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The Gospel of the Pentateuch by Charles Kingsley

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

The Gospel of the Pentateuch: A set of Parish Sermons

PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION OF THE GOSPEL OF THE PENTATEUCH
TO THE REV. CANON STANLEY.

My Dear Stanley,

I dedicate these Sermons to you, not that I may make you responsible
for any doctrine or statement contained in them, but as the simplest
method of telling you how much they owe to your book on the Jewish
Church, and of expressing my deep gratitude to you for publishing
that book at such a time as this.

It has given to me (and I doubt not to many other clergymen) a fresh
confidence and energy in preaching to my people the Gospel of the
Old Testament as the same with that of the New; and without it, many
of these Sermons would have been very different from, and I am
certain very inferior to, what they are now, by the help of your
admirable book.

Brought up, like all Cambridge men of the last generation, upon
Paley's Evidences, I had accepted as a matter of course, and as the
authoritative teaching of my University, Paley's opinions as to the
limits of Biblical criticism, {0a} quoted at large in Dean Milman's
noble preface to his last edition of the History of the Jews; and
especially that great dictum of his, 'that it is an unwarrantable,
as well as unsafe rule to lay down concerning the Jewish history,
that which was never laid down concerning any other, that either
every particular of it must be true, or the whole false.'

I do not quote the rest of the passage; first, because you, I doubt
not, know it as well as I; and next, in order that if any one shall
read these lines who has not read Paley's Evidences, he may be
stirred up to look the passage out for himself, and so become
acquainted with a great book and a great mind.

A reverent and rational liberty in criticism (within the limits of
orthodoxy) is, I have always supposed, the right of every Cambridge
man; and I was therefore the more shocked, for the sake of free
thought in my University, at the appearance of a book which claimed
and exercised a licence in such questions, which I must (after
careful study of it) call anything but rational and reverent. Of
the orthodoxy of the book it is not, of course, a private
clergyman's place to judge. That book seemed dangerous to the
University of Cambridge itself, because it was likely to stir up
from without attempts to abridge her ancient liberty of thought; but
it seemed still more dangerous to the hundreds of thousands without
the University, who, being no scholars, must take on trust the
historic truth of the Bible.

For I found that book, if not always read, yet still talked and
thought of on every side, among persons whom I should have fancied
careless of its subject, and even ignorant of its existence, but to
whom I was personally bound to give some answer as to the book and
its worth. It was making many unsettled and unhappy; it was (even
worse) pandering to the cynicism and frivolity of many who were
already too cynical and frivolous; and, much as I shrank from
descending into the arena of religious controversy, I felt bound to
say a few plain words on it, at least to my own parishioners.

But how to do so, without putting into their heads thoughts which
need be in no man's head, and perhaps shaking the very faith which I
was trying to build up, was difficult to me, and I think would have
been impossible to me, but for the opportune appearance of your
admirable book.

I could not but see that the book to which I have alluded, like most
other modern books on Biblical criticism, was altogether negative;
was possessed too often by that fanaticism of disbelief which is
just as dangerous as the fanaticism of belief; was picking the body
of the Scripture to pieces so earnestly, that it seemed to forget
that Scripture had a spirit as well as a body; or, if it confessed
that it had a spirit, asserting that spirit to be one utterly
different from the spirit which the Scripture asserts that it
possesses.

For the Scripture asserts that those who wrote it were moved by the
Spirit of God; that it is a record of God's dealings with men, which
certain men were inspired to perceive and to write down: whereas
the tendency of modern criticism is, without doubt, to assert that
Scripture is inspired by the spirit of man; that it contains the
thoughts and discoveries of men concerning God, which they wrote
down without the inspiration of God; which difference seems to me
(and I hope to others) utterly infinite and incalculable, and to
involve the question of the whole character, honour, and glory of
God.

There is, without a doubt, something in the Old Testament, as well
as in the New, quite different in kind, as well as in degree, from
the sacred books of any other people: an unique element, which has
had an unique effect upon the human heart, life and civilization.
This remains, after all possible deductions for 'ignorance of
physical science,' 'errors in numbers and chronology,'
'interpolations' 'mistakes of transcribers' and so forth, whereof we
have read of late a great deal too much, and ought to care for them
and for their existence, or non-existence, simply nothing at all;
because, granting them all--though the greater part of them I do not
grant, as far as I can trust my critical faculty--there remains that
unique element, beside which all these accidents are but as the
spots on the sun compared to the great glory of his life-giving
light. The unique element is there; and I cannot but still believe,
after much thought, that it--the powerful and working element, the
inspired and Divine element which has converted and still converts
millions of souls--is just that which Christendom in all ages has
held it to be: the account of certain 'noble acts' of God's, and
not of certain noble thoughts of man--in a word, not merely the
moral, but the historic element; and that, therefore, the value of
the Bible teaching depends on the truth of the Bible story. That is
my belief. Any criticism which tries to rob me of that I shall look
at fairly, but very severely indeed.

If all that a man wants is a 'religion,' he ought to be able to make
a very pretty one for himself, and a fresh one as often as he is
tired of the old. But the heart and soul of man wants more than
that, as it is written, 'My soul is athirst for God, even for the
living God.' Those whom I have to teach want a living God, who
cares for men, works for men, teaches men, punishes men, forgives
men, saves men from their sins; and Him I have found in the Bible,
and nowhere else, save in the facts of life which the Bible alone
interprets.

In the power of man to find out God I will never believe. The
'religious sentiment,' or 'God-consciousness,' so much talked of
now-a-days, seems to me (as I believe it will to all practical
common-sense Englishmen), a faculty not to be depended on; as
fallible and corrupt as any other part of human nature; apt (to
judge from history) to develop itself into ugly forms, not only
without a revelation from God, but too often in spite of one--into
polytheisms, idolatries, witchcrafts, Buddhist asceticisms,
Phoenician Moloch-sacrifices, Popish inquisitions, American spirit-
rappings, and what not. The hearts and minds of the sick, the poor,
the sorrowing, the truly human, all demand a living God, who has
revealed himself in living acts; a God who has taught mankind by
facts, not left them to discover him by theories and sentiments; a
Judge, a Father, a Saviour, and an Inspirer; in a word, their hearts
and minds demand the historic truth of the Bible--of the Old
Testament no less than of the New.

What I needed therefore, for my guidance, was a book which should
believe and confess all this, without condemning or ignoring free
criticism and its results; which should make use of that criticism
not to destroy but to build up; which employed a thorough knowledge
of the Old Testament history, the manners of the Jews, the
localities of the sacred events, to teach men not what might not be
in the Bible, but what was certainly therein; which dealt with the
Bible after the only fair and trustful method; that is, to consider
it at first according to the theory which it sets forth concerning
itself, before trying quite another theory of the commentator's own
invention; and which combined with a courageous determination to
tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, that
Christian spirit of trust, reverence and piety, without which all
intellectual acuteness is but blindness and folly.

All this, and more, I found in your book, enforced with a genius
which needs no poor praise of mine; and I hailed its appearance at
such a crisis as a happy Providence, certain that it would be, what
I now know by experience it has been, a balm to many a wounded
spirit, and a check to many a wandering intellect, inclined, in the
rashness of youth, to throw away the truth it already had, for the
sake of theories which it hoped that it might possibly verify
hereafter.

With your book in my hand, I have tried to write a few plain
Sermons, telling plain people what they will find in the Pentateuch,
in spite of all present doubts, as their fathers found it before
them, and as (I trust) their children will find it after them, when
all this present whirlwind of controversy has past,

'As dust that lightly rises up,
And is lightly laid again.'

I have told them that they will find in the Bible, and in no other
ancient book, that living working God, whom their reason and
conscience demand; and that they will find that he is none other
than Jesus Christ our Lord. I have not apologised for or explained
away the so-called 'Anthropomorphism' of the Old Testament. On the
contrary, I have frankly accepted it, and even gloried in it as an
integral, and I believe invaluable element of Scripture. I have
deliberately ignored many questions of great interest and
difficulty, because I had no satisfactory solution of them to offer;
but I have said at the same time that those questions were
altogether unimportant, compared with those salient and fundamental
points of the Bible history on which I was preaching. And therefore
I have dared to bid my people relinquish Biblical criticism to those
who have time for it; and to say of it with me, as Abraham of the
planets, 'O my people, I am clear of all these things! I turn
myself to him who made heaven and earth.'

I do not wish, believe me, to make you responsible for any statement
or opinion of mine. I am painfully conscious, on reviewing for the
Press Sermons which would never have been published save by special
request, how imperfect, poor, and weak they seem to me--how much
worse, then, they will appear to other people; how much more may be
said which I have not the wit to say! But the Bible can take care
of itself, I presume, without my help. All I can do is, to speak
what I think, as far as I see my way; to record the obligation
toward you under which I, with thousands more, now lie; and to
express my hope that we shall be always found together fellow-
workers in the cause of Truth, and that to you and in you may be
fulfilled those noble and tender words, in which you have spoken of
Samuel, and of those who work in Samuel's spirit:

'In later times, even in our own, many names spring to our
recollection of those who have trodden or (in different degrees,
some known, and some unknown) are treading the same thankless path
in the Church of Germany, in the Church of France, in the Church of
Russia, in the Church of England. Wherever they are, and whosoever
they may be, and howsoever they may be neglected or assailed, or
despised, they, like their great prototype and likeness in the
Jewish Church, are the silent healers who bind up the wounds of
their age in spite of itself; they are the good physicians who bind
together the dislocated bones of a disjointed time; they are the
reconcilers who turn the hearts of the children to the fathers, or
of the fathers to the children. They have but little praise and
reward from the partisans who are loud in indiscriminate censure and
applause. But, like Samuel, they have a far higher reward, in the
Davids who are silently strengthened and nurtured by them in Naioth
of Ramah--in the glories of a new age which shall be ushered in
peacefully and happily after they have been laid in the grave.' {0b}

That such, my dear Stanley, may be your work and your destiny, is
the earnest hope of

Yours affectionately,
C. KINGSLEY.
EVERSLEY RECTORY,
July 1, 1863.

SERMON I. GOD IN CHRIST

(Septuagesima Sunday.)

GENESIS i. I. In the beginning God created the heaven and the
earth.

We have begun this Sunday to read the book of Genesis. I trust that
you will listen to it as you ought--with peculiar respect and awe,
as the oldest part of the Bible, and therefore the oldest of all
known works--the earliest human thought which has been handed down
to us.

And what is the first written thought which has been handed down to
us by the Providence of Almighty God?

'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.'

How many other things, how many hundred other things, men might have
thought fit to write down for those who should come after; and say--
This is the first knowledge which a man should have; this is the
root of all wisdom, all power, all wealth.

