CMF eZine The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship. 8 December The Angels' Song, The Final Note By Charles Haddon Spurgeon Incarnation 0 Comment The Angels' Song, The Final Note “GOOD will toward men.” Wise men have thought, from what they have seen in Creation, that God had much good will toward men, or else His works would never have been so constructed as they are for their comfort; yet I never heard of any man who was willing to risk his soul’s salvation upon such a faint hope as that. But I have not only heard of thousands, I know thousands, who are quite sure that God has good will toward men; and if you ask them the reason for their confidence, they will give you a full and satisfactory answer. They will say, “God has good will toward men, for He gave His Son to die for them.” No greater proof of kindness between the Creator and His subjects can possibly be afforded than when the Creator gives His only-begotten and well-beloved Son to die in the place and stead of guilty sinners. Though the first note of the angels’ song is Godlike, and though the second note is peaceful, this third note melts my heart the most. Some seem to think of God as if He were an austere being who hated all mankind. Others picture Him as a mere abstraction, taking no interest in our affairs. But this angelic message assures us that God has “good will toward men.” You know what “good will” means. Well, all that it means, and more, God has to you, ye sons and daughters of Adam. Poor sinner, thou hast broken His laws; thou art half afraid to come to the throne of His mercy, lest He should spurn thee; hear thou this, and be comforted,—God has good will toward men, so good a will that He has said, and said it with an oath, too, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live;”—so good a will, moreover, that He has even condescended to say, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” And if you say, “Lord, how shall I know that Thou hast this good will towards me,” He points to the manger, and says, “Sinner, if I had not had good will towards thee, would I have parted with My beloved Son? If I had not had good will towards the human race, would I have given up My Son to become one of that race, that He might, by so doing, redeem from death as many of them as would believe on Him? Ye who doubt the love of God to guilty men, look away to that glorious circle of angels; see the blaze of glory lighting up the midnight sky; listen to their wondrous song, and let your doubts die in that sweet music, and be buried in a shroud of harmony. The angels’ song assures us that God has good will toward men; He is willing to pardon; He does pass by iniquity, transgression, and sin. And if Satan shall try to insinuate such a doubt as this, “But though God hath good will toward men, yet He cannot violate His justice, therefore His mercy may be ineffective, and you may die;” then listen to that first note of the song, “Glory to God in the highest,” and reply to Satan and all his temptations that, when God shows good will to a penitent sinner, there is not only peace in the sinner’s heart and conscience, but glory is brought to every attribute of God, so He can be just, and yet justify the sinner who believeth in Jesus, and so glorify Himself while saving him. Spurgeon, C. H. (2009). Christ’s Incarnation: The foundation of Christianity (pp. 9–11). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain) The Angels' Song, The Final Note “GOOD will toward men.” Wise men have thought, from what they have seen in Creation, that God had much good will toward men, or else His works would never have been so constructed as they are for their comfort; yet I never heard of any man who was willing to risk his soul’s salvation upon such a faint hope as that. But I have not only heard of thousands, I know thousands, who are quite sure that God has good will toward men; and if you ask them the reason for their confidence, they will give you a full and satisfactory answer. They will say, “God has good will toward men, for He gave His Son to die for them.” No greater proof of kindness between the Creator and His subjects can possibly be afforded than when the Creator gives His only-begotten and well-beloved Son to die in the place and stead of guilty sinners. Though the first note of the angels’ song is Godlike, and though the second note is peaceful, this third note melts my heart the most. Some seem to think of God as if He were an austere being who hated all mankind. Others picture Him as a mere abstraction, taking no interest in our affairs. But this angelic message assures us that God has “good will toward men.” You know what “good will” means. Well, all that it means, and more, God has to you, ye sons and daughters of Adam. Poor sinner, thou hast broken His laws; thou art half afraid to come to the throne of His mercy, lest He should spurn thee; hear thou this, and be comforted,—God has good will toward men, so good a will that He has said, and said it with an oath, too, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live;”—so good a will, moreover, that He has even condescended to say, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” And if you say, “Lord, how shall I know that Thou hast this good will towards me,” He points to the manger, and says, “Sinner, if I had not had good will towards thee, would I have parted with My beloved Son? If I had not had good will towards the human race, would I have given up My Son to become one of that race, that He might, by so doing, redeem from death as many of them as would believe on Him? Ye who doubt the love of God to guilty