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Twenty-Five Village Sermons
by Charles Kingsley
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But again; God said to Abraham, when He had led him into this far country, "Unto thy seed will I GIVE THIS LAND." This was a great and a new lesson for Abraham, that the earth belonged to that same great invisible God who had promised to guide and protect him, and make him into a nation—that this same God gave the earth to whomsoever He would, and allotted to each people their proper portion of it. "He (said St. Paul on the Areopagus) hath determined the times before appointed for all nations, and the bounds of their habitation, that they may seek after the Lord and find Him." Ah! this must have been a strange and a new feeling to Abraham; but, stranger still, though God had given him this land, he was not to take possession of a single foot of it; the land was already in the hands of a different nation, the people of Canaan; and Abraham was to go wandering about a sojourner, as the text says, in this very land of promise which God had given him, without ever taking possession of his own, simply because it belonged to others already. How this must have taught Abraham that the rights of property were sacred things—things appointed by God; that it was an awful and a heinous sin to make wanton war on other people, to drive them out and take possession of their land; that it was not mere force or mere fancy which gave men a right to a country, but the providence of Almighty God! Now Abraham needed this warning, for the men of Babel seem from the first to have gone on the plan of driving out and conquering the tribes round them. They seem to have set up their city partly from ambition. "Let us make us a name," they said, meaning, 'Let us make ourselves famous and terrible to all the people around us, that we may subdue them.' And we read of Nimrod, who was their first king and the founder of Babel, that he was a mighty hunter before the Lord, that is, as most learned men explain it, a mighty conqueror and tyrant in defiance of God and His laws, as the poet says of him,

"A mighty hunter, and his game was man."

The Jews, indeed, have an old tradition that Nimrod cast Abraham into a fiery furnace for refusing to worship the host of heaven with him. The story is very likely untrue, but still it is of use in shewing what sort of reputation Nimrod left behind him in his own part of the world. We may thus see that Abraham would need warning against these habits of violence, tyranny, and plunder, into which the men of Babel and other tribes were falling. And this was what God meant to teach him by keeping him a stranger and a pilgrim in the very land which God had promised to him for his own. Thus Abraham learnt respect for the rights and properties of his neighbours; thus he learnt to look up in faith to God, not only as his patron and protector, but as the lord and absolute owner of the soil on which he stood.

Now in the 14th chapter of Genesis there is an account of Abraham's being called on to put in practice what he had learnt, and, by doing so, learning a fresh lesson. We read of four kings making war against five kings, against Chedorlaomer, king of Elam or Persia, who had been following the ways of Nimrod and the men of Babel, and conquering these foreign kings and making them serve him. We read of Chedorlaomer and four other kings coming down and wantonly ravaging and destroying other countries, besides the five kings who had rebelled against them, and at last carrying off captive the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Lot, Abraham's nephew. We read then how Abraham armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen men, and pursued after these tyrants and plunderers, and with his small force completely overthrew that great army. Now that was a sign and a lesson to Abraham, as much as to say, 'See the fruits of having the great God of heaven and earth for your protector and your guide,—see the fruits of having men round you, not hirelings, keeping in your company just to see what they can get by it, but born in your own house, who love and trust you, whom you can love and trust,—see how the favour of God, and reverence for those family ties and duties which He has appointed, make you and your little band of faithful men superior to these great mobs of selfish, godless, unjust robbers,—see how hundreds of these slaves ran away before one man, who feels that he is a member of a family, and has a just cause for fighting, and that God and his brethren are with him.'

Here, you see, was another hint to Abraham of what it was and who it was that made a great nation.

And now some of you may say, 'This is a strange sermon. You have as yet said nothing of Christ, nothing of the Holy Spirit, nothing of grace, redemption, sanctification. What kind of sermon is this?'

My friends, do not be too sure that I have not been preaching Christ to you, and Christ's Spirit to you, and Christ's redemption too, most truly in this sermon, although I have mentioned none of them by name. There are times for ornamenting the house, there are times for repairing the wall, there are times, too, for thoroughly examining the foundation, because, if that be not sound, it is little matter what fine work is built up upon it; and there are times when, as David says, the foundations of the earth are out of course, when men have forgotten sadly the very first principles of society and religion.

And, surely, men are doing so in these days; men are forgetting that other foundation can no man lay save that which IS laid, which is Christ; they laugh at the thought of a city, that is, a state and form of government, "not made with hands, eternal in the heavens;" they have forgotten that St. Paul tells them in the Hebrews that we HAVE "a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God," a kingdom which cannot be moved. Yes, men who call themselves learned and worldly wise, and good men too, alas! who fancy that they are preaching God's gospel, go about and tell men, 'The men of Babel were right after all. What have nations to do with God and religion? Nations are merely earthly, carnal things, that were only invented by sinful men themselves, to preserve their bodies and goods, and make trading easy. Religion has only to do with a man's private opinions, his single soul; the government has nothing to do with the Church: a Christian has nothing to do with politics.' And so these men most unwittingly open a door to all sorts of covetousness and meanness in the nation, and all sorts of trickery and cowardice in the government. Tell a man that his business has nothing to do with God, and you cannot wonder if he acts without thinking of God. If you tell a nation that it is selfishness which makes it prosperous, of course you must expect it to be selfish. If you tell us Englishmen that the duties of a citizen are not duties to God, but only duties to the constable and the tax-gatherer, what wonder if men believe you and become undutiful to God in their citizenship? No, my friends, once for all, as sure as God made Abraham a great nation, so if we English are a great nation, God has made us so—as sure as God gave Abraham the land of Canaan for his possession, so did HE give us this land of England, when He brought our Saxon forefathers out of the wild barren north, and drove out before them nations greater and mightier than they, and gave them great and goodly cities which they builded not, and wells digged which they digged not, farms and gardens which they planted not, that we too might fear the Lord our God, and serve Him, and swear by His name;—as sure as He commanded Abraham to respect the property of his neighbours, so has He commanded us;—as sure as God taught Abraham that the nation which was to grow from him owed a duty to God, and could be only strong by faith in God, so it is with us: we, English people, owe a duty to God, and are to deal among ourselves, and with foreign countries, by faith in God, and in the fear of God, "seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness," sure that then all other things—victory, health, commerce, art, and science—will be added to us, as the first Lesson says. For this is your wisdom and understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people! For what nation is grown so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as these laws, this gospel, which God sets before us day by day?—us, Englishmen!

And I say that these are proper thoughts for this place. This is not a mere preaching-house, where you may learn every man to save his own soul; this is a far nobler place; this building belongs to the National Church of England, and we worship here, not merely as men, but as men of England, citizens of a Christian country, come here to learn not merely how to save ourselves, but how to help towards the saving of our families, our parish, and our nation; and therefore we must know what a country and a nation mean, and what is the meaning of that glorious and divine word, "a citizen;" that by learning what it is to be a citizen of England, we may go on to learn fully what it is to be a citizen of the kingdom of God.

For this is part of the whole counsel of God, which He reveals in His Holy Bible; and this also we must not, and dare not, shun declaring in these days.



SERMON XIII. ABRAHAM'S OBEDIENCE



HEBREWS, xi. 17-19.

"By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac; and he that had received the promises offered up his only-begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure."

In this chapter we come to the crowning point of Abraham's history, the highest step and perfection of his faith; beyond which it seems as if man's trust in God could no further go.

You know, most of you, doubtless, that Isaac, Abraham's son, was come to him out of the common course of nature—when he and his wife, Sarah, were of an age which seemed to make all chance of a family utterly hopeless. You remember how God promised Abraham that this boy should be born to him at a certain time, when He appeared to him on the plains of Mamre, in that most solemn and deep-meaning vision of which I spoke to you last Sunday. You remember, too, no doubt, most of you, how God had promised Abraham again and again, that in his seed, his children, all the nations of the earth should be blessed; so that all Abraham's hopes were wrapped up in this boy Isaac; he was his only son, whom he loved; he was the child of his old age, his glory and his joy; he was the child of God's promises. Every time Abraham looked at him he felt that Isaac was a wonderful child: that God had a great work for him to do; that from that single boy a great nation was to spring, as many in multitude as the stars in the sky, or the sand on the sea-shore, for the great Almighty God had said it. And he knew, too, that from that boy, who was growing up by him in his tent, all the nations in the earth should be blessed: so that Isaac, his son, was to Abraham a daily sacrament, as I may say, a sign and a pledge that God was with him, and would be true to him; that as surely as God had wonderfully and beyond all hope given him that son, so wonderfully and beyond all hope He would fulfil all His other promises. Conceive, then, if you can, what Abraham's astonishment, and doubt, and terror, and misery, must have been at such a message as this from the very God who had given Isaac to him: "And it came to pass after these things that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of."

