E-text prepared by Al Haines
THE VILLAGE PULPIT
A Complete Course of 66 Short Sermons, or Full Sermon Outlines for Each Sunday, and Some Chief Holy Days of the Christian Year.
REV. S. BARING-GOULD M.A.,
Author of "A First Series of Village Preaching for a Year." "A Second Series of Village Preaching for a Year." "Village Preaching for Saints' Days." "The Preacher's Pocket." "The Mystery of Suffering." "Sermons to Children." "Sermons on the Seven Last Words." &c.
TRINITY TO ADVENT.
London: Skeffington & Son, 163, Piccadilly. 1886.
S. Matt. xxviii. 19.
"In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
(1st Sunday after Trinity.)
S. Luke xv. 23.
"In hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments."
THE HOLY COMMUNION.
(2nd Sunday after Trinity.)
S. Luke xiv. 16.
"A certain man made a great supper."
RECEIVING AND SELECTING.
(3rd Sunday after Trinity.)
S. Luke xv. 2.
"This Man receiveth sinners."
(4th Sunday after Trinity.)
S. Luke vi. 37.
"Judge not—condemn not—forgive."
THE SECRET OF SUCCESS.
(5th Sunday after Trinity.)
S. Luke v. 5.
"We have taken nothing; nevertheless, at Thy word I will let down the net."
PERSISTENCY IN WRONG DOING.
(6th Sunday after Trinity.)
S. Matt. v. 25.
"Agree with thine adversary quickly, while thou art in the way with him."
THE MEASURE OF SIN.
(7th Sunday after Trinity.)
S. Mark viii. 2.
"I have compassion on the multitude."
(8th Sunday after Trinity.)
S. Matt. vii. 15.
"Inwardly they are ravening wolves."
(9th Sunday after Trinity.)
S. Luke xvi. 3, 4.
"What shall I do?—I am resolved what to do."
THE CONSEQUENCES OF SIN.
(10th Sunday after Trinity.)
S. Luke xix. 42.
"If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes."
(11th Sunday after Trinity.)
S. Luke xviii. 13.
"The publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me, a sinner."
PERFECTION TO BE SOUGHT.
(12th Sunday after Trinity.)
S. Mark vii. 37.
"He hath done all things well."
(13th Sunday after Trinity.)
S. Luke x. 25
"What shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
(14th Sunday after Trinity.)
S. Luke xvii. 18.
"There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger."
TRUST IN GOD.
(15th Sunday after Trinity.)
S. Matt. vi. 31.
"Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness."
THE CONTEMPLATION OF DEATH.
(16th Sunday after Trinity.)
S. Luke vii. 12.
"Behold, there was a dead man carried out."
(17th Sunday after Trinity.)
S. Luke xiv. 2.
"Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
PROFESSION AND PRACTICE.
(18th Sunday after Trinity.)
S. Matt. xxii. 42.
"What think ye of Christ?"
(19th Sunday after Trinity.)
S. Matt. ix. 4.
"Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?"
THE HEAVENLY BANQUET.
(20th Sunday after Trinity.)
S. Matt. xxii. 4.
"Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready; come unto the marriage."
(21st Sunday after Trinity.)
S. John iv. 13.
"And himself believed, and his whole house."
THE PREACHER AND HIS HEARERS.
(22nd Sunday after Trinity.)
S. Matt. xviii. 23.
"The Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants."
THE IMAGE OF SELF.
(23rd Sunday after Trinity.)
S. Matt. xxii. 20.
"Whose is this image?"
DREAD OF RIDICULE.
(24th Sunday after Trinity.)
S. Matt. ix. 24.
"And they laughed Him to scorn."
WHAT LASTS, AND WHAT PASSES AWAY.
(25th Sunday after Trinity.)
S. Matt. xxiv. 35.
"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My word shall not pass away."
THANKFULNESS TO GOD.
S. Matt. xxii. 21.
"Render—unto God, the things that are God's."
THE FORMATION OF HABITS.
Proverbs xxii. 6.
"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."
Psalm lxix. 9.
"The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up."
THE MEETING HEREAFTER.
Joshua iii. 17.
"And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan."
S. Matt. xxviii. 19.
"In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
INTRODUCTION.—An ancient writer informs us that when the Egyptians named their Greatest God who was over all, they cried thrice, "Darkness! Darkness! Darkness!" And when we come to speak of the great mystery of the Holy Trinity, the utmost we can do is to repeat their cry, and say, "Darkness! Darkness! Darkness! In the name of the Father—Darkness, and of the Son—Darkness; and of the Holy Ghost—Darkness!" for however much the mind may strive to penetrate this mystery, it can never attain to its solution. Just as the eye, looking at the sun, sees the Overpowering light as a dark ball, being dazzled by its excessive glory, so the eye of the mind perceives only darkness, when looking into the infinite splendour of God in Three Persons.
We may, indeed, see sundry likenesses here on earth, which assist us in believing the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, but they are helps, and helps only; and not explanations. Thus, the sun may shine into a glass, and the glass reflect in clear water, and we see three suns, a sun in the heaven, a sun in the glass, and a sun in the water, which proceeds from both;—and this assists us to understand how the Son of God is of the Father, and the Holy Ghost is of the Father, and of the Son, and how that each is God, and yet that there are not three Gods, but one God. But, after all, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is a matter of Faith, and not of Reason. We must believe, though we cannot understand.
SUBJECT.—In this Holy Trinity of Persons there is perfect unity existing, an unity of substance, an unity of Godhead, an unity of perfection, an unity of love.
And on earth, among men, there should be unity. "Be ye perfect," said our Lord, "even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect." The Father is love, the Son is love, and the Holy Ghost is the love of the Father and of the Son, and this love requires the same of us—even love, or unity.
This is what God wills on earth, our living unity, even as it exists in Heaven between the Three Persons of the glorious Trinity.
But there are three great hindrances to Christian Unity.
I. Selfishness. Each man seeks his own interest, not the general interest. Let his own selfish interests be touched, and all concord is at an end. Look at two little dogs playing together, they put their paws on each other's shoulders, and dance round each other, and roll each other over, and are full of affectionate play. Throw them a bone, and it is a true bone of contention at once. All their affection is dead, and they are fighting each other for the bone. It is the same with men, they are perfectly friendly with each other so long as no little bone comes in the way—some little money matter—and then there is no end to the snarling and snapping and growling. How often it is that the dearest friends fall out about money! This has been so often noticed that it has become a common saying, "Have no money dealings with your friend." Even near relations become bitter, and are estranged, over some provision in a will. All this arises from self-seeking. Each cares for himself, and not for others.
Now look at the Holy Trinity. The Three Persons share in equal Power, Majesty, and Eternity. The Father commits all power unto the Son, the Son gives all honour to the Father, the Son gives over to the Holy Ghost the government of His Church. The Father shares with the Son and the Holy Ghost the Divine nature, wisdom, and glory. All three are equally eternal, equally almighty, equally perfect.
II. Pride. Each man seeks to place himself before another. 'I am as good as another, or I am above so-and-so,' is a common thought. No man is content with what he is, he desires to thrust himself ahead of another. The whole of society is like a cabbage-stalk covered with caterpillars, and none is satisfied till it has crawled to the top. The caterpillar at the bottom bites the one above him, gets over his back, and then exults, 'There is a caterpillar nearer the bottom of the cabbage-stalk than I,' and so all the way up the stalk, those below scrambling over those above, and they at the top—at the proud elevation and unique honour of being at the head of a cabbage-stalk—tumble off, and are buried in the soil.
Was there any such pride of place in the angel host? Yes—once. The Devil wanted to be at the top, and he fell. The other angels are content where they are, and they remain angels. If they began pushing ahead of each other, cherubim wanting to be above seraphim, and angels envious of archangels, what a falling there would be from heaven! Falling stars indeed! All turning into devils. Look at the Blessed Trinity. God the Son says, "My Father is greater than I." He places Himself in the lowest rank. He calls Himself "The Son of Man"; there is no boasting, "I am the Son of God."
III. Obstinacy. That is the third source of discord. Each man follows his own will, his dogged, headlong will, regardless of the wishes and advice of others.
In the Book of Judges we read that Samson caught three hundred foxes and tied them together by their tails, and put burning brands between them, where their tails were tied. What was the consequence? The wretched creatures dashed in opposite directions, each wanted to get away from the brand that scorched his tail, and so each wanted to go exactly in a different direction from the fox to which he was tied, and so the whole lot went dashing in a mad, disorderly manner among the standing corn, and destroyed a whole harvest.