men, look away to that glorious circle of angels; see the blaze of glory lighting up the midnight sky; listen to their wondrous song, and let your doubts die in that sweet music, and be buried in a shroud of harmony. The angels’ song assures us that God has good will toward men; He is willing to pardon; He does pass by iniquity, transgression, and sin. And if Satan shall try to insinuate such a doubt as this, “But though God hath good will toward men, yet He cannot violate His justice, therefore His mercy may be ineffective, and you may die;” then listen to that first note of the song, “Glory to God in the highest,” and reply to Satan and all his temptations that, when God shows good will to a penitent sinner, there is not only peace in the sinner’s heart and conscience, but glory is brought to every attribute of God, so He can be just, and yet justify the sinner who believeth in Jesus, and so glorify Himself while saving him. Spurgeon, C. H. (2009). Christ’s Incarnation: The foundation of Christianity (pp. 9–11). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain) Related The Angels' Song, Its Opening Note The Angels' Song, Its Opening Note “GLORY to God in the highest.” The instructive lesson to be learned from this opening note of the angels’ song is, that salvation is God’s highest glory. He is glorified in every dewdrop that twinkles in the morning sunshine. He is magnified in every wood flower that blossoms in the copse, although it is born to blush unseen of man, and may seem to waste its sweetness on the forest air. God is glorified in every bird that warbles on the trees, and in every lamb that skips in the meadows. Do not the fishes in the sea praise Him? From the tiny minnow to the huge leviathan, do not all creatures that swim in the waters laud and magnify His great Name? Do not all created things extol Him? Is there aught beneath the sky, save man, that doth not glorify God? Do not the stars exalt Him, when they write His Name in golden letters upon the azure of heaven? Do not the lightnings adore Him when they flash His brightness in arrows of light piercing the midnight darkness? Do not the thunderpeals extol Him when they roll like drums in the march of the God of armies? Do not all things that He hath made, from the least even to the greatest, exalt Him? But sing, sing, O universe, till thou hast exhausted thyself, yet thou canst not chant an anthem so sweet as the song of Incarnation! Though Creation may be a majestic organ of praise, it cannot reach the compass of the golden canticle,—Incarnation! There is more melody in Jesus in the manger than in the whole sublime oratorio of the Creation. There is more grandeur in the song that heralds the birth of the Babe of Bethlehem than there is in worlds on worlds rolling in silent grandeur around the throne of the Most High. Pause, reader, for a minute, and consider this great truth. See how every one of the Divine attributes is here magnified. Lo, what wisdom is here! The Eternal becomes man in order that God may be just, and yet be the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. What power also is here, for where is power so great as when it concealeth itself? What power, that God should unrobe Himself for a while, and become man! Behold, too, what love is thus revealed to us when Jesus becomes a man; and what faithfulness! How many promises and prophecies are this day fulfilled! How many solemn obligations are this hour discharged! Tell me one attribute of God that you say is not manifest in Jesus; and your ignorance shall be to me the reason why you have not seen it to be so. The whole of God is glorified in Christ; and though some part of the Name of God is written in the material universe, it is best read in Him who was the Son of man, and also the Son of God. Spurgeon, C. H. (2009). Christ’s Incarnation: The foundation of Christianity (pp. 5–6). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain) The Angels' Song, The Added Stanza The Angels' Song, The Added Stanza “GLORY to God in the highest,” was an old, old song to the angels; they had sung that strain before the foundation of the world. But, now, they sang as it were a new song before the throne of God, and in the ears of mortal men, for they added this stanza, “and on earth peace.” They did not sing like that in the Garden of Eden. There was peace there, but it seemed to be a matter of course, and to be a thing scarcely needing to be mentioned in their song. There was more than peace there, for there was also glory to God. But man had fallen, and since the day when the Lord God drove him out of Eden, and placed the cherubim with a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life, there had been no peace on earth, save in the breasts of believers, who had obtained peace of heart and conscience even from the promise of the Incarnation of Christ. Wars had raged unto the ends of the earth; men had slaughtered one another, heaps on heaps. There had been strife within as well as struggles without. Conscience had fought with man, and Satan had tormented him with sinful thoughts. There had been no peace on earth since Adam fell. But, now, when the new-born King made His appearance, the swaddling-band with which He was wrapped up was the white flag of peace. That manger was the place where the treaty was signed, whereby warfare should be stopped between man’s conscience and himself, and between man’s conscience and his God. Then it was that the trumpet of the heavenly herald was blown aloud, and the royal proclamation was made, “Sheathe thy sword, O man, sheathe thy sword, O conscience, for God has provided a way by which He can be at peace with man, and by which man can be at peace with God, and with his own conscience, too!” The Gospel of the grace of God promises peace to every man who accepts it; where else can peace be found, but in the message of Jesus? And what a peace it is! It is like a river, and the righteousness of it is like the waves of the sea. It is “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, which shall keep our hearts arid minds through Christ Jesus.” This sacred peace between the soul pardoned and God the Pardoner, this marvellous “at-one-ment” between the guilty sinner and his righteous Judge, this it was of which the angels sang when they said, “Peace on earth.” Spurgeon, C. H. (2009). Christ’s Incarnation: The foundation of Christianity (pp. 7–8). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain) Romans 6:10 - The Final Frontier Once (ε?φα?παξ) More literally, as Rev., in margin, once for all. Compare Heb 7:27; Heb 9:12; Heb 10:10. (Dr. Marvin Vincent) Once - ε?φα?παξ ephapax. Once only; once for all. This is an adverb denying a repetition (Schleusner), and implies that it will not be done again; compare Heb 7:27; Heb 9:12; Heb 10:10. The argument of the apostle rests much on this, that his death was once for all; that it would not be repeated. (Dr. Albert Barnes) Common sense teaches us that men die to sin in one sense; Christ in another: St. Paul loves parallelisms, in the interpretation of which there is need of much caution.” From the whole scope of the apostle’s discourse it is plain that he considers the death of Christ as a death or sacrifice for sin; a sin-offering: in this sense no man has ever died for sin, or ever can die. (Dr. Adam Clarke) For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. (NASB) For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. (KJV) When He died, He died once to break the power of sin. But now that He lives, He lives for the glory of God. (NLT) For the death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. (NET) Rom 8:3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent His own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin's control over us by giving His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. (NLT) 2Co 5:21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (NLT) Heb 7:27 Unlike those other high priests, He does not need to offer sacrifices every day. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when He offered Himself as the sacrifice for the people's sins. (NLT) Heb 9:12 With His own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—He entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever. (NLT) Heb 9:26-28 If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, He has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by His own death as a sacrifice. And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for Him. (NLT) Heb 10:10-12 For God's will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. But our High Priest offered Himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then He sat down in the place of honor at God's right hand. (NLT) Heb 10:14 For by that one offering He forever made perfect those who are being made holy. (NLT) 1Pe 3:18 Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but He died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but He was raised to life in the Spirit. (NLT) Rom 14:7-9 For we don't live for ourselves or die for ourselves. If we live, it's to honor the Lord. And if we die, it's to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead. (NLT) Luk 20:38 So He is the God of the living, not the dead, for they are all alive to Him." (NLT) 2Co 5:15 He died for everyone so that those who receive His new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. (NLT) 1Pe 4:6 That is why the Good News was preached to those who are now dead—so although they were destined to die like all people, they now live forever with God in the Spirit. (NLT) The perfect sacrifice for our sin, once for all! This breaking the power of sin to hold us captive. How then could we but live for God who has set us free to live in the liberty of the Gospel of His son? A hard won truth that we have been empowered with a new chooser. We no longer have to choose sin but now may choose to live for Christ in the here and now and also for eternity with Him. It may appear to us as an impossibility especially when we are struggling with the flesh but faith and obedience (as toes on the same foot) when exercised will indeed bring the victory. Ponder this deeply until the "knowing" brings life to the dead sinews and joy to the heart. We read of many others that were raised from the dead, but they rose to die again. But, when Christ rose, he rose to die no more; therefore he left his grave-clothes behind him, whereas Lazarus, who was to die again, brought them out with him, as one that should have occasion to use them again: but over Christ death has no more dominion; he was dead indeed, but he is alive, and so alive that he lives for evermore, Rev 1:18. Thus we must rise from the grave of sin never again to return to it, nor to have any more fellowship with the works of darkness, having quitted that grave, that land of darkness as darkness itself. Secondly, He rose to live unto God (Rom 6:10), to live a heavenly life, to receive that glory which was set before him. Others that were raised from the dead returned to the same life in every respect which they had before lived; but so did not Christ: he rose again to leave the world. Now I am no more in the world, Joh 13:1; Joh 17:11. He rose to live to God, that is, to intercede and