What a storm of doubt it must have raised in Abraham's mind! How unable he must have been to say whether that message came from a good or bad spirit, or commanded him to do a good action or a bad one; that the same God who had said, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed;" who had forbidden murder as the very highest of crimes, should command him to shed the blood of his own son; that the same God who had promised him that in Isaac all the nations of the earth should be blessed, should command him to put to death that very son upon whom all his hopes depended! Fearful, indeed, must have been the struggle in Abraham's mind, but the good and the right thought conquered at last. His feeling was, no doubt, 'This God who has blessed me so long, who has guided me so long, whom I have obeyed so long, shall I not trust Him a little further yet? how can I believe that He will do wrong? how can I believe that He will lead me wrong? If it is really wrong that I should kill my son, He will not let me do it: if it really is His will that I should kill my son, I WILL DO IT. Whatever He says must be right; it is agony and misery to me, but what of that? Do I not owe Him a thousand daily and hourly blessings? Has He not led me hither, preserved me, guided me, taught me the knowledge of Himself,—chosen me to be the father of a great nation? Do I not owe Him everything? and shall I not bear this sharp sorrow for His sake? I know, too, that if Isaac dies, all my hope, all my joy, will die with him; that I shall have nothing left to look for, nothing left to work for in this world. Nothing! shall I not have God left to me? When Isaac is dead will the Lord die? will the Lord change? will He grow weak?— Never! Years ago did He declare to me that He was the Almighty God; I will believe that He will be always Almighty; I will believe that though I kill my son, my son will be still in God's hands, and I shall be still in God's hands, and that God is able to raise him again, even from the dead. God can give him back to me, and if He will NOT give him back to me, He can fulfil His promises in a thousand other ways. Ay, and He will fulfil His promises, for in Him is neither deceit, nor fickleness, nor weakness, nor unrighteousness of any kind; and, come what will, I will believe His promise and I will obey His will.'

Some such thoughts as these, I suppose, passed through Abraham's mind. He could not have had a man's heart in him indeed, if not only those thoughts, but ten thousand more, sadder, and stranger, and more pitiful than my weak brain can imagine, did not sweep like a storm through his soul at that last and terrible temptation, but the Bible tells us nothing of them: why should the Bible tell us anything of them? the Bible sets forth Abraham as the faithful man, and therefore it simply tells us of his faith, without telling us of his doubts and struggles before he settled down into faith. It tells us, as it were, not how often the wind shifted and twisted about during the tempest, but in what quarter the wind settled when the tempest was over, and it began to blow steadily, and fixedly, and gently, and all was bright, and mild, and still in Abraham's bosom again, just as a man's mind will be bright, and gentle, and calm, even at the moment he is going to certain death or fearful misery, if he does but know that his suffering is his duty, and that his trial is his heavenly Father's will: and so all we read in the Old-Testament account is simply, "And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt-offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt-offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son: and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father, and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering? and Abraham said, My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt-offering. So they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son."

Really if one is to consider the whole circumstances of Abraham's trials, they seem to have been infinite, more than mortal man could bear; more than he could have borne, no doubt, if the same God who tried had not rewarded his strength of mind by strengthening him still more, and rewarded his faith by increasing his faith; when we consider the struggle he must have had to keep the dreadful secret from the young man's mother, the tremendous effort of controlling himself, the long and frightful journey, the necessity, and yet the difficulty he seems to have felt of keeping the truth from his son, and yet of telling him the truth, which he did in those wonderful words, "God shall provide Himself a lamb for a burnt-offering" (on which I shall have occasion to speak presently); and, last and worst of all, the perfect obedience and submission of his son; for Isaac was not a child then, he was a young man of nearly thirty years of age; strong and able enough, no doubt, to have resisted his aged father, if he had chosen. But the very excellence of Isaac seems to have been, that he did not resist, that he shewed the same perfect trust and obedience to Abraham that Abraham did towards God; for he was led "as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth," for we read, "Abraham bound Isaac his son and laid him on the wood." Surely that was the bitterest pang of all, to see the excellence of his son shine forth just when it was too late for him to enjoy him—to find out what a perfect child he had, in simple trust and utter obedience, just at the very moment when he was going to lose him: "And Abraham stretched forth his hand and took the knife to slay his son."

At that point Abraham's trial finished. He had shewn the completeness of his faith by the completeness of his works, that is, by the completeness of his obedience. He had utterly given up all for God. He had submitted his will completely to God's will. He had said in heart, as our Blessed Lord said, "Father, if it be possible, let this woe pass from me, nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt;" and thus I say, he was justified by his works, by his actions; that is, by this faithful action he proved the faithfulness of his heart, as the Angel said to him, "Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me:" for as St. James says, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou," says he, "how his faith wrought with his works;" how his works were the tool or instrument which his faith used; and by his works his faith was brought to perfection, as a tree is brought to perfection when it bears fruit. "And so," St. James continues, "the scripture was fulfilled, which says, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God. Ye see then," he says, "how that by works a man is justified," or shewn to be righteous and faithful, "and not by faith only;" that is, not by the mere feeling of faith, for, as he says, "as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." For what is the sign of a being dead? It is its not being able to do anything, not being able to work; because there is no living and moving spirit in it. And what is the sign of a man's faith being dead? his faith not being able to WORK, because there is no living spirit in it, but it is a mere dead, empty shell and form of words,—a mere notion and thought about believing in a man's head, but not a living trust and loyalty to God in his heart. Therefore, says St. James, "shew me thy faith without thy works," if thou canst, "and I will shew thee my faith by my works," as Abraham did by offering up Isaac his son.

Oh! my friends, when people are talking about faith and works, and trying to reconcile St. Paul and St. James, as they call it, because St. Paul says Abraham was justified by faith, and St. James says Abraham was justified by works, if they would but pray for the simple, childlike heart, and the head of common sense, and look at their own children, who, every time they go on a message for them, settle, without knowing it, this mighty difference of man's making between faith and works. You tell a little child daily to do many things the meaning and use of which it cannot understand; and the child has faith in what you tell it; and, therefore, it does what you tell it, and so it shews its faith in you by obedience in working for you.

But to go on with the verses: "And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice."

Now, here remark two things; first, that it was Abraham's obedience in giving up all to God, which called forth from God this confirmation of God's promises to him; and next, that God here promised him nothing new; God did not say to him, 'Because thou hast obeyed me in this great matter, I will give thee some great reward over and above what I promised thee.' No; God merely promises him over again, but more solemnly than ever, what He had promised him many years before.

And so it will be with us, my friends, we must not expect to BUY God's favour by obeying Him,—we must not expect that the more we do for God, the more God will be bound to do for us, as the Papists do. No; God has done for us all that He will do. He has promised us all that He will promise. He has provided us, as He provided Abraham, a lamb for the burnt-offering, the Lamb without blemish and without spot, which taketh away the sins of the world. We are His redeemed people—we HAVE a share in His promises—He bids us believe THAT, and shew that we believe it by living as redeemed men, not our own, but bought with a price, and created anew in Christ Jesus to do good works; not that we may buy forgiveness by them, but that we may shew by them that we believe that God HAS forgiven us already, and that when we have done all that is commanded us, we are still unprofitable servants; for though we should give up at God's bidding our children, our wives, and our own limbs and lives, and shew as utter faith in God, and complete obedience to God, as Abraham did, we should only have done just what it was already our duty to do.



SERMON XIV. OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN



1 JOHN, ii. 13.

"I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father."

I preached some time ago a sermon on the whole of these most deep and blessed verses of St. John.

I now wish to speak to those who are of age to be confirmed three separate sermons on three separate parts of these verses. First to those whom St. John calls little children; next, to those whom He calls grown men. To the first I will speak to-day; to the latter, by God's help, next Sunday. And may the Blessed One bring home my weak words to all your hearts!

