Discipline and Other Sermons
by Charles Kingsley
DISCIPLINE AND OTHER SERMONS
SERMON II.—THE TEMPLE OF WISDOM
SERMON III.—PRAYER AND SCIENCE
SERMON IV.—GOD'S TRAINING
SERMON V.—GOOD FRIDAY
SERMON VI.—FALSE CIVILIZATION
SERMON VII.—THE NAME OF GOD
SERMON VIII.—THE END OF RELIGION
SERMON IX.—THE HUMANITY OF GOD
SERMON X.—GOD'S WORLD
SERMON XI.—THE ARMOUR OF GOD
SERMON XII.—PAUL AND FELIX
SERMON XIII.—THE GOOD SAMARITAN
SERMON XIV.—CONSIDER THE LILIES OF THE FIELD
SERMON XV.—THE JEWISH REBELLIONS
SERMON XVI.—TERROR BY NIGHT
SERMON XVII.—THE SON OF THUNDER
SERMON XIX.—A WHITSUN SERMON
SERMON XXIII.—THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST
SERMON XXIV.—THE LIKENESS OF GOD
1881 Macmillan and Co. edition.
DISCIPLINE AND OTHER SERMONS
(Preached at the Volunteer Camp, Wimbledon, July 14, 1867.)
NUMBERS xxiv. 9.
He couched, he lay down as a lion; and as a great lion. Who dare
rouse him up?
These were the words of the Eastern sage, as he looked down from the
mountain height upon the camp of Israel, abiding among the groves of
the lowland, according to their tribes, in order, discipline, and
unity. Before a people so organized, he saw well, none of the nations
round could stand. Israel would burst through them, with the strength
of the wild bull crashing through the forest. He would couch as a
lion, and as a great lion. Who dare rouse him up?
But such a people, the wise Balaam saw, would not be mere conquerors,
like those savage hordes, or plundering armies, which have so often
swept over the earth before and since, leaving no trace behind save
blood and ashes. Israel would be not only a conqueror, but a colonist
and a civilizer. And as the sage looked down on that well-ordered
camp, he seems to have forgotten for a moment that every man therein
was a stern and practised warrior. 'How goodly,' he cries, 'are thy
tents, oh Jacob, and thy camp, oh Israel.' He likens them, not to the
locust swarm, the sea flood, nor the forest fire, but to the most
peaceful, and most fruitful sights in nature or in art. They are
spread forth like the water-courses, which carry verdure and fertility
as they flow. They are planted like the hanging gardens beside his own
river Euphrates, with their aromatic shrubs and wide-spreading cedars.
Their God-given mission may be stern, but it will be beneficent. They
will be terrible in war; but they will be wealthy, prosperous,
civilized and civilizing, in peace.
Many of you must have seen—all may see—that noble picture of
Israel in Egypt which now hangs in the Royal Academy; in which the
Hebrews, harnessed like beasts of burden, writhing under the whips of
their taskmasters, are dragging to its place some huge Egyptian statue.
Compare the degradation portrayed in that picture with this prophecy
of Balaam's, and then consider—What, in less than two generations,
had so transformed those wretched slaves?
Compare, too, with Balaam's prophecy the hints of their moral
degradation which Scripture gives;—the helplessness, the
hopelessness, the cowardice, the sensuality, which cried, 'Let us
alone, that we may serve the Egyptians. Because there were no graves
in Egypt, hast thou brought us forth to die in the wilderness?' 'Whose
highest wish on earth was to sit by the fleshpots of Egypt, where they
did eat bread to the full.' What had transformed that race into a
lion, whom none dare rouse up?
Plainly, those forty years of freedom. But of freedom under a stern
military education: of freedom chastened by discipline, and organized
I say, of freedom. No nation of those days, we have reason to
believe, enjoyed a freedom comparable to that of the old Jews. They
were, to use our modern phrase, the only constitutional people of the
East. The burdensomeness of Moses' law, ere it was overlaid, in later
days, by Rabbinical scrupulosity, has been much exaggerated. In its
simpler form, in those early times, it left every man free to do, as we
are expressly told, that which was right in his own eyes, in many most
important matters. Little seems to have been demanded of the Jews,
save those simple ten commandments, which we still hold to be necessary
for all civilized society.
And their obedience was, after all, a moral obedience; the obedience
of free hearts and wills. The law could threaten to slay them for
wronging each other; but they themselves had to enforce the law against
themselves. They were always physically strong enough to defy it, if
they chose. They did not defy it, because they believed in it, and
felt that in obedience and loyalty lay the salvation of themselves and
of their race.
It was not, understand me, the mere physical training of these forty
years which had thus made them men indeed. Whatever they may have
gained by that—the younger generation at least—of hardihood,
endurance, and self-help, was a small matter compared with the moral
training which they had gained—a small matter, compared with the
habits of obedience, self-restraint, self-sacrifice, mutual trust, and
mutual help; the inspiration of a common patriotism, of a common
national destiny. Without that moral discipline, they would have
failed each other in need; have broken up, scattered, or perished, or
at least remained as settlers or as slaves among the Arab tribes. With
that moral discipline, they held together, and continued one people
till the last, till they couched, they lay down as a lion, and as a
great lion, and none dare rouse them up.
You who are here to-day—I speak to those in uniform—are the
representatives of more than one great body of your countrymen, who
have determined to teach themselves something of that lesson which
Israel learnt in the wilderness; not indeed by actual danger and actual
need, but by preparation for dangers and for needs, which are only too
possible as long as there is sin upon this earth.
I believe—I have already seen enough to be sure—that your labour
and that of your comrades will not be in vain; that you will be, as you
surely may be, the better men for that discipline to which you have
You must never forget that there are two sides, a softer and a
sterner side, to the character of the good man; that he, the perfect
Christ, who is the Lion of Judah, taking vengeance, in every age, on
all who wrong their fellow men, is also the Lamb of God, who shed his
own blood for those who rebelled against him. You must recollect that
there are virtues—graces we call them rather—which you may learn
elsewhere better than in the camp or on the drilling ground; graces of
character more devout, more pure, more tender, more humane, yet
necessary for the perfect man, which you will learn rather in your own
homes, from the innocence of your own children, from the counsels and
examples of your mothers and your wives.
But there are virtues—graces we must call them too—just as
necessary for the perfect man, which your present training ought to
foster as (for most of you) no other training can; virtues which the
old monk tried to teach by the stern education of the cloister; which
are still taught, thank God, by the stern education of our public
schools; which you and your comrades may learn by the best of all
methods, by teaching them to yourselves.
For here, and wherever military training goes on, must be kept in
check those sins of self-will, conceit, self-indulgence, which beset
all free and prosperous men. Here must be practised virtues which (if
not the very highest) are yet virtues still, and will be such to all
For the moral discipline which goes to make a good soldier or a
successful competitor on this ground,—the self-restraint, the
obedience, the diligence, the punctuality, the patience, the courtesy,
the forbearance, the justice, the temperance,—these virtues, needful
for those who compete in a struggle in which the idler and the
debauchee can take no share, all these go equally toward the making of
a good man.
The germs of these virtues you must bring hither with you. And none
can give them to you save the Spirit of God, the giver of all good.
But here you may have them, I trust, quickened into more active life,
strengthened into more settled habits, to stand you in good stead in
all places, all circumstances, all callings; whether you shall go to
serve your country and your family, in trade or agriculture, at home;
or whether you shall go forth, as many of you will, as soldiers,
colonists, or merchants, to carry English speech and English
civilization to the ends of all the earth.
For then, if you learn to endure hardness—in plain English, to
exercise obedience and self-restraint—will you be (whether regulars
or civilians) alike the soldiers of Christ, able and willing to fight
in that war of which He is the Supreme Commander, and which will endure
as long as there is darkness and misery upon the earth; even the battle
of the living God against the baser instincts of our nature, against
ignorance and folly, against lawlessness and tyranny, against brutality
and sloth. Those, the deadly enemies of the human race, you are all
bound to attack, if you be good men and true, wheresoever you shall
meet them invading the kingdom of your Saviour and your God. But you
can only conquer them in others in proportion as you have conquered
them in yourselves.
May God give you grace to conquer them in yourselves more and more;
to profit by the discipline which you may gain by this movement; and
bequeath it, as a precious heirloom, to your children hereafter!
For so, whether at home or abroad, will you help to give your nation
that moral strength, without which physical strength is mere violent
weakness; and by the example and influence of your own discipline,
obedience, and self-restraint, help to fulfil of your own nation the
prophecy of the Seer—
'He couched, he lay down as a lion; and as a great lion. Who dare
rouse him up?'
SERMON II.—THE TEMPLE OF WISDOM
(Preached at Wellington College, All Saints' Day, 1866.)
PROVERBS ix. 1-5.
Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars:
she hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also
furnished her table. She hath sent forth her maidens; she crieth upon
the highest places of the city, Whoso is simple, let him turn in
hither: and to him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Come,
eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled.
This allegory has been a favourite one with many deep and lofty
thinkers. They mixed it, now and then, with Greek fancies; and brought
Phbus, Apollo, and the Muses into the Temple of Wisdom. But whatever
they added to the allegory, they always preserved the allegory itself.
No words, they felt, could so well express what Wisdom was, and how it
was to be obtained by man.
The stately Temple, built by mystic rules of art; the glorious Lady,
at once its Architect, its Priestess, and its Queen; the feast spread
within for all who felt in themselves divine aspirations after what is
beautiful, and good, and true; the maidens fair and pure, sent forth
throughout the city, among the millions intent only on selfish gain or
selfish pleasure, to call in all who were not content to be only a more
crafty kind of animal, that they might sit down at the feast among the
noble company of guests,—those who have inclined their heart to
wisdom, and sought for understanding as for hid treasures:- this is a
picture which sages and poets felt was true; true for all men, and for
all lands. And it will be, perhaps, looked on as true once more, as
natural, all but literally exact, when we who are now men are in our
graves, and you who are now boys will be grown men; in the days when
the present soulless mechanical notion of the world and of men shall
have died out, and philosophers shall see once more that Wisdom is no
discovery of their own, but the inspiration of the Almighty; and that
this world is no dead and dark machine, but alight with the Glory, and
alive with the Spirit, of God.
But what has this allegory, however true, to do with All Saints' Day?
My dear boys, on all days Wisdom calls you to her feast, by many
weighty arguments, by many loving allurements, by many awful threats.
But on this day, of all the year, she calls you by the memory of the
example of those who sit already and for ever at her feast. By the
memory and example of the wise of every age and every land, she bids
you enter in and feast with them, on the wealth which she, and they,
her faithful servants, have prepared for you. They have laboured; and
they call you, in their mistress's name, to enter into their labours.
She taught them wisdom, and she calls on you to learn wisdom of them in
Remember, I say, this day, with humility and thankfulness of heart,
the wise who are gone home to their rest.
There are many kinds of noble personages amid the blessed company of
All Saints, whom I might bid you to remember this day. Some of you are
the sons of statesmen or lawyers. I might call on you to thank God for
your fathers, and for every man who has helped to make or execute wise
laws. Some of you are the sons of soldiers. I might call on you to
thank God for your fathers, and for all who have fought for duty and
for their country's right. Some of you are the sons of clergymen. I
might call on you to thank God for your fathers, and for all who have
preached the true God and Jesus Christ His only-begotten Son, whether
at home or abroad. All of you have mothers, whether on earth or in
heaven; I might call on you to thank God for them, and for every good
and true woman who, since the making of the world, has raised the
coarseness and tamed the fierceness of men into gentleness and
reverence, purity, and chivalry. I might do this: but to-day I will
ask you to remember specially—The Wise.
For you are here as scholars; you are here to learn wisdom; you are
here in what should be, and I believe surely is, one of the fore-courts
of that mystic Temple into which Wisdom calls us all. And therefore it
is fit that you should this day remember the wise; for they have
laboured, and you are entering into their labours. Every lesson which
you learn in school, all knowledge which raises you above the savage or
the profligate (who is but a savage dressed in civilized garments), has
been made possible to you by the wise. Every doctrine of theology,
every maxim of morals, every rule of grammar, every process of
mathematics, every law of physical science, every fact of history or of
geography, which you are taught here, is a voice from beyond the tomb.
Either the knowledge itself, or other knowledge which led to it, is an
heirloom to you from men whose bodies are now mouldering in the dust,
but whose spirits live for ever before God, and whose works follow
them, going on, generation after generation, upon the path which they
trod while they were upon earth, the path of usefulness, as lights to
the steps of youth and ignorance. They are the salt of the earth,
which keeps the world of man from decaying back into barbarism. They
are the children of light whom God has set for lights that cannot be
hid. They are the aristocracy of God, into which not many noble, not
many rich, not many mighty are called. Most of them were poor; many
all but unknown in their own time; many died, and saw no fruit of their
labours; some were persecuted, some were slain, even as Christ the Lord
was slain, as heretics, innovators, and corruptors of youth. Of some,
the very names are forgotten. But though their names be dead, their
works live, and grow, and spread, over ever fresh generations of youth,
showing them fresh steps toward that Temple of Wisdom, which is the
knowledge of things as they are; the knowledge of those eternal laws by
which God governs the heavens and the earth, things temporal and
eternal, physical and spiritual, seen and unseen, from the rise and
fall of mighty nations, to the growth and death of the moss on yonder
They made their mistakes; they had their sins; for they were men of
like passions with ourselves. But this they did—They cried after
Wisdom, and lifted up their voice for understanding; they sought for
her as silver, and searched for her as hid treasure: and not in vain.
For them, as to every earnest seeker after wisdom, that Heavenly Lady
showed herself and her exceeding beauty; and gave gifts to each
according to his earnestness, his purity and his power of sight.
To some she taught moral wisdom—righteousness, and justice, and
equity, yea, every good path.
To others she showed that political science, which—as Solomon tells
you—is but another side of her beauty, and cannot be parted, however
men may try, from moral wisdom—that Wisdom in whose right hand is
length of days, and in her left hand riches and honour; whose ways are
ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.
To others again she showed that physical science which—so Solomon
tells us again—cannot be parted safely from the two others. For by
the same wisdom, he says, which gives alike righteousness and equity,
riches and long life—by that same wisdom, and no other, did the Lord
found the heavens and establish the earth; by that same knowledge of
his are the depths broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew.
And to some she showed herself, as she did to good Boethius in his
dungeon, in the deepest vale of misery, and the hour of death; when all
seemed to have deserted them, save Wisdom, and the God from whom she
comes; and bade them be of good cheer still, and keep innocency, and
take heed to the thing that is right, for that shall bring a man peace
at the last.
And they beheld her, and loved her, and obeyed her, each according to
his powers: and now they have their reward.
And what is their reward?
How can I tell, dear boys? This, at least can I say, for Scripture
has said it already. That God is merciful in this; that he rewardeth
every man according to his work. This, at least, I can say, for God
incarnate himself has said it already—that to the good and faithful
servant he will say,—'Well done. Thou hast been faithful over a few
things: I will make thee ruler over many things. Enter thou into the
joy of thy Lord.'
'The joy of thy Lord.' Think of these words a while. Perhaps they
may teach us something of the meaning of All Saints' Day.
For, if Jesus Christ be—as he is—the same yesterday, to-day, and
for ever, then his joy now must be the same as his joy was when he was
here on earth,—to do good, and to behold the fruit of his own
goodness; to see—as Isaiah prophesied of him—to see of the travail
of his soul, and be satisfied.
And so it may be; so it surely is—with them; if blessed spirits (as
I believe) have knowledge of what goes on on earth. They enter into
the joy of their Lord. Therefore they enter into the joy of doing
good. They see of the travail of their soul, and are satisfied that
they have not lived in vain. They see that their work is going on
still on earth; that they, being dead, yet speak, and call ever fresh
generations into the Temple of Wisdom.
My dear boys, take this one thought away with you from this chapel
to-day. Believe that the wise and good of every age and clime are
looking down on you, to see what use you will make of the knowledge
which they have won for you. Whether they laboured, like Kepler in his
garret, or like Galileo in his dungeon, hid in God's tabernacle from
the strife of tongues; or, like Socrates and Plato, in the whirl and
noise—far more wearying and saddening than any loneliness—of the
foolish crowd, they all have laboured for you. Let them rejoice, when
they see you enter into their labours with heart and soul. Let them
rejoice, when they see in each one of you one of the fairest sights on
earth, before men and before God; a docile and innocent boy striving to
become a wise and virtuous man.
And whenever you are tempted to idleness and frivolity; whenever you
are tempted to profligacy and low-mindedness; whenever you are tempted
—as you will be too often in these mean days—to join the scorners
and the fools whom Solomon denounced; tempted to sneering unbelief in
what is great and good, what is laborious and self-sacrificing, and to
the fancy that you were sent into this world merely to get through it
agreeably;—then fortify and ennoble your hearts by Solomon's vision.
Remember who you are, and where you are—that you stand before the
Temple of Wisdom, of the science of things as God has made them;
wherein alone is health and wealth for body and for soul; that from
within the Heavenly Lady calls to you, sending forth her handmaidens in
every art and science which has ever ministered to the good of man; and
that within there await you all the wise and good who have ever taught
on earth, that you may enter in and partake of the feast which their
mistress taught them to prepare. Remember, I say, who you are—even
the sons of God; and remember where you are—for ever upon sacred
ground; and listen with joy and hope to the voice of the Heavenly
Wisdom, as she calls—'Whoso is simple, let him come in hither; and
him that wanteth understanding, let him come and eat of my bread, and
drink of the wine that I have mingled.'
Listen with joy and hope: and yet with fear and trembling, as of
Moses when he hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God. For
the voice of Wisdom is none other than the voice of The Spirit of God,
in whom you live, and move, and have your being.
SERMON III.—PRAYER AND SCIENCE
(Preached at St. Olave's Church, Hart Street, before the
Honourable Corporation of the Trinity House, 1866.)
PSALM cvii. 23, 24, 28.
They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great
waters; these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.
Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out
of their distresses.
These are days in which there is much dispute about religion and
science—how far they agree with each other; whether they contradict
or interfere with each other. Especially there is dispute about
Providence. Men say, and truly, that the more we look into the world,
the more we find everything governed by fixed and regular laws; that
man is bound to find out those laws, and save himself from danger by
science and experience. But they go on to say,—'And therefore there
is no use in prayer. You cannot expect God to alter the laws of His
universe because you ask Him: the world will go on, and ought to go on,
its own way; and the man who prays against danger, by sea or land, is
asking vainly for that which will not be granted him.'
Now I cannot see why we should not allow,—what is certainly true,—
that the world moves by fixed and regular laws: and yet allow at the
same time,—what I believe is just as true,—that God's special
providence watches over all our actions, and that, to use our Lord's
example, not a sparrow falls to the ground without some special reason
why that particular sparrow should fall at that particular moment and
in that particular place. I cannot see why all things should not move
in a divine and wonderful order, and yet why they should not all work
together for good to those who love God. The Psalmist of old finds no
contradiction between the two thoughts. Rather does the one of them
seem to him to explain the other. 'All things,' says he, 'continue
this day as at the beginning. For all things serve Thee.'
Still it is not to be denied, that this question has been a difficult
one to men in all ages, and that it is so to many now.
But be that as it may, this I say, that, of all men, seafaring men
are the most likely to solve this great puzzle about the limits of
science and of religion, of law and of providence; for, of all
callings, theirs needs at once most science and most religion; theirs
is most subject to laws, and yet most at the mercy of Providence. And
I say that many seafaring men have solved the puzzle for themselves in
a very rational and sound way, though they may not be able to put
thoughts into words; and that they do show, by their daily conduct,
that a man may be at once thoroughly scientific and thoroughly
religious. And I say that this Ancient and Honourable Corporation of
the Trinity House is a proof thereof unto this day; a proof that sound
science need not make us neglect sound religion, nor sound religion
make us neglect sound science.
No man ought to say that seamen have neglected science. It is the
fashion among some to talk of sailors as superstitious. They must know
very little about sailors, and must be very blind to broad facts, who
speak thus of them as a class. Many sailors, doubtless, are
superstitious. But I appeal to every master mariner here, whether the
superstitious men are generally the religious and godly men; whether it
is not generally the most reckless and profligate men of the crew who
are most afraid of sailing on a Friday, and who give way to other silly
fancies which I shall not mention in this sacred place. And I appeal,
too, to public experience, whether many, I may say most, of those to
whom seamanship and sea-science owes most, have not been God-fearing
Be sure of this, that if seamen, as a class, had been superstitious,
they would never have done for science what they have done. And what
they have done, all the world knows. To seamen, and to men connected
with the sea, what do we not owe, in geography, hydrography,
meteorology, astronomy, natural history? At the present moment, the
world owes them large improvements in dynamics, and in the new uses of
steam and iron. It may be fairly said that the mariner has done more
toward the knowledge of Nature than any other personage in the world,
save the physician.
For seamen have been forced, by the nature of their calling, to be
scientific men. From the very earliest ages in which the first canoe
put out to sea, the mariner has been educated by the most practical of
all schoolmasters, namely, danger. He has carried his life in his hand
day and night; he has had to battle with the most formidable and the
most seemingly capricious of the brute powers of nature; with storms,
with ice, with currents, with unknown rocks and shoals, with the
vicissitudes of climate, and the terrible and seemingly miraculous
diseases which change of climate engenders. He has had to fight
Nature; and to conquer her, if he could, by understanding her; by
observing facts, and by facing facts. He dared not, like a scholar in
his study, indulge in theories and fancies about how things ought to
be. He had to find out how they really were. He dared not say,
According to my theory of the universe this current ought to run in
such a direction; he had to find out which way it did actually run,
according to God's method of the universe, lest it should run him
ashore. Everywhere, I say, and all day long, the seaman has to observe
facts and to use facts, unless he intends to be drowned; and therefore,
so far from being a superstitious man, who refuses to inquire into
facts, but puts vain dreams in their stead, the sailor is for the most
part a very scientific-minded man: observant, patient, accurate,
truthful; conquering Nature, as the great saying is, because he obeys
But if seamen have been forced to be scientific, they have been
equally forced to be religious. They that go down to the sea in ships
see both the works of the Lord, and also His wonders in the deep. They
see God's works, regular, orderly, the same year by year, voyage by
voyage, and tide by tide; and they learn the laws of them, and are so
far safe. But they also see God's wonders—strange, sudden,
astonishing dangers, which have, no doubt, their laws, but none which
man has found out as yet. Over them they cannot reason and foretell;
they can only pray and trust. With all their knowledge, they have
still plenty of ignorance; and therefore, with all their science, they
have still room for religion. Is there an old man in this church who
has sailed the seas for many a year, who does not know that I speak
truth? Are there not men here who have had things happen to them, for
good and for evil, beyond all calculation? who have had good fortune of
which they could only say, The glory be to God, for I had no share
therein? or who have been saved, as by miracle, from dangers of which
they could only say, It was of the Lord's mercies that we were not
swallowed up? who must, if they be honest men, as they are, say with
the Psalmist, We cried unto the Lord in our trouble, and he delivered
us out of our distress?
And this it is that I said at first, that no men were so fit as
seamen to solve the question, where science ends and where religion
begins; because no men's calling depends so much on science and reason,
and so much, at the same time, on Providence and God's merciful will.
Therefore, when men say, as they will,—If this world is governed by
fixed laws, and if we have no right to ask God to alter his laws for
our sakes, then what use in prayer? I will answer,—Go to the seaman,
and ask him what he thinks. The puzzle may seem very great to a
comfortable landsman, sitting safe in his study at home; but it ought
to be no puzzle at all to the master mariner in his cabin, with his
chart and his Bible open before him, side by side. He ought to know
well enough where reason stops and religion begins. He ought to know
when to work, and when to pray. He ought to know the laws of the sea
and of the sky. But he ought to know too how to pray, without asking
God to alter those laws, as presumptuous and superstitious men are wont
Take as an instance the commonest of all—a storm. We know that
storms are not caused (as folk believed in old time) by evil spirits;
that they are natural phenomena, obeying certain fixed laws; that they
are necessary from time to time; that they are probably, on the whole,
And we know two ways of facing a storm, one of which you may see too
often among the boatmen of the Mediterranean—How a man shall say, I
know nothing as to how, or why, or when, a storm should come; and I
care not to know. If one falls on me, I will cry for help to the
Panagia, or St. Nicholas, or some other saint, and perhaps they will
still the storm by miracle. That is superstition, the child of
ignorance and fear.
And you may have seen what comes of that temper of mind. How, when
the storm comes, instead of order, you have confusion; instead of
courage, cowardice; instead of a calm and manly faith, a miserable
crying of every man to his own saint, while the vessel is left to
herself to sink or swim.
But what is the temper of true religion, and of true science
likewise? The seaman will say, I dare not pray that there may be no
storm. I cannot presume to interfere with God's government. If there
ought to be a storm, there will be one: if not, there will be none.
But I can forecast the signs of the weather; I can consult my
barometer; I can judge, by the new lights of science, what course the
storm will probably take; and I can do my best to avoid it.
But does that make religion needless? Does that make prayer
useless? How so? The seaman may say, I dare not pray that the storm
may not come. But there is no necessity that I should be found in its
path. And I may pray, and I will pray, that God may so guide and
govern my voyage, and all its little accidents, that I may pass it by.
I know that I can forecast the storm somewhat; and if I do not try to
do that, I am tempting God: but I may pray, I will pray, that my
forecast may be correct. I will pray the Spirit of God, who gives man
understanding, to give me a right judgment, a sound mind, and a calm
heart, that I may make no mistake and neglect no precaution; and if I
fail, and sink—God's will be done. It is a good will to me and all
my crew; and into the hands of the good God who has redeemed me, I
commend my spirit, and their spirits likewise.
This much, therefore, we may say of prayer. We may always pray to be
made better men. We may always pray to be made wiser men. These
prayers will always be answered; for they are prayers for the very
Spirit of God himself, from whom comes all goodness and all wisdom, and
it can never be wrong to ask to be made right.
There are surely, too, evils so terrible, that when they threaten us
—if God being our Father means anything,—if Christ being our example
means anything—then we have a right to cry, like our Lord himself,
'Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me:' if we only add,
like our Lord, 'Nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.'
And of dangers in general this we may say—that if we pray against
known dangers which we can avoid, we do nothing but tempt God: but that
against unknown and unseen dangers we may always pray. For instance,
if a sailor needlessly lodges over a foul, tideless harbour, or sleeps
in a tropical mangrove swamp, he has no right to pray against cholera
and fever; for he has done his best to give himself cholera and fever,
and has thereby tempted God. But if he goes into a new land, of whose
climate, diseases, dangers, he is utterly ignorant, then he has surely
a right to pray God to deliver him from those dangers; and if not,—if
he is doomed to suffer from them,—to pray God that he may discover
and understand the new dangers of that new land, in order to warn
future travellers against them, and so make his private suffering a
benefit to mankind.
This, then, is our duty as to known dangers,—to guard ourselves
against them by science, and the reason which God has given us; and as
to unknown dangers, to pray to God to deliver us from them, if it seem
good to him: but above all, to pray to him to deliver us from them in
the best way, the surest way, the most lasting way, the way in which we
may not only preserve ourselves, but our fellow-men and generations yet
unborn; namely, by giving us wisdom and understanding to discover the
dangers, to comprehend them, and to conquer them, by reason and by
This is the spirit of sound science and of sound religion. And it
was in this spirit, and for this very end, that this Ancient and
Honourable Corporation of the Trinity House was founded more than three
hundred years ago. Not merely to pray to God and to the saints, after
the ancient fashion, to deliver all poor mariners from dangers of the
seas. That was a natural prayer, and a pious one, as far as it went:
but it did not go far enough. For, as a fact, God did not always
answer it: he did not always see fit to deliver those who called upon
him. Gallant ships went down with all their crews. It was plain that
God would not always deliver poor mariners, even though they cried to
him in their distress.
Then, in the sixteenth century, when men's minds were freed from many
old superstitions, by a better understanding both of Holy Scripture and
of the laws of nature, the master mariners of England took a wiser
They said, God will not always help poor mariners: but he will always
teach them to deliver themselves. And so they built this House, not in
the name of the Virgin Mary or any saints in heaven, but, with a deep
understanding of what was needed, in the most awful name of God
himself. Thereby they went to the root and ground of this matter, and
of all matters. They went to the source of all law and order; to the
source of all force and life; and to the source, likewise, of all love
and mercy; when they founded their House in the name of the Father of
Lights, in whom men live and move and have their being; from whom comes
every good and perfect gift, and without whom not a sparrow falls to
the ground; in the name of the Son, who was born on earth a man, and
tasted sorrow, and trial, and death for every man; in the name of the
Holy Ghost, who inspires man with the spirit of wisdom and
understanding, and gives him a right judgment in all things, putting
into his heart good desires, and enabling him to bring them to good
effect. And so, believing that the ever-blessed Trinity would teach
them to help themselves and their fellow-mariners, they set to work,
like truly God-fearing men, not to hire monks to sing and say masses
for them, but to set up for themselves lights and sea-marks, and to
take order for the safe navigation of these seas, like men who believed
indeed that they were the children of God, and that God would prosper
his children in as far as they used that reason which he himself had
bestowed upon them.
It is for these men's sakes, as well as for our own, that we are met
together here this day. We are met to commemorate the noble dead; not
in any Popish or superstitious fashion, as if they needed our prayers,
or we needed their miraculous assistance: but in the good old
Protestant scriptural sense—to thank God for all his servants
departed this life in his faith and fear, and to pray that God may give
us grace to follow their good examples; and especially to thank him for
the founders of this ancient Trinity House, which stands here as a
token to all generations of Britons, that science and religion are not
contrary to each other, but twin sisters, meant to aid each other and
mankind in the battle with the brute forces of this universe.
We are met together here to thank God for all gallant mariners, and
for all who have helped mariners toward safety and success; for all who
have made discoveries in hydrography or meteorology, in navigation, or
in commerce, adding to the safety of seamen, and to the health and
wealth of the human race; for all who have set noble examples to their
crews, facing danger manfully and dying at their posts, as many a man
has died, a martyr to his duty; for all who, living active, and useful,
and virtuous lives in their sea calling, have ended as they lived,
God-fearing Christian men.
