge of the whole system of remedies. He is to be a man of
skill and expediency. If one thing fails, he must know how to apply
another. He must be able to speak a word in season, to deliver the
Lord's message to the saint and to the sinner, to the heavy-laden
and to the presumptuous, to the contrite and to the inquirer,--to
all, in short, that come." "For the priest's lips," says Malachi,
"should keep knowledge, and they should seek the Law at his mouth."
For this reason, he will unceasingly be on the lookout for tidings.
He will not, indeed, originate new things. He will not speak
anything which comes into his own head, but he will diligently study
what the Word of the Lord says, and that will he, no matter who may
be present in the congregation, boldly and unreservedly deliver.
He will deliver the whole counsel of God. He will be zealous for
the truth, and neither teach nor tolerate any manner or degree of
error; but, above all, he will preach, as the most important part
of his message, Christ Jesus. Other preaching may inform the head
and please the ear, but it is the setting forth of Christ in all His
willingness to pardon, Christ in all His mightiness to save, which
alone can storm the outworks and force the citadel of the heart.
It is not the flowery language and the rounded period, embellished
with sparkling figures and brilliant metaphors, that will of itself
win souls to the Lord. No, it is the discriminating, earnest, and
affectionate preaching of Christ, whether in the polished language
of the scholar or in the ruder accents of a less accomplished
zeal,--it is this preaching alone which is worthy of the name.
The minister of Christ has a much more important matter in hand
than some imagine. As a faithful messenger, he is to deliver, not
information about political issues, lectures on morals, literature,
and topics of the day, but he is to give hearers a full exhibition
of Christ as He is revealed in the Bible and ought to be imprinted
on every human heart,--the sinner's Hope, the sinner's Refuge,
the sinner's Surety and Substitute, the sinner's High Priest and
Advocate, the sinner's All and in all.

This, dear members and hearers, is the message. And oh, what a
blessing such a message is! How beautiful upon the mountains are the
feet of him that bringeth these good tidings; that publisheth peace;
that bringeth these good tidings of good; that publisheth salvation.
As refreshing rain upon the dry, parched soil, so is such a faithful
message to them that hear him.

And this is the character which he who now addresses you is anxious
to sustain, as minister of this congregation. For ---- years have
I preached this message of redemption among you. Most graciously
have you received it at my lips, which leads me to thank God and
take courage, asking for the Spirit's influence to make that message
effectual. This, then, is the duty of Christ's ministers.

What, to come to the next consideration, is the duty of Christ's
people?

If it is the duty of Christ's ministers to declare His message, it
is equally the duty of Christ's people to receive that message. Now,
it is well to note that, according to God's Word, our message is
twofold. It is Law, and it is Gospel. Both we are to proclaim,--the
Law, which demands, threatens, and condemns in its sharpness
and terror, and shows us our sin and the wrath of God; and the
Gospel, which shows us our Savior and the grace of God, and offers
forgiveness, life, and salvation in its sweetness and comfort. Can
you bear to be thus slain by the Law? Can you bear to speak with
the lesson of this Sunday--the ministry of John the Baptist, the
man girt about with a leathern girdle, expressing himself in the
language of bold reproof, and declaring that "even now the ax
is laid unto the root of the trees," and that "every tree which
bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire"?
Can you bear to be told that, virtuous as many of you may be, you
must seek salvation as sinners? Can you bear to be told that, if any
man will be Christ's disciple, he must deny himself daily, and take
up his cross, and follow his Lord wherever He may lead? Can you bear
to have it forced upon you: "Be not conformed to this world"?

These things belong to the message, and we would not be ministers of
the Gospel of Christ without telling you them. And remember, too,
that you must receive them not with your ears only, but with your
hearts. Believe me, it is not enough to come hither and to attend
these messages, and as you quit the sanctuary to say you are pleased
with the sermons you hear. Highly as we, that are ministers, value
your kind regard and affectionate esteem, we miss our object if that
is all we accomplish. No, beloved, we seek not your praise, but you.
We want your eye to pass on from the servant to his Master, from the
messenger to Him that sent Him. Like John, we are but His voice, the
voice of one that crieth amid this wilderness and waste. He that
cometh is Christ. We are but the tube, or trumpet, through which He
speaks. Forget thus the messenger, shut your eyes upon the preacher,
and think of the Savior. Hear His voice, let that go to your heart.

One more duty,--assist the messenger. Various are the means and
channels in which that may be done. We have in our midst a willing
band of Sunday-school teachers; what are they doing but helping to
bring the message to the hearts of our youth? We have those who are
not ashamed or afraid to invite others to come and hear the message
spoken in public, those who encourage some to go and hear it in
private, in catechetical instruction. Then, too, are our church
societies laboring usefully in the Lord. Many are the means and ways
in which these messengers may be assisted in the performance of
their duty, and to so assist in the duty of all. My dear members,
may God continue to bless, as He has visibly and bountifully
blessed, these past years, His message and His messengers and those
that hear it! The Lord hear and answer this our petition for our
Great Redeemer's sake! Amen.



FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT.

     The Dayspring from on high hath visited us.--_Luke 1, 78._


In directing our attention to this text, we would regard, _I. by
whom the words were spoken_, and _II. of whom they were spoken_. At
the time of our Savior's birth the spiritual conditions in the land
of Israel were distressingly sad; religious life had become very
degenerate and corrupt; all manner of sects, like the Pharisees and
Sadducees, with their stiff and ossified formalism, ceremonialism,
materialism, had caused a dark eclipse to come over the once living
faith of God's chosen people. Things were droughty and dead. But no
period is ever so desperate, the Church of God never so forlorn and
miserable as not to have in it some true children of faith, yea,
when things are at the worst, divine Goodness is sure to interfere
to bring about a change for the better; and so it was in these
desolate days of Judaism. Residing in the hill country of Judea
was an aged couple; they had lived long together without being
blessed with offspring. This, with the Jews, was not only a defect
in matrimonial happiness, but a positive reproach. The name of
this pair was Zacharias and Elizabeth. Zacharias was a priest, and
Elizabeth was of the daughters of Aaron, and the testimony given of
their character in Holy Scripture is that they were both righteous
before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the
Lord blameless--a devout and honorable pair. One day, so runs the
story in the beginning verses of the Gospel of St. Luke, while he
was engaged in his ministry, offering incense in the temple, there
appeared unto Zacharias at the right-hand side of the altar an angel
of God, and told him that his prayers were answered and that he
would receive a son, whom he should call John. Zacharias startled
at the heavenly apparition, and quite forgetful of the birth of an
Isaac and Samson and Samuel, and that what happened of old might
again happen, since nothing is impossible with God, he skeptically
asked for a sign as the proof of the angel's message, whereupon the
angel replied: "I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God, and
am sent to speak unto thee and show thee these glad tidings. And,
behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day
that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not
my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season." When Zacharias
came out of the temple to the multitude of worshipers that had been
impatiently waiting for his return, he beckoned to the people with
his hand, and they perceived that he had seen a vision.

Nine months had elapsed after that miraculous visitation and
annunciation of the angel, when the details in the paragraph
immediately preceding our text came to pass. Elizabeth, having
received the fulfillment of the heavenly message, and a company of
her neighbors and relatives having gathered for the circumcision of
the child, a question of friendly contention arose over the name,
the most of them being in favor of calling him after the name of his
father, Zacharias. Zacharias, being consulted and asking for a slate
whereupon to write his opinion, wrote the name John. By this writing
he showed that he consented in the name of the child according to
the angel's direction, and it says: "His mouth was immediately
opened and his tongue loosed, and he spake and praised God in a
song of blessing and joy." This song of Zacharias, which is called
the "Benedictus," because it begins with the word "Benedictus" or
Blessed, is one of the treasured songs of the Church.

Significant--as we read that song it is that his own circumstances
largely are overlooked or disregarded. Two grand and miraculous
events had just happened to him, the birth of a son and the recovery
of speech. These, it may be supposed, would have primarily employed
his mind and called forth his praise and adoration to God; but
whilst he does speak a few words of exultation over his son, a
great, more transporting, and august theme fills his breast; he
thinks in pious rapture of the prophecies that have gone before, the
promises of God by the mouth of His inspired servants, that He would
send a mighty Savior to deliver His people. Now that his own son,
who was to be the forerunner of the Lord and messenger, was born,
he sees the incarnation of this almighty Deliverer begun; under
prophetic inspiration he proclaims what first happened six months
after: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and
redeemed His people," and none among us are less interested in
this propitious event than Zacharias was. We have before us the
same prophecies that Zacharias had; we have the same need of this
Savior, and we desire the same blessings from Him which he did. Why,
then, should it not be the rapture of our hearts, the topic of our
triumphant song, as it was of his? With pious joy let us hail the
glorious festival that shall be upon us in a few days, and in this
may our reflection on our text aid us.

"The Dayspring from on high hath visited us." It is interesting to
note how to one whose heart is wrapped up in Christ every object
becomes a preacher, a memorial. That beautiful star, last in the
train of night and first in the forehead of morning, sings of Him
who is the bright Morning Star. That orb in the skies, shedding
the benignant rays over the earth, tells of Him who is the Sun of
Righteousness with healing in His wings. The bread which I eat
becomes to me a symbol of Him who is the Bread of Life; the water
which I drink reminds me of the living water whereof who drinks
shall never thirst again. In brief, Christ is seen in everything,
in every object of external nature, and so with the figure employed
by Zacharias in these words: "the Dayspring," or, as we would
say--the dawn of the morning. Beautiful is dawn. The ancient poets
have represented it as a lovely maiden rising from the waters of
the East (casting aside the gloomy veil of night), and hastening
forward on the foremost rays of light, to open the gates of day,
whilst her rosy fingers scatter abroad the drops of sparkling dew.
Zacharias employs the same illustration only to a subject more
noble. He sees Messiah near at hand, breaking on the world just like
the approach of dawn. Yes, the vision of His coming is so clear that
he says not, "The Dayspring shall visit us," but, "The Dayspring
hath visited us." Let us spend a few moments in considering, not
every, but a few features that connect with this description of our
Lord as the "Dayspring from on high." And here, to begin with, we
have a significant thought. "The Dayspring from on high" suggests
His _origin_. The day-dawn comes from the heaven; it is not of
man's ordering and making, but of God's; it bears the imprint of
the Creator's hand, and for this reason the Bible styles Him "the
Father of lights," and says: "Every good and every perfect gift is
from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights." So with this
Dayspring, Christ,--He is from on high. His origin and His coming
are divine. We sing:

    True Son of the Father, He comes from the skies,
    To be born of a virgin He does not despise.

This earth is not His home, as it says: "The Dayspring from on high
hath visited us." He came from elsewhere and He departed again
elsewhere. From eternity He lay in the bosom of the Father, and
when the fullness of time was come, He descended upon this earth
and tabernacled among us thirty and three years, and then returned
to the glory whence He came forth. It was, indeed, a transcendent
sojourn, a visit that spells everything, that connects with
salvation and blessedness. Yes, it was only a visit; He was from
on high. To use the words of the Nicene Creed: Christ is true God,
begotten of the Father from eternity, God of God, Light of Light
(note that expression as in accordance with the figure in the text),
very God of very God, begotten, not made; being of one substance
with the Father, who for us men and for our salvation, came down
from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary,
and was made man. Verily, He was the Dayspring from on high.

Again, observe _the manner of His coming_,--how like the day-dawn.
What so gentle as the light of morning, rising mutely in the
brightening east and pouring the light so softly that never a leaf
is stirred; noiselessly, peacefully does it make its approach.
So when the Savior was born, He came into the world silently and
unobtrusively. All heaven was moved and followed Him down to the
threshold of earth; but few on earth were aware of it. One solitary
star pointed to the humble birthplace, and the hymn that sang of it
was heard only at night by a few watching shepherds, and His whole
life partook of the same character. For which reason we sing in one
of our favorite hymns:

    As His coming was in peace,
    Noiseless, full of gentleness,
    Let the same mind be in me
    That was ever found in Thee.

He came like the dawn in its soft and silent approach. Then, also,
in another manner. Not suddenly, nor all at once. The sun's rising
is a gradual and progressive thing. First, there is but a faint gray
twilight, softening the darkness and heralding what is to come,
then a few dim purple streaks spread upon the far eastern horizon,
followed shortly by the golden tips of the great luminary lifting
the gates of the morning. So with our divine Dayspring. From all
eternity it was determined that this Dayspring should come. Adam,
going weeping from a paradise lost, and after him Seth and Enoch
and Noah and Shem and Abraham beheld from afar the early dawn, the
dim and vague streaks. The types and holy sacrifices offered in the
temple after that, the psalms and prophecies given by God's inspired
servants, gave still nearer and clearer views of what was to come.
Zacharias exults as he sees the tips, as it were, beginning to
appear. And we, with the whole Christian world, are hastening these
days in spirit to see the sun rising over the hills of Judea in
Bethlehem's town. How in its promises and preparations--its gradual
development--was the coming of Christ like the day-spring, the
rising dawn.

Nor can we afford to overlook one other feature in the manner of
Christ's visit as the Dayspring. The sun comes every morning,
shining for all and singling out none. There is a universality of
kindness about it. The poorest man and the richest, all classes and
all things, have the same access to its undivided radiance. How much
is this like Christ's coming! "God so loved the world that He gave
His only-begotten Son." "Behold," was the angelic proclamation on
Christmas night, "I bring you glad tidings of great joy which shall
be to _all_ people." The Christmas story enters into the world with
the broad universal look of daylight. It is as wide and open to all
as is this earth. It singles out none, it excludes none, it wishes
to bless a whole guilty world with the same impartiality as the sun.
The Christmas message is unlimited in its invitation: "Come hither,
ye faithful, O come, one and all." Silently, gradually, universally,
hath and doth the Dayspring from on high visit us. And why--that is
the concluding feature of our contemplation, why has it visited us?
What is its object in doing so?

The sun is the dispenser of the world's light and warmth and
fruitfulness. Without the day-dawn everything would be chilliness,
darkness, desolation, and death. Let the sun arise, shoot forth his
cheering and enlivening rays,--the dormant germs start up, the buds
swell, the birds sing, and man goes forth to ply the occupation
of his hands. Christ is the same to the human race. He rose above
the darkness of Judaism and over the night of heathenism. He
declared: "I am the Light of the world." "When once Thou visitest
the heart, the truth begins to shine." New life, new energy, new
understanding takes hold upon the dormant and dead soul, and the
fruits of righteousness spring up. To quote the text and language of
Zacharias: "To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the
shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." There is
not the least exaggeration about it; wherever Christ is preached,
the darkness flees as night flies before the sun, the clouds of
ignorance and superstition pass away. Pardon of sin, purity of
morals, comfort in affliction, triumph in death,--these are a
portion of what follows. Do these things not constitute the light of
life of man? What else does?

Is, to conclude, Christ such a light to you? Would you permit this
season to pass without diligently inquiring whether "the Dayspring
from on high" has visited your souls? Do you rejoice at His coming
with holy joy? Invigorating, inspiring is the sight of a morning
dawn; are you so welcoming again the Dayspring from on high about
to send its healing beams, its cheering, holy splendor upon our
world? Open your hearts to receive and to realize the significance
and blessedness of this "Dayspring from on high, which by the tender
mercy of our God hath visited us." Amen.



CHRISTMAS.

     Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable Gift.--_2 Cor. 9, 15._

    Joy to the world,--the Lord is come,
    Let earth receive her King,
    Let every heart prepare Him room,
    And heaven and nature sing.


With these words of exultation would I greet you on this festival
morn. Joy to the world, the Lord is come; the King, Messiah, after
weeks of preparation, is making His triumphal entry into the
habitation of men. Indeed, the long expected guest, with whom our
thoughts, songs, and services in the past season of Advent were
occupied, has at length arrived. How shall we receive Him? When He
first came, nineteen hundred and ---- years ago, in Bethlehem's
town, there was a stir and commotion. Wise men suspended their
studies and speculations and followed the sign in the firmament
which conducted them to the place where the young Child lay; an
angel from heaven was sent as a herald to proclaim the glad tidings
of great joy, while the multitude of the heavenly host eagerly
descended to congratulate men and made the celestial heights resound
with their seraphic acclamation: "Glory to God in the highest, and
on earth peace, good will toward men." And, taking up that chant:
"Our heart from very joy doth leap, our lips no more can silence
keep." Dull like the ground he walks upon must be the man who,
amongst the holy demonstration that is upon the social world, the
cheerful merrymaking that is in earth's homes, the radiations of
festivities and greetings of cordiality and good will, will not feel
a pulsation of that cheer and brightness in his own heart. How this
fact of our Christian faith, our Savior's birth, God's assumption of
mutual flesh, the coming of the Most High to tabernacle among men,
has been more than any other an occasion of universal rejoicing,
the center of earth's noblest and holiest joy in family and in
the sanctuary! Is it not fitting that it should be so? Merry
Christmas, happy Christmas, blessed Christmas, we bid thee welcome!
We rejoice that in the rounds of the calendar it has come again.
And how shall we observe it? How receive its spiritual and highest
blessedness unto ourselves? By lighting up a few candles on our
trees? Decorating our windows and walls with some sprigs of garlands
and green? By attending a few services during which we are present
in body, but largely absent in spirit? The quiet contemplation,
the sinking of our minds into the great mystery of godliness: God
manifested in the flesh, the realization as it comes from pious
meditation of what it all means to us and to all mankind, and that
when the external glamor and motion shall have passed over, it shall
have left us benefited and blessed in soul, beloved, is not this,
after all, for us Christians, the true significance of this holiday
time? And it is in harmony with this, that we would bring to our
minds the words of the text. Let us devoutly, with concentrated and
holy thoughts, regard God's gift, for thus reads the text: "Thanks
be unto God for His unspeakable Gift."

     I. _Which is this gift?_ II. _Note what is said about it._ III.
     _Our conduct respecting it._

Which is it? God, my beloved hearers, is always good. His very name,
God, which means good, bespeaks that. Continually is He bestowing
gifts and favors upon us. "His constant mercies," declares the
psalmist, "are new to us every morning." What is there which we
possess that He has not given us?--clothing and shoes, meat and
drink, house and home, wife and children, fields, cattle, and all my
goods. But there is one gift that excels and outstrips them all.

Our children, in the course of the year, are being constantly
provided with all that they need to support their bodies and lives,
articles of food and dress and mind, and yet the best donations we
afford them, those which cause their youthful hearts to skip as the
lambs, are invariably given in the days of Christmas festivity. So
with the beneficent Parent on high,--always good and gracious, yet
His foremost and most excellent gift He bestows at this time. And
which is it? Yonder, in Bethlehem's manger, it lies. Insignificant
enough as you gaze upon it with outward eyes: how tiny,
unpretentious, judged by the standard of men; what lowly quarters,
what unfavorable circumstances, what socially unassuming people;
that woman watching over the Child, those shepherds hastening
thither from their humble toil,--certainly nothing there to impress
one. And this is Heaven's foremost and precious gift, the gift of
all gifts. Is that the best that God can give us? Yes.

For various reasons. In determining the value of earthly donations,
different considerations weigh and prevail. For once, it is the
sentiment that prompted that gift; it frequently is not so much
the mercantile value of the gift as it is the considerations, the
spirit, the sentiment, and affection that go along with it; and
there, after all, rests its real power and beauty. Regard God's
Christmas gift. The Apostle calls it "unspeakable"; he declares that
it towers in its value and majesty beyond the reach of language
and beyond the power of human expression. 'Tis truly so. What
sentiment prompted it? "God so _loved_ the world that He gave His
only-begotten Son." There we have the motive, His love. And why
did He love man? Because he was so lovable? Nay, man had rebelled
against Him, had raised himself up in disobedience against Him and
His holy commandments and was at enmity with Him, and still God
loved him, loved the child that had forsaken and sinned against
Him, and so loved him that He spared not His dearest and His best,
but delivered Him up for us all. Oh! the greatness of that charity,
that love divine, all love excelling, love that passed all knowledge
and understanding and expression too,--that supplied the Gift
unspeakable, says the Apostle.

Again, when we are the recipients of gifts, we examine them, we give
them careful scrutiny, we desire to know: What is that which we have
received? Apply that to God's Christmas gift. What is it? He tells
us: "Unto you is born this day a Savior, which is Christ, the Lord."
Not a star, not a world, not any created thing, but Christ, the Lord.

    Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
    Hail th' incarnate Deity.
    Pleased as man with man to dwell,
    Jesus, our Emmanuel.

O the mystery, the impenetrable mystery of the gift! As you sit
down and meditate upon it, as you reflect and gaze upon that divine
Child, reason is confounded, thought is pushed to confusion, faith
stands in profound contemplation on the brink of this sea, too
deep for human intelligence to fathom, too broad for man's mind to
encircle, and yet, let us not stagger at the wonderful fact. We
are standing to-day, my beloved, in the presence of the greatest
miracle of time. We behold here no ordinary child. It's Deity in
humanity, Divinity in infancy. In this little body is bound up
God's immensity, in this Babe's weakness is enclosed heaven's
almightiness. This child resting at His mother's breast (who can
grasp it?) is the Lord of glory, the worshipful Creator of the
universe, God blest forevermore.

Such is the nature of the gift--"unspeakable," as the Apostle
declares.

Again, we consider the purpose of the gift. There are every variety
and quality of gifts bestowed at this season: ornamental ones,
serving the purpose of decoration and embellishment, beautiful for
the eye to behold; useful ones, administering to the necessity
and the comforts of their recipients. How about God's Christmas
gift? Ah! for human lips to speak out its value. Again we lisp,
"Unspeakable." What illustrations might I employ? You lift up your
eyes and encounter the bright rays of the sun; what would this world
be without the light and warmth that comes from its radiant face?
You feel the drops of rain falling in gentle showers; what would the
soil be without these rivulets and streams that fructify its acres?
Yet all such illustrations are too improper to express what this
world would spiritually be without Christ. Said the angel: "Unto
you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior." In that word
you have the key of Christmas and the purpose of God's Christmas
gift. "A Savior"--what a chapter that opens before us! Back to
the days of Paradise does it conduct us, when man was dwelling in
innocence, fell and falling, carrying himself and all his posterity
to universal and eternal destruction. Sin, that most terrible of all
evils upon the soul, thorns and thistles upon the ground, misery and
sickness and death upon the body, the whole creation groaning and
travailing in pain,--this was the sorry consequence, and this is
the sad, sad story as it is read in the history of every man's life
and of the world at large. And whence was deliverance to come? From
man? Helpless, powerless, hopeless creature, how could he cancel
the curse that rested upon soul and body and ailing earth? A more
powerful one held him at his mercy; and what could he do to pluck
out the sting of death beneath whose dominion he had completely
fallen? A more dismal condition could never exist. What man needed
was a Savior, a Deliverer mightier than the forces that held him
bound, and such a one God had promised man. Adam and Eve, leaving
Paradise, were consoled by the prediction of the Seed of the Woman
that should bruise the head of the serpent--the Savior, Abraham,
Seth, Enoch, Noah, Isaac, and Jacob looked forward to that Deliverer
and were sustained by the hope: Ah, that the Savior soon would
come to break our bondage and lead us home! Succeeding saints and
prophets took up the pleading strain, and sang and prophesied of His
advent, and finally, when the fullness of time was come, He arrived;
and what did He bring?

The supply of man's foremost and chief requisite--what is that?
Wealth, affluence of estate? Support of body? Not so. This is not
man's foremost need. Education of mind, culture of intellect?
Neither that. What is it? Deliverance from sin, death, and the power
of the devil, and the salvation of man's immortal soul; for what is
a man profited though he should gain the whole world, and possess
all treasures and mines of knowledge, and possess not and know not
how to save his soul? Beloved, when you reflect what this world
would be without this divine Christmas gift, then we might well ask,
Would life be worth living without Him? It would, indeed, be a dark
chapter, a barren and gloomy prison cell. And so, having regarded
these various particulars, we almost instinctively give voice to
the Apostle's declaration: "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable
gift." That brings us to the concluding part of our consideration.

A donation so transcendent calls for some corresponding attitude.
What would we think of a child accepting its holiday gifts without
showing appreciation, and speaking not a word of acknowledging
thanks? Nothing is more rude than ingratitude. That spoils it
all. Look at the interest the heavenly inhabitants took in that
unspeakable gift. They came down with gracious messages concerning
it. They were all present and sang their highest songs when the
Savior was born. Their conduct was just such as we may expect from
beings so pure, so intelligent, and yet it was not to them, nor for
them. "Unto us a Child is born, unto us this Son is given." It is
for us and for our salvation that the Lord of glory came and was
made man. Here is a thought that ought to stir us to a higher pitch
of emotion and gratitude. People have capacities to appreciate
favors, to acknowledge good, to feel the worth of help when great
and pressing need is upon them; why not over against this amazing
goodness of God? Oh! that any human heart should be found weighted
down by such leaden dullness that it should fail in its adoring
thankfulness to God for His unspeakable gift. Far better such had
never been born!

And thankfulness and rejoicing, if genuine, is never selfish.
Observe our children at this time. When they have received their
gifts, they do not selfishly hug them to themselves, place them in a
corner, and strive to keep others from seeing them; they run about
displaying what kindness has bestowed, shout and make commotion, nor
feel happier than when others--their playmates and companions--come
to share in their merriment. It is not different with God's
Christmas gift; it is designed to be the occasion of universal
joy. "I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to all
people." "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son."

A certain ancient writer remarks: "Were some explorer to discover
the real elixir of life by which life and health and youth might
be made perpetual, with what shouts of triumph and songs of joy
would the discovery be heralded forth!" Friend would rush to bear
the glad tidings to friend, over hill and mountain; across valley
and plain would the joyful tidings roll, until there were no
solitary inhabitant, be his dwelling ever so remote or concealed,
but would have found it out. Beloved, here is the true elixir of
life, in Bethlehem's manger; there is the fountain of perpetual
health and youth. Let the glorious truth, then, receive universal
proclamation; let the tawny African in his dark jungle, the Eskimo
in his icy, squalid hut, the dweller in the most distant isle, and
the man, woman, and child that lives with you and next to you,--let
one and all hear the glad news that God's unspeakable gift has come
to earth. Yes, let this blessed truth spread till every sinful and
sorrowing brother may rejoice with us, and that from earth and sky
may echo forth in grateful refrain: "Thanks be unto God for His
unspeakable Gift," now on these present Christmas festivals, and
then when these earthly celebrations will have passed over into
the celebration of heaven, we shall see and adore Him who was once
a babe in Bethlehem, but now sitteth upon the throne, God blessed
forevermore. Amen.



LAST SUNDAY IN THE YEAR.

     We all do fade as a leaf.--_Isaiah 64, 6._


There is perhaps no truth which is more generally admitted and which
is more frequently referred to than that life is short and time is
fleeting, that--"man born of a woman," as Job expresses it, "is of
few days and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower and is
cut down." Every tolling knell that resounds its muffled voice from
the church's spire, every painful sickness that casts us upon a
weary and dreary couch, every change of season in nature's annual
round and tearing off one leaf after the other from the calendar,
until the present date, the 31st day of its last messenger, bids us
discard the whole,--all these are just so many solemn and constant
monitors reminding us of the brevity, the rapidity of time's flight.
And yet, with all these numerous and unmistakable evidences of the
transitoriness of all earthly things, how little of an abiding
impression they produce! Who of us, in thoughtful reflection,
does not admit the necessity of asking in this matter for divine
instruction and of preparing ourselves for the time when time shall
be no more, and when we shall be called upon to give account of how
we have used our earthly days, and to leave this world and all its
concerns? It is to this that I would invite your thoughts on this
day which marks the concluding day of another chapter of life's
calendar. May God's Holy Spirit teach us to number our days, that
we may apply our hearts to wisdom, as I endeavor to explain and
apply the words of our text.

Human life, man's natural existence, is most aptly represented by
the figure before employed, the fading of a leaf. More than two
thousand years ago did the inspired penman, the Prophet Isaiah,
write these lines, and yet its truth is preached to us with
unfailing regularity and solemnity in every recurring autumn. As we
go out into the woods towards the close of each successive summer,
we observe a gradual change in the appearance of the trees. We see
the leaves, first one and then another, and then by degrees all
of them alike, changing their green for a brown and yellow hue,
at length, till, shriveling at the edges and loosening their hold
to their native boughs, the wet and the cold and the wind cause
them to fall to the ground with a sound so soft that it is almost
silence and there, by the action of the elements, they soon decay
and mingle with the earth, out of which they were first produced.
Just so, my brethren, it is with ourselves. As soon as we begin to
live, we begin to die. "Our hearts like muffled drums are beating
funeral marches to the grave." If we succeed in adhering to the tree
of life during the spring and summer of man's allotted years, autumn
and winter of old age will certainly overtake us, and we shall sink
away as surely and as silently as the descending leaves in fall, our
spirits returning to God, who gave them, and our bodies mingling
with the dust from which they were taken. We look over the annals of
the world,--where are those mighty conquerors, a Hannibal, a Cæsar,
an Alexander, a Napoleon, who once made whole nations tremble and
kingdoms fall? Where are those brilliant statesmen, a Bismarck, a
Webster, a Calhoun, and a Clay, upon whose lips admiring senates
hung with wonder and delight? Where are the poets, the historians,
the warriors, the divines, who, each in his day and generation, were
the theme of general conversation, and were lauded with the tribute
of a nation's praise? "Like the baseless fabric of a vision,"--gone.
It is related of Xerxes, the powerful King of Persia, that when
about to cross from Asia over to conquer Greece, he ordered a review
to be made of all his forces on the shores of the Hellespont. A
magnificent throne was erected upon a lofty peak. Seated on this
pinnacle of gold, he gazed upon the unnumbered millions below him
on ship and shore. No sight could have been more dazzling or more
august. The hillsides were white with tents, the sea with ships.
Gay banners floating in the sun, glittering with gold and silver,
weakened the eye by their brightness and beauty; whatever unbounded
wealth and intense love of display could produce or suggest was
there, and in the midst of such transcendent glory and deepest
homage, where multitudinous nobles were urging to kiss the hem of
his garment and worshiped him as a god, the great king, Xerxes,
wept. Amazed at such an act, expressive of feelings so contrary to
those in which they were indulging, they reverently inquired the
cause of his tears. "Alas," said he, "of all this vast multitude not
one will be left upon the earth a hundred years hence." That was
said more than two thousand years ago. How many generations have
followed that, over which he wept and uttered this sad truth! We
occupy their places now for a few days, and then we shall lie beside
them. Of the congregation that is looking up into my face this
morning, twenty, thirty, fifty years, where shall it be? The church
bell will be rung out, I hope, from its steeple, but it shall be
rung by other hands, and for other worshipers. This pulpit will be
filled by another preacher and the pews by other listeners. As you
would pass in your way home from its door, in your family and social
circles, how you would miss the old and once familiar forms, yea,
perhaps our very homes will be occupied by strangers. As the prophet
says: "We all do fade as a leaf."

Lest our subject should be rendered useless by being too general,
I will proceed, without further delay, to apply our text and this
by addressing the various classes of persons among you, so that
all, by the baptism of the Holy Ghost, may derive some spiritual
benefit. That our text refers not to one class, but to every, is
evident from the word "all,"--"We all do fade as a leaf." It applies
itself, then, first to the young. Not only in autumn and winter,
but even in the spring and early months of the year, leaves are
seen to fall. And similarly, as the inscriptions upon the many
tombstones in our last resting-places will testify, so many of
the human family disappear in infancy and youth. It is a mournful
sight to see them thus carried off in the vigor and tenderness of
opening bloom, but it's one that ought to convey solemn teaching
to those of youthful years. And what teaching? Wise King Solomon
has expressed it in these words: "Remember thy Creator in the days
of thy youth." And why? Because it is the most favorable time,
the most God-honoring time, the most profitable. At no other time
is the soul so capable of deep and abiding impressions, are the
affections more easily touched and moved, are we more accessible
to the influences of emotions and truth. It is preeminently the
choosing time, the valley of decision, in which at almost every step
we do or leave undone something which has its effect, for good or
ill, upon one's future habits and character and eternity; and you
can only be prepared to determine matters that call for decision
when you have made the great decision; you can choose and act safely
and wisely in all the other departments of life, the social, the
intellectual, the moral, only when you have taken a decisive stand
upon the subject of religion. Hence, our Savior urgently entreats
young people: "Seek ye first," first in point of importance and
first in point of years, "the kingdom of heaven." Ah, my young
members, if the sun does not dispel the mists pretty early in the
morning, you may look with reasonable certainty for a foggy day,
and so if the Sun of Righteousness, Christ Jesus, does not early
in the day of your lives dispel the mists of unbelief and sin, the
chances are that it will be more or less gloomy obstruction the rest
of your lives. You will never be such Christians as you would have
been; there will not be the development of character as if you had
started at the right time, and there will always be a feeling of
regret in your heart. Note, then, that this is the time to begin
to serve God; now is the time to put the yoke of Christ upon your
necks and to break yourselves in for lives of usefulness. And what
is more God-honoring? Religion is always an ornament, it decorates
the silvery locks and the wrinkled brow, but it looks exquisitely
attractive and suitable when worn by youth. God accepts the sinner
at all times, even when he comes with tottering footsteps and with
stooped back; but is it right to do service to another and make Him
suspend His claim as your rightful Lord to satisfy the world and
the flesh, His degrading rivals, to sow wild oats in the springtime
of your years and send Him forth to gather among the stubbles the
gleanings of life, after the enemy has secured the harvest? Nay, to
Him belong the first-born of your days, the first-fruits of your
season, the price of your love and devotion,--give them. You will
never regret it. Incalculable are the benefits of early piety,
beneficial for body and business, for character and connections,
for mind and morals, for after-life and life after death; for, as
our text inculcates, your earthly existence hangs but on a slender,
frail, and feeble fiber. Do you know of none in your circle of
acquaintances swept low by the grim reaper whom we call death? And
what assurance have you, my youthful hearers, that you may not be
among his victims in the succeeding year? Glory not, then, in your
health and strength. Pride yourself not on anything which is so
feeble and frail, but seek those solid blessings which are to be
found in Christ Jesus, and make true preparation against the time
when you shall go hence and be no more. "Remember thy Creator," thy
Redeemer, thy Sanctifier, "in the days of thy youth."

Again, the text addresses itself to the middle-aged. Scarcely a
summer passes over our heads but some tempests, lightning, hail,
rain, and thunder, rage in the sky, and these commotions of the
elements drive myriads of leaves, although then firmly grown and
filled with sap, from their branches to the ground, and there,
like those that fall later, they fade away. It is so with man. In
the midst of all his hustling industry and matured vigor, when, as
Job says, his bones are moistened with marrow, he is liable to be
carried off by various diseases and casualties. Absalom died before
his father. The list of orphans in the Bible is not small, and among
us those attired in sable garments, because of those whose sun has
gone down at noon, are not few. A tender leaf, which the first
strong wind, the first descending shower loosens in its hold,--that
is man in the strength of his days. And what does that teach those
of maturer years? That they presume not on their sturdiness, and
that they forget not, amidst the distractions of all manner of
connection for what life has been given, and correspondingly rightly
improve it. Life has been given us for a high and noble purpose; it
is not only a time of preparation and of probation for the world
to come, it is a time of activity, of usefulness in the service
of God and fellow-man, and "he most lives who thinks the most,
feels the noblest, acts the best." There are those who live a mere
animal life, whose sublimest principle and purpose is embodied in
the motto: "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we shall be dead."
As for God, heaven, and eternity, there is none. There are those
who live a mere worldly life; gaining a livelihood and property,
acquiring a social standing and a position, perhaps a ribbon or a
medal,--that's their life's chief object and design. There are those
who lead bad lives, diabolical lives, making society miserable and
families wretched; and there are those who lead good lives, morally
and socially, providing things honestly in the sight of all men. But
there is one class that, according to Scripture, lives a right life,
a life that will bear the sight of the Judge eternal and receive His
heavenly plaudit: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant," and
that is the man and the woman who lives a Christian life, a life
in Christ Jesus, who, while believing in Him as their only Lord
and Savior, are seeking to imitate His precepts; who live to His
glory, with the furtherance of His kingdom constantly in mind; who
make everything that they undertake and do conducive to the praise
and honor of their God; who delight to render their time, talents,
and means in such a service. Any other kind of a life but that is a
life of God's grace neglected, of moments wasted in selfishness, in
indolence, in sensuality often, in wickedness, and it fails of the
purpose for which time has been given. Let us be careful, then, how
we employ it; never live a week in vain; having something at the
close of it for the reviewing eye to fix upon; something for God,
for your fellow-creatures, for yourself. Live for Christ, and thus
best live while you live, and be best prepared when you are called
upon to die, for as you live, thus will you die, and thus will you
be judged.

There remains, however, one more class to which our text refers with
great propriety, and that is the aged.

If the young and middle-aged may fall, the old must; there is no
remedy or human skill, or physician's antidote against the wrinkled
brow, the failing memory, and the stiffening of the joints. "The
days of our years," says the Psalmist, "are threescore years and
ten, and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is
their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly
away." How soon this may take place, who can declare? What attitude,
then, becomes those who have upon them declining years? I know no
better answer than to gaze upon that patriarchal couple in to-day's
Gospel, Simeon and Anna; what a beautiful picture of declining life
as it is calmed and brightened by the comforts of religion and the
hope of nearing heaven. How impressive to see them meet in the
temple of God, and taking upon their arms the blessed object of
their faith and prayer for all those long rolling years, speaking
of Him, as it says, unto all them that looked for redemption in
Jerusalem, finally singing their "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant
depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation." "The hoary
head is a crown of glory," says Solomon, "if it be found in the way
of righteousness." Let the aged saints, then, among us use their
advancing years to speak, as years' and hearts' experience alone
can speak, of Him who is their Salvation and Consolation; let them,
by the respect due them, cause us to more greatly respect Him whom
they have learned to know, and by their lives be an example to the
younger generations how to live.

Having, then, regarded our text: "We all do fade as a leaf," let us
have learned, as these years pass away, how to receive the crown,
incorruptible, and undefiled, and which passeth not away. Amen.



NEW YEAR'S DAY.

     Our Father which art in heaven.--_Matt. 6, 9._


Dr. Luther, after his inimitable fashion, once remarked: "The Lord's
Prayer is the greatest martyr upon earth. It is a pity above all
pity that such a prayer by such a Master should be so terribly
abused in all the earth. Many pray the Lord's Prayer a thousand
times a year, and though they prayed it a thousand years, yet have
they not properly prayed one letter thereof."

It is a sweeping and striking assertion. The truth of his remarks,
however, who would wish to contest? Take, in evidence, the words
of the text. The opening words of that divine prayer taught by the
Lord Himself are indeed familiar words,--no service but we recite
them, no day but a Christian ought to recite them; yet, have we ever
regarded the deep significance that is contained, the inspiration
that is hidden, in them? A little reflection will prove how
appropriate they are for this day, the beginning of a new year in
civil life.

_Our Father_,--that expresses, I. _trust in God_, II. _obedience in
duty_, III. _submission in affliction_. All these we need for our
encouragement and spiritual profit to-day.

What sacred associations cluster around the word "father"! The
thought of him, _if he was a father indeed_, was inwoven into all
our youthful plans and early ambitions. We knew no worldly care
when we dwelt beneath his sheltering roof; as we grew in years, we
increased also in confidence in him. He was our adviser in doubt,
our protector in danger, our supporter in perplexity. A true father
is the best earthly friend while he is alive, and after he is gone,
there gathers around his memory a halo of tender remembrance.
All that is generous, manly, noble, and wise is to a loving son
treasured up in the word "father." But the earthly significance,
the human fatherhood, does not exhaust the meaning of this blessed
name; it is but a mere pattern and shadow of that relationship
which God sustains to His people. He is a "Father"; we, then, are
His children by nature and adoption, by creation and redemption,
and, as children, we may go to Him, and with all confidence and
boldness ask Him as dear children ask their dear father. And such
confidence, such trustful looking up in faith and reliance to Him as
our Father, is a becoming attitude to-day. We stand upon the shores
of another year, as it lifts itself, veiled in mist, from the great
ocean of the future. Futurity means uncertainty, and uncertainty
suggests anxiety. Say not that it is not so. As God created man,
he is forecasting in his thoughts. It is as easy and natural for
us to have regard to what is before us as it is for the waters of
the Mississippi to flow towards the Gulf. Nor does God forbid it.
Says wise King Solomon: "A wise man deviseth his way." He forms his
plans, he frames his resolutions, he has his ambitions, his object
in life that he wishes to attain. It is not a sign of sanity or of
Christianity to walk into the future blindfolded, irresolutely,
improvidently. The business man who at this time looks over his
stock and ledger and strikes a balance of profit and loss, so
as to make prudent arrangement for the business of the incoming
year, the man of family who gazes upon the members seated about
his table, and, considering demands and expenditures, weighs his
income and ability to make ends meet, or whatever situation you
may be in, or relation you may sustain, an intelligent, provident,
weighing, considering, looking into the future is legitimate, wise,
proper. But that is one thing; another thing, and not an uncommon
thing, rather too prevalent, is to look into the future with fear,
trembling of heart, and anxiety of mind. "Oh, how shall we ever get
through; it's been none too rosy in the past, income scant, debts,
some yet to pay, children growing up, health not to boast of,"--what
a dreadful nightmare these considerations are to many people at the
start of a new year; how it crushes out all good cheer, happiness,
the very thing men are wishing each other!

'Tis foolish, 'tis needless, and godless! A man bending and
staggering along the road under the weight of a heavy load met a
passing wagon; he was invited to get in. He did so, but he still
kept the load on his back. Foolish man! Yet that's the common
attitude. God's chariot drives up to us this morning, overtaking
us on life's way. "Get in, traveler, I will bear thee along," is
the invitation. "Cast all your cares upon me. I will care for you."
"Thank you, kind Lord, but I prefer to bear the load myself." There
is a Being that has brought us into this world,--Father, we call
Him. He is a resourceful Father, having all forces and agencies of
sky, land, and sea, all the operations of men, angels, and beasts at
His command; He is a loving Father; He has pleasure in the children
after His heart. Silly child, you say, that will start to cry and
make a great ado because it has conceived the notion that its
wealthy father cannot feed and clothe it any longer. Is it not just
as incongruous, my dear Christian, for you to perplex yourself with
thoughts of anguish that God cannot provide for you any more? "He
that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how
shall He not with Him freely give us all things?" He should neglect
His loving providence, leave and forsake thee this year? O ye of
little faith!

In one of the books handed to our children at Christmas time is
the history of a familiar and beautiful German hymn. Reduced by
financial straits to sell his only means of support, his violin, a
poor musician took it to the pawnshop of a Jew. As he gave it up, he
looked lovingly at it, and tearfully asked the Jew if he might play
one more tune upon it. "You don't know," he said, "how hard it is
to part with it. For ten years it has been my companion; if I had
nothing else, I had it. Of all the sad hearts that have left your
door, there has been none so sad as mine." Whereupon, pausing for a
moment, he seized the instrument and commenced a tune so exquisitely
soft that even the Jew listened, in spite of himself. Then, laying
aside the instrument, he said, "As God will," and rushed from the
shop, only to be stopped at the door by a stranger, who, having
listened, said to him, "Could you tell me where I could obtain a
copy of that song? I would willingly give a florin for it." "I will
give it to you without the florin." The stranger happened to be the
Swedish ambassador, and when he heard the poor man's story, his
troubles ended then and there. Redeeming the instrument, he called
his landlady and his friends, and sang, to his own accompaniment,
his own sweet hymn, No. 350 in our hymn-book, of which this is the
first stanza:

    Leave God to order all thy ways,
    And hope in Him, whate'er betide,
    Thou'lt find Him, in the evil days,
    Thine all-sufficient strength and guide.
    Who trusts in God's unchanging love
    Builds on a rock that naught can move.

This is the first reflection that lies in these introductory words,
"Our Father." It expresses trustful looking up to Him at the
beginning of the year. And, _again_, it supplies obedience in duty.
It is a part of the father's relation to direct and control, as well
as provide, for his children. He has a rightful authority over his
household, the right to tell them what to do and how to do. None
other with our heavenly Father.

The new year means new activities, new problems, new duties. With
the morrow the tradesman, the mechanic, and the clerk will return
to the work of his calling, the student to his books, and the
housewife will be as busy as ever before. The great machinery of
secular life will all clatter and hum in all its complexity and
parts. And in the church, there will not, as there dare not be, a
standstill. Much still remains to be done. How shall we face it? In
our own strength? "With might of ours can naught be done, soon were
our loss effected." After our own plans, doing things to suit our
own selves? Is that the way it is in a well-regulated household?
There is one whose law obtains, whose word determines, whose wish
regulates it all. So ought it be with our life's duties. No matter
what may be the occupation of your head and of your hands, whether
you be a physician ministering to the alleviation of human ills, or
a carpenter constructing the earthly home for man to dwell therein,
our blessed Lord was both, physician and carpenter. Whether life's
work finds you busy with the pen, like Matthew, the publican,
sitting at the receipt of custom, or, like Martha, cumbered and
concerned about many things, one reigning principle ought to be
governing it all, as it governed the life of Him who was our example
in all things, this: "My work is to do the will of Him that sent
me."

Begin your work with Him, consecrate it to Him, conduct it with Him.
Serve Him in it. There are two ways of doing everything--with God
and without God. You may go to your work on Monday morning with God
or without God; you may discharge its thousand and one different
details with God or without God; your fellow-workman and companions
may not know the difference, and yet, my dear hearer, it makes all
the difference in the world, and a difference even for the world to
come, whether you do your work with a glance of the eye upward and a
spirit that says, "Our Father." Work without God is drudgery, duty
cold and stern; it lacks inspiration, warmth, joyful energy. It is
done because it must. It makes the worker a slave. That is not the
way God would have us perform it, and it is not the work--neither in
family, nor shop, nor church, that brings grand results. Whenever
you feel your service becoming irksome or your duties degenerating,
done with little conscientiousness and still less joy, then speak,
"Our Father"; and when you saunter forth knowing that you are
going to perform your Father's business, then the direst and most
uninteresting things of daily life will acquire a new importance
in your eyes, and will be done with a spring of elasticity and
gladsomeness. Let me ask you to try this heavenly specific, and you
will find that bending over your toil, with these thoughts, it will
be lit up with radiance and significance hitherto inexperienced and
duty will be merged into delight. This is the second consideration,
when we can truly and intelligently say, "Our Father," life's work
becomes transfigured with a new meaning and joy. In such a spirit go
hence to this year's employments. Do them with God.

One other phase of human experience remains to be touched upon at
this time. The Lord Himself hath said by the mouth of Solomon: "He
that spareth the rod hateth the child," and He is too wise a Father
to think of training His children without discipline. It is by
sending them trials that He leads them to bethink themselves and to
return when they have been backsliding, develops them in character,
and prepares them for the discharge of arduous and important duties.
Whatever we may regard this method of dealing with us, this is His
method, and it will be no different with the incoming year. What
shape that trial will take, this none can say in advance; it may
bring sickness to ourselves or to our near and dear ones; pain of
body, feverish tossing, restless nights, weary days; it may bring
reverses in fortune; the position we thought so secure may pass
into the hands of another; our income may decrease, trade languish,
accidents and expenses multiply; it may be that the grim visitor
will invade our homes, a casket, little or large, be placed into our
rooms to remind us that in the midst of life we are in death. God
alone, who knows the future, knows. And when these ordeals occur, it
is well to keep before us a few things.

In the first place, we must recognize that, however strange and
unwelcome these experiences are, 'tis He who sends them, and gives
them just because He deals with us as His children. Discipline is
a privilege that a father reserves for His own children. One does
not get himself to correct the faults of all the young people in
the neighborhood. You direct your efforts along that line to your
own, and only because of your affectionate interest in them do you
visit them with correction. Even so it is with God, and when we are
suffering from His hands, instead of thinking that He has forgotten
us, we ought to see in the chastisement a new evidence of His
continued regard for us. The trials sent us, my dear hearers, are
the tokens of a heavenly Father's affection, and happy art thou if
in life's salutary discipline you have learned to look up and say,
"Thy will be done."

Then, knowing from whom it proceeds--to mention the second
consideration,--you will be wonderfully sustained. To illustrate,
a story from my holiday reading: A little girl sent on an errand
had to cross a wide but shallow stream, but there were firm and
tried stepping-stones all the way over. "Oh! I'm afraid," said
the child to a lady who was passing. "Why are you afraid, there
are stones all the way over. See how easily I can cross it." Very
timidly the little girl began to cross. "Just one step at a time is
all you have to take," said the kind guide. So one step followed
another--the first few were the hardest to take,--and soon she
was safe on the other shore, smiling at her fears. "It is not so
hard after all," she remarked, "just one step at a time brought
us over." Beloved, when troubles come,--they are sure to, in this
year also,--do not look so much at the waters before you, but at
the stepping-stones the Father has placed for your feet. Here is a
strong, firm stepping-stone that has often sustained me: "As thy
days, so shall thy strength be." Here is another: "The Lord is my
Shepherd, I shall not want." Have a few such stepping-stones, select
one in particular for this year. This, perhaps, will do, small, but
weighty, "Our Father." Amen.



EPIPHANY SUNDAY.

     I am the Light of the world.--_John 8, 12._


Underneath Rome, the ancient capital of the world, and extending for
miles and miles between the River Tiber and the Mediterranean Sea,
are those mysterious passages called the catacombs. How far they go,
whither they lead, at what exact point they terminate, no living man
can tell. From the examinations of the learned who have explored
them for some little distance, at some few points, we know that they
are long and narrow quarries in the rock; underground roads mined
out of the soft volcanic tufa, or stone, on both sides of which the
early Christians, who would not burn, but insisted on burying their
dead, would deposit their departed, and where during these fierce
persecutions they would also assemble for worship. These passages
are but high enough to walk upright through them; they are so narrow
in width that you can touch the sides on either hand, as you grope
along, and they are unutterably silent and dark. If you strain your
eye forward, you see nothing beyond the few feet which the feeble
torch or flickering candle illumines; if you look up, the rock is
there; if you gaze to the right or to the left, you see the shallow
niches, like shelves, one over another, where are strewn the bones
of the dead, crumbling into dust and ashes; and gazing behind you,
you feel a choking sensation at the heart, that if your light should
go out, or your guide should forsake you, you would never find your
way back,--as it is a well-known fact that many too curious in
their researches have disappeared. Such, then, are the catacombs, a
subterranean home of death, a place of impenetrable darkness. And,
my beloved, what better emblem could be found to illustrate what
this world is like, without the Gospel of Jesus Christ, than the
hopeless labyrinths of darkness underneath the City of Rome?

Take the time when our Savior pronounced these words of our text,
or when, as Epiphany suggests to us, those wise men came from the
East, following the star,--what darkness was spread over the earth!
With the exception of the one people, numbering only a few millions
at most, and these sunk away in general apostasy, aside from the
little wax lights of the Jews, there was universal gloom. Around
them, to the farthest limit of the earth, including enlightened and
refined Greece and Rome, the whole world of man lay in heathenism
and idolatry, feeling after God, but knowing Him not, worshiping and
serving creatures rather than the ever-blessed Creator. Think of
Egypt's adoration of bulls, rams, cats, bugs, birds, and crocodiles!
Think of the Assyrian's worship, or of any of those people of
antiquity, rendering to beasts or to heroes and the spirits of dead
men, like the Chinese and Japanese and Hindoos of this day, the
homage due unto the living God! Add to this the attendant miseries,
shameless debaucheries, cruelties, revolting abominations, practiced
all over in the name and belief of honoring God and meriting the
favor of heaven, and it may well be said, the world was darkness,
pitch black darkness. And it is so even to this present day where
Christianity has not yet shed its redeeming light. It is so with
every human soul; the darkness of ignorance, of sin, of misery is
upon it. The man whose understanding has not yet been enlightened by
the beams of spiritual truth is just like a tourist groping along,
and stumbling among, the bones and dust of the catacombs. He knows
not what he is living for, as little as the underground passenger
knows whither he is going. Whenever misfortune and sorrow comes,
there is none to turn to for consolation.

Whenever conscience is troubled and agitated with a sense of its
guilt, and there are times when the spectral hand of conscience,
like in the case of King Belshazzar, writes bitter things against
them, there is no remedy or peace. When death comes, it is all
gloom, spiritual night, a prison-house, a catacomb.

    All our knowledge, sense, and sight
    Lie in deepest darkness shrouded,
    Till God's brightness breaks our night
    By the beams of truth unclouded.

And that is the lesson of this season, which means manifestation,
that is the message of Christ to the world of man and to each soul.
He is the Light. As God at the beginning of the world, when it was
a huge mass of confused matter, wrapped in unpenetrable darkness,
spake the word: "Let there be light," and there was light, so,
when humanity at the beginning of these ---- years was spiritual
darkness, the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and men saw
His glory, the glory of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of
grace and truth.

Addressing ourselves to our text, let us _I. trace some points of
resemblance between Christ and light_; _II. note the conduct which
becomes us toward this Light_.

The purest and most untarnishable thing in this world is light. Snow
is pure, so is ice, water, and air, but each of these will admit of
defilement, may be marred and polluted. It is not so with light.
Man's hand cannot soil it. No corruption can infest or cleave to
it. Nothing can defile its rays or attach pollution to its beams.
And such is Christ. All creatures have shown themselves liable to
sin and moral taint, but Christ passed through the world of sin
as a sunbeam through a house of filth and disease, and came forth
as pure and blessed as He sprang from God Himself. He took on Him
sin's form, that He might endure sin's due, but sin's stain He never
knew. In Bethlehem's manger, He was the holy Child. He lived a human
life, oppressed with all its cares and temptations, grew up among
its corrupt children, suffered its coarseness, its rebuffs, and its
villainies, but with all this He did no sin, neither was guile found
in His mouth. He was the spotless Lamb of God, pure; for He was the
Light.

Again, light is as bright as it is pure. Things are bright in
proportion as they are full of light. The day is bright when no
clouds shut out the sun. The scenery is bright when illumined by
the greatest number of rays. The hope is bright when it is freest
from gloomy forebodings and fullest of the light of promise. And
such is Christ. He is brightness, "the brightness of the Father's
glory," and His office is to dispense brightness. That is the
brightest time in the soul when there is most of Christ in it.
That is the brightest page on which most of Christ is found. That
is the brightest sermon in which most of Christ is heard. That is
the brightest life in which most of Christ is seen. That is the
brightest world in which Christ is most fully received; and that
heart, that home, that church is but confusion and darkness where
Christ is not.

Light, likewise, is free. It comes without cost, and it comes
everywhere. No poverty is so great as to debar from its blessing,
nor is there an open crevice, a nook or corner in all this wide
world into which it is unwilling to enter, or where it fails to
throw its heavenlike smiles. The halls of the great and the huts of
the humble does it gild alike, and that without money and without
price. As related, it is free, and so is Christ. The command is: "Go
ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature."
There is no place nor spot where its beams are not to be diffused,
no heart into which it does not struggle for entrance. To the poor
as well as to the rich, to Jews as well as to Gentiles is Christ
offered equally freely, and on the same terms of free grace to
each and all willing to accept Him. He is the true Light, ready to
lighten every man that cometh into the world.

Another quality that pertains to the nature of light is that it
is revealing. Darkness obscures. Where it is not light, a pit may
gape at our feet, a murderer may be waiting in our path, a dagger
aimed at our heart; we do not see and know, our vision is held. It
requires light to perceive these things. And so in the spiritual
world, Christ is the great Revealer. By Him we come to know God and
our true selves. By Him we learn who and where we are, what our
needs are, and how to relieve them. One of the hardest things in
the world is to make people believe that they are guilty and lost
beings. The reason is, they are in the dark. They need the light
to show them themselves. And that light is Christ. Only let a man
examine himself in the light of Christ's life and teaching, and it
will not be long until he sees that self of his to be a mere mass
of guilt, and things appearing quite differently in this world of
imperfection and sin.

And to mention the final feature, light is life-giving. Without
light the world is dead. Where the sun rarely shines, or not at all,
there is barrenness, dreariness, perpetual winter, desolation. It
is the warming light of spring that starts the dormant germs, that
swells the buds, and clothes the vineyards, the field, and the woods
with vegetation, fragrance, and plenty. So with the spiritual Light.
Where Christ is not, life is not, there is spiritual barrenness,
winter upon the soul. But when His beams shine in upon the soul, the
seeds of virtue put forth, the tree of faith lifts up its fragrant
bloom, and the fruits and flowers of love and grace spring and bud.

Thus, by a few comparisons with the material, natural light, have
we sought to explain in what sense Christ is called, or rather calls
Himself, the Light.

Let us inquire how we ought to conduct ourselves toward Him. First
of all, if you would enjoy the blessings of this Light, you must
receive the Light; the outward illumination must be followed by a
corresponding inward one. What good does the light do the man who,
when its morning rays shine into his room, will pull down the shades
and close the shutters and pull the cover of his couch over his
head? It's only the worse for the man. The thing is to receive it,
to throw open the shutters of your heart, and to let its radiant
sunbeams burst into its every corner and crevice. That is what it
is for, and we fail of its purpose and benefit if we fail to so
treat it. What if the incoming rays do show us the dust that lies
upon furniture and floor? Should we therefore dislike it, reject
it, or should we cleanse the furniture and the floor? What if the
spiritual Sun reveals to us our darling sins and ignorances? Should
we therefore avoid it and dislike it? It is extremely sorry to see
the attitude of the most of mankind, how they will cling like bats
and owls to darkness who fly away to some dismal haunts, and there
sit and blink whenever a ray of spiritual sunlight reaches them.
Christ Himself said: "Men love darkness rather than light." Let it
not be so to us. Let us accept and profess it, take its blessed rays
into our souls.

And, again, let us reflect it. The Bible directs us not only to be
radiant and luminous ourselves, but to give light and shining so
as to enlighten others, just like the moon and the planets, who,
borrowing their light from the sun, are directed to do service in
their way and sphere. So, borrowing from the Sun of Righteousness,
we must shine forth, each in his respective sphere. "Let your light
so shine before men," says our Savior, "that they may see your good
works." And be it understood this pertains to every Christian, to
be a lamp and light-dispensing orb. Parents are called to a large
share in this office. Young men and young women in the Sunday-school
partake in the same commission. The officers to be installed this
morning, every man, woman, and child in the church have a large
and responsible share, and charged to let his or her light shine
in carrying light to the souls of others. With this opening of the
new year let us be reminded of our Christian duty. Having seen the
Sun of Righteousness rising over the hilltops of Bethlehem, and
rejoicing in its spiritual splendors, see that the benefits be
of lasting impression. Ask yourselves, at the outset, where its
Sundays will find you. And know they are the rays of brightening and
illumination in sacred thoughts and improvements, the days in which
the divine Word shines forth in its radiancy and the gracious Light
of salvation flashes in its glory; then, how can you be children of
light and yet forsake the assembling of yourselves together where
the light is? How can you thus be light-bearers, according to God's
direction? And so in every particular. Taking on the brightness
of the true Light, may it exhibit itself in your energies and
activities. "No man lighteth a candle and putteth it under a bushel
or under a bed, but on a candlestick, that it may give light to all
that are in the house." Let it be in your houses, and if in the past
year the candle of your faith and devotion has been flickering low,
it's an opportune time to trim the wick afresh and to brighten the
flame.

We have seen that Christ is the true and only Light. Let us believe
in Him and walk in Him, now in this day of Gospel brightness and
salvation,--so that we may become partakers of that still more
stupendous Epiphany, that glorious manifestation, when the Son of
Man shall appear in full splendor of His glory to take us home to
the inheritance of the saints in light. Amen.



FIRST SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY.

     Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth.--_Eccl. 12,
     1._


There is no idea, my beloved, more common among men than this, that
not childhood, nor youth, nor manhood, but old age is the most
suitable period for becoming religious. The argument in support of
this idea runs thus: In old age we have less to do with the affairs
of this world, and consequently shall have more time and leisure for
those of the next; then this world will afford us little enjoyment
and pleasure, and with our passions quenched, with hair turning
gray, hands palsied, limbs tottering, can we fail to recognize these
as the heralds of the grim king and hear his voice that says: "Be
ready, the Judge is at the door"? As a vessel, rocked by storms and
falling to pieces, makes all haste to get to port, so will we. So
runs the argument.

Prevalent as this idea is, it's a wild fancy, a mocking and baseless
delusion. For various reasons: At no time is change of heart more
difficult than in old age. Not as if God's grace were less powerful
then, but because the difficulties of conversion increase with
years; the heart grows more callous, the sinful habits stronger.
Take a sapling, for instance; it bends to your hand, turning this
way or that, as you will. When seventy springs have clothed it with
leaves and the sun of seventy summers has added to its breadth and
height, it scorns, not yours only, but a giant's strength. Every
year of the seventy, adding fiber to its body and firmness to the
fibers, has increased the difficulty of bending it. In the matter
of our everlasting welfare it is much the same. Advancing time
hardens the fibers of man's heart. Of all tasks we know, there is
none so difficult as to touch the feelings and rouse the conscience
of godless old age. Moreover, it is an extremely doubtful matter
whether we shall ever reach old age. Few do, and the probability
is that we shall not. Of all our race, nearly half die in infancy.
Another large proportion sinks into the grave ere the summer of
life is past. Ask that aged man with stooping form and slow gait,
where the playmates are of his childhood; where the boys that sat
by him at the desk in school; where the youths, flushed with health
and full of hope, with whom he started in the race of life; where
his fellow-workmen or partners in business. With one blow of His
hand, one sentence of His lips, God may dash all our expectations
of threescore years and ten to pieces. This night thy soul shall be
required of thee, and then think of the folly that suggests that
old age is the best for getting an interest in Christ, peace with
God, and a meetness for the kingdom of heaven. Do men act with such
infatuation in other and far less important matters? Here is a man
who insures his life,--why? Because, he will tell you, life is
uncertain, because nothing is more uncertain, because the chances
are he may not live to be old; "and if I would be cut off suddenly,
what is to become of my family?" Men regard this worldly prudence.
But, oh, that man would reason as soundly and act as wisely where
high interests are at stake! Let me change but a little the terms of
that question: If you should be cut off suddenly and early, what is
to become of your family, and ask: If you should die suddenly and
early, what is to become of your soul?

Let me this morning, prompted by the Gospel-lesson of this Sunday,
which presents to us the youthful Savior in the temple, ask you,
especially my young hearers, to ponder with me the words of our
text: "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth." We shall
consider, _I. that youth is the most favorable season in which to
begin a religious course_; _II. point out some of the beneficial
results of early piety_; _III. conclude with a word of general
application_.

Youth, my beloved, is the most favorable time to begin a religious
course, because, we would say, in the first place, it's the critical
time of a person's life. Childhood receives impressions easily, but
these impressions, while lively, are not deep or abiding. How soon
the infant forgets its mother and transfers its love to another, and
the children that stood so pitiful at a parent's casket, a few weeks
afterward are as buoyant and gay at their play as the happiest of
their playmates. Manhood, again, on the other hand, like the solid
rock, retains impressions once made, but does not easily receive
them; what the intellect has gained in ripeness, the heart has lost
in tenderness; and impressibility, lying between these two periods,
is youth; then it is that our minds, like the wax to which the seal,
or the clay to which the mold is applied, possess both the power
of receiving impressions and the power of retaining them. Then the
character is fixed; then the turn is taken either for God or for
the world; then the road is entered which determines our future
destiny. It is an old and trite saying, found in another tongue,
"What the boy does not learn, the man does not know." In youth the
powers are more volatile, the memory is receptive and tenacious.
The mind is lively and vigorous, the affections are more easily
touched and moved, we are more accessible to the influence of joy
and sorrow, hope and fear, we engage in an enterprise with more
expectation, ardor, and zeal.--Moreover, the season of youth will
be found to contain the fewest obstacles, and is most free from the
troubles which afterward embitter, cares which afterward perplex,
and the schemes which engross, and engagements which hinder one in
more advanced and connected life. And, hence, it has been the advice
of the wise men: "In the morning sow thy seed." It is the young
and tender root that penetrates the soil; it is when the fibers
are delicate that, entering the fissures, it passes into the heart
of the rock; and the earlier the mind is brought in contact with
religion and becomes acquainted with its great and immense objects,
the more thoroughly in after life will it comprehend and, like a
root wrapped around the rock, the more firmly hold to it. It is the
young recruits that become the best soldiers, and young apprentices
the best mechanics, and the best Christians, in like manner, are
those who have been so early. Run, in evidence of that, over the
list of names which God so honorably distinguished in history,
Joseph, Samuel, David, Solomon, Jonah, Timothy, John,--and you will
observe that in almost all cases they are examples of early piety.
And if we come to later times and read the biographies of those that
have been eminent in God's kingdom, like our great reformer, Dr.
Luther, and his colaborers, of Dr. Walther, and scores and hundreds
of others, the Almighty seems to have acted almost invariably by the
same rule, and appears to have seldom conferred distinguished honor,
with very few exceptions, except on early piety. They were all men
that feared the Lord in their youth. How important and reasonable,
then, is youth to begin a religious course.

And, again, we would remark, it is, of all others, the most
honorable period in which to begin a course of godliness. Religion
is an ornament. Piety in any situation or age is pleasing to the
Most High. It is well, when the world cannot fill our hearts, to
turn our trembling steps from its broken cisterns to the fountain
of living waters. It is a grand testimony to religion to see a
gray and bent old man standing by the door of mercy and with loud
and urging knocking imploring God to open and let him in; but it's
exquisitely more attractive and noble to see a youth in the beauty
and dew of his age giving himself to Christ and a life of high
and holy virtues. Would you thank any one to offer you the shell
without the kernel, or the stalk without the flower, or a purse
without the money? And think you God is pleased with the dregs of
the cup, the refuse and few declining years of a man's life? Is it
fair and reasonable that men should employ their time and talents,
their health and their strength, and their genius to serve Satan,
the world, and the flesh, God's degrading rivals, and then ask Him
to gather among the stubble of life after the enemy has secured the
harvest? In the Old Testament God commanded that green ears had
to be offered; the _first_ had to be chosen for His services: the
_first_-born of man, the _first_-born of beasts, the _first_ fruits
of the field. It was an honor becoming the Lord they worshiped to
serve Him first. And, correspondingly, it is your duty in the New
Testament that you should give Him the first-born of your days,
the first fruits of your reason, the prime of your affections. It
is with such sacrifices that God is well pleased. The Apostle John
was the youngest disciple; he was called the disciple whom Jesus
loved. It's the most suitable and honorable, and it is the most
profitable and advantageous. It has its reward. That is our second
consideration, _viz._, the beneficial results of early piety.

Here we would note, as the first advantage, that to serve God in
youth is a safeguard, a defense against vice and temptations. No
age, indeed, is secure. Till we arrive in heaven and have laid off
this body of sin and infirmities we are never safe. Here, like
travelers in the mountains, where a coating of snow hides the
treacherous ice, and one false step may prove the Christian's ruin,
we walk in slippery places, and have need to lean on an arm stronger
than our own. Still youth is of all ages the most dangerous.
With its ardent temper, its inexperience, its credulity, taking
appearances for realities, its impatience of restraint, its unbroken
passions, and feeble hands to control and guide them, it requires
the utmost care and vigilance. "Lead us not into temptation," should
be its daily, constant, earnest prayer. We read at times in our
public prints of the wrecks that happen on the shores of our great
lakes or the ocean, of vessels gone down in disaster and storms.
What is that list of wrecked vessels to the number of men and women
who year by year are wrecked in their youth on the dangers and vices
of our towns,--our town? What a graveyard of virtue, honor, and
honesty! Let the places of business where employers show no regard
to the welfare, but only to the work of those in their service; let
the houses where no friendly interest is taken in their domestics;
let the halls of public amusement, the haunts of drunkenness, and
the hells of vice, give up their secrets, as the sea does the
drowned cast upon the beach, and we should have a roll like the
prophet's, "written without and within with lamentations, mourning,
and woe," as shocking, if not more so, as the field of battle,
covered with the carnage of war. And out upon the scene, from the
virtuous influence of home and school, steps the unsophisticated
youth, a thousand avenues of seduction opening around him and
a siren voice singing at the entrance of each. Evil companions
surround him, erroneous publications ensnare his eye, means and
opportunities of temptation and sin. He may flatter himself that
his own good sense and moral feelings will render him secure, but
as the wise King Solomon says: "He that trusteth in his own heart
is a fool." The force of examples, the influence of circumstances,
the voice of railing and ridicule, the fascinations of the pleasure
party, stifle the finest resolutions, and often render us an
astonishment to ourselves, as the old proverb says: "Give the devil
an inch, and he will take an ell." No, depend upon it, there is
nothing that will do to keep you virtuous, noble, and happy but a
hearty consecration of soul and body to the God that loves you, and
the Savior that redeemed you, nothing else than the restraints which
that God inspires in His holy Law, and the helps that He provides in
the rules and ordinances of His Church. Let a young Christian love
the habitation of His house, the place where His honor dwelleth, and
let Him follow the Savior's direction to watch and pray, and he will
retain an undefiled soul in an undefiled body.

Nor only thus before God, but as it says of the youthful Savior in
to-day's Gospel. He increased in favor with God and _man_. Early
piety is honored, commands the respect of every right thinking
person in this world. You will remember how the sterling piety of
the youthful Joseph was honored by Potiphar and afterwards by the
King of Egypt himself. Nor need I remind you how Daniel and the
other three Hebrew youths, because of the excellent spirit of piety
that was in them, was promoted to the highest post of dignity and
responsibility in the Chaldean empire, and whilst God does not
promise you that if you seek Him in your youth, you will be advanced
to sit among princes and to rule kingdoms, He promises you honor and
respect, in whatever station you may be placed. The most worldly
people and religiously careless people would rather have the godly
lad in their employ, the young man who is loyal to his conscience
and of genuine integrity of character, who will do his duty, "not
with eye-service, but in singleness of heart, as unto the Lord,"
than any other kind. In brief, as the Apostle says, you will find
that "Godliness is profitable for all things, having the promise of
the life that now is, and of that which is to come."

Let me, then, in conclusion, charge you, my dear hearers, to
consecrate to the Lord the first fruits of your days. "Remember,"
says our text, "thy Creator in the days of thy youth." What though
frivolous men and thoughtless women ridicule your devotion,
and scoff at your churchgoing and professions! What though
some shallow-minded companions charge you with fanaticism or
singularity, hypocrisy or pride! The day is fast coming when they
will be compelled to justify your conduct, to confess that you have
chosen the better part, and to mourn that they neglected to seek the
Savior in the morning of their existence.

And to those among you who have feared the Lord from your youth, and
are now glorifying your Redeemer in the maturity of life, I would
say: "Go on, earnestly pursue the glorious course which you have
begun; be not weary in your religious life, grow in grace as you
advance in years, be illustrations and stimulating examples unto
others, and thus spend your life usefully for God and man, before
the evil days come and the years draw nigh, when you will say: "I
have no pleasure in them," when eternity stands at the door, and you
will face your Maker. God strengthen you in this determination for
Christ's sake. Amen."



SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY.

     Marriage is honorable in all.--_Hebr. 13, 4._


"And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was
very good." These words of Holy Scripture immediately following
the statement: "And God created man in His image, male and female
created He them," contain the divine verdict regarding the social
relation that we call matrimony or marriage. Declared the all-wise
God: "It was very good."

