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The Teaching of Jesus by George Jackson

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England, but He intended what might be and then was in Galilee, what
should be and now is in England."[30] "Thy kingdom come"--it is here on
earth we must look for the answer to our prayer. And every man who
himself does, and in every possible way strives to get done, God's will
among men, is Christ's co-worker and fellow-builder.

"I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land."

That is the spirit of all the true servants of Jesus.

(3) But the most important fact concerning the kingdom in Christ's view
of it is that it is _spiritual_. And, because it is spiritual, it failed
wholly to satisfy the earth-bound ambitions of the Jews. For generations
they had fed their national pride with visions of a world obedient to
Israel's sway, and when one who claimed to be the Messiah nevertheless
told them plainly that His kingdom was not of this world, they turned
from Him as from one that mocked. He and they both spoke of a kingdom of
God, but while they emphasized the "kingdom" He emphasized "God." So
wholly did men fail to enter into His mind that on one occasion two of
His own disciples came to Him asking that they might sit, one on the
right hand, and one on the left hand in His glory. And even when He was
just about to leave them, and to return to His Father, the old ambitions
still made themselves heard. "Lord," said they, "dost Thou at this time
restore again the kingdom to Israel?" But with all such dreams of
temporal sovereignty Christ would have nothing to do; He had put them
from Him, definitely and for ever, in the Temptation in the wilderness.
He completely reversed the current notions concerning the kingdom.
"Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God cometh, He
answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation;
neither shall they say, Lo, here! or, There! for lo, the kingdom of God
is within you." And when self-complacent religious leaders flattered
themselves that, of course, the first places in the kingdom would be
theirs, He sternly warned them that they might find themselves
altogether shut out while the publicans and harlots whom they despised
were admitted. Through all His teaching Christ laid the emphasis on
character. Pride, and love of power, and sordid ambitions, and all
self-seeking--for these things, and for them that cherished these
things, the kingdom had no place. "Blessed," Christ said, "are the poor
in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." "Except ye turn, and
become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of
heaven." "Whosoever would become great among you, shall be your
minister; and whosoever would be first among you shall be servant of
all"--these are they that are accounted worthy of the kingdom of God.

The earliest account of Christ's preaching which has already been
quoted, gives us the right point of view for the interpretation of
Christ's idea of the kingdom as spiritual: "Jesus came into Galilee,
preaching the gospel of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the
kingdom of God is at hand: Repent ye, and believe in the gospel." He had
come to establish a kingdom whose dominion should be for ever, against
which the gates of hell should not prevail, and the foundation of it He
laid in the penitent and obedient hearts of men. This explains why
Christ had so little to do with programmes, and so much to do with men.
If a man's right to the title of reformer be judged by the magnitude of
the revolution which he has effected, it is but bare justice to call Him
the greatest reformer who ever lived. Yet He put out no programme; He
made Himself the spokesman of no party, the advocate of no social or
political reform. To the disappointment of His friends, as much as to
the confusion of His enemies, He absolutely refused to take sides on the
vexed political questions of the hour. "Unto Caesar," He said, "render
the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's."
But on individuals He spent Himself to the uttermost. "He is not only
indifferent to numbers, but often seems disinclined to deal with
numbers. He sends the multitude away; He goes apart into a mountain with
His chosen disciples; He withdraws Himself from the throng in Jerusalem
to the quiet home in Bethany; He discourses of the profoundest purposes
of His mission with the Twelve in an upper room; He opens the treasures
of His wisdom before one Pharisee at night, and one unresponsive woman
by the well."[31] Always His work is done not by "external organization
or mass-movements or force of numbers," but from within: "Repent ye and
believe in the gospel."

Now, this was the vary last kind of message that the Pharisees of
Christ's day were looking for. They wanted the world put
right--according to their own ideas of right--it is true; but to be told
that they must begin with themselves was not at all what they wanted.
Are not many of us in the same case to-day? We are all eager for
reforms, at least so long as they are from without. We have a touching
faith in the power of machinery and organization. We are quite sure that
if Parliament would only pass this, that, and the other bit of
legislative reform, on which our hearts are set, the millennium would be
here, if not by the morning post, at least by the session's end. And
there is much, undoubtedly, that Parliament can and ought to do for us.
Nevertheless, was not Christ right? Instead of the old prayer, "Create
in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me," some of
us, as one writer says, would rather pray, "Create a better social
order, O God; and renew a right relation between various classes of
men." We are ready to begin anywhere rather than with ourselves, at any
point in the big circumference rather than at the centre. "I don't deny,
my friends," wrote Charles Kingsley to the Chartists, "it is much
cheaper and pleasanter to be reformed by the devil than by God; for God
will only reform society on the condition of our reforming every man his
own self, while the devil is quite ready to help us to mend the laws and
the Parliament, earth and heaven, without ever starting such an
impertinent and 'personal' request as that a man should mend himself."
Yet without self-reform nothing is possible. "The character of the
aggregate," says Herbert Spencer, "is determined by the characters of
the units." And he illustrates thus: Suppose a man building with good,
square, well-burnt bricks; without the use of mortar he may build a wall
of a certain height and stability. But if his bricks are warped and
cracked or broken, the wall cannot be of the same height and stability.
If again, instead of bricks he use cannon-balls then he cannot build a
wall at all; at most, something in the form of a pyramid with a square
or rectangular base. And if, once more, for cannon-balls we substitute
rough, unhewn boulders, no definite stable form is possible. "The
character of the aggregate is, determined by the characters of the
units." Every attempt to reconstruct society which leaves out of account
the character of the men and women who constitute society is foredoomed
to failure. Behind every social problem stands the greater problem of
the individual, the redemption of character. We may get, as assuredly we
ought to get, better houses for the working-classes; but unless we also
get better working-classes for the houses, we shall not have greatly
mended matters. And no turn of the Parliamentary machine will produce
these for us. We can pass new laws; only the grace of God can make new
men. "For my part," says Kingsley once more, speaking through the lips
of his tailor-poet, "I seem to have learnt that the only thing to
regenerate the world is not more of any system, good or bad; but simply
more of the Spirit of God." "_Except a man be born anew, he cannot see
the kingdom of God._"

* * * * *


"Tho' world on world in myriad myriads roll
Round us, each with different powers,
And other forms of life than ours,
What know we greater than the soul?"

* * * * *



"_There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one
sinner that repenteth._"--LUKE XV. 10.

This is one of many sayings of our Lord which reveal His sense of the
infinite worth of the human soul, which is the central fact in His
teaching about man, and the only one with which in the present chapter
we shall be concerned. Other aspects of the truth will come into view in
the following chapter, when we come to consider Christ's teaching about


"The infinite worth of the human soul"--this is a discovery the glory of
which, it is no exaggeration to say, belongs wholly to Christ. It is
said that one of the most magnificent diamonds in Europe, which to-day
blazes in a king's crown, once lay for months on a stall in a piazza at
Rome labelled, "Rock-crystal, price one franc." And it was thus that for
ages the priceless jewel of the soul lay unheeded and despised of men.
Before Christ came, men honoured the rich, and the great, and the wise,
as we honour them now; but man as man was of little or no account. If
one had, or could get, a pedestal by which to lift himself above the
common crowd, he might count for something; but if he had nothing save
his own feet to stand upon, he was a mere nobody, for whom nobody cared.
We turn to the teaching of Jesus, and what a contrast! "Of how much more
value," He said, "are ye than the birds!" "How much then is a man"--not
a rich man, not a wise man, not a Pharisee, but a man--"of more value
than a sheep!" "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole
world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for
his soul?" It was by thought-provoking questions such as these that
Jesus revealed His own thoughts concerning man. And, of course, when He
spoke in this way about the soul, when He said that a man might gain the
whole world, but that if the price he paid for it were his soul, he was
the loser, He was not speaking of the souls of a select few, but of the
souls of all. Every man, every woman, every little child--all were
precious in His sight. It is man as man, Christ taught, that is of worth
to God.

Consider how much is involved in the bare fact that Christ came into the
world the son of a poor mother, and lived in it a poor man. "A man's
life," He said, "consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he
possesseth." And the best commentary on the saying is just His own life;
for He had nothing. There is something very suggestive in Christ's use
of the little possessive pronoun "My." We know how we use the word.
Listen to the rich man in the parable: "My fruits," "my barns," "my
corn," "my goods." Now listen to Christ. He says: "My Father," "My
Church," "My friends," "My disciples"; but He never says "My house," "My
lands," "My books." The one perfect life this earth has seen was the
life of One who owned nothing, and left behind Him nothing but the
clothes He wore. And not only was Christ poor Himself, He spent His life
among the poor. "To believe that a man with L60 a year," Canon Liddon
once said, "is just as much worthy of respect as a man with L6000, you
must be seriously a Christian." You must indeed. Yet that which is for
us so hard never seems to have cost Christ a struggle. We cannot so much
as think of mere money, more or less, counting for anything in His
sight. The little artificial distinctions of society were to Him
nothing, and less than nothing. He went to be guest with a man that was
a sinner. A woman that was a harlot He suffered to wash His feet with
her tears, and to wipe them with her hair. "This man," said His enemies,
with scorn vibrant in every word, "receiveth sinners and eateth with
them." And they were right; but what they counted His deepest shame was
in reality His chiefest glory.

Now, what does all this mean but simply this, that it was for man as man
that Christ cared? Observe the difference in the point at which He and
we become interested in men. We are interested in them, for the most
part, when, by their work, or their wealth, or their fame, they have
added something to themselves; in other words, we become interested when
they become interesting. But that which gave worth to man in Christ's
eyes lay beneath all these merely adventitious circumstances of his
life, in his naked humanity, in what he was, or might be, in himself.
This is why to Him all souls were dear. We love them that love us, the
loving and the lovable; Christ loved the unloving and the unlovable. He
was named, and rightly named, "Friend of publicans and sinners." Then
were bad men of worth to Christ? They were; for, as Tennyson says, "If
there be a devil in man, there is an angel too." Christ saw the possible
angel in the actual devil. He knew that the lost might be found, and the
bad become good, and the prodigal return home; and He loved men, not
only for what they were, but for what they might be.

It would be easy to show that this high doctrine of man underlies, and
is involved in, the whole life and work and teaching of Jesus. It is
involved in the doctrine of God. Indeed, as Dr. Dale says, the Christian
doctrine of man is really a part of the Christian doctrine of God.[32]
Because God is a Father, every man is a son of God, or, rather, every
man has within him the capacity for sonship. It is involved in the
doctrine of the Incarnation; that stupendous fact reveals not only the
condescension of God but the glory and exaltation of man. If God could
become man, there must be a certain kinship between God and man; since
God has become man, our poor human nature has been thereby lifted up and
glorified. The same great doctrine is implied in the truth of Christ's
atonement. When He who knew Himself to be the eternal Son of God spoke
of His own life as the "ransom" for the forfeited lives of men, He
revealed once more how infinite is the worth of that which could be
redeemed only at such tremendous cost.