Now for the meaning of "little children." There are those who will tell you that those words mean merely "weak believers," "babes in grace," and so on. They mean that, no doubt; but they mean much more. They mean, first of all, be sure, what they say. St. John would not have said "little children," if he had not meant little children. Surely God's apostle did not throw about his words at random, so as to leave them open to mistakes, and want some one to step in and tell us that they do not mean their plain, common-sense meaning, but something else. Holy Scripture is too wisely written, and too awful a matter, to be trifled with in that way, and cut and squared to suit our own fancies, and explained away, till its blessed promises are made to mean anything or nothing.

No! By little children, St. John means here children in age,—of course CHRISTIAN children and young people, for he was writing only to Christians. He speaks to those who have been christened, and brought up, more or less, as christened children should be. But, no doubt, when he says little children, he means also all Christian people, whether they be young or old, whose souls are still young, and weak, and unlearned. All, however old they may be, who have not been confirmed—I do not merely mean confirmed by the bishop, but confirmed by God's grace,—all those who have not yet come to a full knowledge of their own sins,—all who have not yet been converted, and turned to God with their whole hearts and wills, who have not yet made their full choice between God and sin,—all who have not yet fought for themselves the battle which no man or angel can fight for them—I mean the battle between their selfishness and their duty—the battle between their love of pleasure and their fear of sin—the battle, in short, between the devil and his temptations to darkness and shame, and God and His promises of light, and strength, and glory,—all who have not been converted to God, to them St. John speaks as little children—people who are not yet strong enough to stand alone, and do their duty on God's side against sin, the world, and the devil. And all of you here who have not yet made up your minds, who have not yet been confirmed in soul,—whether you were confirmed by the bishop or not,—to you I speak this day.

Now, first of all, consider this,—that though St. John calls you "little children," because you are still weak, and your souls have not grown to manhood, yet he does not speak to you as if you were heathens and knew nothing about God; he says, "I have written unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father." Consider that; that was his reason for all that he had written to them before; that they had known the Father, the God who made heaven and earth—the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ—the Father of little children—my Father and your Father, my friends, little as we may behave like what we are, sons of the Almighty God. That was St. John's reason for speaking to little children, because they had already known the Father. So he does not speak to them as if they were heathens; and I dare not speak to you, young people, as if you were heathens, however foolish and sinful some of you may be; I dare not do it, whatever many preachers may do nowadays; not because I should be unfair and hard upon you merely, but because I should lie, and deny the great grace and mercy which God has shewn you, and count the blood of the covenant, with which you were sprinkled at baptism, an unholy thing; and do despite to the spirit of grace which has been struggling in your hearts, trying to lead you out of sin into good, out of light into darkness, ever since you were born. Therefore, as St. John said, I say, I preach this day to you, young people, because you have known your Father in heaven!

But some of you may say to me, 'You put a great honour on us; but we do not see that we have any right to it. You tell us that we have a very noble and awful knowledge—that we know the Father. We are afraid that we do not know Him; we do not even rightly understand of whom or what you preach.'

Well, my young friends, these are very awful words of St. John; such blessed and wonderful words, that if we did not find them in the Bible, it would be madness and insolence to God of us to say such a thing, not merely of little children, but even of the greatest, and wisest, and holiest man who ever lived; but there they are in the Bible—the blessed Lord Himself has told us all, "When ye pray, say, Our Father in heaven;"—and I dare not keep them back because they sound strange. They may SOUND strange, but they ARE NOT strange. Any one who has ever watched a young child's heart, and seen how naturally and at once the little innocent takes in the thought of his Father which is in heaven, knows that it is not a strange thought—that it comes to a little child almost by instinct—that his Father in heaven seems often to be just the thought which fills his heart most completely, has most power over him,—the thought which has been lying ready in his heart all the time, only waiting for some one to awaken it, and put it into words for him; that he will do right when you put him in mind of his Father above the skies sooner than he will for a hundred punishments. For truly says the poet,—

"Heaven lies about us in our infancy, Not in complete forgetfulness, Nor yet in utter nakedness, But trailing clouds of glory do we come, From God who is our home!"

And yet more truly said the Blessed One Himself, "That children's angels always behold the face of our Father which is in heaven;" and that "of such is the kingdom of heaven." Yet you say, some of you, perhaps, 'Whatever knowledge of our Father in heaven we had, or ought to have had, when we were young, we have lost it now. We have forgotten what we learnt at school. We have been what you would call sinful; at all events, we have been thinking all our time about a great many things beside religion, and they have quite put out of our head the thought that God is our Father. So how have we known our Father in heaven?'

Well, then, to answer that,—consider the case of your earthly fathers, the men who begot you and brought you up. Now there might be one of you who had never seen his father since he was born, but all he knows of him is, that his name is so and so, and that he is such and such a sort of man, as the case might be; and that he lives in such and such a place, far away, and that now and then he hears talk of his father, or receives letters or presents from him. Suppose I asked that young man, Do you know your father? would he not answer—would he not have a right to answer, 'Yes, I know him. I never saw him, or was acquainted with him, but I know him well enough; I know who he is, and where to find him, and what sort of a man he is.' That young man might not know his father's face, or love him, or care for him at all. He might have been disobedient to his father; he might have forgotten for years that he had a father at all, and might have lived on his own way, just as if he had no father. But when he was put in mind of it all, would he not say at once, 'Yes, I know my father well enough; his name is so and so, and he lives at such and such a place. I know my father.'

Well, my young friends, and if this would be true of your fathers on earth, it is just as true of your Father in heaven. You have never seen Him—you may have forgotten Him—you may have disobeyed Him— you may have lived on your own way, as if you had no Father in heaven; still you know that you have a Father in heaven. You pray, surely, sometimes. What do you say? "Our Father which art in heaven." So you have a Father in heaven, else what right have you to use those words,—what right have you to say to God, "Our Father in heaven," if you believe that you have no Father there? That would be only blasphemy and mockery. I can well understand that you have often said those words without thinking of them—without thinking what a blessed, glorious, soul-saving meaning there was in them; but I will not believe that you never once in your whole lives said, "Our Father which art in heaven," without believing them to be true words. What I want is, for you ALWAYS to believe them to be true. Oh young men and young women, boys and girls—believe those words, believe that when you say, "Our Father which art in heaven," you speak God's truth about yourselves; that the evil devil rages when he hears you speak those words, because they are the words which prove that you do not belong to him and to hell, but to God and the kingdom of heaven. Oh, believe those words—behave as if you believed those words, and you shall see what will come of them, through all eternity for ever.

