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Sermons for the Times by Charles Kingsley

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Transcribed by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk


Fathers and Children
A Good Conscience
Justification by Faith
Duty and Superstition
The Lord's Prayer
The Doxology
Ahab and Naboth
The Light of God
England's Strength
The Life of God
God's Offspring
Death in Life
The True Gentleman
Public Spirit


Malachi iv. 5, 6. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before
the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall
turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the
children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a

These words are especially solemn words. They stand in an
especially solemn and important part of the Bible. They are the
last words of the Old Testament. I cannot but think that it was
God's will that they should stand where they are, and nowhere else.
Malachi, the prophet who wrote them, did not know perhaps that he
was the last of the Old Testament prophets. He did not know that no
prophet would arise among the Jews for 400 years, till the time when
John the Baptist came preaching repentance. But God knew. And by
God's ordinance these words stand at the end of the Old Testament,
to make us understand the beginning of the New Testament. For the
Old Testament ends by saying that God would send to the Jews Elijah
the prophet. And the New Testament begins by telling us of John the
Baptist's coming as a prophet, in the spirit and power of Elias; and
how the Lord Jesus himself declared plainly that John the Baptist
was Elijah who was to come; that is, the Elijah of whom Malachi
prophesies in my text.

Therefore, we may be certain that this text tells us what John the
Baptist's work was; that John the Baptist came to turn the hearts of
the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the
fathers; lest the Lord should come and smite the land with a curse.

Some may be ready to answer to this, 'Of course John the Baptist
came to warn parents of behaving wrongly to their children, if they
were careless or cruel; and children to their parents, if they were
disobedient or ungrateful. Of course he would tell bad parents and
children to repent, just as he came to tell all other kinds of
sinners to repent. But that was only a part of John the Baptist's
work. He came to be the forerunner of the Messiah, the Saviour, the

Be it so, my friends. I only hope that you really do believe that
John the Baptist did come to proclaim that a Saviour was born into
the world--provided only that you remember all the while who that
Saviour was. John the Baptist tells you who He was. If you will
only remember that, and get the thought of it into your hearts, you
will not be inclined to put any words of your own in place of the
prophet Malachi's, or to fancy that you can describe better than
Malachi what John the Baptist's work was to be; and that turning the
hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the
children to the fathers, was only a small part of John the Baptist's
work, instead of being, as Malachi says it was, his principal work,
his very work, the work which must be done, lest the Lord, instead
of saving the land, should come and smite it with a curse.

Yes--you must remember who it was that John the Baptist came to bear
record of, and to manifest or show to the Jews. The Angels on the
first Christmas Eve told us--they said it was _The Lord_, 'Unto
you,' they said, 'is born a Saviour, who is Christ, _The Lord_.'

John the Baptist told you and all mankind who it was--that it was
The Lord. 'The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye
the way of _the Lord_!'

_The Lord_. What Lord--Which Lord? John the Baptist knew. Simeon,
Anna, Nathaniel, all righteous and faithful hearts who waited for
the salvation of the Lord, knew. The Pharisees and Sadducees did
not know. The men who wrote our Creeds, our Prayer Book, our Church
Catechism, knew. The Pharisees and the Sadducees in our day, who
fancy themselves wiser than the Creeds, and the Prayer Book, and the
Church Catechism, do not know. May God grant that we may all know,
not only with our lips, but with our hearts, our faith, our love,
our lives, who The Lord is.

Jesus Christ, the babe of Bethlehem, is The Lord. But who is He?
The Bible tells us; when we have heard what the Bible tells us we
shall be able better to understand the text. The Lord is He of whom
it is written, 'And God said, Let us make man in our image, after
our likeness.' And who is God's image and God's likeness? The New
Testament tells us--Jesus Christ. In Him man was made. He is the
Son of Man, who is in heaven--the true perfect pattern of man: but
He is also the image and likeness of God, the brightness of His
Father's glory, and the express image of His person. He is The
Lord. He is the Lord who instituted marriage, and said, 'It is not
good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help-meet for
him.' He is the Lord who said to man, 'Be fruitful and multiply:
fill the earth and subdue it.' He is the Lord who said to the first
murderer, 'Thy brother's blood crieth against thee from the ground.'
He is the Lord who talked with Abraham face to face as a man talks
with his friend; who blest him by giving him a son in his old age,
that he might be the father of many nations. He is the Lord who, on
Mount Sinai, gave those Ten Commandments, the foundation of all law
and right order between man and God, between man and man:--'Thou
shalt honour thy father and thy mother. Thou shalt do no murder.
Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt
not bear false witness in courts of law or elsewhere. Thou shalt
not covet thy neighbour's property.'

This is The Lord. Not a God far away from men; who does not feel
for them, nor feel with them; not a God who despises men, or has an
ill-will to men, and must be won over to change his mind, and have
mercy on them, by many supplications and tears, and fear and
trembling, and superstitious ceremonies. But this is The Lord, this
is the babe of Bethlehem, this is He whose way John the Baptist came
to prepare--even He of whom it is written, that He possessed wisdom,
the simple, practical human wisdom, useful for this everyday earthly
life of ours, which Solomon sets forth in his Proverbs, in the
beginning before His works of old; and that when He appointed the
foundations of the earth, that Wisdom was by Him, as one brought up
with Him, and she was daily His delight; rejoicing alway before Him;
rejoicing in the _habitable_ parts of the earth; and her delights
were _with the sons of men_.

In one word, He is the Lord, in whose likeness man is made. Man's
justice is a pattern of His; man's love is a pattern of His; man's
industry a pattern of His; man's Sabbath-rest, in some unspeakable
and eternal way, a pattern of His. Man's family ties are patterns
of His. God the Father is He, said St. Paul, from whom every
fathership in heaven and earth is named, that we may be such fathers
to our children as God is to us. God The Son is He who is not
ashamed to call us brethren, and to declare to us the glorious news,
that in Him we, too, are the sons of God, that we may be such sons
to our heavenly Father--ay, and to our earthly fathers also, as the
Lord Jesus was to His Father.

Yes--and even more wonderful still, and more blessed still, the Lord
is not ashamed to call himself a husband. Our human wedlock and
married love is a pattern of some divine mystery. 'Husbands love
your wives, as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for
it, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not
having spot or wrinkle, but that it should be holy and without
blemish.' Blessed words, which we cannot pretend to explain or
understand, but can only believe and adore, and find, as we shall
find, in proportion as we are loving and faithful in wedlock, that
God's Spirit bears witness with our spirit, that they are
reasonable, blessed, true; true for ever.

This, then, was the Lord who was coming to judge these Jews; not
merely a god, but _The_ God. The Lord, in whose likeness man was
made; who had appointed men to be fathers, sons, husbands, citizens
of a nation, owners of property, subject to laws, and yet _makers_
of laws; because all these things, in some wonderful way, are parts
of His likeness. He was coming to this nation of the Jews first,
and then to all the nations of the earth, to judge them, Malachi
said, with a great and terrible day. To lay the axe to the root of
the tree; to cut down from the very root the evil principles which
were working in society. His fan was in His hand; and He would
thoroughly purge His floor; and gather His wheat into the garner,
for the use of future generations: but the chaff, all that was
empty, light, and useless, He would burn up and destroy utterly out
of the way, with unquenchable fire. He would inquire of every man,
How have you kept my image; my likeness, in which I made you? What
sort of husbands, fathers, sons, neighbours, subjects, and
governors, have you been? And above all, Malachi says, the root
question of all would be, what sort of fathers have you been to your
children? What sort of children to your fathers? Does that seem to
you a small question, my friends? Would you have rather expected to
hear John the Baptist ask, what sort of saints they had been? What
sort of doctrines they were professing?

A small question? Look at these two little words, Father and Son.
Father and Son! Are they not the most deep and awful, as well as
the most blessed and hopeful words on earth? Do they not tell us
the very mystery of God's being? Are they not the very name of God,
God The Father and God The Son, knit together by one Holy Spirit of
Love to each other and to all, who proceeds alike from The Father
and from The Son? And then, will you think it a light matter to ask
fallen creatures made in the likeness of that perfect Father and
that perfect Son, what sort of fathers and sons they have been? God
help us all, and give us grace to ask ourselves that question
morning and night, before the great and terrible day of the Lord
come, lest He come and smite this land with a curse.