rule, and all to the glory of the Father. Thus must we rise to live to God: this is what he calls newness of life (Rom 6:4), to live from other principles, by other rules, with other aims, than we have done. A life devoted to God is a new life; before, self was the chief and highest end, but now God. To live indeed is to live to God, with our eyes ever towards him, making him the centre of all our actions. (Matthew Henry) The One God and the Gods Many The One God and the Gods Many ‘Though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of Whom are all things, and we for (unto) Him.’ 1 Corinthians 8:5. Trinity College Chapel, 24th Sunday after Trinity, 1873. We read in the Gospels that on one occasion, when our Lord was plied on all hands with casuistic problems by those who sought to entangle Him in His talk, He Himself confronted His interrogators with one simple, searching question, ‘What think ye of the Christ?’ This question has been repeated again and again by Christian preachers with effect. Speaking to professedly Christian people, they have desired to sound the depths of their convictions, to test the ground of their hopes; and they have seen no better way of attaining this end, than by forcing an answer to the question, often repeated, yet ever fresh, ‘What think ye of Christ?’ But the question which I desire to put this morning, and to which I wish to elicit a reply, is more elementary still. It strikes home to the very foundations, not only of Christianity, but of religious conviction in any sense. Before we ask, ‘What think ye of Christ?’ let us be ready with our reply to the prior question, ‘What think ye of God?’ What think ye of God? Is it novel and startling to be addressed in such language? Does it seem superfluous to put this question in a Christian age, in a Christian country, to a Christian congregation? And now especially—now as we approach our Advent Season, when the services of the Church will strike the keynote of patience and joy and hope; now when our eyes are straining to catch the first glimpse of that bright presence, the glory of the Only-Begotten, the Shekinah once more resting visibly over the mercy-seat of God’s providence; and our ears are intent to arrest the first preluding notes of that angelic strain, announcing the dawn of a new era, when glory shall be to God in the highest—is it not incongruous, is it not cruel, to ask a question which implies this deep misgiving, to interpose this stern demand as a screen before the beatific vision, to interrupt the heavenly harmonies with this jarring, jangling note? And yet, when, on the one side, the author of a movement, which arrogates the proud title of the philosophy of religion of the future, lays down as his fundamental maxim, that society must be reorganised, without a king and without a God, on the systematic worship of humanity, and by the instrumentality of this new religion, which is the direct negation of theology, proposes to regenerate the world; when, on the other hand, a scientific leader of the day, whose bold epigrammatic utterances are sure to arrest the ear, though they may not convince the mind and cannot satisfy the heart, warns us against this panacea of the positivist, this worship of the Great Being of Humanity, denouncing it in no measured terms as a gross fetichism and a crushing spiritual tyranny, and then calls us to follow him, not that we may throw ourselves, our temptations, our sorrows, our struggles, at the feet of the Everlasting and Loving Father, but that we may assist him in erecting once more an altar to the Unknown and the Unknowable, thus reversing the lesson which the Apostle taught to the bewildered Athenians on Mars’ Hill long ages ago, and signing away by one fatal stroke the glorious acquisitions of eighteen Christian centuries; when discordant voices assail us on all sides, saying, Lo, here is God! or Lo, there! or Lo, He is somewhere or other! or Lo, He is nowhere; then, I say, we have good reason to ask, whether we will suffer ourselves to be diverted from the old and tried paths, or whether, on the other hand, though there be that are called gods many, yet we have, and we have had, but one and the same God, and that God a Father, in Whose all embracing arms we rest in filial trust and hope and love? If the answer of our hearts to this is clear, prompt, unhesitating, then we shall lack nothing. Then in all our joys and all our griefs, in adversity and in prosperity, in youth and age, in health and sickness, living and dying, we shall feel the strength of His sustaining presence. Then ‘though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we shall fear no evil;’ for He will be with us; ‘He is our shepherd;’ ‘His rod and His staff comfort us.’ When S. Paul wrote these words, it was more than ever true, that there were gods many, who claimed the allegiance of men. By the extension of the Roman Empire the barriers between nation and nation had been broken down. There was a general fusion of thought and of practice. With the native merchandise and with the hereditary customs of distant lands, the superstitions and the deities also were imported. Thus indigenous religions and foreign religions were everywhere bidding against each other for popular acceptance. Here it was the grave, stately political worship of ancient Rome; and there it was the artistic, imaginative worship of ancient Greece. Here it was some political conception deified; there it was some power of nature; and there again it was some physical condition of man, not infrequently some vile and degrading passion, whose apotheosis demanded recognition. Here the animal-worship