Well, but you will ask, What has all this to do with confirmation? It has all to do with confirmation. Because you are God's children, and know that you are God's children, you are to go and confirm before the bishop your right to be called God's children. You are to go and claim your share in God's kingdom. If you were heir to an estate, you would go and claim your estate from those who held it. You are heirs to an estate—you are heirs to the kingdom of heaven; go to confirmation, and claim that kingdom, say, 'I am a citizen of God's kingdom. Before the bishop and the congregation, here I proclaim the honour which God has put upon me.' If you have a father, you will surely not be ashamed to own him! How much more when the Almighty God of heaven is your Father! You will not be ashamed to own Him? Then go to confirmation; for by doing so you own God for your Father. If you have an earthly father, you will not be ashamed to say, 'I know I ought to honour him and obey him;' how much more when your father is the Almighty God of heaven, who sent His own Son into the world to die for you, who is daily heaping you with blessings body and soul! You will not be ashamed to confess that you ought to honour and obey Him? Then go to confirmation, and say, 'I here take upon myself the vow and promise made for me at my baptism. I am God's child, and therefore I will honour, love, and obey Him. It is my duty; and it shall be my delight henceforward to work for God, to do all the good I can to my life's end, because my Father in heaven loves the good, and has commanded me, poor, weak countryman though I be, to work for Him in well-doing.' So I say, If God is your Father, go and own Him at confirmation. If God is your Father, go and promise to love and obey Him at confirmation; and see if He does not, like a strong and loving Father as He is, confirm you in return,—see if He does not give you strength of heart, and peace of mind, and clear, quiet, pure thoughts, such as a man or woman ought to have who considers that the great God, who made the sky and stars above their heads, is their Father. But, perhaps, there are some of you, young people, who do not wish to be confirmed. And why? Now, look honestly into your own hearts and see the reason. Is it not, after all, because you don't like the TROUBLE? Because you are afraid that being confirmed will force you to think seriously and be religious; and you had rather not take all that trouble yet? Is it not because you do not like to look your ownselves in the face, and see how foolishly you have been living, and how many bad habits you will have to give up, and what a thorough conversion and change you must make, if you are to be confirmed in earnest? Is not this why you do not wish to be confirmed? And what does that all come to? That though you know you are God's children, you do not like to tell people publicly that you are God's children, lest they should expect you to behave like God's children—that is it. Now, young men and young women, think seriously once for all—if you have any common SENSE—I do not say grace, left in you—think! Are you not playing a fearful game? You would not dare to deny your fathers on earth— to refuse to obey them, because you know well enough that they would punish you—that if you were too old for punishment, your neighbours, at least, would despise you for mean, ungrateful, and rebellious children! But because you cannot SEE God your Father, because you have not some sign or wonder hanging in the sky to frighten you into good behaviour, therefore you are not afraid to turn your backs on him. My friends, it is ill mocking the living God. Mark my words! If a man will not turn He will whet His sword, and make us feel it. You who can be confirmed, and know in your hearts that you ought to be confirmed, and ought to be REALLY converted and confirmed in soul, and make no mockery of it,—mark my words! If you will not be converted and confirmed of your own good will, God, if He has any love left for you, will convert and confirm you against your will. He will let you go your own ways till you find out your own folly. He will bring you low with affliction perhaps, with sickness, with ill-luck, with shame. Some way or other, He will chastise you, again and again, till you are forced to come back to Him, and take His service on you. If He loves you, He will drive you home to your Father's house. You may laugh at my words now, see if you laugh at them when your hairs are grey. Oh, young people, if you wish in after-life to save yourselves shame and sorrow, and perhaps, in the world to come eternal death, come to confirmation, acknowledge God for your Father, promise to come and serve Him faithfully, make those blessed words of the Lord's Prayer, "Our Father in heaven," your glory and your honour, your guide and guard through life, your title-deeds to heaven. You who know that the Great God is your Father, will you be ashamed to own yourselves His sons?



SERMON XV. THE TRANSFIGURATION



MARK, ix. 2.

"Jesus taketh Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into a high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them."

The second lesson for this morning service brings us to one of the most wonderful passages in our blessed Saviour's whole stay on earth, namely, His transfiguration. The story, as told by the different Evangelists, is this,—That our Lord took Peter, and John, and James his brother, and led them up into a high mountain apart, which mountain may be seen to this very day. It is a high peaked hill, standing apart from all the hills around it, with a small smooth space of ground upon the top, very fit, from its height and its loneliness, for a transaction like the transfiguration, which our Lord wished no one but these three to behold. There the apostles fell asleep; while our blessed Lord, who had deeper thoughts in His heart than they had, knelt down and prayed to HIS Father and OUR Father, which is in heaven. And as He prayed, the form of His countenance was changed, and His raiment became shining, white as the light; and there appeared Moses and Elijah talking with Him. They talked of matters which the angels desire to look into, of the greatest matters that ever happened in this earth since it was made; of the redemption of the world, and of the death which Christ was to undergo at Jerusalem. And as they were talking, the apostles awoke, and found into what glorious company they had fallen while they slept. What they felt no mortal man can tell—that moment was worth to them all the years they had lived before. When they had gone up with Jesus into the mount, He was but the poor carpenter's son, wonderful enough to THEM, no doubt, with His wise, searching words, and His gentle, loving looks, that drew to Him all men who had hearts left in them, and wonderful enough, too, from all the mighty miracles which they had seen Him do, but still He was merely a man like themselves, poor, and young, and homeless, who felt the heat, and the cold, and the rough roads, as much as they did. They could feel that He spake as never man spake—they could see that God's spirit and power was on Him as it had never been on any man in their time. God had even enlightened their reason by His Spirit, to know that He was the Christ, the Son of the living God. But still it does seem they did not fully understand who and what He was; they could not understand how the Son of God should come in the form of a despised and humble man; they did not understand that His glory was to be a spiritual glory. They expected His kingdom to be a kingdom of this world—they expected His glory to consist in palaces, and armies, and riches, and jewels, and all the magnificence with which Solomon and the old Jewish kings were adorned; they thought that He was to conquer back again from the Roman emperor all the inestimable treasures of which the Romans had robbed the Jews, and that He was to make the Jewish nation, like the Roman, the conquerors and masters of all the nations of the earth. So that it was a puzzling thing to their minds why He should be King of the Jews at the very time that He was but a poor tradesman's son, living on charity. It was to shew them that His kingdom was the kingdom of heaven that He was transfigured before them.

They saw His glory—the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. The form of His countenance was changed; all the majesty, and courage, and wisdom, and love, and resignation, and pity, that lay in His noble heart, shone out through His face, while He spoke of His death which He should accomplish at Jerusalem— the Holy Ghost that was upon Him, the spirit of wisdom, and love, and beauty—the spirit which produces every thing that is lovely in heaven and earth: in soul and body, blazed out through His eyes, and all His glorious countenance, and made Him look like what He was—a God. My friends, what a sight! Would it not be worth while to journey thousands of miles—to go through all difficulties, dangers, that man ever heard of, for one sight of that glorious face, that we might fall down upon our knees before it, and, if it were but for a moment, give way to the delight of finding something that we could utterly love and utterly adore? I say, the delight of finding something to worship; for if there is a noble, if there is a holy, if there is a spiritual feeling in man, it is the feeling which bows him down before those who are greater, and wiser, and holier than himself. I say, that feeling of respect for what is noble is a heavenly feeling. The man who has lost it—the man who feels no respect for those who are above him in age, above him in knowledge, above him in wisdom, above him in goodness,—THAT man shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. It is only the man who is like a little child, and feels the delight of having some one to look up to, who will ever feel delight in looking up to Jesus Christ, who is the Lord of lords and King of kings. It was the want of respect, it was the dislike of feeling any one superior to himself, which made the devil rebel against God, and fall from heaven. It will be the feeling of complete respect—the feeling of kneeling at the feet of one who is immeasurably superior to ourselves in every thing, that will make up the greatest happiness of heaven. This is a hard saying, and no man can understand it, save he to whom it is given by the Spirit of God.

That the apostles HAD this feeling of immeasurable respect for Christ there is no doubt, else they would never have been apostles. But they felt more than this. There were other wonders in that glorious vision besides the countenance of our Lord. His raiment, too, was changed, and became all brilliant, white as the light itself. Was not THAT a lesson to them? Was it not as if our Lord had said to them, 'I am a king, and have put on glorious apparel, but whence does the glory of my raiment come? I have no need of fine linen, and purple, and embroidery, the work of men's hands; I have no need to send my subjects to mines and caves to dig gold and jewels to adorn my crown: the earth is mine and the fulness thereof. All this glorious earth, with its trees and its flowers, its sunbeams and its storms, is MINE. I made it—I can do what I will with it. All the mysterious laws by which the light and the heat flow out for ever from God's throne, to lighten the sun, and the moon, and the stars of heaven—they are mine. I am the light of the world—the light of men's bodies as well of their souls; and here is my proof of it. Look at Me. I am He that "decketh Himself with light as it were with a garment, who layeth the beams of His chambers in the waters, and walketh upon the wings of the wind." This was the message which Christ's glory brought the apostles—a message which they could never forget. The spiritual glory of His countenance had shewn them that He was a spiritual king—that His strength lay in the spirit of power, and wisdom, and beauty, and love, which God had given Him without measure; and it shewed them, too, that there was such a thing as a spiritual body, such a body as each of us some day shall have if we be found in Christ at the resurrection of the just—a body which shall not hide a man's spirit, when it becomes subject to the wear and tear of life, and disease, and decay; but a spiritual body—a body which shall be filled with our spirits, which shall be perfectly obedient to our spirits—a body through which the glory of our spirits shall shine out, as the glory of Christ's spirit shone out through His body at the transfiguration. "Brethren, we know not yet what we shall be, but this we do know, that when He shall appear, we shall be LIKE HIM, for we shall see Him as He is." (1 John, iii. 3.)