I have been led to think deeply and to speak openly upon this solemn
matter, my friends, by seeing, as who can help seeing, the great
division and estrangement between the old and the young which is
growing up in our days. I do not, alas! I cannot, deny the
complaints which old people commonly make. Old people complain that
young people are grown too independent, disobedient, saucy, and what
not. It is too true, frightfully, miserably true, that there is not
the same reverence for parents as there was a generation back;--that
the children break loose from their parents, spend their parents'
money, choose their own road in life, their own politics, their own
religion, alas! too often, for themselves;--that young people now
presume to do and say a hundred things which they would not have
dreamed in old times. And they are ready enough to cry out that all
this is a sign of the last days, of which, they say, St. Paul speaks
in 2 Tim. iii. 4--when men 'shall be disobedient to parents,
unthankful, boasters, heady, high-minded, despisers of those who are
good, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.' My friends, my
friends, it is far better for us who have children, instead of
prying into the times and seasons which God has kept in His own
hand, to read our Bibles faithfully, and when we quote a text, quote
the whole of it, and not just those bits of it which help us to
throw blame on other people. What St. Paul really says, is that 'in
the last days evil times will come;' just as they had come, he
shows, when he wrote; and what he means I will try and show you
presently. And, moreover, remember that Malachi says, that the
hearts of the parents in Judea needed turning to their children, as
well as the hearts of the children to their parents. Take care lest
it be not so in England now. Remember that St. Paul, in that same
solemn passage, gives other marks of 'last days,' which have to do
with parents as well as with children, and some which can only have
to do with parents--for they are the sins of grown-up and elderly
people, and not of young ones. He says, that in those days men
shall also be 'covetous, proud, without natural affection, breakers
of their word, blasphemers; having a form of godliness, but denying
the power thereof.' Will none of these hard words hit some grown
people in our day? Will not they fill some of us with dread, lest
the parents now-a-days should be as much in fault as the children of
whom they complain; lest the parents' sins should be but too often
the cause of the children's sins? Read through St. Paul's sad list
of sins, and see how every young man's sin in it has some old man's
sin corresponding to it. St. Paul does not part his list, and I
dare not, and cannot. St. Paul mixes the parents' and the
children's sins together in his words, and I fear that we do the
same in our actions.

Oh! beware, beware, you who complain of the behaviour of children
now-a-days, lest your children have as much cause to complain of
you. Are your children selfish, lovers of themselves?--See that you
have not set them the example by your own covetousness or laziness.
Are they boastful?--See that your pride has not taught them.
Incontinent and profligate?--See that your own fierceness has not
taught them. If they see you unable to master your own temper, they
will not care to try to master their appetites. Are they
disobedient and unthankful?--See, well, then that your want of
natural affection to them, your neglect, and harshness, and want of
feeling and tenderness, has not made the balance of unkindness
fearfully even between you. Are your children disobedient to you?--
See that you have not taught them to be so, by breaking your word to
them, by letting them see you deceitful to others, till they have
lost all trust in you, all reverence for you. Above all, are your
children lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God?--Oh! beware,
beware, lest you have made them so,--lest you have been blasphemers
against God, even when you have been fancying that you talked
religion. Beware lest you have been teaching them dark, cruel,
superstitious thoughts about God,--making them look up to Him not as
their heavenly Father, but as a stern taskmaster whom they must
obey, not from gratitude, but from fear of hell, and so have made
God look so unlovely in their eyes that 'there is no beauty in Him
that they should desire Him.' Can you wonder at their loving
pleasure rather than loving God, when you show them nothing in God's
character to love, but everything to dread and shrink from? And
last of all, are your children despisers of those who are good,
inclined to laugh at religion, to suspect and sneer at pious people,
and call them hypocrites? Oh! beware, beware, lest your lip-
religion, your dead faith, your inconsistent practice, has not been
the cause of it. If you, as St. Paul says, have a form of
godliness, and yet in your life and actions deny the power of it, by
living without God in the world, and following the lowest maxims of
the world in everything but what you call the salvation of your
souls, what wonder if your children grow up despisers of those who
are good? If they see you preaching one thing, and practising
another, they will learn to fancy that all godly people do the same.
If they see your religion a sham, they will learn to fancy all
religion false also. Oh! woe, woe, most terrible, to those who thus
harden their own children's hearts, and destroy in them, as too many
do, all faith in God and man, all hope, all charity! Woe to them!
for the Lord Himself, who came to lay the axe to the root of the
tree, said of such, 'If any man cause one of these little ones to
offend, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about
his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea.'

So it is too often now-a-days, and so it will be, until people
condescend to learn over again that simple old Church Catechism
which they were taught when they were little, and to teach it to
their children, not only with their lips but in their lives.

'The Church Catechism!' some here will say to themselves with a
smile, 'that is but a paltry medicine for so great a disease--a
pitiful ending, forsooth, to such a severe sermon as this, to
recommend just the Church Catechism!' Let those laugh who will, my
friends. If you think you can bring up your children to be
blessings to you,--if you think you can live so as to be blessings
to your children, without the Church Catechism, you can but try. I
think that you will fail. More and more, year by year, I find that
those who try do fail. More and more, year by year, I find that
even religious people's education of their children fails, and that
pious men's sons now-a-days are becoming more and more apt to be
scandals to their parents and to religion. If any choose to say
that the reason is, that the pious men's sons were not of the number
of the elect, though their fathers were, I can only answer, that God
is no respecter of persons, and that they say that He is; that God
is not the author of the evil, and that they say that He is. If a
child of mine turns out ill, I am bound to lay the fault first on
myself, and certainly never on God,--and so is every man, unless the
inspired Scripture is wrong where it says, 'Train up a child in the
way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.'
And the fault _is_ in ourselves. Very few people really teach their
children now-a-days the Church Catechism; very few really believe
the Church Catechism; very few really believe that God is such an
one as the Church Catechism declares to us; very few believe in the
Lord, in whose image and likeness man is made, whose way John the
Baptist prepared by turning the hearts of the fathers to the
children. They put, perhaps, religious books into their children's
hands, and talk to them a great deal about their souls: but they do
not tell their children what the Church Catechism tells them,
because they do not believe what the Church Catechism tells them.

What that is; what the Church Catechism does tell us, which the
favourite religious books now-a-days do not tell us; and what that
has to do with turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, I
must tell you hereafter. God grant that my words may sink into all
hearts, as far as they are right and true; if sooner or later we are
not all brought to understand the meaning of those two simple words,
Father and Son, neither Baptism, nor Confirmation, nor Schools, nor
this Church, nor the very body and blood of Him who died for us, to
share which you are all called this day, will be of avail for the
well-being of this parish, or of this country, or any other country
upon earth. For where the root is corrupt, the fruit will be also;
and where family life and family ties, which are the root and
foundation of society, are out of joint, there the Nation and the
Church will decay also; as it is written, 'If the foundations be
cast down, what can the righteous do?'

And whensoever, in any family, or nation and church, the root of the
tree (which is the conduct of parents to children, and of children
to parents) grows corrupt and rotten, then 'last days,' as St. Paul
calls them, are indeed come to it, and evil times therewith; for the
Lord will surely lay the axe to the root of it, and cut it down and
cast it into the fire: neither will the days of that family, or
that people, or that Church, be long in the land which the Lord
their God has given them. So it has been as yet, in all ages and in
all countries on the face of God's earth, and so it will be until
the end. Wheresoever the hearts of the fathers are not turned to
the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, there
will a great and terrible day of the Lord come; and that nation,
like Judaea of old, like many a fair country in Europe at this
moment, will be smitten with a curse.


John xvii. 3. This is life eternal, that they may know Thee, the
only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.

Before I can explain what this text has to do with the Church
Catechism, I must say to you a little about what it means.

Now if I asked any of you what 'salvation' was, you would probably
answer, 'Eternal life.'

And you would answer rightly. That is exactly what salvation is,
and neither more nor less. No more than that; for nothing greater
than that can belong to any created being. No less than that; for
God's love and mercy are eternal and without bound.

But what is eternal life?

Some will answer, 'Going to heaven when we die.' But what before
you die? You do not know? cannot tell?

Let us listen to what God Himself says. Let us listen to what the
Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, says. Let us listen to what He
who spake as man never spake, says. Surely His words must be the
clearest, the simplest, the most exact, the deepest, the widest; the
exactly fit and true words, the complete words, the perfect words,
which cannot be improved on by adding to them or taking away one jot
or tittle. What did the Lord Jesus Christ say that eternal life

'This is eternal life, that they may know Thee the only true God,
and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.'

