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Town and Country Sermons by Charles Kingsley

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nor grieve the children of men out of spite. His punishments are
not revenge, but correction; and, as a father, he chastises his
children, not to harm, but to bless them.

And God grant that if that day, too, comes--if after sorrow comes
joy, if after storm comes sunshine--we may not forget God afresh in
our prosperity, nor go our ways like those dull-hearted Jews, after
they were cleansed from their leprosy: but, like the Samaritan,
return, and give glory to God, who gives, and delights in giving;
and only takes away, that he may lift up our souls to him, in whom
we live, and move, and have our being: and so, knowing who we are,
and where we are, may live in God, and by God, and for God, in this
life, and for ever.


(Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity.)

Psalm xxxii. 1-7. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord
imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. When
I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day
long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is
turned into the drought of summer. I acknowledge my sin unto thee,
and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my
transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my
sin. For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a
time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great
waters they shall not come nigh unto him. Thou art my hiding place;
thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shall compass me about
with songs of deliverance.

The collect for to-day is a very beautiful one. There is something
musical in the sound of the very words; so musical, that it is sung
as an anthem in many churches. Let us think a little over it.
'Grant, we beseech thee, merciful Lord, to thy faithful people
pardon and peace; that they may be cleansed from all their sins, and
serve thee with a quiet mind, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.'
That is a noble prayer; and a prayer for each and every one of us,
every day. I say for every day. It is not like the fifty-first
psalm, the prayer of a man who has committed some black and dreadful
crime; who fears lest God should take his Holy Spirit from him, and
leave him to remorse and horror; who feels that he needs to be
utterly changed, and have a new heart created within him. It is not
a prayer of that kind. It is rather the prayer of a man who is
weary with the burden of sinful mortality; who finds it very hard
work to do his duty, even tolerably well; who is dissatisfied with
himself, and ashamed of himself, not about one great fault, but
about many little faults; and who wants to be cleansed from them;
who is tempted to be fretful, anxious, out of heart, because things
go wrong; and because he feels it partly his own fault that things
go wrong; and who, therefore, wants peace, that he may serve God
with a quiet mind. Now then, dear friends, did I not speak truth,
when I said, this is a prayer for every one of us, and for every
day? For which of us does his duty as he ought? I take for
granted, we are all trying to do our duty, better or worse: but I
take for granted, too, that the more we try to do our duty, the more
dissatisfied with ourselves we are; and the more we find we have
sins without number to be cleansed from. For the more we try to do
our duty, the higher notion we get of what our duty is; the more we
do, the more we feel we ought to do; and the more we feel that we
leave undone a great many things which we ought to do, and do a
great many things which we ought not to do, and that there is no
health in us: but a great deal of disease and weakness;--disease of
soul, in the way of conceit, pride, selfishness, temper, obstinacy;
weakness, in the way of laziness, fearfulness, and very often of
sheer stupidity; we do not see, or rather will not take the trouble
to see, what we ought to do, and how to do it. And therefore, we
must be, or rather ought to be, dissatisfied with ourselves; and our
consciences accuse us when we lie down at night, of a hundred petty
miserable mistakes, which we ought to have avoided. We are
continually knowing what is right, and doing what is wrong, till we
get deservedly angry with ourselves; and think at times, that God
must be deservedly angry with us; that we are such poor paltry
creatures that he can only look on us with dislike and contempt:
and even worse; that, perhaps, he does not care to see us mend; that
our struggles to do right are of no value in his eyes: but that he
has sternly left us to ourselves, to struggle through life, right or
wrong, as best we may; and to be punished at last, for all that we
have done amiss.

Such thoughts will cross our minds. They have crossed the minds of
all mankind since the first man's conscience awoke, and he
discovered that he was not a brute animal, by finding in himself
that awful thought, which no brute animal can have--'I have done
wrong.' And therefore the consciences of men will cry for pardon,
just in proportion as they are worthy of the name of men, and not
merely a superior sort of animals; and therefore just in proportion
as our souls are alive in us, alive with the feeling of duty, of
justice, of purity, of love, of a just and orderly God above--just
in that proportion shall we be tormented by the difference between
what we are, and what we ought to be; and the sense of sin, and the
longing for pardon, will be more keen in us; and we shall have no
rest till the sins are got rid of, and the pardon sure. That is the
price we pay for having immortal souls. It is a heavy price truly:
but it is well worth the paying, if it be only paid aright. If that
tormenting feeling of being continually wrong in this life, ends by
making us continually right for ever in the world to come; if Christ
be formed in us at last; if out of our sinful and mortal manhood a
sinless and immortal manhood is born;--then shall we, like the
mother over her new-born babe, forget our anguish, for joy that a
man is born into the world.

But, again, besides pardon, we want peace. Who does not know that
state of mind in which, perhaps, without any great reason in
reality, one has no peace? When everything seems to go wrong with a
man. When he suspects everybody to be against him. When little
troubles, which he could bear easily enough at other times, seem
quite intolerable to him. When he is troubled with vain regrets
about the past--'Ah, if I had done this and that!' and vain fears
for the future, conjuring up in his mind all sorts of bad luck which
may, but most probably never will, happen; and yet from off which he
cannot turn his mind. Who does not know this frame of mind?

True, a great deal of this may depend on ill-health; and will pass
away as the man's bodily condition gets better. We know, in the
same way, that the strange anxiety which comes over us in sleepless
nights, comes from bodily causes. That is merely because, the
circulation of our blood being quickened, our brain becomes more
active; and because we are lying alone in the silent darkness, with
nothing to listen to or look at, we cannot turn our attention away
from the thoughts which get possession of us and torment us. That
is only bodily; and yet it may be very useful to our souls. As we
lie awake, our own past lives, our own past mistakes and sins, and
God's past blessings and mercies, too, may rise up before us with
clearness, and teach us more than a hundred sermons; and we may
find, with David, that our reins chasten us in the night-season.
'When I am in heaviness, I will think upon God; when my heart is
vexed, I will complain. Thou holdest mine eyes waking. . . . I have
considered the days of old, and the years that are past. I call to
remembrance my song, and in the night I commune with my own heart,
and search out my spirits. Will the Lord absent himself for ever,
and will he be no more intreated? Is his mercy clean gone for ever:
and is his promise come utterly to an end for evermore? Hath God
forgotten to be gracious: and will he shut up his loving-kindness
in displeasure? And I said it is mine own infirmity. But I will
remember the years of the right hand of the Most Highest.' These
sleepless hours taught the Psalmist somewhat; and they may teach us
likewise. And so, again, with these sad and fretful frames of mind.
Even if they do partly come from our bodies, they have a real
effect, which cannot be mistaken, on our souls; and they may have a
good effect on us, if we choose. I believe that we shall find, that
even if they do come from ill health and weak nerves, what starts
them is--that we are dissatisfied with ourselves. We feel something
wrong, not merely in our bodies, but in our souls, our characters;
and then we try to lay the blame on the world around us, and shift
it off ourselves; saying in our hearts, 'I should do very well, if
other people, and things about me, would only let me:' but the more
we try to shift off the blame, the less peace we have. Nothing
mends matters less than throwing the blame on others. That is
plain. Other people we cannot mend; they must mend themselves.
Circumstances about us we cannot mend; God must mend them. So, as
long as we throw the blame on them, we cannot return to a cheerful
and hopeful frame of mind. But the moment we throw the blame on
ourselves, that moment we can have hope, that moment we can become
cheerful again; for whatsoever else we cannot mend, we can at least
mend ourselves. Now a man may forget this in health. He may be put
out and unhappy for a while: but when his good spirits return, he
does not know why. Things have not improved; but, somehow, they do
not affect him as they did before. Now this is not wrong. God
forbid! In such a world as this, one is glad to see a man rid of
sadness by any means which is not wrong. Better anything than that
a poor soul should fret himself to death.

But it may be very good for a man now and then not to forget; to be
kept low, whether by ill health or by any other cause, till he faces
fairly his own state, and finds out honestly what does fret him and
torment him.

And then, I believe, his experience will generally be like David's.--
'As long as I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my groaning
all the day long.'

Think over these words, I beg you. I chose them for my text, just
because they seem to me to contain all that I wish you to
understand. As long as the Psalmist held his peace--as long as he
did not confess his sin to God--all seemed to go wrong with him. He
fretted his very heart away. The moment that he made a clean breast
to God, peace and cheerfulness came back to him.

This psalm may speak of some really great sin which he had
committed. But that makes all the more strongly for us. For if he
got forgiveness for a great sin, by merely confessing it, how much
more may we hope to be forgiven, for the comparatively little sins
of which I am now speaking? Surely there is forgiveness for them.
Surely we, Christians, are not worse off than the old Jews. God
forbid! What does the Bible tell us? If we confess our sins, he is
faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all
unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a
liar, and his word is not in us. And again, if we walk in the
light; that is, if we look honestly at our own hearts, and confess
honestly to God what we see wrong there; then we have fellowship one
with another; all our frettings and grudgings against our fellow-men
pass away; and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.
God forbid again! For what is the message of the Absolution,
whether general in the church, or private by the sick-bed, but this--
that there is continual forgiveness for those who really confess
and repent? God forbid again! For what is the message of the Holy
Communion, but that we really are forgiven, really helped by God not
to do the like again; that the stains and scars of our daily
misdoings are truly healed by God's grace; and power given us to
lead a healthier life, the longer we persevere in the struggle after

Therefore, instead of proudly laying the blame of our unhappiness on
our fellow-men, much less on God and his providence, let us cast
ourselves, in every hour of shame or of sadness, on the boundless
love of him who hateth nothing that he hath made; who so loved the
world that he spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us
all. How shall he not with him freely give us all things? Let us
open our weary hearts to him who watches with tender interest, as of
a father watching the growth of his child, over every struggle of
ours from worse to better; and so we shall have our reward. The
more we trust to the love of God, the more shall we feel his love--
feel that we are pardoned--feel that we are at peace. We may not
grow more cheerful as we grow older; but we shall grow more
peaceful. Sadder men, it may be; but wiser men also; caring less
and less for pleasure; caring even less and less for mere happiness:
but finding a lasting comfort in the knowledge that we are doing our
life's work not altogether ill, under the smile of Almighty God;
aware more and more of our own weakness, and of our own failings:
but trusting that God will take the will for the deed, and forgive
us what we have left undone, and accept what we have done, for the
sake of Christ, in whom, and not in our own poor paltry selves, he
looks upon us as his adopted children.

Only let us remember to ask for pardon and to ask for peace, that we
may use them as the collect bids us;--To ask for pardon, not merely
that we may escape punishment; not even to escape punishment at all,
if punishment be wholesome for us, as it often is: but that we may
be cleansed from our sins; that we may not be left to our own
weakness and our own bad habits, to grow more and more useless, more
and more unhappy, day by day, but that we may be cleansed from them;
and grow purer, nobler, juster, stronger, more worthy of our place
in God's kingdom, as our years roll by. Let us remember to ask for
peace, not merely to get rid of unpleasant thoughts, or unpleasant
people, or unpleasant circumstances; and then sit down and say,
Soul, take thine ease, eat and drink, for thou hast much goods laid
up for many years: but let us ask for peace, that we may serve God
with a quiet mind; that we may get rid of the impatient, cowardly,
discontented, hopeless heart, which will not let a man go about his
business like a man; and get, instead of it, by the inspiration of
God's Holy Spirit, the calm, contented, brave, hopeful heart, in the
strength of which a man can work with a will wherever God may put
him, even amidst vexation, confusion, disappointment, slander, and
persecution; and, in his place and calling, serve the Lord, who
served him when he died for him, and who serves him, and all his
people, now and for ever in heaven.