Such, then, is Christ's teaching about man. And, as I have already said,
it was a new thing in human history. Nowhere is the line which divides
the world B.C. from the world A.D. more sharply defined than here.
Before Christ came, no one dared to say, for no one believed, that the
soul of every man, and still less the soul of every woman and child, was
of worth to God, that even a slave might become a son of the Most High.
But Christ believed it, and Christ said it, and when He said it, the new
world, the world in which we live, began to be. The great difference
between ancient and modern civilizations, one eminent historian has
said, is to be found here, that while ancient civilization cared only
for the welfare of the favoured few, modern civilization seeks the
welfare of all. And when we ask further what has made the difference,
history sends us back for answer to the four Gospels and the teaching of
Jesus concerning the infinite worth of the soul of man.


And now, to bring matters to a practical issue, have we who profess the
faith of Christ learnt to set, either upon others or upon ourselves, the
value which Christ put upon all men? Far as we have travelled from
ancient Greece and Rome, are we not still, in our thoughts about men,
often pagan rather than Christian? Our very speech bewrayeth us, and
shows how little even yet we have learnt to think Christ's thoughts
after Him. He declared, in words which have already been quoted, that "a
man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he
possesseth." Nevertheless, in our daily speech we persist in measuring
men by this very standard; we say that a man "is worth" so much, though,
of course, all that we mean is that he has so much. Again, we allow
ourselves to speak about the "hands" in a factory, as if with the hand
there went neither head nor heart. If we must put a part for the whole,
why should it not be after the fashion of the New Testament? "And there
were added unto them in that day"--so it is written in one place--"about
three thousand souls"--"souls," not "hands."[33] And we may depend upon
it there would be less soulless labour in the world, and fewer men and
women in danger of degenerating into mere "hands," if we would learn to
think of them in Christ's higher and worthier way.

Let me try to show, by two or three examples, how Christ's teaching
about man is needed through all our life.

(1) There was, perhaps, never a time when so many were striving to
fulfil the apostle's injunction, and, as they have opportunity, to do
good unto all men. More and more we busy ourselves to-day with the good
works of philanthropy and Christian charity. And what we must remember
is that our philanthropy needs our theology to sustain it. They only
will continue Christ's work for man who cherish Christ's thoughts about
man. Sever philanthropy from the great Christian ideas which have
created and sustained it, and it will very speedily come to an end of
its resources. All experience shows that philanthropy cut off from
Christ has not capital enough on which to do its business. And the
reason is not far to seek. They who strive to save their fellows, they
who go down into the depths that they may lift men up, see so much of
the darkened under-side of human life, they are brought so close up to
the ugly facts of human baseness, human trickery, human ingratitude,
that, unless there be behind them the staying, steadying power of the
faith and love of Christ, they cannot long endure the strain; they grow
weary in well-doing, perchance even they grow bitter and contemptuous,
and in a little while the tasks they have taken up fall unfinished from
their hands. "Society" takes to "slumming" for a season--just as for
another season it may take to ping-pong--but the fit does not last; and
only they keep on through the long, grey days, when neither sun nor
stars are seen, who have learnt to look on men with the eyes, and to
feel toward them with the heart, of Jesus the Man of Nazareth.

(2) "Whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on Me to
stumble, it is profitable for him that a great mill-stone should be
hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the
sea." Once more is revealed Christ's thought of the worth of the soul.
How the holy passion against him who would hurt "one of these little
ones" glows and scorches in His words! Is this a word for any of us? Is
there one among us who is tempting a brother man to dishonesty, to
drink, to lust; who is pushing some thoughtless girl down the steep and
slippery slope which ends--we know where? Then let him stop and listen,
not to me, but to Christ. Never, I think, did He speak with such solemn,
heart-shaking emphasis, and He says that it were better a man should
die, that he should die this night, die the most miserable and shameful
death, than that he should bring the blood of another's soul upon his
head. It must needs be that occasions of stumbling come, but woe, woe to
that man by whom they come, when he and the slain soul's Saviour shall
stand face to face! Oh, if there be one among us who is playing the
tempter, and doing the devil's work, let him get to his knees, and cry
with the conscience-smitten Psalmist, "Deliver me from blood-guiltiness,
O God, Thou God of my salvation"; and peradventure even yet He may hear
and have mercy.

(3) Let fathers and mothers ponder what this teaching of Jesus
concerning man means for them in relation to their children. There came
into your home a while ago a little child, a gift from God, just such a
babe as Jesus Himself was in His mother's arms in Bethlehem. The child
is yours, bone of your bone, flesh of your flesh, and it bears your
likeness and image; but it is also God's child, and it bears His image.
What difference is the coming of the little stranger making in you? I do
not ask what difference is it making _to_ you, for the answer would be
ready in a moment, "Much, every way"; but, what difference is it making
_in_ you? Does it never occur to you that you ought to be a different
man--a better man--that you ought to be a different woman--a better
woman--for the sake of the little one lying in the cradle? Do you know
that of all the things God ever made and owns, in this or all His
worlds, there is nothing more dear to Him than the soul of the little
child He has committed to your hands? What hands those should be that
bear a gift like that! Perhaps we never thought of it in that way
before. But it is true, whether we think of it or not. Is it not time to
begin to think of it? This night, as we stand over our sleeping child,
let us promise to God, for the child's sake, that we will be His.

(4) Last of all, we must learn to set Christ's value upon ourselves.
This is the tragedy of life, that we hold ourselves so cheap. We are
sprung of heaven's first blood, have titles manifold, and yet, when the
crown is offered us, we choose rather, like the man with the muck-rake,
in Bunyan's great allegory, to grub among the dust and sticks and straws
of the floor. In the times of the French Revolution, French soldiers, it
is said, stabled their horses in some of the magnificent cathedrals of
France; but some of us are guilty of a far worse sacrilege in that holy
of holies which we call the soul. "Ye were redeemed, not with
corruptible things, with silver or gold," but with blood, precious
blood, even the blood of Christ. And the soul which cost that, we are
ready to sell any day in the open market for a little more pleasure or a
little more pelf. The birthright is bartered for the sorriest mess of
pottage, and the jewel which the King covets to wear in His crown our
own feet trample in the mire of the streets. The pity of it, the pity of

In one of Dora Greenwell's simple and beautiful _Songs of Salvation_, a
pitman tells to his wife the story of his conversion. He had got a word
like a fire in his heart that would not let him be, "Jesus, the Son of
God, who loved, and who gave Himself for me."

"It was for me that Jesus died! for me, and a world of men,
Just as sinful, and just as slow to give back His love again;
And He didn't wait till I came to Him, but He loved me at my worst;
He needn't ever have died for me if I could have loved Him first."

And then he continues:--

"And could'st Thou love such a man as me, my Saviour! Then I'll take
More heed to this wand'ring soul of mine, if it's only for Thy sake."

Yes, we are all of worth to God, but we must needs go to the Cross to
learn how great is our worth; and, as we bow in its sacred shadow, may
we learn to say: "For Thy sake, O Christ, for Thy sake, I'll take more
heed to this wandering soul of mine."[34]

* * * * *


"O man, strange composite of heaven and earth!
Majesty dwarfed to baseness! fragrant flower
Running to poisonous seed! and seeming worth
Choking corruption! weakness mastering power!
Who never art so near to crime and shame,
As when thou hast achieved some deed of name."

* * * * *



"_When ye pray, say.... Forgive us our sins._"--LUKE xi. 2, 4.

A recent writer has pointed out that sin, like death, is not seriously
realized except as a personal fact. We really know it only when we know
it about ourselves. The word "sin" has no serious meaning to a man,
except when it means that he himself is a sinful man. And hence it comes
to pass that we can still turn to the penitential Psalms, to the seventh
chapter of Romans, to the _Confessions_ of St. Augustine, or to the
_Grace Abounding_ of John Bunyan, and make their words the language of
our own broken and contrite hearts. For when Bunyan and Augustine and
Paul and the psalmists spoke of sin, they spoke not the thoughts of
others, but their knowledge of themselves; they looked into their own
hearts and wrote. That is why their words "find" us to-day.
Nevertheless, paradox though it may seem, our greatest Teacher
concerning sin, Himself "knew no sin." Born without sin, living and
dying without sin, Christ yet "knew what was in man," knew the sin that
was in man, and from His own sinless height once for all revealed and
judged and condemned it. Let us seek, then, to learn the mind of Christ
on this great matter.

And once more, as I have had occasion to point out in a previous
chapter, we must not look for anything formal, defined, systematic in
Christ's teaching. We cannot open the Gospels, as we might some modern
theological treatise, and read out from them a scientific exposition of
sin--its origin, its nature, its treatment. The New Testament is not
like a museum, where the flowers are dried and pressed, and the fossils
lie carefully arranged within glass cases, and everything is duly
classified and labelled. Rather it is like nature itself, where the
flowers grow wild at our feet, and the rocks lie as the Creator's hand
left them, and where each man must do the classifying and labelling for
himself. Museums have their uses, and there will always be those who
prefer them--they save so much trouble. But since Christ's aim was not
to save us trouble, but to teach us to see things with our own eyes, to
see them as He saw them, and to think of them as He thinks, it is no
wonder that He has chosen rather to put us down in the midst of a world
of living truths than in a museum of assorted and dead facts.


What, then, is the teaching of Jesus concerning sin? His tone is at once
severe and hopeful. Sometimes His words are words that shake our hearts
with fear; sometimes they surprise us with their overflowing tenderness
and pity. But however He may deal with the sinner, we are always made to
feel that to Jesus sin is a serious thing, a problem not to be slurred
over and made light of, but to be faced, and met, and grappled with.
Christ's sense of the gravity of sin comes out in many ways.

(1) It is involved in His doctrine of man. He who made so much of man
could not make light of man's sin. It is because man is so great that
his sin is so grave. No one can understand the New Testament doctrine of
sin who does not read it in the light of the New Testament doctrine of
man. When we think of man as Christ thought of him, when we see in him
the possibilities which Christ saw, the Scripture language concerning
sin becomes intelligible enough; until then it may easily seem
exaggerated and unreal. It is the height for which man was made and
meant which measures the fall which is involved in his sin.