That is something like a great number of people I know. They will tear off in their own direction, and drag others after them who wish to go in another direction, and the fire of discord is between them.
Look at the Blessed Trinity. Christ said, "I came not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me."
"Let us make man," was said at the Creation. God the Father did not say "I will make man," nor God the Son "I will make man in My image," nor God the Holy Ghost "I will make man, and breathe My spirit into him," but all united in one work, and that work was very good.
CONCLUSION.—When Julian the Apostate was Emperor, three Christian soldiers were brought before him. Their names were Emmanuel, Sabael, and Ismael. He ordered them to be examined apart, lest they should encourage one another in their faith and endurance under torture. Emmanuel, seeing his object, said, "Tyrant! we Three are one in one Trinity."
Now, listen to our Lord's prayer, "I pray not for these alone, but for those also which shall believe on Me through their word, that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee."
1st Sunday after Trinity.
S. Luke xvi. 23.
"In hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments."
INTRODUCTION.—What a great surprise for Dives! So utterly unawaited! Dives, who had lived so comfortably, clothed in purple and fine linen, and had had such a good coat, and such excellent dinners, and such a cellar of wine, and such good friends at his dinners, goes to sleep one night after a banquet, and wakes up, and lo!—he is in hell. Surprise number one.
He feels the flames, he perceives himself surrounded by demons, his tongue is burning with thirst, and he lifts up his eyes and sees!—surprise number two!—Lazarus, the poor dirty wretch who had lain full of sores at his door. He did not know that the fellow was dead. And—surprise number three!—this wretched fellow is in Paradise.
There is another story of a great surprise in the Gospels. That is of the man who laid up for himself great possessions, and said to himself, "Soul! thou hast much goods laid up for many years,—I will pull down my barns and build greater—take thy ease, eat, drink and be merry." That night he died, and when his soul came to realise the fact that he had nothing left of all he had laid by—that was a great surprise, and a very unpleasant one.
SUBJECT.—Let us take care that we do not have some such a great and unpleasant surprise ourselves. "Take heed," says our Lord, "to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares."
I. Now I am going to tell you a story of another great surprise. The king of Syria was engaged in war with the king of Israel, and one of the servants of the king of Syria told him that Elisha the Prophet saw and knew all that was planned by him against the king of Israel, and that he told the king of Israel, so that the Syrians were never able to catch him at a disadvantage, and defeat him. Then the king of Syria enquired where this prophet lived, and was told that he was then at Dothan.
"Therefore sent he thither horses and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night and compassed the city about." Then Elisha prayed to God to deceive and blind the eyes of the soldiers, and he went out of the gates of Dothan to them, and said, "This is not the way, neither is this the city; follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek." So he went before, and led them along the road to Samaria, the capital of the king of Israel. Then he brought them all in through the gates, and they followed, as docile as lambs, and when they were in the market-place, he said, "Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see." And the Lord opened their eyes, and lo! they were in the market-place in the midst of Samaria, and all around them were the soldiers of their enemy, the king of Israel, with swords drawn, and in the windows were others armed with stones and javelins and molten lead to hurl down on them. Here was an unpleasant surprise!
The king of Israel and all his soldiers were eager to be at them and cut them to pieces, but Elisha was too good-hearted for that, he persuaded the king to be generous, to give them their breakfast and send them home. So "He prepared great provisions for them; and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master." They were lucky to be let off so easily, and they owed their lives to there being a Saint of God there to intercede for them. But you may be assured to their dying day they carried with them a lively recollection of the very unpleasant surprise it was to them when their eyes were opened, and they found themselves in the midst of their enemies, when they fondly supposed themselves in the humble and undefended little town of Dothan.
II. Now for you!—Whither are you going? Whither are you being led? Are you at all aware? I very much fear that a great many of you are as blind and as ignorant of the road you are treading as were those soldiers of the king of Syria. You are going on headlong, chattering with one another, laughing and singing, in open order, very little discipline, and perfectly confident that you will come to no harm. Take care! Some day your eyes will be opened, and you will experience an unpleasant surprise. Then, when your eyes are opened you will see yourselves surrounded by the enemies of your souls, ready to drag you to destruction, and no help near. Very unexpected was this case of the Syrians, that the prophet prayed for them, and that instead of being put to death they were fed and sent away in peace. That is not what you must expect. Dives, when his eyes were opened, cried to Abraham, but got no help, no, not even a drop of water to cool his tongue.
III. No man need go blindly to destruction, for God has given him guidance, and power of seeing whither he goes. The prophet led these soldiers of Syria into the midst of their enemies, but God's good Spirit, which is our guide, will lead us into the Land of Righteousness if we will listen to His voice, and go where he points the way.
We have no right to plead blindness and ignorance, if hereafter we find that we have gone astray, and our eyes are opened when we are in the midst of our enemies, for blindness can not come upon us unless we wilfully shut our eyes to the light, and with the teaching of Christ and His Church ever sounding in our ears, we have no right to plead ignorance.
Moreover, God is so merciful, that He never allows any to go to destruction unwarned of their danger. As He sent His angel to stand in the way of Balaam, so will He send some check, and throw some obstacle in the road you are treading, to bring you to your senses in time, and will not allow you to perish, unless you wilfully and deliberately persist in the road of evil, knowing the consequences, and knowing whither you are going.
CONCLUSION.—Lastly. It was a great surprise to Lazarus when he found himself in Paradise. He had no doubt hoped and prayed to be admitted there, but when he found himself there, he was amazed to see how far its happiness and its peace surpassed his expectations. So with those of us who are found meet to enter Heaven. However great our anticipations, they will be surpassed. Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, to conceive those good things which God hath prepared for those who love Him.
May He bring us all to that glad surprise.
THE HOLY COMMUNION.
2nd Sunday after Trinity.
S. Luke xiv. 16.
"A certain man made a great supper."
INTRODUCTION.—When the fulness of time was come, God the Eternal Father said: "In burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin, I have no pleasure." Then said the Son, "Lo, I come." He came that He might take away the valueless sacrifice, and establish the one full and perfect propitiation for the sins of the world. And indeed it was time. All creation was groaning and travailing in pain, and waiting for redemption, then said He—"Lo, I come." The souls of the faithful were in Hades, prophets, patriarchs, and kings, desirous to see His Day, prisoners of Hope, desirous to be released by His Blood of the Covenant,—then said He—"Lo, I come."
Men wandered in darkness, desiring light, the whole head was sick, and the whole heart faint, and in their error, darkly, and in their sickness, faintly, they sought the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him; then said He—"Lo, I come."
They knew not the way of God how they might walk, and they needed a guide; then said He—"Lo, I come."
They were sunk in sin, and found that the old bloody sacrifices and burnt offerings could not take away guilt, they needed a more perfect sacrifice; then said He—"Lo, I come." They knew not what the nature of God was, and they formed to themselves gods, in the likeness of men. How should they know without a teacher? Then said He—"Lo, I come."
Nor is this all. At this day, still His answer is, promptly, when He is needed—"Lo, I come."
Does any father desire his dear little one to be taken into the arms of Christ and blessed, still His answer is—"Lo, I come."
Does any man need direction, guidance, help in the way of life? He says, "Lo, I come; I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
Does any desire sustaining food by the way? He says—"Lo, I come, and the Bread I give is My flesh, which I give for the life of the world."
Is any burdened with the weight of sin, and desires pardon and reconciliation, He says—"Lo, I come, though thy sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as wool."
Is any in sorrow, and heart sore? He says, "Lo, I come to bind up the broken-hearted."
Is any dying?—He is still ready with His answer, "Lo, I come, when thou goest through the waters I am with thee."
You see how striking is the readiness of Our Blessed Lord. Now look at to-day's Gospel, and see how this is met by man. Christ is represented as having made a great supper, the Holy Eucharist, and to that he invites all Christians, and He sends forth His messengers to bid them come, then they all with one consent begin to make excuse. The messengers go to the man who has bought oxen, and invite him to the supper of his lord, and his answer is, "I pray thee, have me excused." They go to a man who has bought a farm, and his answer is, "I pray thee, have me excused." They go to a man who has married a wife, and his answer is, "I cannot come."