To thank God for all these we are met together here; and to pray to
God likewise that he would send his Spirit into the hearts of seamen,
and of those who deal with seamen; and specially into the hearts of the
Royal the Master and the Worshipful the Elder Brethren of this Ancient
and Honourable House; that they may be true, and loyal, and obedient to
that divine name in which they are met together here this day—the
name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the ever-blessed Trinity, the
giver of all good gifts, in whom we live, and move, and have our being;
always keeping God's commandments and looking for God's guidance, and
setting to those beneath them an example of sound reason, virtue, and
religion; that so there may never be wanting to this land a race of
seamen who shall trust in God to teach them all they need to know, and
to dispose of their bodies and souls as seemeth best to his most holy
will; who, fearing God, shall fear nought else, but shall defy the
dangers of the seas, and all the brute forces of climates and of
storms; who shall set in foreign lands an example of justice and mercy,
of true civilization and true religion; and so shall still maintain the
marine of Great Britain, as it has been for now three hundred years, a
safeguard and a glory to these islands, and a blessing to the coasts of
all the world.
SERMON IV.—GOD'S TRAINING
DEUTERONOMY viii. 2-5.
And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee
these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee,
to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his
commandments or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger,
and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy
fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by
bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the
Lord doth man live. Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did
thy foot swell, these forty years. Thou shalt also consider in thine
heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God
This is the lesson of our lives. This is training, not only for the
old Jews, but for us. What was true of them, is more or less true of
us. And we read these verses to teach us that God's ways with man do
not change; that his fatherly hand is over us, as well as over the
people of Israel; that we are in God's schoolhouse, as they were; that
their blessings are our blessings, their dangers are our dangers; that,
as St. Paul says, all these things are written for our example.
'And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger.' How true to life
that is! How often there comes to a man, at his setting out in life, a
time which humbles him; a time of disappointment, when he finds that he
is not so clever as he thought, as able to help himself as he thought;
when his fine plans fail him; when he does not know how to settle in
life, how to marry, how to provide for a family. Perhaps the man
actually does hunger, and go through a time of want and struggle.
Then, it may be, he cries in his heart—How hard it is for me! How
hard that the golden days of youth should be all dark and clouded
over! How hard to have to suffer anxiety and weary hard work, just
when I am able to enjoy myself most!
It is hard: but worse things than hard things may happen to a man.
Far worse is it to grow up, as some men do, in wealth, and ease, and
luxury, with all the pleasures of this life found ready to their
hands. Some men, says the proverb, are 'born with a golden spoon in
their mouth.' God help them if they are! Idleness, profligacy,
luxury, self-conceit, no care for their duty, no care for God, no
feeling that they are in God's school-house—these are too often the
fruits of that breeding up. How hardly will they learn that man doth
not live by bread alone, or by money alone, or by comfort alone, but by
every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Truly, said our
Lord, 'how hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of
heaven.' Not those who earn riches by manful and honest labour; not
those who come to wealth after long training to make them fit to use
wealth: but those who have wealth; who are born amid luxury and pomp;
who have never known want, and the golden lessons which want brings.—
God help them, for they need his help even more than the poor young man
who is at his wit's end how to live. For him God is helping. His very
want, and struggles, and anxiety may be God's help to him. They help
him to control himself, and do with a little; they help him to
strengthen his character, and to bring out all the powers of mind that
God has given him. God is humbling him, that he may know that man doth
not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceedeth out of the
mouth of God. God, too, if he trusts in God, will feed him with manna
—spiritual manna, not bodily. He fed the Jews in the wilderness with
manna, to show them that his power was indeed almighty—that if he did
not see fit to help his people in one way, he could help them just as
easily in another. And so with every man who trusts in God. In
unforeseen ways, he is helped. In unforeseen ways, he prospers; his
life, as he goes on, becomes very different from what he expected, from
what he would have liked; his fine dreams fade away, as he finds the
world quite another place from what he fancied it: but still he
prospers. If he be earnest and honest, patient and God-fearing, he
prospers; God brings him through. His raiment doth not wax old,
neither doth his foot swell, through all his forty years' wandering in
the wilderness. He is not tired out, he does not break down, though he
may have to work long and hard. As his day is, so his strength shall
be. God holds him up, strengthens and refreshes him, and brings him
through years of labour from the thought of which he shrank when he was
And so the man learns that man doth not live by bread alone, but by
every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God; that not in the
abundance of things which he possesses, not in money; not in pleasure,
not even in comforts, does the life of man consist: but in this—to
learn his duty, and to have strength from God to do it. Truly said the
prophet—'It is good for a man to learn to bear the yoke in his
After that sharp training a man will prosper; because he is fit to
prosper. He has learnt the golden lesson. He can be trusted with
comforts, wealth, honour. Let him have them, if God so will, and use
Only, only, when a time of ease and peace comes to him in his middle
age, let him not forget the warning of the latter part of the chapter.
For there is another danger awaiting him, as it awaited those old
Jews; the danger of prosperity in old age. Ah my friends, that is a
sore temptation—the sorest, perhaps, which can meet a man in the long
struggle of life, the temptation which success brings. In middle age,
when he has learnt his business, and succeeded in it; when he has
fought his battle with the world, and conquered more or less; when he
has made his way up, and seems to himself safe, and comfortable, and
thriving; when he feels that he is a shrewd, thrifty, experienced man,
who knows the world and how to prosper in it—Then how easy it is for
him to say in his heart—as Moses feared that those old Jews would say
—'My might and the power of my wit has gotten me this wealth,' and to
forget the Lord his God, who guided him and trained him through all the
struggles and storms of early life; and so to become vainly confident,
worldly and hard-hearted: undevout and ungodly, even though he may keep
himself respectable enough, and fall into no open sin.
Therefore it is, I think, that while we see so many lives which have
been sad lives of poverty, and labour, and struggle, end peacefully and
cheerfully, in a sunshiny old age, like a still bright evening after a
day of storm and rain; so on the other hand we see lives which have
been prosperous and happy ones for many years, end sadly in
bereavement, poverty, or disappointment, as did the life of David, the
man after God's own heart. God guided him through all the dangers and
temptations of youth, and through them all he trusted God. God brought
him safely to success, honour, a royal crown; and he thanked God, and
acknowledged his goodness. And yet after a while his heart was puffed
up, and he forgot God, and all he owed to God, and became a tyrant, an
adulterer, a murderer. He repented of his sin: but he could not escape
the punishment of it. His children were a curse to him; the sword
never departed from his house; and his last years were sad enough, and
Perhaps that was God's mercy to him; God's way of remembering him
again, and bringing him back to him. Perhaps too that same is God's
way of bringing back many a man in our own days who has wandered from
him in success and prosperity.
God grant that we may never need that terrible chastisement. God
grant that we, if success and comfort come to us, may never wander so
far from God, but that we may be brought back to him by the mere
humbling of old age itself, without needing affliction over and above.
Yes, by old age alone. Old age, it seems to me, is a most wholesome
and blessed medicine for the soul of man. Good it is to find that we
can work no longer, and rejoice no more in our own strength and
cunning. Good it is to feel our mortal bodies decay, and to learn that
we are but dust, and that when we turn again to our dust, all our
thoughts will perish. Good it is to see the world changing round us,
going ahead of us, leaving us and our opinions behind. Good perhaps
for us—though not for them—to see the young who are growing up
around us looking down on our old-fashioned notions. Good for us:
because anything is good which humbles us, makes us feel our own
ignorance, weakness, nothingness, and cast ourselves utterly on that
God in whom we live, and move, and have our being; and on the mercy of
that Saviour who died for us on the Cross; and on that Spirit of God
from whose holy inspiration alone all good desires and good actions
God grant that that may be our end. That old age, when it comes, may
chasten us, humble us, soften us; and that our second childhood may be
a second childhood indeed, purged from the conceit, the scheming, the
fierceness, the covetousness which so easily beset us in our youth and
manhood; and tempered down to gentleness, patience, humility, and
faith. God grant that instead of clinging greedily to life, and money,
and power, and fame, we may cling only to God, and have one only wish
as we draw near our end.—'From my youth up hast thou taught me, Oh
God, and hitherto I have declared thy wondrous works. Now also that I
am old and grey-headed, Oh Lord, forsake me not, till I have showed thy
goodness to this generation, and thy power to those who are yet to
SERMON V.—GOOD FRIDAY
HEBREWS ix. 13, 14.
For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer
sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How
much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit
offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead
works to serve the living God?
The three collects for Good Friday are very grand and very
remarkable. In the first we pray:-
'Almighty God, we beseech thee graciously to behold this thy family,
for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed, and given
up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the cross,
who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever one God,
world without end. Amen.'
In the second we pray:-
'Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the
Church is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and
prayers, which we offer before thee for all estates of men in thy holy
Church, that every member of the same, in his vocation and ministry,
may truly and godly serve thee; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus
In the third we pray:-
'O merciful God, who hast made all men, and hatest nothing that thou
hast made, nor wouldest the death of a sinner, but rather that he
should be converted and live: Have mercy upon all Jews, Turks,
Infidels, and Hereticks, and take from them all ignorance, hardness of
heart, and contempt of thy Word; and so fetch them home, blessed Lord,
to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true
Israelites, and be made one fold under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our
Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God,
world without end. Amen.'
Now these collects give us the keynote of Good Friday; they tell us
what the Church wishes us to think of on Good Friday.
We are to think of Christ's death and passion. Of that there is no
But we need not on Good Friday, or perhaps at any other time, trouble
our minds with the unfathomable questions, How did Christ's sacrifice
take away our sins? How does Christ's blood purge our conscience?
Mere 'theories of the Atonement,' as they are called, have very
little teaching in them, and still less comfort. Wise and good men
have tried their minds upon them in all ages; they have done their best
to explain Christ's sacrifice, and the atonement which he worked out on
the cross on Good Friday: but it does not seem to me that they have
succeeded. I never read yet any explanation which I could fully
understand; which fully satisfied my conscience, or my reason either;
or which seemed to me fully to agree with and explain all the texts of
Scripture bearing on this great subject.
But is it possible to explain the matter? Is it not too deep for
mortal man? Is it not one of the deep things of God, and of God alone,
before which we must worship and believe? As for explaining or
understanding it, must not that be impossible, from its very nature?
For, consider the first root and beginning of the whole question.
Put it in the simplest shape, to which all Christians will agree. The
Father sent the Son to die for the world. Most true: but who can
explain those words? We are stopped at the very first step by an
abyss. Who can tell us what is meant by the Father sending the Son?
What is the relation, the connexion, between the Father and the Son?
If we do not know that, we can know nothing about the matter, about the
very root and ground thereof. And we do know little or nothing. The
Bible only gives us scattered hints here and there. It is one of the
things of which we may say, with St. Paul, that we know in part, and
see through a glass darkly. How, then, dare we talk as if we knew all,
as if we saw clearly? The atonement is a blessed and awful mystery
hidden in God: ordained by and between God the Father and God the Son.
And who can search out that? Who hath known the mind of the Lord, or
who hath been his counsellor? Did we sit by, and were we taken into
his counsels, when he made the world? Not we. Neither were we when he
redeemed the world. He did it. Let that be enough for us. And he did
it in love. Let that be enough for us.
God the Father so loved the world, that he sent his Son into the
world, that the world by him might be saved. God the Son so loved the
world, that he came to do his Father's will, and put away sin by the
sacrifice of himself. That is enough for us. Let it be enough; and
let us take simply, honestly, literally, and humbly, like little
children, everything which the Bible says about it, without trying or
pretending to understand, but only to believe.
We can believe that Christ's blood can purge our conscience, though
we cannot explain in any words of our own how it can do so. We can
believe that God made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, though we
not only cannot but dare not try to explain so awful a mystery. We can
believe that Christ's sacrifice on the cross was a propitiation for
sin, though neither we, nor (as I hold) any man on earth, can tell
exactly what the words sacrifice and propitiation mean. And so with
all the texts which speak of Christ's death and passion, and that
atonement for sin which he, in his boundless mercy, worked out this
day. Let us not torment our minds with arguments in which there are a
hundred words of man's invention to one word of Holy Scripture, while
the one word of Scripture has more in it than the hundred words of man
can explain. But let us have faith in Christ. I mean, let us trust
him that he has done all that can or need be done; that whatsoever was
needed to reconcile God to man, he has done, for he is perfect God;
that whatever was needed to reconcile man to God, he has done, for he
is perfect man.
Let us, instead of puzzling ourselves as to how the Lamb of God takes
away the sins of the world, believe that he knows, and that he lives,
and cry to him as to the living God,—Lamb of God, who takest away the
sins of the world, have mercy on us, and take our sins away.
And let us beseech God this day, graciously to behold his family, the
nations of Christendom, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented
to be betrayed into the hands of wicked men, and suffer death upon the
cross. Let us ask this, even though we do not fully understand what
Christ's death on the cross did for mankind. That was the humble,
childlike, really believing spirit of the early Christians. God grant
us the same spirit; we need it much in these very times.
For if we are of that spirit, my friends, then, instead of tormenting
our minds as to the how and why of Christ's sacrifice on the cross, we
shall turn our hearts, and not merely our minds, to the practical
question—What shall we do? If Christ died for us, what shall we do?
What shall we ask God to help us to do? To that the second collect
gives a clear answer at once—Serve the living God.
And how? By dead works? By mere outward forms and ceremonies,
church-goings, psalm-singings, sermon-hearings? Not so. These are
right and good; but they are dead works, which cannot take away sin,
any more than could the gifts and sacrifices, the meats and drinks of
the old Jewish law. Those, says St. Paul, could not make him that did
the sacrifice perfect as pertaining to the conscience. They could not
give him a clear conscience; they could not make him sure that God had
forgiven him; they could not give him spirit and comfort to say—Now I
can leave the church a forgiven man, a new man, and begin a fresh life;
and go about my daily business in joyfulness and peace of mind, sure
that God will help me, and bless me, and enable me to serve him in my
No, says St. Paul. More than dead works are wanted to purge a man's
conscience. Nothing will do that but the blood of Christ. And that
will do it. He, the spotless Lamb, has offered himself to God, as a
full and perfect and sufficient sacrifice, offering, and satisfaction
for the sins of the whole world; and therefore for thy sins, whoever
thou art, be thy sins many or few. Believe that; for thou art a man
for whom Christ died. Claim thy share in Christ's blood. Believe that
he has died for thee; that he has blotted out thy sins in the blood of
his cross; that thou needest not try to blot them out by any dead
works, forms, or ceremonies whatsoever; for Christ has done and
suffered already all for thee. Thou art forgiven. Put away thy sins,
for God has put them away; rise, and be a new man. Thou art one of
God's holy Church. God has justified thee. Let him sanctify thee
likewise. God's spirit is with thee to guide thee, to inspire thee,
and make thee holy. Serve thy Father and thy Master, the Living God,
sure that he is satisfied with thee for Christ's sake; that thou art in
thy right state henceforward; in thy right place in this world; and
that he blesses all thy efforts to live a right life, and to do thy
But how to serve him, and where? By doing something strange and
fantastic? By giving up thy business, money, time? Going to the ends
of the earth? Making what some will call some great sacrifice for God?
Not so. All that may be, and generally is, the fruit of mere
self-will and self-conceit. God has made a sacrifice for thee. Let
that be enough. If he wants thee to make a sacrifice to him in return,
he will compel thee to make it, doubt it not. But meanwhile abide in
the calling wherein thou art called. Do the duty which lies nearest
thee. Whether thou art squire or labourer, rich or poor; whether thy
duty is to see after thy children, or to mind thy shop, do thy duty.
For that is thy vocation and calling; that is the ministry in which
thou canst serve God, by serving thy fellow-creatures for whom Christ
This day the grand prayer has gone up throughout Christ's Church—
and thou hast joined in it—for all estates of men in his holy Church;
for all estates, from kings and statesmen governing the nations, down
to labouring men tilling in the field, and poor women washing and
dressing their children at home, that each and all of them may do their
work well, whatever it is, and thereby serve the Living God. For now
their work, however humble, is God's work; Christ has bought it and
redeemed it with his blood. When he redeemed human nature, he redeemed
all that human nature can and ought to do, save sin. All human duties
and occupations are purified by the blood of Christ's cross; and if we
do our duty well, we do it to the Lord, and not to man; and the Lord
blesses us therein, and will help us to fulfil our work like Christian
men, by the help of his Holy Spirit.
And for those who know not Christ? For them, too, we can pray. For,
for them too Christ died. They, too, belong to Christ, for he has
bought them with his most precious blood. What will happen to them we
know not: but this we know, that they are his sheep, lost sheep though
they may be; and that we are bound to pray, that he would bring them
home to his flock.
But how will he bring them back? That, again, we know not. But why
need we know? If Christ knows how to do it, surely we need not. Let
us trust him to do his own work in his own way.
But will he do it? My friends, if we wish for the salvation of all
Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Heretics, do you suppose that we are more
compassionate to them than God who made them? Who is more likely to
pity the heathen? We who send a few missionaries to teach them: or God
who sent his own Son to die for them?
Oh trust God, and trust Christ; for this, as for all other things.
Believe that for the heathen, as for us, he is able to do exceedingly
and abundantly beyond all that we can ask or think; and believe too,
that if we do ask, we do not ask in vain; that this collect which has
gone up every Good Friday for centuries past, from millions of holy
hearts throughout the world, has not gone up unheard; that it will be
answered—we know not how—but answered still; and that to Jew and
Turk, Heathen and Heretic, this day will prove hereafter to have been,
what it is to us, Good Friday.
SERMON VI.—FALSE CIVILIZATION
JEREMIAH xxxv. 19.
Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Jonadab the son of
Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever.
Let us think a while this morning what this text has to do with us;
and why this strange story of the Rechabites is written for our
instruction, in the pages of Holy Scripture.
Let us take the story as it stands, and search the Scriptures simply
for it. For the Bible will surely tell its own story best, and teach
its own lesson best.
These Rechabites, who were they? Or, indeed we may ask—Who are
they? For they are said to exist still.
They were not Israelites, but wild Arabs, a branch of the Kenite
tribe, which claimed—at least its chiefs—to be descended from
Abraham, by his wife Keturah. They joined the Israelites, and wandered
with them into the land of Canaan.
But they never settled down, as the Israelites did, into farmers and
townsfolk. They never became what we call civilized: though they had a
civilization of their own, which stood them in good stead, and kept
them—and keeps them, it would seem, to this day,—strong and
prosperous, while great cities and mighty nations have been destroyed
round about them. They kept their old simple Arab customs, living in
their great black camels' hair tents, feeding their flocks and herds,
as they wandered from forest to forest and lawn to lawn, living on the
milk of the flock, and it would seem, on locusts and wild honey, as did
John the Baptist after them. They had (as many Arab tribes have still)
neither corn, seed-field, nor vineyard. Wild men they were in their
ways, yet living a simple wholesome life; till in the days of Ahab and
Jehu there arose among them a chief called Jonadab the son of Rechab,
of the house of Hammath. Why he was called the son of Rechab is not
clearly known. 'The son of the rider,' or 'the son of the chariot,'
seems to be the most probable meaning of the name. So that these
Rechabites, at least, had horses—as many Arab tribes have now—and
whether they rode them, or used them to draw their goods about in
carts, like many other wild tribes, they seem to have gained from
Jonadab the name of Rechabim, the sons of Rechab, the sons of the
rider, or the sons of the chariot.
Of Jonadab the son of Rechab, you heard three Sundays since, in that
noble passage of 2 Kings x. where Jehu, returning from the slaughter of
the idolatrous kings, and going to slay the priests of Baal, meets
Jonadab and asks him, Is thy heart right—that is, sound in the
worship of God, and determined to put down idolatry—as my heart is
with thy heart? We hear of him and his tribe no more till the days of
Jeremiah, 250 years after, in the story from which my text is taken.
What Jonadab's reasons may have been for commanding his tribe neither
to settle in towns, nor till the ground, it is not difficult to guess.
He may have dreaded lest his people, by settling in the towns, should
learn the idolatry of the Israelites. He may have dreaded, likewise,
lest they should give way to that same luxury and profligacy in which
the Israelites indulged—and especially lest they should be
demoralized by that drunkenness of which the prophets speak, as one of
the crying sins of that age. He may have feared, too, lest their
settling down as landholders or townsmen would cause them to be
absorbed and lost among the nation of the Israelites, and probably
involved in their ruin. Be that as it may, he laid his command upon
his tribe, and his command was obeyed.
Of the after-history of these simple God-fearing folk we know very
little. But what we do know is well worth remembering. They were, it
seems, carried away captive to Babylon with the rest of the Jews; and
with them they came back to Jerusalem. Meanwhile, they had
intermarried with the priests of the tribe of Levi; and they assisted
at the worship and sacrifices,—'standing before the Lord' (as
Jeremiah had foretold) 'in the temple,' but living (as some say)
outside the walls in their tents. And it is worth remembering, that we
have one psalm in the Bible, which was probably written either by one
of these Rechabites, or by Jeremiah for them to sing, and that a psalm
which you all know well, the old man's psalm, as it has well been
called—the 71st Psalm, which is read in the visitation of the sick;
which says, 'O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto
have I declared thy wondrous works. Now also when I am old and
grey-headed, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength
unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.'
It was, moreover, a Rechabite priest, we are told—'one of the sons
of the Rechabim spoken of by Jeremiah the prophet'—who when the Jews
were stoning St. James the Just, one of the twelve apostles, cried out
against their wickedness.
What befell the Rechabites when Jerusalem was destroyed, we know not:
but they seem to have returned to their old life, and wandered away
into the far east; for in the twelfth century, more than one thousand
years after, a Jewish traveller met with them 100,000 strong under a
Jewish prince of the house of David; still abstaining from wine and
flesh, and paying tithes to teachers who studied the law, and wept for
the fall of Jerusalem. And even yet they are said to endure and
prosper. For in our own time, a traveller met the Rechabites once more
in the heart of Arabia, still living in their tents, still calling
themselves the sons of Jonadab. With one of them, Mousa (i.e.
Moses) by name, he talked, and Mousa said to him, 'Come, and I will
show you who we are;' and from an Arabic bible he read the words of my
text, and said, 'You will find us 60,000 in number still. See, the
words of the prophet have been fulfilled—“Jonadab the son of Rechab
shall not want a man to stand before me for ever.”'
What lesson shall we learn from this story—so strange, and yet so
beautiful? What lesson need we learn, save that which the Holy
Scripture itself bids us learn? The blessing which comes upon
reverence for our forefathers, and above all for God, our Father in
Reverence for our forefathers. These are days in which we are too
apt to sneer at those who have gone before us; to look back on our
forefathers as very ignorant, prejudiced, old-fashioned people, whose
opinions have been all set aside by the progress of knowledge.
Be sure that in this temper of mind lies a sin and a snare. If we
wish to keep up true independence and true self-respect in ourselves
and our children, we should be careful to keep up respect for our
forefathers. A shallow, sneering generation, which laughs at those who
have gone before it, is ripe for disaster and slavery. We are not
bound, of course—as those old Rechabites considered themselves bound
—to do in everything exactly what our forefathers did. For we are not
under the law, but under grace; and where the Spirit of the Lord is,
there is liberty—liberty to change, improve, and develop as the world
grows older, and (we may hope) wiser. But we are bound to do, not
exactly what our forefathers did, but what we may reasonably suppose
that they would have done, had they lived now, and were they in our
places. We are to obey them, not in the letter, but in the spirit.
And whenever, in the prayer for the Church militant, we commemorate
the faithful dead, and thank God for all his servants departed this
life in his faith and fear, we should remember with honest pride that
we are thanking God for our own mothers and fathers, and for those that
went before them; ay, for every honest God-fearing man and woman, high
or low, who ever did their duty by God and their neighbours, and left,
when they died, a spot of this land somewhat better than they found it.
And for God; the Father of all fathers; our Father in heaven—Oh, my
friends, God grant that it may never be said to any of us, Behold the
words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, which he commanded his children,
are performed: but ye have not hearkened unto me. I have sent also
unto you, saith God, not merely my servants the prophets, but my
only-begotten, Jesus Christ your Lord, saying, 'Return you now every
man from his evil way, and amend your doings, and go not after other
gods to serve them, and ye shall dwell in the land which I have given
to you and to your fathers. But ye have not inclined your ear, nor
hearkened unto me.'
God grant that that may never be said to any of us. And yet it is
impossible to deny—impossible to shut our eyes to the plain fact—
that Englishmen now-a-days are more and more forgetting that there are
any commandments of God whatsoever; any everlasting laws laid down by
their Heavenly Father, which, if they break, will avenge themselves by
our utter ruin. We do not go after other gods, it is true, in the
sense of worshipping idols. But there is another god, which we go
after more and more; and that is money; gain; our interest (as we call
it):- not knowing that the only true interest of any man is to fear God
and keep his commandments. We hold more and more that a man can serve
God and mammon; that a man must of course be religious, and belong to
some special sect, or party, or denomination, and stand up for that
fiercely enough: but we do not hold that there are commandments of God
which say for ever to the sinner, 'Do this and thou shalt live;' 'Do
this or thou shalt die.'
We hold that because we are not under the law, but under grace, there
is no condemnation for sin—at least for the special sort of sin which
happens to be in fashion, which is now-a-days the sin of making money
at all risks. We hold that there is one law of morality for the
kingdom of heaven, and another for the kingdom of mammon. Therefore we
hold, more and more, that when money is in question anything and
everything is fair. There are—we have reason to know it just now but
too well—thousands who will sell their honour, their honesty, yea,
their own souls, for a few paltry pounds, and think no shame. And if
any one says, with Jeremiah the prophet, 'These are poor, they know not
the way of the Lord, nor the judgment of their God. I will get me to
the great men, for they have known the way of the Lord, and the
judgment of their God:'—then will he find, as Jeremiah did, that too
many of these great and wealthy worshippers of mammon have utterly
broken the yoke, and burst the bonds, of all moral law of right and
wrong: heaping up vast fortunes amid the ruin of those who have trusted
them, and the tears of the widow and the orphan, by means now glossed
over by fine new words, but called in plain honest old English by a
very ugly name.
How many there are in England now, my friends, who would laugh in
their hearts at those worthy Rechabites, and hold them to be ignorant,
old-fashioned, bigoted people, for keeping up their poor, simple,
temperate life, wandering to and fro with their tents and cattle,
instead of dwelling in great cities, and making money, and becoming
what is now-a-days called civilized, in luxury and covetousness.
Surely according to the wisdom of this world, the Rechabites were
foolish enough. But it is the wisdom of this world itself—not
simplicity and loyalty like theirs—which is foolishness with God.
My friends, let us all take warning, each man for himself. When a
nation corrupts itself—as we seem inclined to do now, by luxury and
covetousness, selfishness and self-will, forgetting more and more
loyalty and order, honesty and high principle—then some wholesome,
but severe judgment of God, is sure to come upon that nation: a day in
which all faces shall gather blackness: a day of gloominess and thick
darkness, like the morning spread upon the mountains.
For the eternal laws of God's providence are still at work, though we
choose to forget them; and the Judge who administers them is the same
yesterday, to-day, and for ever, even Jesus Christ the Lord, the
everlasting Rock, on which all morality and all society is founded.
Whosoever shall fall on that Rock in repentance and humility,
confessing, bewailing, and forsaking his worldliness and sinfulness, he
shall indeed be broken: but of him it is written, 'The sacrifices of
God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou
wilt not despise.' And he shall find that Rock, even Christ, a safe
standing-ground amid the slippery mire of this world's temptations, and
the storms and floods of trouble which are coming—it may be in our
children's days—it may be in our own.
But he who hardens his heart: he who says proudly, 'We are they that
ought to speak; who is Lord over us?'—he who says carelessly, 'Soul,
take thine ease; thou hast much goods laid up for many years'—he who
halts between two opinions, and believes to the last that he can serve
both God and mammon—he, especially, who fancies that falsehood,
injustice, covetousness, and neglect of his fellow-men, can properly be
his interest, or help his interest in any wise—of all such it is
written, 'On whomsoever that Rock'—even the eternal laws of Christ
the Judge—'On whomsoever that Rock shall fall, it shall grind him to
SERMON VII.—THE NAME OF GOD
ISAIAH l. 10.
Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his
servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in
the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.
To some persons it may seem strange advice to tell them, that in the
hour of darkness, doubt, and sorrow, they will find no comfort like
that of meditating on the Name of the Ever-blessed Trinity. Yet there
is not a prophet or psalmist of the Old Testament who does not speak of
'The Name of the Lord,' as a kind of talisman against all the troubles
which can befall the spirit of man. And we, as Christians, know, or
ought to know, far more of God than did even prophets or psalmists. If
they found comfort in the name of God, we ought to find far more.
But some will say—Yes. Let us think of God, God's mercies, God's
dealings with his people; but why think especially of the Name of the
For this simple reason. That it is by that Name of Father, Son, and
Holy Ghost, that God has revealed himself. That is the name by which
he bids us think of him; and we are more or less disregarding his
commands when we think of him by any other. That is the name which God
has given himself; and, therefore, it is morally certain that that is
God's right name; that it expresses God's very self, God's very being,
as he is.
Theology signifies, the knowledge of God as he is. And it is dying
out among us in these days. Much of what is called theology now is
nothing but experimental religion; which is most important and useful
when it is founded on the right knowledge of God: but which is not
itself theology. For theology begins with God: but experimental
religion, right or wrong, begins with a man's own soul. Therefore it
is that men are unaccustomed to theology. They shrink from it as
something very abstruse, only fit for great scholars and divines, and
almost given up now-a-days even by them. They do not know that
theology, the knowledge of God, is full of practical every-day comfort,
and guidance for their conduct and character; yea, that it is—so says
the Bible—everlasting life itself. Therefore it is that some shrink
from thinking of the Ever-blessed Trinity, not from any evil intent,
but because they are afraid of thinking wrongly, and so consider it
more safe not to think at all. They have been puzzled, it may be, by
arguments which they have heard, or read, or which have risen up in
their own minds, and which have made them doubt about the Trinity: and
they say—I will not torment my soul, and perhaps endanger my soul, by
doubts. I will take the doctrine of the Trinity for granted, because I
am bidden to do so: but I leave what it means to be explained by wiser
men. If I begin thinking about it I shall only confuse myself. So it
is better for me not to think at all.