But God inspired Moses and the Prophets to write as they have
written. They were not to tell men that the first thing to be
learnt was how to be rich; nor how to be strong; nor even how to be
happy: but that the first thing to be learnt was that God created
the heaven and the earth.

And why first?

Because the first question which man asks--the question which shows
he is a man and not a brute--always has been, and always will be--
Where am I? How did I get into this world; and how did this world
get here likewise? And if man takes up with a wrong answer to that
question, then the man himself is certain to go wrong in all manner
of ways. For a lie can never do anything but harm, or breed
anything but harm; and lies do breed, as fast as the blight on the
trees, or the smut on the corn: only being not according to nature,
or the laws of God, they do not breed as natural things do, after
their kind: but, belonging to chaos, the kingdom of disorder and
misrule, they breed fresh lies unlike themselves, of all strange and
unexpected shapes; so that when a man takes up with one lie, there
is no saying what other lie he may not take up with beside.

Wherefore the first thing man has to learn is truth concerning the
first human question, Where am I? How did I come here; and how did
this world come here? To which the Bible answers in its first line-
-

'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.'

How God created, the Bible does not tell us. Whether he created (as
doubtless he could have done if he chose) this world suddenly out of
nothing, full grown and complete; or whether he created it (as he
creates you and me, and all living and growing things now) out of
things which had been before it--that the Bible does not tell us.

Perhaps if it had told us, it would have drawn away our minds to
think of natural things, and what we now call science, instead of
keeping our minds fixed, as it now does, on spiritual things, and
above all on the Spirit of all spirits; Him of whom it is written,
'God is a Spirit'

For the Bible is simply the revelation, or unveiling of God. It is
not a book of natural science. It is not merely a book of holy and
virtuous precepts. It is not merely a book wherein we may find a
scheme of salvation for our souls. It is the book of the
revelation, or unveiling of the Lord God, Jesus Christ; what he was,
what he is, and what he will be for ever.

Of Jesus Christ? How is he revealed in the text, 'In the beginning
God created the heaven and the earth?'

Thus:--If you look at the first chapter of Genesis and the beginning
of the second, you will see that God is called therein by a
different name from what he is called afterwards. He is called God,
Elohim, The High or Mighty One or Ones. After that he is called the
Lord God, Jehovah Elohim, which means properly, The High or Mighty I
Am, or Jehovah, a word which I will explain to you afterwards. That
word is generally translated in our Bible, as it was in the Greek,
'The Lord;' because the later Jews had such a deep reverence for the
name Jehovah, that they did not like to write it or speak it: but
called God simply Adonai, the Lord.

So that we have three names for God in the Old Testament.

First El, or Elohim, the Mighty One: by which, so Moses says, God
was known to the Jews before his time, and which sets forth God's
power and majesty--the first thing of which men would think in
thinking of God.

Next Jehovah. The I Am, the Eternal, and Self-existent Being, by
which name God revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush--a
deeper and wider name than the former.

And lastly, Adonai, the Lord, the living Ruler and Master of the
world and men, by which he revealed himself to the later Jews, and
at last to all mankind in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now I need not to trouble your mind or my own with arguments as to
how these three different names got into the Bible.

That is a matter of criticism, of scholarship, with which you have
nothing to do: and you may thank God that you have not, in such
days as these. Your business is, not how the names got there, which
is a matter of criticism, but why they have been left there by the
providence of God, which is a matter of simple religion; and you may
thank God, I say again, that it is so. For scholarship is Martha's
part, which must be done, and yet which cumbers a man with much
serving: but simple heart religion is the better part which Mary
chose; and of which the Lord has said, that it shall not be taken
from her, nor from those who, like her, sit humbly at the feet of
the Lord, and hear his voice, without troubling their souls with
questions of words, and endless genealogies, which eat out the
hearts of men.

Therefore all I shall say about the matter is that the first chapter
of Genesis, and the first three verses of the second, may be the
writing of a prophet older than Moses, because they call God Elohim,
which was his name before Moses' time; and that Moses may have used
them, and worked them into a book of Genesis; while he, in the part
which he wrote himself, called God at first by the name Jehovah
Elohim, The Lord God, in order to show that Jehovah and El were the
same God, and not two different ones; and after he had made the Jews
understand that, went on to call God simply Jehovah, and to use the
two names, as they are used through the rest of the Old Testament,
interchangeably: as we say sometimes God, sometimes the Lord,
sometimes the Deity, and so forth; meaning of course always the same
Being.

That, I think, is the probable and simple account which tallies most
exactly with the Bible.

As for the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch, having
been written by Moses, or at least by far the greater part of them,
I cannot see the least reason to doubt it.

The Bible itself does not say so; and therefore it is not a matter
of faith, and men may have their own opinions on the matter, without
sin or false doctrine. But that Moses wrote part at least of them,
our Lord and his Apostles say expressly. The tradition of the Jews
(who really ought to know best) has always been that Moses wrote
either the whole or the greater part. Moses is by far the most
likely man to have written them, of all of whom we read in
Scripture. We have not the least proof, and, what is more, never
shall or can have, that he did not write them. And therefore, I
advise you to believe, as I do, that the universal tradition of both
Jews and Christians is right, when it calls these books, the books
of Moses. {7}

But now no more of these matters: we will think of a matter quite
infinitely more important, and that is, WHO is this God whom the
Bible reveals to us, from the very first verse of Genesis?

At least, he is one and the same Being. Whether he be called El,
Jehovah, or Adonai, he is the same Lord.

It is the Lord who makes the heaven and the earth, the Lord who puts
man in a Paradise, lays on him a commandment, and appears to him in
visible shape.

It is the Lord who speaks to Abraham: though Abraham knew him only
as El-Shaddai, the Almighty God. It is the Lord who brings the
Israelites out of Egypt, who gives them the law on Sinai. It is the
Lord who speaks to Samuel, to David, to all the Prophets, and
appears to Isaiah, while his glory fills the Temple. In whatever
'divers manners' and 'many portions,' as St. Paul says in the
Epistle to the Hebrews, he speaks to them, he is the same Being.

And Psalmists and Prophets are most careful to tell us that he is
the God, not of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles; of all mankind--
as indeed, he must be, being Jehovah, the I Am, the one Self-
existent and Eternal Being; that from his throne he is watching and
judging all the nations upon earth, fashioning the hearts of all,
appointing them their bounds, and the times of their habitation, if
haply they may seek after him and find him, though he be not far
from any one of them; for in him they live and move and have their
being.

This is the message of Moses, of the Psalmists and the Prophets,
just as much as of St. Paul on Mars' Hill at Athens.

So begins and so ends the Old Testament, revealing throughout The
Lord.

And how does the New Testament begin?

By telling us that a Babe was born at Bethlehem, and called Jesus,
the Saviour.

But who is this blessed Babe? He, too, is The Lord.

'A Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.' And from thence, through the
Gospels, the Acts, the Epistles, the Revelation of St. John, he is
the Lord. There is no manner of doubt of it. The Apostles and
Evangelists take no trouble to prove it. They take it for granted.
They call Jesus Christ by the name by which the Jews had for
hundreds of years called the El of Abraham, the Jehovah of Moses.
The Babe who is born at Bethlehem, who grows up as other human
beings grow, into the man Christ Jesus, is none other than the Lord
God who created the universe, who made a covenant with Abraham, who
brought the Israelites out of Egypt, who inspired the Prophets, who
has been from the beginning governing all the earth.

It is very awful. But you must believe that, or put your Bibles
away as a dream--New Testament and Old alike. Not to believe that
fully and utterly, is not to believe the Bible at all. For that is
what the Bible says, and has been sent into the world to say. It
is, from beginning to end, the book of the revelation, or unveiling
of Jesus Christ, very God of very God.

But some may say, 'Why tell us that? Of course we believe it. We
should not be Christians if we did not.'

Be it so. I hope it is so. But I think that it is not so easy to
believe it as we fancy.

We believe it, I think, more firmly than our forefathers did five
hundred years ago, on some points; and therefore we have got rid of
many dark and blasphemous superstitions about witches and devils,
about the evil of the earth and of our own bodies, of marriage, and
of the common duties and bonds of humanity, which tormented them,
because they could not believe fully that Jesus Christ had created,
and still ruled the world and all therein.

But we are all too apt still to think of Jesus Christ merely as some
one who can save our souls when we die, and to forget that he is the
Lord, who is and has been always ruling the world and all mankind.

And from this come two bad consequences. People are apt to speak of
the Lord Jesus--or at least to admire preachers who speak of him--as
if he belonged to them, and not they to him; and, therefore, to
speak of him with an irreverence and a familiarity which they dared
not use, if they really believed that this same Jesus, whose name
they take in vain, is none other than the Living God himself, their
Creator, by whom every blade of grass grows beneath their feet,
every planet and star rolls above their heads.

And next--they fancy that the Old Testament speaks of our Lord Jesus
Christ only in a few mysterious prophecies--some of which there is
reason to suspect they quite misinterpret. They are slow of heart
to believe all that the Scriptures have spoken of him of whom Moses
and the Prophets did write, not in a few scattered texts, but in
every line of the Old Testament, from the first of Genesis to the
last of Malachi.

And therefore they believe less and less, that Jesus Christ is still
the Lord in any real practical sense--not merely the Lord of a few
elect or saints, but the Lord of man and of the earth, and of the
whole universe. They think of him as a Lord who will come again to
judgment--which is true, and awfully true, in the very deepest
sense: but they do not think of him--in spite of what he himself
and his apostles declared of him--as The Living, Working Lord, to
whom all power is given in heaven and earth, and not merely over the
souls of a few regenerate; as the Alpha and Omega, the first and the
last, of whom St. Paul says, 'that the mystery of Christ has been
hid from the beginning of the world in God, who created all things
by Jesus Christ.' * * * 'That, in the dispensation of the fulness of
times, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both
which are in heaven, and which are in earth.' They fill their minds
with fancies about the book of Revelation, most of which, there is
reason to fear, are little else but fancies: while they overlook
what that book really does say, and what is the best news that the
world ever heard, that he is the Prince of the kings of the earth.

Therefore they have fears for Christ's Bible, fears for Christ's
Church, fears for the fate of the world, which they could not have
if they would recollect who Christ is, and believe that he is able
to take care of his own kingdom and power and glory, better than man
can take care of it for him. Surely, surely, faith in the living
Lord who rules the world in righteousness is fast dying out among
us; and many who call themselves Christians seem to know less of
Christ, and of the work which he is carrying on in the world, than
did the old Psalmist, who said of him, 'The Lord shall endure for
ever; he hath also prepared his seat for judgment. For he shall
judge the world in righteousness, and minister true judgment among
the people.' He fashioneth 'the hearts of all of them, and
understandeth all their works.'