That, however, was in the holy and happy days of Paradise, in
the midst of righteousness, purity, and bliss. Sin entered, and
things changed; the image of the divine Maker was forfeited, that
purity effaced, over that bliss was written in indelible letters:
"Paradise Lost." What, then, became of the marriage relation? Was
it, too, dissolved, forfeited, lost? Wonderful Providence! From
that universal wreck,--of the few things which God permitted man to
carry with him, remains, to insure him happiness and welfare in the
midst of a world otherwise steeped in misery and tears, the marriage
estate. It was not lost.

The Gospel-lesson of to-day presents the Savior as being present
at a marriage feast, and records that on that occasion He changed
water into wine and manifested forth His glory. By His presence and
by that miracle He also manifested forth, endorsed, sanctioned,
and placed His divine approbation upon matrimony, as He once did
amid the scenes of Eden's creation and loveliness. Nothing could
be more significant than that, when the God-man came to found His
kingdom upon earth, and entered upon His Messianic work, His first
work should have been wrought in honor of the wedding tie. And so
God's Word speaks of marriage throughout. When the Apostle desires
a comparison to set forth the holy and pure relation between Christ
and His Church, he knows none more sublime and noble than the union
that exists between man and woman in wedlock, for which reason the
Church is called Christ's bride--Christ is called her Bridegroom.

To raise one's tongue or pen in impiety or censure against marriage
is to raise them against heaven and Christ. To set up in its place
the teaching and practice of celibacy, by which men and women are
divested, in the name of religion, from the ties and duties of
family; to turn away, or in any manner to advocate what may break
down the proper relation between the sexes, is casting reproach upon
God's institution, and a perversion of true religion, as it is of
nature's laws. To speak depreciatingly, disparagingly of marriage,
to arch the brow, to puck the lips up in a smile, when it is called
"holy" matrimony, and in any way to entertain light and derogatory
views concerning it and family life, is to get oneself into conflict
with, and to invite the ill favor of, Him who has thrown a sacred
hedge around the institution, when on Sinai's mountain, in His Ten
Commandments, He commanded how we should regard this estate.

"Marriage," says the Apostle in our text, "is honorable in all."
There is nothing concerning it that is unworthy, unholy, hindersome
to piety and salvation. The Son of God would not have graced with
His presence and miracle those Galilean nuptials if it had not been
holy throughout. Concerning the honorableness of that estate would I
speak at this time a few words of plainness and truth. May He who is
called the God of families bless them to our instruction!

Among the views concerning matrimony, there is also this one, taught
by men sitting in professors' chairs and senselessly repeated by
the ungodly multitude, that, as man has evolved from a lower to a
higher form of existence, so morality and also matrimony have only
gradually, in the course of many centuries, yes, thousands of
years, evolved to what it now is. Originally man knew as little of
matrimony as the beasts of the field. Little by little, pride and
self-interest induced especially strong men to take unto themselves,
and keep with themselves, one or a few of the other sex, and so it
eventually grew into a custom and rule that one man and one woman
should form a union for life, and in evidence of that they will even
point to the Bible, the instance of Abraham, who beside his wife,
Sarah, had her maid, Hagar, and Jacob had two, really four wives,
and David, Solomon, in fact, all the Jews among the Old Testament
kings practiced polygamy,--it was only with the introduction of
Christianity that monogamy, the union of one man and one woman, and
the indissolubleness of the marriage-tie, became general rule. What
folly of folly, contrary to all sacred and secular story!

Without entering too explicitly upon this subject, do we not read
in the chapters of Genesis that when Pharaoh of Egypt had cast his
eyes upon Sarah, thinking she was Abraham's sister, that after he
had been rightly informed, he at once desisted from his advances and
made explanation? And did not Abimelech, when about to fall into
a like error, offer apology and make restitution? Is it not plain
from these cases that they well knew that the marriage relation was
not to be broken, that one man was not to take another man's wife?
Moreover, it never occurred to Abraham, or any of the patriarchs,
to put away from themselves their wives, for any reasons, and these
men lived nearly two thousand years before Christ. How absurd the
contention that men originally lived without a knowledge of the
sanctity of marriage! Turning to secular history, we have record
of the same. Rome, for instance, was founded in the eighth century
before Christ. Its first citizens were robbers, and such as had
been banished for gross offenses from other cities of Italy. But
concerning the marriage relation--they did not live as brutes.
Every physically able inhabitant was legally required to wed, and
for several centuries not a solitary case of divorce occurred.
Such a thing was regarded simply impossible. It was not until late
centuries, when effeminacy had taken hold upon the city, that we
hear of those social abominations. The same may be said of our
heathen forefathers, the German and Teutonic tribes; marriage, with
them, was held in highest respect.

This, then, is the true view according to Bible and history. God
instituted marriage at creation, and God ordained that it should
be a union between one man and one woman, and that this union is
indissoluble and inseparable. As everything else, however, suffered
by the fall of man into sin, so also this divine regulation. The
corruption at the time of the flood was such that God destroyed the
world on that very account. "They took them wives of all that they
chose," is the sacred account. It is with regret that we read of
men like Abraham, Jacob, David, who were not found strong enough
to resist the common corruption, but were deplorably drawn into
looseness of the marriage ties.

How was it at the time of the Savior? The teaching of the synagogue
was, that "whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a
writing of divorcement." When it entered a man's mind to get rid
of his wife, all he needed to do was to write upon a piece of
parchment: "I divorce myself from my wife," have it signed by two
or three witnesses, and the wife had to go; or if it occurred to
a woman to sever herself from her husband, she demanded a writing
of divorcement from him, and if he refused, life became miserable,
or she would simply run away, as Herodias did from her husband,
Philip, and married her husband's brother, Herod Antipas. And these
occurrences were not done with blushing reserve, those guilty of it
boasted of it. Beloved, are we not rapidly falling upon such times?

The miserable revelations that come from our courts are veritable
cesspools reeking with stench and bestial filth. As one eminent
jurist has expressed it: "Broken marriages are as common as broken
window-panes." Divorce, what is it practically, in effect, but
enabling men and women to live in successive polygamy? Now, over
against this and all like influences and evils that would break
down the honor of marriage, our Lord clearly and emphatically
laid down God's Law. Here it is: "They are no more twain, but one
flesh." "What, therefore, God has joined together, let not man put
asunder," and again, "Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry
another, committeth adultery, and whosoever marrieth her that is
put away committeth adultery." These words are as clear as language
can be. Only one exception does Christ give to the rule, Matt. 5,
32: "Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of
fornication." Fornication means unfaithfulness to each other in
the marriage relation. Illicit intercourse with another person,
that is given as the exception, as a just cause for severance. As
for other causes, the Bible recognizes not one. And even in cases
of fornication it does not _demand_ a divorce. That, then, is the
position of the Scripture and of our church. This is the practice of
her clergy.

Again, another particular that tends to the honorableness of the
marriage state, as pointed out in the text, is the high purpose
which it is intended to serve according to the will of God. The
family life is the foundation of human society. Married life,
without seeking to fulfill its first purpose, the perpetuating of
the human race and the bringing up of one's offspring in the proper
manner, is to undermine, frustrate, that foundation of the state.
This leads me to refer to an evil which I hardly know how to speak
of, which should be named in the blackest of evils,--I mean the
willful intention and resolve to defeat the first of those purposes
for which matrimony was instituted by God. It comes looming up
on the view of this generation as a great, a growing, an almost
national crime. The foundation of a home is the first thing intended
in matrimony. But some deliberately resolve that there shall be
no home, or at least that it shall be as narrow, as limited, as
possible. Be it to avoid pain, be it to shrink the duty of the
parent, be it to remain free to enjoy the world,--arts base and
black, devices which in the Old Testament were punished by death,
are used to carry out these ungodly and absurd resolves; ungodly,
because it would not be possible more grossly to outrage God's law
than in this way; absurd, because a marriage contracted with that
understanding and intention is a contradiction, a misnomer, a fraud
on society and on the Church. And so I say, as God's minister and
in His name, as we who must speak fearlessly, that this act of
deliberately preventing the formation of a home is a crime, and
one which brings down curses from a God of justice, who knows and
who rewards according to our deeds. "Marriage," be it noted, "is
honorable in all"; it is a holy and pure estate, and holiness must
prevail therein.

And now let us regard the other part of our discourse: If marriage
is a holy estate, then it must be entered honorably and must be
continued honorably.

Marriage ought to be entered honorably. There is something appalling
in the thoughtlessness, the irresponsibility with which young people
will contract marriage; there seems to be often no apparent sense
of the gravity of the act, no reflection upon what is involved. A
pleasant face, captivating demeanor, money, or position are not
infrequently the flimsy threads that tie the conjugal knot.

But how can any one who is a Christian enter upon that relation
which, more than any other, affects the whole life, without
consulting and seeking the blessing of the divine Author? Yet it
is done, and alas! done only too often by those who ought to know
better. Some contract acquaintanceship, keep company, and have an
interchange of hearts, and never think of their God and Savior in
connection with it. Religion, in fact, seems unwelcome and out of
place to many at such a time, whilst one heart-felt prayer to Him
in connection with such an acquaintance would in thousands of cases
have prevented anguish of souls from which there is no refuge but
the grave.

In other words, whether you will be happy or unhappy in the marriage
life depends largely upon the companion of your choice. Therefore,
when choosing a life's companion, ask God for His counsel to give
you the spouse of His choice; and when you marry, marry honorably.

The contracting parties in to-day's Gospel-lesson were not a runaway
couple, or Jesus would not have honored their wedding feast with
His presence. Nor did they marry from sheer necessity to hide the
results of sin. Their relatives and friends, and, if still living,
their parents were there; they had asked for and received the honest
and unqualified consent of the latter. It is not an idle service
or the mere acknowledgment of a civil contract, but a proper and
significant Christian act to have marriage solemnized by a religious
ceremony, conducted by a minister of the church, and blessed in the
name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

No Christian man or woman should ever think of contracting a
marriage alliance at which a servant of God is not present to invoke
the Savior's blessing. Marriage should be entered into reverently,
discreetly, and in the fear of God. Nor can I in this connection
refrain from calling attention to the good old church custom called
in English "publishing the banns," the persons asking for the prayer
of a Christian congregation upon their union. Thus, in the ways
indicated, does a Christian enter upon marriage "honorably."

And having entered upon it thus, it ought to be so continued. There
is one thing that married couples ought ever to remember, this: that
they are both sinners. If they bear that in mind, they will not
look for imaginary perfections in their life's partner, and will,
conscious of their own shortcomings, bear with the shortcomings of
the other. And where there is this conviction that both are sinners,
they will find their balance in the Savior of sinners. It is well
enough to bring into married life an amiable disposition, the happy
faculty of controlling one's temper, but, believe me, the best
thing to bring along, the most effective safeguard against discord
and estrangement, is the fear of the Lord, the mutual respect for
God's law and authority. Temporary differences, quarrels even, may
arise in that home, but cannot remain. The husband has been hard
and unkind, but will be prompt to make amends. If the wife has been
contrary, quarrelsome, or has in other ways angered her husband, the
love of Christ will not let her rest, but to acknowledge and seek
reconciliation. There is nothing like genuine religion to regulate
the household, to take off the frictions of daily life, to educate
us in self-denial, in bearing and forbearing with one another.

Let us, then, keep before us the dignity of the estate, and conduct
ourselves honorably therein, until God shall summon us from this
earthly relation to the marriage feast of the Lamb on high. Amen.



THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY.

     Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall
     never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be a
     well of water springing up into everlasting life. The woman
     saith unto Him, Sir, give me this water.--_John 4, 14. 15._


Our blessed Lord, having provoked by His preaching and by His
miracles the enmity of the Pharisees, they began to plot His
destruction. To escape their persecutions, His hour having not yet
come, He departed for Galilee, between which territory and Judea lay
the province of Samaria, through which, accordingly, as the holy
writer expresses it, He must needs go. The first place at which he
stopped was Sychar, one of the cities of Samaria. In its vicinity
was a well, called Jacob's well, in all probability because the
patriarch Jacob had caused it to be dug. Arriving there about the
sixth hour, or noon, fatigued with the toils of the day, He seated
Himself, while His disciples went into the city to purchase food. He
could easily have relieved His wants by a miracle, but His miracles
He employed only for the relief of others. While thus resting and
alone, there cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water. Our Lord at
once resolved to benefit her. He was one who sowed by all waters,
and with Him one hearer was enough to justify the finest sermon.
He introduced Himself to her by asking a favor, the best way that
could have been selected. It must be spoken to the credit of our
poor humanity that a request for a favor is always regarded as
allowable. There are men and women whom you would not dare speak to
on the street, without expecting to be reproachfully treated, but
whom you may with perfect confidence ask a small favor of, such as
the time of day, a drink of water, or the like. Jesus saith to her:
"Give me to drink." The woman is astonished, for she saw, by His
features and His dress, that He was a Jew. Then saith the woman of
Samaria unto Him: "How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of
me, which am a woman of Samaria?" It was a very natural question.
The Jews regarded contact with a Samaritan disreputable. Their touch
was pollution; to spend the night at the house of one of them was
to reproach a family for generations. A Jew would not speak to a
Samaritan, much less ask a favor of one. But the mind of Jesus knew
nothing of this narrow bigotry, this odious illiberality. His object
was to benefit all, and He, therefore, freely conversed with all.
His answer was: "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that
saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of Him,
and He would have given thee living water." The Savior, as you will
have noted from your Bible reading, often seizes upon incidents and
objects before the eyes of His hearers to shadow forth spiritual
truths. Thus, when He had fed the multitude with bread, He spoke of
Himself as "the bread which cometh from heaven and giveth eternal
life." Being at Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles, when the
people in crowds drew water from the pool of Siloam, He cried with
a loud voice: "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink."
So here He takes occasion to elevate this woman's thoughts from
the earthly water to the heavenly. Still supposing, however, that
Jesus referred to common water, she objects to Him: "Sir, Thou
hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; from whence, then,
hast Thou this living water?" And to suppose that He could find
better water elsewhere would imply that He was greater than Jacob,
who esteemed this the best in all the territory, and so she adds:
"Art Thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well,
and drank thereof himself, and his children and his cattle?" Jesus,
pitying her ignorance, and bearing with her weakness, began more
fully to explain the properties of that water of which He spoke. He
said to her: "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again,
but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall
never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a
well of water springing up into everlasting life." The woman, still
taking the words in a natural sense, was disposed to turn them into
ridicule, and she begged the Savior by all means to give her some
of that excellent water which would prevent her from ever thirsting
again and would render it unnecessary for her to come so far and
draw water. She says: "Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not,
neither come hither to draw." To check her impatience, Jesus shows
that He was perfectly acquainted with her character. He bids her
call her husband. The woman replied: "I have no husband." Then came
the crushing exposure; Jesus said to her: "Thou hast well said, I
have no husband; for thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou
now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly." She, at
once convinced of Jesus' prophetic character, adroitly changes the
subject. Said she: "Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and ye
say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship."

This was opening up an interesting topic. When the Jews returned
after the Babylonian captivity, they went to rebuild the temple at
Jerusalem. The Samaritans proposed to bear part of the expense, and
to worship with them, as they accepted some of the Jewish laws and
ceremonies. The Jews rejected their offer, and would have nothing
to do with them. The Samaritans then built a temple of their own
on Mount Gerizim. Hence, the woman wished to be informed by this
prophet which was the right place, Mount Gerizim or Jerusalem. The
reply of Jesus was full of instruction; with great stateliness
and dignity He said: "Woman, believe me, the hour cometh when ye
shall neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem worship the
Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship; for
salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the
true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth;
for the Father seeketh such to worship. God is a Spirit; and they
that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." The
woman, hearing these instructions, without disputing with Jesus, but
also without approving entirely of what He said, refers the entire
decision of the question to the coming of the Messiah. "I know that
Messiah cometh, which is called Christ; when He is come, He will
tell us all things," to which Jesus replies: "I that speak unto thee
am he."

Here the disciples, returning from the city, interrupted the
conversation. The woman went back to the city and told the people
of the wonderful stranger. Full of curiosity, they came out to see
Jesus, and prevailed on Him to stay two days with them, and "many,"
records the sacred writer, "of the Samaritans of that city believed
on Him."

There are a number of important lessons that we may profitably
dwell upon from this interview between Christ and that woman of
Samaria. We shall restrict ourselves to the most outstanding one.
Our Lord teaches us here the nature of salvation; He compares it
to water. It is noteworthy and most suggestive that whatever in
the material world is most useful and highly valuable to man is
also the most common and most abundant. Things which can, without
serious loss and injury to any one, be dispensed with, or which
serve merely or mainly to give pleasure, such as gold, diamonds,
and jewels, exquisite foreign fruit, these alone are rare, the
property of a few. But what all men need, and most largely ministers
to their comfort and enjoyment,--the wholesome food, the pure,
refreshing water, the air, and the light,--these are spread out in
free, unstinted store before rich and poor, young and old, one and
all.--But besides this material world there is another with which we
have to do, an unseen spiritual world, in which our souls are living
and breathing, and there the same law obtains. God has abundantly
supplied us with what we need. Two-thirds of the earth's surface
is covered with water. You find water all over and everywhere, in
oceans, rivers, springs, wells, sufficient to supply all the wants
of man. So, too, there is not a meager quantity, but an abundance
of living water. If all the human beings who have ever lived upon
this earth could come to this heavenly Fountain in a body, there
would be water enough and to spare, and it is everywhere and for
everybody. It is for Americans, for Europeans, for the inhabitants
of Asia, Africa and the islands of the sea. There never will be a
diminution of its vast and boundless supply. Nor will God permit any
barrier to hedge it in.

Like the water in your homes, salvation is being brought to your
doors; it is gushing forth like a stream at your feet now, and it
flows through the very aisles of this church, and filters into every
pew. And like natural water, Christ's water of salvation possesses
like qualities. To mention the particular He dwells upon in this
text, Jesus answered and said to her, "Whosoever drinketh of this
water shall thirst again; but whosoever drinketh of the water that I
shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give
him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting
life." The soul has its desires, its yearnings, its appetites,
as well as the body, and it is miserable until that thirst is
satisfied. And how is this done? Certainly not by anything of man's
provision. The various schools of man's wisdom, philosophy, have
tried it, and we have their confession that they failed to find what
they sought. The same may truly be said of this world's pleasures,
possessions, and honors. These things, being earthly, leave the soul
as thirsty as before, yea, even worse, like sailors in distress
who drink the ocean's brine; it will but increase their thirst a
hundredfold. "But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give
him shall never thirst." Christ's water, alone, is able to satisfy
the thirst of the human soul.--The reason is very apparent. Man's
happiness depends, first of all, upon a right relation to his God;
as long as that is severed or strained, satisfaction and peace
of heart are out of the question. And it is only He, that divine
person, who sat upon Jacob's well, that has this supply of living
water. We are made for God, and our hearts remain thirsty and
restless until they find satisfaction and repose in Him.

But, you will note, it says: "Whosoever drinketh of the water that
I give him." Christ gives it, but there is something, accordingly,
for the thirsty soul to do. Water cannot quench the thirst unless
it is taken; not all the water in the river at the foot of our city
can save a man that does not partake of it. Nor can Christ's water
of life assuage the thirst of a soul that declines it. There must
be personal appropriation, or it fails of the blessed effects.
Not as if there is anything meritorious in that, any more than it
is a merit for one to drink a glass of water to allay his physical
thirst. And yet, it is only thus that one becomes partaker of
it; and the only reason why so many fail of its blessed effects
is,--they do not drink it. It is told of a ship that its supply of
fresh water was exhausted. The passengers and crew on board were at
the point of perishing. For several days they had lacked water, and
were almost frenzied. At last a vessel was sighted in the distance.
They raised their cry: "Give us water, water; we are dying for
water!" The reply came back, "Let down your buckets! You are in the
mouth of the Amazon! You have fresh water all around you." They
had been floating three days in fresh water and knew it not. It is
so spiritually. Ignorance is what keeps many from salvation. The
churches, like vast reservoirs and pumping stations, are seeking
to supply the masses with the knowledge of Christ and His Gospel.
They are actually floating like these perishing souls in the midst
of religion, and yet they dip not their buckets to fill. With some
it is because they are too indifferent, and with others, because
of sheer stupidity they care not to give such matters concern. It
is positively surprising to see how many otherwise intelligent and
wide-awake men and women will be found altogether destitute of the
first things, the A B C of Christian teaching and principles. Ask
them to select the real things of man's life, to tell you the true
purpose of existence, touch on matters of eternity, soul and God,
and they are as ignorant of those things as children of the value
of currency, who will tear to pieces a five-dollar bill and cling
to their five-cent picture-book, or who will at any time take in
exchange for a ten-dollar gold piece a large, glittering ball of
Christmas tinsel. They know not, and so they value not, and allow
the treasures of heaven, the gift of God, as our Savior called it,
the blessed water of life, to flow by undrunk and unimproved.

To this first reason, ignorance, may be rightfully added
another,--prejudice. There is a vast amount of that against Christ's
religion. In fact, there is in every material heart a feeling of
aversion against the whole thing, and, strange enough, those who
might be expected to be most favorably inclined toward salvation,
the outwardly good, honest, and honored, are, as a rule, set against
it. Their self-sufficiency is in the way. Take the case before
us. It was a most unpromising one, this woman. The reproof openly
given by a stranger, a Jew at that, would have irritated many a
one. Some would have replied by abusive language. Others would
have denied the charge, especially as it did not appear probable
that this unknown person could uphold them. But the Samaritan had
different sentiments, and bears out the statement of our Lord that
the publicans and sinners were nearer the kingdom of heaven than the
Pharisees, who were so devout in their outward appearances. Some of
the most unpromising characters prove the most promising, and those
whom we should have regarded as giving Christ cordial welcome, the
religionists of His time, were offended at Him.

So to-day, there are numbers of those who regard themselves good
enough or not worse than many others and these very church people,
and so are never seen in a house of Christian worship, except to see
some one married, or buried; who will read anything and everything,
and who are ready to meet with you and talk with you on every topic
except one, and that is religion. Prejudice, my beloved, prejudice,
short-sighted, cruel, unreasonable.

But, to conclude; to us, my dear hearers, as to this woman of
Sychar, has the Savior come. He is sitting not only, as of old, on
Jacob's well, He is sitting aside you in the pew, He is offering you
the same water of life. Why not take and drink it?

People will go far and spend much to drink of earthly springs for
bodily invigoration and health. Here is the life-water, which alone
can give health to the soul, and which springs up into eternal life.
Oh! that some of its life-giving drops may fall upon your hearts in
these moments to soften them into penitence and holy resolve: "Sir,
give me of this water."

    I heard the voice of Jesus say,
    Behold, I freely give
    The living water; thirsty one,
    Stoop down, and drink and live.
    I came to Jesus and I drank
    Of that life-giving stream;
    My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
    And now I live in Him.

    Amen.



FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY.

     And straightway Jesus constrained His disciples to get into a
     ship, and to go before Him unto the other side, while He sent
     the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away,
     He went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening
     was come, He was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst
     of the sea, tossed with waves; for the wind was contrary. And in
     the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went unto them, walking on
     the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they
     were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out in
     fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good
     cheer; it is I; be not afraid.--_Matt. 14, 22-27._


Our blessed Lord was both, He was true God and He was true man.
To-day's Gospel-lesson presents Him to us in the fishermen's boat,
weary and sleeping on a pillow. There is humanity; for of God it
says: "Behold, He shall neither slumber nor sleep." Again, the same
story presents Him as commanding the winds and the waves. There is
Godship; for of God alone can it be said: "Thou rulest the raging
of the sea; when the waves thereof arise, Thou stillest them."
And this remarkable contrast you will find running through all
His earthly history. You enter the stable at Bethlehem. You see
a babe slumbering on its mother's lap. You say, "This is Mary's
child." Presently a company of shepherds enter, and tell what they
heard and saw while keeping watch over their flocks by night.
Scarcely have they finished their description, when wise men from
the East appear, alleging that they have been guided thither by a
star, and worshiping the Child with costly offerings. You stand on
Jordan's bank and mingle with the thousands who have come to hear
the word and submit to the Baptism of John. You behold one, Jesus
of Nazareth, going down to be baptized, but you think little of
it, for He differs, apparently, in nothing from those by whom He
is surrounded. But as He comes up from the water, the heavens are
opened, and the Spirit of God descends like a dove, and lights upon
Him, while from the celestial heights comes a voice, "This is my
beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." You accompany Him to the
grave of Lazarus, and you see the tears trickle down His cheeks, and
you realize that He is a man; for neither Deity nor angels weep.
But soon you behold Lazarus come forth from his sepulcher in answer
to His word of power, and once more you ask in wonder verging on
adoration: "What manner of man is this?" And so till you see Him
on the cross, His back lacerated with the scourge, and His brow
bleeding from the pressure of the crown of thorns. You hear the
words, "It is finished," and see the pale cast of death settle on
His countenance. But on the third day after, you meet Him in the
upper room at evening, extending His hand in resurrection greeting:
"Peace be unto you."

Now, what shall we make of this wonderful dualism, as we may call
it? There remains nothing for us to do but to accept that Christ was
true God and true man. No other interpretation or explanation will
do. Our church, in the standard Confession, in the Third Article
of the Augsburg Confession, thus voices its belief, and to that we
subscribe. We teach that God the Son became man and was born of
the Virgin Mary; that the two natures, the human and the divine,
inseparably united in one person, are one Christ, who is true God
and man. So much as to the great doctrinal truth taught in the
Scripture-reading of to-day. It contains also a very instructive and
comforting practical truth. We shall regard as our topic:--

_The experience of Christ's disciples on the Sea of Galilee a
picture of Christ's people on the sea of life_, noting, _I. their
adversity_, _II. their security_.

The poet has said that human life is

    Bits of gladness and of sorrow,
    Strangely crossed and interlaid;
    Bits of cloud belt and of rainbow,
    In deep alternation braid;
    Bits of storm when winds are warring,
    Bits of calm when blasts are stay'd,
    Bits of silence and of uproar,
    Bits of sunlight and of shade.

And it's more than poetic fancy; it is stern reality. Like that Sea
of Galilee, the sea of life is sometimes calm and sometimes stormy,
sometimes reposing under the soft smiles of a sunshiny sky, and
sometimes ruffled and whipped by the restless gales.

Wearied from the toils and turmoils of the day, our Lord constrains
His disciples to get into a ship, and to go before Him to the other
side, while He sent the multitude away. When He had done this, He
retired. Whither? Into a neighboring mountain. For what? To pray.
He wished to be alone; His heart yearned for communication with
His Father; He also needed strength and preparation for the work
and conflicts of the morrow. How could He secure it? By prayer.
How suggestive and instructive for us. Our Lord needed thus to
strengthen and prepare Himself for life's difficulties and battles.
Let us learn a lesson from Him,--discover where the secret of our
power lies.

But while thus engaged, His disciples were in danger upon the sea.
A fearful storm, one of those sudden, violent squalls, peculiar to
the Sea of Galilee, had arisen, and was lashing the sea with violent
fury. Try as they might, and they were accustomed to the sails and
oars, they were perfectly helpless, and the greatest misfortune was
that the Master was not with them. Had He been there, even though
asleep, they might have roused and brought Him to their rescue. But,
alas! He was far away. Consternation and despair seized hold upon
them, when, at a sudden, they discern in the distance the form of a
man walking on the foaming crests of the waters. What? Could it be
He? Indeed, there He was, and He speaks to them. No sooner did He
set His foot on the ship than the tossing waters sank down to their
quiet bed. There was a great calm.

Beloved, these stories of the Bible have not been written for
entertainment, but as the Apostle declares: "Whatever was written
aforetime was written for our learning, that we through patience
and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." Life has its times
of prosperities, and it has its times when the wind is contrary
and wave dashes fast upon wave. The occasion of this storm may be
various. Sometimes it is the matter of livelihood. Circumstances
over which we have no control overwhelm us, embarrass us. Try as
hard as we may, like these disciples, who made only thirty furlongs,
we can make no headway; yes, in spite of our willingness and energy,
we go backward; reverses set in, loss is ours. We are mightily
tossed by the waves, and the clouds look dreadfully frowning and
dark. Sometimes it is bodily ailment; suffering of one sort or
another comes over us like a destructive wave; we are called to
battle with disease, the probabilities and improbabilities of ever
becoming strong again,--it is bitter experience. Or it may be the
wave of bereavement. Like this little fisherman's craft, we are
carried down into the depths of heart-rending sorrow; our eyes are
wet with tears; before us closes the grave upon one whom we would
have given the whole world to retain.

Contrary winds! Dashing billows! Rolling, tossing sea! And imagine
not that by believing the Gospel, your being a Christian, will
make you exempt from these storms. We are sometimes told: Do what
is right, and you will not suffer. It sounds very plausible, but
it is not true,--very unfrequently otherwise. Why was Joseph cast
into prison? He did that which was right. Why were the martyrs put
to death? These disciples in the path of duty when the storm came
upon them were doing what had been commanded by the Lord. You may
not infrequently be exposed to fierce blasts by being a Christian
consistent, consecrated in life and duties. It matters not what your
profession or portion in life may be, whether you are a Christian
or not, godly or ungodly, rich or poor, famous or obscure, the
storms of life will certainly, with more or less violence, overtake
you. There is no exemption, no escape from them. Now, what shall we
think, what say, to sustain ourselves amid experiences like that?

It may be well enough to note the experience of those disciples
yonder on the Sea of Galilee. "And when the disciples saw Him
walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit;
and they cried out for fear." What could it be, that moving form?
A man? No, impossible! How could a man tread upon the waters? Then
it must be a ghost, an apparition, a grim visitor from the other
worlds. And as this idea forced itself upon them, they could not
refrain from crying out with terror. Thus, my dear hearers, God's
people are sometimes perplexed, when scenes of distress appear,
and bereavement, humiliation, and sorrow appear upon life's sea.
They are sometimes disposed to cry out with terror, "What can it
mean?"--these dark and threatening forms. Surely, a loving and
beneficent God would not alarm His children, and add still greater
anxiety and anguish to their already fierce battling with the waves
and the elements. My beloved, that is just what God does, and wisdom
on our part, our sustaining strength, and the comfort consists in
this, that we recognize that form, nor, mistaking it, cry out in
terror.

That storm on the Galilean Sea was not an accident, it did not come
by chance, it was sent by and with the permission of the Governor
of the winds and the waves; and when the billows were rolling
fiercest and fastest, His hand was there guiding and controlling.
None less so with the streams of life. These are not accidental,
but intentional. They do not come by chance, but are sent by, and
with the permission of, the Governor of the universe, and when the
billows are rolling fast, His hand is guiding and controlling our
afflictions. Perplexing as they may be, they are part of God's grand
and sovereign system of dealing with us. It is He, His Providence,
His divine appointment and arrangement, not some strange, unmerciful
power, which people call Fate, Chance, Nature, but the divine form
of our blessed Savior. That is the first thing we must bear in mind
amid life's storms.

"But straightway Jesus spoke unto them, saying, Be of good cheer;
it is I; be not afraid." Human lips cannot describe the effect
which these words uttered by that familiar voice must have had upon
them. In a moment the whole truth flashed upon their minds,--the
apparition so much dreaded was no other than He whom, above all
others, they longed to see. There is a common expression in English,
which speaks of "blessings in disguise." Such are all of life's
untoward happenings to a Christian--"blessings in disguise."

That Galilean experience in the night and storm gave to these
disciples enlarged ideas of the Master and His power, it developed
their faith and trust in Him. Not for all the toil and terrors would
they have foregone it. They never forgot it. Beloved, the time will
come when you will look back upon that experience that wrenched your
soul, that household cross that proved so heavy, that disheartening
reverse that caused a big black mark to be drawn through your life's
prospects and plans, those hours of dread and darkness, as the very
occasions of your highest blessings, the making of yourselves. The
"evils of life"--speak not thus--are blessings in disguise. "Nearer,
my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee, e'en though it be a cross that
raiseth me." Have you ever seen anything but a cross raise men?
The smiles of prosperity, the sunshiny sky, the even waves of the
sea of life are not the means calculated to raise a soul nearer to
God; that takes the buffetings, the storms, and the rising billows
(blessings in disguise), sent by a wise God in loving purpose.

And one more. When the disciples recognized and realized that it
was their Master, their fear vanished. Let the winds blow, the ship
toss, and the waves run high, they felt secure,--He was with them.
It is a simple thought, yet it constitutes the whole of religion,
the essence of faith, our comfort in life, our hope in death, our
all in all, this one thought: He is with us, Jesus, the Master.

I am thinking this moment of a man,--his eyesight impaired, sickness
upon his body, his head bending low with age, striving hard to
live, afraid to die. The religion of Christ was never his, and he
desires none of it now. A more melancholy lot never was man's as he
is tossed about with many a conflict and many a doubt, fightings
and fears within, without, dissatisfied, unhappy. I am thinking
of another,--his eyes have not seen the light of day for eight
years; his once powerful frame is now as delicate as a child's, his
hair is gray from much weariness and pain; but none was ever more
cheerful, submissive, hopeful, and happy. The difference? The one
has recognized the divine form walking on the surging billows, and
has taken Him into his life's boat; the other has not, and will not
do so. With the one it is a "great calm," stillness, joy. With the
other, tumult, danger, and despair. That is the difference,--_what_
a difference! So, whether it be sickness, or that the world goes
against us, or that we are straitened in our means of living, or
experiencing the loss of the dearest and nearest; not _from_ them
has Christ and Christianity promised to save us, but _in_ them,
trusting in Him, it has promised, and that we shall feel safe.

And that is the one great practical lesson of the day's texts, that
is why they are recorded in the Bible, that we may have this faith,
this comfort and hope. Then in the day of trouble we shall think
of something more than the mere earthly and temporal look of the
trouble; we should all think of God in it, of God guiding it, and of
His sheltering and sustaining hand in it. Then when we are sick, our
thoughts would not be so taken up with the mere pains and annoyances
we suffer, the probabilities or the improbabilities of our getting
back to health and strength again; but whether we get better or not,
the remembrance of the Hand of our Savior in it will make us feel
easy, submissive, and patient under it, as no other strength can.
And so with all other trouble. Amid the waves of the sea of life,
which is seldom calm, and often swells into mountainous billows,
let us heed the voice of the Savior, "Be of good cheer, it is I."
Let us toil on. No contrary wind can last forever. After a time we
shall reach the other shore, and when we touch that, we shall be
done with these storms. Then will there be a great calm. Amen.



FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY.

     The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the
     sea, and gathered of every kind: which, when it was full, they
     drew to the shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into
     vessels, but cast the bad away.--_Matt. 13, 47. 48._


A number of our Lord's discourses were addressed to those who were
engaged in agriculture. To such were uttered the parables of the
sower, of the wicked husbandmen, of the mustard seed, and to-day's
Gospel of the wheat and tares. Others of these discourses were
spoken more immediately to His own disciples, the most of whom had
been fishermen on the Lake of Galilee, and to them mightily appealed
an illustration like that which we are about to consider. They had
often experienced what our Lord so simply describes. They had gone
forth in their boats to fish, and after they had drawn their nets
to shore, they had made an examination of what they contained, and
out of the meshes they had gathered the good into vessels, for sale
or for use, and that which was worthless they had thrown away. A
very simple figure setting forth a very affecting and awakening
truth. May the Holy Ghost solemnize our minds and write some abiding
impressions on all our hearts!

The subject divides itself into two parts. It shows us, _I.
The present mixed character of the churches_; _II. the future
separation_.

The Kingdom of Heaven, that is, the Church, is likened by our Lord
to a net cast into the sea. The net spoken of is not the ordinary
casting-net, but a seine, or hauling-net, which was sometimes half
a mile in length, leaded below that it might drag the bottom of
the sea, and kept above the water with large corks. A net of such
dimensions will naturally enclose fish of all sizes and kinds, some
bad and others good, some valuable and others worthless, some in the
best condition, others out of season, dead, or putrid, and unfit
for human food. And so it is with the net of the Gospel. It is a
large, capacious draw-net; it is not merely let down into one stream
or river, but it sweeps the ocean, the wide and open sea of the
world, and its threads are so strong, so well knitted together that
scarcely a single fish can escape. In other words, we have here a
picture of the all-embracing Church of Christ, the preaching of the
Gospel to every nation. But as the divine fishermen, the ministers
of Christ, cast their net into this universal sea and enclose an
abundance of human fishes, not all are of the same quality; it's a
mixed and motley multitude. "In the visible Church there is a deal
of trash and rubbish, refuse, and vermin, as well as fish," says an
old commentator.

In this our own blessed country, where the Gospel is preached in
nearly 2,000,000 sermons every year, and where churches and chapels
rear their spires on the right hand and on the left, there are many
professed Christians, and those who belong to the visible Church,
but they are not alike. They were baptized in infancy, and many of
them renewed their solemn covenant at God's altar in Confirmation.
But there their religion ends. They never seek God's face in
private prayer. They profane and desecrate God's holy day. They
neglect God's sanctuary. They never read God's Word. They are daily
supported by God's bounty, but they cherish no more gratitude to the
Author of all their blessings than if they were sticks or stones.
What are such baptized Christians in reality but vile refuse in the
net. Others, again, are not so pronounced in their conduct; they do
observe to some extent the proprieties of a religious life; they
are seen now and then inside of God's house, and have their names
enrolled upon the communicant or membership list of some church,
send their children to Sunday-school, and withhold not at times a
charitable hand. But, then, that is the whole of their religion.
They do not believe in always running to church, in being so awfully
sanctimonious; a person can be a Christian, read his Bible, and
pray at home just as well.--That's the type of many. It is the form
without the power. The virgin's lamp of profession is there, the oil
of God's Spirit is not there, or very, very low. And, in addition to
these various classes, there is a "remnant," as the Apostle calls
it, in many places a very small remnant, "according to the election
of grace." These are they, and some such are now hearing me who
have received the truth for the love of it, and who have embraced
the Gospel as it has embraced them. They belong not to them that are
"good enough," and "if God accepts any one, He cannot pass them by,"
but being convinced by the Holy Ghost that they are poor, soul-sick
sinners, they seek Christ's blood as their only remedy and Christ's
righteousness as their only ground of acceptance, and flee to
Christ's cross as their only hope, and seek to adorn this doctrine
by a consistent and holy life and a diligent and conscientious
attendance upon the Word and Sacraments.

These, my beloved, are some of the various classes of the mixed
and motley multitude that are now being gathered into the net, the
outward church, and yet it is sheer impossibility to distinguish
between them. They are so closely mixed together; people may live
in the same houses, walk together the same street, sit side by side
in the same pew, listen to the same preacher, kneel at the same
sacramental altar, and at last lie down, amid sacred ceremony, in
the same burial plot, and yet may be inwardly utterly dissimilar,
the one from the other, the one genuine, the other spurious; the
one be finally saved, the other ultimately lost.--This is something
which we cannot determine, which our natural, material eye cannot
discern. But that is the teaching of our text,--there will come a
time when this will be made manifest. As in the drag-net, first of
every sort are gathered together in the same enclosure only for a
little while, till the nets are drawn in to the shore, so in the
spiritual net, the outward Church of Christ on earth, the opposite
descriptions of mankind are equally enclosed, but only for a season,
a brief season; they will presently be divided. Says our parable:
"The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the
sea, and gathered of every kind; which, when it was full, they drew
to the shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but
cast the bad away." When the net shall be full, when the last saved
of the number of God's elect shall be gathered in, the examination
will be made, and the separation will take place. There is a time
set in God's everlasting purposes,--we know not when, indeed, that
time will be according to the measurement of our years, but we know
that it will be when the Gospel shall have fulfilled that which it
has been sent for; for, according to the Master-Fisher, it must not
return void and empty, but full. And so the net is now filling,
faster at some times than at others, all along continuing to be
filled until it will be drawn to shore, the shore of eternity; and
then will the dividing process take place.

From this parable, and from the corresponding one of the wheat
and the tares, we see what a mistake we make if we expect to
find anywhere a perfect Church upon earth. To expect the Church
to be a community of perfect saints is to expect more than its
divine Founder ever expected, according to the words of His own
parables. There was a Balaam among the prophets of God, and Achan
in the camp of Israel, a Judas numbered with the twelve apostles,
an Ananias and Sapphira connected with the first little flock in
Jerusalem. In the Corinthian, Galatian, and Ephesian Churches,
planted and superintended by St. Paul, there arose bad ministers and
disreputable private Christians. No wonder, then, that in our church
and charges there should be found reprehensible and undesirable
material, and no preaching, however powerful and faithful, no
discipline, however strict and prudent, no watchfulness, however
careful and ready, can ever make it otherwise. Even to the end of
the world the goats will mingle with the sheep, the tares grow up
with the wheat, whilst the nets are being filled, the bad fish will
be gathered with the good. Perfection is not to be found this side
of heaven.

The second error pointed out by this part of our subject is this,
that we must not seek, by force or persecution, to get rid of
what _we_ may call putrid or unprofitable fish. Church discipline
is, indeed, enjoined in the Scripture in regard to doctrine and
in regard to practice. When Paul writes to Titus: "Rebuke them
sharply, that they may be sound in the faith," and advises the
Corinthians concerning the man guilty of incest, "Put away from
among yourselves that wicked person,"--when a person has become
manifest as an outspoken disbeliever or as an open transgressor of
God's Law, flagrant in his morals, then it becomes incumbent upon a
congregation to admonish, to discipline, for the saving of his soul,
that person. Church discipline is not intended to cast away, but to
bring back to proper belief and proper conduct, to save a person's
soul, to keep him in the net, by removing his error and inducing him
to live a decent life. However, if such a one obstinately persists
in his wickedness, then it commends itself to every one that he can
no longer be admitted to fellowship.

But it is not this quality of fish that our parable speaks about. In
fact, such, to make it plainer, are no fish at all; they are vermin,
lizards, or whatever species of reptile you wish to name them. A
man that is outspoken in unbelief and profligate in his morals
is not within the Gospel net. Christ in this parable is speaking
of such people as wished to be recognized as Christians, confess
themselves as spiritual and converted children of the Kingdom,
and as long as they do that, we may have our serious doubts as to
their sincerity; we may, as we see their faults and obliqueness of
conduct, consider their Christianity of a rather dubious specimen
or type--hypocritical is the common term. But it's not for us to
read them out of the membership of the saints, much less dare the
Church deny them access to the house of God, or resort to external
force, police or military measures to enforce her teachings and
persecute those who differ from her. Has that ever been done, you
question? My dear hearers, the robes of the professing Church are
red with the blood of saints, because it has failed to heed the
parables of our consideration to-day. We think of a John Huss, a
forerunner of the Reformation, taken to the stake at Constance,
burned as an arch-heretic; of the Albigenses and Waldenses,
persecuted, slaughtered by the so-called holy Christian Church,
banished for no other cause but adherence to their Bibles. We call
to our remembrance the scenes of the Inquisition, the horrible
treatments and tortures, when Rome undertook to separate the bad
from the good, and destroyed thousands of Christians better than
herself, 18,000 in the Netherlands, 60,000 in France. We can still
hear the bells tolling on that fatal day, August 24, 1572, called
St. Bartholomew's Day, when the signal for a massacre was given that
cost 30,000 Huguenots their lives in the streets of Paris. Time
fails us to speak of England and Germany with their gruesome thirty
years of religious war, of the countries where fanaticism, armed
with the sword, wished to root out what it thought was tares, and
cast away the bad fish; and let us mark that the Pope resides not
only in Rome, but there are a multitude of little popes everywhere,
judging and pronouncing on one another, with all the stringency and
self-confidence of their colossal type in Rome, their anathemas,
and who would, if they could, quickly and radically empty the net.
But, says the Savior, let them be gathered together until the day of
separation.

And by whom, to continue the parable, will the separation be made?
Not by the fishermen, the ministers; for they are liable to make
great and fatal mistakes. Ministers cannot see people's hearts.
They may often think, "These are God's elect," when God says, "I
know them not," and the reverse. No, my brethren, ministers will be
sifted like the rest, themselves be classed either with the wicked
or the just, and, strange as it may sound, those who have cast the
nets, may themselves be cast away. God will, therefore, according
to the parable, employ brighter agents for this important work.
"The angels," it says, "shall come forth and sever the wicked from
among the just." The same is told in the parable of the tares. "The
reapers are the angels"; and they will do their work with perfect
accuracy. They will make no mistakes. The angel that passed over the
houses in Egypt committed no error. Every house on whose door-posts
was the blood he spared, while in every house where the blood was
not seen he left a first-born dead. So, in the separation on the
final day, these celestial reapers will see at a glance who have
been justified by the Lord and sanctified by the Spirit, and who
have not. Not one will escape their discerning eye. Oh! what a
separation that will be. There will be no haste, no precipitation;
all will be calm and judicial. The angels will "sit down," as the
term is, to denote the calm inquiry and the patient investigation
of each member of the visible Church; and the good they will then
gather into vessels, into the mansions above; but the bad will they
cast away into a furnace of fire, where there shall be wailing and
gnashing of teeth. Methinks that these concluding words of our
Lord are the most terrible that can be anywhere found, and yet,
withal, they are the words of a loving Savior, graciously telling
us beforehand what the result of the final separation will be. Well
may we heed for our instruction the solemn appeal: "Who hath ears to
hear, let him hear."

There only remains now for me, to rivet these lessons upon your
minds, two further remarks: First, be not offended; secondly, be
not deceived. Too often do we hear the remark, "There are too many
hypocrites in the Church, I don't care to associate with such
people." You are right, my dear friend; but such a clear-sighted
person as you are will certainly not judge a Christian Church by
the faulty character of some of its members. Have you remained
unmarried because some people have proved failures in marriage?
Or do you keep your children from being educated because some
educated people are great rascals? Is this the fault of marriage or
education? And will you contend that the Word of God and the water
of Holy Baptism make those who hear and receive it hypocrites and
spiritual counterfeits? What hollowness of reasoning! You would
not spurn the gold because it is embedded in quartz, or discard
the diamond because it lies buried in sand, or refuse the daylight
because there is a spot on the sun. You know too well that a cause
must be judged by its principles, its teachings, and not by the
faults and failures of its adherents. And so when the question
arises as to your connection with the Church of Christ, it is
for you to consider the principles and doctrine of that, and act
accordingly.

Again, be not deceived. We are all of us, in a sense, in the net;
and in the net are to be found of every kind, good and bad. Which
are we? Christ tells us that _many_--not a few--many at the last
day, will cry to Him, saying, "Lord, we have heard Thy ministers
preach, and by them Thou hast taught us in our churches;" but He
will say: "Depart from me; I never knew you." Do you, then, belong
among the good? _i. e._, those who have their souls appareled in the
garments of Christ's goodness? In other words, are you a sincere and
simple believer in Christ Jesus? Then shall you be cast into the
vessels. May God grant us a favorable judgment when the drag-net of
the Gospel is drawn to the everlasting shore! Amen.



SEPTUAGESIMA SUNDAY.

     Is thine eye evil because I am good?--_Matt. 20, 15._


Such was the question put by the householder, in the parable, to
the laborers that murmured against him. He had gone forth early in
the morning to hire men for his vineyard. He discovers that those
engaged at first were not enough, so he continues to go forth at
different times during the day to the market-place to employ
others. With those first hired he had made a stipulated contract,
fixing the wages at so much; with those later hired no such fixed
agreement was made, but merely the general promise given that he
would pay them whatever was fair and just. In the evening, when the
work was over, and the steward ready to pay off the men, he directed
to give them all one and the same coin; each was to receive a penny,
the value of which, considering all things, was about $1.50 in our
present-day currency, a common laborer's wage. Whereupon, relates
the parable, those who had been in the vineyard all the day thought
themselves hardly, unjustly treated. They said, "These last have
wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal with us which
have borne the burden of the day." "So I have," said the master of
the vineyard to one of those murmurers; I have paid you alike, but
have you not received your just due, the sum you agreed for? "Take
that thine is, and go thy way. Have I not the right to do as I like
with my own money?" And so, if I choose to remunerate these men
after the manner that I have, what hurt or worry is that to thee?
"Is thine eye evil because I am good?"

Let us regard for our study and profit this morning this one
particular, "the evil eye," noting _I. its nature_, _II. its cure_.
And may God bless His Word!

What, to begin with, is meant by an "evil eye"? It may in different
places of the Bible mean different things. What is meant in the text
is clear enough. The evil eye here is such an eye as the laborers in
the vineyard had when they looked askance at their neighbor's good
fortune. An evil eye, therefore, is a grudging, an envious eye. To
say of any one in this sense that he has an evil eye, is the same
as saying that he is of a grudging, an envious turn of mind. Now,
this particular turn of mind is far more common than it ought to
be. The divine Householder still has occasion to ask, "Is thine
eye evil?" It is a spirit very general, in truth, it is the moral
epidemic of the world, it is found everywhere, and more or less in
everybody, yourself, my dear hearers, myself not excepted. We open
our Bibles, and we read of Ahab, King of Israel, dwelling in the
midst of affluence and of plenty, yet he goes to his royal palace,
heavy and displeased, and lays himself down on his bed and will
not eat,--why? His evil eye grudged a poor vineyard which Naboth
would not surrender. Haman was the favorite of King Ahasuerus,
the mighty ruler of Babylon. All the princes of Persia pay him
respect and riches are his; the evil eye has stung his heart, and
he says, "All this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai,
the Jew, sitting at the king's gate, who will not bow to me." Nor
is it confined to the rich, this grudging cast of mind. Coming
down the ladder of life, who were the people that murmured against
the owner of the vineyard? Were they not common laborers, who had
been hired to work for the day, day laborers? And the disease is
prevalent among them yet to-day. The disposition to grumble and
tease themselves into dissatisfaction and discontent over the good
estate of their more favored and fortunate fellow-men, is not this
the fundamental heresy of Socialism, the evil eye? Again, coming
from the various classes of men to the different spheres of life,
in the private and social sphere, what mean those jealousies and
rivalries that are ever dividing a neighbor from a neighbor, friend
from friend, relatives from relatives? Because the one possesses
more of this world's money or goods, because one is more attractive
and amiable in person, has greater intellectual endowments, is more
popular, eloquent, skilled, holds a position superior, he becomes
the occasion for a brother or a sister or a neighbor to envy him,
and the butt of all sorts of petty and annoying uncharitableness on
the part of relatives. Example: Because he was beloved by his father
and had dreamed a dream which showed him superior to them, Joseph
was hated by his brothers, and they could not speak peaceably to
him. No, let us beware of flattering ourselves that this malignant
eye is not in the Church. The vineyard of the parable symbolizes the
Church. The minister of the Gospel who looks askance with green-eyed
jealousy at another whose efforts are crowned with greater success
than his own; the Sunday-school teacher who throws up the work in
wounded self-love because some one else occupies the place and
prestige he or she covets; the over-sensitive member who smarts
under the feeling that his or her talents are not sufficiently
recognized, their efforts duly respected and flattered, and so
withdraws altogether from every kind of cooperation and enterprise,
may all look into, and carefully examine, their spiritual eyesight
in the light of this text.

And having regarded the prevalency of the evil eye, what shall we
say to it? It is something foolish. It shows a want of thought.
People are envied for their superiority in fortune and estate, but
the distinction between the gifts of God to man are not so wide as
you may think. The rich man has his park, the poor man can look at
it and enjoy it without the expense of maintaining it. Some people
live in a stately mansion, but they have to pay very heavily for
the privilege. The rich man has his valuable picture gallery; but
to see the sun rise in the morning and set in golden splendor in
the evening is a picture such as no human artist can paint. The
poor man possesses not, it is true, some of the conveniences and
delights of the better favored, but, in return, he is free from the
many embarrassments to which they are subject. By the simplicity and
uniformity of his life he is delivered from a variety of cares. His
plain meal eaten with relish and appetite is more delicious than the
luxurious banquet. You are acquainted with the story that tells of
the king who invited a dissatisfied subject of his realm to visit
him in his palace. He put a rich spread before him in his banquet
hall, and asked him to indulge heartily. But the man instantly
turned pale, and his appetite was gone, as, accidentally looking up,
he beheld a sharp sword suspended by a tiny thread over his head.
Then why envy the man whom God has gifted with talents of mind and
tongue? Greater gifts entail greater responsibilities, toil, study,
and more arduous duties. Foolish!

Moreover, what does all this envy of a fellow-man's better fortune
avail? For me to pine over my neighbor's better fortune, for me to
covet his superior talents of mind or beauty of person, will not
make me more attractive and talented. What folly, then, because you
are not so fortunate as another to make yourself miserable over it!
"Envy," says a certain writer, "is the source of endless vexation,
an instrument of self-torture, a rottenness in the bones, a burning,
festering ulcer of the soul."

But the evil eye is not only foolish, it is more, it is positively
sinful, and to indulge in such a spirit leads into all sorts of
misery and woe. Because she was envious, Mother Eve stretched out
her hand, and, eating, brought a blight on Paradise and a curse over
God's creation. Because envy filled his heart, the first child born
into this world rose up and slew his innocent brother. Because of
envy Joseph was cast into the pit by his brothers. Why was David
persecuted by King Saul? Why did Ahab shed the blood of Naboth? Why
did the high priests, the scribes and Pharisees seek the death of
the Holiest and Best that ever trod this earth, and did not rest
till they fastened their eyes upon His agonizing form on the cross?
What was it? Envy. It has ever been the mother of every evil work
and vice. And its workings are to-day no different than then. In how
many thousand ugly shapes does it show itself!

Now, this is the most important part, how may it be overcome?
What is the remedy, or the remedies, that might be suggested? The
laborers had been called into the vineyard, the householder was
under no obligation to hire them; that he did so was by his own
free choice. In a much higher sense, the heavenly Householder has
placed us into this world. He has given us certain things, certain
talents; some of us have received more, some less, but all that all
of us have in body, mind, and estate we have from Him. "What hast
thou that thou hast not received?" "By the grace of God I am what I
am." Whatever we have we have from God. Seeing this, and that all
alike are but the recipients of God's gifts, for me to be envious of
another, whom God has given more, argues dissatisfaction, discontent
with God's will and ways. God well knows how to distribute His
gifts, and why He distributes them as He does; and so let no one of
us arraign His providence. You have and receive just what is fair,
and just that you should receive, and so learn to be content with
that. "Take that thine is, and go thy way." That would I suggest
as the first remedy against envy,--contentment, a sense of the
conviction that what we have is given us all by grace, God's kind
favor, and that He gives us just what is proper and right.

The second remedy is this, that we bear in mind that envy is the
spirit of the devil. Heaven and heavenly creatures are never
envious; hell and its occupants are aflame with it. Envy is
against the Fifth Commandment, which reads: "Thou shalt not kill,"
a disposition of the heart that lusteth unto murder. St. Paul
classifies it among the works of the flesh, putting it in such
company as adultery, fornication, idolatry, murder, drunkenness,
and the like, and over and against such things and associations a
Christian's mind and conduct is plain. We must fight it and avoid
it. Not the evil spirit, but the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, is to rule
in our hearts, and Christ's Spirit is a Spirit of love, not the evil
eye, but the good eye, the eye that wishes good and rejoices in the
good of his neighbor. Since we cannot have both an evil and a good
eye, it is for us to consult the heavenly Oculist. Let us pray
God to help us against this murderous spirit; it is a work of the
flesh; in a word, ask Him for the "good eye," and use it. That is,
cultivate the spirit of rejoicing over the good fortune and success
of another, giving due recognition to his talents and his endeavors,
thanking God that, if one cannot himself do it so well, there is
another whom He has given the means and ability to serve Him. Remedy
second, then: root it out with God's help. He can do that, and He
will do that, if we ask Him.

And to come back to the parable, it is only the workman who puts
aside the evil eye that is acceptable in the Lord's vineyard and
does His work well. The person that is always bent on his own honor,
dignity, and self-consciousness is easily offended, and easily draws
back. The superiority or success of another unnerves him, and not
infrequently he acts like a balking horse. Not so the person who has
been with the Divine Oculist, and has received in the place of the
evil the good eye. He is willing to pluck grapes in a corner of the
Lord's vineyard where they are not so plentiful and luscious. What
if there was a St. Paul and an Augustine and a Luther and a Walther,
and if to-day we have men in the ministry who quite overshadow me?
Shall I for that reason keep my hands from filling grapes into my
church basket? Nevermore. Should you, because you are no church
officer or esteemed pillar in the sanctuary? Even if you cannot
pluck some grapes, you may at least hold the basket.

The Church has a place for everybody; five times did the householder
go out to hire laborers. It has a place for you; but when you come,
leave behind you the evil eye. For that the Church has no place. Let
every one think seriously over the text, examine his eyesight, ask
God's forgiveness, for Christ's sake, for the sins he has committed
in this respect, and help with His divine help to overcome it, so
that he may be found an approved laborer in God's vineyard. Amen.



SEXAGESIMA SUNDAY.

     Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal
     life: and they are they which testify of me.--_John 5, 39._


This year marks an event of more than passing interest to the
English-speaking world, _viz._, the tercentenary or 300th birthday
of the translation of the Bible. It was in 1611, early in the
summer, when, after seven years of the most painstaking labors,
the most scholarly men of that time completed and turned over for
publication their manuscripts. It was styled the King James Version
or Translation, because it was with the help and patronage of that
monarch of England, King James, that it was issued; and so as the
Germans speak of Dr. Luther's Bible translation, the English speak
of King James' Version.

It is this translation of God's Word that lies before us, for though
in the past three centuries there have been more than a score
of worthy revisions, none has dislodged this from its place of
supremacy, and so it is fitting that grateful mention should be made
of the glorious work, the blessings of which continue to flow out to
us whenever we open the holy pages.

It must be remembered that the Bible, prior to these translations,
was a sealed book. One seal was the tyrannical policy of the
Church of Rome, that forbade the people to read it for themselves.
Chained to the altar of some cathedral or to the wall of some
library, like that which Luther discovered in the University at
Erfurt, it was securely clasped and locked. The only persons who
had anything to do with it were the monks, who in their dark and
obscure cells would spend their days mechanically copying the sacred
parchments. It was in this respect, indeed, a sealed book. Another
seal were the languages in which it was written, so that, even if
the people had possessed a copy, they would for that reason have
been unable to read it; Hebrew, Greek, and Latin were things they
could not understand and read. And to this might be added another
seal, _viz._, that the Church of Rome had well seen to it that the
majority of the people could not read at all. Ignorance among the
masses was profound.

Now, thank God, no such seals exist. There is no prohibition of
Bible reading in this land. There are to-day more Bibles than ever;
it is the very best seller of all books, and no one dares forbid
us to read God's Word as freely as we please. We also have the
Scriptures in our own tongue, and never has there been a time in the
world's history when people were as universally able to read. And
yet, glorious as this all is, is it not true that the Bible is a
book that is shut and sealed? Which is that seal? That seal, my dear
hearers, is one of the people's own making, one that they themselves
place upon it,--it is a lack of genuine study of it. They do not
go and search the Scriptures that they may learn the wonderful
things it has to teach them. If, then, I shall succeed in a measure
to break that seal, and to stimulate you to Bible study, I shall
consider that God has blessed the humble effort of His servant.

We shall regard this morning: _I. Why you should read your Bibles._
_II. How you should read them._

Why you should read them. Because God says so. "Search the
Scriptures," is His plain and authoritative command. We are well
enough acquainted with the arguments of Rome that would tell us it
is a great mistake to let every layman read the Bible. See what
confusion it has caused. Whence came all these hundred and one
different sects, these endless conflicting opinions, this skepticism
among you Protestants? Is it not because you permit every one,
without distinction and discrimination, to read the Bible? To which
we answer: By no means. That is not the fault of the Bible. That
some have wrested the Scripture to their own harm, misused it, does
not do away with its proper use. God has beautifully made this
world, and it is full of His blessing; that some, in selfishness and
sinfulness, abuse it, is not His fault nor that of His gifts. He
has given man His only-begotten Son for their salvation; the fact
that hundred thousands do not accept and believe in Him is not God's
fault, nor His Son's, nor His Gospel's, nor His Church's fault. Just
as destitute of all sound reason it is to place the abuses which
some have made with the Bible to the Bible itself.

No, clearly, distinctly, positively rings out God's command: "Search
the Scriptures." He bids us do it. He points to each and every one
of us, as if to say, "Thou do it." Does it not lie in the very
nature of the Book? For whom did He cause it to be written? For the
clergy, that the ministers might have some texts to preach on? No
more so than He gave the Ten Commandments only to the clergy. They
are the universal possession, they are for all the laity as well
as the clergy. And to whom, as you examine the Inspired Volume,
are most of its contents directed? There are the fourteen letters,
or epistles, of St. Paul. A few of them, like those to Timothy and
Titus, are addressed to a clergyman, but the greater majority are
addressed to the congregations at Rome, at Ephesus, at Philippi, at
Thessalonica, and so forth, to the members accordingly. Moreover,
the direction in many places is, that the hearers should examine
what the preachers say, lest they preach something contrary to the
Scriptures. How could the hearers do this if they were prohibited
from reading the Bible? Away, then, with this opinion that is
gaining ground, that the Bible is a professional clergyman's
text-book, and let the personal application strike home in your own
case, Thou shalt search the Scriptures.

And one other reason does God furnish us in the text why we should
read it. He says, "For in them ye think ye have eternal life; and
they are they which testify of me." Those are deep, wonderful words;
they tell what Bible reading benefits, brings us, _viz._, eternal
life. That this present life is not all there is to life, that there
is a life besides and after this, that all men in all ages and in
all countries have conjectured; that life is dependent upon a right
relation to God, this, too, an inward monitor, called conscience,
however unwelcome may be its voice, tells every one with greater or
less distinctness; but how man is to get into right relations with
his God, to that problem one book, the Bible, and it alone, holds
the key. What is that key? The text says it: "Search the Scriptures;
for in them ye think we have eternal life, and they are they which
testify of me." "Me," is the speaker, Jesus Christ, and doing what
the text directs, we find that everywhere does it link "life" with
Christ. "I," says Jesus, "am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life."
"I am the Resurrection and the Life." "I am come that ye might have
life." The writings of the Apostles are full of the same thought:
"In Him was life." "He that hath the Son hath life." "He that
believeth not the Son shall not see life." "This is life eternal to
know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent."

Would we, then, have life, life that is life indeed, spiritual life,
life that passes over into eternal life, then must we find it in
Christ, and this is the teaching of the text, and its application
to us; to find Christ you must read your Bible. Outside of what the
Bible tells us there is no salvation, no hope, no life. Let that
thought, I pray you, sink down indelibly into your minds. There are
some certain truths which men may know without the Bible,--that
there is a God; that this God has certain attributes; that He is
almighty, all-knowing, holy, just, gracious; for it is only an
almighty Being that could have created, only an all-wise Being
that could so adequately have fitted up this universe. Men also
know without the Bible that there is a difference between good and
evil, and that the one is to be done and the other left undone.
Likewise they have a strong notion that man is immortal, and that
there is a future state. These few things men may know without the
Scriptures, and these few even only imperfectly. But when it comes
to the questions: Who is God? What is His will? What His purposes
toward us men, purposes of damnation for offenses and sins committed
against His holiness? What guarantee have you that there is a life
beyond this? And what sort of a life is it? Who has ever brought
us information regarding it? What can afford me peace against a
conscience that convicts me of wrong and offense against the holy
God? When, as stated, it comes to deal with such and innumerable
other questions, there is only one source of information, one book
that can enlighten and instruct us, and that is this Book which
God Himself has inspired to be written; in which He has revealed
Himself, according to His person and His attributes; in which He
proclaims His plan of salvation for the sinful and condemned race
of men, and opens out to them with divine assurance the gates of
immortality and life. There is none equal to it, nothing like it, it
stands in a class all to itself,--it is not man's book, but God's.

Wouldst thou, then, my dear hearer, know these things that affect
thy soul, thy salvation, thy everlasting destiny, then take this
volume and read. So much as to the first concern, why we should read
it. Because God commands it. Because of what it brings us. And now
let us regard: How should we read it?

Here I would say, first, regularly, with pious consistency. It is
well enough for a person to come to church on Sunday. As long as
he does that, and attends to what is going on there, his soul is
not left altogether without spiritual nourishment. But church comes
only once a week, and if the soul gets no spiritual food beyond
what it may pick up there, I leave you to judge whether it is
likely to shoot up into a strong and healthy growth of godliness.
The First Psalm describes the godly man as delighting in the Law
of the Lord, and in His Law doth he meditate both day and night.
Time, indeed, for the most of us may be very limited; but none of
us--I say that without fear of challenge--but can, if he wishes and
so wills, find a few minutes to read a verse or two when he comes
home in the evening, or before he goes to work in the morning, or
while going to work, and a couple of verses well thought over will
do a person more good than whole chapters swallowed without thought.
Resolve to do but this little, my dear hearers, and God, who judges
us according to our means, and who looked with greater favor on the
two mites of the poor widow than on all the golden offerings of the
rich, will accept your two verses and enable your souls to grow and
gain strength by this their daily food. The doctors tell us that our
health is largely determined by the regularity of our habits, and
this is as true of our spiritual health as of our bodily. There is
none of us who fails to take a glance at the daily paper,--why not
at the Bible? Be regular.

Then, again, as you have time, read it carefully. That is the
direction of the text. The word "search" in the original is a very
strong one, much stronger than "read." It may be rendered "ransack."
Turn up and down,--bring all your industry to bear upon the quest.
One trouble with our hearers is that they imagine that they are
pretty well familiar with all the Bible has to tell them, and the
result is that they miss the wealth of its hidden treasures. But
there is no royal road to Bible knowledge. It calls for thought,
earnest research, and thorough investigation. For that reason every
one, to become right practical, every member of the family should
have a Bible of his or her own, of clear type and good paper, and
of substantial binding. On the margin that Bible ought to have
the marginal references of which I spoke to you at length in a
former service. In the rear of your Bible have a concordance; there
you will find a large number of passages on a certain topic, for
instance, prayer. Look them up in your Bible, compare them, and you
will learn what the Bible has to say regarding prayer. So of other
subjects, such as faith, charity, redemption, and the like. It is
profitable and delightful work. It is like digging out gold. You
will not mind the labor in the fascinating charm it has for you.
And to this you may add as a most helpful guide a good commentary
written by some sincere lover of God's Word. What other devout and
learned students of God's Word have written it is well for us to
profit by in our understanding of the precious volume.

Not a charm or an ornament to keep on our shelves or to lock up in
our closets, not a story-book to read for amusement, is the Bible,
but, as the text tells us, the means of giving us eternal life in
Christ Jesus; and so we ought to make use of it.

There, then, it is--Holy Bible, Book Divine, our chief treasure in
this sin-darkened world, giving strength, comfort, and salvation.
Ah! who should not prize it, read it, search it? God make us
ministers and our members Bible students; how much better ministers,
how much better members we would then be!

May God bless the words of our lips and the meditation of our
hearts! Amen.



QUINQUAGESIMA SUNDAY.

     For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.--_Rom.
     3, 23._


A few days more, and we shall have entered upon Lent. What is Lent?
Lent is a time of several weeks which for ages has been set apart
among Christians for a period of more than usual seriousness. As
observed in our Church, it is a time marked out from the rest of the
year as more especially devoted to the contemplation of those vital
truths on which our Christian religion is founded. To be brief,
Lenten time with us is Passion time. Passion, in simple English,
means suffering, more particularly, the suffering of Christ.
Accordingly, Passion time, or Passion tide, is the season when we
are more especially called upon to commemorate, and call to mind,
and ponder, and think over the suffering of our Savior, Christ,
those scenes announced in the Gospel when He was betrayed into the
hands of wicked men, and by them was falsely accused, reviled,
mocked, scourged, crowned with thorns, and at last crucified.

In order that we might do that in the proper manner, as we ought to
do, the Church, from the earliest period, has appointed the forty
days of Lent, just as it has appointed the four Sundays in Advent,
to be a preparation for Christmas. For there are two great seasons
in the year which it behooves every Christian to conscientiously
observe, if he wishes to pay dutiful honor to his Savior.

The first season is Christmas, in memory of His loving kindness in
coming down from heaven, putting on the nature of man. The other
season is Lent, to commemorate His dying love. Both these seasons
are so important, of such moment to the welfare of the soul,
that the Church has set apart the four Sundays which come before
Christmas and the forty days which come before Easter as a time of
preparation. The wisdom of such an arrangement no one can doubt.
Just like the early bell on Sunday is meant to call us to get
ready for church, the service of God's house, so Advent and Lent
call us to get ready for Christmas and Good Friday. When a musical
instrument has been laid by for a while, it needs tuning, or it
will make but sorry music. The minds and hearts of most Christians,
too, require to be gotten into tune before they can bear their
part fitly and harmoniously in the services by which the Church
commemorates the death and resurrection of her Lord. And how? What
is the best way to prepare for a profitable and advantageous Lent?
That is conditioned by another question: What was it that delivered
our blessed Lord into the hands of those wicked men, that caused
Him that shameful treatment, mockery, and finally nailed Him to
the cross? The malice of the chief priest, the treachery of Judas,
the cowardice of Pontius Pilate? Deeper, my beloved, deeper; they
were but the instrumental, not the procuring cause. The real cause,
you know it, was something else,--sin. To do away with, to secure
the pardon of that, Christ died. Then it is plain, that in order
to understand the value of His suffering, to observe that season
aright, we must begin with being convinced of the evil, of the
exceeding hatefulness and danger of sin.

Here is the first elementary truth which meets us at the threshold
of Lent, without which it will be of no more value to you than a
lock without a key, a mine without a shaft; herein consists its best
preparation, to secure a right conviction of sin. That, God blessing
the effort, shall be the intent of our sermon.

When the ostrich, scouring along the sandy desert, finds that it
cannot escape the huntsman, it is said to thrust its head into
a bush, and fancying that the danger which it ceases to see has
ceased to exist, it remains there, quite tranquil, to receive the
death-blow of the huntsman. Poor, senseless, stupid bird! Yet not
one degree more so than is the folly of many who are not birds, but
possessed of reason and soul. Plenty there are who, shutting their
eyes to the evil, burrowing their heads in the sand-heap of excuses
and false peace, thus hide until the fatal stroke of death puts an
end to their earthly career, and opening their eyes in a place where
there is no repentance, as the rich man in the parable, they realize
that it is too late.

If we turn to the Bible, it teaches that there are two great classes
or kinds of sin; and if we turn to the witness within and the
evidence without, we shall find what the Bible tells us everywhere
corroborated and borne out. The one kind of sin is the Original or
Birth Sin, that all men are naturally engendered, are conceived and
born in sin; that is, they are all, from their mother's womb, full
of evil desires and propensities, and that this is the fountainhead
of all other, or actual, sins, such as evil thoughts, words, and
deeds. There are many who reject this doctrine; they contend that
when man is born into this world, his soul is as pure as the snow
that comes down in beautiful flurries from the sky, and as perfect
as the vessel that passes from the potter's hand; they tell us that
we are God's favorite creatures, that He has made us lords of the
creation and heirs of eternal life, and that, therefore, it is quite
impossible that we should be so prone to sin, as our Church, setting
forth the doctrine of the Bible in her confession, declares us to
be. But they are willfully ignorant. The question whether we are
prone to sin from our cradles upward is a mere question of fact. One
has only to look into one's own heart, and what do you find there,
good or evil? You will say, a little of both. Be it so; but tell
me, or rather tell yourselves, honestly and truly, which of the
two cost you the most trouble to learn, and which of the two comes
the easier? Is there a doubt? Does one contract good habits easier
than bad, or the reverse? Is it easier for a sober man to become
a drunkard than for a poor, miserable, besotted drunkard to trace
his steps back and to become sober? Or, another point of view. Ask
mothers, accustomed to watch their children from earliest infancy,
whether every child that has come under their observation had not
something to learn that was good, and something to unlearn that was
evil. Now, whence did this evil come from? It cannot have been
taught to the child, for the evil showed itself at a time before all
teaching; it had it naturally. And so it is in other things. The
good wheat must be sown and looked after, or it will never amount
to much. The weeds sprout up and spread of themselves, and it is as
great a labor to keep them down as to get the good wheat up. The
truth is, "Like begetteth like." "In Adam's fall we sinned all." The
fountain was polluted, so is the stream; sin is born in the bone, as
it were, and without God's help we can no more mend it than a sick
man can mend and cure himself without the help of a physician.