(2) Call to mind the language in which Christ set forth the effects of
sin. He spoke of men as blind, as sick, as dead; He said they were as
sheep gone astray, as sons that are lost, as men in debt which they can
never pay, in bondage from which they can never free themselves. The
very accumulation of metaphors bears witness to Christ's sense of the
havoc wrought by sin. Nor are they metaphors merely; they are His
reading of the facts of life as it lay before Him. Let me refer briefly
to two of them, (_a_) Christ spoke of men as in bondage through their
sin. "If," He said once, "ye abide in My word ... ye shall know the
truth, and the truth shall make you free." And straightway jealous
Jewish ears caught at that word "free." "Free?" they cried, "Free? we be
Abraham's seed, and have never yet been in bondage to any man: how
sayest Thou, Ye shall be made free?" Yet even as they lift their hands
in protest Christ hears the clink of their fetters: "Verily, verily, I
say unto you, every one that committeth sin is the bond-servant--the
slave--of sin." "To whom ye present yourselves as servants unto
obedience, his servants--his slaves--ye are whom ye obey; whether of sin
unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness." Apostle and Lord mean
the same thing, true of us as it was true of the Jews: "Every one that
committeth sin is the slave of sin." (_b_) Further, Christ says, men are
in debt through their sin. In one parable He tells us of a certain
lender who had two debtors; the one owed five hundred pence, and the
other fifty; but neither had wherewith to pay. In another parable we
hear of a servant who owed his lord ten thousand talents--a gigantic
sum, vague in its vastness, "millions" as we might say--and he likewise
had not wherewith to pay. Further, in the application of each parable,
it is God to whom this unpayable debt is due. Now, it is just at this
point that our sense of sin to-day is weakest. The scientist, the
dramatist, the novelist are all proclaiming our responsibility toward
them that come after us; with pitiless insistence they are telling us
that the evil that men do lives after them, that it is not done with
when it is done. Yet, with all this, there may be no thought of God. It
is the consciousness not merely of responsibility, but of responsibility
God-ward, which needs to be strengthened. When we sin we may wrong
others much, we may wrong ourselves more, but we wrong God most of all;
and we shall never recover Christ's thought of sin until, like the
psalmist and the prodigal, we have learned to cry to Him, "Against Thee
have I sinned, and done that which is evil in Thy sight."

(3) But sin, in Christ's view of it, is not merely something a man does,
it is what he is. Go through Paul's long and dismal catalogue of "the
works of the flesh": "Fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions,
divisions, heresies, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like."
Yet even this is not the whole of the matter. Sin is more than the
sum-total of man's sins. The fruits are corrupt because the tree which
yields them is corrupt; the stream is tainted because the fountain
whence it flows is impure; man commits sin because he is sinful. It was
just here that Christ broke, and broke decisively, with the traditional
religion of His time. To the average Jew of that day righteousness and
sin meant nothing more than the observance or the non-observance of
certain religious traditions. "For the Pharisees, and all the Jews,
except they wash their hands diligently, eat not, holding the tradition
of the elders: and when they come from the market-place, except they
wash themselves, they eat not; and many other things there be which they
have received to hold, washings of cups, and pots, and brazen vessels."
"Nay," said Jesus, "you are beginning at the wrong end, you are
concerned about the wrong things, for from within, out of the heart of
men, evil thoughts proceed, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries,
covetings, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, railing,
pride, foolishness: all these evil things proceed from within." Deep in
the heart of man evil has its seat, and until that is touched nothing is

(4) And, lastly, Christ says all men are sinful. Of course, He did not
say, nor did He imply that all are equally sinful. On the contrary, He
said plainly that whereas the debt of some is as fifty pence, the debt
of others is as five hundred pence. Neither did Christ teach that man is
wholly sinful, in the sense that there is in man nothing that is good,
or that every man is by nature as bad as he can be. Nor, let it be said
in passing, is this what theology means when it speaks, as it still
sometimes does, about the "total depravity" of human nature. What is
meant is, as Dr. Denney says, that the depravity which sin has produced
in human nature extends to the whole of it.[35] If I poison my finger,
it is not only the finger that is poisoned; the poison is in the blood,
and, unless it be got rid of, not my finger merely, but my life is in
peril. And in like manner the sin which taints my nature taints my whole
nature, perverting the conscience, enfeebling the will, and darkening
the understanding. But with whatever qualifications Christ's indictment
is against the whole human race. He never discusses the origin of sin,
but He always assumes its presence. No matter how His hearers might
vary, this factor remained constant. "If ye, being evil" that mournful
presupposition could be made everywhere. He spoke of men as "lost," and
said that He had come to seek and save them. He summoned men, without
distinction, to repentance. He spoke of His blood as "shed for many unto
remission of sins." The gospel which, in His name, was to be preached
unto all the nations was concerning "repentance and remission of sins."
Even His own disciples He taught, as they prayed, to say, "Forgive us
our sins." And though it is true He said once that He had not come to
call the righteous but sinners to repentance, He did not thereby mean to
suggest that there really are some righteous persons who have no need of
repentance; rather was He seeking by the keenness of His Divine irony to
pierce the hard self-satisfaction of men whose need was greater just
because it was unfelt.

"All have sinned;" but once more let us remind ourselves, sin is not
seriously realized except as a personal fact. The truth must come home
as a truth about ourselves. The accusing finger singles men out and
fastens the charge on each several conscience: "Thou art the man!" And
as the accusation is individual, so, likewise, must the acknowledgement
be. It is not enough that in church we cry in company, "Lord have mercy
upon us, miserable offenders"; each must learn to pray for himself, "God
be merciful to me a sinner." Then comes the word of pardon, personal and
individual as the condemnation, "The Lord also hath put away thy sin."


In what has been said thus far I have dwelt, for the most part, on the
sterner and darker aspects of Christ's teaching about sin. And, as every
student of contemporary literature knows, there are voices all around us
to-day ready to take up and emphasize every word of His concerning the
mischief wrought by moral evil. Take, _e.g._, a passage like this from
Thomas Hardy's powerful but sombre story, _Tess_:--

"Did you say the stars were worlds, Tess?"


"All like ours?"

"I don't know; but I think so. They sometimes seem to me like
the apples on our stubbard-tree. Most of them splendid and
sound--a few blighted."

"Which do we live on--a splendid one, or a blighted one?"

"A blighted one."

Or, turn to the works of George Eliot. No prophet of righteousness ever
bound sin and its consequences more firmly together, or proclaimed with
more solemn emphasis the certainty of the evil-doer's doom. "Our deeds
are like children that are born to us," she says; "nay, children may be
strangled, but deeds never"--this is the note one hears through all her
books. If we have done wrong, it is in vain we cry for mercy. We are
taken by the throat and delivered over to the tormentors until we have
paid the uttermost farthing.

"The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it."

And this is all that writers such as these have to say to us.
Retribution they know, but not Redemption. "There are no arresting
angels in the path"--only the Angel of Justice with the drawn sword.

But this is not the teaching of Jesus concerning sin. He is not blind,
and if we give ear to Him He will not suffer us to be blind, either to
its character or its consequences; but He says that sin can be forgiven,
and its iron bondage broken. Jesus believed in the recoverability of man
at his worst. It is a fact significant of much that the first mention of
sin in the New Testament is in a prophecy of its destruction: "Thou
shalt call His name Jesus; for it is He that shall save His people from
their sins." And throughout the first three Gospels sin is named almost
exclusively in connection with its forgiveness.[36] What Christ hath
joined together let no man put asunder. Herein is the very gospel of
God, that Christ came not to condemn the world, but that the world,
through Him, might be saved. "Do you know what Christ would say to you,
my girl?" said a missionary to a poor girl dying. "He would say, 'Thy
sins are forgiven thee.'" "Would He, though, would He?" she cried,
starting up; "take me to Him, take me to Him." Yes, thank God, we know
what to do with our sin; we know what we must do to be saved.

Let us go back again for a moment over the ground we have already
travelled. We are in debt, with nothing to pay; but Christ has taken the
long account, and has crossed it through and through. We are in bondage,
with no power to set ourselves free; but Christ has come to rend the
iron chain and proclaim deliverance to the captives. We are wrong, wrong
within, wrong at the core; but again He is equal to our need, for
concerning Him it is written that He shall take away not only the "sins"
but the "sin" of the world. Is anything too hard for Him? Just as a
lover of pictures will sometimes discover a portrait, the work of an old
master, marred and disfigured by the dirt and neglect of years, and will
patiently cleanse and retouch it, till the lips seem to speak again, and
the old light shines in the eyes, and all its hidden glory is revealed
once more, so does Christ bring out the Divine image, hidden but never
lost, in the sinful souls of men. And all this He can do for all men;
for Christ knows no hopeless ones.

One of the saddest sights in a great city is its hospital for
incurables. Who can think but with a pang of pity and of pain of
these--old men and little children joined in one sad fellowship--for
whom the physician's skill has done its best and failed, for whom now
nothing remains save to suffer and to die? But in the world's great
hospital of ailing souls, where every day the Good Physician walks,
there is no incurable ward. He lays His hands on the sick, and they are
healed; He touches the eyes of the blind, and they see; unto the leper
as white as snow his flesh comes again as the flesh of a little child;
even souls that are dead through their trespasses and sins He restores
to life. But never, never does He turn away from any, saying, "Thou art
too far gone; there is nothing that I can do for thee." "I spake to Thy
disciples," cried the father of the child which had a dumb spirit, "I
spake to Thy disciples that they should cast it out; and they were not
able." "Bring him unto Me," said Jesus. Then He rebuked the unclean
spirit, saying unto him, "Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I command thee,
come out of him and enter no more into him." Verily, with authority He
commandeth even the unclean spirits and they obey Him.

Therefore let us despair of no man; therefore let no man despair of
himself. If we will, we can; we can, because Christ will. "I was
before," says St. Paul, "a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious;
howbeit I obtained mercy." "I am a wretched captive of sin," cries
Samuel Rutherford, "yet my Lord can hew heaven out of worse timber."
There is no unpardonable sin--none, at least, save the sin of refusing
the pardon which avails for all sin. "'Mine iniquity is greater than can
be forgiven.'[37] No, Cain, thou errest; God's mercy is far greater,
couldst thou ask mercy. Men cannot be more sinful than God is merciful
if, with penitent hearts, they will call upon Him."

We have all read of the passing of William MacLure in Ian Maclaren's
touching idyll. "A'm gettin' drowsy," said the doctor to Drumsheugh,
"read a bit tae me." Then Drumsheugh put on his spectacles, and searched
for some comfortable Scripture. Presently he began to read: "In My
Father's house are many mansions;" but MacLure stopped him. "It's a
bonnie word," he said, "but it's no' for the like o' me. It's ower guid;
a' daurna tak' it." Then he bid Drumsheugh shut the book and let it open
of itself, and he would find the place where he had been reading every
night for the last month. Drumsheugh did as he was bidden, and the book
opened at the parable wherein the Master tells what God thinks of a
Pharisee and a penitent sinner. And when he came to the words, "And the
publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes to
heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a
sinner," once more the dying man stopped him: "That micht hae been
written for me, Paitrick, or ony ither auld sinner that hes feenished
his life, an' hes naething tae say for himsel."

Nothing to say for ourselves--that is what it comes to, when we know the
truth about ourselves. And when at last our mouth is stopped, when our
last poor plea is silenced, when with penitent and obedient hearts we
seek the mercy to which from the first we have been utterly shut up,
then indeed we

"have found the ground wherein
Sure our soul's anchor may remain."

"Not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but
according to His mercy He saved us."

* * * * *


"I spend my whole life in going about and persuading you all
to give your first and chiefest care to the perfection of your
souls, and not till you have done that to think of your
bodies, or your wealth; and telling you that virtue does not
come from wealth, but that wealth, and every other good thing
which men have, whether in public, or in private, comes from

* * * * *



"_Seek ye first_ ... _His righteousness._"--MATT. vi. 33.