Who can say that he believes that, who holds that this world is the
devil's world, and that sinful man and evil spirits are having it
all their own way till the day of judgment?

Who can say that he believes that, who falls into pitiable terror at
every new discovery of science or of scholarship, for fear it should
destroy the Bible and the Christian faith, instead of believing that
all which makes manifest is light, and that all light comes from the
Father of lights, by the providence of Jesus Christ his only-
begotten Son, who is the light of men, and the inspiration of his
Spirit, who leadeth into all truth?

And how, lastly, can those say that they believe that, who will lie,
and slander, and have recourse to base intrigues, in order to defend
that truth, and that Church, of which the Lord himself has said that
he has founded it upon a rock, and the gates of hell shall not
prevail against it?

But if you believe indeed the message of the Bible, that Jesus
Christ is the Lord who made heaven and earth, then it shall be said
of you, as it was of St. Peter, 'Blessed art thou: for flesh and
blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father which is in
heaven.'

Yes. Blessed indeed is he who believes that; who believes that the
same person who was born in a stable, had not where to lay his head,
went about healing the sick and binding up the broken heart,
suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried, and
rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven--ascended thither
that he might fill all things; and is none other than the Lord of
the earth and of men, the Creator, the Teacher, the Saviour, the
Guide, the King, the Judge, of all the world, and of all worlds
past, present, and to come.

For to him who thus believes shall be fulfilled the promise of his
Lord, 'Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I
will give you rest.'

He will find rest unto his soul. Rest from that first and last
question, of which I said that all men, down to the lowest savage,
ask it, simply because they are men, and not beasts. Where am I?
How came I here? How came this world here likewise? For he can
answer--

'I am in the kingdom of the Babe of Bethlehem. He put me here. And
he put this world here likewise: and that is enough for me. He
created all I see or can see--I care little how, provided that HE
created it; for then I am sure that it must be very good. He
redeemed me and all mankind, when we were lost, at the price of his
most precious blood. He the Lord is King, therefore will I not be
moved, though the earth be shaken, and the hills be carried into the
midst of the sea. Yea, though the sun were turned to darkness, and
the moon to blood, and the stars fell from heaven, and all power and
order, all belief and custom of mankind, were turned upside down,
yet there would still be One above who rules the world in
righteousness, whose eye is on them that fear him and put their
trust in his mercy, to deliver their soul from death, and to feed
them in the time of dearth. Darkness may cover the land for awhile,
and gross darkness the people. But while I sit in darkness, the
Lord shall be my light, till the day when he shall say once more,
"Let there be light," and light shall be.'

Yes. To the man who is a good man and true; who has any hearty
Christian feeling for his fellow-men, and is not merely a selfish
superstitious person, caring for nothing but what he calls the
safety of his own soul; to the man, I say, who has anything of the
loving spirit of Christ in him, what question can be more important
than this, Is the world well made or ill? Is it well governed or
ill? Is it on the whole going right or going wrong? And what can
be more comforting to such a man, than the answer which the Bible
gives him at the outset?--

This world is well made, in love and care; for Christ the Lord made
it, and behold it was very good.

This world is going right and not wrong, in spite of all appearances
to the contrary; for Christ the Lord is King. He sitteth between
the cherubim, be the earth never so unquiet. He is too strong and
too loving to let the world go any way but the right. Parts of it
will often go wrong here, and go wrong there. The sin and ignorance
of men will disturb his order, and rebel against his laws; and
strange and mad things, terrible and pitiable things will happen, as
they have happened ever since the day when the first man disobeyed
the commandment of the Lord. But man cannot conquer the Lord; the
Lord will conquer man. He will teach men by their neighbours' sins.
He will teach them by their own sins. He will chastise them by sore
judgments. He will make fearful examples of wilful and conceited
sinners; and those who seem to escape him in this life, shall not
escape him in the life to come. But he is trying for ever every
man's work by fire; and against that fire no lie will stand. He
will burn up the stubble and chaff, and leave only the pure wheat
for the use of future generations. His purpose will stand. His
word will never return to him void, but will prosper always where he
sends it. He has made the round world so sure that it cannot be
moved either by man or by worse than man. His everlasting laws will
take effect in spite of all opposition, and bring the world and man
along the path, and to the end, which he purposed for them in the
day when God made the heavens and the earth, and in that even
greater day, when he said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our
likeness,' and man arose upright, and knew that he was not as the
beasts, and asked who he was, and where? feeling with the hardly
opened eyes of his spirit after that Lord from whom he came, and to
whom he shall return, as many as have eternal life, in the day when
Christ the Lord of life shall have destroyed death, and put all
enemies under his feet, and given up the kingdom to God, even the
Father, that God may be all in all.

SERMON II. THE LIKENESS OF GOD

(Trinity Sunday.)

GENESIS i. 26. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after
our likeness.

This is a hard saying. It is difficult at times to believe it to be
true.

If one looks not at what God has made man, but at what man has made
himself, one will never believe it to be true.

When one looks at what man has made himself; at the back streets of
some of our great cities; at the thousands of poor Germans and Irish
across the ocean bribed to kill and to be killed, they know not why;
at the abominable wrongs and cruelties going on in Poland at this
moment--the cry whereof is going up to the ears of the God of Hosts,
and surely not in vain; when one thinks of all the cries which have
gone up in all ages from the victims of man's greed, lust, cruelty,
tyranny, and shrillest of all from the tortured victims of his
superstition and fanaticism, it is difficult to answer the sneer,
'Believe, if you can, that this foolish, unjust, cruel being called
man, is made in the likeness of God. Man was never made in the
image of God at all. He is only a cunninger sort of animal, for
better for worse--and for worse as often as for better.'

Another says, not quite that. Man was in the likeness of God once,
but he lost that by Adam's fall, and now is only an animal with an
immortal soul in him, to be lost or saved.

There is more truth in that latter notion than in the former: but
if it be quite right; if we did lose the likeness of God at Adam's
fall, how comes the Bible never to say so? How comes the Bible
never to say one word on what must have been the most important
thing which ever happened to mankind before the coming of our Lord
Jesus Christ?

And how comes it also that the New Testament says distinctly that
man is still made in the likeness of God? For St. Paul speaks of
man as 'the likeness and glory of God.' And St. James says of the
tongue, 'Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith' (to
our shame) 'curse we men, which are made in the likeness of God.'

But the great proof that man is made in the image and likeness of
God is the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ; for if human nature
had been, as some think, something utterly brutish and devilish, and
utterly unlike God, how could God have become man without ceasing to
be God? Christ was man of the substance of his mother. That
substance had the same human nature as we have. Then if that human
nature be evil, what follows? Something which I shall not utter,
for it is blasphemy. Christ has taken the manhood into God. Then
if manhood be evil, what follows again? Something more which I
shall not utter, for it is blasphemy.

But man is made in the image of God; and therefore God, in whose
image he is made, could take on himself his own image and likeness,
and become perfect man, without ceasing to be perfect God.

Therefore, my friends, it is a comfortable and wholesome doctrine,
that man is made in the image of God, and one for which we must
thank the Bible. For it is the Bible which has revealed that truth
to us, in its very beginning and outset, that we might have, from
the first, clear and sound notions concerning man and God. The
Bible, I say; for the sacred books of the heathen say, most of them,
nothing thereof.

Man has, in all ages, been tempted, when he looks at his own
wickedness and folly, not only to despise himself--which he has good
reason enough to do--but to despise his own human nature, and to cry
to God, 'Why hast thou made me thus?' He has cursed his own human
nature. He has said, 'Surely man is most miserable of all the
beasts of the field.' He has said, 'I must get rid of my human
nature--I must give up wife, family, human life of all kinds, I must
go into the deserts and the forests, and there try to forget that I
am a man, and become a mere spirit or angel.' So said the Buddhists
of Asia, the deepest thinkers concerning man and God of all the
heathens, and so have many said since their time. But so does the
Bible not say. It starts by telling us that man is made in God's
likeness, and that therefore his human nature is originally and in
itself not a bad, but a perfectly good thing. All that has to be
done to it is to be cured of its diseases; and the Bible declares
that it can be cured. Howsoever man may have fallen, he may rise.
Howsoever the likeness may be blotted and corrupted, it can be
cleansed and renewed. Howsoever it may be perverted and turned
right round and away from God and goodness to selfishness and evil,
it can be converted, and turned back again to God. Howsoever
utterly far gone man may be from original righteousness, still to
original righteousness he can return, by the grace of baptism and
the renewing of the Holy Spirit. And what in us is the likeness of
God? That is a deep question.

Only one answer will I make to it to-day. Whatever in us is, or is
not, the likeness of God, at least the sense of right and wrong is;
to know right and wrong. So says the Bible itself: 'Behold the man
is become as one of us, to know good and evil.' Not that he got the
likeness of God by his fall--of course not; but that he became aware
of his likeness, and that in a very painful and common way--by
sinning against it; as St. Paul says in one of his deepest
utterances, 'By sin is the knowledge of the law.'

And you may see for yourselves how human nature can have God's
likeness in that respect, and yet be utterly fallen and corrupt.

For a man may--and indeed every man does--know good and yet be
unable to do it, and know evil, and yet be a slave to it, tied and
bound with the chains of his sins till the grace of God release him
from them.

To know good and evil, right and wrong--to have a conscience, a
moral sense--that is the likeness of God of which I wish to preach
to-day. Because it is through THAT knowledge of good and evil, and
through it alone, that we can know God, and Jesus Christ whom he has
sent. It is through our moral sense that God speaks to us; through
our sense of right and wrong; through that I say, God speaks to us,
whether in reproof or encouragement, in wrath or in love; to teach
us what he is like, and to teach us what he is not like.

To know God. That is the side on which we must look at this text on
Trinity Sunday. If man be made in the image of God, then we may be
able to know something at least of God, and of the character of God.
If we have the copy, we can guess at least at what the original is
like.

From the character, therefore, of every good man, we may guess at
something of the character of God. But from the character of Jesus
Christ our Lord, who is the very brightness of his Father's glory
and the express image of his person, we may see perfectly--at least
perfectly enough for all our needs in this life, and in the life to
come--what is the character of God, who made heaven and earth.

I beseech you to remember this--I beseech you to believe this, with
your whole hearts, and minds, and souls, and especially just now.

For there are many abroad now who will tell you, man can know
nothing of God.