So shall we have real pardon, and real peace. A pardon which will
make us really better; and a peace which will make us really more
useful. And to be good and to be useful were the two ends for which
God sent us into the world at all.


(Sunday after Ascension, Evening.)

Ephesians iv. 9. 10. Now that he ascended, what is it but that he
also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that
descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens,
that he might fill all things.

This is one of those very deep texts which we are not meant to think
about every day; only at such seasons as this, when we have to think
of Christ ascending into heaven, that he might send down his Spirit
at Whitsuntide. Of this the text speaks; and therefore, we may, I
hope, think a little of it to-day, but reverently, and cautiously,
like men who know a very little, and are afraid of saying more than
they know. These deep mysteries about heaven we must always meddle
with very humbly, lest we get out of our depth in haste and self-
conceit. As it is said,

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

For, if we are not very careful, we shall be apt to mistake the
meaning of Scripture, and make it say what we like, and twist it to
suit our own fancies, and our own ignorance. Therefore we must
never, with texts like this, say positively, 'It must mean this. It
can mean only this.' How can we tell that?

This world, which we do see, is far too wonderful for us to
understand. How much more wonderful must be the world which we do
not see? How much more wonderful must heaven be? How can we tell
what is there, or what is not there? We can tell of some things
that are not there, and those are sin, evil, disorder, harm of any
kind. Heaven is utterly good. Beyond that, we know nothing.
Therefore I dare not be positive about this text, for fear I should
try to explain it according to my own fancies. Wise fathers and
divines have differed very much as to what it means; how far any one
of them is right, I cannot tell you.

The ancient way of explaining this text was this. People believed
in old times that the earth was flat. Then, they held, hell was
below the earth, or inside it in some way: and the burning
mountains, out of which came fire and smoke, were the mouths of
hell. And when they believed that, it was easy for them to suppose
that St. Paul spoke of Christ's descending into hell. He went down,
says St. Paul, into the lower parts of the earth. What could those
lower parts be, they asked, but the hell which lay under the earth?

Now about that we know nothing. St. Paul himself never says that
hell is below the earth. Indeed (and this is a very noteworthy
thing) St. Paul never, in his epistles, mentions in plain words hell
at all; so what St. Paul thought about the matter, we can never
know. Whether by Christ's descending into the lower parts of the
earth, he meant descending into hell, or merely that our Lord came
down on this earth of ours, poor, humble, and despised, laying his
glory by for a while, this we cannot tell. Some wise men think one
thing, some another. Two of the wisest and best of the great old
fathers of the Church think that he meant only Christ's death and
burial. So how dare I give a positive opinion, where wiser men than
I differ?

But about the other half of the text, which says, that he ascended
high above all heavens, there is no such difficulty.

All agree as to what that means: though, perhaps, in old times they
would have put it in different words.

The old belief was, that as hell was below the flat earth, so heaven
was above it; and that there were many heavens, seven heavens, in
layers, as it were, one above the other; and that the seventh
heaven, which was the highest of all, was where God dwelt. Now,
whether St. Paul believed this, we cannot tell. He speaks of being
himself caught up into the third heaven, and here Christ is spoken
of as ascending above all heavens.

My own belief, though I say it very humbly, is, that St. Paul spoke
of these things only as a figure of speech, for the sake of the
ignorance of the people to whom he was writing. They talked in that
way; and he was forced now and then to talk in that way, too, to
make them understand him. I think that, when he spoke of being
caught up into the third heaven, he did not mean that he was lifted
bodily off the earth into the skies: but that his soul was raised
up and enlightened to understand high and wonderful heavenly
matters, though not the highest or most wonderful. If he had meant
that, he would have said, that he was caught up into the seventh
heaven. We know that our Lord, in the same way, continually used
parables; because, as he said, the ignorant people could not
understand the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; and he had,
therefore, to put them into parables, taken from the common country
matters, and country forms of speech, if by any means he might make
them understand. And so, I suppose, it was with St. Paul. He had
to speak in such a way that he could be understood; and no more.

But when he says that Christ ascended far above all heavens, we are
to believe this--that he ascended to God himself. So high that he
could go no higher; so far that he could go no farther.

We, now, do not believe that there are seven heavens above the
earth; and we need not. It is no doctrine of the Church, or of the
Creeds. We know that the earth is round, and not flat; and that the
heavens, if by that we mean the sky, is neither above it, nor below
it, but round it on every side. But some may say, whither, then,
did our Lord ascend? To what place did his body go up? And that is
a right question; for we must always bear in mind that not merely
Christ's godhead but his manhood, not merely Christ's soul but his
body also, ascended into heaven. If we do not believe that, we do
not hold the Catholic faith. Whither, then, did Christ ascend?

My friends, we know this. That this earth and the planets move
round the sun, which is in the centre of them. We know this, too;
that all the countless stars which spangle the sky are really suns
likewise, perhaps, with worlds which we cannot see, moving round
them, as we move round the sun. We know, too, that these fixed
stars, as they seem to be, are not really fixed, but have some
regular movements among themselves, which seem very slow and small
to us, from their immense distance, but which really are very great
and fast.

Now all these suns and stars, it is reasonable to believe, most
probably have a centre. There must be order among them; and they
most probably move round one thing, one place, one central sun, as
it were, which is the very heart of all the worlds, and the whole
universe. Where that place is, or what it is like, we know not, and
cannot know. Only this we may believe, that it is glorious beyond
all that eye hath seen, and ear heard, or hath entered into the
heart of man to conceive. If this world be beautiful, how beautiful
must that world of all worlds be. If the sun be glorious, how
glorious must the sun of all suns be. If the heaven over us be
grand, how grand must that heaven of heavens be. We will not talk
of it; for we cannot imagine it: and if we tried to, we should only
lower it to our own low fancies. But is it not reasonable to
suppose, that there God the Father does, perhaps, in some
unspeakable way, shew forth his glory? That there, in the heart of
all the worlds, Cherubim and Seraphim continually adore him, crying
day and night, 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth: Heaven and
earth are full of the majesty of thy glory!' before his throne from
which goes forth light, and power, and life, to all worlds and all
created things.

And is it not reasonable to believe, that there Christ is, in the
bosom of the Father, and at the right hand of God? We know that
those, too, are only figures. That God is a Spirit, everywhere and
nowhere; and has not hands as we have. But it is only by such
figures that the Bible can make us understand the truth, that Christ
is the highest being in all heavens and worlds; equal with God the
Father, and sharer of his kingdom, and power, and glory, God blessed
for ever. Amen.

What then does St. Paul mean, when he says, 'That he may fill all
things?' I do not know. And I will take care not to lessen and
spoil St. Paul's words, by any ignorant words of my own. But one
thing I know it will mean one day, for St. Paul says so. That
Christ reigns, and will reign, triumphant over sin, and death, and
hell, till he have put all enemies under his feet, and the last
enemy that shall be destroyed is death. Then shall he deliver up
the kingdom to God, even the Father; that God may be all in all.
What that means I do not know. But this I can say, and you can say.
We can pray that God will finish the number of his elect and hasten
his kingdom, that we, with all that are departed in the true faith,
may have our perfect consummation and bliss, both in body and soul,
in his eternal kingdom. And this I can say, that it means now, for
you and me; for Whitsuntide tells me:--that whatever else Christ can
or cannot fill, he can at least fill our hearts, because he is in
the bosom of the Father himself; and therefore from him, as from the
Father, proceeds the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life. That
Spirit will proceed even to us, if we will have him. He will fill
our hearts with himself; with the Spirit of goodness, which proceeds
out of the heaven of heavens, and out of the bosom of God himself;
with love, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness; with truth,
honour, duty, earnestness, and all that is the likeness of Christ
and of God. Oh let us pray for that Spirit; the Spirit of truth,
which Christ promised us when he ascended up into the heaven of
heavens, to keep us sound in our most holy faith; and the Spirit of
goodness, to give us strength to live the good lives of good
Christian men.

And then it will matter little what opinions we hold about deep
things, which the wisest man can never put into words. And it will
matter little, whether what I have been telling you to-day about the
heaven of heavens be exactly true or not; for what says St. Paul of
such deep matters? That we know in part, and prophesy in part; and
that prophecies shall fail, and knowledge vanish away: but charity,
love, and right feeling, and right doing, which is the very Holy
Spirit of God, shall abide for ever. And if that Spirit be with us,
he will guide us in due time into all truth; teach us all we need to
know, and enable us to practise all we ought to do. Amen.


(Sunday before Christmas.)

Phil. iv. 4. Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.

This is a glorious text, and one fit to be the key-note of
Christmas-day. If we will take it to heart, it will tell us how to
keep Christmas-day. St. Paul has been speaking of two good women,
who seem to have had some difference; and he beseeches them to make
up their difference, and be of the same mind in the Lord. And then
he goes on to tell them, and all Christian people, why they should
make up their differences.

And for that reason, I suppose, the Church has chosen it for the
epistle before Christmas-day, on which all men are to make friends
with each other, and rejoice in the Lord. Let your moderation, he
says, be known to all men. The Greek word signifies forbearance,
reasonable dealing, consideration for one another, readiness to give
way, not standing too severely on one's own rights. Now this is
just the temper in which we ought to meet our friends at Christmas--
forbearance. They may not have always behaved well to us. Be it
so. No more have we to them. Let us, once in the year at least,
forget old grudges. Let us do as we would be done by; give and
forgive; live and let live; bury our past quarrels, and shake hands
over their graves.

For the Lord is at hand. Close to all of us: watching all we do,
and setting the right value on it. He cannot mistake. He sees both
sides of a matter, and all sides--a thousand sides which we cannot
see. He can judge better than we. Let him judge. Why do I say,
Let him judge? He has judged already, weeks, months ago, as soon as
each quarrel happened: and, perhaps, he found us in the wrong as
well as our neighbours; and, if so, the least said the soonest
mended. Let us forgive and forget, lest we be neither forgotten nor

And, because the Lord is at hand, be anxious about nothing. The
word here is the same as in the Sermon on the Mount. It means do
not fret; do not terrify yourselves; for the Lord is at hand; he
knows what you want: and will he not give it? Is not Christmas-day
a sign that he will give it--a pledge of his love? What did he do
on the first Christmas-day? What did he shew himself to be on the
first Christmas-day? Now, here is the root of the whole matter, and
a deep root it is; as deep as the beginning of all things which are,
or ever were, or ever will be. And yet if we will believe our
Bibles, it is a root which we all may find. What did the angels say
the first Christmas night? Peace on earth, and goodwill to men.
That is what God proclaimed. That is what he said that he had, and
would give.