Thus our Lord taught them by His appearance that there is such a thing as a spiritual body, while, by the glory of His raiment, in addition to His other miracles, He taught them that He had power over the laws of nature, and could, in His own good time, "change the bodies of their humiliation, that they might be made like unto His glorious body, according to the mighty working by which He is able to subdue all things to Himself."

But there was yet another lesson which the apostles learnt from the transfiguration of our Lord. They beheld Moses and Elijah talking with Him:—Moses the great lawgiver of their nation, Elijah the chief of all the Jewish prophets. We must consider this a little to find out the whole depth of its meaning. You remember how Christ had spoken of Himself as having come, not to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfil them. You remember, too, how He had always said that He was the person of whom the Law and the Prophets had spoken.

Here was an actual sign and witness that His words were true—here was Moses, the giver of the Law, and Elijah, the chief of the Prophets, talking with Him, bearing witness to Him in their own persons, and shewing, too, that it was His death and His perfect sacrifice that they had been shadowing forth in the sacrifices of the law and in the dark speeches of prophecy. For they talked with Him of His death, which He was to accomplish at Jerusalem. What more perfect testimony could the apostles have had to shew them that Jesus of Nazareth, their Master, was He of whom the Law and the Prophets spoke—that He was indeed the Christ for whom Moses and Elijah, and all the saints of old, had looked; and that He was come not to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfil them? We can hardly understand the awe and the delight with which the disciples must have beheld those blessed Three—Moses, and Elias, and Jesus Christ, their Lord, talking together before their very eyes. For of all men in the world, Moses and Elias were to them the greatest. All true-hearted Israelites, who knew the history of their nation, and understood the promises of God, must have felt that Moses and Elias were the two greatest heroes and saviours of their nation, whom God had ever yet raised up. And the joy and the honour of thus seeing them face to face, the very men whom they had loved and reverenced in their thoughts, whom they had heard and read of from their childhood, as the greatest ornaments and glories of their nation—the joy and the honour, I say, of that unexpected sight, added to the wonderful majesty which was suddenly revealed to their transfigured Lord, seemed to have been too much for them—they knew not what to say. Such company seemed to them for the moment heaven enough; and St. Peter first finding words exclaimed, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If thou wilt let us build three tabernacles, one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias." Not, I fancy, that they intended to worship Moses and Elias, but that they felt that Moses and Elias, as well as Christ, had each a divine message, which must be listened to; and therefore, they wished that each of them might have his own tabernacle, and dwell among men, and each teach his own particular doctrine and wisdom in his own school. It may seem strange that they should put Moses and Elias so on an equality with Christ, but the truth was, that as yet they understood Moses and Elias better than they did Christ. They had heard and read of Moses and Elijah all their lives—they were acquainted with all their actions and words—they knew thoroughly what great and noble men the Spirit of God had made them, but they did NOT understand Christ in like manner. They did not yet FEEL that God had given Him the Spirit without measure—they did not understand that He was not only to be a lawgiver and a prophet, but a sacrifice for sin, the conqueror of death and hell, who was to lead captivity captive, and receive inestimable gifts for men. Much less did they think that Moses and Elijah were but His servants— that all THEIR spirit and THEIR power had been given by Him. But this also they were taught a moment afterwards; for a bright cloud overshadowed them, hiding from them the glory of God the Father, whom no man hath seen or can see, who dwells in the light which no man can approach unto; and out of that cloud, a voice saying, "This is my beloved Son; hear ye Him;" and then, hiding their faces in fear and wonder, they fell to the ground; and when they looked up, the vision and the voice had alike passed away, and they saw no man but Christ alone. Was not that enough for them? Must not the meaning of the vision have been plain to them? They surely understood from it that Moses and Elijah were, as they had ever believed them to be, great and good, true messengers of the living God; but that their message and their work was done—that Christ, whom they had looked for, was come—that all the types of the law were realised, and all the prophecies fulfilled, and that henceforward Christ, and Christ alone, was to be their Prophet and their Lawgiver. Was not this plainly the meaning of the Divine voice? For when they wished to build three tabernacles, and to honour Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets, as separate from Christ—that moment the heavenly voice warned them: 'THIS—THIS is my beloved Son—hear ye HIM, and Him only, henceforward.' And Moses and Elijah, their work being done, forthwith vanished away, leaving Christ alone to fulfil the Law and the prophets, and all other wisdom and righteousness that ever was or shall be. This is another lesson which Christ's transfiguration was meant to teach and us, that Christ alone is to be henceforward our guide; that no philosophies or doctrines of any sort which are not founded on a true faith in Jesus Christ, and His life and death, are worth listening to; that God has manifested forth His beloved Son, and that Him, and Him only, we are to hear. I do not mean to say that Christ came into the world to put down human learning. I do not mean that we are to despise human learning, as so many are apt to do nowadays; for Christ came into the world not to destroy human learning, but to fulfil it—to sanctify it—to make human learning true, and strong, and useful, by giving it a sure foundation to stand upon, which is the belief and knowledge of His blessed self. Just as Christ came not to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfil them—to give them a spirit and a depth in men's eyes which they never had before—just so, He came to fulfil all true philosophies, all the deep thoughts which men had ever thought about this wonderful world and their own souls, by giving THEM a spirit and a depth which THEY never had before. Therefore let no man tempt you to despise learning, for it is holy to the Lord.

There is one more lesson which we may learn from our Lord's transfiguration; when St. Peter said, "LORD! it is good for us to be here," he spoke a truth. It WAS good for him to be there; nevertheless, Christ did not listen to his prayer. He and his two companions were not allowed to STAY in that glorious company. And why? Because they had a work to do. They had glad tidings of great joy to proclaim to every creature, and it was, after all, but a selfish prayer, to wish to be allowed to stay in ease and glory on the mount while the whole world was struggling in sin and wickedness below them: for there is no meaning in a man's calling himself a Christian, or saying that he loves God, unless he is ready to hate what God hates, and to fight against that which Christ fought against, that is, sin. No one has any right to call himself a servant of God, who is not trying to do away with some of the evil in the world around him. And, therefore, Christ was merciful, when, instead of listening to St. Peter's prayer, He led the apostles down again from the mount, and sent them forth, as He did afterwards, to preach the Gospel of the kingdom to all nations. For Christ put a higher honour on St. Peter by that than if He had let him stay on the mount all his life, to behold His glory, and worship and adore. And He made St. Peter more like Himself by doing so. For what was Christ's life? Not one of deep speculations, quiet thoughts, and bright visions, such as St. Peter wished to lead; but a life of fighting against evil; earnest, awful prayers and struggles within, continual labour of body and mind without, insult and danger, and confusion, and violent exertion, and bitter sorrow. This was Christ's life—this is the life of almost every good man I ever heard of;—this was St. Peter, and St. James, and St. John's life afterwards. This was Christ's cup, which they were to drink of as well as He;—this was the baptism of fire with which they were to be baptised of as well as He;—this was to be their fight of faith;— this was the tribulation through which they, like all other great saints, were to enter into the kingdom of heaven; for it is certain that the harder a man fights against evil, the harder evil will fight against him in return: but it is certain, too, that the harder a man fights against evil, the more he is like his Saviour Christ, and the more glorious will be his reward in heaven. It is certain, too, that what was good for St. Peter is good for us. It is good for a man to have holy and quiet thoughts, and at moments to see into the very deepest meaning of God's word and God's earth, and to have, as it were, heaven opened before his eyes; and it is good for a man sometimes actually to FEEL his heart overpowered with the glorious majesty of God, and to FEEL it gushing out with love to his blessed Saviour: but it is not good for him to stop there, any more than it was for the apostles; they had to leave that glorious vision and come down from the mount, and do Christ's work; and SO HAVE WE; for, believe me, one word of warning spoken to keep a little child out of sin,—one crust of bread given to a beggar-man, because he is your brother, for whom Christ died,—one angry word checked, when it is on your lips, for the sake of Him who was meek and lowly in heart; in short, any, the smallest endeavour of this kind to lessen the quantity of evil, which is in yourselves, and in those around you, is worth all the speculations, and raptures, and visions, and frames, and feelings in the world; for those are the good FRUITS of faith, whereby alone the tree shall be known whether it be good or evil.