Answer them: 'If your God be a God of whom I can know nothing, then
he is not my God, the God of the Bible. For he is the God who has
said of old, "They shall not teach each man his brother, saying,
Know the Lord, for all shall know Me, from the least unto the
greatest." He is the God, who, through Jesus Christ our Lord,
accused and blamed the Jews because they did NOT know him, which if
they COULD NOT know him would have been no fault of theirs. Of
doctrines, and notions, and systems, it is written, and most truly,
"I know in part, and I prophesy in part," and again, "If a man
thinketh that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he
ought to know." But of God it is written, "This is life eternal, to
know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast
sent."'

But they will say, man is finite and limited, God is infinite and
absolute, and how can the finite comprehend the infinite?

Answer: 'Those are fine words: I do not understand them; and I do
not care to understand them; I do not deny that God is infinite and
absolute, though what that means I do not know. But I find nothing
about his being infinite and absolute in the Bible. I find there
that he is righteous, just, loving, merciful, and forgiving; and
that he is angry too, and that his wrath is a consuming fire, and I
know well enough what those words mean, though I do not know what
infinite and absolute mean. So that is what I have to think of, for
my own sake and the sake of all mankind.'

But, they will say, you must not take these words to the letter; man
is so unlike God, and God so unlike man, that God's attributes must
be quite different from man's. When you read of God's love,
justice, anger, and so forth, you must not think that they are
anything like man's love, man's justice, man's anger; but something
quite different, not only in degree, but in kind: so that what
might be unjust and cruel in man, would not be so in God.

My dear friends, beware of that doctrine; for out of it have sprung
half the fanaticism and superstition which has disgraced and
tormented the earth. Beware of ever thinking that a wrong thing
would be right if God did it, and not you. And mind, that is flatly
contrary to the letter of the Bible. In that grand text where
Abraham pleads with God, what does he say? Not, 'Of course if Thou
choosest to do it, it must be right,' but 'Shall not the Judge of
all the earth do RIGHT?' Abraham actually refers the Almighty God
to his own law; and asserts an eternal rule of right and wrong
common to man and to God, which God will surely never break.

Answer: 'If that doctrine be true, which I will never believe, then
the Bible mocks and deceives poor miserable sinful man, instead of
teaching him. If God's love does not mean real actual love,--God's
anger, actual anger,--God's forgiveness, real forgiveness,--God's
justice, real justice,--God's truth, real truth,--God's
faithfulness, real faithfulness, what do they mean? Nothing which I
can understand, nothing which I can trust in. How can I trust in a
God whom I cannot understand or know? How can I trust in a love or
a justice which is not what _I_ call love or justice, or anything
like them?

'The saints of old said, _I_ KNOW in whom I have believed. And how
can I believe in him, if there is nothing in him which I can know;
nothing which is like man--nothing, to speak plainly, like Christ,
who was perfect man as well as perfect God? If that be so, if man
can know nothing really of God, he is indeed most miserable of all
the beasts of the field, for I will warrant that he can know nothing
really of anything else. And what is left for him, but to remain
for this life, and the life to come, in the outer darkness of
ignorance and confusion, misrule and misery, wherein is most
literally--as one may see in the history of every heathen nation
upon earth--wailing and gnashing of teeth.

'If God's goodness be not like man's goodness, there is no rule of
morality left, no eternal standard of right and wrong. How can I
tell what I ought to do; or what God expects of me; or when I am
right and when I am wrong, if you take from me the good, plain, old
Bible rule, that man CAN be, and MUST be, like God? The Bible rule
is, that everything good in man must be exactly like something good
in God, because it is inspired into him by the Spirit of God
himself. Our Lord Jesus, who spoke, not to philosophers or Scribes
and Pharisees, but to plain human beings, weeping and sorrowing,
suffering and sinning, like us,--told them to be perfect, as our
Father in heaven is perfect, by being good to the unthankful and the
evil. And if man is to be perfect, as his Father in heaven is
perfect, then his Father in heaven is perfect as man ought to be
perfect. He told us to be merciful as our Father in heaven is
merciful. Then our Father in heaven is merciful with the same sort
of mercy as we ought to show. We are bidden to forgive others, even
as God for Christ's sake has forgiven us: then if our forgiveness
is to be like God's, God's forgiveness is like ours. We are to be
true, because God is true: just, because God is just. How can we
be that, if God's truth is not like what men call truth, God's
justice not like what men call justice?

'If I give up that rule of right and wrong, I give up all rules of
right and wrong whatsoever.'

No, my friends; if we will seek for God where he may be found, then
we shall know God, whom truly to know is everlasting life. But we
must not seek for him where he is not, in long words and notions of
philosophy spun out of men's brains, and set up as if they were real
things, when words and notions they are, and words and notions they
will remain. We must look for God where he is to be found, in the
character of his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who alone has
revealed and unveiled God's character, because he is the brightness
of God's glory, and the express image of his person.

What Christ's character was we can find in the Holy Gospels; and we
can find it too, scattered and in parts, in all the good, the holy,
the noble, who have aught of Christ's spirit and likeness in them.

Whatsoever is good and beautiful in any human soul, that is the
likeness of Christ. Whatsoever thoughts, words, or deeds are true,
honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report; whatsoever is true
virtue, whatsoever is truly worthy of praise, that is the likeness
of Christ; the likeness of him who was full of all purity, all
tenderness, all mercy, all self-sacrifice, all benevolence, all
helpfulness; full of all just and noble indignation also against
oppressors and hypocrites who bound heavy burdens and grievous to be
borne, but touched them not themselves with one of their fingers;
who kept the key of knowledge, and neither entered in themselves, or
let those who were trying enter in either.

The likeness of an all-noble, all-just, all-gracious, all-wise, all-
good human being; that is the likeness of Christ, and that,
therefore, is the likeness of God who made heaven and earth.

All-good; utterly and perfectly good, in every kind of goodness
which we have ever seen, or can ever imagine--that, thank God, is
the likeness and character of Almighty God, in whom we live and
move, and have our being. To know that he is that--all-good, is to
know his character as far as sinful and sorrowful man need know; and
is not that to know enough?

The mystery of the ever-blessed Trinity, as set forth so admirably
in the Athanasian Creed, is a mystery; and it we cannot KNOW--we can
only believe it, and take it on trust: but the CHARACTER of the
ever-blessed Trinity--Father, Son, and Holy Ghost--we can know:
while by keeping the words of the Athanasian Creed carefully in
mind, we may be kept from many grievous and hurtful mistakes which
will hinder our knowing it. We can know that they are all good, for
such as the Father is such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.
That goodness is their one and eternal substance, and majesty, and
glory, which we must not divide by fancying with some, that the
Father is good in one way and the Son in another. That their
goodness is eternal and unchangeable; for they themselves are
eternal, and have neither parts nor passions. That their goodness
is incomprehensible, that is, cannot be bounded or limited by time
or space, or by any notions or doctrines of ours, for they
themselves are incomprehensible, and able to do abundantly more than
we can ask or think.

This is our God, the God of the Bible, the God of the Church, the
God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ our Lord. And him we
can believe utterly, for we know that he is faithful and true; and
we know what THAT means, if there is any truth or faithfulness in
us. We know that he is just and righteous; and we know what THAT
means, if there is any justice and uprightness in ourselves. Him we
can trust utterly; to him we can take all our cares, all our
sorrows, all our doubts, all our sins, and pour them out to him,
because he is condescending; and we know what THAT means, if there
be any condescension and real high-mindedness in ourselves. We can
be certain too that he will hear us, just because he is so great, so
majestic, so glorious; because his greatness, and majesty, and glory
is a moral and spiritual greatness, which shows itself by stooping
to the meanest, by listening to the most foolish, helping the
weakest, pitying the worst, even while it is bound to punish. Him
we can trust, I say, because him we can know, and can say of him,
Let the Infinite and the Absolute mean what they may, I know in whom
I have believed--God the Good. Whatever else I cannot understand, I
can at least 'understand the lovingkindness of the Lord;' however
high his dwelling may be, I know that he humbleth himself to behold
the things in heaven and earth, to take the simple out of the dust,
and the poor out of the mire. Whatever else God may or may not be,
I know that gracious is the Lord, and righteous, yea, our God is
merciful. The Lord preserveth the simple, for _I_ was in misery,
and he helped ME. Whatsoever fine theories or new discoveries I
cannot trust, I can trust him, for with him is mercy, and with the
Lord is plenteous redemption; and he shall redeem his people from
all their sins. However dark and ignorant I may be, I can go to him
for teaching, and say, Teach me to do the thing that pleaseth thee,
for thou art my God; let thy loving Spirit lead me forth into the
land of righteousness.

The land of righteousness. The one true heavenly land, wherein God
the righteous dwelleth from eternity to eternity, righteous in all
his ways, and holy in all his works, and therefore adorable in all
his ways, and glorious in all his works, with a glory even greater
than the glory of his Almighty power. On that glory of his goodness
we can gaze, though afar off in degree, yet near in kind, while the
glory of his wisdom and power is far, far beyond my understanding.
Of the intellect of God we can know nothing; but we can know what is
better, the heart of God. For THAT glory of goodness we can
understand, and KNOW, and sympathize with in our heart of hearts,
and say, If THIS be the likeness of God, he is indeed worthy to be
worshipped, and had in honour. Praise the Lord, O my soul, for the
Lord is GOOD. Kings and all people, princes and all judges of the
world, young men and maidens, old men and children, praise the name
of the Lord, for his name only is excellent, because his name is
GOOD. Lift up your eyes, and look upon the face of Christ the God-
man, crucified for you; and behold therein the truth of all truths,
the doctrine of all doctrines, the gospel of all gospels, that the
'Unknown,' and 'Infinite,' and 'Absolute' God, who made the
universe, bids you know him, and know this of him, that he is GOOD,
and that his express image and likeness is--Jesus Christ, his Son,
our Lord.

SERMON III. THE VOICE OF THE LORD GOD

(Preached also at the Chapel Royal, St. James, Sexagesima Sunday.)

GENESIS iii. 8. And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in
the garden in the cool of the day.

These words would startle us, if we heard them for the first time.
I do not know but that they may startle us now, often as we have
heard them, if we think seriously over them. That God should appear
to mortal man, and speak with mortal man. It is most wonderful. It
is utterly unlike anything that we have ever seen, or that any
person on earth has seen, for many hundred years. It is a miracle,
in every sense of the word.

When one compares man as he was then, weak and ignorant, and yet
seemingly so favoured by God, so near to God, with man as he is now,
strong and cunning, spreading over the earth and replenishing it;
subduing it with railroads and steamships, with agriculture and
science, and all strange and crafty inventions, and all the while
never visited by any Divine or heavenly appearance, but seemingly
left utterly to himself by God, to go his own way and do his own
will upon the earth, one asks with wonder, Can we be Adam's
children? Can the God who appeared to Adam, be our God likewise, or
has God's plan and rule for teaching man changed utterly?

