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by Charles Kingsley
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SERMON V. SPONSORSHIP



1 Cor. xii. 26, 27. Whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or whether one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

I have to tell you that there will be a confirmation held at . . . on the . . . All persons of fit age who have not yet been confirmed ought to be ready, and I hope and trust that most of them will be ready, on that day to profess publicly their faith and loyalty to the Lord who died for them. I hope and trust that they will, as soon as possible, tell me that they intend to do so, and come to me to talk over the matter, and to learn what I can teach them about it. They will find in me, I hope, nothing but kindness and fellow- feeling.

But I have not only to tell young persons of the Confirmation: I have to tell all godfathers and godmothers of it also. Have any of you here ever stood godfather or godmother to any young person in this parish who is not yet confirmed? If you have, now is the time for you to fulfil your parts as sponsors. You must help me, and help the children's parents, in bringing your godchildren to confirmation. It really is your duty. It will be better for you if you fulfil it. Better for you, not merely by preventing a punishment, but by bringing a blessing. Let me try to show you what I mean.

Now godparents must have some duty, some responsibility or other;— that is plain. If you or I promise and vow things in another person's name, we must be bound more or less to see that that other person fulfils the promise which we made for him: and so the baptism service warns the sponsors as soon as the child is christened, 'Forasmuch as this child has promised,' &c.; and then we have a plain explanation of what a godfather and godmother's duties are. 'And that your godchild may know these things the better,' &c.: and finally, 'you shall take care that this child be brought to the bishop to be confirmed.'

That is the duty of godfathers and godmothers. Those who stand for any child do it on that understanding, and take upon themselves knowingly that duty.

Now, I will not threaten you, my friends; I will not pretend to tell you how God will punish those godfathers and godmothers who do not do their duty; because I do not know how he will punish them. He has not told us in the Bible; and who am I, to deal out God's thunders as if they belonged to me, and judge people of whose real merits and dements in God's sight I have no fair means of judging? I always dread and dislike threatening any sinner out of this pulpit, except those who plainly break the plain laws which are written in those Ten Commandments, and hypocrites: because I stand in awe of our Lord's own words—'Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders, while you yourselves touch them not with one of your fingers.' There is too much of that now-a-days, my friends, and I have no mind to add my share to it. And sure I am, that any godfathers and godmothers who do their duty, only because they are afraid that God will punish them if they do not, will not do their duty at all. But sure I am also, and thankful to God, that we cannot neglect any duty whatsoever without being punished in some way or other for our neglect of it. That is not a curse, but a blessing: it is a blessing to us to be punished. The only real curse of God in this life is to be left unpunished for our sins. It is a blessing for us that our sins find us out. For if our sins did not find us out, we should very often, I fear, not find our sins out. And, therefore, when I tell godfathers and godmothers, not that God will perhaps punish them for their neglect, but that He does punish them for it already, I am telling them good news, if they will only open their hearts to that good news.

For God does punish people for neglecting their godchildren. Those who have eyes to see may see it round us now, in this very parish, and in every parish in England, in the selfishness, distrust, divisions, and quarrels which prevail. I do not mean that this parish is worse than others, or England worse than other countries. That is no concern of ours: our own parish, and our own evils, are quite concern enough for us.

Are people happy together? Do they pull well together? Look at the old-standing quarrels, misunderstandings, grudges, prejudices, suspicions, which part one man from another, one family from another; every man for his own house, and very few for the kingdom of God;—no, not even for the general welfare of the parish! Do not men try to better themselves at the expense of the parish—to the injury of the parish? Do not men, when they try to raise their own family, seem to think that the simplest way to do it is to pull down their neighbour's family; to draw away their custom; oust them from their places, or hurt their characters in order to rise upon their fall? so that though they are brothers, members of the same church, nation and parish, the greater part of them are, in practice, at war with each other—trying to live at each other's expense. Now, is this profitable? So far from it, that if you will watch the history, either of the whole world, or of this country, or of this one parish, you will find that by far the greater part of the misery in it has sprung from this very selfishness and separateness—from the perpetual struggle between man and man, and between family and family: so that there have been men, and those learned, and thoughtful, and well-meaning men enough, who have said that the only cure for the world's quarrelling and selfishness was to take all children away from their parents, and bring them up in large public schools; ay, and even to try plans which are sinful, foul, and wicked, all in order to prevent parents knowing which were their own children, that they might care for all the children in the parish as much as if they were their own.

A foolish plan, my friends, and for this one reason, that it is driving out one evil by a still greater one. It destroys the root to get the fruit; by destroying family life, and love, and obedience, to get at the communion of saints, or rather at some ghost of it. The real communion of saints is founded on the Fifth Commandment—'Thou shalt honour thy father and thy mother;' and grows out of it, not by destroying it, but by fulfilling it, as the tree grows out of the root, without taking away from the life of the root, but rather by nourishing and increasing it. Now, the ancient institution of godfathers and godmothers would, it seems to me, if it were carried out honestly and really, do for us what we certainly have not done for ourselves as yet, and bind us all together as one family. It would do all the good which those fanciful philosophers of whom I first spoke, have dreamt, without any of the evil; and it would do it because it goes simply on the belief that the foundation is already laid, and that that foundation is Christ. It says, because this child is not merely the child of his father and mother, but the child of God, the universal Father, therefore other people besides his parents have an interest in him: all who are children of God as well as he have an interest in him; for they are all his brothers, and have a brother's interest in his welfare. Because this child is not merely a member of the family whose surname he bears, but a member of Christ, a member of God's great adopted family, in the hearts of every one of whom His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, is working; therefore this child ought to be an object of awe, and of interest, and love, and care to every other member of Christ's Church. Moreover, the child is an inheritor of a heavenly kingdom—a kingdom of grace—a kingdom of God,—which is love and justice, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit—all personal, spiritual, heavenly, God-given graces;—and he cannot have them without being a blessing to all around him; and he cannot be without them, without being a curse to all around him. If, in after life, when he comes to be confirmed, he claims his inheritance in this heavenly kingdom, he will be full of love, justice, peace, joy in the Holy Spirit. If he refuses to claim his inheritance, and despises his heavenly birthright, and lives as if he were a mere earthly creature, only to please himself, and help himself, he will not be full of those graces. And what then? That he will be full of their opposites, of course. If he has not love, he will be unloving, selfish, hard, cold—to you and yours. If he has not justice he will be unjust—to you and yours. If he is not at peace he will be at war, quarrelling, grudging, envying, backbiting—you and yours. If he has not joy in the Holy Spirit, he will have joy in an unholy spirit, for he must have joy in some spirit; he must take pleasure in some sort of way of thinking and feeling, and some sort of life—in short, in some sort of spirit; and whatsoever is not holy is unholy, whatsoever is not good is bad, whatsoever is not of God's Holy Spirit is of the Devil;—and therefore, if the child as he grows up has not joy in the Holy Spirit, and does not enjoy doing right and pleasing God, and being like the Lord Jesus Christ, then he will enjoy doing wrong, and pleasing himself, and being unlike the Lord Jesus Christ; and so he will set a bad example, and be a temptation to all young people of his own age, ready to lead them into sin, and draw them away to those sinful and unholy pleasures in which he takes delight,—whether it be to rioting and drinking, or to uncleanness and unchastity, or to sneering and laughing at godliness, and at good people. And that, as you know by experience, may be the worse for you and the worse for your children. Is that the sort of young person with whom you would wish to see your children keeping company? Is that the sort of young person next door to whom you would wish to live? Is not such a person a curse, just because he is a person, a spiritual being with an evil spirit in him, which can harm you, and tempt you, and act on you for evil; just as if he had been a righteous person, with the holy and good Spirit in him, he would have helped you, and taught you, and worked on you for good? But so it is: we are members one of another, and if one member goes wrong, and gets diseased, and suffers, all the other members are sure to suffer more or less with it, sooner or later: you feel it so in your bodies—be sure it is so in God's church. But if one member is sound and healthy, all the other members must and will be the better for its health, and rejoice with it, and be able to do their own work the more freely, and strongly, and heartily.