Now, says the apostle, if you will believe the latter half of this
same Christmas message, then the first half of it will come true to
you. If you will believe that God's will is a good will to you,
then you will have peace on earth. For believe in Christmas-day;
believe that the Lord is at hand; that he has been made man for ever
and ever; and that to the Man Christ Jesus all power is given in
heaven and earth: and then, if you want aught, instead of grudging
or grinding your neighbours, ask him. In everything let your
requests be made known unto God: and then the peace of God will
keep your hearts through Christ Jesus.

You will feel at peace with God through Christ Jesus, because you
have found out that God is at peace with you; that God is not
against you, but for you; that God does not hate you, but love you;
and if God is at peace with you, what cause have you to be at war
with him? And so the message of Christmas-day will bring you peace.

You will be at peace with your neighbours, through Christ Jesus.
When you see God stooping to make peace with sinful men, you will be
ashamed to be quarrelling with them. When you see God full of love,
you will be ashamed to keep up peevishness, grudging, and spite.
When you see God's heaven full of light, you will be ashamed to be
dark yourselves; your hearts will go out freely to your fellow-
creatures; you will long to be friends with every one you meet; and
you will find in that the highest pleasure which you ever felt in
life. But mind one thing--what sort of a peace this peace of God
is. It passes all understanding; the very loftiest understanding.
The cleverest and most learned men that ever lived could not have
found it--we know they did not find it--by their own cleverness and
learning. No more will you find God's peace, if you seek for it
with your understanding. Thinking will not bring you peace, think
as shrewdly as you may. Reading will not bring it, read as deeply
as you may. Some people think otherwise; that they can get the
peace of God by understanding. If they could but understand more,
their minds would be at rest. So they weary themselves with
reading, and thinking, and arguing, perhaps trying to understand
predestination, election, assurance; perhaps trying to understand
which is the true Church. What do they get thereby? Certainly not
the peace of God. They certainly do not set their minds at rest.
They cannot. Books cannot give a live soul rest. Understanding
cannot. Nothing can give you or me rest, save God himself. The
peace is God's; and he must give it himself, with his own hand, or
we shall never get it. Go then to God himself. Thou art his child,
as Christmas-day declares: be not afraid to go unto thy Father.
Pray to him; tell him what thou wantest: say, Father, I am not
moderate, reasonable, forbearing. I fear I cannot keep Christmas-
day aright, for I have not a peaceful Christmas spirit in me; and I
know that I shall never get it by thinking, and reading, and
understanding; for it passes all that, and lies far away beyond it,
does peace, in the very essence of thine undivided, unmoved,
absolute, eternal Godhead, which no change nor decay of this created
world, nor sin or folly of men or devils, can ever alter; but which
abideth for ever what it is, in perfect rest, and perfect power, and
perfect love. O Father, give me thy peace. Soothe this restless,
greedy, fretful soul of mine, as a mother soothes a sick and
feverish child. How thou wilt do it I do not know. It passes all
understanding. But though the sick child cannot reach the mother,
the mother is at hand, and can reach it. Though the eagle, by
flying, cannot reach the sun, yet the sun is at hand, and can reach
all the earth, and pour its light and warmth over all things. And
thou art more than a mother: thou art the everlasting Father. Pour
thy love over me, that I may love as thou lovest. Thou art more
than the sun: thou art the light and the life of all things. Pour
thy light and thy life over me, that I may see as thou seest, and
live as thou livest, and be at peace with myself and all the world,
as thou art at peace with thyself and all the world. Again, I say,
I know not how; for it passes all understanding: but I hope that
thou wilt do it for me. I trust that thou wilt do it for me, for I
believe the good news of Christmas-day. I believe that thou art
love, and that thy mercy is over all thy works. I believe the
message of Christmas-day: that thou so lovest the world, that thou
hast sent thy Son to save the world, and me. I know not how; for
that, too, passes understanding: but I believe that thou wilt do
it; for I believe that thou art love; and that thy mercy is over all
thy works, even over me. I believe the message of Christmas-day,
that thy will is peace on earth, even peace to me, restless and
unquiet as I am; and goodwill to men, even to me, the chief of


(First Sunday after Christmas.)

Isaiah xxxviii. 16. O Lord, by these things men live, and in all
these things is the life of my spirit.

These words are the words of Hezekiah, king of Judah; and they are
true words, words from God. But, if they are true words, they are
true words for every one--for you and me, for every one here in this
church this day: for they do not say, By these things certain men
live, one man here and another man there; but all men. Whosoever is
really alive, that is, has life in his spirit, his soul, his heart,
the life of a man and not a beast, the only life which is worthy to
be called life, then that life is kept up in him in the same way
that it was kept up in Hezekiah, and by the same means.

Let us see, then, what things they were which gave Hezekiah's spirit
life. Great joy, great honour, great success, wealth, health,
prosperity and pleasure? Was it by these things that Hezekiah found
men lived? Not so, but by great sorrow. 'In those days was
Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amos
came unto him and said, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in
order; for thou shall die and not live. Then Hezekiah turned his
face towards the wall and prayed unto the Lord; and Hezekiah wept

Trouble upon trouble came on Hezekiah; and that just when he might
have expected a little rest. The Lord had just delivered Hezekiah
and the Jews from a fearful danger, of which we read in the chapter
before. Hezekiah had believed God's promise by the mouth of Isaiah.
He held fast his faith in God when Sennacherib and his Assyrian army
were camping round Jerusalem; for God had said, 'I will defend this
city to save it for my own sake and for my servant David's sake.'
He defended his city bravely and nobly, and showed himself a true,
and valiant, and godly king. And perhaps Hezekiah expected to be
rewarded for his faith, and rewarded for having done his duty: but
it was not so. He had to wait, and to endure more. And now this
fresh trouble was come upon him. Isaiah told him he should die and
not live: and he must prepare himself to meet death.

Hezekiah, you see, was horribly afraid of death. I do not mean that
he was afraid of going to hell, for he does not say so: but he
felt, to use his own words, 'The grave cannot praise thee, death
cannot celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope
for thy truth.' And, therefore, death looked to him an ugly and an
evil thing--as it is; the Lord's enemy, and his last enemy, the one
with which he will have the longest and sorest fight. He conquered
death by rising from the dead: but nevertheless we die; and death
is an ugly, fearful, hateful thing in itself, and rightly called the
King of Terrors: for terrible it is to those who do not know that
Christ has conquered it. Hezekiah lived before the Lord Jesus came
into the flesh to bring life and immortality to light, by rising
from the dead; and, therefore, the life after death was not brought
to light to him, any more than it was to David, or any other Old
Testament Jew. He dreaded it, because he knew not what would come
after death. And, therefore, he prayed hard not to die. He did not
pray altogether in a right way: but still he prayed. 'Remember
now, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth
and with a perfect heart, and have done that which was good in thy
sight.' And the Lord heard his prayer. 'Then came the word of the
Lord to Isaiah, saying, Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the
Lord, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears, behold I will
add unto thy days fifteen years.'

Then what was the use of God's warning to him? What was the use of
his sickness and his terror, if, after all, his prayer was heard,
and after the Lord had told him, Thou shall die and not live--that
did not come to pass: but the very contrary happened, that he
lived, and did not die?

Of what use to him was it? Of this use at least, that it taught him
that the Lord God would hear the prayers of mortal men. Oh my
friends, is not that worth knowing? Is not that worth going through
any misery to learn--that the Lord will hear us? That he is not a
cold, arbitrary tyrant, who goes his own way, never caring for our
cries and tears, too proud to turn out of his way to hear us: but
that he is very pitiful and of tender mercy, and repenting him of
the evil? Hezekiah did not pray rightly. He thought himself a
better man than he was. He said, 'Remember now, O Lord, I beseech
thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect
heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight.' And Hezekiah
wept sore. But he did pray. He went to God, and told his story to
him, and wept sore; and the Lord God heard him, and taught him that
he was not as good as he fancied; taught him that, after all, he had
nothing to say for himself--no reason to shew why he should not die.
'What shall I say? He hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath
done it: I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my
soul.' And so he felt that, instead of justifying himself, he must
throw himself utterly on God's love and mercy; that God must
undertake for him. 'O Lord, I am oppressed, crushed--the heart is
beaten out of me. I have nothing to say for myself. Undertake for
me. I have nothing to say for myself, but I have plenty to say of
thee. Thou art good and just. Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell.
I can say no more.'

And then he found that the Lord was ready to save him. That what
the Lord wished was, not to kill him, but to recover him, and make
him live--live more really, and fully, and wisely, and manfully--by
making him trust more utterly in God's goodness, and love, and
mercy; making him more certain that, good as he thought himself, and
perfect in heart, he was full of sins: and yet that the Lord had
cast all these sins of his behind his back, forgotten and forgiven
them, as soon as he had made him see that all that was good and
strong in him came from God, and all that was evil and weak from
himself. And then he says, 'O Lord, by these things men live, and
in all these things is the life of my spirit.' God meant all along
to receive me, and make me live. He chastened me, and brought me
low, to shew me that my own faith, my own righteousness, was no
reason for his saving me: but that his own love and mercy was a
good reason for saving me. 'Behold,' he goes on to say, 'for peace
I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered
it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins
behind thy back.'

And, my dear friends, what Hezekiah saw but dimly, we ought to see
clearly. The blessed news of the Gospel ought to tell us it
clearly. For the blessed Gospel tells us that the same Lord who
chastened and taught, and then saved, Hezekiah, was made flesh, and
born a man of the substance of a mortal woman; that he might in his
own person bear all our sicknesses and carry our infirmities; that
he might understand all our temptations, and be touched with the
feeling of our infirmities, seeing that he himself was tempted in
all points likewise, yet without sin.

Oh hear this, you who have had sorrows in past times. Hear this,
you who expect sorrows in the times to come.

He who made, he who lightens, every man who comes into the world; he
who gave you every right thought and wholesome feeling that you ever
had in your lives: he counts your tears; he knows your sorrows; he
is able and willing to save you to the uttermost. Therefore do not
be afraid of your own afflictions. Face them like men. Think over
them. Ask him to help you out of them: or if that is not to be, at
least to tell you what he means by them. Be sure that what he must
mean by them is good to you: a lesson to you, that in some way or
other they are meant to make you wiser, stronger, hardier, more sure
of God's love, more ready to do God's work, whithersoever it may
lead you. Do not be afraid of the dark day of affliction, I say.
It may teach you more than the bright prosperous one. Many a man
can see clearly in the cloudy day, who would be dazzled in the
sunlight. The dull weather, they say, is the best weather for
battle; and sorrow is the best time for seeing through and
conquering one's own self. Therefore do not be afraid, I say, of
sorrow. All the clouds in the sky cannot move the sun a foot
further off; and all the sorrow in the world cannot move God any
further off. God is there still, where he always was; near you, and
below you, and above you, and around you; for in him you live and
move and have your being, and are the offspring and children of God.
Nay, he is nearer you, if possible, in sorrow, than in joy. He is
informing you, and guiding you with his eye, and, like a father,
teaching you the right way which you should go. He is searching and
purging your hearts, and cleansing you from your secret faults, and
teaching you to know who you are and to know who he is--your Father,
the knowledge of whom is life eternal. By these things, my friends--
by being brought low and made helpless, till ashamed of ourselves,
and weary of ourselves, we lift up eyes and heart to God who made
us, like lost children crying after a Father--by these things, I
say, we live, and in all these things is the life of our spirit.