"Lo, I come!" says Christ. "I cannot come," says man. "Lo, I come to man," says Christ. "I cannot come to Christ," says man.
I. It was the rule among the early Christians to communicate every Lord's Day. The rule of the Church, as laid down in the service-books, then ordered that all those who were open and scandalous livers, all those who had committed some deadly sin, and had not been reconciled to God, should leave church before the Consecration, after the reading of the Gospel. Now suppose some good old bishop of that day were to rise from the dead, and come into this church, what would he see?—Directly the sermon is over,—a rush of almost all in the church, men, women, and children, running out of the door, and only three or four, or at most a dozen, remaining to partake of the Lord's Body. That is what he would see. Now, what would he say?—He would lift up his hands in horror, and say, "What is this? All these notorious sinners! All these open profligates! All these burdened with mortal sin, cutting them off from the grace of God! Take me back to my grave, I do not want to see any more of such horrible days."
But if I happened to be present, I would say to him. "You are jumping to conclusions too rashly. Times are altered. It is not the criminals and profligates who go out of church before the Consecration of the Blessed Sacrament, and are unworthy to eat of the Lord's Body, it is those who cannot make up their minds to do exactly what the Lord commanded; it is those who are half-hearted, who wish to serve God, but do not want to serve Him very much." Then, I doubt not, the old bishop would turn upon me with a wrathful face, and say, "Let me go back to my grave! This is worse! A thousand times worse! The whole Christian world has grown cold of heart, and dead of faith, if all with one consent begin to make excuse, and say, 'I cannot come.' I had rather they were either hot or cold, but because they are neither hot nor cold—away! I cannot bear to look at their faces! Let me go back to my grave."
III. I know what is passing in your minds as well as if you had got glass skulls. And this is what I see that not a few of you are thinking. "Ha! there is the Parson at it again! always hammering away at Communion. Can he not leave us alone? Let him talk to us of other matters; let him preach to us some real stinging gospel truth, and make us wince. Anything but this eternal preaching about coming to Communion." Now I will tell you why I preach about this, and hammer, hammer, at it. Because it is good stinging gospel truth, and the grumbling that is going on is because your consciences really are wincing at what I say.
Listen:—other folks talked like you in olden times. When the children of Israel came out of Egypt, God in mercy sent them Bread from Heaven, the manna, to feed them on their way through the wilderness. What said the people in return for the blessing? Were they very grateful? Were they very eager to gather up the Angels' food? By no means, they sat grumbling in their tents and said, "Our soul is dried away; there is nothing beside this manna before our eyes." Put into modern language that is, "Our souls have dried up for want of preaching of free justification, and no good at all in keeping the law; we don't want any of your Sacramental teaching, no Communion for us, we can do very well without that, our soul abhorreth this light food, as for this Holy Communion, there is nothing but that preached to us, year in, year out."
Well! If this Sacramental teaching be not God's own blessed Gospel, there is no meaning in words. Listen to this! I never said anything so strong, and this is what Christ Himself spake:—"I am the Bread of Life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. I am the living bread which came down from heaven, if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I give for the life of the world." "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed."
Now—mark you. When Jesus said this, many of His disciples said, "This is a hard saying"—and, from that time they went back, and walked no more with Him. It is so still, it will be so always. Just as many of the old Israelites loathed the manna and said, "Our souls are dried away; there is nothing but this manna before our eyes," so there always will be faithless disciples who when they hear the invitation to partake of the Body of Christ, the true Manna, will say, "This is a hard saying," and will thenceforth no more walk with Him.
RECEIVING AND REJECTING.
3rd Sunday after Trinity.
S. Luke, xv. 2.
"This Man receiveth sinners."
INTRODUCTION.—In to-day's Gospel our Lord represents Himself as a Good Shepherd seeking His lost sheep, going out into the wilderness after them, to bring them back into the fold.
The fold is that place where He keeps His flock shut behind the hurdles of the Ten Commandments. Every now and then a sheep leaps one of these hurdles, or pushes his way between them, and runs away into forbidden pastures. Then the Good Shepherd goes after the erring sheep, and brings it back. "And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost."
SUBJECT.—Christ is not always to be regarded as the Saviour receiving sinners. The time will come when He will be the Judge, rejecting them. He is a shepherd now, bringing back the straying sheep, and replacing them in the fold, but one day He will do just the contrary, He will go to His fold, and pick out the incorrigibly bad sheep, and cast them out.
I. We will consider Him now as the Good Shepherd. What is His purpose in bringing back the straying sheep? That they may remain within bounds for the future. Christ has come to save sinners, that is to say, He brings them to repentance, and pardons their transgressions, in order that, for the future, they may walk in newness of life, and not commit the sins of which they were guilty before. Thus if He brings back one who has been a liar, it is to truth that he returns, and Christ expects him to speak the truth ever after. If He brings back a drunkard, it is to temperance, and He expects him to be sober for the future. If He brings back one who has sinned through impurity, it is to chastity and modesty. This is what S. Paul means when he says, "Put off concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour. Let him that stole steal no more, let no corrupt conversation proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying. 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."
II. We will consider Christ as the Judge. The time will come when He will separate the bad from the good, when He will go over His fold, and pick out all those diseased sheep which are good for nothing, and which taint and infect the others, and will cast them outside.
That is to say, the time will come, when Christ will no more call sinners to Him, and bring them to His Church, but will examine those who are in His Church, and unless they have mended their ways, unless they have become better for being there, He will throw them out, and have nothing further to do with them.
When Joshua was leading the people of God into the Promised Land, God said to Joshua, "Up! Sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against to-morrow."
In what did this sanctification consist? "Joshua rose early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken: and he brought the family of Judah; and took the family of the Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and Zabdi was taken: and he brought his household man by man; and Achan, the son of Carmi was taken." Then Joshua learned how this man had sinned and incurred the anger of God, and he and all Israel carried him and his family outside the camp unto the valley of Achor, "and all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones." That was the sanctification of Israel,—the putting away the black sheep out of the flock.
When Jesus sat with His Twelve in the supper chamber, at the Last Supper, Judas rose and went out, and when he was gone forth, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him." A little while before, while Judas was in the room, we are told, "Jesus was troubled in spirit." But the moment the evil one among the Apostles was cast forth, the glorification of the Son of Man began.
So it is now, and so will it be hereafter.
Now, as long as there is evil in the Church, as long as there are sinners who will not amend, as long as there are tares growing up with the wheat,—so long "Jesus is troubled in spirit." But when the great Day comes, when our true Joshua will lead the people of God into the Promised Land, then He will sanctify His people by casting out from among them the Achans; then from the company of His Elect the Judases will be banished, and the Son of Man will be glorified indeed.
CONCLUSION.—Therefore, my Brethren, be careful to amend. You may have been strayed sheep who have been mercifully brought back to the fold, if so, amend your ways, and grow in holiness and in spiritual health; or in the Last Day you will be thrust forth as incurable, and the Children of God will be sanctified, whilst you are buried in the valley of Achor.
4th Sunday after Trinity.
S. Luke vi. 37.
"Judge not—condemn not—forgive."
INTRODUCTION.—Our Lord here condemns all rash judgments. We know not the motives of other men's actions, and therefore have no right to pass a sweeping condemnation upon them. From our ignorance, we ought to be cautious and merciful in our judgments, and from our own weakness, we should be forgiving to those who have trespassed against us.
Rash judgments arise from pride. It is because we are puffed up with a high opinion of our own selves, our own goodness, the soundness of our judgment, the sharpness of our perception, that we are so prompt to pass judgment on others.
SUBJECT.—This same Pride urges us to something else, Persistency in maintaining that on which we have determined, even after we know it is unwise. It is of this which I am going to speak to-day. This fault is so closely akin to rash judgment of others, that I may well address you on the subject upon a Sunday when our Lord warns against the other.
I. Many a man, out of pride, sticks to what he says after he knows that it is wrong. He will not admit that he is wrong, or he is moved by a false sense of what is due to himself to hold to his word, or to his opinion, when his conscience tells him that he is in error. You must have met with those stubborn persons who are not to be moved by any argument, not to be convinced by any proof, that they are wrong. They have made up their minds once for all, and are no longer open to reverse their decision.
Let us look to Scripture, and see if we have any examples of such. I find two; and one of these is in a man of whom we might have hoped better things—King David.