But this original sin is not the only kind. Though men deny that,
they cannot deny the other, what our Catechism calls Actual Sin.
Like trees in the forest does it surround them. Where is the man
that dares affirm that he has never been guilty of doing what he
should never have done, or guilty of not doing what he should have
done? Lives there a person so happy as to look back on the past and
feel no remorse, or forward to the future and feel no fear? What?
Is there no page of your history that you would obliterate, no leaf
that, with God's permission, you would tear from the book of life's
story? To David's prayer, "Lord, remember not the sins of my youth,
nor my transgressions," have you no solemn and hearty Amen? If you
could be carried back to the starting-post, and stood again at your
mother's knee, and sat again at the old school desk with companions
that are now changed, or scattered, or dead, or gone, were you to
begin life anew, would you run the selfsame course, would you live
over the selfsame life? Is there no speech to unsay, no act to undo,
no day, Sunday, or evening to spend better? No one among those with
whom you are now living or among those that have gone before--to
whom you would bear yourself otherwise than you have done? Where is
there a breathing man that can say: "I am pure in my heart. I am
clear from all sin"? If he does, he deceives himself, the truth is
not in him. As well deny your existence as deny the existence of
actual sin.

But what men will not deny they will seek to excuse. It were
amusing, if it were not a matter so serious, to observe with what
palliation and apologies defenses are thrown up by which, after all,
men's sins do not look so exceedingly sinful. Thus there be those
who say: If we are naturally born to evil, as the Bible says and
our experience testifies, we cannot help it, and how can it be a
fault of ours if we do wrong? And how can God blame and punish us
for not being better than He made us? It is thus that Scotland's
famous poet, Burns, sings:

    Thou knowest that Thou hast formed me
    With passions wild and strong,
    And listening to their witching voice
    Has often led me wrong.

In other words, I am a sinner, but the fault is not mine, but God's.

Or, again, they ascribe the blame to the power of temptation.
"The serpent beguiled me," was the excuse of the first sinner; it
is still, in a more or less measure, the excuse of every sinner.
Temptation came upon them so suddenly and with such stealth and
vehemence that it swept them off their feet before they were aware
of it. Or (once more), like the original sinner, they lay their
blame upon their fellow-man. "The woman that Thou gavest to be
with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat." What parent or
mother has not discovered, in correcting a disobedient boy, that he
is uniformly punishing the wrong one? It was always the other boy
who brought about the evil act, and so, invariably, it is the bad
company, evil influences, peculiar surroundings, locality, that make
people to sin.

Whatever the palliatives and excuses, my beloved hearers, the thing
will not do; it is vain and ignoble, and, in part, what has been
said is blasphemy. In the first place, whatever prompted, tempted
the act, the act was done by the sinner himself, and not by another;
he knew of it, he consented to it, he gave his members and body to
it. It is also useless to say that he was swept away by temptation.
The same excuse might the suicide plead who seeks the river, stands
on its brink, and, leaping in, is swept off to his watery grave. We
go down like Samson to Delilah; we stand in the way of sinners, we
frequent the places of guilty pleasures, and then, falling, complain
about the strength of temptation. Away with all such subterfuges and
opiates that simply drug the conscience!

What is sin? Sin, says God's Word, is the transgression of the Law,
the most terrible and abominable thing in this world. Sin is that
which drove man out of Paradise garden, robbed him of the divine
image, severed the happy relation between him and his Creator,
and plunged him into accursedness and misery. Sin is a disease
which turns all moral beauty into rottenness, causes all grief and
distress, breaks hearts, and fills our cemeteries, man's worst,
man's most ruinous and most formidable enemy, that dogs his every
footstep in this life, and calls down upon his body and soul the
wrath and eternal damnation from a God who hates and who punishes
sin.

What greater comfort, then, than to know how and where to receive
deliverance and remedy from it. It has been stated before among the
excuses that man is born a sinner, and because born so, he cannot be
blamed for sinning, any more than a sick person for dying. He cannot
help it. That seems very plausible, indeed. It would be very unjust
to blame a sick person for dying, provided there were no remedies;
but in a country where there are plenty of physicians and the sick
have only to send for them,--if in such a country a sick man is
obstinate, and will not send for a physician, nor take the means of
being made well, he is to blame, and if he dies, he is guilty of his
own death. And suppose now that the physician does not wait to be
sent for, that he comes of his own accord to the sick man's bedside,
that he brings a medicine of rare herbs in his hand, and says to the
sick man: "My friend, I heard you were very sick, and so I came to
see you and fetch you a medicine which is a certain cure if you take
it. Never mind your poverty, I ask no payment." But the sick man
refuses it; he does not like its look, or he finds it is bitter to
take, or a neighbor has told him not to heed the physician, and he
dies. Who is to blame? That's our case precisely. We have a soul's
sickness. But a great Physician is come to us. He has a dear remedy,
a specific, made of the most precious ingredients, _viz._, His holy,
precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. He brings that
medicine to our doors. Shall we refuse to take it? Shall we say
that we will have none of it? We may do so; there is no compulsion;
this heavenly Physician foists Himself on none. But whose shall
be the blame, who be the loser? Be wise, then. Lenten time is
repenting time. May we, as it says in the Collect, so pass through
this holy time of our Lord that we may obtain the pardon of our
sins. May we enter this incoming season with a solemn earnestness
toward spiritual things, with a resolve to spend its days in sacred
devotion under the cross, and with sorrow over our past failures
set ourselves to a better and more consecrated life. And to this may
the good Lord graciously incline the hearts of every one of us! Amen.



FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT.

     Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim. And Moses
     said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with
     Amalek; to-morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the
     rod of God in mine hand. So Joshua did as Moses had said to him
     and fought with Amalek; And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to
     the top of the hill. And it came to pass, when Moses held up
     his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand,
     Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a
     stone and put it under him, and he sat thereon: and Aaron and
     Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other
     on the other side: And his hands were steady until the going
     down of the sun. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people
     with the edge of the sword.--_Exodus 17, 8-13._


An impressive picture of modern art is that which has for its
scene the Evil One, the devil, sitting at a table playing a game
of chess. Bending over the board, with the self-possession of a
master, reclines the adversary of man. At the opposite side is a
young man. There is a look of diabolical glee upon the dark brow of
Satan, whilst the features of his playmate wear the signs of deepest
agony; for, alas! that which the youth has staked on the results
of the game seems hopelessly lost--his immortal soul. Back of the
young man, unseen by him, the artist has painted a calm, benignant
figure. It is his guardian angel, or better still, the Angel of the
Covenant, the Lord, whose heavenly skill at last checkmates the
destroyer.

This is not merely poetic and artist's fancy. It is with no cloudy
vagueness that the existence of a Spirit of Evil is revealed in the
Holy Scriptures. There are many these days who are disposed to laugh
at the account which tells us of man's temptation and fall in the
Garden as a myth, an Oriental hyperbole, and to characterize the
closing chapters of Revelation, which inform us of the Tempter's
fall and fate, as allegory and romance. But there still remains
scattered throughout the Bible, in connection with every prominent
Bible character and Bible event, mention of a personal agent of
evil, the foe of God and the foe of man, bent with restless activity
and mastery of deceit upon the destruction of souls and the
corruption of the creation of God.

Not a matter of speculation is this belief in the existence and
power of the chief of fallen angels, and far wiser and prudent were
it if, in place of talking of, people, in humble acceptation of
God's Word, would recognize their foe, and seek the strength and
means to contend with him.

What we need against the arch-enemy of our souls is the simple faith
and the bold defiance that breathes forth in the life, the words,
and the hymns of our great Reformer, a spirit which prompted him to
do--what is perhaps only a tradition, yet fully characterizes the
man--_viz._, that when his mighty imagination had conjured up before
him the very form and face of the Wicked One, he took his inkstand
and hurled it at him, leaving behind, as memento, an ugly spot upon
the wall of his study.

It is of this conflict with the Prince of Darkness that the text
speaks.

Three particulars would we note: _I. The foe to be encountered_;
_II. the weapons employed_; _III. the victory achieved_, and as
Moses was distinctly bidden by God in the 14th verse of the chapter
from which our text has been taken: "Write these for a memorial in a
book," let us write the words spoken for a memorial on the tablet of
our hearts.

We meet the people of God in Rephidim engaged in a fierce encounter
with the Amalekites. No doubt, the Lord could have led His people
safely through the wilderness without any such conflicts if He had
chosen to do so, but He had His own, wise designs in permitting
them. And so with Satan's workings and attacks people may argue and
speculate. Why did God ever permit such a dangerous foe to exert
his malicious power and tempt mankind? Suffice it to answer: It
thus seemed good unto Him, and is in perfect accordance with His
almightiness and wisdom.

The Amalekites, the people with whom the Israelites were in
conflict, were the descendants of Esau, Amalek having been his
grandson, and as is wont to be with relatives, unfortunately,
the hatred which Esau entertained toward his brother Jacob had
become transplanted upon his children, yea, seems to have grown
the more bitter, deeper, and malignant as time progressed. And the
offspring of both multiplied into a great and prosperous people. The
Amalekites at this time occupied a large tract of land extending
from the confines of Idumea to the shores of the Red Sea. When,
therefore, Israel crossed over and encamped at the Mount of Sinai,
they were close upon their borders; but they offered them no injury
nor provocation, and far from invading their territory, they were
turning rapidly away from it when Amalek assaulted them, and that in
a most dastardly manner; for, not daring to engage them in front,
they smote the hindmost of them, even all that were faint and weary,
who had lagged behind and were alike incapable of resistance or
flight. When Moses became aware of the enemy, he issues command unto
Joshua, the military leader: "Choose us out men, and go out, and
fight with Amalek; to-morrow I will stand on the top of the hill
with the rod of God in mine hand." "So Joshua did as Moses had said
to him, and fought with Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up
to the top of the hill." And whilst the battle was raging in the
valley, whilst the swords were clashing, the warriors grappling,
the wounded groaning, and the fighting masses surging to and fro
in fierce and bloody encounter, Moses was stationed upon the brow
of Mount Sinai, lifting up his hands in prayer and intercession
to the God of Battles. An encouraging sight! From that ancient
battle-ground, a picture and pattern, we would direct our eyes unto
ourselves.

Like as of old, we are warriors of the Lord, soldiers of Jesus
Christ. We have our Amalek, the old evil Foe, who means deadly woe.
Let us take our stand by the side of Moses in the mountain, and for
a few moments look at the enemy. Foremost, the leader of the host,
is that original tempter, deceiver, destroyer, and murderer, that
Wicked One, the Father of Lies, the Prince of Darkness, the roaring
lion that goes about seeking whom he may destroy. Marshaled around
him, as their mighty captain, are legions of lesser spirit-beings
which arithmetic cannot begin to calculate. Scripture tells us that
Satan could spare seven devils to torment one poor sinner. What,
then, must their number be? And as the Amalekites, they hate us
with a perfect hatred. Having by their bad ambition and pride lost
heaven and being hurled to the bottomless pit, they are now most
bitterly and irreconcilably opposed to everything that stands in
connection with the Redeemer and His redeemed. To think that we, who
are equally fallen into sin, should be restored to grace, accepted
to the very thrones they have lost, is more than their envy can
endure. For this reason they pursue us through life, dog our every
step, and press us to the very gate of death. What tactics does this
spiritual enemy employ? As the enemy in the field, by false signals,
feigned movements, masked batteries, and every strategic art, seeks
to conceal his position, disguises his plan of attack, just so our
spiritual enemies seek to beguile by a thousand stratagems and
schemes to mislead the unwary and inexperienced and bring to fall
the strongest.

As in the case of the Amalekites, they attack you in your most
vulnerable points and at a time when you are faint and weakest; and
they are as vigilant as they are cunning. Always and everywhere
they are on the watch for souls. If you come to the house of God,
they are here before you; if you enter your room in prayer, you
cannot shut them out. By day they compass your path, by night they
surround your pillow. Wherever you are they are; whatever you say,
they hear it; whatever you do, they perceive it. From our birth to
our burial--a frightful thought!--we are perpetually watched by
myriads of malignant eyes, unclean and accursed spirits, ready to
avail themselves of every opportunity to do us harm and ruin all our
hopes. Or need we any examples for what harm they have done? Behold
that lovely pair fresh from the Creator's hand walking the groves of
Eden, and behold again the outcasts--we know the cause. Observe Job,
that perfect man of Uz, robbed of his property and his children,
and smitten in body with a sore disease. Who was it that instigated
Judas to betray the Lord, Peter to deny Him, all Jerusalem to clamor
for His blood, the Roman governor to condemn Him to the cross? St.
John said in his day that the whole world was lying in the bosom of
the Evil One, and it is much the same to this present day. All men
are more or less subject to his influences, and two-thirds of the
human race controlled by this evil genius. This, then, is the foe
with whom we are obliged to contend.

But how can the lamb cope with the lion? How can we expect to
conquer that enemy who conquered our first parents in the strength
of their original purity? Truly, "With might of ours can naught
be done, soon were our loss effected." And yet we have nothing
to fear. We have a precious ally, we battle under a valiant, an
unconquerable Leader. The Lord of Hosts is with us, just so we are
firm in the strife and rightly use the weapons He has furnished
us. And which are these? Reading the 13th verse of our text, we
find it distinctly mentioned: "And Joshua discomfited Amalek and
his people with the edge of the sword." And which is our spiritual
sword? For our enemy being spiritual, it is evident our weapon must
be likewise. Saint Paul gives answer when he says in Ephesians:
"Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." Here,
then, Christian warrior, is a weapon, better than Damascus blades.
With this our Lord defeated Satan in the wilderness; with this St.
Peter pierced the hearts of thousands on Pentecost; with this St.
Paul made Felix tremble, and Agrippa, as he confessed to Paul, was
almost persuaded by him to become a Christian; with this Martin
Luther prevailed against the son of Belial and his besotted minions.
Grasp it firmly, wield it vigorously. Or do you claim you do not
know how? Then permit me to give you a few general directions.
You are all familiar with the story of David and Goliath,--how
the great champion of the Philistines daily came forth, cursing
and challenging the people of God, until one day a shepherd lad
of Bethlehem comes into the camp and with a stone from his sling
stretches the huge form of the giant flat upon the ground. You, my
beloved, are spiritual Davids; the smooth pebbles you have gathered
up from the brook of God's Word are the holy Ten Commandments;
learn to sling these aright, and you are invincible. Are you, for
instance, tempted to speak the Lord's name irreverently, then place
pebble, called the second, in your spiritual sling, which says:
"Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain," and
your tempter will fall flat like Philistia's giant. Are you tempted
to negligence, indifference in regard to the Lord's day and the
Lord's house, take No. 3. Would Satan tempt a young Christian to
disobedience, to indecency, or an old Christian to dishonesty,
intemperance, coveteousness,--whatever the sin may be, select the
proper pebble, and victory is yours. "This world's prince may still
scowl fierce as he will, he can harm us none, he's judged, the deed
is done, one little word can fell him." Then, too, let us remember
that we are "more than conquerors through Him that loves us." In His
strength let us battle. When the devil would deceive us, or seduce
us into misbelief, despair, and other great shame and vice, let us
cast ourselves upon Him who vanquished the Evil Foe. His cross is
our strength. Let us hold that up before him, and he will skulk away
in sullen retreat. The precious Gospel of Christ will quench all the
fiery darts of doubt, unbelief, and despair which the hellish enemy
would shoot into our hearts. Thus with the Law and the Gospel we can
conquer him.

Nor is this all. Another powerful weapon is placed at our command.
Most graphically does our text describe it when it says: "And
Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And it came
to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and
when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed." The Israelites would
not have conquered had they not fought. But the other is equally as
true: they would not have conquered had Moses not prayed. The real
decision in the matter seemed not so much in the conflict in the
valley as with the man of prayer, the suppliant on the mountain. And
here, my dear Christian, still rests your power. Much as people may
sneer at prayer in these atheistic and skeptic times, prayer is the
hand that moves the world. "Satan trembles when he sees the weakest
saint upon his knees." Our Lord warning Peter addresses him, "Simon
Peter, behold, Satan hath desired to have you that he may sift you
as wheat; but I have prayed for thee"; and His constant exhortation
in the sore hour of Gethsemane was, "Watch and pray lest ye fall
into temptation." How many a one when he asks himself, How was it
possible that I should have fallen so deeply and strayed so far from
my God? will hear his conscience whisper: You had grown indifferent,
neglectful in your devotion and your prayers, and hence came your
failure. Prayer must be incessant and mutual. Two are better than
one, and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Moses, Aaron, and
Hur, together they prevailed. Where man and wife join in sacred
communion to the God of families, His blessing will rest upon them,
and the Evil One be kept at bay. Where a congregation is strong in
devout and earnest looking to God, it can accomplish wonders against
the Prince of Darkness and the wickedness of the world. When the day
closed and the sun had sunk beneath the battle-ground in Rephidim,
the victory was won; Amalek was defeated. It was Israel's first
achievement, but not their last. Amalek continued to harass them,
and even Saul and David had to take up arms against them. Nor is
it different with us. The spiritual campaign lasts "until we draw
our fleeting breath, till our eyelids close in death"; hence, "from
strength to strength go on, wrestle, and fight, and pray, tread all
the powers of darkness down, and win the well-fought day." And if
at times your hands would grow weary and your knees weak amidst
the conflict in the valley, then look up like Israel of old to the
mountain from whence cometh your help, to that blessed knoll where
hangs our divine Moses with his arms extended,--look up to the
cross. Amen.



SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT.

     Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world.--_2
     Tim. 4, 10._


There is nothing sadder, my beloved hearers, nothing more calculated
to strike dread into the heart, than the punishment of a deserter
in the army. The offender is led before his regiment, and after
the rehearsal of his disgrace to his fellow-soldiers, his arms
are pinioned, his eyes bandaged, and an open coffin stands ready
to receive his lifeless body. The file of soldiers aim at the one
fluttering heart, and the lightning-like death ends the dreadful
scene.

And why is a deserter's doom made so awful? Simply because the
crime of desertion is so great, its demoralizing effect which it
would have on the army so fatal, that it must be punished in the
most telling and fearful manner. History, both sacred and secular,
has put no deeper brand of infamy than on deserters. Benedict
Arnold stands forth as an instance of the one, Judas Iscariot as
an instance of the other. American history holds up the one before
us, bandaged, pinioned, shot through with the bullets of a nation's
abhorrence and malediction, whilst the other, Judas, is a name
detested as far as the Bible is read and to the day of doom.

In our text we read of another deserter. His name is Demas, and the
Apostle Paul has set the mark of infamy upon him.

Who, we question, was this man Demas? And what was the nature of his
offense? We know very little of his early career, but that little is
most favorable. He had been an associate of St. Paul in the ranks
of Christ's followers. Paul more than once makes honorable mention
of his name. When he wrote his letter to the Church at Colossae, he
coupled the name of Demas with that of St. Luke. He thus writes:
"Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas greet you," which shows
that he must have been favorably known in the Church, and that his
greetings must have been highly thought of, else would the apostle
not have forwarded them through his own letter.

And one more fact do we know of him. He not only professed
love toward Christ, but he had once suffered for his Christian
profession. He most likely had worn the honorable mark of prison
chains in the name and for the sake of Christ. In his letter to
Philemon, St. Paul, remembering his companions in suffering, writes:
"There salute thee Epaphras, my fellow-prisoner in Christ Jesus;
Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, and Lucas, my fellow-laborers." So the
apostle once wrote from a Roman prison of Demas, and it was from the
same prison that he afterwards sadly penned these painful words:
"Demas hath forsaken me." And why? Did his health fail? Did he go
to labor elsewhere? Paul tells us: "Demas hath forsaken me, having
loved this present world." There we have the reason, and it is one
that we shall more clearly regard in our instruction these moments.

On the previous Lord's day we considered the first great enemy of
our soul, Satan. To-day we come to the second, the world, reserving
the third, the flesh, God willing, for next Sunday. To deal
practically and directly with the matter, let us ask the questions:
_I. What is worldliness, and how can I tell whether I am worldly or
not?_ _II. How can I overcome my worldliness?_ And may God's wisdom
and blessing attend our meditation!

If we read our Bible carefully, my beloved, we shall be impressed,
overwhelmed by the number of Scripture passages which refer to God's
people and their relation to this world. These passages are found in
the Old Testament and in the New, and they are plain-spoken, their
own interpretation. In the Old Testament they are such as these:
"Deliver my soul from men of the world, who have their portion in
this life." "And ye shall be holy unto me, for I, the Lord, am holy,
and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine."

In the New Testament we find the passages still more explicit and
manifold. To begin with, there is nothing that Jesus teaches with
greater frequency or with greater positiveness than this fact, that
we are to be unworldly in our Christian life. "Ye are not of the
world," He declares, "for I have chosen you out of the world." "Ye
cannot serve God and mammon." "What shall it profit a man if he
should gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"

And as the Master, so His apostles. "Be not conformed," exhorts
Paul, "to this world." "Be not unequally yoked together with
unbelievers." "Come out from among them, and be ye separate." James
writes: "The friendship of the world is enmity with God. Whosoever
will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." "True religion
before God is to keep oneself unspotted from the world." And to
finish our quotations with the words of St. John: "Love not the
world, neither the things that are in the world. If any one love
the world, the love of the Father is not in him." There is nothing
uncertain about these statements. Their teaching is clear. They
declare that there is a broad and ineffaceable line of demarcation
between the people of God and the world. They are so far apart
that no man can belong to both at the same time. To try to do so
produces an absurd piety and a sham, is as foolish as trying to mix
light and darkness, oil and water. They refuse to mix. It means
either--or, one or the other. Either Christianity will have the
sway, and it will conquer and eradicate the world, or the world will
have the sway, and it will efface Christianity. The world proposes a
compromise, it is true, but the compromise always means death; that
is why it proposes it. How imperative, then, that we should analyze
what worldliness is and plant an interrogation in our heart: Am I
worldly?

What, then, is worldliness? There are some who have no difficulty
whatever in defining it. "Worldliness," why, that's easily
explained; going to races, theaters, balls, playing euchre and
dressing flashily--that's it. No doubt it is; but worldliness
does not confine itself merely to theaters and balls, cards and
dress. There are hundreds of people who have never been inside of a
ballroom, rarely or never attended a theater, and yet they may be
intensely worldly for all that. Worldliness implies something vastly
more and deeper. It is something which affects not only the external
acts of a person, but the heart; something which is determined by
the spirit with which we do things, and not so much by the things
with which we have to do. It is not the earth, the objects and the
people that fill this earth, that we may not love, but the way in
which we love these objects and people that constitute the world.
"Worldliness," I answer, is a condition of the heart.

Let us look into this a little closer. It has to do with the inner
spirit of the man or the woman. Demas' mistake was that he loved
the world. Did not Paul love the world? Did he not love it when
he renounced ease, gain, promotion, and station, and threw his
whole soul into the holy effort of saving a poor lost world for
Christ? Do we not read that God so loved the world that He gave His
only-begotten Son? And that only-begotten Son, did He not love the
world when He gave His heart's blood to redeem it? Yes, they loved
it and showed their love by lifting it out of its sinful and guilty
condition. In the same way you and I may love the world that we may
do it good, and so give more of our time, money, talents, and energy
to win it back to God.

But that was not the love that brought Demas to fall, and against
which we are warned. No, something quite different,--the world's
ways, maxims, aims, ease, pleasures, and fascinations. Tradition
tells us that Demas afterwards became a priest in a heathen temple.
If so, it was no doubt because he found more gain in silver and gold
than in the service of Christ. How do you regard the things of the
world in your heart, and how do you regard the people of the world?
That is what determines worldliness. If you love pleasure better
than your prayers, any book better than your Bible, any house better
than God's, any person better than your Savior, you are worldly. You
are surrounded by people who do not fear God, who do not keep His
commandments, who have no treasure in heaven, no plans or purposes
which extend beyond the grave, minus faith, minus hope, minus all
spiritual life,--what is your attitude toward such? Do you make your
choice of friends from these professed worldly men and women? If so,
you are worldly. I assure you some of our worst foes are our ungodly
friends.

Then, you may reply, we cannot go into society at all, we must live
secluded lives. The Bible does not say that. What it says is that,
when we go into society, we ought to take our Christianity with
us. Our Lord went into society, and wherever He went, they felt
the sacredness which was about Him. You go into society, what is
the result? Do you influence it, or are you influenced by it? What
effect has it upon your religious life and professions? Does it
secularize you and make you unfit for prayer? Does it silence your
testimony of Christ, and cool down your interest and enthusiasm for
the Church? Know, then, that it is making you worldly. A woman who
cannot be recognized in society as a Christian by her modest dress
and her pure ways, and the tone and topic of her conversation,
is a worldling. The man who can do business, and not be known as
a Christian by his business scruples and methods and spirit, is
a worldling. If a worldling can truthfully say of you, "He is no
better than I am," you are a worldling. If you live as a worldling,
you are a worldling. That needs no argument. But, after all, be it
noted that, however it manifests itself in manner, dress, social
companionship, and conduct, worldliness primarily is a temper,
spirit, and disposition of the heart. "As a man thinketh in his
heart, so is he." The world would have done Demas no harm if he
had not loved it. It will do us no harm as long as we keep it out
of our hearts. But here is where lurks the very danger,--it so
easily, so silently, and very gradually insinuates itself into the
heart. To use an illustration: In olden times the sailors, a race
given to superstition, used to tell that somewhere in the Indian
Ocean there was a magnetic rock that rose from the deep with power
of attraction. Silently a ship was drawn towards this rock, nearer
and nearer, and gradually one by one the bolts were drawn out of
the vessel's side by the magnetic power. The end was that, when
the doomed vessel had drawn so near that every bolt and clamp was
unloosed, the whole fabric fell apart, and the crew and cargo would
sink down into the waters.

So stands the magnetic rock of worldliness, enchantments, and
fascinations. Its attraction is slow, silent, and yet powerfully it
draws the soul that comes within its range. Under its spell, bolt
after bolt of good resolutions, clamp after clamp of Christian duty
are drawn out, until at length the whole structure of Christian
profession falls together, a pitiable wreck. Attracted by the things
of time and sense, the affections become chilled, the mind step by
step full of the world.

O for the poor victims, thousands of them, equally as promising,
that have foundered like this unfortunate Demas! We can see them
floating everywhere on the surface of society, like spiritual
driftwood, alas! see them in the church keeping up a little outward
appearance and forms of religion, but generally found absent from
their pew and taking little or no interest in matters of the Church.

And in what way, coming to the second consideration, may we
overcome this dangerous evil, worldliness? The Bible does not leave
us without answer. As worldliness is a disposition of heart, it
first aims at that. We are not to spend our time in saying this
is worldly and that in formulating absolute and universal rules
and binding church-members to them. It is not so much a matter of
correct outward conduct as of correct inward principles. If the
blood is in good condition, the complexion will be. If the heart
is right, the conduct will be, and so the Apostle, getting at the
root of the cause, says: "Be not conformed to this world, but be
ye transformed," by the renewing of your minds. Christianity is a
spiritual power. When the soul opens to it, the Holy Spirit resets
and new-creates the spirit of the man, so that he looks away from
earth to heaven, and from the things of this world to the things
of God and eternity. Another bent is given to his feelings and his
aims. He walks in the light of a new sun. He feels the presence
of a new law drawing him in a different direction. He sees with
other eyes, estimates things by another rule, and is moved by other
principles. And as he yields to this new graft upon his nature, he
instinctively realizes what is contrary to it. He does not need
outward rules, it is plainly told him from within. The written Word
is at hand to direct in many cases, and in questions of doubt the
honest consultation of his own moral sense, the life of faith in the
soul, will tell him where the line is to be drawn between him and
the world.

And to mention one other way. If you would overcome worldliness,
look after your associations. The Bible is full of admonitions and
illustrations to that effect, but one perhaps stands out in boldest
type, the story of Lot. He moved out of his simple patriarchal life
into Sodom, the world center of his age, and the result you know.
His family became hopelessly worldly, he himself without influence
and power among men, and the end was destruction of his estate and
judgment upon his unfortunate wife.

If not quite as disastrous, the result is always the same in
character. Keep godly associations and connections, attend to
the house of God. We need the fellowship of God's people to
respiritualize and recharge our depressed Christian lives. It should
be a place of strengthening to you. Make its people your special
companions and confidants; have some from among its membership with
whom you are on terms of intimacy and friendship. It is wonderful
how much we are influenced by our environment and fellowship; let
us, then, be careful to live with God and with God's people.

To conclude,--God help us by His grace and Holy Spirit so to live in
this world as to live above it and look beyond it, diligently use
the means He has given us for strength and fidelity, and preserve us
from the deadly snare of that great enemy of our soul, the godless,
Christless world. Nor, let us ever remember, can we successfully
meet this enemy without looking for strength to that divine source
upon which our eyes are centered at this season, the cross of our
adorable Savior. He that kneels in devotion at the foot of the
cross, that has the love of Him that suffered and died for us upon
that cross spread abroad in his heart, cannot divide that heart with
his rival, and enemy, and obtain force and power to combat against
his assaults. Without Him we can do nothing. With Him we can prevail.

    Grant that I Thy passion view
    With repentant grieving,
    Nor Thee crucify anew
    By unholy living.
    How could I refuse to shun
    Every sinful pleasure,
    Since for me God's only Son
    Suffered without measure?

    Amen.



THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT.

     Now when the Pharisee which had bidden Him saw it, he spake
     within himself, saying, This man, if He were a prophet, would
     have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth
     Him; for she is a sinner.--_Luke 7, 39._


Our Lord was reclining at a social meal in the house of Simon the
Pharisee, when, unbidden, a woman enters the room, and, standing
at the feet of Jesus, bursts into tears. She had not come for that
purpose, but stationed aside of the Lord, she was so overcome
that she could not restrain her emotion, and as the tears fall
thick and fast upon the feet of her Lord, she wipes them with her
hair, and kissing them, anoints them with costly ointment. The
whole transaction is so simple and touching that we feel at once
interested in the stranger. It is a question much discussed by Bible
students who this woman was. It has been said it was Mary Magdalene,
but that is a mistake; nor was it Mary, the sister of Martha and
Lazarus of Bethany. Her name, for wise and kind reasons, is withheld
from the Church. But we are not left entirely in suspense about her
history.

From several incidents in this chapter we infer that she lived
in the City of Nain where our Lord raised up the widow's son.
Furthermore, we are told that she was a sinner; that means here,
she had abandoned herself to a life of sin and impurity, and
finally, it seems quite probable, judging from the precious quality
of the ointment used, that she was a person of some wealth and
fortune. What fixes our attention most is that she was a sinner,
and a penitent sinner at that. What was the precise character
of her transgression we are not told; but whether she had been
an adulteress, or, being unmarried, had yielded to her depraved
dispositions, and was leading a life of criminal voluptuousness,
one thing is certain, she had reason to weep and lament. If she
was guilty of the former,--adultery, unfaithfulness to her own
spouse,--what opinion must a woman form of herself that has
committed this offense? And if she was guilty of the last-named
transgression, prostitution, no tears could have been too bitter.
Human words fail to describe the condition of a woman who has
arrived at such a depth of dissoluteness as to eradicate every
degree of modesty, hand herself over to infamy that overthrows the
whole social life, and converts mankind into a state of putrefaction
and decay. If there is one offense that is calculated to become a
perpetual source of sorrow, piercing the heart with thousand arrows
of sad reflection and remorse, fixing daggers in the souls of loving
parents, and covering one's family with public disgrace, it is the
offense which defiles the most sacred and inviolable relation of
human life. And however it may be done, we ought never to speak of
such crime in the way of extenuation. Holy Scripture characterizes
such not as pitiable, but as criminal, not as imposed upon, but as
deceiving, not as corrupt, but as corrupters, the only course for
whom is to do as this penitent, prostrate themselves in tears at
the feet of Him who will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the
smoking flax.

These introductory remarks point to us the topic which shall employ
our further contemplation this morning. We have considered the first
great enemy of our souls, the devil, that wicked spirit who walketh
about seeking whom he may devour, and the second, the world, and
now we come to the third, the flesh, in contemplating which _we
shall note a few of the most prevalent forms in which it manifests
itself_, and secondly, _how we may overcome it_. May God grant His
divine blessing!

There are topics, my beloved, which if a minister treats of them,
he will be regarded indelicate and forward, and which if he does
not treat of them, he will be charged with timidity and neglect of
duty. His course, however, is clear. As a faithful steward of divine
truth, he must declare the whole counsel of God, irrespective of
criticism and fear, lest any man's soul be required at his hands. No
diligent attendant of God's house will have failed to have marked
the reigning note in the Epistle readings of the last Sundays.
That note is a call to purity and sanctity of life. "Abstain from
fornication,"--"But fornication and all uncleanness, let it not
be once named among you, as becometh saints, for ye know that no
whoremonger nor unclean person hath any inheritance in the kingdom
of Christ and of God,"--solemn words, and not superfluous words
either, as little now as then, or since the beginning of man's
sinful career. We turn to the pages of Holy Writ,--what is it that
brought on that most terrible calamity, all except eight persons
going down in the waters of a universal flood? The sacred volume
answers: "When man began to multiply on the face of the earth, the
sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and took
them wives of all which they chose. Then it repented the Lord that
He had made man," and the judgment was let loose for destruction.
What was it that caused Sodom and Gomorrah, the cities of the plain,
to go down in fire and brimstone? The still gurgling sea of salt
and death gives back the answer of its brutality and uncleanness.
What caused the twenty and three thousand to perish in one day,
their white carcasses to strew the wilderness sand? Moses tells us:
fornication, sensuality, and impurity. And who is not bent with
grief as he reads of David and of Solomon? And the hearts of mankind
are as full of impurity now as then, in thoughts, words, deeds,
and dress. There are spectacles to be seen in places of amusement,
there are reports to be read in our public prints, which indicate
little or no improvement, though decking themselves with the name
of Christian and moral. What St. Paul wrote: "It is a shame even to
speak of these things which are done of them in secret," is still
true and too true, alas! of some professed Christians.

Fire, my beloved, is a most valuable, an indispensable agent of
the human race. What would we do without it? But fire must remain
within bounds. Woe if it overleaps them! Then it becomes a terrible
and destructive power! Man's body, likewise, is a great and noble
instrument, a fine handiwork of God, with powers for good; but it
must remain within its bounds, it must always be kept as a servant
in subjection. Woe to man's happiness and the welfare of others when
it overleaps its legitimate bounds, and the servant becomes the
master, a tyrant, and a destroyer! "I keep under my body and bring
it into subjection," says Paul. Our great business as Christians is
to learn to control our body, its lusts and desires; to subdue and
master it, to bring it into a pure and honorable service, above and
beyond its own miserable gratification. "Dearly beloved," writes
St. Peter, "I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from
fleshly lusts which war against the soul." Yes, back in the days of
Mount Sinai, God voiced His will in words of fire and thunder on
stony tablets: "Thou shalt not commit adultery," which means we are
to lead a chaste and decent life in word and deed, and each curb,
guard, and control the sinful desires of the flesh.

Nor is this unchastity, the overstepping of the proper relation
between the sexes, the sinful indulgence of man's lower nature,
the only temptation that comes from the flesh. From the long list
enumerated by the Apostle in his letters we shall select one other.

That is _intemperance_, the too free indulgence in stimulating
drinks. Nor can it be questioned that a word in this respect is
occasionally in place. The history of strong drink is the history of
ruin, of tears, and of blood. It is perhaps the greatest curse that
ever scourged the earth. Other evils have slain their thousands, but
this has slain its tens of thousands. It is simply impossible to
picture the crime of which it is the cause. It is the Mississippi
among the rivers of wretchedness. It is an evil which is limited
to no age, no nation, no sex, no period and call of life. It has
taken the poor man at his toil and the rich man in his palace, the
statesman in the halls of legislature, and the workingman on the
street, the preacher in the pulpit, and the layman in the pew, and
plunged them into a common ruin.

Since the time that Noah came out of the ark and planted vineyards
and drank of their wines, nearly five thousand years ago, we see
the foul and murderous track, destroying some of the mightiest
intellects, some of the happiest homes, some of the noblest
specimens of man. It has supplied every jail, penitentiary,
almshouse, and charity hospital with inmates, and flooded every city
with bestiality and crime. It empties the pockets, disgraces the
character, brutalizes the affections, brings disease to the body and
poison to the intellect. It does infinitely worse,--it bars the soul
out of heaven; for thus it is written: "No drunkard shall enter the
kingdom of heaven."

Such is the result of appetites indulged, what it means when the
flesh gains the supremacy, when a person turns himself over to
become a slave of his lusts and excesses. Nor let any one say as he
looks upon such a miserable victim of this vice: "I shall never be
like him." God grant that we may not, but "let him that thinketh
he standeth take heed lest he fall." The drunkard once thought the
same. No one can be certain that he will not yet fill a drunkard's
grave, unless he learn and employ the lessons which God has given us
to overcome this enemy, the flesh.

And which are these lessons, and how may this enemy be overcome?
We shall mention two. The first is this: "Keep thy heart with all
diligence." Our enemies are not only without, they are within. It
is our Savior who remarks: "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts,
murders, adultery, fornication," and other shameful sins. And the
enemies within are the more dangerous, just as a traitor in our
city is worse than the enemy without the walls. So, then, our first
attention must be given to that. Keep, _i. e._, watch, garrison the
heart.

How? Keep from thoughts and purposes of sin. As long as we live
in this sinful body, in the midst of a perverse generation and
unchastisement, our eyes will behold scenes, our ears hear language,
our imagination suggest pictures that are impure and lewd, but it's
for the Christian to watch that such gazes of the eye do not become
purposeful, not to permit the imagination loose reins and range,
that unvirtuous thoughts are not indulged in, but repressed; as Dr.
Luther expresses it: "You cannot prevent the devil from shooting
arrows of evil thoughts into your heart, but take care that you do
not let such arrows stick and grow there."

The young Christian, who buys a ticket to the average theater,
with its abounding sensualities, has no right to complain if his
imagination is impure. Can any one take coals of fire into his bosom
and not be burned, handle pitch and not be soiled? The man and woman
who delight in reading lewd books, sensational, spicy newspaper
reports, who gaze upon indecent pictures, suggestive sights as they
are euphemistically termed, who listen to smutty stories, evil
communications, foolish jestings, as St. Paul calls them; the woman
who mixes in loose company, dresses indecently, and allows the
thoughts to dwell upon any subjects which connect with such sin,
need not wonder if the heart is invaded and influenced with unholy
sentiments, and fleshly appetites run riot. Guard your heart, what
transpires therein, and what enters in, with all diligence.

It was a wise man, in fact, the wisest of all men, one who, speaking
from own sad experience, gave this advice. Heed it, my dear hearer,
heed it!

And, again, the second lesson furnished by the holy Apostle is this:
"Walk in the spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the
flesh." There is a mine of wisdom in that. Our religion not only
tells us what not to do, it also tells us what to do; it is not
only negative, it is positive. There are two ways of dealing with
temptation. The one way is negative, the other is positive. "Thou
shalt not commit adultery," that is negative. We are to eradicate
vice, that is positive.

The effectual safeguard against drink is not prohibition. Neither
the most cunningly devised laws, nor the most unrelenting
persecution of liquor dealers, nor any other device of man can
arrest this terrible evil. To successfully combat it, to make the
poor victim a worthy and honored member of society, requires some
stronger and firmer basis, some more controlling motive than mere
earthly considerations. "Put on the Lord Jesus," is St. Paul's plain
direction, "and make not provision for the flesh to fulfill the
lusts thereof." The eye that has gazed upon the cross of Calvary
with penitence and faith, the heart that has been regenerated by the
washing of the Holy Ghost, and in whose soul is diffused the Spirit
of God, and who strives to walk in the Spirit, he, and only he, can
escape the temptations of the dreaded serpent of intemperance. And
so, whatever the habit, you cannot wrestle successfully with a
vicious habit, unless you cultivate a higher and different taste, a
love for the things of God's Spirit. Life, to be safe, must stand
for something, not simply against something, must express itself in
the spirit, not simply suppress itself in the lust of the flesh.

From away back in the past comes to us a voice, the voice of a young
man who, when tempted by the dark-eyed adulteress in Egypt, said:
"How, then, can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?"
Oh, that the young and the old would let these words of Joseph
incessantly ring in their ears! A positive attachment, devotion to
God will prompt us to be and to do what He wants you to be and to
do, and as it inspires you to do what is right, it keeps you from
doing that which is wrong.

And here again, to conclude, in our combat against this enemy of our
soul we cannot stand upright unless we have some mightier power to
sustain us. We know as Lenten Christians whence this power flows.
How can any one who has looked up to that divine Sufferer in faith
crucify Him anew by unholy living? The thought of what He has done
for us, the love that prompted Him to shed His holy, precious
blood for our sins, will restrain us from falling a victim to this
insidious and wicked enemy. The Lord grant us repentance over past
falls, gracious forgiveness, and strength!

    Plenteous grace with Thee is found,
    Grace to cover all my sin;
    Let the healing streams abound,
    Make and keep me pure within.

    Amen.



FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT.

     Woe unto the world because of offenses! For it must needs be
     that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense
     cometh!--_Matt. 18, 7._


It has grown a custom with us to regard on this particular Sunday
some particular phase of sin. Now there is a sin which very many
people think little about; that is the sin of making others sin.
They feel that they are accountable for their own sins, the sins
of their hands, tongues, and thoughts, but as to responsibility for
what others have done, they feel no guilt that belongs exclusively
to them. And yet, when one reflects on the matter; when we consider
how we are all bound up with one another, what influence we exert,
what our words and deeds cause others to do, how, without our
knowing it, others have taken our example to encourage themselves
in what is wrong, thinking they could not go wrong if following in
our steps; when we reflect that the first sin committed in the world
was the sin of making others sin, that of the devil tempting Eve to
disobey God, and that the first evil consequence of man's fall was
that Eve, when she had sinned herself, was to make her husband sin
also,--we begin to realize that it is a real sin, and a common sin,
the sin of making others do wrong; nor can there be any doubt or
mistake as to our Lord's judgment concerning it.

Our blessed Savior, in the course of His ministry, denounced woes
upon other sins. He said: "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee,
Bethsaida! Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Woe unto
that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!" But when He said: "Woe
unto the world because of offenses!" He qualifies it; He bitterly
adds: "For it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man
by whom the offense cometh! It were better for him that a millstone
were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth
of the sea." It could have been no ordinary occasion, it can be
no common sin that could have drawn from the merciful lips of our
Redeemer, that could have wrung from His loving heart, so tremendous
a condemnation.

Let us regard, then, _I. In what way we may cause others to sin.
II. How we may prevent it._ May God's Spirit make the words spoken
profitable and instructive to every one of you!

Causing others to sin may be done in two ways: by direct temptation
and by evil example. Sin loves companionship; having done wrong
themselves, men look for others to do wrong with them. There are but
few sins that men can do alone. They require some one to sin with
them.

There is nothing an infidel loves so much as when he can gain the
ear of some unsophisticated person to fill his mind with ungodliness
and infamy. The vile libertine never gloats more in fiendish glee
than when he can, by flattery or love of dress and amusement,
make some innocent girl the tool of his debauched sensuality.
It seems the delight of some to teach others the habit of taking
God's name in vain. What shall we say of those foul brothels that,
like poisonous mushrooms, pollute our cities, leading men's steps
down to the house of the strange woman; what of the conventional
drinking-houses and pool-rooms and gambling dens, the haunts of
profanity, intemperance, and profligacy; what of the playhouses
with their usual performances, beautifying vice and placing a low
estimate on marriage and morals? What are those but just so many
places and occasions of direct temptation to sin? And those who
conduct and foster them are under the condemnation of this text.
What are they but vultures that feed on the carrion of sin, making
men's lusts and depraved animal passions a source of ungodly gain?
No words would be a more truthful sign to place over the entrance of
such places than these of Matt. 18, 7: "Woe unto the world because
of offenses! For it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to
that man by whom the offense cometh!"

But this is not the only way in which men may transgress this text.
There are, be it said to the credit of our race, men who have not
much scruple about doing wrong themselves, but who have not so far
lost nobleness and generosity of mind as not to shrink from directly
tempting others who are as yet free from guilt. They think little of
the sin themselves, still they would not have others share their bad
experience. However, though they would not like to bring on their
souls the sin of directly tempting others, they forget what judgment
they are heaping on themselves by their evil example. And here it is
that we are all more or less concerned.

It may be well to observe that in the paragraph preceding our text
the Lord is speaking of little children, and so, we may consider,
first, the responsibility of parents. There are but few parents who
do not desire to bring up their children well, and to this end are
careful to teach them to be truthful and honest, pure, gentle, and
unselfish. But of how little avail to teach these things as theories
and principles when the example which parents set is precisely the
opposite to their teaching! When the head of the family commands
his children to attend divine service, but himself does not, what,
in fact, is he teaching but to stay away? Or does he think for one
moment that the children are so foolish as not to reason thus: If it
were really my duty to go to church, would not my father go himself?
Why do what my father fails to do? Or if the wife and mother is
seen by her offspring to practice deception in little things,
resorts readily to untruth, is not "in" when she is "in," and the
like, how quick they are to notice it, and grow up to think that
truth and honesty are to be held as theories, rather than practiced
as virtues. Nor need we restrict it merely to the home sphere, it
applies to every other, school, college, workshop, friendship.
Without limit is the effect of unconscious example. We uttered it as
a mere joke, or what we styled as a harmless way of getting out of a
difficulty, but the falsehood we uttered has stuck, and taken root
in some one's mind near us, and blossomed into a full-blown way of
lying, which he says he learned from us, and defends by our example.

Because when we were young, we looked up and trusted and admired
some one, a teacher, a friend, on account of their attractiveness,
or brilliancy, or personal magnetism, we imitated them, and that,
perhaps, in things not at all commendable. And what we have done
and do, others in time do with us. The minister who will tell
his members and catechumens, You must mind only what I preach
and not what I _do_, is a caricature and disgrace to his office.
The religious teacher of the Sunday-school who goes to places of
frolic, and is seen by his or her pupils, or by the grown sisters
and brothers of these pupils, who then defend their presence there
because they, the teachers of religion, were there,--such teachers
are dropping evil seed which strengthens others in wickedness, and
do well to examine their conduct and character under the sharp lens
of this text.

The young man or, for all that, he, too, of advanced years, who is
seen seeking his couch in the late hours of night, or the small
hours of morn, apart from his family and the companionship of
reputable associates, may also reflect how this is likely to affect
the honor and peace of the home, and serve as an example for others.

Enough has been said, I take it, to make plain what is meant. And is
this a sin to think little of? Let us awake to our responsibility!
No man liveth to himself. The moral impulse, the influence we exert,
the example we set, God holds us answerable for them.

What, then, to come to the next particular, shall we do if we have
become guilty in this respect? I was once told of a man who on his
deathbed had something on his conscience which greatly disturbed
him. He had not been a bad man, from the world's standpoint, and
it was only a boyish freak. What he related was this: "I was going
across a common one day, and I saw a sign-post at the crossroads,
pointing the way to two different places. The post was old, the sign
easily removed, and so for fun I took down the arms and changed
them, so as to make them point to the wrong roads. It was a foolish
thing, but of late years it has continually haunted me. And now on
my deathbed it greatly troubles me to think how many a poor, weary
man crossing that common I have sent on the wrong road."

Beloved, this is a parable of life, nor leave it till you are on
your deathbed. Think if by your example you have ever sent any poor
fellow-creature toiling across the common of this life on the wrong
road, the road which leads to destruction, instead of the narrow way
which leads to heaven! Think if by any example of yours you have
removed the guiding post which would have led the man aright had you
not pointed out the wrong way, and if your conscience accuse you of
this, repent of your guilt and ask God honestly and humbly for His
forgiveness. That is the first thing we ought to do.

And, in the second place, we must give most careful heed to
ourselves. One thing we must never forget: we are Christians,
Christ's disciples, and concerning His disciples, Christ says: "Ye
are the salt of the earth, ye are the light of the world." That
is their distinctive property, their mission. Salt is an active
principle; it works, and purifies, and diffuses its saltiness.
So, too, it behooves us, by speech and pen, by example and
influence, by suffrage and legislation, by every agency in our
power, to set ourselves against the social sins of our land and
age,--intemperance, Lord's day desecration, uncharitableness,
lewdness, insubordination, which, like cancers, have fastened
themselves upon the moral and religious life of our nation, and are
fast destroying its vitality. We are to be a salt, a savor of moral
health to all who come into contact with us, and a light, so the
Savior directs. "Let your light so shine before men that they may
see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

We had respect to the evil example of parents,--why,
correspondingly, should it not make for good? We find not uncommonly
that the child catches the words, nay, even the tone of voice which
he has heard his father use. Will he not be still more likely to
catch his other habits?--to be mild and kind, sober and industrious,
if the manner and behavior of his father are marked by mildness,
kindness, sobriety, and diligence? And so in all deportments. They
are familiar lines, fraught with deep thought:

    Lives of great men all remind us,
    We can make our lives sublime,
    And departing, leave behind us
    Footprints on the sands of time.

Let's leave some such footprints, some stimulating, ennobling
influence and example, around and behind us.

These, then, are the truths presented by the text. Let them be
seriously and deeply considered. May God by His grace deliver us
from the bitter "woe" of having given offense, causing others to
sin, and grant us wisdom and power to turn many into the right way
through faith in Christ Jesus, the Savior of sinners. Amen.



FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT.

     When I see the blood, I will pass over you.--_Exodus 12, 13._


The one grand theme, the central, all-pervading subject of the
Bible, from beginning to end, is redemption by the blood of Christ.
It matters not who held the pen, whether Moses in the land of
Midian, or David in the mountains of Israel, or Daniel in the court
of Babylon, Paul, a prisoner at Rome, or John amid the bleak rocks
of the Isle of Patmos,--one golden thread runs through all their
records.

Just as in an orchestra the various notes and chords of the
musicians' instruments express the one central idea of the
composition they are rendering, so whatever chords are touched by
the hands of the holy writers in God's Book, one keynote vibrates,
that is, _salvation through the blood of the Lamb_.

"The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanses us from all sin,"
is the testimony of St. John. "Ye know that ye were redeemed by the
precious blood of Christ," is the plea of Saint Peter. "Justified
by His blood," is the Gospel of St. Paul. And the voices of heaven
blend with those of earth, for thus is the saints' eternal song:
"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain and hath redeemed us to God
by His blood." And this is the Church's theme on this particular
Sunday, as it reads in the Epistle: "Christ by His blood hath
obtained eternal redemption for us." The past Sundays in Lent have
we been seeking to learn what sin is and what sin does; how could we
more appropriately spend this service than to consider how we may be
saved from sin, and in that may the Scripture selected profitably
aid us.

Eight times had Pharaoh's hardened heart brought sorrow upon the
people of Egypt. As one calamity after another was fulfilled, he
seemed softened for a while and willing to comply with God's command
to let His people Israel go, but no sooner was the pressing plague
removed than he again defied the Lord of heaven. And now the tenth,
the last and most dreadful and desolating of visitations, was to be
sent. The king and his people are informed that, if Israel were not
allowed straightway to depart, the first-born in every home shall,
at one and the same hour, be slain.

But before the destroying angel started on his sorrowful mission,
the Israelites were directed to kill a lamb, to take its blood and
besprinkle therewith the headpiece and the two sideposts of their
dwellings. This was God's sacred mark. Wherever that crimson sign
would appear, the messenger of judgment was to pass over and spare.

It was as told. At the hour of midnight the avenging angel swept
over the land. All the first-born were slain. Not a house where
there was not one dead. In Pharaoh's palace and in the pauper's
hovel, stricken hearts bewailed the countenance of their eldest
suddenly darkened by death. Only in the houses of the Hebrews there
was security and peace, because the blood was on their doors. Such
is the simple historical event connected with our text, designed by
God to foreshadow a far greater and more important event, an event
that was to bear upon the whole race of man wherever, whenever, and
however found.

Three leading thoughts are suggested thereby: _I. All men, like the
inhabitants of Egypt, are exposed to the destruction and penalty
of death._ _II. A means of escape has been supplied._ _III. One
condition that connects with that escape._ And may God's Holy Spirit
work enlightenment and conviction!

That man, to take up the first point, is exposed to destruction
and death, is the clear and abundant testimony of Scripture, and
it tells why. "All have sinned," it says, and, "The wages of sin
is _death_." "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." And is there a
single heart among the sons and daughters of Adam that dare offer
remonstrance?

Since the time that the first human pair, smitten by the sense
of guilt, hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among
the trees of the garden, and their first-born son, with his hands
reddened by a brother's blood, declared that his punishment was
greater than he could bear, down to the ignoble disciple who,
after selling the life of his Master for filthy lucre, unable to
bear the upbraidings of conscience, went and hanged himself, the
consciousness of having broken God's Law and exposed one's self to
the righteous displeasure of the great Lawgiver, has haunted and
pained man everywhere and at all times, and filled him with a fear
which all his own efforts and every human appliance is powerless to
remove. Why go farther than our own selves? Is there a person here
who can declare that never for a moment has his soul's surface been
disturbed by feelings of regret, who can truthfully affirm that
he has never known what it means to experience remorse for duty
neglected, for wrong spoken or done? We have sought on previous
Sundays to drive home to your conscience the terrors of the law on
matters of the Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Commandments; and do you
mean to say that in a review of your past life you have no slightest
pain of self-reproach along these lines? If not, then your spirit
has been cast in a different mold from all others, or your memory
and conscience are both fast asleep. I take it that all are ready
to acknowledge not only that there is a law, a law written in God's
Word, as well as in your own hearts, but that we have also broken
that law time and again, and thereby--to quote the familiar words
of our Catechism--"have we exposed ourselves to God's wrath and
displeasure, temporal death, and eternal damnation."

This is the A B C of Christianity. And is there a way of escape, as
in the case of Egypt's death and destruction? no possibility of its
being said: "I will pass over you"? Ah, it is here that we come to
the heart and center of our holy religion, its pith and core, its
Holiest of Holy. Sprinkled upon the headpieces and the two posts of
their doors was the blood, God's own sacred mark. A lamb, none over
a year old, none with the slightest taint or blemish upon it, was
made to yield up its life in sacrifice to secure that blood. Need
I inform you what that typified, of whom that lamb was a type and
shadow? That unblemished lamb of sacrifice referred to Christ, "the
Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." That innocent
blood which turned aside the angel of death foreshowed the blood of
Christ, who through the Spirit offered Himself without spot to God.
Yonder upon that post with its two beams, reddened by crimson drops,
is the fulfillment, the realization, of it all. Simple, is it not?

God, by the application of a coat of blood upon its homes, could
redeem Israel from the avenging stroke. It was not for any among
them to speculate about it, to doubt and refuse it. To do so would
have meant disaster. Only in that blood was security, safety, and
deliverance.

There are many these days who are offended at the blood doctrine
of the cross; they will have none of it; it's puerile to them.
They know not whereof they speak. It reflects Heaven's profoundest
wisdom; it was thus, and only thus, that the authority and dignity
of God's Law could be maintained, and yet the transgressor pass
unpunished.

The supreme, the perfect and sinless Lawgiver Himself, even the
eternal Son, bearing the penalty in the room of those by whom it
had been incurred, and on whom it must otherwise and most justly
have fallen,--this is the only way in which peace could have been
reinstated between God and man, deliverance made possible. And this,
even this, is the great burden of the Gospel message, the only balm
of peace to the troubled soul, the only solid ground of hope for
another life,--without which all in this world would be darkness,
disorder, and despair. Imagine a prisoner under sentence of death
in his lonely cell; the last morning sun he ever expects to gaze on
streaming through his grated window, and the sound of busy hammers
erecting his gallows ringing in his ears, and, then, unbar the
bolts of his prison, and instead of leading him out to execution,
put into his hands the Governor's pardon, and bid him go forth and
enjoy till life's latest time the best and sweetest it can offer.
Or think of a crew of voyagers on a dark and stormy sea, a fearful
hurricane above, all around perilous rocks and quicksand, and the
vessel threatening every moment to part asunder below,--think of
them wafted all at once into a peaceful harbor and landed on a
hospitable shore. Figure yourselves placed in such and kindred
perilous circumstances, and followed by a like happy deliverance,
and you will still have only a dim shadow of the glorious and
blessed reality to which our text points. Far more terrible than
bodily bondage, more appalling than death of the body, is the terror
and the doom that attends a soul exposed to the extent of God's
wrath and destruction, and from that--deliverance, safety, and
escape through the blood of the Lamb.

There is, however, one point still that practically and to each of
us is the most important of all. It is not said simply: "I will
pass over you," but, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you."
It was not enough that the paschal lamb had been slain. Nor was it
sufficient that the Most High Lamb merely purpose to spare them as
His chosen people. If they would escape the calamity that was to
fall upon their heathen oppressors, they must sprinkle the blood
of that lamb openly on the posts of their doors. And even so it is
not enough that God will have all men to be saved and come unto
the knowledge of the truth; not enough that the Lamb of God was
slain to take away the sins of a guilty world, unless that blood is
sprinkled by faith on the heart, unless, in other words, Christ is
taken by each separately and individually as his or her Savior. It
is faith which forms the grand connecting link between the priceless
blessings of redemption and the perishing sinner's soul. What avails
it to the wretch who is being borne down by a rapid current nearer
and nearer to the fatal cataract to throw him a rope if he will not
grasp it? Or what to him whose dwelling is in flames, to place a
ladder for his rescue, if he will not so much as step upon it? Even
so, what will it serve any of us, but only fearfully to heighten
our condemnation, to be told of the great salvation, and have that
salvation pressed on us in almost every form of persuasive appeal,
as the only means of escape from death and destruction, if we still
refuse to it the homage of our hearts, and deem ourselves perfectly
safe without, and treat it as an idle tale?

Christ's blood has been shed, but before it can work its wonders,
can stay the arm of divine Justice uplifted to smite, that blood
must be sprinkled, too; and the reason why it is not sprinkled on
some, why it is not sprinkled on all who have heard of it, why all
such do not feel in their hearts and display in their lives its
cleansing, sanctifying power, is, and can only be, their willful,
stubborn unbelief. How it is with you whom I am now addressing it is
not for me to say.

Those only who are thus marked have any right to count themselves
to the Lord's people, and to set themselves at the Savior's table.
Let us hold, not as a dry doctrine, but as a blessed truth, that
apart from Christ's blood there is no salvation. Let us fix our
hearts with deeper and more prayerful love on Him; let it be ours
with a glow of spiritual fervor, a joy with which nothing else will
compare, to confess:

    My hope is built on nothing less
    Than Jesus' blood and righteousness.

    Amen.



PALM SUNDAY.

     And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell
     there, and make there an altar unto God that appeared unto thee
     when thou fleddest from the face of Esau, thy brother. Then
     Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him,
     Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and
     change your garments. And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and
     I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day
     of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.--_Gen.
     35, 1-3._


The passage before us refers to a very interesting part in the
history of Jacob. To escape the fury of his brother, Esau, whom he
had deprived of the patriarchal blessing, Jacob, at the proposal
of his mother, Rebecca, flees to the house of his uncle, Laban. On
the first night of his journey he dreamed he saw a ladder reaching
from earth to heaven, angels ascending and descending upon it, God
standing at the top; and God also speaks to the poor pilgrim resting
on a stone beneath. He assures Jacob that He was the Lord God "of
Abraham, thy father, and the God of Isaac." He promises to give the
land of Canaan to his seed, to render his offspring illustrious
and innumerable as the stars of heaven, and finally, in one of
his descendants, to bless all the families of the earth; and to
accommodate Himself still more to the condition in which Jacob then
was, He added: "And behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in
all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this
land; for I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have
spoken to thee of."

Deeply impressed with this vision of God's presence, Jacob arose.
But before he proceeded upon his journey, he vowed a vow, saying:
"If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and
will give me bread to eat and raiment to put on, so that I come
again to my father's house in peace, then shall the Lord be my God,
and this stone which I have set for a pillar shall be God's house,
and of all that Thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto
Thee."

Twenty years had passed since that occasion, years of hard service
and vexation, when Jacob resolves to return home. He crosses the
Ford of Jabbok, where he wrestled with the Angel, and comes to
Shalem. Here he buys a piece of ground, builds an altar, and lingers
for seven or eight years; he was now enjoying the delights, the
comforts of home and of plenty. God had fulfilled His engagement
with him to the letter,--He had been with him and defended him,
led him back to his country in peace and prospered him, who had
had nothing but a staff in his hand when he fled before the face
of his brother, until he was now two bands. But where is now his
vow, where his altar, where the tenth of all his possessions, as he
had promised? Nor does he show the least disposition to redeem, to
perform it; and so it becomes necessary for God Himself to stir him
up; and thus reads the first verse of the text: "And God said unto
Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there, and make there an
altar unto God that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the
face of Esau, thy brother."

From this little piece of history let us seek to derive some
instructive observations, and pertinent with this Sunday, the
character of which is well known to you.

First, we may note how soon the influence of impressive scenes
wears away, how quickly we lose the sense of God's mercies, and
the religious feelings they produce. If a person had seen Jacob
on the morning after his vision, when he was leaving the spot
made sacred by his experience there, and had said to him: "God
will accomplish all thy desires; He will guide and keep thee, and
bring thee back enriched and multiplied, but thou wilt live year
after year unmindful of thy vow," he would have exclaimed, "What!
is thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing?" How were the
Israelites affected when God appeared at the Red Sea? They sang
His praise, they resolved to distrust Him no more. They said, "All
that the Lord commandeth us will we do." But they soon forgot His
words and the wonders He had shown them. They murmured, and they
rebelled time and again; all their vows and promises were written in
the sand, and the first returning wave of trouble washed them out.
If some kind of spiritual device, after the manner of our present
day, could be invented to secure our feelings in certain periods
and conditions of life, so that we might afterwards review them
and compare ourselves, what revelations it would disclose! Like a
sieve, full while lowered, but, when raised up, empty and dripping,
or like water, which has a natural tendency to be cold, if it has
not a perpetual fire below to keep it warm, so do we constantly
need means and helps; so necessary is it to have our minds stirred
up by way of remembrance; and as we learn from our text, God also
does that. He reminds His people of forgotten duties. Various are
His ways of doing so. One of His principal designs are afflictions.
When difficulties are upon us, it is then that we remember former
deliverances and vows, and our ingratitude in not keeping them.

Another such witness and monitor is man's conscience, which accuses
the transgressor, and often presses a thorn into man's side.
Ministers of the Gospel are also God's remembrancers. Their business
is, not to bring strange things to your ears, to entertain you with
novelties or speculation, but their calling is to remind you of
things you already know. As St. Peter writes: "I will therefore put
you in remembrance of these things, though ye once knew them," and
St. Paul says: "If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these
things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ." And our
text furthermore shows us that good and pious characters give heed
to these reminders. There is where we perceive a difference between
Christians and others. Christians, it is true, are encompassed with
faults and infirmities, they may err; they may fall, but there is in
them a principle which secures their rising again. A man who is only
asleep is easily distinguished from one who is dead; the difference
will appear as soon as you try to wake them; the one remains
motionless, the other stirs and springs up. The branch of a tree may
bend down to the earth under a pressure, but remove the load, and it
is upright again. When our Lord looked only upon Peter, "he went out
and wept bitterly." Jacob here does not argue the matter with the
Lord. He does not seek to excuse himself.

Thus reads the second verse: "Then Jacob said unto his household,
and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are
among you, and be clean, and change your garments." Here we may
stop a moment to emphasize the truth that there may be wickedness
in a religious family. We find "strange gods" even in Jacob's, the
patriarch's, household, and we may view such a condition in two
ways,--first, as a good man's affliction, and also as a good man's
own fault. An affliction it certainly is to behold wickedness in
one's family. It is bad enough to have bodily sickness and ailment
in the house, but it is immensely worse to have sin, the plague and
pestilence of the soul.

But, could we see things as God sees them, could we trace back
effects to their cause, we would ofttimes not be surprised at the
disorder and wickedness which prevails. How many masters of families
resemble Eli, whose "sons made themselves vile, and he restrained
them not,"--or David, "who had never displeased Adonijah at any time
in saying, Why hast thou done so?"

Others, again, have provoked them to anger, till they are
discouraged; while they preach humility and meekness in words,
they practice pride and passion by example; while they send them
to receive the nurture and admonition of the Lord at the hands
of others, they rarely or ever recommend religion by their own
personal behavior,--and they then wonder at irregularities in their
households. Rather ought they wonder at their own folly in seeking
"to gather grapes of thorns and figs of thistles." Observe Jacob
here, he would not go alone, but calls upon his family, and all
that are with him; everybody must attend. And thus our religious
interest should not be confined to ourselves alone, we must bring
our families along with us to the exercise of devotion.

In our own families we possess authority and influence, and this
authority and influence we are to employ for religious as well as
civil purposes. God holds us answerable for it. There is nothing
more lovely than the members of a family going to the house of God
in company. Such families are nurseries of their churches, and it is
with delight that a minister addresses a hopeful audience made up of
a number of amiable, orderly, serious-minded families. But oh! how
it pains one to see you separated, and coming in alone,--the wife
without the husband, the father without the son, the mother without
the daughter.

Reflect on these things, my beloved. It is sometimes said that so
few of those who make their confirmation vow remain loyal. To me
it is inspiring that so many do remain loyal when you consider the
influence and the atmosphere in the homes they come from. Never
a Christian word escapes the lips of the mother; all kinds of
political, secular newspapers and books are daily read, never a line
of God's Word or a church-paper. All sorts of time set aside for
visits and trivialities on God's day, never for divine service.

There remains yet the third and last verse: "And let us arise and go
up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered
me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I
went." Jacob arrives at Bethel, he looks around, he discovers the
stone, now covered with moss, which, twenty-eight years ago, had
served as his pillow. What feelings must have throbbed through his
soul! what shame! what joy! And he fulfills his vow, erects an
altar, does God honor and service, and gives the tenth to Him of all
he possesses.

The application of all this? To you who have this day laid down upon
God's altar your vow of allegiance, let Jacob be to you an example
of warning. God greatly disapproved of Jacob's delay, his forgetting
and breaking of promise, and, as we heard, he himself suffered
by it,--wickedness, strange gods, had gotten into his household.
Vastly more noble than his conduct was that of the woman who one day
appeared in the temple leading by the hand a lad, and, presenting
him to the high priest, said: "For this child I prayed, and the Lord
hath given me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore, also, I
have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth, he shall be lent
to the Lord." You know who he was--Samuel, afterwards Israel's high
priest and judge. May you prove to be Samuels brought hither to the
temple, become useful members. It is only thus you may glorify God.
Or, those who, perchance like Jacob, have neglected their vows, who
blush to recall them, let them take this episode to heart, strive
with the aid of that God who called Jacob's vow to remembrance to
fulfill their engagements; following the patriarch, may they say:
"Let us go up to Bethel," that means, to the house of God. The Lord
grant you Christian courage and determination! Amen.



EASTER.

     Marvel not at this, for the hour is coming in the which all that
     are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth;
     they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they
     that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation.--_John
     5, 28. 29._


"Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in hope of the
resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ." These
solemn words, pronounced at the most solemn time, at the close of
man's earthly career, are familiar words, and each Lord's day do we
confess in words equally as familiar: "I believe in the resurrection
of the body." In that committal and confession we say much. We
voice a belief that is peculiarly, distinctively Christian. Natural
reason, assisted by some light lingering in tradition and borrowed
from the Jews, was able to spell out the immortality of the soul;
but that the body should rise again, that there should be another
life for this corporeal frame, was a hope which has been brought to
light by revelation only. When natural man hears the doctrine the
first time, the mere natural mind marvels. The next thing it does,
as the philosophers at Athens, when Paul preached it unto them,--it
mocks.

"Can these dry bones live?" is still the unbeliever's sneer. The
doctrine of the resurrection is a lamp kindled by a hand which once
was pierced. It is linked with the resurrection of our blessed
Lord, and is one of the brightest gems in His crown. Throughout
the writings of the holy apostles do we find them giving great
prominence to this truth. The Apostle Paul, as he describes the
Gospel by which true believers are saved, says: "I deliver unto
you first of all that which I received,--how that Christ died for
our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and
that He rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures," and
argues that, "if Christ be not raised," both your faith and our
preaching are "in vain." In the early Church the doctrine of the
resurrection was the main battle-ax and weapon of war. Wherever
the first missionaries went, they made this prominent that the
dead would rise again to be judged by the Man Christ, according to
the Gospel. It is, indeed, the keystone of the Christian arch. Let
us, then, to the honor of Christ Jesus, the Risen One, regard this
article of our faith so prominent in the Easter thought of man,
observing _I. The certainty of the resurrection_, _II. its results_.

"The hour is coming," saith the Savior. Those words spoken by the
Mouth of Truth express certainty. There are some events which may or
may not be. Kingdoms and the great powers of the earth may stand or
they may fall, their throne broken into dust and their might wither
like autumn leaves. Events which we suppose inevitable may never
come to pass, another wheel in the machinery of Providence may make
things revolve in quite another fashion from what our puny wisdom
would foretell. There is nothing certain on this earth, in fact, but
uncertainty. But the resurrection is certain, whatever else may be
contingent or doubtful. "The hour cometh," it surely cometh. In the
divine decree it has been so unchangeably fixed. "The hour," saith
Christ. I suppose He calls it an hour to intimate how very near it
is in His esteem, since we do not begin to look at an exact hour
of an event when it is extremely remote. An event which will not
occur for hundreds of years is at first looked for and noted by the
year, and only when we are reasonably near it, do men talk of the
day of the month, and we are coming very near it when we look for
the precise hour. Christ intimates to us that, whether we think so
or not, in God's thoughts the day of resurrection is very near. He
would have us think _God's_ thought about it, not reckon any time
too distantly and the event far away.

This, too, is practical wisdom, to bring close up to us that which
is inevitable, and to act towards it after a manner as though
it were but to-morrow when the trumpet might sound. And most
significantly does our Lord speak of that "hour." He calls it "the
hour." We read of hours that have been big with the fate of nations;
hours in which the welfare of millions trembled in the balances;
hours in which the die was cast for peace or for war; hours that
have been called "crises" in history. But here is the culminating
crisis of all, the master, the royal, the august hour that is
coming. Every second, every swing of the pendulum, every beat of
the heart of time is bringing it nearer; silently, surely, we are
drifting along the river of time to the ocean of eternity, and there
is nothing to stop the constant flight.