And one cannot deny that they are right, as far as they go. If they
cannot think about the Trinity without thinking wrongly, it is better
to take on trust what they are told about it. But they lose much by so
doing. They lose the solid and real comfort which they may get by
thinking of the Name of God. And, I believe, they lose it
unnecessarily. I cannot see why they must think wrongly of the
Trinity, if they think at all. I cannot see why they need confuse
themselves. The doctrine of the Trinity is not really an unreasonable
one. The doubts which come into men's minds concerning it do not seem
to me sound and reasonable doubts. For instance, some say—How can
there be three persons in one God? It is contrary to reason. One
cannot be many. Three cannot be one. That is unreasonable.
I think, that if you will use your reason for yourselves, you will
see that it is those words which are unreasonable, and not the doctrine
of the Trinity.
First. A thing need not be unreasonable—that is, contrary to
reason—because it is above and beyond reason—or, at least, beyond
our human reason, which at best (as St. Paul says) sees as in a glass
darkly, and only knows in part.
Consider how many things are beyond reason which are not contrary to
it. I say that all things which God has made are so: but, without
going so far, let us consider these simple examples.
Is it not beyond all reason that among animals, like should bring
forth like? Why does an eagle's egg always produce an eagle, and a
dove's egg a dove, and so forth? No man knows, no man can give any
reason whatsoever. If a dove's egg produced an eagle, ignorant men
would cry out at the wonder, the miracle. Wise men know that the real
wonder, the real miracle is, that a dove's egg always produces a dove,
and not any and every other bird.
Here is a common and notorious fact, entirely above our reason.
There is no cause to be given for it, save that God has ordained it
so. But it is not contrary to our reason. So far from it, we are
certain that a dove will produce a dove; and our reason has found out
much of the laws of kind; and found out that they are reasonable laws,
regular, and to be depended upon; so that we can, as all know, produce
and keep up new breeds whether of plants or of animals.
So that the law of kind, though it is beyond our reason, is not
contrary to our reason at all.
So much for things which have life. Take an equally notorious
example from things which have not life.
Is it not above and beyond all our reason—that the seemingly
weakest thing in the world, the most soft and yielding, the most frail
and vanishing, should be also one of the strongest things in the
world? That is so utterly above reason, that while I say it, it seems
to some of you to be contrary to reason, to be unreasonable and
impossible. It is so above reason, that till two hundred years ago, no
one suspected that it was true. And yet it is strictly true.
What is more soft and yielding, more frail and vanishing, than
steam? And what is stronger than steam? I know nothing. Steam it is
which has lifted up the mountains from the sea into the clouds. Steam
it is which tears to pieces the bowels of the earth with earthquakes
and volcanoes, shaking down cities, rasping the solid rocks into
powder, and scattering them far and wide in dust over the face of the
What gives to steam its enormous force is beyond our reason. We do
not know. But so far from being contrary to our reason, we have learnt
that the laws of steam are as reasonable as any other of God's laws.
We can calculate its force, we can make it, use it, and turn its mighty
powers, by reason and science, into our most useful and obedient slave,
till it works ten thousand mills, and sends ten thousand ships across
Above reason, I say, but not contrary to reason, is the mighty power
And God, who made all these wonders—and millions of wonders more—
must he not be more wonderful than them all? Must not his being and
essence be above our reason? But need they be, therefore, contrary to
our reason? Not so.
Nevertheless, some will say, How can one be many? How can one be
three? Why not? Two are one in you, and every man. Your body is you,
and your soul is you. They are two. But you know yourself that you
are one being; that the Athanasian Creed speaks, at least, reason when
it says, 'As the reasonable soul and the flesh are one man, so God and
man is one Christ.'
And three are one in every plant in the field. Root, bark, leaves,
are three. And yet—they are one tree; and if you take away any one
of them, the tree will die. So it is in all nature. But why do I talk
of a tree, or any other example? Wherever you look you find that one
thing is many things, and many things one. So far from that fact being
contrary to our reason, it is one which our reason (as soon as we think
deeply about this world) assures us is most common. Of every organized
body it is strictly true, that it is many things, bound together by a
certain law, which makes them one thing and no more. And, therefore,
every organized body is a mystery, and above reason: but its
organization is none the less true for that.
And there are philosophers who will tell you—and wisely and well—
that there must needs be some such mystery in God; that reason ought to
teach us—even if revelation had not—two things. First, that God
must be one; and next, that God must be many—that is, more than one.
Do I mean that our own reason would have found out for itself the
mystery of the ever-blessed Trinity? God forbid! Nothing less.
There surely is a difference between knowing that a thing must be,
and knowing that the thing is, and what it is like; and there surely is
a difference between knowing that there is a great mystery and wonder
in God, and knowing what that mystery is.
Man might have found out that God was one, and yet more than one; but
could he have found out what is the essence and character of God? Not
his own reason, but the Spirit of God it is which tells him that: tells
him that God is Three in One—that these three are persons—that
these persons are, a Father, a Son, and a Holy Spirit.
This is what God has himself condescended to tell us; and therefore
this is what he specially wishes us to believe and remember when we
think of him. This is God's name for himself—Father, Son, and Holy
Ghost. Man may give God what name he chooses. God's own name, which
he has given himself, is likely surely to be the most correct: at
least, it is the one of which God means us to think; for it is the one
into which he commanded us to be baptized. Remember that, whenever you
hear discourse concerning God; and if any man, however learned, says
that God is absolute, answer—'It may be so: but I was not baptized
into the name of the absolute.' If he tell you, God is infinite,
answer—'It may be so: but I was not baptized into the name of the
infinite.' If he tell you, God is the first cause, answer—'That I
doubt not: but I was not baptized into the name of the first cause. I
was baptized into the name which God has given himself—Father, Son,
and Holy Ghost; and I will give him no other name, and think of him by
no other name, lest I be committing an act of irreverence toward God,
by presuming to call him one thing, when he has bid me call him
another. Absolute, infinite, first cause, and so forth, are deep
words: but they are words of man's invention, and words too which
plain, hard-working, hard-sorrowing folks do not understand; even if
learned men do—which I doubt very much indeed: and therefore I do not
trust them, cannot find comfort for my soul in them. But Father, Son,
and Holy Spirit are words which plain, hard-working, hard-sorrowing men
can understand, and can trust, and can find comfort in them; for they
are God's own words, and, like all God's words, go straight home to the
hearts of men—straight home to the heart of every one who is a father
or mother—to the heart of every one who has a parent or a child—to
the heart of every one who has the Holy Spirit of God putting into his
mind good desires, and striving to make him bring them into good
effect, and be, what he knows he should be, a holy and good man.'
Answer thus, my friends. And think thus of the mystery of the
Ever-blessed Trinity. For this is a thoroughly reasonable plan of
thought: and more—in thinking thus you will find comfort, guidance,
clearness of head, and clearness of conscience also. Only remember
what you are to think of. You are not to think merely of the mystery
of the question, and to puzzle yourselves with arguments as to how the
Three Persons are one; for that is not to think of the Ever-blessed
Trinity, but only to think about it. Still less are you to think of
the Ever-blessed Trinity under names of philosophy which God has not
given to himself; for that is not to think of the Ever-blessed Trinity
at all. You must think of the Ever-blessed Trinity as he is,—of a
Father, a Son, and a Holy Spirit; and to think of him the more
earnestly, the more you are sad at heart. It may be that God has sent
that sadness to make you think of him. It may be that God has cut the
very ground from under your feet that you may rest on him, the true and
only ground of all created things; as it is written: 'Who is he among
you who walketh in darkness and hath no light? Let him trust in the
name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.'
Some will tell you, that if you are sorrowful it is a time for
self-examination, and for thinking of your own soul. I answer—In
good time, but not yet. Think first of God; for how can you ever know
anything rightly about your own soul unless you first know rightly
concerning God, in whom your soul lives, and moves, and has its being?
Others may tell you to think of God's dealings with his people. I
answer—In good time, but not yet; think first of God. For how can
you rightly understand God's dealings, unless you first rightly
understand who God is, and what his character is? Right notions
concerning your own soul, right notions concerning God's dealings, can
only come from right notions concerning God himself. He is before all
things. Think of him before all things. He is the first, and he is
the last. Think of him first in this life, and so you will think of
him last, and for ever in the life to come. Think of the Father, that
he is a Father indeed, in spirit and in truth. Think of the Son, that
he is a Son indeed, in spirit and in truth. Think of the Holy Spirit,
that he is a Holy Spirit indeed, in spirit and in truth. So you will
be thinking indeed of the Ever-blessed Trinity; and will worship God,
not with your lips or your thoughts merely, but in spirit and in
truth. Think of the Father, that he is the Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ, and that the perfect Son must be forever perfectly like the
perfect Father. For then you will believe that God the Father looks on
you, and feels for you, exactly as does Jesus Christ your Lord; then
you will feel that he is a Father indeed; and will enter more and more
into the unspeakable comfort of that word of all words, 'Our Father who
art in heaven.'
Think of the Lord Jesus Christ as the perfect Son, who, though he is
co-equal and co-eternal with his Father, yet came not to do his own
will, but his Father's; who instead of struggling, instead of helping
himself, cried in his agony: 'Not my will, but thine be done;' and
conquered by resignation. So you will enter into the unspeakable
comfort of conquering by resignation, as you see that your resignation
is to be like the resignation of Christ; not that of trembling fear
like a condemned criminal before a judge; not that of sullen necessity,
like a slave before his master: but that of the only-begotten Son of
God; the resignation of a child to the will of a father whom he can
utterly trust, because that father's name is love.
Think of the Holy Spirit as a person; having a will of his own; who
breatheth whither he listeth, and cannot be confined to any feelings or
rules of yours, or of any man's; but may meet you in the Sacraments, or
out of the Sacraments, even as he will; and has methods of comforting
and educating you, of which you will never dream; one whose will is the
same as the will of the Father and of the Son, even a good will; just
as his character is the same as the character of the Father and of the
Son: even love which works by holiness; love which you can trust
utterly, for yourself and for all whom you love.
Think, I say, of God himself as he is; think of his name, by which he
has revealed himself, and thus you will—But who am I, to pretend to
tell you what you will learn by thinking rightly of Father, Son, and
Holy Ghost? How can I dare to say how much you will or will not
learn? How can I put bounds to God's teaching? to the workings of him
who has said, 'If a man love me, he will keep my words, and my Father
will love him; and we will come unto him, and make our abode with
him'? How can I tell you in a few words of one sermon all that that
means? How can I, or any man, know all that that means? Who is one
man, or all men, to exhaust the riches of the glory of God, or the
blessings which may come from thinking of God's glory? Let it be
enough for us to be sure that truly to know God is everlasting life;
and that the more we think of God by his own revealed name of Father,
Son, and Holy Ghost, the more we shall enter, now and hereafter, into
eternal life, and into the peace which comes by the true knowledge of
him in whom we live, and move, and have our being.
SERMON VIII.—THE END OF RELIGION
EPHESIANS iv. 23, 24.
Be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and put ye on the new man,
which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
This text is exceedingly valuable to us for it tells us the end and
aim of all religion. It tells us why we are to pray, whether at home
or in church; why we are to read our Bibles and good books; why we are
to be what is commonly called religious.
It tells us, I say, the end and aim of all religion; namely, that we
may put on 'the new man, which after God'—according to the likeness
of God—'is created in righteousness and true holiness.' So says St.
Paul in another place: 'Be ye therefore followers'—literally,
copiers, imitators—'of God, as dear children.'
Now this is not what you will be told from too many pulpits, and in
too many books, now-a-days, is the end of religion. You will be told
that the end of religion is to save your soul, and go to heaven.
But experience shows, my friends, in all religions and in all ages,
that those who make it their first object in life to save their souls,
are but too likely to lose them; as our Lord says, He that saveth his
soul, or life—for the words are the same in Scripture—shall lose
And experience shows that in all religions, and in all ages, those
who make it their first object in life to get to heaven, are but too
likely never to get there: because in their haste, they forget what
heaven is, and what is the only way of arriving at it.
Good works, as they call the likeness of God and the Divine life, are
in too many persons' eyes only fruits of faith, or proofs of faith, and
not the very end of faith, and of religion—ay, of their very
existence here on earth; and therefore they naturally begin to ask,—
How few good works will be enough to prove their faith? And when a man
has once set that question before himself, he is sure to find a
comfortable answer, and to discover that very few good works indeed,—
a very little sanctification (as it is called), a very little
righteousness, and a very little holiness,—will be enough to save his
soul, as far at least as he wishes his soul to be saved. My friends,
all this springs from that selfish view of religion which is gaining
power among us more and more. Christ came to deliver us from our
selfishness; from being slaves to our selfish prudence and selfish
interest. But we make religion a question of profit and loss, as we
make everything else. We ask—What shall I get by being good? What
shall I get by worshipping God? Is it not prudent, and
self-interested, and business-like to give up a little pleasure on
earth, in the hope of getting a great deal in heaven? Is not religion
a good investment? Is it not, considering how short and uncertain life
is, the best of all life-insurances?
My friends, we who have to earn our bread and to take honest money
for honest work, know well enough what trouble we have to keep out of
our daily life that mean, base spirit of self-interest, rather than of
duty, which never asks of anything, 'Is it right?' but only 'Will it
pay me?'—which, instead of thinking, How can I do this work as well
as possible? is perpetually thinking, How can I get most money for the
least work? We have to fight against that spirit in worldly matters.
For we know, that if we yield to it,—if we sacrifice our duty to our
pleasure or our gain,—it is certain to make us do something mean,
covetous, even fraudulent, in the eyes of God and man.
But if we carry that spirit into religion, and our spiritual and
heavenly duties; if we forget that that is the spirit of the world; if
we forget that we renounced the world at our baptism, and that we
therefore promised not to shape our lives by its rules and
maxims; if our thought is, not of whatsoever things are just,
whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, of good
report, whatsoever brings us true honour and deserved praise from God
and from man; if we think only that intensely selfish and worldly
thought, How much will God take for saving my soul?—which is the
secret thought (alas that it should be so!) of too many of all
denominations,—then we shall be in a fair way of killing our souls;
so that if they be saved, they will not at all events be saved alive.
For we shall kill in our souls just those instincts of purity, justice,
generosity, mercy, love, in one word, of unselfishness and
unworldliness, which make the very life of the soul, because they are
inspired by the Spirit of God, even the Holy Ghost. And we shall be
but too likely not to sit in heavenly places with Christ Jesus—as St.
Paul tells us we may do even in this life: but to go to our own place—
wherever that may be—with selfish Judas, who when he found that his
Saviour was not about to restore the kingdom to Israel, and make a
great prince of him there and then, made the best investment he could,
under the danger which he saw at hand, by selling his Lord for thirty
pieces of silver: to remain to all time a warning to those who are
religious for self-interest's sake.
What, then, is the end and aim of true Religion? St. Paul tells us
in the text. The end and aim, he says, of hearing Christ, the end and
aim of learning the truth as it is in Jesus, is this—that we may be
renewed in the spirit of our minds, and put on the new man, which after
God is created in righteousness and true holiness. To put on the new
man; the new pattern of manhood, which is after the pattern of the Son
of man, Jesus Christ, and therefore after the pattern and likeness of
God. To be followers, that is, copiers and imitators of God, that (so
says St. Paul) is the end and aim of religion. In one word, we are to
be good; and religion, according to St. Paul, is neither more nor less
than the act of becoming good, like the good God.
To be like God. Can we have any higher and more noble aim than
that? And yet it is a simple aim. There is nothing fantastic,
fanatical, inhuman about it. It is within our reach—within the reach
of every man and woman; within the reach of the poorest, the most
unlearned. For how does St. Paul tell us that we can become like God?
'Wherefore,' he says, 'putting away lying, speak every man truth with
his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin
not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the
devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour,
working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to
give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of
your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may
minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of
God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all
bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be
put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another,
tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake
hath forgiven you.
Do that, he says, and you will be followers of God, as dear children;
and thus will you surely save your souls alive. For they will be
inspired by the Spirit of God, the spirit of goodness, who is the Lord
and Giver of life; wherefore they cannot decay nor die, but must live
and grow, develop and improve perpetually, becoming better and wiser,—
and therefore more useful to their fellow-creatures, more blessed in
themselves, and more pleasing to God their Father, through all
eternity. And thus you will surely go to heaven. For heaven will
begin on earth, and last on after this earth, and all that binds you to
this earth, has vanished in the grave.
Heaven will begin on earth, I say. When St. Paul told these very
Ephesians to whom my text was addressed, that God had made them sit,
even then, in heavenly places with Christ Jesus, he did not mean in any
wise—what they would have known was not true—that their bodies had
been miraculously lifted up above the earth, above the clouds, or
elsewhere: no, for he had told them before, in the first chapter, what
he meant by heavenly places. God their Father, he says, had blessed
them with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places, in Christ, in
that He had chosen them in Christ before the foundation of the world—
and for what end? For the very end which I have been preaching to
you. 'That they should be holy, and without blame before God, in
Love.' That was heaven. If they were that,—holy, blameless, loving,
they were in heavenly places already,—in that moral and spiritual
heaven in which God abides for ever. They were with God, and with all
who are like God, as it is written, 'He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth
in God, and God in him.'
My dear friends, this is the heaven for which we are all to strive—
a heaven of goodness, wherein God dwells. And therefore an eternal and
everlasting heaven, as eternal as goodness and as eternal as God
himself; and if we are living in it, we have all we need. But we may
begin to live in it here. To what particular place our souls go after
death, Scripture does not tell us, and we need not know. To what
particular place our souls and bodies go after the resurrection,
Scripture tells us not, and we need not know. But this Scripture tells
us, and that is enough for us, that they will be in heavenly places, in
the presence of Christ and of God. And this Scripture tells us—and
indeed our own conscience and reason tell us likewise—that though
death may alter our place, it cannot alter our character; though it may
alter the circumstances round us, it cannot alter ourselves. If we
have been good and pure before death, we shall be good and pure after
death. If we have been led and inspired by God's Spirit before death,
so shall we be after death. If we have been in heavenly places before
death, thinking heavenly thoughts, feeling heavenly feelings, and doing
heavenly deeds, then we shall be in heavenly places after death; for we
shall have with us the Spirit of God, whose presence is heaven; and as
long as we are holy, good, pure, unselfish, just, and merciful, we may
be persuaded, with St. Paul, that wheresoever we go, all will be well;
for 'neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor powers, nor things
present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other
creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is
in Christ Jesus our Lord.'
SERMON IX.—THE HUMANITY OF GOD
ST. LUKE xv. 7.
I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner
that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need
There are three parables in this chapter: all agree in one quality—
in their humanity. God shows us in them that there is something in his
character which is like the best and simplest parts of our characters.
God himself likens himself to men, that men may understand him and love
Why there should be more joy over the repenting sinner than over the
just man who needs no repentance, we cannot explain in words: but our
hearts tell us that it is true, beautiful; that it is reasonable,
though we can give no reason for it. You know that if you had lost a
sheep; if you had lost a piece of money; if you had had a child run
away from you, it would be far more pleasant to find that thing which
you had lost, than never to have lost it at all. You do not know why.
God tells you that it is a part of his image and likeness in you; that
you rejoice over what you have lost and found again, because God
rejoices over what he has lost and found again.
And is not this a gospel, and good news? Is it not good news that we
need never be afraid or ashamed to give way to our tenderness and pity?
for God does not think it beneath him to be tender and pitiful. Is it
not good news that we need never be afraid or ashamed to forgive, to
take back those who have neglected us, wronged us? for God does not
think it beneath him to do likewise. That we need never show hardness,
pride, sternness to our children when they do wrong, but should win
them by love and tenderness, caring for them all the more, the less
they care for themselves? for God does even so to us, who have sinned
against him far more than our children ever can sin against us.
And is it not good news, again, that God does care for sinners, and
for all kinds and sorts of sinners? Some go wrong from mere stupidity
and ignorance, because they know no better; because they really are not
altogether accountable for their own doings. They are like the silly
sheep, who gets out over the fence of his own fancy: and yet no
reasonable man will be angry with the poor thing. It knows no better.
How many a poor young thing goes wandering away, like that silly sheep,
and having once lost its way, cannot get back again, but wanders on
further and further, till it lies down all desperate, tired out, mired
in the bogs, and torn about with thorns!
Then the good shepherd does not wait for that sheep to come back. He
goes and seeks it far and wide, up hill and down dale, till he finds
it; and having found it, he does not beat it, rate it—not even drive
it home before him. It is tired and miserable. If it has been
foolish, it has punished itself enough for its folly; and all he feels
for it is pity and love. It wants rest, and he gives it rest at his
own expense. He lays it on his shoulders, and takes it home, calling
on all heaven and earth to rejoice with him. Ah, my friends, if that
is not the picture of a God whom you can love, of a God whom you can
trust, what God would you have?
Some, again, go wrong from ignorance and bad training, bad society,
bad education, bad example; and in other countries—though, thank God,
not in this—from bad laws and bad government. How many thousands and
hundreds of thousands are ruined, as it seems to us, thereby! The
child born in a London alley, reared up among London thieves, taught to
swear, lie, steal, never entering a school or church, never hearing the
name of God save in oaths—There is the lost piece of money. It is a
valuable thing; the King's likeness is stamped on it: but it is
useless, because it is lost, lying in the dust and darkness, hidden in
a corner, unable to help itself, and of no use to any one. And so
there is many a person, man and woman, who is worth something, who has
God's likeness on them, who, if they were brought home to God, might be
of good use in the world; but they are lost, from ignorance and bad
training. They lie in a corner in darkness, not knowing their own
value in God's eyes; not knowing that they bear his image, though it be
all crusted over with the dust and dirt of barbarism and bad habits.
Then Christ will go after them, and seek diligently till he finds them,
and cleanses them, and makes them bright, and of good use again in his
Church and his kingdom. They are worth something, and Christ will not
let them be wasted; he will send clergymen, teachers, missionaries,
schools, reformatories, penitentiaries, hospitals—ay, and other
messengers of his, of whom we never dream, for his ways are as high
above our ways as the heaven is above the earth: with all these he
sweeps his house, and his blessing is on them all, for by them he finds
the valuable coin which was lost.
But there is a third sort of sinner, spoken of in Christ's next
parable in this chapter, from which my text is taken, of whom it is not
said that God the Father sends out to seek and to save him. That is
the prodigal son, who left his father's house, and strayed away of his
own wantonness and free will. Christ does not go out after him. He
has gone away of his own will; and of his own will he must come back:
and he has to pay a heavy price for his folly—to taste hunger, shame,
misery, all but despair. For understand—if any of you fancy that you
can sin without being punished—that the prodigal son is punished, and
most severely. He does not get off freely, the moment he chooses to
repent, as false preachers will tell you: even after he does repent,
and resolves to go back to his father's house, he has a long journey
home, in poverty and misery, footsore, hungry, and all but despairing.
But when he does get home; when he shows that he has learnt the bitter
lesson; when all he dares to ask is, 'Make me as one of thy hired
servants,' he is received as freely as the rest. And it is worth while
to remark, that our Lord spends on him tenderer words than on those who
are lost by mere foolishness or ignorance. Of him it is not said,
'Rejoice with me, for I have found him,'—but, Bring out the best
robe, for this my son—not my sheep, not my piece of money, but my son
—was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.
In this is a great mystery; one of which one hardly dares to talk:
but one which one must think over in one's own heart, and say, 'Oh the
depth of the riches and of the knowledge and wisdom of God! How
wonderful are his judgments, and his ways past finding out. For who
hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been his counsellor? Or
who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him
again?' Who indeed? God is not a tyrant, who must be appeased with
gifts; or a taskmaster, who must be satisfied with the labour of his
slaves. He is a father who loves his children; who gives, and loveth
to give; who gives to all freely, and upbraideth not. He truly willeth
not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his
wickedness and live. His will is a good will; and howsoever much man's
sin and folly may resist it, and seem for a time to mar it, yet he is
too great and good to owe any man, even the worst, the smallest spite
or grudge. Patiently, nobly, magnanimously, God waits; waits for the
man who is a fool, to find out his own folly; waits for the heart which
has tried to find pleasure in everything else, to find out that
everything else disappoints, and to come back to him, the fountain of
all wholesome pleasure, the well-spring of all life fit for a man to
live. When the fool finds out his folly; when the wilful man gives up
his wilfulness; when the rebel submits himself to law; when the son
comes back to his father's house—there is no sternness, no
peevishness, no up-braiding, no pride, no revenge; but the everlasting
and boundless love of God wells forth again as rich as ever. He has
condescended to wait for his creature; because what he wanted was not
his creature's fear, but his creature's love; not his lip-obedience,
but his heart; because he wanted him not to come back as a trembling
slave to his master, but as a son who has found out at last what a
father he has left him, when all beside has played him false. Let him
come back thus; and then all is forgiven and forgotten; and all that
will be said will be, 'This my son was dead, and is alive again; he was
lost, and is found.'
SERMON X.—GOD'S WORLD
(Preached before the Prince of Wales, at Sandringham, 1866.)
GENESIS i. 1.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
It may seem hardly worth while to preach upon this text. Every one
thinks that he believes it. Of course—they say—we know that God
made the world. Teach us something we do not know, not something which
we do. Why preach to us about a text which we fully understand, and
Because, my friends, there are few texts in the Bible more difficult
to believe than this, the very first; few texts which we need to repeat
to ourselves again and again, in all the chances and changes of this
mortal life; lest we should forget it just as we feel we are most sure
We know that it was very difficult for people in olden times to
believe it. Else why did all the heathens of old, and why do all
heathens now, worship idols?
We know that the old Jews, after it had been revealed to them, found
it very difficult to believe it. Else why were they always deserting
the worship of God, and worshipping idols and devils, sun, moon, and
stars, and all the host of heaven?
We know that the early Christians, in spite of the light of the
Gospel and of God's Spirit, found it very difficult to believe it.
Doubtless they believed it a thousand times more fully than it had ever
been believed before. They would have shrunk with horror from saying
that any one but God had made the heavens and the earth. But
Christians clung, for many hundred years, even almost up to our own
day, to old heathen superstitions, which they would have cast away if
their faith had been full, and if they had held with their whole hearts
and souls and minds, that there was one God, of whom are all things.
They believed that the Devil and evil spirits had power to raise
thunderstorms, and blight crops, and change that course of nature of
which the Psalmist had said, that all things served God, and continued
this day as at the beginning, for God had given them a law which could
not be broken. They believed in magic, and astrology, and a hundred
other dreams, which all began from secret disbelief that God made the
heaven and the earth; till they fancied that the Devil could and would
teach men the secrets of nature, and the way to be rich and great, if
they would but sell their souls to him. They believed, in a word, the
very atheistic lie which Satan told to our blessed Lord, when he said
that all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them were his, and
to whomsoever he would he gave them—instead of believing our Lord's
answer, 'Get thee behind me, Satan: it is written, Thou shalt worship
the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.'
And therefore I tell you here—as the Church has told Christian
people in all ages—that if any of you have any fancy for such
follies, any belief in charms and magic, any belief that you can have
your fortunes told by astrologers, gipsies, or such like, you must go
back to your Bible, and learn better the first text in it. 'In the
beginning God created the heaven and the earth.' God's is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory, of all things visible and invisible; all
the world round us, with its wonderful secrets, is governed, from the
sun over our heads, to the smallest blade of grass beneath our feet, by
God, and by God alone, and neither evil spirit nor magician has the
smallest power over one atom of it; and our fortunes, in likewise, do
not depend on the influences of stars or planets, ghosts or spirits, or
anything else: but on ourselves, of whom it is written, that God shall
judge every man according to his works.
Even now, in these very days, many good people are hardly able, it
seems to me, to believe with their whole hearts that God made heaven
and earth. They half believe it: but their faith is weak; and when it
is tried, they grow frightened, and afraid of truth. This it is which
makes so many good people afraid of what is now called Science—of all
new discoveries about the making of this earth, and the powers and
virtues of the things about us; afraid of wonders which are become
matters of course among us, but of which our forefathers knew little or
nothing. They are afraid lest these things should shake people's faith
in the Bible, and in Christianity; lest men should give up the good old
faith of their forefathers, and fancy that the world is grown too wise
to believe in the old doctrines. One cannot blame them, cannot even be
surprised at them. So many wonderful truths (for truths they are), of
which our fathers never dreamed, are discovered every year, that none
can foretell where the movement will stop; what we shall hear next;
what we shall have to believe next.
Only, let us take refuge in the text—'In the beginning God created
the heaven and the earth.' All that we see around us, however
wonderful; all that has been found out of late, however wonderful; all
that will be ever found out, however still more wonderful it may be, is
the work of God; of that God who revealed himself to Moses; of that God
who led the children of Israel out of their slavery in Egypt; of that
God who taught David, in all his trouble and wanderings, to trust in
him as his guide and friend; of that God who revealed to the old
Prophets the fate of nations, and the laws by which he governs all the
kingdoms and people of the earth; of that God, above all, who so loved
the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that the world by him
might be saved.
This material world which we do see, is as much God's world as the
spiritual world we do not see. And, therefore, the one cannot
contradict the other; and the true understanding of the one will never
hurt our true understanding of the other.
But many good people have another fear, and that, I think, a far more
serious one. They are afraid, in consequence of all these wonderful
discoveries of science, that people will begin to trust in science, and
not in God. And that fear is but too well founded. It is certain that
if sinful man can find anything to trust in, instead of God, trust
therein he surely will.