No. He is one God; the same God yesterday, to-day, and for ever.
His will and purpose, his care and rule over man, have not changed.

That is a matter of faith. Of the faith which the holy Church
commands us to have. But it need not be a blind or unreasonable
faith. That our God is the God of Adam; that the same Lord God who
taught him teaches us likewise, need not be a mere matter of faith:
it may be a matter of reason likewise; a thing which seems
reasonable to us, and recommends itself to our mind and conscience
as true.

Consider, my friends, a babe when it comes into the world. The
first thing of which it is aware is its mother's bosom. The first
thing which it does, as its eyes and ears are gradually opened to
this world, is to cling to its parents. It holds fast by their
hand, it will not leave their side. It is afraid to sleep alone, to
go alone. To them it looks up for food and help. Of them it asks
questions, and tries to learn from them, to copy them, to do what it
sees them doing, even in play; and the parents in return lavish care
and tenderness on it, and will not let it out of their sight. But
after a while, as the child grows, the parents will not let it be so
perpetually with them. It must go to school. It must see its
parents only very seldom, perhaps it must be away from them weeks or
months. And why? Not that the parents love it less: but that it
must learn to take care of itself, to act for itself, to think for
itself, or it will never grow up to be a rational human being.

And the parting of the child from the parents does not break the
bond of love between them. It learns to love them even better.
Neither does it break the bond of obedience. The child is away from
its parents' eye. But it learns to obey them behind their back; to
do their will of its own will; to ask itself, What would my parents
wish me to do, were they here? and so learns, if it will think of
it, a more true, deep, honourable and spiritual obedience, than it
ever would if its parents were perpetually standing over it, saying,
Do this, and do that.

In after life, that child may settle far away from his father's
home. He may go up into the temptations and bustle of some great
city. He may cross to far lands beyond the sea. But need he love
his parents less? need the bond between them be broken, though he
may never set eyes on them again? God forbid. He may be settled
far away, with children, business, interests of his own; and yet he
may be doing all the while his father's will. The lessons of God
which he learnt at his mother's knee may be still a lamp to his feet
and a light to his path. Amid all the bustle and labour of
business, his father's face may still be before his eyes, his
father's voice still sound in his ears, bidding him be a worthy son
to him still; bidding him not to leave that way wherein he should
go, in which his parents trained him long, long since. He may feel
that his parents are near him in the spirit, though absent in the
flesh. Yes, though they may have passed altogether out of this
world, they may be to him present and near at hand; and he may be
kept from doing many a wrong thing and encouraged to do many a right
one, by the ennobling thought, My father would have had it so, my
mother would have had it so, had they been here on earth. And
though in this world he may never see them again, he may look
forward steadily and longingly to the day when, this life's battle
over, he shall meet again in heaven those who gave him life on
earth.

My friends, if this be the education which is natural and necessary
from our earthly parents, made in God's image, appointed by God's
eternal laws for each of us, why should it not be the education
which God himself has appointed for mankind? All which is truly
human (not sinful or fallen) is an image and pattern of something
Divine. May not therefore the training which we find, by the very
facts of nature, fit and necessary for our children, be the same as
God's training, by which he fashioneth the hearts of the children of
men? Therefore we can believe the Bible when it tells us that so it
is. That God began the education of man by appearing to him
directly, keeping him, as it were, close to his hand, and teaching
him by direct and open revelation. That as time went on, God left
men more and more to themselves outwardly: but only that he might
raise their minds to higher notions of religion--that he might make
them live by faith, and not merely by sight; and obey him of their
own hearty free will, and not merely from fear or wonder. And
therefore, in these days, when miraculous appearances have, as far
as we know, entirely ceased, yet God is not changed. He is still as
near as ever to men; still caring for them, still teaching them; and
his very stopping of all miracles, so far from being a sign of God's
anger or neglect, is a part of his gracious plan for the training of
his Church.

For consider--Man was first put upon this earth, with all things
round him new and strange to him; seeing himself weak and unarmed
before the wild beasts of the forest, not even sheltered from the
cold, as they are; and yet feeling in himself a power of mind, a
cunning, a courage, which made him the lord of all the beasts by
virtue of his MIND, though they were stronger than he in body. All
that we read of Adam and Eve in the Bible is, as we should expect,
the history of CHILDREN--children in mind, even when they were full-
grown in stature. Innocent as children, but, like children, greedy,
fanciful, ready to disobey at the first temptation, for the very
silliest of reasons; and disobeying accordingly. Such creatures--
with such wonderful powers lying hid in them, such a glorious future
before them; and yet so weak, so wilful, so ignorant, so unable to
take care of themselves, liable to be destroyed off the face of the
earth by their own folly, or even by the wild beasts around--surely
they needed some special and tender care from God to keep them from
perishing at the very outset, till they had learned somewhat how to
take care of themselves, what their business and duty were upon this
earth. They needed it before they fell; they needed it still more,
and their children likewise, after they fell: and if they needed
it, we may trust God that he afforded it to them.

But again. Whence came this strange notion, which man alone has of
all the living things which we see, of RELIGION? What put into the
mind of man that strange imagination of beings greater than himself,
whom he could not always see, but who might appear to him? What put
into his mind the strange imagination that these unseen beings were
more or less his masters? That they had made laws for him which he
must obey? That he must honour and worship them, and do them
service, in order that they might be favourable to him, and help,
and bless, and teach him? All nations except a very few savages
(and we do not know but that their forefathers had it like the rest
of mankind) have had some such notion as this; some idea of
religion, and of a moral law of right and wrong.

Where did they get it?

Where, I ask again, did they get it?

My friends, after much thought I answer, there is no explanation of
that question so simple, so rational, so probable, as the one which
the text gives.

"And they heard the voice of the Lord God."

Some, I know, say that man thought out for himself, in his own
reason, the notion of God; that he by searching found out God. But
surely that is contrary to all experience. Our experience is, that
men left to themselves forget God; lose more and more all thought of
God, and the unseen world; believe more and more in nothing but what
they can see and taste and handle, and become as the beasts that
perish. How then did man, who now is continually forgetting God,
contrive to remember God for himself at first? How, unless God
himself showed himself to man? I know some will say, that mankind
invented for themselves false gods at first, and afterwards cleared
and purified their own notions, till they discovered the true God.
My friends, there is a homely old proverb which will well apply
here. If there had been no gold guineas, there would be no brass
ones. If men had not first had a notion of a true God, and then
gradually lost it, they would not have invented false gods to supply
his place. And whence did they get, I ask again, the notion of gods
at all? The simplest answer is in the Bible: God taught them. I
can find no better. I do not believe a better will ever be found.

And why not?

Why not? I ask. To say that God cannot appear to men is simply
silly; for it is limiting God's Almighty power. He that made man
and all heaven and earth, cannot he show himself to man, if he shall
so please? To say that God will not appear to man because man is so
insignificant, and this earth such a paltry little speck in the
heavens, is to limit God's goodness; nay, it is to show that a man
knows not what goodness means. What grace, what virtue is there
higher than condescension? Then if God be, as he is, perfectly
good, must he not be perfectly condescending--ready and willing to
stoop to man, and all the more ready and the more willing, the more
weak, ignorant, and sinful this man is? In fact, the greater need
man has of God, the more certain is it that God will help him in
that need.

Yes, my friends, the Bible is the revelation of a God who
condescends to men, and therefore descends to men. And the more a
man's reason is spiritually enlightened to know the meaning of
goodness and holiness and justice and love, the more simple,
reasonable, and credible will it seem to him that God at first
taught men in the days of their early ignorance, by the only method
by which (as far as we can conceive) he could have taught them about
himself; namely, by appearing in visible shape, or speaking with
audible voice; and just as reasonable and credible, awful and
unfathomable mystery though it is, will be the greater news, that
that same Lord at last so condescended to man that he was conceived
by the Holy Ghost; born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius
Pilate; was crucified, dead, and buried; and rose the third day, and
ascended into heaven. Credible and reasonable, not indeed to the
natural man who looks only at nature, which he can see and hear and
handle; but credible and reasonable enough to the spiritual man,
whose mind has been enlightened by the Spirit of God, to see that
the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not
seen are eternal; even justice and love, mercy and condescension,
the divine order, and the kingdom of the Living God.

And now one word on a matter which is tormenting the minds of many
just now. It is often said that all that I have been saying is
contrary to science. That this science and understanding of the
world around us, which has improved so marvellously in our days,
proves that the apparitions and miracles spoken of in the Bible
cannot be true; that God, or the angels of God, can never have
walked with man in visible shape.

Now, my friends, I do not believe this. I believe the very
contrary. I entreat you to set your minds at rest on this point;
and to believe (what is certainly true) there is nothing in this new
science to contradict the good old creed, that the Lord God of old
appeared to his human children. It would take too much time, of
course, to give you my reasons for saying this: and I must
therefore ask you to take on trust from me when I tell you solemnly
and earnestly that there is nothing in modern science which can, if
rightly understood, contradict the glorious words of St. Paul, that
God at sundry times and in divers manners spake to the fathers by
the prophets, and hath at last spoken unto us by a Son, whom he hath
appointed heir of all things: by whom also he made the worlds, who
is the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person,
and upholdeth all things by the word of his power: even Jesus
Christ, God blessed for ever. Amen.

What then shall we think of these things? Shall we say, 'How much
better off were our forefathers than we! Ah, that we were not left
to ourselves! Ah, that we lived in the good old times when God and
his angels walked with men!'

My friends, what says Solomon the Wise?--'Inquire not why the former
times were better than these, for thou dost not inquire wisely
concerning this.'

It is very natural for us to think that we could become more easily
good men, more certain of going to heaven, if we saw divine
apparitions and heard divine voices. A very natural thought. But
natural things are not always the best or wisest things. Spiritual
things are surely higher and deeper than natural things. It is
natural to wish to see Christ, or some heavenly being, with our
natural eyes and senses. But it is spiritual and therefore better
for our souls, to be content to see him by faith, with the spiritual
eyes of our heart and mind, to love him with all our heart and mind
and soul, to worship him, to put our whole trust in him, to call
upon him, to honour his holy name and his word, and to serve him
truly all the days of our life.

Natural, indeed, to wish that we were back again in the old times.
But we must recollect that these old times were not good times, but
bad times, and for that very reason the Lord took pity on them.
That they were times of darkness, and therefore it was that the
people who sat in great darkness, and in the valley of the shadow of
death, were allowed to see a great light. And that after that, the
fulness of time, the very time which the Lord chose that he might be
incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and came down upon this earth in human
form, was not a good time. On the contrary, the fulness of time,
1863 years ago, was the very wickedest, most faithless, most unjust
time that the world had ever seen--a time of which St. Paul said
that there were none who did good, no, not one; that adders' poison
was under all lips, and all feet swift to shed blood, and that the
way of peace none had known.