SERMON XVI. THE CRUCIFIXION



ISAIAH, liii. 7.

"He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter."

On this day, my friends, was offered up upon the cross the Lamb of God,—slain in eternity and heaven before the foundation of the world, but slain in time and space upon this day. All the old sacrifices, the lambs which were daily offered up to God in the Jewish Temple, the lambs which Abel, and after him the patriarchs offered up, the Paschal Lamb slain at the Passover, our Eastertide, all these were but figures of Christ—tokens of the awful and yet loving law of God, that without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. But the blood of dumb animals could not take away sin. All mankind had sinned, and it was, therefore, necessary that all mankind should suffer. Therefore He suffered, the new Adam, the Man of all men, in whom all mankind were, as it were, collected into one and put on a new footing with God; that henceforward to be a man might mean to be a holy being, a forgiven being, a being joined to God, wearing the likeness of the Son of God—the human soul and body in which He offered up all human souls and bodies on the cross. For man was originally made in Christ's likeness; He was the Word of God who walked in the garden of Eden, who spoke to Adam with a human voice; He was the Lord who appeared to the patriarchs in a man's figure, and ate and drank in Abraham's tent, and spoke to him with a human voice; He was the God of Israel, whom the Jewish elders saw with their bodily eyes upon Mount Sinai, and under His feet a pavement as of a sapphire stone. From Him all man's powers came— man's speech, man's understanding. All that is truly noble in man was a dim pattern of Him in whose likeness man was originally made. And when man had fallen and sinned, and Christ's image was fading more and more out of him, and the likeness of the brutes growing more and more in him year by year, then came Christ, the head and the original pattern of all men, to claim them for His own again, to do in their name what they could never do for themselves, to offer Himself up a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world: so that He is the real sacrifice, the real lamb; as St. John said when he pointed Him out to his disciples, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!"

Oh, think of that strong and patient Lamb, who on this day shewed Himself perfect in fortitude and nobleness, perfect in meekness and resignation. Think of Him who, in His utter love to us, endured the cross, despising the shame. And what a cross! Truly said the prophet, "His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men:" in hunger and thirst, in tears and sighs, bruised and bleeding, His forehead crowned with thorns, His sides torn with scourges, His hands and feet gored with nails, His limbs stretched from their sockets, naked upon the shameful cross, the Son of God hung, lingering slowly towards the last gasp, in the death of the felon and the slave! The most shameful sight that this earth ever saw, and yet the most glorious sight. The most shameful sight, at which the sun in heaven veiled his face, as if ashamed, and the skies grew black, as if to hide those bleeding limbs from the foul eyes of men; and yet the noblest sight, for in that death upon the cross shone out the utter fullness of all holiness, the utter fullness of all fortitude, the utter fullness of that self- sacrificing love, which had said, "The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost;" the utter fullness of obedient patience, which could say, "Father, not My will but Thine be done;" the utter fullness of generous forgiveness, which could pray, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do;" the utter fullness of noble fortitude and endurance, which could say at the very moment when a fearful death stared Him in the face, "Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to the Father, and He will send me at once more than twelve armies of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must be?"

Oh, my friends, look to Him, the author and perfecter of all faith, all trust, all loyal daring for the sake of duty and of God! Look at His patience. See how He endured the cross, despising the shame. See how He endured—how patience had her perfect work in Him—how in all things He was more than conqueror. What gentleness, what calmness, what silence, what infinite depths of Divine love within Him! A heart which neither shame, nor torture, nor insult, could stir from its Godlike resolution. When looking down from that cross He beheld none almost but enemies, heard no word but mockery; when those who passed by reviled Him, wagging their heads and saying, "He saved others, Himself He cannot save;" His only answer was a prayer for forgiveness for that besotted mob who were yelling beneath Him like hounds about their game. Consider Him, and then consider ourselves, ruffled and put out of temper by the slightest cross accident, the slightest harsh word, too often by the slightest pain— not to mention insults, for we pride ourselves in not bearing them. Try, my friends, if you can, even in the dimmest way, fancy yourselves for one instant in His place this day 1815 years. Fancy yourselves hanging on that cross—fancy that mocking mob below— fancy—but I dare not go on with the picture. Only think—think what would have been YOUR temper there, and then you may get some slight notion of the boundless love and the boundless endurance of the Saviour whom WE love so little, for whose sake most of us will not endure the trouble of giving up a single sin.

And then consider that it was all of His own free will; that at any moment, even while He was hanging upon the cross, He might have called to earth and sun, to heaven and to hell, "Stop! thus far, but no further," and they would have obeyed Him; and all that cross, and agony, and the fierce faces of those furious Jews, would have vanished away like a hideous dream when one awakes. For they lied in their mockery. Any moment He might have been free, triumphant, again in His eternal bliss, but He would not. He Himself kept Himself on that cross till His Father's will was fulfilled, and the sacrifice was finished, and we were saved. And then at last, when there was no more human nobleness, no more agony left for Him to fulfil, no gem in the crown of holiness which He had not won as His own, no drop in the cup of misery which He had not drained as His own; when at last He was made perfect through suffering, and His strength had been made perfect in weakness, then He bowed that bleeding, thorn-crowned head, and said, "It is finished. Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit." And so He died.

How can our poor words, our poor deeds, thank Him? How mean and paltry our deepest gratitude, our highest loyalty, when compared with Him to whom it is due—that adorable victim, that perfect sin- offering, who this day offered up Himself upon the altar of the cross, in the fire of His own boundless zeal for the kingdom of God, His Father, and of His boundless love for us, His sinful brothers! "Oh, thou blessed Jesus! Saviour, agonising for us! God Almighty, who did make Thyself weak for the love of us! oh, write that love upon our hearts so deeply that neither pleasure nor sorrow, life nor death, may wipe it away! Thou hast sacrificed Thyself for us, oh, give us the hearts to sacrifice ourselves for Thee! Thou art the Vine, we are the branches. Let Thy priceless blood shed for us on this day flow like life-giving sap through all our hearts and minds, and fill us with Thy righteousness, that we may be sacrifices fit for Thee. Stir us up to offer to Thee, O Lord, our bodies, our souls, our spirits, in all we love and all we learn, in all we plan and all we do, to offer our labours, our pleasures, our sorrows, to Thee; to work for Thy kingdom through them, to live as those who are not their own, but bought with Thy blood, fed with Thy body; and enable us now, in Thy most holy Sacrament, to offer to Thee our repentance, our faith, our prayers, our praises, living, reasonable, and spiritual sacrifices,—Thine from our birth-hour, Thine now, and Thine for ever!"



SERMON XVII. THE RESURRECTION



LUKE, xxiv. 6.

"He is not here—He is risen"

We are assembled here to-day, my friends, to celebrate the joyful memory of our blessed Saviour's Resurrection. All Friday night, Saturday, and Saturday night, His body lay in the grave; His soul was—where we cannot tell. St. Peter tells us that He went and preached to the spirits in prison—the sinners of the old world, who are kept in the place of departed souls—most likely in the depths of the earth, in the great fire-kingdom, which boils and flames miles below our feet, and breaks out here and there through the earth's solid crust in burning mountains and streams of fire. There some say—and the Bible seems to say—sinful souls are kept in chains until the judgment-day; and thither they say Christ went to preach—no doubt to save some of those sinful souls who had never heard of Him. However this may be, for those two nights and day there was no sign, no stir in the grave where Christ was laid. His body seemed dead—the stone lay still over the mouth of the tomb where Joseph and Nicodemus laid him; the seal which Pilate had put on it was unbroken; the soldiers watched and watched, but no one stirred; the priests and Pharisees were keeping their sham Passover, thinking, no doubt, that they were well rid of Christ and of His rebukes for ever.

But early on the Sunday morn—this day, as it might be—in the grey dawn of morning there came a change—a wondrous change. There was a great earthquake; the solid ground and rocks were stirred—the angel of the Lord came down from heaven, and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it, waiting for the King of glory to arise from His slumber, and go forth the conqueror of Death.