The old Jews preferred to trust in idols, rather than God; the
Christians of the Middle Age, to their shame, trusted in magic and
astrology, rather than God; and after that, some 200 years ago, when
men had grown too wise to trust in such superstitions, they certainly
did not grow wise enough, most of them, to trust in the living God.
They relied, the rulers of the nations especially, in their own wit and
cunning, and tried to govern the world and keep it straight, by
falsehood and intrigue, envy and jealousy, plotting and party spirit,
and the wisdom which cometh not from above, but is earthly, sensual,
devilish,—that wisdom against which we pray, whenever we sing 'God
save the Queen,'—
'Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On Thee our hopes we fix,
GOD save the Queen.'
And since that false wisdom has failed, and the wisdom of this world,
and the rulers of this world, came to nought in the terrible crisis of
the French Revolution, eighty years ago, men have been taking up a new
idolatry. For as science has spread, they have been trusting in
science rather than in the living God, and giving up the old faith that
God's judgments are in all the earth, and that he rewards righteousness
and punishes iniquity; till too many seem to believe that the world
somehow made itself, and that there is no living God ordering and
guiding it; but that a man must help himself as he best can in this
world, for in God no help is to be found.
And how shall we escape that danger?
I do not think we shall escape it, if we stop short at the text. We
must go on from the Old Testament and let the New explain it. We must
believe what Moses tells us: but we must ask St. John to show us more
than Moses saw. Moses tells us that God created the heavens and the
earth; St. John goes further, and tells us what that God is like; how
he saw Christ, the Word of God, by whom all things were made, and
without whom nothing was made that is made. And what was he like? He
was the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his
person. And what was that like? was there any darkness in him—
meanness, grudging, cruelty, changeableness, deceit? No. He was full
of grace and truth. Grace and truth: that is what Christ is; and
therefore that is what God is.
There was another aspect of him, true; and St. John saw that
likewise. And so awful was it that he fell at the Lord's feet as he
had been dead.
But the Lord was still full of grace and truth; still, however awful
he was, he was as full as ever of love, pity, gentleness. He was the
Lamb that was slain for the sins of the world, even though that Lamb
was in the midst of the throne from which came forth thunderings and
lightnings, and judgments against the sins of all the world. Terrible
to wrong, and to the doers of wrong: but most loving and merciful to
all true penitents, who cast themselves and the burden of their sins
before his feet; perfect justice and perfect Love,—that is God. That
is the maker of this world. That is he who in the beginning made
heaven and earth. An utterly good God. A God whose mercy is over all
his creatures. A God who desires the good of his creatures; who
willeth not that one little one should perish; who will have all men to
be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth; who wages
everlasting war against sin and folly, and wrong and misery, and all
the ills to which men are heirs; who not only made the world, but loves
the world, and who proved that—what a proof!—by not sparing his
only-begotten Son, but freely giving him for us.
Therefore we can say, not merely,—I know that a God made the world,
but I know what that God is like. I know that he is not merely a great
God, a wise God, but a good God; that goodness is his very essence. I
know that he is gracious and merciful, long suffering, and of great
kindness. I know that he is loving to every man, and that his mercy is
over all his works. I know that he upholds those who fall, and lifts
up those who are down; I know that he careth for the fatherless and
widow, and executes judgment and justice for all those who are
oppressed with wrong. I know that he will fulfil the desire of those
who call upon him; and will also hear their cry and will help them. I
know, in short, that he is a living God, and a loving God; a God in
whom men may trust, to whom they may open their hearts, as children to
their father: and I am sure that those who come to him he will in no
wise cast out; for he himself has said, with human voice upon this
earth of ours,—'Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden
and I will give you rest.'
In him all can trust. The sick man on his bed can trust in him and
say—In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth; and he is
full of grace and truth. This sickness of mine comes by the laws of
heaven and earth; and those laws are God's laws. Then even this
sickness may be full of grace and truth. It comes by no blind chance,
but by the will of him who so loved me, that he stooped to die for me
on the Cross. Christ my Lord and God has some gracious and bountiful
purpose in it, some lesson for me to learn from it. I will ask him to
teach me that lesson; and I trust in him that he will teach me; and
that, even for this sickness and this sorrow, I shall have cause to
thank him in the world to come. Shall I not trust him who not only
made this world, but so loved it that he stooped to die for it upon the
The labourer and the farmer can trust in him, in the midst of short
crops and bad seasons, and say, In the beginning God created the heaven
and the earth; and he is full of grace and truth. Frost and blight
obey his commands as well as sunshine and plenty. He knows best what
ought to be. Shall we not trust in him, who not only made this world,
but so loved it, that he stooped to die for it upon the Cross?
The scholar and the man of science, studying the wonders of this
earth, can trust in him, and say, In the beginning God created the
heaven and the earth; and he is full of grace and truth. Many things
puzzle me; and the more I learn the less I find I really know; but I
shall know as much as is good for me, and for mankind. God is full of
grace, and will not grudge me knowledge; and full of truth, and will
not deceive me. And I shall never go far wrong as long as I believe,
not only in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible
and invisible, but in one Lord Jesus Christ, his only-begotten Son,
light of light, very God of very God, by whom all things were made, who
for us men and our salvation came down, and died, and rose again; whose
kingdom shall have no end; who rules over every star and planet, every
shower and sunbeam, every plant and animal and stone, every body and
every soul of man; who will teach men, in his good time and way, all
that they need know, in order to multiply and replenish the earth, and
subdue it in this life, and attain everlasting life in the world to
come. And for the rest, puzzled though I be, shall I not trust him,
who not only made this world, but so loved it, that he stooped to die
for it upon the Cross?
SERMON XI.—THE ARMOUR OF GOD
(Preached before the Prince of Wales, at Sandringham, January
EPHESIANS vi. 11.
Put on the whole armour of God.
St. Paul again and again compares himself and the Christians to whom
he writes to soldiers, and their lives to warfare. And it was natural
that he should do so. Everywhere he went, in those days, he would find
Roman soldiers, ruling over men of different races from themselves, and
ruling them, on the whole, well. Greeks, Syrians, Jews, Egyptians,—
all alike in his days obeyed the Roman soldiers, who had conquered the
then known world.
And St. Paul and his disciples wished to conquer the world likewise.
The Roman soldier had conquered it for Cæsar: St. Paul would conquer it
for Christ. The Roman soldier had used bodily force—the persuasion
of the sword. St. Paul would use spiritual force—the persuasion of
preaching. The Roman soldier wrestled against flesh and blood: St.
Paul wrestled against more subtle and dangerous enemies—spiritual
enemies, he calls them—who enslaved and destroyed the reason, and
conscience, and morals of men.
St. Paul and his disciples, I say, had set before themselves no less
a task than to conquer the world.
Therefore, he says, they must copy the Roman soldier, and put on
their armour, as he put on his. He took Cæsar's armour, and put on
Cæsar's uniform. They must take the armour of God, that they may
withstand in the evil day of danger and battle, and having done all,—
done their duty manfully as good soldiers,—stand; keep their ranks,
and find themselves at the end of the battle not scattered and
disorganized, but in firm and compact order, like the Roman soldiers,
who, by drill and discipline, had conquered the irregular and confused
troops of all other nations.
Let me, this morning, explain St. Paul's words to you, one by one.
We shall find them full of lessons—and right wholesome lessons—for
in this parable of the armour of God St. Paul sketches what you and I
and every man should be. He sketches the character of a good man, a
true man, a man after God's own heart.
First, the Christians are to gird their loins—to cover the lower
part of their body, which is the most defenceless. That the Roman
soldier did with a kilt, much like that which the Highlanders wear
now. And that garment was to be Truth. Truthfulness, honesty, that
was to be the first defence of a Christian man, instead of being, as
too many so-called Christians make it, the very last. Honesty, before
all other virtues, was to gird his very loins, was to protect his very
The breastplate, which covered the upper part of the body, was to be
righteousness—which we now commonly call, justice. To be a just man,
after being first a truthful man, was the Christian's duty.
And his helmet was to be the hope of Salvation—that is, of safety:
not merely of being saved in the next world—though of course St. Paul
includes that—but of being saved in this world; of coming safe
through the battle of life; of succeeding; of conquering the heathen
round them, and making them Christians, instead of being conquered by
them. The hope of safety was to be his helmet, to guard his head—the
thinking part. We all know how a blow on the head confuses and
paralyses a man, making him (as we say) lose his head. We know too,
how, in spiritual matters, terror and despair deal a deadly blow to a
man's mind,—how if a man expects to fail, he cannot think clearly and
calmly,—how often desperation and folly go hand in hand; for, if a
man loses hope, he is but too apt to lose his reason. The Christian's
helmet, then,—that which would save his head, and keep his mind calm,
prudent, strong, and active,—was the hope of success.
And for their feet—they must be shod with the preparation of the
Gospel of peace.
That is a grand saying, if you will remember that the key-word, which
explains it all, is Peace, and the Gospel, that is, the good news,
The Roman soldier had his preparation, which kept him prepared and
ready to march through the world; and of that St. Paul was thinking,
and had need to think; for he had heard the sound of it in every
street, on every high road, from Jerusalem to Ephesus, ever since he
was a child—the tramp of the heavy nailed boot which the Roman
soldier always wore. The Roman soldiers were proud of their boots,—
so proud that, in St. Paul's time, they nicknamed one of their royal
princes Caligula, because, as a boy in camp, he used to wear boots like
the common soldiers: and he bore that name when he became emperor, and
bears it to this day. And they had reason to be proud, after their own
notion of glory. For that boot had carried them through desert and
through cities, over mountain ranges, through trackless forests, from
Africa even into Britain here, to be the conquerors of the then known
world; and, wherever the tramp of that boot had been heard, it had been
the sound, not of the good news of peace, but of the evil news of war.
Isaiah of old, watching for the deliverance of the Jews from captivity,
heard in the spirit the footsteps of the messengers coming with the
news that Cyrus was about to send the Jews home to their own land, and
cried, 'How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of them that
bring good tidings, that publish peace!' But the tramp of the Roman
armies had as yet brought little but bad tidings, and published
destruction. Men slain in battle, women and children driven off
captive, villages burnt, towns sacked and ruined, till wherever their
armies passed—as one of their own writers has said—they made a
desert, and then called that peace.
So had the Roman soldier marched over the world, and conquered it.
And now Christ's soldiers were beginning their march over the world,
that they might conquer it by fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy. They were
going forth, with their feet shod with the good news of Peace; to treat
all men, not as their enemies, not as their slaves, but as their
brothers; and to bring them good news, and bid them share in it,—the
good news that God was at peace with them, and that they might now be
at peace with their own consciences, and at peace with each other, for
all were brothers in Jesus Christ their Lord.
Shod with that good news of peace, these Christians were going to
conquer the world, and to penetrate into distant lands from which the
Roman armies had been driven back in shameful defeat. To penetrate,
too, where the Roman armies never cared to go,—among the miserable
and crowded lanes of the great cities, and conquer there what the Roman
armies could not conquer—the vice, the misery, the cruelty, the
idolatry of the heathen.
The shield, again, guarded those parts of the soldier which the
armour did not guard. It warded off the stones, arrows, and darts—
fiery darts often, as St. Paul says, which were hurled at him from
afar. And the Christian's shield, St. Paul says, was to be Faith,—
trust in God,—belief that he was fighting God's battle, and not his
own; belief that God was over him in the battle, and would help and
guide him, and give him strength to do his work. To believe firmly
that he was in the right, and on God's side. To believe that, when he
was wounded and struck down,—when men deserted him, cursed him, tried
to take his life—perhaps did take his life—with torments
unspeakable,—to have faith to say in his heart, 'I am in the right.'
When he was writhing under the truly fiery darts of misrepresentation,
slander, scorn, or under the equally fiery darts of remorse for his own
mistakes, his own weaknesses, still to say after all, 'I am in the
right.' That shield of faith, though it might not save him from
wounds, torturing wounds, perhaps crippling wounds, would at least save
his life,—at least protect his vitals; and, when he seemed stricken
to the very earth, he could still shelter himself under that shield of
faith, and cry, 'Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; when I fall, I
And they were to take a sword. They were to use only one weapon, as
the Roman soldier used but one. For, though he went into battle armed
with a short heavy pike, he hurled it at once against the enemy; then
he closed in with his sword, and fought the real battle with that
alone, hand to hand, and knee to knee. The short Roman sword, used by
brave men in close fight, had defeated all the weapons of all the
nations. St. Paul knew that fact, as well as we; and I cannot but
suppose that he had it in his mind when he wrote these great words, and
that he meant to bid Christians, when they fought God's battle, to
fight, like the Romans, hand to hand: not to indulge in cowardly
stratagems, intrigues, and lawyers' quibbles, fighting like the
barbarians, cowardly and afar off, hurling stones, and shooting clouds
of arrows, but to grapple with their enemies, looking them boldly in
the face, as honest men should do, trying their strength against them
fairly, and striking them to the heart. But with what? With that
sword which, if it wound, heals likewise,—if it kills, also makes
alive; the sword which slays the sins of a man, that he may die to sin,
but rise again to righteousness; the sword of the Spirit, which is the
Word of God, the message of God, the speech of God, the commandment of
God. They were to conquer the world simply by saying, 'Thus saith the
Lord.' They were to preach God, and God alone, revealed in his Son,
Jesus Christ, a God of love, who willed that none should perish, but
that all should come to the knowledge of the truth.
But a God of wrath likewise. We must never forget that. A merely
indulgent God would be an unjust God, and a cruel God likewise. If God
be just, as he is, then he has boundless pity for those who are weak:
but boundless wrath for the strong who misuse the weak. Boundless pity
for those who are ignorant, misled, and out of the right way: but
boundless wrath for those who mislead them, and put them out of the
right way. All through St. Paul's Epistles, as through our blessed
Lord's sayings and doings, you see this wholesome mixture of severity
and mercy, of Divine anger and Divine love, very different from the
sentimentalism of our own times, when men fancy that, because they
dislike the pain and trouble of punishing evil-doers, God is even such
a one as themselves, who sits still and takes no heed of the wrong
which is done on earth.
No. The Christians were to tell men of both sides of God's
character; for both were working every day, and all day long, about
them. They were to tell men that God had, by their mouths, revealed
from heaven his wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of
men, at the same moment that he had revealed the good news that men
might be purified by the blood of Christ, and saved from wrath through
him. They were to tell men of a God who so loved the world that he
gave his only-begotten Son to die for it; but of a God who so loved the
world that he would not tolerate in it those sins which cause the ruin
of the world. Tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that
doeth evil, and glory, honour, and peace to every man that worketh good
—that was to be their message, that was to be their weapon, wherewith
they were to strike, and did strike, through the hearts of sinners, and
convert them to repentance that they might die to sin, and live again
With this armour, and that one weapon, the Word of God, the
Christians conquered the souls of the men of the old world. Often they
failed, often they were defeated, sadly and shamefully; for they were
men of like passions with ourselves. But their defeats always happened
when they tried other armour than the armour of God, and fancied that
they could fight the world, the flesh, and the devil with the weapons
which the world, the flesh, and the devil had forged.
Still they conquered at last—for God was with them, and the Spirit
of God; and they put on again and again the armour of God, after
they had cast it off for a while to their own hurt.
And so shall we conquer in the battle of life just in proportion as
we fight our battle with the armour of God.
My friends, each and all of you surely wish to succeed in life; and
to succeed, not merely in getting money, still less merely in getting
pleasure, but with a far nobler and far more real success. You wish, I
trust, to be worthy, virtuous, respectable, useful Christian men and
women; to be honoured while you live, and regretted when you die; to
leave this world with the feeling that your life has not been a
failure, and your years given you in vain: but that, having done some
honest work at least in this world, you are going to a world where all
injustice shall be set right.
Then here, in St. Paul's words, are the elements of success in life.
This, and this only, is the way to true success, to put on the whole
armour of God. Truthfulness, justice, peaceableness, faith in God's
justice and mercy, hope of success, and the sword of the Spirit, even
that word of God which, if you do not preach it to others, you can and
should preach to yourselves all day long, continually asking
yourselves, 'What would God have me to do? What is likely to be his
will and message upon the matter which I have in hand?'—all these
qualities go to make up the character of the worthy man or woman, the
useful person, the truly able person, who does what he can do, well,
because he is what he ought to be, good; and all these qualities you
need if you will fight the battle of life like men, and conquer instead
of being conquered therein.
But some will say, and with truth, 'It is easy to tell us to be good:
we can no more change our own character than we can change our own
bodies; the question is, who will make us good?' Who indeed, save he
who said, 'Ask and ye shall receive?' St. Paul knew well enough that
if his armour was God's armour, God alone could forge it, and God alone
could bestow it; and therefore he ends his commands with this last
command—'Praying always, with all prayer and supplication in the
spirit, and watching thereto with all perseverance, and supplication
for all saints.' Those who wrote the Church Catechism knew it
likewise, and have said to us from our very childhood: 'My good child,
know this: that thou canst not do these things of thyself, nor walk in
the commandments of God and serve him without his special grace; which
thou must learn at all times to call for by diligent prayer.'
Yes, my friends, there is but one way to obtain that armour of God,
which will bring us safe through the battle of life; and that is, pray
for it. Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shall find;
knock, and it shall be opened unto you. You who wish for true success
in life, pray. Pray, if you never prayed before, morning and evening,
with your whole hearts, for that Spirit of God which is truth, justice,
peace, faith, and hope—and you shall not pray in vain.
SERMON XII.—PAUL AND FELIX
ACTS xxiv. 25.
And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to
come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I
have a convenient season, I will call for thee.
This is a well-known text, on which many a sermon has been preached,
and with good reason, for it is an important text. It tells us of a
man who, like too many men in all times, trembled when he heard the
truth about his wicked life, but did not therefore repent and mend; and
a very serious lesson we may draw from his example.
But even a more important fact about the text is, that it tells us
what were really the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion in
those early times, about twenty-five years, seemingly, after our Lord's
death; what St. Paul used to preach about; what he considered was the
first thing which he had to tell men.
Let us take this latter question first. About what did St. Paul
reason before Felix?
About righteousness (which means justice), temperance, and judgment
I beg you to remember these words. If you believe the Bible to be
inspired, you are bound to take its words as they stand. And therefore
I beg you to remember that St. Paul preached not about un
righteousness, but righteousness; not about intemperance, but
about temperance; not about hell, but about judgment to come; in a
word, not about wrong, but about right. I hope that does not seem to
you a small matter. I hope that none of you are ready to say, 'It
comes to the same thing in the end.' It does not come to the same
thing. There is no use in telling a man what is wrong, unless you
first tell him what is right. There is no use rebuking a man for being
bad, unless you first tell him how he may become better, and give him
hope for himself, or you will only drive him to recklessness and
despair. You must show him the right road, before you can complain of
him for going the wrong one.
But if St. Paul had reasoned with Felix about injustice,
intemperance, and hell, one could not have been surprised. For Felix
was a thoroughly bad man, unjust and intemperate, and seemingly fitting
himself for hell.
He had begun life as a slave of the emperor in a court which was a
mere sink of profligacy and villainy. Then he had got his freedom, and
next, the governorship of Judæa, probably by his brother Pallas's
interest, who had been a slave like him, and had made an enormous
fortune by the most detestable wickedness.
When in his governorship, Felix began to show himself as wicked as
his brother. The violence, misrule, extortion, and cruelty which went
on in Judæa was notorious. He caused the high-priest at Jerusalem to
be murdered out of spite. Drusilla, his wife, he had taken away from a
Syrian king, who was her lawful husband. Making money seems to have
been his great object; and the great Roman historian of those times
sums up his character in a few bitter words thus: 'Felix,' he says,
'exercised the power of a king with the heart of a slave, in all
cruelty and lust.'
Such was the wicked upstart whom God, for the sins of the Jews, had
allowed to rule them in St. Paul's time; and before him St. Paul had to
plead for his life.
The first time that St. Paul came before him Felix seems to have seen
at once that Paul was innocent, and a good man; and that, perhaps, was
the reason why he sent for him again, and, strangely enough, heard him
concerning the faith in Christ.
There was some conscience left, it seems, in the wretched man. He
was not easy, amid his ill-gotten honour, ill-gotten wealth, ill-gotten
pleasures; and perhaps, as many men are in such a case, he was
superstitious, afraid of being punished for his sins, and looking out
for false prophets, smooth preachers, new religions which would make
him comfortable in his sins, and drug his conscience by promising the
wicked man life, where God had not promised it. So he wanted, it
seems, to know what this new faith in Christ was like; and he heard.
And what he heard we may very fairly guess, because we know from St.
Paul's writings what he was in the habit of saying.
St. Paul told him of righteousness—a word of which he was very
fond. He told Felix of a righteous and good God, who had manifested to
man his righteousness and goodness, in the righteousness and goodness
of his Son Jesus; a righteous God, who wished to make all men righteous
like himself, that they might be happy for ever. Perhaps St. Paul
called Felix to give up all hopes of having his own righteousness—the
false righteousness of forms, and ceremonies, and superstitions—and
to ask for the righteousness of Christ, which is a clean heart and a
right spirit; and then he set before him no doubt, as was his custom,
the beauty of righteousness, the glory of it, as St. Paul calls it; how
noble, honourable, divine, godlike a thing it is to be good.
Then St. Paul told Felix of temperance. And what he said we may
fairly guess from his writings. He would tell Felix that there were
two elements in every man, the flesh and the spirit, and that those
warred against each other: the flesh trying to drag him down, that he
may become a brute in fleshly lusts and passions; the spirit trying to
raise him up, that he may become a son of God in purity and virtue.
But if so, what need must there be of temperance! How must a man be
bound to be temperate, to keep under his body and bring it into
subjection, bound to restrain the lower and more brutal feelings in
him, that the higher and purer feelings may grow and thrive in him to
everlasting life! Truly the temperate man, the man who can restrain
himself, is the only strong man, the only safe man, the only happy man,
the only man worthy of the name of man at all. This, or something like
this, St. Paul would have said to Felix. He did not, as far as we
know, rebuke him for his sins. He left him to rebuke himself. He told
him what ought to be, what he ought to do, and left the rest to his
conscience. Poor Felix, brought up a heathen slave in that profligate
court of Rome, had probably never heard of righteousness and
temperance, had never had what was good and noble set before him. Now
St. Paul set the good before him, and showed him a higher life than any
he had ever dreamed of—higher than all his viceregal power and pomp—
and bade him see how noble and divine it was to be good.
But it is written St. Paul reasoned with Felix about judgment to
We must not too hastily suppose that this means that he told Felix
that he was in danger of hell-fire. For that is an argument which St.
Paul never uses anywhere in his writings or speeches, as far as we know
them. He never tries, as too many do now-a-days, to frighten sinners
into repentance, by telling them of the flames of hell; and therefore
we have no right to fancy that he did so by Felix. He told him of
judgment to come; and we can guess from his writings what he would have
said. That there was a living God who judged the earth always by his
Son Jesus Christ, and that he was coming then, immediately, to punish
all the horrible wickedness which was then going on in those parts of
the world which St. Paul knew. St. Paul always speaks of the terrible
judgments of God as about to come in his own days, we know that they
We know—God forbid that a preacher should tell you one-tenth of
what he ought to know—that St. Paul's times were the most horribly
wicked that the world had ever seen; that the few heathens who had
consciences left felt that some terrible punishment must come if the
world went on as it was going. And we know that the punishment did
come; and that for about twenty years, towards the end of which St.
Paul was beheaded, the great Roman Empire was verily a hell on earth.
If Felix lived ten years more he saw the judgment of God, and the
vengeance of God, in a way which could not be mistaken. But did
judgment to come overtake him in his life? We do not altogether know;
we know that he committed such atrocities, that the Roman Emperor Nero
was forced to recall him; that the chief Jews of Cæsarea sent to Rome,
and there laid such accusations against him that he was in danger of
death; that his brother Pallas, who was then in boundless power, saved
him from destruction. That shortly afterwards Pallas himself was
disgraced, stripped of his offices, and a few years later poisoned by
Nero, and it is probable enough that when he fell Felix fell with him:
but we know nothing of it certainly.
But at least he saw with his own eyes that there was such a thing as
judgment to come, not merely thousands of years hence at the last day,
but there and then in his own lifetime. He saw the wrath of God
revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness of men. He saw the
wicked murdering and destroying each other till the land was full of
blood. He saw the Empress-mother Agrippina, who had been the paramour
of his brother Pallas, murdered by her own son, the Emperor Nero; and
so judgment came on her. He saw his own brother first ruined and then
poisoned; and so judgment came on him. He saw many a man whom he knew
well, and who had been mixed up with him and his brother in their
intrigues, put to death himself; and so judgment came on them.
And last of all he saw (unless he had died beforehand) the fall of
the Emperor Nero himself—who very probably set fire to Rome, and then
laid the blame on the Christians,—the man of sin, of whom St. Paul
prophesied that he would be revealed—that is, unveiled, and exposed
for the monster which he was; and that the Lord would destroy him with
the brightness of his coming; the man who had dressed the Christians in
skins, and hunted them with dogs; who had covered them with pitch, and
burnt them; who had beheaded St. Paul and crucified St. Peter; who had
murdered his own wife; who had put to death every good man whom he
could seize, simply for being good; who had committed every conceivable
sin, fault, and cruelty that can disgrace a man, while he made the
people worship him as God. He saw that great Emperor Nero hunted down
by his own people, who were weary of his crimes; condemned to a
horrible death, hiding in a filthy hole, and at last stabbing himself
in despair; and so judgment came on him likewise; while the very
heathen felt that Nero was gone to hell, leaving his name behind him as
a proverb of wickedness and cruelty for ever.
So Felix, if he were alive, saw judgment come. And yet more: he saw,
if he were alive, such a time follow as the world has seldom or never
seen—civil war, bloodshed, lawlessness, plunder, and every horror; a
time in which men longed to die and could not find death, and, instead
of repenting of their evil deeds, gnawed their tongues for pain, and
blasphemed the God of heaven, as St. John had prophesied in the
Yes, if Felix lived only ten years after he trembled at St. Paul's
words, he saw enough to show him that those words were true; that there
was a God in heaven, whose wrath was revealed against all
unrighteousness of men; who was coming out of his place to judge the
earth, and punish all the tyranny and pride and profligacy and luxury
of that Roman world.
God grant that he did remember St. Paul's words. God grant that he
trembled once more, and to good purpose; and so repented of his sins
even at the last. God grant that he may find mercy in that Day. But
we can have but little hope for him; it is but too probable that he was
put to death with his brother, within five years of the time when St.
Paul warned him of judgment to come,—too probable that that was his
last chance of salvation, and that he threw it away for ever, as too
many sinners do.
What do we learn then from this sad story? We learn one most
practical and important lesson, which we are all too apt to forget.
That the foundation of the Christian religion is not forms and
ceremonies, nor fancies and feelings, but righteousness, temperance,
and judgment to come. Judgment, I say, to come whensoever it may seem
good to Christ, who sits for ever on his throne judging right, and
ministering true judgment among the people. A dreadful judgment, says
the Commination Service, is always hanging over the heads of those who
do wrong, and always ready to fall on them, without waiting for the
last day, thousands of years hence. It was by telling men that—by
telling them that Christ was righteous and pure, and desired to make
them righteous and pure like himself; and that Christ was a living and
present judge, watching all their actions, ready at any moment to
forgive their sins, and ready at any moment to punish their sins—by
that message the Apostles converted the heathen. It was by believing
that message, and becoming righteous and good men, temperate and pure
men, and looking up in faith and hope to Christ their ever-present
Judge and Lord, that the heathen were converted, and became saints and
martyrs. And that religion will stand, and bring a man through the
storm safe to everlasting life, while all religions which are built on
doctrines and systems, on forms and ceremonies, on fancies and
feelings, on the godless notion that sinners are safe enough in this
life, for God will not judge and punish them till the last day, are
built on a foundation of sand; and the storm when it comes will sweep
those dreams away, and leave their possessors to shame and misery.
Therefore, my friends, let no man deceive you. God is not mocked.
What a man soweth, that shall he reap. The wages of sin are death, as
Felix found too well; but the fruit of righteousness is everlasting
life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore follow after innocency,
and take heed to the thing which is right; for that, and that only,
shall bring a man peace at the last.
SERMON XIII.—THE GOOD SAMARITAN
LUKE x. 33, 34.
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when
he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his
wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and
brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
No words, perhaps, ever spoken on earth, have had more effect than
those of this parable. They are words of power and of spirit; living
words, which have gone forth into the hearts and lives of men, and
borne fruit in them of a hundred different kinds. Truly their sound is
gone out into all lands, and their words to the ends of the world, for
a proof that Christ, who spake them, said truly, when he said, 'The
flesh profiteth nothing; it is the spirit which maketh alive. The
words which I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.'
What was the power and the spirit of this parable? What gave it its
strength in the hearts of men? This—that it told them that they were
to help their fellow-men, simply because they were their fellow-men.
Not because they were of the same race, the same religion, the same
sect or party; but simply because they were men. In a word, it
commanded men to be humane; to exercise humanity; which signifies,
kindness to human beings, simply because they are human beings. One
can understand our Lord preaching that: it was part and parcel of his
doctrine. He called himself the Son of Man. He showed what he meant
by calling himself so, by the widest and most tender humanity.
But his was quite a new doctrine, and a new practice likewise. The
Jews had no notion of humanity. All but themselves were common and
unclean. They might not even eat with a man who was a Gentile. All
mankind, save themselves, they thought, were accursed and doomed to
hell. They lived, as St. Paul told them, hateful to, and hated by, all
mankind. There was no humanity in them.
The Greek, again, despised all nations but his own as barbarians. He
would mix with them, eat with them, work for them; but he only looked
on the rest of mankind as stupid savages, out of whom he was to make
money, by the basest and meanest arts. There was no humanity in him.