We pass on. "Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming in the
which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice." "All that
are in the graves,"--by this term is meant, not only all whose
bodies are actually in the grave at this time, but all who ever
were buried, though their bones may have mingled with the elements,
been scattered by the winds, dissolved in the waves, or merged into
vegetable forms, all who have lived and have died--all these. All!
What a numberless number! Think of the inhabitants of this world
at the time of the flood, more numerous then than now when men's
numbers are so terribly thinned out by death! Think from the time of
the flood onward, of Adam's vast offspring! Nineveh, Babylon, and
Chaldea, and Persia, and Greece, and Rome were enormous empires of
antiquity. The Parthians and Scythians, and Tartars, and Goths, and
Huns in the Middle Ages, what teeming hives of humanity; and our
present communities and nations, what a numberless band! Think of
Ethiopia and the whole continent of Africa; remember India and Japan
and the land of the setting sun; in all lands great tribes of men
have come and have gone to rest in their sepulchers. What millions
upon millions lie buried in China this day, a country of 400
millions. What innumerable hosts are slumbering in the land of the
pyramids, embalmed in Egypt of old. And every one, all who have ever
lived of woman born,--not one shall be left in the tomb. _All_,--all
the righteous and the wicked; all that were engulfed in the sea; all
that slumber in the lap of the earth; all the great and the humble,
all the children of luxury and the sons of toil; all the wise and
all the foolish; all the beloved and the despised. There shall not
be one single individual omitted, nor you, my dear hearer. As surely
as you sit here this morning, so surely shall you stand before
the Son of Man. You shall not be forgotten; your departed spirit
shall have its appointed place, and your body, which once contained
it, shall have its place, till, by the power of God, it shall be
restored to your spirit again at the sounding of the last trumpet.
It is a wondrous truth, and yet, as the Savior directs, "marvel not
at this," so as to doubt it, though you may marvel at it and adore
the Lord, who shall bring it to pass.

And so it continues: "All that are in the graves shall hear His
voice." Yes, that ear that was buried a thousand years ago, and of
which there was not the slightest relic left, that ear so long lost
in silence, it shall hear--hear the almighty voice of that God who
made man's ear at the beginning, who makes the ear of the newborn
babe now, and is able, according to the working whereby He is able
to do all things, to renew and refashion the ear, and hearing it
shall start up, as the next words say, "shall come forth." It is
not in the power of man's speech or imagination to conceive what a
spectacle it shall be when, as the heavens are passing with a great
noise, and the elements are burning with furnace heat, the angels
are sounding the arrival of the great day of Judgment, we shall see
the multitudes in the valleys of the dead rising up from land and
sea, from mountain top and deep ravines, swarming up a great and
countless number before the bar of their Judge. Ah, what a sight it
will be! What a wonder!

And how will they look? you may naturally inquire. In answer I would
say on the basis of God's Word: Like themselves. To each one will be
given "his own body." Our resurrected body, whatever it may exactly
be and however different and superior it will undoubtedly be to our
present body, will yet in some way be identical with our present
body, and it will so far retain the appearance and individuality
of our present body that in that future resurrected body we shall
easily be recognized by those who knew us, and will be known as the
same distinct personalities which we are now known to be in our
present body. "Though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in
my flesh shall I see God."

We pass on to weigh the results. The text goes on to say: "And shall
come forth, they that have done good unto the resurrection of life,
and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation."
From this we gather that the whole family will be divided as it is
even now, indeed, into two, and only two, classes of characters:
"They that have done good," and "they that have done evil." Who are
those who have done good? By nature no one is "good." We are all
sinners. There is none righteous, no, not one. The best of us are
unprofitable servants. We can only be "good" in our way, and that is
by having the goodness of another, the goodness of Christ set down
to our account. Then, when we are thus joined to Christ by faith in
Him, we shall, from principle, strive to do good. Good, my beloved,
is a word that may be measured according to those who use it. The
"evil man," the unpardoned sinner, may "do good" in his sense and
the sense of the world,--good to you, to his child, his wife, his
friend, but he has no care for God, no reverence, no esteem for the
great Lawgiver. Therefore, that which may be good to you may be ill
to God, because done for no right motive, even perhaps done with
a wrong motive. It depends upon what position I occupy towards my
God and Christ that determines on the Day of Resurrection, and that
position is either for or against Him; there is no middle, mixed, or
mingled character. I am either a pardoned sinner or an unpardoned
sinner, and my destiny will be accordingly. And what will that
destiny be? Either "life" or "damnation."

"Life" does not mean here mere existence; for both will exist,
and exist forever, the "evil" and the "good." But "life" means
happiness, joy, rapture, bliss; in fact, it is a term so
comprehensive that it needs no small time to express all that
it means. As for the other, theirs shall be a resurrection to
damnation; their bodies and souls will come under the condemnation
of God,--to use our Savior's word, "shall be damned." We are shocked
at the very sound of the word. We may well be so; we should be
ten thousand-fold more shocked, if we really knew what the word
fully means. It is vain for us to describe it, and we are loath to
describe it. It were better for such that they had never been born,
never awakened. From so terrible a portion, from Thy wrath and from
evil damnation, good Lord, deliver us! We have thus seen, first, the
certainty of resurrection, and secondly, the results. It remains, in
conclusion, to draw one or two lessons from the text.

The first is a lesson of consolation. We are frequently called
upon to stand beside opened graves; some of you have stood there
lately. What comfort for our wounded spirits is such meditation:
to never mourn with regard to the souls of the righteous because
they are forever with the Lord. The only mourning that we permit
among Christians concerns the body, and here God's Word offers us
the assurance: Weep not as though you had cast your treasure into
the sea, where you will never find it again. You have only laid it
by in a casket, whence you shall receive it again brighter and more
beautiful than before. Thou shalt look again with thine own eyes
into those eyes which have spoken love to thee so often. Thy child
shall see thee again. That departed friend and father and mother,
having loved his Lord as thou dost, shall once rejoice with thee
in the land where they die no more. It is but a short parting; it
will be an eternal meeting. Forever with the Lord, we shall also be
forever with each other. "Let us comfort one another," says the
apostle, "with these words."

The other lesson is that of self-examination. If we are to rise,
some to rewards and some to punishments, what--let each conscience
ask--what shall be my position? Where shall I stand? That depends
upon what your life and your life's principles have been. What has
it been? To amass wealth? To procure honor? To provide for your
family? If so, it has been deficient. Life's object and duty is to
prepare for life, for the resurrection unto life. And to prepare for
that, you must undergo a resurrection right now. There is as great
a difference between men now as there will be hereafter. At present
we have all living bodies, but in those living bodies, what is the
state of the soul? There are in some living bodies living souls.
There are in other living bodies souls that are dead. And that dead
soul must be resurrected to life, or salvation is out of question;
and that resurrection must take place _now_; it is too late
hereafter. It takes place when you now give heed to that same divine
voice that shall start the dead into life, the voice of Christ Jesus
in His Gospel and Church. "He that believeth on Him hath life, and
shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto
life."

Easter calls for a rising up to spiritual life now, that it may be a
resurrection unto eternal life, when all the dead shall come forth
from the grave at the voice of Him who this day so gloriously arose
from the tomb. May we be partakers of both! Amen.



FIRST SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.

     But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore; but
     the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.--_John 21, 4._


The last chapter of the Gospel of St. John takes us back to some
of the scenes and circumstances of Christ after His resurrection.
The immediate text portrays to us how seven men come slowly and
thoughtfully down to the narrow beach, enter a boat, and push out
a little way from the land. They are clad in the coarse garb of
Galilean fishermen. Their faces are bronzed by exposure to the wind
and the sun; their hands calloused from dragging the dripping net
and pulling the laboring oar. But they are men destined to hold the
highest mark among the great teachers of mankind. Foremost among
them is Simon Peter, fiery soul, as ready to smite with the sword
as to weep in sorrow at a look from his Lord. After him follows
John, the gentle and loving, who leaned on His Master's bosom at
the Passover. Then comes Thomas, the slow and distrustful, so
honest in his doubts and so yielding in his confession. Then James,
who was the first to seal his faith with the blood of martyrdom.
Lastly Nathanael is mentioned, the upright and guileless, whilst
the names of two are withheld. Says Simon Peter to this number:
"I go a-fishing." The rest join in, and soon the crew sets sail
for the higher waters, but with no success. The long hours pass in
fruitless toil; day creeps into evening, evening into night, night
into morning, and still they cast and cast, and catch nothing. At
earliest dawn a figure appears on the beach, and a voice is heard
speaking to them. The text tells who it was.

For some reason, as our text states, they do not distinguish Him.
Perhaps it is because they are not expecting Him, and it is still
morning twilight, and they cannot see distinctly, or, what is more
probable, because some change has come over His risen body like that
which on Resurrection Sunday had prevented Mary Magdalene and the
two disciples journeying to Emmaus from readily recognizing Him.
Taking Him, quite probably, to be a fish-dealer, one of those who
daily came out at dawn from the town to meet the boats and make
their purchase, they hear a voice coming to them from the dim shore,
saluting them,--to translate the question into our English idiomatic
equivalent, Boys, what luck? "None," answer the weary fishermen.
Again the voice sings out to them, "Cast." No sooner done than
their net was filled with fishes. And then at once, by a spiritual
instinct, rather than by the vision of his eyes, John knew who this
stranger was, and said to the rest, "It is the Lord." Whereupon,
"When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's
coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the
sea."

It is this beautiful incident that we shall regard in a few phases,
in accordance with this season and practical life.

In the first place, let us note that the resurrected Lord revealed
Himself, and still reveals Himself to us in the midst of our daily
work. The Lord came to these men while occupied with the toils
and duties of their trade. Many are the instances in which it has
pleased God to show His special favor to persons while earnestly
occupied with their ordinary callings. David was summoned from the
care of his father's flock to be Israel's king. Elisha was following
the plow when called to be Elijah's successor. It was to faithful
shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night that the angel
choirs were sent to announce the birth of the Prince of Peace, and
here, while the disciples were busily engaged in their familiar
toils, it was that Jesus came and manifested Himself to them. Was
there not something very instructive in this appearance at such a
time? It showed that Jesus ratified their decision to be up and
doing. It showed that He was present with them in the midst of all
their work. It showed, too, that upon His presence depended entirely
the success of their labors, for before His arrival they had caught
nothing; their nets were only filled with seaweeds. It was through
His direction and through His direction alone, that their nets at
last were filled with fish. What a lesson this for all faithful
toilers, whether on sea or on shore, the lesson that Jesus is with
us in our daily tasks, whatever these tasks may be.

We know that Jesus Himself once stood in the ranks of the world's
toil. Many a day, for many a year, He wrought in the sweat of His
brow in the carpenter shop at Nazareth. He thus stamped with the
approval of His own example the work of every toiler, and showed the
high dignity that belongs to all honest labor. By this manifestation
of the risen Jesus to those fishermen of Galilee He sanctified and
glorified the work of His children. Like that dim figure on the
shore of the Sea of Tiberias, Jesus stands over against us, watching
us with eyes of sympathy, and waiting to bless us with His counsel
and help. He has not changed. He is the same yesterday, to-day, and
forever. Let us not forget this glorious truth as we bend over our
desks, or machines, stand behind sale counters, or move in household
duties; the thought: Jesus is looking on, will shed its hallowed
light upon the "common task," as it is styled, fill us with courage
and cheerfulness, though our own work be irksome and hard, and
enable us to do it faithfully, to quote the words of the apostle,
"not with eye-service as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart,
as unto the Lord," who looketh on.

Again, we note, Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples on this
occasion, not only in the midst of their daily work, but in the
_hour of their failure and disappointment_. They had gone forth to
catch fish; but they had caught nothing. They were wet and cold,
weary and hungry. And it was to these tired and disappointed men
that the Lord appeared. He filled their nets with fish; He filled
their hearts with the joy of His presence, nor did He forget their
bodily comfort and needs, He kindled a fire upon the shore, and
provided for them a welcome meal of fish and bread. And Christ's
methods, my beloved, have not altered with the years. That scene on
Lake Gennesaret is an allegory with a deep meaning for ourselves. It
reminds us that our schemes and plans and endeavors, toil however
hard we may, not infrequently meet with disappointment. We have
perhaps all of us experienced what the poet says:

    Oh! it is hard to work for God,
    To rise and take His part;
    Upon this battle-field of earth,
    And not sometimes lose heart.
    He hides Himself so wondrously
    As though there were no God,
    He is least seen when all the powers
    Of ill are most abroad.
    Or, He deserts us at the hour;
    The light is all but lost,
    And seems to leave us to ourselves
    Just when we need Him most.

And yet, to speak with the text, though we may recognize Him not,
He is tenderly watching us from the shore. He has long since passed
over to His glory. But while His disciples are yet on these waters,
He keeps Himself near the margin, and looks down upon them in
their toil. His great heart is with us all in our disappointments,
difficulties, and disheartening endeavors, and in some way, at the
right time, He will come, just as yonder on the Sea of Galilee, to
help us. Let us believe that, and go ahead with our present duties,
steadily, bravely, hopefully. Hopefully, I repeat; there is all the
difference in the world between working with hope and without it.

The sailor on the raft sinks into despair as long as there is no
vessel in sight, but let a ship appear on the far horizon, and
immediately he is alert, and seeks by every means in his power to
attract the attention of those on board, if, haply, he may be saved.
In the same way, if we lose the hope of Christ's help, we shall give
up and break down. Let us hold on, no matter what we are required
to contend against in the battle of life, in the Lord's cause,
and rest assured that at length Christ will come to us with such
strength and supply as will abundantly compensate us for the toil
and worry. Let us believe that, or we shall fail in our undertakings.

Nor only, to follow our text, in the midst of work and
disappointment, but in the time of spiritual doubt and difficulty
does Jesus reveal Himself. In those days the hearts of the disciples
were burdened with many regrets and uncertainties and fears. In that
stern of that very boat perchance their Master had often reclined,
upon those same waters, and as they sat throughout those long and
weary hours with the sails idly flapping, or plying the long, heavy
oars, the waves splashing against the side of the boat, how these
various sights and sounds must have reminded them irresistibly of
One who used to be beside them constantly, and of the vanished
happiness when they had been His pupils and His friends. That life
of close companionship was ended now. Their beloved Master had been
taken from them by wicked hands and crucified and slain. And, though
since He had already appeared to them after His resurrection, and
assured them of His living presence and power, yet He had appeared
only to vanish away, and they did not know exactly how they were to
think of Jesus, or what He would have them do. They were in a state
of spiritual doubt and uncertainty, full of regrets for the vanished
past, and with no clear outlook for the years to come.

Jesus appears to them on this morning. They learn more fully who
He was, and also what He would have them do. Immediately following
this description is the interview He had with Peter, three times
directing him, "Feed my lambs, feed my sheep." He was teaching them
all the while a valuable lesson. Up to this time they had been in
visible companionship with the Lord; He was now educating them into
the thought that, though His visible form should be withdrawn,
His personal presence would be with them still. In short, He was
preparing them to believe the great truth, on which the very
existence of the Christian Church depends, and which He announced to
them in the words of His parting promise: "Lo, I am with you alway,
even unto the ends of the world."

It is quite similar with believers now. Our faith is often sorely
tried, we are "tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt."
We need those things; the Lord is thereby educating us, teaching
us some lesson or lessons, so that our faith may become stronger,
purer, and better. "Doubt," one has said who lived long ago, "doubt
is the daughter of the devil." There is that kind of a doubt which
is the sign of an enlarging faith. Of that sort was Thomas. How
gloriously it was removed, and he the better for it! So with these
men here, and so with us. Not seldom do we find a soul must be
tossed all night upon a dark, tempestuous sea of doubt and misgiving
before Jesus comes with the morning light to speak His word of
peace, and to make all things plain.

This leads to the last thought, _viz._, that Jesus reveals Himself
to the eyes of those who love Him. We must not think that work, or
disappointment, or religious doubt, in themselves, insure the vision
of the Lord. On the contrary, it may be these things precisely that
veil Him from our sight. Sometimes a man's work so absorbs his heart
that he has no thoughts left for spiritual things. And sometimes
worldly disappointments only make a man hard, bitter, and cynical,
while spiritual doubt drives him into sheer unbelief and black
despair. A certain condition of heart is needful in order that these
things become blessings, the occasion of fresh revelations of the
Lord. This narrative suggests which it is. It was John who saw Jesus
first in the figure that stood on the shore, and John, as we know,
was the disciple who loved Jesus most and best, and there was a real
connection between these two facts. It was the love of John's heart,
rather than the sharpness of his eyes, that enabled him to say, "It
is the Lord"; for love detects the loved one afar off, and where
others see only the indistinguishable figure of a man, it cries:
"Nay, it is he himself." And love, my beloved, is still and always
a great condition of spiritual knowledge. "He that loveth me," said
Jesus, "shall be loved of my Father, and I will love Him and will
manifest Myself to him." Often, like those fishermen of Galilee, we
have to face life's duties and burdens with a dull and heavy heart;
if there is love to Christ, He will appear to our faith, if not
to our sight, filling our hearts with the joy of His presence and
compelling us to say in wonder and delight: "It is the Lord."

God grant that we may know Him in this life, so that when the
morning of eternity dawns upon us, we may see Christ standing on the
shore of heaven and hear His words of welcome. Amen.



SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.

     So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son
     of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto Him,
     Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith unto him,
     Feed my lambs. He saith to him the second time, Simon, son
     of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto Him, Yea, Lord, Thou
     knowest that I love Thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He
     saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou
     me? Peter was grieved because He said unto him the third time,
     Lovest thou me? And he said unto Him, Lord, Thou knowest all
     things; Thou knowest that I love Thee. Jesus saith unto him,
     Feed my sheep.--_John 21, 15-17._


It was on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The first pale shafts of
the rising sun were shooting across the eastern sky, revealing seven
fishermen out upon the water in a little boat. All night they had
been toiling, rowing and letting down their nets, but nothing had
they caught. Disheartened by their fruitless toil, they were just
about to give up further attempt when a once familiar form is seen
standing upon the beach, and they hear a voice telling them to cast
the net on the right side of the ship. They heed the direction, and
the success which follows--a draught of one hundred and fifty-three
fishes--confirms them in their belief that it was their risen Master
who had given the command. Thereupon they drag the boats to shore,
and find a fire of coals, and fish laid thereon and bread, whilst He
whom all know to be the Lord, but whom none from holy awe dares ask,
"Who art Thou?" bids them, "Come and eat."

It is here that our text sets in--one of the most pathetic incidents
in sacred story. To understand it properly, we go back in spirit
to that scene in the high priest's palace when Peter, the bold
and courageous, whose impulsiveness had caused him to promise
great things, had shamefully and cowardly denied his Master in the
hour of distress. Thrice had he averred that he knew not the man
of whom they spoke, and aggravated his offense by denunciations
and an oath. It was a grievous, a most terrible fall for the
apostle, one that virtually excluded him from the circle of his
fellow-disciples and from his holy office; and whilst it is true
that he had wept in sorrowing repentance when the eye of his Master
had met his insignificant look, yet the occurrence was such as to
demand a personal heart-to-heart interview and setting aright. This
interview took place on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, after
the miraculous draught of fish. Everything tended to prepare the
apostle for the holy scene. It was just three years before, at the
same sea, after a similar miracle, that the Lord had established
him in his ministerial office. The early hour reminded him of the
morning watch, that fire of coals answered to that fire of coals
in the palace of Caiaphas,--all of this must have touched Peter's
heart to the quick, made him exquisitively sensitive to the scene
that followed. The particulars of that scene we shall now ponder,
regarding, _I. The examination_, _II. the charge_.

When they had finished their meal, Jesus said to Simon Peter,
"Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?" Each designation is
touchingly significant. "Simon, son of Jonas." Why not "Peter," the
name He had Himself once bestowed? Because he had proved himself
anything but a Peter, a rock man. It was not as Peter, as a rock,
but as Simon, son of flesh and blood, that he had acted in denying
his Lord. "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou _me_?" Remembering what
had occurred, how divine, how unspeakably tender a word! "Lovest
thou _me_?" even Him whom thou didst say and confirm with an oath,
"I know not the man," and more than these, as thou didst boastfully
claim: "Although all should be offended because of Thee, yet will
I never be offended." Truly, a rigid examination if accompanied by
the same look that once brought tears to his eyes, calculated to cut
down deep into his innermost soul. Moreover, the Lord repeats the
inquiry three times, evidently as a reminder of the thrice shameful
denial.

And what does the disciple reply? Sad almost unto death, he would
prefer to turn aside and give vent to his feelings in silent
tears. But the Lord has put a question to him, and speak he must,
and so he responds with great tact and deep emotion, "Yea, Lord,
Thou knowest that I love Thee." And the last time, with additional
force, "Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love
Thee," as though he said: "Others may misjudge me, these brethren
and apostles, those servants in the high priest's palace, but Thou,
Lord, the Omniscient, knowest that I love Thee." And we may believe
that it was so. On the day of Pentecost, when boldly confessing his
Master in the face of thousands, until the day when, pinned to the
cross in Rome, he at last made good his promise, "Though I should
die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee,"--in all this we have the
evidence of that love thrice avowed. And has that original scene on
the shore of the Sea of Galilee and that question no concern and no
application whatever for us? No superfluous or unprofitable inquiry,
my dear hearers.

If the Lord were to appear personally in our midst this morning,
look straight into your eyes, and, addressing you by your name,
say, as He did to Simon, son of Jonas: "Lovest thou me?" could you
answer as promptly, as heartily as the Apostle did, "Yea, Lord, Thou
knowest that I love Thee"? Or are there no tests by which to find
out? It was written by a pious man, but it is poor, unchristian
theology:

    'Tis a point I long to know,
    Oft it causes anxious thought,
    Do I love the Lord or no?
    Am I His, or am I not?

We need only settle down to a faithful and impartial scrutiny with
ourselves to find out, "Lovest thou me more than these?" What
"these"?

Love, according to its object, has been variously classified. There
is social affection, or love of friends. In spite of much that has
been said about the fickleness of friends and friendships, there is
no darker lot and no gloomier epitaph could be inscribed upon the
monument of any man than that: "He lived and died without a friend."
History gives us many noble testimonies of its strength and beauty.
We think of the Bible account of David and Jonathan. Again, more
beautiful and binding is the affection which subsists in the family
circle. The bond that ties together husband and wife, that unites
together brothers and sisters, brought up around the same domestic
hearths, sharing in common joys and sorrows, how strong and enduring
it ought to be, and especially that which exists between parents and
the child. The recollection of a noble parent, of a devoted mother,
time nor place nor change can ever uproot the affection from the
heart. But, asks the voice of our text: "Lovest thou me more than
these?"

There is One toward whom we sustain a still nearer and holier
relation, One whose care surpasses that of an earthly parent, and
whose love is more deep and sublime and unfailing than a mother's,
even He who has created you, redeemed you, and who crowns not only
your life, but your whole eternity with His goodness. It matters not
what, and hence you may embrace in that riches, honor, property,
possessions, fame and name, or even self,--there is One who requires
that all these should be held in subordination to a still higher,
all-sustaining affection. "Lovest thou me"--is the question, "more
than these," and where is the evidence?

If you love a person, you will delight in the fellowship and company
of that person. Love finds its greatest happiness in the presence of
the beloved. The thought of a long absence is painful, or hopeless
separation, intolerable. It is so with Him who asks "Lovest thou
me?" Every opportunity of communion with Him the believer values as
a privilege. The Word in which He speaks to him, the place in which
He meets with him, the table which He spreads for him, these are his
greatest delight, his favorite and fondest resort.

Again, if you love some one, you will constantly aim to please that
person. You will be considerate of his feelings, you will refrain
from any conduct that might be displeasing, and strive in every
possible way to be of service and help to his interests. It is none
else with Christ. Consideration for Him and obedience to Him, and
that as a pleasure and privilege, is a criterion of our love to Him;
and this alone you will find where there is true attachment. The
maiden that loves will think nothing of leaving a pleasant home to
cast her lot with the man of her devotion. The mother will spend
herself, unselfishly sacrifice her comfort, strength, and even life
itself, for the objects of her affection, and this rule applies to
the Christian sphere.--No man ever possessed true love for Christ
who was not willing to lay down in sacrifice what he cherished
highly. Here, then, are a few criterions, and now, with all
sincerity, repeat the question once more, "Lovest thou me?" Lovest
thou my Word, my house, my sacraments? Is my service thy delight?
What sacrifice art thou bringing? Shall the Savior say unto thee as
Delilah said unto Samson: "How canst thou say, I love thee, when
thy heart is not with me?" Or are you able to say with the Apostle,
"Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee"? May we all be brought to love
and adore, with our whole, undivided heart, Him who loved us and
gave Himself for us, and who is the Model and Source of all pure and
ennobling lives.

But there is yet another consideration for us to weigh in the text.
Peter, making threefold confession of His attachment, is three
times, after each answer, commanded, "Feed my lambs," "Feed my
sheep." A desperate cause, in this passage as in a few others, wants
to find a proof of Peter's supremacy. There is a certain pontiff
who wears a triple crown--the tiara--upon his head, styles himself
Peter's successor, and seals his briefs and documents with the
"Fisherman's Ring," and he affects to rule all Christendom in virtue
of the right conferred on that Apostle by Christ. But in vain do we
seek the scripture for any such reference, and surely no such sense
is implied here. That scene on the shores of the Sea of Galilee can
by no means be interpreted to mean that Peter was being exalted
above his fellow-apostles. Neither could we regard it as a reproof
and abasement. None other had so sorrowfully forfeited his charge as
Peter had, and it was not necessary to reinstate them. Where, then,
is the exaltation? Nor is there any such a sense implied in the
words themselves. "Feed my lambs," is Christ's direction. Romanism,
you will observe, exalts the ruling; you can see that in such words
as pope, cardinal, primate, bishop, prelate, diocesan, throne, and
so forth. Protestantism emphasizes the "feeding." Protestantism
makes much of preaching, Rome but little. Rome exalts the clergy,
Protestantism gives prominence to the congregation.

It is easy enough to decree and lord it over, it is not so easy to
feed. And food is what a flock explicitly needs. It can live without
edicts, it cannot live without food. Observe, also, the pronoun "my"
sheep. The flock was not Peter's, it was the flock of Peter's Lord.
The flock does not belong to the under-shepherd; it belongs to the
chief shepherd. And did not Peter himself--and that is one reason
why his letters are never read in the Romish Church--very strongly
denounce the very things which it is asserted that Christ had
invested him with: lordship over the Church, a separate hierarchical
priesthood, and refuse such honors as are freely given to his
successor? As Luther has well said: "Popery never drew its doctrine
from the Bible, but uses it as a means to thrust upon the world an
audacious system which has its origin somewhere else."

Nor can we leave entirely unnoticed the difference the Lord makes
between His people,--"Feed my lambs," and again, "Feed my sheep."
Some of Christ's flock are lambs, lambs in years. Perhaps there are
more lambs than sheep, more true members of Christ in the nursery
and in the Sunday-school and in the Christian day-school than in the
assembly of the adults, and these we are to feed, and it becomes
those who are invested with the sacred office, and those who are
supporting the sacred office, to dispense to them wholesome and
health-sustaining spiritual food. Our responsibilities in this
respect are great, and all the greater because the more secular
knowledge would crowd out religious, the many things that are now
regarded needful, and set aside "the one thing needful." "Feed my
lambs," and, "Feed my sheep," says the Chief Shepherd. See that they
get the proper food and get it in proper proportion.

And "My sheep;" we are not always to remain lambs. Christian life is
a growth. First the blade, then the ear, and then the full corn in
the ear. First babes, and then we need milk; afterwards adults, and
then we need meat. Alas! that, like the writer of the letter to the
Hebrews, we are sometimes constrained to complain "that many of you
who ought by this time be teachers, are yet needing again that one
teach them the first rudiments of the oracles of God, having become
such as have need of milk and not of solid food."

This was a crisis in Peter's life. Hitherto he had been tended
as a sheep, henceforth he was to tend as a shepherd. Having been
converted, that is to say, having been turned again to his Master,
he is henceforth to strengthen his brethren. What hinders us from
doing likewise, pastors and teachers, educating, tending, and
feeding the flock of God? This is the privilege of the laity, not
less than of the ministry. When the laity really do their work,
they, too, are really a ministry, true shepherds. But let us
evermore keep in mind--which was the first part of our sermon--that
the essential qualification, the principle of such service, as it is
the only thing that will render your work delightful and carry you
through all difficulties, is love to Christ, "Lovest thou me more
than these?--Feed my sheep." Amen.



THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.

     Neither do men, light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but
     on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the
     house. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your
     good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.--_Matt.
     5, 15. 16._


The religion of Jesus Christ is the religion of everyday life. He
touched the common things, and, like a magic wand, they changed
into the finest gold. He went into the kitchen for a text, and
transfigured the meal, the dough in the bread wrought into a parable
of God's working grace. He went into the garden or the woods, and
found a lesson in the springing seed and the flowers which carpeted
the ground. "Consider the lilies," He said in His Sermon on the
Mount. He went on board the fishing boat, and the nets become a
picture of the kingdom of heaven. Here, in this immediate verse, our
Lord steps into an Eastern or Oriental house for a text and speaks
under the illustration of an article which is to be found in every
home, of a candle, or rather, a lamp.

The Apostle Peter, who was present at the original preaching, must
have carefully noted the comparison, for he speaks in to-day's
Epistle-lesson in nearly the same language as His Master when he
admonishes his hearers to let people see their good works and thus
glorify God. May we do likewise as we shall now regard, under God's
blessing, the Christian's duty to let his light shine before men,
observing, _I. How this is done_; _II. why it ought to be done_.

Be it noted, my beloved, at the outset, that man, in and of himself,
is not a light; he is darkness. Says the Apostle, writing to the
Ephesians, "Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye a light
in the Lord." How did they get light? Not by worldly science and
learning. Many are very learned and literate, and yet their souls
are enwrapped in thick darkness and without hope in the world. And
there are those who are illiterate, incompetent to read and write,
who rejoice in this light as the star of their hope. In the eighth
chapter of John the Lord says: "I am the Light of the world; he that
followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of
life." Jesus Christ, then, and He alone, is the one true Light. To
have light, light unto eternal life, you must seek, embrace Him as
your Savior, your Righteousness, the Propitiation and Reconciliation
for your sins. You must recognize in Him the wisdom of God and the
way to God. Here you have in what sense Christians are lights,
_viz._, by Jesus Christ. The sun shines by its own inherent light,
the moon by borrowed light. In itself a dark body the moon shines
only because the light of the sun falls upon it and is reflected
from it. Christ is the Sun of Righteousness, resplendent in His own
glory, which He had before ever the world was. We have our light
from Christ, the true Light, which lights every man, says the Bible,
that cometh into the world.

And what dispensation is made of this light? "Neither do men light
a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it
giveth light unto all that are in the house." A candle or lamp under
a bushel would be of no advantage to any one. A light locked up in
a cupboard would leave the house in darkness. Correspondingly, we
Christians are meant to be lights that can be seen. A man cannot be
a Christian in secret. It is a delusion if a person thinks he might
be a Christian privately for himself, that he need not associate
with, join the church, or make a public confession of his faith.

In the days of Christ many of the chief rulers believed on Him, but
because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should
be put out of the synagogues. It is said of them that they loved the
praise of men more than the praise of God, and had their reward.
We, my brethren, as Christ's people, must not keep our religion
locked up or hidden; we must not be ashamed of it, and we must not
be selfish about it. If you believe in the truth of the Gospel; if
you hold the doctrine of the Church; if you reverence the Bible; if
you are given to prayer,--hang out the light, let others know it,
put that precious lamp where others may share it. What use is there
to tell us that such and such a person is a burning and shining
light in the religious world, unless we can see his light shining
before men? They are no more helps as guides than a lighthouse whose
lantern is gone out; no one is the better for it.

And this light is twofold; it is a light of warning, and it is a
light of holy example.--A light of warning. If you look at a great
railway station at night, you will see numbers of lamps, some
showing a red, some a green, some a white light. These are all
warnings to the many trains leaving or entering the station, and
upon them depends the safety of hundreds of lives. If the signal
man fails to show the red light when there is danger, wholesale
destruction follows. Dear hearers, there are times when we are
called upon to show the danger signal. If we see a relative or
friend deliberately going into danger, taking a course which means
ruin to his character, ruin to his soul, what is our duty? Are we
to say, I am very sorry, and thus hide our light under a bushel?
No, we must try to stop a brother from destruction; we must say a
word of warning, kindly, tactfully, but firmly; we must say, For
God's sake, stop! If you see an acquaintance imbibing too freely,
frequenting the place at the corner, show him the danger, hang out
the red light. If you see young people neglecting religious duties,
slinking about after dark in bad company, going with those who bet
and gamble,--let them go? No; try to turn them on a safe road; hang
out the red light, the danger signal.

I once read of a man who was engaged as a laborer on a railway. One
stormy night, when he returned to his cabin, he found that a sudden
landslide had occurred, and that part of the track was blocked where
the express would pass in a few moments. Would he remain quiet and
let the accident happen? What could he do to show the danger signal?
He had in his cabin an old lantern lighted by a piece of candle,
but that would not show the red light. Then, when the roar of the
advancing train was audible in the distance, he seized a glass flask
and with the broken neck cut into the veins of his wrist he let the
blood color the lantern, and the candle shone through it with a dim
red light, and this, scarcely able to stand, he held up on high,
just in time to stop the express at the edge of destruction. Take
that illustration for what it is worth, just so it impresses you
with the importance of showing the red danger signal unto others.

And so it is also with the signal light that is clear and white, the
signal of holy example. Let that also shine. As we look carefully
at our text, it would seem as if the Master had two spheres in mind
when He spoke these words. We are told that when the lamp or candle
is put in its proper place and doing its proper work, it gives light
to _all_ in the house. There is nothing like household religion.
Sometimes professing Christians are very bright and shining lights
in public, and quite dark in private, in the home and family circle.
The right sort of Christianity shows a pure, clear light amid the
troubles, worries, and anxieties of home. It will not do for the
wife to be a shining light in society or at the public meeting, and
at home be fretful and unkind to her husband, a constant scold and
a scare to her children, perpetually complaining and quarreling.
It will not do for men to make brilliant speeches on the blessings
and benefits of Christianity, if they show no example of it by the
fireside. Take care of the home light; let it shine clear there, if
anywhere. But not only there!

A lady who was once asked to unite with a society of the church, no
circumstances or other considerations preventing, declined, replying
that she had a society to look after with which none compared. Which
is that? "That society is my family." There was truth in that; the
family is the chief society. Parents are to exercise a Christian
example in the home. Christian discipleship, like charity, begins
there. But it does not end there, nor is it restricted there. "No
man liveth unto himself, neither alone unto his family." He belongs
to his country, to his church, to the world, to mankind at large,
and has duties toward them. "Ye are the light of the world," is the
language of the Savior. What will men not do to gain followers for
a party in politics and otherwise! And in matters of salvation,
Church, Gospel, eternal life, we should be timid, silent, diffident,
shy, reluctant to open our mouths and assert our convictions, stand
aside, and place our convictions under a bushel? Surely, that's not
letting the light shine. So much as to the nature and mission of
this spiritual light.

In conclusion, a word as to the blessedness that attends it.
This blessedness, in part, affects ourselves. Blessing others,
we are blessed. Gaining others, we gain. I think here, by way of
illustration, of the two travelers who, plodding along through snow
and bitter cold, discovered a man lying by the roadside frozen
and numbed. Said the one, "I cannot stay here to attend to this
fellow, I must take care of my own life." The other, like the good
Samaritan of old, remarked, "I cannot pass on without having made
some attempt to restore him," whereupon he set about to rub him
with all his might. His efforts were rewarded; after a little while
the unfortunate man opened his eyes, and, arising, went with his
rescuer. What surprise was theirs when, passing along, they saw
the man who had selfishly and heartlessly continued his way, lying
frozen to death. The good Samaritan, by his labor of love, had
stirred his blood into intense circulation, and thereby saved his
own life. Spiritually it is just that way. Seeking to win others
for eternal life, we win eternal life for ourselves. Our faith is
strengthened, charity increased, we are blessed in our deed.

And this is the second consideration,--our Father in heaven is
glorified. That is the great thing we must aim at in everything we
do in religion. In this center the lives of all our actions must
meet. We must not only endeavor to glorify God ourselves, but must
do all we can to bring others to glorify Him.

We have considered a grand spiritual truth, our exalted position
and calling. Conscious of it, may we shed forth the beams of
illumination for the lightening and the brightening of a dark and
gloomy world, receiving supply from the true and only Light, Christ
Jesus, until we shall dwell in the world where God Himself is the
Light and where we shall shine as the stars for ever and ever. Amen.



FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.

     Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and
     spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the
     Lord.--_Col. 3, 16._


We read in the 28th chapter of Genesis that when Jacob, the
patriarch, was fleeing from the wrath of his brother Esau into the
land of Mesopotamia, while resting at night upon a stone for his
pillow, he had a wonderful dream. A ladder extended from heaven to
earth, angels ascending and descending upon it, and God, standing at
the top, spoke to the heartsore traveler beneath. That vision was
highly typical. The ladder was a symbol of the intimate connection
that existed between him and the God of his fathers, Abraham and
Isaac; the angels ascending and descending, were a symbol that his
prayers and sighs had come up before the heavenly throne, whilst the
words of the Almighty were a guarantee that his journey would take
a prosperous end, and cheerfully, we are told, did the patriarch
take up his pilgrim staff and resume his route in the morrow. Now
as it is with all things we find written in the Old Testament, so
with this also. We have the reality of what Jacob experienced in
dream only. The ladder which now extends between heaven and earth,
connecting us pilgrims or strangers with our heavenly home, that
ladder is Jesus Christ, man's Mediator, who declares, "I am the Way;
no man cometh unto the Father but by me."--The word of the Almighty,
then spoken, we have, greatly amplified, in this divine revelation,
this holy volume before us; nor are the angels, these celestial
messengers, missing to carry on communication and intercourse
between God and sinful man. Figuratively and symbolically speaking,
these angels stand for all those agencies, exercises, and
accompaniments by which the soul is lifted up to heaven and God,
and by which we are spiritually helped and edified, and it is one
such holy agency and accompaniment of sacred truth that we wish to
consider in these moments of devotion.

St. Paul speaks in our immediate text of "teaching and admonishing
one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." Let us regard
these words, and may ours be the same confession as Jacob's at
Bethel: "How venerable is this place! This is none other but the
house of God and this is the gate of heaven."

"O sing unto the Lord a new song, for He hath done marvelous
things." "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, sing forth the honor
of His name, with the harp, with trumpets and the sound of cornet.
Praise ye the Lord." These are the words of the 98th Psalm of David,
and it was with this Psalm that the service began, in the ancient
Church, on the fourth Sunday after Easter. The name of the Sunday
is Cantate, which means "Singing Sunday," and probably there is no
time in the course of the civil church-year more appropriate to
raise one's voice in rejoicing and heart-felt song. In nature a
new era of revival and tender growth has gone forth; the earth is
clothed with loveliness, refreshed with energy, and from birds and
blades, from flowering buds and a tender branch goes up a joyful
melody and proclamation to their Creator; and when we come into His
sanctuary, the house of His Word and His worship, and reflect on the
blessed Easter scene from which we are just coming, we have reason
to tune our voices in strains of loudest and loveliest anthems, and
an appropriate and beautiful thing it certainly is to bring this
noblest of human arts to the aid of the soul in its communication
with God. Since time immemorial has the power of music been
acknowledged over the heart of man. "Let me make the songs of the
people," said a celebrated statesman, "and I care not who makes the
laws." An illustrious Greek philosopher was not far wrong when he
stated that the human soul was closely allied to rhythm and harmony,
and we know that the Court of Rome feared the sacred hymns of Luther
as much, if not more, than his publications and fiery eloquence.

Turning to the Holy Scriptures, we observe a constant recognition of
music in the Old Testament and in the New. Standing on the shores
of the Red Sea, Moses, the man of God, chants forth the gratitude
of his people after their safe deliverance from Egypt's bondage in
song, whilst Miriam, his sister, responds with timbrel and dance.
David, the anointed shepherd boy, takes his harp and charms into
tranquillity the ferocious spirit of Saul. Elisha, when he would
prophesy, calls for a minstrel, and under his playing the prophet's
heart grows warm and his lips eloquent with a message from God. And
where do we hear of more magnificent renderings than in the temple
at Jerusalem, thousands of voices organized in costly choir to chant
with accompaniment of complete orchestra, the psalms written by
their monarch, David, called the sweet singer of Israel. Cherubim
and Seraphim are incessantly praising God in thrice "Holy to the
God of Sabaoth," and angels' choirs filled the midnight stillness
of Bethlehem's plains. Add to this Zacharias' _Benedictus_ and
Mary's _Magnificat_, which have lent their hallowed inspiration to
ages since in the Christian Church, and if there is one scene which
impresses every reader of his Bible, and to which he looks forward
with pure delight, it is the worship of the Lamb in Revelation, the
joining of the celestial choir in hymns of endless melody. Desiring
to bear our part in that tuneful service, can our lips be silent
on earth? Nay, music is one of God's good and perfect gifts, of
which to-day's Epistle speaks as coming down from above. True, like
all other good gifts to man, it has been seized upon and perverted
for evil purpose by the enemy. Satan it is who has levied upon
music and made sad havoc in the line of song. But shall we abandon
to him the territory? Shall we not make reprisal upon the enemy,
consecrate to the divine Giver His first-fruits? And unquestionably,
in the worship of our Lutheran Church, hymnology has a larger and
a more correct province than in any other body of Christians. I
have listened to various music, I have heard entranced the melting
tones of the _Miserere_ in early mass at the Catholic Cathedral,
the sweetly attuned antiphons of a vested Episcopal choir. I have
listened to solos and quartets, accomplished tunes, composed by
masters; but what do all these solos, superbly rendered, amount
to when in God's worship the congregation itself sits mute in
its pews, deprived of every response, as in the Catholic Church,
or too indolent to respond, as in many others? Is it Christian,
is it churchly, is it consistent with our text or the spirit of
true worship, that ninety-nine tongues of a hundred be silent in
the house of the Lord? When the minister turns to the people and
says, "The Lord be with you," is he supposed to address only four
singers and an organist? No, my dear hearers, praise is the duty and
privilege of all the people, and to deny or stint them in a share
in it is to wrong their souls and insult their Maker. A well-tuned
solo is good, the chorus of the choir is better, but best of all
is the response and song of the entire congregation, sending up
its confession and praise to the God of heaven. There is nothing
more solemn and pleasing to the Lord of Sabaoth than a singing
congregation, and nothing more dull and spiritless than singing
wailed forth in melody calculated to freeze the last spark of holy
fire upon the altar of the heart.

Having emphasized which is the best form of songful worship, that
by the congregation, let us regard it a little more closely.
The singing of a congregation of worshipers is, as it were, the
preaching of the congregation, is the confession which it renders
on its part and in behalf of its faith, is the Amen which it places
upon the words and utterances of the preacher. The most important
place, it must ever be maintained, in a truly evangelical service,
is the exposition, the setting forth of God's Word. A worship
consisting exclusively of singing, commonly called a Song Service,
is an innovation in Lutheran church life, and a very questionable
one at that. The object of our attendance at church is not to hear
"sweet music,"--this can be better answered at the concert or the
oratorio,--honest Christian people come to hear God's Word, to build
up their souls in divine truth. The sweetest tune sung by the lips
of angels or of man cannot replace the least passage of the Bible,
for it alone is the power of God unto salvation. Christianity is
not rapturous ecstasy, super-induced by fine melody, not emotional
feeling; Christianity means repentance and faith.

There is nothing, no symphonies and oratorios, no strains, that can
bring peace and rest to a sinner's heart, but only and solely the
simple words of the Lord received and believed. The sermon, then,
occupies the central position of the worship, just as the sun is
the center of the solar system, and, in turn, determines the true
place of the song and music. It is the noble handmaiden, preceding
and accompanying the preaching of the Word, the sweet odors which
carry our devotion and sacrifice upward to heaven, in harmony with
the utterance of the speaker. It is thus we value our hymns as the
finest ornament of our evangelical worship, and nothing is more
significant than to find in your homes the Christian hymn-book lying
upon God's Book. And what does a careful survey of that hymn-book
reveal to us? We would not from any feeling of denominational pride
detract any from the grandeur of hymns originated in dissenting
bodies, many of which are embodied in our hymnal, but if there
is one church whose voice swells out loudly among the hymnody of
Christendom, that can look with satisfaction on its collection of
sacred songs, it is our beloved Lutheran Zion with its stately and
majestic chorals, its incomparable anthems. There is about our hymns
a spirit of divine power; they are the expressions of our Christian
faith, church-hymns in the fullest and best sense, not only
inspiring and devotional, but educating and instructive, designed
to lead us in our way to salvation and heaven. Take, for instance,
the various seasons of the church-year: Advent, expectant and
exultant over the coming of the Savior of man; Christmas, what hymns
will compare with those of our church in childlike simplicity and
depth of feeling? Passion-tide, with its solemn lines: "O Bleeding
Head and Wounded," "O Lamb of God Most Holy;" Easter-tide, with
its stirring hallelujahs. How doctrinally sound are our hymns of
faith, how cheering our hymns of praise, how touching the melodies
of penitence and death! Referring to our text, we find the first
requisite for a correct church-hymn is this: to bring God's Word
closer to us. The Apostle says: "Teaching." Our hymns will stand
the test of this standard. In the days of the Reformation they were
one of the most beneficial means of winning hearts and conquering
lands for Bible truth and Bible Church. Many a priest, history
records, was sung down from the pulpit and out of the church by the
congregation joining in a Lutheran hymn, and later, in the dreary
days of Rationalism, when man's folly was put in the place of God's
wisdom, it was these church-hymns which still afforded spiritual
food to the children of God, and till this day, wherever those tried
and heavenly true hymns resound, we can cheerfully be persuaded that
they assert their influence in making men wise unto salvation.

Nor are they merely calculated to instruct, but also to cheer
and inspire. There is scarcely another power that will ease the
heart, strengthen and sustain the lagging and downcast spirit, as
will a heartfelt "Commit whate'er may grieve thee," and kindred
hymns. In the darkest moments of his life, David tuned his harp and
bade sorrow and grief flee. In Philippi's dungeon, at the hour of
midnight, Paul and Silas raised their voices in melody of praise.
After days of bitter conflict and labor the Reformer would produce
his lute, and sing unto the Lord a pleasant song, to the joy of the
angels and the chagrin of the devil. Gustavus Adolphus, Sweden's
valiant hero of the faith, who fought and died for religious
liberty, never entered a battle without prostrating himself with his
army before the Lord of heaven and singing, "A Mighty Fortress Is
Our God," "Fear Not, O Little Flock, the Foe." Sacred story tells us
of Saul, that whenever the evil spirit came over him, the king would
send for David, and under his tune find relief from his torments.

Nor has the spiritual song lost any of this soothing element.
"The singing of songs and hymns purifieth our thoughts," says a
church-father, "represses sensuality, stirs the heart to pure
emotions, awakens a love and a longing for the beauty of holiness,
moves to holy contrition and godly sobriety." No wonder that Luther
ranked music next to theology of pure religion, effectual as it is
in warding off Satan's suggestions, and aiding us in becoming better
and more noble, and hence, in harmony with this Sunday, Cantate,
we are justified in bringing this topic to your consideration,
especially in our times, which are replete with so much vain and
shoddy music, senseless and overwrought travesties, often set to
tunes that are a perfect scandal and shame upon all divine worship,
and better suited for the opera than for the house of God. Let us
rejoice in this good gift God has bestowed upon us, and diligently
use it in our churches and homes until it shall be our happy lot to
join the multitudes of those who shall raise their voices to pour
forth their everlasting song, and cause the city of God to ring with
anthems of perpetual worship. Amen.



FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.

     Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit,
     and watching thereunto with all perseverance.--_Eph. 6, 18._


Among the things that people believed in olden times was a certain
stone, called a touchstone. By means of this stone it was claimed
one could determine whether a gem or a precious piece of jewelry was
genuine or not. The sham diamond might glitter ever so brightly, the
sham gold externally deceive the eye, let the touchstone be applied,
and its real character would at once appear. Spiritually, in
religion, there is such a touchstone by which those who profess to
serve God can discover whether they are genuine Christians or not,
whether their religion is pure gold or inferior metal, whether their
faith is a gem of great price or only worthless imitation, useless
dross. That touchstone of true spiritual life is prayer, communion
with his God, for as a man communeth with his God, so he is. How,
then, does this touchstone apply to you? Are you a man, or woman, of
prayer? What sort of Christian are you?

Nor can it be said that we need no instruction on this subject. We
must be taught to pray just as we must be taught how to write and
talk correctly. Let us, then, in all simplicity, with plainness of
speech and practicalness of purpose, consider. _I. When, II. where,
and III. how we should pray_: and may God's Holy Spirit, the Lord of
Prayer, attend with His blessing our meditation.

There are many passages in Holy Scripture which seem to command
impossibilities, and we tacitly pass them by as not intended for us.
This cannot be a wise or safe thing to do, for God does not command
impossibilities. So with the text, "Praying always." In other places
we read, "Pray without ceasing," "Continue constant in prayer." Our
first thought may be, That's beyond us. How, in this busy life of
ours, shall we ever be able to give ourselves over to never-ceasing
prayer? A few minutes a day, a special prayer occasionally at
special seasons or special emergencies, that's about all we can
afford. That is a mistaken notion of these texts of prayer. It is a
familiar expression: "Prayer is the Christian's vital breath," the
Christian's native air. We are always breathing. Ceasing to breathe
means death. So with the spiritual life. For a person not to pray
means spiritual death. Every one who is a Christian prays; not to
pray stamps him as a non-Christian.

And yet, as in the bodily sphere a distinction exists between
breathing and using that breath for speaking, so we must draw a
distinction between "prayer" and "saying prayers." A Christian,
as he is always breathing naturally, so he is always breathing
spiritually. He lives a life of prayer; he is always in such a state
of faith and heart and spirit that he can lift up his heart in
prayer. Even when we are silent, we breathe; even when a Christian
is not "saying prayers," engaged in forms of worship, he is in a
spiritual frame of mind, and is living a life of prayer. To pray
always is to live as in God's presence, to be constantly conscious
of Him.

And still, true as it is that a Christian is always living a life
of prayer, there must be times for prayer--times when we engage in
"saying prayers." There is more in this matter of habit than many
persons think. It means regularity, and makes it both easy and
pleasant. There is no absolute rule on this subject, no technical
limit. Each one must determine himself how often he ought to pray
daily. David, in the Psalm, says, "Evening and morning and at noon
will I pray." Daniel was accustomed to kneel upon his knees three
times a day. There is, if we may so speak, a natural propriety in
thus thrice addressing the throne of grace. Three times a day we
are accustomed to feed our bodies, and this very act may suggest
to us that our souls need similar attention. "Men shall not live
by bread alone." We have our blessed Lord's example for it. The
holiest and most fruitful Christian lives have been lived by men
and women who thus prayed not less than three times a day. The
early Christians were exemplary in the discharge of this duty. What
Christian, arising from his bed in the morning, can neglect his
prayer? Everything seems to invite him to lift up his heart unto
God. When we arise from our beds, it is like a resurrection from the
dead, and it seems almost impossible for a pious mind not to view it
in that divine light, thanking God for his waking; and as he sallies
forth from his home, not knowing what a day may bring forth, and
feeling his weakness and frailty and danger, the temptation to which
he is every moment exposed, how can he do it without first raising
his eyes and thoughts on high, committing himself to the faithful
Creator, and invoking His protection and strength? Moreover,
knowing that everything is resting upon His blessing, he should
invoke it upon the occupation of his mind and hands.

    Direct, control, suggest this day,
    All I may deign, or do, or say,
    That all my powers, with all their might,
    In Thy sole glory may unite.

When we thus go forth into the world, it is with an atmosphere of
devotion around us.

And then again at night-time, when we have given all our strength
to the work of our calling, tired and exhausted from the toil of
the day, and our couches invite us to repose, who can look back
on the blessings of the day without being moved to gratitude to
Him who kept us safely through it? There was this and that of the
day's transaction that deserves a calm retrospect in the sight of
the Lord, confession of one's discrepancy and wrong-doing. And who
can resign himself to sleep, the emblem of death, and to his bed,
the type of his grave, without saying a few words of Christian
committal? And who, during the day, cannot find a few moments to
lift up his thoughts on high? Nor, beloved fellow-Christians and
church-members, neglect to speak grace at your table; there are
blessings, direct and indirect, which connect with that pious
and time-honored custom which no household can afford to forego.
Frequently the only time when the family meets during the day, it
forms a link of spirituality between its members. It is no little
means of keeping the devil out and bringing the dove of peace back.
Permit not this grand old and well-tried custom to lapse into
disuse; hold fast to it as a sacred heirloom transmitted from your
godly parents. Thus have your fixed, established season of prayer.

And it is good not only to have stated times, but also stated places
for prayers. This is our second consideration: Where? You can pray
anywhere. You can hold audience with God at your own option. The
place is not essential to prayer. Peter prayed on the housetop,
Paul in prison, Daniel in the lions' den, Jonah in the fish's
belly. The Lord is everywhere, and His ears are always open to the
cries of His people. But the law of association is the friend of
religion. As you speed to your labors in the morning, as you sit
for recuperation in the shade of one of our beautiful parks, as you
are busy with your duties in kitchen and workshop, your heart can
go out to God in devotion. And so it is well to have a little nook
somewhere, a spot especially suggestive to us of prayer. There
is help in this. Daniel had his spot, where, when he came in from
the excitement of the court, he could kneel down and pray to his
God. His window opened towards Jerusalem, not accidentally, but by
special arrangement, and his eyes swept over the western hills until
vision was lost in the distance; his imagination swept onward till
he stood in the courts of the Lord's house on Zion's hill, heard
its holy songs, and inhaled the incense that arose from its sacred
altars. There is something dear to us in such a spot. Our Lord,
in His direction on prayer, enjoins: "Enter into thy closet and
pray." It was the custom of the Jews to have certain private rooms
on the flat top of their homes which they especially reserved for
devotional purposes. One such place you certainly ought to have.

God in His Word calls our churches "houses of prayer." It is a
significant title. Not only preaching ought to employ us in the
holy place, for what profit is there in preaching, the best of
preaching, if there is no outgoing of the heart to God? No singing,
no music that has not in it the element of devotion can make melody
in His ear. Prayer is an essential part of our service, at the
altar and in the pulpit; and it ought to be in the pew. It is here
at least, in God's temple, that the Christian soul ought to find a
spot, and regularly, where, amid the distressing scenes of earth,
it can come to itself, where it can feel and commune in the ear of
God, where, lifting itself above the sordidness and the perversity
of this earth, it can bathe in the invigorating atmosphere of a
nobler world, and draw inspiration for the affairs of life, in a few
moments of communion with a Higher Power. Let, I beseech you, this
house be to you a house of prayer, and have a similar place in your
own home. There's wisdom and great help in that.

Having answered the _when_ and _where_, let us now note the _how_.
By this we do not mean the posture in prayer, whether we ought to
pray standing or kneeling; neither do we mean whether we ought to
use a fixed prayer, committed to memory, or pray extempore, out of
the heart, finding our own words. I do not think it is wise to use
no form as a rule. Extempore prayers are apt to lack both orderly
arrangement and fullness, and when weary or dull, or our thoughts
are wandering, we cannot make prayers for ourselves,--we want to
have a form of devout words put into our mouths. Those simple,
yet stately prayers of our Catechism and hymn-book have been,
and are still, the inspiration of thousands of the most devout of
God's children. And yet, there is one danger. Using a regular form
of prayer statedly may lead to listlessness and lifelessness. It
is not only the Romanist who, counting his beads and making his
crossings and prostrations, nor the Mohammedan, who at the priest's
call from the mosque falls upon his knees, who does not pray, but
the Protestant may say or read his addresses to God, and yet not
pray. There is a difference between saying prayer and praying.
Prayer, to be right, must be offered up in the spirit of prayer,
and by the spirit of prayer is meant a devotional tone and temper
of the mind and the heart. Reads our text: "Praying always with
all prayer and supplication in the Spirit." It is the heart that
prays, not the knees, nor the hands, nor the lips. To hasten over
the words heedlessly, anxious to be done as quickly as possible,
to do it because it's a custom, and perhaps with a superstitious
fear that if we do not do it, something might befall us, is making
a mockery of prayer. We ought to pray, but we must pray in earnest,
with faith, reverence, sincerity, as if we meant it. As it has been
expressed: God does not look at the arithmetic of our prayers, how
many there may be; nor does He look at the logic of our prayers, how
methodical and nicely arranged they may be; nor at the rhetoric,
how beautiful they may be. What He looks at is the sincerity of
our prayers, how earnest they are. And lose not the Spirit in your
prayers; that is the one direction of to-day's text. And the other
is, "Praying always with all perseverance," _i. e._, prayer must
be constant, unceasing. The Apostle knew the defects of earth-born
man, and, knowing, bids them to beware of being tardy in their
prayer. There is a good reason why. Prayer is spiritual breath, we
said. If a man's breathing is bad, if it is hurried, fitful, some
mortal mischief is at work. Even so spiritually. If our prayers are
hurried, if they are irregular, if we regard them as disagreeable
duties, if they are not the natural and necessary consequences of
our spiritual life, natural and necessary as breathing is to every
living man, then that life is sadly weak and diseased. Why are we
so weak in Christian faith? why so wayward and sluggish in our
Christian life? Why have sinful habits such power over us? It is
because we breathe, _i. e._, pray, so badly. How is it possible to
work for God, or fight for Him, if we are tardy in holding communion
with Him?

Think it over, my dear fellow-Christian, and may it aid you in
making you a man, a woman, of prayer! For what is a man of prayer?
See yonder mountain. Below is its gigantic base; then your eye runs
up the mountain side, and you see--what? That the peak is lost in
the clouds. So is the man of prayer. His feet stand upon the earth,
his heart is in the clouds; there is a something that keeps him in
constant communion with God. There lies his strength. We call it
"prayer." Amen.



ASCENSION.

     So, then, after the Lord had spoken unto them, He was received
     up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.--_Mark 16, 19._


The Christian Church, from the beginning, has made the ascension of
our Lord the subject of a special annual festival and service, and
with excellent reason. The ascension of Christ ranks in importance
with His birth, His death, and His resurrection. Strange to say,
however, much less attention is given to it. Many are prompt
and devout in noting and observing Christmas, Good Friday, and
Easter, but when it comes to the glorious ascension, the heavenly
enthronement of our blessed Lord, though furnishing equal cause for
our gratitude and rejoicing, few seem to so regard it, and make
little over its celebration. This ought not to be.

Christ's ascension into heaven is one of the great foundation
truths of our Christian faith, a part of the fundamental Creed.
"He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God
the Father Almighty," we recite in the Apostles' Confession. The
ancient prophets spoke repeatedly of it, Christ, Himself, on several
occasions foretold it, and the apostles and evangelists, most of
whom were eye-witnesses of it, testify to it, and, moreover, it is
also full of blessedness and precious consolation for those who
enter into it with spirit and understanding, as one of the sick,
after a sermon on Christ's ascension, preached by our missionary in
the City Hospital, exclaimed, "Thank God for this precious truth
of Christ's ascension!" The man was right. It is a truth full of
strength for a Christian's faith, hope, and love, that it well
behooves us to regard it, considering _I. Its significance for
Him_; _II. its significance for us_.

St. Paul, summing up the history of our Savior's life, says:
"Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was
manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels,
preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up
into glory." That is the last item, the capstone, as it were, of
His life. His work upon earth was completed, the purpose for which
He had come perfected; there was nothing for Him to do. "It is
finished," He had spoken upon the cross. Moreover, He could not
remain upon earth, and eventually die again as a man, for He had
conquered death. What, then, was left for Him to do but to return
where He had come forth, to ascend on high? This ascension was not
a vanishing out of sight, as, for instance, when Christ vanished
out of sight in the case of the disciples of Emmaus; nor was it a
concealment of Himself, as He concealed Himself from the Jews in
the Temple when they lifted up stones to cast at Him; nor was it a
transfiguration of His body, as on Mount Tabor, when His face shone
as the sun and His garment was white with light.

By Christ's ascension we mean that Christ, according to body and
soul, was taken up in a visible manner, by a true and local motion
ascending into the clouds, so that now "body and soul" He is in
heaven. We shall not speculate, throw up all manner of questions how
this could be, but accept the statement of trustworthy, reliable
witnesses, men of unimpeachable veracity, that so it was, and we
know that it was not the only case of such heavenly ascension. The
Bible records two others; the one occurred in the days before the
Flood, when it states of Enoch "that God took him and he was seen
no more"; and the other took place after the Flood, when Elijah,
the prophet, was conveyed in a fiery chariot into ethereal realms.
These Old Testament incidents were types of Christ's ascension. The
ascension of our Lord stands out as an indisputable fact, witnessed
by many. The exact time, place, and circumstances are all minutely
given. Thus, what is the first particular of its significance for
Him, it shows that He was the divine Being which the Bible states,
that He was divine God blessed forevermore.

And we rejoice at this elevation of His. How delightful it is to-day
to lift up our eyes and behold Him who for our sakes became a babe
in the poverty and humiliation of Bethlehem's stall, Him whose
life was one uninterrupted series of woes, Him who was despised and
rejected of men, whose head was pierced by the crown of thorns,
and in whose hand was placed the insulting rod, who hung suspended
from the cross,--how delightful to see Him worshiped by the host
of heaven, conquering, triumphing, receiving the very honor that
behooves Him as the true God. On this day we invite and unite with
all Christendom in "bringing forth the royal diadem, and crowning
Him Lord of all." As He once said to Nicodemus: "No man ascendeth up
into heaven but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man,
which is in heaven." The ascension of Christ is evidence that He was
the God-Man, having come from heaven.

Again, Christ's ascension shows that His work on earth was
accomplished, and that He had done that work well. When our
Government sends an ambassador to effect a treaty with a foreign
nation, and on his return home this ambassador is received with
public demonstrations of joy, and is accorded a seat of honor in
the national capitol, this reception is proof that he has performed
his mission well, to the satisfaction of the Government. The event
which we to-day commemorate, this gladsome reception of Christ into
heaven, this exaltation to the right hand of God the Father, prove
conclusively that the work He had been sent to do was done and was
done well, to the complete satisfaction of the Father. This is
implied already in the text by the word "sat." He sat down. Sitting
is a posture, an attitude of rest. God rested on the seventh day,
after all His work of creation was finished. Christ now sits upon
His throne, at the right hand. That is a mark of honor. When we read
that Bathsheba, the queen-mother, went in to see Solomon, her royal
son, she was placed on a throne at the king's right hand, in token
of the respect he paid to her as his parent. So when the same term
is used in the case of our Savior, it means that Christ, in His
human form, as man,--for as God He needed not to be glorified,--that
Christ the Man was lifted up into the exalted dignity of heaven,
high above all the powers and dignities of the angels, that at the
name of Jesus every knee must bow and every tongue confess that He
is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The right hand also implies power. Our right hand, as a rule, is
the stronger hand. So when Scripture speaks of God's right hand, we
are well aware that that is not to be taken literally, since God
is a spirit and has no parts of a man, but is a figure of speech,
to imply His majesty and power. Christ's taking His seat at His
right hand means that Christ, the God-man, as our Catechism says,
ruleth and reigneth with infinite, eternal majesty and power over
all creatures and works of God's hand. To quote His own words,
expressed to His disciples at His departure, "All power is given
unto me in heaven and in earth." Yes, it is one of the great and
glorious truths of our holy Christian faith that He who was born in
Bethlehem, crucified on Calvary, and buried in Joseph's tomb, is
now enthroned as the Lord of angels, the Head over all things, and
that He particularly takes care of His Church. That this is indeed
the case we may learn from the experience of Saul. When Saul was
smitten down on the way to Damascus, he was asked by a heavenly
voice, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" Saul was persecuting
the Christians, but the voice says "Me." Jesus thus identifies
Himself with His people. Their interests are His interests, their
sufferings, His sufferings. They are the apple of His eye: no harm
can come to them but when He permits it.

What consolation this thought ought to afford to believers amidst
all the sorrows of life! But this leads us already to consider of
what significance Christ's ascension is to _us_.

We sing in one of our Ascension hymns:

    Th' atoning work is done,
    The victim's blood is shed,
    And Jesus now is gone
    His people's cause to plead.
    He stands in heav'n, their great High Priest,
    And bears their names upon His breast.

Reference is here made to the great day of Atonement, when the
Jewish high priest, bearing on his breast the plate upon which were
inserted the twelve stones, each stone of which was engraved with
the name of one of the tribes of Israel, and having in his hand
the blood of sacrifice, would take it into the Holy of Holies, and
presenting it before the Ark of the Covenant, would intercede, ask
forgiveness for the sins of the people whose representative he was.
So our great High Priest, having given His life a sacrifice for our
sins, passes into the Holy of Holies, there to make intercession
for us, for which reason we speak of Christ as our Advocate, our
Spokesman, for instance, when it says: "If any man sin, we have an
Advocate with the Father." The best of us are continually coming
short, but there stands our mutilated and meritorious Brother,
holding up the hands that felt the nails, ever pleading in our
behalf, ever drawing down upon us the compassionate mercy of an
offended God. Yes, "He stands in heav'n, our great High Priest, and
bears our names upon His breast."

And, again, in Christ's ascension we have an earnest pledge of our
own. He is the Head, and, "Where the Head is," we sing to-day, "well
we know the members He has left below in time He surely gathers."
He is our Forerunner, and a forerunner means that others are on
the same way to the same place. His entering for us implies our
entrance also. Christ did not only take our human nature upon Him
for thirty-three years, while He dwelt upon earth among us, then,
however, discarding it as a worthless and worn-out garment,--He
took it along with Him into heaven and glory, and we are branches
of the same vine, joined with Him in the same organism, and thus
His ascension is virtually our ascension, the first-fruits of a
like harvest to follow. Taking our stand to-day on Mount Olive and
gazing on the blessed Savior as He mysteriously mounts up into the
high heavens, we behold our Lord clearing a way for us into that
upper world, and giving us an example of how all believers are to
ascend at one time to the same heavenly realms. "In our blessed
Lord's ascension we by faith behold our own." He has told us, "I go
to prepare a place for you. Where I am, there shall also my servants
be."

How the ascension of Christ confirms our faith, animates our hope!
Who can question that there is as much to awaken our grateful joy
in our Savior's ascension as in any other event of this marvelous
destiny? Christmas joy is right, and Easter joy is right; but there
is no less reason to give due honor to the event of our devotion
to-day, so blessed, so assuring, so vital. And if we have duly
entered into the joyous truths of our faith, the practical effect is
plain. The Apostle directs us, "Seek those things which are above,
where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection
on things above, not on things on the earth." "Where your treasure
is," the Savior said, "there will your heart be also." Christ is the
Christian's treasure, and since He has ascended into heaven, there
is a corresponding uplifting of our love to that home of blessedness
whither He has gone, and which He is making ready for His believing
people.

These, then, are some of the chief thoughts which connect with the
event we are commemorating to-day. To this ascended Savior let us
anew render our devout homage. Anew let us give Him our love, our
gratitude, our faith, our service. Let our lives, down to their very
close, be spent in Him and for Him. Then, too, the day shall come
when we also shall go up in triumph. Angels of God will then also
escort us as conquerors to the skies, and we shall be and reign
forever with Him. Grant us this, O Christ! Amen.



SUNDAY AFTER ASCENSION.

     For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him
     shall the Son of Man be ashamed when He shall come in His own
     glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels.--_Luke 9,
     26._


It is an awful doom that our text bids us to look forward to, that
when Christ comes in His glory and in His Father's and of His holy
angels, then He shall be ashamed of us, refuse to acknowledge us,
and yet we are inclined to think, at first sight, that, so far as it
depends on our being ashamed of Christ, there is not so much fear.
There is much that is wrong among us. But being ashamed of Christ,
ashamed of being known as His disciples, ashamed of His name and
religion, does not seem one of our shortcomings and dangers. Were
not the words rather applicable to the early disciples than to us
and our days?

And true it is, as the Gospel to-day presents, that confessing
Christ was a very different thing then from what it is now. When
first the Gospel was preached among men, not to be ashamed of Christ
meant nothing more or less than that a man was ready to leave
everything in this world and to die for Christ. When all the powers
of earth, Jews and Gentiles, were arrayed against the new faith,
when men were brought before kings and rulers, and simply told that,
unless they would deny Christ, they would be thrown to the wild
beasts, or buried alive, or be sent to prison to labor like convicts
all the rest of their days; or when almost everybody took it for
granted that the Gospel was mere folly, and that every one who
followed it was the most stupid and obstinate of bigots; in other
words, when believing and confessing Christ meant to be laughed at,
jeered at, mockery, persecution, and martyrdom,--at such seasons we
can understand the suitableness and solemnity of Christ's warning to
them. But those times, thank God, have passed away; the Gospel is
no longer met with fagot and sword. The open profession of religion
does no one any hurt in life, exposes him to no special mockery or
insult, causes no unfavorable or unpleasant feelings towards him.

Yes, so far from its going against him, he will not infrequently
stand higher and have more credit. And yet, let us not be led
into mistakes. This easiness in being religious, which without
contradiction is greater nowadays than it ever was in the world
since Christ came into it, must not blind us to the spirit of our
Lord's words. They have a meaning still, and, while men are men,
will continue to have to the world's end. _I. In what way, or ways,
they apply to us_; _II. what is the one main lesson they would bring
home to us_,--that let us, under the guidance and blessing of the
Holy Spirit, consider.

There is, my beloved, extant among us these days a confession of
Christ that is general. By general we mean it does not like to go
into particulars. And it is in the general that we are so brave and
bold in professing not to be ashamed of Christ. Take, to make the
test, that upon which our religion rests, the Holy Bible. People
respect it as a sacred book; something is missing in a Christian
home if it is not there; they reverence it in the general. But when
it comes to the particular, how little is it really pondered; how
little do men feel bound by its particular statements; how easily
are its direct communications set aside when they conflict with
their notions or feelings or wishes.

Did God actually create man out of the dust of the ground, or is
he the creature of evolution? Is the account of the fall of man
into sin to be taken literally, or is it only an allegory, a poetic
interpretation, a childish and primitive way to account for sin and
its sad consequences? Is there a personal devil, or is the devil
only to stand for evil in the abstract? The narrative of Balaam, or
Jonah, of the men in the fiery oven,--are they to be received as
they read? And when it comes to the New Testament,--how are we to
understand the conception of the virgin birth of our Savior? how
His glorious ascension? how His descent into hell? how His words of
the Sacrament: "Take, eat; this is my body. Take, drink; this is my
blood," literally or figuratively, "is" meaning "represents"? Does
Baptism work forgiveness of sin? Is it the washing of regeneration
and renewing of the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says to Titus, chapter
3? Go, and question among Christ's followers, consult the thousands
of books that are flooding the market,--what do they teach? They
are ashamed to admit that God created the world in six days of
twenty-four hours each; it's unscientific; they blush at the
accounts of Balaam's ass and of Jonah's whale. The blood doctrine
of the cross, that Christ has redeemed us by His holy, precious
blood and by His innocent suffering and death, is repugnant to many.
Christ's body and blood in the Sacrament, Baptism the means of a
new birth,--they are abashed to acknowledge such teachings. It is
the tendency of the age to acknowledge everything in general, and
in particular nothing, nothing distinct and definite. People are
ashamed of the words of Christ. Why tinker and twist in order not to
make the writings say but the one thing they do say? What is this
but being ashamed?