Psalm cxix. 89-96. For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.
Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the
earth, and it abideth. They continue this day according to thine
ordinances: for all are thy servants. Unless thy law had been my
delight, I should then have perished in mine affliction. I will
never forget thy precepts: for with them thou hast quickened me. I
am thine, save me; for I have sought thy precepts. The wicked have
waited for me to destroy me: but I will consider thy testimonies.
I have seen an end of all perfection; but thy commandment is
exceeding broad.

The Psalmist is in great trouble. He does not know whom to trust,
what to expect next, whom to look to. Everything seems failing and
changing round him. His psalm was most probably written during the
Babylonish captivity, at a time when all the countries and kingdoms
of the east were being destroyed by the Chaldean armies.

Then, he says, Be it so. If everything else changes, God cannot.
If everything else fails, God's plans cannot. He can rest on the
thought of God; of his goodness, his faithfulness, order,
providence. God is governing the world righteously and orderly.
Whatever disorder there is on earth, there is none in heaven. God's
word endures for ever there.

Then he looks on the world round him; all is well ordered--seasons,
animals, sun, and stars abide. They continue this day according to
God's ordinances. The unchangeableness of nature is a comfort to
him; for it is a token of the unchangeablenes of God who made it.

Now, I do beg you to think carefully over this verse; because it is
quite against the very common notion that, because the earth was
cursed for Adam's sake, therefore it is cursed now; that because it
was said to him, Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee,
therefore that holds good now. It is not so, my friends; neither is
there, as far as I know, in any part whatsoever of Scripture, any
mention of Adam's curse continuing to our day. St. John, in the
Revelations, certainly says, 'And there shall be no more curse.'
But if you will read the Revelation, you will find that what he
plainly refers to is to the fearful curses, the plagues, the vials
of wrath, as he calls them, which were to be poured out on the
earth; and then to cease when the New Jerusalem came down from

St. Paul, again, knows nothing about any such curse upon the earth.
He says that death came into the world by Adam's sin: but that must
be understood only of man, and the world of man; and for this simple
reason, that we know, without the possibility of doubt, that animals
died in this world just as they do now, not only thousands, but
hundreds of thousands of years before man appeared on earth.

What St. Paul says of the creation, in one of his most glorious
passages, is this--not that it is cursed, but that it groans and
travails continually in the pangs of labour, trying to bring forth;
trying to bring forth something better than itself; to develop, and
rise from good to better, and from that to better still; till all
things become perfect in a way which we cannot conceive, but which
God has ordained before the foundation of the world.

Besides, as a fact, the earth does not bring forth thorns and
thistles to us, but good grain, and fruitful crops, and an abundant
return for our labour, if we choose to till the ground.

And wise men, who study God's works, can find no curse at all upon
the earth, nor sign of a curse, neither in plants nor beasts, no,
nor in the smallest gnat in the air. The more they look into the
wonders of God's world, the more they find it true that there is
order everywhere, beauty everywhere, fruitfulness everywhere,
usefulness everywhere--that all things continue as at the beginning;
that, as the psalmist says in another place, God has made them fast
for ever and ever, and given them a law which cannot be broken. And
if you will look at Genesis viii. 21, 22, you will find from the
plain words of Scripture itself, that Adam's curse, whatever it was,
was taken off after the flood, 'And the Lord smelled a sweet savour:
and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground
any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil
from his youth; neither will I again smite any more everything
living, as I have done. While the earth remaineth, seed-time and
harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night
shall not cease.'

Therefore, my friends, open your eyes and your hearts freely to the
message which God is sending you, in summer and winter, in seed-time
and in harvest, in sunshine and in storm; that God is not a hard
God, a revengeful God, a God of curses, who is extreme to mark what
is done amiss, and keepeth his anger for ever. No: but that he is
your Father in heaven, who hateth nothing that he has made, and
whose mercy is over all his works; who made heaven and earth, the
sea, and all that therein is; who keepeth truth for ever; who
helpeth them to right that suffer wrong; who feedeth the hungry; a
God who feeds the birds of the air, though they sow not, neither do
they reap, nor gather into barns; and who clothes the grass of the
field, which toils not, neither doth it spin; and who will much much
more clothe and feed you, to whom he has given reason,
understanding, and the power of learning his laws, the rules by
which this world of his is made and works, and of turning them to
your own profit in rational and honest labour.

And think, my friends, if the old Psalmist, before Christ came,
could believe all this, and find comfort in it, much more ought we.
Shame to us if we do not. I had almost said, we deny Christ, if we
do not. For who said those last words concerning the birds of the
air, and the grass of the field? Who told us that we have not
merely a Master or a Judge in heaven, but a Father in heaven? Who
but that very Word of God, whom the Psalmist saw dimly and afar off?
He knew that the Word of God abode for ever in heaven: but he knew
not, as far as we can tell, that that same Word would condescend to
be made flesh, and dwell among men that we might see his glory, full
of grace and truth. The old Psalmist knew that God's word was full
of truth, and that gave him comfort in the wild and sad times in
which he lived; but he did not know--none of the Old Testament
prophets knew,--how full God's word was of grace also. That he was
so full of love, condescension, pity, generosity, so full of longing
to seek and save all that was lost, to set right all that was wrong,
in one word again, so full of grace, that he would condescend to be
born of the Virgin Mary, suffer under Pontius Pilate, to be
crucified, dead and buried, that he might become a faithful High
Priest for us, full of understanding, fellow-feeling, pity, love,
because he has been tempted in all things like as we are, yet
without sin.

My friends, was not the old Psalmist a Jew, and are not we Christian
men? Then, if the old Psalmist could trust God, how much more
should we? If he could find comfort in the thought of God's order,
how much more should we? If he could find comfort in the thought of
his justice, how much more should we? If he could find comfort in
the thought of his love, how much more should we? Yes; let us be
full of troubles, doubts, sorrows; let times be uncertain, dark, and
dangerous; let strange new truths be discovered, which we cannot, at
first sight, fit into what we know to be true already: we can still
say, 'I will not fear, though the earth be moved, and the hills be
carried into the midst of the sea.' For the word of God abideth for
ever in heaven, even Jesus Christ, who is the Light of the world and
the Life of men. To him all power is given in heaven and earth. He
is set on the throne, judging right, and ministering true judgment
among the people. All things, as the Psalmist says, come to an end.
All men's plans, men's notions, men's systems, men's doctrines, grow
old, wear out, and perish.

The old order changes, giving place to the new:
But God fulfils himself in many ways.

For men are not ruling the world. Christ is ruling the world, and
his commandment is exceeding broad. His laws are broad enough for
all people, all countries, all ages; and strangely as they may seem
to work, in the eyes of us short-sighted timorous human beings,
still all is going well, and all will go well; for Christ reigns,
and will reign, till he has put all enemies under his feet, and God
be all in all.


(Good Friday, 1860.)

1 Corinthians i. 23-25. But we preach Christ crucified, unto the
Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto
them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of
God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser
than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

The foolishness of God? The weakness of God? These are strange
words. But they are St. Paul's words, not mine. If he had not said
them first, I should not dare to say them now.

But what do they mean? Can God be weak? Can God be foolish? No,
says St. Paul. Nothing less. For so strong is God, that his very
weakness, if he seems weak, is stronger than all mankind. So wise
is God, that his very foolishness, if he seems foolish, is wiser
than all mankind.

Why then talk of the weakness of God, of the foolishness of God, if
he be neither weak nor foolish? Why use words which seem
blasphemous, if they are not true?

I do not say these ugly words for myself. St. Paul did not say
these ugly words for himself. But men have said them; too many men,
and too often. The Jews, who sought after a sign, said them in St.
Paul's time. The Corinthian Greeks, who sought after wisdom, said
them also. There are men who say them now. We all are tempted at
times to say them in our hearts. As often as we forget Good Friday,
and what Good Friday means, and what Good Friday brought to all
mankind, we do say them in our hearts; and charge God--though we
should not like to confess it even to ourselves--with weakness and
with folly.

Now, how is this? Let us consider, first, how it was with these
Jews and Greeks.

Why did the cross of Christ, and the message of Good Friday, seem to
them weakness and folly? Why did they answer St. Paul, 'Your Christ
cannot be God, or he would never have allowed himself to be

The Jews required a sign; a sign from heaven; a sign of God's power.
Thunder and earthquakes, armies of angels, taking vengeance on the
heathen; these were the signs of Christ which they expected. A
Christ who came in such awful glory as that, they would accept, and
follow, and look to him to lead them against the Romans, that they
might conquer them, and all the nations upon earth. And all that
St. Paul gave them, was a sign of Christ's weakness. 'He was
despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with
grief. . . . He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, yet
we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. He was
oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is
brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her
shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.' Then said the Jews--
This is no Christ for us, this weak, despised, crucified Christ.
Then answered St. Paul--Weak? I tell you that what seems to you
weakness, is the very power of God. You Jews wish to conquer all
mankind: and behold, instead, you yourselves are rushing to ruin
and destruction: but what you cannot do, Christ on his cross can
do. Weak, shamed, despised, dying man as he seemed, he is still
conqueror; and he will conquer all mankind at last, and draw all men
to himself. Know that what seems to you weakness, is the very power
of God; the power of doing good, and of suffering all things, that
he may do good: and that _that_ will conquer the world, when riches
and glory, and armies, aye, the very thunder and the earthquake,
have failed utterly.