I. When David came to the kingdom, he was very anxious to show kindness to any son of Jonathan whom he might find; and he heard of Mephibosheth, who was lame in both his feet, and at once made over to him all the landed property that had belonged to King Saul, his grandfather. After seven years, Absalom, David's son, conspired against his father, and David was obliged to fly from Jerusalem, with a few friends. As David was escaping, there came to him Ziba, a servant of Mephibosheth, with a couple of asses saddled, and upon them two hundred loaves of bread, and a hundred bunches of raisins, and an hundred of summer fruits, and a skin of wine. Then David asked Ziba what these were for, and Ziba answered that he had brought them to the king as a present, thinking he might need them in his flight. And the king asked after Mephibosheth; then Ziba said, "O! he is at home in Jerusalem, he said in my hearing, A good time is coming to me. To-day shall the house of Israel restore me the kingdom of my father." Now all this was a wicked lie. Mephibosheth had sent the present, and Ziba had promised to tell David why his master could not come with him, because he was crippled in both his feet, and could not get about. As for any idea of recovering the throne of Saul, it had not once entered his head. Now when David heard the slander of Ziba, he was very angry with Mephibosheth, and at once he judged him, and condemned him, without waiting to hear more, and said to Ziba, "Behold, I will give thee all that belonged to Mephibosheth, if ever I get back to Jerusalem and recover my power."
Not long after there was a great battle, and Absalom was slain, and the enemies of David put to flight. Then David returned over Jordan from the wilderness where he had taken refuge, and Mephibosheth met him. This good man, full of love for David, "had neither dressed his feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes," all the time of David's absence, to shew his great grief. David at once reproached him for his disloyalty, and then only he heard how great a lie Ziba had told. Then David answered, "Why speakest thou any more of thy matters? I have said, Thou and Ziba divide the land." Mark the wicked injustice. The lying, slanderous servant is rewarded with half the property of poor Mephibosheth,—why?—because David had promised him the whole when misinformed. David knows that Ziba has acted falsely, yet, because he had said to him that he should be given the land of his master, he keeps his word to him, though he knows he is doing an injustice to Mephibosheth.
There you have a pretty example of an obstinate man sticking to what he has said, after he is convinced that he has been misled, and doing a great wrong rather than acknowledge that he had judged rashly, and condemned on no good grounds.
II. I can give you another example. King Herod was pleased with the dancing of the daughter of Herodias one evening at a supper, and he swore to her, when he was half tipsy, that he would give her what she liked in reward for her display. Then she asked him to cut off the head of S. John the Baptist, and give it her in a dish. Now, as soon as she asked this, the king was sorry, for he knew that S. John was a good man, and he knew also that he had no right to have a man murdered in prison to please the whim of a wicked woman; however, because he had passed his word, he was too proud and cowardly to go back from it, and refuse her what she had no right to ask. Then he sent an executioner, and he cut off the head of the saint, and put it in a dish, and it was brought thus to the girl, and she carried it to her mother.
III. A man is right to stick to his word, if his word be right. He is right to stick to his promise, if he have promised that over which he has a just right. He is right to stick to his opinion if his opinion be founded on good grounds, and if he have heard nothing that ought to cause him to alter it.
But—no man has any right to stick to his opinion simply because it is his opinion. He has no right to hold a promise which he had no right to make. He has no right to adhere to a harsh judgment simply because he has formed that judgment.
When our Lord bids us not judge, He bids us be very cautious in forming a decided opinion, and in sticking to it through thick and thin. We know so little here, and so imperfectly, that our opinions must be formed on uncertain grounds, and therefore we have no right to be tenacious about them. Yet many persons are as touchy about their opinions as though it were a sacrilege to dispute them. Some of the greatest injustices have been done through obstinacy, in clinging to opinions that have become untenable.
CONCLUSION.—Remember then the lessons taught you by our Lord in this day's Gospel, and also by the conduct of David. Be very cautious of forming a judgment, and when you have formed one, do not allow Pride to stand in the way of confessing your fault, and changing your opinion, when you are given reasonable grounds for so doing.
THE SECRET OF SUCCESS.
5th Sunday after Trinity
S. Luke v. 5.
"We have taken nothing; nevertheless at Thy word, I will let down the net."
INTRODUCTION.—S. Peter and the other Apostles had been fishing all night, and had met with no success at all, then Jesus entered into the boat of Simon, and bade him launch out and let down his net. S. Peter did not hesitate. He had met with no success when fishing in the night, nevertheless now, at the word of Christ, he fishes again, and this time the net encloses a great multitude, so that the net breaks. No doubt our Lord desired to show those who were to become fishers of men that there were two ways of doing a thing, and that one way would be successful and the other would not.
If they were going to become fishers of men, they must try to catch them by carrying Christ, i.e. a Christlike spirit, with them, and the spirit of Christ is love and gentleness. If they were to be successful in winning souls, they must have a loving zeal, and that would gain more than hard work without love.
SUBJECT.—We are all of us, in our several callings, fishers of souls. Of course, especially are the clergy fishers, but not they only, every man who loves God must seek to win souls for God, every man who is in the net of the Church must seek to draw others into the same net. If the fisher is to be successful, he must fish in the spirit of Christ, that is, actuated by love, and must deal gently with the souls he desires to gain.
I. I say, we are all fishers. Those of us who are parents desire to draw to Christ the souls of our children, those who are masters, the souls of their servants. The husband seeks to win the wife, and the believing wife the husband. "What knowest thou, O wife," says S. Paul, "whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?"
The servant seeks to win the fellow-servant, the labourer in the field has the welfare of his fellow-labourer at heart, and seeks to draw him to God. It was Cain who said, "Am I my brother's keeper?" And the same isolating, selfish spirit is in those who take no interest in those they associate with, and do not seek their good.
I was much struck last spring with something a gentleman said to me, who had been a good deal in America; he was much surprised and struck with the interest felt in England by the rich for the poor, by the master and mistress for their servants, by the landowner for his tenants, and he said to me, "This seems to me the most marvellous thing I have seen in England. With us a master cares not one snap of the fingers what becomes of the man he employs, he no more thinks of what becomes of him than he does of a dollar that passes through his hands. He sees that he does his work, and if the man dies, the master gets another in his place to-morrow, and asks nothing about the man who has disappeared."
Well! I thank God we are not come to that yet, however advanced we may be in our independent ways; and it is not right and Christian that we should.
II. Now we come to the way in which we are to try to draw other souls to Christ, the souls of our children, of our servants, of our companions, of our fellow-workers. The first principle of success is gentleness.
In the 4th chapter of the 2nd book of Kings we have this story. There was a Shunammite woman who had an only son. She was a good kind-hearted woman, who had shown much hospitality to the prophet Elijah [Transcriber's note: Elisha?]. One day the little boy ran out into the harvest field, when the sun was hot, and he had a sunstroke, and was very ill. "He said unto his father, My head, my head. And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother. And when he had taken him and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then he died. And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out." Then she ordered one of the servants to saddle an ass, and drive her to the prophet; and when she found him, she told him the piteous story, and how the poor little fellow whom she loved so dearly, and who was such a darling of his father, and such a pet of the old Elisha when he paid them his visits, was lying white and dead upstairs on the bed.
Then Elisha was sorely troubled, and he gave his staff to his servant, Gehazi, and made him run as fast as he could to the house of the Shunammite. "Gird up thy loins, and take my staff in thine hand, and go thy way: if thou meet any man, salute him not; and if any salute thee, answer him not again; and lay my staff upon the face of the child." Gehazi obeyed, but it was of no use. "He laid the staff upon the face of the child: but there was neither voice, nor hearing." Then Elisha came himself, and he shut the door, and laid himself beside the little body, and put his lips to the lips of the child, and his warm loving heart against the little dead heart, and took the chill hands in his. Then the spirit of the child came back into him again, and he sat up, and Elisha delivered him alive to his mother.
Now this story contains some lesson for us. And this is the short comment on the miracle by an old writer, "Him whom the rod of terror will not rouse, love will." Or in other words, we may learn by this that gentleness will succeed where harshness will fail.