And as in the doctrine, so in matters of religious duty. To speak
first, in general. We come to church. Others around us do the
same. It's the fashion to do so. But let us ask ourselves, What if
everybody around us did not do so? There are places and associations
where it is not customary; some of us get among such also: no one
goes;--at the very utmost one service a Sunday is thought the full
limit. At such times are we shy of doing differently from other
people when we know and feel what is right? What is this but being,
in reality, ashamed of His words? Or take the Lord's Table,--how
many know that they ought to come to the Lord's Table, know and
acknowledge what the Lord's command is, and not only that, but in
their hearts would like to come, and yet they stay away because
they are ashamed to do what other people don't do, of being asked,
perchance, sneering questions, of its being said that they are
seeking to set themselves up and making more pretense of religion
than their neighbors. What is this but staying away because they are
ashamed to confess Christ and His words before men?

One instance would I emphasize this morning in particular, and
that is church-membership. People are ashamed of the church, not
in general,--they regard it as a charitable institution. They have
no objection to go there, nor do they mind, if the minister is a
fascinating speaker, to part with a little spare change. But there
is where the connection ends. With many--their number is tens of
thousands--the doctrine is, that one can be just as good and hopeful
outside of the Church as in it, that as long as they maintain a
general uprightness of behavior, do not defraud any one, live
on kindly terms with their neighbors, act as honorable citizens
and profess belief in a Higher Being, it does not matter whether
they just believe this or that doctrine or not, whether they are
confirmed or not, whether they attend public worship, or consult
their own ease and pleasure on that subject. Indeed, they can see
no difference between conformity to the moral teachings and rules
of some order, Odd Fellows' associations or Masonic fraternity,
and the Church of Christ. In a word, they confound mere outward
respectability and godliness with the teachings of Christianity,
and place man's organizations, secular societies, on a common par
and level with God's organization, Christ's Church, and they quite
forget that, in matters of religion and sound morality, it is not
for them, nor any man, to point out the way and set up the standard,
but humbly to bow to the requirements, and walk in the way which God
has ordained and appointed for us to walk in.

And now turn to Christ and His Word,--what does it say? The teaching
there is, that outside of His Church, and apart from those acts of
Baptism, Holy Communion, public worship, and public identification
with the Lord's people, there is no right Christianity and
confession of Him. The statement and impression throughout is to
this effect that a man's religion is spurious and sorely lacking if
it does not bring him into the common fellowship of believers, if it
does not lead him to live and move and have his being in observance
of the Christian ordinances, and maintaining Christian recognition
and membership in the communion of the saints. Can any one think
for a moment that in those early days of persecution, when it meant
either--or, life or death, people distinguished between being a
Christian or a church-member? To be one meant to be the other.

And now go and ask people to join the Church. Ask our young members,
when arriving at the age of twenty-one years, to come in and help,
to support with means and vote, give a little of their time, and see
whether they regard it a privilege and a delight, a God-enjoined
duty. In general there is churchliness; and in particular flimsy
excuses, pretexts, subterfuges are offered.

And why, to come to our next consideration, why is this? What
is the cause? Why this distinction between the early disciples
and our present-day confessors of Christ? There was one thing
they possessed, which is now so largely lacking,--what is it?
Christianity those days, we heard, meant personal sacrifice,
persecution, martyrdom. Thank God that form is now over. To-day we
see not the Church weeping in sackcloth and ashes at the graves of
her slaughtered children, nor hear the Coliseum ringing with the
wild shouts: "_Christianos ad leones_: Christians to the lions!"
And yet, while not so striking, something of the same vigorous
principle, of the same spirit, must characterize the conduct of
every Christian. "If any man will follow after me," says the Master,
be my disciple, "let him deny himself." There must be readiness,
now as of old, to suffer for righteousness' sake. I am glad to
note there still is. Young men go out into the ministry, from
their associations and their kin, into places the crudest and the
rudest to preach the Gospel of Christ, enduring poverty, calumny,
and finally are broken down in health, thrown upon the charity of
a cold, unfeeling world. We know some women who were lured by fair
appearance into marriage by young men who won their love, and who,
though now abused, lampooned, mocked, are holding fast to their
faith. We know of some who, in order to attend to their religious
worship and duty, have sacrificed positions of better income, and we
know of some who have forfeited money and social honor by giving up
their connection with beneficiary and fraternal societies. But for
these the Christian faith would perish from the earth. They are the
salt of the earth, the light of the world.

Yet, apart from these, what is the religious life of Christians?
Is it not simply a matter of convenience, custom, inheritance,
yes, sometimes of fashion or of business? Do we not find numbers
of Christians who cannot give for God's worship an hour out of
the 168 hours a week, who would not lift a finger or a foot to
help a sinking brother, to save a wandering boy, to speak a kind
word to restrain a wayward girl, who, like Cain, his brother's
murderer, insolently reply, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Yes, as
we survey the average Christian life to-day, it seems to have
lost all strenuousness. Tact, worldly wisdom, policy, not truth,
God's wisdom, principles, more of profession than deeds, more of
criticism than service. We see clergymen begging people if they
won't be Christians, urging them to accept the glorious blessing of
salvation, or, if professing Christians, humbly beseeching them to
fulfill their vows, asking oft with fear and trembling for a little
pittance to keep up the grand work, and when given, given as if an
act of favor and grace, not from the conviction that they owe it
to God and grace, whose it is, who demands it. Oh! it is pitiable,
a mock and farce upon the religion we profess. When we think of
the apostles and evangelists and martyrs for Jesus' sake, how they
parted with homes, occupations, possessions, and even life itself
for Christ and His Word, we have reason, every one of us, to hang
our heads in shame. What the Church needs to-day are those who are
not ashamed of Christ and His Word, _i. e._, men and women who will
do their duty without ceasing; men and women who, when they have
done their duty, will not be expecting the praise of men, but who
find their reward in their service; men and women who are ready to
sacrifice of their time, their labors, their money, themselves; men
and women who, when principle, divine truth, is at stake, will stand
by and rather go down, upholding what is right, than surrender to
that which may be popular and fashionable, but is wrong.

My beloved, the religion of the twentieth century is no other
than the religion of the first century. It calls for self-denial,
sacrifice. To what extent has it entered, and does it enter, into
your religious life? Examine yourself in the sight of Him who said:
"Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and my words, of him shall the Son
of Man be ashamed when He shall come in His own glory and in His
Father's and of the holy angels." Amen.



PENTECOST.

     Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of
     hosts.--_Zech. 4, 6._


We shall first explain, and then seek to apply the words read.

The Lord, through the Prophet Zechariah, addresses this message to
Zerubbabel under remarkably instructive circumstances. Zerubbabel
was the prince and leader of the Jews, under whom the first company
of the exiles, numbering about 50,000, returned from the seventy
years' captivity in Babylon. On reaching Jerusalem, he with his
fellow-exiles promptly set about the work of building the second
temple. They laid the foundations with great rejoicing, in high
hope of speedily and successfully completing the work. But seeing
the smallness of their resources and the vastness of the work, the
large numbers who opposed, and the fewness of those who helped,
also hearing the old men, who remembered the glory of the former,
_i. e._, Solomon's Temple, say, as they looked with tears on the
crude beginning before them, "It is as nothing in comparison,"
Zerubbabel and his people became discouraged and ceased from the
work. For fully fifteen years nothing was done. To arouse the leader
and stir up the people, to resume and press forward the work, the
Lord by Zechariah now addresses them. Though they are poor and
weak in comparison with the builders of the first temple, yet the
Lord will have them know that this work is not wholly theirs, but
is emphatically His, and must therefore be accomplished. By way of
teaching them how this would be done, He sent them an impressive
symbolic vision recorded in the verses immediately preceding the
line of the text.

The prophet sees a candlestick all of gold, having seven branches,
and on the top of each branch nine lamps. On the right side of the
candlestick is a living olive tree, and on the left side a similar
olive tree. These trees pour from themselves a plentiful and
unfailing supply of oil into the central bowl of the candlestick.
Then the prophet asks what the vision means. The reply given are the
words of the text: "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,
saith the Lord of hosts." The meaning evidently is this: As the
candlestick--which stands for the Church--is furnished without cost
or labor, with an unfailing and abundant supply of oil--oil being
the symbol of the Holy Ghost--from the living olive trees, so will
the Spirit of the Lord furnish abundant power and resources in ways
within His power, to enable His servants to successfully complete
the building of His house.

Thus, instructed and encouraged, leader and people promptly resume
the work laid aside fifteen years before. There was no lack of
materials. The building advanced rapidly to completion. In the
sixth year afterwards the house was dedicated to God. As the people
looked upon the great structure in its completeness, every stone and
timber, from the lowest foundation to the highest pinnacle, seemed
to reecho the language of the text. It is done, not by might nor by
power, but by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts.

Such is the original meaning and application, but it by no means
exhausts the lesson,--rather suggests a much wider and universal
use. In the New Testament and the Church of Christ it is also most
emphatically true that all depends upon the light-giving, life
giving, power-giving of the Spirit of God. It was so on the first
Pentecost, which we commemorate to-day; it is just so now. The
source of the Church's life, and its success, is the energy of God's
Spirit. That is the one prominent thought and truth that we would
meditate and impress upon our minds in these moments of instruction.
Men are accustomed to look on the outward appearance. They are
disposed to trust to material resources. Thus, quite naturally,
they are inclined to fall into the error that God's cause, the
preservation and extension of Christ's Church, are dependent upon
the same things, that these same things are necessary to the success
of the Gospel truth. Thus, to be more explicit, they have a notion
that wealth and worldly influence are such necessary helps. We see
money exercising a nearly unlimited sway for external comfort and
enjoyment. We behold how those who possess it secure respect and
homage, thousands standing ready to do with hireling eagerness their
slightest wish. To the success of every scheme, whether material
or intellectual, money in our day would appear to be the one thing
needful. It is called the _nervus rerum_, the nerve of things. And
is the Church exempt? How is it to be supported at home, how the
heathen brought within its fold, unless the ear of the rich and the
powerful be first gained and their purse-strings opened to supply
the financial aid? Has it not come to this, that, when inquiring
as to the prosperity of a particular congregation, wealth suggests
itself as the most prominent, and piety and high moral worth as only
subordinate ideas, if, indeed, these occur to people at all? Now
it would be foolish to contend that money and wealth may not be,
and actually are, a means in God's providence to further His cause.
We need money, but, let it be noted, not as a necessary, but as
only a very accidental means. To take any other view of the matter
is to put it in the place of God, whence alone it can derive its
efficiency.

Any one who has given calm and careful attention to the history of
the Church, from the first publication of our holy faith by Christ
Himself down to the present day, will have found that the favor
of the rich and the powerful is not essential to its advancement.
In the period of its rise and apparently greatest weakness, when
it had only a few poor fishermen for its adherents and advocates,
its growth was most rapid. After wealth began to make itself felt,
its progress was retarded, and internal decay set in. By that we do
not say that such has been, and naturally is, the result of every
influence of this sort, but simply that the cause of divine truth
is independent of all such agencies for its vitality and effective
power. Riches and civil power cannot in themselves, and irrespective
of the divine blessing, promote the cause of Christ in the world.
That, I know, every one professing himself a Christian is ready at
once to allow, and yet in view of the undue prominence that is made
over the matter, it is proper to call heed to the warning contained
in the text. Let us not overestimate and exaggerate the value of
money in spiritual matters.

Again, it is well to remark that the cause of Christ is not
dependent for its advancement on personal talents and high
intellectual endowments. How much is not made of that these days!
Correct enough, as the supernatural gifts of the Spirit ceased with
the early Christian age, the Christian Church, guided by common
prudence, as well as by the express statements of the Bible, has
ever since required that those who occupy the sacred office should
possess such an amount of mental culture as might fit them to
interpret, expound, and apply the truths of Scripture, but that
there is danger of overestimating and idolizing the intellectual
ability of these office-holders to the practical neglect of the
truth they present, is only too lamentably apparent. Since the day
that Paul, Apollos, and Cephas divided the favor of the Church of
Corinth, the one being for Paul, the other for Apollos, and the
third for Peter, this partiality, or favoritism, has been very
common and yet is. Add to this the growing intelligence of the age,
its high and general standard of education, and the loud cry for men
of talents and superior scholarship is strong and pronounced.

These things, accordingly, are not to be despised or neglected; on
the contrary, cultivated. But let us not for one moment believe that
Gospel truth is dependent on learning and genius to keep it awake.
Learning and genius and oratory are nothing except when they are
blessed; nay, without the blessing they are likely to be productive
of injury, just in proportion as they are great. Let us beware of
regarding them in any higher or different way. Unless an energy or
agency superior to that of man pave the way for truth to enter, the
finest scholarship and the most persuasive eloquence will not force
a passage. What that energy and agency is the text tells us.

One other agency and resource upon which too much stress is
laid is this: We have fallen upon a generation of fuss, bustle,
trumpet-blowing, and advertising. It would almost seem as if
many of us believed that we were to take the world by storm. We
see it in every department, and the Church is falling in line.
We have all sorts of noisy demonstrations and manifestations;
ministers advertise themselves and their sermons under ridiculous
announcements, as if to draw the crowd, and not rather regenerating
their heart, were the only and sole purpose. Let us beware of
placing too much significance on this matter of advertising. We must
not be forgetful of the Master's direction: "Let your light shine
before men." "A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do
men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick."
And yet, it is well to remember that vision of Elijah, when he stood
upon Mount Horeb, and the Lord wished to speak to His servant. First
there was a terrific earthquake that shook the ground; "but," it
says, "the Lord was not in the earthquake." That was followed by
a terrific whirlwind rending the trees and causing havoc around;
"but," it says, "the Lord was not in the whirlwind." Then, following
it, came a fire; "but," it says, "the Lord was not in the fire."
Then, when tranquillity reigned again, and earth and skies lay in
silence, "came a still, small voice." The Lord was in that. He is
still in the still, small voice of Gospel grace.

Let the ministers preach this Gospel grace in all its purity and
in all faithfulness, and it will do the work. It is the only
instrument the Spirit employs in changing a man's nature. Let him
and his members live that Gospel, let them show in their characters
and behavior that they have been born again and are sustained by
the agency of the Holy Spirit; that they are temples of God, and
the Spirit dwelleth in them, and thus by a godlike life commend
the religion they profess; let them both, minister and members, be
found where they were all with one accord on the first Pentecost,
in one place, that one place the place of worship; and let them
both be doing what the first disciples were doing,--praying for
the outpouring of the Spirit, upon themselves and their cause,
and, verily, as God's promise is true, they shall not fail of a
pentecostal outpouring, success, and blessing upon their undertaking.

Summon all your forces, mention all your resources. "Not by might
nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." God, Holy
Spirit, we invoke Thee, Come into our hearts, take possession of
them, come into our homes, rule there. Come into our churches and
our church. Come, and Thy people bless, and give Thy Word success,
for Thou, and Thou only, canst and must do so. Amen.



TRINITY SUNDAY.

     The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the
     communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.--_2 Cor. 13, 14._


We are entering to-day upon the second part of the Christian
church-year. The seasons and festivals of the church-year may be
compared to a river that takes its rise, like the stream which
washes the banks of our city, in some small and distant lake, and
then ever continues to grow, widen, and deepen, until it becomes a
majestic flow, and finally empties into the vast gulf of the ocean.

We have seen in the past months the river of grace and salvation
issuing as a tiny rivulet from under a humble manger on Bethlehem's
plains, passing through the gorge of Nazareth, flowing along the
banks of Jordan, sweeping past the cities of Galilee and Judea,
lifting up its surging billows to the height of Calvary and Olivet,
until it overflowed the world with its heavenly billows on the day
of Pentecost.

By that river it has been our good fortune to linger each Sunday,
to dip up of its waters many a draught for our thirsty souls, and
bathe in its currents for the washing away of our sins. To-day,
however, we are called to ascend to its source, to leave Bethlehem,
Nazareth, and Judea behind, to climb above Golgotha's Mount and
Olivet's top, yes, to soar beyond the cloud which once received our
ascended Lord out of sight, and to gaze upon a gulf, an ocean, which
has no boundary and no shore. To speak in simple and unadorned
speech: It is the subject of God Himself which we are invited to
contemplate, the most overwhelming, mysterious, deepest of them all.
"Who by searching," asks Job, "can find out God? Who can find out
the Almighty to perfection?" And yet there are some things which we
can and which we must know, for the subject of God is at the base
of all things, of all religion. Without the right knowledge of God
no man is a right man, and no one can rightly adjust himself to his
place in this world or in the next. Let us, then, approach the great
mystery of godliness, letting heavenly wisdom be our teacher.--

To-day's festival is called the Festival of the Trinity. What is
the doctrine of the Trinity? For it certainly behooves every one to
understand what is meant thereby, and this doctrine is held by all
the Christian churches. Whosoever believes it, becomes a member of
the Church. Whoever rejects it, ceases to belong to the Christian
Church, and becomes a heretic.

Scripture tells us on the one hand that God is one, that there are
not three Gods, but one God; on the other hand, that the Father is
God, that our blessed Lord Jesus, the Son, is God, that the Holy
Ghost is God, each person being a perfect God, yet so joined, each
to each, that they constitute one invisible God. We are taught
that these three persons are uncreated, incomprehensible, eternal,
almighty, equal in glory, majesty, and power. None is before, none
after, none greater or less than another; they are coeternal and
coequal.

That is the plain teaching of God's holy Word. The Father, the Son,
and the Holy Ghost, each of them is God, and yet there are not three
Gods, but one God. How these three persons are so united as to
make up only one God, so that the persons are neither confounded,
nor the substance divided, we are nowhere told in Scripture. On
this, as with regard to many other matters, we must be content to
be ignorant. That is a great hardship to the pride of the would-be
wise. And so in the earliest ages men arose and strove against this
doctrine of the Trinity. The first violent strife that agitated the
early Christian Church was just on this point. Arius, a certain
bishop, would not accept the simple statement of Scripture that
Christ is God, in the same sense as the Father is God; he would make
Him inferior in divine nature. A most fierce controversy was waged,
which ended in Arius' being branded a heretic, as, indeed, he was,
and the true faith being only the more clearly confessed in the
creeds of the Church, called the Athanasian and the Nicene Creed.

Does this doctrine sound strange and hard to believe to the carnal
understanding? Let those who would be wise come forward, and prove
their right to be admitted into the mystery of heaven, by showing
that they have fully mastered the lesser mysteries of earth. Let
them tell us, for instance, why the needle of the compass always
turns toward the north. Perhaps they will say, Because it is in
its nature to do so. But that is no answer. Our question is, _Why_
does the needle so turn? What secret and invisible hand twists it
around and causes it to point always the same way? Or, if this be
too puzzling a question, perhaps these wise people who think it so
great a hardship that they are not permitted to understand God, may
tell us a little about themselves. They can perhaps teach us how it
comes to pass that the blood keeps flowing unceasingly through our
veins, without our being aware of it, except when we are in a high
fever. We grow tired with labor or with exercise, we tire even with
doing nothing, but the blood never ceases in its flow; from the hour
of our birth, day and night, summer and winter, year after year, it
keeps on with its silent round, never stopping, till it stops once
for all. How, I ask, can these things be? No answer. And this is not
the only matter by any means. There is, for instance, sleep. Who
does not sleep? One-third of our lifetime is spent in sleep. Who can
say what this is? And if you cannot,--and no one can,--let those
who know nothing about the how and the why in so many, yea, in most
of earthly matters, not be so very much surprised that they cannot
understand the existence of that invisible, that eternal, that
infinite Spirit whom we call God.

But though Scripture has only told us _that_ these things are,
without teaching us _how_ they are, yet for the sake of showing
that the mystery of the Trinity is not so utterly at variance with
what we find in earthly things, as unbelievers would fain persuade
us, for the sake of proving how possible it is, even according to
our limited notions, for that which is three in one sense to be
one in another sense, learned and pious men have busied themselves
in seeking out likenesses for the Trinity among the things of this
world. These likenesses, it should be borne in mind, are very
imperfect, and they do not give us a full and just idea of the
glorious Trinity; yet such comparisons may help us in attaching
some sort of notion to the words of the Creed, may keep those words
from lying dead in our minds or, rather, on our tongues.

One such likeness or comparison is the glorious object which our
eyes see in the sky--the sun. That grand orb yonder, from which
all life doth come, may be compared to the Father, from whom all
blessings flow. From it issues light. This we may compare to the
second person of the Trinity, who came forth from the Father, and
who John tells us is the true Light, which lights every man that
cometh into this world. But besides this, there comes from the
sun, heat, which is different from light, and may exist altogether
without it. This heat of the sun may not imperfectly be compared
to the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life, as the Creed calls
Him, for heat is the great fosterer of life. Thus we have, first,
the sun in the sky; secondly, the light which issues from the sun;
thirdly, the heat which accompanies the light--three separate and
distinguishable things; for the sun viewed as an orb is one thing,
the light sent forth from it is another thing, the heat still
another; and yet, what can be more undivided than the sun, its light
and its warmth?

To mention another.--As with the most glorious of heavenly bodies,
so with the purest of earthly bodies--water. Here, too, we have,
first, the fountain, high up among the rocks, far out of man's
reach, answering to the Father; secondly, the stream which issues
from the fountain, and flows down into the valley for the use of
man, which may be likened to Jesus Christ, the Son; thirdly, the
mist which rises from the water, and falls in rain or dew upon the
thirsty ground, which, I need hardly state, answers to the Holy
Ghost, who, as we regarded last Sunday, came down visibly, like the
rain, with a sound as of a rushing mighty wind on the apostles, but
who now descends gently and silently, like the dew, in the silence
of night, on the heart of the believer.

And these comparisons may be multiplied without number. Thus you
are yourself a trinity, a three in one, consisting of body, soul,
and spirit. A clover leaf is one, yet has three lobes. A tree is
roots, trunk, and branches, yet one tree. Time is past, present, and
future; constitutes one thing,--time. By these comparisons we do
not make the difficulty in the mystery of the Trinity conceivable
to man's reason. What God is in Himself,--how the Son is the
Only-begotten of the Father; how the Holy Ghost proceeds from
the Father; how the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost abide forever in
inseparable union and trinity,--these are questions of no importance
for us to know, and therefore God has not thought fit to reveal them
to us more clearly.

And having considered the doctrine of the Trinity, as expressed in
the words of the text and of Scripture at large, let us draw a few
practical lessons from it. Many regard the doctrine of the Trinity
to be what is called a speculative doctrine only, that is to say, a
doctrine concerning which men may think and conjecture and dispute
for their amusement, but of no effect or importance in real life.
This is a mistake. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is eminently
practical and eminently profitable. Our religion is founded upon
it. Deny or think lightly of this article of our faith, and you
remove the very corner-stone. If it be not true that Christ Jesus
is God in the same degree and sense that the Father is, then He
was not God at all, then He was a creature, then His redemption is
none-availing,--"for no man can redeem his brother,"--then, in other
words, we have no Savior, and our faith is vain, and our salvation
a delusion, and all that brings us together in Christian worship
is false; for in whose name, then, have we been baptized, for what
purpose do we recite the Creed, and does the minister at the end of
the service pronounce the blessing, and the congregation sing the
doxology?

You will observe that this doctrine lies at the very center and
heart of all our faith and worship, of all our Christian life of joy
and hope. And some exceedingly profitable lessons does it teach us.
One is humility. To hear some people talk, one would suppose them
the embodiment of all wisdom; they are so self-consequential and
conceited as if they knew it all, and what they cannot figure out
on their fingers or by the rule of two is not worth accepting. Let
such learn in view of this doctrine to put their hand upon their
mouth, and their mouth into the dust, and learn to confess their
insignificance and folly. It is said of Augustine, the great bishop,
that he was once in great distress of mind how he might comprehend
and describe this article concerning the Three-One God. When thus
engaged, he tells that he dreamed that he was walking along the
seashore; he saw a little child who had dug a hole into the sand,
and was employed dipping the ocean water into the hole with a shell.
"What are you doing?" said the church-father. "Oh," replied the
little one, "nothing, only trying to empty this sea here into the
hole." Laughingly he rejoined, "You will never be able to do that,
will you?" "Indeed," answered the child, "and thou wouldst empty
the mysteries of the infinite Triune God with the little dipper of
thy thoughts!" Let us guard against being overly wise. Study to be
humble when it comes to matters of God and our holy religion. And,
to conclude, let us encourage ourselves by such meditation to joyous
and childlike faith. God is great beyond all searching; therefore,
may we rest assured that all is well in His hands and management. A
farmer once remarked to Dr. Luther that he could not understand the
Creed when it speaks of God Almighty. "Neither can I nor all the
doctors," said the Reformer, "but only believe it in all simplicity,
and take that God Almighty for thy Lord, and He will take care
of thee and all thou hast, and bring thee safely through all thy
troubles."

The same is true with regard to the second part of the Trinity.
"If God," says the apostle, "spared not His own Son, but delivered
Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us
all things?" And the Holy Spirit coming into our hearts, changing,
sustaining, and enlightening us--ought not a devout consideration of
this loving, redeeming, sanctifying work of the Triune God prompt us
to trust in Him--for life, in death, for time and eternity?

    To the great One in Three
    The highest praises be
    Hence evermore!
    His sovereign majesty
    May we in glory see,
    And through eternity
    Love and adore.

    Amen.



FIRST SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

  And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous
  into life eternal.--_Matt. 25, 46._


Truth, my beloved, never changes; it is always the same. What was
true 1900 years ago, is true to-day; what is true to-day, will be
true 1900 years to come. And this is emphatically so with regard
to heavenly truth. There is no new revelation in religion. What
the Bible taught of old, it teaches now; we have no new Bible. The
Christian faith, like its Founder, is the same yesterday, to-day,
and forever. Thank God that it is so; that among the ever-changing
things of earth, the constantly fluctuating and shifting ideas and
opinions of men, firmer than the Rock of Gibraltar, more solid than
the mountains, there stands the Word of our God. And this pertains
also to the doctrine which this day's Gospel prominently sets before
us, the doctrine of future punishment.

It is only recently that the public prints quoted the minister of
a prominent church as saying: "Modern Christianity has happily
grown away from the old traditional doctrine of hell. The Church
no longer believes in a place of literal fire and brimstone, into
which all unbelievers are cast for an eternity of torment. Even
the most rigid orthodoxy allows wide latitude of belief in the
problem of future punishment." Such utterances are very prevalent,
and have caused untold confusion of thought. The matter, however,
is very simple. It is not a question of what some certain minister
thinks, however prominent he may be; neither are we to be guided
by what modern Christianity thinks, for modern Christianity ought
not think and believe differently from ancient Christianity, since
Christianity ought to be ever the same; nor are we concerned what
was the old traditional doctrine, since tradition is not, nor has
it ever been, a criterion for us. The only determining factor in
this, as in all articles of our religious belief, is, What saith the
Scripture? Nor may it be superfluous, in approaching the subject
of to-day's instruction, to warn against another element, which is
sentimentality. Sentiment in its place and sphere is noble and good;
but it must remain within its place and sphere. When it comes into
conflict with God's teaching, or when it sets itself against the
teachings of God's Word, and, because it cannot think or feel how
a loving and righteous God could do or permit certain things, then
sentiment degenerates into sickly sentimentality, becomes ignoble
and sinful. We must never allow our emotion to outrun our sober
reason, and, least of all, to set itself against the statements of
religion and the arrangements of a holy and all-wise God.

And what is that arrangement in respect to the future? Two main
thoughts would we dwell upon at this time: _I. Hell, what is
it?--its nature. II. How long does it last?--its duration._

Whenever a general in war wishes to surprise his enemy, he seeks to
conceal himself from him, endeavors to make his antagonist believe
that he is not at all about, or that he is not as formidable as the
other might think. Just so the infernal enemy of men's souls seek
to delude them into the belief that there is no hell; that, at any
rate, it is not what some would make it out to be. Hell is within
you; it's the pinching of conscience in this life, or the misery
you have to endure here. At the most, it is not terrible, it is not
going to last forever; there is going to be a final and universal
restoration; all unbelievers will ultimately be delivered.

All this passes for naught. Whether there is a future life, and of
what sort that future life is--only one can positively tell us,
and that is God--I repeat, _positively_ tell us. Human reason and
philosophy have conjectured its probability or its possibility,
but as to its _certainty_, that we have exclusively from the book
of God's revelations--the Bible. And the Bible tells us, in plain,
unmistakable terms, as plainly as it tells us that there is a heaven
and a God, that there is a hell. To discredit it is to discredit the
Bible, to contradict our blessed Lord, to shut one's eyes willfully
against the truth, and what is it? Something within us--something
confined to this world? Never does the Bible so speak. Hell,
according to the Scriptures, refers always to the future. So in
the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The rich man _died_, and
_then_, after his death, in hell, he lifted up his eyes. When this
life is over, the scenes of this world have faded upon their vision,
then, for the unrepentant and unsaved, comes hell.

And what is it? To give it with one word--punishment. "These,"
declares the eternal Judge, "shall go away into everlasting
punishment." This punishment is twofold; it is outward and it is
inward. Man consists of body and of soul; both are the instruments
of his guilt and condemnation; both receive the just reward of
their deeds. Whenever Scripture speaks of future punishment, it
uses expressions like these: "darkness, blackness of darkness,
thirst, fire, lake burning with fire and brimstone." The Gospel
parable represents the rich man begging for a drop of water to cool
his tongue. It has been said that this is nothing but imagery,
mere drapery, pictorial embellishment; but it is _true_. Imagery
and the figure are always less terrible than the reality. It may
be idle curiosity to speculate as to whether this fire which the
Bible speaks of is material fire, how God can support life in the
burnings of hell,--though we know that He sustained the companions
of Daniel in a hot furnace in the days of King Nebuchadnezzar whose
image they would not worship. Waiving all such questions as to the
nature of the fire, the place where it is, and the extent to which
it is inflicted, the fact that Scripture almost always employs the
idea of fire to express the sufferings of hell leads one to believe
that there unhappy sufferers literally endure torments like those
which men burning in flames feel; and without running into all sorts
of revolting descriptions, so much is plain: Hell is pain, acute
sensation of the body, the sense of feeling physical suffering; and
coupled with this outward punishment is the _inward_ anguish of
mind, remorse of conscience. Thus, in the parable, Abraham speaks to
the rich man, "Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst
thy good things." Memory will be a dreadful source of misery.

Here, again, we shall not enter upon any speculations as to the
workings of mind and conscience in future retributions, but we know
what agony remorse of conscience occasions in this world. It has
made strong men tremble, it has smitten the knees of Belshazzar
together in the midst of his pleasure. It has forced many a one
to confess his misdeed, to give evidence against himself, and
seek punishment to escape its excruciating agony. Terrible is an
awakened conscience, and yonder it shall be fully awakened. It
will have to do homage to an offended and avenging God; be obliged
to say to itself, You are the author of your own punishment, you
suffer for your own sins. The recollection of his selfishness, his
uncharitableness, sensuality, of possessions, and of opportunities
abused and misspent, as in the case of this rich man in the
parable, will cause him keen and tormenting self-reproach. Anguish,
inward and outward, and all this aggravated by the society, the
companionship about them. Imagine the associates in yonder accursed
place! No wonder that the unfortunate subject of to-day's parable
plaintively pleads: "I pray thee, father, that thou wouldst send
Lazarus to my father's house; for I have five brothers, lest they
also come into this place of torment." The thought, not that of
pity,--for pity and sympathy are unknown in hell,--but of increasing
his misery, knowing how much he was guilty toward them in leading
them astray by scoffing word and lewd example,--it was this that
wrung from his lips this plea. How awful such association! How
dreadful it is all!

So much as to the first particular, what hell is: outward and inward
punishment in the society of the damned. And such punishment, it is
further revealed here, is ceaseless in its duration. Many theories
are taught to the contrary. It is contended by some that this
punishment is only for a time, then follows annihilation of the
wicked, they cease to exist. Others, again, hold that all the wicked
will be finally restored to God's favor and heaven; that they are
now only in a state of trial and probation; that hell will come to
an end. I grant you that we would be very much inclined to believe
that if we could. But what say the Scriptures? There is not a single
word in all the Bible which indicates that there will be probation,
another chance, after death. As the tree falleth, so it lies. When
the sand has run out of the glass of life, there is no reversion
of the glass, the period of grace is gone. "There is a great gulf
fixed, says the Gospel, so that they which would pass from hence to
you cannot; neither can they pass to us that would come from thence."

What plainer words could be spoken: "These shall go away into
everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal." Mark
the comparison,--everlasting punishment, life eternal. If you tamper
with, lessen the one, you do so with the other; the only thing in
fairness is to accept them thus strictly and expressly, meaning just
what they say. _Eternity_, that is the word which is written over
the portals of the blessed, over the place of the cursed.

Thus in its dread and awful solemnity have I set this subject before
you. Why? Because it is the duty of a faithful servant of God to
declare to his people the whole counsel of His Master, and do so
unreservedly. A much abused subject is the subject of "Hell,"--from
the playwright who works it up for public amusement, to the swearer
who uses it in his foul mouth to add poison and fury to his oath,
to the over-sensitive churchmen who treat the passages which treat
of hell like a waxen nose that they can twist and turn to suit, and
who would not recite in the Creed: "Christ descended into hell,"
since it sounds so bad. Over against these and all other perversions
it behooves us to vindicate the clear and unmistakable teaching of
the Bible. It is the Savior Himself who tells us to-day's parable,
who spoke the words of our text, and it is for us to believe and
declare what He says, to avoid all levity in the matter and all vain
speculation, and to give it its proper weight and place.

But above all, this dreadful subject is held up before us that we
may know how to escape the terrors portrayed. How? "God so loved
the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever
believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." "He
has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won
me, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom, and
serve Him in everlasting righteousness and blessedness." That is
the purpose of the Gospel. God wants none to perish, not one soul
has He destined to eternal perdition; He would have all men to be
saved. He has made every provision to save man from everlasting
doom. The terrors of yonder place magnify the riches of that grace
which in Jesus Christ delivers from it. Let us adore the wisdom, the
unspeakable mercy that would spare us from such a doom. Let us turn
to the Cross, employ the time of grace in faith and in wholesome
service and life,--

    So whene'er the signal's given
    Us from earth to call away,
    Borne on angels' wings to heaven,
    Glad the summons to obey,
    May we ready, may we ready,
    Rise and reign in endless day.

    Amen.



SECOND SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

     And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to
     come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time;
     when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.--_Acts
     24, 25._


Felix, the man here mentioned, was the Roman Governor or Procurator
of Judea. Felix is a Latin word and means "happy." But Felix was not
happy, for no wicked person can be happy, and Felix was a wicked
person. Tacitus, the historian, says of him: "In the practice of
all kinds of cruelty and lust, Felix exercised the power of a king
with the temper of a slave." A sample we have here given. It
reads in the previous verse: "After certain days, ... Felix came
with his wife." Strictly taken, she was not his wife, but, being
persuaded to elope to him from her husband, the two were living
together in an adulterous alliance. And before this man appears
a prisoner, unpretentious-looking, loaded with chains. He had
stood before the Governor once before in answer to certain charges
made by his countrymen, and had so ably and convincingly defended
himself that, had it not been, as it says in the next verse, that
Felix expected to realize something out of the case by way of a
bribe, he would have set him free. As it was, the Governor had
been so impressed with Paul's (for none other was the prisoner)
forceful speech that he requested the apostle to give him a more
explicit account concerning the religion he preached. He arranges
the occasion, and the champion of the cross gladly availed himself
of the opportunity. We do not know the precise course which he
followed in his address to Felix, but his general outline was based
on the same principles that every good Christian sermon is based on,
viz., faith and practice. First he spoke concerning the faith in
Christ, that is, the Christian faith, laying down its fundamental
and cardinal facts and doctrines. But as a sick man will never send
for the physician till he is aware of his danger, so the sinner
will never betake himself to the redeeming blood of his Savior
till he becomes sensible of his lost and sinful condition. The
apostle, therefore, not only preaches the Gospel; he also preaches
the Law. "He reasoned," it says, "of righteousness, temperance,
and judgment to come." No topics could have been more appropriate.
Felix was a high-ranked magistrate, accustomed to see every one
prostrate at his feet. Paul points out to him that though there
be various gradations in social life, the one a king, the other a
subject, the one stepping on a carpet of down and gold, the other
walking barefoot through the dust, in the sight of God all these
distinctions avail not. Yea, having higher opportunities, a man's
responsibilities are but the greater, and woe if in the discharge
of his office a man measure not up to the responsibilities. Thus,
turning to the next particular, he reasoned of temperance, _i. e._,
the right government of the passions; he showed him how intemperance
degrades the character, debases society, and invites the punishment
of God, and, finally, placing his sermon on still higher ground,
he draws away for a moment from the eyes of Felix the bandage that
concealed the sight of futurity, and ushers him in thought before
the judgment-bar of his unalterable Judge.

He had invited this prisoner, far-famed for his topic and eloquence,
to give a display of his powers, but he had never supposed such
a presentation. As the divine word, the two-edged sword of the
Spirit, wielded by such an arm, cut into the joints and marrow of
the profligate sinner's conscience. It had the same effect which
the handwriting on the wall once had upon Belshazzar of Babylon.
He moved about uneasily, his color changed, his knees smote one
against the other; "he trembled," it says. The truth had smitten to
the heart, and then? Was truth victorious? Did virtue conquer? Did
the judgment-hall echo the words of the Philippian jailer, "What
shall I do to be saved?" or, like the publican, did he smite upon
his breast, saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner"? How the angels
would have rejoiced, and Felix would have been what his name means,
"happy." But Satan knew his man too well. In a moment the smitten
sinner had rallied from his shock; with a grace and courtesy, truly
admirable if it had not been so disastrous, he says: "Go thy way for
this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee."

The story of Felix has been written for our admonition. God grant
that like an arrow it may smite into the joints and marrow of our
conscience to-day. Our theme is:


THE CONVENIENT SEASON,

    noting, _I. A few things that hinder the convenient season;
            II. The delusion of putting it off._


We have heard Felix' plea; it was not an abrupt turning away from
the topics Paul had spoken to him of. He did not declare in express
terms that he would never embrace the faith in Christ, that he would
not renounce iniquity and prepare for the final account. No, his
answer implies that he would do all this, but he begs to be excused
from doing it for the present. "When I have a convenient season, I
will call for thee."

Felix' plea is still a most prevalent plea. Perhaps it is the most
prevalent plea, never advanced so much as in our times. It is not
that people are deliberately determined to rush into the arms of
the devil and hell; many of the most thoughtless and the most
profligate, convicted by the emotions of conscience within and the
presentation of religion, still have the intention that some time
or other, bye and bye, they are going to become more serious, to
reform. The drunkard will some day abandon his cups, the swearer his
profanity, the lewd man his profligacy, but not just now. And not
only these, the thoughtless, the profligate, but those who are very
thoughtful and of excellent standing and morals. What a universal
plea it is!

There is one class, they are "too young to be religious. Youth is
the time of gayety. Even if they do not sow wild oats, they must
have their pleasure. As they advance in years, they will eventually
grow more serious." Let me caution you, my young hearers! Of all
other seasons, youth is the fittest for God and godliness. No man
ever became more disposed to be religious by mere age. He may become
more thoughtful and serious, but thoughtfulness and seriousness is
not yet religion. The duty enjoined is: "Remember thy Creator in the
days of thy youth," and it is a solemn fact that the greater number
of those who are Christians indeed have been so in early life.--So
be not deceived! The present time is the most convenient season. You
can never enjoy a better.

Another apology and hindrance which multitudes offer against the
convenient season is what they style "business." I suppose Felix
had occasion to offer that, too. The office of a governor was no
lazy one; he had a large docket of pending cases, a considerable
correspondence, many distracting cares.

Correspondingly, at the present, there be those who are occupied in
providing for their wants, gaining a livelihood for their families,
accumulating a fortune. It is impossible for them just now, but in
a few years they will have more leisure; their property will be
greater, their anxiety lessened, and then, relieved of pressing
cares, they will devote their time and their attention to God's
service. Sad mistake! Business never lets up. The world gives no man
leisure for the consideration of the greater business of salvation.
I have known those who have urged this excuse ten, nearly twenty
years ago; they still urge it, and will continue to do so so long as
they live. Some may regard it as a witticism, but it was immensely
serious when a child recently informed its mother that the child
did not think papa was going to heaven, and asked why, replied, "He
can't possibly leave the store." We have a number of that class in
connection with our membership. It is a sorry business that keeps
any man away from the main business, the one thing needful.

One more plea would we regard, that is health. How many, when
aroused to the importance of attending to matters spiritual, will
seek to soothe the clamors of conscience by the reflection: It is
true, I must be renewed and holy, or I will perish. I cannot go
to heaven as I am, but I hope to be better before I die. I will
look after these things when I get sick; then I shall have leisure
for reflection. With nothing else to do then, I will repent and
make my peace with God. Oh! the folly and the wickedness of such
reasoning! Not only does it reflect on God's religion, as if it
were a tyranny and a grievous yoke that one puts off as long as it
is possible, not only is it God-dishonoring, giving unto the devil
and to the world, the Lord's foremost rivals, the best fruits of
one's days, and turning over to Him the stubble and the dregs left
in the cup of life, but who knows the time of his death, the time
appointed when he shall go hence, and whether occasion shall be
left for any reflection? Like a lightning flash it may summon us
into the presence of the Almighty. And even granted that everything
shall be propitious in that respect, have you ever seen persons on
a sick- or death-bed? Their pulse feverish and their body weak;
their senses so impaired that they seem utterly unable to collect
their thoughts; and this is the time that people want to select for
religious reflection? Then, too, when does the Bible say that a man
can convert himself at any time that he chooses? The Bible speaks of
only one solitary case of death-bed, or eleventh-hour repentance,
and that is the instance of the dying thief on the cross. And there
is a tremendously wide difference between him and the people who
offer up that plea. The dying malefactor had never deferred his
conversion to his dying day; he had never put religion off until
then. So his case does not belong under consideration at all, though
it is always quoted by such delinquents. No, there is only one
convenient season, and there is only one course to pursue in view of
it. That one convenient season is now, and the only one course to
pursue in view of it is to seize hold upon and attend to its demands.

We have all seen mottoes on the walls of business offices: "Do it
now," "Never put off until to-morrow what can be done to-day," "Now
or never," "Make hay while the sun shines." And as you see them at
their worldly interests, they follow those mottoes; they are up
and about, straining every nerve, using every moment to gain an
advantage. Yes, as you study the whole working creation of God,
you will discover that everything is on time: The birds know when
to fly southward; the stars of heaven meet all their appointments;
the earth is believed to make a circuit of five hundred millions
of miles and back again at the winter and spring solstice on the
second, yes, on the millionth part of a second. There is only one
who wastes time, and that in the most important matter, and that
creature is _man_.

Observe in this the terrible delusion of procrastination. And
it cheats us all, more or less; or how--to make the application
to ourselves who are church-members--how is it that we can hear
the things which we hear Sunday after Sunday, and on many other
occasions, things which, so far from denying or contradicting, we
like to hear, we would be uncomfortable not to hear, and agree with
them and still go on living and doing as if they were mere words
and meant nothing, if it were not that we fancy to ourselves a time
when it will suit us not only to agree with them, but actually to
put them in practice,--a time when we shall pray in earnest, though
we are careless about praying now,--a time when we shall take up
the reading of the Bible, though we neglect it now,--a time when we
shall be gentle, and loving, and heavenly-minded, and pure, whatever
to the contrary we may be now? But is it not a delusion? If you are
putting off saying your prayers regularly and earnestly because it
is not convenient now, do you really think that the time will come
when it will be easier, and more natural for you to do this? If you
are still putting off, as so many have, and are putting off for
years, what yet they acknowledge to be a Christian's bounden duty,
employing the much-needed means of grace, the coming to the Lord's
holy Sacrament, can you really expect that anything will happen to
you which somehow or other will be the opportunity you cannot find
now of hearing the Gospel and drawing near to that blessed communion?

Reflect! Felix waited for a convenient season. It never came; it
will never come where he is now. Let him be a lesson to us. The
convenient season is just now,--and let us beware of trifling with
it.

    Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
    The saddest are these, It might have been.

And of all devices by which the devil throws a loop around the
sinner's neck, the most effective is this: "A more convenient
season!" "Not yet."

My dear hearers, I have again, like my great predecessor, the
apostle, made an appeal to you to accept the faith as it is in
Christ Jesus. What say you? With Felix: "Not now," or, "I will"? O
for the right choice! God gives you the opportunity to make it now.
Will you not seize it? Amen.



THIRD SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

     And as Jesus passed forth from thence, He saw a man named
     Matthew sitting at the receipt of custom; and He said unto
     him, Follow me. And he arose and followed Him. And it came to
     pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans
     and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And
     when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto His disciples, Why
     eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus
     heard that, He said unto them, They that be whole need not a
     physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that
     meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice; for I am not come
     to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.--_Matt. 9,
     9-13._


The text just heard contains much of interest and importance--first,
for the history which it gives, and secondly, for the Gospel which
it preaches. We shall consider both for our encouragement and
instruction.

It was in Capernaum, the capital of Galilee, on the borders of Lake
Tiberias. Jesus was walking by the seaside when He saw a man named
Matthew sitting at the receipt of customs, collecting the duties,
or taxes, on goods landed from the vessels. To all human appearance
this collector of customs, or publican, as they were called, was
a very unlikely person to become a convert, much less an apostle.
Publicans, or taxgatherers, in those days were held in very ill
repute. One reason for this was that they were in the employ of the
Roman Government, and no patriotic, loyal-hearted Jew would permit
himself to be employed by these despised and oppressive Gentiles.
Another reason was that those who were thus employed generally
managed to make it profitable for themselves. By practicing
fraud and distortion upon their own countrymen, overcharging and
collecting more than was due, they succeeded in accumulating means,
and many, like Zaccheus, a large fortune. There is nothing to show
that Matthew was guilty of such extortion and fraud, but he was by
office and occupation connected with this odious and unprincipled
set of men; nor is it necessary for us to believe that he was
altogether free from the taint that attached to them. And yet, out
of the ranks of these base and detested publicans, Jesus did not
disdain to take at least one of those twelve men whom He chose to
be the heralds of His Gospel, the great leaders of His kingdom to
a perishing world. Good men, let us learn from this, often come
from despised and unworthy classes. Outward circumstances do not
always prove as unfavorable nor as adverse to piety as we are apt to
imagine. There is often a wide contrast between outward appearances
and inward realities. It may be that Matthew inwardly was very
much disposed to follow Jesus when addressed by Him. It is not for
us to discern what is going on in the inner man. We may hear the
blasphemer uttering a vile oath and pass him by as one on the verge
of perdition, while the heart of the poor wretch at the very moment
may be bursting with anguish and filled with self-reproach, and one
word of kindness might melt him into contrition and love. We see
another amid the wild whirl of earthly dissipation and pleasure, and
may suppose that it would be casting pearls before swine to waste
a word on religious topics with him, while he may be aching with
a sense of the emptiness of the world, and a single expression of
Christian kindness may draw from him a confession of the vanity of
all his pleasures, and the inquiry, Who will show me any permanent
and real good? Never let us judge of the hopelessness of man's
salvation by the mere outward appearance.

No den of infamy is so vile, no hall of skepticism, or haunt
of worldliness is so impenetrable, no prison cell so deep or
polluted, but that Jesus can gather thence gems that shall shine
in His crown. Who was ever a more devoted follower of Christ than
Mary Magdalene?--and yet she once had seven devils. Who was more
voluptuous, depraved, and infamous in his course as a young man
than Augustine, who became the great bishop of Hippo and one of
the most illustrious doctors of the Church? And what did Jesus see
in any of us to lead Him to visit us with His salvation? Was there
any such native excellence in your character, or such a purity in
your conduct, when out of Christ, that God was attracted thereby
and stooped from heaven to save you, because it was a pity that
so much worth and goodness should be lost forever? Oh, no, not for
our merits, but of His own infinite mercy does He save us, and if
we feel aright, we shall never think that we deserved to be saved,
while the vile sinner deserved to be damned, but that all of us are
sinners worthy of God's wrath and curse, and that none have reason
for boasting. Viewed in that light, we shall not wonder that Christ
chose an apostle from that most ill-favored class of men known in
Palestine at the time.

And the call was not unheeded. It is not necessary to assume that
the call came to Matthew as a clap of thunder out of a clear sky.
Matthew, as a dweller in Capernaum, where our Savior was preaching
and performing some of His most noted miracles, and as a man who
daily had to do with people of all classes, could not have been
without some knowledge of what was going on. In all likelihood he
had seen and heard Christ, and so was not wholly without preparation
for what happened when the great Teacher and Wonder-worker came into
his office and said to him, "Follow me." And what was the decision?
Our text informs us: He left all, rose up, and followed Christ.
Promptly, cheerfully, he surrendered his worldly interests, unites
his fortune and his future with the Master. It was not so in every
instance. We know that the same call was extended to others, who at
once propounded something else to be attended to. The one remarked,
"Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father;" another, "Lord,
I will follow Thee, but let me first go bid them farewell which
are at home at my house," and still another, it says, "went away
sorrowing," because he was not willing to separate himself from his
great possessions. It is so to this very day and hour.

To every one that hears the Gospel the word is: "Follow Me." There
are those who heed it like Matthew. Then others who hear the same
call make a thousand excuses, but never reach the point of honest
decision. Obedience, as it is the first virtue of a child, in a
soldier, or a servant, so it is the first virtue in a Christian.
When you hear the blessed Savior's voice, asking you to take up
the obligations of a Christian faith and life, then respond like
Matthew, instantly, promptly.

And not only was it prompt and ready obedience, it was steadfast,
persevering. It was not a spirit of momentary enthusiasm that
presently died away. Never again did he return to his old
profession. With unfaltering devotion did he cling to our Lord,
and finally laid down his life in His cause. There are those who,
when they hear the merciful call of the Savior, are prompt enough
sometimes to follow. They are greatly captivated with the Christian
profession. They like the distinction it gives them, the new
attitude and surroundings in which they are placed, the gaining of
new friends, sympathies and credit with which it invests them. But
when it comes to the serious side,--and Christian discipleship has
a serious side,--it does not mean only wearing a bright uniform and
carrying a flag, but standing on guard, enduring hardships as a good
soldier of Christ. Then the cross becomes too heavy for them, and by
and by they are offended, their zeal expires, and their once flaming
devotion dies. Matthew was not of that class; his decision was as
honest, thorough, and enduring as it was prompt, and in this he is
an example for us.

Nor was this all. Not only did Matthew follow the Savior, but the
subsequent verse informs us that he made a great feast for the
Master. We can easily see the motives of the man in making this
feast. "My Lord has had mercy on me," he would say, "and I wish to
do something to testify my love and gratitude to Him. I will make an
entertainment in His honor, and I will invite my old friends among
the publicans to it, for it may be that His words of power may reach
their hearts as they did mine, and turn them from their sins." That,
my beloved, is one of the strongest evidences of a truly converted
soul--anxiety and concern for the soul of others. A person that
has found the Savior is anxious that others should find Him, too.
Christianity is not like gold, which every one wishes to secrete for
his own use, but it is like a full fountain--it runs over; like the
sun--it must shine forth. And so we behold the Savior now seated in
the midst of a large company of publicans and sinners.

But have you, my dear hearers, ever known of a noble and holy work,
no matter what it is, that did not meet with some criticism? Some
carping voice is bound to be always heard, and so here. That Jesus
was found in such company, and agreed to be a guest with such
society, was a scandal in the eyes of the ceremonial, self-righteous
Jews, and "He it was who claimed to be the long-expected Messiah."
It was conclusive evidence to them that He was a sheer impostor,
a glutton and wine-bibber, equally as bad as those whom He met on
such familiar terms. Nor were they slow in making known their
conclusions. They uttered their malignant feelings, not to Jesus
Himself, but to His disciples. When Jesus learned their cavils,
it does not appear that He was ruffled in the least. He knew His
mission, for what purpose He had come into this world, and so with
all firmness we hear Him setting forth His association with these
ill-reputed people as in accord not only with the best principles
of common sense, but with the whole spirit and intent of His
Messiahship. "But when Jesus heard that, He said unto them, They
that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick." Sin
is a sickness, a disease, and these publicans and sinners were
very deeply under the power of this disease. Now, where should a
physician be but with the sick and the dying? Is a doctor to be
blamed for entering a hospital full of suffering invalids? Is it not
rather a blessed demonstration of His fidelity to his profession
to go to such ailing people? Well, then, what right had these
self-constituted saints and judges to find fault? They claimed to be
good and holy people. They kept the Law. They were _whole_. They had
no need of a physician to make them better,--so they thought. Why,
then, was the great Healer of souls to confine Himself to them? Thus
upon their own principles and common sense, Christ amply justified
His conduct.

There is a double lesson to be drawn from our text. First, if
you have always maintained a good moral character, through the
restraints of a religious education and of God's grace, be thankful
for it; it is, indeed, a great mercy to have been kept from gross
sins, and it will be a great help to you in a life of godliness. But
be careful that you do not rest salvation upon it, make a Savior
of your own goodness, and so refuse Christ, without whom you will
be damned as surely as the vilest transgressor. Beware that your
outward decency of character does not puff you up and make you think
that such as you can never be lost. There is no other name but that
of Christ whereby you can be saved, and you must come to Him weary
and heavy-laden, just as the vilest sinner does, if you would find
rest to your soul.

On the other hand, if there be one present who has fallen into
gross transgression, so that it seems almost too much for him to
hope to be forgiven, let him hear the words of Jesus, "I came not
to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance," and let him be
encouraged. Is there any wound this great Physician cannot heal? Is
there any sin the grace of Jesus cannot pardon, or His blood wash
away? Doubt not His infinite compassion, doubt not His almighty
power. Lay your soul in His hands. Though your sins be as scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson,
they shall be as wool. Oh! that, like Matthew of old, we might yield
ourselves to His gracious summons, go down to our houses, humble,
obedient believers in Him who came into this world to call sinners
to repentance. Amen.



FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

     And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and
     whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
     and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in
     heaven.--_Matt. 16, 19._


Fixed in our Church calendar for the 29th of June is Saint Peter the
Apostle's day. We do not, as a rule, observe these days, or minor
festivals, as they are styled. And it may be asked why we have them
given in our Church calendar and observe them at all. In answer we
would say that we do not, like the Romanists, regard the saints as
mediators, do not address prayers to them, nor ask them to pray for
us. And we differ further from the Romanists in that we place none
in our Church calendar as saints save such as are clearly set forth
in that character in the Word of God. Rome is continually adding
new saints to her list. Any one who has been eminently holy--in the
odor of sanctity--is canonized by the pope, and his or her name
placed in the calendar; and there are instances on record where
other influences besides piety placed it there. We place the word
"saint" before none but those who, we are sure from God's Word, are
deserving of it. Nor even all of these do we thus honor. Enoch and
Elijah were translated into heaven and are assuredly among God's
saints. The same is true of Abraham and Moses, Joseph and Daniel.
But we never speak of St. Abraham, St. Moses, and the like. In this
matter we follow our Lord's rule: "He that is least in the kingdom,"
meaning the Church He came to establish, "is greater than he," and
select for our list only New Testament persons; and here, again,
those especially near to Him, such as the evangelists and apostles,
and so we speak of St. Peter, St. Matthew, St. Paul. These we honor
because Christ honored them. On his birthday each year we extol
the virtues of a Washington; on Reformation Day we speak on the
character and life-work of a Luther. Why should we not, therefore,
on one day of the year, especially when it falls on a Sunday, note
for our instruction what God in His Word has recorded of these
favored servants? Only ignorance and prejudice could ever find fault
with such an observance of these days and minor festivals which the
Church in her wisdom purposes, and so from the lesson of this day
would we regard the latter part. An important truth is it, a truth
which has given rise to endless controversy, that this line sets
forth to us. We shall inquire, _I. What is the office or the power
of the Keys? II. How is it exercised?_

In the opinion of some, these words addressed to Peter on that
memorable occasion when he confessed Jesus to be the Christ, the
Son of the living God, gave to Peter a direction to take charge
of divine affairs. The religious destiny of the race was placed
in his hands. It was for him to save or condemn at will, and this
power and commission he then turned over to his successor, alleged
to be the pope at Rome. That was the common interpretation for
hundreds of years. In consequence of that we have such happenings
in history as that which took place at Canossa, when Henry IV of
Germany, deposed from his royal office through the influence of the
pope, came over the Alps to secure the Holy Father's absolution. He
presented himself at the gate of Gregory VII, and made his humble
petition. He was ordered to remain at the gate and abstain from
food; he was further ordered to strip himself of the royal purple
and put on hair-cloth. At the end of three weary days of penance,
standing out in the cold and snow, and nearly famished, he was
required to go into the presence of Pope Gregory and kiss his feet.
Then this "vicar of God," as he styled himself, was pleased to say,
"_Absolvo te_," "I absolve thee." And what child knows not the
account of Tetzel, who, with an armful of indulgences and a chest
bearing the inscription: "Soon as the money in the chest doth ring,
the soul at once to heaven doth spring," sold as an article of
merchandise, for so much consideration, so many and such great sins?
The confessional, the extreme unction, the deliverance of souls from
purgatory, these and other adjuncts and accessories that have risen
from the claim of the Romish Church to the power of the keys, they
allege were once given to St. Peter. But it rests, like so many
other claims of that Church, upon a serious misinterpretation and
perversion of the passage.

In the following chapter our Lord says to the whole band of
apostles: "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in
heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in
heaven." And this He said not only on one occasion to them all,
but on several. On this particular occasion He said it especially
to Peter because Peter had acted as the spokesman of the rest and
rendered a grand confession. Never do we find that any command,
blessing, office, or grace was ever conferred here or anywhere
upon Peter which was not conferred equally and also upon all the
apostles of the Lord. Nor can it be shown from the Bible, nor from
the history of the Church in apostolic times, or from those who
lived next after the apostles, that Peter ever asserted, or sought
to assert, such authority. On the contrary, Peter, in his Epistles,
invariably refers to himself as simply one of the apostles, in no
way the superior of the others, and when the first Christian synod
was held, though he was present, it was James that presided and gave
the official judgment of the assembly. If God's authority prevails,
we must dismiss the Romish dogma which would entrench itself in this
text as a falsehood, without the remotest claim to our respect. No,
not to Peter exclusively was given the power of the keys; not even
to the twelve apostles exclusively, in the sense that it belonged to
them personally. They received it as a power, a commission, which
belonged to the Church. In the 18th chapter of St. Matthew, speaking
of this very thing, the Savior directs: "And if he neglect to hear
them, tell it to the Church; but if he neglect to hear the Church,
let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily, I
say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in
heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in
heaven."

Correctly does our Catechism define the office of the keys. It
says: "The office of the keys is the peculiar Church power which
Christ has given to His Church on earth, to forgive the sins of the
penitent unto them, but to retain the sins of the impenitent as long
as they do not repent." We learn, then, who is invested with this
authority, _viz._, the Church, the congregation of believers. It is
something which belongs to all Christians, not to one apostle only,
or to twelve apostles only, but to every congregation that is met
around the Word and the Sacrament. They have this jurisdiction and
power. What jurisdiction and power? The power that attaches to the
office of the keys is twofold. It is used to lock and to unlock, to
fasten and to open the door.

First, there is the power to fasten and to lock. We call this
administering discipline. This is necessary to the health and life
of the Church. In the Corinthian church a certain man was guilty of
a nameless crime. Possibly of good social standing, his offense was
winked at. St. Paul, however, exhorts the Corinthian congregation
to deal summarily with him; he exhorts them to meet in the name of
the Lord, and deliver this evil-doer over to Satan in the hope that
he might come to his senses and be reclaimed--"for the destruction
of the flesh," as the phrase is. In another place he writes: "I
have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is
called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or
a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner. Put away from among
yourselves that wicked person." It was what we call suspension,
excommunication, or the ban.

It is not a pleasant duty by any means, as little as it is a
pleasant thing to amputate, to cut off a member of the body; but
if the member be gangrenous and a menace to the life of the body,
and nothing but an amputation will do, then let it be done. A
congregation is answerable before the Head of the Church; it must
keep its membership and roster clear; it dare not permit among
its membership impenitent and manifest sinners, those who are
despisers of God's means of grace, the Word and the Sacrament, whose
morals are a blot, whose lives are a stench in the nostrils of the
believers and of the world. Such, after due hearing, exhortation,
remonstrance, must be turned out. They have no place in the company
of Christians. This is the exercise of the office of the keys in the
one direction. In general, it is to be deplored that the Christian
Churches do not exercise this power as they ought. It would mean the
reawakening and recovery of many a sinner.

The other part of the office of the keys is what is called
absolution, the power to forgive sins. That power the Church has
committed to it, as we heard in the text, by Christ Himself. There
is much misconception on this among even Christians; to some it is
no small stumbling-block. It need not be. The matter is quite simple
and plain.

Could Peter forgive sins? The Lord says so. Could the apostles
forgive sins? The Lord says so. Can the Church, through its called
ministers, forgive sins? The Lord says so. Yes, we may press the
question still further and ask, Can every Christian forgive sins?
What the Church, as the collective body of Christians, can do, that
each Christian can do as an individual. Yes, every Christian can
forgive sins. How is that to be understood? Peter, as Peter, as a
man, could not forgive sins of himself and by his own authority. No
man can forgive sins--that is a divine prerogative. But Christ gave
to Peter the charge, the commission, to do so. The power, then, was
not in Peter, but in the charge, the commission. When the Governor
of our State issues a pardon and sends a messenger to deliver it,
it is rightly and properly said that the messenger brings pardon to
the prisoner. The power, of course, is not of the messenger, but of
the Governor, as vested in the message of pardon. Equally so the
Gospel is the message of pardon to sinful men. The ministers of
Christ, as the messengers of the Churches, proclaim that message.
The power of the pardon does not depend upon them, their general
piety or impiety; the power of the pardon rests upon Him that
gave it, the great Governor of the Church. And yet, can it not be
justly, truthfully, and properly said in their case, as in the case
mentioned, that the messengers bring pardon to the prisoners, that
they forgive sins? So our Lord spoke, so our Catechism speaks, and
so we may speak.

Not the power of absolute forgiveness does the text confer upon the
Church, but that of declarative forgiveness. But this declaration of
forgiveness, it must be held, is real forgiveness. When the Church
forgives sins, they are forgiven. The words of Christ say that as
distinctly as words can say it. "Whosesoever sins ye remit, they
are remitted unto them." The pardon brought by the messenger is a
real pardon, as certain and valid as if the Governor had brought it
himself. And so, declares our Catechism, when in the confessional
service the minister pronounces the forgiveness of sins, you are to
receive it as from God Himself and in no wise to doubt, but firmly
to believe that by it your sins are forgiven before God in heaven.

This is the teaching of God's Word in regard to the loosing power of
the office of the keys. A comforting teaching it is. We Christians,
it is true, have the assurance of forgiveness already in our
baptism, in the general preaching of the Gospel, and in the Lord's
Supper; but that does not make absolution superfluous. Battling, as
we have daily to do, against flesh and blood, disturbed as we are by
many a conflict, many a doubt, fightings and fears within, without,
how uplifting the words of absolution addressed to you directly,
individually: "My son, my daughter, be of good cheer, thy sins are
forgiven thee!"

God preserve us from all abuse, perversion, and misunderstanding of
His Word and ministry, and give us the comfort and blessing that
come from both! Amen.



FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

     And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and
     putting his hands on him, said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even
     Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath
     sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled
     with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as
     it had been scales; and he received sight forthwith, and arose
     and was baptized.--_Acts 9, 17, 18._


We hear in the Gospel of this Sunday how by speech and by miracle
our Lord called four of His disciples from their fishing boats to
the labors of His ministry. His first selection fell upon persons
from the humble walks of life, plain, unlettered fishermen, toilers
for their daily bread in a lowly occupation. There was divine wisdom
in the choice. Being of the common people, they knew the thoughts,
feelings, and habits of the common people, and so could best adapt
themselves and their preaching to the general masses. But the time
came when God, for the propagation of His saving Gospel, for the
upbuilding of His Church, needed another sort and stamp of man,
a man whose learning, eloquence, and boldness should elevate the
Gospel before the eyes of all the world. And then as now He was not
at a loss to secure such a chosen vessel. We shall regard in these
moments sacred to devotion the call or conversion of St. Paul.

About the time that the boy Jesus was found in the temple seated
among the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions,
far to the northwest of Jerusalem, in the heathen city of Tarsus,
there was born a babe, born of strict Jewish parents, of the tribe
of Benjamin, but also, because his father in some way had become
a Roman citizen, also born to the rights and privileges of Roman
citizenship. Being a bright child, of great natural gifts, he was
given careful training at home in the schools of his native city,
and then sent to Jerusalem, to finish his education under the care
and tuition of Gamaliel, the most renowned rabbi of the Jewish land
then living. His family, apparently well to do, spared no expense to
make him one of the most learned men of his day; nor did they fail
in their attempt, as his writings, masterpieces of composition and
logic, abundantly testify.

The first mention that we have of Paul, or, rather, at that time
Saul, is in connection with the scenes that led up to the murder of
Stephen, the first Christian martyr. When the Christian religion
began to spread in the very center of Judaism, Jerusalem, great
disputation arose between its followers and the Jews. And Saul,
who belonged to the strictest sect of the Jewish religion, the
Pharisees, and was a man of strong feeling and enthusiastic in
temper, soon became involved in these discussions, and so we find
that when the mob took Stephen and ignominiously stoned him to
death, it says of Saul: "He was consenting unto his death," and that
the murderers "laid down their clothes at a young man's feet named
Saul."

Nor did he stop here. His whole being was so aflame with religious
zeal that he knew only one purpose of life, and that was to blot
out the name of that detestable Founder of the new religion and His
followers. Accordingly, we read in Acts that "Saul made havoc of
the Church, entering into every house, and haling men and women,
committed them to prison." And not satisfied with his work at
Jerusalem, he began to extend his persecution to distant cities. The
opening verses of this chapter read: "And Saul yet breathing out
threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went
unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the
synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men
or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem." Damascus, in
Syria, now the oldest city in the world, had opened its gates as a
refuge to the Christians, and provided with legal papers from the
high priests, he set out at the head of an armed and mounted force
to bring those Christians at Damascus to terms. But he did not. In
the affairs of men it ever remains true: Man proposes, God disposes,
and most wonderfully did He dispose in the case of Saul of Tarsus.

It was high noon in Syria, the sun standing in its zenith. On
the road leading from Jerusalem to Damascus could be heard the
clattering of horses' hoofs. The horsemen could already see the
beautiful city rising upon their sight and its gates swinging open,
when, suddenly, there came a flash from the sky, and "a light
above the brightness of the sun" shone round about them, with such
overwhelming effect that it struck the chief with blindness, smote
him to the ground, and filled every man with terror and dismay. And
to this brilliancy of light was added a clear and distant voice
ringing through the air, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?"

Like pointed steel these words went down into Saul's heart. He had
been persecuting the Christians, and now comes a voice from heaven,
saying, "Why persecutest thou Me?" What! could it be possible that
God identifies Himself with these people he, Saul, was seeking to
destroy? Could it be true that He whom His nation had crucified
was indeed the Messiah, risen and alive? Overcome with remorse,
Saul raises his sightless eyeballs on high and asks, "Who art
Thou, O Lord?" And back comes the quick reply, "I am Jesus, whom
thou persecutest." That was too much for him. Here was the voice
of Jehovah Himself,--what could he do but submit? Trembling and
astonished he said, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" The
victory was won. The Galilean had conquered. "Arise," said He, "and
go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do." For
three days Saul lay sick in Damascus unable to see, to move, to eat
and drink by reason of the great convulsions that had shaken up his
body and soul, but during that time undergoing a change which has
placed his name among the great and noble members of the kingdom
of heaven. At the close of these never-to-be-forgotten days God
sent to him one of the faithful disciples, or Christians, living
at Damascus, Ananias by name. Ananias at first was very reluctant
to go, having heard such evil report of the man, but the Lord had
said, "Go," and that settled the matter. He found the dreaded Saul
lying on his couch, addressed him with brotherly kindness, told
him why he had come, and laid his hands upon him. "And immediately
there fell from his eyes as it had been scales; and he received
sight forthwith, and arose and was baptized." This interesting
narrative shall we view as to the subject of conversion and as to
its significance to the Church.

Taking up some practical lessons on the subject of conversion: What
was there in St. Paul's case that need not be looked for in other
cases? And what was there in it that is common to every case? Let us
look at St. Paul's case. He was called in a miraculous manner by the
Savior. It was a miracle to prove the truth of Christianity in that
early day. But now we have no ground to look for like circumstances
in the conversion of any one in our day. If Saul of Tarsus saw Jesus
appearing to him in the way, the sinner must not, for this reason,
also expect to be visited by some remarkable call, dream, vision, or
supernatural impression upon his mind.

Again, Saul fell to the earth, and was in great distress of mind
and body for three days. It does not follow from this that every
unconverted person must be in such distress before he can take
a step in the right direction. The Ethiopian eunuch, of whom we
read in the preceding chapter, received the Word without any such
process, and "went on his way rejoicing." Of the three thousand who
were converted in one day it is merely said: "They gladly received
the Word and were baptized."

Sometimes true Christians feel much uneasiness and anxiety because
they cannot point to any such distinguishing moments in their
experience. They have never passed through the mental anguish that
others speak of. They have never felt as Saul of Tarsus must have
felt those three days of blindness. Such persons forget that in most
of the cases recorded in the Gospel there were no experiences of
this kind, but conversion consisted simply in the cordial and quiet
acceptance of the Lord Jesus.

Again, in Paul's case there was something to fix the precise time of
his conversion. He could name the day, the very hour, when he fell
upon the ground trembling and afraid. Is it, therefore, necessary
that every believer should be able to designate the precise time of
his conversion? Not one Christian out of ten can tell the date of
his conversion.

It is generally the case that the grosser the sins are, the more
marked will the change be. When any one who has made himself
conspicuous in crime and wickedness is converted, it is like the
lighting of a candle in a room utterly dark. There is a sudden
change from darkness to light. It is, therefore, easy to fix the
precise time when darkness ceased and light prevailed. But the case
is very different from those who have been molded and influenced
from youth up by religious teaching and training.

How was it possible for Timothy to tell when he commenced to
be a Christian? He was instructed from his youth in the Holy
Scriptures. He could not remember the time when he was not pious
and God-fearing. He always belonged to the Lord--in his childhood,
in his youth, in his manhood. The same is true of John the Baptist.
How could he tell when he was converted? He was sanctified from his
birth, we are told. Where, then, was there room for a sudden and
marked change in him? Yes, I am free to remark that it is just what
God wants in the case of each one. He does not want us to know the
precise time of our conversion. He does not want any one to give a
part of his life to sin and Satan, so that a sudden, marked, and
definite change seems necessary. He does not want you to act the
part of an infidel for awhile, in order that you may be able to tell
us the day or the hour when you became a believer. No, God wants
your whole life; from beginning to end it is to be consecrated to
God, our Savior. And does it not follow from this, that the more
faithfully our children are instructed in the doctrines and duties
of our holy religion, in the family, in the Sunday-school, and in
the catechetical class, the less the number will become of those who
can point to the particular time of their conversion? The whole work
of the Sunday-school throughout and the whole work of the pastor
in the catechetical class has this grand object in mind, to make
a Timothy out of every child, one who is instructed in the Holy
Scriptures from his youth, and who knows no time when he did not
belong to the Lord.