To know God and Jesus Christ; that is eternal life. That is all the
eternal life which any of us will ever have, my friends. Unless our
Lord's words are not complete and perfect, and do not tell us the
truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, about eternal
life, that is all the eternal life any one will ever have; and we
must make up our minds to be content therewith.

To which some will answer, almost angrily, 'Of course. The way to
obtain eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ; for if we do
not, we cannot obtain it.'

What words are these, my friends? what rash words are these, which
men thrust into Scripture out of their own carnal conceits, as if
they could improve upon the speech of the Son of Man Himself? He
says, not that to know God is the way to eternal life: but rather
that eternal life is the way to know God. He does not say, This is
to know God and Jesus Christ, _in order that_ they may have eternal
life. Whatever He says, He does not say that. Nay, more, if we are
to be very exact (and can we be too exact?) with the Lord's words,
He says, that 'This is eternal life, _in order that_ they may know
God and Jesus Christ.' Not that we are to know God that we may
obtain eternal life, but that we must have eternal life in order
that we may know God; that eternal life is the means, and the
knowledge of God the end and purpose for which eternal life is given
us. However this may be, at least He says what the noble collect
which we repeat every Sunday says, 'That our eternal life stands in
the knowledge of God,' depends on it, and will fall without it.

'That we may know God.' Not merely that we may know doctrines about
salvation, and the ways of winning God's favour, and turning away
His vengeance; not merely to know what God has done ages ago, or may
do ages hence, for us: but to know God Himself; to know His person,
His likeness, His character; and what He is, and what He does, now
and always; to know His righteousness, His goodness, His truth, His
love, His mercy, His strength, His willingness and mightiness to
save; in a word, what the Bible calls His glory; and therefore to
admire and delight in Him utterly. That is what our eternal life
stands in; that is why God has given to us eternal life in His Son,
that we may know that. Oh, believe your Saviour simply, like little
children, and enter into the joy of your Lord. Acquaint yourselves
with God, and be at peace.

To know God; and also to know Jesus Christ whom He has sent. For
St. John, when he tells us that God has already given to us eternal
life, says also, that this life is in His Son. To know the Son of
God, in whom the Father is well pleased, because He is His perfect
Son; His exact likeness, the likeness of that glory of His, and the
express image of that person and character of His, which I described
to you just now; One whose life was and is and ever will be
eternally all love, and mercy, and self-sacrifice, and labour, for
lost and sinful men; all trust and obedience to His Father. To know
Him and His life, and to come to Him, and receive from Him an
eternal life, which this world did not give us, and cannot take away
from us; which neither man, devil, nor angel, nor the death of our
bodies, the ruin of empires, the destruction of the whole universe,
and of time, and space, and all things whereof man can conceive or
dream, can alter in the slightest, because it is a life of goodness,
and righteousness, and love, which are eternal as the God from whom
they spring; eternal as Christ, who is the same yesterday, to-day,
and for ever; and nothing but our own sinful wills can rob us of

This is eternal life, and therefore this is salvation. A very
different account of it (though it is the Bible account) from that
narrow and paltry one which too many have in their minds now-a-days;
a narrow and paltry notion that it means only being saved from the
punishment of our sins after we die; and a very unbelieving, and
godless, and atheistical notion too; which, like all unbelief hurts
and spoils men's lives.

For too many say to themselves, 'God must save me after I am dead,
of course, for no one else can: but as long as I am alive I must
save myself. God must save me from hell; but I must save myself
from poverty, from trouble, from what the world may say of me or do
to me, if I offend it.' And so salvation seems to have to do
altogether with the next life, and not at all with this; and people
lose entirely the belief that God is our deliverer, our protector,
our guide, our friend, now, here, in this life; and do not really
think that they can get on better in this world by knowing God and
Jesus Christ; and so they set to work to help themselves by cunning,
by covetousness, by cowardly truckling to the wicked ways of the
very world which they renounced at baptism, by following after a
multitude to do evil, and standing by, saying, 'I saw it not,' when
they see wrong and cruelty done upon the earth; afraid to fight
God's battles like men of God, because they say it is 'dangerous.'
And so, in these evil days, thousands who call themselves Christians
live on, worldly and selfish, _without God in the world_; while they
talk busily enough of 'preparing to meet God,' in the world to come;
dreaming, poor souls, of arriving at what they call 'salvation'
after they die, while they are too often, I fear, deep enough in
what the Scripture calls 'damnation,' before they die.

'But,' say some, 'is not salvation going to a place called heaven?'
My friends, let the Bible speak. It tells us that salvation is not
in a place at all, but in a person, a living, moving, acting person,
who is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Let the Psalmists
speak, and shame us, who ought to know (being Christians) even
better than they, that The Lord Himself is Salvation. The whole
Book of Psalms, what is it but the blessed discovery that salvation
is not merely in a place, or a state, not even in some 'beatific
vision' after men die; but in the Lord Himself all day long in this
world; that salvation is a life in God and with God? 'The Lord is
my light, and my salvation, of whom then shall I be afraid? The
Lord is the strength of my life, and my portion for ever.' This is
their key-note. Shame on us Christians, that we should have
forgotten it for one so much lower. 'The name of the Lord,' says
Solomon, 'is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is
safe.' Into it: not merely into some pleasant place after he dies,
but all day long; and is safe: not merely after he dies, but in
every chance and change of this mortal life. My friends, I am
ashamed to have to put Christian men in mind of these things.
Truly, 'Evil communications have corrupted good manners; awake to
righteousness and sin not, for some have not the knowledge of God.'
I am ashamed, I say; for there are old hymns in the mouths of every
one to this day, which testify against their want of faith; which
say, 'Christ is my life,' 'Christ is my salvation;' and which were
written, I doubt not, by men who meant literally what they said,
whatever those who sing them now-a-days may mean by them. Now what
do those hymns mean by such words, if they mean anything at all?
Surely what I have been preaching to you, and what seems to some of
you, I fear, strange and new doctrine. And what else does the
Church Catechism mean, when it bids every child thank God for having
brought him into a state of salvation? For mind, throughout the
whole Church Catechism there is not one word about what people
commonly call heaven and hell; not one word though 'heaven and hell'
are now-a-days generally the first things about which children are
taught. Not one word is the child taught about what will happen to
him after death, except that his body will rise again, and that
Christ will be his Judge after he is dead as well as while he is
alive: but not one word about that salvation after he is dead,
which is almost the only thing of which one hears in many pulpits.
And why, but because the Catechism teaches the child to believe that
Jesus Christ is his salvation now, in this life, and believes that
to be enough for him to know? For if Christ be eternal, His
salvation must be eternal also. If Christ's life be in the child,
eternal life must be in the child; for Christ's life must be
eternal, even as Christ Himself; and that is enough for the child,
and for us also.

And with this agrees that great text of Scripture, 'When the wicked
man turneth away from his wickedness, and doeth that which is lawful
and right, he shall save his soul alive.' People now-a-days are apt
to make two mistakes about that one text. First they forget the
'when,' and read it as if it stood, 'If the wicked man turn away
from his wickedness in this life, he shall save his soul in the next
life:' but the Bible says much more than that. It says, that when
he turns, then and there, that moment he shall save his soul alive.
And next, they read the text as if it stood, 'he shall save his
soul.' Here again, my friends, the Bible says a great deal more; it
says, that he shall save his soul alive. Perhaps that does not seem
to you any great difference? Alas, alas, my friends, I fear that
there are too many now, as there have been in all times, who do not
care for the difference. Provided 'their souls are saved,' by which
they mean, provided they escape torment after they die, it matters
nothing to them whether their souls are saved alive, or saved dead;
they do not even know the difference between a dead soul and a live
soul; because they know nothing about eternal death and eternal
life, which are the death and the life of eternal persons such as
souls are; they say to themselves, if they be Protestants, 'I hope I
shall have faith enough to be saved;' or if they be Papists, 'I hope
I shall have good works enough to be saved;' valuing faith and works
not for themselves; yea, valuing--for I must say it--Almighty God
Himself, not for Himself and His own glory, but valuing faith and
works, and the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, only
because, as they dream, they are so many helps to a life of pleasure
beyond the grave; not knowing this, that living faith and good works
do not merely lead to heaven, but are heaven itself, that true, real
eternal heaven wherein alone men really live; that true, real
eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested in Jesus
Christ, whom St. John saw living upon earth that same Eternal Life,
and bore witness of Him that His life was the light of men; that
eternal life whereof it is written, that God hath brought us to life
together with Christ, and raised us up, and made us sit together in
heavenly places in Christ Jesus:--not knowing this, that the only
life which any soul ought to live, is the life of God and of Christ,
and of the Spirit of God and Christ; a life of righteousness, and
justice, and truth, and obedience, and mercy, and love; a life which
God has given to us, that we may know and copy Him, and do His
works, and live His life, for ever:--not knowing this also that
eternal death is not merely some torture of fire and worms beyond
the grave: but that this is eternal death, not to live the eternal
life which is the only possible life for souls, the life of
righteousness and love; a death which may come on respectable
people, and high religious professors, while they are fancying
themselves sure to be saved, as easily and surely as it may on
thieves and harlots, wallowing in the mire of sins.