Better, far better, to live in times like these, in which there is
(among Christian nations at least) no great darkness, even though
there be no great light; times in which the knowledge of the true
God and his Son Jesus Christ is spreading, slowly but surely, over
all the earth; and with it, the fruit of the knowledge of the Lord,
justice, mercy, charity, fellow-feeling, and a desire to teach and
improve all mankind, such as the world never saw before. These are
the fruits of the Scriptures of the Lord, and the Sacraments of the
Lord, and of the Holy Spirit of the Lord; and if that Holy Spirit be
in our hearts, and we yield our hearts to his gracious motions and
obey them, then we are really nearer to the Lord Jesus Christ than
if we saw him, as Adam did, with our bodily eyes, and yet rebelled
against him, as Adam did, in our hearts, and disobeyed him in our
actions. Of old the Lord treated men as babes, and showed himself
to their bodily eyes, that so they might learn that he was, and that
he was near them. But us he treats as grown men, who know that he
is, and that he is with us to the end of the world. And if he
treats us as men, my friends, let us behave ourselves like men, and
not like silly children, who cannot be trusted by themselves for a
moment lest they do wrong or come to harm. Let us obey God, not
with eye-service, just as long as we fancy that his eye is on us,
but with the deeper, more spiritual, more honourable obedience of
faith. Let us obey him for obedience' sake, and honour him for very
honour's sake, as the young emigrant in foreign lands obeys and
honours the parents whom he will never see again on earth; and let
us look forward, like him, to the day when him whom we cannot see on
earth we may, perhaps, be permitted to see in heaven, as the reward-
-and for what higher reward can man wish?--of faith and obedience.

SERMON IV. NOAH'S FLOOD

(Quinquagesima Sunday.)

GENESIS ix. 13. I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a
token of a covenant between me and the earth.

We all know the history of Noah's flood. What have we learnt from
that history? What were we intended to learn from it? What
thoughts should we have about it?

There are many thoughts which we may have. We may think how the
flood came to pass; what means God used to make it rain forty days;
what is meant by breaking up the fountains of the great deep. We
may calculate how large the ark was; and whether the Bible really
means that it held all kinds of living things in the world, or only
those of Noah's own country, or the animals which had been tamed and
made useful to man. We may read long arguments as to whether the
flood spread over the whole world, or only over the country where
Noah and the rest of the sons of Adam then lived. We may puzzle
ourselves concerning the rainbow of which the text speaks. How it
was to be a sign of a covenant from God. Whether man had ever seen
a rainbow before. Whether there had ever been rain before in Noah's
country; or whether he did not live in that land of which the second
chapter of Genesis says that the Lord had not caused it to rain upon
the earth, but there went up a mist from the earth and watered the
face of the ground, as it does still in that high land in the centre
of Asia, in which old traditions put the garden of Eden, and from
which, as far as we yet know, mankind came at the beginning.

We may puzzle our minds with these and a hundred more curious
questions, as learned men have done in all ages. But--shall we
become really the wiser by so doing? More learned we may become.
But being learned and being wise are two different things. True
wisdom is that which makes a man a better man. And will such
puzzling questions and calculations as these, settle them how we
may, make us BETTER men? Will they make us more honest and just,
more generous and loving, more able to keep our tempers and control
our appetites? I cannot see that. Will it make us better men
merely to know that there was once a flood of waters on the earth?
I cannot see that. If we look at the hills of sand and gravel round
us, a little common sense will show us that there have been many
floods of waters on the earth, long, long before the one of which
the Bible speaks: but shall we be better men for knowing that
either? I cannot see why we should. Now the Bible was sent to make
us better men. How then will the history of the flood do that?

Easily enough, my friends, if we will listen to the Bible, and
thinking less about the flood itself, think more about him who, so
the Bible tells us, sent the flood.

The Bible, I have told you, is the revelation of the living Lord
God, even Jesus Christ; who, in his turn, reveals to us the Father.
And what we have to think of is, how does this story of the flood
reveal, unveil to us the living Lord of the world, and his living
government thereof? Let us look at the matter in that way, instead
of puzzling ourselves with questions of words and endless
genealogies which minister strife. Let us look at the matter in
that way, instead of (like too many men now, and too many men in all
ages) being so busy in picking to pieces the shell of the Bible,
that we forget that the Bible has any kernel, and so let it slip
through our hands. Let us look at the matter in that way, as a
revelation of the living God, and then we shall find the history of
the flood full of godly doctrine, and profitable for these times,
and for all times whatsoever.

God sent a flood on the earth.

True; but the important matter is that GOD sent it.

God set the rainbow in the cloud, for a token.

True; but the important matter is that GOD set it there.

Important? Yes. What more important than to know that the flood
did not come of itself, that the rainbow did not come of itself, and
therefore that no flood comes of itself, no rainbow comes of itself;
nothing comes of itself, but all comes straight and immediately from
the one Living Lord God?

A man may say, But the flood must have been caused by clouds and
rain; and there must have been some special natural cause for their
falling at that place and that time?

What of that?

Or that the fountains of the great deep must have been broken up by
natural earthquakes, such as break up the crust of the earth now.
What of that?

Or that the rainbow must have been caused by the sun's rays shining
through rain-drops at a certain angle, as all rainbows are now.
What of that? Very probably it was: but if not, What of that?
What we ought to know, and what we ought to care for is, what the
Bible tells us without a doubt, that however they came, God sent
them. However they were made, God made them. Their manner, their
place, their time was appointed exactly by God for a MORAL purpose.
To do something for the immortal souls of men; to punish sinners; to
preserve the righteous; to teach Noah and his children after him a
moral lesson, concerning righteousness and sin; concerning the wrath
of God against sin; concerning God, that he governs the world and
all in it, and does not leave the world, or mankind, to go on of
themselves and by themselves.

You see, I trust, what a message this was, and is, and ever will be
for men; what a message and good news it must have been especially
for the heathen of old time.

For what would the heathen, what actually did the heathen think
about such sights as a flood, or a rainbow?

They thought of course that some one sent the flood. Common sense
taught them that.

But what kind of person must he be, thought they, who sent the
flood? Surely a very dark, terrible, angry God, who was easily and
suddenly provoked to drown their cattle and flood their lands.

But the rainbow, so bright and gay, the sign of coming fine weather,
could not belong to the same God who made the flood. What the
fancies of the heathen about the rainbow were matters little to us:
but they fancied, at least, that it belonged to some cheerful,
bright and kind God. And so with other things. Whatever was
bright, and beautiful, and wholesome in the world, like the rainbow,
belonged to kind gods; whatever was dark, ugly, and destroying, like
the flood, belonged to angry gods.

Therefore those of the heathen who were religious never felt
themselves safe. They were always afraid of having offended some
god, they knew not how; always afraid of some god turning against
them, and bringing diseases against their bodies; floods, drought,
blight against their crops; storms against their ships, in revenge
for some slight or neglect of theirs.

And all the while they had no clear notion that these gods made the
world; they thought that the gods were parts of the world, just as
men are, and that beyond the gods there was the some sort of Fate,
or necessity, which even gods must obey.

Do you not see now what a comfort--what a spring of hope, and
courage, and peace of mind, and patient industry--it must have been
to the men of old time to be told, by this story of the flood, that
the God who sends the flood sends the rainbow also? There are not
two gods, nor many gods, but one God, of whom are all things. Light
and darkness, storm or sunshine, barrenness or wealth, come alike
from him. Diseases, storm, flood, blight, all these show that there
is in God an awfulness, a sternness, an anger if need be--a power of
destroying his own work, of altering his own order; but sunshine,
fruitfulness, peace, and comfort, all show that love and mercy,
beauty and order, are just as much attributes of his essence as
awfulness and anger.

They tell us he is a God whose will is to love, to bless, to make
his creatures happy, if they will allow him. They tell us that his
anger is not a capricious, revengeful, proud, selfish anger, such as
that of the heathen gods: but that it is an orderly anger, a just
anger, a loving anger, and therefore an anger which in its wrath can
remember mercy. Out of God's wrath shineth love, as the rainbow out
of the storm; if it repenteth him that he hath made man, it is only
because man is spoiling and ruining himself, and wasting the gifts
of the good world by his wickedness. If he see fit to destroy man
out of the earth, he will destroy none but those who deserve and
need destroying. He will save those whom, like Noah, he can trust
to begin afresh, and raise up a better race of men to do his work in
the world. If God send a flood to destroy all living things, any
when or anywhere, he will show, by putting the rainbow in the cloud,
that floods and destruction and anger are not his rule; that his
rule is sunshine, and peace, and order; that though he found it
necessary once to curse the ground, once to sweep away a wicked race
of men, yet that even that was, if one dare use the words of God,
against his gracious will; that his will was from the beginning,
peace on earth, and not floods, and good will to men, and not
destruction; and that in his HEART, in the abyss of his essence, and
of which it is written, that God is Love--in his heart I say, he
said, 'I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake,
even though the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth.
Neither will I again smite everything living, as I have done. While
the earth remaineth, seed-time and harvest, summer and winter, and
day and night, shall not cease.'

This is the God which the book of Genesis goes on revealing and
unveiling to us more and more--a God in whom men may TRUST.

The heathen could not trust their gods. The Bible tells men of a
God whom they can trust. That is just the difference between the
Bible and all other books in the world. But what a difference!
Difference enough to make us say, Sooner that every other book in
the world were lost, and the Bible preserved, than that we should
lose the Bible, and with the Bible lose faith in God.

And now, my friends, what shall we learn from this?

What shall we learn? Have we not learnt enough already? If we have
learnt something more of who God is; if we have learnt that he is a
God in whom we can trust through joy and sorrow, through light and
darkness, through life and death, have we not learnt enough for
ourselves? Yes, if even those poor and weak words about God which I
have just spoken, could go home into all your hearts, and take root,
and bear fruit there, they would give you a peace of mind, a
comfort, a courage among all the chances and changes of this mortal
life, and a hope for the life to come, such as no other news which
man can tell you will ever give. But there is one special lesson
which we may learn from the history of the flood, of which I may as
well tell you at once. The Bible account of the flood will teach us
how to look at the many terrible accidents, as we foolishly call
them, which happen still upon this earth. There are floods still,
here and there, earthquakes, fires, fearful disasters, like that
great colliery disaster of last year, which bring death, misery and
ruin to thousands. The Bible tells us what to think of them, when
it tells us of the flood.