Righteousness, as it was understood and taught by Christ, includes the
two things which we often distinguish as religion and morality. It is
right-doing, not only as between man and man, but as between man and
God. The Lawgiver of the New Testament, like the lawgiver of the Old,
has given to us two tables of stone. On the one He has written, "Thou
shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,
and with all thy mind "; and on the other, "Thou shalt love thy
neighbour as thyself." In these two commandments the whole law is summed
up, the whole duty of man is made known. It is well to emphasize this
two-fold aspect of the truth at a time when we are often tempted to
define religion wholly in the terms of morality, and, while insisting on
the duties which we owe to each other, to forget those which we owe to
God. If there be a God righteousness must surely have a meaning in
relation to Him; it cannot be simply another name for philanthropy.
Christ at least will not call that man just and good who does right to
all except his Maker. In the Christian doctrine of the good life room
must be found for God. At the present moment, however, it is the subject
in its man-ward aspect that I wish specially to keep in view, partly
because some limitation is obviously necessary, and partly also because
it is this of which Christ Himself had most to say.


What, then, is Christ's idea of righteousness? In other words, what did
He teach concerning the good life? Now here also, as in His teaching
about God, Christ did not need to begin _de novo_. Those to whom He
spoke had already their own ideals of duty and holiness. True, these
were sadly in need of revision and correction. Nevertheless, such as
they were, they were there, and Christ could use them as His
starting-point. Consequently, therefore, we find His ideas of
righteousness defined largely by contrast with existing ideas. "It was
said to them of old time ... but I say unto _you_." This is the note
heard all through the Sermon on the Mount. The contrast may be stated
in two ways.

(1) In the first place, Christ said that the righteousness of His
disciples must exceed that of publicans and heathen: "If ye love them
that love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same?
And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not
even the Gentiles the same?" There are virtues exhibited in the lives of
even wholly irreligious men. There are rudimentary moral principles
which they that know not God nevertheless acknowledge and obey. It was
so in Christ's time; it is so still. The popular American ballad, "Jim
Bludso," and Ian Maclaren's touching story of the Drumtochty postman,
are familiar illustrations of self-sacrificing virtues revealed by men
of coarse and vicious lives. Nor ought we to deny the reality of such
virtues; still less ought we to follow the bad example of St. Augustine
and call them "splendid vices." Such was not Christ's way. He assumed
the existence and reality of this "natural goodness," and with familiar
illustrations of it on His tongue turned upon His disciples with the
question, "What do ye more?"

"What do ye more?" Yet in some respects, it is to be feared, the
morality of the Church sometimes falls behind that of the world. One of
the most painful passages in St. Paul's epistles is that in which he
tells the Corinthian Christians that one of their own number had been
guilty of immorality such as would have shocked even the conscience of
an unbelieving Gentile. And it was but the other day that I came across
this sentence from the pen of an observant and friendly critic of
contemporary religious life: "I am afraid," he said, "it must be
admitted that the idea of honour, though in itself an essential part of
Christian ethics, is much stronger outside the Churches than within
them." How far facts justify the criticism I will not stay to inquire;
but the very fact that a charge like this can be made should prove a
sharp reminder to us of the stringency of the demands which Jesus Christ
makes upon us. There is no kind of sound moral fruit which is to be
found anywhere in the wide fields of the world which He does not look
for in richer and riper abundance within the garden of His Church.

A great Christian preacher has given an admirable illustration of one
way in which we may examine ourselves in this matter. He has grouped
together a number of precepts from the writings of some of the great
heathen moralists, such as Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, and then has
urged the question how far we who profess to be the disciples of a
loftier faith are true even to these ancient heathen ideals.[38]
Perhaps, however, this is not a method of self-examination which is open
to us all. But this, at least, we can do: we can test ourselves by that
moral law, which God gave to the Jews by Moses, and which Christ
reinterpreted in the Sermon on the Mount. "Thou shalt not kill, thou
shalt not commit adultery"--all these commandments in their literal
meaning we must observe; yet this is not enough; "do not even the
publicans the same?" and Christ's demand is, "What do ye more than
others?" The murderous thought, Christ says, that is murder; the lustful
look, that is adultery. "Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt love
thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy: but I say unto you, Love your
enemies, and pray for them that persecute you." As we listen to words
like these must not we also confess, "Either these sayings are not
Christ's, or we are not Christians"?

(2) Christ's idea of righteousness is further defined by contrast with
that of the Pharisees: "Except your righteousness shall exceed the
righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter
into the kingdom of heaven." What was the Pharisees' idea of religion?
Let us take the words which Christ Himself put into the lips of a
representative of his class: "God, I thank Thee, that I am not as the
rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I get." This is a
full-length portrait of the finished Pharisee. Religion to him was a
round of prescribed ritual, a barren externalism, a subjection to the
dominion of the letter, which never touched the heart, nor bowed the
spirit down in penitence and humility before God. The Pharisee's whole
concern was with externals; but Christ declared that he who is only
right outwardly is not right at all. There is no such thing, He said, as
goodness which is not from within. The alms-deeds, the prayer, the
fasting of the Pharisee were all done before men, to be seen of them;
and so long as that which men saw was right and seemly, he was
satisfied. But Christ went back behind the outward act to the heart. A
man is really, He said, what he is there. You may hang grapes on a
thorn-bush, that will not make it a vine; you may put a sheep's fleece
on a wolf's back, but that will not change its wolfish heart. And men
are what they are within. Just as to get good fruit you must first of
all make the tree good, so to secure good deeds you must first make good
men. This was the truth which Pharisaism ignored; with what results all
the world knows. In the long history of man, it remains, perhaps, the
supreme illustration of the fatal facility with which religion and
morality are divorced when once the emphasis is laid upon the outward
and ceremonial instead of the inward and spiritual. All experience helps
us to understand how the system works. There is no deliberate intention
of setting ritual above righteousness, but it is so much easier to count
one's beads than to curb one's temper, so much easier to fast in Lent
than to be unswervingly just, that if once the easier thing gets
attached to it an exaggerated importance, fidelity in it is allowed to
atone for laxity in greater things, and the last result is Pharisaism,
where we see conscience concerned about the tithing of garden herbs, but
with no power over the life, and religion not merely tolerating but
actually ministering to moral evil. It was in the name of religion that
the Pharisees suffered a man to violate even the sanctities of the Fifth
Commandment, and to do dishonour to his father and mother. The righteous
man in their eyes was not he who loved mercy, and did justly, and walked
humbly with his God, but he who observed the traditions of the elders.
So that, as Professor Bruce says,[39] it was possible for a man to
comply with all the requirements of the Rabbis and yet remain in heart
and life an utter miscreant. "Outwardly," said Christ, "ye appear
righteous unto men, but inwardly ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity."
Is it any wonder that He should call down fire from heaven to consume a
system which had yielded such bitter, poisonous fruits as these?

But let us remember, as Mozley well says,[40] there are no extinct
species in the world of evil. The value for us of Christ's condemnation
lies in this, that it is a permanent tendency of human nature which He
is condemning. Pharisaism is not dead. Have I not seen the Pharisee
dressed in good broad-cloth and going to church with his Bible under his
arm? And have I not seen him sitting in church and reading the
twenty-third chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel, and thinking to himself what
shockingly wicked people these men must have been of whom Christ spoke
such terrible words, and never once supposing that there is anything in
the chapter that concerns him? No, Pharisaism is not dead; and when we
read of those who devoured widows' houses and for a pretence made long
prayers, using their religion as a cloak for their villainy, let us
remember that Christ says to His disciples to-day, even as He said to
them centuries ago, "Except your righteousness shall exceed the
righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter
into the kingdom of heaven."


Thus far we have considered Christ's idea of righteousness only in
contrast with other ideas. When we seek to define it in itself we fall
back naturally on the words of the two great commandments which have
already been quoted: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy
heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind;" and "Thou shalt
love thy neighbour as thyself." Righteousness, Christ says, is love,
love to God and love to man.

But to them of old time it was said, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour."
Where, then, is the difference between the old commandment and the new?
It lies in the new definition of "neighbour." The old law which said,
"Thou shalt love thy neighbour," said also, "and hate thine enemy";
which meant that some are and some are not our neighbours, and that
toward those who are not love has no obligations. But Christ broke down
for ever the middle wall of partition, and declared the old distinction
null and void. In His parable of the Good Samaritan He taught that every
man is our neighbour who has need of us, and to whom it is possible for
us to prove ourselves a friend. As we have opportunity we are to do good
unto all men. The same lesson with, if possible, still greater emphasis,
Christ taught in the Upper Room: "A new commandment I give unto you,
that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love
one another." A love that goes all the way with human need, that gives
not itself by measure, that is not chilled by indifference, nor thwarted
by ingratitude, that fights against evil until it overcomes it--such was
the love He gave, and such is the love He asks. And in that command all
other commands are comprehended. Christ might have made His own the
daring word of St. Augustine, "Love, and do what you like."

When first men heard this law of the heavenly righteousness how wondrous
simple it must have seemed in contrast with the elaborate scribe-made
law which their Rabbis laid upon them. Pharisaism had reduced religion
to a branch of mechanics, a vast network of rules which closed in the
life of man on every side, a burden grievous and heavy to be borne,
which crushed the soul under its weary load. This was the yoke of which
Peter said that neither they nor their fathers were able to bear it. Was
it any marvel that from such a system men should turn to Him who cried,
"Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for My yoke is easy, and My
burden is light"? But if Christ's law of love is simpler it is also far
more exacting than the old law which it superseded. It has meshes far
finer than any that Pharisaic ingenuity could weave. Rabbinical law can
secure the tithing of mint and anise and cumin, the washing of cups and
pots, and many such like things; it can regulate the life of ritual and
outward observance; and after that it has no more that it can do. But
Christ's law of love is a mentor that searches out the deep things of
man. The inside of the cup and platter, the things that are within, the
hidden man of the heart--it is on these its eyes are fixed. It gives
heed both to the words of the mouth and the meditations of the heart.
And, sometimes, when the lips are speaking fair, suddenly it will fling
open the heart's door and show us where, in some secret chamber, Greed
and Pride and Envy and Hate sit side by side in unblest fellowship.
Verily this law of love is living and active, sharper than any two-edged
sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints
and marrow, quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.

There is no room to do more than mention the fact which crowns the
revelation of this new law of righteousness. Christ's words about
goodness do not come to us alone; they come united with a life which is
their best exposition. Christ is all His followers are to be; in Him the
righteousness of the kingdom is incarnate. From henceforth the righteous
man is the Christ-like man. The standard of human life is no longer a
code but a character; for the gospel does not put us into subjection to
fresh laws; it calls us to "the study of a living Person, and the
following of a living Mind."[41] And when to Jesus we bring the old
question, "Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal
life?" He does not now repeat the commandments, but He says, "If thou
wouldest be perfect, follow Me, learn of Me, do as I have done to you,
love as I have loved you."