For what is this same eternal death? The opposite surely to eternal
life. Eternal life is to know God, and therefore to obey Him.
Eternal life is to know God, whose name is love; and therefore, to
rejoice to fulfil His law, of which it is written, 'Love is the
fulfilling of the law;' and therefore to be full of love ourselves,
as it is written, 'We know that we have passed from death unto life,
because we love the brethren;' and again, 'Every one that loveth,
knoweth God, for God is love.' And on the other hand, eternal death
is not to know God, and therefore not to care for His law of love,
and therefore to be without love; as it is written on the other
hand, 'He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.' 'Whosoever
hateth his brother is a murderer;' and ye know that no murderer hath
eternal life abiding in him; and again, 'He that loveth not, knoweth
not God, for God is love.' Eternal death, then, is to love no one;
to be shut up in the dark prison-house of our own wilful and wayward
thoughts and passions, full of spite, suspicion, envy, fear; in
fact, in one word, to be a devil. Oh, my friends, is not that
damnation indeed, to be a devil here on earth, and for aught we
know, for ever and ever?

Do you not know what frame of mind I mean? Thank God, none of us, I
suppose, is ever utterly without some grain of love left for some
one; none of us, I suppose, is ever utterly shut up in himself; and
as long as there is love there is life and as long as there is life
there is hope: but yet there have been moments when one has felt
with horror how near, and how terrible, and how easy was this same
eternal death which some fancy only possible after they die.

For, my friends, were you ever, any one of you, for one half hour,
completely angry, completely _sulky_? displeased and disgusted with
everybody and everything round you, and yet displeased and disgusted
with yourself all the while; liking to think everyone wrong, liking
to make out that they were unjust to you; feeling quite proud at the
notion that you were an injured person: and yet feeling in your
heart the very opposite of all these fancies: feeling that you were
wrong, that you were unjust to them, and feeling utterly ashamed at
the thought that they were the injured persons, and that you had
injured them. And perhaps, to make all worse, the person about whom
all this storm had arisen in your heart, was some dear friend or
relation whom you loved (strange contradiction, yet most true) at
the very moment that you were trying to hate. Oh, my friends, if
one such dark hour has ever come home to you; if you have ever let
the sun go down upon your wrath, and so given place to the devil,
then you know something at least of what eternal death is. You know
how, in such moments, there is a worm in the heart, and a fire in
the heart, compared with which all bodily torment would be light and
bearable; a worm in the heart which does not die: and a fire in the
heart which you cannot quench: but which if they remained there
would surely destroy you. So intolerable are they, that you feel
that you will actually and really die, in some strange unspeakable
way, if you continue in that temper long. Do not there open at such
times within our hearts black depths of evil, a power of becoming
wicked, a chance of being swept off into sin if one gives way, which
one never suspected till then; and yet with all these, the most
dreadful sense of helplessness, of slavery, of despair?--God grant
that may not remain, for then comes the mad hope to escape death by
death, to try by one desperate stroke to rid oneself of that self
which is for the time one's torment, worm, fire, death, and hell.
And what is this dark fight within us? What does the Bible call it?
It is death and life, eternal death and eternal life, salvation and
damnation, hell and heaven, fighting together within our hapless
hearts, to see which shall be our masters. It is the battle of the
evil spirit, who is the Devil, fighting with the good spirit, who is
God. Nothing less than that, my friends. Yes, in those hateful and
shameful moments of pride, or spite, or contempt, or self-will, or
suspicion, or sneering, on which when they are past we look back
with shame and horror, and wonder how we could have been such
wretches even for a moment,--at such times, I say, our heart is a
battle-field, on which no less than the Devil himself, and God
Himself are fighting for our souls. On one side, Satan trying to
bring us into that state of eternal death in which he lives himself;
Satan, the loveless one, the self-willed one, the accuser, the
slanderer, slandering God to us, slandering man to us, slandering to
us the friends we love best and trust most utterly; yea, slandering
our own selves to us, trying to make us believe that we are as bad,
ought to be as bad, and must always be as bad as we seem for the
time to be; that we cannot shake off our evil passions, that we
cannot rise again out of the eternal death of sin into the eternal
life of righteousness. And on the other side, the Spirit of God and
of His Christ, the Spirit of eternal life, the Spirit of justice,
and righteousness, love, joy, peace, duty, self-sacrifice, trying to
make us know Him and see His beauty, and obey Him, and be at peace;
trying to raise us again into that eternal life and state of
salvation which the Lord Jesus Christ has bought for us with His
most precious blood.

Oh, awful thought! Life and death, the Devil himself, and the Lord
Jesus Christ Himself, fighting in your heart and in mine, and in the
heart of every human being round us! And yet most blessed thought,
hopeful, glorious,--full of the promise of eternal victory! For
greater is He that is with us, than he that is against us; and He
who conquered Satan for Himself, can and will conquer him for us
also. No thing can separate us from the love of Christ; no thing,
yea no angel, or devil, principality, or power; no thing, but only
ourselves, only our own proud and wayward will and determination to
the Devil's voice in our hearts, and not the voice of Christ, the
Word of Life, who is nigh us, in our hearts, even in our darkest
moments, loving us still, pitying us, ready, able and willing to
help all who cast themselves on Him, and raise us, there and then,
the very moment we cry to Him and renounce the Devil and our own
foolish will, out of self-will into God's will, out of darkness into
light, out of hatred into love, out of despair into hope, out of
doubt into faith, out of tempest into peace, out of the death of sin
into the life of righteousness, the life of love and charity, which
abideth for ever. Oh, listen not to the lying, slanderous Devil,
who tells you that by your own sin you have lost your share in
Christ, lost baptismal grace, lost Christ's love--Lost His love?
His, who, were you in the very lowest depths of hell, would pity you
still? His love, who Himself went down into hell, and preached to
the spirits in prison, to show that he did care even for them? Not
so: into Him you have been baptized. His cross is on your
foreheads, His Father is your Father:--and can a father desert his
child, even though he sinned seventy and seven times, if seventy and
seven times he turn and repent? Can man weary God? Can the
creature conquer and destroy the love of his Creator? Can Christ
deny Himself? Not so; whosoever thou art, however sorely tempted,
however deeply fallen, however disgusted and terrified at thyself,
turn only to that blessed face which wept over Jerusalem, to that
great heart which bled for thee upon the cross, and thou shalt find
him unchanged, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, the Lord of
life and love, able and willing to save to the uttermost all who
come to God through Him, and the accusing Devil shall turn and flee,
and thou shalt know that thy Redeemer liveth still, and in thy flesh
thou shalt see the salvation of God, and cry, 'Rejoice not against
me, Satan, mine enemy; for when I fall I shall arise.'