In the time when all the north of England was heathen, there was an assembly held at Iona to decide who should preach the gospel to the English of Northumbria. Then one missionary was sent, and after having laboured for some years, he came back to give an account of his mission. And a council was held, and he said, "Those Northumbrians are a stiff-necked, hard-hearted people. I threatened them with God's wrath, I spoke to them of Hell-fire, I warned them of the terrors of judgment, I denounced the vengeance of God on them, and they would not be converted." Then one sitting in a bark seat said, "My brother, it seems to me that you went the wrong way to work. You should have gone in love, and not in wrath. You should have tried to win, and not to drive." All eyes were turned en the speaker, and it was decided with one voice that he should be sent, and he went. His name was Aidan—and he was the Apostle of all Northumberland, Durham, and Yorkshire. He had the joy to see the whole people bow their necks to receive the yoke of Christ.
What says S. Paul? "What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?" If he had come with the rod, he would have gone back disappointed.
CONCLUSION.—Let us then, dear brethren, in dealing with the souls of others, approach them, not with the rod, or we shall fail to awake them to a new and better life, but in love, and in the spirit of gentleness, and then we shall meet, I doubt not, with good success.
PERSISTENCY IN WRONG DOING.
6th Sunday after Trinity.
S. Matt. v. 25.
"Agree with thine adversary quickly, while thou art in the way with him."
INTRODUCTION.—I spoke to you the Sunday before last about the obstinacy of persisting in an opinion after you have good cause to believe that this opinion is unjust, or unreasonable. I am going to speak to you to-day of another form of obstinacy.
SUBJECT.—My subject is Persistency in doing wrong, because you have begun wrong. This is only another form of the same fault. The other is thinking wrong persistently, this is perseverance in doing wrong. And the source of both is the same, Pride. Pride stands in the way of altering an erroneous opinion, and in the way of altering a wrongful course of action.
I. In the tenth chapter of the second book of Samuel we have a striking story of the way in which a man having once done a wrong, persists in it, and it brings about his ruin.
King David, when firmly established on his throne, began to look about him to see who had been kind to him in his day of adversity, and to reward, or thank them. He showed his gratitude to the memory of his friend Jonathan by investing his son Mephibosheth with his grandfather's property. Then he remembered that Nahash the King of Ammon had shown him hospitality, and he heard also that he was just dead. So David said, "I will show kindness unto Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father showed kindness unto me." And David sent to comfort him by the hand of his servants for his father.
The message was kindly intended. David wished to show that he was not forgetful of past favours, that he was ready to make a lasting friendship with Hanun, and he desired to exhibit his sympathy with the son for the loss of his father. These were the three motives actuating David, all good. Now, how did Hanun act? One would naturally suppose that he would appreciate these motives, and that he would be glad, when scarce settled on his throne, to secure the powerful friendship of King David. No!—he was young, insolent, inconsiderate, and fond of practical joking,—a vulgar-minded fellow, puffed up with conceit at his elevation to power. Hanun took the servants, the ambassadors of David, and shaved off half their beards, and cut off the lower half of all their clothes, and sent them back to David. And when it was told unto David that his messengers had been thus ignominiously treated, "he sent to meet them, because the men were greatly ashamed, and said, Tarry at Jericho, until your beards be grown, and then return." As soon as Hanun and his Ammonites had done this, what was their next step?—As perhaps you are aware, by the laws of civilized and uncivilized people, the persons of ambassadors are held to be sacred. Therefore Hanun had not only done an insolent, and utterly blackguard trick, but he had gone against one of the first laws of nations. What he ought to have done, was at once to send to David a most humble apology, with an acknowledgment that he had acted wrongly. But he was too proud for this. He would not admit that he had erred. He at once sent and hired the Syrians of Beth-rehob, and the Syrians of Zoba, twenty thousand foot soldiers, and of King Maacah a thousand men, and of Ish-tob twelve thousand men, so that this malicious trick began to shew that it was an expensive one. Then David's army drew up in array against this army of Ammon and their hired allies, and at once, all the mercenaries ran away. So then there was nothing for it but for the Ammonites to return as quickly as possible within the walls of their city. Now, what should Hanun have done? It was clear that David was not eager to punish him, for he had not even sent his army against Ammon till Hanun had collected the great host against him, and as soon as the Ammonites, deserted by their auxiliaries, had retired within their walls, the army of David had not pressed them, but gone quietly back to Jerusalem. What then ought Hanun to have done? Of course, he should now have sent his apology, and said how wrongly he had acted, how ashamed of himself he was, and how desirous he was to have the past forgotten. But no, having done wrong once, his pride would not let him acknowledge it, and he went on. He now engaged Hadarezar, King of the Syrians, and this time there was a great battle, and David slew of the Syrians seven hundred chariots, and forty thousand horsemen, and smote the captain of their host, so that he was left dead on the field, and all the Syrians who could escape ran away for their lives. Then Hadarezer had had quite enough of fighting against Israel, and he made peace with David, and "So the Syrians feared to help the children of Ammon any more." Now the Ammonites were left completely without auxiliaries. What chance was there for them? Still David did not press them. A whole year passed, and he made no move. He was waiting for an apology. But no. That headstrong Hanun was still too proud to make it. He would die with all his people rather than say he had done wrong. So, at the end of a year, David sent his army against the Ammonites, and destroyed them utterly. He killed Hanun, and took away his crown, and plundered his capital town, and ruined all his cities. That was the end of one practical joke unapologised for.
II. In the Gospel for to-day, our Lord warns against the same hard-headedness in persisting in refusing an apology, and to make up friendship that has been broken. "Agree with thine adversary quickly, while thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing." He urges Christians when they have done an injury to any, frankly to confess it, to put their pride in their pocket, and to ask forgiveness. It is not an easy thing to do, to acknowledge that you have done wrong, but there is more true courage in doing so, than in persevering in spite of the consequences, in wrong doing. Many a lasting and miserable quarrel has arisen because at the outset one little word has not been said, which would have made all things smooth. Two families become estranged and bitterly hostile, because some one has reported to the mother in one, that the mother in the other had made a disparaging remark about her. A little word, and all would be explained, and set to rights. "Let not the sun go down on your wrath," says the Apostle, and an excellent piece of advice this is:—Make up all quarrels the same day that they break out.
There was a good old bishop of Alexandria called John the Almsgiver, and he and the Governor of the city were great friends. Something occurred which made a breach between them. If I remember aright, it was this. The bishop was very charitable, and was always urging the rich people to give to the poor, and they were constantly sending him money to distribute among the sick and needy. Now at this time the Governor had experienced some difficulty in raising the taxes, and this ruffled his temper. He was on a visit to the Bishop, when he saw on the stairs a number of servants of a rich lady bringing up, as a present to the bishop some pots, labelled "Virgin Honey." The Governor said he did not believe they were pots of honey, but pots of gold, and when the bishop offered to open them and let him see for himself, he dashed out of the door in a rage, and said, "No wonder I can't get money in taxes when you swindle it out of the people, to feed the beggars on honey." When the Governor was gone, the old Bishop was very troubled, and he sat in his room all the rest of the day, waiting for the Governor to come and make it up with him. But no! the Governor was fuming with anger and would do no such thing. That evening the Governor had a party, and as he was sitting at table with the guests, a little scrap of paper was put on his plate, a servant of the Bishop had brought it. The Governor took it up and saw, "Dear old Friend—THE SUN IS SETTING." Then his heart relented, he excused himself to his guests, and ran to the house of the Bishop, and they fell into one another's arms and made friends again.
CONCLUSION.—Now remember this story. Whenever you have a quarrel with another, let not the sun go down on your wrath. Make it up before set of sun.
THE MEASURE OF SIN.
7th Sunday after Trinity.
S. Mark viii. 2.
"I have compassion on the multitude."
INTRODUCTION.—In to-day's Gospel we see the tender compassion of our Lord for those who came into the wilderness to hear Him. This is only one example out of many of His great love and mercy: and indeed "His mercy is over all His works." "Thou, O Lord," says David, "art full of compassion and mercy, long-suffering and truth." This is a verity of which we are so convinced that it is quite possible we may overlook the other truth, that His mercy, though unlimited in extent, is limited in its application. His mercy is extended for a definite purpose, and when it ceases to avail for this purpose, then it ceases to flow. What that purpose is, S. Paul tells us. "Knowest thou not," he says, "that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance." That is, God is merciful that we may amend, not in order that we may continue in sin. Now, if men thought that when they had fallen into grievous sin there was no more a hope of recovery, then they would sink into despair, and become hard and impenitent. But that this may not be the case, God assures us of His mercy, but he assures us of His mercy only to insure our amendment.