Just think for yourselves; consider, you who are grown up, and have had experience of life, the harm you have known one bad man do, the sorrow he will cause, even to people who never saw him; and the good which you have seen one good man, not merely do with his own hands, but put into other people's hearts by his example. Is not both the good and the harm which is done on earth like the ripple of a stone dropt into water, which spreads and spreads for a vast distance round, however small the stone may be? Indeed, bold as it may seem to say it, I believe that, if we could behold all hearts as the Lord Jesus does, we should find that there never was a good man but that the whole of Christendom, perhaps all mankind, was sooner or later, more or less, the better for him; and that there never was a bad man but that all Christendom, perhaps all mankind, was the worse for him. So fully and really true it is in everyday practice, that we are members one of another.

Now this is the principle on which the Church acts. For the little unconscious infant is treated as what it is, a most solemn and important person, who has other relations beside its father and mother, as a person who is the brother of all the people round it, and of all the Church of God, and who, too, may hereafter do to them boundless good or harm, and they to it.

Therefore we must have some persons to bear witness of that, to remind the child himself, and the whole Church, that he is not merely a soul by itself to be saved, but that he is a brother, a member of a family; that he is bound to that family henceforth, for good and for evil. And this the godfathers and godmothers do: they represent and stand in the place of the whole Church. In one sense, every Christian who meets that child through life, or hears of it, ought to behave, as far as he can, as its godfather; ought to help and improve it if he can. But what is everybody's business, says the proverb, is nobody's business; and therefore these godfathers and godmothers are called out from the rest, as examples to the rest, to watch over the child, and to help and advise its father and mother in guiding and training it: but not by interfering with a parent's rights, God forbid! or by drawing away the child's affections from its own flesh and blood; for if a child be not taught first to honour its father and mother, there is little use in teaching it anything else whatsoever; and a godfather's first duty is to see that his godchild obeys its earthly parents for the Lord's sake, for that is right, and God's will, whatever else is not.

Now just conceive—I am sure that you easily may—what a blessing to this parish, or this part of the country, it would be, were the duties of godfathers really carried out and practised. Every child, beside his father and mother, would have some two or three elder friends at least, whom he had known from his childhood, whom he could trust, to whom he could go in trouble as to his own flesh and blood. The orphan would have, if not relations, still godparents, to comfort and protect him. No one could go abroad without meeting, if not a godparent, yet the godparent or godchild of a friend or a relation; someone, in short, who had an interest in him, and he in them. All would be bound together in threefold cords of interest and affection. How many spites, family quarrels, mistakes, and ignorances about each other would be done away, if people would but thus simply enter into that communion of saints to which, by right, they belong, and bear each other's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.—Unless you think that men are such ill-conditioned creatures that the less they mix with each other the better. I do not. I believe that the more we mix with each other, and the better we know each other, the more we shall feel for each other: that the more we help people, the more we shall find that they are worth helping; that the more, in a word, we try to live, not after the likeness of the beasts, selfish and apart, but after the order and constitution of God's Church, to which we belong, and which is, that we are all fellow-members of one body, then the more we shall find that God's order is the right, good, blessed order, by obeying which we enter into comfort of which we never dream as long as we lead selfish, separate, worldly lives; as it is written, 'Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.'

This may seem a fanciful dream, too fair to be possible; but what prevents it from being possible, save and except our own selfishness and laziness?

And as for what fruit will spring from it, I have seen, by experience, the blessing of godfathership and godmothership, where it is really carried out; how it will knit together, in sacred bonds of friendship, not merely the children, but the grown persons of different families, and give them a fellow-feeling, a mutual interest, which will prevent a hundred quarrels and coldnesses among frail human creatures. And to those who are childless themselves, what a blessing to have their love and self-sacrifice called out, by being bound in holy bonds, if not to children of their own, at least to children of God!—to have young people to care for, to teach, to guide, and so to win for themselves in the Church of God a name better than that of sons and daughters. And have no fear that by bringing your kindness to bear especially upon your godchildren you will narrow your love, and care less for children in general. Not so, my friends; you will find that your love to your godchildren, like love to your own children, will make all children lovable in your eyes: you will learn how worthy of your love children are, what capacities of good there are in them, how truly of such are the kingdom of heaven; and their simplicity will often teach you more than you can teach them. Their God-given instincts of right and wrong, truth and falsehood, which come from the indwelling Word of God, Jesus the Lord, will often enough shame us, will teach us more and more the depth of that great saying, 'Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, Thou, O God, hast perfected Thy praise.'

Now try, I entreat you, all godfathers and godmothers, to carry out these hints of mine, and so fulfil your duty to your godchildren, sure that you will find it a blessing to yourselves as well as to them.

After all it is your duty. But do not let the slandering Devil slander to you that blessed word, Duty, and make you afraid of it, and shrink from it, as if it meant something burdensome, and troublesome, and thankless, which you suppose you must do for fear of punishment, while you have a right to see how little of it you can do, and try to be let off as cheaply as possible. Beware of that evil spirit, my friends, for he is very near you, and me, and every man, whenever we think of our duty. Very near us he is, that evil Jesuit spirit, that spirit of bondage unto fear, which is continually setting us on to find out with how little service God will be contented, how human slaves may make the cheapest bargain with some stern taskmaster above, of whom they dream. And from that temptation there is no escape, save into the blessed name of God Himself—our Father.

Our Father!—whenever you think of your duty to God or man, think but of those two words. Remember that all duty is duty to a Father; your Father; and such a Father! Who gave His only begotten Son to die for you, who showed what He was in that Son—full of goodness, perfectly loving, perfectly merciful, perfectly just; and then you will not be inclined to ask how little obedience, how little love, how little service, He will allow you to pay to Him; but how much He will help you to pay to Him. Then you will feel that His service is perfect freedom, because it is service to a Father who loves you, and will help you to do His will. Then you will feel that His commandments are not grievous, because they are a Father's commandments, because you are bound to do them, not by dread and superstition, but by gratitude, honour, affection, respect, trust. Then you will not be thinking of what punishment will come if you disobey—no, nor of what reward will come if you obey—but you will be thinking of the commandment itself, and how to carry it out most perfectly, and let the consequences take care of themselves, because you know that your Father takes care of them; that He loves you, and therefore what He commands must be good for you, utterly the best thing for you; that He only gives you a commandment because it is good for you; that you are made in God's image, and therefore God's will must be for you the path of life, the only rule by which you can prosper now and for ever.

Do try, now, all you who are godfathers and godmothers, and for once look on your duty in this light. Be sure that in trying to do your duty you will bring a blessing on yourselves, because your duty is to a Father in heaven. Be sure that, in trying to better your godchildren, you will better yourselves; in trying to teach them, you will teach yourselves; in trying to bring them to confirmation, you will indeed confirm, root, and strengthen yourselves the more deeply in all that is good; because your godchildren are indeed God's children, and whatsoever you do for them you do for His only begotten Son Jesus Christ, as He Himself says, 'Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these little ones, ye did it unto Me.' Do not be afraid of trying; you will have a hundred reasons for not trying rise in your mind, the Devil will find you a hundred lying excuses: 'It will be so difficult; and you do not like to interfere with other people's children; and you have never cared about your godchildren yet, and it will seem so odd to begin now; and the children may not listen to you; and besides, you do not know enough to teach them; you are not good scholar enough, good liver enough, you can't preach where you don't practice.' Oh, how ready the Devil is to help a man to excuses for not doing his duty; how careful he is to keep out of a man's mind the one thought which would sweep all those excuses to the wind—the thought that this same duty, which he is trying to make look so ugly, is duty to a loving Father. Do not listen to his lies; look up to your good Father in heaven; and try. It is God's will that these children should be confirmed; it is His will that you should help to bring them to confirmation; and if it is His will, He will help you to do that will of His. It may seem difficult: but try, and the difficulty will vanish, for God will make it easy for you. You may be afraid of interfering: believe that God's Spirit is working in the hearts of your godchildren, and of their parents also; and trust to God's Spirit to make them kindly and thankful to you about the matter, and glad to see that you take an interest in their children. You may seem not to know enough: O, my friends, you know enough, every one of you, if you have courage to confess how much you know. Ask God for courage to speak out, and He will give it you. And even if you are no scholar, be sure that, as the old proverb says, 'Teaching is the best way of learning.' Any parent, or godfather, or godmother, who will try to teach their children God's truth and their duty, will find that in so doing they will teach themselves even more than they teach the children. I say it because I know it from my own experience. And for the rest, again I say, is not God your Father? Therefore, if any man be in want of wisdom, or courage, or any other heavenly gift, let him ask of God, who giveth liberally and upbraideth not, and he shall receive it. For after all, when you ask God to teach you, and strengthen you to do your duty, you do but ask Him for a part of that very inheritance which He has already given you; a part of your inheritance in that kingdom of heaven which is a kingdom of spiritual gifts and graces, into which you were baptized as well as your godchildren.