The Romans, again, were a thoroughly inhuman people. Their calling,
they held, was to conquer all the nations of the earth, to plunder
them, to enslave them. They were the great slaveholding, man-stealing
people. Mercy was a virtue which they had utterly forgotten. Their
public shows and games were mere butcheries of blood and torture. To
see them fight to death in their theatres, pairs after pairs, sometimes
thousands in one day, was the usual and regular amusement. And in that
great city of Rome, which held something more than a million human
beings, there was not, as far as I am aware, one single hospital, or
other charitable institution of any kind. There was, in a word, no
humanity in them.
But the Gospel changed all that miraculously and suddenly, both in
Jew, in Greek, and in Roman. When men became Christians at St. Paul's
preaching, all the old barriers of race were broken down between them.
They said no more, 'I am a Roman,' 'I a Greek,' 'I a Jew,' but 'I am a
Christian man; and, because I am a Christian, Roman and Greek and Jew
are alike my brothers.'
There was seen such a sight as (so far as we know) was never seen
before on earth—the high-born white lady worshipping by the side of
her own negro slave; the proud and selfish Roman, who never had helped
a human being in his life, sending his alms to the churches of Syria,
or of some other country far away; the clever and educated Greek
learning from the Jew, whom he called a barbarian; and the Jew, who had
hated all mankind, and been hated by them in return, preaching to all
mankind the good news that they were brothers, in the name and for the
sake of Jesus Christ, the Son of Man.
Instead of a kingdom of division, the Church was a kingdom of union.
Charity, and generosity, and mutual help took the place of selfishness,
and distrust, and oppression. While men had been heathens, their
pattern had been that of the priest who saw the wounded man lying, and
looked on him and passed by. Their pattern now was that of the good
Samaritan, who helped and saved the wounded stranger, simply because he
was a man.
In one word, the new thing which the Gospel brought into the world
was—humanity. The thing which the Gospel keeps in the world still,
is humanity. It brought other things, and blessed things, but this it
brought. And why? Because through the Church was poured on men the
spirit of God. And what is that, save humanity?—the spirit of the
compassionate, all generous Son of Man?—the spirit of charity and
What were the woes of humanity to the heathen? If a man fell in the
race of life, so much the worse for him. So much the better for them,
for there was one more competitor out of the way. One of the greatest
Roman poets, indeed, talks of the pleasure which men have in seeing
others in trouble, just as, when the storm is tossing up the sea, it is
sweet to sit on the shore, and watch the ships labouring in the waves.
Not, he says, that one takes actual pleasure in seeing a man in
trouble, but in the thought that one is not in the trouble oneself. A
rather lame excuse, I think, for a rather inhuman sentiment.
Yes, the heathen could feel pleasure in being safe while others were
afflicted. And, indeed, our own fallen nature, if we give way to it,
will tempt us to the same sin. But how did men begin to look not only
on the afflictions, but on the interest, on the feelings, on the
consciences of their neighbours, when they began to be led by the
spirit of Christ? Let St. Paul speak for himself, not in one text
only, but in a hundred—'Though I be free from all, I have made myself
a servant to all—a Jew to the Jews, a Greek to the Greeks, strong to
the strong, weak to the weak; all things to all men, if by any means I
might save some. Whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation
and salvation; or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation
and salvation. For the love of Christ constraineth us. For he died
for all, that those who live should henceforth not live to themselves,
but to him.'
And what did he mean by living to Christ?—'Living in weariness and
painfulness, in watchings often; in hunger and thirst, in fastings
often, in cold and nakedness; beside that which cometh upon me daily,
the care of all the Church. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is
offended, and I burn not?'—Oh, who does not see in such words as
these the picture of a new ideal, a new life for man; even a life of
utter sympathy with his fellow-men, utter love and self-sacrifice—in
one word, utter humanity; as far above that old heathen poet's selfish
notion, as man is above the ape, or heaven above the earth!
This is the spirit of God, even the Holy Ghost; the spirit of Christ,
which also is the spirit of humanity; because it is the spirit of
Christ, who is both God and man, both human and divine. This is the
spirit of love, by which God created mankind and all the worlds, that
he might have something which was not himself whereon to spend his
boundless love. This is the spirit of love, by which he spared not his
only-begotten Son, but freely gave him for the sins of all mankind.
This is the spirit of love, by which he is leading mankind through
strange paths, and by ways which their fathers knew not, toward that
eternal city of God which all truly human hearts are seeking, blindly
often and confusedly, and sometimes by utterly mistaken paths: but
seeking her still, if by any means they may enter into her, and be at
peace. This is that spirit of love, by which, having sent forth all
souls out of his everlasting bosom, he will draw them home again in the
fulness of time, as many as have eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord,
into his bosom once more, that they may rest in peace, and God be all
Take comfort from these words, my friends; for there is deep comfort
to be found in them, if you will look at them aright. When you hear
that the spirit of God is in you, unless you are reprobates; and that
if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his—do not be
afraid, as if that spirit were something quite unlike anything which
you feel, or even think of: as if it was something which must show
itself in strange visions or peculiar experiences, which very few
persons have, and which tempt them to set themselves apart from their
fellow-men, and thank God that they are not as other men are. Remember
that the spirit of God is the spirit of Christ, and that the spirit of
Christ is the spirit by which the good Samaritan helped the poor
wounded man, simply because he was a man. Remember that the spirit of
God, so far from making you unlike a man, comes to make you more
perfect men; so far from parting you from your fellow-men, comes to
knit you more to your fellow-men, by making you understand them, feel
for them, make allowances for them, long to help them, however
different in habits or in opinions they may be from you; that it is, in
one word, the spirit of humanity, which comes down from heaven into
your hearts to make you humane, as it descended on Christ, that he
might be the most humane of all human beings—the very Son of Man, who
knew, understood, loved, suffered for, and redeemed all mankind,
because in him all humanity was gathered into one.
That spirit is not far from any of you. Surely he is in all your
hearts already, if you be worthy of the name of men. He is in you,
unless you be inhuman, and that, I trust, none of you are. From him
come every humane thought and feeling you ever had. All kindliness,
pity, mercy, generosity; all sense or justice and honour toward your
fellow-men; all indignation when you hear of their being wronged,
tortured, enslaved; all desire to help the fallen, to right the
oppressed;—whence do these come? From the world? Most surely not.
From the flesh? St. Paul says not. From the Devil? No one, I trust,
will say that, save his own children, the Pharisees, if there be any of
them left, which we will hope there are not. No! all these come from
the gracious spirit of humanity—the spirit of Christ and of God.
Pray to him, that he may take possession of all your thoughts,
feelings, and desires, and purge you from every taint of selfishness.
Give up your hearts to him; and grieve not, by any selfishness,
passion, or hardness of your own, his gracious instructions: but let
him teach you, and guide you, and purge you, and sanctify you, till you
come to the stature of a perfect man, to the fulness of the measure of
Christ, who could perfectly hate the sin, and yet perfectly love the
sinner; who could see in every man, even in his enemies and murderers,
a friend and a brother.
And you who are afflicted, remember, that if the spirit of humanity
be the spirit of Christ, the spirit of Christ is also the spirit of
humanity. What do I mean? This: that if that good Samaritan had
Christ's spirit, was like Christ, then Christ has the same spirit, and
is like that good Samaritan, utterly humane, for mere humanity's sake.
Yes, thou who art weary and heavy laden—thou who fanciest, at
moments, that the Lord's arm is shortened, that it cannot save, and art
ready to cry, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?—take
comfort, and look upon Christ. Thou wilt never be sure of the love of
God, unless thou rememberest that it is the same as the love of Christ;
and, by looking at Christ, learnest to know thy Father and his Father,
whose likeness and image he is, and see that the spirit which proceeds
alike from both of them is the spirit of humanity and love, which
cannot help going forth to seek and to save thee, simply because thou
art lost. Look, I say, at Christ; and be sure that what he bade the
good Samaritan do to the wounded traveller, that same will he do to
thee, because he is the Son of Man, human and humane.
Art thou robbed, wounded, deserted, left to die, worsted in the
battle of life, and fallen in its rugged road, with no counsel, no
strength, no hope, no purpose left? Then remember, that there is one
walking to and fro in this world, unseen, but ever present, whose form
is as the form of the Son of Man.
To him is given all power to execute judgment in heaven and earth,
because he is the Son of Man. He is beholding the nations and
fashioning all their hearts. Even as I speak now, he is pouring
contempt on princes, and making the counsels of the people of no
effect. Even now he is frustrating the tokens of the liars, and making
diviners mad. He is smiting asunder mighty nations, and filling the
lands with dead bodies. Even now he is coming, as he came of old from
Bozra, treading down the people in his anger, and making them dumb in
his fury; and their blood is sprinkled on his garments, and he hath
stained all his raiment. For the day of vengeance is in his heart, and
the year of his redeemed is come. He who ariseth terribly to shake the
nations, has he time, has he will, to turn aside to attend to such as
He has time, and he has will. No human being so mean, no human
sorrow too petty, but what he has the time and the will, as well as the
power, to have mercy on it, because he is the Son of Man. Therefore he
will turn aside even to thee, whoever thou art, who art weary and heavy
laden, and canst find no rest for thy soul, at the very moment, and in
the very manner, which is best for thee. When thou hast suffered long
enough, he will stablish, strengthen, settle thee. He will bind up thy
wounds, and pour in the oil and the wine of his spirit—the Holy
Ghost, the Comforter; and will carry thee to his own inn, whereof it is
written, He shall hide thee secretly in his own presence from the
provoking of men; he shall keep thee in his tabernacle from the strife
of tongues. He will give his servants charge over thee to keep thee in
all thy ways; and when he comes again, he will repay them, and fetch
thee away, to give thee rest in that eternal bosom of the Father, from
which thou, like all human souls, camest forth at first, and to which
thou shalt at last return, with all human souls who have in them that
spirit of humanity, which is the spirit of God, and of Christ, and of
SERMON XIV.—CONSIDER THE LILIES OF THE FIELD
(Preached on Easter Day, 1867.)
MATTHEW vi. 26, 28, 29.
Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap,
nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye
not much better than they? . . . And why take ye thought for raiment?
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither
do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his
glory was not arrayed like one of these.
What has this text to do with Easter-day? Let us think a while.
Life and death; the battle between life and death; life conquered by
death; and death conquered again by life. Those were the mysteries
over which the men of old time thought, often till their hearts were
They saw that they were alive; and they loved life, and would fain
see good days. They saw, again, that they must die: but would death
conquer life in them? Would they ever live again?
They saw that other things died, or seemed to die, and yet rose and
lived again; and that gave them hope for themselves at times; but their
hopes were very dim, till Christ came, and brought life and immortality
They saw, I say, that other things died, or seemed to die, and yet
lived again. Light rose out of darkness every morning and lived: but
darkness, as they thought, killed the light at even, till it came to
life again in the morning, and the sun rose once more. The sun himself
—they thought of him as a glorious and life-giving being, who every
morning fought his way up the sky, scattering the dark clouds with his
golden arrows, and reigning for a-while in heaven, pouring down heat
and growth and life: but he too must die. The dark clouds of evening
must cover him. The red glare upon them was his dying blood. The
twilight, which lingered after the sun was gone, was his bride, the
dawn, come to soothe his dying hour. True, he had come to life again,
often and often, morning after morning: but would it be so for ever?
Would not a night come at last, after which he would never rise again?
Would not he be worn out at last, and slain, in his long daily battle
with the kingdom of darkness, which lay below the world; or with the
dragon who tried to devour him, when the thunder clouds hid him from
the sight, or the eclipse seemed to swallow him up before their eyes?
So, too, they felt about the seasons of the year. The winter came.
The sun grew low and weak. Would he not die? The days grew short and
dark. Would they not cease to be, and eternal night come on the
earth? They had heard dimly of the dark northern land, where it was
always winter, and the night was six months long. Why should it not be
so in their own land in some evil time? Every autumn the rains and
frost came on; the leaves fell; the flowers withered; the birds fled
southward, or died of hunger and cold; the cattle starved in the field;
the very men had much ado to live. Why should not winter conquer at
last, and shut up the sun, the God of light and warmth and life, for
ever in the place of darkness, cold, and death? So thought the old
Syrians of Canaan, and taught the Jewish women to weep, as they
themselves wept every autumn, over Adonai, the Lord, which was another
name for the sun, slain, as they thought, by the winter cold and rain:
and then, when spring-time came, with its sunshine, flowers, and birds,
rejoiced that the sun had come to life again.
So thought the old Greeks, and told how Persephone, the fair maiden
who was the spring-time, was stolen away by the king of darkness who
lived beneath the earth; and how her mother earth would not be
comforted for her loss, but sent barrenness on all the world till her
daughter, the spring, was given back to her, to dwell for six months in
the upper world of light, and six months in the darkness under ground.
So thought our old forefathers; and told how Baldur (the Baal of the
Bible), the god of light and heat, who was likewise the sun, was slain
by treachery, and imprisoned for ever below in hell, the kingdom of
darkness and of cold; and how all things on earth, even the very trees
and stones, wept for his death: yet all their tears could not bring
back from death the god of life: nor any of the gods unlock the gates
which held him in.
And because our forefathers were a sad and earnest folk: because they
lived in a sad and dreary climate, where winter was far longer and more
bitter than it is, thank God, now; therefore all their thoughts about
winter and spring were sad; and they grew to despair, at last, of life
ever conquering death, or light conquering darkness. An age would
come, they said, in which snow should fall from the four corners of the
world, and the winters be three winters long; an evil age, of murder
and adultery, and hatred between brethren, when all the ties of kin
would be rent asunder, and wickedness should triumph on the earth.
Then should come that dark time which they called the twilight of the
gods. Then the powers of evil would be let loose; the earth would go
to ruin in darkness and in flame. All living things would die. The
very gods would die, fighting to the last against the powers of evil,
till the sun should sink for ever, and the world be a heap of ashes.
And then—so strangely does God's gift of hope linger in the hearts
of men—they saw, beyond all that, a dim dream of a new heaven and a
new earth in which should dwell righteousness; and of a new sun, more
beautiful than ours; of a woman called “Life,” hid safe while all the
world around her was destroyed, fed on the morning dew, preserved to be
the mother of a new and happier race of men. And so to them, heathens
as they were, God whispered that Christ should some day bring life and
immortality to light.
My friends, shall we sneer and laugh at all these dreams, as mere
follies of the heathen? If we do so, we shall not show the spirit of
God, or the mind of Christ. Nor shall we show our knowledge of the
Bible. In it, the spirit of God, who inspired the Bible, does not
laugh at these dreams. It rebukes them sternly whenever they are
immoral, and lead men to do bad and foul deeds, as Ezekiel rebuked the
Jewish women who wept for Thammuz, the dead summer. But that was
because those Jewish women should have known better. They should have
known—what the Old Testament tells us all through—what it was
especially meant to tell the men who lived while it was being written,
just because they had their fancies, and their fears about summer and
winter, and life and death. And what ought they to have known? What
does the Old Testament say? That life will conquer death, because God,
the Lord Jehovah, even Jesus Christ, is Lord of heaven and earth. From
the time that it was written in the Book of Genesis, that the Lord
Jehovah said in his heart, 'I will not again curse the ground for man's
sake: neither will I again smite any more anything living, as I have
done, while the earth remaineth—seed time and harvest, and cold and
heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease'—from
that time the Jews were bound not to fear the powers of nature, or the
seasons, nor to fear for them; for they were all in the government of
that one good God and Lord, who cared for men, and loved them, and
dealt justly by them, and proved his love and justice by bringing the
children of Israel out of the land of Egypt.
God treated these heathens, St. Paul says, as we ought to treat our
children. His wrath was revealed from heaven against all ungodliness
and unrighteousness of men. All wilful disobedience and actual sin he
punished, often with terrible severity; but not their childish mistakes
and dreams about how this world was made; just as we should not punish
the fancies of our children. The times of that ignorance, says St.
Paul, he winked at till Christ came, and then he commanded all men
everywhere to repent, and believe in the God who gave them rain and
fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness.
For he had appointed a day in which he would judge the world in
righteousness by that man whom he had ordained; of which he had given
full assurance to all men, in that he had raised him from the dead.
Some, who were spoilt by false philosophy, mocked when they heard of
the resurrection of the dead: but there were those who had kept
something of the simple childlike faith of their forefathers, and who
were prepared for the kingdom of God; and to them St. Paul's message
came as an answer to the questions of their minds, and a satisfaction
to the longings of their hearts.
The news of Christ,—of Christ raised from the dead to be the life
and the light of the world,—stilled all their fears lest death should
conquer life, and darkness conquer light.
So it was with all the heathen. So it was with our old forefathers,
when they heard and believed the Gospel of Christ. They felt that (as
St. Paul said) they were translated out of the kingdom of darkness into
the kingdom of light, which was the kingdom of his dear Son; that now
the world must look hopeful, cheerful to them; now they could live in
hope of everlasting life; now they need sorrow no more for those who
slept, as if they had no hope: for Christ had conquered death, and the
evil spirit who had the power of death. Christ had harrowed hell, and
burst the bonds of the graves. He, as man, and yet God, had been
through the dark gate, and had returned through it in triumph, the
first-born from the dead; and his resurrection was an everlasting sign
and pledge that all who belonged to him should rise with him, and death
be swallowed up in victory.
'So it pleased the Father,' says St. Paul, 'to gather together in
Christ all things, whether in heaven or in earth.' In him were
fulfilled, and more than fulfilled, the dim longings, the childlike
dreams of heathen poets and sages, and of our own ancestors from whom
we sprung. He is the desire of all nations; for whom all were longing,
though they knew it not. He is the true sun; the sun of righteousness,
who has arisen with healing on his wings, and translated us from the
kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. He is the true Adonai,
the Lord for whose death though we may mourn upon Good Friday, yet we
rejoice this day for his resurrection. He is the true Baldur, the God
of light and life, who, though he died by treachery, and descended into
hell, yet needed not, to deliver him, the tears of all creation, of men
or angels, or that any god should unlock for him the gates of death;
for he rose by his own eternal spirit of light, and saith, 'I am he
that was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore. Amen. And I have
the keys of death and hell.'
And now we may see, it seems to me, what the text has to do with
Easter-day. To my mind our Lord is using here the same parable which
St. Paul preaches in his famous chapter which we read in the Burial
Service. Be not anxious, says our Lord, for your life. Is not the
life more than meat? There is an eternal life which depends not on
earthly food, but on the will and word of God your Father; and that
life in you will conquer death. Behold the birds of the air, which sow
not, nor reap, nor gather into barns, to provide against the winter's
need. But do they starve and die? Does not God guide them far away
into foreign climes, and feed them there by his providence, and bring
them back again in spring, as things alive from the dead? And can he
not feed us (if it be his will) with a bread which comes down from
heaven, and with every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of God?
Consider, again, the lilies of the field. We must take our Lord's
words exactly. He is speaking of the lilies, the bulbous plants which
spring into flower in countless thousands every spring, over the downs
of Eastern lands. All the winter they are dead, unsightly roots,
hidden in the earth. What can come of them? But no sooner does the
sun of spring shine on their graves, than they rise into sudden life
and beauty, as it pleases God, and every seed takes its own peculiar
body. Sown in corruption, they are raised in incorruption; sown in
weakness, they are raised in power; sown in dishonour, they are raised
in glory; delicate, beautiful in colour, perfuming the air with
fragrance; types of immortality, fit for the crowns of angels.
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. For even so is the
resurrection of the dead.
Yes, not without a divine providence—yea, a divine inspiration—
has this blessed Easter-tide been fixed, by the Church of all ages, at
the season when the earth shakes off her winter's sleep; when the birds
come back and the flowers begin to bloom; when every seed which falls
into the ground, and dies, and rises again with a new body, is a
witness to us of the resurrection of Christ; and a witness, too, that
we shall rise again; that in us, as in it, life shall conquer death
when every bird which comes back to sing and build among us, is a
witness to us of the resurrection of Christ, and of our resurrection;
and that in us, as in it, joy shall conquer sorrow.
The seed has passed through strange chances and dangers: of a
thousand seeds shed in autumn, scarce one survives to grow in spring.
Be it so. Still there is left, as Scripture says, a remnant, an elect,
to rise again and live.
The birds likewise—they have been through strange chances, dangers,
needs. Far away south to Africa they went—the younger ones by a way
they had never travelled before. Thousands died in their passage
south. Thousands more died in their passage back again this spring, by
hunger and by storm. Be it so. Yet of them is left a seed, a remnant,
an elect, and they are saved, to build once more in their old homes,
and to rejoice in the spring, and pour out their songs to God who made
Some say that the seeds grow by laws of nature; the birds come back
by instinct. Be it so. What Scripture says, and what we should
believe, is this: that the seeds grow by the spirit of God, the Lord
and Giver of life; that the birds come back, and sing, and build by the
spirit of God, the Lord and Giver of life. He works not on them,
things without reason, as he works on us reasonable souls: but he works
on them nevertheless. They obey his call; they do his will; they show
forth his glory; they return to life, they breed, they are preserved,
by the same spirit by which the body of Jesus rose from the dead; and,
therefore, every flower which blossoms, and every bird which sings, at
Easter-tide; everything which, like the seeds, was dead, and is alive
again, which, like the birds, was lost, and is found, is a type and
token of Christ, their Maker, who was dead and is alive again; who was
lost in hell on Easter-eve, and was found again in heaven for evermore;
and the resurrection of the earth from her winter's sleep commemorates
to us, as each blessed Easter-tide comes round, the resurrection of our
Lord Jesus Christ, who made all the world, and redeemed all mankind,
and sanctifieth to eternal life all the elect people of God: a witness
to us that some day life shall conquer death, light conquer darkness,
righteousness conquer sin, joy conquer grief; when the whole creation,
which groaneth and travaileth in pain until now, shall have brought
forth that of which it travails in labour; even the new heavens and the
new earth, wherein shall be neither sighing nor sorrow, but God shall
wipe away tears from all eyes.
SERMON XV.—THE JEWISH REBELLIONS
1 PETER ii. 11.
Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from
fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.
I think that you will understand the text, and indeed the whole of
St. Peter's first Epistle, better, if I explain to you somewhat the
state of the Eastern countries of the world in St. Peter's time. The
Romans, a short time before St. Peter was born, had conquered all the
nations round them, and brought them under law and regular government.
St. Peter now tells those to whom he wrote, that they must obey the
Roman governors and their laws, for the Lord's sake. It was God's will
and providence that the Romans should be masters of the world at that
time. Jesus Christ the Lord, the King of kings, had so ordained it in
his inscrutable wisdom; and they must submit to it, not for fear of the
Romans, but for the Lord's sake as the servants of God, who believed
that he was governing the world by his Son Jesus Christ, and that he
knew best how to govern it.
That was a hard lesson for them to learn; for they were Jews. This
epistle, as the words of it show plainly, was written for Jews; both
for those who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as the true King of the
Jews, and for those who ought to have believed in him, but did not.
They were strangers and pilgrims (as St. Peter calls them), who had no
city or government of their own, but had been scattered abroad among
the Gentiles, and settled in all the great cities of the Roman Empire,
especially in the East: in Babylon, from which St. Peter wrote his
epistle, where the Jews had a great settlement in the rich plains of
the river Euphrates; in Syria; in Asia Minor, which we now call Turkey
in Asia: in Persia, and many other Eastern lands. There they lived by
trade, very much as the Jews live among us now; and as long as they
obeyed the Roman law, they were allowed to keep their own worship, and
their own customs, and their law of Moses, and to have their synagogues
in which they worshipped the true God every Sabbath-day. But evil
times were coming on these prosperous Jews. Wicked emperors of Rome
and profligate governors of provinces were about to persecute them. In
Alexandria in Egypt, hundreds of them had been destroyed by lingering
tortures, and thousands ruined and left homeless. Caligula, the mad
emperor, had gone further still. Fancying himself a god, he had
commanded that temples should be raised in his honour, and his statues
worshipped everywhere. He had even gone so far as to command that his
statue should be set up in the Temple of Jerusalem, and to do actually
that which St. Paul prophesied a few years after the man of sin would
do, 'Exalt himself over all that is called God, or that is worshipped;
so that he would sit in the temple of God, and show himself as God.'
Then followed a strange scene, which will help to explain much of
this Epistle of St. Peter. The Jews of Jerusalem did not rise in
rebellion. They did what St. Peter told the Jews of Asia Minor to do.
They determined to suffer for well-doing,—to die as martyrs, not as
rebels. Petronius, the Roman governor who was sent to carry out the
order, was a strange mixture of good and bad. He was a peculiarly
profligate and luxurious man. He wrote one of the foulest books which
ever disgraced the pen of man. But he was kind-hearted, humane,
rational. He had orders to set up the Emperor's statue in the temple
at Jerusalem; and no doubt he laughed inwardly at the folly: but he
must obey orders. Yet he hesitated, when he landed and saw the Jews
come to him in thousands, covering the country like a cloud, young and
old, rich and poor, unarmed, many clothed in sackcloth and with ashes
on their heads, and beseeching him that he would not commit this
abomination. He rebuked them sternly. He had a whole army at his
back, and would compel them to obey. They answered that they must obey
God rather than man. Petronius's heart relented; he left his soldiers
behind and went on to try the Jews at Tiberias. There he met a similar
band. He tried again to be stern with them. All other nations had
worshipped the Emperor's image, why should not they? Would they make
war against their emperor? 'We have no thought of war,' they cried
with one voice, 'but we will submit to be massacred rather than break
our law;' and at once the whole crowd fell with their faces to the
earth, and declared that they were ready to offer their throats to the
swords of the Roman soldiers.
For forty days that scene lasted; it was the time for sowing, and the
whole land lay untilled. Petronius could do nothing with people who
were ready to be martyrs, but not rebels; and he gave way. He excused
himself to the mad emperor as he best could. He promised the Jews that
he would do all he could for them, even at the risk of his own life—
and he very nearly lost his life in trying to save them. But the thing
tided over, and the poor Jews conquered, as the Christian martyrs
conquered afterwards, by resignation; by that highest courage which
shows itself not in anger but in patience, and suffering instead of
Well it had been for the Jews elsewhere if they had been of the same
mind. But near Babylon, just about the time St. Peter wrote his
epistle, the Jews broke out in open rebellion. Two Jewish orphans, who
had been bred as weavers and ran away from a cruel master, escaped into
the marshes, and there became the leaders of a great band of robbers.
They defeated the governor of Babylon in battle; they went to the court
of the heathen king of Persia, and became great men there. One of them
had the other poisoned, and then committed great crimes, wasted the
country of Babylon with fire and sword, and came to a miserable end,
being slaughtered in bed when in a drunken sleep. Then the Babylonians
rose on all the Jews and massacred them: the survivors fled to the
great city of Seleucia, and mixed themselves up in party riots with the
heathens; the heathens turned on them and slew 50,000 of them; and so,
as St. Peter told them, judgment began at the house of God.
Whether this massacre of the Babylonian Jews happened just before or
just after St. Peter wrote his epistle from Babylon, we cannot tell.
But it is plain, I think, that either this matter or what led to it was
in his mind. It seems most likely that it had happened a little
before, and that he wrote to the Jews in the north-east of Asia Minor,
to warn them against giving way to the same lawless passions which had
brought ruin and misery on the Jews of Babylon.
For they were in great danger of falling into the same misery and
ruin. The Romans expected the Jews to rebel all over the world. And,
as it fell out, they did rebel, and perished in vast numbers miserably,
because they would not take St. Peter's advice; because they would not
obey every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake; because they would not
honour all men: but looked on all men as the enemies of God.
Good for them it would have been, had they taken St. Peter's advice,
which was the only plan, he said, to save their souls and lives in
those terrible times. Good for them if they had believed St. Peter's
gospel, when he told them that God had chosen them to obedience, and
purification by the blood of Christ, to an inheritance undefiled and
that faded not away.
He said that, remember, to all the Jews, whether Christians or not.
St. Peter took for granted that Christ was Lord and King of all the
Jews, whether they believed it or not. He did not say, 'If you believe
in Christ, then he is your King; if not, then he is not;' but—Because
you are Jews, you are all Christ's subjects; to him you owe faith,
loyalty, and obedience. It was of him the old Jewish prophets
foretold, and saw that their prophecies of Christ's coming would be
fulfilled, not in their own time, but in your time—in the time of the
Jews to whom he spoke. Therefore they were to give up the foolish
practices which had been handed down to them from their forefathers.
Therefore they were to give up fleshly lusts, which warred against the
soul, and would only bring them to destruction; therefore they were to
be holy, even as God was holy; therefore they were to purify their
souls in sincere brotherly love; therefore they were to keep their
conduct honourable among the Gentiles, that, though they were now
spoken against as evil-doers, they might see their good works, and
glorify God in the coming day of visitation. Therefore they were to
submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake; and trust to
Christ, their true King in heaven, to deliver them from oppression, and
free them from injustice, in his own good way and time. Free men they
were in the sight of God, and unjustly enslaved by the Romans: but they
were not to make their being free men a cloak and excuse for malice and
evil passions against the Gentiles (as too many of the Jews were
doing), but remember that they were the servants of God; and serve him,
and trust in him to deliver them in his own way and time, by his Son
Those Jews who believed St. Peter's gospel and good news that Christ
was their King and Saviour, kept their souls in peace.
Those Jews who did not believe St. Peter—and they, unhappily for
them, were the far greater number—broke out into mad rebellion again,
and perished in vast numbers, till they were destroyed off the face of
the earth (as St. Peter had warned them) by their own fleshly lusts,
which warred against the soul.
But what has this to do with us?
It has everything to do with us, if we believe that we are Christian
men; that Christ is our King, and the King of all the world, just as
much as he was King of the Jews; that all power is given to him in
heaven and earth, and that he is actually exercising his power, and
governing all heaven and earth.
Yes. If we really believed in the kingdom of God and Christ; if we
really believed that the fate of nations is determined, not by kings,
not by conquerors, not by statesmen, not by parliaments, not by the
people, but by God; that we, England, the world, are going God's way,
and not our own; then we should look hopefully, peacefully,
contentedly, on the matters which are too apt now to fret us; for we
should say more often than we do, 'It is the Lord: let him do what
seemeth to him good.'