The Greeks, again, sought after wisdom. If St. Paul was (as he
said) the apostle of God, then they expected him to argue with them
on cunning points of philosophy; about the being of God, the nature
of the world and of the soul; about finite and infinite, cause and
effect, being and not being, and all those dark questions with which
they astonished simple people, and gained power over them, and set
up for wise men and teachers to their own profit and glory,
pampering their own luxury and self-conceit. And all St. Paul gave
them, seemed to them mere foolishness. He could have argued with
these Greeks on those deep matters; for he was a great scholar, and
a true philosopher, and could speak wisdom among those who were
perfect: but he would not. He determined to know nothing among
them but Jesus Christ, and him crucified; and he told them, You
disputers of this world, while you are deceiving simple souls with
enticing words of man's wisdom and philosophy, falsely so called,
you are trifling away your own souls and your hearers' into hell.
What you need, and what they need, is not philosophy, but a new
heart and a right spirit. Sin is your disease; and you know that it
is so, in the depth of your hearts. Then know this, that God so
loved you, sinners as you are, that he condescended to become mortal
man, and to give himself up to death, even the shameful and horrible
death of the cross, that he might save you from your sins; and he
that would be saved now, let him deny himself, and take up his cross
and follow him. And to that, those proud Greeks answered,--That is
a tale unworthy of philosophers. The Cross? It is a death of
shame--the death of slaves and wretches. Tell your tale to slaves,
not to us. To give himself up to the death of the cross is
foolishness, and not the wisdom which we want. Then answered St.
Paul and said,--True. The cross is a slave's and a wretch's death;
and therefore slaves and wretches will hear me, though you will not.
'For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men
after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but
God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the
wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound
the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and
things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which
are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should
glory in his presence.' For the foolishness of God is wiser than
all the wisdom of men. You Greeks, with all your philosophy and
your wisdom, have been trying, for hundreds of years, to find out
the laws of heaven and earth, and to set the world right by them;
and you have not done it. You have not found out the secrets of the
world. You have not set the world right. You have not even set
your own hearts and lives right. But what your seeming wisdom
cannot do, the seeming foolishness of Christ on his cross will do.
Does it seem to you foolish of him, to believe that he could save
the world, by giving himself up to a horrible and shameful death?
Does it seem to you foolishness in me, to preach nothing but him
crucified, and to say, Behold God dying for men? Then know, that
what seems to you foolishness, is the very wisdom of God. That God
knows the secret of touching, convincing, and converting the hearts
of men, though you do not. That God knows how the world is made,
and how to set it right, though you do not. That God knows the law
which keeps all heaven and earth in order, though you do not; and
that that law is charity,--self-sacrificing love, which shines out
from the cross of Christ. Know, that when all your arguments and
philosophies have failed to teach men what they ought to do, one
earnest penitent look at Christ upon his cross will teach them.
That their hearts will leap up in answer, and cry, If this be God, I
can believe in him. If this be God, I can trust him. If this be
God, I can obey him. That one look at Christ upon his cross will
make them--what you could never make them--new men, filled with a
new thought; the thought that God is love, and that he who dwelleth
in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him; and that the poor slaves
and wretches, whom you despise, will look unto the cross and be
saved, and become new men, and lead new lives, and rise to be saints
and martyrs to God and to his Christ, giving themselves up to
torments and death, as Christ did before them; and that out of them
shall spring that church of Christ, which shall reign over all the
world, when you and your philosophies have crumbled into dust.

My friends, let us look, earnestly, humbly, and solemnly this day,
at Christ upon his cross. Let us learn that love, the utter self-
sacrificing love which Christ shewed on his cross, is stronger than
all pomp and might, all armies, riches, governments; aye, that it is
the very power of God, by which all things consist, which holds
together heaven and earth and all that is therein.

Let us learn that love, the utter self-sacrificing love which Christ
shewed on his cross, is wiser than all arguments, doctrines,
philosophies, whether they be true or false; aye, that it is the
very wisdom of God, by which he convinces and converts all hearts
and souls; and let us look to the cross, and see there the wisdom of
God, and the power of God, mighty to save to the uttermost all who
come through Christ to him.

And let us remember this, that whenever we fancy ourselves to be
strong and powerful, and think to aggrandize ourselves at our
neighbour's expense, and to crush those who are weaker than
ourselves, then we are forgetting the lesson of Good Friday; that
whenever we fancy that the way to be wise is, to use our wit and our
knowledge for our own glory, and by them to manage our fellow-men,
and make them admire us and bow down to us, then we forget the
lesson of Good Friday. For whosoever gives himself up to selfish
ambition, or to selfish cunning, charges Christ upon his cross with
weakness and with foolishness, and denies the Lord who bought him
with his blood.

My friends, I have no more to say. Much more I might say. For Good
Friday has many other meanings, and all the sermons of a lifetime
would not exhaust them all.

But one thing seemed to me fit to be said, and I say it again, and
entreat you to carry it home with you, and live by the light of it
all the year round.

Do you wish to be powerful? Then look at Christ upon his cross; at
what seems to men his weakness; and learn from him how to be strong.
Do you wish to be wise? Then look at Christ upon the cross; and at
what seemed to men his folly; and learn from him how to be wise.
For sooner or later, I hope and trust, you will find that true,
which St. Buonaventura (wise and strong himself) used to say,--That
all the learning in the world had never taught him so much as the
sight of Christ upon the cross.


(First Sunday after Easter.)

John xx. 29. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen
me, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet
have believed.

The eighth day after the Lord Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared
a second time to his disciples. On this day he strengthened St.
Thomas's weak faith, by giving him proof, sensible proof, that he
was indeed and really the very same person who had been crucified,
wearing the very same human nature, the very same man's body.

'Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.' You
have not seen. You have never beheld with your bodily eyes, or
touched with your bodily hand, as St. Thomas did, the Lord Jesus
Christ. And yet you may be more blessed now, this day, than St.
Thomas was then. We are too apt to fancy, that, to have seen the
Lord with our eyes, to have walked with him, and talked with him, as
the apostles did, was the greatest honour and blessing which could
happen to man. We fancy, perhaps, at times, that if the Lord Jesus
were to come visibly among us now, we should want nothing more to
make us good: that we could not help listening to him, obeying him,
loving him.

But the Scriptures prove to us that it was not so. The Scribes and
Pharisees saw him and talked with him; yet they hated him. Judas
Iscariot, yet he betrayed him. Pilate, yet he condemned him. The
word preached profited them nothing, not being mixed with faith in
those who heard him. Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, came and
preached himself to them; declared to them who he was, proved who he
was by his mighty works of love and mercy, and by fulfilling all the
prophecies of Scripture which spoke of him; and yet they did not
believe him, they hated him, they crucified him; because they had no

You see, therefore, that something more than seeing him with our
bodily eyes is wanted to make us believe in the Lord Jesus Christ;
something more than seeing him with our bodily eyes is wanted to
make us blessed. St. Thomas saw him; St. Thomas was allowed, by the
boundless condescension and mercy of the Lord Jesus, to put his hand
into his side. And yet the Lord does not say to him,--See how
blessed thou art; see how honoured thou art, by being allowed to
touch me. No; our Lord rather rebukes him for requiring such a

There are those who will not believe without seeing; who say, I must
have proof. What I hear in church is too much for me to believe
without many more reasons than are given for it all. Many people,
for instance, stumble at the stumbling-block of the cross, and
cannot bring themselves to believe that God would condescend to
suffer and to die for men. Others cannot make up their minds about
the resurrection. It seems to them a strange and impossible thing
that Jesus' body should have risen from the grave and ascended to
heaven, and that our bodies should rise also. That was the great
puzzle to the Greeks, who thought themselves very learned and
cunning, and were great arguers and disputers about all deep matters
in heaven and earth. When St. Paul preached to them on Mars' Hill,
they heard him patiently enough, till he spoke of Jesus rising from
the dead; and then they mocked; laughed at the notion as absurd.
And we find that the Corinthians, even after they were converted and
baptised Christians, were puzzled about this same matter. They
could not understand how the dead were raised, and with what body
they would come.

With such the Lord is not angry. If they really wish to know what
is true, and to do what is right; if they really are, as St. Paul
says, 'feeling after the Lord, if haply they may find him;' then the
Lord will give them light in due time, and shew them what they ought
to believe, and give them the sort of proof which they want. All
such he treats as he did Thomas, when he said, in his great
condescension, 'Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands, and
reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side, and be not
faithless but believing.'

So the Lord sent to those Corinthians the very sort of proof which
they wanted, by the hand of the learned apostle, St. Paul. They
were great observers of the works of nature, of the strange movement
and change, birth and death, which goes on in beasts, and in plants,
and in the clouds, and the rivers, and the very stones under our
feet. And they said, We cannot believe in the resurrection of the
dead, because we see nothing like it in the world around us. And
St. Paul was sent to tell them. No: you do see something like it.
If you will look deeper into the working of the world around you,
you will see that the rising again of the dead, instead of being an
unnatural or an absurd thing, is the most reasonable and natural
thing, the perfect fulfilment, and crowning wonder of wonderful laws
which are working round you in every seed which you sow; in the
flesh of beasts and fishes; in bodies celestial and bodies
terrestrial: and so in that glorious chapter which we read in the
Burial Service, St. Paul tells the Corinthians, who went altogether
by sense, and reasoning about the things which they could see and
handle, that sense and reasoning were on his side, on God's side;
and that the mysteries of faith, like the resurrection of the body,
were not contrary to reason, but agreed with it.

So does the Lord clear up the doubts of his people, in the way which
is best for them. But he does not call them as blessed as others.
There is a higher faith than that. There is a better part. The
same part which Mary chose. The same faith of which our Lord says,--
'Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.' The
faith of the heart; the childlike, undoubting, ready, willing faith,
which welcomes the news of the Lord; which runs to meet it, and is
not astonished at it; and, if it ever doubts for a moment, only
doubts for very joy and delight; and feeling that the news of the
gospel is good news, cannot help feeling now and then that it is too
good news to be true; shewing its love and its faith in its very
hesitation. This is the childlike heart, whereof it is written,
'Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall in
no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.'

The hearts of little children; the hearts which begin by faith and
love toward God himself; the hearts which know God; the hearts to
whom God has revealed himself, and taught them, they know not how,
that he is love. They are so sure of God's goodness, so sure of his
power, so sure of his love, his willingness to have mercy, and to
deliver poor creatures, that they find nothing strange, nothing
difficult, in the mysteries of faith. To them it is not a thing
incredible, that God should have come down and died upon the cross.
When they hear the good news of him who gave his own life for them,
it seems a natural thing to them, a reasonable thing: not of course
a thing which they could have expected; but yet not a thing to doubt
of or to be astonished at. For they know that God is love.

And now some of you may say, 'Then are we more blessed than Thomas?
We have not seen, and yet we have believed. We never doubted. We
never wanted any arguments, or learned books, or special inward
assurances. From the moment that we began to learn our catechisms
at school we believed it, of course, every word of it. Do we not
say the Creed every Sunday; I believe in--and so forth?' O my
friends, do you believe indeed? If you do, blessed are you. But
are you sure that you speak truth?

You may believe it. But do you believe in it? Have you faith in
it? Do you put your trust in it? Is your heart in it? Is it in
your heart? Do you love it, rejoice in it, delight to think over
it; to look forward to it, to make yourselves ready and fit for it.
Do you believe in it, in short, or do you only believe it, as you
believe that there is an Emperor of China, or that there is a
country called America, or any other matter with which you have
nothing to do, for which you care nothing, and which would make no
difference at all to you, if you found out to-morrow that it was not
so. That is mere dead belief; faith without works, which is dead,
the belief of the brains, not the faith of the heart and spirit.

Oh, do you really believe the good news of this text, in which the
Son of God himself said to mortal men like ourselves, 'Handle me and
see that it is I, indeed; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as
ye see me have.' Do you believe that there is a Man evermore on the
right hand of God? That now as we speak a man is offering up before
the Father his perfect and all-cleansing sacrifice? That, in the
midst of the throne of God, is he himself who was born of the Virgin
Mary, and crucified under Pontius Pilate? Do you wish to find out
whether you believe that or not? Then look at your own hearts.
Look at your own prayers. Do you think of the Lord Jesus Christ, do
you pray to the Lord Jesus Christ, as a man, very man, born of
woman? Do you pray to him as to one who can be touched with the
feeling of your infirmities, because he has been tempted in all
things like as you are, yet without sin? When you are sad,
perplexed, do you take all your sorrows and doubts and troubles to
the Lord Jesus, and speak them all out to him honestly and frankly,
however reverently, as a man speaketh to his friend? Do you really
cast all your care on him, because you believe that he careth for
you? If you do, then indeed you believe in the resurrection of the
Lord Jesus Christ; and you will surely have your reward in a peace
of mind, amid all the chances and changes of this mortal life, which
passes man's understanding. That blessed knowledge that the Lord
knows all, cares for all, condescends to all--That thought of a
loving human face smiling upon your joys, sorrowing over your
sorrows, watching you, educating you from youth to manhood, from
manhood to the grave, from the grave to eternities of eternities--
Whosoever has felt that, has indeed found the pearl of great price,
for which, if need be, he would give up all else in earth or heaven.