SUBJECT.—It seems plain from Holy Scripture that to each man there is a fixed measure of sin, and that if he fills that measure, after that there is no place for repentance, and no more pardon. This is a very terrible truth,—but a truth it is, as I shall show you.
I. There was a nation of Canaan called the Amorites, and God promised to Abraham that He would give their land to his descendants, but that He could not give it yet without injustice. The land was in the possession of the Amorites, a people on their trial, and till the day of their probation was expired, their kingdom could not be taken from them. "In the fourth generation," God said, "thy seed shall come hither, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." Now actually it was not till four hundred and seventy years later that the destruction of the Amorites was accomplished. Four generations after Abraham, that is some two hundred and forty years after, the measure of their iniquities was full, and yet they existed on till Joshua crossed Jordan with the Israelites, and then they were all put to the sword.
In the New Testament we hear the Jews addressed as though they also had a measure of sin they must fill up before God would forsake them. Our Lord says to them, "Ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of Hell? Behold I send unto you prophets, and wise-men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify: and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar." The Jewish nation had done great wickedness, but the measure of their iniquities was not full till they had rejected Christ, and had refused to listen to His Apostles, and the Holy Ghost speaking through their mouths. Till then He would not cast them off entirely.
II. David prays to God, "Lord, let me know the number of my days, that I may be certified how long I have to live." No doubt, God has fixed for all men a certain length of life. No doubt also He has set for each a certain limit of forbearance; a line, an invisible line drawn somewhere, and He says to man, Thus far mayest thou go, and I will still be merciful and pardon, but no further. Transgress that line, and I forgive no more. My Spirit will not always strive with man.
In those cases which I have quoted to you, God is dealing with nations, but He deals with individuals in the same way. His laws are uniform; as He deals with an assemblage of people, so He deals with single individuals. If He fixes a bound to nations, beyond which they cannot go without His forsaking them, it is because there is the law, which is of general application to all human beings; a law applying to single persons, and to persons in the aggregate.
In the Prophet Amos we read a message from God to Judah, "Thus saith the Lord: For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof." This means, if I mistake not, Judah has committed some two or three gross sins, and I was ready to turn away the punishment, had there been a sign of repentance, but when to the three they added a fourth, then it was too late. The time of repentance was past, and the punishment threatened must fall.
And now perhaps you can understand a saying of S. John in his first Epistle. He says:—"If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death, I do not say that he shall pray for it." S. John is not speaking here of what we call mortal sins, but of mortal sins continued till the measure is filled up, and when the last sin has been added which completes the measure, that is the sin unto death, which it avails nothing to pray for, for that sin ends in death. Before, there was life, spiritual life, perhaps flickering, but extant, then comes the last sin, and the life is gone out, all is dark, and dead, and cold, no more fanning of the black ashes is of any avail, the fire is out and cannot be revived.
III. How does God deal with those who have gone beyond this measure? In one of two ways. Either:—
1. There comes a sudden call,—a sudden death-sickness or accident cuts them off. Or:—
2. Dead impenitence settles over the soul, which no longer wishes for anything better, which feels no desire for pardon.
Of the first case, we have instances in Scripture. King Belshazzar had committed many transgressions, he was weighed in the balances, but still found wanting in the final and irreversible act of wickedness, till that night when he brought out the sacred vessels used in the temple to drink out of them at his riotous banquet in his palace. That act of sacrilege was the one sin which weighed down the balance. What says the sacred text? "In that night was Belshazzar the King of the Chaldeans slain." I may instance also Judas, who having for long been a thief, added to his former sins the one last and terrible sin of selling his Master, and then a fit of madness came over him in which he hung himself.
But sometimes hardness and impenitence is the result. The conscience is dead, and, to use S. Paul's words, "there remains no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries."
CONCLUSION.—Let us, therefore, be very cautious of adding sin to sin, that grace may abound, but rather fly from it as from the face of a serpent. We know not what is the number of our days determined by God, and we know not what is the number of our sins beyond which there is no forgiveness.
8th Sunday after Trinity.
S. Matt. vii. 15.
"Inwardly they are ravening wolves."
INTRODUCTION.—A Schoolmaster finds one day that several of his scholars are playing truant. The morning passes and they do not arrive. At last, in the afternoon, the truants turn up. The master has a strong suspicion where they have been: however, he asks, "Why were you not at school this morning?" "Please, sir, mother kept me at home to mind the baby." "Indeed—let me look at your mouth." He opens the mouth, and finds it black inside. "Ah! I thought as much, rambling in the woods, picking and eating whortleberries." So with the others, they make their excuses, but he looks into their mouths, and the black colour betrays them.
Now, my friends, I am almost afraid to look in your mouths, lest I should see them black, not with whortleberries, but with something much sweeter, blame and fault-finding. You are, I suspect, all of you nearly fond of abusing your neighbours, of finding fault, of telling unkind things of them, of blackening their good names.
SUBJECT.—I am going to take as my subject to-day the Casting of Blame.
I. "Be ye merciful," said our Lord, "even as your Father which is in heaven is merciful." He did not mean only in our dealings with others, to be merciful to their bodies, and merciful in not exacting debts, and merciful in not punishing neglect, and so forth, but He meant also that we were to be merciful with their characters. We are not to be ready to impute evil, not ready to cast blame, not ready to believe hard things of others and retail them to our neighbours, but to be very slow to suspect evil, very slow to charge it on others, and exceedingly slow to say what is evil of others.
"Charity," says S. Paul, "is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." It seems to me, that charity is the exact reverse of this fault-finding, blame-imputing character. "Charity thinketh no evil," but how is it with you? Do you not always suspect that the motives of people are bad, do you not always think people are worse than they really are? "Charity rejoiceth not in iniquity." Ha! there is a bit of scandal, something very bad has come out about So and so. What a running about from house to house! the village is like a hive of bees swarming. Do you mean to tell me it is not a delight, a joy to you, to have this little bit of iniquity to talk about? I know better. "Charity rejoiceth not in iniquity," but charity is not to be found in that tittle-tattling, excited crowd of talkers. "Charity believeth all things"—will, that is, believe and trust, as long as it is possible, that people are not so bad after all, that the stories told are not true, and "Charity hopeth all things," hopes even against hope that it is so.
O! what a blessed thing is charity! S. Paul said he would rather have that, than be able to speak with tongues, and to prophesy; he would rather have that than work miracles. It is a better thing even to have that than Faith. But, alas! if it be such a good thing, it is also a very rare one.
II. How very often we cast blame when there is no cause, and are therefore guilty of serious injustice.
I was one day walking in the street of a little town, when a poor inoffensive dog passed me. He went quietly along without a thought of doing anyone an injury, when he happened to pass a knot of boys just come out of school. At once one of the urchins took up a stone and threw it at him, the others clapped their hands, and hooted after him, "Hit him! Knock him over! Mad dog!" Away ran the unhappy cur, and all the boys yelling after him, throwing dirt, and striking at him with sticks. What next? Everyone in the street ran to the door, and saw the brute tearing down the way, with his tail between his legs. Then out of every door rushed all the house-dogs, the butcher's dog, and the coach-dog, and even the little lap-dog jumped up, and ran down stairs, and out of the door, to join in the barking, and away went all the dogs of the place after the poor wretch. There was a tumult! And the people in their doors and at their windows shouted, and one said, "Kill him! he is mad!" and another, "He has bitten a woman!" and another, "He has stolen some meat!" and another, "He has knocked over a child!"
Now all this arose from one boy throwing a stone at a harmless dog. And all the things said about the dog were untrue. The proverb was verified, "Give a dog a bad name, and you may hang him."
Is not this very much like what takes place among men? Someone throws blame on a poor harmless person for no cause in the world but out of sheer malevolence, or love of mischief, and at once others join in. Everyone has something to say, everyone joins in the general abuse. No lack of blame. No lack of unkind things said. And—all untrue, all unjust!
I do not mean to say that when a person has done what is wrong we are not to speak of it at all; but what I do say is, that we should be very careful indeed not to cast blame till we are quite sure that we are justified in doing so. "As for this way, we know that it is everywhere spoken against," was what was said of Christianity. All sorts of bad, lying things were said of the early Christians, that they killed and ate children, that they practised horrible idolatries: the stories were not true, but they were believed, simply because everyone said these things were done.