1 Peter iii. 21. The like figure whereunto baptism doth now save us
(not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a
good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

These words are very wide words; too wide to please most people.
They preach a very free grace; too free to please most people. Such
free and full grace, indeed, that some who talk most about free
grace, and insist most on man's being saved only by free grace, are
the very men who shrink from these words most, and would be more
comfortable in their minds, I suspect, if they were not in the Bible
at all, because the grace they preach is too free. But so it always
has been, and so it is, and so, I suppose, it always will be. Man
preaches his notions of God's forgiveness, his notions of what he
thinks God ought to do; but when God proclaims His own forgiveness,
and tells men what He has actually done, and bids His apostle
declare boldly that baptism doth now save us, then man is frightened
at the vastness of God's generosity, and thinks God's grace too
free, His forgiveness too complete; and considers this text and many
another in the Bible as 'dangerous' forsooth, if it is 'preached
unreservedly,' and not to be quoted without some words of man's
invention tacked to it, to water it down, and narrow it, and take
all the strength and life out of it; and if he be asked whether he
believes the words of Scripture,--for instance, whether St. Paul
spoke truth when he told the heathen Athenians that they and all men
were the offspring of God;--or when he told the Romans that as by
the offence of one, judgment came on all men to condemnation, even
so by the righteousness of One, the free gift came upon all men to
justification of life;--or when he told the Corinthians, that as in
Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive;--or whether
St. Peter spoke truth when he said, that 'baptism doth also now save
us,'--then they answer, that the words are true 'in a sense;' that
is, not in their plain sense; true, if they were only true; true,
and yet somehow at the same time not true; and not to be preached
'unreservedly:' as if man could be more cautious and correct in his
language than the Spirit of God, who inspired the Apostles; as if
man could be more careful of God's honour than God is of His own; as
if man could hate sin and guard against sin more carefully than God

Just in the same way do people stumble at certain invaluable words
in the Church Catechism, which teach children to thank God for
having brought them into that state of salvation. Even very good
people, and people who really wish to believe and honour the Church
Catechism, and the Sacrament of Baptism, find these words too strong
to please them, and say, that of course a child's being in a state
of salvation cannot mean that he is saved, but that he may be saved
after he dies.

My friends, I never could find that we have a right to take
liberties with the Bible and the Prayer Book which we dare not take
with any other book, and to put meanings into the words of them
which, in the case of any other book, would be contrary to plain
grammar and the English tongue, if not to common sense and honesty.

If you say of a man, 'he is in a state of happiness,' you mean, do
you not, that he is happy now, not that he may perhaps be happy some
day? If you came to me and told me that you were in a state of
hunger, you would think it a very strange answer to receive if I
say, 'Very well then, if you become hungry, come to me, and I will
feed you?' You all know that a man's being in a state of poverty,
or of misery, means that he is poor or miserable now, here, at this
very time; that if a man is in a state of sickness, he is sick; if
he is in a state of health, he is healthy. Then what can a man's
being in a state of salvation mean, by all rules of English, but
that he is saved? If I were to say to any one of the good people
who do not think so, 'My friend, you are in a state of damnation,'
he would answer me quickly enough, 'I am not, for I am not damned.'
He would agree that a man's being in a state of damnation means that
the man is damned; why will he not agree that a man's being in a
state of salvation means that he is saved? Because, my friends,
God's grace is too full for fallen man's notions; and therefore
there is an evil fashion abroad in the world, that where a text
speaks of wrath, and misery and punishment, you are to interpret it
exactly, and to the very letter: but where it speaks of love, and
mercy, and forgiveness, you are to do no such thing, but narrow it,
and fence it, and explain it away, for fear you should make sinners
too comfortable,--a plan which seems wise enough, but which, like
other plans of man's wisdom, has not succeeded too well, to judge by
the number of sinners who are already too comfortable though they
hear the Bible misused, and God's grace narrowed in this way every
Sunday of their lives.

But, my friends, we call ourselves Englishmen and churchmen; let us
be honest Englishmen and plain churchmen, and take our Catechism as
it stands. For rightly or wrongly, truly or falsely, it does teach
every christened child to thank God, not merely that it has some
chance of being saved, when it dies, but that it is saved already,
now, here on earth.

Whether that is true or false is another question. I believe it to
be true. I believe the text to be true; I believe that why people
shrink from it is, that they have got into their minds a wrong,
unscriptural, superstitious notion of what being saved, and saving
one's soul alive, and salvation mean. And I beg all of you who read
your Bibles to search the Scriptures from beginning to end, and try
to find out what these words mean, and whether the Catechism has not
kept close, after all, to the words of Scripture. It will be better
for you, my friends; it will be worth your while, to know exactly
what being saved means; for to judge by the signs of the times,
there are, very probably, days coming in which it will be as needful
for you and for your children to save your souls alive lest you die,
as ever it was for the Jews in Isaiah's or Jeremiah's time, or for
the Romans in St. Paul's time; and that in that day you will find
the Catechism wider, and deeper, and sounder than you have ever
suspected it to be, and see, I trust, that in these very words it
preaches to you, and me, and our children after us, the one true
Gospel and good news, which will stand, and grow, and shine brighter
and brighter for ever, when all the paltry, narrow, counterfeit
gospels which man invents in its place have been burnt up by the
unquenchable fire with which the merciful Lord purges the chaff from
His floor.

I told you this morning what I believe that salvation was,--to know
God, and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent. To know God's likeness,
God's character, what God has shown of His own character, what He
has done for us. To know His boundless love, and mercy, and knowing
that, to trust in Him utterly, and submit to Him utterly, and obey
Him utterly, sure that He loves us, that His will to us is goodwill,
that His commandments must be life. To know God, and therefore to
love Him and to serve Him, that is salvation.

Now what hinders a little child, from the very moment that it can
think or speak, from entering into that salvation? Not the child's
own heart. There is evil in the child--true. Is there none in you
and me? There is a corrupt nature in the child--true. Is there not
in you and me? Woe to us if we have not found it out: woe to us if
we dare to think that we are in ourselves--or out of ourselves
either--one whit better than our own children. What should hinder
any child whom you or I ever saw from knowing God, and His Name, the
Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?

Has he not an earthly father, through whom he may know _The_ Father?
Is he not an earthly son; and through that may he not know _The_
Son? Has he not a conscience, a spirit in him which knows good from
evil? holiness from wickedness--far more clearly and tenderly than
the souls of most grown people do? and can he not, therefore,
understand you when you speak of a Holy Spirit, a Spirit which puts
good desires into his heart, and can enable him to bring those good
desires into practice?

I know one hindrance at least; and that is his parents' sins; when
the parents' harshness or neglect tempts the child to fancy that God
The Father is such a Father to him as his parents are, and that to
be a child of God is to look up to his heavenly Father with dread
and suspicion as to a hard taskmaster whose anger has to be turned
away, and not with that perfect love, and trust, and respect, and
self-sacrifice, with which the Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled His
Father's will and proclaimed His Father's glory: or when the
parents' unholiness and lip-religion teach the child to fancy that
the Holy Spirit means only certain religious fancies and feelings,
or the learning by heart of certain words and doctrines, or, worst
of all, a spirit of bondage unto fear; instead of knowing Him to be,
as He is, the Spirit of righteousness, and love, and joy, and peace,
long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, temperance: or
when, again, parents by their own teaching, do despite to the Spirit
of Grace in their own child, and destroy their child's good
conscience toward God, by telling the child that it does not really
love God, when it loves Him, perhaps, far better than they do; by
telling the child that its sins have parted it from God, when its
sins are light, yea, are as nothing in the balance compared to the
sins they themselves commit every day, while they claim for
themselves clearer light and knowledge than the child, and thereby
condemn themselves rather than the child; when they darken and
defile the pure and beautiful trust and admiration for its Heavenly
Father, which God's Spirit puts into the child's heart, by telling
it that it is doomed to I know-not-what horrible misery and torture
when it dies; but that it can escape from that wretched end by
thinking certain thoughts, and feeling certain feelings; and so
(after stirring up in the child all manner of dreadful doubts of
God's love and justice, and perhaps driving it away from religion
altogether by making it believe that it has committed sins which it
has not committed, and deserves horrible tortures which it has not
deserved), do perhaps at last awaken in it a new love for God, but
one which is not like that first love, that childlike love; one
which, I fear, is hardly a love for God at all, but principally a
selfish joy and delight at having escaped from coming torments.
This is the reason, my friends; and this hindrance, at least, I
know. I will not copy those parents, my friends, and tell them, as
they tell their children, that they are bringing on themselves
endless torture; but I must tell them, for the Lord Christ has told
them, that they are bringing on themselves something--I know not
what--of which it is written, that it were better for them that a
millstone were hanged about their necks, and that they were drowned
in the depth of the sea. Oh, my friends, if I speak sternly, almost
bitterly, when I speak of parents' sins, it is because I speak for
those who cannot speak for themselves. I plead for Christ's little
ones: I plead for the souls and consciences of those little
children of whom Christ said, 'Suffer the little children to come
unto me;' not that they might become His, but because they were His
already; not that they might win His love, but because He loved them
from all eternity: not that they might enter into the kingdom of
heaven, but, because they were in the kingdom of heaven already;
because the kingdom of heaven was made up of such as them, and the
angels who ministered unto them always beheld the face of our Father
who is in heaven. Yes; I plead for those children, of whom the Lord
said, 'Except ye be converted,' that is, utterly turned and changed,
'and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the
kingdom of heaven.' Deep and blessed words, which are the root-rule
of all true righteousness; which so few really believe at heart, any
more than the Pharisees, and Sadducees, and Herodians of old did.
Up and down, all over England, I hear men of all denominations
saying, not, 'Except we grown people be converted and become as
little children;' but, 'except the little children be converted, and
become like us, grown people.' God grant that the little children
may not become like too many grown people! God grant it, I say.
God grant that our children may not become like us! God grant that
they may keep through youth and manhood, and through the grave, and
through all worlds to come, the tender and childlike heart, which we
too often have hardened in ourselves by bigotry and superstition,
and dead faith, and lip-worship! And I can have good hope that God
will grant it. I can have hope that God will teach our children and
our children's children truly to know Him whose name is Love and
Righteousness, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as long as
I see His providence preserving for us this old Church Catechism, to
teach our children what we forget to teach them, or what we have not
faith enough to teach them.