When we see new opinions taking hold of men's minds; when we see
great changes becoming certain; then, instead of being angry and
terrified, we should say with Gamaliel the wise, 'Let them alone: if
this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought; if it be
of God, you cannot overthrow it, lest haply you be found fighting
If, again, we fancied ourselves aggrieved by any law, we should not
say, 'It is unjust, therefore I will not obey it:' for it would seem a
small matter to us whether the law was unjust to us, which only means,
in most cases, that the law is hard on us personally, and that we do
not like it; for almost every one considers things just which make for
his own interest, while whatever is against his interest is of course
unjust. We should say, 'Let the law be hard on me, yet I will obey it
for the Lord's sake; if it can be altered by fair and lawful means,
well and good; but if not, I will take it as one more burden which I am
to bear patiently for the sake of him who lays it on me, Christ my Lord
and my King.'
The true question with us ought to be, Does the law force us to do
that which is wrong?
If so, we are bound not to obey it, as the Jews were bound not to
obey the law which commanded Cæsar's image to be set up in the Temple.
But if any man knows of a law in this land which compels him to do a
wrong thing, I know of none. And let no man fancy that such submission
shows a slavish spirit. Not so. St. Peter did not wish to encourage a
slavish spirit in Jews and Christians. He told them that they were
free: but that they were not to use that belief as a cloak of
maliciousness—of spiteful, bitter, and turbulent conduct. And as a
fact, those who have done most for true freedom, in all ages, have not
been the violent, noisy, bitter, rebellious spirits, who have cried,
'We are the masters, who shall rule over us?' but the God-fearing,
patient, law-abiding men, who would obey every ordinance of man for the
Lord's sake, whether it seemed to them altogether just or not, unless
they saw it was ruinous not to themselves merely, but to their country,
and to their children after them.
It is because men in their own minds do not believe that Christ is
the ruler of the world, that they lose all hope of God's delivering
them, and break out into mad rebellion. It is because, again, men do
not believe that Christ is the ruler of the world, that, when their
rebellion has failed, they sink into slavishness and dull despair, and
bow their necks to the yoke of the first tyrant who arises; and try to
make a covenant with death and hell. Better far for them, had they
made a covenant with Christ, who is ready to deliver men from death and
hell in this world, as well as in the world to come.
But he who believes in Christ, in the living Christ, the ordering
Christ, the governing Christ, will possess his soul in patience. He
will not fret himself, lest he should do evil; because he can always
put his trust in the Lord, until the tyranny be overpast. He will not
hastily rebel: but neither will he truckle basely and cowardly to the
ways of this wicked world. For Christ the Lord hates those ways, and
has judged them, and doomed them to destruction; and he reigns, and
will reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.
SERMON XVI.—TERROR BY NIGHT
(Preached in Lent.)
PSALM xci. 5.
Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night.
You may see, if you will read your Bible, that the night is spoken of
in the Old Testament much as we speak of it now, as a beautiful and
holy thing. The old Jews were not afraid of any terror by night. They
rejoiced to consider the heavens, the work of God's fingers, the moon
and the stars, which he had ordained. They looked on night, as we do,
as a blessed time of rest and peace for men, in which the beasts of the
forest seek their meat from God, while all things are springing and
growing, man knows not how, under the sleepless eye of a good and
But, on the other hand, you may remark that St. Paul, in his
Epistles, speaks of night in a very different tone. He is always
opposing night to day, and darkness to light; as if darkness was evil
in itself, and a pattern of all evil in men's souls. And St. Paul knew
what he was saying, and knew how to say it; for he spoke by the Holy
Spirit of God.
The reason of this difference is simple. The old Jews spoke of God's
night, such as we country folks may see, thank God, as often as we
will. St. Paul spoke of man's night, such as it might be seen, alas!
in the cities of the Roman empire. All those to whom he wrote—
Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, and the rest—dwelt in great cities,
heathen and profligate; and night in them was mixed up with all that
was ugly, dangerous, and foul. They were bad enough by day: after
sunset, they became hells on earth. The people, high and low, were
sunk in wickedness; the lower classes in poverty, and often despair.
The streets were utterly unlighted; and in the darkness robbery,
house-breaking, murder, were so common, that no one who had anything to
lose went through the streets without his weapon or a guard; while
inside the houses, things went on at night—works of darkness—of
which no man who knows of them dare talk. For as St. Paul says, 'It is
a shame even to speak of those things which are done by them in
secret.' Evil things are done by night still, in London, Paris, New
York, and many a great city; but they are pure, respectable,
comfortable, and happy, when compared with one of those old heathen
cities, which St. Paul knew but too well.
Again. Our own forefathers were afraid of the night and its terrors,
and looked on night as on an ugly time: but for very different reasons
from those for which St. Paul warned his disciples of night and the
works of darkness. Though they lived in the country, they did not
rejoice in God's heaven, or in the moon and stars which he had
ordained. They fancied that the night was the time in which all
ghastly and ugly phantoms began to move; that it was peopled with
ghosts, skeletons, demons, witches, who held revels on the hill-tops,
or stole into houses to suck the life out of sleeping men. The cry of
the wild fowl, and the howling of the wind, were to them the yells of
evil spirits. They dared not pass a graveyard by night for fear of
seeing things of which we will not talk. They fancied that the
forests, the fens, the caves, were full of spiteful and ugly spirits,
who tempted men to danger and to death; and when they prayed to be
delivered from the perils and dangers of the night, they prayed not
only against those real dangers of fire, of robbers, of sudden
sickness, and so forth, against which we all must pray, but against a
thousand horrible creatures which the good God never created, but which
their own fancy had invented.
Now in the Bible, from beginning to end, you will find no teaching of
this kind. That there are angels, and that there are also evil
spirits, the Bible says distinctly; and that they can sometimes appear
to men. But it is most worthy of remark how little the Bible says
about them, not how much; how it keeps them, as it were, in the
background, instead of bringing them forward; while our forefathers
seem continually talking of them, continually bringing them forward—I
had almost said they thought of nothing else. If you compare the Holy
Bible with the works which were most popular among our forefathers,
especially among the lower class, till within the last 200 years, you
will see at once what I mean,—how ghosts, apparitions, demons,
witchcraft, are perpetually spoken of in them; how seldom they are
spoken of in the Bible; lest, I suppose, men should think of them
rather than of God, as our forefathers seem to have been but too much
given to do.
And so with this Psalm. It takes for granted that men will have
terrors by night; that they will be at times afraid of what may come to
them in the darkness. But it tells them not to be afraid, for that as
long as they say to God, 'Thou art my hope and my stronghold; in thee
will I trust,' so long they will not be afraid for any terror by night.
It was because our forefathers did not say that, that they were
afraid, and the terror by night grew on them; till at times it made
them half mad with fear of ghosts, witches, demons, and such-like; and
with the madness of fear came the madness of cruelty; and they
committed, again and again, such atrocities as I will not speak of
here; crimes for which we must trust that God has forgiven them, for
they knew not what they did.
But, though we happily no longer believe in the terror by night which
comes from witches, demons, or ghosts, there is another kind of terror
by night in which we must believe, for it comes to us from God, and
should be listened to as the voice of God: even that terror about our
own sinfulness, folly, weakness which comes to us in dreams or in
sleepless nights. Some will say, 'These painful dreams, these painful
waking thoughts, are merely bodily, and can be explained by bodily
causes, known to physicians.' Whether they can or not, matters very
little to you and me. Things may be bodily, and yet teach us spiritual
lessons. A book—the very Bible itself—is a bodily thing: bodily
leaves of paper, printed with bodily ink; and yet out of it we may
learn lessons for our souls of the most awful and eternal importance.
And so with these night fancies and night thoughts. We may learn from
them. We are forced often to learn from them, whether we will or not.
They are often God's message to us, calling us to repentance and
amendment of life. They are often God's book of judgment, wherein our
sins are written, which God is setting before us, and showing us the
things which we have done.
Who that has come to middle age does not know how dreams sometimes
remind him painfully of what he once was, of what he would be still,
without God's grace? How in his dreams he finds himself tempted by the
old sins; giving way to the old meannesses, weaknesses, follies? How
dreams remind him, awfully enough, that though his circumstances have
changed,—his opinions, his whole manner of life, have changed—yet
he is still the same person that he was ten, twenty, thirty, forty
years ago, and will be for ever? Nothing bears witness to the abiding,
enduring, immortal oneness of the soul like dreams when they prove to a
man, in a way which cannot be mistaken—that is, by making him do the
deed over again in fancy—that he is the same person who told that
lie, felt that hatred, many a year ago; and who would do the same
again, if God's grace left him to that weak and sinful nature, which is
his master in sleep, and runs riot in his dreams. Whether God sends to
men in these days dreams which enable them to look forward, and to
foretell things to come, I cannot say. But this I can say, that God
sends dreams to men which enable them to look back, and recollect
things past, which they had forgotten only too easily; and that these
humbling and penitential dreams are God's warning that (as the Article
says) the infection of nature doth remain, even in those who are
regenerate; that nothing but the continual help of God's Spirit will
keep us from falling back, or falling away.
Again: those sad thoughts which weigh on the mind when lying awake at
night, when all things look black to a man; when he is more ashamed of
himself, more angry with himself, more ready to take the darkest view
of his own character and of his own prospects of life, than he ever is
by day,—do not these thoughts, too, come from God? Is it not God who
is holding the man's eyes waking? Is it not God who is making him
search out his own heart, and commune with his spirit? I believe that
so it is. If any one says, 'It is all caused by the darkness and
silence. You have nothing to distract your attention as you have by
day, and therefore the mind becomes unwholesomely excited, and feeds
upon itself,' I answer, then they are good things, now and then, this
darkness and this silence, if they do prevent the mind from being
distracted, as it is all day long, by business and pleasure; if they
leave a man's soul alone with itself, to look itself in the face, and
be thoroughly ashamed of what it sees. In the noise and glare of the
day, we are all too apt to fancy that all is right with us, and say, 'I
am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing;' and the
night does us a kindly office if it helps us to find out that we knew
not that we were poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked—not only
in the sight of God, but in our own sight, when we look honestly at
The wise man says:-
'Oh, would some power the gift but give us,
To see ourselves as others see us!'
and those painful thoughts make us do that. For if we see some
faults in ourselves, be sure our neighbours see them likewise, and
perhaps many more beside.
But more: these sad thoughts make us see ourselves as God sees us.
For if we see faults in ourselves, we may be sure that the pure and
holy God, in whose sight the very heavens are not clean, and who
charges his angels with folly, sees our faults with infinitely greater
clearness, and in infinitely greater number. So let us face those sad
night thoughts, however painful, however humiliating they may be; for
by them God is calling us to repentance, and forcing us to keep Lent in
spirit and in truth, whether we keep it outwardly or not.
'What,' some may say, 'you would have us, then, afraid of the terror
by night?' My dear friends, that is exactly what I would not have. I
would teach you from Holy Scripture how to profit by the terror, how to
thank God for the terror, instead of being afraid of it, as you
otherwise certainly will be. For these ugly dreams, these sad thoughts
do come, whether you choose or not. Whether you choose or not, you all
have, or will have seasons of depression, of anxiety, of melancholy.
Shall they teach you, or merely terrify you? Shall they only bring
remorse, or shall they bring repentance?
Remorse. In that is nothing but pain. A man may see all the wrong
and folly he has done; he may fret over it, torment himself with it,
curse himself for it, and yet be the worse, and not the better, for
what he sees. If he be a strong-minded man, he may escape from remorse
in the bustle of business or pleasure. If he be a weak-minded man, he
may escape from it in drunkenness, as hundreds do; or he may fall into
melancholy, superstition, despair, suicide.
But if his sadness breeds, not remorse, but repentance—that is, in
one word, if instead of keeping his sins to himself, he takes his sins
to God—then all will be well. Then he will not be afraid of the
terror, but thankful for it, when he knows that it is what St. Paul
calls, the terror of the Lord.
This is why the old Psalmists were not afraid of the terror by night;
because they knew that their anxiety had come from God, and therefore
went to God for forgiveness, for help, for comfort. Therefore it is
that one says, 'I am weary of groaning. Every night wash I my bed, and
water my couch with my tears,' and yet says the next moment, 'Away from
me, all ye that work vanity. The Lord hath heard the voice of my
weeping. The Lord will receive my prayer.'
Therefore it is that another says, 'While I held my sins my bones
waxed old through my daily complaining;' and the next moment—'I said
I will confess my sins unto the Lord, and so thou forgavest the
wickedness of my sin.'
Therefore it is that again another says, 'Thou holdest mine eyes
waking. I am so feeble that I cannot speak. I call to remembrance my
sin, and in the night season I commune with my heart, and search out my
spirit. Will the Lord absent himself for ever, and will he be no more
entreated? Is his mercy clean gone for ever, and his promise come
utterly to an end for evermore? And I said, It is mine own infirmity;
but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most Highest. I
will remember the works of the Lord, and call to mind the wonders of
And another, 'Why art thou so heavy, O my soul, and why art thou so
disquieted within me? O put thy trust in God, for I shall yet give him
thanks, who is the help of my countenance, and my God.'
And therefore it is, that our Lord Jesus Christ, in order that he
might taste sorrow for every man, and be made in all things like to his
brethren, endured, once and for all, in the garden of Gethsemane, the
terror which cometh by night, as none ever endured it before or since;
the agony of dread, the agony of helplessness, in which he prayed yet
more earnestly, and his sweat was as great drops of blood falling down
to the ground. And there appeared an angel from heaven strengthening
him; because he stood not on his own strength, but cast himself on his
Father and our Father, on his God and our God. So says St. Paul, who
tells us how our Lord, in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up
prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, unto him that
was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared—
though he were a son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he
suffered; and being made perfect, he became the Author of everlasting
salvation unto all them that obey him.
Oh, may we all, in the hour of shame and sadness, in the hour of
darkness and confusion, and, above all, in the hour of death and the
day of judgment, take refuge with him in whom alone is help, and
comfort, and salvation for this life and the life to come—even Jesus
Christ, who died for us on the cross.
SERMON XVII.—THE SON OF THUNDER
ST. JOHN i. 1.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the
Word was God.
We read this morning the first chapter of the Gospel according to St.
Some of you, I am sure, must have felt, as you heard it, how grand
was the very sound of the words. Some one once compared the sound of
St. John's Gospel to a great church bell: simple, slow, and awful; and
awful just because it is so simple and slow. The words are very short,
—most of them of one syllable,—so that even a child may understand
them if he will: but every word is full of meaning.
'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the
Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were
made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In
him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth
in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.'
Those, I hold, are perhaps the deepest words ever written by man.
Whole books have been written, and whole books more might be written
upon them, and on the words which come after them. 'That was the true
Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in
the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as
received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to
them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of
the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the
Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the
glory as of the only-begotten of the Father), full of grace and
truth.' They go down to the mystery of all mysteries,—to the mystery
of the unfathomable One God, who dwells alone in the light which none
can approach unto, self-sustained and self-sufficing for ever. And
then they go on to the other great mystery—how that God comes forth
out of himself to give life and light to all things which he has made;
and what is the bond between the Abysmal Father in heaven, and us his
human children, and the world in which we live:- even Jesus Christ, God
of the substance of his Father, begotten before the worlds, and man of
the substance of his mother, born in the world.
Yes. The root and ground of all true philosophy lies in this
chapter. Its words are so deep that the wisest man might spend his
life over them without finding out all that they mean. And yet they
are so simple that any child can understand enough of their meaning to
know its duty, and to do it.
Remark, again, how short the sentences are. Each is made up of a
very few words, and followed by a full stop, that our minds may come to
a full stop likewise, and think over what we have heard before St. John
goes on to tell us more.
Yes. St. John does not hurry either himself or us. He takes his
time; and he wishes us to take our time likewise. His message will
keep; for it is eternal. It is not a story of yesterday, or to-day, or
to-morrow. It is the story of eternity,—of what is, and was, and
always will be.
Always has the Word been with God, and always will he be God.
Always has the Word been making all things, and always will he be
Always has the Spirit been proceeding, and always will the Spirit be
proceeding, from the Word and from the Father of the Word, giving their
light and their life to men.
St. John's message will last for ever; and therefore he tells it
slowly and deliberately, knowing that no time can change what he has to
say; for it is the good news of the Word, Jesus Christ, who is the same
yesterday, to-day, and for ever, because he is God of very God,
eternally in the bosom of the Father.
Now St. John, who writes thus simply and quietly, was no weak or soft
person. He was one of the two whom the Lord surnamed Boanerges, the
Son of Thunder—the man of the loud and awful voice. Painters have
liked to draw St. John as young, soft, and feminine, because he was the
Apostle of Love. I beg you to put that sentimental notion out of your
minds, and to remember that the only hint which Holy Scripture gives us
about St. John's person is, that he was 'a Son of Thunder;' that his
very voice, when he chose, was awful; that he, and his brother James,
before they were converted, were not of a soft, but of a terrible
temper; that it was James and John, the Sons of Thunder, who wanted to
call down thunder and lightning from heaven on all the villages who
would not receive the Lord.
A Son of Thunder. Think over that name, and think over it carefully,
remembering that it was our Lord himself who gave St. John the name;
and that it therefore has, surely, some deep meaning.
Do not fancy that it means merely a loud and noisy person. I have
known too many, carelessly looking only at the outsides and shows of
things, and not at their inside and reality, fancy that that was what
it meant. I have known them fancy that they themselves were sons of
thunder when they raved and shouted, and used violent language, in
preaching, or in public speaking. And I have heard foolish people
honour such men the more, and think them the more in earnest, the more
noise they made, and say of him; 'He is a true Boanerges—a Son of
Thunder, like St. John.'
Like St. John? The only sermon of St. John's which we have on record
is that which they say he used to preach over and over again when he
was carried as an old man into his church at Ephesus. And that was no
more than these few words over and over again, Sunday after Sunday,
'Little children, love one another.'
That was the way in which St. John, the Son of Thunder, spoke when
age and long obedience to the Spirit of God had taught him how to use
his strength wisely and well.
Like St. John? Is there anywhere, in St. John's Gospel or Epistles,
one violent expression? One sentence of great swelling words? Are not
the words of the Son of Thunder, as I have been telling you, peculiarly
calm, slow, simple, gentle? Can those whose mouths are full of noisy
and violent talk, be true Sons of Thunder, if St. John was one?
No. And if you will think for yourselves, you will see that there is
a deeper meaning in our Lord's name for St. John than merely that he
was a loud and violent man.
You hear the roar of the thunder, but you know surely that it is not
the thunder itself; that it is only its echo rolling on from cloud to
cloud and hill from hill.
But the thunder itself—if you have ever been close enough to it to
hear it—is very different from that, and far more awful. Still and
silently it broods till its time is come. And then there is one
ear-piercing crack, one blinding flash, and all is over. Nothing so
swift, so instantaneous, as the thunder itself, and yet nothing so
And such are those sudden flashes of indignation against sin and
falsehood which break out for a moment in St. John's writing, piercing,
like the Word of God himself, the very joints and marrow of the heart,
and showing, in one terrible word, what is the real matter with the bad
man's soul; as the thunderbolt lights up for an instant the whole
heavens far and wide. 'If we say that we have fellowship with God, and
walk in darkness, we lie.' In that one plain, ugly word, he tells us
the whole truth, frightful as it is, and then he goes on calmly once
more. And again:
'He that saith, I know God, and keepeth not his commandments, is a
liar. He that committeth sin is of the devil. He that hateth his
brother is a murderer. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his
brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath
seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? He that doeth good is
of God; but he that doeth evil has not seen God.'
Such words as these, coming as they do amid the usually quiet and
gentle language of St. John—these are truly words of thunder; going
straight to their mark, tearing off the mask from hypocrisy and
self-deceiving and false religion, and speaking the truth in majesty.
And yet there is no noisiness, no wordiness, about them; nothing like
rant or violence. Such a man is a liar, says St. John: but he says no
more. That is all, and that is enough.
So speaks the true Son of Thunder. And his words, like the thunder,
echo from land to land; and we hear them now, this day, in a foreign
tongue, eighteen hundred years after they were written: while thousands
of bigger, noisier, and frothier words and more violent books have been
lost and forgotten utterly.
And now, my friends, we may find in St. John's example a wholesome
lesson for ourselves. We may learn from it that noisiness is not
earnestness, that violence is not strength. Noise is a sign of want of
faith, and violence is a sign of weakness.
The man who is really in earnest, who has real faith in what he is
saying and doing, will not be noisy, and loud, and in a hurry, as it is
written, 'He that believeth will not make haste.' He that is really
strong; he who knows that he can do his work, if he takes his time and
uses his wit, and God prospers him—he will not be violent, but will
work on in silence and peaceful industry, as it is written, 'Thy
strength is to sit still.'
I know that you here do not require this warning much for
yourselves. There is, thank God, something in our quiet, industrious,
country life which breeds in men that solid, sober temper, the temper
which produces much work and little talk, which is the mark of a true
Englishman, a true gentleman, and a true Christian.
But if you go (as more and more of you will go) into the great towns,
you will hear much noisy and violent speaking from pulpits, and at
public meetings. You will read much noisy and violent writing in
newspapers and books.
Now I say to you, distrust such talk. It may seem to you very
earnest and passionate. Distrust it for that very reason. It may seem
to you very eloquent and full of fine words. Distrust it for that very
reason. The man who cannot tell his story without wrapping it up in
fine words, generally does not know very clearly what he is talking
about. The man who cannot speak or write without scolding and
exaggeration, is not very likely to be able to give sound advice to his
Remember that it is by violent language of this kind, in all ages,
that fanatical preachers have deceived silly men and women to their
shame and ruin; and mob-leaders have stirred up riots and horrible
confusions. Remember this: and distrust violent and wordy persons
wheresoever you shall meet them: but after listening to them, if you
must, go home, and take out your Bibles, and read the Gospel of St.
John, and see how he spoke, the true Son of Thunder, whose words are
gone out into all lands, and their sound unto the end of the world,
just because they are calm and sober, plain and simple, like the words
of Jesus Christ his Lord and our Lord, who spake as never man spake.
And for ourselves—let us remember our Lord's own warning: 'Let your
Yea be Yea, and your Nay Nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh
Tell your story plainly and calmly; speak your mind if you must. But
speak it quietly. Do not try to make out the worst case for your
adversary; do not exaggerate; do not use strong language: say the
truth, the whole truth; but say nothing but the truth, in patience and
in charity. For everything beyond that comes of evil,—of some evil
or fault in us. Either we are not quite sure that we are right; or we
have lost our temper, and then we see the whole matter awry, through
the mist of passion; or we are selfish, and looking out for our own
interest, or our own credit, instead of judging the matter fairly.
This, or something else, is certainly wrong in us whenever we give way
to violent language. Therefore, whenever we are tempted to say more
than is needful, let us remember St. John's words, and ask God for his
Holy Spirit, the spirit of love, which, instead of weakening a man's
words, makes them all the stronger in the cause of truth, because they
are spoken in love.
LUKE v. 8.
Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.
Few stories in the New Testament are as well known as this. Few go
home more deeply to the heart of man. Most simple, most graceful is
the story, and yet it has in it depths unfathomable.
Great painters have loved to draw, great poets have loved to sing,
that scene on the lake of Gennesaret. The clear blue water,
land-locked with mountains; the meadows on the shore, gay with their
lilies of the field, on which our Lord bade them look, and know the
bounty of their Father in heaven; the rich gardens, olive-yards, and
vineyards on the slopes; the towns and villas scattered along the
shore, all of bright white limestone, gay in the sun; the crowds of
boats, fishing continually for the fish which swarm to this day in the
lake;—everywhere beautiful country life, busy and gay, healthy and
civilized likewise—and in the midst of it, the Maker of all heaven
and earth sitting in a poor fisher's boat, and condescending to tell
them where the shoal of fish was lying. It is a wonderful scene. Let
us thank God that it happened once on earth. Let us try to see what we
may learn from it in these days, in which our God and Saviour no longer
walks this earth in human form.
'Ah!' some may say, 'but for that very reason there is no lesson in
the story for us in these days. True it is, that God does not walk the
earth now in human form. He works no miracles, either for fishermen,
or for any other men. We shall never see a miraculous draught of
fishes. We shall never be convinced, as St. Peter was, by a miracle,
that Christ is close to us. What has the story to do with us?'
My friends, are things, after all, so different now from what they
were then? Is our case after all so very different from St. Peter's?
God and Christ cannot change, for they are eternal—the same
yesterday, to-day, and for ever; and if Christ was near St. Peter on
the lake of Gennesaret, he is near us now, and here; for in him we live
and move and have our being; and he is about our path, and about our
bed, and spieth out all our ways: near us for ever, whether we know it
or not. And human nature cannot change. There is in us the same heart
as there was in St. Peter, for evil and for good. When St. Peter found
suddenly that it was the Lord who was in his boat, his first feeling
was one of fear: 'Depart from me for I am a sinful man, O Lord.' And
when we recollect at moments that God is close to us, watching all we
do, all we say, yea, all we think, are we not afraid, for the moment at
least? Do we not feel the thought of God's presence a burden? Do we
never long to hide from God?—to forget God again, and cry in our
hearts: 'Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord'?
God grant to us all, that after that first feeling of dread and awe
is over, we may go on, as St. Peter went on, to the better feelings of
admiration, loyalty, worship and say at last, as St. Peter said
afterwards, when the Lord asked him if he too would leave him: 'Lord,
to whom shall we go? for thou hast the words of eternal life.'
But do I blame St. Peter for saying, 'Depart from me; for I am a
sinful man, O Lord'? God forbid! Who am I, to blame St. Peter?
Especially when even the Lord Jesus did not blame him, but only bade
him not to be afraid.
And why did the Lord not blame him, even when he asked Him to go
Because St. Peter was honest. He said frankly and naturally what was
in his heart. And honesty, even if it is mistaken, never offends God,
and ought never to offend men. God requires truth in the inward parts;
and if a man speaks the truth—if he expresses his own thoughts and
feelings frankly and honestly—then, even if he is not right, he is at
least on the only road to get right, as St. Peter was.
He spoke not from dislike of our Lord, but from modesty; from a
feeling of awe, of uneasiness, of dread, at the presence of one who was
infinitely greater, wiser, better than himself.
And that feeling of reverence and modesty, even when it takes the
shape, as it often will in young people, of shyness and fear, is a
divine and noble feeling—the beginning of all goodness. Indeed, I
question whether there can be any real and sound goodness in any man's
heart, if he has no modesty, and no reverence. Boldness, forwardness,
self-conceit, above all in the young—we know how ugly they are in our
eyes; and the Bible tells us again and again how ugly they are in the
sight of God.
The truly great and free and noble soul—and St. Peter's soul was
such—is that of the man who feels awe and reverence in the presence
of those who are wiser and holier than himself; who is abashed and
humbled when he compares himself with his betters, just because his
standard is so high. Because he knows how much better he should be
than he is; because he is discontented with himself, ashamed of
himself, therefore he shrinks, at first, from the very company which,
after a while, he learns to like best, because it teaches him most.
And so it was with St. Peter's noble soul. He felt himself, in the
presence of that pure Christ, a sinful man:- not perhaps what we should
call sinful; but sinful in comparison of Christ. He felt his own
meanness, ignorance, selfishness, weakness. He felt unworthy to be in
such good company. He felt unworthy,—he, the ignorant fisherman,—
to have such a guest in his poor boat. 'Go elsewhere, Lord,' he tried
to say, 'to a place and to companions more fit for thee. I am ashamed
to stand in thy presence. I am dazzled by the brightness of thy
countenance, crushed down by the thought of thy wisdom and power,
uneasy lest I say or do something unfit for thee; lest I anger thee
unawares in my ignorance, clumsiness; lest I betray to thee my own bad
habits: and those bad habits I feel in thy presence as I never felt
before. Thou art too condescending; thou honourest me too much; thou
hast taken me for a better man than I am; thou knowest not what a poor
miserable creature I am at heart—“Depart from me; for I am a sinful
man, O Lord.”'
There spoke out the truly noble soul, who was ready the next moment,
as soon as he had recovered himself, to leave all and follow Christ;
who was ready afterwards to wander, to suffer, to die upon the cross
for his Lord; and who, when he was led out to execution, asked to be
crucified (as it is said St. Peter actually did) with his head
downwards; for it was too much honour for him to die looking up to
heaven, as his Lord had died.
Do you not understand me yet? Then think what you would have thought
of St. Peter, if, instead of saying, 'Depart from me; for I am a sinful
man, O Lord,' St. Peter had said, 'Stay with me, for I am a holy man, O
Lord. I am just the sort of person who deserves the honour of thy
company; and my boat, poor though it is, more fit for thee than the
palace of a king.' Would St. Peter have seemed to you then wiser or
more foolish, better or worse, than he does now, when in his confused
honest humility, he begs the Lord to go away and leave him? And do you
not feel that a man is (as a great poet says) 'displeasing alike to God
and to the enemies of God,' when he comes boldly to the throne of
grace, not to find grace and mercy, because he feels that he needs
them: but to boast of God's grace, and make God's mercy to him an
excuse for looking down upon his fellow-creatures; and worships, like
the Pharisee, in self-conceit and pride, thanking God that he is not as
other men are?
Better far to be the publican, who stood afar off, and dare not lift
up as much as his eyes toward heaven, but cried only, 'God be merciful
to me a sinner.' Better far to be the honest and devout soldier, who,
when Jesus offered to come to his house, answered, 'Lord, I am not
worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof. But speak the word
only, and my servant shall be healed.'
Only he must say that in honesty, in spirit, and in truth, like St.
Peter. For a man may shrink from religion, from the thought of God,
from coming to the Holy Communion, for two most opposite reasons.