Or do you say to yourselves at times, I must not think too much
about the Lord Jesus's being man, lest I should forget that he is
God? Do you shrink from opening your heart to him? Do you say
within yourself, He is too great, too awful, to condescend to listen
to my little mean troubles and anxieties? Besides, how can I expect
him to feel for them; I, a mean, sinful man, and he the Almighty
God? How do I know that he will not despise my meanness and
paltriness? How do I know that he will not be angry with me? I
must be more reverent to him, than to trouble him with very petty
matters. He was a man once when he was upon earth: but now that he
is ascended up on high, Very God of Very God, in the glory which he
had with the Father before the worlds were made, I must have more
awful and solemn thoughts about him, and keep at a more humble
distance from him.

Do you ever have such thoughts as those come over you, my friends,
when you are thinking of the Lord Jesus, and praying to him? If you
do, shall I tell you what to say to them when they arise in your
minds, 'Get thee behind me, Satan.' Get thee away, thou accusing
devil, who art accusing my Lord to me, and trying to make me fancy
him less loving, less condescending, less tender, less
understanding, than he was when he wept over the grave of Lazarus.
Get thee away, thou lying hypocritical devil, who pretendest to be
so very humble and reverent to the godhead of the Lord Jesus, in
order that thou mayest make me forget what his godhead is like,
forget what God's likeness is, forget that it was in his manhood, in
his man's words, his man's thoughts, his man's actions, that he
shewed forth the glory of God, the express image of his person, and
fulfilled the blessed words, 'And God said, Let us make man in our
image, after our likeness.' Get thee behind me, Satan. I believe
in the good news of Easter Day, and thou shall not rob me of it. I
believe that he who died upon the Cross, rose again the third day,
as very and perfect man then and now, as he was when he bled and
groaned on Calvary, and shuddered at the fear of death, in the
garden of Gethsemane. Thou shalt not make my Lord's incarnation,
his birth, his passion, his resurrection, all that he did and
suffered in those thirty-three years, of none effect to me. Thou
shalt not take from me the blessed message of my Bible, that there
is a man in heaven in the midst of the throne of God. Thou shalt
not take from me the blessed message of the Athanasian Creed, that
in Christ the manhood is taken into God. Thou shalt not take from
me the blessed message of Holy Communion, which declares that the
very human flesh and blood of him who died on the Cross is now
eternal in the heavens, and nourishes my body and soul to
everlasting life. Thou shalt not, under pretence of voluntary
humility and will-worship, tempt me to go and pray to angels or to
saints, or to the Blessed Virgin, because I choose to fancy them
more tender, more loving and condescending, more loving, more human,
than the Lord himself, who gave himself to death for me. If the
Lord God, the Son of the Father, is not ashamed to be man for ever
and ever, I will not be ashamed to think of him as man; to pray to
him as man; to believe and be sure that he can be touched with the
feeling of my infirmities; to entreat him, by all that he did and
suffered as a man, to deliver me from those temptations which he
himself has conquered for himself; and to cry to him in the
smallest, as well as in the most important matters--'By the mystery
of thy holy incarnation; by thine agony and bloody sweat; by thy
cross and passion; by thy precious death and burial; by thy glorious
resurrection and ascension;' by all which thou hast done, and
suffered, and conquered, as a man upon this earth of ours, good
Lord, deliver us!


(Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, 1858.)

Galatians, v. 16, 17. This I say then, Walk in the spirit, and ye
shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth
against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh: and these are
contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that
ye would.

Does this text seem to any of you difficult to understand? It need
not be difficult to you; for it does not speak of anything which you
do not know. It speaks of something which you have all felt, which
goes on in you every day of your lives. It speaks of something,
certainly, which is very curious, mysterious, difficult to put into
words: but what is not curious and mysterious? The commonest
things are usually the most curious? What is more wonderful than
the beating of your heart; your pulse which beats all day long,
without your thinking of it?

Just so this battle, this struggle, which St. Paul speaks of in this
text, is going on in us all day long, and yet we hardly think of it.
Now what is this battle? What are these things which are fighting
continually in your mind and in mine? St. Paul calls them the flesh
and the spirit. 'The flesh,' he says, 'lusts against the spirit,
and the spirit against the flesh.' They pull opposite ways. One
wants to do one thing, and the other the other. But if so, one of
them must be in the right, and the other in the wrong. Now, St.
Paul says, when these two fall out with each other, the spirit is in
the right, and the flesh in the wrong. And therefore, the secret of
life is, to walk in the spirit, and so not to fulfil the lusts of
the flesh.

But if so, it must be worth our while to find out which is flesh,
and which is spirit in us, that we may know the foolish part of us
from the wise. What the flesh is, we may see by looking at a dumb
beast, which is all flesh, and has no immortal soul. It may be very
cunning, brave, curiously formed, beautiful, but one thing you will
always see, that a beast does what it likes, and only what it likes.
And this is the mark of the flesh, that it does what it likes. It
is selfish, and self-indulgent, cares for nothing but itself, and
what it can get for itself.

True, you may raise a dumb beast above that, by taming and training
it. You may teach a horse or dog to do what it does _not_ like, and
give it a sense of duty, and as it were awaken a soul in it. That
is very wonderful, that we should be able to do so. It is a sign
that man is made in God's likeness. But I cannot stay to speak of
that now. I say our flesh, our animal nature, is selfish and self-
indulgent. I do not say, therefore, that it is bad: God forbid.
God made our bodies and brains, as well as our souls; and God makes
nothing bad. It is blasphemous to say that he does. No, our bodies
as bodies are good; the flesh as flesh is good, when it is in its
right place; and its right place is to be servant, not master. We
are not to walk after the flesh, says St. Paul: but the flesh is to
walk after the spirit--in English, our bodies are to obey our
spirits, our souls. For man has something higher than body in him.
He has a spirit in him; and it is just having this spirit which
makes him a man. For this spirit cares about higher things than
mere gain and comfort. It can feel pity and mercy, love and
generosity, justice and honour; and when a man not only feels them,
but obeys them, then he is a true man--a Christian man: but, on the
other hand, if a man does not; if he be a man in whom there is no
mercy or pity, no generosity, no benevolence, no justice or honour;
who cares for nothing and no one but himself, and filling his own
stomach and his own pulse, and pleasing his own brute appetites in
some way, what should you say of that man? You would say, he is
like a brute beast--and you would say right--you would say just what
St. Paul says. St. Paul would say, that man is fulfilling the lusts
of the flesh; and you and St. Paul would mean just the same thing.
Now, St. Paul says, 'The flesh in us lusts against the spirit, and
the spirit against the flesh.' And what do we gain by the spirit in
us lusting against the flesh, and pulling us the opposite way? We
gain this, St. Paul says, 'that we cannot do the things that we

Does that seem no great gain to you? Let me put it a little
plainer. St. Paul means this, and just this, that you may not do
whatever you like. St. Paul thought it the very best thing for a
man not to be able to do whatever he liked. As long, St. Paul says,
as a man does whatever he likes, he lives according to the flesh,
and is no better than a dumb beast: but as soon as he begins to
live according to the spirit, and does not do whatever he likes, but
restrains himself, and keeps himself in order, then, and then only,
he becomes a true man.

But why not do whatever we like? Because if we did do so, we should
be certain to do wrong. I do not mean that you and I here like
nothing but what is wrong. God forbid. I trust the Spirit of God
is with our spirits. But I mean this:--That if you could let a
child grow up totally without any control whatsoever, I believe that
before that lad was twenty-one he would have qualified himself for
the gallows seven times over. Thank God, that cannot happen in
England, because people are better taught, most of them at least;
and more, we dare not do what we like, for fear of the law and the

But, if you knew the lives which savages lead, who have neither law
outside them to keep them straight by fear, nor the Spirit of God
within them to keep them straight by duty and honour, then you would
understand what I mean only too well.

Now St. Paul says,--It is a good thing for a man not to be able to
do what he likes. But there are two ways of keeping him from it.
One is by the law, the other is by the Spirit of God. The law works
on a man from the outside by fear; but the Spirit of God works in a
man by honour, by the sense of duty, by making him like and love
what is right, and making him see what a beautiful and noble thing
right is.

Now St. Paul wants us to restrain ourselves, not from fear of being
punished, but because we like to do right. That is what he means
when he says that we are to be led by the Spirit, instead of being
under the law. It is better to be afraid of the law than to do
wrong: but it is best of all to do right from the Spirit, and of
our own free will.

Am I puzzling you? I hope not: but, lest I should be, 1 will give
you one simple example which ought to make all clear as to the
struggle between a man's flesh and his spirit, and also as to doing
right from the Spirit or from law.

Suppose you were a soldier going into battle. You see your comrades
falling around you, disfigured and cut up; you hear their groans and
cries; and you are dreadfully afraid: and no shame to you. It is
the common human instinct of self-preservation. The bravest men
have told me that they are afraid at first going into action, and
that they cannot get over the feeling. But what part of you is
afraid? Your flesh, which is afraid of pain, just as a beast is of
the whip. Then your flesh perhaps says, Run away--or at least skulk
and hide--take care of yourself. But next, if you were a coward,
the law would come into your mind, and you would say, But I dare not
run away; for, if I do, I shall be shot as a deserter, or broke, and
drummed out of the army. So you may go on, even though you are a
coward: but that is not courage. You have not conquered your own
fear--you have not conquered yourself--but the law has conquered

But, if you are a brave man, as I trust you all are, a higher spirit
than your own speaks to your spirit, and makes you say to yourself,
I dare not run away; but, more, I cannot run away. I should like
to--but I cannot do the things that I would. It is my duty to go
on; it is right; it is a point of honour with me to my country, my
regiment, my Queen, my God, and I must go on.

Then you are walking in the Spirit. You have conquered yourself,
and so are a really brave man. You have obeyed the Spirit, and you
have your reward by feeling inspirited, as we say; you can face
death with spirit, and fight with spirit.

But the struggle between the Spirit and the flesh is not ended
there. When you got excited, there would probably come over you the
lust of fighting; you would get angry, get mad and lose your self-

There is the flesh waking up again, and saying, Be cruel; kill every
one you meet. And to that the Spirit answers, No; be reasonable and
merciful. Do not fulfil the lusts of the flesh, and turn yourself
into a raging wild beast. Your business is not to butcher human
beings, but to win a battle.

Well; and even if you have conquered the enemy, you may not have
conquered your worst enemy, which is yourself. For, after having
fought bravely, and done your duty, what would the flesh say to you?
I am sure it would say it to me. What but--Boast: talk of your own
valiant deeds and successes; get all the praise and honour you can;
and shew how much finer a person you are than any of your comrades.
But what would the Spirit say?--and I trust you would all listen to
the Spirit. The Spirit would say, No; do not boast; do not lower
yourself into the likeness of a vain peacock: but be just, and be
modest. Give every man his due; try to praise and recommend every
one whom you can; and trust to God to make your doing your duty as
clear as the light, and your brave actions as the noonday.