Yes, I can have hope for England; and hope for those mighty nations
across the seas, whose earthly mother God has ordained that she
should be, as long as the Catechism is taught to her children.

For see. This Catechism does not begin with telling children that
they are sinners: they will find that out soon enough for
themselves, poor little things, from their own wayward and self-
willed hearts. Nor by telling them that man is fallen and corrupt:
they will find out that also soon enough, from the way in which they
see people go on around them. It does not even begin by telling
them that they ought to be good, or what goodness and righteousness
is; because it takes for granted that they know that already; it
takes for granted that The Light who lights every man who comes into
the world is in them; even the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, stirring
up in their hearts, as He does in the heart of every child, the
knowledge of good and the love of good. But it begins at once by
teaching the child the name of God. It goes at once to the root of
the matter; to the fountain of goodness itself; even to God, the
Father of lights. It is so careful of God's honour, so careful that
the child should learn from the first to look up to God with love
and trust, that it dare not tell the child that God can destroy and
punish, before it has told him that God is a Father and a Maker; the
Father of spirits, who has made him and all the world. It dare not
tell him that mankind is fallen, before it has told him that all the
world is redeemed. It dare not talk to him of unholiness, before it
has taught him that the Holy Spirit of God is with him, to make him
holy. It tells him of a world, a flesh, and a devil: but he has
renounced them. He has neither part nor lot in them; and he is not
to think of them yet. He is to think of that in which he has part
and lot, of which he is an inheritor. He is to know where he is and
ought to be, before he knows where he is not and ought not to be:
he is to think of the name of God, by which he can trample world,
flesh, and devil under foot, if they dare hereafter meddle with his
soul. In its God-inspired tenderness and prudence, it dare not
darken the heart of one little child, or tempt him to hard thoughts
of God, or to cry, 'Why hast thou made me thus?' lest it put a
stumbling-block in the way of Christ's little ones, and dishonour
the name and glory of God. It tells him of the love, before it
tells him of the wrath; of the order, before it tells him of the
disorder; of the right, before the wrong; of the health, before the
disease; of the freedom, before the bondage; of the truth, before
the lies; of the light, before the darkness; in one word, it tells
him first of the eternal and good God, who was, and is, and shall be
to all eternity, before and above the evil devil. It tells him of
the name of God; and tells him that God is with him, and he with
God, and bids him believe that, and be saved, from his birth-hour,
to endless ages. It does not tell him to pray that he may become
God's child; but to pray, because he is God's child already. It
does not tell him to love God, in order that he may make God love
him; but to love God because God loves him already, and has loved
him from all eternity. It does not tell him to obey Jesus Christ,
in order that Christ may save him; but to obey Christ because Christ
has saved him, and bought him with his own blood. It does not tell
him to do good works, in order that God's Spirit may be pleased with
him, and come to him, and make him one of the elect; neither does it
tell him, that some day or other, if he is converted, and feels
certain religious experiences, he will have a right to consider
himself one of God's elect: but it tells him to look man and devil
in the face, he, the poor little ignorant village child, and say
boldly in the name of God, 'I am one of God's elect. The Holy
Spirit of God is sanctifying me, and making me holy. God has saved
me; and I heartily thank my Heavenly Father, who has called me to
this state of salvation.' It tells him to believe that he is safe--
safe in the ark of Christ's Church, as Noah was safe in the ark at
the deluge; and that the one way to keep himself within that ark is
to obey Him to whom it belongs, who judges it and will guide it for
ever, Jesus Christ, the likeness of God; and that as long as he does
that, neither world, flesh, nor devil, can harm him; even as Noah
was safe in the ark, and nothing could drown him but his own wilful
casting himself out of the ark, and trying to free the flood of
waters by his own strength and cunning.

It tells him, I say, that he is safe, and saved, even as David, and
Isaiah, and all holy men who ever lived have been, as long as he
trusts in God, and clings to God, and obeys God; and that only when
he forsakes God, and follows his own selfishness and pride, can
anything or being in earth or hell harm him.

And do not fancy, my friends, that this is a mere unimportant
question of words and doctrines, because a baptized and educated
child may be lost after all, and fall from his state of salvation
into a state of damnation. Still more, do not fancy that if a child
is taught that he is already a child of God, regenerated in baptism,
and elect by God's Spirit, that therefore he will neglect either
vital faith or good works--heaven forbid!

Is it likely to make a child careless, and inclined to neglect vital
truth, to tell him that God is his Father and loves him utterly, and
has given His only begotten Son to die for him? Is it not the very
way, the only way, to stir up in him faith, and real hearty trust
and affection towards God? How can you teach him to trust God, but
by telling him that God has shown himself boundlessly and perfectly
worthy to be trusted by every soul of man; or to love God, but by
showing him that God loves him already? Is it likely to make a
child careless of good works, to tell him that God has elected and
chosen him, and all his brothers and schoolfellows, to be conformed
into the likeness of Jesus Christ, and that every good, and
honourable, and gentle thought or feeling which ever crosses his
little heart, does not come from himself, is not part of his own
nature or character, but is nothing less than the inspiration of the
Holy Spirit, nothing less than the voice of Almighty God Himself,
speaking to the child's heart, that he may answer with Samuel--
'Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth?' Is it likely to make a
child careless about losing eternal life, to tell him that God has
already given to him eternal life, and that that life is in His Son
Jesus Christ, to whom the child belongs, body, soul, and spirit?

Judge for yourselves, my friends. Think what awe, what reverence,
purity, dread of sin, would grow up in a child who was really taught
all this, and yet what faith and love to God, what freedom, and
joyfulness, and good courage about his own duty and calling in life.

And then look at the fruits which in general follow a religious
education, as it is miscalled; and take warning. For if you really
train up your children in the way in which they should go, be sure
that when they are old they will not depart from it--a promise which
is not fulfilled to most religious education which we see around us
now-a-days; from which sad fact, if Scripture be inspired and
infallible, we can only judge that such is not the way in which the
children should go; and that because it is a wrong way, therefore
God will not, and man cannot, keep them in it.


Matthew i. 21. And thou shall call his name Jesus.

Did it ever seem to you a curious thing that the Catechism begins by
asking the child its name? 'What is your name?' 'Who gave you this
name?' I think that if you were not all of you accustomed to the
Church Catechism from your childhood, that would seem a strange way
of beginning to teach a child about religion.

But the more I consider, the more sure I am that it is the right way
to begin teaching a child what the Catechism wishes to teach.

Do not fancy that it begins by asking the child's name just because
it must begin somehow, and then go on to religion afterwards. Do
not fancy that it merely supposes that the clergyman does not know
the child's name, and must ask it; for this Catechism is intended to
be taught by parents to their children, and masters to their
apprentices and servants; by people, therefore, who know the child's
name perfectly well already, and yet they are to begin by asking the
child his name.

Now, why is this? What has a child's name to do with his Faith and
duty as a Christian?

You may answer, Because his Christian name is given him when he is

But _why_ is his Christian name given him when he is baptized? Why
then rather than at any other time?