Do I mean that these disasters come as punishments to the people who
are killed by them? That is exactly what I do not mean. It was
true of the flood. It is true, no doubt, in many other cases. But
our blessed Lord has specially forbidden us to settle when it is
true to say that any particular set of people are destroyed for
their sins: forbidden us to say that the poor creatures who perish
in this way are worse than their neighbours.

'Thinkest thou,' he says, 'that those Galilaeans whose blood Pilate
mingled with their sacrifices, were sinners above all the
Galilaeans? Or those eighteen, on whom the tower in Siloam fell,
and killed them; think you that they were sinners above all who
dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you nay.'

'Judge not,' he says, 'and ye shall not be judged,' and therefore we
must not judge. We have no right to say, for instance, that the
terrible earthquake in Italy, two years ago, came as a punishment
for the sins of the people. We have no right to say that the twenty
or thirty thousand human beings, with innocent children among them
by hundreds, who were crushed or swallowed up by that earthquake in
a few hours, were sinners above all that dwelt in Italy. We must
not say that, for the Lord God himself has forbidden it.

But this we may say (for God himself has said it in the Bible), that
these earthquakes, and all other disasters, great or small, do not
come of themselves--do not come by accident, or chance, or blind
necessity; but that he sends them, and that they fulfil his will and
word. He sends them, and therefore they do not come in vain. They
fulfil his will, and his will is a good will. They carry out his
purpose, but his purpose is a gracious purpose. God may send them
in anger; but in his anger he remembers mercy, and his very wrath to
some is part and parcel of his love to the rest. Therefore these
disasters must be meant to do good, and will do good to mankind.
They may be meant to teach men, to warn them, to make them more wise
and prudent for the future, more humble and aware of their own
ignorance and weakness, more mindful of the frailty of human life,
that remembering that in the midst of life we are in death, they may
seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is
near. They may be meant to do that, and to do a thousand things
more. For God's ways are not as our ways, or his thoughts as our
thoughts. His ways are unsearchable, and his paths past finding
out. Who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him,
or even settle what the Lord means by doing this or that?

All we can say is--and that is a truly blessed thing to be able to
say--that floods and earthquakes, fire and storms, come from the
Lord whose name is Love; the same Lord who walked with Adam in the
garden, who brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, who was
born on earth of the Virgin Mary, who shed his life-blood for sinful
man, who wept over Jerusalem even when he was about to destroy it so
that not one stone was left on another, and who, when he looked on
the poor little children of Judaea, untaught or mistaught, enslaved
by the Romans, and but too likely to perish or be carried away
captive in the fearful war which was coming on their land, said of
them, 'It is not the will of your Father in heaven, that one of
these little ones shall perish.' Him at least we can trust, in the
dark and dreadful things of this world, as well as in the bright and
cheerful ones; and say with Job, 'Though he slay me, yet will I
trust in him. I have received good from the hands of the Lord, and
shall I not receive evil?'

SERMON V. ABRAHAM

(First Sunday in Lent)

GENESIS xvii. 1, 2. And when Abram was ninety years old and nine,
the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty
God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.

I have told you that the Bible reveals, that is, unveils the Lord
God, Jesus Christ our Lord, and through him God the Father Almighty.
I have tried to show you how the Bible does so, step by step. I go
on to show you another step which the Bible takes, and which
explains much that has gone before.

From whom did Moses and the holy men of old whom Moses taught get
their knowledge of God, the true God?

The answer seems to be--from Abraham.

God taught Moses more, much more than he taught Abraham. It was
Moses who bade men call God Jehovah, the I AM; but who, hundreds of
years before, taught them to call him the Almighty God?

The answer seems to be, Abraham. God, we read, appeared to Abraham,
and said to him, 'Get thee out of thy country, and from thy father's
house, unto a land that I shall show thee, and I will make of thee a
great nation.' And again the Lord said to him, 'I am the Almighty
God, walk before me and be thou perfect, and thou shalt be a father
of many nations.'

'And Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for
righteousness. And he was called the friend of God.'

But from what did Abraham turn to worship the living God? From
idols? We are not certain. There is little or no mention of idols
in Abraham's time. He worshipped, more probably, the host of
heaven, the sun and moon and stars. So say the old traditions of
the Arabs, who are descended from Abraham through Ishmael, and so it
is most likely to have been. That was the temptation in the East.
You read again and again how his children, the Jews, turned back
from God to worship the host of heaven; and that false worship seems
to have crept in at some very early time. The sun, you must
remember, and the moon are far more brilliant and powerful in the
East than here; their power of doing harm or good to human beings
and to the crops of the land is far greater; while the stars shine
in the East with a brightness of which we here have no notion. We
do not know, in this cloudy climate, what St. Paul calls the glory
of the stars; nor see how much one star differs from another star in
glory; and therefore here in the North we have never been tempted to
worship them as the Easterns were. The sun, the moon, the stars,
were the old gods of the East, the Elohim, the high and mighty ones,
who ruled over men, over their good and bad fortunes, over the
weather, the cattle, the crops, sending burning drought, pestilence,
sun-strokes, and those moon-strokes which we never have here; but of
which the Psalmist speaks when he says, 'The sun shall not smite
thee by day, neither the moon by night.' And them the old Easterns
worshipped in some wild confused way.

But to Abraham it was revealed that the sun, the moon, and the stars
were not Elohim--the high and mighty Ones. That there was but one
Elohim, one high and mighty One, the Almighty maker of them all. He
did not learn that, perhaps, at once. Indeed the Bible tells us how
God taught him step by step, as he teaches all men, and revealed
himself to him again and again, till he had taught Abraham all that
he was to know. But he did teach him this; as a beautiful old story
of the Arabs sets forth. They say how (whether before or after God
called him, we cannot tell) Abraham at night saw a star: and he
said, 'This is my Lord.' But when the star set, he said, 'I like
not those who vanish away.' And when he saw the moon rising, he
said, 'This is my Lord.' But when the moon too set, he said,
'Verily, if my Lord direct me not in the right way, I shall be as
one who goeth astray.' But when he saw the sun rising, he said,
'This is my Lord: this is greater than star or moon.' But the sun
went down likewise. Then said Abraham, 'O my people, I am clear of
these things. I turn my face to him who hath made the heaven and
the earth.'

And was this all that Abraham believed--that the sun and moon and
stars were not gods, but that there was a God besides, who had made
them all? My friends, there have been thousands and tens of
thousands since, I fear, who have believed as much as that, and yet
who cannot call Abraham their spiritual father, who are not
justified by faith with faithful Abraham.

For merely to believe that, is a dead faith, which will never be
counted for righteousness, because it will never make man a
righteous man doing righteous and good deeds as Abraham did.

Of Abraham it is written, that what he knew, he did. That his faith
wrought with his works. And by his works his faith was made
perfect. That when he gained faith in God, he went and acted on his
faith. When God called him he went out, not knowing whither he
went.

His faith is only shown by his works. Because he believed in God he
went and did things which he would not have done if he had not
believed in God. Of him it is written, that he obeyed the voice of
the Lord, and kept his charge, his commandments, his statutes, and
his laws.

In a word, he had not merely found out that there was one God, but
that that one God was a good God, a God whom he must obey, and obey
by being a good man. Therefore his faith was counted to him for
righteousness, because it was righteousness, and made him do
righteous deeds.

He believed that God was helping him; therefore he had no need to
oppress or overreach any man. He believed that God's eye was on
him; therefore he dared not oppress or overreach any man.

His faith in God made him brave. He went forth he knew not whither;
but he had put his trust in God, and he did not fear. He and his
three hundred slaves, born in his house, were not afraid to set out
against the four Arab kings who had just conquered the five kings of
the vale of Jordan, and plundered the whole land. Abraham and his
little party of faithful slaves follow them for miles, and fall on
them and defeat them utterly, setting the captives free, and
bringing back all the plunder; and then, in return for all that he
has done, Abraham will take nothing--not even, he says, 'a thread or
a shoe-latchet--lest men should say, We have made Abraham rich.'
And why?

Because his faith in God made him high-minded, generous, and
courteous; as when he bids Lot go whither he will with his flocks
and herds. 'Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between thee and
me. If thou wilt take the left hand, I will go to the right.' He
is then, as again with the king of Sodom, and with the three
strangers at the tent door, and with the children of Heth, when he
is buying the cave of Machpelah for a burying-place for Sarah--
always and everywhere the same courteous, self-restrained, high-
bred, high-minded man.

It has been said that true religion will make a man a more thorough
gentleman than all the courts in Europe. And it is true: you may
see simple labouring men as thorough gentlemen as any duke, simply
because they have learned to fear God; and fearing him, to restrain
themselves, and to think of other people more than of themselves,
which is the very root and essence of all good breeding. And such a
man was Abraham of old--a plain man, dwelling in tents, helping to
tend his own cattle, fetching in the calf from the field himself,
and dressing it for his guests with his own hand; but still, as the
children of Heth said of him, a mighty prince--not merely in wealth
of flocks and herds, but a prince in manners and a prince in heart.

But faith in God did more for Abraham than this: it made him a
truly pious man--it made him the friend of God.

There were others in Abraham's days who had some knowledge of the
one true God. Lot his nephew, Abimelech, Aner, Eshcol, Mamre, and
others, seem to have known whom Abraham meant when he spoke of the
Almighty God. But of Abraham alone it is said that he believed God;
that he trusted in God, and rested on him; was built up on God;
rested on God as a child in the mother's arms--for this we are told,
is the full meaning of the word in the Bible--and looked to God as
his shield and his exceeding great reward. He trusted in God
utterly, and it was counted to him for righteousness.

And of Abraham alone it is said that he was the friend of God; that
God spoke with him, and he with God. He first of all men of whom we
read, at least since the time of Adam, knew what communion with God
meant; knew that God spoke to him as a friend, a benefactor, a
preserver, who was teaching and training him with a father's love
and care; and felt that he in return could answer God, could open
his heart to him, tell him not only of his wants, but of his doubts
and fears.

Yes, we may almost say, on the strength of the Bible, that Abraham
was the first human being, as far as we know, who prayed with his
heart and soul; who knew what true prayer means--the prayer of the
heart, by which man draws near to God, and finds that God is near to
him. This--this communion with God, is the especial glory of
Abraham's character. This it is which has given him his name
through all generations, The friend of God. Or, as his descendants
the Arabs call him to this day, simply, 'The Friend.'

This it is which gained him the name of the Father of the Faithful;
the father of all who believe, whether they be descended from him,
or whether they be, like us, of a different nation. This it is
which has made a wise man say of Abraham, that if we will consider
what he knew and did, and in what a dark age he lived, we shall see
that Abraham may be (unless we except Moses) the greatest of mere
human beings--that the human race may owe more to him than to any
mortal man.