His countenance was like lightning, and His raiment white as snow; and for fear of Him those fierce, hard soldiers, who feared neither God nor man, shook, and became as dead men. And Christ arose and went forth. How he rose—how he looked when he arose, no man can tell, for no man saw. Only before the sun was risen came Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, and found the stone rolled away, and saw the angels sitting, clothed in white, who said, "Fear not, for I know that ye seek Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, for He is risen. Come, see the place where the Lord lay."

What must they have thought, poor, faithful souls, who came, lonely and broken-hearted, to see the place where HE, their only hope, was, as they thought, shut up and lost for ever, to hear that He was risen and gone? Half terrified, half delighted, they went back with other women who had come on the same errand, with spices to anoint the blessed body, and told the apostles. Peter and John ran to the sepulchre, and saw the linen clothes lie, and the napkin that was about his blessed head, wrapped together by itself. They then believed. Then first broke on them the meaning of His old saying, that He must rise from the dead; and so, wondering and doubting what to do, they went back home.

But Mary—faithful, humble Mary—stood without, by the sepulchre, weeping. The angels called to her, "Woman, why weepest thou?" "They have taken away my Lord," said she; "and I know not where they have laid him."

Then, in a moment, out of the air, He appeared behind her. His body had been changed; it was now a glorified, spiritual body, which could appear and disappear when and how he liked. She turned back, and saw Him standing, but she knew Him not. A wondrous change had come over Him since last she saw Him hanging, bleeding, pale, and dying, on the cross of shame. "Woman," said He, "why weepest thou?" She, fancying it was the gardener, said to Him, "Sir, if thou hast borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary." At the sound of that beloved voice—His own voice—calling by her name, her recollection came back to her. She knew Him—knew Him for her risen Lord; and, falling at His feet, cried out, "My Master!"

So Jesus Christ, the Son of God, rose from the dead!

Now come the questions, WHY did Christ rise from the dead?—and HOW did he rise? And, first, I will say a few words about how he rose from the dead. And this the Bible will answer for us, as it will every thing else about the spirit-world. Christ, says the Bible, was put to death in the flesh; but quickened, that is, brought to life, by the Spirit. Now what is the Spirit but the Lord and Giver of Life,—life of all sorts—life to the soul—life to the body— life to the trees and plants around us? With that Spirit Christ is filled infinitely without measure; it is HIS Spirit. He is the Prince of Life; and the Spirit which gives life is His Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son. THEREFORE the gates of hell could not prevail against Him—THEREFORE the heavy grave-stone could not hold Him down—THEREFORE His flesh could not see corruption and decay as other bodies do; not because His body was different from other bodies in its substance, but because HE was filled, body and soul, with the great Spirit of Life. For this is the great business of the Spirit of God, in all nature, to bring life out of death—new generations out of old. What says David? "When Thou, O God, turnest away Thy face, things die and return again to the dust; when Thou lettest Thy breath (which is the same as Thy spirit) go forth, they are made, and Thou renewest the face of the earth." This is the way that seeds, instead of rotting and perishing, spring up and become new plants—God breathes His spirit on them. The seeds must have heat, and damp, and darkness, and electricity, before they can sprout; but the heat, and damp, and darkness, do not make them sprout; they want something more to do that. A philosopher can find out exactly what a seed is made of, and he might make a seed of the proper materials, and put it in the ground, and electrify it—but would it grow? Not it. To grow it must have life—life from the fountain of life—from God's Spirit. All the philosophers in the world have never yet been able, among all the things which they have made, to make a single living thing—and say they never shall; because, put together all they will, still one thing is wanting— LIFE, which God alone can give. Why do I say this? To shew you what God's Spirit is; to put you in mind that it is near you, above you, and beneath you, about your path in your daily walk. And also, to explain to you how Christ rose by that Spirit,—how your bodies, if you claim your share in Christ's Spirit, may rise by it too.

You can see now, how Christ, being filled with God's Spirit, rose of Himself. People had risen from the dead before Christ's time, but they had been either raised in answer to the prayers of holy men who had God's Spirit, or at some peculiar time when heaven was opened, and God chose to alter His laws (as we call it) for a moment.

But here was a Man who rose of Himself. He was raised by God, and therefore He raised Himself, for He was God.

You all know what life and power a man's own spirit will often give him. You may have heard of "spirited" men in great danger, or "spirited" soldiers in battle; when faint, wounded, having suffered enough, apparently, to kill them twice over, still struggling or fighting on, and doing the most desperate deeds to the last, from the strength and courage of their spirits conquering pain and weakness, and keeping off, for a time, death itself. We all know how madmen, diseased in their spirits, will, when the fit is on them, have, for a few minutes, ten men's strength. Well, just think, if a man's own spirit, when it is powerful, can give his body such life and force, what must it have been with Christ, who was filled full of THE Spirit—God's Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life. The Lord could not HELP rising. All the disease, and poison, and rottenness in the world, could not have made His body decay; mountains on mountains could not have kept it down. His body!—the Prince of Life!—He that was the life itself! It was impossible that death could hold Him.

And does not this shew us WHY He rose, that we might rise with Him? What did He say about His own death? "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit." He was the grain which fell into the ground and died, and from His dead body sprung up another body—His glorified body; and we His Church, His people, fed with that body—His members, however strange it may sound—St. Paul said it, and therefore I dare to say it, little as I know what it means—members of His flesh and of His bones.

But think! Remember what St. Paul tells you about this very matter in that glorious chapter which is read in the burial-service, "how when thou sowest seed, thou sowest not that body which it will have, but bare grain; but God gives it a body as it hath pleased Him, and to every seed its own body." For the wheat-plant is in reality the same thing as the wheat-seed, and its life the same life, different as the outside of it may look. Dig it up just at this time of year, and you will find the seed-corn all gone, sucked dry; the life of the wheat-seed has formed it into a wheat-plant—yet it is the same individual thing. The substance of the seed has gone into the root and the young blade; but it is the same individual substance. You know it is, and though you cannot tell why, yet you say "What a fine plant that seed has grown into," because you feel it is so, that the seed is the very same thing as the plant which springs up from it, though its shape is changed, and its size, and its colour, and the very stuff of which it was made is changed, since it was a mere seed. And yet it is at bottom the same individual thing as the seed was, with a new body and shape.

So with Christ's body. It was changed after He rose. It had gone through pain, and weakness, and death, gone down to the lowest depth of them, and conquered them, and passed triumphant through them and far beyond their power. His body was now a nobler, a more beautiful, a glorified body, a spiritual body, one which could do whatever His Spirit chose to make it do, one which could never die again, one which could come through closed doors, appear and vanish as He liked, instead of being bound to walk the earth, and stand cold and heat, sickness and weariness.

Yet it was the very same body, just as the wheat-plant is the same as the wheat-seed—the very same body. Every one knew His face again after His resurrection. There was the very print of the nails to be seen in His hands and feet, the spear-wound in His blessed side. So shall it be with us, my friends. We shall rise again, and we shall be the same as we are now, and yet not the same; our bodies shall be the same bodies, and yet nobler, purer, spiritual bodies, which can know neither death, nor pain, nor weariness. Then, never care, my friends, if we drop like ripe grain into the bosom of mother earth,—if we are to spring up again as seedling plants, after death's long winter, on the resurrection morn. Truly says the poet, {2} how

"Mother earth, she gathers all Into her bosom, great and small: Oh could we look into her face, We should not shrink from her embrace."

No, indeed! for if we look steadily with the wise, searching eye of faith into the face of mother earth, we shall see how death is but the gate of life, and this narrow churchyard, with its corpses close-packed underneath the sod, would not seem to us a frightful charnel-house of corruption. No! it would seem like what it is—a blessed, quiet, seed-filled God's garden, in which our forefathers, after their long-life labour, lay sown by God's friendly hand, waiting peaceful, one and all, to spring up into leaf, and flower, and everlasting paradise-fruit, beneath the breath of God's Spirit at the last great day, when the Sun of Righteousness arises in glory, and the summer begins which shall never end.

One and all, did I say? Alas! would God it were so! We cannot hope as for all, but they are dead and gone, and we are not here to judge the dead. They have another Judge, and all shall be as He wills.