Because it is the old custom of the Church. No doubt it is: and a
most wise and blessed custom it is; and one which shows us how much
more about God and man the churchmen in old times knew, than most of
our religious teachers now-a-days. But how did that old custom
arise? What put into the minds of church people, for the last
sixteen hundred years at least, that being baptized and being named
had anything to do with each other? Men had names of their own long
before the Lord Jesus came, long before His Baptism was heard of on
earth;--the heathens of old had their names--the heathens have names
still;--why, then, did church people feel it right to mix a new
thing like baptism with a world-old thing like giving a name?

My friends, I feel and say honestly, that there is more in this
matter than I understand; and what little I do understand, I could
not explain fully in one sermon, or in many either. But let this be
enough for to-day. God grant that I may be able to make you
understand me.

Any one's having a name--a name of his own, a Christian name, as we
rightly call it--signifies that he is a person; that is, that he has
a character of his own, and a responsibility, and a calling and duty
of his own, given him by God; in one word, that he has an immortal
soul in him, for which he, and he alone, must answer, and receive
the rewards of the deeds which it does in the body, whether they be
good or evil. But names are not given at random, without cause or
meaning. When Adam named all the beasts, we read that whatsoever he
called any beast, that _was_ the name of it. The names which he
gave _described_ each beast, were taken from something in its
appearance, or its ways and habits, and so each was its right name,
the name which expressed its nature. And so now, when learned men
discover animals or plants in foreign countries, they do not give
them names at random, but take care to invent names for them which
may describe their natures, and make people understand what they are
like, as Adam did for the beasts of old. And much more, in old
times, had the names of men each of them a meaning. If it was
reasonable to give names full of meaning to each kind of dumb
animal, which are mere things, and not persons at all, how much more
to each man separately, for each man is a person of himself; each
man has a character different from all others, a calling different
from all others, and therefore he ought to have his own name
separate from all others: and therefore in old times it was the
custom to give each child a separate name, which had a meaning in
it, was, as it were, a description of the child, or of something
particular about the child.

Now, we may see this, above all, in The adorable Name of Jesus.
That name, above all others, ought to show us what a name means; for
it is the name of the Son of Man, the one perfect and sinless man,
the pattern of all men; and therefore it must be a perfect name, and
a pattern for all names; and it was given to the Lord not by man,
but by God; not after He was born, but before He was conceived in
the womb of the blessed Virgin. And therefore, it must show and
mean not merely some outward accident about Him, something which He
seemed to be, or looked like, in men's eyes: no, the Name of Jesus
must mean what the Lord was in the sight of His Father in Heaven;
what He was in the eternal purpose of God the Father; what He was,
really and absolutely, in Himself; it must mean and declare the very
substance of His being. And so, indeed, it does; for The adorable
Name of Jesus means nothing else but God the Saviour--God who saves.
This is His name, and was, and ever will be. This Name He fulfilled
on earth, and proved it to be His character, His exact description,
His very Name, in short, which made Him different from all other
beings in heaven or earth, create or uncreate; and therefore, He
bears His name to all eternity, for a mark of what He has been, and
is, and will be for ever--God the Saviour; and this is the perfect
name, the pattern of all other names of men.

Now though the Christian names which we give our children here in
England, have no especial meaning to them, and have nothing to do
with what we expect or wish the children to be when they grow up,
yet the names of people in most other countries in the world have.
The Jewish names which we find in the Bible have almost all of them
a meaning. So Simeon, I believe, means 'Obedient'; Jehoshaphat
means, 'The Lord will judge'; Daniel, 'God is my judge'; Isaiah
means, 'The Salvation of the Lord'; Isaac means, 'She laughs,' as a
memorial of Sarah's laughing, when she heard that she was to have a
child; Ishmael means, 'The Lord hears,' in remembrance of God's
hearing Hagar's cry in the wilderness, when Ishmael was dying of

Especially those names of which we read that God commanded them to
be given, have meanings, and to tell the persons who bore those
names what God expected of them, or would do for them. So Abraham
means, 'The father of many nations.' So the children of both Isaiah
and Hosea had names given them by God, each of them meaning
something which God was going to do to the nation of the Jews. And
so John means, 'Given by the Lord,' which name was given to John the
Baptist by the Angel, before his strange birth, in his mother's old

But we must remember that the heathens also gave names to their
children, though they did not know that their children owed any duty
to God, or belonged to God, and therefore we cannot call their names
Christian names. Yes, the heathens did give their children names;
some of them give their children names still. And there is to me
something most sad and painful in those heathen names, and yet most
full of meaning. A solemn lesson to us, to show us what the fall
means; what man becomes, when he gives way to his fallen nature, and
is parted from Christ, the Head of man.

First, these heathens had a dim remembrance that man was made in the
likeness of God, and lived by Faith in God, and therefore that men's
names were to express that, as indeed many of their old names do.
But, alas! the likeness of God in fallen man is like a tree without
roots, or rather a tree without soil to grow in. God's likeness in
man can only flourish as long as he is joined to Christ, the perfect
likeness of God, the true life and the true light of men, the
foundation which is already laid, and the soil in which man was
meant to grow and flourish for ever, and as long as he is fed by the
Spirit of God, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds--never
forget that, or you will lose the understanding both of who God is
and what man is--proceeds not only from God the Father, but also
from God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. And therefore, in the
heathen, God's likeness withered and decayed, as a tree withers and
decays when torn up from the soil. And first, they began to call
themselves after the names of false gods, which they had invented
out of their own carnal fancies. Then they called themselves after
the names of their dumb animal's. So, Pharaoh means, 'The Sun-God';
the Ammonites mean, 'The people who worshipped the ram as a god';
Potiphar means, 'A fat bull,' which the Egyptians used to worship;
and I could tell you of hundreds of heathen names more, like these,
which are ridiculous enough to make one smile, if we did not keep in
mind what tokens they are of sin and ignorance, and the likeness not
of God, but of the beasts which perish.

Then comes another set of names, showing a lower fall still, when
heathens have quite forgotten that man was originally made in God's
likeness, and are not only content to live after the likeness of the
beasts which perish, but pride themselves on being like beasts, and
therefore name their children after dumb animals,--the girls after
the gentler and fairer animals, and the boys after ravenous and
cruel beasts of prey. That has been the custom among many heathen
nations; perhaps among almost all of them, at some time or other.
It is the custom now among the Red Indians in North America, where
you will find one man in a tribe called 'The Bull,' another 'The
Panther,' and another 'The Serpent,' and so on; showing that they
would like to be, if they could, as strong as the bull, as cruel as
the panther, as venomous as the serpent. What wonder that those Red
Indians, who have so put on the likeness of the beasts, are now
dying off the face of the earth like the beasts whom they admire and

And this was the way with our own heathen forefathers before the
blessed Gospel was preached to them. It is frightful, in reading
old histories, to find how many Englishmen, our own forefathers,
were named after fierce wild beasts, and tried, alas! to be like
their names--children of wrath, whose feet were swift to shed blood,
under whose lips was the poison of adders, and destruction and
bloodshed following in their paths, not knowing the way of peace.
The wolf was the common wild beast of England then; and there are, I
should say, twenty common old English names ending in wolf, besides
as many more ending in bear, and eagle, and raven. Fearful sign!
that men of our own flesh and blood should have gloried in being
like the wolf, the cruellest, the greediest, the most mean of savage
beasts! How shall we thank God enough, who sent to them the
knowledge of His Son Jesus Christ, and called them to be new men in
Christ Jesus, and called them to holy baptism, to receive new names,
and begin new lives in the righteous likeness of God Himself?--that
as by nature they had been the children of wrath, so in baptism they
might become the children of grace; that as from their forefathers
they had inherited a corrupt nature, original sin, and the likeness
of the foul and ravenous beasts which perish, they might have power
from the Spirit of God to become the sons of God, conformed into the
likeness of Jesus Christ, in peace, and love, and righteousness, and
all holiness.

And yet, in names there is a lower depth still among fallen and
heathen men; when they lose utterly the last dim notion that God
intends men to be persons, even as God the Father is a person, and
God the Son a person, and God the Holy Spirit is a person, and so
lose the custom of giving their children personal names at all;
either giving them, after they grow up, mere nicknames, taken from
some peculiarity of their bodies, or something which they have done,
or some place where they happen to live; or else, like many tribes
of heathen negroes, just name them after the day of the week on
which they were born, as some way of knowing them apart; or, last
and most shocking of all, give them no names at all, and have no
names themselves, knowing each other apart as the dumb animals do,
only by sight. I can conceive no deeper fall into utter brutishness
than that; and yet some few of the most savage tribes, both in
Africa and in the Indian islands, are said--God help them!--to live
in that way, and to have no names;--blotted, indeed, out of the book
of life!