He may shrink from them because he knows he is full of sins, and
wishes to keep his sins; and knows that, if he worships God, if he
comes to the Holy Communion—indeed, if he remembers the presence of
God at all,—he pledges himself to give up his bad habits; to repent
and amend, which is just what he has no mind to do. So he turns away
from God, because he chooses to remain bad. May the Lord have mercy on
his soul, for he has no mercy on it himself! He chooses evil, and
refuses good; and evil will be his ruin.
But, again, a man may shrink from God, from church, from the Holy
Communion, because he feels himself bad, and longs to be good; because
he feels himself full of evil habits, and hates them, and sees how ugly
they are, and is afraid to appear in the presence of God foul with sin.
Let him be of good cheer. He is not going wrong wilfully. But he is
making a mistake. Let him make it no more. He feels himself
unworthy. Let him come all the more, that he may be made worthy. Let
him come, because he is worthy. For—strange it may seem, but true it
is—that a man is the more worthy to draw near to God the more he
feels himself to be utterly unworthy thereof.
He who partakes worthily of the Holy Communion is he who says with
his whole heart, 'We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs
under thy table.' He with whom Christ will take up his abode is he who
says, 'Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof.'
For humility is the beginning of all goodness, and the end of all
He who says that he sees is blind. He who knows his own blindness
sees. He who says he has no sin in him is the sinner. He who
confesses his sins is the righteous man; for God is faithful and just
to forgive him, as he did St. Peter, and to cleanse him from all
SERMON XIX.—A WHITSUN SERMON
PSALM civ. 24, 27-30.
O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them
all: the earth is full of thy riches. . . . These wait all upon thee;
that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. That thou givest
them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good.
Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath,
they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy Spirit,
they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.
You may not understand why I read this morning, instead of the Te
Deum, the 'Song of the three Children,' which calls on all powers
and creatures in the world to bless and praise God. You may not
understand also, at first, why this grand 104th Psalm was chosen as one
of the special Psalms for Whitsuntide,—what it has to do with the
Holy Ghost, the Comforter, the Spirit of God. Let me try to explain it
to you, and may God grant that you may find something worth remembering
among my clumsy words.
You were told this morning that there were two ways of learning
concerning God and the Spirit of God,—that one was by the hearing of
the ear, and the Holy Bible; the other by the seeing of the eye—by
nature and the world around us. It is of the latter I speak this
afternoon,—of what you can learn concerning God by seeing, if only
you have eyes, and the same Spirit of God to open those eyes, as the
The man who wrote this Psalm looked round him on the wondrous world
in which we dwell, and all he saw in it spoke to him of God; of one
God, boundless in wisdom and in power, in love and care; and of one
Spirit of God, the Lord and Giver of Life.
He saw all this, and so glorious did it seem to him, as he looked on
the fair world round him, that he could not contain himself. Not only
was his reason satisfied, but his heart was touched. It was so
glorious that he could not speak of it coldly, calmly; and he burst out
into singing a song of praise—'O Lord our God, thou art become
exceeding glorious; thou art clothed with majesty and honour.' For he
saw everywhere order; all things working together for good. He saw
everywhere order and rule; and something within him told him, there
must be a Lawgiver, an Orderer, a Ruler and he must be One.
Again, the Psalmist saw everywhere a purpose; things evidently
created to be of use to each other. And the Spirit of God told him
there must be One who purposed all this; who meant to do it, and who
had done it; who thought it out and planned it by wisdom and
Then the Psalmist saw how everything, from the highest to the lowest,
was of use. The fir trees were a dwelling for the stork; and the very
stony rocks, where nothing else can live, were a refuge for the wild
goats; everywhere he saw use and bounty—food, shelter, life,
happiness, given to man and beast, and not earned by them; then he said
—'There must be a bountiful Lord, a Giver, generous and loving, from
whom the very lions seek their meat, when they roar after their prey;
on whom all the creeping things innumerable wait in the great sea, that
he may give them meat in due season.'
But, moreover, he saw everywhere beauty; shapes, and colours, and
sounds, which were beautiful in his eyes, and gave him pleasure deep
and strange, he knew not why: and the Spirit of God within him told him
—'These fair things please thee. Do they not please Him who made
them? He that formed the ear, shall he not hear the song of birds? He
that made the eye, shall he not see the colours of the flowers? He who
made thee to rejoice in the beauty of the earth, shall not he rejoice
in his own works?' And God seemed to him, in his mind's eye, to
delight in his own works, as a painter delights in the picture which he
has drawn, as a gardener delights in the flowers which he has planted;
as a cunning workman delights in the curious machine which he has
invented; as a king delights in the fair parks and gardens and stately
palaces which he has laid out, and builded, and adorned, for his own
pleasure, as well as for the good of his subjects.
And then, beneath all, and beyond all, there came to him another
question—What is life?
The painter paints his picture, but it has no life. The workman
makes his machine, but, though it moves and works, it has no life. The
gardener,—his flowers have life, but he has not given it to them; he
can only sow the seemingly dead seeds. Who is He that giveth those
seeds a body as it pleases him, and to every seed its own body, its own
growth of leaf, form, and colour? God alone. And what is that life
which he does give? Who can tell that? What is life? What is it
which changes the seed into a flower, the egg into a bird? It is not
the seed itself; the egg itself. What power or will have they, over
themselves? It is not in the seed, or in the egg, as all now know from
experience. You may look for it with all the microscopes in the world,
but you will not find it. There is nothing to be found by the eyes of
mortal man which can account for the growth and life of any created
And what is death? What does the live thing lose, when it loses
life? This moment the bird was alive; a tiny pellet of shot has gone
through its brain, and now its life is lost: but what is lost? It is
just the same size, shape, colour; it weighs exactly the same as it did
when alive. What is the thing not to be seen, touched, weighed,
described, or understood, which it has lost, which we call life?
And to that deep question the Psalmist had an answer whispered to
him,—a hint only, as it were, in a parable. Life is the breath of
God. It is the Spirit of God, who is the Lord and Giver of life. God
breathes into things the breath of life. When he takes away that
breath they die, and are turned again to their dust. When he lets his
breath go forth again, they are made, and he renews the face of the
That is enough for thee, O man, to know. What life is thou canst not
know. Thou canst only speak of it in a figure—as the breath, the
Spirit of God. That Spirit of God is not the universe itself. But he
is working in all things, giving them form and life, dividing to each
severally as he will; all their shape, their beauty, their powers,
their instincts, their thoughts; all in them save brute matter and dead
dust: from him they come, and to him they return again. All order, all
law, all force, all usefulness, come from him. He is the Lord and
Giver of life, in whom all things live, and move, and have their being.
Therefore, my friends, let us at all times, in all places, and
especially at this Whitsuntide, remember that all we see, or can see,
except sin, is the work of the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of God. Let us
look on the world around us, as what it is, as what the old Psalmist
saw it to be,—a sacred place, full of God's presence, shaped,
quickened, and guided by the Spirit of God, the Lord and Giver of life.
My dear friends, God grant that you may all learn to look upon this
world as the Psalmist looked on it. God grant that you may all learn
to see, each in your own way, what a great and pious poet of our
fathers' time put into words far wiser and grander than any which I can
invent for you, when he said how, looking on the earth, the sea, the
sky, he felt—
'A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean, and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world;
Of eye and ear, both what they half create
And what perceive; well pleased to recognise
In nature and the language of the sense
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.'
'Of all my moral being.'
Yes; of our moral being, our characters, our souls. By looking upon
this beautiful and wonderful world around us with reverence, and
earnestness, and love, as what it is,—the work of God's Spirit,—we
shall become not merely the more learned, or the more happy, we shall
become actually better men. The beauties in the earth and sky; the
flowers with their fair hues and fragrant scents; the song of birds;
the green shaughs and woodlands; the moors purple with heath, and
golden with furze; the shapes of clouds, from the delicate mist upon
the lawn to the thunder pillar towering up in awful might; the sunrise
and sunset, painted by God afresh each morn and even; the blue sky,
which is the image of God the heavenly Father, boundless, clear, and
calm, looking down on all below with the same smile of love, sending
his rain alike on the evil and on the good, and causing his sun to
shine alike on the just and on the unjust:- he who watches all these
things, day by day, will find his heart grow quiet, sober, meek,
contented. His eyes will be turned away from beholding vanity. His
soul will be kept from vexation of spirit. In God's tabernacle, which
is the universe of all the worlds, he will be kept from the strife of
tongues. As he watches the work of God's Spirit, the beauty of God's
Spirit, the wisdom of God's Spirit, the fruitfulness of God's Spirit,
which shines forth in every wayside flower, and every gnat which dances
in the sun, he will rejoice in God's work, even as God himself
rejoices. He will learn to value things at their true price, and see
things of their real size. Ambition, fame, money, will seem small
things to him as he considers the lilies of the field, how the heavenly
Father clothes them, and the birds of the air, how the heavenly Father
feeds them; and he will say with the wise man—
'All the windy ways of men
Are but dust that rises up,
And is lightly laid again.'
Dust, indeed, and not worthy the attention of the wise man, who
considers how the very heaven and earth shall perish, and yet God
endure; how—'They all shall wax old as doth a garment, and as a
vesture shall God change them, and they shall be changed: but God is
the same, and his years shall not fail.'
And as that man grows more quiet, he will grow more loving likewise;
more merciful to the very dumb animals. He will be ashamed even to
disturb a bird upon its nest, when he remembers the builder and maker
of that nest is not the bird alone, but God. He will believe the words
of the wise man—
'He prayeth well who loveth well
Both man, and bird, and beast.
He prayeth best who loveth best
All things, both great and small;
For the great God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.'
More quiet, more loving will that man grow; and more pious likewise.
For there ought to come to that man a sense of God's presence, of God's
nearness, which will fill him with a wholesome fear of God. As he sees
with the inward eyes of his reason God's Spirit at work for ever on
every seed, on every insect, ay, on every nerve and muscle of his own
body, he will heartily say with the Psalmist—'I will give thanks unto
thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvellous are thy
works, and that my soul knoweth right well. Thine eyes did see my
substance, yet being imperfect; and in thy book were all my members
written, which day by day were fashioned, when as yet there was none of
them. Whither shall I go then from thy Spirit, or whither shall I flee
from thy presence? If I climb up to heaven, thou art there; if I go
down to hell, thou art there also; if I take the wings of the morning,
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall
lead me, and thy right hand hold me still. If I say, Peradventure the
darkness shall cover me, then shall my night be turned into day.'
Yes, God he will see is everywhere, over all, and through all, and in
all; and from God there is no escape. The only hope, the only wisdom,
is to open his heart to God as a child to its father, and cry with the
Psalmist—'Try me, O God, and search the ground of my heart; prove me,
and examine my thoughts. Look well if there be any way of wickedness
in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.'
My dear friends, take these thoughts home with you: and may God give
you grace to ponder over them, and so make your Whitsun holiday more
quiet, more pure, more full of lessons learnt from God's great green
book which lies outside for every man to read. Of such as you said the
wise heathen long ago—'Too happy are they who till the land, if they
but knew the blessings which they have.'
And it is a blessing, a privilege, and therefore a responsibility
laid on you by your Father and your Saviour, to have such a fair,
peaceful, country scene around you, as you will behold when you leave
this church,—a scene where everything is to the wise man, where
everything should be to you, a witness of God's Spirit; a witness of
God's power, God's wisdom, God's care, God's love. Go, and may God
turn away your hearts from all that is mean and selfish, all that is
coarse and low, and lift them up unto himself, as you look upon the
fields, and woods, and sky, till you, too, say with the Psalmist—'O
Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all:
the earth is full of thy riches. I will praise my God while I have my
being; my joy shall be in the Lord.'
ST. JOHN xvi. 7.
It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the
Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto
This is a deep and strange saying. How can it be expedient, useful,
or profitable, for any human being that Christ should go away from
them? To be in Christ's presence; to see his face; to hear his voice;
—would not this be the most expedient and profitable, yea, the most
blessed and blissful of things which could befall us? Is it not that
which saints hope to attain for ever in heaven—the beatific vision of
My dear friends, one thing is certain, that Christ loves us far
better than we can love ourselves, and knows how to show that love. He
would have stayed with the apostles, instead of ascending into heaven,
if it had been expedient for them. Yea, if it had been expedient for
him to have stayed on earth among mankind unto this very day, he would
Because it was not expedient, not good for the apostles, not good for
mankind, that he should stay among them, therefore he ascended into
heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God, all authority and power
being given to him in heaven and in earth.
And he gives us a reason for so doing—only a hint; but still a
hint, by which we may see to-day it was expedient for us that he should
Unless he went away, the Comforter would not come. Now the true and
exact meaning of the Comforter is the Strengthener, the Encourager—
one who gives a man strength of mind, and courage of spirit, to do his
work. Without that Comforter, the apostles would be weak and
spiritless. Without being encouraged and inspirited by him, they would
never get through the work which they had to do, of preaching the
Gospel to the whole world.
We may surely see, if we think, some of the cause of this. The
apostles, till our Lord's ascension, had been following him about like
scholars following a master—almost like children holding by their
father's hand. They had had no will of their own; no opinion of their
own; they had never had to judge for themselves, or act for themselves;
and, when they had tried to do so, they had always been in the wrong,
and Christ had rebuked them. They had been like scholars, I say, with
a teacher, or children with a parent. Yea rather, when one remembers
who they were, poor fishermen, and who he was—God made man—they had
been (I speak with all reverence) as dogs at their master's side—
faithful and intelligent truly; but with no will of their own, looking
for ever up to his hand and his eye, to see what he would have them
do. But that could not last. It ought not to last. God does not wish
us to be always as animals, not even always as children; he wishes us
to become men; perfect men, who have their senses exercised by
experience to discern good and evil.
And so it was to be with the apostles. They had to learn, as we all
have to learn, self-help, self-government, self-determination. They
were to think for themselves, and act for themselves; and yet not by
themselves. For he would put into them a spirit, even his Spirit; and
so, when they were thinking for themselves, they would be thinking as
he would have them think; when they were acting for themselves, they
would be acting as he would have them act. They would live; but not
their own life, for Christ would live in them. They would speak: but
not their own words; the Spirit of their Father would speak in them;
that so they might come in the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of
the Son of God, to be perfect men, to the measure of the stature of the
fulness of Christ.
My dear friends, this may seem deep and a mystery: but so are all
things in this wondrous life of ours. And surely we see a pattern of
all this in our own lives. Each child is educated—or ought to be—
as Christ educated his apostles.
Have we not had, some of us, in early life some parent, friend,
teacher, spiritual pastor, or master, to whom we looked up with
unbounded respect? His word to us was law. His counsel was as the
oracles of God. We did not dream of thinking for ourselves, acting for
ourselves, while we had him to tell us how to think, how to act; and we
were happy in our devotion. We felt what a blessed thing, not merely
protecting and guiding, but elevating and ennobling, was reverence and
obedience to one wiser and better than ourselves. But that did not
last. It could not last. Our teacher was taken from us; perhaps by
mere change of place, and the chances of this mortal life; perhaps by
death, which sunders all fair bonds upon this side the grave. Perhaps,
most painful of all, we began to differ from our teacher; to find that,
though we respected and loved him still, though we felt a deep debt of
thanks to him for what he had taught us, we could not quite agree in
all; we had begun to think for ourselves, and we found that we must
think for ourselves; and the new responsibility was very heavy. We
felt like young birds thrust out of the nest to shift for themselves in
the wide world.
But, after a while, we found that we could think, could act for
ourselves, as we never expected to do. We found that we were no more
children; that we were improving in manly virtues by having to bear our
own burdens; and to acquire,
'The reason firm, the temperate will,
Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill.'
And we found, too, that though our old teachers were parted from us,
yet they were with us still; that (to compare small things with great,
and Christ's servants with their Lord) a spirit came to us from them,
and brought all things to our remembrance, whatsoever they had said to
us; that we remembered their words more vividly, we understood their
meaning more fully and deeply, now that they were parted, than we did
when they were with us. We loved them as well, ay, better, than of
old, for we saw more clearly what a debt we owed to them; and so it
was, after all, expedient for us that they should have gone away. That
parting with them, which seemed so dangerous to us, as well as painful,
really comforted us—strengthened and encouraged us to become stronger
and braver souls, full of self-help, self-government,
And so we shall find it, I believe, in our religion.
We may say with a sigh, 'Ah, that I could see my Lord and Saviour. I
should be safe then. I dare not sin then.'
It may be so. I am the last to deny that our Lord Jesus Christ has
(as he certainly could, if he chose) shown himself bodily to certain of
his saints (as he showed himself to St. Paul and to St. Stephen) in
order to strengthen their faith in some great trial. But if it had
been good for us in general to see the Lord in this life, doubt not
that we should have seen him. And because we do not see him, be sure
that it is not good.
We may say, again, 'Ah that the Lord Jesus had but remained on earth,
what just laws, what peace and prosperity would the world have
enjoyed! Wars would have ceased long ago; oppression and injustice
would be unknown.'
It may be so. And yet again it may not. Perhaps our Lord's staying
on earth would have had some quite different effect, of which we cannot
even dream; and done, not good, but harm. Let us have faith in him.
Let us believe in his perfect wisdom, and in his perfect love. Let us
believe that he is educating us, as he educated the apostles, by going
away. That he is by his absence helping men to help themselves,
teaching men to teach themselves, guiding and governing men to guide
and govern themselves by that law of liberty which is the law of his
Spirit; to love the right, and to do the right, not from fear of
punishment, but of their own heart and will.
For remember, he has not left us comfortless. He has not merely
given us commands; he has given us the power of understanding, valuing,
obeying these commands. For his Spirit is with us; the Spirit of
Whitsuntide; the Comforter, the Encourager, the Strengthener, by whom
we may both perceive and know what we ought to do, and also have grace
and power faithfully to fulfil the same.
Come to yonder holy table this day, and there claim your share in
Christ, who is absent from you in the body, but ever present in the
spirit. Come to that table, that you may live by Christ's life, and
learn to love what he commandeth, and desire what he doth promise, that
so your hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be
found; namely, in the gracious motions and heavenly inspirations of the
Holy Ghost the Comforter, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son.
I PETER ii. 19.
This is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief,
This is a great epistle, this epistle for the day, and full of deep
lessons. Let us try to learn some of them.
'What glory is it,' St. Peter says, 'if, when ye be beaten for your
faults, ye take it patiently?' What credit is it to a man, if, having
broken the law, he submits to be punished? The man who will not do
that, the man who resists punishment, is not a civilized man, but a
savage and a mere animal. If he will not live under discipline, if he
expects to break the law with impunity, he makes himself an outlaw; he
puts himself by his rebellion outside the law, and becomes unfit for
society, a public enemy of his fellow-men. The first lesson which men
have to learn, which even the heathen have learnt, as soon as they have
risen above mere savages, is the sacredness of law—the necessity of
punishment for those who break the law.
The Jews had this feeling of the sacredness of law. Moses' divine
law had taught it them. The Romans, heathen though they were, had the
same feeling—that law was sacred; that men must obey law. And the
good thing which they did for the world (though they did it at the
expense of bloodshed and cruelty without end) was the bringing all the
lawless nations and wild tribes about them under strict law, and
drilling them into order and obedience. That it was, which gave the
Roman power strength and success for many centuries.
But above the kingdom of law, which says to a man merely, 'Thou shalt
not do wrong: and if thou dost, thou shalt be punished,' there is
another kingdom, far deeper, wider, nobler; even the kingdom of grace,
which says to a man, not merely, 'Do not do wrong,' but 'Do right;' and
not only 'Do right for fear of being punished,' but 'Do right because
it is right; do right because thou hast grace in thy heart; even the
grace of God, and the Spirit of God, which makes thee love what is
right, and see how right it is, and how beautiful; so that thou must
follow after the right, not from fear of punishment, but in spite of
fear of punishment; follow after the right, not when it is safe only,
but when it is dangerous; not when it is honourable only in the eyes of
men, but when it is despised. If thou hast God's grace in thy heart;
if thou lovest what is right with the true love, which is the Spirit of
God, then thou wilt never stop to ask, “Will it pay me to do right?”
Thou wilt feel that the right thou must do, whether it pays thee or
not; still loving the right, and cleaving steadfastly to the right,
through disappointment, poverty, shame, trouble, death itself, if need
be: if only thou canst keep a conscience void of offence toward God and
'But shall I have no reward?' asks a man, 'for doing right? Am I to
give up a hundred pleasant things for conscience' sake, and get nothing
in return?' Yes: there is a reward for righteousness, even in this
life. God repays those who make sacrifices for conscience' sake, I
verily believe, in most cases, a hundred fold in this life. In this
life it stands true, that he who loses his life shall save it; that he
who goes through the world with a single eye to duty, without
selfishness, without vanity, without ambition, careless whether he be
laughed at, careless whether he be ill-used, provided only his
conscience acquits him, and God's approving smile is on him—in this
life it stands true that that man is the happiest man after all; that
that man is the most prosperous man after all; that, like Christ, when
he was doing his Father's work, he has meat to eat and strengthen him
in his life's journey, which the world knows not of. But if not; if it
seem good to God to let him taste the bitters, and not the sweets, of
doing right, in this life; if it seem good to God that he should suffer
—as many a man and woman too has suffered for doing right—nothing
but contempt, neglect, prison, and death; is he worse off than Jesus
Christ, his Lord, was before him? Shall the disciple be above his
master? What if he have to drink of the cup of sorrow of which Christ
drank, and be baptized with the baptism of martyrdom with which Christ
was baptized? Where is he, but where the Son of God has been already?
What is he doing, but treading in the steps of Christ crucified; that
he may share in the blessing and glory and honour without end which God
the Father heaped upon Christ his Son, because he was perfect in duty,
perfect in love of right, perfect in resignation, perfect in submission
under injustice, perfect in forgiveness of his murderers, perfect in
faith in the justice and mercy of God: who did no sin—that is, never
injured his own cause by anger or revenge; and had no guile in his
mouth—that is, never prevaricated, lied, concealed his opinions, for
fear of the consequences, however terrible; but before the chief
priests and Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession, though he knew
that it would bring on him a dreadful death; who, when he was reviled,
reviled not again, but committed himself to him who judgeth righteously
—the meekest of all beings, and in that very meekness the strongest of
all beings; the most utterly resigned, and by that very resignation the
most heroic—the being who seemed, on the cross of Calvary, most
utterly conquered by injustice and violence: but who, by that very
cross, conquered the whole world.
This is a great mystery, and hard to learn. Flesh and blood, our
animal nature, will never compass it all; for it belongs, not to the
flesh, but to the spirit. But our spirits, our immortal souls, may
learn the lesson at last, if we feed them continually with the thought
of Christ; if we meditate upon whatsoever things are true, whatsoever
things are honourable, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. Then we
may learn, at last, after many failures, and many sorrows of heart,
that the spirit is stronger than the flesh; that meekness is stronger
than wrath, silence stronger than shouting, peace stronger than war,
forgiveness stronger than vengeance, just as Christ hanging on his
cross was stronger—exercising a more vast and miraculous effect on
the hearts of men—than if he had called whole armies of angels to
destroy his enemies, like one of the old kings and conquerors of the
earth, whose works have perished with themselves.
Yes, gradually we must learn that our strength is to sit still; that
to do well and suffer for it, instead of returning evil for evil, and
railing for railing, is to show forth the spirit of Christ, and to
enter into the joy of our Lord.
The statesman debating in Parliament; the conqueror changing the fate
of nations on bloody battle-fields; these all do their work; and are
needful, doubtless, in a sinful, piecemeal world like this. But there
are those of whom the noisy world never hears, who have chosen the
better part which shall not be taken from them; who enter into a higher
glory than that of statesmen, or conquerors, or the successful and
famous of the earth. Many a man—clergyman or layman—struggling in
poverty and obscurity, with daily toil of body and mind, to make his
fellow-creatures better and happier; many a poor woman, bearing
children in pain and sorrow, and bringing them up with pain and sorrow,
but in industry, too, and piety; or submitting without complaint to a
brutal husband; or sacrificing all her own hopes in life to feed and
educate her brothers and sisters; or enduring for years the peevishness
and troublesomeness of some relation;—all these (and the world which
God sees is full of such, though the world which man sees takes no note
of them)—gentle souls, humble souls, uncomplaining souls, suffering
souls, pious souls—these are God's elect; these are Christ's sheep;
these are the salt of the earth, who, by doing each their little duty
as unto God, not unto men, keep society from decaying more than do all
the constitutions and acts of parliament which statesmen ever
invented. These are they—though they little dream of any such honour
—who copy the likeness of the old martyrs, who did well and suffered
for it; and the likeness of Christ, of whom it was said, 'He shall not
strive nor cry, neither shall his voice be heard in the streets.'
For what was it in the old martyrs which made men look up to them, as
persons infinitely better than themselves, with quite unmeasurable
admiration; so that they worshipped them after their deaths, as if they
had been gods rather than men?
It was this. The world in old times had been admiring successful
people, just as it does at this day. Was a man powerful, rich? Had he
slaves by the hundred? Was his table loaded with the richest meats and
wines? Could he indulge every pleasure and fancy of his own? Could he
heap his friends with benefits? Could he ruin or destroy any one who
thwarted him? In one word, was he a mighty and successful tyrant?
Then that was the man to honour and worship; that was the sort of man
to become, if anyone had the chance, by fair means or foul. Just as
the world worships now the successful man; and—if you will but make a
million of money—will flatter you and court you, and never ask either
how you made your money, or how you spend your money; or whether you
are a good man or a bad one: for money in man's eyes, as charity in
God's eyes, covereth a multitude of sins; and as long as thou doest
well unto thyself, men will speak well of thee.
But there arose, in that wicked old world in which St. Paul lived, an
entirely new sort of people—people who did not wish to be successful;
did not wish to be rich; did not wish to be powerful; did not wish for
pleasures and luxuries which this world could give: who only wished to
be good; to do right, and to teach others to do right. Christians,
they were called; after Christ their Lord and God. Weak old men, poor
women, slaves, even children, were among them. Not many mighty, not
many rich, not many noble, were called. They were mostly weak and
oppressed people, who had been taught by suffering and sorrow.
One would have thought that the world would have despised these
Christians, and let them go their own way in peace. But it was not
so. The mighty of this world, and those who lived by pandering to
their vices, so far from despising the Christians, saw at once how
important they were. They saw that, if people went about the world
determined to speak nothing but what they believed to be true, and to
do nothing but what was right, then the wicked world would be indeed
turned upside down, and, as they complained against St. Paul more than
once, the hope of their gains would be gone. Therefore they conceived
the most bitter hatred against these Christians, and rose against them,
for the same simple reason that Cain rose up against Abel and slew him,
because his works were wicked, and his brother's righteous. They
argued with them; they threatened them; they tried to terrify them: but
they found to their astonishment that the Christians would not change
their minds for any terror. Then their hatred became rage and fury.
They could not understand how such poor ignorant contemptible people as
the Christians seemed to be, dared to have an opinion of their own, and
to stand to it; how they dared to think themselves right, and all the
world wrong; and in their fury they inflicted on them tortures to read
of which should make the blood run cold. And their rage and fury
increased to madness, when they found that these Christians, instead of
complaining, instead of rebelling, instead of trying to avenge
themselves, submitted to all their sufferings, not only patiently and
uncomplaining, but joyfully, and as an honour and a glory. Some, no
doubt, they conquered by torture, agony, and terror; and so made them
deny Christ, and return to the wickedness of the heathen. But those
renegades were always miserable. Their own consciences condemned
them. They felt they had sold their own souls for a lie; and many of
them, in their agony of mind, repented again, like St. Peter after he
had denied his Lord through fear, proclaimed themselves Christians
after all, went through all their tortures a second time, and died
triumphant over death and hell.
But there were those—to be counted by hundreds, if not thousands—
who dared all, and endured all; and won (as it was rightly called) the
crown of martyrdom. Feeble old men, weak women, poor slaves, even
little children, sealed their testimony with their blood, and
conquered, not by fighting, but by suffering.
They conquered. They conquered for themselves in the next world; for
they went to heaven and bliss, and their light affliction, which was
but for a moment, worked out for them an exceeding and eternal weight
They conquered in this world also. For the very world which had
scourged them, racked them, crucified them, burned them alive, when
they were dead turned round and worshipped them as heroes, almost as
divine beings. And they were divine; for they had in them the Divine
Spirit, the Spirit of God and of Christ. Therefore the foolish world
was awed, conscience-stricken, pricked to the heart, when it looked on
those whom it had pierced, as it had pierced Christ the Lord, and
cried, as the centurion cried on Calvary, 'Surely these were the sons
and daughters of God. Surely there was some thing more divine, more
noble, more beautiful in these poor creatures dying in torture, than in
all the tyrants and conquerors and rich men of the earth. This is the
true greatness, this is the true heroism—to do well and suffer for it
And thenceforth men began to get, slowly but surely, a quite new idea
of true greatness; they learnt to see that not revenge, but
forgiveness; not violence, but resignation; not success, but holiness,
are the perfection of humanity. They began to have a reverence for
those who were weak in body, and simple in heart,—a reverence for
women, for children, for slaves, for all whom the world despises, such
as the old Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, had never had. They began to see
that God could make strong the weak things of this world, and glorify
himself in the courage and honesty of the poorest and the meanest.
They began to see that in Christ Jesus was neither male nor female, Jew
nor Greek, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but that all were one in
Christ Jesus, all alike capable of receiving the Spirit of God, all
alike children of the one Father, who was above all, and in all, and
with them all.
And so the endurance and the sufferings of the early martyrs was the
triumph of good over evil; the triumph of honesty and truth; of purity
and virtue; of gentleness and patience; of faith in a just and loving
God: because it was the triumph of the Spirit of Christ, by which he
died, and rose again, and conquered shame and pain, and death and hell.
(Preached at Christ Church, Marylebone, 1867, for the
Bishop of London's Fund.)
MATTHEW xiii. 24-30.