Try then, each of you, what you can do to bring your own godchildren to confirmation, and what you can do to make them fit for confirmation; for you are members one of another, and if you will act as such, you will find strength to do your duty, and a blessing in your day from that heavenly Father from whom every fatherhood in heaven and earth, and yours among the rest, is named.



SERMON VI. JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH



Ephesians ii. 5. By grace ye are saved.

We all hold that we are justified by faith, that is, by believing; and that unless we are justified we cannot be saved. And of all men who ever believed this, perhaps those who gave us the Church Catechism believed it most strongly. Nay, some of them suffered for it; endured persecution, banishment, and a cruel death, because they would persist in holding, contrary to the Romanists, that men were justified by faith only, and not by the works of the law; and that this was one of the root-doctrines of Christianity, which if a man did not believe, he would believe nothing else rightly. Does it not seem, then, something strange that they should never in this Catechism of theirs mention one word about justifying or justification? They do not ask the child, 'How is a man justified?' that he may answer, 'By faith alone;' they do not even teach him to say, 'I am justified already. I am in a state of justification;' but not saying one word about that, they teach him to say much more— they teach him to say that he is in a state of salvation, and to thank God boldly because he is so; and then go on at once to ask him the articles of his belief. And even more strange still, they teach him to answer that question, not by repeating any doctrines, but by repeating the simple old Apostles' Creed. They do not teach him to say, as some would now-a-days, 'I believe in original sin, I believe in redemption through Christ's death, I believe in justification by faith, I believe in sanctification by the Holy Spirit,'—true as these doctrines are; still less do they bid the child say, 'I believe in predestination, and election, and effectual calling, and irresistible grace, and vicarious satisfaction, and forensic justification, and vital faith, and the three assurances.'

Whether these things be true or false, it seemed to the ancient worthies who gave us our Catechism that children had no business with them. They had their own opinions on these matters, and spoke their opinions moderately and wisely, and the sum of their opinions we have in the Thirty-nine Articles, which are not meant for children, not even for grown persons, excepting scholars and clergymen. Of course every grown person is at liberty to study them; but no one in the Church of England is required to agree to them, and to swear that they are true, except scholars at our old Universities, and clergymen, who are bound to have studied such questions. But for the rest of Englishmen all the necessary articles of belief (so the old divines considered) were contained in the simple old Apostles' Creed.

And why? Because, it seems to me, they were what Englishmen ought to be—what too many Englishmen are too apt to boast of being in these days, while they are not so, or anything like it—and that is, honest men and practical men. They had taught the children to say that they were members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven; and they had taught the children, when they said that, to mean what they said; for they had no notion that 'I am,' meant 'I may possibly be;' or that 'I was made,' meant 'There is a chance of my being made some time or other.' They would not have dared to teach children to say things which were most probably not true. So believing really what they taught, they believed also that the children were justified. For if a child is not justified in being a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven, what is he justified in being? Is not that exactly the just, right, and proper state for him, and for every man?—the very state in which all men were meant originally to be, in which all men ought to have been? So they looked on these children as being in the just, right, and proper way, on which God looks with satisfaction and pleasure, and in which alone a man can do just, right, and proper things, by the Spirit of Christ, which He gives daily and hourly to those who belong to Him and trust in Him and in His Father.

But they knew that the children could only keep in this just, and right, and proper state by trusting in God, and looking up to Him daily in faith, and love, and obedience. They knew that if the children, whether for one hour or for their whole lives, lost trust in God, and began trusting in themselves, they would that very moment, then and there, become not justified at all, because they would be doing a thing which no man is justified in doing, and fall into a state into which no man is justified in remaining for one hour—that is, into an unjustifiable state of self-will, and lawlessness, and forgetfulness of who and of what they were, and of what God was to them; in one word, into a sinful state, which is not a righteous, or just, or good, or proper state for any man, but an utterly unrighteous, unjust, wrong, improper, mistaken, diseased state, which is certain to breed unrighteous, unjust, improper actions in a man, as a limb is certain to corrupt if it be cut off from the body, as a little child is certain to come to harm if it runs away from its parents, and does just what it likes, and eats whatsoever pleases its fancy. So these old divines, being practical men, said to themselves, 'These children are justified and right in being what they are, therefore our business is to keep them what they are, and we can only do that as long as they have faith in God and in His Christ.'

Now, if they had been mere men of books, they would have said to themselves, 'Then we must teach the children very exactly what faith is, that they may know how to tell true faith from false, and may be able to judge every day and hour whether they have the right sort of faith which will justify them, or some wrong sort which will not.' And many wise and good men in those times did say so, and tormented their own minds, and the minds of weak brethren, with long arguments and dry doctrines about faith, till, in their eagerness to make out what sort of thing faith ought to be, they seemed quite to forget that it must be faith in God, and so seemed to forget too who God was, and what He was like. Therefore, they ended by making people believe (as too many, I fear, do now-a-days) not that they were justified freely by the grace of God, shown forth in the life, and death, and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ; no: but that they were justified by believing in justification by faith, and that their salvation depended not on being faithful to God and trusting in Him, but in standing up fiercely for the doctrine of justification by faith. And so they destroyed the doctrine of free grace, while they thought they were fighting for it; for they taught men not to look to God for salvation, so much as to their own faith, their own frames, and feelings, and experiences; and these, as common sense will show you, are just as much something in a man, as acts of his own, and part of him, as his good works would be; and so by making people fancy that it was having the right sort of feelings which justified them, they fell back into the very same mistake as the Papists against whom they were so bitter, namely, that it is something in a man's self which justifies him, and not simply Christ's merits and God's free grace.

But our old Reformers were of a different mind; and everlasting thanks be to Almighty God that they were so. For by being so they have made the Church of England (as I always have said, and always will say) almost the only Church in Europe, Protestant or other, which thoroughly and fully stands up for free grace, and justification by faith alone. For these old Reformers were practical men, and took the practical way. They knew, perhaps, the old proverb, 'A man need not be a builder to live in a house.' At least they acted on it, and instead of trying to make the children understand what faith was made up of, they tried to make them live in faith itself. Instead of saying, 'How shall we make the children have faith in God by telling them what faith is?' they said, 'How shall we make them have faith in God by telling them what God is?' And therefore, instead of puzzling and fretting the children's minds with any of the controversies which were then going on between Papists and Protestants, or afterwards between Calvinists and Arminians, they taught the children simply about God; who He was, and what He had done for them and all mankind; that so they might learn to love Him, and look up to Him in faith, and trust utterly to Him, and so remain justified and right, saved and safe for ever.

By doing which, my friends, they showed that they knew more about faith and about God than if they had written books on books of doctrinal arguments (though they wrote those too, and wrote them nobly and well); they showed that they had true faith in God, such trust in Him, and in the beauty and goodness, justice and love, which He had shown, that they only needed to tell the children of it, and they would trust Him too, and at once have faith in so good a God. They showed that they had such trust in the excellencies, and reasonableness, and fitness of His Gospel, that they were sure that it would come home at once to the children's hearts. They showed that they had such trust in the power of His grace, in His love for the children, in the working of His Spirit in the children, that He would bring His Gospel home to their hearts, and stir them up by the spirit of adoption to feel that they were indeed the children of God, to whom they might freely cry, 'My Father!'