Such, then, is the good life which Christ reveals, and to which He calls
us. To say that to Him we owe our highest ideal of righteousness, is
only to affirm what no one now seriously denies. John Stuart Mill has,
it is true, alleged certain defects against Christianity as an ethical
system, yet Mill himself has frankly admitted that "it would not be easy
now, even for an unbeliever, to find a better translation of the rule of
virtue from the abstract to the concrete, than to endeavour so to live
that Christ would approve our life." If Christ be not our one Master in
the moral world, it will at least be soon enough to discuss a rival's
claims when he appears; as yet there is no sign of him. But the point I
am most anxious to emphasize just now is not simply that Jesus has put
before us an ideal, the highest of its kind in the world, but that there
is nothing of any kind to be desired before it. To be good as Christ was
good, here in very truth is the _summum bonum_ of life, the greatest
thing in the world, that which, before all other things, a man should
seek to make his own, There are times, perhaps, in the lives of all of
us when we are tempted to doubt it--times when the kingdoms of this
world, the kingdoms of wealth and power and knowledge lie stretched at
our feet, and the whispering fiend at our elbow bids us bow and enter
in. But once again, if we be true men, the moment comes,

"When the spirit's true endowments
Stand out plainly from its false ones,"

when the sacred, saving faith in righteousness returns, and we know that
Christ was right, that for ever and for ever it is true that better than
to be rich, or to be clever, or to be famous, is it to be true, to be
pure, to be good.

Yes, goodness is the principal thing; therefore get goodness, and with
all thy getting--at the price of all that thou hast gotten (such is the
true meaning of the words)[42]--get righteousness. Is this what we are
doing? Goodness is the first thing; are we putting it first? Day by day
are we saying to it, "Sit thou on my right hand," while we put all other
things under our feet? "Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if
I remember thee not; if I prefer not thee above my chief joy"--is this
the kind of honour that we are paying to it? "We make it our ambition,"
said St Paul, "to be well pleasing unto Him."[43] Where this is the
master ambition, all other lawful ambitions may be safely cherished and
given their place. But if some lesser power rule, whose right it is not
to reign over us, the end is chaos and night. "Seek ye first His
righteousness;" we subvert Christ's order at our peril. And this
righteousness must be sought. As men seek wealth, as men seek knowledge,
as men seek power, so must we seek goodness. "Wherefore giving all
diligence"--in no other way can the pearl of great price be secured; it
does not lie by the roadside for any lounger to pick up. "With toil of
heart and knees and hands," so only can the "path upward" and the prize
be won. "Blessed," said Jesus, "are they that hunger and thirst after
righteousness." Blessed, He meant, are they who long more than anything
else to be good; for all such longing shall be abundantly satisfied.
Exalt righteousness, and she shall promote thee; she shall bring thee to
honour when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head a
chaplet of grace; a crown of beauty shall she deliver to thee.

It is fitting that a chapter on righteousness should follow one on sin,
for this may find some to whom the other made no appeal. At a meeting of
Christian workers held some years ago in Glasgow, the chairman invited
the late Professor Henry Drummond, who was present, though his name was
not on the programme, to say a few words. He accepted the invitation,
but said he would do no more than state a fact and ask a question. The
fact was this, that in recent revival movements, in which he had had
large experience, there were few indications of that deep and
overwhelming conviction of sin which had been so characteristic a
feature of similar revivals in past days. And this was the question, Did
it mean that the Holy Spirit was in any way modifying the method of His
operation? What answer the wise men of the meeting gave to the
Professor's question I do not know. But fact and question alike deserve
to be carefully pondered. The Spirit, when He is come, Christ said,
"will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of
judgment." "Will convict the world of righteousness"--have we not
sometimes forgotten this? Have we not put the full stop at "sin," as
though the Holy Spirit's convicting work ended there? Nevertheless,
there are many to-day whose religious life begins, not so much in a
sense of their own sin and guilt and need, as rather in the
consciousness of the glory and honour of Christ. It is what they find
within themselves which brings some men to Christ; it is what they find
in Him which brings others. Some are driven by the strong hands of stern
necessity; some are wooed by the sweet constraint of the sinless Son of
God. Some are crushed and broken and humbled to the dust, and their
first cry is "God be merciful to me a sinner"; some when they hear the
call of Christ leap up to greet Him with a new light in their eyes and
the glad confession on their lips, "Lord I will follow Thee
whithersoever Thou goest."

What, then, shall we say to these things? What but this, "There are
diversities of workings, but the same God, who worketh all things in
all." Travellers to the same country do not always journey by the same
route; and for some of the heavenly pilgrims the Slough of Despond lies
on the other side of the Wicket Gate. After all, it is of small moment
what brings a man forth from the City of Destruction; enough if he have
come out and if now his face is set toward the city which hath the
foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

* * * * *


"Who seeketh finds: what shall be his relief
Who hath no power to seek, no heart to pray,
No sense of God, but bears as best he may,
A lonely incommunicable grief?
What shall he do? One only thing he knows,
That his life flits a frail uneasy spark
In the great vast of universal dark,
And that the grave may not be all repose.
Be still, sad soul! lift thou no passionate cry,
But spread the desert of thy being bare
To the full searching of the All-seeing eye:
Wait--and through dark misgiving, blank despair,
God will come down in pity, and fill the dry
Dead plain with light, and life, and vernal air."

* * * * *



"_What man is there of you, who, if his son shall ask him for
a loaf, will give him a stone; or if he shall ask for a fish,
will give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to
give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your
Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask
Him_?"--MATT. vii. 9-11.

There has been in our day much painful disputation concerning prayer and
the laws of nature. Whole volumes have been written to prove that it is
possible, or that it is impossible, for God to answer prayer. I am not
going to thresh out again this dry straw just now. Discussions of this
kind have, undoubtedly, their place; indeed, whether we will or no, they
are often forced upon us by the conditions of the hour; but they had no
place in the teaching of Jesus, and I do not propose to say anything
about them now. I wish rather, imitating as far as may be the gracious
simplicity and directness of the argument of Jesus which we have just
read, to gather up some of the practical suggestions touching this great
matter which are strewn throughout the Gospels alike in the precepts and
practice of our Lord.


First of all, then, let us get fixed in our minds the saying of Jesus
that "men ought always to pray and not to faint." The very form of the
saying suggests that Christ knew how easy it is for us to faint and grow
weary in our prayers. Men cease from prayer on many grounds. Some there
are in whom the questioning, doubting spirit has grown so strong that
for a time it has silenced even the cry of the heart for God. Some there
are who are so busy, they tell us, that they have no time for prayer;
and after all, they ask, Is not honest work the highest kind of prayer?
And some there are who have ceased to pray, because they have been
disappointed, because nothing seemed to come of their prayers. They
asked but they did not receive, they sought but they did not find, they
knocked but no door was opened to them; there was neither voice, nor any
to answer, nor any that regarded; and now they ask, they seek, they
knock no more. And some of us there are who do not pray because, as one
of the psalmists says, our soul "cleaveth unto the dust." The things of
God, the things of the soul, the things of eternity--what Paul calls
"the things that are above"--are of no concern to us; we have sold
ourselves to work, to think, to live, for the things of the earth and
the dust.

Nevertheless, be the cause of our prayerlessness what it may, Christ's
word remains true. Man made in the image of God ought always to pray and
not to faint. And even more than by His words does Christ by His example
prompt us to prayer. Turn, _e.g._, to the third Gospel. All the
Evangelists show us Jesus at prayer; but it is to Luke that we owe
almost all our pictures of the kneeling Christ. Let us glance at them as
they pass in quick succession before our eyes:

"Jesus having been baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened" (iii.

"He withdrew Himself in the deserts, and prayed" (v. 16).

"It came to pass in these days, that He went out into the mountain to
pray; and He continued all night in prayer to God". (vi. 12).

"It came to pass, as He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him"
(ix. 18).

"It came to pass about eight days after these sayings, He took with Him
Peter and John and James and went up into the mountain to pray. And as
He was praying the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His
raiment became white and dazzling" (ix. 28, 29).

"It came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, that when He
ceased, one of the disciples said unto Him, Lord, teach us to pray, even
as John also taught his disciples" (xi. 1).

"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you
as wheat; but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not"
(xxii. 32).

"And He kneeled down and prayed, saying, Father, if Thou be willing,
remove this cup from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Thine be done....
And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat became as
it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground" (xxii. 41,

"And Jesus said, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do"
(xxiii. 34).

And if thus He, the Redeemer, prayed, how much greater need have we, the
redeemed, always to pray and not to faint?

"But we are so busy, we have no time." Then let us look at another
picture. This time it is Mark who is the painter. He has chosen as his
subject our Lord's first Sabbath in Capernaum. The day begins with
teaching: "He entered into the synagogue and taught." After teaching
comes healing: "There was in their synagogue a man with an unclean
spirit;" him, straightway, Jesus healed. Then, "straightway, when they
were come out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and
Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a
fever, and straightway they tell Him of her; and He came and took her by
the hand, and raised her up." So the day wore on toward evening and
sunset, when "they brought unto Him all that were sick, and them that
were possessed with devils. And all the city was gathered together at
the door. And He healed many that were sick with divers diseases and
cast out many devils." So closed at last the long day's busy toil. "_And
in the morning, a great while before day, He rose up and went out and
departed into a desert place, and there prayed_;" as if just because He
was so much with men the more did He need to be with God. _Laborare est
orare_, we say, "work is prayer." And, undoubtedly, "work may be
prayer"; but we are deceiving ourselves and hurting our own souls, if we
think that work can take the place of prayer. And if there is one lesson
that these earthly years of the Son of Man--busy as they were prayerful,
prayerful as they were busy--can teach us, it is surely this, that just
because our activities are so abounding, the more need have we to make a
space around the soul wherein it may be able to think, and pray, and

One of the best-known pictures of the last half century is Millet's
"Angelus." The scene is a potato-field, in the midst of which, and
occupying the foreground of the picture, are two figures, a young man
and a young woman. Against the distant sky-line is the steeple of a
church. It is the evening hour, and as the bell rings which calls the
villagers to worship, the workers in the field lay aside the implements
of their toil, and with folded hands and bowed heads, stand for a moment
in silent prayer. It is a picture of what every life should be, of what
every life must be, which has taken as its pattern the Perfect Life in
which work and prayer are blent like bells of sweet accord.


Another saying of Christ's concerning prayer, not less fundamental is
this: "When ye pray, say, Our Father, which art in heaven." How
essential to prayer is a right thought of God it can hardly be necessary
to point out. "When ye pray say----" what? All depends on how we fill
in the blank. Our thought of God determines the character of all our
intercourse with Him. If "God" is only the name which we give to the
vast, unknown Power which lies behind the visible phenomena of the
universe, if He is only a dim shadow projected by our own minds, or a
collection of attributes whose names we have learned from the Catechism,
our prayers will soon come to an end. When Jesus prayed He said always
"Father"; and the Father to whom He prayed, and whom He revealed, He it
is to whom our prayers should be offered.