Finally, we may observe that Saul's conversion was unsought by
himself. He set out on his way to Damascus full of hatred against
Christ and His disciples. He had not a single desire to become His
follower. In this also his conversion is singular. We are not to
expect, as some seem to do, that we may carelessly continue in our
worldly affairs, or in sinful pleasures, or in other opposition to
God; and nevertheless some time Almighty Grace will strike us to the
ground, and raise us up Christians. God may do that, but the general
rule is that God does not do that. The general rule is that God is
found by those who seek Him. The eunuch was reading the Scriptures
when Philip preached Christ to him. Nathaniel was meditating and
praying under the fig-tree when he was led to the Savior. Lydia
was at the place of prayer when the Lord opened her heart, and she
attended to the things spoken by Paul. The Samaritans were listening
to Philip's preaching when they were brought to believe. All were
using the means of grace, and were brought to a saving knowledge
of the truth. So with us this day,--by the Word of God, in private
reading, in public preaching He converts souls. In this particular
conversion, Paul's case differs from others.--What, however, do we
find in every case of true conversion, no matter how varied the
circumstances are? Conversion is to turn from the love and practice
of sin, and through faith in the Son of God to the love and practice
of holiness. When a man has conviction of sin, believes in, and
depends on, Jesus as His Savior, he is converted, and it matters not
how, when, or where. Never could there be such a conviction, such a
belief, such a striving, unless there has previously been a change,
and that change we call conversion. Believe it that when a man can
look up like the man Saul of Tarsus, and say, "Lord, what wilt Thou
have me to do?" he is a converted man.--

Viewed as a public event in its significance to the Christian
Church, the conversion of Paul is one of the strongest external
proofs furnished us in the Bible for the truth of the Christian
religion. If it can be established that Saul became Paul, then the
Gospel must be true, and all that it tells us of Jesus as our divine
Lord and Redeemer must be true. And there has never yet been a man
who has dared to deny the historical truth of this conversion, or to
contradict that Saul _did_ become Paul.

At the beginning of the last century Sir Gilbert West and Lord
Lyttleton, two great literary lights of England, determined on a
masterstroke for the suppression of the Gospel. It seemed to them
that the two greatest miracles of the Christian religion were
Christ's resurrection and Saul's conversion. Gilbert West agreed
to write a refutation of the resurrection of Christ, and Lord
Lyttleton a refutation of the conversion of Saul. At the conclusion
of their work they met by appointment. Lord Lyttleton asked, "What
is the result of your work?" The answer was: "I have thoughtfully
investigated the resurrection of Christ, and have come to the
conclusion that He who is said to have come forth from the sepulcher
of Joseph's garden was, as He claimed to be, the veritable Son
of God." And Lord Lyttleton said: "I have fully investigated the
narrative of the conversion of St. Paul, and am satisfied that this
man, on his journey along the Damascus highway, really saw Jesus
of Nazareth, and that this Jesus was the very Christ of God." No
other conclusion can be reached as we enter upon the study of the
character of the man, and the results that have come from that event.

To finish our meditation with a personal application: St. Paul,
whose conversion we have considered, wrote much for the instruction
of all after ages, but he never penned more memorable words than
these, words which perhaps have been oftener quoted than any
sentence of any writer that ever lived--may God enable you to take
the words home to your heart--: "This is a faithful saying, and
worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world
to save sinners, of which I am chief." Paul's conversion is a
beacon-light to encourage us never to despair for the worst and most
hopeless of sinners.

If Grace could take a blasphemer and persecutor like Saul, then
there is hope for you and for me. May we realize it! Amen.



SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

     Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.--_2
     Tim. 3, 5._


Things are not always what they seem. There is much deception,
sham, pretense in this world. And religion forms no exception; much
that passes under that name is not such in reality. The text just
quoted distinguishes between "the form of godliness" and "the power
of godliness," thus intimating that there may be one without the
other. All created things indeed have some form. We cannot think
of anything without form. Every essence and substance manifests
itself in some shape, through some medium, external substance; and
so religion finds expression in outward forms, in prayer, in this
institution called the Church, in that Book called the Bible, in the
sacraments and other ordinances.

But, whilst we cannot have religion without form, there may be form
without religion. Not every eye sees, though it was created for that
purpose; not every ear, though it have the perfect form, hears. We
discover eyes without seeing and ears without hearing, and in like
manner we discover the form of godliness with none of its power. A
man may appear very religious, and yet not be religious. The Bible
and history both are full of such. Thus, St. Paul in his day came
to the city of Athens and was constrained to confess: "I observe,
O men of Athens, that ye are exceedingly devout." Judging by the
form, he saw, in that representative city of heathenism, a great
degree of religiousness and devotion; gods and goddesses, altars and
temples, stood on the right hand and on the left, carved out in the
most exquisite marble, with the most exquisite skill. Every public
edifice was a sanctuary. The theaters were ascribed to the deities.
As any scholar of ancient history knows, the streets and markets,
the groves and public places were full and overflowing with the
figures and statues of Jupiter and Diana, and every other god and
goddess which their imagination had invented. Yes, the men of Athens
were exceedingly religious, and, withal, they were notoriously
ungodly, and Paul could not help expressing himself to that effect.

Again, take the religionists mentioned in to-day's Gospel--the
scribes and the Pharisees. As to the form of religion, they were
scrupulous to the last degree. On their phylacteries, and on the
frontlet which they wore between their eyes, were passages of
Scripture such as: "Hear, O Israel! The Lord, your God is one Lord."
They fasted twice in the week, more than the law required. They
paid tithes, not only of the common products of the field, but of
their garden herbs, mint, anise, and cinnamon. They were extremely
careful as to their cleansings. Thus the washing of hands in the six
books of the Mishna, written by the Jewish rabbis, is prescribed:
One and one-half eggshells full of water must be used; the hands
must be lifted in a certain position when the water is poured upon
them; then the right must rub the left and the left the right; then
they must be held in a downward incline, palms upside down, so
that the water may drop off. And the towel must be properly held.
Thirty chapters alone in that Jewish book treat of the cleansing
of cups and platters. And yet, in spite of all this scrupulosity
and punctiliousness and ceremonialism, the Savior had occasion to
declare in the opening words of to-day's Gospel-lesson: "Except your
righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees,
ye shall in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven." The form was
there, the show of godliness, but something vitally essential was
missing; our text calls it "the power."

Nor would we confine this formation of religion to ancient heathen
or Judaism. An acquaintance of mine tells of a scene recently
witnessed in the city of Mexico. A company of men were shuffling
cards, and casting dice, and indulging in profane and unholy jests
in a drinking-house, when suddenly the ringing of a bell was heard
without. A procession of priests was passing through the streets
bearing the consecrated water to the bedside of the dying. At
the sound all in the iniquitous place fell upon their knees and
muttered their prayers. The bell ceased, and they resumed their
pleasure. What was this but the form of godliness without the power?
Nor need we go to distant Mexico to find the same manifestation
among the devotees of the same religion,--ceremonialism, grand and
spectacular, the waking early at the break of day to perform one's
worship, the lighting of candles and bending of knees before graven
images, the ceaseless twisting of the rosary beads, and making of
crucifixes and anointing with holy oil and water. What are these
but the forms of godliness without the power thereof? Let us not
be uncharitable, but the words of the Savior press themselves upon
one's lips: Except your righteousness exceed that which so garbs
itself, and puts in the place of Christ another's righteousness,
which is the righteousness of such hollow ceremonies, pretensions,
and good works, it shall not avail to enter into the kingdom of God.

And is Protestantism exempt? Are there no formalists among those
who profess to be members of, and visit, our churches? Is there no
outward ceremonial observance there, no form of godliness without
the power thereof? As we pointed out, everything has a form, and
that form needs attention. Injure the shell, and the kernel will be
impaired. Refuse to give due respect to your body, and its immortal
tenant, the soul, will leave it. And so in religion. The outward
must be attended to. It will not do to say, I need not go to church,
God is everywhere, I can worship Him just as well under the trees
of the park, under the blue canopy of the great temple of Nature,
as in the four walls of a building. The church is God's; it is
there He has recorded His name, and promised to convey His grace
and blessing as nowhere else. Godliness and churchliness are joined
together, and it is not for any man to divorce them, to put them
asunder.

The godly man, it will ever be found, is the best churchman. It will
not do to say: I can be just as good a Christian and stay away from
the sacrament of the Lord's Table,--it is only a form. Granting it
is, it is a form which God has commanded by and through which He
communicates life and salvation to men's souls. You do not despise
to drink the water of the Mississippi River because it flows through
pipes and comes out at the faucet. And so you ought not reject life,
grace, and salvation promised by God, because He has laid it down
for you in the partaking of bread and wine in His sacrament, which
is the channel by and through which He conveys it to your soul. The
same may be said of all the ordinances of religion,--prayer, the
reading of the Bible, the saying of prayers. These things must be
attended to. They are the forms in which it expresses itself--takes
shape. And yet, we must beware of mistaking the shape for the
substance, the shell for the kernel, the body for the soul. Going
to church as a mere form saves no one; neither does going to the
Sacrament. To read the Bible, for instance, merely to find out
what a fine literary product it is, has no religious value; and to
mumble one's prayers in a thoughtless and spiritless way, our Lord
tells us, is worthless, yes, it may be an abomination to Him. What
good does food do you if you do not digest it, take the strength
out of it, the necessary qualities? Equally so with the spiritual
food. Religion as a form, a mere external life, a show, avails
nothing; rather, it is a snare of delusion by which men may deceive
themselves and others.

When, then,--that is the question to which our text leads up,--when
have we the form of godliness together with the power thereof? In
order to have true religion, two things are necessary, the new birth
and the new life. First, the new birth. "Except a man be born again,
he cannot see the kingdom of God." Religion, first of all, above
all, aims at and affects the heart. It is this which is primarily
concerned. "This people," the Lord complains, "draweth nigh unto me
with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips, but their heart
is far from me." "Give me, my son," my daughter, "thy _heart_," is
the request of the merciful Lord.

Whoever has sat under the pulpit of God, listening to His
instructions and exhortations, or scanning the pages of His Holy
Word, that has not had his feelings stirred and his soul warmed
after the manner of those two disciples on their way to Emmaus, to
whom the risen Lord opened the Scripture, whereupon they confessed,
"Did not our heart burn within us?" Whose bosom has failed to beat
higher with noble resolution and holy endeavor when kneeling before
his God in prayer or at the sacred Communion? In a word, whose
inner life has not been touched by the Spirit of God, and who has
not undergone a change of mind which brings him to see things by
faith in Christ, in a new light? The promise is: "With the heart
man believeth unto righteousness." "If thou shalt believe in thine
heart, thou shalt be saved." The heart belongs to true religion, and
true religion belongs into the heart. This is the first requisite
and essence of godliness--a new heart.

The other requisite is the new life. It is the natural and the
necessary outflow of the new birth. When the heart has been changed
by the Spirit of God, the new life will show itself. The Lord once
remarked, "By their fruits ye shall know them." You cannot be a
bad citizen, an undutiful parent, a spiteful husband, a fretful,
quarrelsome wife, an unscrupulous business man, and, at the same
time, a good Christian. It does not exhibit the power of godliness
to listen devoutly to a sermon on righteousness, and temperance, and
purity, and straightway imbibe freely from the intoxicating cup,
speak words of profanity, and do things that are tainted. If you
would discover if the works of a clock are right, we look at the
hands; so by our hands and deeds we may test whether our hearts are
right. You cannot be in possession of an evil tongue, of a lustful
eye, of a covetous, selfish, miserly hand, and, at the same time, of
a pious and devout mind.

If our text teaches anything, it teaches that godliness is a
"power," an energy which renews and sanctifies men. But when there
is power, it exerts and manifests itself. Then there must be, in
order to have true religion, a regenerated heart and a corresponding
life. How, then, to make a few direct words of application, is it
with you, my dear hearer? One of the chief sources of offense, they
tell us, is that those who profess godliness are so woefully short
of it. "They are everlastingly running to church, praying, and hymn
singing, but they live and act like heathen." Not infrequently that
charge comes from an ugly and malicious, fault-finding spirit. Let
us see to it that it is only that, a mean, unfair charge, that, as
far as we are concerned, it be not true. Let us in the light of our
text see to it that we have not only the form of godliness, but
the power thereof, that our heart is right with God, and endeavor
earnestly and conscientiously to make our head and tongues and hands
right. God strengthen us in this resolution!

Lord Jesus, it is Thy religion we profess. Keep us by Thy Holy
Spirit to be true disciples of it, to our soul's welfare, our
fellow-man's uplift, and Thy glory. Amen.



SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

     Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of
     them is forgotten before God?--_Luke 12, 6._


Our Lord always spoke in the plainest possible terms. Whenever a
vital truth was to be stated, an important doctrine to be set forth,
He did it in language so clear that no one could misunderstand.
The statement of our text this morning shares that quality. "Are
not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is
forgotten before God?" The little creature mentioned is one of the
most insignificant that could be thought of; the Lord selected
it just for the sake of that utter insignificance to bring out a
significant and all-inspiring truth. That truth is this: that God is
in relation with everything that exists; that He superintends all;
that there is nothing so minute as to be overlooked or forgotten.
We call this the doctrine of God's providence, and a most prominent
teaching of God's Word it is, as also one of the most cheering and
practical.

Prompted by the Gospel-lesson of to-day, which shows us our blessed
Lord as providing miraculously for the four thousand with seven
loaves and a few small fishes, let us _I. seek to establish the
doctrine of God's providence_; _II. show its application and effect
upon us and our lives_.

"I believe that God has made me and all creatures, that He has
given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my
reason and all my senses, and still preserves them," thus we
confess in the explanation of the First Article of our Creed, and
what our Catechism thus confesses, the sacred Scriptures with
especial clearness teach. God did not only, as some are willing to
admit, create the universe, but He also now governs it personally
and completely. It is the theory of our modern evolutionists and
materialists that God has left the world to govern and develop
itself, that, having placed it under certain natural laws, it must
take care of itself, wholly independent of God's interference. As
Melanchthon once characterized their position: "They think of God as
a shipbuilder, who, when he has completed his vessel, launches it
and then leaves it, or like a clock which you wind up, and then let
run off." A different impression is that received from God's Holy
Book. That assures us that, so far from turning over His government
to unalterable laws, so far from retiring from His works to dwell
apart in His own unapproachable Godhead in some distant sphere,
unconcerned and uncaring for such a world and such creatures as we,
there is nothing done, nor said, nor thought, nor felt by man but
He knows it and notes it, and orders His dealings with reference
to it. His providence includes every event,--the rise and fall of
nations and states, the experiences and vicissitudes of the Church,
the occurrences of the history of each family, the unnumbered
instances which make up the life of each individual, no matter what
their character. His supreme hand is in and over them all. Those
words which we so commonly use in daily speech--chance, accident,
strictly and consistently regarded, are untruthful, for there is
no such thing as chance, an accident; nothing happens but it has
been determined in His wisdom, and is sent, directed, or permitted
according to His will. Chance or accident rule in nothing--God's
providence in all. What more satisfactory assurance would we desire
for that than what is told us in the text? It was a customary thing
to see sold in the market-place of Jerusalem, as an article of
merchandise, the little creatures here mentioned. The price was a
minimum, five sparrows for two farthings, equal at the most, to two
cents of our money. Our Lord, in referring to it, calls attention to
the little regard taken by men of this poor little bird, and brings
out in vivid and grand contrast the regard taken of it by God. "And
not one of them is forgotten before God."

Elsewhere, in one of the Psalms, God says: "I know all the fowls
upon the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are in my
sight." We watch in their season of immigration the flight of birds,
when in long flocks they cross the sky, passing from the North to
the South, or back again. To think that each in those countless
tribes is known, as if by name, to its Creator, not one confounded
with the other in the view of God! We observe the tiny sparrow as
it skips from ground to housetop, busily gathering its food, or the
frail materials wherewith to construct its nest below our house
roof; how little we reflect that every one of them is numbered in
that sight which nothing can escape, and that in the ephemeral
history of the poor little bird, of which the great God and Savior
deigns to speak, not one item is forgotten, each is seen and known
and retained in a faithful memory; "not forgotten," implying a
knowledge that lasts, a consideration though the thing known may
no longer exist. This, then, is the way we are taught to think
about our God. All things that transpire, all that has been and
shall be--all are embraced within the circle of God's unforgetting,
all-remembering knowledge, vision, providence. That is the Christian
doctrine as taught by our Lord in such plain illustrations as this,
and as preached by His apostles on the pages of the Old and New
Testament throughout.

Let us now ask of the application. That it means something to us
when the Lord says about God's not forgetting one of the sparrows
sold in the market-place of Jerusalem is a matter of course. What
does it mean? The doctrine of God's providence is, we would thus
consider it first, a stern and restraining truth. Consider for a
moment,--there is nothing about you, or in you, or of you, but God
knows and sees it all, the thoughts of your mind, the desires of
your heart, the motives of your deeds. He spieth out all your ways,
He understandeth your thoughts afar off. Yesterday, for example,
He saw you when your eyes first opened to the light, and He traced
your steps till they closed once more in sleep. You know what you
did, and He also knows. You may have thought yourself unobserved,
and some things there are which you should prefer to forget, wish
that you could conceal them, ashamed or afraid to have them known.
God does not forget, from Him you cannot conceal; all the while you
are standing in the concentrated blaze of a light, brighter than the
brightest sun, and eyes that see everything are reading you through
and through. That is, as stated, a stern and awful truth. But let us
not deceive ourselves concerning it. Let us remember that there is
no privacy anywhere for us, though we may long for it, and many live
as if they had it. Our follies and vanities, our erring steps, our
ugly temper and evil disposition, every idle word that you spoke,
every oath that has fallen from your lips, every vile action, every
dollar you have wasted in luxury, folly, or withheld in miserly
selfishness, every influence you have exerted, apt to lead a brother
or sister astray,--God sees and knows them all. You are read like
a book by the Reader of the lives of all men. Man, my beloved
hearers, needs a check upon him, a hand to keep him straight. He
has it in this belief. A person cannot go far wrong who believes
that God sees and knows all. The sense of His nearness is a moral
force, a thousandfold greater than any other that can be named. He
that thinks thus of His God is ever putting to himself the question
whether God approves what he is about at any given moment. That
saves him; it acts as a constant check; it is a lantern to his feet,
a light to his paths, a bridle to his lips. And God knows we all
need to be so held in. That communities are defiled, that the social
order is imperiled, that men are shocked at the growing ravages of
sin, and souls are ruined one by one, we may trace these things to
their sole cause, the losing sight of the fact that God's eye is on
them always, and that they are accountable to Him for what they do.
Let the doctrine of God's providence be generally rejected, and it
is only a question of time till that comes to pass again which once
occurred in the days of Noah, when God saw that the wickedness of
man was great, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his
heart was only evil continually. Here, then, is a truth which may be
called the beginning of the moral law, the foundation of Christian
ethics, the Alpha and Omega of Christian practice. The doctrine of
God's providence is a stern and restraining doctrine.

But there is another side to the picture. To that shall we turn
for the greatest comfort and peace that mortal man can know. "Are
not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is
forgotten before God?" "Ye are," continues the Master, "of more
value than many sparrows." If one of them cannot fall to the ground
unnoticed by our Father, how much more in His thoughts, (that is
the evident line of argumentation,) are we, His children, made in
His likeness, redeemed by His own precious blood. What should there
be for us each day and hour but loving, unwavering trust. It cannot
fail to impress every reader of his Bible how it dwells continually
upon this very point. Our Lord knew what a burdensome world this
is, and how easily perplexed men are. He has sought in all possible
manner and ways to bring home to us the truth we are considering.
He has given us precious and numerous promises. "Trust in the Lord
and do good," is one of them, "So shalt thou dwell in the land, and
verily thou shalt be fed." Another is: "Whoso putteth his trust in
the Lord shall be safe." Still others: "My grace is sufficient for
thee:" "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." These might be
multiplied from the Scriptures by the score and hundred. And again
He has sought to impress His divine providence upon us by numberless
examples. There is, for instance, Noah. Noah trusted Him, and
lo! when the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the
floods rose, and millions of the ungodly sank into a watery grave,
sheltered and shut in by God's protecting hand, the ancient saint
outrode the deluge in safety, with his family. Elijah, alone yonder
in the wilderness, in time of famine, trusted Him, and, behold, even
the ravens, divinely bidden, came flying with bread to feed him. And
so David, and Daniel, and Peter, and all of God's illustrious saints
whose biography the Bible records, put their trust in His governing
providence, and never were ashamed, and their experience has been
the universal experience and testimony of all who have ever really
put their faith in Him, and that applies as much to us as to them.
Come what will, the true and trusting child of God feels secure.
"Have we trials and temptations, is there trouble anywhere?" Is
ghastly pestilence mowing down its victims? Is financial depression
over all the land, labor unobtainable, wages low, and bread scarce?
Has sickness prostrated one? Has death broken the family circle,
and is the heart bleeding under bereavement? In the midst of it all
the Christian sees the wise, loving, all-governing providence of
God, the almighty and all-gracious hand of His own divine heavenly
Father; and in this assurance, that God is thus in all that befalls
him, his soul is filled with abiding calmness. There is nothing,
amid it all, which is more calculated to banish our cares, to throw
sunshine across life's path, to make us more content, than the
belief that our God holds the reins of universal rule, and that all
is controlled and guided by His wise and kind hand.

And this, to conclude, also gives a Christian strength and
encouragement in his work. The thought that God is near us, the
feeling that He is working with us, gives an impulse, a force which
nothing else can impart. To rise in the morning with that sense of
divine presence, that God sees all our endeavors, is to take up
one's work with an entirely different mood than where that feeling
is missing. Nor are we then easily discouraged; it gives us renewed
inspiration, the courage required for long, steady, earnest work.

We have considered a glorious truth of Christian doctrine from the
lips of Him who never exaggerated, never erred. Lay hold of it,
believe it, not languidly, but as a power in your lives, and be
happy in such belief. Amen.



EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

     O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding
     profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely
     so called.--_1 Tim. 6, 20._


Everything in this world is liable to be spoiled. There is nothing
safe against the doings of corruption. The holiest things are often
perverted, the richest flowers blasted in their bud. Man himself, as
the Psalmist tells us, was made but a little lower than the angels,
but his glory was soon tarnished, and he frequently sinks a little
lower than the brute. There is none, though he appear as a veritable
saint among men, who is beyond the reach of danger. And it is so
also with religion.

Beautiful as is religion, and pure as it is, coming from the mind
and bosom of God, it is liable to be spoiled in the hands and hearts
of its professors. Such at least is the teaching of the text and
the testimony of experience. Just like the crystal mountain stream
in its course from the virgin spring down to the ocean gathers some
of the unclean and filthy deposits of the shores it washes, so the
waves of religion, in flowing through many lands and hearts, have
taken up some of their noxious and poisonous ingredients; while
purifying and refreshing the earth, the noble river contracts some
of its corruptions. The Jews, for instance, had a pure religion,
communicated to them by the patriarchs and prophets, but heathenish
elements were continually mingling with it. Moloch and other hideous
idols would now and then stand in the very presence of Jehovah's
temple, and the priests of Baal oft took the place of the sons of
Aaron. When Christ came, the Jewish religion was exceedingly tainted
and corrupted with Gentileism and other defiling influences. The
Christian religion in its turn has fared no better, starting out
on the pure basis of its divine Master's directions; but it has
been subject to the same influences. It was given to the world as
a plain, simple system. But when kings and emperors began to take
it into favor, magnificent outward ceremonies were instituted,
privileged orders were appointed; bishops and other high authorities
were set up, claiming extraordinary power, and at last what started
as Christianity became little more than baptized heathenism. Masses,
penances, and confessionals took the stead of Christ and His
righteousness. In place of the old heathen gods were placed patron
saints. Venus of the Greeks became Mary of the Christians. The true
glory of the Church was gone, until God in His mercy turned back the
tide to His own Revelation and Book, the Holy Bible. That was in the
days of the Lutheran Reformation. But that did not settle matters;
the soil of misguided religion and of man's perverted opinion has
been defiling, and is still defiling, its pure and holy waters. It
need not be. Christianity is as simple as simplicity can be, its
teaching is as clear as is the sunlight in its noonday radiancy;
but, of course, it must be guarded, protected against corruption on
the part of man's delirious and sickly reason.

This is the caution St. Paul makes in our text to his beloved
pupil Timothy, when he directs him: "O Timothy, keep that which is
committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and
oppositions of science falsely so called, which some professing
have erred concerning the faith." There are two classes of science
falsely so called that have erred concerning the faith. The one
is the worldly science, and the other the Christian Science, and
concerning both classes I would ask for your most careful attention.

When speaking of science, it must be observed at the outset that
true science and the Revelation of God are not at variance. How
can they be? The Book of Nature and the Book of Religion have been
written by one and the same Hand, and cannot contradict each other.
What man by investigation can find out in nature cannot be of a
character to make him doubt or deny the truthfulness of religion
as laid down in the Bible. But this is what some of the men of
supposed higher learning are doing. They look askance at religion.
They shake their wise heads, and, putting on their eye-glasses,
superciliously state that the Bible is not what people think it is.
They are willing to admit that it is a book of much good history,
a book of sublime poetry, a book of excellent moral precepts, a
book which admirably describes human nature, a book from which all
men may gather a great deal of practical wisdom and comforting
promise, but many of its texts are spurious or faulty, it is not
altogether up to date in their opinion. The geologist has bored
into the earth, and found that the various compositions must make
it much older than Moses seems to say. The astronomer has put his
telescope into the heavens and finding our planet, the earth, the
smallest among heavenly bodies, considers it too insignificant to
be the object of all that divine concern the Bible speaks about.
The anatomist has examined the skulls of dead men, and comparing
the one with the other, questions whether they have all proceeded
from one human pair. The natural historian has never found a race of
snakes with power of speech, and so he puts down the account of the
serpent in Eden as a myth. The people of the earth speak hundreds
of languages, and hence it must be a mere dream that there was once
a time when "the whole earth was of one language and one speech."
Miracles, they say, are so contrary to the general experience of
mankind that they must be rejected as falsehood and fiction, and
thus might we continue to give the objections of these wiseacres,
called scientists, who are looked up to with undisguised admiration
by numbers. It would lead us too far, though nothing might afford
us greater pleasure to examine these objections in their true
light.--We will only ask, How do these wise people know what length
of time it took the almighty God to form the various strata which
compose the crust of the earth? How can they tell that this world of
ours is too small to engage Jehovah so deeply for its welfare? How
can they prove that the human race and language do not extend back
to one common stock? How dare they deny the credibility of miracles
in the face of the many wonders which are spread about them every
day, and appear every season in their sight? What authority have
they for their high-sounding, but hollow assertions? They think
themselves wise, but in fact they are but babes in these matters,
and those who follow them are their senseless dupes.

The truth is that with all the advances of knowledge which have so
wonderfully marked the last three hundred years, searching heaven
and earth and sea, knocking at every door and gathering wisdom from
every source, there has not come to light one truth to contradict
these holy records, or to require the relinquishment of one word in
all the great volume of God. Only a few instances to prove what I
state. It has been but a few years since Newton laid open the laws
of gravitation, and yet the Scriptures spoke of the earth being hung
"upon nothing," as if familiar with the whole subject, before human
science had begun to form even the feeblest guesses in the case.
Again, take the theory of wind currents, and of the circulation of
the blood, why, read the 1st, 6th and 12th chapters of Ecclesiastes,
and observe where Solomon describes it at least 2,500 years ago.
And so in every case. You may lack understanding or research, you
may fail to grasp its truth, by reason of its being too wonderful
to you, but as far as being false and spurious, let no man dare to
raise that charge against God's religion and Book. Our wisdom, at
best, is only fragmentary, as St. Paul says, "We know only in part."
No man, not even a scientist, is the personification of all wisdom,
and ought not so consider himself. Let every man be a liar, but
never accuse God's truthfulness. Avoid such, as St. Paul says in our
text, as being profane and vain babblings and oppositions of science
falsely so called.

This, then, as much as worldly science is concerned, and now let us
turn to the other species which calls itself Christian Science, but
which is neither Christian nor Science,--not Christian, because it
has erred from the faith, as our text puts it, and not a science,
because, to quote our text again, it is falsely so called. It might
be well to approach the matter more closely. In the first place, it
must be noted that Christian Science is nothing new; it is, to be
candid, a rehash of what is termed in Church History, Gnosticism. In
the early Christian Church, about the year 200 after Christ, there
arose certain heretics, Montanus and his prophetesses Maximilla and
Priscilla, who advocated theories and things similar to those in our
days advanced with so much zealousness by the late Mrs. Mary Baker
G. Eddy, the founder and high priestess of the Church of Christian
Scientists. These heretical views referred to also found adherents
in the early Church, so that the excellent Bishop Irenaeus, of
Lyons, wrote a book against them called, "The Refutation of
Christian Science falsely so called." Mrs. Eddy very deftly
succeeded in bolstering up these ancient opinions, and launched
them forth in the various editions of her book called "Science and
Health, with a Key to the Scriptures." I have carefully gone over
that book, and I confess I am overwhelmed with shame to think that
any one who lays claim to Christianity or to well-balanced reason
can earnestly believe such matter. To mention only a few of her
doctrines:--The Bible says 1 John 5, 7: "There are three that bear
record in heaven: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and these
three are one." Mrs. Eddy says: "The theory of three persons in the
Godhead reminds us of heathen gods." In other words, she stamps the
Christian doctrine of the Trinity as heathenish. The Bible says,
Rom. 5, 12: "By one man sin entered into the world and death by
sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."
Mrs. Eddy calls this an "illusion," purely imaginary; there is no
such thing as death. Naturally, then, in line with this, she also
rejects Christ's redeeming us from sin, stating that the time is
not distant when these common views about Christ's redemption will
undergo a great change. In other words, while she mentions Christ's
name with seemingly the greatest reverence in her book, she calls
Him a fraud and deceiver, because the Bible tells us in just these
words that Christ came to save His people from their sins, came
to destroy the works of the devil, came to redeem them that were
under the Law. But Mrs. Eddy spurns the existence of a personal
devil, denies the existence of sin, and rejects redemption. Such
passages as 1 John 1, 7: "The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son,
cleanseth us from all sin," are "hideous" to her. Her entire system
is nothing else than unchristian bosh. I say "unchristian" because,
on closer investigation, there is not a single particle of Christian
doctrine and belief that she does not openly or indirectly at least
overthrow. It is true, she claims "faith in the Bible"; the title
of her book is, "Science and Health, with a Key to the Scriptures,"
but it is a key that binds, but does not unlock. Her comment to the
very first verse of the Scripture: "In the beginning God created
the heaven and the earth," is this: "This creation consists in
the developing of spiritual ideas and their identities, which are
grasped and reflected by the unending Spirit." That may be Mrs.
Eddy's creation of the world, but it certainly was not the creation
which the first chapter of Genesis tells us about.

But let us go on to the second chapter of the Bible. This does not
suit Mrs. Eddy, as she expressly states it is diametrically opposed
to scientific truth, and "inspired by falsehood and error," and in
consequence she rejects the second chapter of Genesis entirely. We
could go on at this rate, but enough has been shown to characterize
Mrs. Eddy's "Key to the Scriptures." And alas! that men should be
carried away with such barefaced craftiness and such thick-coated
and consummate falsehood! Oh, may it teach us to love to study our
Bible!

But there is still another phase of Christian Science of which we
must speak, would we do it justice, and that is the healing phase.
Mrs. Eddy claims that she has restored the sick and brought back
the dying to life. "Science and Health" and our community have been
repeatedly agitated by specimens of this healing ability. It is
well known to every one that Christian Science in its treatment of
disease starts from the fundamental theory that there is no sickness
and disease, as it says in their text-book, "Science and Health":
"You call it neuralgia; this is all delusion, imagination. You
expose your body to a certain temperature, and your delusion says
that you catch a cold or get catarrh. But such is not the case; it
is only the effect of your imagination." The consequence of this
fallacy is that no medical remedies are resorted to; in fact, to a
Christian Scientist ignorance of medicine is bliss. Mrs. Eddy warns
against a knowledge of medicine as a hindrance to learning her
system.

Stopping here for a moment to show the unscripturalness of all this,
I would but briefly call your attention to such passages as Is. 38
and 2 Kings 20, where we read: "And Isaiah, the prophet of the Lord,
said to Hezekiah the King, Let them take a lump of figs and lay it
for a plaster upon the boil, and he shall recover." Or, turning to
an instance from the New Testament, St. Paul the Apostle writes in 1
Tim. 5, 23 to his afflicted pupil: "Drink no longer water, but use
a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities,"
thus suggesting a medicinal tonic or medicine. Our Lord approved of
physicians when He said: "They that be whole," that is, healthy,
"need not a physician," which evidently implies that the sick do
need a physician, and we know from Col. 4, 14 that there was a
physician among the first disciples of the Christian Church, and
that was none other than the man who wrote the third and the fifth
book in the New Testament, namely, St. Luke. It says in Col. 4, 14:
"Luke, the beloved physician, greets you." And moreover, when we
read that in the days of His flesh the sick and the palsied and the
lame, and those afflicted otherwise, came to Jesus and He healed
them, does not Christian Science, denying that there is no sickness,
no palsy, and no disease, brand our Lord as a liar and a fraud? God
protect us from such abomination!

But let us come to the final question: By what power or remedy
does Christian Science heal, or, rather, claim to heal? Answer:
By denying the existence of matter, of sickness, of death, and
by seeking to give the mind complete mastery. Just imagine it is
not so! Prayer is employed, but Mrs. Eddy does not attach as much
importance to that as some of her followers, and from what we have
heard, such prayer is not the prayer of faith, for she has far erred
from God and the faith. God certainly does not answer such vain and
profane babbling of lips that speak falsehood and lies. The whole
Christian Science is a blustering, high-strung delusion. St. Paul
gives a true characterization of it 2 Thess. 2, 9: "It is after the
working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders and
with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish."

God grant that we may "avoid profane and vain babblings and
oppositions of science falsely so called." With our hearts firmly
grounded in the simple truth as it is in Jesus, and laid down in the
Volume before us, let us hold fast through God's grace what we have.
It is the power, the only power, unto salvation. Amen.



NINTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

     And He spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a
     certain rich man brought forth plentifully. And he thought
     within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room
     where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will
     pull down my barns and build greater; and there will I bestow
     all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul,
     thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease,
     eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool!
     This night thy soul shall be required of thee; then whose shall
     those things be which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth
     up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.--_Luke 12,
     16-21._


It is a serious matter to call any man a fool. It ought never to
be done except when circumstances make it imperatively necessary.
Christ, you know, employs very strong language in reference to this
in the Sermon on the Mount when He says: "Whosoever shall say to his
brother: Raca, shall be in danger of the council, but whoever shall
say: Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell-fire." But we must bear
in mind that our Lord does not condemn the expression "Thou fool"
in itself, but rather the spirit in which it is spoken. He does not
affirm that it is wrong to say that a fool is a fool, even to his
face, but that it is intensely wrong to do so from a feeling of
hatred, from spite; and so when God in the words just quoted says to
the rich man, "Thou fool," He says so, not because He hated him, but
because it was a fact, because He pitied His miserable condition,
and because He wishes to deter others from following his example.

To deter others from following his example, by the guidance of
God's Holy Spirit, is what we shall attempt to do in our pulpit
instruction this morning. Permit me simply and briefly to direct
your attention to two points in this striking parable, _I. That the
rich man spoken of in this parable was in some respects a wise man_;
_II. in some, and the chief respects, a foolish one_.

That this man was in some respects a wise man, of this we have
sufficient evidence before us. In the first place, he was a rich
man. It says: "The ground of a certain rich man brought forth
plentifully." It is very often said that anybody can make money,
that it requires no extraordinary powers to become rich, that those
who have prospered in the world are more indebted to adventitious
circumstances than to any merits of their own, and true it is that
men without intelligence, without education, without genius, are
sometimes, through a favorable combination of circumstances, enabled
to accumulate a vast amount of wealth. Yet, as a rule, riches are
acquired by those who work hard, who rise early and go to bed late,
who devote themselves with untiring energy to the serious business
of life. The great law is that "The hand of the diligent maketh
rich." Success is a prize which can only be secured by those who
diligently seek it. The very fact of this man being rich was in
itself a strong proof of his prudence; for the two, riches and good
common sense, stand, as a rule, connected.

Again, we are told that the land brought forth plentifully. What
did that prove? Anything further than that the land was fertile? It
proved that he was a skillful farmer, that he cultivated his land
well, that he knew how to make the most of it. For while it is true
that the abundance of the harvest depends on many circumstances over
which man has no control, such as the refreshing dew, the genial
rain, and the life-giving sunshine, so that after man has done
his best it is God who must give the increase, we ought also to
remember that God invariably observes the laws which He Himself has
established: He never causes corn to grow where seed has not been
sown; He never makes the uncultivated soil bring forth at the same
rate as that which is properly tilled; the smiles of Providence and
the help of God do not attend the indolent, and the careless and
thoughtless. If a man would reap abundantly, he must sow abundantly,
use the brains God has given him, and conform to God's laws; and
so, when the land brings forth plentifully, it is a proof that it
belongs to a skillful and prudent farmer.

And he was careful of his goods. He thought within himself: "What
shall I do because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?" There
was nothing wrong in this thinking, planning, and contriving. It
would have been an unpardonable negligence on his part to let the
corn rot in the fields for want of sufficient room to store it in,
and it would have been hardly natural to expect him to distribute
that for which he had no room among the poor. Doubtless it is the
duty of those who are very prosperous to be also very liberal;
according as they receive from God, so ought they contribute to
God's institutions. But God nowhere commands them to give away _all_
they have to spare after supplying their own immediate wants. Men
are perfectly justified in storing up for the future, in laying
aside, and allowing to increase what they have no need of at the
present. And it's the part of a thoughtful man who likes to make the
most of his advantages and opportunities so to do.

Say what people, demagogues, and unprincipled orators may, and envy
them as they do, those who increase wealth in an honest way have an
unquestionable claim upon our respect. They are, as it were, the
sinews of human society. Wealth is a mighty agent in the spread
of civilization and good. Without wealth, railroads could not be
constructed, ships could not be launched, towns, mansions, and
harbors could not be built, most of the conveniences and comforts
of civilized life could not be secured. Barbarous nations, you will
find, are always poor. This man, from all accounts, did not acquire
his riches by defrauding his neighbors or by wild and hazardous
speculations, but in the exercise of a legitimate and respectable
calling; he was entitled to it, he was deservedly respected. Nor
did he--in this there was also a degree of wisdom--deny himself the
comforts which his possessions were able to afford him. He was not
a tight-fisted, miserly fellow who half starved through fear of
spending his money, denying himself the things necessary to make
life more enjoyable. Rather the man who, like him, says to himself,
Take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry, than the man who in
possession of abundance of this world's goods denies himself its
comforts.

So far, then, we have many favorable traits in his character,
some of which we might do well to imitate. He was an industrious,
skillful, contemplating, wide-awake person who, in a business,
social way, stood well with all who knew him. But this only makes
the remaining part of his conduct, which we shall now consider, all
the more deplorable.

But God said unto him, "Thou fool." Why did God address him thus?
Because, first, all his thoughts were centered upon himself. With
him everything was _I_, _myself_, and _mine_. _My fruits_, _my
goods_, says he, as if they were absolutely his own, as if he owed
them entirely to his own skill and industry, and had a right to
apply them to his own selfish ends.

The man with all his worldly wisdom--and he has many like
himself--had not mastered one very essential and elementary truth,
namely this, that nothing that we have, nothing that we are, comes
from ourselves; if we possess anything, we have either inherited
it or earned it. If we have inherited it, it is not we who gave
life, energy, power to those who have bequeathed to us what we have.
If we have earned it, it was not we who gave ourselves the active
brain, the strong arm, and steady nerve that did the work. At the
most we have improved, made the most of a gift. Our powers, moral
and intellectual, physical and spiritual, come from the Author of
our life; our life itself is a gift. "It is God who hath made us,
and not we ourselves." We do not exist as of right, we exist on
sufferance and as a matter of bounty. We are stewards, trustees. We
hold what we hold on trust, as life-tenants, for an unseen Lord.
The first thing this man ought to have done when he found that his
lands were crowned with plenty was to bow down before the heavenly
throne and say: "Father of all mercies, I thank Thee that Thou hast
remembered Thine unworthy servant, and hast so bountifully prospered
the labor of his hands." But no, he says not a word about God or to
God; all he said was about himself and to himself. "My" fruits and
"my" goods--is his language. And as he received them without thought
or thanks to God, he also used them. It is this feature which our
Lord emphasizes when he remarks: "So is he that layeth up treasure
for himself, and is not rich toward God." Selfishness is the basest
of all sins. It is the most repulsive, degraded, and degrading
form of depravity, and to our shame it must be confessed that it
is the peculiar fault of man. The whole constitution of nature is
a standing protest against it. No created object exists for its
own sake, or to serve its own ends; but everything contributes its
share to the well-being of the rest of creation. Think of the sun,
the most glorious of visible objects, how from day to day, from
year to year, it lavishes its light upon the earth, giving life and
beauty and freshness to the vegetable and animal kingdoms. Or think
of the clouds, how with unwearied constancy they drink the waters
of the ocean, not to retain them in their own bosoms, but to pour
them down in plentiful showers, both on barren mountains and on
fertile plains; or how this earth, after supplying generation after
generation, is as productive as ever, and its mines inexhaustible.
Everything, in fact, seems to teach the grand doctrine that it is
better to give than to receive. Man alone, Heaven's chief recipient,
forms the contrast. He is selfish, and herein consists his folly.
Can we think of these things, and not blush at our own selfishness?

Again, his folly appears in this, that he provided only for the
flesh, the least important part of his nature. 'Tis true, he talks
about his soul, but only in such a way as if he hardly distinguished
it from his body, and as if it ought to have been well satisfied
with the things which his body only enjoyed. "And I will say to my
soul," said he, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years;
take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." But God said to him,
"Thou fool." He talked like a madman, like one beside himself, and
hence he deserved the severest rebuke. For what is man? Not anything
that he owns; not anything material that he can so handle as to make
it serve his purpose; not even the bodily frame with which he will
part company at death. Essentially, man is a spirit, enclosed in a
bodily frame. The soul is the man, and that soul calls for first and
best consideration. The contrary course is folly.

It is quite proper for us to be careful of our bodies, to provide
things suitable for our present condition; indeed, it is necessary
to do so. Alas! that rational and heaven-born creatures should
confine their attentions exclusively to, "What shall we eat, what
shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed?" and utterly
neglect their souls, feed their bodies sumptuously every day, and
leave their souls to perish with hunger. Is this right? Is it
reasonable to do this? Man has been created for a higher purpose,
and his ambition ought to be higher than to find blessedness in
eating, drinking, and sensual pleasures. These things cannot appease
the cravings of his soul. Man needs God for his portion and Christ
for his Savior; it is only as he believes the Gospel that true peace
is his.

And, lastly, he provided only for _time_, the least important
portion of his existence. What a glorious place this world would be,
what a glorious time it would be eating, drinking, and being merry,
according to the ideal of the flesh, if--well, if it were not for
one thing. What is that? The summons quoted here in our text. "Thou
fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee." "Many years,"
the man had said. "This night," God said, and from that decree there
was no appeal and is no exception. That awful truth is applicable
to every one of woman born and just as uncertain. Look around you,
my dear hearers, within the circuit of your own experience, and see
if you do not recognize the picture in the parable--an indolent,
indifferent epicureanism whispering to itself, "Soul, take thine
ease; don't be alarmed, eat, drink, and be merry," broken in upon by
the same message flashed from heaven coming in a railway accident,
in a sinking steamer, by death in the hunting field, or the river's
waves, or by the sudden stoppage of the heart's action. "Thou fool,
this hour thy soul shall be required of thee,"--and how do you
know whether the next summons may not mean you? Learn from this
parable the terrible uncertainty of human affairs, and, above all,
learn from it the lesson of wisdom, _viz._, to look forward to the
future, to forecast as to how it will be with you when the scenes
and pursuits of this busy world will have ended. There is a life
beyond this. Be wise, then, and provide for it. How? To speak with
our text: "By being rich towards God." Hear the Gospel. Believe that
Jesus suffered and died for you, reconciled you with God and heaven.
Become members of God's kingdom on earth, the Christian Church. Make
diligent use of the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments, and
thus be prepared and blessed in time and for eternity. Amen.



TENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

     For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the
     members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is
     Christ. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer
     with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with
     it.--_1 Cor. 12, 12 and 26._


There is, perhaps, nothing more remarkable, when you study the
life of the Church at large and of each congregation individually,
than the little interest which its members take in each other. In
most cases the entire concern of the membership devolves on a few,
or perhaps on the pastor alone; in many instances the amount of
interest and sympathy which is shown to each other extends only to a
formal, a very cool, social recognition; in some there is not even
the interest which secures that. People go in and out of the same
church-building, month after month, year after year, without as
much as knowing, or caring to know the name of their fellow-member
or worshiper. When difficulties arise and embarrassments, those who
belong to the Christian Church feel no more liberty to call on a
member of the Church for counsel or aid than they would on any other
person; when disheartened and discouraged, in need of sympathy and
a kind word, they have no reason to suppose that a single member of
the Church sympathizes with them. And when living in the neglect
of Christian duty, none of the members ever stop to administer an
admonition or gentle rebuke to keep the backslider from a melancholy
fall. In a word, people are left to take care of themselves very
much alone; and this is the more remarkable when you consider
the condition of those who largely make up the membership of a
congregation like ours. Many of them are young and inexperienced in
Christian life, gained from families where there is no religion, no
kindred to help them on to God, rather, where they are exposed to
influences that would draw them aside, and where every effort ought
to be made to keep them in the fold.

The reflections, my beloved, and the constant cry, "What is the
Church doing for its members? See how other organizations are
helping each other, how they care for their constituents," have led
me to propose for our consideration this morning: _What are the
duties which the members of the Church owe to each other?_ We shall
inquire _I. What the Christian Church is_, _II. note a few traits
which ought to distinguish its members_. May God's Spirit make the
sermon a profitable one.

First, what the Christian Church is. The Christian Church is
an organization, a body, separate, different from all other
organizations or bodies. It has a separate origin, a separate
purpose. It has separate principles and law. As to its origin--the
Church is divine. It is not a human institution. It is not a mere
voluntary association, such as an Odd Fellows' Society, a Masonic
Fraternity, a Mutual Improvement Club, an Insurance Company. None of
these have in them any higher wisdom, authority, or goodness than
human experience or contrivance has given them. It is different with
the Church. God made the first Churches, and through them He made
all other Churches. What the Church teaches in her creed is not from
man, but from God. His revelation, the sacraments she administers,
are divine institutions, God-appointed, and all the terms and the
spiritual process by which people come to be part and parcel of the
Church are directly from God. Men can no more make a Church than
they can make a world. It is altogether a thing of God. Though human
agencies are employed in its perpetuation, it is altogether of God.

This, it may be well to emphasize, is a point which does not enter
into the practical consideration of men as it should. People come to
church or stay away the same as they would go or stay away from a
lecture on human science, politics, or travels. They forget that in
the one case they are dealing with men and the things of men, in the
other with God and the things of God. They listen to the preaching
of the Word as they would listen to a candidate for political favor,
except with a little more drowsiness and indifference. They forget
that it is but man speaking in the one case, and that it is God,
though by a man, speaking to them in the other. People all gaze more
idly upon a baptism or an administration of the Lord's Supper than
upon the shams and mockeries of a stage play, not reflecting that
the one is mere empty buffoonery, whilst the other is a transaction
upon which angels are gazing with reverence, and in which God is
setting forth the precious riches of His almighty grace. They
are great on praising their unions, clubs, lodges, fellowships,
regarding them as the very connections for true fellowship, benefit,
and improvement, and setting aside that organization without which
the good that is in those connections would never have been. The
little light with which those societies shine is only a borrowed
light, reflecting feebly the spirit and principles of the Church
which they largely despise. Beloved, these are no hasty utterances
on my part. They are the words of deliberation and truth. There is a
laxative goodishness, a weak religiousness spreading in our Churches
that holds other organizations just as good as God's organization.

The fact is that the true and certain divinity, the God character of
the Church, hardly enters any more into men's hearts. Let it be once
rightly grasped and felt that the Church, as such, is a thing of
God, that God's name and saving grace are linked with it, and that
it is the channel, conservatory of heaven's truth and saving grace,
by which alone men's souls are saved. Let those who profess to be
Christians avoid any and every connection that holds teachings,
rituals, prayers, and practices contrary to its teachings, prayers,
and practices, and the Church would not be shorn so much of her
strength and be so little thought of. If men are "brethren" in
other connections besides the "brotherhood of Christ," which is
the Church, hold with one hand to idolatry and with the other to
Christianity, it need not be wondered that their zeal is a divided
one, and, in most cases, the Church receives the smallest division.

The first general thought, then, is this: The Church is God's. Says
the text, it is the body of Christ, distinct from all man-made
associations, and so to be honored.

And what--to consider the second and larger part of our
discourse--are some of the distinguishing traits of its members? By
what are they to know each other and to be known of one another?
Other societies have their pledges and badges. In some it is a
secret sign known only to the initiated, the brethren of the craft;
in others it is some peculiarity of speech or of dress, the cut
of the cap or the hair. Now, it is remarkable that the Savior and
His apostles prescribed no such external badge of membership, more
remarkable because, perhaps, every society then, as now, could be
known by such an outward badge. The Jew would be known everywhere by
his broad phylacteries and the borders of his garments; the Roman
soldier had some mark wrought with imperishable dye in the skin;
the Greek introduced into the Eleusinian mysteries had some outward
method of expressing that fact to the world. And nothing would have
been easier than for the Savior to have appointed some such emblem
for His followers. But in the sacred record there is not even a
distant intimation of any such badge by which Christ's people or
Christ's ministers are to be externally so distinguished. And yet,
was there no badge, no mark of distinction? There was. What was it?
Permit me, in answer, to quote a few passages. "A new commandment I
give unto you, that ye love one another as I have loved you. By this
shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to
another." "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because
we love the brethren." "He that loveth not his brother abideth in
death." "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a
liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can
he love God whom he hath not seen?" "Be kindly affectioned one to
another with brotherly love." "As touching brotherly love, ye have
no need that I write you, for ye yourselves are taught of God to
love one another."

And the story of John the Apostle is well known. In his old
age of 98 years he was carried to the Church, and when he was
asked whether he had anything to say, he would feebly respond,
"Children, love one another." Not by signs, peculiarity of dress, or
password--by attachment for each other were Christ's followers to be
distinguished the world over, in all ages. In His Church they were
to feel that, regardless of wealth, learning, office, or other human
distinctions, they were on a level, that they had common wants,
had been redeemed by the same precious blood, were going to the
same heaven, and were in every respect "brethren." And under this
conviction of feeling they were to hold to each other, love each
other. My dear hearers, did this love ever in the history of the
Church form such a distinguishing badge? It did. The time was when
the attachment of Christians for each other was such as to impress
the world with the reality of their religion, and with the fact that
they belonged to the family of the redeemed. "See," said the heathen
in the early days of Christianity, "how these Christians love one
another, and how ready they are to lay down their lives for each
other." Is it so now? I answer for anything that you can tell, if
persecutions were to arise, those scenes of ancient martyrdom story
might be acted over again. But if there is not this love of which
the Savior and His apostles speak as a distinguishing characteristic
of His Church, let it be for all of us a matter of self-examination
and reflection. I, as a servant of the Master, can only tell what He
requires of His disciples.

Again, a second trait and duty required,--they are to be
characterized by sympathy for those of its members who suffer.
The members of the Church are indeed expected and required to
have sympathy for all who are afflicted, but the idea is that
they are sympathizing with each other in a peculiar manner.
Christians are exposed to the same kind of afflictions as others.
They are liable to sickness and bereavement and poverty like
others, and, in addition, they have sources of sorrow peculiar to
themselves,--internal conflicts and struggles, persecutions and
trials on account of their religion; and in these, as well as in the
occasions of joy, they are supposed to find cordial sympathy and
interest among their brethren. That is the idea set forth in the
text when it says: "And whether one member suffer, all the members
suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice
with it."

Such is the formation of our body, the constitution of the nervous
fibers and the tissues, that pain in one part affects the whole
frame; that joy in one part diffuses itself over all. A pain in
the heart, the side, or in one of the limbs does not confine
itself there, leaving the rest of the body in a state fitted for
its usual employments, but every part sympathizes with that which
is affected. And so the pleasure which we receive from beauty of
objects seen by the eye, or from the melody and harmony of music
as perceived by the ear, is diffused over the whole frame, and we
are filled with enjoyments. So is the Church which is the body of
Christ. What affects one member is supposed to affect all. What
gives pain to one gives pain to all. What honors one honors all.
As an injury done to a nerve in the body, though so small as not
to be traceable to an unpracticed eye, may be felt at the remotest
extremities, so is the body of Christ. The dishonor done to the
obscurest member should be felt by all; the honor done to that
member should produce rejoicing. Without any officious intermeddling
with the private concerns of individuals, there should be such an
interest felt in the common welfare of the whole that each might
depend on the sympathy of his brethren at all times and in all
circumstances. Say not that "So it is not." The consideration now,
the Savior's teaching, is that so it ought to be, and that every
member of His Church should strive to make it so.

And one more duty must we mention, however briefly. It is this: As
an essential to healthful congregational life there must be mutual
admonition among the members. Here is the fundamental principle laid
down by the Savior. "If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go
and tell him his fault between thee and him alone." You are not to
blazon his fault abroad, you are not to allow the suspicion that he
has done you wrong to lie, and rankle, and fester in your own mind.
You are not to allow it to make you cold and distant, and evasive
and repulsive when you meet him, without his knowing the cause; you
are not to send an anonymous letter or a message by any one. You are
to go to him and see him by himself, and give him an opportunity
of explanation, or confession. It is a painful duty, and it is not
a duty that devolves on the pastor, but according to the rule laid
down by the Savior, upon a brother, _i. e._, clearly every one who
is a member of the Church. Beloved, the more I study congregational
life and gather practical experience, the wiser does the Lord's
rule appear to me in preserving the welfare of the Church. Let us
all strive to conform to it. Let us openly and frankly treat each
other like brethren. If you have been offended by a brother, or if
you have offended a brother, here is the rule that guides you; if
you see a congregational member wandering from the path of true
religion, going astray from Church and godliness, fail not to do
your duty by him, by an attempt to admonish and reclaim him.

We have set before us to-day what the Church is, and what the
characteristics of its members are,--a peculiar love founded on
their common hope of heaven, and their attachment to a common
Savior, sympathy with each other in joy and sorrow, and a common
interest and proper admonition when going astray. God grant that
all of us may rightly understand and may strive to live up to these
things, so that the Church may answer its high and holy purpose, the
salvation of men's souls through faith in Christ, to whom in all
matter be glory and honor forever. Amen.



ELEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

     Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith, without
     the deeds of the Law.--_Rom. 3, 28._


Whoever has read his Bible with attention must have observed that
there are some passages which, at first view, appear hard to
reconcile. Take, for instance, the passage before us. St. Paul
here says "that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds
of the Law," and to confirm his assertion produces the example
of Abraham. "Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him
for righteousness." St. James in his letter, the second chapter,
produces the same example, that of Abraham, and draws from it a
conclusion directly contradictory. He says: "Ye see, then, that
by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." Can any two
opinions be more opposite in appearance? And as may be expected, all
manner of conjectures have been presented. I will not tire you with
a tenth part of these interpretations. Only two shall I mention as a
specimen. A writer of great eminence, recognizing the difficulty in
its full strength, allows that it is not only hard, but impossible
to reconcile the two apostles, and concludes that, since it is
impossible to hold both their sentiments, we must abide by him who
wrote the last. Accordingly, he gives up the doctrine of faith
without works, supposing that St. Paul wrote with carelessness of
expression, and that St. James wrote after him to clear up what Paul
had obscurely or inaccurately expressed.

Again we would note that our great Reformer, Dr. Martin Luther,
having felt the power of St. Paul's doctrine in his own soul, that
he would have defied an angel from heaven to oppose it, when his
adversaries pressed him with the passage from St. James, styled it
an epistle of straw, because, in his opinion, it did not urge Christ
sufficiently strong.

But what of an explanation of these apparently so contradictory
passages?

Is there an explanation? Indeed, a simple and satisfactory one.
God's truth never clashes. When St. Paul speaks of justification,
he means the justification of our persons,--how we may be accepted
by a just and holy God, that is, by faith, and by faith alone, not
by works. When St. James in his letter speaks of justification, he
speaks of the profession as believers, how a man proves, shows, that
he has faith, and that he can only show that he has faith in one
way, namely, by his works. St. James, in his epistle, is addressing
such of his day as _said_ they had faith, though it had no influence
upon their hearts and conduct. He shows that their hope is vain.
He asks: "What doth it profit though a man say he hath faith, and
hath not works? Can faith save him?"--that is, can such an idle,
empty faith save him? He quotes an example: "If a brother or sister
be destitute, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye
warmed and filled, notwithstanding ye give them not those things
which are needful to the body, what doth it profit?" Would such
empty professions of charity prove a man to have charity? No more,
does he argue, would a person's mere assertion that he has faith,
unless it were followed by good works, justify his profession. A
Christian's faith is proved to be what it ought to be by works,
and not by mere empty profession of faith. And so the example
of Abraham is pertinent in both cases. According to St. Paul,
"Abraham believed," had faith in God, and God counted it unto him
for righteousness, accepted him by faith, and being thus accepted,
Abraham, already justified before God in person, showed that he had
the true faith by the effects which it produced in his heart and
life, and when God directed him to offer his son Isaac upon the
altar, he obeyed. Thus, concludes the Apostle James, his obedience,
his works, justified his faith, his profession as a believer. In
a word, St. Paul speaks of the justification of our persons, and
that is by faith, and by faith alone, and St. James speaks of the
justification of our faith, and that is by works. Viewed thus,
there is no discrepancy, no difficulty, and having taken up the
subject, let us continue to consider these two statements, perfectly
consistent with each other:--

_I. That there is no acceptance or justification for any of us
with God but through Jesus Christ received by faith, and that in
this concern of justification works of every kind are absolutely
excluded._

_II. That where faith in Jesus Christ exists, it must show itself by
works._

To begin with,--what is it for a man to be justified? When a person
has been brought to trial for any offense and has been found guilty,
he must make satisfaction for this offense. If he is able to make
a sufficient satisfaction for his offense, either through his
own ability or that of his friends, and the law accepts such an
indemnification, the criminal departs from the trial justified. He
is not, indeed, an innocent man, but he is so regarded by the law,
and though guilty, he would be no more liable to prosecution and
punishment for that offense than a person who had never committed
it. Now this is the way in which we are justified before God. We
are guilty beings; the sentence of eternal punishment is pronounced
upon us; we have no ability of our own to make satisfaction to the
court of the just Judge. But an almighty Friend has died to make
satisfaction for us; God is ready to accept this satisfaction, and
in consideration of it He releases us from the penalty of eternal
death to restore us to His favor, in a word, to justify us, to treat
us as innocent. A person who is found in Christ, having the infinite
merits of his Savior to plead for his justification, is no longer
liable to punishment.

But how do we secure this satisfaction of an almighty Savior? Again
the text answers: By faith. Take, in illustration, the incident
of Peter's walking on the sea. We have in our natural state
nothing more substantial under our feet to keep us from sinking
into everlasting destruction than Peter had from sinking into the
watery deep, and it is only when we realize our situation as he
did, when we feel our entire helplessness and destitution of hope
as he did, when we cast the imploring look and hold out the same
suppliant hand, confident that He is able and willing to save, that
we exercise a Gospel faith, receive all that Christ has ever done
or suffered in our behalf. Faith is the hand that lays hold on the
Savior, and so justifies.

Again, "We are justified," is the Apostle's assertion, "without
the deeds of the Law." In the first chapter of this epistle to the
Romans, Paul labors to show that the Gentiles had sinned against
the law of nature which was written in their hearts, and in the
second and third chapters, that the Jews had equally transgressed
their written Law, and then, having thus shown that all the world
is guilty before God, he concludes: "Therefore by the deeds of
the Law there shall no flesh be justified." In other words, that
good works are of no account in our justification, they cannot set
us right with God,--make us acceptable with Him, cannot gain His
favor. That is the teaching of the Scripture and the doctrine of the
Church. Declares the Fourth Article of the Augsburg Confession: "We
teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own powers,
deservings, or works, but are accounted righteous in grace only
through the merit of our Lord Jesus Christ received by faith."

Nor is there a lesson which we learn more slowly. It is a task most
difficult for us to give up the idea of merit in ourselves, to feel
that we can do nothing, absolutely nothing, towards purchasing the
favor of God. Talk with the sick and the dying upon the grounds of
their hope, and they will often be found pleading that they have
always endeavored to live good lives, and have never been guilty of
any gross sins, showing by such language that they are clinging to
their own good works, instead of trusting to the heaven-procuring
righteousness of God. Converse with Christians, even some of our
church-members, and they will often speak in such a way as to
show that they are placing some merit in their good character or
endeavors to serve God. With one foot they may indeed be standing on
the rock of salvation, but the other is too often still in the miry
clay of our own deservings. We must learn to rest wholly on Christ.
We must pray God to break down every vain dependence, to look away,
with loathing and disgust, from anything that we possess or can do,
to receive a crucified Redeemer as our only hope. "Nothing in my
hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling."

This is the first proposition, that there is no acceptance with God
but through faith, and that in this concern works of every kind are
absolutely excluded. But this proposition, simple and plain as it
is, must not be perverted. It will not do, then, to say, It matters
not what our lives are, just so we only have faith in Christ. When
the Scriptures assert that we are justified by faith, they do not
mean a faith which leaves us indifferent to our practice. The faith
that saves a man is of the kind that has a prevailing and ennobling
influence upon the hearts and lives of those who possess it. Because
man cannot gain salvation by his own righteousness and works, he
must beware of falling into the fatal and ruinous delusion that he
can abolish righteousness and good works. God demands good character
and good works from His people. The same apostle who declares in the
epistle: "By faith we are justified," adds: "And His grace which
was bestowed upon me was not in vain, but I labored more abundantly
than they all." The Bible wants every Christian to be busy; his
life should be filled with fruits of good. But these things must
be put in their right place; and which is that? As an evidence of
the faith within us. Faith saves us, but good character and good
works prove that we have this saving faith. The truth of the matter
is that to set little store on good works is an immoral and most
pestilent heresy. The works by which we recommend religion and adorn
the doctrine of God, our Savior; the works which spring from love
to Christ and aim at the glory of God, the works by which a good
man blesses society and leaves the world better than he has found
it, are not worthless and "filthy rags," but they are the gracious
and graceful ornament of a blood-bought soul, the fruits of God's
Spirit within us, the clear and comfortable evidence of our being
the children of God; and in this St. Paul and St. James agree.
Whereas a faith that professes to believe in Christ, and denies Him
in character and works, is not only unprofitable, but loathsome and
offensive, a dead carcass.

God grant that we have all rightly understood that we place our sole
and undivided dependence for salvation upon our blessed Redeemer,
and that we evidence such faith in Him by the virtues of a holy
character and the performance of godly acts. To God be all glory in
Christ Jesus! Amen.



TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

     Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he
     will not depart from it.--_Prov. 22, 6._


It has grown to be a custom to speak at this time a few words
concerning our youth. No one, I trust, will dispute the wisdom, nor
question the appropriateness of this. After months of relaxation
and rest our little ones have returned to the walls and duties of
school life. God grant His blessing that they may become intelligent
citizens, worthy and useful members of the commonwealth. That is our
pious wish and prayer, and for such wish we have reason abundant.
Perhaps there has been no time when the matter of education and
bringing up of our children has called for so much thought and
concern as at the present. Statisticians tell us what startling
conditions prevail in our country in respect to wrongdoing, that
murders, unchastity, forgeries like a tidal wave are sweeping our
land far above what it is in other countries, and that a large
percentage of these crimes are being perpetuated by mere striplings
of boys. By far the larger number of the inmates of our penal
institutions--work-house and penitentiary--are young men. Our reform
schools--Good Shepherd institutions and similar places--house
boys and girls by the hundreds, causing one to heave a sigh of
inexpressible sadness. Look over the docket of our Juvenile Court,
and it convinces you beyond cavil that there is enough to justify
its existence; and then we have said nothing about the stubbornness
against parents and superiors, flippancy, and other sins of youth
daily on the increase. And who is to blame? Said an honorable judge
of this city lately: "I do say that there is a fearful amount of
depravity among the children in the cities of this country, and
I don't blame the children as much as those who put them into
existence, the parents;" and continuing, he says: "We are prating
entirely too much about the unreal and unsubstantial. After all, the
real questions are the ones that affect the homes and the children
in the homes, and because we have neglected them, we are reaping
the ill results." The testimony of thousands of others could be
quoted to the same effect. Sufficient reason, accordingly, why we
should direct attention to this vital subject. God blessing His word
spoken, let us regard the text which reads: "Train up a child in the
way he should go," noticing that this is done, _I. By instruction_,
_II. by example_, _III. by discipline_.

First in order to a proper training of the young belongs
instruction, and by that we mean religious instruction, education
not of the mind only, but of the heart. We have no quarrel with
education of the mind, the culture of our children in all the
accomplishments and acquisitions of facts and sciences; on the
contrary, we regard intellectual knowledge, to speak with King
Solomon, as more precious than rubies and more to be chosen than
fine gold; we hail with delight every facility and agency that would
make our children just as bright as possible, and commend the spirit
that makes our schools among the most elegant and conspicuous of
public buildings. And yet, education of the mind alone will not
do; we might point in evidence of that to the refined nations of
antiquity. Is not ancient Greece with its music, painting, poetry,
and the arts the model of modern states? And who has not heard
and read of the Romans and the ancient Egyptians and Persians? Go
to your public libraries and see the books on its shelves and the
mutilated statues of Apollo, Juno, and the like that tell of their
genius. Why did these nations not last? Why did the fabric of their
grandeur crumble to pieces? Because it was not combined with the
unperishable principle of virtue, and their want of virtue resulted
from their want of religion.

Far more simple, however, is the consideration that man is not only
mind, but soul, and that this soul is preeminently what makes the
man, here and hereafter; that it is upon the attention given to
that soul that man's happiness, or the reverse, depends. Hence, the
importance and duty of educating the soul. And that duty--where does
it begin? Most assuredly where God first put the children--that
is the home. At as early a period as possible, as soon as the
little ones begin to think and to reason, it is for us to bring
them into uninterrupted contact with the sublime and simple truths
of God's Word. You cannot begin too early. From veriest infancy
let them breathe the air of a religious atmosphere. The names of
God, Jesus, heavenly Father, words like heaven, angels, Bible,
church, and others of this kind, let them be used over and over,
constantly in the hearing of the child. At first they convey but
little meaning to it. But the brain retains even what it at first
does not understand, and day by day the impression deepens and the
understanding grows. Moreover, parents cannot begin too early to
teach the child to abhor sin. Mothers should give especial attention
to their little daughters and train them in maidenly modesty and
chastity, reticence and reserve. And this home education does not
cease when the children at tender age are sent to the Sunday-school
and the parochial school. What great things are expected from that
short lesson on a Sunday morning! How unreasonable to look for
results of any amount unless there be the cooperation of the parents
with the teachers. How many parents cooperate with the Christian
instructors? How often do parents inquire about the Catechism and
Bible history lesson? sing with their children the religious songs
taught? If parents fail to interest themselves in what is going
on in this way, never speak to the little ones about their work,
of what little value must this appear to the children. It needs
the earnest and ardent cooperation of the parents. And so when it
comes to confirmation. What is confirmation? A course of religious
instruction by the pastor. My beloved, have you ever reflected what
a most excellent appointment that is? What would our Lutheran Church
be and do with it? Those few months spent in personal instruction
with the pastor have been the most fruitful period of many a life,
have laid a foundation, solid and impenetrable--and God prevent the
day that parents would begrudge the hours devoted to that purpose,
or regard the securing of a public school diploma higher than the
Certificate of Confirmation. As the new term is about to open, let
parents and sponsors carefully weigh this matter!--We train the
children, in the first place, by religious instruction.

Again, it has been stated, by example. To bring up a child in
the way it should go, you should go that way yourself. An ounce
of example is better than a pound of precept. If children are to
honor parents, parents ought to honor themselves and each other. If
father and mother are rude to each other, no wonder if the example
be soon followed. If father and mother are unpunctual in their
hours, irreverent and vulgar in gesture and speech, it needs no
sage to tell what the effect would be. Children need models more
than criticism. Boys do not learn honesty and girls modesty so much
from text-books--the parents are the best living encyclopedia of
practical morality. What can one expect where the father is heard
blaspheming his Creator, lives in debauchery, drowning his reason
in liquor, spending his time and his earnings for purposes and in
places unbecoming. How many a boy's soul has been poisoned by filthy
talk heard from an adult's lips! An irreverent joke on some Bible
story has well-nigh shattered the faith of many a lad!

And it will never improve the moral condition of the young where the
mothers are "white" liars, practice deception upon their husbands,
and indulge in eavesdropping and gossip and find their chief delight
with the world, its amusements and pleasures. It well becomes us to
examine ourselves and our homes in this respect.

Two things in particular have tended to break down the religious
prestige of parents and to make our homes irreligious homes. The
first is this: the lack of family worship and prayer. In many, aye,
most cases the family altar has, to quote the language of another,
"been carried to the woodshed, and there demolished for kindling."
What multitude of homes are veritable boarding houses! Each member
of the household comes, goes, eats, and sleeps at will. When you
add to that the rush and push of modern business life, the spirit
of the age, which regards religion lightly, the multiplied evening
enjoyments, we have no time for family worship. But right there we
are making an irreparable mistake--as foolish and worse than taking
the roof off our house. Dear Christian parent, put that Bible back
where it belongs; let never a day pass but a chapter is heard in
your dwelling. Consider what I say, and the Lord grant you courage
and blessing!

Parents who do not fear and love God and live according to His
commandments, what reason have they to complain when their children,
misled by them, fail to fear and love God and live according to His
commandments?

So the second means of training up a child in the way he should go
is by example.

The third is discipline. Foolishness is in the heart of a child.
"The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth," says the
Bible, and this foolish and evil heart shows itself very early and
ugly betimes, and then needs restraint. Children must be trained in
the way they should go, also in this particular; namely, to control
their passions, to master their self-will; to render obedience,
respect, deference to parents and all elders. A child is in a very
precarious condition if it has gained the impression that it is too
much for papa and mamma, and that it cannot be made to mind, and
that papa and mamma cannot do a thing with it. And if the parents
unfailingly take the side of their children when something comes up
between them and some other party, as the teachers and neighbors,
they may be certain that they are making all around good-for-nothing
children of them. Children should be compelled to curb themselves,
and not allow ugly words to come over their lips, or to frown, and
scowl, and get into a fit of anger whenever they receive an order,
or are reprimanded.--And how are parents to overcome disrespect and
insubordination of children? First of all, they must cease to coddle
their children, and connive at their faults, or laugh at their
rudeness and misbehavior.

Again, God, by the pen of Solomon, has set down a word in the Bible
which needs mentioning to-day: "He that spareth the rod hateth
his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." The rod
indeed should be used with caution and good common sense, and only
in extreme cases of disobedience and wickedness. Parents should be
heedful in this respect. When a child does a trifling wrong, not out
of malice, but out of mischief or thoughtlessness, parents must not
resort to extreme severity. Parents should take the trouble to train
their children, to talk to them, to explain what is right and wrong,
to get the consent of their will, and persuade them to obey, and it
is only after all patience and clemency has been exhausted and the
child remains intractable that the rod will come in for its share
of training. It is a well-known dictum of Luther, that the apple
and the rod must go together, that is, love must be combined with
justice, otherwise children feel abused, and become embittered.--But
neither must we refrain from using the rod for the good of the
child, nor can we begin too early.