So, you see, all through, a man's flesh might be lusting, and would
be lusting, against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh;
and see, too, how in each case, the flesh is tempting the man to be
cowardly, brutal, vain, selfish, and wrong in some way, and the
Spirit is striving to make him forget himself, and think of his
comrades and his duty.

Now when a man is led by the Spirit, if he is tempted to do wrong,
he does not say, I will not do this wrong thing, but I cannot. I
cannot do what you want me. I like to hear a man say that. It is a
sign that he feels God's voice in him, which he must obey, whether
he likes or not; as Joseph said when he was tempted. Not, I had
rather not, or I dare not: but, How _can_ I do this great
wickedness against my master, who has trusted me, and put everything
into my hand, and so, by being a treacherous traitor, sin against

Now, is this Spirit part of our spirits, or not? I think we confess
ourselves that it is not. St. Paul says that it is not. For he
says, there is one Spirit--that is, one good Spirit--of whom he
speaks as the Spirit; and this, he says, is the Spirit of God, and
the Spirit of Christ, and the Spirit which inspires the spirits of
all noble, Christ-like, God-like men.

In this Spirit there is nothing proud, spiteful, cruel, nothing
selfish, false, and mean; nothing violent, loose, debauched. But he
is an altogether good and noble spirit, whose fruit is love, joy,
peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness,
temperance. This, he says, is the Spirit of God; and this Spirit he
gives to those spirits,--souls, as we call them now,--who desire it,
that they may become righteous with the righteousness of Christ, and
good with the goodness of God.

And is not this good news? I say, my friends, if we will look at it
aright, there is no better news, no more inspiriting news for men
like us, mixed up in the battle of life, and often pulled downward
by our own bad passions, and ashamed of ourselves more or less,
every day of our lives;--no better news, I say, than this, that what
is good and right in us is not our own, but God's; that our longings
after good, our sense of duty and honour, kindliness and charity,
are not merely our own likings or fancies: but the voice of God's
almighty and everlasting Spirit. Good news, indeed! For if God be
for us who can be against us? If God's Spirit be with our spirits,
they must surely be stronger than our selfish pleasure-loving flesh.
If God himself be labouring to make us good; if he be putting into
our hearts good desires; surely he can enable us to bring those
desires to good effect: and all that is wanted of us, is to listen
to God's voice within, and do the right like men, whatever pain it
may cost us, sure that we, by God's help, shall win at last in the
hardest battle of all battles, the victory over our own selves.


Matthew xvi. 3. Oh ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the
sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?

It will need, I think, some careful thought thoroughly to understand
this text. Our Lord in it calls the Pharisees and Sadducees
hypocrites; because, though they could use their common sense and
experience to judge of the weather they would not use them to judge
of the signs of the times; of what was going to happen to the Jewish

But how was their conduct hypocritical? Stupid we might call it, or
unreasonable: but how hypocritical? That, I think, we may see
better, by considering what the word hypocrite means.

We mean now, generally, by a hypocrite, a man who pretends to be one
thing, while he is another; who pretends to be pious and good, while
he is leading a profligate life in secret; who pretends to believe
certain doctrines, while at heart he disbelieves them; a man, in
short, who is a scoundrel, _and knows it_; but who does not intend
others to know it: who deceives others, but does not deceive

My friends, such a man is a hypocrite: but there is another kind of
hypocrite, and a more common one by far; and that is, the hypocrite
who not only deceives others, but deceives himself likewise; the
hypocrite who (as one of the wisest living men puts it) is
astonished that you should think him hypocritical.

I do not say which of these two kinds is the worse. My duty is to
judge no man. I only say that there are such people, and too many
of them; that we ourselves are often in danger of becoming such
hypocrites; and that this was the sort of people which the Pharisees
for the most part were. Hypocrites who had not only deceived
others, but themselves also; who thought themselves perfectly right,
honest, and pious; who were therefore astonished and indignant at
Christ's calling them hypocrites.

How did they get into this strange state of mind? How may we get
into it?

Consider first what a hypocrite means. It means strictly neither
more nor less than a play-actor; one who personates different
characters on the stage. That is the one original meaning of the
word hypocrite.

Now recollect that a man may personate characters, like a play-
actor, and pretend to be what he is not, for two different objects.
He may do it for other people's sake, or for his own.

1. For other people's sake. As the Pharisees did, when they did
all their works to be seen of men; and therefore, naturally, gave
their attention as much as possible to outward forms and ceremonies,
which could be seen by men.

Now, understand me, before I go a step further, I am not going to
speak against forms and ceremonies. No man less: and, above all,
not against the Church forms and ceremonies, which have grown up,
gradually and naturally, out of the piety, and experience, and
practical common sense of many generations of God's saints. Men
must have forms and ceremonies to put them in mind of the spiritual
truths which they cannot see or handle. Men cannot get on without
them; and those who throw away the Church forms have to invent fresh
ones, and less good ones, for themselves.

All, I say, have their forms and ceremonies; and all are in danger,
as we churchmen are, of making those forms stand instead of true
religion. In the Church or out of the Church, men are all tempted
to have, like the Pharisees, their traditions of the elders, their
little rules as to conduct, over and above what the Bible and the
Prayer-book have commanded; and all are tempted to be more shocked
if those rules are broken, than if really wrong and wicked things
are done; and like the Pharisees of old, to be careful in paying
tithe of mint, anise, and cummin, the commonest garden herbs, and
yet forget the weighty matters of the law, justice, mercy, and
judgment. I have known those who would be really more shocked at
seeing a religious man dance or sing, than at hearing him tell a
lie. But I will give no examples, lest I should set you on judging
others. Or rather, the only example which I will give is that of
these Pharisees, who have become, by our Lord's words about them,
famous to all time, as hypocrites.

Now you must bear in mind that these Pharisees were not villains and
profligates. Many people, feeling, perhaps, how much of what the
Lord had said against the Pharisees would apply to them, have tried
to escape from that ugly thought, by making out the Pharisees worse
men than our Lord does. But the fact is, that they cannot be proved
to be worse than too many religious people now-a-days. There were
adulterers, secret loose-livers among them. Are there none now-a-
days? They were covetous. Are no religious professors covetous
now-a-days? They crept into widows' houses, and, for a pretence
made long prayers. Does no one do so now? There would, of course,
be among them, as there is among all large religious parties, as
there is now, a great deal of inconsistent and bad conduct. But, on
the whole, there is no reason to suppose that the greater number of
them were what we should call ill-livers. In that terrible twenty-
third chapter of St. Matthew, in which our Lord denounces the sins
of the Scribes and Pharisees, he nowhere accuses them of profligate
living; and the Pharisee of whom he tells us in his parable, who
went into the Temple to pray, no doubt spoke truth when he boasted
of not being as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers. He
trusted in himself that he was righteous. True. But whatever that
means, it means that he thought that he was righteous, after a
fashion, though it proved to be a wrong one. What our Lord
complains of in them is, first, their hardness of heart; their pride
in themselves, and their contempt for their fellowmen. Their very
name Pharisee meant that. It meant separate--they were separate
from mankind; a peculiar people; who alone knew the law, with whom
alone God was pleased: while the rest of mankind, even of their own
countrymen, knew not the law, and were accursed, and doomed to hell.
Ah God, who are we to cast stones at the Pharisees of old, when this
is the very thing which you may hear said in England from hundreds
of pulpits every Sunday, with the mere difference, that instead of
the word law, men put the word gospel.

For this our Lord denounced them; and next, for their hypocrisy,
their play-acting, the outward show of religion in which they
delighted; trying to dress, and look, and behave differently from
other men; doing all their good works to be seen of men; sounding a
trumpet before them when they gave away alms; praying standing at
the corners of the streets; going in long clothing, making broad
their phylacteries, the written texts of Scripture which they sewed
to their garments; washing perpetually when they came from the
market, or any public place, lest they should have been defiled by
the touch of an unclean thing, or person; loving the chief seats in
their religious meetings, and the highest places at feasts; and so
forth,--full of affectation, vanity, and pride.

I could tell you other stories of their ridiculous affectations:
but I shall not. They would only make you smile: and we could not
judge them fairly, not being able to make full allowance for the
difference of customs between the Jews and ourselves. Many of the
things which our Lord blames them for, were not nearly so absurd in
Judea of old, as they seem to us in England now. Indeed, no one but
our Lord seems to have thought them absurd, or seen through the
hollowness and emptiness of them:--as he perhaps sees through, my
friends, a great deal which is thought very right in England now.
Making allowance for the difference of the country, and of the
times, the Pharisees were perhaps no more affected, for Jews, than
many people are now, for Englishmen. And if it be answered, that
though our religious fashions now-a-days are not commanded expressly
by the Bible or the Prayer Book, yet they carry out their spirit:--
remember, in God's name, that that was exactly what the Pharisees
said, and their excuse for being righteous above what was written;
and that they could, and did, quote texts of Scripture for their
phylacteries, their washings, and all their other affectations.

Another reason I have for not dwelling too much on these
affectations; and it is this. Because a man may be a play-actor and
a self-deceiver in religion, without any of these tricks at all, and
without much of the vanity and pride which cause them. For
recollect that a man may act for his own amusement, as well as for
other people's. Children do so perpetually, and especially when no
one is by to listen to them. They delight in playing at being this
person and that, and in living for a while in a day-dream. Oh let
us take care that we do not do the same in our religion! It is but
too easy to do so. Too easy; and too common. For is it not play-
acting, like any child, to come to this church, and here to feel
repentance, feel forgiveness, feel gratitude, feel reverence; and
then to go out of church and awake as from a dream, and become our
natural selves for the rest of the week, till Sunday comes round
again; comforting ourselves meanwhile with the fancy that we had
been very religious last Sunday, and intended to be very religious
next Sunday likewise?

Would there not be hypocrisy and play-acting in that, my friends?

Now, my dear friends, if we give way to this sort of hypocrisy, we
shall get, as too many do, into the habit of living two lives at
once, without knowing it. Outside us will be our religious life of
praying, and reading, and talking of good things, and doing good
work (as, thank God, many do whose hearts are not altogether right
with God, or their eyes single in his sight) good work, which I
trust God will not forget in the last day, in spite of all our
inconsistencies. Outside us, I say, will be our religious life:
and inside us our own actual life, our own natural character, too
often very little changed or improved at all. So by continually
playing at religion, we shall deceive ourselves. We shall make an
entirely wrong estimate of the state of our souls. We shall fancy
that this outward religion of ours is the state of our soul. And
then, if any one tells us that we are play-acting, and hypocrites,
we shall be as astonished and indignant as the Pharisees were of
old. We shall make the same mistake as a man would, who because he
always wore clothes, should fancy at last that his clothes were
himself, part of his own body. So, I say, many deceive themselves,
and are more or less hypocrites to themselves. They do not, in
general, deceive others; they are not, on the whole, hypocrites to
their neighbours. For their neighbours, after a time, see what they
cannot see themselves, that they are play-acting; that they are two
different people without knowing it: that their religion is a thing
apart from their real character. A hundred signs shew that. How
many there are, for instance, who are, or seem tolerably earnest
about religion, and doing good, as long as they are actually in
church, or actually talking about religion. But all the rest of
their time, what are they doing? What are they thinking of? Mere
frivolity and empty amusement. Idle butterflies, pretending to be
industrious bees once in the week.