of Egypt presented its credentials; there the star-worship of the farther East clamoured to be heard. Last of all—a creation almost of S. Paul’s own day—the latest and boldest innovation had been made; Roman emperors by virtue of their office had received divine honours in their lifetime, and become gods on their decease. Only the other day a self-indulgent, cowardly weakling like Claudius had been translated to Olympus, and there enthroned as a deity; and he who now wielded the imperial sceptre, destined to develope into a very monster of human wickedness, a proverb and a byword to all generations—tyrant, sensualist, matricide—would, it seemed, in due course take rank as a god with his predecessors. This was the result (it is a serious thought) of the highest civilisation which the world had ever seen—when in intellectual culture, in political organization and material appliances, in the arts of peace and the arts of war, human society seemed to have reached the zenith; and in the pæans of her poets and the eulogies of her orators the unrivalled glories of queenly Rome were extolled with never-ceasing praises—this result, this apotheosis of monstrous human vice, this vile parody of religion, this outrage on common sense and common decency. Truly there were gods many, whether in heaven or on earth. In this chaos of conflicting claims, where could the devout and reverent mind obtain satisfaction? At what altar, to what God, were prayer and sacrifice to be offered? The picture of Athens, as given in S. Luke’s narrative, is a type of the state of the whole civilised world at that time. It was delivered over to idols of diverse kinds, some beautiful, some grotesque, some hideous, but idols, phantoms all—mythical heroes and dead tyrants, living animals and living men, human lusts and human ambitions, fire and blood, grove and mountain and storm, sun and star, social institutions and physical endowments—each vying with the other for the adoration of mankind. And some there were, who, notwithstanding this glut of deities, felt that their deepest wants were yet unsatisfied, yearned after a loftier ideal of Divinity; and so when some strange visitation had befallen them, striking home to their hearts and intensifying their religious emotions, vaguely conscious of the promptings within them, and feeling blindly after a more substantial truth, they erected an altar to some yet unrecognised power, dedicating it ‘to an Unknown God.’ To a God yet unknown to them; but, Heaven be thanked, not unknowable to them, or to us. Christ came and revealed; Paul came and preached. On that anonymous altar, which had been reared in the forlorn heart of humanity, he inscribed the missing name—the name of the Eternal Father, the One True God, ‘of Whom are all things, and we unto Him;’ the name of the Eternal Son, the One True Lord, ‘by Whom are all things, and we by Him.’ With an iron pen, in characters indelible, it was graven on the rock for ever. It might indeed have seemed that in the tumultuous clamour of so many voices this new name would have been smothered and have passed away unheeded. It could never have been predicted—no human prescience could have seen so far—that startled by the accents of that unknown name, and scared by the glory of that new light, this multitudinous throng of idols would have vanished out of sight, and hid themselves for ever, with the owls and the bats, in their congenial darkness. Yet so it was. The blank was filled in. The secret, after which mankind had been groping, was brought to light; the mystery hidden from the ages, revealed. And men saw, and believed. They could not be deceived. Here was the answer to the vague, mysterious questionings within them; here was the satisfaction to the aching, bewildered soul, which panted to slake its thirst in the fountains of Eternal Love. And by faith they received the truth. From its very nature it could not be apprehended by sight. From its very nature also it was incapable of demonstrative proof. It was not like those mathematical conceptions, which are the primary conditions of thought; it differed wholly from those physical laws, which we establish by processes of extensive induction. Its proof was not external to itself: its evidence was contained in itself, was itself. Its correspondence with the deepest wants, and the loftiest aspirations, of the human heart was its credential; a correspondence as between the wards of a lock and the notches of a key. It claimed to be light; and, if it was light, then it was truth also. This was the simple test. As light it demanded admission. And the verification of its claim was in the result. To those that believed, this was their assurance, that, in their believing, ‘power was given them to become sons of God;’ to those that believed not, this was their condemnation, that ‘the light was come into the world and they loved the darkness rather than the light.’ And now, in these last days, the words of S. Paul are again applicable, though in a different way. There are that are called gods, whether in heaven or on earth, not a few. They too are idols, phantoms, though unlike the idols of old. Graven images, stocks and stones, material, tangible gods, these they are not; but wan, vague, fantastic spectres, haunting the dim twilight of thought, fascinating the imagination of men, and diverting their gaze from the contemplation of the truth. There is first the God of philosophical deism—the most specious and the least repulsive of all these idols. He is One, Eternal, Omnipotent. He is in some sense Creator and Governor of the Universe. So far, there is truth. But He is not a Father. He is a mere metaphysical conception, a necessity of the intellect but not a satisfaction to the heart. He can hardly be called a Person. If He be a Person, He is at least so distant, so abstract, so incognisable to us, that we can hold no personal relations with Him. He is not a Father—certainly not our Father—not yours and mine. We know nothing of Him: we can only describe Him by negations. We cannot pray to Him, cannot love Him. He does not love us. It is doing violence to this abstract conception to speak of God as love. God has not spoken to us, God has not redeemed us, God has not given us assurance of our immortality. And so, notwithstanding the concession that God exists, that He is One and Eternal, we are still left alone in the world—alone with our struggles and our temptations, alone with our griefs, alone with our sins, alone with all our vague longings, alone with our poor, aching, unsatisfied, human hearts. We are thrown back on our own despair. From the God of the deist we descend to the God of the pantheist. Nature is God; nature as a spirit, or nature as inanimate energy—this may be doubtful—but nature in some way. There is no God independent of, and external to, nature. And so we ourselves are part of God; not only the spiritual element of our being, but the emotional and the material elements also, our souls, our bodies, our passions, our vices. Yes: our very vices—there is no pausing in the downward series. Sin is an idle word, an empty delusion. The name must henceforth be blotted out of our vocabulary, the idea banished for ever from our conceptions. Our vices—or what we call our vices—not less than our virtues, are processes of the Divine energy, are expressions of the Divine will. And the anathema of the Apostle must be reversed. Be not deceived—the unrighteous, the murderers, the adulterers, and the thieves, and the covetous, and the drunkards, and the extortioners, these inherit the kingdom of God, nay, these are the kingdom of God. They are—it is the inevitable logical consequence of the theory—they are in God and God in them. I will not stop to enquire what disastrous effect the worship of this God, if it became general, would have on the moral condition of mankind. I seem to see some faint indication of its effects in past history, where some one energy of nature, such as Baal or Astarte, has been held up as an object of adoration. I thankfully acknowledge that the theory is not carried to its strict logical consequences by those who hold it, that it has not been able to stifle the witness of God, the All-Holy, All-Righteous, All-Loving Father, in their heart, that their moral principles rise above their intellectual belief. But I ask you, sons of God, will you exchange the worship of your Heavenly Father for a religion, that confounds the eternal distinction of right and wrong, and orders you to renounce for ever as delusive those ideas, to which you owe (you cannot be mistaken here) whatever is noblest and best, whatever is most exalting and most energizing within you? From the idol of the pantheist it is one step to the idol of the materialist—I say the idol, for I can no longer say in any sense the God. Law takes the place of Nature. The spectre of a God, which still remained to the pantheist, has now vanished; and the gulf of atheism yawns at our feet. The idea of sin had already been blotted out; the idea of responsibility, by this time reduced to a shadow, now disappears with it. It is idle, senseless now, to talk of morality. At least, if we use the term, we must stamp it with a value wholly different from that for which it has hitherto passed current. Law—inevitable sequence, fatal necessity—is the inexorable tyrant, who reigns autocratic not only in the domain of physical phenomena, but also in the domain of moral purpose and moral action; not influencing, not limiting our conduct only, but all-pervading, omnipotent, absolutely determining that which we call our will, and forcing irresistibly those which we call our actions. All our language, and all our conceptions, must henceforth be changed. It is as foolish to blame a murderer for his crime, as it would be to blame a stone for falling to the ground. These are thy gods, O Israel! Is this light or is it darkness? Interrogate your consciousness; take counsel of your heart, and so give an answer. And lastly; the positivist offers for our worship his god, which is no God. He sees rightly that man cannot live without religion; and, having blotted God out of the world, he is bound to provide a substitute. So he sets up a new idol; he bids us fall down and worship the Great Being, Humanity. What is this but the final reductio ad absurdum of atheistic speculation? How can we prostrate ourselves before a mere abstract conception, a comprehensive name for the aggregate of beings like ourselves, with our own capricious passions, our own manifold imperfections—some higher and some viler, much viler, than we are? What satisfaction is there for our cravings after an ideal perfection? What power is there here to convince of sin, to redeem from self, to sanctify, to exalt to newness of life? What consolation in our sorrows, what resistance in our temptations, what strength, what hope, what finality? And now, that we have tried all these gods many, which have a place in the Pantheon of modern speculation, and found them wanting, whither shall we betake ourselves? Shall we close with the advice which has been tendered to us, as the best which in the present chaotic state of opinion we can adopt; and content ourselves with cherishing the most human of man’s emotions by worship at the altar