And one thing more do we emphasize in this important matter of
children's training: Keep your child out of bad company. Boys and
girls are often allowed to run wild, early and late, with all
kinds of companions, in all sorts of places, and this has marked
the beginning of many a boy's and girl's downfall. You would not
suffer your little ones in the company of children infected with
some malignant disease. But some parents seem to dread such ailments
more than the vicious and degrading influence of ill-trained
children; they never inquire about the character of their children's
playmates, about the nature of the games indulged in. On a Sunday
morning parents will leave their children at home, feasting on
the comic section of the Sunday paper, a flagrant exhibition of
the criminal meanness and spitefulness of some bad boy. To pass by
other things, the five-cent theaters, or nickelodeons, may present
wholesome pictures at times, but enough has been said and written
to convince us that the nature of the entertainment offered is in
many cases, if not in the most, of a low and trivial order. It is
certainly a training in the wrong direction if children can talk
fluently about plays, actors, and actresses. Let a child taste that
sort of opiate, and life elsewhere will seem dull and insipid, and
the outcome far from the paths of righteousness and religion.

May God, according to the riches of His mercy, bless the words
spoken so that they may arouse us parents to renewed endeavors,
multiplied zeal, and irresistible enthusiasm in our duties over
against our youth. To His great Parent heart and Parent care we
commend them and us. Amen.



THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

     And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto
     you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these
     my brethren, ye have done it unto me.--_Matt. 25, 40._


We Christians are sometimes at a loss whether to regard it as a
matter of congratulation or as a matter of disdain when we hear
people who otherwise repudiate our blessed Lord, who have no use
for His teaching and His Church, quoting Him as an authority and a
model. Thus there be those who say with great emphasis that Jesus
Christ was a Socialist, yes, the first and real Socialist; He loved
the common people and severely arraigned the rulers of His nation.
Others, when they find it convenient, contend that Christ was no
temperance man. Did He not perform a miracle, turning water into
wine? While others contend that Christ was a great philanthropist;
His purpose and mission was to make this world a better place to
live in; wherefore He fed the hungry, healed the sick, and devoted
Himself to the betterment of social conditions generally.

Whether our Lord was a Socialist, or not, that depends upon the
definition, "What is a Socialist?" Unfortunately, there are as
many different definitions of Socialism as there are individual
Socialists; scarcely two are perfectly agreed. Suffice it to say
that, in the popular acceptance of the word, Jesus of Nazareth
was not a Socialist; and we do not feel greatly flattered to
have Him so rated. The same is true when He is quoted as a
non-temperance man, in the mouth of those whose use of wine and
other intoxicants consists mostly in the abuse. And as to our Lord
being a philanthropist, whose mission was the betterment of social
conditions, this, while a favorite idea, is far from the whole
truth. What does our Lord Himself say was His mission in this world?

He declares that He came "to seek and to save that which was lost."
He says: "I am come that ye might have life, and that ye might
have it more abundantly." What did He mean by "life"? Surely not
the hand-breadth of time which we are living here and now. To Him
man was more than a creature whose wants were only those of a
stomach and its appurtenances. It is true, He did not minimize the
present life. He relieved men of their distresses and healed their
sicknesses; but that was quite subordinate to His greater work. The
emphasis was always placed on their eternal interests. "The life,"
He said, "is more than meat and the body than raiment." His great
question was, "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world
and lose his soul?" What are health and comfort and wealth, and all
earth's emoluments in comparison with the life hereafter? Christ's
mission was to make it possible for men to attain to that high
destiny; and this He did by sacrificing Himself and dying on the
cross for them, in expiation of their sins, so that, whosoever would
believe in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life. This,
be it ever kept before us, was the purpose and mission of Christ.
It is not true that the ministry of Christ had to do principally
with the temporal welfare of men. To say so is to contradict His
words and belittle His work. He did champion the poor; He did
vindicate the rights of the working classes; He did insist on happy
homes and just government and the betterment of society every way.
But He came to be a Savior, He came to save the soul from the
ravages and penalty of sin; and when people quote Him in favor of
one thing only, and that the inferior part, and reject the other
and the superior, it is only a half truth, and not to our Lord's
credit. And as people judge in these matters concerning Christ, so
concerning His Church. The Scripture-lesson of this Sunday, treating
of this subject, tells us of the good Samaritan and his work of love.

Let us, for once, take for our topic of instruction: _I. The
wrong view and attitude of the Church over against the works of
benevolence. II. Which is the correct Bible teaching and practice?_
The Lord grant us understanding and wisdom!

There is no question that the expectation of the multitude regarding
the churches has largely changed. Formerly the one and only thing
which it was expected for the churches to do was to preach the
Gospel, to minister to people's souls. Public opinion now is to
the effect that the business of the Church is along the lines of
social science and social service. There are churches to-day which
have, accordingly, been practically transformed into hospitals, for
the healing of nervous diseases, and there are Social Settlements,
supported by Christian people, where baths and gymnasiums,
play-rooms, lunch counters, musicales, moving pictures, and
scientific lectures have free sway. "Not only with the unseen and
eternal has the Church to do, but with the seen and temporal. Give a
man a square meal, a good suit of clothes, better social conditions
for him and his children, and you will have better success as to his
soul. Let the churches preach that and practice that, and they will
come up to their proper ideal and purpose." Beloved, as to what is
the proper ideal and purpose of the Church, that is for Him to say
who founded the Church; and what does He say? Of Himself He said,
as we heard: "The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which
is lost," and to His disciples He said: "As the Father hath sent
me," into the world, "so send I you," that is, to seek and to save
those who were lost in sin. And this salvation is to be accomplished
in what way? By social science and service? His direction is: "Go
ye and preach the Gospel." That, be it noted, is _the_ purpose and
mission of the Church. "Teach the Gospel," the tidings how man's
soul may be saved from the guilt and power of sin through Jesus
Christ, their Savior. That is the heaven-appointed sphere and
commission, at home and abroad. The object of our missionaries in
foreign lands is not to heal the sick and teach the heathen how to
wear clothes, and cultivate the fields. To civilize is not yet to
Christianize. Their duty is to preach the Gospel, and invite souls
to Christ. They may have to do other things, such as translating
the Scriptures, helping the poor, and treating their sick bodies,
but always with one thing in mind, namely, the winning of souls to
Christ as their Savior from sin. And so among us. Let us beware of
putting that which is only subordinate, the improvement of material
conditions, in the place of the higher purpose of the Church, the
winning of souls. God's method, however men may be in love with
their own, is always the best. Men's method is this: Give men better
social conditions, improve their circumstances, and you will improve
their souls. God's method is the reverse: First improve their souls,
and you will improve their social condition. The Gospel does not aim
directly at improving men's circumstances, it aims at improving men
themselves. But no sooner does it bring about a moral improvement
in men than they bring about a noticeable improvement in their
surroundings.

Search the history of all Christian countries and communities, and
see whether it is not so. Which are the richest and most prosperous
and flourishing nations in our day? Countries like Germany, England,
America, countries that have received most abundantly of the Gospel
of Jesus Christ. Let us beware, then, of having our attention and
efforts directed from the main thing. Some of those social service
features may serve a good purpose as far as they go, but only when
they are in line with the great mission of the Church as the Lord
gave it: the preaching of the Gospel. A few years ago, when Japan
began to emerge from barbarism, the thoughtful people of that
country were accustomed to say quite candidly that they wanted our
Western civilization, but were not prepared to accept Christ with
it, and this is the attitude of China just now. One of her great
statesmen has said: "We purpose to keep the philosophy of Confucius,
but we are ready to believe the religion of Christ for its fruits."
This will not do. Neither Japan, China, nor any individual can
borrow the clothes of religion and leave the vital thing out of it.
This is precisely the tendency in these days. People would reject
the Gospel, yet would take advantage of the blessed results which
flow from it.

We learn, then, that the preaching of the Gospel is the first
purpose of the Church of Christ; to that it must direct its
main effort; therein lies its life and success, and all other
undertakings must be subordinate and in harmony with that. In other
words, the greatest charity, the noblest act of Good Samaritanism
is that which aims at a person's soul, and that help can only be
effected by the Gospel of Christ; that is the oil and the wine which
the heavenly Samaritan has designed to be poured into the soul's
wounds of sinful and dying man.--But this does not exclude that the
Church should practice Good Samaritanism towards men's bodies. On
the contrary, this is her Lord's direction. And the Church has ever
done so, and is doing so, as a whole and in her individual members.
This is our second consideration.

No duty is more constantly enjoined by the Scripture than that of
contributing to the necessity of others. We think, for instance, of
the Savior's words to the rich young ruler: "Sell what thou hast,
and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven." The
Christian congregation at Jerusalem had a treasury out of which
distribution was made continually as any man had need. St. Paul
tells of collections that were taken for brethren who were in
distress because of the famine which prevailed throughout Judea.
In the days of early Christianity we read of much almsgiving;
beautiful instances are on record of believers who, constrained by
the love of Christ, gave away large estates and gladly spent the
rest of their days in poverty for their brethren's sake. Hospitals,
institutions never before known, were erected by wealthy Christians,
and the story of Laurentius is well known, who, when ordered by the
Roman officials to produce the treasures which it was thought the
Christians had in hiding, brought out the aged, the sick, and the
crippled, and remarked, "These are our treasures." And the Church
is not slack concerning works of benevolence now. Look at the chain
of institutions of every kind that are maintained within the bounds
of our Synod, by our congregations in this city. Whence comes the
revenue for the support of our Orphanage, Altenheim, Hospital,
City Mission? From the pockets of the hearts of those who attend
the public worship of God. This past week there was laid to rest a
man who, whatever may be our verdict concerning his work and the
organization of which he was the founder and head, the Salvation
Army,--Rev. Wm. Booth,--it cannot be denied that such a religious
movement could only have sprung up on Christian soil, fostered by
Christian principles of charity and beneficence.

And what pertains to the Church at large pertains to each of us
individually. In the text the Lord Jesus, sitting in judgment upon
each child of Adam, says: "What ye have done unto one of the least
of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me." What words could be
more pointed! How those few words tell us why and to whom we are to
show beneficence. "Ye have done it unto Me,"--that infirm and aged
one for whom you have provided a permanent and comfortable home,
"ye have done it unto Me." Those "least of all my brethren,"--those
orphaned children whom ye have sheltered in a Christian home or
a suitable institution, "ye have done it unto Me." That coin and
dollar which you have given unto worthy charity--to the man or
woman, battling against life's odds and reverses,--"ye have done it
unto Me."

Beloved, never let the springs of your Christian charity dry up
because of ingratitude, sorry experiences; it was, after all, not
that destitute one that you were dealing with, but Him.

We have regarded in our reflection to-day, first, what is the chief
mission of Christ and of His Church, namely, the saving of the soul,
and that this is effected by the preaching of the Gospel; secondly,
that where there is concern for men's souls, there will be charity
shown toward their bodies also. In other words, where the love of
Christ has taken possession of the heart, there it will also show
itself in deeds of love to Christ's destitute brethren.

My beloved hearer, what is the measure of your love? What are you
doing unto the Lord's brethren and thus unto Him? Remember that
on that day an inspection is going to be made, a report openly
rendered. What kind of report will yours be? Lord, give us ever a
kind heart, a charitable hand, and through Thy grace the reward
which Thou hast promised in heaven for those who served Thee on
earth. Amen.



FOURTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

     And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith
     virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance;
     and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and
     to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness,
     charity.--_2 Pet. 1, 5-7._


It is a very easy thing, my beloved, to be a Christian, and it is a
very difficult thing to be a Christian. That may sound paradoxical
and strange, but it is soberness and truth. It is very easy to
be a Christian by name, but it is very difficult to be one in
reality. It is an undeniable fact that there are people who call
themselves after the Savior, and yet are a disgrace even to common
decency; whilst others again keep slightly more within the bounds
of morality, yet their tempers remain unsubdued, their tongues
unbridled, they mind earthly things, and there is little or no
difference between them and the people of the world. Even when
they have connected themselves with the Church, and taken formal
discipleship and membership upon themselves, this inconsistency
appears. Some are great saints on great occasions, when there is a
chance to shine in the esteem of men, but are glaringly deficient in
private spheres and duties, and are very leaden and dull where no
applause is forthcoming. Others can always be depended upon where it
costs them nothing, but when burdens are to be borne, their interest
lies somewhere else. Still others are generous enough with their
means, but expect their dollars to answer in place of a pure life
and to counterbalance a vast deal of self-indulgence and unsanctity.
Another class are those who are full of zeal and energy, provided
they are allowed to do everything their own way, and are not
compelled to cooperate with certain other people whom they despise.
And so there are multitudes of chaotic, one-sided, undeveloped,
unsatisfactory professing Christians whose conduct is anything but
consistent with their claims, and in little accord with Him whose
name they would bear.

Now turn to the Scripture,--read the descriptions given in the holy
writings of what constitutes a full-fledged Christian, and holding
up the picture before your spiritual eyes, begin to compare the
modern Christian with the Scriptural one, the real one with the
nominal. For what is a Christian? A Christian is, first of all, a
person who has been justified by faith in Christ; that is his real
character and standing, and as long as he remains true in his faith
and to his Savior, he remains a Christian. But this does not offset,
but rather involves, that the faith by which we are justified and
saved must be a live, an active and vigorous principle, which draws
after it a train of noble virtues and good works; we must not only
be Christians, but show it; we must not only have justifying grace,
but also sanctifying grace, leading us forward in our Christian
profession. We Christians must not be like mill-wheels which move
indeed, but always stand in the same place, or like mill-horses
which go round and round, but never get beyond the one narrow
circle. Nay, we must advance in Christian holiness, go forward
to the full measure of our stature as a Christian. This is the
principal thought that the various Sundays of Trinity urge upon us,
and again in harmony with which we find our text. These words point
out to us: _I. The additions we are to make to our faith_; _II. the
manner in which we must make these additions_. May God bless our
meditations upon them!

The Apostle begins: "Add to your faith virtue." You will observe he
does not want his readers to seek after faith,--that he supposes
them to possess already,--he addresses them as believers, and calls
upon them to add to their belief, as if he would say: You claim to
have faith (it is a good thing to have), but you seem to forget
that faith without works is dead, that Christianity is not only a
spiritual religion, but a practical one. What does a foundation
amount to if the superstructure be not reared? Nothing; it is a
beginning without a progress. Just so with faith,--it is _the_
chief requisite of Christian religion, and must not be a scheme of
doctrine which lies asleep in the mind and never stimulates.

Abraham had faith, and he offered up Isaac. Moses had faith, and
he esteemed the afflictions and hardships of the people of Israel
greater rather than the treasures of Egypt. Abel and Noah had
faith; it led the one to build, and the other to die the death of
a martyr. And so you, claiming to have faith, "add to your faith
virtue." This is the first addition mentioned. Virtue here does
not signify goodness in general, but a particular quality; it
means as much as fortitude, courage, bravery,--add to your faith
courage. And the exhortation was indeed necessary in those days of
the Apostle's writing. Heathenism and Judaism were making common
cause to despise, persecute, and malign the followers of the new
religion. Many of the followers of Christ had to sacrifice home,
country, family, and friends, and wander about as the offscouring of
the earth. Temptations and distractions of the most dangerous kind
were assailing them. And it could not be otherwise; if not rooted
and grounded, firm, courageous, inflexible, they would surely make
shipwreck. It is no less necessary this day. The world is not more
a friend to religion and religionists now than it was then. It is
not an easy thing to encounter adverse opinion, to incur the sneers
and frowns of relatives and associates, or the scorn of persons in
business and society. It is not a pleasant feeling to find yourself
in a small and despised minority, and that minority ofttimes lacking
in appreciation, sympathy, and cooperation. When you add to these
the petty jealousies, misrepresentations, and stabs in the back,
hypocrisies and ingratitude, one is prone to become discouraged,
and to drop off in sullenness and despondency. What we need in such
moments of weakness to support our flagging minds and faltering
energies is virtue,--courage, moral and religious resolve to do and
to dare, to show ourselves as men, and not as moral cowards and
fretting babes. Fie on a Peter that denied his Master before the
taunts of a maid, and shame on the disciples who forsook Him in the
hour of emergency. How noble does there appear in comparison that
Roman soldier at Pompeii who stood in his place when the avalanche
of lava and fire was engulfing the city, where, over a thousand
years afterwards, he was excavated with his sword drawn and still
guarding the city gate. O for a stand to our profession and to God's
Word till He shall say, "It is enough," for a little boldness, holy
determination, courage, firmness to follow our convictions and to
voice them, regardless of the reproach we may endure, or the losses
we may sustain.

The second addition to our faith mentioned is "knowledge." A
knowledge of the truth as it is in Christ, these people to whom
St. Peter wrote indeed had. But there are such heights and depths,
lengths and breadths in Christian knowledge that the greatest of
saints can never get done learning it. The most knowing are like
children on the seashore. Though they may gather the many precious
pebbles and beautiful shells, the vast ocean of truth still lies
unexplored before them, and we need all strive after a deeper and
cleaner insight into the mysteries of God and of His grace.

A person once told me that some people know too much, and that their
very wisdom in sacred things spoils their piety. This may be where
the knowledge is merely a thing of the head and not affecting the
heart, but it will be a sad day for Christianity if ever it comes
to accept the maxim: "Ignorance is the mother of devotion." Another
once told me that it was useless for him to go to church, for he
knew it all. Mistaken man! I saw him on his deathbed and found his
soul so destitute of true knowledge that he had not enough wherewith
to die in peace.

Let us not be deceived! Never can we come to the strength and
stature of men and women in Christ except we search and study the
Scripture, listen attentively to the exposition of the Word. Even
what is most familiar to us we need to have continually repeated in
our ears, lest we forget it, or our piety will go out and die, just
like a lamp that is not supplied with oil. For not only theoretical
knowledge does the Apostle mean here, but, I take it, practical
knowledge, that knowledge which we ordinarily call prudence,
which is knowledge applied to action. And it is a quality which a
Christian must seek to cultivate. A Christian ought to grow wiser as
he grows older. A Christian is intent on studying his character and
his ways. He seeks to make every day an improvement or correction
of the former, deriving strength from his very weaknesses and
firmness from his falls. A Christian distinguishes times, places,
circumstances; he does not rashly offer his opinion, but discerns
when to speak and when to keep silence. When he reproves, he does
so with skill; when he gives, he does so with judgment. A Christian
does not overrate his position and talents, nor does he underrate
them; he is willing to approve things that are excellent, even if
he is not the first to advance them, and is upright enough to speak
against what is wrong, even if it might not be popular. But alas,
what numbers there are of normal Christians whose temper, character,
disposition marks no improvement; they are the same year in and year
out, no better, no holier, no stronger in Christian life; their
Christian experience and advancement is equal to naught. "The wisdom
of the prudent is to understand his way," says Solomon, and the
Apostle exhorts: "Add to your faith knowledge."

Thirdly, "Add to your faith temperance," _i. e._, moderation. Keep
your passions within due bounds and your desires regulated.

Having dwelt at length on this quality recently, we pass on to
the next: "Add to your faith patience." Things are not always to
our fancy and taste. The weather is not always fair and the roads
agreeable. Men and things are liable to vex us, torment us, our
circumstances and connections prove galling and exacting. Nothing is
then more desirable than an antidote to strengthen and invigorate
the soul than patience. It prepares you for every changing scene
and every suffering hour. It sustains you under afflictions, and
gives you that calmness and resignation which so much becomes the
Christian. Nothing is more dishonoring and disnobling than to
behold that disposition which must continually be pampered and
stroked and rocked like a child, under the slightest provocation
and disfavorableness will froth and foam. Amid life's ills practice
patience. As the Holy Scripture expresses it: "Let patience have her
perfect work that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing."

Of the remaining virtues mentioned we next have "godliness," meaning
the fear and love of God as it is shown in our lives, pervading
our actions and controlling our every deed. Here is the difference
between morality and religion. An unbeliever, a non-Christian,
may conduct himself just as civilly and respectably outwardly
as a believer, as a Christian. Outwardly, I say, the difference
between the two lies in this: the one does it from consideration,
probably, of gain in society, or probably from a fear of avoiding
the penitentiary, whereas the Christian is prompted in his conduct
by motives and considerations toward his God. You cannot be godly
without being moral; you can pose for moral, and still not be godly.
Godliness consists in this, to bring God into every part of life, to
make Him the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end of all we
do; and it is only when we do that, and when we make His Word our
rule and His glory our aim, that life is what it is intended to be,
and answers the purpose for which the Creator has given it. To live
without godliness is like an arrow without point and feather,--it
will never hit the target.

Where there is godliness, it will be attended by the other two
virtues mentioned, "brotherly kindness" and "charity." Where there
is water, there it is wet; where there is a tree, there it is
shady; where there are right sentiments toward God, there will also
be right sentiments toward our fellow-Christians and fellow-men.
It matters not how they may differ in age, they possess the same
powers of conscience, reason, and mentality; they are liable to the
same afflictions, are members of the same family, travelers to the
same heavenly grace; they need the same assistance and cheer, hence
I am to exercise toward them brotherly kindness and charity. But
the last is surely not in this case the least, for charity is the
highest attainment in practical Christianity, the fulfilling of the
Law, the bond of perfectness, and, need I add? the most difficult of
all Christian virtues. This charity manifests itself in our conduct
toward the brethren. It is the opposite of that hasty spirit and
temper which is ever finding fault and breaking out in sudden and
rash anger. It is that benignant spirit which does not reckon up
the injuries received with a view of having satisfaction for them.
It pities men's infirmities and moral failures, and makes ample
allowances for them. Nor does it scramble for its own gratification
in disregard of others' rights, dues, and comforts, but seeks to
serve all men as it would serve itself. Nor does it lose heart
and give up in disgust when all meets with discouragements and
obstructions, ingratitude on the part of those for whom it labors
and lives. It is willing to forgive and forget, to defend, and to
put the best construction on everything. It is the highest and
best test of Christian character, the most important, the most
exalted, the most enduring of all virtues. We wonder that the
Apostle mentions it last in the divine category of Christian graces,
directing us to add to our faith.

Let us now proceed, secondly, to inquire how this is to be
accomplished. The Apostle tells us in our text. It is by giving all
diligence, and in order that we might do so, remember these things
deserve your diligence, that diligence will secure them, that they
cannot be secured without diligence. They deserve your diligence. It
is pitiable to see how many thousands are employing their zeal, and
wasting their strength and spending their money, talents, and time
upon practically nothing. Examine the objects for which most men are
striving, the aim for which they are living, and ask yourselves,
Does it reward their toils and indemnify them for the sacrifices
they make? But this cannot be said of spiritual blessings and
virtues. These are in the sight of God of great price, and necessary
to man in his true and real character. They enrich him, dignify him;
they are his chief interest and his glory, making him a blessing
to himself and to all around him. Or who can conceive a higher
purpose and model of existence than a man or woman, pious, moral,
courageous, wise, self-denying, gentle, kind and benevolent?

Secondly, diligence will secure them. In the career of worldly good,
in the sea of life few obtain the prize, and the race is not always
to the swiftest nor the battle to the strongest; wealth and good
fortune do not always fall to the lot of men that strove after them,
nor fame to those that covet it. Here the principle obtains: "Ask,
and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall
be opened unto you." "To the righteous there is a sure reward."
And finally I stated, there is no attaining these virtues without
diligence. Diligence is indispensable in whatever you undertake.
You must labor "for the meat that perisheth." The bread upon your
table--through what a succession of processes it must pass before it
is ready for use. The same may be said of your clothing; in fact,
of everything else. "On earth naught precious is obtained but what
is painful too," and perhaps we would not value and esteem things
if it were not so. And what is true of temporal gifts pertains to
spiritual equally as well.

Awake, then, my dear fellow-Christian, be zealous, be progressive;
it is the only way to prosper. Remember religion is not airy
notions, sleepy wishes, feeble resolutions, and your strength is not
to sit still. The learned are daily adding to their intellectual
treasures, the rich are adding house to house and field to field,
and none of them say: "It is enough." Will you as a Christian not
add to your faith knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to
temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness,
brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity? Reflect and
apply, by the help of God. Amen.



FIFTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

     Casting all your cares upon Him, for He careth for you.--_1 Pet.
     5, 7._


In that wonderful book which, next to the Bible, has been most
extensively circulated in the English language, _viz._, Bunyan's
"Pilgrim's Progress," there is a scene which is most impressive. It
represents to us Christian fleeing from the city of this world,
with a large bundle upon his shoulders. He comes to a place somewhat
elevated; upon that place stands a cross, and a little below there
is a sepulcher, and as he comes up with the cross, the bundle looses
from off his shoulders and rolls away, till it comes to the mouth
of the sepulcher, where it rolls in and he sees it no more. How
many as they have read or seen the picture of the quaint old story
have wished that it might be so with them as it was with Christian,
that the load which they are bearing might slip off their backs,
leaving the heart light and spirit free. And there is no reason why
it may not, provided they take it, like Christian, to the proper
place. What is set forth in the allegory, that, according to St.
Peter in the text, may be experienced in reality and in truth. God
grant that with the Holy Spirit's aid we may acquire the art. Three
thoughts are set before us: _I. That every child of man has a burden
to bear_; _II. what he should do with it_; III. _why he should so
dispose of it_.

A distinguished German preacher, speaking on the Gospel of this
Sunday, remarked that man in this world has a solemn companion that
follows him whithersoever he goeth. Like a shadow, it will cling to
his footsteps, dogging his every movement and occupying his every
moment. In the silence of the chamber it will steal through the
keyhole, and when slumber is about to fall upon his weary eyelids,
it will whisper rest-disturbing messages into his ear. No spot is
too desolate, no mind immune against its perplexing assaults. The
German calls the name of this dreary attendant "Sorge." Our text
calls it "Care," meaning anxious care, solicitude, distracting fear.
That, as stated, is the burden of every child of Adam. It may not
externally appear so,--it may be hidden behind silken tapestry or
marble apartments,--but it is there. People look at a king; they
gaze upon a rich mansion, see its occupants, driving forth in an
elegant equipage. They think, "What a favored lot is theirs!" They
realize not the dark shadow of care sitting behind the coachman,
and realize not what the poet expresses thus: "Uneasy lies the
head that wears a crown." Nor can it be said that it has lessened.
We have made mighty advancement; never was the world so rich in
material things, never did we possess so many devices for lightening
human toil and tasks, and yet due likely to the speed at which
we have to move, the high pressure at which we have to live, the
complexity of the social organism of which we form a part, it is
a matter of fact that the man and the woman of to-day are getting
more nervous and highly strung, less able to bear their burdens
calmly and patiently. Worry, constant distraction, and disquietude
are wearing out many people before their time. And what are they
worrying about? What is the burden of their care? Various. With
some it is the burden of ill health, bodily indisposition. That's
an extremely heavy burden, one that takes the color out of the sky
and the sweetness out of life, to spend most or a great deal of our
time in bed or on a sofa,--no taste for food, a throbbing head, a
laboring heart, constant and gnawing agony, nights often filled
with sleeplessness and days with weariness. This is trying, indeed.
With others it is business burdens. Rivalry is keen, competition
acute, thousands are the things to harass and perplex and annoy the
man of industry. The Lord, in the Gospel, mentions a whole array of
burdens that rise from the question: "What shall we eat, what shall
we drink, or wherewithal shall we be clothed?" Worldly sustenance,
the apprehension of poverty, of future years, of loss of property,
of health, of coming deaths and sorrow in the family, the changes
and disasters that might come, the miscarrying of our plans, the
possible ill success of our labors,--these things are the burdens
that make men full of worrying cares.

And what can you do to rid yourself of this? There are those who
would drown their worry. They take to the intoxicating cup. It's a
miserable expedient, a ruin to body and soul; and oh! for the shame
and remorse added to the load of ills. Others turn to the gay and
glittering world, to some place and company where men and women are
apparently happy. For a time the thing may work well. As the child
of care goes up and down within the great dance-hall and through
the illuminated gardens, where the merry voices of laughter and
song ring out, and instruments are discoursing sweet music, it may
seem wise to have disposed of the burden that way. But--what when
the entertainment is over, and your wraps carefully labeled with
your name are handed back to you? Then back come the old sorrows,
perhaps with new ones added.--And one other expedient might we think
of: Have some one bear the burden with you. There is good reason
and sound sense in this. Men in trouble instinctively seek human
sympathy; a sorrow shared is a sorrow lessened. Fortunate the person
that has an ear and a heart to which he can apply for comfort and
strength. But there also is danger. Friendship is an uncertain
thing; it is often too delicate to bear much handling, it evaporates
under pressure. Few are the friends that care, or are able to bear,
the burdens of others; and again, there are friends who are not
really such, who will betray your confidence, secretly rejoice over
your ill fortune, and even use it to harm you. Beware of a man whose
breath is in his nostrils.

So, then, we are shut up to one effective resource, and that is the
course given in the text: "Casting all your cares upon Him." What
does that mean? It means two things: In the first place, it means
trust in God's providence. There is a Providence which has brought
us into this world and is taking us through it. And it is for us to
practically, not only theoretically, believe this. Theoretically, we
may hold very correct views on the subject, but it is practically,
in the application to the affairs and scenes of our own life, that
we may fall short. And alas! that many of those who call themselves
Christians do fall short. Else why these perplexing anxieties, this
tormenting solicitude? If they believe in God, who has pledged
that He will ever provide for them, and without whose permission
not a hair of their head can fall, why do they yield to the same
unbelieving fears as the worldling?

We Christians believe in an almighty Maker and Provider, that He has
given us these bodies, our families and all. We furthermore believe
that He knows what our wants really are, and we hold that it is
in His power to supply our wants. Besides, He has pledged Himself
by His almighty character to supply them. Surely, it is a great
inconsistency and unbelief to find Christians showing the spirit
of worldly carefulness, losing the comfort of trust in God amidst
a host of distracting cares. If there is a word more expressive of
Christian character than any other, it is this one, trust,--trust
in God, trust in Jesus to save, in His Spirit to sanctify, in His
providence to provide; trust amidst perplexity and mystery, for the
future, the present, in life and in death,--in all things trust in
God.

Yes, dear child of affliction and sorrow, God loves you. He has
redeemed you by the blood of His own dear Son. He cares for you.
He knows your ailments, and He would not permit His children to
suffer anything to their hurt. Believe that. To give way to contrary
feeling and expressions is to dishonor and provoke God. When a
father knows that he can uphold a child in any threatening danger,
he does not like to hear the continual expression of that child's
fears and apprehensions. It vexes him. When we have chosen a pilot,
he would be offended, were he to find us trembling as to the safety
of the ship; he would throw up the helm, and tell us to guide for
ourselves, since we had no confidence in His skill. It is doubting
our heavenly Father's wisdom, it is distrusting His power and
goodness, and contradicting His gracious powers and pledges to be
overanxious. The thing is to look up to, and confide in Him: "God
never does forsake in need the soul that trusts in Him indeed." And
with this trust goes something else, and that something else is
prayer.

"Be careful for nothing," says the Apostle in another place, "but in
everything by prayer and supplication let your requests be known to
God." Prayer: What is there to it? Nothing, if you have never tried
it; and since ours is such a prayerless age, it is such an anxious
age. Would they be cured of the evil, they must follow the Apostle's
direction, so simple and yet so effective. Prayer is God's specific,
His antidote, against care. In one of two ways God answers the
request of every care-worn soul. Sometimes He takes away the thing
that troubles it. Sometimes He still allows them to remain, but
fills the soul itself with such grace and strength that it learns
to smile at its old fears, and refuses to be fretted and worried
any more. Try it, thou anxious, distracted, worried soul, go to the
Lord, speak out in His ear whatsoever gives thee worry,--anxiety
for worldly sustenance, illness, concern of family, solicitude for
those who are at a distance, and how many moments of dejection you
might save yourself. As an old commentator says: "Care cannot live
in the presence of prayer; but prayer extinguisheth care as water
extinguisheth fire."

To conclude, there will always be burdens, and anxieties will
never fail, but we have God's instruction as to how to treat them.
Let us commit to memory such a text as this. Let us in moments of
gloom repeat it over and over again, and oh! how like Christian in
"Pilgrim's Progress" anxious cares will roll off your shoulders;
distrust, impatience, and fear will yield to holy hope, prayerful
committal, humble and peaceful trust. God bless and impress His Word
to that effect! Amen.



SIXTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

     In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the Prophet
     Isaiah, the son of Amoz, came to him, and said unto him, Thus
     saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die,
     and not live. Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed
     unto the Lord, saying: I beseech Thee, O Lord, remember now how
     I have walked before Thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and
     have done that which is good in Thy sight. And Hezekiah wept
     sore. And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the
     middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying,
     Turn again, and tell Hezekiah, the captain of my people, Thus
     saith the Lord, the God of David, thy father, I have heard thy
     prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee; on the
     third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord. And I
     will add unto thy days fifteen years.--_2 Kings 20, 1-6._


None reading the Gospel-lessons of these successive Sundays with
an observing mind will have failed to discover that they treat of
life's ills, its sufferings and sorrows. Last Sunday it was the
matter of care, anxiety, worry concerning which our Lord gave us
instruction; the Sunday before ten lepers--the picture of intense
bodily affliction--appear upon the scene; and previous to that we
heard of the deaf-mute and of the Good Samaritan administering his
work of love, until in to-day's Scripture, as if the climax, we
observe a young man, under circumstances the most pathetic, being
carried out to his burial-place. Nor can we do more wisely than to
follow the line of thought thus indicated, for which reason we have
selected the foregoing text. May we, under God's blessing, learn its
comforting and practical truths!

Three things would we note from the Scripture: _I. King Hezekiah's
affliction_; _II. his recovery_; _III. what he gained from his
experience_.

The verses before us tell us that just after the destruction of
the army of Sennacherib, which had been laying siege to Jerusalem,
King Hezekiah was prostrated with a dangerous malady, the result,
most probably, of the fatigue and anxiety in connection with the
defense of his capital. At first it would seem that he had little
apprehension as to the issue of his illness, but when the Prophet
Isaiah told him that his disease was mortal, and bade him set his
house in order, his heart sank within him. He was yet a young man,
possibly forty years, in the prime of life; he had just escaped a
great peril; the Lord had given him a marvelous, yea, miraculous
deliverance, from the hands of the Assyrian oppressor, and he was a
good man, a pious king, who, more than any other since the time of
David, was zealous for the honor of Jehovah among the people.

But now all these hopes were dashed to the ground; the cherished
purpose of his heart frustrated, his life's work promptly cut short;
and as he thought over these things, he turned his face toward the
wall, and prayed to the Lord, and wept sore. He could not understand
God's dealings with him. Why had he been delivered from the Assyrian
king if he was thus and now to be removed? To what end had all
his efforts in the interest of true religion been if he was to be
cut down before they could be carried through? It was like the
gardener plucking the flower before it was opened, like the builder
destroying his own structure before it was finished. It was not
Hezekiah's case alone; there have been and are many others since. It
is an old problem and a constantly recurring problem: Why does God
deal so, and why does He deal so with those who are His people?

In reply, I would say that a full answer to that problem has not
been furnished us, and yet there is some light cast upon it by
this and other accounts in God's Word.--First of all, would we
ward off the rash conclusion, so commonly heard and everywhere
repeated, that because we are afflicted, we cannot be the objects
of God's love, that, if a person is sick and suffering, he must
have done something, committed some sin or sins which have brought
upon him such affliction. How frequently does this lamentation
reach a pastor's ear, "What have I done that God should thus deal
with me?" The Savior distinctly warned His disciples against such
a conclusion, that particular suffering is always the consequence
of some particular wickedness. It is clear that all such reasoning
in the case of Hezekiah was unwarranted; he had done no special
sin; he was not a sinner above all other sinners; his ailment came
in the course that all bodily ailments come. Why, then, make such
conclusions regarding ourselves and others? No, God's Word offers
a different explanation. The Savior, on one occasion, speaking of
the sickness of His friend Lazarus, said, "This sickness is for the
glory of God." Let us mark that statement. The design of God in
the affliction of His people is to show forth His glory. In what
respect? How? In two respects, in the afflicted one himself and
upon others. God's glory is advanced by the afflicted person, if
the person afflicted is helped by the affliction in his spiritual
growth, is made firmer in faith, established in Christian character.
Luther numbered trials as among his best instructors. The Psalmist
records the experience of multitudes when he says: It is good for
me that I have been afflicted. When afflictions have this effect,
they are to the glory of God. Then, again, the afflictions of God's
people may redound to His glory in the effects which they may have
upon others, to silence the gainsayer, convert the careless, or
educate the weak believer into stronger faith. An instance of that
is Job. The calamities came upon him to prove the utter falseness
of the assertion made by Satan that Job was serving God for what
he could make thereby; and I doubt not that even in our days many
Christians have been sorely afflicted just to show the unbelieving,
scoffing element by whom they are surrounded how firm and abiding
their faith is, and how lovingly God can sustain them in their
deepest distress.

Sometimes, too, through the sufferings of a believer the indifferent
and careless are awakened and led to the Lord. The affliction of
a parent has been a blessing to a son or daughter; the illness of
a wife, borne with Christian submission, has led many a man to
Christ, while all of us are strengthened in our faith by the sight
of the calm and simple trustfulness of a dear one on whom God's hand
has been laid. Afflictions are often to the glory of God. These
reflections may not, indeed, fully explain the mystery why God lays
low His people, but it lessens it. In any case it ought to keep us
from that rash and altogether too common conclusion that because we
are afflicted we are particularly faulty. The contrary seems really
true. When the teacher desires to demonstrate his own excellence
as an instructor, he takes not the poorest, but the best pupil and
subjects him to the severest examination; so sometimes, I think, the
Lord exposes His dearest people to fierce trials, just because He
knows their strength and would thereby commend that faith by which
they stand to the acceptance of their fellow-men.

That is the first consideration that we would direct attention to:
Hezekiah, the beloved, pious, God-praying King of Judah, was laid
low with a serious malady. And so, as the Apostle expresses it, let
God's people not think it strange concerning the fiery trial that
cometh upon them as though some strange thing had happened unto
them. The very best of men are often the greatest sufferers.

Again, we notice the conduct of Hezekiah. His case was hopeless. The
prophet had been directed to tell him: "Set thine house in order,
for thou shalt die, and not live." What does the king do? The record
says: "He turned his face to the wall." Was it to conceal his grief
at the fatal intelligence he had received from the prophet? Was
it to be more unmolested from the presence of his attendants, or
because the wall was on that side of his mansion which faced toward
the Temple of God? We are not told; but it says: "He turned his face
to the wall, and prayed." He had a place whither he went in his
distress. When all earthly hopes vanished and all help seemed at an
end, he addressed himself directly and immediately to Him in whose
hands alone rests the outcome of life and of death. Pouring out his
heart in tearful sobs, he pleads with the Lord, tells Him of his
sincerity of life and purpose to serve Him, and of God's promises
to His people to give length of days; and He who by the mouth of
His prophet had directed: "Call upon me in the day of trouble, and
I will deliver thee," had His ears open unto his cry. He is not
displeased with the outpouring of their souls to Him, He delights in
it, and it has power with Him. Yes, it is by this very conduct that
one can test whose they are and whom they serve. To whomsoever they
first go in the time of their extremity, to which refuge they betake
themselves when calamity is overtaking them, determines, more than
anything else, whether they are God's followers or not. To use an
illustration: Traveling once, there was among my fellow-passengers
a little girl who romped about and was at home with everybody, and
while she was frolicking around it might have been difficult to tell
whom she belonged to, she seemed so much the property of every one;
but when the engine gave a loud, long shriek, and we went thundering
along into a dark tunnel, the little one made one bound and ran to
nestle in a lady's lap. Then one knew who was her mother. So in the
day of prosperity, it may be occasionally difficult to say whether
a man is a Christian or not, but let him be sent through some dark,
damp tunnel of severe affliction, and you will see at once to whom
he belongs. That will infallibly reveal it. Take a note of it, my
beloved hearer, and when affliction comes, observe to whom you flee
for help; that is a sure test whether you are Christ's and Christ is
yours.

To recur to the narrative,--Hezekiah's appeal was not without
results. As he lay there tearfully communing with his own heart and
with God, Isaiah returned to his chamber with a message of healing
assuring him that he should go up to the temple on the third day,
and directed him to take a lump of figs and place it upon the boil.
This simple direction goes to refute and correct some errors very
common in our day. The one is that remedies are to be absolutely
tabooed, that they do no good; faith and prayer alone are to be
resorted to to effect a cure. The theory, and the heresy that has
prompted it, are set at naught by this one direction, in which God's
prophet, under the direction of the almighty Physician, specified
the remedy to be used. And the other error which it sets at naught
is, that medical remedies have, in themselves, aside from God,
any virtue or value. Too much does suffering humanity rely upon
medicine; the drug bottle has become with many a veritable idol;
that is their god who is going to help them. The application of
figs to boils was a remedy known before Isaiah suggested it, in all
likelihood it had been tried in Hezekiah's case without result; now,
at the prophet's injunction, it is tried again and effectively. In
other words, this time God worked through it, and so it proved of
value. All the medicine in the world is worthless if He does not put
divine properties into it. And so let us beware of idolizing the
medicine, and forgetting over it Him who put the good into it, and
when we take it, let us not fail to offer up with it prayer to Him
who can and must make it efficacious.

And so it came about, through the use of the means which the prophet
prescribed, that Hezekiah improved,--_improved_, I repeat, only
physically, to natural strength and health? Is that all that his
sickness was intended for, that is included in his recovery? Is that
all that our affliction is intended for, that, having been confined
to the sick-room for a while, we return to our work and calling as
before? Hezekiah was a wiser man than that. The song that he wrote
after his recovery, recorded in the 38th chapter of Isaiah, shows
that looking death in the face had not failed of good results. No
man, if he be a thinking man, can be brought to the brink of the
grave, and raised almost as if from the dead, without some benefit
from the experience. For one thing, it ought to make him a better
Christian. "Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee, e'en though it
be a cross that raiseth me." Luther was wont to say that his three
great teachers were prayer, study, and trial, and any reader of his
life can perceive that if it had not been for the experiences that
he passed through, he would not have been the sturdy character that
he was. What the tempering is to the iron, giving it the toughness
and endurance of steel, that afflictions are to the soul. The wind
might shake and uproot the stripling of a tree, but its blasts are
harmless to the oak that has passed through many a hurricane and
storm. And so unbelief may give out its miserable twaddle, the
faithless world raise its scoffing and deriding tongue, the man who
once turned his face to the wall and prayed will not be upset, he
knows whom he has believed, what he has experienced in his own soul
and life.

And, again, as it strengthened his faith in God, Hezekiah, after
his recovery, was a faithful servant of the Lord, using his kingly
authority to bring his people back to the true worship of Jehovah.
Simply enough; a man who has been in the very grip of the last enemy
and has recovered, cannot but reason thus: "What if I had died?
These possessions would have been no longer mine. They cannot,
therefore, be mine at all in the highest sense; they must have been
entrusted to me by God, and I must use them for God." Usefulness, in
most cases, is the result of discipline, the trials we have passed
through. Who is the sympathetic person? You will find it to be him
who has passed through similar affliction that you are passing
through. Who is the one that is willing to give a helping hand? Not
the priest and the Levite, who, if we knew their prior testing,
never knew a serious affliction,--but the Good Samaritan, who very
likely knew from personal experience what it meant to be waylaid.

And so, to conclude, despise not the chastening of the Almighty.
Learn to look upon it aright; go to the right source for relief, and
thus derive from it the spiritual benefit which God designs. May you
lay up what you have heard against that time when you need it, for
there comes a time when you will need it. Amen.



SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

     For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is
     Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold,
     silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble, every man's work
     shall be made manifest; for the day shall declare it, because it
     shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's
     work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath
     built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work
     shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be
     saved, yet so as by fire.--_1 Cor. 3, 11-15._


In order to understand these startling words we must, in the
first place, gain a clear idea of the picture which lay before
the Apostle's mind. He sees the Church of Christ as a building,
harmonious in structure, every part fitting into, and each stone
supporting, the other, thus presenting that oneness which the divine
Architect designed it to have. The foundation of the building had
been laid once for all, but for the uprearing of the walls men are
to bring the materials.

No materials except those worthy of God and of the precious
foundation on which they are to be built, ought to be brought and
laid there. Nothing but the pure and eternal truths of the faith
revealed in the Scriptures ought to be preached as the doctrine
of the Gospel and the Church. This was the ideal, perfect picture
which stood out before the mind of the Apostle. But he also spoke
of men placing perishable and vile materials upon the walls of
God's building, using "wood, hay, stubble," substances unworthy to
be made a part of Christ's spiritual temple. What did the Apostle
mean by "wood, hay, and stubble"? The Church of Corinth, whom he
addresses, had lost, so far as some of its members were concerned,
that perfectness which ought to characterize the whole body. There
was a working towards disunion. Envying and strife, factions, and a
disposition to make this or that man the religious leader and guide,
had been allowed to disturb the harmony of the congregation. The
names of men had become watchwords. Parties rallied around Apollo,
mistaking his eloquence for the Gospel to which it ought to lead;
around Cephas, that is, Peter, because of his prominent position;
around Paul, because he brought out certain doctrines into special
prominence. And so, instead of regarding these men as doing each his
own part in helping to maintain and preserve the whole truth, they
foolishly set up this or that one, Apollo, or Peter, or Paul, as
their favorite. Still, notwithstanding all these outworkings of a
carnal or earthly spirit, there was as yet no rupture. The organic
unity of all believers and builders remained unbroken. Individuals
differed in opinions, but the Church had still only one creed. There
were parties, but no denominations; factions, but no sects; strifes,
but no schism. But even these cannot be allowed to disfigure the
furnished temple, the Church of the final future. The Apostle looked
beyond the poor work which narrow-minded men were doing at Corinth
to the day when, as he tells in another place, that same Church
which had been built upon the one foundation shall be presented to
God, "not having spot or wrinkle," but "holy and without blemish."
That day, he says, "will try every man's work, of what sort it is."
Whatsoever is worthy of Christ, the solid and precious stone, shall
abide, and the builder thereof shall have, along with eternal life,
a reward due to his faithfulness to God's plan and design. But the
human materials which unwise and ignorant workmen brought--all these
shall be burned with the cleansing fire and go for nothing, but the
builder himself shall be saved, because his own soul was built upon
Jesus Christ, as the foundation of his faith and as his Redeemer.
That is the meaning of the Apostle's solemn teaching. And now for
the application.

That application may be made unto each Christian. We are all
builders, and it is for us to use the proper materials. What is
built upon Christ, from faith in Him and love to Him, according to
His mind and the honor of His cause and Church, is "gold and silver
and precious stones." What is done to serve self, the gratification
of one's vanity and ambition, is to heap up stubble for themselves
which cannot abide in the day of testing fire. But the more special
application in accord with the text is that which pertains to the
Church as a whole, of the various bodies of Christians, the many
denominations of Christendom. Concerning these let us speak a few
words, taking occasion, _I. to explain our position_, _II. to regard
our duty in this respect_.

"Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus
Christ." The Church is a building reared upon that foundation.
Therefore, there is and can be but one Church. As the Apostle says
in the Epistle-lesson: "One Lord, one faith, one baptism," so he
says there is _one body_. To rend the body of Christ, to divide His
Church into different sects, where altar is set up against altar,
ministry against ministry, is contrary to the will and purpose
of its Founder. Some look amiably upon this Babel of beliefs and
unbeliefs and counterbeliefs, think well of and would justify all
so-called churches, consider one as good as another, and meekly
settle down in the nearest, because "they are all aiming at the same
end." This is not the teaching of the Bible nor the position of our
Church. Not as if we read the members of these denominations out of
the Church of Christ. We admit that they are built upon Christ, the
Foundation, and we furthermore admit that they are building some
gold, silver, and precious stones upon that foundation. To be more
specific. Take the Roman Catholic Church. We have many things in
common with the Catholic Church. It believes with us in the divinity
of the Trinity, in the Godhead of Christ, in the personality of
the Holy Ghost, in the divinity of the vicarious atonement, in the
inspiration of the Scriptures. Far be it from me to contend that
in the Catholic Church souls cannot be saved. Notwithstanding the
many grave errors the Catholic Church has clung to up to this hour,
it has produced characters, true, noble children of God, whose
lives we may profitably study. Nearer to us stand the so-called
Reformed Churches, by which term we understand the Episcopalians,
Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists, Baptists. With
these Protestant Churches we have in common the great fundamental
principles of the Reformation, namely, first: that the Word of God
is the only source of religious knowledge and the only judge in
matters of salvation, and secondly, justification before God by
Christ through faith only. Thus it stands in the matter of doctrine;
nor can we dispute that in matters of practical Christianity they
are zealous, even putting us to blush. We all love to hear that
the Bible is the most widely read book in the world. But to whose
efforts is this mainly due? What little we do is far outdistanced by
the work of societies principally supported by Methodists, Baptists,
and Presbyterians.

We glory that we accept the whole Bible, but who studies the Bible
as a whole most earnestly? I well know that we teach Bible History
in our schools, and that we also have many earnest Bible readers,
but if I could show you at greater length what is done for the study
of the whole Bible by both young and old people in some of the
churches mentioned, you would confess that at least many of our
younger and older people are put to shame in this respect too. We
point with satisfaction and pride to the mighty changes which the
Gospel has wrought in heathen lands,--but who for the most brought
them that Gospel of Christ? Who has footed the bills? We preach as
no other church does that the grace of Christ is powerful to rescue
the vilest, the most degraded sinners,--but who goes after them and
labors the most extensively among them? Who, to mention one more
particular, gives most liberally for the support of the Church and
for charity? Lutherans? Roman Catholics and others. Of course, it is
not all gold that glitters, and splendid things could also be said
to the glory of our Church. Who first gave the Bible to the people?
Through whom has the whole Church been redeemed from the bondage
of Antichrist? Who was the first to begin modern mission work? But
our present purpose is to point out that the various Churches are,
thank God, also adding gold, silver, and precious stones upon the
foundation which has been laid, which is Christ Jesus. But is that
all?--Fair-minded as we are to the one, should we be short-sighted
as to the other, namely, that they are also building worthless,
perishable material, material of their own human choosing, "wood,
hay, and stubble"?

Who, enlightened by the plain Gospel, as it shines to us from
every page of the sacred Book, can help but see that the errors of
the Roman Catholic Church are many; that they seriously obscure
the truth; that they lessen the merits of Christ; that, among the
masses, they produce a mere formal religion devoid of soul and life?
Their divinity of the Church, with its visible head upon earth, the
Pope, of purgatory, mass, worship of the Virgin and the saints,
indulgences, confessional,--are these not wood, hay, and stubble?
And coming to the Reformed Churches, which of them believes in
baptismal regeneration, accepts Baptism to be a christening? Which
believes in the real presence of Christ's body and blood in the
Sacrament? Not one. Then, again, the Baptists insist, contrary to
God's Word, that immersion is the only mode of baptism; he that
has not been completely put under water has not been baptized.
Likewise they sneer at infant baptism. The Episcopalian upholds as
divine his form of church government,--so that, if a minister has
not been ordained by an Episcopalian bishop, he is no minister.
The Methodist overestimates the knowledge of one's conversion,
and, like all of the Reformed Churches, cultivates a spirit of
legalism, placing religion in such things as abstaining from
intoxicants. The Presbyterian Church has never yet revoked the
teaching of their catechism that God has elected certain persons
to damnation, and insists upon its form of government as divine.
"Wood, hay, and stubble," teachings and practices that are not
according to the teachings of God in His Bible. What about them?
The text declares that the fire will try the Christian work of all
the ages. Every religious system not in harmony with God's will,
all human speculations which men have woven around the truths of
the Bible, all the wood and the stubble, though brought with pious
hands and placed in sincerity upon the one foundation, shall turn to
ashes and wither like grass. And yet, because of that foundation,
and the faith of those who wrought thereupon, they themselves shall
be saved. We would distinguish between sectarian systems and the
individuals gathered under them. We recognize the unity of all
Christians as believers in Christ, but we can never recognize these
divisions of Christ's spiritual body. That would be sanctioning the
"wood, hay, and stubble."

What, then, is our duty--to come to the second consideration--in
this respect? So sensitive, my beloved hearers, have people become
these days that when a clear Scriptural presentation of this matter
is given, they will stop up their ears, and without giving thought
or attention, will say: illiberal, uncharitable, bigoted! We are
none of these. Not illiberal; we are just as liberal as God's plain
Word permits us to be. We are not uncharitable;--the greatest
charity is to tell a person the greatest amount of truth. And as
to the charge of bigotry, that shows so much ill-feeling and bad
judgment that we dismiss it without comment.

The truth is, that, guided by the Bible, we cannot justify and hold
fellowship with religious societies that teach doctrines contrary to
the Bible, without sinning in a twofold way. First, we would mislead
our own people to believe that the differences are of no fundamental
character, that it makes no difference whether you believe that
Christ's body and blood are in the Sacrament, or not, whether
children are baptized and regenerated in baptism, or not, and so
forth. That would be practically denying the faith; and secondly,
by fellowshiping with these denominations, we would be endorsing
their errors, and arouse the impression that it makes little or no
difference whether they believe in the Bible, or not.

When a man builds a house, he is very much on the alert that no
shoddy, inferior material enters into the building; not one joint or
door but it should measure up to the specifications. Strange that in
the infinitely more important building of Christ's Church, people
should be so indifferent as to the material and of things measuring
up to the specifications of God's Word, and allow "wood, hay, and
stubble" to take the place of gold, silver, and precious stones.

God protect us against indifference. And then, to conclude, the
members of what Church are we? The character, legitimacy, and proper
Christianity of a church is its true, clear, unmistakable confession
of the doctrines of the Scripture, and it is our right to say that
these doctrines are embraced, held, and taught by us, and were thus
held and taught by us before any of the multitudinous sects and
parties about us had a being. The Mother of Protestantism,--what
church is it? It was born, existed, and was mighty in strength
before them all, and upon them rests the burden of proof and apology
for their separate being. And we should go borrowing to them, or
hesitate to speak a modest word in our favor?

    My Church, my Church, my dear old Church!
    I love her ancient name,
    And God forbid a child of hers
    Should ever do her shame.
    Her mother-care I'll ever share,
    Her child I am alone,
    Till He who gave me to her arms
    Shall call me to His own.

    Amen.



EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

     And Elijah came unto all the people and said, How long halt
     ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him; but
     if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a
     word.--_1 Kings 18, 21._


It was a remarkable, but wise decision that King Solomon once
rendered in a difficult case which was brought before him. Two
women came to him with an infant to which they both asserted a
mother's claim, the one contending that the other had overlaid her
child, and taken hers from her before she was awake, and laid her
own dead child in its place, whilst the other asserted that the
contrary was the truth, saying, "The dead child is hers, and the
living is mine." And now it was for the King to decide. But how was
it to be done? Solomon calls for a sword. "Divide," he commands,
"the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the
other." Then spake, says the Holy Record, the woman whose the living
child was unto the King, for her bowels yearned upon her son, "O
my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it." But
the other said, "Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it."
Solomon instantly recognized the true mother's heart. "Give her
the child," he said. The same it is with God, our true heavenly
Parent. He does not want His children divided; He will have them
entirely, as a whole living sacrifice, or not at all. The sum of His
commandment and will regarding us, as repeated in to-day's Gospel
lesson, is: "Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with _all_ thy
heart, and with _all_ thy soul, and with _all_ thy mind." Of that
would we remind ourselves in our present worship, taking for our
instruction the Scripture read as our text.

With the aid of the Holy Spirit we note Elijah's challenge on Mount
Carmel,--_A call to Christian decision_. _I. The question at issue:
"Is the Lord God?"_ _II. The obligation involved, "Then follow Him."_

Israel had had many wicked kings since the suicide of its first
monarch, Saul, upon Mount Gilboa, but none more so than Ahab. The
crowning iniquity of this unprincipled and despicable prince was the
introduction of the idol called Baal into Israel. Baal signifies
governor or ruler, and was the name given in the East to the chief
male idol of the heathen. To the honor of this idol, temples
were erected, bloody sacrifices offered, and the most shameful
things perpetrated. Ahab had married Jezebel, the daughter of the
idolatrous King of the Sidonians, and under her sway the worship
of this idol had become sinfully popular in Israel. Four hundred
and fifty priests served at his altar, and nearly an equally large
number were appointed to the worship of his mate, Ashtaroth, for
every male idol was wont to have his goddess. This abominable form
of idolatry was going on in the land where God had thundered from
the sides of Sinai as His first requirement: "Thou shalt have no
other gods before me," and had declared: "My glory will I not give
to another, nor my praise to graven images"; and in consequence
the judgments of Jehovah were not slow to follow. No rain or dew
had fallen for the space of three years, the heaven was as brass,
and the earth like a nether grindstone.--Famine stalked throughout
the land, when one day, as Ahab was wandering up and down the
country searching for food, he met the stern and fearless prophet
of Jehovah, Elijah, called the Tishbite. "Art thou he," asks the
King, "that troubleth Israel?" Elijah retorts: "Not I have troubled
Israel, but thou and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken
the commandment of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim."

And so the contest is on, not so much between Elijah and Ahab as
between the supremacy of Jehovah and Baal. How is the dispute to be
settled? Elijah proposes a method. All Israel should be convened
at a place specified, Mount Carmel. Two altars were to be erected,
one by the champions of Baal, another by himself. Sacrifice was to
be laid thereupon, and the God that would answer by fire to devour
the sacrifice should be recognized victor. The test is accepted.
You, as well-informed Bible readers, know the outcome. After futile
attempts by the priests of Baal to secure the hearing of their God,
Elijah addresses his God. In fervent prayer he raises his eyes and
hands and heart to heaven. No sooner had the last words escaped the
prophet's lips than down came the fire of God consuming the whole
sacrifice and the wood, the stones, and the dust, and licked up the
water that was in the trench, whilst the fickle people fell on their
faces, crying: "The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God." Elijah
then follows up his victory by commanding them to seize the whole
group of Baal's priests and slay them at the brook Kishon. Thus did
Jehovah terribly and surely vindicate His honor and majesty.

What lesson may be gathered from this thrilling story? Beloved, the
conflict between the forces of the true God and His opponents is
not yet over, and, as of old, that conflict, in the final issue,
centers in a question. At that time it was, "Is Jehovah the Lord
God?" Formulated by the Lord Himself in the Gospel-lesson of this
day, it now reads: "What think ye of Christ? Whose Son is he?" Or,
in other words, Is He, Jesus Christ, God? Around that question are
rallied the religious forces of to-day. The answer to that question
determines men's attitude, their position on the one side or on the
other; their answer to that question decides the destiny of every
individual soul. According as the Gospel of Jesus Christ is accepted
or rejected, will men stand or fall. What is it in its significance
but the conflict of Mount Carmel over again? And how is this vital
question to be decided? For the determining of the question, "Is
Jesus Christ God?" there are many proofs, all of them conclusive
and incontrovertible. We might point to Christ's spotless character
and His immaculate life. "Which of you," He challenged His enemies,
"convinceth me of sin?" And none who has ever examined into His
life and character but is unstinted in His admiration and praise.
"He was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners"; He was
divine. We could point furthermore to His teaching. Merely human
mind and merely human lips never conceived and spake as He spake. As
you study our Lord's utterances, what loftiness in His maxims, what
profundity of wisdom in His discourses! The hearers of His time were
constrained to exclaim, "Never man spake as this man speaketh," and
He taught as one having authority and not as the scribes. No wonder,
for He was the teacher come from God,--He was God.

We could point out the divine influence His religion has exerted
upon the world. Why do the nations write 1912 in the enumeration
of time? Who has taken possession of everything great and grand in
our age? Rather, should I say, who has made that which is great
and grand in art, in music, in literature--the masterpieces, the
sublimest productions? Whom do they treat of? The civilization of
to-day--whose product is it but of His religion? thus stamping it
and its Founder as divine, as God.

But, my beloved, after all these and manifold other proofs have
been adduced, there remains one more which, more than any other
proof, brings home to us the conviction that Christ is God, not
only intellectually, but morally, spiritually. From the scene upon
Mount Carmel I would direct you to a scene upon another mount,
Mount Calvary. There, too, we witness a sacrifice; there, too, lies
a victim upon an altar, the altar of the cross. The fire of God's
wrath comes from heaven to consume that sacrifice. How is that a
proof of Christ's divinity? Because it solves, as nothing else
can solve, the great problem of Religion, "How can man be saved,
justified before God?" "No man can by any means redeem his brother,
nor give to God a ransom for him." It required one more than mere
man to do that--God Himself. What man can look upon that Calvary
scene and contemplate the significance of it, but exclaim with
the Roman centurion under the cross, "Truly, this was the Son of
God,"--nor gaze upon the print of the nails in His hands, and the
mark of the spear gash in His side, but confess, with the multitude
upon Mount Carmel, "Jehovah--Jesus, He is the God! Jehovah--Jesus,
He is the God!" There is no proof so powerful that Christ is God but
the sacrifice of Calvary; yea, he who accepts not that sacrifice,
together with the resurrection of Christ, believes not in Christ.
That Old Testament scene and sacrifice points, and is a type, of
the New Testament scene and sacrifice. May the impression and the
confession it produced be the same on the lips of every one of us,
as it was yonder on Mount Carmel,--"The Lord, even Christ, is God.
He is my God."

And now let us note the obligation it involved. The particular
offense with which Elijah charges the people on this occasion is
"halting." The word translated "halting" is old English. It does
not mean standing still, but limping. Elijah's question, "How long
halt ye between two opinions?" accordingly means, "Why do you not
make up your minds; why do you not take a positive stand one way or
the other and instead of vacillating between the worship of Baal
and the worship of Jehovah, accepting neither fully, seize on to
one or the other with full conviction, and follow that with _all_
your heart?" Decision, the taking of a position and holding to it,
is the appeal of the prophet. And is his appeal not applicable in
our own day? Is there no halting, limping, swaying, and swerving
between two opinions? It is of just such people that our modern and
immediate community is full; they take an intermediate position, a
sort of betwixt and between; they are not out and out Christians,
and still they wish to be rated as Christians. They admit their
reverence for the Bible; they would not question anything taught on
its testimony; they take delight in hearing occasionally a Christian
preacher, attending upon Christian services; there is scarcely a
mental or moral persuasion in favor of Christianity which they do
not cheerfully entertain; they would not think of having their
children grow up unchristened or a marriage in the family performed
without a Christian minister, and when trouble and sorrow comes
upon them, they look to Christian sources for consolation. And
still, when the test comes for them to confess themselves in the
appointed way as Christ's disciples, to take their places at the
family table of the Christian Church, they have their excuses; they
turn their backs and go off on to something else. "They've not
been confirmed"; perchance, "they want to consider." As stated,
our immediate neighborhood is full of such halting, compromising,
so-near-and-yet-so-far people. What they want is not to "consider,"
but to act. Time for deliberation they have had plenty and long
enough. One year, ten years, finds them still "considering." What
they need is decision, action, and not to arrive at that is to
remain in a state of sin and of danger, of ingratitude to God
and discomfort to their own soul. If I am addressing any such,
and I know that I am, let them not be offended, but earnestly
regard and give up a position so unworthy, unsatisfactory, God and
Christ-dishonoring.

But does the appeal of the prophet in no wise apply to those who
have made a pronounced confession, who have taken a stand, and whose
names appear on the roster as His followers? Is there no indecision
of conduct there, no limping, no dividing of one's heart between
Baal and Jehovah? The ordinary type of Christian and church-member
is not a person of fixedness, determination, neither in doctrine
nor in practice. Baal still has his altar, only decked out in a
different shape:--in the market-places of business, in the houses
of amusements, in the halls of secret organizations and lodges.
It is not an unusual thing to see men and women in our churches
going to the Lord's Sacrament and belonging to societies which know
not Christ and will have none of Him, reject His Godship and His
sacrifice upon Calvary. It is not an unusual thing to hear men and
women, young and old, singing hymns and doxologies and speaking
words of Christian prayer, and then lifting up their voices in
speech and song that tells not whose they are and whom they serve.
The trouble with all of us is that we are not as outspoken in our
testimony, as consistent and faithful, and unflinching as we ought
to be, as our Christian duty and the honor of our Lord calls for
and deserves. Having performed our vows and service to God in His
temple, we are content to go back to the world and to business,
forgetful that there, too, we should bear faithful witness for our
Lord. From the text of the day may you form the noble resolution:
"I will be always and altogether the servant of God, the follower of
Christ; in which resolution do Thou, Lord, sustain me to the end."

    Thine forever! God of love,
    Hear us from Thy throne above.
    Thine forever may we be
    Here and in eternity.

    Amen.



NINETEENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

     After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up
     to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem, by the sheep-market,
     a pool which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having
     five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk,
     of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.
     For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool and
     troubled the water; whosoever, then, first after the troubling
     of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he
     had. And a certain man was there which had an infirmity thirty
     and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had
     been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou
     be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no
     man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool; but
     while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. Jesus saith
     unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the
     man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the
     same day was the Sabbath.--_John 5, 1-9._


The most serious charge that can be placed against mankind is this,
that when the Gospel is proclaimed to them, that Gospel is rejected,
that when pardon and salvation of God is offered, that offer is
coldly and indifferently turned aside. We are sometimes surprised
at this. We ought not to be. The same coldness and indifference was
manifested years ago. It says: "Christ came into His own, and His
own received Him not." To-day's Gospel records to us the cure of the
paralytic. It was a most remarkable and convincing evidence that He
who could bring to His feet this debilitated and disabled man was
indeed the Messiah, the Savior of the world. But no; it started a
wrangling among His enemies about the power of forgiveness of sin,
and caused Him to be haunted with hatred and malice. And as a
parallel passage to that Gospel miracle is the record here in the
fifth chapter of St. John, part of which we have just heard. Let us
notice now, _I. the history of the miracle_; _II. the instruction it
imparts_.

"After this," says the Evangelist, that is, after Jesus had
conversed with the woman of Samaria at Jacob's well, and after He
had healed the nobleman's son who was lying sick at Capernaum,
"there was a feast of the Jews." The feast, it is generally
supposed, was the Passover. And "Jesus went up," out of Galilee
into Judea, "to Jerusalem." He went thither not only that He might
pay all due regard to the Temple and to the Law, but also that He
might have an opportunity of manifesting Himself and His doctrine
to a greater number of people. "Now," says the next verse, "there
is at Jerusalem by the sheep-market," or sheep-gate, a "pool," or
a bath, the ordinary purpose of which was for bathing or swimming,
but on account of the supernatural character of the water was called
Bethesda, that is, the House, or Place, of Mercy. Around this pool,
or bath, were built five porches, porticos, or verandas, which
served to shelter from the heat and the cold those who frequented
the place. In these porches "there lay a great multitude of impotent
folk;" some of them were "blind," some "halt" (or lame), and others
were "withered," that is, their sinews and muscles were disabled,
withered in one particular part of the body, as the man with the
withered hand, or all over, as in the case of the paralytic, whose
friends had to bear him on a litter. These patients, at least most
of them, were probably deemed incurable by ordinary methods, and
therefore they were carried to Bethesda to wait and hope for a
miraculous recovery there; for it pleased God (in order to show
that He had not forsaken His chosen people, but was operating among
them) to send "an angel" who went down at certain seasons into
the pool and "troubled the water," by which troubling of it, and
by the extraordinary motion that followed, the sick were informed
of the time of the angel's descent, and, "whosoever then first,
after the troubling of the water, stepped in" was instantly healed,
while those who bathed afterwards obtained no relief. All sorts of
opinions have been advanced as to this healing spring. That it was
not the natural virtue, as in the case of mineral springs in this
country, that wrought the cure, is evident from the circumstance
that not one disease, but all manners of disease were healed by it;
that these cures were performed not always, but only at the seasons
appointed by God, and that not all who stepped in, but _one_ only
was healed after the troubling of the water. What became of this
fountain we are not told; very likely its miraculous properties did
not continue for many years. In the porches around this pool was an
impotent man; he had labored under a bodily infirmity for thirty
and eight years. How long he had waited at the pool we know not,
but certainly for a considerable period. But it was hoping against
hope. The man was so utterly helpless that even if he saw the water
disturbed, whilst he was slowly dragging himself along, another
stepped in before him. When Jesus, therefore, passed by and saw him
in this helpless condition, and knowing his past history, He asked
him, "Wilt thou be made whole?" The man does not even give direct
answer, but narrates the story of his long and futile expectation,
whereupon Jesus gives this command: "Rise, take up thy bed and
walk," when instantly, easily, as if the withered limbs had been
thrilled with electric sparks, the man arises, takes up his bed,
and walks away. Such is the history of the miracle; and now let us
regard some of the instructions it imparts.

Our interest is naturally divided between the man who had lain
sick such a number of years, the pool, and the cure. And, surely,
a long and wearisome time he had had of it,--thirty and eight
years. The woman with the issue of blood who touched the hem of our
Savior's garment, had borne her affliction twelve years, but that
was scarcely one-third as long, and she was still able to be up and
about. As then, so now. The number of those who lie on pallets and
are bent low with sickness is larger than superficiality credits;
in fact, those who have never been racked with pain, distressed
with fever, are few and far between. How many ever give thought as
to this providential dealing--have stopped to ask whence it comes,
or what profit and lessons may be in it? It has been remarked by
a famous writer that there are two chapters of human history that
shall never be read upon the earth; the one chapter is the chapter
of the dying. The feelings and emotions, the inexpressible thoughts
and sensations that pass through the soul when the things of this
world fade upon the senses, and the doors of eternity are about
to swing open, is an experience which no human tongue or pen can
describe, is something which none but ourselves can discover. And
another chapter is the chapter of the sick and the ailing, as it
is written in quietness within the narrow space of a couch and four
walls, alternating perhaps with the operating table and passing
through the dark valley of the Shadow of Death. And yet, something
of this chapter may still be read, and most remarkable, significant,
and ofttimes blessed things are experienced in the sickroom. Who
dare say that the world in its present condition would be what
it still is without this check, this intruder upon the affairs
of life? Most men are inclined to regard sickness as a calamity,
as a positive misfortune, a smiting scourge. It is not that. It
has blessings both to the one afflicted and to those around him.
Sickness may contribute to the development of the noblest qualities
of the mind and heart. In the rush and tug of life men are too
much inclined to concern themselves with the affairs of this life,
to lose sight of the greater value of the unseen and eternal. Put
such a one from the excitement of business and the frivolity of
this world's fashions and pleasures prostrate upon his back with
the hot fingers of disease clutching for his vitals or the sharp
pains striking upon the heartstrings, and he must be thoughtless,
even base, whose appreciation of the merely earthly things does not
fall, and who does not learn that with all his boasted strength and
all that he has and hopes for, he is only a pilgrim and stranger on
this earth, and that there is something more worthy than what is
seen and temporal. Oh! the quiet reflections of a sickbed. Many a
man is indebted to them for a revelation which has been the wisdom
and power of God unto his salvation when the message of Church and
its servant had but very little effect. The parched lips of disease
are often more eloquent and effective than man's lips. And he that
fails of this salutary end of affliction, does not come forth a
better person, more devoted and consecrated to his God, has missed
the purpose for which it was sent, and gone out of the way of the
Almighty. Of this man in the text we may have the assurance that
the experience of thirty-eight years remained indelibly upon his
mind and enrolled him among the faithful disciples of Christ. May
it serve likewise in your case, my dear hearer, at the sickbed of
many of whom I have had occasion and may yet be called to minister.
And not only for the person afflicted, but for those attending and
affected by the affliction, sickness is a blessing, a positive
messenger of good and mercy. It is when disease has broken in upon
their habitation that many a man has first learned to appreciate
the kindly ministry of his life's partner; has keenly felt what this
world would be like should death part them asunder, and the hearts
sometimes estranged have again become reconciled and determined
to bear and forbear. It is when the little cheek is hard pressed
against the feverish and aching pillow that we feel how intensely we
love that boy and girl and would sacrifice everything else dear to
us to keep them. Yes, there is nothing in human experience to bring
into larger and better exercise our common love and sympathy and to
show that there is still some nobility, kindness, and pity in our
shattered humanity than in the care and memories that cluster around
the sickbed. Would to God that these experiences touching the hearts
that perhaps for long time were dead would be of longer duration,
for commonly they are so quickly forgotten and so easily erased from
the mind.