And I say that they were not deceived. I say that experience has shown that they were right; that the Church Catechism, where it is really and honestly taught, gives the children an honest, frank, sober, English temper of mind which no other training which I have seen gives. I have seen, alas! Church schools fail, ere now, in training good children; but as far as I have seen, they have failed either because the Catechism was neglected for the sake of cramming the children's brains with scholarship, or because the Catechism was not honestly taught: because the words were taught by rote, but the explanations which were given of it were no explanations at all, but another doctrine, which our forefathers knew not: either Dissenting or Popish; either a religion of fancies, and feelings, and experiences, or one of superstitious notions and superstitious ceremonies which have been borrowed from the Church of Rome, and which, I trust in God, will be soon returned to their proper owner, if the free, truthful, God-trusting English spirit is to remain in our children. I know that there are good men among Dissenters, my friends; good men among Romanists. I have met with them, and I thank God for them; and what may not be good for English children may be good for foreign ones. I judge not; to his own master each man stands or falls. But I warn you frankly, from experience (not of my own merely—Heaven forbid!—but from the experience of centuries past), that if you expect to make the average of English children good children on any other ground than the Church Catechism takes, you will fail. Of course there will be some chosen ones here and there, whose hearts God will touch; but you will find that the greater part of the children will not be made better at all; you will find that the cleverer, and more tender-hearted will be made conceited, Pharisaical, self-deceiving (for children are as ready to deceive themselves, and play the hypocrite to their own consciences, as grown people are); they will catch up cant words and phrases, or little outward forms of reverence, and make a religion for themselves out of them to drug their own consciences withal; while, when they go out into the world, and meet temptation, they will have no real safeguard against it, because whatsoever they have been taught, they have not been taught that God is really and practically their Father, and they His children.

I have seen many examples of this kind. Perhaps those who have eyes to see may have seen one or two in this very parish. Be that as it may, I tell you, my friends, that your children shall be taught the Church Catechism, with the plain, honest meaning of the words as they stand. No less: but as God shall give me grace, no more. If it be not enough for them to know that God, He who made heaven and earth, is their Father; that His Son Jesus Christ redeemed them and all mankind by being born of the Virgin Mary, suffering under Pontius Pilate, being crucified, dead, and buried, descending into hell, rising again the third day from the dead, ascending into Heaven, and sitting on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, in the intent of coming from thence to judge the living and the dead; to believe in the Holy Spirit, in the holy universal Church in which He keeps us, in the fellowship of all Saints in which He knits us together; in the forgiveness of our sins which He proclaims to us, in the resurrection of our body which He will quicken at the last day, in the life everlasting which is His life,—if, I say, this be not enough for them to believe, and on the strength thereof to trust God utterly, and so be justified and saved from this evil world, and from the doom and punishment thereof, then they must go elsewhere; for I have nothing more to offer them, and trust in God that I never shall have.



SERMON VII. DUTY AND SUPERSTITION



Micah vi. 6-8. Wherewith shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before the most High God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings? . . . Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams? . . . Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression; the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

There are many now-a-days who complain of that part of the Church Catechism which speaks of our duty to God and to our neighbour; and many more, I fear, who shrink from complaining of the Church Catechism, because it is part of the Prayer-book, yet wish in their secret hearts that it had said something different about Duty.

Some wonder why it does not say more about what are called 'religious duties,' and 'acts of worship,' 'mortification,' 'penitence,' and 'good works.' Others wonder no less why it says nothing about what are called 'Christian frames and feelings,' and 'inward experiences.'

For there is a notion abroad in the world, as there is in all evil times, that a man's chief duty is to save his own soul after he is dead; that his business in this world is merely to see how he can get out of it again, without suffering endless torture after his body dies. This is called superstition: anxiety about what will happen to us after we die.

Now if you look at the greater number of religious books, whether Popish or Protestant, you will find that in practice the main thing, almost the one thing, which they are meant to do, is to show the reader how he may escape Hell-torments, and reach Heaven's pleasures after he dies: not how he may do his Duty to God and his neighbour. They speak of that latter, of course: they could not be Christian books at all, thank God, without doing so; but they seem to me to tell men to do their Duty, not simply because it is right, and a blessing in itself, and worth doing for its own sake, but because a man may gain something by it after he dies. Therefore, to help their readers to gain as much as possible after they die, they are not content with the plain Duty laid down in the Bible and in the Catechism, but require of men new duties over and above; which may be all very good if they help men to do their real Duty, but are simply worth nothing if they do not.

Let me explain myself. I said just now that superstition means anxiety about what will happen to us after we die. But people commonly understand by superstition, religious ceremonies, like the Popish ones, which God has not commanded. And that is not a wrong meaning either; for people take to these ceremonies from over- anxiety about the next life. The one springs out of the other; the outward conduct out of the inward fear; and both spring alike out of a false notion of God, which the Devil (whose great aim is to hinder us from knowing our Father in Heaven) puts into men's minds. Man feels that he is sinful and unrighteous; the light of Christ in his heart shows him that, and it shows him at the same time that God is sinless and righteous. 'Then,' he says, 'God must hate sin;' and there he says true. Then steps in the slanderer, Satan, and whispers, 'But you are sinful; therefore God hates you, and wills you harm, and torture, and ruin.' And the poor man believes that lying voice, and will believe it to the end, whether he be Christian or heathen, until he believes the Bible and the Sacraments, which tell him, 'God does not hate you: He hates your sins, and loves you; He wills not your misery but your happiness; and therefore God's will, yea, God's earnest endeavour, is to raise you out of those sins of yours, which make you miserable now, and which, if you go on in them, must bring of themselves everlasting misery to you.' Of themselves; not by any arbitrary decree of God (whereof the Bible says not one single word from beginning to end), that He will inflict on you so much pain for so much sin: but by the very nature of sin; for to sin is to be parted from God, in whose presence alone is life, and therefore sin is, to be in death. Sin is, to be at war with God, who is love and peace; and therefore to be in lovelessness, hatred, war, and misery. Sin is, to act contrary to the constitution which God gave man, when He said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness;' and therefore sin is a disease in human nature, and like all other diseases, must, unless it is checked, go on everlastingly and perpetually breeding weakness, pain and torment. And out of that God is so desirous to raise you, that He spared not His only begotten Son, but freely gave Him for you, if by any means He might raise you out of that death of sin to the life of righteousness—to a righteous life; to a life of Duty—to a dutiful life, like His Son Jesus Christ's life; for that must go on, if you go on in it, producing in you everlastingly and perpetually all health and strength, usefulness and happiness in this world and all worlds to come.

But men will not hear that voice. The fact is, that simply to do right is too difficult for them, and too humbling also. They are too proud to like being righteous only with Christ's righteousness, and too slothful also; and so they go about like the old Pharisees, to establish a righteousness of their own; one which will pamper their self-conceit by seeming very strange, and farfetched, and difficult, so as to enable them to thank God every day that they are not as other men are; and yet one which shall really not be as difficult as the plain homely work of being good sons, good fathers, good husbands, good masters, good servants, good subjects, good rulers. And so they go about to establish a righteousness of their own (which can be no righteousness at all, for God's righteousness is the only righteousness, and Christ's righteousness is the only pattern of it), and teach men that God does not merely require of men to do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with their God, but requires of them something more. But by this they deny the righteousness of God; for they make out that he has not behaved righteously and justly to men, nor showed them what is good, but has left them to find it out or invent it for themselves. For is it not establishing a righteousness of one's own, to tell people that God only requires these Ten Commandments of Christians in general, but that if any one chooses to go further, and do certain things which are not contained in the Ten Commandments, 'counsels of perfection,' as they are called, and 'good works' (as if there were no other good works in the world), and so do more than it is one's duty to do, and lead a sort of life which is called (I know not why) 'saintly' and 'angelic,' then one will obtain a 'peculiar crown,' and a higher place in Heaven than poor commonplace Christian people, who only do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with their God?