The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in
his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among
the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and
brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of
the household came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed
in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An
enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that
we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up
the tares, ye toot up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together
until the harvest and in the time of harvest: I will say to the
reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles
to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
The thoughtful man who wishes well to the Gospel of Christ will
hardly hear this parable without a feeling of humiliation. None of our
Lord's parables are more clear and simple in their meaning; none have a
more direct and practical command appended to them; none have been less
regarded during the last fifteen hundred years. Toleration, solemnly
enjoined, has been the exception. Persecution, solemnly forbidden, has
been the rule. Men, as usual, have fancied themselves wiser than God;
for they have believed themselves wise enough to do what he had told
them that they were not wise enough to do, and so have tried to root
the tares from among the wheat. Men have, as usual, lacked faith in
Christ; they did not believe that he was actually governing the earth
which belonged to him; that he was actually cultivating his field, the
world: they therefore believed themselves bound to do for him what he
neglected, or at least did not see fit, to do for himself; and they
tried to root up the tares from among the wheat. They have tried to
repress free thought, and to silence novel opinions, forgetful that
Christ must have been right after all, and that in silencing opinions
which startled them, they might be quenching the Spirit, and despising
prophecies. But they found it more difficult to quench the Spirit than
they fancied, when they began the policy of repression. They have
found that the Spirit blew where it listed, and they heard the sound of
it, but knew not whence it came, or whither it went; that the
utterances which startled them, the tones of feeling and thought which
terrified them, reappeared, though crushed in one place, suddenly in
another; that the whole atmosphere was charged with them, as with
electricity; and that it was impossible to say where the unseen force
might not concentrate itself at any moment, and flash out in a
lightning stroke. Then their fear has turned to a rage. They have
thought no more of putting down opinions: but of putting down men.
They have found it more difficult than they fancied to separate the man
from his opinions; to hate the sin and love the sinner: and so they
have begun to persecute; and, finding brute force, or at least the
chichane of law, far more easy than either convincing their opponents
or allowing themselves to be convinced by them, they have fined,
imprisoned, tortured, burnt, exterminated; and, like the Roman
conquerors of old, 'made a desert, and called that peace.'
And all the while the words stood written in the Scriptures which
they professed to believe: 'Nay: lest while ye root up the tares, ye
root up the wheat also.'
They had been told, if ever men were told, that the work was beyond
their powers of discernment: that, whatever the tares were, or however
they came into God's field the world, they were either too like the
wheat, or too intimately entangled with them, for any mortal man to
part them. God would part them in his own good time. If they trusted
God, they would let them be; certain that he hated what was false, what
was hurtful, infinitely more than they; certain that he would some day
cast out of his kingdom all things which offend, and all that work
injustice, and whatsoever loveth and maketh a lie; and that, therefore,
if he suffered such things to abide awhile, it was for them to submit,
and to believe that God loved the world better than they, and knew
better how to govern it. But if, on the contrary, they did not believe
God, then they would set to work, in their disobedient self-conceit, to
do that which he had forbidden them; and the certain result would be
that, with the tares, they would root up the wheat likewise.
Note here two things. First, it is not said that there were no tares
among the wheat; nor that the servants would fail in rooting some of
them up. They would succeed probably in doing some good: but they
would succeed certainly in doing more harm. In their short-sighted,
blind, erring, hasty zeal, they would destroy the good with the evil.
Their knowledge of this complex and miraculous universe was too
shallow, their canons of criticism were too narrow, to decide on what
ought, or ought not, to grow in the field of him whose ways and
thoughts were as much higher than theirs as the heaven is higher than
Note also, that the Lord does not blame them for their purpose. He
merely points out to them its danger; and forbids it because it is
dangerous; for their wish to root out the tares was not 'natural.' We
shall libel it by calling it that. It was distinctly spiritual, the
first impulse of spiritual men, who love right, and hate wrong, and
desire to cultivate the one, and exterminate the other. To root out
the tares; to put down bad men and wrong thoughts by force, is one of
the earliest religious instincts. It is the child's instinct—
pardonable though mistaken. The natural man—whether the heathen
savage at one end of the scale, or the epicurean man of the world at
the other—has no such instinct. He will feel no anger against
falsehood, because he has no love for truth; he will be liberal enough,
tolerant enough, of all which does not touch his own self-interest; but
that once threatened, he too may join the ranks of the bigots, and
persecute, not like them, in the name of God and truth, but in those of
society and order; and so the chief priests and Pontius Pilate may make
common cause. And yet the chief priests, with their sense of duty, of
truth, and of right, however blundering, concealed, perverted, may be a
whole moral heaven higher than Pilate with no sense of aught beyond
present expediency. But nevertheless what have been the consequences
to both? That the chief priests have failed as utterly as the
Pilates. As God forewarned them, they have rooted up the wheat with
the tares; they have made the blood of martyrs the seed of the Church;
and more, they have made martyrs of those who never deserved to be
martyrs, by wholesale and indiscriminate condemnation. They have
forgotten that the wheat and the tares grow together, not merely in
separate men, but in each man's own heart and thoughts; that light and
darkness, wisdom and folly, duty and ambition, self-sacrifice and
self-conceit, are fighting in every soul of man in whom there is even
the germ of spiritual life. Therefore they have made men offenders for
a word. They have despised noble aspirations, ignored deep and sound
insights, because they came in questionable shapes, mingled with errors
or eccentricities. They have cried in their haste, 'Here are tares,
and tares alone.'
Again and again have religious men done this, for many a hundred
years; and again and again the Nemesis has fallen on them. A
generation or two has passed, and the world has revolted from their
unjust judgments. It has perceived, among the evil, good which it had
overlooked in an indignant haste and passionateness, learnt from those
who should have taught it wisdom, patience, and charity. It has made
heroes of those who had been branded as heretics; and has cried, 'There
was wheat, and wheat alone;' and so religious men have hindered the
very cause for which they fancied that they were fighting; and have
gained nothing by disobeying God's command, save to weaken their own
moral influence, to increase the divisions of the Church, and to put a
fresh stumbling-block in the path of the ignorant and the young.
And what have been the consequences to Christ's Church? Have not her
enemies—and her friends too—for centuries past, cried in vain:-
'For forms of faith let graceless zealots fight,
His can't he wrong, whose life is in the right.'
Of Christian morals her enemies have not complained: but that these
morals have been postponed, neglected, forgotten, in the disputes over
abstruse doctrines, over ceremonies, and over no-ceremonies; that men
who were all fully agreed in their definition of goodness, and what a
good man should be and do, have denounced each other concerning matters
which had no influence whatsoever to practical morality, till the
ungodly cried, 'See how these Christians hate one another! See how
they waste their time in disputing concerning the accidents of the
bread of life, forgetful that thousands were perishing round them for
want of any bread of life at all!'
My friends, these things are true; and have been true for centuries.
Let us not try to forget them by denouncing them as the utterances of
the malevolent and the unbelieving. Let us rather imitate the wise man
who said, that he was always grateful to his critics, for, however
unjust their attacks, they were certain to attack, and therefore to
show him, his weakest points. And here is our weakest point; namely,
in our unhappy divisions—which are the fruits of self-will and
self-conceit, and of the vain attempt to do that which God incarnate
has told us we cannot do—to part the wheat from the tares.
We cannot part them. Man could never do it, even in the simpler
Middle Age. Far less can he do it now in an age full of such strange,
such complex influences; at once so progressive and conservative; an
age in which the same man is often craving after some new prospect of
the future, and craving at the same moment after the seemingly obsolete
past; longing for fresh truth, and yet dreading to lose the old; with
hope struggling against fear, courage against modesty, scorn of
imbecility against reverence for authority in the same man's heart,
while the mystery of the new world around him strives with the mystery
of the old world which lies behind him; while the belief that man is
the same being now as he was five thousand years ago strives with the
plain fact that he is assuming round us utterly novel habits, opinions,
politics; while the belief that Christ is the same now as he was in
Judæa of old—yea, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever—strives
with the plain fact that his field, the world, is in a state in which
it never has been since the making of the world; while it is often most
difficult, though (as I believe) certainly possible, to see those
divine laws at work with which God governed the nations in old time.
May God forgive us all, both laity and clergy, every cruel word, every
uncharitable thought, every hasty judgment. Have we not need, in such
a time as this, of that divine humility which is the elder sister of
divine charity? Have we not need of some of that God-inspired modesty
of St. Paul's: 'I think as a child, I speak as a child. I see through
a glass darkly'? Have we not need to listen to his warning: 'he that
regardeth the day, to the Lord he regardeth it; and he that regardeth
it not, to the Lord he regardeth it not. Who art thou that judgest
another? To his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, and he shall
stand; for God is able to make him stand'? Have we not need to hear
our Lord's solemn rebuke, when St. John boasted how he saw one casting
out devils in Christ's name, and he forbade him, because he followed
not them—'Forbid him not'? Have we not need to believe St. James,
when he tells us that every good gift and every perfect gift cometh
from above, from the Father of lights, and not (as we have too often
fancied) sometimes from below, from darkness and the pit? Have we not
need to keep in mind the canon of the wise Gamaliel?—'If this counsel
or this work be of man, it will come to nought: but if it be of God, we
cannot overthrow it, lest haply we too be found fighting even against
God.' Have we not need to keep in mind that 'every spirit which
confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God;' and 'no
man saith that Jesus is the Christ, save by the Spirit of God;' lest
haply we, too, be found more fastidious than Almighty God himself?
Have we not need to beware lest we, like the Scribes and Pharisees,
should be found keeping the key of knowledge, and yet not entering in
ourselves, and hindering those who would enter in? Have we not need to
beware lest, while we are settling which is the right gate to the
kingdom of heaven, the publicans and harlots should press into it
before us; and lest, while we are boasting that we are the children of
Abraham, God should, without our help, raise up children to Abraham of
those stones outside; those hard hearts, dull brains, natures ground
down by the drudgery of daily life till they are as the pavement of the
streets; those so-called 'heathen masses' of whom we are bid to think
If there be any truth, any reason, in what I have said—or rather in
what Christ and his apostles have said—let us lay it to heart upon
this day, on which the clergy of this great metropolis have found a
common cause for which to plead, whatever may be their minor
differences of opinion. Let us wish success to every argument by which
this great cause may be enforced, to every scheme of good which may be
built up by its funds. Let us remember that, however much the sermons
preached this day differ in details, they will all agree, thank God, in
the root and ground of their pleading—duty to Christ, and to those
for whom Christ died. Let us remember that, to whatever outwardly
different purposes the money collected may be applied, it will after
all be applied to one purpose—to Christian civilization, Christian
teaching, Christian discipline; and that any Christianity, any
Christian civilization, any Christian discipline, is infinitely better
than none; that, though all man's systems and methods must be
imperfect, faulty, yet they are infinitely better than anarchy and
heathendom, just as the wheat, however much mixed with weeds, is
infinitely better than the weeds alone. But above all, let us wish
well to all schemes of education, of whatever kind, certain that any
education is better than none. And, therefore, let me entreat you to
subscribe bountifully to that scheme for which I specially plead this
Let me remind you, very solemnly, that the present dearth of
education in these realms is owing mainly to our unhappy religious
dissensions; that it is the disputes, not of unbelievers, but of
Christians, which have made it impossible for our government to fulfil
one of the first rights, one of the first duties, of any government in
a civilized country; namely, to command, and to compel, every child in
the realm to receive a proper education. Strange and sad that so it
should be: yet so it is. We have been letting, we are letting still,
year by year, thousands sink and drown in the slough of heathendom and
brutality, while we are debating learnedly whether a raft, or a boat,
or a rope, or a life-buoy, is the legitimate instrument for saving
them; and future historians will record with sorrow and wonder a fact
which will be patent to them, though the dust of controversy hides it
from our eyes—even the fact that the hinderers of education in these
realms were to be found, not among the so-called sceptics, not among
the so-called infidels; but among those who believed that God came down
from heaven, and became man, and died on the cross, for every savage
child in London streets. Compulsory government education is, by our
own choice and determination, impossible. The more solemn is the duty
laid on us, on laity and clergy alike, to supply that want by voluntary
education. The clergy will do their duty, each in his own way. Let
the laity do theirs likewise, in fear and trembling, as men who have
voluntarily and deliberately undertaken to educate the lower classes;
and who must do it, or bear the shame for ever. For in the last day,
when we shall all appear before Him whose ways are not as our ways, or
his thoughts as our thoughts—in that day, the question will not be,
whether the compulsory system, or the denominational system, or any
other system, satisfied best our sectarian ways and our narrow
thoughts: but whether they satisfied the ways of that Father in heaven
who willeth not that one little child should perish.
SERMON XXIII.—THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST
LUKE xix. 41.
And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it.
Let us think awhile what was meant by our Lord's weeping over
Jerusalem. We ought to learn thereby somewhat more of our Lord's
character, and of our Lord's government.
Why did he weep over that city whose people would, in a few days,
mock him, scourge him, crucify him, and so fill up the measure of their
own iniquity? Had Jesus been like too many, who since his time have
fancied themselves saints and prophets, would he not have rather cursed
the city than wept over it with tenderness, regret, sorrow, most human
and most divine, for that horrible destruction which before forty years
were past would sweep it off the face of the earth, and leave not one
stone of those glorious buildings on another?
The only answer is—that, in spite of all its sins, he loved
Jerusalem. For more than a thousand years, he had put his name there.
It was to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world, the city
set on a hill, which could not be hid. From Jerusalem was to go forth
to all nations the knowledge of the one true God, as a light to lighten
the Gentiles, as well as a glory to his people Israel.
This was our Lord's purpose; this had been his purpose for one
thousand years and more: and behold, man's sin and folly had frustrated
for a time the gracious will of God. That glorious city, with its
temple, its worship, its religion, true as far as it went, and, in
spite of all the traditions with which the Scribes and Pharisees had
overlaid it, infinitely better than the creed or religion of any other
people in the old world—all this, instead of being a blessing to the
world, had become a curse. The Jews, who had the key of the knowledge
of God, neither entered in themselves, nor let the Gentiles enter in.
They who were to have taught all the world were hating and cursing all
the world, and being hated and cursed by them in return. Jerusalem,
the Holy City set on a hill, instead of being a light to the world, was
become a nuisance to the world. Jerusalem was the salt of the world,
meant to help it all from decay; but the salt had lost its savour, and
in another generation it would be cast out and trodden under foot, and
become a byword among the Gentiles.
Our Lord, The Lord, the hereditary King of the Jews according to the
flesh, as well as the God of the Jews according to the Spirit, foresaw
the destruction of the work of his own hands, of the spot on earth
which was most precious to him. The ruin would be awful, the suffering
horrible. The daughters of Jerusalem were to weep, not for him, but
for themselves. Blessed would be the barren, and those that never
nursed a child. They would call on the mountains to cover them, and on
the hills to hide them, and call in vain. Such tribulation would fall
on them as never had been since the making of the world. Mothers would
eat their own children for famine. Three thousand crosses would stand
at one time in the valley below with a living man writhing on each.
Eleven hundred thousand souls would perish, or be sold as slaves. It
must be. The eternal laws of retribution, according to which God
governs the world, must have their way now. It was too late. It must
happen now. But it need not have happened: and at that thought our
Lord's infinite heart burst forth in human tenderness, human pity,
human love, as he looked on that magnificent city, those gorgeous
temples, castles, palaces, that mighty multitude which dreamt so little
of the awful doom which they were bringing on themselves.
And now, where is he that wept over Jerusalem? Has he left this
world to itself? Does he care no longer for the rise and fall of
nations, the struggles and hopes, the successes and the failures of
Not so, my friends. He has ascended up on high, and sat down at the
right hand of God: but he has done so, that he might fill all things.
To him all power is given in heaven and earth. He reigneth over the
nations. He sitteth on that throne whereof the eternal Father hath
said to him, 'Sit thou on my right hand until I make thy foes thy
footstool;' and again, 'Desire of me, and I shall give thee the heathen
for thine inheritance, and the utmost ends of the earth for thy
possession.' He is set upon his throne (as St. John saw him in his
Revelation) judging right, and ministering true judgment unto the
people. The nations may furiously rage together, and the people may
imagine a vain thing. The kings of the earth may stand up, and the
rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his
anointed, saying, 'Let us break their bonds'—that is their laws,—
'asunder, and cast away their cords'—that is, their Gospel—'from
us.' They may say, 'Tush, God doth not see, neither doth God regard
it. We are they that ought to speak. Who is Lord over us?'
Nevertheless Christ is King of kings, and Lord of lords; he reigns, and
will reign. And kings must be wise, and the judges of the earth must
be learned; they must serve the Lord in fear, and rejoice before him
with reverence. They must worship the Son, lest he be angry, and so
they perish from the right way. All the nations of the world, with
their kings and their people, their war, their trade, their politics,
and their arts and sciences, are in his hands as clay in the hands of
the potter, fulfilling his will and not their own, going his way and
not their own. It is he who speaks concerning a nation or a kingdom,
to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it. And it is he again
who speaks concerning a nation or kingdom, to build and to plant it.
For the Lord is king, be the world never so much moved. He sitteth
between the cherubim, though the earth be never so unquiet.
But while we recollect this—which in these days almost all forget—
that Christ the Lord is the ruler, and he alone; we must recollect
likewise that he is not only a divine, but a human ruler. We must
recollect—oh, blessed thought!—that there is a Man in the midst of
the throne of heaven; that Christ has taken for ever the manhood into
God; and that all judgment is committed to him because he is the Son of
man, who can feel for men, and with men.
Yes, Christ's humanity is no less now than when he wept over
Jerusalem; and therefore we may believe, we must believe, that while
Jesus is very God of very God, yet his sacred heart is touched with a
divine compassion for the follies of men, a divine regret for their
failures, a divine pity for the ruin which they bring so often on
themselves. We must believe that even when he destroys, he does so
with regret; that when he cuts down the tree which cumbers the ground,
he grieves over it; as he grieved over his chosen vine, the nation of
It is a comfort to remember this as we watch the world change, and
the fashions of it vanish away. Great kingdoms, venerable
institutions, gallant parties, which have done good work in their time
upon God's earth, grow old, wear out, lose their first love of what was
just and true; and know not the things which belong to their peace, but
grow, as the Jews grew in their latter years, more and more fanatical,
quarrelsome, peevish, uncharitable; trying to make up by violence for
the loss of strength and sincerity: till they come to an end, and die,
often by unjust and unfair means, and by men worse than they. Shall we
not believe that Christ has pity on them; that he who wept over
Jerusalem going to destruction by its own blindness, sorrows over the
sins and follies which bring shame on countries once prosperous,
authorities once venerable, causes once noble?
They, too, were thoughts of Christ. Whatsoever good was in them, he
inspired; whatsoever strength was in them, he gave; whatsoever truth
was in them, he taught; whatsoever good work they did, he did through
them. Perhaps he looks on them, not with wrath and indignation, but
with pity and sorrow, when he sees man's weakness, folly, and sin,
bringing to naught his gracious purposes, and falling short of his
It is a comfort, I say, to believe this, in these times of change.
Places, manners, opinions, institutions, change around us more and
more; and we are often sad, when we see good old fashions, in which we
were brought up, which we have loved, revered, looked on as sacred
things, dying out fast, and new fashions taking their places, which we
cannot love because we do not trust them, or even understand. The old
ways were good enough for us: why should they not be good enough for
our children after us? Therefore, we are sad at times, and the young
and the ambitious are apt to sneer at us, because we delight in what is
old rather than what is new.
Let us remember, then, that whatsoever changes, still there is one
who cannot change, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for
ever. Surely he can feel for us, when he sees us regret old fashions
and old times; surely he does not look on our sadness as foolish, weak,
or sinful. It is pardonable, for it is human; and he has condescended
to feel it himself, when he wept over Jerusalem.
Only, he bids us not despair; not doubt his wisdom, his love, the
justice and beneficence of his rule. He ordereth all things in heaven
and earth; and, therefore, all things must, at last, go well.
'The old order changes, giving place to the new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.'
We must believe that, and trust in Christ. We must trust in him,
that he will not cut down any tree in his garden until it actually
cumbers the ground, altogether unfruitful, and taking up room which
might be better used. We must trust him, that he will cast nothing out
of his kingdom till it actually offends, makes men stumble and fall to
their destruction. We must trust him, that he will do away with
nothing that is old, without putting something better in its place.
Thus we shall keep up our hearts, though things do change round us,
sometimes mournfully enough. For Christ destroyed Jerusalem. But,
again, its destruction was, as St. Paul said, life to all nations. He
destroyed Moses' law. But he, by so doing, put in its place his own
Gospel. He scattered abroad the nations of the Jews, but he thereby
called into his Church all nations of the earth. He destroyed, with a
fearful destruction, the Holy City and temple, over which he wept. But
he did so in order that the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, even his
Church, should come down from heaven; needing no temple, for he himself
is the temple thereof; that the nations of those which were saved
should walk in the light of it; and that the river of the water of life
should flow from the throne of God; and that the leaves of the trees
which grew thereby should be for the healing of the nations. In that
magnificent imagery, St. John shows us how the most terrible
destruction which the Lord ever brought upon a holy place and holy
institutions was really a blessing to all the world. Let us believe
that it has been so often since; that it will be so often again. Let
us look forward to the future with hope and faith, even while we look
back on the past with love and regret. Let us leave unmanly and
unchristian fears to those who fancy that Christ has deserted his
kingdom, and has left them to govern it in his stead; and who naturally
break out into peevishness and terrified lamentations, when they
discover that the world will not go their way, or any man's way,
because it is going the way of God, whose ways are not as man's ways
nor his thoughts as man's thoughts. Let us have faith in God and in
Christ, amid all the chances and changes of this mortal life; and
believe that he is leading the world and mankind to
'One far-off divine event
Toward which the whole creation moves;'
and possess our souls in patience, and in faith, and in hope for
ourselves and for our children after; while we say, with the Psalmist
of old: 'Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundations of the
earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish,
but thou shalt endure. They all shall wax old as doth a garment; and
as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be cleansed. But
thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. The children of thy
servants shall continue; and their seed shall stand fast in thy
SERMON XXIV.—THE LIKENESS OF GOD
EPHESIANS iv. 23, 24.
And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new
man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Be renewed, says St. Paul, in the spirit of your mind—in the tone,
character, and habit of your mind. And put on the new man, the new
pattern of man, who was created after God, in righteousness and true
Pay attention, I beg you, to every word here. To understand them
clearly is most important to you. According as you take them rightly
or wrongly, will your religion be healthy or unhealthy, and your notion
of what God requires of you true or false. The new man, the new
pattern of man, says St. Paul, is created after God. That, is after
the pattern of God, in the image of God, in the likeness of God. You
will surely see that that is his meaning. We speak of making a thing
after another thing; meaning, make it exactly like another thing. So,
by making a man after God, St. Paul means making a man like God.
Now what is this man? None, be sure, save Christ himself, the
co-equal and co-eternal Son of God. Of him alone can it be said,
utterly, that he is after God—the brightness of God's glory, and the
express image of his person. But still, he is a man, and meant as a
pattern to men; the new Adam; the new pattern, type, and ideal for all
mankind. Him, says St. Paul,—that is, his likeness,—we are to put
on, that as he was after the likeness of God, so may we be likewise.
But now, in what does this same likeness consist?
St. Paul tells us distinctly, lest we should mistake a matter of such
boundless importance as the question of all questions—What is the
life of God, the Divine and Godlike life?
It is created, founded, says he, in righteousness and true holiness.
That is the character, that is the form of it. Whatever we do not
know, whatever we cannot know, concerning God, and his Divine life, we
know that it consists of righteousness and true holiness.
And what is righteousness? Justice. You must understand—as any
good scholar or divine would assure you—that St. Paul is not speaking
here of the imputed righteousness of Christ. He is speaking of
righteousness in the simple Old Testament meaning of the word, of
justice, whereof our Lord has said, 'Do unto others as ye would they
should do unto you;' justice, which, as wise men of old have said,
consists in this,—to harm no man, and to give each man his own. That
is true righteousness and justice, and that is the Godlike life.
'And true holiness.' That is, truthful holiness, honest holiness.
This is St. Paul's meaning. As any good scholar or divine would tell
you, St. Paul's exact words are 'the holiness of truth.' He does not
mean true holiness as opposed to a false holiness, a legal holiness, a
holiness of empty forms and ceremonies, or a holiness of ascetism and
celibacy; but as opposed to a holiness which does not speak the truth,
to that sly, untruthful, prevaricating holiness which was only too
common in St. Paul's time, and has been but too common since. Be
honest, says St. Paul; for this too is part of the Godlike life, and
the new man is created after God, in justice and honesty.
And that this is what St. Paul actually means is clear from what
immediately follows: 'Wherefore, putting away lying, speak every man
truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.'
What does the 'wherefore' mean, if not that, because the life of God
is a life of justice and honesty, therefore you must not lie; therefore
you must not hear spite and malice; therefore you must not steal, but
rather work; therefore you must avoid all foul talk which may injure
your neighbour; but rather teach, refine, educate him?
It would seem at first sight that this would have been a gospel, and
good news to men. But, alas! it has not been such. In all ages, in
all religions, men have turned away from this simple righteousness of
God, which is created in justice and truth, and have sought some
righteousness of their own, founded upon anything and everything save
common morality and honesty. Alas for the spiritual pride of man! He
is not content to be simply just and true! for any one and every one,
he thinks, can be that. He must needs be something, which other people
cannot be. He must needs be able to thank God that he is not as other
men are, and say, 'This people, this wicked world, who knoweth not our
law, is accursed.'
If God had bid men do some great thing to save their souls, would
they not have done it? How much more when he says simply to them, as
to Naaman, 'Wash, and be clean.' 'Wash you,' says the Lord by the
prophet Isaiah, 'make you clean. Put away the evil of your doings from
before my eyes. Cease to do evil. Learn to do well, seek justice,
relieve the oppressed,' and then, 'though your sins be as scarlet, they
shall be white as snow.' But no: any one can do that; and therefore it
is beneath the spiritual pride of man. In our own days, there are too
many who do not hesitate to look down on plain justice, and plain
honesty, as natural virtues, which (so they say) men can have without
the grace of God, and make a distinction between these natural virtues
and the effects of God's Spirit; which is not only not to be found in
Scripture, but is contradicted by Scripture from beginning to end.
Now there can be no doubt that such notions concerning religion do
harm; that they demoralise thousands,—that is, make them less moral
and good men. For there are thousands, especially in England, who are
persons of good common-sense, uprightness, and truthfulness: but they
have not lively fancies, or quick feelings. They have no inclination
for a life of exclusive devoutness; and if they had, they have no time
for it. They must do their business in the world where God has put
them. And when they are told that God requires of them certain frames
and feelings, and that the Godlike life consists in them, then they are
disheartened, and say, 'There is no use, then, in my trying to be
religious, or moral either. If plain honesty, justice, sobriety,
usefulness in my place will not please God, I cannot please him at
all. Why then should I try, if my way of trying is of no use? Why
should I try to be honest, sober, and useful, if that is not true
religion?—if what God wants of me is not virtue, but a certain
high-flown religiousness which I cannot feel or even understand?'—and
so they grow weary in well-doing, and careless about the plain duties
of morality. They become careless, likewise, about the plain duties of
religion; and so they are demoralised, because they are told that
justice and the holiness of truth are not the Godlike and eternal life;
because they are told that religion has little or nothing to do with
their daily life and business, nothing to do with those just and
truthful instincts of their hearts, which they feel to be the most
sacred things about them; which are their best, if not their only guide
in life. But more: they fall into the mistake that they can have a
righteousness of their own; and into that Pelagianism, as it is called,
which is growing more and more the creed of modern men of the world.
Too many religious people, on the other hand, are demoralised by the
very same notion.
They too are taught that justice and truth are mere 'morality,' as it
is called, and not the grace of God; that they are not the foundation
of the Divine life, that they are not the essence of true religion.
Therefore they become more and more careless about mere morality,—so
careless of justice, so careless of truth, as to bring often fearful
scandals on religion.
Meanwhile men in general, especially Englishmen, have a very sound
instinct on this whole matter. They have a sound instinct that if God
be good, then goodness is the only true mark of godliness; and that
goodness consists first and foremost in plain justice and plain
honesty; and they ask, not what a man's religious profession is, not
what his religious observances are: but—'What is the man himself? Is
he a just, upright, and fair-dealing man? Is he true? Can we depend
on his word?' If not, his religion counts for nothing with them: as it
ought to count.
Now I hold that St. Paul in this text declares that the plain English
folk who talk thus, and who are too often called mere worldlings, and
men of the world, are right; that justice and honesty are the Divine
life itself, and the very likeness of Christ and of God.
Justice and truth all men can have, and therefore all men are
required to have. About devotional feelings, about religious
observances, however excellent and blessed, we may deceive ourselves;
for we may put them in the place of sanctification, of righteousness
and true holiness. About justice and honesty we cannot deceive
ourselves; for they are sanctification itself, righteousness itself,
true holiness itself, the very likeness of God, and the very grace of
But if so, they come from God; they are God's gift, and not any
natural product of our own hearts: and for that very reason we can and
must keep them alive in us by prayer. As long as we think that the
sentiment of justice and truth is our own, so long shall we be in
danger of forgetting it, paltering with it, playing false to it in
temptation, and by some injustice or meanness grieving (as St. Paul
warns us) the Holy Spirit of God, who has inspired us with that
But if we believe that from God, the fount of justice, comes all our
justice; that from God, the fount of truth, comes all our truthfulness,
then we shall cry earnestly to him, day by day, as we go about this
world's work, to be kept from all injustice, and from all falsehood.
We shall entreat him to cleanse us from our secret faults, and to give
us truth in the inward parts; to pour into our hearts that love to our
neighbour which is justice itself, for it worketh no ill to its
neighbour, and so fulfils the law. We shall dread all meanness and
cruelty, as sins against the very Spirit of God; and our most earnest
and solemn endeavour in life will be, to keep innocence, and take heed
to the thing that is right; for that will bring us peace at the last.
Wordsworth's 'Ode on Tintern Abbey.'