So much as to the first suggestion--the man's sickness. The
place where he was lying was called Bethesda, which means House
of Mercy. Nor need I inform you which is the true Bethesda, the
House of Mercy, provided for the cure of those souls who are
spiritually halt, blind, withered, and weak. That's the Church of
Jesus Christ, and in that place there was a pool, as we heard,
endowed with miraculous properties, greatly valued, thronged about
by patients. To that pool we have in our Bethesda an exact and
superior counterpart, a blessed fountain from which issues the
stream of health and salvation upon the sinful and diseased race
of man, a water allied not only with the contact of an angel, but
with the presence of the Savior Himself. You know of what water I
am speaking, you yourselves have been committed into this salutary
flood. It is the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. It might be well to
speak a few words on the subject. What Bethesda's part was for the
body, that, my beloved, is Holy Baptism to the soul. It was a means
of restoration and recovery, it gave health back to the limbs and
frame. So does Baptism. "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy
sins," said Ananias to Saul. "A washing of regeneration and renewing
of the Holy Ghost," says Paul. "It works forgiveness of sins,
delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation,"
says Luther. Baptism is the means by which the Holy Ghost operates
in a soul, the outward washing which you see with your eyes is a
type of the washing which God's power affects invisibly. We speak
of Baptism in our church not only as a rite, a ceremony, a form of
initiation, but as a means of grace, as a means of salvation, by
which we are christened, that is, made Christians. To elucidate.
Outside of our city there are enormous reservoirs holding millions
of tons of water, and we daily see vast tanks holding thousands of
cubic feet of gas. But all of these would be useless unless pipes
are laid to convey their currents. Lay those pipes, and you have the
means of securing water in your homes and light in your dwellings.
So the Sacraments, of which Baptism is one, are means by which God's
blessings are brought to our souls. It's not an idle ceremony which
one can dispense with at liberty, nor is it something which people
can wait with till they are old enough to be taught the Christian
faith and to understand it; as well might they dispense with the
supply of water and illumination, or wait until they themselves
can lay the pipes. No; God has given us the means, now we must use
them, and use them as early as possible. If this man had spoken
as disparagingly of the pool of Bethesda as some people speak of
Baptism, and had in consequence kept away from its waters, he would
not have met with Christ, and would have remained a cripple all
his days. It is for us to use God's means, and to hold with the
Scripture that no man is a Christian until he has been baptized. Of
course, there is this difference between the impotent man in the
Gospel and some in our community. He _could_ not enter the healing
water, they _will_ not. They lie by the side of Bethesda, but, not
believing in the healing waters, are never benefited as to their own
souls.

There are many objections made against Baptism. To repeat and
publicly set aright one objection sometimes met with in our circles:
What good does Baptism do? See how many children turn out bad
afterwards notwithstanding. What good does it do? I answer: The same
good that it does if you had water and illumination connection,
and then cut it off. No good; on the contrary, if, having been
made God's children, Christians, in Baptism, we afterwards live as
heathen, so much the worse the sin as our Savior particularly warns
this man who was healed. "Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more,
lest a worse thing come upon thee." But had the man nevertheless
gone back to his sinful life, would that have made the healing of no
account? And so the fact that people once baptized live in sin does
not make Baptism of no account. Marriage is not a failure because
some who have married have proved failures. When a man enlists
in the army, the form of enlistment makes him a soldier, but not
necessarily a good soldier; he may prove to be a coward and traitor,
but it put him in a position to lead a brave and useful life and to
win honor and glory; if he chooses otherwise, it is his own fault.
So in baptism we are made Christians, but it is our own fault if we
afterwards turn out bad Christians. Baptism is the beginning, the
means, not the end. We are put on the right road, we are made God's
children, citizens of His kingdom of heaven. It is our own fault,
not the Sacrament, if we develop into prodigals, wander out of the
right road, prove cowardly soldiers and bad citizens.

As to the third suggestion made, the cure, let us briefly note that
the condition of that poor paralytic is the perfect emblem of our
human nature, of ourselves without Christ. As he was diseased and
helpless in body, so are we all diseased and helpless in soul. To a
miracle of grace he owed his recovery; and where he found his cure,
we must find ours. He stands before us this very moment again, that
omnipotent Son of God, that compassionate Savior, and asks, "Wilt
thou be made whole?" Wilt thou receive the absolution of thy God,
the forgiveness of thy sins, through the mediation of my suffering
and death? Nothing else can remove the palsy of our nature, nothing
else can give health and soundness.--Let us, then, who feel our
malady and wish it removed, answer, Yes, Lord, I will be whole.

    Jesus, give me true repentance
    By Thy Spirit come from heaven.
    Whisper this transporting sentence,
    "Son, thy sins are all forgiven."

    Amen.



TWENTIETH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

     And He said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of
     the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it
     is. And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be
     heat; and it cometh to pass. Ye hypocrites! Ye can discern the
     face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not
     discern this time?--_Luke 12, 54-56._


Men have always been solicitous about the weather. In the morning
they are desirous to know what the day will bring forth; in
the evening, what sort of temperature it will be on the morrow.
Curiosity, in part, a lack of something more important to think
and talk about, and, in part, the regulation of one's duties and
work prompt this concern. It has ever been so. In the Holy Land,
when the sky was aglow with the exquisite tints of an Oriental
sunset, it meant fair weather the next day; when the west wind,
sweeping over the Great or Mediterranean Sea laden with moisture
blew over the land, it was a safe indication of rain, whereas the
breezes coming from the sterile and desert plains of the East
portended a heated season and continued drouth. We have similar
indications. Flocks of birds, at this season, flying across our
city in search of a more congenial home, tell us of approaching
winter. Not relying on such indications alone, the Government has
established everywhere meteorological stations; weather forecasts
are distributed broadcast, wireless telegraphy flashes out the
approach of devastating storms, thus forewarning navigation and
securing protection to citizens and property and life. All of which
is commendable, argues forethought, wisdom, which God has designed
that men should exercise. Nor does our Lord in the text in any wise
disapprove of such precautions and measures. He would have us make
application of that same forethought, wise provision, with respect
to another sphere. "As you study the weather," is His direction, so
you ought with equally observing and wakeful mind study the times,
watch the signs, regard the phenomena that appear in the political,
civil, social, mercantile, domestic skies, marking their bearing
on the affairs of God's kingdom, and exercise respecting them the
same forethought and sense of provision. That duty shall we now
do in these moments of public worship, noting as our theme: _A
few signs of the times and the corresponding duties of Christians
and church-members. We shall observe:_ _I. Three such outstanding
signs_; _II. what it becomes us to do_.

The first outstanding sign, prevailing and predominating
characteristic of our times, that we shall mention is commercialism.
To explain:--the question of "what shall we eat, what shall we
drink, and wherewith shall we be clothed," has always and everywhere
been a live question. Men must live, and "to live" means the
possession of the things just mentioned, food and drink, dress and
property, the possession of this earth's goods; but it is a question
whether in the history of the world these matters have bulged
out so prominently and so monopolized the efforts and attention
of men as at the present and in our own country. With the avenues
of success open to every man that is industrious and intelligent,
with competition keen, demanding concentration of energy and
effort, gaining a livelihood and a little of this earth's goods has
become like a whirlpool which draws and drags everything into its
devouring current and vortex. The spirit of commerce is supreme;
not, I suppose, that everybody loves money and this earth's goods
simply and only for its own sake, but there is an excitement and
fascination in having it; it stands for the standard of efficiency
and worth and influence among men, so that all are scrambling and
scheming for it. Listen to the trend of conversation, the topic of
discussion in people's homes--what is it? Show a man a material
advantage that he may secure, often at the sacrifice of honesty and
principle, and he is your undying friend. Now, with men's minds
thus set, it is but a natural consequence that it should affect
their heart, endanger their spiritual life. Business, indeed, is
not incompatible with piety. A man may be a devout Christian and
church-member and an excellent business man, but it may so preoccupy
his mind and preengage his heart that he ceases to think about
religious matters at all. It is not an uncommon thing to see a man
attentive unto the things of the Lord, intent in the services and
the meetings of the church; when anything special is to be done, he
is on hand to help. Business responsibilities increase, he becomes
less earnest in these respects; he has to rise so early in the
morning that he has no time or thought for prayer; he comes home so
tired in the evening that he has no consideration for anything else,
and if he goes out, it is in the interest of business. Even the
Lord's day is levied upon, and when it comes, his mind is perchance
more occupied while he sits under the pulpit with his figures than
with the sermon. Tell him he is being missed,--the retort is the
common, trite answer, "No time." But the real reason lies deeper. He
has gotten into the current, he is being drawn into the whirlpool of
commercialism, and if there be any who feel that I have been holding
up a mirror wherein you have seen yourselves, let me urge upon you
to take heed. You are paying too much for your material success, and
if you do not return to your old anchorage, you may find yourself
where you had never thought to get--afar from Christ, His worship
and service. There is nothing better than for a man occasionally
to take his bearings, to find where he is located, and whether
he is holding his own against the stream of opposite tendency
that is flowing through our social life, in which he is drifting,
being carried in opposite direction, among those who pass from the
neglecting to the despising and rejecting of the great salvation.

Hand in hand with this tendency of our times there is another:
indifferentism. Certainly, if everything is gauged by the
measurement of dollars and cents, then men's thoughts are absorbed
by material considerations. It is quite natural that religion
should be placed on the same low basis. Indifferentism generally
resolves itself into a question. That question is, "What's the use?
What's the use of prayer? Has it ever brought you any gain? What
have you that you wouldn't have if you had not prayed?" "What's the
use of going to church? What benefit has it ever brought you? It
has not fetched you one customer, one penny of profit, rather the
reverse--it has been an expense, easily avoidable." "What's the use
of going to the Lord's Supper? A man may be a Christian for all
that." "God governs the world, His providence overrules it all,
but it is, after all, the man who plans and plods that wins out,
so why be concerned about this overruling Providence?" "When the
end comes, well, then I hope there is a place where those who, like
myself, have tried to be honest and upright will finally get to. I
am willing to risk my chances. What is the use of being over-much
concerned about the future?" It is not that our times are stubbornly
and positively atheistic and infidelic; perhaps there was never less
of that than now. But comparatively few in speech or person or in
print venture to attack Christianity as a system. The danger lies
elsewhere. We have lapsed into a state of indifference. There is a
passing away of an earnestness of conviction, of moral stamina, of
strength of belief. What was once accepted as God's truth is now
called into question. "Don't emphasize creed, doctrine, destructive
belief; we have gotten beyond that." Yes, we have gotten beyond
that, and in consequence have gotten and are daily getting into a
current that shall find us contending for the simplest truths of the
Christian faith. What fad, however unscriptural and irrational, but
it finds multitudes of followers. Consider the greatest fad that is
sweeping over the land--Christian Science. How is it possible that
such an absolutely heretical, nonsensical system of unchristian,
anti-Biblical statement should ever have had such a phenomenal
growth, if our people were not so dreadfully indifferent in matters
of Bible teaching? The same is true of the Russellites, whose
publications are being distributed broadcast over the land, who deny
the simple doctrines of hell and resurrection, and foretell the time
of Christ's coming to Judgment and to reign in unadulterated bliss
for thousand years.

The Catechism is denounced from the pulpits. "Why instruct the
juvenile mind in such fetters of theology?" "What is there to
confirmation?--teaching children in their teens to confess a faith
they do not half comprehend?" The good old Bible Book--"is it
really what has been claimed for it?" Do not most clergymen of
progressive ideas put allegorical interpretations upon its stories,
for instance, the fall of man into sin? Do not many learned scholars
point out what they claim to be discrepancies, and say it must be
considered and weighed just like every other book in which are
some good things and some inferior? And the sorry consequence of
all this? It is this, that we have no positive conviction at all,
that the majority are like a vessel without a guiding compass or a
determinate course, floating hither and thither, as the wavering
current of whims or opinion may chance to drive them. And if, to
note the application, we are asked whether we join in this trend
of thought of the times, this contemptuous treatment of the Word
of God and Catechism, we should answer with an emphatic "No."
But are we quite sure that we have not imbibed a little of it
unconsciously? After so much has been said about the old-fashioned
hell,--a hard doctrine for sentimental souls to believe,--why not
mitigate it a little, and believe that after this life poor sinners
have another chance?--'Tis true, the Savior does say, "This do in
remembrance of me," "but I guess I'll not be condemned if I do not
go to His Sacrament." Beloved hearer, you may flatter yourself that
it will have no effect upon you, but unless you conscientiously
and determinedly watch it, you will find yourself yielding to it.
Beloved, we watchmen on the towers of Zion, scanning the skies and
observing the signs, are everywhere noting the indifference among
our older members, among our young people, and the only thing to
do is to get back to the old anchorage, to place our faith firmly
and securely upon the rock of eternal Truth, _i. e._, the grand old
Bible. Its words are truth and nothing but the truth. Let that be
our guide in doctrine, in practice. What that says let us believe;
what that forbids let us forsake; that will put us right and keep
us right. These vagaries and fluctuating opinions of men and women
will pass away like the clouds of the air; but even though heaven
and earth pass away, God's Word will not pass away. Our safety and
happiness lies in adhering to what it teaches and following its
directions.--When the storm-clouds are gathering in the horizon and
the weather bureau flashes out the danger signals, then it is wisdom
to seek shelter, to get under somewhere. There is such an ark of
safety yet, and that is the Church of Christ, where His cross and
Gospel are preached, held and confessed, uncompromisingly. Take your
place there as a consistent, positive member, and avoid indifference
in religious matters.

And one more disastrous sign of the times would we regard. I need
not remind you that the brightest jewel that we possess under the
Constitution of this country is religious liberty. Its wise and
pious framers, knowing both from reason and from sharp experience
that religious liberty can only exist in the strict separation of
Church and State, adopted every precaution to prevent the admission
of anything hostile to religious liberty, to go into the political
machinery of the state. Their object was "a free church in a free
country." It is well known, not suspicion merely, but known by those
who have the best understanding of the times, that a spirit has of
late years prevailed which is intensely hostile to the civil and
religious principles of our government. There have been some bold
encroachments on the part of a subtle and formidable antagonist.
You know whom I mean--Rome, dangerous Rome, which does not believe
in the separation of Church and State, which acknowledges but one
head, who is the embodiment of temporal, political, and spiritual
power, which openly and unequivocally asserts that the civil
authority is subordinate to the Church. Rome's representatives have
been loaded with official favors and flatteries; Rome's interests
have been fostered with the most fatal insidiousness by political
leaders; Rome has been caressed, and complimented, and taken into
confidence and alliance with those in authority. What is the meaning
of all this? Sordid maneuvers of diplomacy and craft undermining
the fundamental principles and rights of our Constitution, menacing
clouds in the sky that threaten our civil liberty. And what is to
be done? We ought to know; the name which graces our denomination
points the way. Luther gave Rome its death-wound in his day by
wielding so powerfully the sword, the sword of the Spirit, which is
the Word of God. Let us grasp that selfsame sword; let us teach the
doctrines which he taught so effectively to its overthrow, and we,
too, shall prevail. Point out the soul-destroying errors of Rome,
and you unarm her spiritually. And again, as citizens, let us make
a determined and combined movement to repel the creeping invasion,
the subtle but forceful and successful invasion of popery. The
political leading men of our day may not be conscious of it; let
us hope, in the judgment of charity, that they are not; but it is
perfectly clear that the influence of that dark and mysterious and
tremendous system is upon them. For us who have studied and know
Rome it becomes to counteract, eradicate every tendency that would
break down or reduce our constitutional liberties.

We have mentioned three specific signs--commercialism,
indifferentism, Romanism. Let us, keeping our eyes open, beware of
the destructive power of the first, the deadening influence of the
second, the insidious danger of the third, and so pass through these
things temporal that we lose not the things eternal. Amen.



TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

     For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down
     first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to
     finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and
     is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock
     him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to
     finish.--_Luke 14, 28-30._


In the pass of Thermopylae, in the country of Greece, there stands
a monument, world-renowned, erected to Leonidas and his valiant
three hundred. It bears the inscription: "Go, stranger, and tell
at Sparta that we died here fighting to the last in obedience to
our laws," and commemorates that thrilling event when Leonidas
with his three hundred successfully held the pass of Thermopylae
against tremendous odds until betrayed into the hands of the enemy.
What it bears magnificent witness to is the quality of loyalty,
steadfastness. The same noble quality does God require, look for,
in His people. The Apostle in to-day's Epistle, summing up the
conduct of the spiritual soldier, says: "Stand, therefore, and
having done all, stand," and again, emphasizing the same virtue, he
remarks: "Watching thereunto with all perseverance." It is not the
boldest regiment that always makes the best record, but that which
holds out the longest. It is not the most enthusiastic Christian and
ardent church-member that wins His Master's commendation, but he
that proves "faithful." The parable of our text brings home to us
the same lesson. It tells us of a man who contemplates the erection
of a tower. Before entering upon his enterprise, he first sets down
and, with pencil in hand, figures the cost, whether his funds will
permit him to undertake the matter, lest, having begun and failing,
he become the laughing-stock of his neighbors, and the uncompleted
structure a monument to his folly. Equally so, does the Savior point
out, is it, in another sphere, the realm of religion. A person hears
the call of religion, feels its power and promptings, its necessity
and claims; his heart is persuaded, his mind is made up, he ought
to, and wants to be, a Christian, in the words of the parable, he
contemplates the erection of the tower, but ordinary prudence bids
that he should sit down and consider the costs, lest, beginning and
not completing, the venture end in dismal failure, and he become the
object of mockery and contempt. And yet is it not this ordinary,
common-sense method, which they apply so keenly otherwise, that so
many disregard in matters of soul? Why else would there be so many
apostates, fallings away, in the ranks of confessed believers? Let
us, then, wisely and for once sit down for a few moments in public
Christian worship, and consider this matter, noting: _The parable
of the tower--an exhortation to Christian steadfastness._ We shall
group our remarks around two chief thoughts: _I. What does it cost
to be a Christian?_ _II. Does it pay to be one?_

To begin with, let it be noted that Christianity connects with cost;
it _does_ cost to be a Christian. There is a type of religion which
is not only a very easy, but a most inexpensive kind. Putting on the
garment and speaking the language of godliness, it is stranger to
its power. However, that type is not the building of a tower, rather
of a shack, a flimsy construction which the slightest wind-storm
and rising rivulet will soon sweep away. In building a substantial
structure, the first concern is the foundation. You do not see that,
it is hidden from view; yet upon that foundation rests the building,
and it is just as strong as its foundation. So, spiritually, the
main part of Christianity is hidden, it is something that takes
place away from human view; yet upon that unseen experience rests
its reality, its strength. What is that experience?

In laying a foundation, there is, first, the excavation, the removal
of the soil, of all obstructions and obstacles. This is difficult
work and costly work. So, spiritually, religion calls for the
removal of obstacles, obstructions, soil. Man's heart is not fit
to build the tower of Christ's religion, it must undergo a change;
"old things must pass away." There must be a plowing up. There are
painful memories to be recalled, sins to be mourned over, habits
and ways of thinking and doing to be given up, likes and loves and
feelings to be renounced. It is as true now as it ever was that
"except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." We
call this repentance, contrition, sorrow over one's sin. It means
the reconstruction and transformation of one's nature, and costs
many a pang, many a sigh, many an inner struggle and protest.

Then, when the rubbish and soil have been removed, the excavation
has taken place; there must be a laying of the foundation. Which
that foundation is, is plain. "Other foundation can no man lay than
that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." Belief in Christ, faith in the
Savior, must follow, else there can be no tower. My dear hearer,
have you undergone that change of heart, experienced that inner
sorrow? Have you paid the first cost?

Laying a foundation without building thereupon does not answer the
purpose. We must add a superstructure, and this also costs. And
what is the superstructure? St. Paul speaks of it when he writes:
"I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God that ye present
your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which
is your reasonable service," when he says to the Corinthians: "Ye
are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your bodies and
in your spirits, which are God's," or quite briefly remarks: "For
me to live is Christ." We call this adding of the superstructure,
consecration, and what does it involve? Everything. Beginning with
yourself, it levies upon your body, your mind, your soul, your time,
talents, influence, possessions, property, money, your all. It is
just to this particular, of consecration, dedication of oneself and
possessions, that Christ refers in the verses preceding the text:
"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and
wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own
life, he cannot be my disciple."

Earthly love, domestic relations, material considerations--nothing
is permitted to stand in the way of absolute and entire consecration
of oneself, and all one has and possesses, to Christ. Beloved, is
this not a particular which many who profess to be Christians do not
apprehend? When they are called upon to give themselves, of their
time and means and ability, to the cause of the Lord, they feel and
act as though some great thing is being asked of them, that they are
doing something superfluous. They need not feel so. It is a matter
they ought to have weighed when they entered upon Christian life.
God lays His hand upon all that you are, and all that you have, and
says: "This is mine," and only he and she are building properly upon
the foundation which is Christ who say: "Here, Lord, am I and all
that is mine. Upon thy altar it lies in holy consecration. Lord,
what wilt Thou have me do?"

And one other cost would we mention. It costs courage. Not exactly
the same courage as when called upon, in the early centuries, to
face the tortures of the rack, the beasts of the Coliseum and the
flames of the martyr's stake, yet a courage, none the less noble,
a moral courage. There are plenty of things to discourage us. "Is
this vile world a friend to grace to help me on to God?" No, it is
not. It is full of conflicts and criticisms and sharp collisions.
If so many Christians of our day have such a good and easy time of
it, is it not because they are not Christians after the style of the
apostles and the early martyrs?

Satan is still the god of this world, and one need only take a
decided stand against him, and the things that belong to him,
to find it out. Yes, it costs something to be a Christian, a
consecrated church-member. A Christian cannot be, cannot act and do,
as non-Christians, non-church-members act and do. Aye, does it not
frequently call for courage even to be known as a church-member? The
finger of scorn is pointed and the sneer of sarcasm is hurled at
many a one for that.

Nor only from those that are without; discouragement frequently
comes from those who are within. Christians are the communion of
saints, but their behavior toward each other is not always saintly.
Human nature, everywhere ugly and crabbed, is apt to make itself
manifest there too. Appreciation deserved, gratitude looked for, is
not always received. And this is very trying, betimes; in fact, some
think that it is beyond all endurance, judging by their withdrawal.
But have those that so feel ever thought it over? Whoever builds
a house without having some unpleasantness, and sometimes great
unpleasantness? But does he, therefore, desist from completing the
structure? Know, my dear hearer, whatever may be the nature of the
annoyances, difficulties, and hindrances to Christian life and
church-membership, they belong to the costs, and when they occur,
face them with becoming courage and steadfastness. A sorry soldier
that will throw away his gun and quit the ranks because of the
discouragements in the way! This, then, is what it costs to be a
Christian--repentance, consecration, courage.

And are the returns adequate to the cost? What benefit is there
in being a Christian, erecting such a tower? Does it pay? There
are people who think not. They consider that they make the most by
keeping aloof. Whether they have done it by careful figuring out,
like the man in the parable, is doubtful, but they are persuaded
in their own mind that they are the gainers by not identifying
themselves with Christ and His Church. They do not like religious
restraints. They wish to be free to do as they please. They can
enjoy more of the comforts and pleasures of life, can pursue
their ways with less compunction, make more money, gain more
friends, if they keep themselves out of the church entanglements
and obligations. So they reason and congratulate themselves. But
what advantage have they over us? The truth is that there is not a
single relation or human interest in which it does not pay to be a
Christian. To specify briefly: It pays to be a Christian physically;
godliness teaches and inculcates all those laws and things that
produce and promote health, the welfare of one's body. It pays to
be a Christian materially, in one's labors and business. To be a
good man, to have the reputation of honesty, is as fine a business
capital as any one would want. It pays domestically; the home where
godliness prevails approaches the ideal home and is the strongest
bulwark of society. The same holds good with regard to the joys
of life. "Religion was never devised to make our pleasures less."
Religion sanctifies our pleasures; it draws the checkreins upon
ungodly extravagances and excesses; and so it pays also in this
respect. And when it comes to the dark side of life, the manifold
difficulties and troubles that accompany man in his abode here
below, "when other helpers fail and comforts flee"--oh, for the
power, the comfort, the divine support of religion! And we have said
nothing yet of the strictly spiritual advantages. It pays to be a
Christian; a Christian possesses a good conscience, which is more
valuable than all of this world's possessions, the sunshine of God's
forgiveness and favor through faith in his Savior; the blessed joy
and inspiration that comes from prayer and worship of God. Nor does
the matter stop there. When the scenes of this time and world fade
upon our vision; when, passing through the dark and shadowy valley
and before the judgment seat of Him to whom we must give account;
when the glories of the Golden City open and the crown immortal is
placed upon our brow,--then we shall realize that it pays to be a
Christian.

To conclude,--there should be any right-thinking, calculating person
that, having begun, will fail to complete the building of this
tower? How foolish before God and men, how dangerous!

    Be steadfast! be wise!--
    "Build on, my soul, till death
    Shall bring thee to thy God;
    He'll take thee at thy parting breath
    To thy divine abode."

    Amen.



TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

     Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are
     spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness;
     considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.--_Gal. 6, 1._


The Christian Church is frequently compared with a hospital. The
comparison is correct. Christ calls Himself a Physician; then those
to whom He has come to heal are sick, and the institution which
He has established for the spiritually soul-sick is the Church.
Not for those who regard themselves well, who in self-righteous
haughtiness would be no sinners, but for those who, acknowledging
their soul-sickness, are looking for healing from the Physician of
souls, Christ Jesus, is this divine institution. The Church, we may
aptly say, is a hospital.

In a hospital, however, we have respect to proper treatment, we
desire to become rid of our ailment, and are ready to submit to any
course and remedy that will promote our healing. Equally so in the
spiritual hospital ought we to be ready and thankful for any method
and manner of treatment that helps us become rid of our sins, our
faults, our errors. Such a course, suggested by the Gospel-lesson,
would we for once regard in this morning devotion. Let us consider
_a Christian's duty toward an erring brother_, noting, _I. what this
duty is_; _II. how it is to be performed_; _III. some of the happy
results_.

"Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual
restore such an one in the spirit of meekness." What the Apostle
here commands is this: If a Christian, a member of a congregation,
falls, those who are standing are to help him up again. If he falls
into error of doctrine, they are to bring him to the belief of the
Bible truth, and if he falls into some sin of life, they are to
remonstrate with him, so that he may repent and return into the way
of right. That this is one of the most difficult of Christian duties
is true, and that it is a duty grossly neglected by Christians is
true also. But for that reason it becomes all the more necessary to
call attention to it. "Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor,
and not suffer sin upon him," we read Lev. 19. Solomon says: "Rebuke
a wise man, and he will love thee." A greater than Solomon, even our
Savior, has said: "If thy brother trespass against thee, go and tell
him his fault." Again, St. Paul directs: "Reprove, rebuke, exhort
with all long-suffering." These are but a few of many similar texts
of Scripture that might be cited to show that to reprove an erring
fellow-Christian is just as solemn and weighty as that which tells
us, "Thou shalt not steal," or admonishes to read our Bibles, and
attend on public worship. And be it noted, this is every Christian's
duty. It will not do to say: Let the pastor do it, or let those do
it who are better qualified than myself. It is indeed the pastor's
duty, and it is the duty of those of whom you say they are better
qualified than yourself, and it is also your duty; for thus says
the Apostle: "Ye which are spiritual restore such an one." If you
are spiritual, if you are a Christian, it is your duty to apply
brotherly admonition; and is it right to shift your duty on to the
shoulders of others?

Christians may easily sin by depending too much on the pastor to do
everything. The pastor cannot be everywhere, cannot see everything,
and often it is wrong to tell him about everything. The direction
here is not only for the pastors, but for all the members. That
question of qualification is indeed a delicate thing. The truth
is that those who think themselves qualified, and therefore use
impertinent boldness, are generally not qualified for effectual
brotherly admonition. If God has placed you into such a situation
that you see a brother in danger of losing his soul through error,
sin, or despondency, then let not the feeling of disqualification
seal your lips, but sigh to God to open your lips to speak a word
of instruction, rebuke, or comfort as it seems needed. Remember, it
is a duty, this matter of Christian reproof, something which God
has plainly and strongly commanded us to perform. This is our first
consideration.

However, if brotherly admonition is to have the proper effect, it
must be applied in the right way. "Brethren, if a man be overtaken
in a fault." That does not mean that a Christian should make it his
business to rebukingly approach others for little and insignificant
faults. In that case he would soon be regarded as a faultfinder, an
overly eager critic, and would no more be listened to. Brotherly
admonition should be applied in such things by which the brother's
soul is endangered if left to go on therein.

I shall mention a few,--neglect of attendance upon divine worship
and sacrament, intemperance, when one is convinced that the visits
to the drinkhouse are too frequent, habitually frequenting the
playhouse, the dancing-floor, living in some secret sin, using
ungodly, profane speech, being irreconcilable with one's housemates
or fellow-members. These are faults, and when one is overtaken
in such a fault, then it becomes my Christian duty and yours to
restore such a one--how? In the spirit of meekness, with mildness,
kindness, humility. Nothing is more opposed to the spirit in which
Christian rebuke is to be administered than harshness, haughtiness,
abruptness, overbearing manner. Hard words are apt to incite
opposition and stubbornness. A reproof kindly given is like a
healing oil. A tornado destroys, a mild breeze refreshes. Brotherly
admonition is only then indeed brotherly when given in a brotherly
manner.

In reproving an offending brother, we must make it apparent that
it is his highest good that we honestly seek; it must be obvious
that we have no personal dislike to gratify, no spleen to vent,
no feeling of superiority. It must be manifest to him that we
do it from a sincere conviction of duty, from a feeling that if
we did not care for him and sincerely desire his happiness as a
Christian, we could never be induced to attempt this painful duty.
This is the spirit with compassion for the offended. There must
be a spirit like this, and oh! the power in Christian rebuke when
administered like this. It will subdue and reclaim anything but a
heart of adamant. But this meekness must be mingled with humbling
conviction of our own frailty and liability to sin. "Considering,"
wrote the Apostle, "thyself, lest thou also be tempted." We must go
to the erring brother with that gentle and subdued spirit resulting
from conviction and practical view of our own numerous sins, and a
holy fear of falling ourselves, that we may soon need the Christian
reproof of a brother for our own faults. Fraternal kindness and
gentleness does not exclude--what we must yet mention--firmness. The
hand of the surgeon who amputates a diseased limb or growth from
the human body, must be a steady hand, unmoved by the cries and the
writhing of the patient. It is not cruelty, but kindness to the
sufferer, that keeps the surgeon undiverted and firm to his purpose
till the operation is performed. So he that would successfully
administer Christian reproof must have his heart firmly set on
the work. He must go about it with an inflexible determination
to accomplish, by God's aid, what he attempts. The wincing
irritability, ill temper, and provoking replies of the offended
must not for a moment divert him from his purpose, or throw him off
his guard. He must approach with the purpose of winning him back to
truth and the path of righteousness. Hating the sin, but loving the
sinner, he must hold on until the person has been saved or proved to
be incorrigible, a manifest and unrepentant sinner.

So much as to the manner--"with meekness and firmness." And are
there any happy effects to be realized from the faithful performance
of this duty? That is the last general thought to be presented,
namely, the blessed consequences of Christian reproof.

The first happy effect is that it will free the Christian who
performs this duty from being partaker of others' sins, and will
give him a peace of conscience which he cannot otherwise enjoy. God
has solemnly warned us Christians: "Be ye not partakers of other
men's sins." Now that professing Christian who fails to rebuke or
reprove a brother whom he knows to be in fault, silently assents
to that brother's sin. His conduct obviously shows that he either
does not consider his brother as sinning at all, or that his fault
is so trivial that it is not necessary to tell him of it. That is
the inference which the erring brother himself draws. Now we are, to
some extent, the keepers of our brother's soul, and if we do not use
the means and the influences which we might use to free him from his
faults, God will hold us accountable, partakers, a portion of the
guilt attaches to us.

We may complain of this as hard if we choose, but this will not
alter the case. There are two ways in which we can free ourselves
from being partakers of other men's sins. The one is by living holy
lives ourselves; the other, Christian reproof to them for their
faults. Not only must our lives testify, but our lips. You would
pardon the personal illustration. We were friends. Six years did we
occupy the same desk and room together. A sin was fastening itself
upon him, the general word for it is "tippling," fancy drinking. I
remonstrated with him, as talented a student as ever was. He has
long fallen from the Christian ministry, and his body lies in a
drunkard's grave, one of the saddest experiences of my life. But one
consolation,--I spoke to him words of Christian reproof. Would you
be untarnished by the guilt of other men's sins, and blessed with a
peace of conscience to be procured on no other terms, be faithful in
the performance of this duty.

A second happy effect of the faithful performance of this duty
is that it will prevent the evil of talebearing and backbiting.
A prevalent, giant evil this, also in some of our churches among
Christians. Anything that would remedy this evil ought to be hailed
with gladness. God has brought His authority to bear on it in the
direct command: "Thou shalt not go up and down in the land as a
talebearer; thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."
The Lord Jesus Himself has laid down the law that Christians are
not permitted to talk about the faults of others till they have
gone to them and told them their faults alone. How much this rule
is regarded some of our consciences can testify. But let it be
done, and you will see how talebearing and backbiting will cease;
for either as you go to the erring brother or sister in the spirit
in which reproof ought to be administered you will find, in not
a few instances, that you were mistaken, that the person is not
guilty in the matter, as you had supposed, and then, of course, you
cannot go about speaking of his fault; or if you find that he is
actually at fault to the extent that you thought he was, he will
no doubt, on faithful reproof, make an apology, and then, with what
face can you go about talking to others of his fault? If there is
anything distressing, causing permanent estrangement, discord, and
heart-burning, it is to take up evil reports against each other,
circulate them without ever going to the person incriminated, and
inquiring into the truth or falsehood of what is spread. And this
devilish work will cease or become rare, and the calumniator will be
regarded as doing the work of his father, the devil, if Christians
will faithfully perform the duty of reproof in the right spirit.
To repeat,--if we have anything to say of a brother, let us say it
first to him. Let us say nothing in his absence that we should be
afraid to utter in his presence. And when any one comes with an evil
report against another, let us refuse to listen to him, unless he
can assure us that he has said all that he is going to utter to the
person whom it most concerns. It will check, prevent the evil of
talebearing. And to mention briefly one other blessed effect,--it
will promote a feeling of brotherliness and promote prosperity of
the congregation. To speak to a delinquent brother, give him to
understand that he is missed and doing amiss, is to give him to
understand, at the same time, that he is thought of, that we should
like to have him to be what his own conscience testifies he ought
to be; and this consideration, kindly and firmly made, cannot but
make him, if he is not past all correction, feel attracted and
attached toward those who are concerned about him. To keep the
unity of spirit in the bonds of peace, to banish prejudice, hatred,
to promote and build up a strong, solid, permanent church-body in
which the members cling to each other, Christian reproof is a most
valuable means. Christian reproof is something which deeply concerns
the spiritual life and growth of a congregation.

To conclude: How far, Christian brethren, have we been faithful to
the admonition of the text? Have you ever, since connected with this
church, made one serious attempt to reclaim an erring brother or
sister? There is, I know, a little of this spirit among us; may it
prosper and grow, and the Lord will surely give His blessing. Amen.



TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

     And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the
     people cast money into the treasury. And many that were rich
     cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw
     in two mites, which make a farthing. And He called unto Him His
     disciples and saith unto them, Verily, I say unto you, That
     this poor widow hath cast more in than all they which have cast
     into the treasury. For all they did cast in of their abundance;
     but she of her want did cast in all she had, even all her
     living.--_Mark 12, 41-44._


The words just read from sacred story are the simple record of a
pious deed performed more than a thousand years ago in the city
of Jerusalem. It speaks of a poor woman modestly putting in her
contribution into the treasury of the Temple. At the time to
which the text refers the Savior had just silenced the cavils and
objections of the scribes and Sadducees, as we heard in the Gospel
of to-day, and was remaining in the temple a few moments longer and
taking His seat near the place where the people were wont to deposit
their offerings. As He watched the multitudes surging to and fro
and with His all-seeing eye scanned the various depositors placing
their gifts into the receptacle, He had nothing to say. But when
a poor widow came along, unnoticed and overlooked, as the artists
generally picture her, with a little one at her side and an infant
upon her breast, and drops in her insignificant coin of two paltry
mites, there was something that broke the current of His thoughts,
and calling His disciples, He directed their attention to the humble
gift and the unpretentious offerer.

Though that gorgeous Temple has long passed away, and the
magnificent city is in ruins, that simple act of piety lives on,
as fresh and beautiful as the moment of its performance. This
Sunday has been set aside in the course of the church-year for the
consideration of Christian beneficence. It is an eminently proper
and legitimate topic, and one on which instruction and stirring
up is needed the same as on any other. Some think such sermons
aside from the Gospel, but that only shows how imperfect is their
knowledge, and how important it is to bring the matter forth from
the obscurity to which some would consign it. Paul frequently
introduces it into his doctrinal epistles. The Savior Himself
embraced in it many of His discourses, and it is difficult to see
how any Christian minister is discharging his duty of faithfully
and fully declaring the counsel of God to his people who fails
betimes to give it a prominent place in his pulpit ministrations.
Let us regard as our theme this morning: _The widow's mite, an
encouraging model of Christian beneficence, observing_, _I, the
motive why we should give_; _II. the measure and proportion in which
we should give_; _III. the method how we should give_. May God bless
the presentation of His Word!

First, the motive of giving. What prompted this poor widow to give?
She had been worshiping in the Temple, had witnessed the beautiful
and inspiring services, had been edified by the instruction of
God's Word, her heart was warmed and stirred with appreciation for
these spiritual blessings, and as she passes out with the throng
and views the receptacle at the entrance, well knowing what it had
been placed there for, she cannot resist, but under a sense of
obligation, a strong feeling to reciprocate, and do something toward
the maintenance of God's house, she draws forth two little coins and
drops them in, then, more destitute of means, but richer in heart,
proceeds on her way.

And the like motives ought to prevail with us. We confess in the
Creed: "I believe that God has made me and all creatures, that
He richly and daily provides me, that He defends me against all
danger"; that Jesus Christ, our Lord, has redeemed us lost and
condemned creatures; that the Holy Ghost has called us by the
Gospel, enlightened us with His gifts, sanctifies and keeps us in
the true faith; and for all that, what shall we render for God's
gifts? His blessings are indeed always freely bestowed, without
any merit or worthiness on our part; nevertheless, they call for
gratitude, recognition, appreciation. And in consideration of gifts
so unspeakable is any offering of gold, or frankincense, or myrrh
too large? what ointment of spikenard too costly? The spirit of
showing gratitude, as in the case of this widow, is one motive, and
a most beautiful and God-honoring one, why we ought to give to Him:
the honor of His name and the spread and prosperity of His cause--in
His temple.

The other is this,--the sense of our obligation. He desires and
commands us to do so. Everywhere in the Scripture of God do we find
the matter of giving, especially for religious purposes, spoken of
with commendation and inculcated as part of the very essence and
life of true godliness, whether we look to the Old Testament or
to the New Testament, to prophets, apostles, or Christ Himself,
the language is the same. "Honor the Lord with thy substance,
and with the first fruits of all thine increase." "To do good and
to communicate, forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well
pleased." In to-day's Gospel the Lord plainly enough says: "Render
unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, and unto God the things that
are God's." In a certain sense it is all His, of course. "The earth
is the Lord's and the fullness thereof." The silver and the gold
are His. But it belongs to His wisdom and providence to make us His
stewards in the disposition of His, and in that disposition He lays
down very emphatically the law: "Render unto me the things that are
mine." Every penny that we possess is stamped with the divine image
and superscription. He still sits over against the treasury, and
observes what we are putting into the receptacle, whether we are
giving unto Him what it is our duty to give. These are, then, the
motives,--gratefulness and dutifulness.

And now as to the _measure_, the amount of Christian giving--the
how much. As we turn to the record, two parties are distinguished.
The one wealthy.--"Many," it says, "that were rich cast in much."
That the rich should give and gave largely, and that this was the
case not with a few, but with numbers of them, was to their honor,
especially since the practice has never been common, experience
showing that "many that are rich do not cast in much." And the
other, indigent, the poor, selected by way of a specific example--a
widow.

The idea sometimes is that poor people ought not be asked to give.
This is a mistake. Poor people can give, and ought to give, out of
their poverty, as well as rich people ought to give out of their
riches. Poor people can hurt themselves, and injure their souls,
and prove themselves niggardly and illiberal by not giving just as
well as rich people can. True, they cannot give as much as the more
favored, in the actual amount of their gifts, but they _can_ give as
much in proportion to their means.

We often hear people say, if they were only rich, willingly
would they contribute to every good cause, and munificent things
would they do with their money. But all such charitable words
and sentiments are just nothing. The thing is to give the gift
of poverty, if poor, without being ashamed of it, and not to
sentimentalize about the great things we would do if we were rich.
The fact is that few people ever get rich, and if wealth increases,
desires, styles of living, and general expenses increase with it,
and the wealthy man has so many expenditures, so many demands to
meet, so many drains upon him, that he is just about as poor in
his riches as he was without them. This is the plain fact in the
vast majority of cases. Indeed, exceptions are very rare. It is,
therefore, a mere matter of self-deception for people to talk how
liberal they would be if they were rich. Moreover, what are we
coming to if we regard only the rich as under obligation to give?
No! Christian liberality is a thing for the poor as well as the
rich, and for the most part facts prove that the poor are more
liberal than the rich.

To come back to our text: Such were the donors our Savior
recognized, both poor and rich. Let us note, furthermore, their
contribution. While the rich gave much, the widow "threw in" only
"two mites," which make a farthing, with us half a cent. It is
easy to conceive what the givers themselves would think of their
donations. The rich would be satisfied, imagining that they had done
their duty, if not more than was required of them, while the poor
widow would deem what she had done unworthy of notice, and, perhaps,
felt ashamed to cast into the treasury such a mean trifle.

Others, too, who were lookers-on, had they known what the parties
gave, would have extolled the one as prodigies of liberality, while
they would have treated the other with neglect, or reproached her
for giving what she could not afford. But how were those two mites
viewed by Him whose eyes were as a flame of fire, and who searcheth
the reins and the hearts?

"And He called unto Him His disciples, and saith unto them, Verily,
I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in than all they
which have cast into the treasury. For all they did cast in of their
abundance; but she of her want did cast in all she had, even all her
living." At first this seems strange, and our Lord could not mean
that she had given more than all the others as to quantity, but more
as to motive, more as to principle, more, relatively, as to their
condition and her circumstances; more comparatively.

These men had given much; they had done it of their abundance and
superfluity, and could go home to houses filled with plenty, and
to tables spread with delicacies, while she went home to a lonely
apartment, and opening her cupboard, found little, and that the
earning of her hard toil.

What an encouragement this! And the less favored in this world's
goods require it. We have known persons remaining away from the
house of God--this house of God--because they could only appear in
workday clothing, and others who have been prevented from meeting
with the congregation because they felt that they could not do what
was expected of them. Let none such, however humble their condition,
or limited their means, for a moment suppose that they are less
regarded; let them beware of making the sad mistake that because
they cannot do much, they are justified in doing nothing. The
commendation of Mary was: "She hath done what she could," whereas
the condemnation of the unprofitable servant was that because he
did not have ten talents, or five, he failed to trade with the one
he did have. It's not the inability that God judges you by, but by
the indisposition to do what you have. In the light of these two
mites let us take heart, and do what dutifulness and gratitude would
prompt us to do toward His temple, knowing that it is a small thing
that we should be judged by any man's judgment, but that He that
judges us is the Lord.

And, again, our Lord's decision teaches us, in fact, seems to be
the main inference to be drawn from the subject, that the rule
with regard to liberality is proportion. These men gave "much"
(much when the amount was considered, much according to their own
opinion and their admirers); yet, was it much relatively? much
compared with what others gave whose means were unspeakably less?
What self-denial was there connected with it? "Charity," an old
commentator remarks to these words of our text, "is to be judged of,
not by what is given, but by what is left." These men gave of their
abundance. They never felt it. True benevolence feels it. The widow
did feel it; and many, I take it, among us feel it in the sacrifice
of self-decoration, self-gratification, when they put their
contribution into the plate in regular service, and occasionally a
special donation, as on the Day of Humiliation and Prayer and Church
Anniversary. That is the right kind of benevolence that feels it;
those are the coins that count in God's treasury which have, as they
ring in the basket, a piece of ourselves attached to them, stand for
self-denial; that gives them their highest value,--not merely the 1,
5, or 10 stamped upon them.

Let each of the assembly here worshiping examine himself
accordingly. There is no law in the case. Christianity does not
tax, coerce, dictate how much in exact proportion to your income
and means you ought to give. It is not for you to tell me how much
I am to do for God and Church, nor for me to tell you. That is my
business and yours, left to us individually. Only this are we to
observe: All are expected to give, and all who are really touched
with the Spirit of Christ and true religion give and will give, and
it is for them to give in proportion as God has blessed them.

Giving is a thing of character, which, like every other, must grow
little by little, more by more, until through diligent practice
and repeated acts it becomes a habit. To give once in a while,
impulsively, as one is moved by this or that plea, is good enough,
but far more fruitful and blessed is systematic giving, however
small the amount be at a time. The plan which has God's authority,
and which has borne the most encouraging results, is the one which
St. Paul has laid down in 1 Cor. 16: "On the first day of the week,"
on Sunday, when men's thoughts are turned from earth to heaven, from
the things of this world to the next, when God's unspeakable gift is
brought to our mind and our duties to the good Lord, then "let every
one of you lay by him in store as the Lord hath prospered him."

To aid you in doing that, the system of envelopes has been
introduced. The idea has never been to burden any one, to tax any
one, or to prescribe to any one, but to present an easy and secure
method for collecting what each one, in conscience and calmness,
might consider his or her proper gift to the Lord and His treasury.
The very boxes bear that name, "The Lord's Treasury," and I hope
that each time as you scan the words you will think of the "widow's
mites."

Nor do we have any reason to be dissatisfied with results. The
waters that flow down the great Niagara with such rush and roar,
and then sweep onward in deep majesty to the ocean are formed by
countless brooks and rills and trickling streamlets and melting
snows and little raindrops, and so the results that have all wrought
for our congregation, and the amount upon which it is still largely
dependent, comes from the small contributions of our members,
regularly and systematically given. In view of the fact that a large
indebtedness rests upon us, I feel warranted to bring this matter
before you in the pulpit, asking for a faithful continuation of the
plan.

"The widow's two mites"--what grand services they have accomplished,
what an immense harvest of good they have brought forth to the whole
world. Remembering how His all-seeing eye still scans the church
receptacle, let us not allow selfishness, avarice, and a carnal
greed to hinder what conscience dictates; rather let us strive to
secure this commendation which this poor widow received, and be
blessed in our deeds. Amen.



HUMILIATION AND PRAYER SUNDAY.

     TEKEL: Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found
     wanting.--_Dan. 5, 27_.


The words of our text connect with an account of Old Testament story
which, if once heard, is never forgotten. The place was Babylon,
a city so vast in extent that after its capture it was three days
before the fact was known all over it. The scene was in the royal
palace, a marvelous structure within the walls of which were the
famous "hanging gardens," which the world has agreed to number among
its "seven great wonders." There, in the most sumptuous of all his
banquet halls, at a table groaning with the burdens of massive
plate and the rarest and richest of viands and wines, reclined
the proud and voluptuous King of Babylon, Belshazzar. Around him
reclined a thousand of his lords and the fairest women of his harem.
A more magnificent banquet was never given or enjoyed. Golden
lamps, suspended from a ceiling, paneled with ivory and pearl,
shed soft luster on walls pillared with statues, on a floor paved
with alabaster, and carpeted with richest rugs from the looms of
India, on couches mounted with silver and cushioned with velvet,
on illustrious princes, gorgeous costumes, in the most bewildering
splendor, whilst over it all floated the sweet strains of music and
song. Every heart in that glittering company was wild with delight.
No one seemed troubled with care.

In the midst of the feasting an impious deed suggests itself to the
king's mind. Calling a servant, he orders him to bring the golden
and silver vessels which his grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar, had
carried away from God's altar in Jerusalem. They were brought and
placed before him in a glittering row. They had been consecrated
to the service of God centuries before, and had never been put
to any common use. For any man to use them, unless he were a
heavenly-appointed priest serving at the altar of Jehovah, would be
sacrilege of the most damning kind, Belshazzar knew that, but he was
resolved to insult Jehovah in the presence of that great company,
and so, at his command, those consecrated vessels were filled with
intoxicating drink, and he and his princes, and his wives and his
concubines, drank from them, amid profane jests and ridicule, to the
health of the god of Babylon, whose images of gold, silver, brass,
and stone adorned the hall where the wild revel was held. Suddenly
a cry of agony is heard. There sat Belshazzar, pale as marble,
pointing to an object on the wall. With horror unutterable they look
and see the fingers of a human hand slowly tracing a style across
the wall,--that was all that was visible. The pen and hand vanished,
and nothing remained but the writing. At that the banqueters stared,
transfixed with speechless terror. No one in that drunken crowd was
able to read it, until Daniel, the Lord's prophet, was summoned.
This was the inscription: "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin." The prophet
gave their hidden meaning: "Mene: God has numbered thy kingdom and
finished it. Tekel: Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found
wanting. Upharsin: Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes
and Persians." And so it was. That very night, by an underground
channel, Darius the Mede entered the city of Babylon, and Belshazzar
was hewn to pieces.

And is there nothing in this piece of ancient history, transferred
to God's Book and interpreted by God's prophet, that has value
and application to us? Is not everything that we find recorded
in the Scripture written for our learning, our warning? Those
four words, and particularly, the one chosen for our immediate
devotion, "Tekel," has it no spiritual warning for us? We have met
this morning for that very purpose--to weigh ourselves. Fifty-two
Sundays--another year of grace has come and has departed in the
church calendar--we are invited to solemn retrospect and thoughtful
review, to consider what report we have to make. Let us, then,
honestly and conscientiously, address ourselves to it on the basis
of the text, and may God's Holy Spirit touch your hearts and
solemnize your minds!

"Tekel: Thou art weighed in the balances." We all know what a
balance is, a pair of scales. The beam is suspended exactly in the
middle. The two arms are equal, and supplied with a pan, not to
differ by a hair's thickness. If equal weights are placed in the two
pans, the beam rests perfectly level. Such is God's balance. It is
sensitive to the last degree. It weighs men's acts; it weighs men's
words; it weighs men's thoughts; it weighs men's characters. It
weighs them accurately, and every weight is set down in the book of
divine memory. At the judgment on that Great Day that book will be
opened, and every one shall be judged out of those things which are
written in the book, according to their works. Ask you me the name
of God's balances, I answer: Justice,--that's God's balance.

But in weighing there are two scales. On the one pan is placed that
which is weighed, and in the other that against which it is weighed,
the standard, the weight. And so God, in weighing man, uses weights
which have been tested by a perfect standard. Conscience is such a
weight, that "still, small voice" which speaks to you out of your
own soul, that forceful monitor in your breast, that weighs against
your acts and words and thoughts, excusing or else accusing you,
from whose troubling thoughts you cannot escape, and which, as the
saying is, makes cowards of us all. Conscience--that's one.

Another, heavier than the first--for it is made out of stone--we
recognize at once: God's Ten Commandments, a holy standard. "Thou
shalt have no other gods before me," reads the first line, and we
know that means that an idolater is not he alone who bows down to
rocks and stones; whosoever worships self in greed or manner, or
bestows supreme regard for anything short of the true and only
God, sets up an idol and is an idolater. And so he is not the only
murderer, according to the sense and spirit of these tables, who has
killed a fellow-mortal, but he already that hateth his brother, that
indulges the malicious feeling, the revengeful desire. Nor is he
the only lewd man who has given himself to lewdness, but according
to this sixth line on that measure, the impure thought, the sensual
look, and the cherished unchaste hope already fix the guilt of
adultery. We observe, then, it is an exact weight, and so if all
that a man has thought and said and done is up to the standard, the
beam hangs level, and the divine face of the weigher is wreathed
with smiles. If not, the Judge frowns, and from His lips issues the
verdict: "Wanting!"

The third weight that God employs when He wishes to learn the
avoirdupois of your soul is opportunity. Into one scale He puts
the man's character and life; into the other He puts all the
opportunities which he has enjoyed for getting and doing good.
That includes such things as these: godly parents, godly example,
a Christian school, Confirmation, the preaching of the true and
pure Gospel, the faithful ministry of the Word and Sacraments.
It includes bereavements, disappointments, startling events of
Providence, losses of health, fortune, family, all of which were
to direct you nearer to God. It includes every example of holy
living which you have witnessed, every occasion presented you to
glorify your Master and bless your fellow-men. All these and such
like opportunities, impulses, and impressions to move the soul
and bring it into saving harmony with God, make up the sum of his
opportunities, and if the weight of what the man has done and is,
equals the sum of all these opportunities, it is well; if otherwise,
God's scale goes up, and the sentence is: "Wanting!"

And one more weight must be named. We shall not dwell lengthily
upon it, for we can all see it so conveniently. It lies before me.
Let us take it and put it into the pan of the scales--the Bible;
as your Savior says: "Ye have Moses and the prophets,--ye have the
Evangelists and Apostles,--hear ye them." That is your standard,
your measure, placed against you; by its precepts you shall be
weighed.

And now let us proceed to put something into the other side of the
scale to counterbalance, and watch the result. Let us judge in the
light of conscience, God's Law, our opportunities, and the Lord's
Bible, our beloved congregation. They tell us that knowledge of
one's self is one of the hardest and most unpleasant attainments,
but the most needful and most salutary for all that. Weighing
ourselves, what report have these fifty-two Sundays to give of
our congregation as a whole and of you, my dear member, as an
individual? How has it been with the worship, the attendance at
services? Nothing to boast of, in most cases something to be ashamed
of. Some are hovering near the verge of church discipline for their
laxity and deficiency; particularly does this pertain to the male
portion of the flock.

"Thou shalt sanctify the holyday," reads the third and unalterable
command of their God, yet months pass at a time, and their face
appears not in the assembly of the worshipers. But for the visitors
and strangers, especially at the evening services, these pews
would be deplorably depleted. Others come with a commendable
degree of regularity, but is there participation in the services
and punctuality in arriving? Do not the hymns drag along at times
so dull and spiritless because many never open their lips? How
listless and devotionless the hearers betimes appear, their eyes
roaming about elsewhere, and even closing in sleep. Remember every
attendance is weighed in the balance. Occasions when every member
ought to regard it a loss to be absent, like Pentecost, Reformation,
Easter, Church Dedication, little increase in the audience is noted.
Announce a particular topic for the following Sunday, and it would
seem as if some deliberately stay away. O what a poor thing it must
appear in the case of the average Christian, of the most of us!

Is it much different--to take up another point--with our partaking
of the Lord's Supper? What drudgery, what shrinking and hesitancy
with regard to the sacred feast! The Lord says: "This do, as oft as
ye drink it, in remembrance of Me." Paul the Apostle directs: "As
oft as ye eat this bread and drink this cup." Luther, in his preface
to the Small Catechism, thus interprets this "oft:" "If a person
does not seek nor desire the Lord's Supper at least some four times
a year, it is to be feared that he despises the Sacrament, and is
not a Christian." Weighed in this balance, what shall we say of
our Communion Table? How many times have you gone in these twelve
months, these fifty-two Sundays? Observe the handwriting on the
wall! Read those letters: "Wanting," and ask yourself, Does that
mean me?

But permit me to pass briefly to an examination of your hearts
and your homes. Have you grown in grace and in the knowledge of
your Lord and Savior? Do the fruits of your discipleship abound in
greater liberality and activity? Do you read God's Word at home, say
grace at table, have family devotion? Are you increasingly imbibing
and personifying the temper of your religion in the control of your
passion, in the subduing of your pride, in the cultivating of a
forgiving spirit? Do you pray thoughtfully, regularly, cheerfully?
For you to live--is it Christ? As you grow in age, do you grow in
heavenly-mindedness, draw closer to your God? To serve the Lord,
to speak for Him, is this your delight? I need not press these
inquiries. With each one of you the scale takes an upward turn, and
I hear you saying with sighing of heart: "Enter not into judgment
with Thy servant, O Lord," for this servant is wanting, _wanting_.

And what is to be done, with the scales always rising higher and
higher and striking the very beam? First of all, repent; learn to
understand and acknowledge your dismal condition. That was the
fault with Belshazzar--his security and vain confidence; as God
said to him through Daniel: "O Belshazzar, thou hast not humbled
thine heart, but hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven."
Therefore, in the dust with thee! Let ours be the publican's cry:
"God be merciful to me, a sinner!" "If Thou, O Lord, shouldst mark
iniquity, O Lord, who shall stand?" With the balances suspended,
God's Law, God's Bible, conscience, against us, repentance,
conviction and confession of sin, is the first thing required of
you. But that alone would lead to despair. Dear hearer, observe
the scales as they are held by the stern and just hand of divine
Justice, the one down, the other with man's soul, asking for mercy.
Behold, another hand appears. It is a soft, delicate hand; in its
palm is a wound, from that wound there oozes out a drop of blood
upon the weighed and wanting soul. Instantly the scales go down,
till the beam hands are evenly poised, and a voice is heard: "The
blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin." Faith in that
blood, belief in Christ Jesus, your Savior, is the next thing
necessary. And the last is renewed consecration, earnest, honest
resolve with God's help to do better, firm determination that the
incoming year of grace shall be characterized by a brightening
of faith, an advance in holiness, a progress in all lines that
grace a follower of Christ, that it find you at its close a more
intelligent, a more humble, a more sanctified Christian than to-day.

Beloved, cast another look at the handwriting on the wall, lest it
be written against you on the day of Judgment. Repent, believe in
Christ, amend--in this may God help us! Amen.



REFORMATION.

     His foundation is in the holy mountains. The Lord loveth the
     gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious
     things are spoken of thee, O city of God. Selah.--_Ps. 87, 1-3._


The history of the Christian Church may be expressed in three
words--Formation, Deformation, and Reformation. The first period
begins with the story of the shepherds on Bethlehem's plains on
Christmas night 1912 years ago, and ended with the establishment of
the Church in cultured Europe and Asia and Africa.

As we pass the main occurrences of that first epoch of its
formation, before our mind's eye, we see how the infant cause
of Christ spreads from Jerusalem round about to the surrounding
countries, conquering and to conquer. See how in her course
of advancement she meets with opposition the fiercest and
bloodiest; see how the blood of her children wets the sands of the
amphitheater, and how their bones are crushed by the lions and wild
animals of the arena, whilst the ashes of thousands of others strew
the funeral pile upon which they died praying, "Lord Jesus, receive
my spirit."

Those were the days of persecution, when the church was despised and
rejected of men. And yet, in the indestructibility of her life she
overcame that opposition. Yea, as one said, "the very blood of the
martyrs was the seed grain of her progress." Before the preaching
of Christ fadeth the glories of heathenism, and where once stood in
splendid magnificence the pagan temples of heathenish paganism was
placed in its simple and sublime beauty the cross. The Galilean, the
Carpenter's Son, God's Son, had conquered. The Church, in a word,
had been established.

And then the view changes. A new period begins. Across the face of
this period there is written in all directions one word. That word
is _Rome_. It is Rome at the altar swinging the censer, Rome on the
battlefield wielding the sword; it is Rome in the councils of kings,
and Rome in the judge's seat; it is Rome in the professor's chair,
and Rome in the children's nursery; it is Rome in the market stall
telling what to sell, and Rome in the kitchen telling people what to
eat and drink. It is Rome first, last, and all the time.

At Rome, styled the Holy City, the Mistress of the World, sat a
triple-crowned dictator. Princes kissed his feet, and held the
stirrups for him as he mounted his bediamoned horse. An emperor
stands barefoot in the snow of his courtyard suing for forgiveness
because he had dared to govern without his sanction, whilst his
clergy, monks without number, swarmed in every place, all sworn to
stand by him on peril of salvation, and themselves guarded from all
reach of law for any crime they may commit. Gigantic, powerful,
proud, wicked and wanton, haughty Rome, drunk with shocking
abomination! That is the second period, the era of deformation.

Once more the view changes: Antichrist--for none else is the
pope--is assailed by a poor, unknown monk in far-away Saxony. "Who
minds a monk? 'Tis nothing." But, lo, the monk towers like a giant,
and German princes are by his side, while a nation hangs on his
lips. Tidings of great joy, like once from Bethlehem's plains, are
again spreading from the little town of Wittenberg on the banks of
the Elbe. Ninety-five theses nailed up by that monk against the
church-door on the eve of October 31, 1517, are borne on the wings
of the wind. How they talk about them in London, now in Copenhagen,
now in the streets of Jerusalem. Men, women, youths, fearlessly
give the lie to the priest whom they had dreaded too much before.
Rome startled; she would use her old force. She would suppress the
new teaching, which was nothing but the old truth repeated again.
Of no avail! "She's judged. The deed is done." The Lord has smitten
Antichrist with the breath of His mouth. The world is enjoying once
more the pure and abundant Gospel preaching. A new life is upon
the nations. The Church has entered upon another epoch. We call
it the period of the Reformation. It is the topic of our concern
and gathering to-day. And in order that we may duly grasp its
meaning and appreciate its blessing, let us observe, on the basis
of our text, _The glory of the Lutheran Reformation and Church_.
That glory is threefold: _I. a glory of foundation_; _II. a glory
of possession_; _III. a glory of prospect_. And may God help us
understand and appreciate!

First, a glory of _foundation_. The psalmist, referring to the
Old Testament Church, speaks of its foundation. So, too, the New
Testament Church has its foundation. "Other foundation can no
man lay," writes the Apostle, "than that is laid, which is Jesus
Christ," the Son of God, God Himself. The work of redemption
which He came into this world to perform is the foundation of our
religion, our Church.

What our children learn from their Catechism: "I believe that Jesus
Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also
true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me,
a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins,
from death and from the power of the devil,"--that is the heart and
marrow of our faith, its foundation. This was the point Luther made
in those ninety-five theses and in all the teachings, preaching, and
writing that he did ever afterwards.

But does not the Church of Rome believe that too? My dear hearer,
accompany me in spirit to one of their places of worship. It matters
not in what direction we go, they are plentiful everywhere. We
enter. Our Protestant eye looks for the Savior. Thank God He is
still there. But what means that statue at His side--whose is it?
Francis De Sales, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Vincent, St. Anna, St.
Elizabeth. Have they forgotten the First Commandment which says:
"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness to
bow thyself down to them"? We look upon the assembled worshipers.
What is it that they are holding in their hands, busily twisting the
beads while their lips move in devotion? "Hail, Mary," they pray,
"mother of God, queen of heaven." Why not Christ?--for there is only
one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.

As we stand there in observation amid the striking of little gongs,
there enters, gorgeously arrayed, a priest. "Why a priest?" We, in
the New Testament, according to the Bible, know of only one Priest,
and that is He of whom the Apostle says: "Such an High Priest became
us who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." What
does the priest do? He is offering sacrifice, in an unbloody manner,
for the sins of the people. They call it "mass." But does not the
Bible teach that "by one sacrifice," _viz._, by His sacrifice upon
Golgotha, "Christ hath forever perfected them that are sanctified"?
Why, then, this mass? Do they think they can, as they claim, improve
upon, perfect, that propitiatory sacrifice?

Or, while we are en route, let us transfer ourselves in spirit a
little further; let us go for a few moments to Rome. There sits a
man whom they style "Holy Father." God's Word says: "Ye shall call
no man in religion your father nor master upon earth. One is your
Father," even He who is in heaven. "One is your Master--" Christ.
This man at Rome claims that he is the vicar of Christ upon earth,
with power to rule both the Church and the world. But, says Christ,
"My kingdom is not of this world," and I, even I, am its only Head.
And not only so, but in how many innumerable ways does this man at
Rome contradict Christ! Thus: Christ, through His Spirit, says: A
bishop, a minister, ought to be the "husband of one wife." "The
husband of no wife," contradicts the pope. "It is a great wrong for
a priest to marry." "Abstaining from meats," forbidding people to
eat what they choose and at any time they choose, is "a doctrine
of the devil," says Christ through His Spirit. "It is a sin to
eat meat on Friday and throughout Lent," says the pope. "You must
diligently pray and liberally pay, and then shall the souls of your
beloved ones come out of purgatory." There is no such place, is the
teaching of Christ, for instance, when He spoke to the thief on the
cross: "To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise." "I have redeemed
you with my holy, precious blood and with my innocent suffering and
death." Let your only hope and constant prayer be:

    Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
    My beauty are, my glorious dress.
    'Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
    With joy shall I lift up my head.

"Not so," says the pope. "Heaven and salvation do not depend only
upon what Christ has done, but much depends upon what _you_ have
done." "If any one saith," so reads the decree of Rome, "that we
are justified, saved, by faith alone, let him be anathema--cursed."
Your good works must help along. It is only as you do _this_ and
give _that_, buy indulgences, pay for some holy candles, appropriate
of your earnings an adequate amount to the Church, remember it in
your last will and testament, and set apart a certain sum for the
reading of mass,--it is only thus that you can expect to die in
peace and your soul find its way to heaven. Now, beloved, we leave
it to the smallest child--is this making Christ the foundation?
And it was against this that Luther protested in the ninety-five
theses which he nailed up 395 years ago; and it is against this that
we would raise our voices and pen. Jesus Christ and His work of
redemption--He shall be our foundation. "Ave Marias?" No! Saints and
popes? No!

    All hail the power of Jesus' name,
    Let angels prostrate fall.
    Bring forth the royal diadem
    And crown Him Lord of all.

Again, our Church not only glories in its foundation, but likewise
in its _possessions_. And what does it possess? Look upon the
imposing churches and cathedrals of Rome, those stupendous hospitals
and institutions of one kind and another. What wealth of property,
what revenues and revenues of silver and gold! Who will dispute
that Rome is rich, possesses much? But since when are silver and
gold and splendid edifices the marks of the Church? If those things
constituted true churchliness, then none would have been more
despicable than the early Christians, for they had no churches and
worshiped in catacombs and the recesses of darkest forests. If
pompous ceremonies and spectacular display and strains of fine music
stand for the worship of God, the same might be seen and heard in
Jewish temples.

Over against this, what possessions does our Church glory in? To
mention a few. Open before us lies this holy Book, God's Book,
accessible to all, inviting examination and study of its sacred
pages, and that in a language not foreign, Latin, Greek, or Hebrew,
but intelligible to all its hearers and readers. Rome would not so
have it. It forbids its reading, and calls it a dangerous book. It
adds to its infallible teachings the traditions of men, and wants
all its pages read through the eye-glasses of the pope. It has
always been, and still is, to them an "unknown" Book. You have,
perchance, already seen the picture, quite familiar, which, beneath
the title "Caught," represents an aged man and his little grandchild
reading the Bible while some soldiers are seen entering the room
to arrest them. The story that connects with it is this: Philip
the Second of Spain and the Netherlands had sworn the pope that no
Protestant should be allowed to live in his provinces. In a little
town in Holland lived a good old man with his grandchild Bertha,
who had become believers in the doctrines of the Reformation, and
since the Bible was forbidden to be read and everywhere taken from
the people, the only time for them to strengthen themselves with
its sacred contents was the dead of night. They were just reading
the fifth chapter of Matthew, wherein occur the words: "Blessed are
they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the
kingdom of heaven," when a rough knock on the door tells them that
the Roman spies had discovered them. "Grandfather," cries the child,
"we are caught." "Yes, my child. God's hour seems at hand." And it
was. The next moment the axes of the soldiers had battered down the
door; the Bible was seized and burned, the aged man and his little
granddaughter were hurried off to prison, and were tortured and
afterward stretched on the rack until they died amid horrible pain.
That is Rome's attitude toward the Bible. Thank God, then, for this
blessed possession, a free Bible, which we read everywhere and at
all times.

Then, too, there is the blessed Sacrament, not in its mutilated
shape, the lay people deprived of the cup, but in both species. We
possess that. Furthermore, our services. Take those stately and
sublime hymns that are the inspiration and comfort of a Protestant
Christian. The Romish Church knows them not, the people do not
sing at their services. They are deprived of that. Then, when
we pray--what a possession, the privilege of free, unlimited,
and direct access to God's throne, without the intercession and
intervention of priests and patron saints, but according to Christ's
invitation and commandment: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are
heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

Here, then, are a few of the many blessings we glory in, wrought and
brought back to us through the Lutheran Reformation, and for which
on this day we thank and praise God.

And now a few words yet as to the third part mentioned, the glory
of _prospect_.--When Luther closed his eyes, our haughty enemies
predicted the death of the Lutheran Church. As a Romish priest
once said to a Lutheran peasant, "With your Church it will soon be
'Matthaei am letzten,'" that is, Matthew the last, which is a German
expression meaning, "Things will soon be at an end with you." The
peasant remarked, since he was acquainted with his Bible, "That's
splendid!" In Matthew, the last chapter and the last verse, our
Savior says: "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the
world." Our Church has come to stay, for it is Christ's Church,
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against that. Great in
membership, numbering millions of souls, spread throughout every
people and nation, her faith proclaimed in nearly every dialect and
tongue of earth, great is her prospect.

Take it in this land of ours. Men are awakening more and more to
an appreciation of her history and progress and power. In this
age of unsettling of creeds and of abandonment of time-honored
convictions, in the age of sensationalism and of pulpits which have
no messages, except those of political and sociological interest,
the old Church of the Reformation stands where she ever stood. Mr.
Roosevelt remarked while he was President of the United States: "The
Lutheran Church is of very great power numerically and through the
intelligence and thrift of its members; but it will grow steadily
to even greater power. It is destined to be one of the two or three
greatest in the United States."

If, then, to conclude, any of you have been ashamed of her,
apologized for being Lutherans, perchance even been casting their
eyes in other directions for church-fellowship, if any of us have
not been as loyal as we ought to have been, neglected her glorious
possessions, indifferent to the high blessings she affords in Word
and Sacrament and services, let him and her reflect and amend.

May it be our heartfelt conviction and determination:--

    My Church, my Church, my dear old Church!
    I love her ancient name,
    And God forbid a child of hers
    Should ever do her shame.
    Her mother-care I'll ever share,
    Her child I am alone,
    Till He who gave me to her arms
    Shall call me to His own.

    Amen.





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