And is it not, on the other hand, establishing a righteousness of one's own, to say that God requires of us belief in certain doctrines about election, and 'forensic justification,' and 'sensible conversion,' and certain 'frames and feelings and experiences;' and that without all these a man has no right to expect anything but endless torture; and all the while to say little or nothing about God's requiring of men the Ten Commandments? For my part, I am equally shocked and astonished at the doctrine which I have heard round us here—openly from some few, and in practice from more than a few—that because the Ten Commandments are part of the Law, they are done away with, because we are not now under the Law but under Grace. What do they mean? Is it not written, that not one jot or tittle of the Law shall fail; and that Christ came, not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil it? What do they mean? That it was harm to break the Ten Commandments before Christ came, but no harm to break them now? Do they mean that Jews were forbid to murder, steal, and commit adultery, but that Christians are not forbidden? One thing I am afraid they do mean, for I see them act up to it steadily enough. That Jews were forbidden to covet, but that Christians are not; that Jews might not commit fornication, but Christians may; that Jews might not lie, but Christians may; that Jews might not use false weights and measures, or adulterate goods for sale, but that Christians may. My friends, if I am asked the reason of the hypocrisy which seems the besetting sin of England, in this day;—if I am asked why rich men, even high religious professors, dare speak untruths at public meetings, bribe at elections, and go into parliament each man with a lie in his right hand, to serve neither God nor his country, but his political party and his religious sect, by conduct which he would be ashamed to employ in private life;—if I am asked why the middle classes (and the high religious professors among them, just as much as any) are given over to cheating, coveting, puffing their own goods by shameless and unmanly boasting, undermining each other by the dirtiest means, while the sons of religious professors, both among the higher and the middle classes, seem just as liable as any other young men to fall into unmanly profligacy;—if I am asked why the poor profess God's gospel and practise the Devil's works; and why, in this very parish now, there are women who, while they are drunkards, swearers, and adulteresses, will run anywhere to hear a sermon, and like nothing better, saving sin, than high-flown religious books;—if I am asked, I say, why the old English honesty which used to be our glory and our strength, has decayed so much of late years, and a hideous and shameful hypocrisy has taken the place of it, I can only answer by pointing to the good old Church Catechism, and what it says about our duty to God and to our neighbour, and declaring boldly, 'It is because you have forgotten that. Because you have despised that. Because you have fancied that it was beneath you to keep God's plain human commandments. You have been wanting to "save your souls," while you did not care whether your souls were saved alive, or whether they were dead, and rotten, and damned within you; you have dreamed that you could be what you called "spiritual," while you were the slaves of sin; you have dreamed that you could become what you call "saints," while you were not yet even decent men and women.'

And so all this superstition has had the same effect as the false preaching in Ezekiel's time had. It has strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not turn from his wicked way, by promising him life; and it has made the heart of the righteous sad, whom God has not made sad. Plain, respectable, God-fearing men and women, who have wished simply to do their duty where God has put them, have been told that they are still unconverted, still carnal— that they have no share in Christ—that God's Spirit is not with them—that they are in the way to endless torture: till they have been ready one minute to say, 'Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die'—'Surely I have cleansed my hands in vain, and washed my heart in innocency;' and the next minute to say, with Job, angrily, 'Though I die, thou shalt not take my righteousness from me! You preachers may call me what names you will; but I know that I love what is right, and wish to do my duty;' and so they have been made perplexed and unhappy, one day fancying themselves worse than they really were, and the next fancying themselves better than they really were; and by both tempers of mind tempted to disbelieve God's Gospel, and throw away the thought of vital religion in disgust.

And now people are raising the cry that Popery is about to overrun England. It may be so, my friends. If it is so, I cannot wonder at it; if it is so, Englishmen have no one to blame but themselves. And whether Popery conquers us or not, some other base superstition surely will conquer us if we go on upon our present course, and set up any new-fangled, self-invented righteousness of our own, instead of the plain Ten Commandments of God. For I tell you plainly they are God's everlasting law, the very law of liberty, wherewith Christ has made us free; and only by fulfilling them, as Christ did, can we be free—free from sin, the world, the flesh, and the Devil. For to break them is to sin: and whosoever commits sin is the slave of sin; and whosoever despises these commandments will never enjoy that freedom, but be entangled again in the yoke of bondage, and become a slave, if not to open and profligate sins, still surely to an evil and tormenting conscience, to superstitious anxieties as to whether he shall be saved or damned, which make him at last ask, 'Wherewithal shall I come before the Lord? Will the Lord be pleased with this, that and the other fantastical action, or great sacrifice of mine?' or at last, perhaps, the old question, 'Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? Shall I cheat my own family, leave my property away from my children, desert them to shut myself up in a convent, or to attempt some great religious enterprise?'—Things which have happened a thousand times already, and worse, far worse, than them; things which will happen again, and worse, far worse than them, as soon as a hypocritical generation is seized with that dread and terror of God which is sure to arise in the hearts of men who try to invent a righteousness of their own, and who forget what God's righteousness is like, and who therefore forget what God is like, and who therefore forget what God's name is, and who therefore forget that Jesus Christ is God's likeness, and that the name of God is 'Love.'

Now, I say that the Church Catechism, from beginning to end, is the cure for this poison, and in no part more than where it tells us our duty to God and our neighbour; and that it does carry out the meaning of the text as no other writing does, which I know of, save the Bible only.

For what says the text?

'He hath showed thee, O man, what is good.'

Who has showed thee? Who but this very God, from whom thou art shrinking; to whom thou art looking up in terror, as at a hard taskmaster, reaping where He has not sown, who willeth the death of a sinner, and his endless and unspeakable torment? The very God whom thou dreadest has stooped to save and teach thee. He hath sent His only begotten Son to thee, to show thee, in the person of a man, Jesus Christ, what a perfect man is, and what He requires of thee to be. This Lord Jesus is with thee, to teach thee to live by faith in thy heavenly Father, even as He lived, and to be justified thereby, even as He was justified by being declared to be God's well-beloved Son, and by being raised from the dead. He will show thee what is good; He has shown thee what is good, when He showed thee His own blessed self, His story and character written in the four Gospels. This is thy God, and this is thy Lord and Master; not a silent God, not a careless God, but a revealer of secrets, a teacher, a guide, a 'most merciful God, who showeth to man the thing which he knew not;' that same Word of God who talked with Adam in the garden, and brought his wife to him; who called Abraham, and gave him a child; who sent Moses to make a nation of the Jews; who is the King of all the nations upon earth, and has appointed them their times and the bounds of their habitation, if haply they may feel after Him and find Him; who meanwhile is not far from any one of them, seeing that in Him they live, and move, and have their being, and are His offspring; who has not left Himself without witness, that they may know that He is one who loves, not one who hates, one who gives, not one who takes, one who has pity, not one who destroys, in that He gives them rain and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness. This is thy God, O man! from whose face thou desirest to flee away.

Next, 'He hath showed thee, O man.' Not merely, 'He hath showed thee, O deep philosopher, or brilliant genius;'—not merely, 'He hath showed thee, O eminent saint, or believer who hast been through many deep experiences:' but, 'He hath showed thee, O man.' Whosoever thou art, if thou be a man, subsisting like Jesus Christ the Son of Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh; thou labourer at the plough, tradesman in thy shop, soldier in the battle-field, poor woman working in thy cottage, God hath showed thee, and thee, and thee, what is good, as surely and fully as He has shown it to scholars and divines, to kings and rulers, and the wise and prudent of the earth.

And He hath showed thee; not you. Not merely to the whole of you together; not merely to some of you so that one will have to tell the other, and the greater part know only at second-hand and by hearsay: but He hath showed to thee, to each of you; to each man, woman, and child, in this Church, alone, privately, in the depths of thy own heart, He hath showed what is good. He hath sent into thine heart a ray of The Light who lighteth every man who comes into the world. He has given to thy soul an eye by which to see that Light, a conscience which can receive what is good, and shrink from what is evil; a spiritual sense, whereby thou canst discern good and evil. That conscience, that soul's eye of thine, God has regenerated, as He declares to thee in baptism, and He will day by day make it clearer and tenderer by the quickening power of His Holy Spirit; and that Spirit will renew Himself in thee day by day, if thou askest Him, and will quicken and soften thy soul more and more to love what is good, and strengthen it more and more to hate and fly from what is evil.

Next, 'He hath showed thee, O man, what is GOOD.' Not merely what will turn away God's punishments, and buy God's rewards; not merely what will be good for thee after thou diest: but what is good, good in itself, good for thee now, and good for thee for ever; good for thee in health and sickness, joy and sorrow, life and death; good for thee through all worlds, present and to come; yea, what would be good for thee in hell, if thou couldst be in hell and yet be good. Not what is good enough for thy neighbours and not good enough for thee, good enough for sinners and not good enough for saints, good enough for stupid persons and not good enough for clever ones; but what is good in itself and of itself. The one very eternal and absolute Good which was with God, and in God, and from God, before all worlds, and will be for ever, without changing or growing less or greater, eternally The Same Good. The Good which would be just as good, and just, and right, and lovely, and glorious, if there were no world, no men, no angels, no heaven, no hell, and God were alone in his own abyss. That very good which is the exact pattern of His Son Jesus Christ, in whose likeness man was made at the beginning, God hath showed thee, O man; and hath told thee that it is neither more nor less than thy Duty, thy Duty as a man; that thy duty is thy good, the good out of which, if thou doest it, all good things such as thou canst not now conceive to thyself, must necessarily spring up for thee for ever; but which if thou neglectest, thou wilt be in danger of getting no good things whatsoever, and of having all evil things, mishap, shame, and misery such as thou canst not now conceive of, spring up for thee necessarily for ever.

This seems to me the plain meaning of the text, interpreted by the plain teaching of the rest of Scripture. Now see how the Catechism agrees with this.

It takes for granted that God has showed the child what is good: that God's Spirit is sanctifying and making good, not only all the elect people of God, but him, that one particular child; and it makes the child say so. Therefore, when it asks him, 'What is thy duty to God and to thy neighbour?' it asks him, 'My child, thou sayest that God's Spirit is with thee, sanctifying thee and showing thee what is good, tell me, therefore, what good the Holy Spirit has showed thee?—tell me what He has showed thee to be good, and therefore thy duty?'

But some may answer, 'How can you say that the Holy Spirit teaches the children their Duty, when it is their schoolmaster, or their father, who teaches them the Ten Commandments and the Catechism?'

My friends, we may teach our children the Ten Commandments, or anything else we like, but we cannot teach them that that is their duty. They must first know what Duty means at all, before they can learn that any particular things are parts of their Duty. And, believe me, neither you nor I, nor all the men in the world put together, no, nor angel, nor archangel, nor any created being, nor the whole universe, can teach one child, no, nor our own selves, the meaning of that plain word DUTY, nor the meaning of those two plain words, I OUGHT. No; that simple thought, that thought which every one of us, even the most stupid, even the most sinful has more or less, comes straight to him from God the Father of Lights, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, the Spirit of Duty, Faith, and Obedience.

For mind—when you teach a child, 'If you do this wrong thing— stealing, for instance—God will punish you: but if you are honest, God will reward you,' you are not teaching the child that it is his Duty to be honest, and his Duty not to steal. You are teaching him what is quite right and true; namely, that it is profitable for him to be honest, and hurtful to him to steal: but you are not teaching him as high a spiritual lesson as any soldier knows when he rushes upon certain death, knowing that he shall gain nothing, and may lose everything thereby, but simply because it is his Duty. You are only enticing your child to do right, and frightening him from doing wrong; quite necessary and good to be done: but if he is to be spiritually honest, honest at heart, honest from a sense of honour, and not of fear; in one word, if he is to be really honest at all, or even to try to be really honest, something must be done to that child's heart which nothing but the Spirit of God can do; he must be taught that it is his DUTY to be honest; that honesty is RIGHT, the perfectly right, and proper, and beautiful thing for him and for all beings, yea, for God Himself; he must be taught to love honesty, and whatsoever else is right, for its own sake, and therefore to feel it his Duty.

And I say that God does that by your children. I say that we cannot watch our children without seeing that, though there is in them, as in us, a corrupt and wilful flesh, which tempts them downward to selfish and self-willed pleasures: yet there is in them generally, more than in us their parents, a Spirit which makes them love and admire what is right, and take pleasure in it, and feel that it is good to be good, and right to do right; which makes them delight in reading and hearing of loving, and right, and noble actions; which makes them shocked, they hardly know why, at bad words, and bad conduct, and bad people. And woe to those who deaden that tenderness of conscience in their own children, by their bad examples, or by false doctrines which tell the children that they are still unregenerate, children of the Devil, not yet Christians; and who so put a stumbling-block in the way of Christ's little ones, and do despite to the Spirit of Grace by which they are sealed to the day of redemption. I see parents thinking that their children are to learn the deceitfulness of the human heart from themselves, and the working of God's Spirit from their parents; but I often think that the teachers ought to be converted indeed, that is, turned right round and become the learners instead of the teachers, and learn the workings of God's Spirit from their children, and the deceitfulness of the human heart from themselves; if at least the Lord Jesus's words have any real force or meaning at all, when He said, not, 'Except the little children be converted, and become as you,' but, 'Except ye be converted, and become as one of these little children, ye' (and not they) 'shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.'

Believe me, my friends, that your children's angels do indeed behold the face of their Father which is in heaven; that there is a direct communication between Him and them; and that the sign and proof of it is, the way in which they understand at once what you tell them of their duty, and take to it, as it were, only too readily and hopefully, and confidently, as if it were a thing natural and easy to them. Alas! it is neither natural nor easy, and they will find out that too soon by sad experience: but still, the Divine Light is there, the sense of duty is in their minds, and the law of God is written in their hearts by the Holy Spirit of God, who is sanctifying them, not merely by teaching them to hope for heaven, or to dread hell, but by showing them what is good.

And herein, I say, the simple and noble old Church Catechism, by faith in God's Spirit, does indeed perfect praise out of the mouths of babes. Without one word about rewards or punishments, heaven or hell, it begins to talk to the child, like a true English Catechism as it is, about that glorious old English key word, DUTY. It calls on the child to confess its own duty, and teaches it that its duty is something most human, simple, everyday, commonplace, if you will call it so. I rejoice that it is commonplace; I rejoice that in what it says about our duty to God, and to our neighbour, it says not one word about those counsels of perfection, or those frames and feelings, which depend, believe me, principally on the state of people's bodily health, on the constitution of their nerves, and the temper of their brain: but that it requires nothing except what a little child can do as well as a grown person, a labouring man as well as a divine, a plain farmer as well as the most refined, devout, imaginative lady. May God bless them all; may God help them all to do their Duty in that station of life to which it has pleased God to call them; but may God grant to them never to forget that there is but one Duty for all, and that all of them can do that Duty equally well, whatever their constitution, or scholarship, or station of life may be, provided they will but remember that God has called them to that station, and not try to invent some new and finer one for themselves; provided they remember that they are to do in that station neither more nor less than every one else is to do in theirs, namely, to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with their God.

In a word, to be perfect, even as their Father in heaven is perfect. To do justly, because God is just, faithful, and true, rewarding every man according to his works, and no partial accepter of persons; so that in every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted by Him.

To love mercy, because God loves mercy; to be merciful, because our Father in heaven is merciful; because He willeth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live; because God came to seek and to save that which is lost, and is good to the unthankful and the evil; and because God so loved sinful man, that when man hated God, God's answer to man's hate, God's vengeance upon man's rebellion, was, to send His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believed in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

And to walk humbly with your God, because—and what shall I say now? Does God walk humbly? Can there be humility in God? Can God obey? And yet it must be so. If, as is most certain from Holy Scripture, man, as far as he is what man ought to be, is the image and glory of God; if man's justice ought to be a copy of God's justice, and man's mercy a copy of God's mercy, and all which is good in man a copy of something good in God: if, as is most certain, all good on earth is God's likeness, and only good because it is God's likeness, and is given by God's Spirit,—then our walking humbly with God, if it be good, must be a copy of something in God. But of what?

That, my friends, is a question which can never be answered but by those who believe in the mystery of the ever-blessed Trinity, The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost. It is too solemn and great a matter to be spoken of hastily at the end of a sermon. I will tell you what little I seem to see of it next Sunday, with awe and trembling, as one who enters upon holy ground. But this I will tell you, to bear in mind meanwhile, that if you wish to know or to do what is right, you must firmly believe and bear in mind this,—that God's justice is exactly like what would be just in you and me, without any difference whatsoever: that God's mercy is exactly like what would be merciful in you and me; and that, as I hope to show you next Sunday, God's humility, wonderful as it may seem, is exactly like what would be humble in you and me. For I warn you, that if you do not believe this, you will be tempted to forget God's righteousness, and to invent a righteousness of your own, which is no righteousness at all, but unrighteousness. For there can be but one righteousness—mind what I say—only one righteousness, as there can be only one truth, and only one reason. Forget that, and you will be tempted to invent for yourselves a false justice, which is dishonest and partial; a false mercy, which is cruel; a false humility, which is vain and self-conceited; and you will be tempted also, as men of all religions and denominations have been, to impute to God actions, and thoughts, and tempers, which are (as your own consciences, if you would listen to God's Word in them, would tell you) unjust, cruel, and proud; and then you will be tempted to say that things are justifiable in God, which you would not excuse in any other being, by saying: 'Of course it must be right in Him, because He is God, and can do what He will.' As if the Judge of all the earth would not do Right; as if He could be anything, or could do anything, but the Eternal Good which is His very being and essence, and which He has shown forth in His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who went about doing good because God was with Him. We all know what the good which He did was like. Let us believe that God the Father's goodness is the same as Jesus Christ's goodness. Let us believe really what we say when we confess that Jesus was the brightness of His Father's Glory, and the express image of His Person.