of the Unknown and Unknowable? What altar? What worship? What emotions? If the object of our adoration is unknown, the adoration itself must be blind, capricious, unsteady, worthless. As our conception of God, so will be our worship; and as our worship, so will be our lives. If we deify a bloodthirsty tyrant like Moloch, then his temple will reek with the blood of innocent children: but if we enshrine in our hearts the idea of an All-Loving, All-Holy, All-Righteous God, our Father, then on the altar of a self-denying life we shall offer with filial reverence the sweet incense of holiness and love. It is not a matter of indifference, it is a matter of the utmost moment, what are the theological beliefs of the individual, of the nation, of the age. By their ideas men are most powerfully swayed, and their idea of God is the first and most potent of all. But you are a Christian. You have never yielded to any of these modern idolatries. You have remained faithful in your allegiance to the God of Revelation. This is well. But have you obscured His glory, have you distorted His image, with unworthy conceptions of your own? Have you indeed seen in Him the Father, the Father of yourself and of all mankind, tender, pitiful, longsuffering (albeit righteous), Who willeth not the death of a sinner, Who would have all men come to the knowledge of the truth? Or have you imposed some narrow restrictions of your own on His Fatherhood? Have you limited His merciful design to an elect few, a small circle to which you yourself belong, and complacently condemned all mankind besides to His eternal wrath? Have you represented the sacrifice of Christ, not as a manifestation of God’s love, but as a thwarting of God’s anger? Have you in your crude, hard, unscriptural definitions practically denied the perfect unity of the Son with the Father in the Eternal Godhead, adoring one as the dispenser of all mercy, and cowering before the other as the fountain of all vengeance and woe? Not such the lesson of the text. This one confession, ‘We have one God the Father, of Whom are all things and we unto Him,’ is supplemented and explained by yet another confession, ‘We have one Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom are all things and we through Him.’ The Incarnation of the Son is the manifestation of the Father. The life of Christ is the verification of the love of God. In Christ’s words and works, in His Passion and Resurrection, we read the expression of the Father’s will, we trace the lineaments of the Father’s face. And so we no longer adore the Unknown. We know what we worship. We have seen and heard. We may not ignore, and we cannot forget. Henceforth His Fatherly love is an abiding presence with us. Henceforth He is about our path by day and about our bed by night; felt, adored, loved. He is our comfort, our stay, our hope. Holy Father, teach us, strengthen us, command us, use us. Chastise us, if it must be so, that Thou mayest purify us. Kill us, if it must be so, that Thou mayest make us alive. But, whether living or dying, we are Thine. Of Thy love we are assured. In Thine everlasting arms we rest in patience and hope, till the dawn of the final and glorious Advent shall break, and we shall see Thy face, and know Thee as Thou art. Lightfoot, J. B. (1890). Cambridge Sermons. London; New York: MacMillan and Co. (Public Domain) Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 1 Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ “ALL THAT THE FATHER GIVETH ME SHALL COME TO ME; AND HIM THAT COMETH TO ME I WILL IN NO WISE CAST OUT.”—JOHN 6:37. A little before, in this chapter, you may read that the Lord Jesus walked on the sea to go to Capernaum, having sent his disciples before in a ship, but the wind was contrary; by which means the ship was hindered in her passage. Now, about the fourth watch of the night, Jesus came walking upon the sea, and overtook them; at the sight of whom they were afraid. Note, When providences are black and terrible to God’s people, the Lord Jesus shows himself to them in wonderful manner; the which sometimes they can as little bear, as they can the things that were before terrible to them. They were afraid of the wind and the water; they were also afraid of their Lord and Savior, when he appeared to them in that state. But he said, “Be not afraid, it is I.” Note, That the end of the appearing of the Lord Jesus unto his people, though the manner of his appearing be never so terrible, is to allay their fears and perplexities. Then they received him into the ship, and immediately the ship was at land whither it went. Note, When Christ is absent from his people, they go on but slowly, and with great difficulty; but when he joineth himself unto them, oh! how fast they steer their course! how soon are they at their journey’s end! The people now among whom he last preached, when they saw that both Jesus was gone and his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus. And when they had found him, they wonderingly asked him, “Rabbi, when camest thou hither?” but the Lord Jesus, slighting their compliment, answered, “Verily, verily, ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.” Note, A people may follow Christ far for base ends, as these went after him beyond sea for loaves. A man’s belly will carry him a great way in religion; yea, a man’s belly will make him venture far for Christ. Note again, They are not feigning compliments, but gracious intentions, that crown the work in the eye of Christ; or thus, it is not the toil and business of professors, but their love to him, that makes him approve of them. Note again, When men shall look