Others again, will be gentle and generous enough about everything
but religion; and as soon as they get upon that, will become fierce,
and hard, and narrow at once. Others again (and this is most
common) commit the very same fault as the Pharisees in the text, who
could use their common sense to discern the signs of the weather,
and yet could not use it to discern the signs of the time, because
they were afraid of looking honestly at the true state of public
feeling and conscience, and at the danger and ruin into which their
religion and their party were sinking. For about all worldly
matters, these men will be as sound-headed and reasonable as they
need be: but as soon as they get on religious matters, they become
utterly silly and unreasonable; and will talk nonsense, listen to
nonsense, and be satisfied with nonsense, such as they would not
endure a moment if their own worldly interest, or worldly character,
were in question.

But most of all do these poor souls not deceive their neighbours
when a time of temptation comes upon them. For then, alas! it comes
out too often that they are of those whom our Lord spoke of, who
heard the word gladly, but had no root in themselves, and in time of
temptation fell away. For then, before the storm of some trying
temptation, away goes all the play-acting religion; and the man's
true self rises up from underneath into ugly life. Up rise,
perhaps, pride, and self-will, and passion; up rise, perhaps,
meanness and love of money; up rise, perhaps, cowardice and
falsehood; or up rises foul and gross sin, causing some horrible
scandal to religion, and to the name of Christ; while fools look on,
and, laughing an evil laugh, cry,--'These are your high professors.
These are your Pharisees, who were so much better than everybody
else. When they are really tried, it seems they behave no better
than we sinners.'

Oh, these are the things which make a clergyman's heart truly sad.
These are the things which make him long that all were over; that
Christ would shortly accomplish the number of his elect, and hasten
his kingdom, that we, with all those who are departed in the true
faith of his holy name, may rest in peace for ever from sin and

Not that I mean that some of these very people, in spite of all
their inconsistency, will not be among that number. God forbid!
How do we know that? How do we know that they are one whit worse
than we should be in their place? How do we know, above all, that
to have been found out may not be the very best thing that has
happened to them since the day that they were born? How do we know
that it may not be God's gracious medicine to enable them to find
themselves out; to make them see themselves in their true colours;
to purge them of all their play-acting; and begin all over again,
crying to God, not with the lips only, but out of the depth of an
honest and a noble shame, as David did of old--Behold I was shapen
in wickedness, conceived in sin, and I have found it out at last.
But thou requirest truth in the inward parts, in the very root and
ground of the heart, and not merely truth in the head, in the lips,
and in the outward behaviour. Make me a clean heart, O God, and
renew a right spirit within me. Thou desirest no sacrifice, else
would I give it thee: but thou delightest not in burnt-offerings.
The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit, as mine is now. A broken
and a contrite heart, ground down by the shame of its own sin, that,
O God, thou wilt not despise.

And then--when that prayer has gone up in earnest, and has been
answered by the gift of a clean heart, and of a right spirit, which
desires nothing but to be made clean and made right, to learn its
duty and to do it--then, I say, that man may go back safely and
freely, to such forms and ceremonies, as he has been accustomed to,
and have been consecrated by the piety and wisdom of his
forefathers. For, says David, though forms and ceremonies,
sacrifice and burnt-offering cannot make any peace with God, yet I
am not going to give up forms and ceremonies, sacrifice and burnt-
offerings. No. When my peace is made, when the broken and the
contrite heart has put me in my true place again, and my heart is
clean, and my spirit right once more; then, he says, will God be
pleased with my sacrifices, with my burnt-offerings and oblations;
because they will be the sacrifice of righteousness, of a righteous
man desiring to shew honour to that God from whom his righteousness
comes, and gratitude to that God to whom he owes his pardon.

And so with us, my friends, if ever we have fallen, and been
pardoned, and risen again to a new, a truer, a more honest, a more
righteous life. Our forms of devotion ought then to become not a
snare and a hypocrisy, but honest outward signs of the spiritual
grace which is within us; as honest and as rational as the shake of
the hand to the friend whom we truly love, as the bowing of the knee
before the Queen for whom we would gladly die.

O may God give us all grace to seek first the kingdom of God and his
righteousness. To seek first the kingdom of God; to work earnestly,
each in his place, to do God's will, and to teach and help others to
do it likewise. To seek his righteousness, which is the
righteousness of the heart and spirit: and then all other things
will be added to us. All outward forms and ceremonies, ways of
speaking, ways of behaving, which are good and right for us, will
come to us as a matter of course; growing up in us naturally and
honestly, without any affectation or hypocrisy, and the purity and
soberness, the reverence and earnestness of our outward
conversation, will be a pattern of the purity and soberness, the
reverence and earnestness, which dwells in our hearts by the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God.


Ephesians iii. 3-6. How that by revelation he made known unto me
the mystery (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read,
ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in
other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now
revealed unto the holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the
Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers
of his promise in Christ by the Gospel.

This day is the feast of the Epiphany. Epiphany, as many of you
know, means 'shewing,' because on this day the Lord Jesus Christ was
first shewn to the Gentiles; to the Gentile wise men who, as you
heard in the Gospel, saw his star in the east, and came to worship
him. And the part of Scripture from which I have taken my text, is
used for the Epistle this day, because in it St. Paul explains to us
the meaning of the Epiphany. The meaning of those wise men being
shewn our Lord, and worshipping him, though they were not Jews as he
was, but Gentiles. He says that it means this, that the Gentiles
were fellow-heirs with the Jews, and of the same body as them, and
partakers of God's promise in Christ by the Gospel.

This does not seem so very wonderful to us; and why? Because we,
though we are Gentiles like those wise men, have lived so long, we
and our forefathers before us, in the light of the Gospel, that we
are inclined to take it as a matter of course; forgetting what a
wonderful, unspeakable, condescension it was of God, not to spare
his only begotten Son, but freely to give him for us. God forgive
us! We are so heaped with blessings that we neglect them, forget
them, take them as our right, instead of remembering our sins and
ungratefulness, and saying, Thy mercies are new every morning; it is
only of thy mercies that we are not consumed.

But to St. Paul it was very wonderful news. A mystery, as he said;
quite a new and astonishing thought, that heathens had any share in
God's love and Christ's salvation.

And so it was to St. Peter. God had to teach it him by that
wonderful vision, in which he saw coming down from heaven all sorts
of animals, and God bade him kill and eat; and when he refused,
because they were common and unclean, God forbade him to call
anything common or unclean, now that God had cleansed all things by
the precious blood of his dear Son. Then Peter was bidden to go to
the Gentile Roman soldier Cornelius. And he went, though, he said,
he had been used to think it unlawful for a Jew even to eat with a
Gentile. And when he went, he found, to his astonishment, that
God's love was over that Gentile soldier and his family, because
they were good men, as far as they had light and knowledge, just as
much as if they had been good Jews. And God gave St. Peter a sign
which there was no mistaking, that he really did care for those
Gentile Romans, just as much as if they had been Jews; for, as he
was preaching Christ to them, the Holy Ghost fell on them, not
after, but before they were baptised. So that St. Peter, astonished
as he was, was forced by his own conscience and reason to say, 'Can
any man forbid water, that these should not be baptised, who have
received the Holy Ghost as well as we' (Jews)? Then he commanded
them to be baptised in the name of the Lord.

And what was the lesson which God taught St. Peter by this? St.
Peter himself tells us; for he opened his mouth and said, 'Of a
truth I see that God is no respecter of persons; but in every
nation, he that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted
by him.'

Now, my dear friends, this is (as the Lord Jesus Christ tells us)
God's everlasting law, 'That he that hath, to him shall be given,
and he shall have more abundantly; but from him that hath not, shall
be taken away even that which he seems to have.'

So it was, as I have just shewn you, with Cornelius; and so it was
with those wise men. They were worshippers (as is supposed) of the
one true God, though in a dim confused way: but they had learnt
enough of what true faith was, and of what true greatness was, too,
not to be staggered and fall into unbelief, when they saw the King
of the Jews, whom they had come so many hundred miles to see, laid,
not in a palace, but in a manger; and attended not by princesses and
noblewomen, but by a poor maiden, espoused to a carpenter.
Therefore God bestowed on them that great honour, that they, first
of all the Gentiles, should see the glory and the love of God in the
face of Jesus Christ, his Son.

And so it was with our forefathers, my friends. And I think that on
this Epiphany, we ought to thank God, among all his other blessings,
for having given us such forefathers, and letting us be born of that
noble stock, to whom he gave the kingdom of God, after he took it
away from the faithless and rebellious Jews, and afterwards from the
false and profligate Greeks and Romans, to whom the epistles of the
apostles were written. I will tell you what I mean.

When the Lord Jesus came on earth; our forefathers did not live here
in England, but in countries across the sea, in Germany, Denmark,
and Sweden, which did not belong to the Roman Empire; for the
Romans, who had conquered all the world beside, could never conquer
our forefathers. It was God's will, that whenever they tried they
were beaten back with shame and slaughter; and our forefathers,
almost alone of all, remained free men, even as we are at this day.
But for that very reason, the apostles could never come among us to
preach the Gospel to us; for they could not pass the bounds of the
Roman empire; and that was so large, that they had enough to do to
preach the Gospel in it; so that it was not till at least 400 years
after the apostles' death, that their successors, zealous
missionaries, priests and bishops, came and preached to our
forefathers; and when they came, they found us a people prepared for
the Lord, who heard the word gladly, and turned, thousands sometimes
in one day, from vain idols to serve the living God, and were
baptised into that holy church in which we now stand. And it has
been among us, and the nations who are our kinsmen, that the light
of the gospel has shone ever since, while all through the East,
where the apostles preached most and earliest, it has died out. So
that our Lord's words have been fulfilled, that many that are last
shall be first, and those that are first shall be last. God grant
that it may not always be so. God grant that his kingdom may return
to its ancient seat at Jerusalem, and that all nations may go up to
the mountain of the Lord's house, in the day of which St. Paul
prophesies, when the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled, and all
Israel shall be saved, when the earth shall be full of the knowledge
of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. But it is not so now; and
cannot be so, as far as we can see, for many a year to come.

But in the meanwhile, why were our forefathers--heathens though they
were, and sinners in many things, being truly children of wrath,
fierce, bloodthirsty, revengeful, without the grace of Christ, which
is Love and Charity--nevertheless a people prepared for the Lord?
How was it true of them that to him that hath shall be given?

I will tell you. There is an old book, written in Latin by a
heathen gentleman of Rome, who lived in St. Paul's time, and wrote
this book about twenty years after St. Paul's death. It is a little
book; but it is a very precious one: and I think it is a great
mercy of God that, while so many famous old books have been lost,
this little book should have been preserved: for this Roman

Book of the day: