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The Christian Life by Thomas Arnold

Part 2 out of 6

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importance on their possessor, which is the case especially at schools,
so self-confidence must in one point at least, arise in the place of
conscious weakness; and as this point is felt to be more important, so
will the self-confidence be likely to extend itself more and more over
the whole character.

And yet, I am bound to say, that, in general, the teachableness of youth
is, after all, much greater than we might at first sight fancy. Along
with much self-confidence in many things, it is rare, I think, to find
in a young man a deliberate pride that rejects advice and instruction,
on the strength of having no need for them. And therefore, the faults of
boyhood and youth are more owing, to my mind, to the want of change in
the other points of the childish character, than to the too great change
in this. The besetting faults of youth appear to me to arise mainly from
its retaining too often the ignorance, selfishness, and thoughtlessness
of a child, and having arrived at the same time at a degree of bodily
vigour and power, equal, or only a very little inferior, to those
of manhood.

And in this state of things, the questions become of exceeding interest,
whether the change from childhood to manhood can be hastened. That it
ought to be hastened, appears to me to be clear; hastened, I mean, from
what it is actually, because in this respect, we do not grow in general
fast enough; and the danger of over-growth is, therefore, small.
Besides, where change of one sort is going on very rapidly; where the
limbs are growing and the bones knitting more firmly, where the strength
of bodily endurance, as well as of bodily activity, is daily becoming
greater; it is self-evident that, if the inward changes which ought to
accompany these outward ones are making no progress, there cannot but be
derangement and deformity in the system. And, therefore, when I look
around, I cannot but wish generally that the change from childhood to
manhood in the three great points of wisdom, of unselfishness, and of
thoughtfulness, might be hastened from its actual rate of progress in
most instances.

But then comes the other great question, "Can it be hastened, and if it
can, how is it to be done?" "Can it be hastened" means, of course, can
it be hastened healthfully and beneficially, consistently with the due
development of our nature in its after stages, from life temporal to
life eternal? For as the child should grow up into the man, so also
there is a term of years given in which, according to God's will, the
natural man should grow up into the spiritual man; and we must not so
press the first change as to make it interfere with the wholesome
working of the second. The question then is, really, can the change
from childhood to manhood be hastened in the case of boys and young men
in general from its actual rate of progress in ordinary cases, without
injury to the future excellence and full development of the man? that
is, without exhausting prematurely the faculties either of body or mind.

And this is a very grave question, one of the deepest interest for us
and for you. For us, as, according to the answer to be given to it,
should depend our whole conduct and feelings towards you in the matter
of your education; for you, inasmuch as it is quite clear, that if the
change from childhood to manhood can be hastened safely, it ought to be
hastened; and that it is a sin in every one not to try to hasten it:
because, to retain the imperfections of childhood when you can get rid
of them, is in itself to forfeit the innocence of childhood; to exchange
the condition of the innocent infant whom Christ blessed, for that of
the unprofitable servant whom Christ condemned. For with the growth of
our bodies evil will grow in us unavoidably; and then, if we are not
positively good, we are, of necessity, positively sinners.

We will consider, then, what can be done to hasten this change in us
healthfully; whether we can grow in wisdom, in love, and in
thoughtfulness, faster in youth, than we now commonly do grow: and
whether any possible danger can be connected with such increased
exertion. This shall be our subject for consideration next Sunday.
Meantime, let it be understood, that however extravagant it might be to
hope for any general change in any moral point, as the direct result of
setting truth before the mind; yet, that it never can be extravagant to
hope for a practical result in some one or two particular cases; and
that, if one or two even be impressed practically with what they hear,
the good achieved, or, rather, the good granted us by God, is really
beyond our calculation. It is so strictly; for who can worthily
calculate the value of a single human soul? but it is so in this sense
also, that the amount of general good which may be done in the end by
doing good first in particular cases is really more than we can
estimate. It was thus that Christ's original eleven apostles became, in
the end, the instruments of the salvation of millions: and it is on this
consideration that we never need despair of the most extensive
improvements in society, if we are content to wait God's appointed time
and order, and look for the salvation of the many as the gradual fruit
of the salvation of a few.


* * * * *

1 CORINTHIANS xiii. 11.

_When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I
thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away
childish things_.

After having noticed last Sunday what were those particular points in
childhood, which in manhood should be put away, and having observed that
this change cannot take place all at once, but gradually, during a
period of several years, I proposed to consider, as on this day, whether
it were possible to hasten this change, that is, whether it could be
hastened without injury to the future development of the character; for
undoubtedly, there is such, a thing in minds, as well as in bodies, as
precocious growth; and although it is not so frequent as precocious
growth in the body, nor by any means so generally regarded as an evil,
yet it is really a thing to be deprecated; and we ought not to adopt
such measures as might be likely to occasion it.

Now I believe the only reason which could make it supposed to be
possible that there could be danger in hastening this change, is drawn
from the observation of what takes place sometimes with regard to
intellectual advancement. It is seen that some young men of great
ambition, or remarkable love of knowledge, do really injure their
health, and exhaust their minds, by an excess of early study. I always
grieve over such cases exceedingly; not only for the individual's sake
who is the sufferer, but also for the mischievous effect of his example.
It affords a pretence to others to justify their own want of exertion;
and those to whom it is in reality the least dangerous, are always the
very persons who seem to dread it the most. But we should clearly
understand, that this excess of intellectual exertion at an early age,
is by no means the same thing with hastening the change from
childishness to manliness. We are all enough aware, in common life, that
a very clever and forward boy may be, in his conduct, exceeding
childish; that those whose talents and book-knowledge are by no means
remarkable, may be, in their conduct, exceedingly manly. Examples of
both these truths instantly present themselves to my memory, and perhaps
may do so to some of yours. I may say farther, that some whose change
from childhood to manhood had been, in St. Paul's sense of the terms,
the most remarkably advanced, were so far from being distinguished for
their cleverness or proficiency in their school-work, that it would
almost seem as if their only remaining childishness had been displayed
there. What I mean, therefore, by the change from childhood to manhood,
is altogether distinct from a premature advance in book-knowledge, and
involves in it nothing of that over-study which is dreaded as so

Yet it is true that I described the change from childhood to manhood, as
a change from ignorance to wisdom. I did so, certainly; but yet, rare as
knowledge is, wisdom is rarer; and knowledge, unhappily, can exist
without wisdom, as wisdom can exist with a very inferior degree of
knowledge. We shall see this, if we consider what we mean by knowledge;
and, without going into a more general definition of it, let us see what
we mean by it here. We mean by it, either a knowledge of points of
scholarship, of grammar, and matters connected with grammar; or a
knowledge of history and geography; or a knowledge of mathematics: or,
it may be, of natural history; or, if we use the term, "knowledge of the
world," then we mean, I think, a knowledge of points of manner and
fashion; such a knowledge as may save us from exposing ourselves in
trifling things, by awkwardness or inexperience. Now the knowledge of
none of these things brings us of necessity any nearer to real
thoughtfulness, such as alone gives wisdom, than the knowledge of a
well-contrived game. Some of you, probably, well know that there are
games from which chance is wholly excluded, and skill in which is only
the result of much thought and calculation. There is no doubt that the
game of chess may properly be called an intellectual study; but why does
it not, and cannot, make any man wise? Because, in the first place, the
calculations do but respect the movements of little pieces of wood or
ivory, and not those of our own minds and hearts; and, again, they are
calculations which have nothing to do whatever with our being better
men, or worse, with our pleasing God or displeasing him. And what is
true of this game, is true no less of the highest calculations of
Astronomy, of the profoundest researches into language; nay, what may
seem stranger still, it is often true no less of the deepest study even
of the actions and principles of man's nature; and, strangest of all, it
may be, and is often true, also, of the study of the very Scripture
itself; and that, not only of the incidental points of Scripture, its
antiquities, chronology, and history, but of its very most divine
truths, of man's justification and of God's nature. Here, indeed, we are
considering about things where wisdom, so to speak, sits enshrined. We
are very near her, we see the place where she abides; but her very self
we obtain not. And why?--but because, in the most solemn study, no less
than in the lightest, our own moral state may be set apart from our
consideration; we may be unconscious all the while of our great want;
and forgetting our great business, to be reconciled to God, and to do
his will: for wisdom, to speak properly, is to us nothing else than the
true answer to the Philippian jailor's question, "What must I do to
be saved?"

Now then, as knowledge of all kinds may be gained without being
received, or meant at all to be applied, as the answer to this question,
so it may be quite distinct from wisdom. And when I use the term
thoughtfulness, as opposed to a child's carelessness, I mean it to
express an anxiety for the obtaining of this wisdom. And farther, I do
not see how this wisdom, or this thoughtfulness, can be premature in any
one; or how it can exhaust before their time any faculties, whether of
body or mind. This requires no sitting up late at night, no giving up of
healthful exercise; it brings no headaches, no feverishness, no strong
excitement at first, to be followed by exhaustion afterwards. Hear how
it is described by one who spoke of it from experience. "The wisdom that
is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be
entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without
hypocrisy." There is surely nothing of premature exhaustion
connected-with any one of these things.

Or, if we turn to the third point of change from childhood to a
Christian manhood, the change from selfishness to unselfishness, neither
can we find any possible danger in hastening this. This cannot hurt our
health or strain our faculties; it can but make life at every age more
peaceful and more happy. Nor indeed do I suppose that any one could
fancy that such a change was otherwise than wholesome at the earliest
possible period.

There may remain, however, a vague notion, that generally, if what we
mean by an early change from childishness to manliness be that we should
become religious, then, although it may not exhaust the powers, or
injure the health, yet it would destroy the natural liveliness and
gaiety of youth, and by bringing on a premature seriousness of manner
and language, would be unbecoming and ridiculous. Now, in the first
place, there is a great deal of confusion and a great deal of folly in
the common notions of the gaiety of youth. If gaiety mean real happiness
of mind, I do not believe that there is more of it in youth than in
manhood; if for this reason only, that the temper in youth being
commonly not yet brought into good order, irritation and passion are
felt, probably, oftener than in after life, and these are sad drawbacks,
as we all know, to a real cheerfulness of mind. And of the outward
gaiety of youth, there is a part also which is like the gaiety of a
drunken man; which is riotous, insolent, and annoying to others; which,
in short, is a folly and a sin. There remains that which strictly
belongs to youth, partly physically--the lighter step and the livelier
movement of the growing and vigorous body; partly from circumstances,
because a young person's parents or friends stand between him and many
of the cares of life, and protect him from feeling them altogether;
partly from the abundance of hope which belongs to the beginning of
every thing, and which continually hinders the mind from dwelling on
past pain. And I know not which of these causes of gaiety would be taken
away or lessened by the earlier change from childhood to manhood. True
it is, that the question, "What must I do to be saved?" is a grave one,
and must be considered seriously; but I do not suppose that any one
proposes that a young person should never be serious at all. True it is,
again, that if we are living in folly and sin, this question may be a
painful one; we might be gayer for a time without it. But, then, the
matter is, what is to become of us if we do not think of being
saved?--shall we be saved without thinking of it? And what is it to be
not saved but lost? I cannot pretend to say that the thought of God
would not very much disturb the peace and gaiety of an ungodly and
sinful mind; that it would not interfere with the mirth of the bully, or
the drunkard, or the reveller, or the glutton, or the idler, or the
fool. It would, no doubt; just as the hand that was seen to write on the
wall threw a gloom over the guests at Belshazzar's festival. I never
meant or mean to say, that the thought of God, or that God himself, can
be other than a plague to those who do not love Him. The thought of Him
is their plague here; the sight of Him will be their judgment for ever.
But I suppose the point is, whether the thought of Him would cloud the
gaiety of those who were striving to please Him. It would cloud it as
much, and be just as unwelcome and no more, as will be the very actual
presence of our Lord to the righteous, when they shall see Him as He is.
Can that which we know to be able to make old age, and sickness, and
poverty, many times full of comfort,--can that make youth and health
gloomy? When to natural cheerfulness and sanguineness, are added a
consciousness of God's ever present care, and a knowledge of his rich
promises, are we likely to be the more sad or the more unhappy?

What reason, then, is there for any one's not anticipating the common
progress of Christian manliness, and hastening; to exchange, as I said
before, ignorance for wisdom, selfishness for unselfishness,
carelessness for thoughtfulness? I see no reason why we should not; but
is there no reason why we should? You are young, and for the most part
strong and healthy; I grant that, humanly speaking, the chances of early
death to any particular person among you are small. But still,
considering what life is, even to the youngest and strongest, it does
seem a fearful risk to be living unredeemed; to be living in that state,
that if we should happen to die, (it may be very unlikely, but still it
is clearly possible,)--that if we should happen to die, we should be
most certainly lost for ever. Risks, however, we do not mind; the
chances, we think, are in our favour, and we will run the hazard. It may
be so; but he who delays to turn to God when the thought has been once
put before him, is incurring something more than a risk. He may not die
these fifty or sixty years; we cannot tell how that may be; but he is
certainly at this very present time hardening his heart, and doing
despite unto the Spirit of Grace. By the very wickedness of putting off
turning to God till a future time, he lessens his power of turning to
Him ever. This is certain; no one can reject God's call without becoming
less likely to hear it when it is made to him again. And thus the
lingering wilfully in the evil things of childhood, when we might be at
work in putting them off, and when God calls us to do so, is an infinite
risk, and a certain evil;--an infinite risk, for it is living in such a
state that death at any moment would be certain condemnation;--and a
certain evil, because, whether we live or not, we are actually raising
up barriers between ourselves and our salvation; we not only do not draw
nigh to God, but we are going farther from Him, and lessening our power
of drawing nigh to Him hereafter.


* * * * *


_We do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled
with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual

This is the first of three verses, all of them forming a part of the
Epistle which was read this morning, and containing St. Paul's prayer
for the Colossians in all the several points of Christian excellence.
And the first thing which he desires for them, as we have heard, is,
that they should be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all
wisdom and spiritual understanding; or, as he expresses the same thing
to the Ephesians, that they should be not unwise, but understanding what
the will of the Lord is. He prays for the Colossians that they should
not be spiritually foolish, but that they should be spiritually wise.

The state of spiritual folly is, I suppose, one of the most universal
evils in the world. For the number of those who are naturally foolish is
exceedingly great; of those, I mean, who understand no worldly thing
well; of those who are careless about everything, carried about by every
breath of opinion, without knowledge, and without principle. But the
term spiritual folly includes, unhappily, a great many more than these;
it takes in not those only who are in the common sense of the term
foolish, but a great many who are in the common sense of the term
clever, and many who are even in the common sense of the terms, prudent,
sensible, thoughtful, and wise. It is but too evident that some of the
ablest men who have ever lived upon earth, have been in no less a degree
spiritually fools. And thus, it is not without much truth that Christian
writers have dwelt upon the insufficiency of worldly wisdom, and have
warned their readers to beware, lest, while professing themselves to be
wise, they should be accounted as fools in the sight of God.

But the opposite to this notion, that those who are, as it were, fools
in worldly matters are wise before God; although this also is true in a
certain sense, and under certain peculiar circumstances, yet taken
generally, it is the very reverse of truth; and the careless and
incautious language which has been often used on this subject, has been
extremely mischievous. On the contrary, he who is foolish in worldly
matters is likely also to be, and most commonly is, no less foolish in
the things of God. And the opposite belief has arisen mainly from that
strange confusion between ignorance and innocence, with which many
ignorant persons seem to solace themselves. Whereas, if you take away a
man's knowledge, you do not bring him to the state of an infant, but to
that of a brute; and of one of the most mischievous and malignant of the
brute creation. For you do not lessen or weaken the man's body by
lowering his mind; he still retains his strength and his passions, the
passions leading to self-indulgence, the strength which enables him to
feed them by continued gratification. He will not think it is true to
any good purpose; it is very possible to destroy in him the power of
reflection, whether as exercised upon outward things, or upon himself
and his own nature, or upon God. But you cannot destroy the power of
adapting means to ends, nor that of concealing his purposes by fraud or
falsehood; you take only his wisdom, and leave that cunning which marks
so notoriously both the savage and the madman. He, then, who is a fool
as far as regards earthly things, is much more a fool with regard to
heavenly things; he who cannot raise himself even to the lower height,
how is he to attain to the higher? he who is without reason and
conscience, how shall he be endowed with the spirit of God?

It is my deep conviction and long experience of this truth, which makes
me so grieve over a want of interest in your own improvement in human
learning, whenever I observe it, over the prevalence of a thoughtless
and childish spirit amongst you. I grant that as to the first point
there are sometimes exceptions to be met with; that is to say, I have
known persons certainly whose interest in their work here was not great,
and their proficiency consequently was small; but who, I do not doubt,
were wise unto God. But then these persons, whilst they were indifferent
perhaps about their common school-work, were anything but indifferent as
to the knowledge of the Bible: there was no carelessness there; but they
read, and read frequently, books of practical improvement, or relating
otherwise to religious matters, such as many, I believe, would find even
less inviting than the books of their common business. So that although
there was a neglect undoubtedly of many parts of the school-work, yet
there was no spirit of thoughtlessness or childishness in them, nor of
general idleness; and therefore, although I know that their minds did
suffer and have suffered from their unwise neglect of a part of their
duty, yet there was so much attention bestowed on other parts, and so
manifest and earnest a care for the things of God, that it was
impossible not to entertain for them the greatest respect and regard.
These, however, are such rare cases, that it cannot be necessary to do
more than thus notice them. But the idleness and want of interest which
I grieve for, is one which extends itself but too impartially to
knowledge of every kind: to divine knowledge, as might be expected, even
more than to human. Those whom we commonly find careless about their
general lessons, are quite as ignorant and as careless about their
Bibles; those who have no interest in general literature, in poetry, or
in history, or in philosophy, have certainly no greater interest, I do
not say in works of theology, but in works of practical devotion, in the
lives of holy men, in meditations, or in prayers. Alas, the interest of
their minds is bestowed on things far lower than the very lowest of all
which I have named; and therefore, to see them desiring something only a
little higher than their present pursuits, could not but be encouraging;
it would, at least, show that the mind was rising upwards. It may,
indeed, stop at a point short of the highest, it may learn to love
earthly excellence, and rest there contented, and seek for nothing more
perfect; but that, at any rate, is a future and merely contingent evil.
It is better to love earthly excellence than earthly folly; it is far
better in itself, and it is, by many degrees, nearer to the kingdom
of God.

There is another case, however, which I cannot but think is more
frequent now than formerly; and if it is so, it may be worth while to
direct our attention to it. Common idleness and absolute ignorance are
not what I wish to speak of now, but a character advanced above these; a
character which does not neglect its school-lessons, but really attains
to considerable proficiency in them; a character at once regular and
amiable, abstaining from evil, and for evil in its low and grosser
forms, having a real abhorrence. What, then, you will say, is wanting
here? I will tell you what seems to be wanting--a spirit of manly, and
much more of Christian, thoughtfulness. There is quickness and
cleverness; much pleasure, perhaps, in distinction, but little in
improvement; there is no desire of knowledge for its own sake, whether
human or divine. There is, therefore, but little power of combining and
digesting what is read; and, consequently, what is read passes away, and
takes no root in the mind. This same character shows itself in matters
of conduct; it will adopt, without scruple, the most foolish,
commonplace notions of boys, about what is right and wrong; it will not,
and cannot, from the lightness of its mind, concern itself seriously
about what is evil in the conduct of others, because it takes no regular
care of its own, with reference to pleasing God; it will not do anything
low or wicked, but it will sometimes laugh at those who do; and it will
by no means take pains to encourage, nay, it will sometimes thwart and
oppose any thing that breathes a higher spirit, and asserts a more manly
and Christian standard of duty.

I have thought that this character, with its features more or less
strongly marked, has shown itself sometimes amongst us, marring the good
and amiable qualities of those in whom we can least bear to see such a
defect, because there is in them really so much to interest in their
favour. Now the number of persons of extraordinary abilities who may be
here at any one time can depend on no calculable causes: nor, again, can
we give any reason more than what we call accident, if there were to be
amongst us at any one time a number of persons whose whole tendency was
decidedly to evil. But if, in these respects, the usual average has
continued, if there is no lack of ability, and nothing like a prevalence
of vice, then we begin anxiously to inquire into the causes, which,
while other things remain the same, have led to a different result. And
one cause I do find, which, is certainly capable of producing such a
result: a cause undoubtedly in existence now, and as certainly not in
existence a few years back; nor can I trace any other besides this which
appears likely to have produced the same effect. This cause consists in
the number and character and cheapness, and peculiar mode of
publication, of the works of amusement of the present day. In all these
respects the change is great, and extremely recent. The works of
amusement published only a very few years since were comparatively few
in number; they were less exciting, and therefore less attractive; they
were dearer, and therefore less accessible; and, not being published
periodically, they did not occupy the mind for so long a time, nor keep
alive so constant an expectation; nor, by thus dwelling upon the mind,
and distilling themselves into it as it were drop by drop, did they
possess it so largely, colouring even, in many instances, its very
language, and affording frequent matter for conversation.

The evil of all these circumstances is actually enormous. The mass of
human minds, and much more of the minds of young persons, have no great
appetite for intellectual exercise; but they have some, which by careful
treatment may be strengthened and increased. But here to this weak and
delicate appetite is presented an abundance of the most stimulating and
least nourishing food possible. It snatches it greedily, and is not only
satisfied, but actually conceives a distaste for anything simpler and
more wholesome. That curiosity which is wisely given us to lead us on to
knowledge, finds its full gratification in the details of an exciting
and protracted story, and then lies down as it were gorged, and goes to
sleep. Other faculties claim their turn, and have it. We know that in
youth the healthy body and lively spirits require exercise, and in this
they may and ought to be indulged: but the time and interest which
remain over when the body has had its enjoyment, and the mind desires
its share, this has been already wasted and exhausted upon things
utterly unprofitable: so that the mind goes to its work hurriedly and
languidly, and feels it to be no more than a burden. The mere lessons
may be learnt from a sense of duty; but that freshness of power which,
in young persons of ability would fasten eagerly upon some one portion
or other, of the wide field of knowledge, and there expatiate, drinking
in health and strength to the mind, as surely as the natural exercise of
the body gives to it bodily vigour,--that is tired prematurely,
perverted, and corrupted; and all the knowledge which else it might so
covet, it now seems a wearying effort to attain.

Great and grievous as is the evil, it is peculiarly hard to find the
remedy for it. If the books to which I have been alluding were books of
downright wickedness, we might destroy them wherever we found them; we
might forbid their open circulation; we might conjure you to shun them
as you would any other clear sin, whether of word or deed. But they are
not wicked books for the most part; they are of that class which cannot
be actually prohibited; nor can it be pretended that there is a sin in
reading them. They are not the more wicked for being published so cheap,
and at regular intervals; but yet these two circumstances make them so
peculiarly injurious. All that can be done is to point out the evil;
that it is real and serious I am very sure, and its effects are most
deplorable on the minds of the fairest promise; but the remedy for it
rests with yourselves, or rather with each of you individually, so far
as he is himself concerned. That an unnatural and constant excitement of
the mind is most injurious, there is no doubt; that excitement involves
a consequent weakness, is a law of our nature than which none is surer;
that the weakness of mind thus produced is and must be adverse to quiet
study and thought, to that reflection which alone is wisdom, is also
clear in itself, and proved too largely by experience. And that without
reflection there can be no spiritual understanding, is at once evident;
while without spiritual understanding, that is, without a knowledge and
a study of God's will, there can be no spiritual life. And therefore
childishness and unthoughtfulness cannot be light evils; and if I have
rightly traced the prevalence of these defects to its cause, although
that cause may seem to some to be trifling, yet surely it is well to
call your attention to it, and to remind you that in reading works of
amusement, as in every other lawful pleasure, there is and must be an
abiding responsibility in the sight of God; that, like other lawful
pleasures, we must beware of excess in it; and not only so, but that if
we find it hurtful to us, either because we have used it too freely in
times past, or because our nature is too weak to bear it, that then we
are bound most solemnly to abstain from it; because, however lawful in
itself, or to others who can practise it without injury, whatever is to
us an hindrance in the way of our intellectual and moral and spiritual
improvement, that is in our case a positive sin.


* * * * *


_We do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled
with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual

These words, on which I spoke last Sunday, appeared to contain so much,
which concerns us all so deeply, and to suit the peculiar ease of many
of us here so entirely, that I thought they might well furnish us with
matter for farther consideration to-day. And though I noticed one
particular cause, which seemed to have acted mischievously, in the last
few years, upon the growth and freshness of the mind in youth, yet it
would be absurd to suppose that before this cause came into existence
all was well; or that if it could be removed, our progress even in
worldly knowledge would henceforth be unimpeded. There are many other
causes no doubt which oppose our growth in worldly wisdom; and still
more which oppose our growth in the wisdom of God.

One of these causes meets us at the very beginning; it exists at this
very moment; it makes it difficult even to gain your attention for what
is to be said. This cause is to be found in the want of sympathy between
persons of very different ages, between what must be, therefore, in the
common course of nature, different degrees of thoughtfulness. It is the
want of sympathy, properly speaking, which creates in these matters a
difficulty of understanding; for the attention and memory are alike apt
to be careless where the mind is not interested; and how can we
understand that to which we scarcely listened, and which we imperfectly
remember? Nature herself seems to lead the old and the young two
different ways: and when the old call upon the young to be thoughtful,
it seems as if they were but calling them to a state contrary to their
nature; and the call is not regarded.

Is it then that we have here an invincible obstacle, which renders all
attempts to inspire thoughtfulness utterly vain? and if it be so, what
use can there be in dwelling upon it? None, certainly, if it were
actually and in all cases invincible; but if it be every thing short of
invincible, there is much good in noticing it. There is much good surely
in trying to impress the great truth, that nature must be overcome by a
mightier power, or we perish. There is much good in meeting and allowing
to its full extent what we are so apt in our folly to regard as an
excuse, and which really is the earnest of our condemnation. It is very
true, and to be allowed to the fullest extent, that it is against the
nature of youth in all ordinary cases to be thoughtful; that it is very
difficult for you even to give your attention to serious things when
spoken of, more difficult still to remember them afterwards and always.
It is for the very reason because it is so difficult, because it is a
work so against nature, to raise the young and careless mind to the
thought of God; because it is so certain that, in the common course of
things, you will not think of Him, but will follow the bent of your own
several fancies or desires, that therefore He, who wills in his love to
bring us to himself, knowing that without the knowledge of Him we must
perish for ever, was pleased to give his only-begotten Son, that
through Him we might overcome nature, and might turn to God and live.

I wish that I could increase, if it were possible, the sense which, you
have of the difficulty of becoming thoughtful, so that you could but see
that out of this very difficulty, and indissolubly connected with it,
comes the grace of Christ's redemption. You have not strength of purpose
enough to shake off folly and sin; surely you have not, or else, why
should Christ have died? It is so hard to come to God; undoubtedly, so
hard that no man can come unto God except God will draw him. Nature
herself leads us to be careless, our very strength and spirits of
themselves will not allow us to reflect. Most true; for that which is
born of the flesh, is flesh; and we inherit a nature derived from him in
whom we all die.

I believe that it is not idle to dwell upon tins; for it is scarcely
possible but that good and earnest resolutions should often enter the
minds of many of you; or, if not resolutions, yet at least wishes,
wishes chilled but too soon, I fear, by the thought or feeling, that
however much to will may be present with you, yet how to perform it you
find not. Now, if this true sense of weakness might but lead any one to
seek for strength where it may be found, then indeed it would be a
feeling no less blessed than true; for it would urge you to seek God's
help and Christ's redemption, instead of desperately yielding to your
weakness, and so remaining weak for ever.

You may look at the prospect before you in all its reality: you may see
how much must be given up, how much withstood, bow much, endured; how
hard it is to alter old ways, not in itself only, but because the change
attracts attention, and is received, it may be, with doubts as to its
sincerity, with irony, and with sneers. There is all this before you: it
cannot be denied; it must not be concealed. The way to life is not broad
and easy; it is not that way which is most trodden. To pass from what we
are to what we may be hereafter, from an earthly nature to an heavenly,
cannot be an easy work, to be done at any time, with no effort, with no
pain. It is the greatest work which is done in the whole world, it is
the mightiest change; death and birth are, as it were, combined in it;
but the Lord of birth and of death is at hand, to enable us to effect
it. Think that this is so; and the more you feel how hard a task is set
before you, the more you will be able to understand the language of joy
and thankfulness with which the Scripture speaks of a human soul's

This great work may be wrought for every soul here assembled; the want
of sympathy in sacred and serious things may be changed to sympathy the
most intense; the carelessness of fools may be changed into spiritual
wisdom. It may be wrought for all; but it is more happy to think that it
will be wrought for some;--for whom, no mortal eye or judgment can
discern; but it will be wrought for some. If many should yield in
despair to their enemy, yet some will resist him: if Christ be to many
no more than foolishness, if his name convey nothing more than a vague
sense of something solemn, which passes over the mind for an instant,
and then vanishes, yet to some undoubtedly, he will be found to be the
wisdom of God, and the power of God. There are some here, we may be
quite sure, who will be witnesses for ever to all the world of men and
angels, that what truly was impossible to nature, is possible to nature
renewed and strengthened by grace.

Without such a change, it is vain, I fear, to look for any thing like
wisdom or spiritual understanding; for how can such a seed be expected
to grow in a soil so shallow as common thoughtlessness? and how can
merely human motives have force to overcome so strong a tendency of
nature? nay, how can such motives be brought to act upon the mind? for
it is absolutely impossible that the middle-aged and the young should be
brought into entire sympathy with each other, unless Christ's love be
their common bond. Human wisdom in advanced life may be, and is to
persons of strong faculties of mind, naturally pleasant: but how can it
be made so to persons of ordinary faculties in early youth? There are
faults which society condemns strongly, while the temptation to them in
after life is slight. Persons in middle age may resist these easily, and
abhor them sincerely; but how can we make young persons do the same when
the temptation to commit them is strong, and the condemnation of them by
their society is either very slight, or does not exist at all? And,
therefore, we find that, do what we will, the same faults' continue to
be common in schools, the same faults both of omission and commission;
there is the same inherent difficulty of bringing persons of different
ages and positions to think and feel alike, unless Christ has become
possessed of the thoughts and feelings of both, and so they become one
with each other in him.

But it was our Lord's charge to Peter, "Thou, when thou art converted,
strengthen thy brethren." As sure as it is that some who hear me are
turned, or turning, or will turn, to God, so sure is it that these, be
they few or many, will do something towards the strengthening of their
brethren. Whatever good is to be done amongst us on a large scale, it
must be done only in this way, the many half despairing prayer may be,
"Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief;" but if any one is moved by
Christ's call, and feels within himself that he should like to follow
Christ, and to be with him always, let him cherish that work of the Holy
Spirit within him, which has given him if it be only so much of the will
to be saved. It is a spark which may be quenched in a moment; in itself
it can give no assurance; but if any one watches it carefully, and prays
that it may live and be kindled into a stronger spark, till at last it
break out into a flame, then for him it is full of assurance; God has
heard his prayer; and he has received the gift of the Holy Spirit, an
earnest of his eternal inheritance. Will he not then watch and pray the
more anxiously, lest the fruit which, is now partly formed should never
ripen? Will he not see and feel that there is some reality in the things
of God, that strength, and peace, and victory, are not vainly promised?
Will he not hold fast the things which he has now not heard only, but
known, lest by any means he should let them slip? May God strengthen
such, whoever they may be, with all the might of his Spirit; and may he
be with them even to the end.

But for those,--who they are, again, we know not, nor how many; but
here, also, there will too surely be some,--for those who hear now, as
they have often heard before, words which, they scarcely heed, which,
have at times partially caught their attention, but have not produced in
them the slightest real effect, for them the words are coming to an end;
they will soon be released from the irksome bondage of hearing them; and
another opportunity of grace will have been offered to them in vain.
Tomorrow, and the day after, they will walk as they have walked before,
the wretched slaves of folly and passion; half despairing prayer may
be, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief;" but if any one is moved
by Christ's call, and feels within himself that he should like to follow
Christ, and to be with him always, let him cherish that work of the Holy
Spirit within him, which has given him if it be only so much of the will
to be saved. It is a spark which may be quenched in a moment; in itself
it can give no assurance; but if any one watches it carefully, and prays
that it may live and be kindled into a stronger spark, till at last it
break out into a flame, then for him it is full of assurance; God has
heard his prayer; and he has received the gift of the Holy Spirit, an
earnest of his eternal inheritance. Will he not then watch and pray the
more anxiously, lest the fruit which is now partly formed should never
ripen? Will he not see and feel that there is some reality in the things
of God, that strength, and peace, and victory, are not vainly promised?
Will he not hold fast the things which he has now not heard only, but
known, lest by any means he should let them slip? May God strengthen
such, whoever they may be, with all the might of his Spirit; and may he
be with them even to the end.

But for those,--who they are, again, we know not, nor how many; but
here, also, there will too surely be some,--for those who hear now, as
they have often heard before, words which they scarcely heed, which have
at times partially caught their attention, but have not produced in them
the slightest real effect, for them the words are coming to an end; they
will soon be released from the irksome bondage of hearing them; and
another opportunity of grace will have been offered to them in vain.
Tomorrow, and the day after, they will walk as they have walked before,
the wretched slaves of folly and passion; leaving undone all Christ's
work, and greedily doing his enemy's. Yet even these Christ yet spares,
he still calls them, he has died for them. Still the word must be spoken
to them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear. It may
be, that they will some day turn; and if not, Christ has perfected his
mercy towards them; and Christ's servants have delivered their own souls
in warning them. May there be but few of us on whom this horrible
portion will fall; yet, is it not an awful thing to think of, that it
will, in all human probability, fall on some? and that whoever hardens
his heart, and resists the word spoken to him this day, he is one who
has done as much as in him lies to make himself among that number.


* * * * *


_Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God_.

When I have spoken, from time to time, of denying ourselves for the sake
of relieving others, although self-denial and charity are, in their full
growth, amongst the highest of Christian graces, yet I have felt much
hope that, up to a certain degree, in their lowest and elementary forms
at least, there might be many that would be disposed to practise them.
For these are virtues which do undoubtedly commend themselves to our
minds as things clearly good: so much so that I am inclined to think
that the much-disputed moral sense, the nature of which is said to be so
hard to ascertain, exists most clearly in the universal perception that
it is good to deny ourselves and to benefit others. I do not say merely
that there is a perception that it is good to deny ourselves in order to
benefit others; but that there is in self-denial, simply, something
which commands respect; an unconscious tribute, I suppose, to the truth,
that the self which, is thus denied is one which, if indulged, would
run to evil.

But a point of far greater difficulty, of absolutely the greatest
difficulty, is to impress upon our minds the excellence of
another quality, which is known by the name of spiritual or
heavenly-mindedness. In fact, this,--and this almost singly,--is the
transcendent part of Christianity; that part of it which is not
according to, but above, nature; which, conscience, I think, itself, in
the natural man, does not acknowledge. When Christianity speaks of
purity, of truth, of justice, of charity, of faith and love to God, it
speaks a language which, however belied by our practice, is at once
allowed by our consciences: the things so recommended are, beyond all
doubt, good and lovely. But when it says, in St. Paul's words, "Set your
affections on things above, not on things on the earth: for ye are dead,
and your life is hid with Christ in God," the language sounds so strange
that it is scarcely intelligible; and if we do get to understand it, yet
it seems to give a wrench, as it were, to our whole being, to command a
thing extravagant and impossible.

I am persuaded that this would be so, more or less, everywhere; but in
how extreme a degree must it hold good amongst us! Even in poverty, in
sickness, and old age, where this life would seem to be nothing but a
burden, and the command to "set the affections on things above" might
appear superfluous, still the known so prevails over the unknown, the
familiar over the incomprehensible, that hope and affection find
continually their objects in this world, there is still a clinging to
life, and an unwillingness to die. But in a state the very opposite to
this, in plenty, in health, in youth; with much of enjoyment actually in
our hands, and more in prospect; with just so much mystery over our
coming life as to keep alive interest, yet with enough known and
understood in its prospects to awaken sympathy; what deafest ear of the
deaf adder could ever be so closed against the voice of the charmer, as
our minds, so engrossed with the enjoyments and the hopes of earth, are
closed against the voice which speaks of the things of heaven?

Again, I have said, when speaking of other subjects, that I looked upon
the older persons among you as a sort of link between me and the
younger, who communicated, in some instances, by their language and
example, something of an impression of the meaning of Christian
teaching. But when we speak of a thing so high as spiritual-mindedness,
it seems as if none of us can be a link between Christ's words and our
brethren's minds: as if we all stand alike at an infinite distance from
the high and unapproachable truth. The mountain of God becomes veiled,
as it were, with the clouds which rested upon Sinai; we cannot approach
near it, but stand far off, for a moment, perhaps, in awe; but soon in
neglect and indifference.

Let any one capable of thinking, but in the full vigour of health of
body and mind, placed far above want, and with the prospect, according
to all probability, of many years of happy life before him, let such an
one go forth, at this season of the year above all, let him see the vast
preparation for life in all nature, amongst all living creatures, in
every tree, and in every plant of grass; let him feel the warmth of the
sun, becoming every day stronger and stronger; let him be possessed, in
every sense, with an impression of the vigour and beauty and glory
around him; and let him feel no less a vigour in himself, too, of body
and mind, and infinitely varied power of enjoyment in so many faculties
of repose and of energy,--and then let him calmly consider what St. Paul
could mean, when he says generally to Christians, "Set your affections
on things above, not on things on the earth; for ye are dead, and your
life is hid with Christ in God."

Let a person capable of thinking, and such as I have supposed in all
other respects, consider what St. Paul could mean by calling him "dead."
With an almost thrilling consciousness of life, with an almost bounding
sense of vigour in body and mind, he is told that he is "dead." And
stranger still, he is told so by one whose recorded life, and existing
writings declare that he too must have had in himself a consciousness of
life no less lively; that there was in him an activity and energy which
neither age nor sufferings could quell; that he wielded an influence
over the minds of thousands, such as kings or conquerors might envy. If
St. Paul could stand by our side, think we that he, any more than
ourselves, would be insensible to the power within him, and to the
beauty and the glory without? Yet his words are recorded; he bids us not
set our affections on things on the earth; he declares of himself, and
of us equally, if we are Christ's servants, that we are dead, and that
our life is hid with Christ in God.

I have put the difficulty in its strongest form, for it is one well
worth considering. What St. Paul here urges is indeed the highest
perfection of Christianity, and therefore of human nature; but it is not
an impossible perfection, and St. Paul's own life and character are our
warrant that it is nothing sickly, or foolish, or fanatical. But let us
first hear the whole of St. Paul's language: "If ye, then, be risen with
Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the
right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on
the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear
with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the
earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil
concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry." "Mortify," I need
not say, is to make dead, to destroy. "Ye are dead;" therefore let your
members on earth be dead; "fornication, uncleanness, inordinate
affection," &c. As if he had said, By becoming Christians ye engaged to
be dead; and therefore see to it that ye are so. But what he requires us
to make dead or to destroy, are our evil affections and desires; it is
manifest, then, that it is to these that, by becoming Christians, we
engage to become dead.

This is true; and it is most certain that Christ requires us to be dead
only to what is evil. But the essence of spiritual-mindedness consists
in this, that it is assumed that with earth, and all things earthly,
evil or imperfection are closely mixed; so that it is not possible to
set our affections keenly upon, or to abandon ourselves to the enjoyment
of, any earthly thing without the danger of those affections and that
enjoyment becoming evil. In other words, there is that in the state of
things within and around us, which, renders it needful to be ever
watchful; and watchfulness is inconsistent with an intensity of delight
and enjoyment.

For, consider the case which I was just supposing; that lively sense of
the beauty of all nature, that indescribable feeling of delight which
arises out of the consciousness of health, and strength and power.
Suppose that we abandon ourselves to such impressions without restraint,
and is it not manifest that they are the extreme of godless pride and
selfishness? For do we not know that in this world, and close to us
wherever we are, there is, along with all the beauty and enjoyment which
we witness, a large portion also of evil, and of suffering? And do we
not know that He who gave to the earth its richness, and who set the sun
to shine in the heavens, and who gave to us that wonderful frame of body
and mind, whose healthful workings are So delightful to us, that He gave
them that we might use both body and mind in His service; that the
soldier has something else to do than to gaze like a child on the
splendour of his uniform or the brightness of his sword; that those
faculties which we feel as it were burning within us, have their work
before them, a work far above their strength, though multiplied a
thousand fold; that the call to them to be busy is never silent; that
there is an infinite voice in the infinite sins and sufferings of
millions which proclaims that the contest is raging around us; that
every idle moment is treason; that now it is the time for unceasing
efforts; and that not till the victory is gained may Christ's soldiers
throw aside their arms, and resign themselves to enjoyment and to rest?

Then when we turn to the words, "our life is hid with Christ in God,"
the exceeding greatness of Christ's promises rises upon us in something
of the fulness of their reality. Some may know the story of that German
nobleman[12], whose life had been distinguished alike by genius and
worldly distinctions, and by Christian holiness; and who, in the last
morning of his life, when the dawn broke into his sick chamber, prayed
that he might be supported to the window, and might look once again upon
the rising sun. After looking steadily at it for some time, he cried
out, "Oh! if the appearance of this earthly and created thing is so
beautiful and so quickening, how much more shall I be enraptured at the
sight of the unspeakable glory of the Creator Himself!" That was the
feeling of a man whose sense of earthly beauty had all the keenness of a
poet's enthusiasm; but who, withal, had in his greatest health and
vigour preserved the consciousness that his life was hid with Christ in
God; that the things seen, how beautiful soever, were as nothing to the
things which are not seen. And so, if from the feeling of natural
enjoyment we turn, at once thankfully and earnestly, to remember God's
service, and to address ourselves to his work; and sadly remember, that,
although we can enjoy, yet that many are suffering; and that, whilst
they are so, enjoyment in us for more than a brief space of needful rest
cannot but be sin; then there must come upon us, most strongly, the
impression of that life where sin and suffering are not; where not God's
works only, but God Himself is visible; where the vigour and faculties
which we feel within us are not the passing strength of a decaying body,
nor the brief prime of a mind which in a few years must sink into
dotage; but the strength of a body incorruptible and eternal, the
ripeness of a spirit which shall go on growing in wisdom and love
for ever.

[Footnote 12: The Baron Von Canitz.]

Thus, then, if we consider again St. Paul's meaning, we shall find that,
high and pure as it is, it is nothing unreasonable or impossible; that
what he requires us to be dead to absolutely is that which is evil;
that, because of the mixture of evil with ourselves and all around us,
this life must not and cannot be a life of entire enjoyment without
becoming godless and selfish; that, therefore, our affections cannot be
set upon earthly things so as to enjoy them in and for themselves
entirely, without becoming inordinate, and therefore evil. He does
require us, old and young alike, to set our affection on things above:
to remember that with God, and with Him alone, can be our rest, and the
fulness of our joy; and amidst our pleasure in earthly things to retain
in our minds, first, a grateful sense of their Giver; secondly, a
remembrance of their passing nature; and thirdly, a consciousness of the
evil that is in the world, which makes it a sin to resign ourselves to
any enjoyment, except as a permitted refreshment to strengthen us for
duty to come. Above all, let one feeling be truly cherished, and it
will do more, perhaps, than any other to moderate our pleasure in
earthly things, and to render it safe, and wholesome, and Christianlike.
That feeling is the remembrance of our own faults. Let us bear these in
mind as God does; let us consider how displeasing they are in His sight;
how often they are repeated; how little they deserve the enjoyments
which are given us. If this does not change our selfish pleasure into a
zealous gratitude, then, indeed, sin must have a dominion over us; for
the natural effect would be, that our hearts should burn within us for
very shame, and should enkindle us to be thankful with all our strength
for blessings so undeserved; to show something of our love to God who
has so richly shown his love to us.


* * * * *

CORINTHIANS iii. 21-23.

_All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the
world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are
yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's_.

It is very possible, that all may not distinctly understand the force of
the several clauses of this passage, yet, all, I suppose, would derive a
general impression from it, that it spoke of the condition of Christians
in very exalted language, and made it to extend to things in this world,
as well as to things in the world to come. But can it be good for us to
dwell on our exaltation? And if we do, may we not dread lest such
language might be used towards us as that which St. Paul uses in the
very next chapter to the Corinthians, "Now ye are full, now ye are rich,
ye have reigned as kings without us; and I would to God ye did reign,
that we also might reign with you." It would seem, however, that it
would be good for us to dwell on the greatness of our condition and
privileges, because St. Paul, who thus upbraids the Corinthians with
their pride, had yet himself immediately before laid the picture of
their high privileges, in the words of the text, in full detail before
them, as if he wished them carefully to consider it. And so indeed it
is. It feeds pride to dwell upon our good qualities or advantages, as
individuals, or as a class in society, or as a nation, or as a sect or
party; but, to speak generally, our advantages and privileges, as
Christians, have not a tendency to excite pride; for some reasons in the
nature of the case; for this reason amongst ourselves particularly,
because the very essence of pride consists in contrast; we are proud
that we are, in some one or more points, superior to others who come
immediately under our observation. Now, we have so little to do with any
who are not Christians, that the contrast is in this case wanting; we
have none over whom to be proud; none whom we can glory in surpassing;
and, therefore, a consideration of our Christian advantages, in the
absence of that one element which might feed pride, is likely with us to
work in a better manner, and to lead rather to thankfulness and
increased exertion.

I say to increased exertion; for what would stop exertion is pride. It
is the turning back, and pausing to look with satisfaction on what is
below us, rather than the looking upward to the summit, and thinking how
much our actual elevation has brought us on the way towards it. And,
further, there is coupled with every consideration of Christian
privileges, the thought of what it must be to leave such privileges
unimproved. In this respect, how well does the language of the two
lessons from Deuteronomy suit the lesson from the Epistle to the
Corinthians. We heard the description of the beauty and richness of the
land which God gave to his people,--there were their advantages and
privileges,--we heard also, the declaration of their unworthiness, and
the solemn threatening of vengeance if, after having received good, they
did evil. And as the vengeance has fallen upon them to the utmost, so we
are taught expressly to apply their example to ourselves. "If God spared
not the natural branches," such was St. Paul's language to the church at
Rome, "take heed lest he also spare not thee."

Let us not fear, then, to consider more nearly the high privileges
which, as Christians, we enjoy: let us endeavour to understand, not
merely generally, but in detail, the exalted language of the text, where
it is said, that all things are ours; Paul, Apollos, and Cephas, the
world, and life, and death, the things of time, and the things of
eternity. These are ours because we are Christ's, and Christ is God's;
they are ours so long as we are Christ's, and so far as we are his
truly. They are not ours so far as we are not his: they are ours in no
degree whatever the moment that he shall declare that we are his
no longer.

"Paul, and Apollos, and Peter, are ours." This, perhaps, is the
expression which we should understand least distinctly of any. It is an
expression, however, of deep importance, though perhaps less so here
than in congregations of a different sort. I need not, therefore, dwell
on it long now. But the Corinthians, as many Christians have done since,
were apt to think more of their being Christians of a certain sort, than
of being Christians simply: some said, "We have Paul's view of
Christianity, the true and sound view of it, free from superstition:"
others said, "But we have Peter's view of Christianity, one of Christ's
own apostles, who were with him on earth; ours is the true and earliest
view of it, free from all innovations:" and others, again, said, "Nay,
but we have been taught by Apollos, an eloquent man, and mighty in the
Scriptures; one who best understands how to unite the law and the
gospel; one who has given us the full perfection of Christianity." No
doubt there were some differences of views even between Paul, and Peter,
and Apollos; for while, on the one hand, they were all enlightened by
the Spirit of God, yet, on the other hand, they retained still their
human differences of character and disposition, which must on several
occasions have been manifest. But St. Paul does not tell us what these
were, nor how far they extended, nor to what degree they had been
exaggerated by those who heard them. He does not insist upon the truth
of his own view, nor wish the Corinthians to lay aside their divisions,
after the manner so zealously enforced by some persons now, namely, that
those who said they were of Peter, or of Apollos, should confess that
they had been in error, and declare themselves to be now only of Paul.
Such a condemnation of schism he would have held to be in itself in the
highest degree schismatical. But St. Paul was earnest, that schism
should be ended after another way than this, by all parties remembering,
that whatever became of the truth or falsehood of their own particular
views of Christianity, yet, that Christianity according to any of their
views was the one great thing which was their glory and their salvation.
"Paul, and Apollos, and Peter, are all yours: but you are Christ's." You
should not glory in men; that you belong to a purer church than other
Christians; but that you belong to the church of Christ; that church,
which, in its most pure particular branches, has never been free from
some mixture of human infirmity and error; nor yet, in its worst
branches, has ever lost altogether the seal of Christ's Spirit, nor
ceased to believe in Christ crucified.

But the next words are of more particular concern to us here. "The
world, and life, and death, and things present, and things to come, are
all ours." They are all ours, so far as we are Christ's. The world is
ours; its manifold riches and delights, its various wisdom, all are
ours. They are ours, not as a thing stolen, and which will be taken from
us with a heavy over-payment of penalty, because we stole it when it did
not belong to us; but they are ours by God's free gift, to minister to
our comfort, and to our good. And this is the great difference; the good
things of this world are stolen by many; but they belong, by God's gift,
to those only who are Christ's: and there is the sure sign, generally,
to be seen of their being stolen,--an unwillingness that He to whom of
right they belong should see them. What a man steals, he enjoys, as it
were, in fear: if the owner of it finds him with it, then all his
enjoyment is gone; he wishes that he had never touched it; it is no
source of pleasure to him, but merely one of terror. And so it is often
with our stolen pleasures,--stolen, I mean, not in respect of man, but
of God,--stolen, because we do not feel them to be God's gift, nor
receive them, as from him, with thankfulness. They may be very lawful
pleasures, so far as other men are concerned; pleasures bought, it may
be, with our own money, or given to us by our own friends, and enjoyed
without any injury to any one. They may be the very simplest enjoyments
of life, our health, the fresh air, our common food, our common
amusements, our common society; things most permitted to us all, as far
as man is concerned, but yet things which are constantly stolen by us,
because we take them without God's leave, and enjoy them not as his
gifts. They are all his, and he gives them freely to his children. If we
are his children, he gives them to us; and delights in our enjoyment of
them, as any human father loves to see the pleasure of his children in
those things which it is good for them to enjoy. But then, is any child
afraid of his father so seeing him? or is the thought of his father any
interruption to his enjoyment? If it would be, we should be sure that
there was something wrong; that the enjoyment, either in itself, or with
respect to the particular case of that child, was a stolen one. And even
as simple is the state of our dread of God, of our wish to keep his
name and his thought away from us. It is the sure sign that our
pleasures are stolen, either as being wrong in themselves, or much
oftener, because we have taken them without being fit for them, have
snatched them for ourselves, instead of receiving them at the hands of
God. Two of us may be daily doing the very same thing in most
respects,--enjoying actually the very same pleasures, whether of body or
of mind; the same exercises, the same studies, the same indulgences, the
same society,--and yet these very same things may belong rightfully to
the one, and be stolen by the other. To the one they may come with a
double blessing, as the assurance of God's greater love hereafter: to
the other, they are but an addition to that sad account, when all good
things enjoyed here, having been not our own rightly, but stolen, shall
be paid for in over measure, by evil things to be suffered hereafter.

And what I have said of the world, will apply also to life and to death.
Oh, the infinite difference whether life is ours, or but stolen for an
instant; whether death is ours, our subject, ministering only to our
good; or our fearful enemy, our ever keen pursuer, from whose grasp we
have escaped for a few short years, but who is following fast after us,
and when he has once caught us will hold us fast for ever! Have we ever
seen his near approach--has he ever forced himself upon our notice
whether we would or no? But two days since he was amongst us,--we were,
as it were, forced to look upon him. Did we think that he was ours, or
that we were his? If we are his, then indeed he is fearful: fearful to
the mere consciousness of nature; a consciousness which no arguments can
overcome; fearful if it be merely the parting from life, if it be
merely the resigning that wonderful thing which we call our being. It is
fearful to go from light to darkness, from all that we have ever known
and loved, to that of which we know and love nothing. But if death, even
thus stingless, is yet full of horror, what is he with his worst sting
beside, the sting of our sins? What is he when he is taking us, not to
nothingness, but to judgment? He is indeed so fearful then, that no
words can paint him half so truly as our foreboding dread of him, and no
arguments which the wit of man can furnish can strip him of his terrors.

But what if death too, as well as life, be ours?--which he is, if we are
Christ's; for Christ has conquered him. If he be ours, our servant, our
minister, sent but to bring us into the presence of our Lord, then,
indeed, his terrors, his merely natural terrors, the outside roughness
of his aspect, are things which the merest child need not shrink from.
Then disease and decay, however painful to living friends to look upon,
have but little pain for him who is undergoing them. For it is not only
amidst the tortures of actual martyrdom that Christians have been more
than conquerors,--in common life, on the quiet or lonely sick bed, under
the grasp of fever or of consumption, the conquest has been witnessed as
often and as completely. It is not a little thing when the faintest
whisper of thought to which expiring nature can give utterance breathes
of nothing but of peace and of forgiveness. It is not a little thing
when the name of Christ possesses us wholly; not distinctly, it may be,
for reason may be too weak for this; but with an indescribable power of
support and comfort. Or even if there be a last conflict,--a season of
terror and of pain, a valley of the shadow of death, dark and
gloomy,--yet even there Christ is with his servants, and as their trial
is so is his love. Thus it is, if death be ours; and death is ours, if
we be Christ's. And are we not Christ's? We bear his name, we have his
outward seal of belonging to his people,--can we refuse to be his in
heart and true obedience? Would we rather steal our pleasures than enjoy
them as our own; steal life for an instant, rather than have it our sure
possession for ever? Would we rather be fugitives from death, fugitives
whom he will surely recover and hold fast, than be able to say and to
feel that death, as well as life is ours, things to come, as well as
things present, because we are truly Christ's?


* * * * *

GALATIANS V. 16, 17.

_Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. For
the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh;
and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the
things that ye would_.

"We cannot do the things that we would." These are words of familiar and
common use; this is the language in which we are all apt to excuse,
whether to ourselves or to others, the various faults of our conduct. We
should be glad to do better, so we say and think, but the power to do so
fails us. And so far it may seem that we are but echoing the apostle's
language; for he says the very same thing, "Ye cannot do the things that
ye would." Yet the words as we use them, and as the apostle used them,
have the most opposite meaning in the world. We use them as a reason why
we should be satisfied, the apostle as a reason why we should be
alarmed; we intend them to be an excuse, the apostle meant them to be a
certain sign of condemnation.

The reasons of this difference may be understood very easily. We, in the
common course of justice, should think it hard to punish a man for not
doing what he cannot do. We think, therefore, that if we say that we
cannot do well, we establish also our own claim to escape from
punishment. But God declares that a state of sin is and must be a state
of misery; and that if we cannot escape the sin, we cannot escape the
misery. According to God's meaning, then, the words, "Ye cannot do the
things which ye would," mean no other than this: "Ye cannot escape from
hell; ye cannot be redeemed from the power of death and of Satan; the
power is wanting in you, however much you may wish it: death has got
you, and it will keep you for ever." So that, in this way, sickness or
weakness of the soul is very like sickness or weakness of the body. We
cannot help being ill or weak in many cases: is that any reason why,
according to the laws of God's providence, we should not suffer the pain
of illness? Or is it not, rather, clear that we suffer it just because
we have not the power to get rid of it; if we had the power to be well,
we should be well. A man's evils are not gone because he wishes them
away; it is not he who would fain see his chains broken, that escapes
from his bondage; but he who has the strength to rend them asunder.

Thus, then, in St. Paul's language, "Ye cannot do the things that ye
would," means exactly, "Ye are not redeemed, but in bondage; ye are not
saved, but lost." But he goes on to the reason why we cannot do the
things which we would, which is, "because the flesh and the Spirit are
contrary to one another," and pull us, as it were, different ways. Just
as we might say of a man in illness, that the reason why he is not well,
as he wishes to be, is because his healthy nature and his disease are
contrary to one another, and are striving within him for the mastery.
His blood, according to its healthy nature, would flow calmly and
steadily; his food, according to his healthy nature, would be received
with appetite, and would give him nourishment and strength; but, behold,
there is in him now another nature, contrary to his healthy nature: and
this other nature makes his blood flow with feverish quickness, and
makes food distasteful to him, and makes the food which he has eaten
before to become, as it were, poison; it does not nourish him or
strengthen, but is a burden, a weakness, and a pain. As long as these
two natures thus struggle within him, the man is sick; as soon as the
diseased nature prevails, the man sinks and dies. He does not wish to
die,--not at all,--most earnestly, it may be, does he wish to live; but
his diseased nature has overcome his healthy nature, and so he must die.
If he would live, in any sense that deserves to be called life, the
diseased nature must not overcome, must not struggle equally; it must be
overcome, it must be kept down, it must be rendered powerless; and then,
when the healthy nature has prevailed, its victory is health
and strength.

So far all is alike; but what follows afterwards? As "ye cannot do the
things which ye would, because the flesh and the Spirit are contrary to
one another,"--what then? "Therefore," says the apostle, "walk in the
Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh." Surely there is
some thing marvellous in this. For, let us speak the same language to
the sick man: tell him, "Follow thy healthy nature, and them shalt not
be sick," what would the words be but a bitter mockery? "How can you bid
me," he would say, "to follow my healthy nature, when ye know that my
diseased nature has bound me? Have ye no better comfort than this to
offer me? Tell me rather how I may become able to follow my healthy
nature; show me the strength which may help my weakness; or else your
words are vain, and I never can recover." Most true would be this
answer; and therefore disease and death do make havoc of us all, and the
healthy nature is in the end borne down by the diseased nature, and
sooner or later the great enemy triumphs over us, and, in spite of all
our wishes and fond desires for life, we go down, death's conquered
subjects, to the common grave of all living.

This happens to the bodies of us all; to the souls of only too many. But
why does it not happen also to the souls of all? How is it that some do
fulfil the apostle's bidding? that they do walk in the Spirit, and
therefore do not fulfil the lusts of the flesh; and therefore having
conquered their diseased nature, they do walk according to their
healthful nature, and are verily able to do, and do continually, the
very things that they would? Surely this so striking difference, between
the universal conquest of our diseased nature in the body, and the
occasional victory of the healthy nature in the soul, shows us clearly
that for the soul there has appeared a Redeemer already, while for the
body the redemption is delayed till death shall be swallowed up
in victory.

For most true is it that in ourselves we could not deliver ourselves
either soul or body. "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the
lusts of the flesh," might have been as cruel a mockery to us, as the
similar words addressed to the man bodily sick,--"Walk according to thy
healthy nature, and thou shalt not suffer from disease." They might have
been a mockery, but blessed be God, they are not. They are not, because
God has given us a Redeemer; they are not, because Christ has died, yea
rather has risen again; and because the Spirit of Christ helpeth our
infirmities, and gives us that power which by ourselves we had not.

Not by wishing then to be redeemed, but by being redeemed, shall we
escape the power of death. Not by saying, "Alas! we cannot do the things
that we would!" but by becoming able to do them. Walk in the Spirit, and
ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh; but if ye do fulfil them,
ye must die.

The power to walk in the Spirit is given by the Spirit; but either all
have not this power, or all do not use it. I think rather it is that all
have it not, for if they had it, a power so mighty and so beneficent,
they surely could not help using it. All have it not; but I do not say
that they all might not have it; on the contrary, all might have it, but
in point of fact they have it not. They have it not because they seek it
not: for an idle wish is one thing; a steady persevering pursuit is
another. They seek not the Spirit by the appointed means, the means of
prayer and attending to God's holy word, and thinking of life and death
and judgment.

Do those seek the spirit of God who never pray to God? Clearly they do
not. For they who never pray to God never think of Him; they who never
think of Him, by the very force of the terms it follows that they cannot
seek his help. And yet they say, "Oh, I wish to be good, but I cannot!"
But this, in the language of the Scripture, is a lie. If they did wish
to be good they would seek the help that could make them so. There is no
boy so young as not to know that, when temptation is on him to evil,
prayer to God will strengthen him for good. As sure as we live, if he
wished really to overcome the temptation, he would seek the strength.

Consider what prayer is, and see how it cannot but strengthen us. He who
stands in a sheltered place, where the wind cannot reach him, and with
no branches over his head to cause a damp shade, and then holds up his
face or his hands to the sun, in his strength, can he help feeling the
sun's warmth? Now, thus it is in prayer: we turn to God, we bring our
souls, with all their thoughts and feelings, fully before Him; and by
the very act of so doing, we shelter ourselves from every chill of
worldly care, we clear away every intercepting screen of worldly thought
and pleasure. It is an awful thing so to submit ourselves wholly to the
influence of God. But do it; and as surely as the sun will warm us if we
stand in the sun, so will the Giver of light and life to the soul pour
his Spirit of life into us; even as we pray, we become changed into
his image.

This is not spoken extravagantly. I ask of any one who has ever prayed
in earnest, whether for that time, and while he was so praying, he did
not feel, as it were, another man; a man able to do the things which he
would; a man redeemed and free. But most true is it that this feeling
passes away but too soon, when the prayer is done. Still for the time,
there is the effect; we know what it is to put ourselves, in a manner,
beneath the rays of God's grace; but we do not abide there long, and
then we feel the damp and the cold of earth again.

Therefore says the Apostle, "Pray without ceasing." If we could
literally pray always, it is clear that we should sin never: it may be
thus that Christ's redeemed, at his coming, as they will be for ever
with him and with the Father, can therefore sin no more. For where God
is, there is no place left for sin. But we cannot pray always: we cannot
pray the greatest portion of our time; nay, we can pray, in the common
sense of the term, only a very small portion of it. Yet, at least, we
can take heed that we do pray sometimes, and that our prayer be truly in
earnest. We can pray then for God's help to abide with us when we are
not praying: we can commit to his care, not only our hours of sleep, but
our hours of worldly waking. "I have work to do, I have a busy world
around me; eye, ear, and thought will be all needed for that work, done
in and amidst that busy world; now, ere I enter upon it, I would commit
eye, ear, thought and wish to Thee. Do thou bless them, and keep their
work thine; that as, through thy natural laws, my heart beats and my
blood flows without my thought for them, so my spiritual life may hold
on its course, through, thy help, at those times when my mind cannot
consciously turn to Thee to commit each particular thought to
thy service."

But I dare not say that by any the most urgent prayers, uttered only at
night and morning, God's blessing can thus be gained for the whole
intervening day. For, in truth, if we did nothing more, the prayers
would soon cease to be urgent; they would become formal, that is, they
would be no prayers at all. For prayer lives in the heart, and not in
the mouth; it consists not of words, but wishes. And no man can set
himself heartily to wish twice a day for things, of which he never
thinks at other times in the day. So that prayer requires in a manner to
be fed, and its food is to be found in reading and thinking; in reading
God's word, and in thinking about him, and about the world as being
his work.

Young men and boys are generally, we know, not fond of reading for its
own sake; and when they do read for their own pleasure, they naturally
read something that interests them. Now, what are called serious books,
including certainly the Bible, do not interest them, and therefore they
are not commonly read. What shall we say, then? Are they not interested
in becoming good, in learning to do the things which, they would? If
they are not, if they care not for the bondage of sin and death, there
is, of course, nothing to be said; then they are condemned already; they
are not the children of God. But one says, "I wish I could find interest
in a serious book, but I cannot." Observe again, "Ye cannot do the
things that ye would," because the flesh and the Spirit are contrary to
one another. However, to return to him who says this, the answer to him
is this,--"The interest cannot come without the reading; it may and
will come with it." For interest in a subject depends very much on our
knowledge of it; and so it is with, the things of Christ. As long as the
life and death of Christ are strange to us, how can we be interested
about them? but read them, thinking of what they were, and what were
their ends, and who can help being interested about them? Read them
carefully, and read them often, and they will bring before our minds the
very thoughts which we need, and which the world keeps continually from
us, the thoughts which naturally feed our prayers; thoughts not of self,
nor selfishness, nor pleasure, nor passion, nor folly, but of such
things as are truly God's--love, and self-denial, and purity, and
wisdom. These thoughts come by reading the Scriptures; and strangely do
they mingle at first with the common evil thoughts of our evil nature.
But they soon find a home within us, and more good thoughts gather round
them, and there comes a time when daily life with its various business,
which, once seemed to shut them out altogether, now ministers to their

Wherefore, in conclusion, walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil
the lusts of the flesh; but do even the things which ye would. And ye
can walk in the Spirit, if ye seek for the Spirit; if ye seek him by
prayer, and by reading of Christ, and the things of Christ. If we will
do neither, then most assuredly we are not seeking him; if we seek him
not, we shall never find him. If we find him not, we shall never be able
to do the things that we would; we shall never be redeemed, never made
free, but our souls shall be overcome by their evil nature, as surely as
our bodies by their diseased nature; till one death shall possess us
wholly, a death of body and of soul, the death of eternal misery.


* * * * *

LUKE xiv. 33.

_Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot
be my disciple_.

In order to show that these words were not spoken to the apostles alone,
but to all Christians, we have only to turn to the 25th and 26th verses,
which run thus:--"And there went great multitudes with him, and he
turned and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his
father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea
and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." The words were not,
then, spoken to the twelve apostles only, as if they contained merely
some rule of extraordinary piety, which was not to be required of common
Christians; they were spoken to a great multitude; they were spoken to
warn all persons in that multitude that not one of them could become a
Christian, unless he gave himself up to Christ body and soul. Thus
declaring that there is but one rule for all; a rule which the highest
Christian can never go beyond; and which the lowest, if he would be a
Christian at all, must make the foundation of his whole life.

Now take the words, either of the text or of the 26th verse, and is it
possible to avoid seeing that, on the very lowest interpretation, they
do insist upon a very high standard; that they do require a very entire
and devoted obedience? Is it possible for any one who believes what
Christ has said, to rest contented, either for himself or for others,
with that very low and very unchristian standard which he sees and knows
to prevail generally in the world? Is it possible for him not to wish,
for himself and for all in whose welfare he is interested, that they may
belong to the small minority in matters of principle and practice,
rather than to the large majority?

And because he so wishes, one who endeavours to follow Christ sincerely
can never be satisfied with the excuse that he acts and thinks quite as
well as the mass of persons about him; it can never give him comfort,
with regard to any judgment or practice, to be told, in common language,
"Everybody thinks so; everybody does so." If, indeed, this expression
"everybody" might be taken literally; if it were quite true, without any
exception, that "everybody thought or did so;" then I grant that it
would have a very great authority; so great that it would be almost a
mark of madness to run counter to it. For what all men, all without a
single exception, were to agree in, must be some truth which the human
mind could not reject without insanity,--like the axioms of science, or
some action which if we did not we could not live, as sleeping and
eating; or if there be any moral point so universally agreed upon, then
it must be something exceedingly general: as, for instance, that truth
is in itself to be preferred to falsehood; which to dispute would be
monstrous. But, once admit a single exception, and the infallible virtue
of the rule ceases. I can conceive one single good and wise man's
judgment and practice, requiring, at any rate, to be carefully attended
to, and his reasons examined, although millions upon millions stood
against him. But go on with the number of exceptions, and bring the
expression "everybody," to its real meaning, which is only "most
persons," "the great majority of the world;" then the rule becomes of
no virtue at all, but very often the contrary. If in matters of morals
many are on one side and some on the other, it is impossible to
pronounce at once which are most likely to be right: it depends on the
sort of case on which the difference exists; for the victories of truth
and of good are but partial. It is not all truth that triumphs in the
world, nor all good; but only truth and good up to a certain point. Let
them once pass this point, and their progress pauses. Their followers,
in the mass, cannot keep up with them thus far: fewer and fewer are
those who still press on in their company, till at last even these fail;
and there is a perfection at which they are deserted by all men, and are
in the presence of God and of Christ alone.

Thus it is that, up to a certain point, in moral matters the majority
are right; and thus Christ's gospel, in a great many respects, goes
along with public opinion, and the voice of society is the voice of
truth. But this, to use the expression of our Lord's parable, this is
but half the height of that tower whose top should reach unto heaven.
Christianity ascends a great deal higher; and therefore so many who
begin to build are never able to finish. Christ's disciples and the
world's disciples work for a certain way together; and thus far the
world's disciples call themselves Christ's, and so Christ's followers
seem to be a great majority. But Christ warns us expressly that we are
not his disciples merely by going a certain way on the same road with
them. They only are His, who follow Him to the end. They only are His,
who follow him in spite of everything, who leave all rather than leave
him. For the rest, He does not own them. What the world can give they
may enjoy; but Christ's kingdom is shut against them.

Speaking, then, according to Christ's judgment, and we must hold those
to be of the world, and not of Him,--and therefore in God's judgment, to
be the evil and not the good,--who do not make up their minds to live in
His service, and to refer their actions, words, and thoughts to His
will. Who these are it is very true that we many times cannot know: only
we may always fear that they are the majority of society; and therefore
we are rather anxious in any individual's case to get a proof that he is
not one of them, because, as they are very many, there is always a sort
of presumption that any given person is of this number, unless there is
some evidence, or some presumption at any rate, for thinking
the contrary.

When we speak, then, of the good and of the evil side in human life, in
any society, whether smaller or larger,--this is what we mean, or should
mean. The evil side contains much that is, up to a certain point, good:
the good side,--for does it not consist of human beings?--contains,
unhappily, much in it that is evil. Not all in the one is to be
avoided,--far from it; nor is all in the other by any means to be
followed. But still those are called evil in God's judgment who live
according to their own impulses, or according to the law of the society
around them; and those are to be called good, who, in their principles,
whatever may be the imperfections of their practice, endeavour in all
things to live according to the will of Christ.

And in this view the characters of Jacob and Esau are, as it seems to
me, full of instruction; and above all to us here. For I have often
observed that the early age of an individual bears a great resemblance
to the early age of the human race, or of any particular nation; so that
the characters of the Old Testament are often more suited, in a
Christian country, for the instruction of the young than for those of
more advanced years. To Christian men, looking at Jacob's life, with the
faults recorded of it, it is sometimes strange that he should be spoken
of as good. But it seems that in a rude state of society, where
knowledge is very low, and passion very strong, the great virtue is to
be freed from the dominion of the prevailing low principle, to see and
resolve that we ought and will live according to knowledge, and not
according to passion or impulse. The knowledge may be very imperfect,
and probably is so: the practice may in many respects offend against
knowledge, and probably will do so: yet is a great step taken; it is
_the_ virtue of man, in such a state of society, to follow, though
imperfectly, principle, where others follow instinct, or the opinion of
their fellows. It is the great distinguishing mark, in such a state of
things, between the good and the evil; for this reason, amongst many
others, that it is the virtue, under such, circumstances, of the hardest

Now, the Scripture judgment of Jacob and Esau, should be in an especial
manner the basis of our judgment with regard to the young. None can
doubt, that amongst the young, when they form a society of their own,
the great temptation is to live by impulse, or according to the opinion
of those around them. It is like a light breaking in upon darkness, when
a young person is led to follow a higher standard, and to live according
to God's will. Esau, in his faults and amiable points alike, is the very
image of the prevailing character amongst boys; sometimes violently
revengeful, as when Esau looked forward with satisfaction to the
prospect of his father's death, because then we should be able to slay
his brother Jacob; sometimes full of generosity, as when Esau forgot all
his grounds of complaint against his brother, and received him on his
return from Mesopotamia with open arms;--but habitually careless, and
setting the present before the future, the lower gratification before
the higher, as when Esau sold his birth-right for a mess of pottage. And
the point to be noted is, that, because of this carelessness, this
profaneness or ungodliness, as it is truly called in the New Testament,
Esau is distinguished from those who were God's people; the promises
were not his, nor yet the blessing. This is remarkable, because Esau's
faults, undoubtedly were just the faults of his age: he was no worse
than the great majority of those around him; he lived as we should say,
in our common language, that it was natural for him to live. He had,
therefore, precisely all those excuses which are commonly urged for the
prevailing faults of boys; yet it is quite certain that the Scripture
holds him out as a representative of those who were not on the side
of God,

If the Scripture has so judged of Esau and Jacob, it must be the model
for our judgments of those whose circumstances, on account of their
belonging to a society consisting wholly of persons young in age,
greatly resemble the circumstances of the early society of the world. I
lay the stress on the belonging to a society wholly formed of young
persons; for the case of young persons brought up at home, is extremely
different; and their circumstances would be best suited by a different
scriptural example. But here, with you, I am quite sure that the great
distinguishing mark between good and evil, is the endeavouring, or not
endeavouring, to rise above the carelessness of the society of which you
are members; the determining, or not determining, to judge of things by
another rule than that of school morality or honour; the trying, or not
trying, to please God, instead of those around you: for the notions and
maxims of a society of young persons are like the notions and maxims of
men in a half-civilized age, a strange mixture of right and wrong; or
rather wrong in their result, although with some right feeling in them,
and therefore as a guide, false and mischievous. That it is natural to
follow these maxims, is quite obvious: they are the besetting sin of
your particular condition; and it is always according to our corrupt
nature to follow our besetting sin. It is quite natural that you should
be careless, profane, mistaking evil for good, and good for evil; but
salvation is not for those who follow their nature, but for those in
whom God's grace has overcome its evil; it is for those, in Christ's
language, who take up their cross and follow him; that is, for those who
struggle against their evil nature, that they may gain a better nature,
and be born, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit of God.

What is to be said to this? or what qualification, or compromise, is to
be made in it? The words of the text will authorize us, at any rate, to
make none: their language is not that of indulgent allowance; but it is
a call, a loud and earnest, even a severe, call, it may be, in the
judgment of our evil nature,--to shake off the weight that hangs about
us; to deliver our hearts from the dominion of that which cannot profit,
and to submit them to Christ alone. This is God's judgment, this is
Christ's word; and we cannot and dare not qualify it. They are evil, for
God and Christ declare it, who judge and live after the maxims of the
society around them, and not after Christ; they are evil who are
careless; they are evil who live according to their own blind and
capricious feelings, now hot, now cold; they are evil who call evil
good, and good evil, because they have not known the Father nor Christ.
This, and nothing less, we say, lest we should be found false witnesses
of God: but if this language, which is that of Scripture, seem harsh, to
any one, oh! let him remember how soon he may change it into the
language of the most abundant mercy, of the tenderest love; that if he
calls upon God, God is ready to hear; that if he seeks to know and to do
God's will, God will be found by him, and will strengthen him; that it
is true kindness not to disguise from him his real danger, but earnestly
to conjure him to flee from it, and to offer our humblest prayers to
God, for him and ourselves, that our judgments and our practice may be
formed only after his example.


* * * * *

1 TIMOTHY i. 9.

_The law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and
disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy
and profane_.

These words explain the meaning of a great many passages in St. Paul's
Epistles, in which also he speaks of the law, and of not being under the
law, and other such expressions. And it is clear also, that he is not
speaking solely, or chiefly, or, in any considerable degree, of the
ceremonial law; but much more of the law of moral good, the law which
told men how they ought to live, and how they ought not. This law, he
says, is not made for good men, but for evil: a thing so plain, that we
may well wonder how any could ever have misunderstood it. It is so
manifest, that strict rules are required, just exactly in proportion to
our inability or want of will to rule ourselves; it is so very plain,
that, with regard to those crimes which we are under no temptation to
commit, we feel exactly as if there were no law. Which of us ever
thinks, as a matter of personal concern, of the law which sentences to
death murderers, or housebreakers, or those who maliciously set fire to
their neighbours' property? Do we not feel that, as far as our own
conduct is concerned, it would be exactly the same thing if no such law
were in existence? We should no more murder, or rob, or set fire to
houses and barns, if the law were wholly done away, than we do now that
it is in force.

There are, then, some points in which we feel practically that we are
not under the law, but dead to it; that the law is not made for us: but
do we think, therefore, that we may murder, and rob, and burn? or do we
not rather feel that such a notion would be little short of madness? We
are not under the law, because we do not need it; not because there is
in reality no law to punish us if we do need it. And just of this kind
is that general freedom from the law, of which St. Paul speaks, as the
high privilege of true Christians.

But yet St. Paul would not at all mean that any Christian is altogether
without the law: that is, that there are no points at all in which his
inclination is not to evil, and in which, therefore, he needs the fear
of God to restrain him from it. When he says of himself, that he kept
under his body lest that by any means he should become a castaway; just
so far as this fear of being a castaway possessed him, that is, just so
far as there were any evil tendencies in him, which required him to keep
them under by an effort, just so far was he under the law. And this is
so, as we full well know, with us all; for as there is none of us in
whom sin is utterly dead, so neither can there be any of us who is
altogether dead to the law.

Yet, although this be so, there is no doubt that the gospel wishes to
consider us as generally dead to the law, in order that we really may
become so continually more and more. It supposes that the Spirit of God,
presenting to our minds the sight of God's love in Christ, sets us free
from the law of sin and death; that is, that a sense of thankfulness to
God, and love of God and of Christ, will be so strong a motive, that we
shall, generally speaking, need no other; that it will so work upon us,
as to make us feel good, easy, and delightful, and thus to become dead
to the law. And there is no doubt also, that that same freedom from the
law, which we ourselves experience daily, in respect of some particular
great crimes, (for, as I said, we do not feel that it is the fear of the
law which keeps us from murder or from robbing,) that very same freedom
is felt by good men in many other points, where it may be that we
ourselves do not feel it. A common instance may be given with respect to
prayer, and the outward worship of God. There are a great many who feel
this as a duty; but there are many also to whom it is not so much a
duty, as a privilege and a pleasure; and these are dead to the law which
commands us to be instant in prayer, just as we, in general, are dead to
the law which commands us to do no murder.

This being understood, it will be perfectly plain, why St. Paul, along
with all his language as to the law being passed away, and our being
become dead to it, yet uses, very frequently, language of another kind,
which shows that the law is not dead in itself, but lives, and ever will
live. He says, "We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ,
that every one may receive according to what he has done in the body."
And he adds, "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade
men." But the judgment, and the terror of the Lord, mean precisely what
are meant by the law. And this language of St. Paul shows more clearly,
that, unless we are first dead to the law, the law is not, and never
will be dead to us.

I should not have thought it useless, to have offered merely this
explanation of a language, which is very common in the New Testament,
which, forms one of its characteristic points, (for St. John's
expression of "Perfect love casteth out fear," is exactly equivalent to
St. Paul's, "That we are dead to the law,") and which has been often
misunderstood, or misrepresented. But yet I am well aware, that mere
explanations of Scripture cannot be expected to interest those to whom
Scripture is not familiar. The answer to a riddle would be very soon
forgotten, unless the riddle had first at once amused and puzzled us.
Just so, explanations of Scripture, to be at all valued, must suppose a
previous knowledge of, and desire to understand, the difficulty; and
this we cannot expect to find in very young persons. Thus far, then,
what I have said has been necessarily addressed, I do not say, or mean,
to the oldest part of my hearers only, but yet to the older, and more
considering part of them. But the subject is capable, I think, of being
brought much more closely home to us; for what St. Paul says of the law,
with reference to all mankind, is precisely that state of mind which one
would wish to see here; and the mistakes of his meaning are just such as
are often prevalent, and are likely to do great mischief, with regard to
the motives to be appealed to in education.

Now, what is the case in the Scripture? Men had been subject to a strict
law of rewards and punishments, appealing directly to their hopes, and
to their fears. The gospel offered itself to them, as a declaration of
God's love to them; so wonderful, that it seemed as though it could not
but excite them to love him in return. It also raised their whole
nature; their understandings, no less than their affections; and thus
led them to do God's will, from another and higher feeling than they had
felt heretofore; to do it, not because they must, but because they loved
it. And to such as answered to this heavenly call, God laid aside, if I
may venture so to speak, all his terrors; he showed himself to them only
as a loving father, between whom and his children there was nothing but
mutual affection; who would be loved by them, and love them forever. But
to those who answered not to it, and far more, who dared to abuse it;
who thought that God's love was weakness; that the liberty to which they
were called, was the liberty of devils, the liberty of doing evil as
they would; to all such, God was still a consuming fire, and their most
merciful Saviour himself was a judge to try their very hearts and reins;
in short, the gospel was to them, not salvation, but condemnation; it
awakened not the better, but the baser parts of their nature; it did not
do away, but doubled their guilt, and therefore brought upon them, and
will bring through all eternity, a double measure of punishment.

Now all this applies exactly to that earlier and, as it were,
preparatory life, which ends not in death, but in manhood. The state of
boyhood begins under a law. It is a great mistake to address always the
reason of a child, when you ought rather to require his obedience. Do
this, do not do that; if you do this, I shall love you; if you do not, I
shall punish you;--such is the state, most clearly a state of law, under
which we are, and must be, placed at the beginning of education. But we
should desire and endeavour to see this state of law succeeded by
something better; we should desire so to unfold the love of Christ as to
draw the affections towards him; we should desire so to raise the
understanding as that it may fasten itself, by its own native tendrils,
round the pillar of truth, without requiring to be bound to it by
external bands. We should avoid all unnecessary harshness; we should
speak and act with all possible kindness; because love, rather than
fear, love both of God and man, is the motive which we particularly wish
to awaken. Thus, keeping punishment in the background and, as it were,
out of sight, and putting forward encouragement and kindness, we should
attract, as it were, the good and noble feelings of those with, whom we
are dealing, and invite them to open, and to answer to, a system of
confidence and kindness, rather than risk the chilling and hardening
them by a system of mistrust and severity.

And for those who do answer to this call, how really true is it that
they do soon become dead, in great measure, to the law of the place
where they are living! How little do they generally feel its restraints,
or its tasks, burdensome! How very little have they to do with its
punishments! Led on by degrees continually higher and higher, their
relations with us become more and more relations of entire confidence
and kindness; and when at last their trial is over, and they pass from
this first life, as I have ventured to call it, into their second life
of manhood, how beautifully are they ripened for that state! how
naturally do all the restraints of this first life fall away, like the
mortal body of the perfected Christian; and they enter upon the full
liberty of manhood, fitted at once to enjoy and to improve it!