But why need we learn from Abraham? we who, being Christians, know
and believe the true faith so much more clearly than Abraham could
do.

Ah, my friends, it is easier to know than to believe, and easier to
know than to do. Easier to talk of Abraham's faith than to have
Abraham's faith. Easier to preach learned and orthodox sermons
about how Abraham was justified by his faith, than to be justified
ourselves by our own faith.

And say not in your hearts, 'It was easy for Abraham to believe God.
I should have believed of course in his place. If God spoke to me,
of course I should obey him.' My friends, there is no greater and
no easier mistake. God has spoken to many a man who has not
believed him, neither obeyed him, and so he may to you. God spoke
to Abraham, and he believed him and obeyed him. And why? Because
there was in Abraham's heart something which there is not in all
men's hearts--something which ANSWERED to God's call, and made him
certain that the call was from God--even the Holy Spirit of God.

So God may call you, and you may obey him, if only the Spirit of God
be in you; but not else. MAY call you, did I say? God DOES call
you and me, does speak to us, does command us, far more clearly than
he did Abraham. We know the mystery of Christ, which in other ages
was NOT made known to the sons of men as it is now revealed to his
holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. God, who at sundry times
and in divers manners spoke to the fathers by the prophets, hath in
these last days spoken to us by his SON, Jesus Christ our Lord, and
told us our duty, and the reward which doing our duty will surely
bring, far more clearly than ever he did to Abraham.

But do we listen to him? Do we say with Abraham, 'O my people, I am
clear of all these things which rise and set, which are born and
die, which begin and end in time, and turn my face to him that made
heaven and earth!' If so, how is it that we see people everywhere
worshipping not idols of wood and stone, but other things, all
manner of things beside God, and saying, 'These are my Elohim.
These are the high and mighty ones whom I must obey. These are the
strong things on which depend my fortune and my happiness. I must
obey THEM first, and let plain doing right and avoiding wrong come
after as it can.'

One worships the laws of trade, and says, 'I know this and that is
hardly right; but it is in the way of business, and therefore I must
do it.'

One worships public opinion, and follows after the multitude to do
evil, doing what he knows is wrong, simply because others do it, and
it is the way of the world.

One worships the interest of his party, whether in religion or in
politics; and does for their sake mean and false, cruel and unjust
things, which he would not do for his own private interest.

Too many, even in a free country, worship great people, and put
their trust in princes, saying, 'I am sorry to have to do this. I
know it is rather mean; but I must, or I shall lose such and such a
great man's interest and favour.' Or, 'I know I cannot afford this
expense; but if I do not I shall not get into good society, and this
person and that will not ask me to his house.'

All, meanwhile, except a few, rich or poor, worship money; and
believe more or less, in spite of the Lord's solemn warning to the
contrary, that a man's life does consist in the abundance of the
things which he possesses.

These are the Elohim of this world, the high and mighty things to
which men turn for help instead of to the living God, who was before
all things, and will be after them; and behold they vanish away, and
where then are those that have put their trust in them?

But blessed is he whose trust is in God the Almighty, and whose hope
is in the Lord Jehovah, the eternal I Am. Blessed is he who, like
faithful Abraham, says to his family, 'My people, I am clear of all
these things. I turn my face from them to him who hath made earth
and heaven. I go through this world like Abraham, not knowing
whither I go; but like Abraham, I fear not, for I go whither God
sends me. I rest on God; he is my defence, and my exceeding great
reward. To have known him, loved him, obeyed him, is reward enough,
even if I do not, as the world would say, succeed in life.
Therefore I long not for power and honour, riches and pleasure. I
am content to do my duty faithfully in that station of life to which
God has called me, and to be forgiven for all my failings and
shortcomings for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord, and that is
enough for me; for I believe in my Father in heaven, and believe
that he knows best for me and for my children. He has not promised
me, as he promised Abraham, to make of me a great nation; but he has
promised that the righteous man shall never be deserted, or his
children beg their bread. He has promised to keep his covenant and
mercy to a thousand generations with those who keep his commandments
and do them; and that is enough for me. In God have I put my trust,
and I will not fear what man, or earth, or heaven, or any created
thing can do unto me.'

Blessed is that man, whether he inherit honourably great estates
from his ancestors, or whether he make honourably great wealth and
station for himself; whether he spend his life quietly and honestly
in the country farm or in the village shop, or whether he simply
earn his bread from week to week by plough and spade. Blessed is
he, and blessed are his children after him. For he is a son of
Abraham; and of him God hath said, as of Abraham, 'I know him that
he will command his children and household after him, and they shall
keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment, that the Lord
may bring on him the blessing which he has spoken.'

Yes; blessed is that man. He has chosen his share of Abraham's
faith; and he and his children after him shall have their share of
Abraham's blessing.

SERMON VI. JACOB AND ESAU

(Second Sunday in Lent.)

GENESIS xxv. 29-34. And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the
field, and he was faint: And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray
thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his
name called Edom. And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.
And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit
shall this birthright do to me? And Jacob said, Swear to me this
day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.
Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat
and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his
birthright.

I have been telling you of late that the Bible is the revelation of
God. But how does the story of Jacob and Esau reveal God to us?
What further lesson concerning God do we learn therefrom?

I think that if we will take the story simply as it stands we shall
see easily enough. For it is all simple and natural enough. Jacob
and Esau, we shall see, were men of like passions with ourselves;
men as we are, mixed up of good and evil, sometimes right and
sometimes wrong: and God rewarded them when they did right, and
punished them when they did wrong, just as he does with us now.

They were men, though, of very different characters: we may see men
like them now every day round us. Esau, we read, was a hunter--a
man of the field; a bold, fierce, active man; generous, brave, and
kind-hearted, as the end of his story shows: but with just the
faults which such a man would have. He was hasty, reckless, and
fond of pleasure; passionate too, and violent. Have we not seen
just such men again and again, and liked them for what was good in
them, and been sorry too that they were not more sober and
reasonable, and true to themselves?

Jacob was the very opposite kind of man. He was a plain man--what
we call a still, solid, prudent, quiet man--and a dweller in tents:
he lived peaceably, looking after his father's flocks and herds;
while Esau liked better the sport and danger of hunting wild beasts,
and bringing home venison to his father.

Now Jacob, we see, was of course a more thoughtful man than Esau.
He kept more quiet, and so had more time to think: and he had
plainly thought a great deal over God's promise to his grandfather
Abraham. He believed that God had promised Abraham that he would
make his seed as the sand of the sea for multitude, and give them
that fair land of Canaan, and that in his seed all the families of
the earth should be blessed; and that seemed to him, and rightly, a
very grand and noble thing. And he set his heart on getting that
blessing for himself, and supplanting his elder brother Esau, and
being the heir of the promises in his stead. Well--that was mean
and base and selfish perhaps: but there is somewhat of an excuse
for Jacob's conduct, in the fact that he and Esau were twins; that
in one sense neither of them was older than the other. And you must
recollect, that it was not at all a regular custom in the East for
the eldest son to be his father's heir, as it is in England. You
find that few or none of the great kings of the Jews were eldest
sons. The custom was not kept up as it is here. So Jacob may have
said to himself, and not have been very wrong in saying it:

'I have as good a right to the birthright as Esau. My father loves
him best because he brings him in venison; but I know the value of
the honour which is before my family. Surely the one of us who
cares most about the birthright will be most fit to have it, and
ought to have it; and Esau cares nothing for it, while I do.'

So Jacob, in his cunning, bargaining way, took advantage of his
brother's weak, hasty temper, and bought his birthright of him, as
the text tells.

That story shows us what sort of a man Esau was: hasty, careless,
fond of the good things of this life. He had no reason to complain
if he lost his birthright. He did not care for it, and so he had
thrown it away. Perhaps he forgot what he had done; but his sin
found him out, as our sins are sure to find each of us out. The day
came when he wanted his birthright and could not have it, and found
no place for repentance--that is, no chance of undoing what he had
done--though he sought it carefully with tears. He had sown, and he
must reap; he had made his bed, and he must lie on it. And so must
Jacob in his turn.

Now this, I think, is just what the story teaches us concerning God.
God chooses Abraham's family to grow into a great nation, and to be
a peculiar people. The next question will be: If God favours that
family, will he do unjust things to help them?--will he let them do
unjust things to help themselves? The Bible answers positively, No.
God will not be unjust or arbitrary in choosing one man and
rejecting another. If he chooses Jacob, it is because Jacob is fit
for the work which God wants done. If he rejects Esau, it is
because Esau is not fit.

It is natural, I know, to pity poor Esau; but one has no right to do
more. One has no right to fancy for a moment that God was arbitrary
or hard upon him. Esau is not the sort of man to be the father of a
great nation, or of anything else great. Greedy, passionate,
reckless people like him, without due feeling of religion or of the
unseen world, are not the men to govern the world, or help it
forward, or be of use to mankind, or train up their families in
justice and wisdom and piety. If there had been no people in the
world but people like Esau, we should be savages at this day,
without religion or civilization of any kind. They are of the
earth, earthy; dust they are, and unto dust they will return. It is
men like Jacob whom God chooses--men who have a feeling of religion
and the unseen world; men who can look forward, and live by faith,
and form plans for the future--and carry them out too, against
disappointment and difficulty, till they succeed.

Look at one side of Jacob's character--his perseverance. He serves
seven years for Rachel, because he loves her. Then when he is
cheated, and Leah given him instead, he serves seven years more for
Rachel--'and they seemed to him a short time, for the love he bore
to her;' and then he serves seven years more for the flocks and
herds. A slave, or little better than a slave, of his own free
will, for one-and-twenty years, to get what he wanted. Those are
the men whom God uses, and whom God prospers. Men with deep hearts
and strong wills, who set their minds on something which they cannot
see, and work steadfastly for it, till they get it; for God gives it
to them in good time--when patience has had her perfect work upon
their characters, and made them fit for success.

Esau, we find, got some blessing--the sort of blessing he was fit
for. He loved his father, and he was rewarded. 'And Isaac his
father answered and said unto him, Behold, thy dwelling shall be the
fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above; and by
thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall
come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt
break his yoke from off thy neck.'

He was a brave, generous-hearted man, in spite of his faults. He
was to live the free hunter's life which he loved; and we find that
he soon became the head of a wild powerful tribe, and his sons after
him. Dukes of Edom they were called for several generations; but
they never rose to any solid and lasting power; they never became a
great nation, as Jacob's children did. They were just what one
would expect--wild, unruly, violent people. They have long since
perished utterly off the face of the earth.

And what did Jacob get, who so meanly bought the birthright, and
cheated his father out of the blessing? Trouble in the flesh;

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