This is a matter the practical importance of which it would be hard to
exaggerate. Think, _e.g._, of the questions concerning prayer which
would be answered straightway, had we but made our own Christ's thought
of God. We are all familiar with the little problems about prayer with
which some good people are wont to tease themselves and their friends
and their ministers: Is it right to pray for rain, for fine weather for
the recovery of health, for the success of some temporal enterprize, and
so forth? How shall we meet questions of this sort? Shall we draw a line
and say, all things on this side of the line we may pray about, all
things on that side of the line we may not pray about? This will not
help us. Rather we must keep Christ's great word before us: "When ye
pray, say, Father." There or nowhere is the answer to be found. Just as
every wise father seeks to train his child to make of him his confidant,
to have no secrets from him, to trust him utterly, and in everything, so
would God have us feel towards Him; as free, as frank, as unfettered,
should our fellowship with Him be. To put it under constraint, to fence
it about with rules, would be to rob it of all that gives it worth, And,
therefore, I cannot tell any man, and I do not want any man to tell me,
what we may pray for, or what we may not pray for. "When ye pray, say,
Father;" and for the rest let your own heart teach you. But if we are
left thus free shall we not ask many things which we have no right to
ask, which God cannot grant? Undoubtedly we shall, just as a boy of five
will ask many things that his father, because he loves him, must refuse.
Nevertheless, no wise father would wish to check the childish prattle.
There is nothing that he values more than just these frank,
uncalculating confidences, for he knows that it is by means of them that
the shaping hands of love can do their perfect work. And the remedy for
our mistakes in prayer is not a set of little man-made rules, telling us
what to pray for and what not to pray for, but rather a deeper insight
into, and a fuller understanding of, the glory and blessedness of the
Divine Fatherhood.


Passing now from these preliminary counsels concerning prayer, let us
note how great is the importance which, both by His precepts and His
example, Christ attaches to the duty of intercessory prayer. I have been
much struck of late in reading several books on this subject, to note
how one writer after another judges it needful to warn his readers
against the idea that prayer is no more than petition. What they say is,
of course, true; prayer is much more than petition. But, unless I
misread the signs of the times, this is not the warning which just now
we most need to hear. Rather do we need to be told that prayer is more
than communion, that petition, simple asking that we may obtain, is a
part, and a very large part of prayer. "Who rises from prayer a better
man," says George Meredith, "his prayer is answered." This is true, but
it is far from being the whole truth. The duty of intercession, of
prayer for others, is writ large on every page of the New Testament; but
intercession has simply no meaning at all unless we believe that God
will grant our requests as may be most expedient for us and for them for
whom we pray. Let me illustrate the wealth of Christ's teaching on this
matter by two or three examples.

(1) We have all read Tennyson's question--

"What are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friends?"

For themselves and those who call them friends--but Christ will not
suffer us to stop there. "Bless them that curse you," He said; "pray for
them that despitefully use you." So He spoke, and on the Cross He made
the great word luminous for ever by His own prayer for His murderers:
"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

(2) Christ prayed for His disciples and for His Church: "I pray for them
... neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on
Me through their word." "I will pray the Father and He shall give you
----." Only once are the actual words recorded, but they cover, we are
sure, great stretches of Christ's intercourse with God. And when once in
their work for Him they had failed, He puts His finger on the secret of
their failure thus: "This kind can come out by nothing save by prayer."
Do we pray for our Church? We find fault with it; but do we pray for it?
We blame its office--bearers and criticize its ministers; but do we pray
for them? We go to the house of God on the Sabbath day; but no fire is
burning on the altar, the minister has no message for us, we come away
no whit better than we went. Whose is the blame? Let the man in the
pulpit take his share; but is it all his? Must not some of it be laid at
the door of his people? How many of them during the week had prayed for
him, that his eyes might be opened and his heart touched, that as he sat
and worked in his study he might get from God to give to them? Dr. Dale
used to say that if ever he preached a good sermon, a sermon that really
helped men, it was due to the prayers of his people as much as to
anything he had done himself. If in all our churches we would but
proclaim a truce to our bickerings and fault-findings, and try what
prayer can do!

(3) Christ prayed for the children: "Then were there brought unto Him
little children that He should lay His hands on them, and pray.... And
He took them in His arms, and blessed them, laying His hands upon them."
It is surely needless to dwell on this. What man is there who, if he
have a child, will not speak to God in his behalf? "And all the people
said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the Lord thy God that we
die not.... And Samuel said unto the people, God forbid that I should
sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you." God have mercy on him
who has little children who bear his name, but who never cries to heaven
in their behalf! "He blessed them," _i.e._ He invoked a blessing, God's
blessing, upon them. And we are sure the prayer was heard, and the
little ones were blessed. And will not God hear our prayers for our
children? When Monica, the saintly mother of Augustine, besought an
African bishop once and again to help her with her wilful, profligate
son, the good man answered her, "Woman, go in peace; it cannot be that
the child of such tears should be lost." "God's seed," wrote Samuel
Rutherford to Marion M'Naught about her daughter Grizel, "shall come to
God's harvest." It shall, for the promise holds, and what we have sown
we shall also reap.

(4) And, lastly, Christ prayed for individuals: "Simon, Simon, behold,
Satan asked to have you,--all of you," that is; the pronoun is plural--
"that he might sift you as wheat; but I made supplication for thee"--
"thee, Peter"; now the singular pronoun is used--"that thy faith fail
not." The words point to a definite crisis in the experience of Peter,
when the onset of the Tempter was met by the intercession of the
Saviour. To me Gethsemane itself is not more wonderful than this picture
of Christ on His knees before God, naming His loved disciple by name,
and praying that, in this supreme hour of his life, his faith should not
utterly break down. "Making mention of thee in my prayers"--does this
not bring us near to the secret of prevailing prayer? We are afraid to
be individual and particular; we lose ourselves in large generalities,
until our prayers die of very vagueness. There is surely a more
excellent way. "My God," Paul wrote to the Philippians, "shall
fulfil"--not merely "all your need," as the Authorized Version has it,
but--"every need of yours." There is a fine discrimination in the Divine
love which sifts and sorts men's needs, and applies itself to them one
by one, just as the need may be. And when in prayer we speak to God, let
it be not only of "all our need," flung in one great, careless heap
before Him, but of "every need of ours," each one named by its name, and
all spread out in order before Him.


And as Christ teaches us to pray for others, so also does He teach us to
pray for ourselves. Two points only in this connection can be noted.

(1) Let us pray when we enter into our Gethsemane; for every life has
its Gethsemane. Some there are who have not yet entered it; they are
young, and their way thus far has teen among the roses and lilies of
life. But for them, too, the path leads to Gethsemane, and some day they
also will lie prostrate in an agony, under the darkening olive trees.
And some there are to whom life seems but one long Gethsemane. In that
dread agony God help us to pray! Nay, what else then can a man do but,
as Browning says, catch at God's skirts and pray? But that he can do.
Death may build its dividing walls great and high, such as our feet can
never scale; it cannot roof them over and shut us out from God. We
remember how it was with Enoch Arden, stranded on an isle, "the
loneliest in a lonely sea":--

"Had not his poor heart
Spoken with That, which being everywhere
Lets none, who speaks with Him, seem all alone,
Surely the man had died of solitude."

Were it not for the doors opened in heaven what should man that is born
of a woman do? But when in our Gethsemane we offer up "prayers and
supplications, with strong crying and tears," it is after Christ's
manner that we must pray. I said just now that there are some to whom
life seems one long Gethsemane. Can it be because hitherto they have
only prayed, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away
from me"? Not until with Christ we bow our heads and say, "Nevertheless,
not as I will, but as Thou wilt," will the iron gates unfold and the
shadows of the Garden lie behind us.

(2) "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation." And if there be
some to whom my last word had little or no meaning, here, at least,
Christ speaks to all. And this time I have nothing of my own to add by
way of comment; but I copy out this passage from Charles Kingsley's
_Yeast_, for every young man who reads these words to lay to heart: "I
am no saint," says Colonel Bracebridge, "and God only knows how much
less of one I may become; but mark my words--if you are ever tempted by
passion, and vanity, and fine ladies, to form liaisons, as the Jezebels
call them, snares, and nets and labyrinths of blind ditches, to keep you
down through life, stumbling and grovelling, hating yourself and hating
the chain to which you cling--in that hour pray--pray as if the devil
had you by the throat--to Almighty God, to help you out of that cursed
slough! There is nothing else for it!--pray, I tell you!"

* * * * *


"She, who kept a tender Christian hope,
Haunting a holy text, and still to that
Returning, as the bird returns, at night,
'Let not the sun go down upon your wrath,'
Said, 'Love, forgive him:' but he did not speak;
And silenced by that silence lay the wife,
Remembering her dear Lord who died for all,
And musing on the little lives of men,
And how they mar this little by their feuds."

* * * * *



"_Then came Peter, and said to Him, Lord, how oft shall my
brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times?
Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, until seven times;
but, until seventy times seven._"--MATT, xviii. 21, 22.

This would seem to be plain enough, even though we had nothing more from
the lips of Jesus concerning the duty of forgiveness. In point of fact,
however, the lesson of these words is repeated a full half-dozen times
throughout the Gospels. It may be well, therefore, to begin by bringing
together our Lord's sayings on the subject.


We turn first to the Sermon on the Mount: "Ye have heard that it was
said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy; but I say
unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you."
Then, in the Lord's Prayer we have the familiar petition, "Forgive us
our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us." And it is
surely a fact full of significance that at the close of the prayer our
Lord should single out this one petition from the rest with this
emphatic comment: "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly
Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their
trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." The words
quoted thus far are taken from the first Gospel. Similar teaching is
found in the second and third. Thus, in Mark, we read: "And whensoever
ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any one; that your
Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses;" and in
Luke: "If thy brother sin, rebuke him, and if he repent, forgive him.
And if he sin against thee seven times in the day, and seven times turn
again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him." Again, we have
the teaching recorded by Matthew, out of which Peter's question
sprang--"If thy brother sin against thee, go, show him his fault between
thee and him alone; if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy
brother"--followed by the parable of the Unforgiving Servant, with its
solemn warning of inimitable doom: "So shall also My heavenly Father do
unto you, if ye forgive not every one his brother from your hearts."
And, finally, all these words are made fast for ever in the minds and
consciences of men, by the great act on the Cross when the dying
Redeemer prayed for the men who slew Him: "Father, forgive them; for
they know not what they do."

The meaning of all this is unmistakable. No child could miss the point
of the solemn parable to which I have referred. At the same time, it may
not be out of place to point out that there are not a few instances in
which people may feel themselves wronged, which, nevertheless, do not
come within the scope of Christ's teaching about forgiveness. An
illustration will best explain my meaning. It sometimes happens, both in
business life and in the Church, that two men, equally honourable and
true, but with almost nothing else in common, are often thrown into each
other's company. They have to deal with the same facts, but they look
upon them with wholly different eyes, they approach them from wholly
different points of view. The results are obvious. There are not only
widely differing opinions, but occasional misunderstandings, and
sometimes sharper words than ought ever to pass between Christian men.
Now, to say broadly that one is right and the other wrong, that the one
owes confession and the other forgiveness, is simply not true; what is
true is that the men are different, different in temperament, different
in training, different in their whole habits of thought and life. And
what is needed is that each should learn frankly to recognize the fact.
This is not a case for rebuking, and repenting, and forgiving, but for
mutual forbearance. There are multitudes of good people, people whose
goodness no one who knows them would ever question, whom yet we cannot
take to our bosoms, and treat as intimate personal friends. Even
religion does not all at once straighten out all the twists in human
nature, nor rub down all its hard angularities. And, as I say, it is our
simple, common-sense duty to recognize the fact; and if sometimes we
find even our fellow--Christians "very trying," well, we must learn to
bear and forbear, always remembering that others probably find us no
less trying than we sometimes find them. But where grave and undeniable
injury has been done, immediately Christ's teaching comes into
operation. The injured one must banish all thought of revenge. Never
must we say, "I will do so to him as he hath done to me; I will render
to the man according to his work." Rather must we strive to overcome
evil by good, and by the manifestation of a forgiving spirit to win the
wrong-doer to repentance and amendment.