III. Now this is the advice I give you:—
a. Be sure that blame is just before you cast it.
b. Be merciful in attributing blame even when it is deserved.
First:—Be sure that you have real cause to cast blame, be sure that you are not committing a great injustice, and doing another a grievous injury which is unmerited.
"Do to others as you would they should do to you." Consider how miserable you would feel were you the subject of unmerited blame.
Secondly:—Be merciful in attributing blame even when it is deserved. Remember that you yourself are not guiltless. There are things that you have done which deserve censure quite as much as those things you blame in others. One day a woman, taken in adultery, was brought before Christ, and the Jews desired to stone her to death because of her sin. Then our Lord said, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." And when they heard it, being convicted by their own consciences, they went out, one by one, beginning at the eldest even unto the last.
I say to you: when you are inclined to cast blame, even when just, think, "Am I without sin, that I should judge and condemn another?"
9th Sunday after Trinity.
S. Luke xvi, 3, 4.
"What shall I do?—I am resolved what to do."
INTRODUCTION.—The dishonest Steward in to-day's Gospel shows us the natural tendency of the human heart when in a scrape—to have recourse to dishonesty to escape from it. He knows that he is about to be turned out of his stewardship because he has been wasteful—not dishonest, but wasteful. He has not been a prudent and saving steward, but a sort of happy-go-lucky man who has not kept the accounts carefully, and has been content so long as he has not lost much money. So soon as he sees himself about to be turned out of his stewardship, he is wakened out of his easy-going ways with a shock, and he says to himself, "Here am I in a predicament! I shall lose my livelihood, and am not likely to get another situation; I am too old to work with my hands for my living, and I have too much self-respect to try. What can I do?—I am resolved what to do. I will cheat my master."
SUBJECT.—I believe that a very similar process goes on now-a-days in a great many hearts. Bad times come. What is to be done? There is nothing for it but to be just a little bit dishonest. Honesty won't pay. So the manufacturer weaves bad silk, and makes shoddy cloth, and the wine-merchant doctors his wine, and the brewer his ale, and the milkman puts water into his milk, and the butterman sells butter made of Thames mud, and the calico is dressed with chalk, and the ready-made clothes come to pieces because the thread's ends are not fastened, and the farm work is half done, and the whole trade and commerce of the country is one great system of adulteration and petty cheating.
I. Abraham was a very scrupulous man. In all his dealings he was perfectly just and honourable. Once five kings came into the valley of the Jordan, and made a sudden onslaught on the towns there; they carried away all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and thoroughly sacked the cities. They did not only that, but they carried off as well a great number of the inhabitants as captives. Then Abraham lent his servants to the king of Sodom to help him to recover the booty and liberate the captives, and there was a battle, the result of which was that the five kings were defeated, and all the spoil and the prisoners recovered. Then the King of Sodom offered Abraham the booty in repayment for his valuable services. He said, "Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself." But Abraham answered, "No! I will not take from a thread even to a shoe-latchet, and I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abraham rich." Now, this was just an occasion when he might have fairly claimed remuneration from the recovered plunder, but no! he was far too scrupulous. He knew of what that plunder consisted—it was made up of the household goods of the inhabitants of the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah; of all the sticks of furniture, and clothes, and crockery, and household ornaments that the people valued. He would not deprive them of one, lest they should think that Abraham had enriched himself at their expense. He puts an extreme case,—lest some poor woman should lament that she had lost all her thread wherewith to mend her torn clothes, and say, "Ah! I had plenty of thread once, but Abraham has it now," or another should say, "I have no buckle to my shoe, Abraham has taken of the spoil, and my shoe-buckle he has got now."
Well, now listen to what follows immediately. This upright conduct of Abraham so pleased God, that we read, "After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abraham in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abraham: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward."
How many are there now who act like Abraham? How many who fear lest it should be said of them that they had been enriched by those whose money they had no right to take? There would be fewer failing banks, and the little stores of widows and orphans swallowed up, were the bankers more of the mind of Abraham. There would be fewer swindling speculations swallowing up the savings of the thrifty, if men shrank from taking that which is not lawfully and fairly their own.
II. All purchases, and all agreements for labour, are contracts. The purchaser asks for one thing, and of that thing a certain amount, and if for his money he is given another thing, or a smaller amount than that for which he has paid, then there is dishonesty. If you went to a shop and asked for a pound of tea, and were given something which was not tea, or tea which weighed less than a pound, you would be dealt with dishonestly. So if you go into another shop to buy flannel, and purchase three yards, and then when you come home and measure it, you find that it is six inches short, you would have been dealt with dishonestly. In both cases you would be exceedingly angry with the traders, and justly so. But consider, do you always act justly with your employers? When you are hired for a day's work, do you give good work? And is the time just measure? Or is there much idling and talking when you are unobserved?
Let there be honour and fairness all round. How would you like to be paid in clipped coin, that was not full weight? And yet you have no scruple in giving clipped time, and work in short weight. I speak plainly about this, for it is a crying evil of the day. There is everywhere apparent a lack of conscientiousness in the dealings of man with man. We used to do a large trade with our manufactures in Europe and the East, and now we have to a large extent lost it—because we have sent out bad material and sold it as good. It is a common complaint that men do not work now as well as of old in every department of industry. They rob their masters of time and labour, which they have contracted to give. Then the masters say, "What shall we do?—we are resolved what we will do, we will make up the loss by adulteration of our goods." Then purchasers discover this and refuse to buy, so the trade of the country declines.
III. Remember, then, in all your transactions, how Abraham dealt with the King of Sodom, and how God rewarded him for his honesty, and you may be very sure that God will not overlook you if you deal with others faithfully. The eye of God is over all, and He sees whether you fulfil your obligations honestly or not, and He will certainly bless abundantly those who recognise His presence. S. Paul bids all who serve others—we all do that in one way or another—do their duty, not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as though they were working for Christ, not as if they were doing the will of man, but the will of God, from the heart, "Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord."
THE CONSEQUENCES OF SIN.
10th Sunday after Trinity.
S. Luke xix, 42.
"If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes."
INTRODUCTION.—I spoke to you the other day about the measure of sin, and showed you that there was a certain limit allotted to every man, beyond which he could not go and still expect forgiveness, a point in the downward course at which the Holy Spirit will cease to strive to hold him back. We see in this day's Gospel that there is also a Day of Grace, a period, that is, during which God is ready to give pardon and strength and guidance, and that if this Day of Grace be wasted, then those things belonging to our eternal peace which were offered are withdrawn, or hidden from the eyes. This is, in fact, the same thing as what I said about the measure of sin; after a time of sin and neglect, the opportunity for redeeming the past is lost beyond recall, and that time is measured out by the amount of the transgressions of the person or the people with whom God is dealing.
SUBJECT.—I am not, however, going to speak to you again on this subject from another aspect, but of sin itself, and the consequences it brings. Those consequences we overlook. We believe that God for Christ's sake pardons sin and wipes away transgressions, but we forget altogether that He does not deliver us from the consequences of sin, or, at least, not from all of them.
I. Sin is the transgression of God's commandment. And it entails three consequences. 1. It separates from God. 2. It entails punishment. 3. It leaves a stain.
God has given His Commandments for the good of men. They are the maxims by which they must rule their conduct, in order that the world may go on in peace and orderliness, and that they may remain in communion with Him. Sin is the violation of this law, the break-up of order, the disturbance of peace, and the interruption of communion.
II. It separates from God. When mortal sin has been committed, the flow of divine grace is arrested, just as when something gets into a pipe it chokes it, so that the stream of water can no longer run till the stoppage is removed. Thus the presence of mortal sin in the conscience at once cuts off from the favour of God, and prevents growth in the spiritual life. The sinner is guilty in the sight of God, and if he die in unpardoned deadly sin, stands in great danger of being lost.
Now, here it is that Christ intervenes. He reconciles the sinner to the Father, and He takes away the barrier which separates them. He removes the stoppage which interferes with the flow of Grace. In one word, He removes the guilt. That is the work of the Atonement. For this Christ died. But for the Cross of Calvary, man, once alienated from God by sin, must remain in alienation. "Christ," says S. Paul, "having made peace through the blood of the Cross, hath reconciled all things unto Himself. And you, that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in God's sight."