But we—we in whose limbs the breath of life still boils—we who can still work, let us never forget all grain ripens not. There is some falls out of the ear unripe, and perishes; some is picked out by birds; some withers and decays in the ear, and yet gets into the barn with it, and is sown too with the wheat, of which I never heard that any sprang up again—ploughed up again it may be—a withered, dead husk of chaff as it died, ploughed up to the resurrection of damnation to burn as chaff in unquenchable fire; but the good seed alone, ripe, and safe with the wheat-plant till it is ripe, that only will SPRING UP to the resurrection of eternal life.

Now, consider again that parable of the wheat-plant. After it has sprung up, what does it next, but TILLER?—and every new shoot that tillers out bears its own ear, ripens its own grain, twenty, thirty, or forty stems, and yet they are all the same plant, living with the life of that one original seed. So with Christ's Church—His body the Church. As soon as he rose, that new plant began to tiller. He did not keep His Spirit to Himself, but poured it out on the apostles, and from them it spread and spread—Each generation of Christians ripening, and bearing fruit, and dying, a fresh generation of fruit springing up from them, and so on, as we are now at this day. And yet all these plants, these millions and millions of Christian men and women, who have lived since Christ's blessed resurrection, all are parts of that one original seed, the body of Christ, whose members they are, and all owe their life to that one spirit of Christ, which is in them all and through them all, as the life of the original grain is in the whole crop which springs from it.

And what can you learn from this? Learn this, that in Christ you are safe, out of Christ you are lost. But REALLY in Christ, I mean— not like the dead and dying grains, mildewed and worm-eaten, which you find here and there on the finest wheat-plant. Their end is to be burned, and so will ours be, for all our springing out of Christ's root, if the angel reapers find us not good wheat, but chaff and mildew. Every branch in Christ which beareth not fruit, His heavenly Father taketh away. Therefore, never pride yourself on having been baptised into Christ, never pride yourself on shewing some signs of God's Spirit, on being really good, right in this and right in that,—the question is, not so much, Are you IN CHRIST at all, are you part of His tree, a member of His body? but, Are you ripening there? If you are not ripening, you are decaying, and your end will be as God has said. And do you wish to know whether you are in Christ, safe, ripening? see whether you are like Him. If the young grain does not shew like the seed grain, you may be sure it is making no progress; and as surely as a wheat-plant never brought forth rye, or a grape-tree thistles, so surely, if you are not like Christ in your character, in patience, in meekness, in courage, truth, purity, piety, and love, you may be of His planting, but you are none of His ripening, and you will not be raised with Him at the last day, to flower anew in the gardens of Paradise, world without end.



SERMON XVIII. IMPROVEMENT



PSALM xcii. 12.

"The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree: he shall grow like the cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing."

The Bible is always telling Christian people to GO FORWARDS—to grow—to become wiser and stronger, better and better day by day; that they ought to become better, and better, because they can, if they choose, improve. This text tells us so; it says that we shall bring forth more fruit in our old age. Another text tells us that "those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;" another tells us that we "shall go from strength to strength." Not one of St. Paul's Epistles but talks of growing in grace and in the knowledge of God, of being FILLED with God's Spirit, of having our eyes more and more open to understand God's truth. Not one of St. Paul's Epistles but contains prayers of St. Paul that the men to whom he writes may become holier and wiser. And St. Paul says that he himself needed to go forward—that he wanted fresh strength—that he had to forget what was past, and consider all he had done and felt as nothing, and press forward to the prize of his high calling; that he needed to be daily conquering himself more and more, keeping down his bad feelings, hunting out one bad habit after another, lest, by any means, when he had preached to others, he himself should become a castaway. Therefore, I said rightly, that the Bible is always bidding us go forwards. You cannot read your Bibles without seeing this. What else was the use of St. Paul's Epistles? They were written to Christian men, redeemed men, converted men, most of them better I fear than ever we shall be; and for what? to tell them not be content to remain as they were, to tell them to go forwards, to improve, to be sure that they were only just inside the gate of God's kingdom, and that if they would go on to perfection, they would find strength, and holiness, and blessing, and honour, and happiness, which they as yet did not dream of. "Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect," said our blessed Lord to all men. "Be ye perfect," says St. Paul to the Corinthians, and the Ephesians, and all to whom he wrote; and so say I to you now in God's name, for Christ's sake, as citizens of God's kingdom, as heirs of everlasting glory, "Be you perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect."

Now I ask you, my friends, is not this reasonable? It is reasonable, for the Bible always speaks of our souls as living things. It compares them to limbs of a body, to branches of a tree, often to separate plants—as in our Lord's parable of the tares and the wheat. Again, St. Paul tells us that we have been planted in baptism in the likeness of Christ's death; and again, in the first Psalm, which says that the good man shall be like a tree planted by the waterside; and again, in the text of my sermon, which says "that those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing."

Now what does all this mean? It means that the life of our souls is in some respects like the life of a plant; and, therefore, that as plants grow, so our souls are to grow. Why do you plant anything, but in order that it may GROW and become larger, stronger, bear flower and fruit? Be sure God has planted us in His garden, Christ's Church, for no other reason. Consider, again—What is life but a continual growing, or a continual decaying? If a tree does not get larger and stronger, year by year, is not that a sure sign that it is unhealthy, and that decay has begun in it, that it is unsound at heart? And what happens then? It begins to become weaker and smaller, and cankered and choked with scurf and moss till it dies. If a tree is not growing, it is sure in the long run to be dying; and so are our souls. If they are not growing they are dying; if they are not getting better they are getting worse. This is why the Bible compares our souls to trees—not out of a mere pretty fancy of poetry, but for a great, awful, deep, world-wide lesson, that every tree in the fields may be a pattern, a warning, to us thoughtless men, that as that tree is meant to grow, so our souls are meant to grow. As that tree dies unless it grows, so our souls must die unless they grow. Consider that!

But how does a tree grow? How are our souls to grow? Now here, again, we shall understand heavenly things best by taking and considering the pattern from among earthly things which the Bible gives us—the tree, I mean. A tree grows in two ways. Its roots take up food from the ground, its leaves take up food from the air. Its roots are its mouth, we may say, and its leaves are its lungs. Thus the tree draws nourishment from the earth beneath and from the heaven above; and so must our souls, my friends, if they are to live and grow, they must have food both from earth and from heaven. And this is what I mean—Why has God given us senses, eyes, and ears, and understanding? That by them we may feed our souls with things which we see and hear, things which are going on in the world round us. We must read, and we must listen, and we must watch people and their sayings and doings, and what becomes of them, and we must try and act, and practise what is right for ourselves; and so we shall, by using our eyes and ears and our bodies, get practice, and experience, and knowledge, from the world round us—such as Solomon gives us in his Proverbs—and so our eyes, and ears, and understandings, are to be to us like roots, by which we may feed our souls with earthly learning and experience. But is this enough? No, surely. Consider, again, God's example which He has given us—a tree. If you keep stripping all the leaves off a tree, as fast as they grow, what becomes of it? It dies, because without leaves it cannot get nourishment from the air, and the rain, and the sunlight. Again, if you shut up a tree where it can get neither rain, air, nor light, what happens? the tree certainly dies, though it may be planted in the very richest soil, and have the very strongest roots; and why? because it can get no food from the sky above. So with our souls, my friends. If we get no food from above, our souls will die, though we have all the wit, and learning, and experience, in the world. We must be fed, and strengthened, and satisfied, with the grace of God from above—with the Spirit of God. Consider how the Bible speaks of God's Spirit as the breath of God; for the very word SPIRIT means, originally, breath, or air, or gas, or a breeze of wind, shewing us that as without the airs of heaven the tree would become stunted and cankered, so our souls will without the fresh, purifying breath of God's Spirit. Again, God's Spirit is often spoken of in Scripture as dew and rain. His grace or favour, we read, is as dew on the grass; and again, that God shall come unto us as the rain, as the first and latter rain upon the earth; and again, speaking of the outpourings of God's Spirit on His Church, the Psalmist says that "He shall come down as the rain upon the mown grass, as showers that water the earth;" and to shew us that as the tree puts forth buds, and leaves, and tender wood, when it drinks in the dew and rains, so our hearts will become tender, and bud out into good thoughts and wise resolves, when God's Spirit fills them with His grace.

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