When, now, we take these precepts of Jesus and lay them side by side
with the life of the world, or even with the life of the Church, as day
by day it passes before our eyes, our first thought must be, how little
yet do men heed the words of Jesus, how much mightier is the pagan
spirit of revenge than the Christian spirit of forgiveness. Indeed, of
all the virtues which Christ inculcated, this, perhaps, is the most
difficult. True forgiveness--I do not speak of the poor, bloodless
phantom which sometimes passes by the name:

"Forgive! How many will say 'forgive,' and find
A sort of absolution in the sound
To hate a little longer,"

--not of such do I speak, but of true forgiveness, and this, I say, can
never for us men be an easy thing. Perhaps a frank consideration of some
of the difficulties may contribute to their removal.

(1) One chief reason why Christ's command remains so largely a dead
letter is to be found in our unwillingness to acknowledge that we have
committed an injury. That another should have wronged us we find no
difficulty in believing; that we have wronged another is very hard to
believe. Look at the very form of Peter's question: "How oft shall my
brother sin against me, and I forgive him?" "My brother" the wrong-doer,
myself the wronged--that is what we are all ready to assume. But what if
it is I who have need to be forgiven? But this is what our pride will
not suffer us to believe. That "bold villain" Shame, who plucked
Faithful by the elbow in the Valley of Humiliation, and sought to
persuade him that it is a shame to ask one's neighbour forgiveness for
petty faults, or to make restitution where we have taken from any, is
always quick to seize his opportunity. And he is especially quick when
acknowledgement is due to one who is socially our inferior. If an
employee be guilty of some gross discourtesy towards his master, or a
servant towards her mistress, the master or mistress may demand a prompt
apology on pain of instant dismissal. But when it is the servant or
employee who is the injured person he has no such remedy; yet surely, in
Christ's eyes, his very dependence makes the duty of confession doubly
imperative. "If," Christ said, "thou art offering thy gift at the altar,
and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee"--note
exactly Christ's words; He did not say, "If thou rememberest that thou
hast aught against thy brother"; alas, it is very easy for most of us to
do that; what He said was, "If thou rememberest that thy brother hath
aught against thee." Whom did I overreach in business yesterday? Whose
good name did I drag through the mire? What heart did I stab with my
cruel words? "If thou rememberest that thy brother hath aught against
thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be
reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift."

(2) If the difficulties are great when we have committed the wrong, they
are hardly less when we have suffered it. Thomas Fuller tells how once
he saw a mother threatening to beat her little child for not rightly
pronouncing the petition in the Lord's Prayer, "Forgive us our
trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us." The child
tried its best, but could get no nearer than "tepasses," and
"trepasses." "Alas!" says Fuller, it is a shibboleth to a child's tongue
wherein there is a confluence of hard consonants together; and then he
continues, "What the child could not pronounce the parents do not
practise. O how lispingly and imperfectly do we perform the close of
this petition: As we forgive them that trespass against us." In the old
Greek and Roman world, we have been told, people not only did not
forgive their enemies, but did not wish to do so, nor think better of
themselves for having done so. That man considered himself fortunate
who, on his deathbed, could say, on reviewing his past life, that no one
had done more good to his friends or more mischief to his enemies. And
though we profess and call ourselves Christians, how strong in many of
us still is the old heathen desire to be "even with" one who has wronged
us, and to make him smart for it. Many of us, as Dr. Dale says,[44] have
given a new turn to an old text. In our own private Revised Version of
the New Testament we read: "Whosoever speaketh a word or committeth a
wrong against God, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh a
word or committeth a wrong against me, it shall not be forgiven him;
certainly not in this world, even if it is forgiven in the world to
come." Resentment against moral evil every good man must feel; but when
with the clear, bright flame of a holy wrath there mingle the dark fumes
of personal vindictiveness, we do wrong, we sin against God.

Nowhere in Scripture, perhaps, have we such a lesson on the difficulty
of forgiveness as in the reference to Alexander the coppersmith, in St.
Paul's last letter to Timothy. Even if we read his words in the modified
and undoubtedly accurate form in which they are found in the Revised
Version, we still feel how far short they come of the standard of
Christ. "Paul," says Dr. Whyte, "was put by Alexander to the last trial
and sorest temptation of an apostolic and a sanctified heart."[45] And
with all the greatness of our regard for the great apostle, we dare not
say that he came out of the trial wholly unscathed. Did ever any man
come out of such a fire unhurt--any save One? Yet it is not for me to
sit in judgment on St. Paul; only let us remember we have no warrant
from God to hate any man and to hand him over to eternal judgment even
though, like Alexander, he heap insult and injury, not only upon
ourselves, but upon the cause and Church of Christ.

(3) And then to this native, inborn unwillingness to forgive there comes
in to strengthen it our knowledge of the fact that forgiveness is
sometimes mistaken for, and does, in fact, sometimes degenerate into,
the moral weakness which slurs over a fault, and refuses to strike only
because it dare not. Nevertheless, though there be counterfeits current,
there is a reality; there is a forgiving spirit which has no kinship
with cowardice or weakness or mere mushiness of character, but which is
the offspring of strength and goodness and mercy, in short, of all in
man that is likest God. And it is _this_ not that which God bids us make
our own; and not the less so because in the rough ways of the world that
so often passes for this.


It would be easy to go on enumerating difficulties, but long as the
enumeration might be, Christ's command would still remain in all its
explicitness, the Divine obligation would be in no way weakened. We must
forgive; we must forgive from our hearts; and there must be no limit to
our forgiveness. Nor is this all. The whole law of forgiveness is not
fulfilled when one who has done us an injury has come humbly making
confession, and we have accepted the confession and agreed to let
bygones be bygones. We should be heartless wretches indeed, if, under
such circumstances, we were not willing to do as much as that. But we
must do more: "If thy brother sin against thee, go, show him his fault
between thee and him alone; if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy
brother." We, we who have been wronged, must take the first step. We
must not wait for the wrong-doer to come to us; we must go to him. We
must lay aside our vindictiveness, and earnestly, patiently, making our
appeal to his better self, by every art and device which love can
suggest, we must help him to take sides against the wrong which he has
done, until at last forgiving love has led him captive, and our brother
is won. This is the teaching of Jesus. Let me suggest, in conclusion, a
three-fold reason why we should give heed to it.

Let us forgive _for our own sake_. A man of an unforgiving spirit is
always his own worst enemy. He "that studieth revenge," says Bacon,
"keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well."
"If thou hast not mercy for others," says Sir Thomas Browne, "yet be not
cruel unto thyself; to ruminate upon evils, to make critical notes upon
injuries, is to add unto our own tortures, to feather the arrows of our
enemies." There is no misery worse than that of a mind which broods
continually over its own wrongs, be they real or only fancied. There is
no gloom so deep and dark as that which settles on a hard and
unrelenting soul. And, on the other hand, there is no joy so pure, there
is none so rewarding, as that of one who, from his heart, has learned to
say, "I forgive." He has tasted the very joy of God, the joy of Him of
whom it is written that He delighteth in mercy. Just as when a sea-worm
perforates the shell of an oyster, the oyster straightway closes the
wound with a pearl, so does a forgiving spirit heal the hidden hurt of
the heart, and win for itself a boon even at the hands of its foe.

Let us forgive _for our brother's sake_. "What," asks George MacDonald,
"am I brother for, but to forgive?" And how much for my brother my
forgiveness may do! All love, not Christ's love only, has within it a
strange redemptive power. We often profess ourselves puzzled by that
hard saying of Jesus concerning the binding and loosing of men's sins.
Yet this is just what human love, or the want of it, is doing every day.
When we forgive men their sins, we so far loose them from them; we help
them to believe in the power and reality of the Divine forgiveness. When
we refuse to forgive, we bind their sins to them, we make them doubt the
love and mercy of God. Have we forgotten the part which Ananias played
in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus? St. Augustine used to say that the
Church owed Paul to the prayers of Stephen. Might he not have said, with
equal truth, that the Church owed Paul to the forgiveness of Ananias?
For three days, without sight, and without food or drink, Saul waited in
Damascus, pondering the meaning of the heavenly vision. Then came unto
him, sent by God, the man whose life he had meant to take: "Ananias
entered into the house; and, laying his hands on him, said, Brother
Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, who appeared unto thee in the way which thou
earnest, hath sent me." "_Brother_ Saul"--how his heart must have leapt
within him at the sound of the word! It was a voice from without
confirming the voice within; it was the love and forgiveness of man
sealing and making sure the love and forgiveness of God. Wherefore, let
us take heed lest, by our sullen refusal to forgive, we be thrusting
some penitent soul back into the miry depths, whence, slowly and
painfully, it is winning its way into the light and love of God.

Let us forgive _for Christ's sake_, because of that which God through
Him has done for us. When, day by day, we pray, "Forgive us our
trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us," what we are
asking is, that God will deal with us as we are dealing with others. Do
we mean what we say? Are we showing a mercy as large as we need?
Chrysostom tells us that many people in his day used to omit the words,
"As we forgive them that trespass against us." They did not dare to ask
God to deal with their sins as they were dealing with the sins of those
who had wronged them, lest they brought upon themselves not a blessing
but a curse. And would it not go hardly with some of us, if, with the
measure we mete, God should measure to us again? Yet there is no
mistaking Christ's words: "If ye forgive not men their trespasses,
neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Therefore, let me
think of myself, of my own sin, of the forgiveness even unto seventy
times seven which I need; and then let me ask, can I, whose need is so
great, dole out my forgiveness with a grudging hand, counting till a
poor "seven times" be reached, and then staying my hand? Rather, let me
pray, Lord,

"Make my forgiveness downright--such as I
Should perish if I did not have from Thee."

"Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and railing, be
put away from you, with all malice; and be ye kind one to another,
tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave

"O man, forgive thy mortal foe,
Nor ever strike him blow for blow;
For all the souls on earth that live
To be forgiven must forgive,
Forgive him seventy times and seven:
For all the blessed souls in Heaven
Are both forgivers and forgiven."

* * * * *


"My spirit on Thy care,
Blest Saviour, I recline;
Thou wilt not leave me in despair,
For Thou art Love Divine.

In Thee I place my trust,
On Thee I calmly rest;
I know Thee good, I know Thee just,
And count Thy choice the best.

Whate'er events betide,
Thy will they all perform;
Safe in Thy breast my head I hide,
Nor fear the coming storm.

Let good or ill befall,
It must be good for me,
Secure of having Thee in all,
Of having all in Thee."