It entails suffering. God's law is that all sin must be punished—that is, where there is transgression, suffering must follow. When a man squanders his fortune by extravagance, he may bitterly repent, but he continues to suffer for his folly. When a man has got drunk, he may be full of sorrow for what he has done, but he has a headache next day all the same. When a woman has lost her character, she may weep tears of bitter repentance, and God may pardon her as He pardoned Magdalen, but she can never recover her character, and must suffer the consequences of her act. In this world or in the next, all sin must be expiated by suffering. Christ by His death removed the guilt of sin, but not the suffering for sin. S. Peter bids us remember that suffering remains a consequence, for he exhorts us, "Forasmuch as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin." That is, the sin is wholly expiated only when the suffering it brings after it has been undergone.
It leaves a stain or scar. No man is the same after sinning as he was before. The sin may be forgiven and suffered for, but the scar remains on his soul. The soul as it leaves the hand of God is white and innocent, in its passage through life it meets with many self-inflicted wounds, these wounds of the soul are sin. Thus it suffers till the wound is healed, and the medicine of the soul is the blood of Christ. The blood heals, but the scar remains. The soul, as seen by God and angels, is marked all over with the traces of the sins which have torn it. The baptized child is given a robe of innocence white as snow. Every sin is a stain upon it, and if you could see now, as angels see, your baptismal garment, you would find it spotted and smeared all over. Suppose I were to take this surplice and splash it over with ink, I might with much labour take out the ink stains, but never so entirely cleanse it that no trace remains. Or I might walk in it through the bushes, and get it torn with the thorns and brambles. Then all the rents might be carefully darned up, but—the surplice would never look as sound and beautiful as when new.
This is precisely like the state of the soul after sin, it is torn and stained, and although the sins may be forgiven, and the stains washed, and the rents healed, yet to the end of life the marks remain of where they have been, the effects are uneffaced.
III. Now what are some of these effects? In the first place, every sin weakens the soul. It takes from it not only its innocence, but its power of resistance. Just as a wound weakens you by the loss of blood, so a sin weakens you by loss of resisting power. You are not so strong to fight against evil after sinning as you were before.
In the second place, you have become more careless and even hardened about sin than you were before. When you have a new coat or gown, you are very careful of it that it be not spotted and torn, but once it loses its first newness, you are not so particular, and the more spotted and torn it becomes, the less you care for the injuries done it, you say, "It is an old dress and very much used, another stain or patch does not matter." So with the soul, when you have become accustomed to sinning, you no longer dread sin.
CONCLUSION.—And now remember, in this thy day, the things that belong to thy peace, and dread sin for its consequences, lest by over much confidence you may exceed your measure, and then the chance of recovery will be gone from you for ever.
11th Sunday after Trinity.
S. Luke xviii., 13.
"The Publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me a sinner."
INTRODUCTION.—I have spoken to you on former occasions pretty strongly upon the evil of backbiting, slandering, and casting of blame without sufficient cause. I am not going to address this day those who speak evil, but those of whom evil is spoken.
The Publican in the Parable stood far from the Pharisee, who had no good word for him, even in his prayer, and he took a great deal of blame to heart, and prayed to God for mercy on him for his shortcomings. No doubt the Publican was well aware in what estimation he was held by the people, and how utterly he was despised by the Pharisee. The Publican was the tax-gatherer, and as the tax-gatherers in those days were often hard men, and exacted more than was due to the State, that they might pocket the difference, the general opinion was that they were all of them dishonest men, and men without hearts. This was not true, we know, of this Publican, nor of Zacchaeus, nor of Levi, who are commended in the Gospel. Perhaps this Publican who was praying, saw the Pharisee cast a contemptuous glance at him, perhaps he even heard the words of his prayer, but if so, he made no attempt at justifying himself. His prayer was not, "God, I am not what other men say of me, unjust, hard-hearted, peculating, exacting: on the contrary, I am strictly honest in my dealings, and I am very forbearing and tender-hearted, and I do not press for payment when no money is to be got." No! nothing of the sort! all he says is—"God, be merciful to me, a sinner."
SUBJECT.—I would have those who are blamed by others, instead of manifesting great eagerness to excuse themselves, and clamouring against those who speak against them, look into their own hearts and lives, and see if there be not something blameworthy there.
I. King Philip of Macedon was informed by some of his courtiers that one of his officers, Nicanor by name, was always speaking evil of him, that wherever Nicanor was, there he did nothing but grumble against the king, and disparage and blame him. What was to be done? Should he be arrested and thrown into prison. "No!" said King Philip, "Before punishing Nicanor, I must look and see whether I have not given occasion for this abuse of me." Then the king thought things over, and it occurred to him for the first time that he had not rewarded Nicanor for some signal services he had rendered him. By some oversight no notice had been taken of Nicanor, though he had risked his life for the king. Then Philip sent for him, and gave him a good appointment, which brought him in a handsome income, and was one of great honour. Some while after, Philip said to his courtiers, "How does Nicanor speak of me now?" They answered that he was never weary of praising the king. Then Philip said, "Do you not see? it lies in ourselves whether we are well or evil spoken of."
It is seldom indeed that you will escape blame, that evil of some sort will not be spoken about you. When that is the case, remember what Philip said, "I must look and see whether I have not given occasion." Always go to your own heart, always examine your own life, and see whether, after all, there be not something there which is wrong or unwise, and which may be altered, so as to cut off occasion from evil speakers. As the proverb says, "There is no smoke without a fire," and it is not often that blame is cast without there being some cause for it. It may be attributed unjustly, but it is sometimes just, though excessive. Everything casts a shadow, and if you see a shadow you may be sure there is some body to cast it, though the shape and size of the shadow may be wholly unlike and out of proportion to the object which throws it. A tree casts a shadow, a house casts a shadow, a needle casts a shadow, even a hair—where the shadow is, there is some substance to fling it; where great blame is cast, there is some occasion for it. You may have stood on a rock, and seen your shadow thrown all down a valley and up the side of an opposite hill, an enormous figure, and a ridiculous caricature of yourself. So the blame cast on you is often excessive and altogether unreasonable and monstrous. Nevertheless it would never be cast at all unless there were some little fault to cast it. Stick up a pin on a table when the sun is low, and it will throw a shadow from one end of the table to the other, four feet long, and the pin is only an inch in height. So is it with faults: little faults throw long shadows, cause great talk, but there would be no talk at all if the little faults were not there.
II. What then is it that you should do? Examine yourselves whenever you are blamed, and do your utmost to correct what is amiss in you. "Blessed are ye," said our Lord, "when men shall revile you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely." Why? Why when falsely? Because it will make you all the more watchful that you give no offence, that you avoid even the appearance of evil. Blessed are ye when men revile you, and say all manner of evil against you, for then you will examine yourselves, and if you see there is any ground whatever for what they say, you will amend your ways; and blessed are ye when they speak evil against you falsely, for then, though their blame be exaggerated and lying, yet it will make you infinitely more particular to live a blameless life, and to have a conscience void of offence toward God and men.
CONCLUSION.—If you do not use for your self-correction any blame you may undergo, then you may be sure that more and more will attach to you. You may surmount one calumny, but others will follow at its heels. In Revelation we hear that an angel cried, "One woe is past; and behold there come two woes more hereafter." So will it be with you, if the first woe does not profit you to make you better. If the plague of stinging, tormenting insects had made Pharaoh better, and amend his ways, the other plagues would not have fallen upon him. Thus, when you are tormented by evil tongues and spiteful words, if you do not strive your utmost to live better lives, and undo any wrong you may have committed, though the first woe may be past: behold, there will come two more woes hereafter.
PERFECTION TO BE SOUGHT.
12th Sunday after Trinity.
S. Mark vii., 37.
"He hath done all things well."
INTRODUCTION.—It was said by an old heathen writer that God cares for Adverbs rather than for Substantives. That is to say, God had rather have things done well, than that the things should be merely done. He had rather have you pray earnestly than pray, communicate piously than merely communicate, forgive your enemies heartily than say you forgive, work diligently than spend so many hours at work, do your duty thoroughly than solely be content with discharging your duty.
Of Christ, observe what is said. It is not "He hath opened the eyes of the blind, He hath unstopped the ears of the deaf. He hath loosed the tongue of the dumb, He hath healed the sick," but—"He hath done all things well." The eyes do not become dull again, nor the ears again lose their power of hearing, nor the tongue stutter once more, nor the sick relapse into their sickness—what He hath done He hath done well and thoroughly.