SERMON VIII. SONSHIP



John v. 19, 20, 30. Then answered Jesus, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth Him all things that Himself doeth.

I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of my Father which is in Heaven.

This, my friends, is why man should walk humbly and obediently with his God; because humility and obedience are the likeness of the Son of God, who, though He is equal to His Father, yet to do His Father's will humbled Himself, and took on Him the form of a slave, and though He is a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which He suffered; sacrificing Himself utterly and perfectly to do the commands of His Father and our Father, of His God and our God; and sacrificing Himself to His Father not as a man merely, but as a son; not because He was in the likeness of sinful flesh, but because He was The Everlasting Son of His Father; not once only on the cross, but from all eternity to all eternity, the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. This is a great mystery; we may understand somewhat more of it by thinking over the meaning of those great words, Father and Son.

Now, first, a son must be of the same nature as his father,—that is certain. Each kind of animal brings forth after its kind: the lion begets lions, the sheep, sheep; the son of a man must be a man, of one substance with his earthly father; and by the same law, the Son of God must be God. Take away that notion: say that the only- begotten Son of God is not very God of very God, of one substance with His Father, and the word son means nothing. If a son be not of the same substance as his father, he is not a son at all. And more, a perfect son must be as great and as good as his father, exactly like his father in everything. That is the very meaning of father and son; that like should beget like. Among fallen and imperfect men, some sons are worse and weaker than their fathers: but we all feel that that is an evil, a thing to be sorry for, a sad consequence of our fallen state. Our reasons and hearts tell us that a son ought to be equal to his father, and that it is in some way an affliction, almost a shame, to a father, if his children are weaker or worse than he is. But we cannot fancy such a thing in God; the only-begotten perfect Son of the Almighty and perfect Father must be at least equal to His Father, as great as His Father, as good as His Father; the brightness of His Father's glory, and the express image of His Father's person.

But there is another thing about father and son which we must look at, and that is this: a good son loves and obeys his father, and the better son he is, the more he loves and obeys his father; and therefore a perfect son will perfectly love and perfectly obey his father.

Now, here is the great difference between animals and men. Among the higher animals, the mothers always, and the fathers sometimes, feed, and help, and protect their young: but we seldom or never find that young animals help and protect their parents; certainly, they never obey their fathers when they are full grown, but are as ready to tear their fathers in pieces as their fathers are to tear them: so that the love and obedience of full-grown sons to their fathers is so utterly human a thing, so utterly different from anything we find in the brutes, that we must believe it to be part of man's immortal soul, part of God's likeness in man.

And in the text our Lord declares that it is so; He declares that His obedience to His Father, and His Father's love to Him, is the perfect likeness of what goes on between a good son and a good father among men; only that it is perfect, because it is between a perfect Father and a perfect Son.

Father and Son! Let philosophers and divines discover what they may about God, they will never discover anything so deep as the wonder which lies in those two words, Father and Son. So deep, and yet so simple! So simple, that the wayfaring man, though poor, shall not err therein. 'Who is God? What is God like? Where shall we find Him, or His likeness?'—so has mankind been crying in all ages, and getting no answer, or making answers for themselves in all sorts of superstitions, idolatries, false philosophies. And then the Gospel comes, and answers to every man, to every poor and unlearned labourer: Will you know the name of God? It is a Father, a Son, and a Holy Spirit of love, joy, peace; a Spirit of perfect satisfaction of the Father in the Son, and perfect satisfaction of the Son with the Father, which proceeds from both the Father and the Son. It needs no scholarship to understand that Name; every one may understand it who is a good father; every one may understand it who is a good son, who looks up to and obeys his father with that filial spirit of love, and obedience, and satisfaction with his father's will, which is the likeness of the Holy Spirit of God, and can only flourish in any man by the help of the Holy Spirit which proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Father and Son! what more beautiful words are there in the world? What more beautiful sight is there in the world than a son who really loves his father, really trusts his father, really does his duty to his father, really looks up to and obeys his father's will in all things? who is ready to sacrifice his own credit, his own pleasure, his own success in life, for the sake of his father's comfort and honour? How much more fair and noble must be the love and trust which is between God the Father and God the Son!

I wish that some of those who now write so many excellent books for young people, would write one made up entirely of stories of good sons who have obeyed, and worked for, and suffered for their parents. Sure I am that such a book, wisely and well written, would teach young people much of the meaning of the blessed name of God, much of their duty to God. And yet, after all, my friends, is not such a book written already? Have we not the four Gospels, which tell us of Jesus Christ, the perfect Son, who came to do the will of a perfect Father? Read that; read your Bibles. Read the history of the Lord Jesus Christ, keeping in mind always that it is the history of the Son of God, and of His obedience to His Father. And when in St. John's most wonderful Gospel you meet with deep texts, like the one which I have chosen, read them too as carefully, if possible more carefully, than the rest; for they are meant for all parents and for all children upon earth. Read how The Father loves The Son, and gives all things into His hand, and commits all judgment to The Son, and gives Him power to have life in Himself, even as The Father has life in Himself, and shows Him all things that Himself doeth, that all men may honour The Son even as they honour The Father. Read how The Son came only to show forth His Father's glory; to be the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person: to establish His Father's kingdom; to declare the goodness of His Father's Name, which is The Father. How He does nothing of Himself, but only what He sees His Father do; how He seeks not His own will, but the will of the Father who sent Him; how He sacrificed all, yea even His most precious body and soul upon the cross, to finish the work which His Father gave Him to do. How, being in the form of God, and thinking it no robbery to be equal with God, He could boldly say, 'As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father. I and my Father are one:' and still, in the fulness of His filial love and obedience, declared that He had no will, no wish, no work, no glory, but His Father's; and in the hour of His agony cried out, 'Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.'

My friends, you will be able to understand more and more of the meaning of these words just in proportion as you are good sons and good fathers; and therefore, just in proportion as you are led and taught by the Holy Spirit of God, without whose help no man can be either a good father or a good son. A bad son; a disobedient, self- willed, self-conceited son, who is seeking his own credit and not his father's, his own pleasure and not his parent's comfort; a son who is impatient of being kept in order and advised, who despises his parent's counsel, and will have none of his reproof,—to him these words of our Lord, the deepest, noblest words which were ever spoken on earth, will have no more meaning than if they were written in a foreign language; he will not know what our Lord means; he will not be able to see why our Lord came and suffered; he will not see any beauty in our Lord's character, any righteousness in His sacrificing Himself for His Father; and because he has forgotten his duty to his earthly father, he will never learn his duty to God.

For what is the duty of the Lord Jesus Christ is our duty, if we are the sons of God in Him. He is The Son of God by an eternal never- ceasing generation; we are the sons of God by adoption. The way in which we are to look up to God, The Holy Spirit must teach us; what is our duty to God The Holy Spirit must teach us. And who is The Holy Spirit? He is The Spirit who proceeds from The Son as well as from The Father. He is The Spirit of Jesus Christ, The Spirit of the Son of God, the Spirit who descended on the Lord Jesus when He was baptized, the Spirit which God gave to Him without measure. He is the Spirit of The Son of God; and we are sons of God by adoption, says Saint Paul; and because we are sons, he says, God has sent forth into our hearts the Spirit of His Son, by whom we look up to God as our Father; and this Spirit of God's Son, by whom we cry to God, Abba, Father, St. Paul calls, in another place, the Spirit of adoption; and declares openly that He is the very Spirit of God.

Therefore, in whatsoever way the Spirit of God is to teach you to look up to God, He will teach you to look up to Him as a Father; the Father of Spirits, and therefore your Father; for you are a spirit. Whatsoever duty to God the Holy Spirit teaches you, He teaches you first, and before all things, that it is filial duty, the duty of a son to a father, because you are the son of God, and God is your Father.