* * * * *



"_Be not anxious for your life_ ... _nor yet for your
body_.... _Be not anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What
shall we drink? ... Be not anxious for the morrow._"--MATT.
vi. 25, 31, 34.


"_Take no thought for_ your life" is the more familiar rendering of the
Authorized Version. And if the words conveyed the same meaning to us
to-day as they did to all English-speaking people in the year 1611,
there would have been no need for a change. A great student of words,
the late Archbishop Trench, tells us that "thought" was then constantly
used as equivalent to anxiety or solicitous care; and he gives three
illustrations of this use of the word from writers of the Elizabethan
age. Thus Bacon writes: "Harris, an alderman in London, was put in
trouble, and died with _thought_ and anxiety before his business came to
an end." Again, in one of the _Somer's Tracts_, we read, "Queen
Katharine Parr _died of thought_"; and in Shakespeare's _Julius Caesar_,
"_Take thought_ and die for Caesar," where "to take thought" is to take
a matter so seriously to heart that death ensues.[46] In 1611,
therefore, the old translation did accurately reproduce Christ's
thought. To-day, however, it is altogether inadequate, and sometimes, it
is to be feared, positively misleading. For neither in this chapter nor
anywhere in Christ's teaching is there one word against what we call
forethought, and they who would find in the words of Jesus any
encouragement to thriftlessness are but misrepresenting Him and
deceiving themselves. Every man, who is not either a rogue or a fool,
must take thought for the morrow; at least, if he does not, some one
must for him, or the morrow will avenge itself upon him without mercy.
What our Lord forbids is not prudent foresight, but worry: "Be ye not
_anxious_!" The word which Christ uses ((Greek: merimnate)) is a very
suggestive one; it describes the state of mind of one who is drawn in
different directions, torn by internal conflict, "distracted," as we
say, where precisely the same figure of speech occurs. A similar counsel
is to be found in another and still more striking word which only Luke
has recorded, and which is rendered, "Neither be ye of doubtful mind."
There is a picture in the word ((Greek: meteorizesthe)) the picture of a
vessel vexed by contrary winds, now uplifted on the crest of some huge
wave, now labouring in the trough of the sea. "Be ye not thus," Christ
says to His disciples, "the sport of your cares, driven by the wind and
tossed; but let the peace of God rule in your hearts, and be ye not of
doubtful mind."

It cannot surprise us that Jesus should speak thus; rather should we
have been surprised if it had been otherwise. How could He speak to men
at all and yet be silent about their cares? For how full of care the
lives of most men are! One is anxious about his health, and another
about his business; one is concerned because for weeks he has been
without work, and another because his investments are turning out badly;
some are troubled about their children, and some there are who are
making a care even of their religion, and instead of letting it carry
them are trying to carry it; until, with burdens of one kind or another,
we are like a string of Swiss pack-horses, such as one may sometimes
see, toiling and straining up some steep Alpine pass under a blazing
July sun. Poor Martha, with her sad, tired face, and nervous, fretful
ways, "anxious and troubled about many things," is everywhere to-day.
Nor is it the poor only whose lives are full of care. It was not a poor
man amid his poverty, but a rich man amid his riches, who, in Christ's
parable, put to himself the question, "What shall I do?" The birds of
care build their nests amid the turrets of a palace as readily as in the
thatched roof of a cottage. The cruel thorns--"the cares of this life,"
as Jesus calls them--which choke the good seed, sometimes spring up more
easily within the carefully fenced enclosure of my lord's park than in
the little garden plot of the keeper of his lodge. On the whole,
perhaps, and in proportion to their number, there is less harassing,
wearing anxiety in the homes of the poor than in those of the wealthy.
And what harsh taskmasters our cares can be! How they will lord it over
us! Give them the saddle and the reins, and they will ride us to death.
Seat them on the throne, and they will chastise us not only with whips
but with scorpions. It is no wonder that Christ should set Himself to
free men from this grinding tyranny. He is no true deliverer for us who
cannot break the cruel bondage of our cares.


Let us listen, then, to Christ's gracious argument and wise
remonstrances. What, He asks, is the good of our anxiety? What can it do
for us? "Which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto his
stature? If, then, ye are not able to do that which is least, why are ye
anxious concerning the rest?" "But, the morrow! the morrow!" we cry.
"Let the morrow," Christ answers, "take care of itself; sufficient unto
the day is the evil thereof; learn thou to live a day at a time." "Our
earliest duty," says a great writer of our day, "is to cultivate the
habit of not looking round the corner;" which is but another version of
Christ's simple precept. And the saying, simple and obvious as it may
seem, never fails to justify itself. For one thing, the morrow rarely
turns out as our fears imagined it. Our very anxiety blurs our vision,
and throws our judgment out of focus. We see things through an
atmosphere which both magnifies and distorts. We remember how it was
with Mr. Fearing: "When he was come to the entrance of the Valley of the
Shadow of Death, I thought"--it is Greatheart who tells the story--"I
should have lost my man: not for that he had any inclination to go
back,--that he always abhorred; but he was ready to die for fear. Oh,
the hobgoblins will have me! the hobgoblins will have me! cried he; and
I could not beat him out on't." Yet see how matters fell out. "This I
took very great notice of," goes on Greatheart, "that this valley was as
quiet while he went through it as ever I knew it before or since." And
again, when Mr. Fearing "was come at the river where was no bridge,
there again he was in a heavy case. Now, now, he said, he should be
drowned for ever, and so never see that face with comfort, that he had
come so many miles to behold." But once more his fears were put to
shame: "Here, also, I took notice of what was very remarkable: the water
of that river was lower at this time than ever I saw it in all my life.
So he went over at last, not much above wet-shod."

And even though the morrow should prove as bad as our fears, Christ's
precept is still justified, for the worst kind of preparation for such a
day is worry. Worry, like the undue clatter of machinery, means waste,
waste of power. Anxiety, it has been well said, does not empty to-morrow
of its sorrows, but it does empty to-day of its strength. Therefore, let
us not be anxious. Let us climb our hills when we come to them. God
gives each day strength for the day; but when, to the responsibilities
of to-day we add the burdens of to-morrow, and try to do the work of two
days in the strength of one, we are making straight paths for the feet
of failure and disappointment. All the many voices of reason and
experience are on Christ's side when He bids us, "Be not anxious."

Yet, true as all this is, how inadequate it is! When the tides of care
are at the flood they will overrun and submerge all such counsels as
these, as the waves wash away the little sand-hills which children build
by the sea-shore. "We know it is no good to worry," people will tell us,
half-petulantly, when we remonstrate with them; "but we cannot help
ourselves, and if you have no more to say to us than this, you cannot
help us either." And they are right. Care is the cancer of the heart,
and if our words can go no deeper than they have yet gone, it can never
be cured. It is an inward spiritual derangement, which calls for
something more than little bits of good advice in order to put it right.
And if, again, we turn to the words of Jesus, we shall find the needed
something more is given. The care-worn soul, for its cure, must be taken
out of itself. "Oh the bliss of waking," says some one, "with all one's
thoughts turned outward!" It is the power to do that, to turn, and to
keep turned, one's thoughts outwards that the care-ridden need; and
Christ will show us how it may be ours.

"Be not anxious," says Jesus; and then side by side with this negative
precept He lays this positive one: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God."
Christ came to establish a kingdom in which "all men's good" should be
"each man's rule," and love the universal law. When, therefore, He bids
the anxious seek the kingdom, what He means is that they are to find an
escape from self and self-consuming cares in service. "When you find
yourself overpowered by melancholy," said John Keble, "the best way is
to go out and do something kind to somebody or other." And thousands who
are sitting daily in the gloom of a self-created misery, with all the
blinds of the spirit drawn, if they would but "go out" and begin to care
for others, would speedily cease their miserable care for themselves.
"When I dig a man out of trouble," some one quaintly writes, "the hole
he leaves behind him is the grave in which I bury my own trouble."[47]
This is not the whole cure for care; but if the mind is to be kept from
burrowing in the dark of its own fears and anxieties, it must be set
resolutely and constantly on those nobler ends to which Christ in His
gospel summons us all.

The care-worn, Christ says, must think of others; and, most of all, they
must think of God. "Let not your heart be troubled ... believe." This is
the great argument into which all other arguments run up. This is the
larger truth, within whose wide circumference lie all Christ's words
concerning care. We are not to care because we are cared for, cared for
by God. There is, Christ teaches us, a distribution of duties between
ourselves and God. We, on our part, make it our daily business to get
God's will done on earth as it is done in heaven; He, on His, undertakes
that we shall not want.

"Make you His service your delight,
He'll make your wants His care."

Once more we see how fundamental is Christ's doctrine of the Divine
Fatherhood. It is not so much because our anxiety is useless, or because
it unfits us for service, but because God is what He is, that our worry
is at once a blunder and a sin. It is mistrust of the heavenly love that
cares for us. The sovereign cure for care is--God.


But now a difficulty arises. Christ's doctrine of the Divine Fatherhood
is, without doubt, fundamental; but is it true? A God who clothes the
blowing lilies with their silent beauty, without whom no sparrow falleth
to the ground, who numbers the very hairs of our head--it is a glorious
faith, if one could but receive it. But can we? It was possible once, we
think, in the childhood of the world; but that time has gone, and we are
the children of a new day, whose thoughts we cannot choose but think. So
long as men thought of our earth as the centre of the universe, it was
not difficult to believe that its inhabitants were the peculiar care of
their Creator. But astronomy has changed all that; and what once we
thought so great, we know now to be but a speck amid infinite systems of
worlds. The old question challenges us with a force the Psalmist could
not feel: "When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the
moon and the stars which Thou hast ordained; what is man that Thou are
mindful of him? and the son of man that Thou visitest him?" The infinity
of God, the nothingness of man: the poor brain reels before the
contrast. Is it thinkable, we ask, that He whose dwelling-place is
eternity should care for us even as we care for our children? So the
question is often urged upon us to-day. But arguments of this kind, it
has been well said, are simply an attempt to terrorize the imagination,
and are not to be yielded to. As a recent writer admirably says: "We
know little or nothing of the rest of the universe, and it may very well
be that in no other planet but this is there intelligent and moral life;
and, if that be so, then this world, despite its material
insignificance, would remain the real summit of creation. But even if
this be not so, still man remains man--a spiritual being, capable of
knowing, loving, and glorifying God. Man is that, be there what myriads
of worlds there may, and is not less than that, though in other worlds
were also beings like him.... No conception of God is less imposing than
that which represents Him as a kind of millionaire in worlds, so
materialized by the immensity of His possessions as to have lost the
sense of the incalculably greater worth of the spiritual interests of
even the smallest part of them."[48]

But this is not the only difficulty; for some it is not the chief
difficulty. We have no theories of God and the universe which bar the
possibility of His intervention in the little lives of men. There is
nothing incredible to us in the doctrine of a particular Providence. But
where, we ask, is the proof of it? We would fain believe, but the facts
of experience seem too strong for us. A hundred thousand Armenians
butchered at the will of an inhuman despot, a whole city buried under a
volcano's fiery hail, countless multitudes suffering the slow torture of
death by famine--can such things be and God really care? Nor is it only
great world tragedies like these which challenge our faith. The question

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