But is this the right state for men? No; it is the wrong state. It
is a disease into which men are fallen; a disease out of which
Christ came to raise men; and out of which He does raise us in Holy
Baptism. Baptism puts the child into its right state--into the
right state for a human being, a human soul, a human person. And
baptism declares what that right state is--a member of Christ, a
child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven. A member
of Christ, and therefore a person, because Christ is a person. A
child of God, and therefore a person, because a child's duty is to
love and trust and obey his father--and only a person can do that,
not an animal or a thing. An inheritor of the kingdom of heaven,
and therefore bound to cherish all heavenly thoughts and feelings,
all righteousness, love, and obedience, which only spirits and
persons, not animals or things, can feel.

Now can you not see why baptism is the proper time for giving the
child a name? Because then Christ claims the child for His own;--
because having a name shows that the child is a person who has a
soul, a will, a conscience, a duty; a person who must answer himself
for himself alone for what he does in the body, whether it be good
or evil. And that will, and soul, and conscience were given the
child by Christ, by whom all things are made, who is the Light which
lights every man who comes into the world.

Thus in holy baptism God adopts the child for His own in Jesus
Christ. He declares that the child is regenerate, and has a new
life, a life from above, a seed of eternal personal life which he
himself has not by nature. And that seed of eternal life is none
other but the Holy Spirit of God, the Spirit of the Father and of
the Son, the Lord and Giver of Life, who does verily and indeed
regenerate the child in holy baptism, and dwells with his soul, his
person, his very self, that He may educate the child's character,
and raise his affections, and subdue his will, and raise him up
daily from the death of sin to the life of righteousness.

Therefore, when in the Catechism you solemnly ask the child its
name, you ask it no light question. You speak as a spirit, a
person, to its spirit, to its very self, which God wills should
never perish, but live for ever. You single the child out from all
its schoolfellows, from all the millions of human beings who have
ever lived, or ever will live; and you make the child, by answering
to his name, confess that he is a person, an immortal soul, who must
stand alone before the judgment seat of God; a person who has a duty
and a calling upon God's earth, which he must fulfil or pay the
forfeit. And then you ask the child who gave him his name, and make
him declare that his name was given him in baptism, wherein he was
made a member of Christ and a child of God. You make the child
confess that he is a person in Jesus Christ, that Christ has
redeemed him, his very self, and taken him to Himself, and made him
not merely God's creature, or God's slave, but God's child. You
make the child confess that his duty as a person is not towards
himself, to do what _he_ likes, and follow his own carnal lusts; but
toward God and toward his neighbours, who are in God's kingdom of
heaven as well as he. And then you go on in the rest of the
Catechism to teach him how he himself, the person to whom you are
speaking, may live for ever and ever as a person, by faith in other
Persons beside himself, even in God the Father, Son, and Holy
Spirit, as you teach him in the Creed; by doing his duty to other
persons beside himself, even to God and man, as you teach him in the
Ten Commandments; and by diligent prayer to another Person beside
himself, even to God his heavenly Father, to feed and strengthen him
day by day with that eternal life which was given to him in baptism.
Thus the whole Catechism turns upon the very first question in it--
'What is thy name?' It explains to the child what is really meant,
in the sight of God, and of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the whole
Church in earth and heaven, by the child's having a name of his own,
and being a person, and having that name given to him in holy

And if this is true of our children, my friends, it is equally true
of us. You and I are persons, and persons in Christ; each stands
alone day and night before the judgment-seat of Christ. Each must
answer for himself. None can deliver his brother, nor make
agreement unto God for him. Each of us has his calling from his
heavenly Father; his duty to do which none can do instead of him.
Each has his own sins, his own temptations, his own sorrows, which
he must bring single-handed and alone to God his Father, as it is
written, 'The heart knoweth its own bitterness, and a stranger
intermeddleth not with its joy.' There is a world, a flesh, and a
devil, near to us, ready to drag us down, and destroy our personal
and spiritual life, which God has given us in Christ; a flesh which
tempts us to follow our own appetites and passions, blindly and
lawlessly, like the beasts which perish; a world which tempts us to
become mere things, without free-wills of our own, or consciences of
our own, without personal faith and personal holiness; the puppets
of the circumstances and the customs which happen to be round us;
blown about like the dead leaf, and swept helplessly down the stream
of time. And there is a devil, too, near us, tempting us to the
deepest lie of all,--to set up ourselves apart from God, and to try,
as the devil tries, to be persons in our own strength, each doing
what he chooses, each being his own law, and his own master; that
is, his own lawlessness, and his own tyrant: and if we listen to
that devil, that spirit of lawlessness and self-will, we shall
become his slaves, persons in him, doing his work, and finding
torment and misery and slavery in it. Awful thought, that so many
enemies should be against us; yea, that we ourselves should be our
own enemies! But here baptism gives us hope, baptism gives us
courage; we are in Christ; God is our Father, and He can and will
give us power to have victory, and to triumph against the world, the
flesh, and the devil. His Spirit is given to us in baptism--that
Spirit of God who is not merely a force or an influence, but a
person, a living, loving, holy Person. He is with us, to give our
persons, our souls, eternal life from His life, eternal holiness
from His holiness; that so, not merely some part of us, but we our
very selves and souls--we the very same persons who were christened,
and had a name given us in holy baptism, and have been answering to
that name all our life, and were reminded, whenever we heard that
name, that we had a duty of our own, a history of our own, hopes,
fears, joys, sorrows of our own, which none could share with us,--
that we, I say, our own persons, our very selves, may be raised up
again at the last day, free, pure, strong, filled with the life of
God, which is eternal life.

And then, what blessed words are these from the Lord Jesus, which we
read in the book of Revelation? 'And I will give to him that
overcometh, a new name.' A new name for him that overcometh world,
flesh, and devil; that shall be our portion in the world to come. A
new name, perfect like the name of the Lord Jesus, which shall
express and mean all that we are to do hereafter, and all that we
have done well on earth. A name which shall declare to us our
calling and work in God's Church triumphant, throughout all ages and
worlds to come: and yet a name which no man knoweth saving he who
receiveth it. Yes, if we may dare to guess at the meaning of those
deep words, perhaps in that new name shall be recorded for each man
all that went on, in the secret depths of the man's own heart,
between himself and his God, unknown and unnoticed even by the wife
of his bosom. The cup of cold water given in Christ's name; the
little private acts of love, and kindness, and self-sacrifice, of
which none but God knew; the secret prayers, the secret acts of
contrition, the secret hungerings and thirstings after
righteousness, the secret struggles and agonies of heart, which he
could not, dare not, ought not to tell to any human being. All
these, he shall find, will go to make up his character in the life
to come, to determine what work he is to do for God in the world to
come; as it is written, 'Be thou faithful over a few things, and I
will make thee ruler over many things.' All these, perhaps, shall
be expressed and declared in that new name, the full meaning of
which none will know but the man himself, because none but he knows
the secret experiences and struggles which went toward the making of
it; none but he and God; for God will know all, He who is the Lord
and Saviour of our souls, our persons, our very selves, and can
preserve them utterly to the fulness of eternal life, because He
knows them thoroughly and utterly; because He judges not according
to appearance, but judges righteous judgment; because He sees us not
merely as we seem to others to be, not even as we seem at times to
ourselves to be;--but searches the heart, and can be touched with
the feeling of its infirmities, seeing that He himself has been
tempted even as we are, yet without sin; because, blessed thought!
He can pierce through the very marrow of our being, and discern the
thoughts and intents of our hearts, and see what we long to be, and
what we ought to be; so that we can safely and hopefully commend our
spirits to His hand, day by day and hour by hour, and can trust Him
to cleanse us from our secret faults, and to renew and strengthen
our very selves day by day with that eternal life which He gives to
all who cast themselves utterly upon Him.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ephesians ii. 5. By grace ye are saved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I say that they were not deceived. I say that experience has
shown that they were right; that the Church Catechism, where it is
really and honestly taught, gives the children an honest, frank,
sober, English temper of mind which no other training which I have
seen gives. I have seen, alas! Church schools fail, ere now, in
training good children; but as far as I have seen, they have failed
either because the Catechism was neglected for the sake of cramming
the children's brains with scholarship, or because the Catechism was
not honestly taught: because the words were taught by rote, but the

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