Therefore, whatsoever man or book tells you that your duty to God is anything but the duty of a son to his father does not speak by the Spirit of God. Whatsoever thoughts or feelings in your own hearts tell you that your duty to God is anything but the duty of a son to his father, and tempt you to distrust God's forgiveness, and shrink from Him, and look up to Him as a taskmaster, and an austere and revengeful Lord, are not the Spirit of God; no, nor your own spirit, 'the spirit of a man,' which is in you; for that was originally made in the likeness of God's Spirit, and by it rebellious sons arise and go back to their earthly fathers, and trust in them when they have nothing else left to trust, and say to themselves, 'Though all the world has cast me off, my parents will not. Though all the world despise and hate me, my parents love me still; though I have rebelled against them, deserted them, insulted them, I am still my father's child. I will go home to my own people, to the house where I was born, to the parents who nursed me on their knee, I will go to my father.'

Fathers and mothers! if your son or daughter came home to you thus, though they had insulted you, disgraced you, and spent their substance in riotous living, would you shut your doors upon them? Would not all be forgiven and forgotten at once? Would not you call your neighbours to rejoice with you, and say, 'It is good to be merry and glad, for this our son was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found?' And would not that penitent child be more precious to you, though you cannot tell why, than any other of your children? Would you not feel a peculiar interest in him henceforth? And do you not know that so to forgive would be no weak indulgence, but the part of a good father; a good, and noble, and human thing to do? Ay, a human thing, and therefore a divine thing, part of God's likeness in man. For is it not the likeness of God Himself? Has not God Himself, in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, declared that He does so forgive His penitent children, at once and utterly, and that 'There is more joy among the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth, than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance?' So says the Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. Let who dare dispute His words, or try to water them down, and explain them away.

And why should it not be so? Do you fancy God less of a father than you are? Is He not The Father, the perfect Father, 'from whom every fatherhood in heaven and earth is named?' Oh, believe that He is indeed a Father; believe that all the love and care which you can show to your children is as much poorer than the love and care God shows to you, as your obedience to your earthly parents is poorer and weaker than the love and obedience of Jesus Christ to His Father. God is as much better a Father than you are, as Jesus Christ is a better Son than you are. There is a sum of proportions; a rule-of-three sum; work it out for yourselves, and then distrust God's love if you dare.

And believe, that whatsoever makes you distrust God's love is neither the Spirit of God who is the spirit of sonship, nor the spirit of man: but the spirit of the Devil, who loves to slander God to men, that they may shrink from Him, and be afraid to arise and go to their Father, to be received again as sons of God; that so, being kept from true penitence, they may be kept from true holiness, and from their duty to God, which is the duty of sons of God to their Father in heaven.

Believe no such notions, my friends; howsoever humble and reverent they may seem, they are but insults to God; for under pretence of honouring Him, they dishonour Him; for He is love, and he who feareth, that is, who looks up to God with terror and distrust, is not made perfect in love. So says St. John, in the very chapter wherein he tells us that God is love, and has manifested His love to us by sending His Son to be the Saviour of the world; and that the very reason for our loving God is, that He loves us already; and that therefore He who loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.

Yes, my friends, God is your Father; and God is love; and your duty to God is a duty of love and obedience to a Father who so loved you and all mankind that He spared not His only begotten Son, but freely gave Him for you. 'Our Father which art in heaven,' is to be the key-note of all your duty, as it is to be the key-note of all your prayers: and therefore the Catechism is right in teaching the child that God is his Father, and Jesus Christ the perfect Son of God his pattern, and the Holy Spirit of the Father and of the Son his teacher and inspirer, before it says one word to the child about duty to God, or sin against God. How indeed can it tell him what sin is, until it has told him against whom sin is committed, and that if he sins against God he sins against a Father, and breaks his duty to his Father? And how can it tell him that till it has told him that God is his Father? How can it tell him what sin is till it has told him what righteousness is? How can it tell him what breaking his duty is till it has told him what the duty itself is? But the child knows already that God is his Father; and therefore, when the Catechism asks him, 'What is his duty to God?' it is as much as to say, 'My child, thou hast confessed already that thou hast a good Father in heaven, and thou knowest as well as I (perhaps better) what a father means. Tell me, then, how dost thou think thou oughtest to behave to such a Father?' And the whole answer which is put into the child's mouth, is the description of duty to a father; of things which there would be no reason for his doing to anyone who was not his father; nay, which he could not do honestly to anyone else, but only hypocritically, for the sake of flattering, and which differs utterly from any notion of duty to God which the heathen have ever had just in this, that it is a description of how a son should behave to a father. Read it for yourselves, my friends, and judge for yourselves; and may God give you all grace to act up to it—not in order that you, by 'acts of faith,' or 'acts of love,' or 'acts of devotion,' may persuade God to love you; but because He loves you already, with a love boundless as Himself; because in Him you live, and move, and have your being, and are the offspring of God; because His mercy is over all His works, and because He loved the world, and sent His Son, not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved; because He is The Giver, The Father of lights, from whom comes every good and perfect gift; because all which makes this earth habitable—all justice, order, wisdom, goodness, mercy, humbleness, self-sacrifice— all which is fair, or honourable, or useful, in men or angels, in kings on their thrones or in labourers at the plough, in divines in their studies or soldiers in the field of battle—all in the whole universe, which is not useless, and hurtful, and base, and damnable, and doomed (blessed thought that it is so!) to be burned up in unquenchable fire—all, I say, comes forth from the Father of the spirits of all flesh, the Lord of Hosts, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working; who spared not His only begotten Son, but freely gave Him for us, and will with Him freely give us all things.



SERMON IX. THE LORD'S PRAYER



Matt. vi. 9, 10. After this manner pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven.

I have shown you what a simple account of our duty to God and to our neighbour the Catechism gives us. I now beg you to remark, that simple and everyday as this same duty is, the Catechism warns us that we cannot do it without God's special grace, and I beg you to remark further, that the Catechism does not say that we cannot do these things well without God's special grace, but that we cannot do them at all. It does not say that we cannot do all these things of ourselves, but that we can do none of them. But I want you to remark one thing more, which is very noteworthy: that in this case, for the first time throughout the Catechism, the teacher tells the child something. All along the teacher has, as I have often shown you, been making the child tell him what is right, calling out in the child's heart thoughts and knowledge which were there already. Now he in his turn tells the child something which he takes for granted is not in the child's heart, of which, if it is, has been put into it by his teachers, and of which he must be continually reminded, lest he should forget it; namely, that he cannot do these of himself; that, as St. Paul says, 'in him,' that is, in his flesh, 'dwells no good thing;' that he is not able to think or to do anything as of himself, but his sufficiency is of God, who works in him to will and to do of His good pleasure, who has also given him His Holy Spirit.

The Catechism, in short, takes for granted that the child knows his duty; but it takes for granted also that he does not know how to do that duty. It takes for granted, that in every child there is as St. Paul says, 'a law in his members warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin' (literally, of short coming, or missing the mark) 'which is in his members.' Now man's natural inclination is to suppose that good thoughts are part of himself, and therefore that a good will to put them in practice is in his own power. I blame no one for making that mistake: but I warn them, in the name of the Bible and of the Catechism, that it is a mistake, and one which every man, woman, and child will surely discover to be a mistake, if they try to act on it. Good thoughts are not our own; they are Jesus Christ's; they come from Him, The Life and The Light of men; they are His voice speaking to our hearts, informing us of His laws, showing us what is good. And good desires are not our own: they come from the Holy Spirit of God, who strives with men, and labours to lift their hearts up from selfishness to love; from what is low and foul, to what is noble and pure; from what is sinful and contrary to God's will, to what is right and according to God's will.

This is the lesson which you and I and every man have to learn: that in ourselves dwells no good thing; but that there is One near us mightier than we, from whom all good things do come; and that He loves us, and will not only teach us what is good, but give us the power to do the good we know. But if we forget that, if we take any credit whatsoever to ourselves for the good which comes into our minds, then we shall be surely taught our mistake by sore afflictions and by shameful falls; by God's leaving us to ourselves, to try our own strength, and to find it weakness; to try our own wisdom, and find it folly; to try our own fancied love of God, and find that after all our conceit of ourselves, we love ourselves better, when it comes to a trial, than we love what is right; until, in short, we are driven with St. Paul to feel that, howsoever much our hearts may delight in the Law of God, there is a corrupt nature in us which fights against our delight in God's law, and will surely conquer it, and make us slaves to our own fancies, slaves to our passions, slaves to ourselves, ay, slaves to the very lowest and meanest part of ourselves: unless we can find a deliverer; unless we can find some one stronger than us, who can put an end to this hateful, shameful war within us between good wishes and bad deeds.

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