But observe, that St. Paul does not suppose even the best Christian to
be without the law altogether: there will ever be some points in which
he will need to remember it. And so it is unkindness, rather than
kindness, and a very mischievous mistake, to forget that here, in this
our preparatory life, the law cannot cease altogether with any one; that
it is not possible to find a perfect sense and feeling of right existing
in every action; nay, that it is even unreasonable to seem to expect it.
Little faults, little irregularities, there always will be, with which
the law is best fitted to deal; which should be met, I mean, by a system
of rules and of punishments, not severe, certainly, nor one at all
inconsistent with general respect, kindness, and confidence; but which
check the particular faults alluded to better, I think, than could be
done by seeming to expect of the individual that he should, in all such
cases, be a law to himself. There is a possibility of our over-straining
the highest principles, by continually appealing to them on very
trifling occasions. It is far better, here, to apply the system of the
law; to require obedience to rules, as a matter of discipline; to visit
the breach of them by moderate punishment, not given in anger, not at
all inconsistent with general confidence and regard, but gently
reminding us of that truth which we may never dare wholly to
forget,--that punishment will exist eternally so long as there is evil,
and that the only way of remaining for ever entirely strangers to it, is
by adhering for ever and entirely to good.

This applies to every one amongst us; and is the reason why rules,
discipline, and punishments, however much they may be, and are, kept in
the background for such, as have become almost wholly dead to them, must
yet continue in existence, because none are, or can be, dead to them
altogether. But now, suppose that we have a nature to deal with, which,
cannot answer to a system of kindness, but abuses it; which, when
punishment is kept at a distance, rejoices, as thinking that it may
follow evil safely; a nature not to be touched by the love of God or
man, not to be guided by any perception of its own as to what is right
and true. Is the law dead really to such as these? or should it be so?
Is punishment a degradation to a nature which, is so self-degraded as to
be incapable of being moved by anything better? For this is the real
degradation which we should avoid; not the fear of punishment, which is
not at all degrading, but the being insensible to the love of Christ and
of goodness; and so being capable of receiving no other motive than the
fear of punishment alone. With such natures, to withhold punishment,
would be indeed to make Christ the minister of sin; to make mercy, that
is, lead to evil, and not to good. For them, the law never is dead, and
never will be. Here, of course, in this first life, as I have called it,
punishment indeed goes but a little way: it is very easy for a hardened
nature to defy all that could be laid upon it here in the way of actual
compulsion. Our only course is to cut short the time of trial, when we
find a nature in whom that trial cannot end in good. Still there may be
those in whom this life here, like their greater life which shall last
for ever, will have far more to do with punishment than with kindness;
they will be living all their time under the law. Continue this to our
second life, and the law then will be no less alive, and they will never
be dead to it, nor will it be ever dead to them. And however a hardened
nature may well despise the punishments of its first life,--punishments,
whose whole object is correction, and not retribution,--yet, where is
the nature so hard as to endure, in its relations with God, to feel more
of his punishment than of his mercy; to know him for ever as a God of
judgment, and not as a Father of love?


* * * * *

ST. LUKE xxi. 36.

_Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy
to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before
the Son of Man_.

This might be a text for a history of the Christian Church, from its
foundation to this hour, or to the latest hour of the world's existence.
We might observe how it Lad fulfilled its Lord's command; with what
steadiness it had gone forward on its course, with the constant hope of
meeting Him once again in glory. We might see how it had escaped all
these things that were to come to pass: tracing its course amidst the
manifold revolutions of the world, inward and outward. In the few words,
"all these things that shall come to pass," are contained all the events
of the last eighteen hundred years: indistinct and unknown to us, as
long as they are thus folded up together; but capable of being unrolled
before our eyes in a long order, in which should be displayed all the
outward changes of nations, the spread of discovery, the vicissitudes of
conquest; and yet more, the inward changes of men's minds, the various
schools of philosophy, the successive forms of public opinion, the
influences of various races, all the manifold elements by which the
moral character of the Christian world has been affected. We might
observe how the Church had escaped all these things, or to what degree
it had received from any of them good or evil. And then, stopping at
the point at which it has actually arrived, we might consider how far it
deserves the character of that Church, "without spot, or wrinkle, or any
such thing," which should be presented before the Son of Man at his
coming again.

This would be a great subject; and one, if worthily executed, full of
the deepest instruction to us all. But our Lord's words may also be made
the text for a history or inquiry of another sort, far less
comprehensive in time and space, far less grand, far less interesting to
the understanding; yet, on the other hand, capable of being wrought out
far more completely, and far more interesting to the spiritual and
eternal welfare of each of us. They may be made the text for an inquiry
into the course hitherto held, not by the Church as a body, but by each
of us individual members of it; an inquiry how far we, each of us, have
watched and prayed always, that we might be accounted worthy to escape
all the things which should come to pass, and to stand before the Son of
Man. And, in this view of the words, the expression "all these things
which shall come to pass" has reference no longer to great political
revolutions, nor to schools of philosophy, nor to prominent points of
national character; but to those humbler events, to those lesser
changes, outward and inward, through which we each, pass between our
cradle and our grave. How have we escaped these, or turned them to good
account? Have earthly things so ministered to our eternal welfare, that
if we were each one of us, by a stroke from heaven, cut off at that very
point in our course to which we have severally attained this day, we
should be accounted worthy to stand before the Son of Man?

Here is, indeed, a very humble history for us each to study; yet what
other history can concern us so nearly? And as, in the history of the
world, experience in part supplies the place of prophecy, and the fate
of one nation is in a manner a mirror to another, so in our individual
history, the experience of the old is a lesson to the middle-aged, and
that of the middle-aged a lesson to the young. If you wish to know what
are the things which shall come to pass with respect to you, we can draw
aside the veil from your coming life, because what you will be is no
other than what we are. If we would go onwards, in like manner, and ask
what are the things which shall come to pass with respect to us, our
coming life may be seen in the past and present life of the old; for
what we shall be is no other than what they have been, or than what
they are.

Let us take, then, the actual moment with, each of us, and suppose that
our Lord speaks to each of us as he did to his first disciples: "Watch
and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these
things which shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man." We
ask, naturally, "What are the things which shall come to pass?" and it
is to this question that I am to try to suggest the answer.

Those arrived at middle age may ask the question, "What are the things
which shall come to pass to us?" Now, setting aside extraordinary
accidents, on which we cannot reckon, and the answer would, I think, be
something of this sort: There will not come to pass, it is likely, any
great change in our condition or employment in life. In middle age our
calling, with all the duties which it involves, must generally be fixed
for each of us. Our particular kind of trial will not, it is probable,
be much altered. We must not, as in youth, fancy that, although our
actual occupation does not suit us, although its temptations are often
too strong for us, yet a change may take place to another line of duty,
and the temptations in that new line may be less formidable. In middle
age it will not do to indulge such fond hopes as these. On the contrary,
our hope must lie, not in escape, but in victory. If our temptations
press us hard, we cannot expect to have them exchanged for others less
powerful: they will remain with us, and we must overcome them, or
perish. Have we tastes not fully reconciled to our calling,--faculties
which seem not to have found their proper field? We must seek our remedy
not from without, humanly speaking, but from within: we must discipline
ourselves; we must teach our tastes to cling gracefully around that duty
to which else they must be helplessly fastened. If any faculties appear
not to have found their proper field, we must think that God has, for
certain wise reasons, judged it best for us that they should not be
exercised; and we must be content to render him the service of others.
In this respect, then, the immediate prospect for middle age is not so
much change as steadfastness. Fortune will not suit herself to our
wishes: we must learn to suit our wishes to her.

But go on a little farther, and what are the things which must come to
pass then? A new and most solemn interest arising to us in the entrance
of our children into active life. Hitherto they have lived under our
care, and our duty to them was simple; but now there comes the choice of
a profession, the watching and guiding them, as well as we can, at this
critical moment of their course. What cares await us here; and yet what
need of avoiding over care! What a trial for us, how we value our
children's worldly interests when compared with their eternal--whether
we prefer for them the path which may lead most readily to worldly
wealth and honour, or that in, which they may best and safest follow
Christ! This is a danger which will come to pass to us ere long: do we
watch and pray that we may be delivered from it?

The interest of life, which had, perhaps, something begun to fade for
ourselves, will revive with vigour at this period in behalf of our
children; but after this it will go on steadily ebbing. What life can
offer we have tasted for ourselves; we have seen it tasted, or in the
way to be tasted, by them. The harvest is gathered, and the symptoms of
the fall appear. Is it that some faculty becomes a little impaired, some
taste a little dulled; or is it that the friends and companions of our
life are beginning to drop away from us? Long since, those whom we loved
of the generation before us have been gathered to the grave; now those
of our own generation are falling fast also--brothers, sisters, friends
of our early youth, a wife, a husband. We are surrounded by a younger
generation, to whom the half of our lives, with all their recollections
and sympathies, are a thing unknown. Impatience, weariness, a clinging
to the past, a vain wish to prolong it in an earthly future,--these are
the things which shall befal us then: and they will befal us too surely,
and too irresistibly, unless, by earlier watchfulness and prayer, we may
have been enabled to avoid them. For vain will it be, with faculties at
once weakened by the decay of nature and perverted by long habits of
worldliness, to essay, for the first time, to force our way into the
kingdom of heaven. Old age is not the season for contest and victory;
nor shall we then be so able to escape unharmed from the temptations of
life as to stand before the Son of Man.

These are the things which will come to pass for us and for you. But for
you there is much more to come, which to us is not future now, but past
or present. With you, for a time, it will be all a course forwards and
upwards. From the preparation for life, you will come to the reality;
from a state of less importance, you will be passing on to one of
greater. Your temptations, whatever they may be now, will not certainly
become weaker. As outward restraint is more and more taken off from you,
so your need of inward restraint will be greater. Will those who are
extravagant now on a small scale, be less extravagant on a large scale?
Will those who are selfish now, become less selfish amidst a wider field
of enjoyment? Will those who know not or care not for Christ, while yet,
as it were, standing quietly on the shore, be led to think of him more
amidst the excitement of the first setting sail, amidst the interest of
the first newly-seen country?

You know not yet, nor can know, the immense importance of that period of
life on which many of you are entering, or have just entered. You are
coming, or come, to what may be called the second beginning of life: to
which, in the common course of things, there will succeed no third.
Ignorance, absence of temptation, the presence of all good impressions,
constitute much of the innocence of mere childhood,--so beautiful while
it lasts, so sure to be soon blighted! It is blighted in the first
experience of life, most commonly when a boy first goes to school. Then
his mere innocence, which indeed he may be said to have worn rather
instinctively than by choice, becomes grievously polluted. Then come the
hardness, the coarseness, the intense selfishness; sometimes, too, the
falsehood, the cruelty, the folly of the boy: then comes that period, so
trying to the faith of parents, when all their early care seems blasted;
when the vineyard, which they had fenced so tenderly, seems all
despoiled and trodden under foot. It is indeed a discouraging season,
the exact image of the ungenial springs of our natural year. But after
this there comes, as it were, a second beginning of life, when principle
takes the place of innocence. There is a time,--many of you must have
arrived at it,--when thought and inquiry awaken; when, out of the mere
chaos of boyhood, the elements of the future character of the man begin
to appear. Blessed are they for whom the confusion and disarray of their
boyish life is quickened into a true life by the moving of the Spirit of
God! Blessed are they for whom the beginnings of thought and inquiry are
the beginnings also of faith and love; when the new character receives,
as it is forming, the Christian seed, and the man is also the Christian.
And, then, this second beginning of life, resting on faith and conscious
principle, and not on mere passive innocence, stands sure for the middle

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