for friendly entertainment at Christ’s hand, if their hearts be rotten, even then will they meet with a check and rebuke. “Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.” Yet observe again, He doth not refuse to give, even to these, good counsel: he bids them labor for the meat that endureth to eternal life. Oh! how willingly would Jesus Christ have even those professors that come to him with pretenses only, come to him sincerely, that they may be saved. The text, you will find, is, after much more discourse with and about this people, and it is uttered by the Lord Jesus as the conclusion of the whole, and intimateth that, since they were professors in pretense only, and therefore such as his soul could not delight in, as such, that he would content himself with a remnant that his Father had bestowed upon him. As who should say, I am not like to be honored in your salvation; but the Father hath bestowed upon me a people, and they shall come to me in truth, and in them will I be satisfied. The text, therefore, may be called Christ’s repose; in the fulfilling whereof he resteth himself content, after much labor and many sermons spent, as it were, in vain. As he saith by the prophet, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain” (Isa 49:4). But as there he saith, “My judgment is with the LORD, and my work with my God;” so in the text he saith, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” By these words, therefore, the Lord Jesus comforteth himself under the consideration of the dissimulation of some of his followers. He also thus betook himself to rest under the consideration of the little effect that his ministry had in Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida: “I thank thee, O Father,” said he, “Lord of heaven and earth, because thou has hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes; even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight” (Matt 11:25; Luke 10:21). The text, in the general, standeth of TWO PARTS, and hath special respect to the Father and the Son; as also to their joint management of the salvation of the people: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” The first part of the text, as is evident, respecteth the Father and his gift; the other part the Son and his reception of that gift. FIRST, For the gift of the Father there is this to be considered, to wit, the gift itself; and that is the gift of certain persons to the Son. The Father giveth, and that gift shall come: “And him that cometh.” The gift, then, is of persons; the Father giveth persons to Jesus Christ. SECOND, Next you have the Son’s reception of this gift, and that showeth itself in these particulars:—1. In his hearty acknowledgement of it to be a gift: “The Father giveth me.” 2. In his taking notice, after a solemn manner, of all and every part of the gift: “All that the Father giveth me.” 3. In his resolution to bring them to himself: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.” 4. And in his determining that not anything shall make him dislike them in their coming: “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” These things might be spoken to at large, as they are in this method presented to view: but I shall choose to speak to the words, FIRST, BY WAY OF EXPLICATION. SECOND, BY WAY OF OBSERVATION. Bunyan, J. (2006). Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ (Vol. 1, p. 241). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain) Bethel Bethel Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. Genesis 28:16. Dr. Joseph Barber Lightfoot, Lord Bishop of Durham Great S. Mary’s Church, 19th Sunday after Trinity, 1881. An unobtrusive, unimpressive scene, almost indistinguishable even to the curious eye of the archæologist ‘in the maze of undistinguished hills which encompass it’—with nothing to attract the eye, and nothing to fire the imagination; large slabs of bare rock traversed by a well-worn thoroughfare; ‘no religio loci, no awful shades, no lofty hills’—so is the site of Bethel described by the modern traveller. Yet this was none other than the House of God; this was the very gate of heaven. An unimpressive scene in itself, but appearing still more commonplace, when contrasted with the famous shrines of heathendom—the rock fortress of Athene, or the pleasant groves of Daphne, or the cloven peak of Parnassus, or the sea-girt sanctuary of Delos. No beauty, no grandeur, nothing of loveliness and nothing of awe, nothing exceptional of any kind, which can explain or justify its selection. Was there not ground for the wanderer’s surprise on that memorable night? Why should this one spot be chosen to plant the foot of the ladder which connected heaven and earth? Why in this bleak wilderness? Why amidst these bare rocks? Why here of all places in the world? Yes, why here? The paradox of Bethel is the paradox of the Gospel, is the paradox of God’s spiritual dispensations at all times. The Incarnation itself was the supreme manifestation of this paradox. The building up of the Church was the proper sequel to the Incarnation. Look at the accompaniments of the Incarnation. Could any environment of circumstances well have been imagined more incongruous, more alien to this unique event in human history, this supreme revelation of God’s wisdom, and power, and beneficence? An obscure corner of the Roman world; an insignificant and down-trodden race, scorned and hated by the rest of mankind; an ox-stall for a nursery, and a carpenter’s shop for a school—what is wanting to complete the paradox? Yes, there is still one feature to be added to the picture—the crowning incongruity of all—the felon’s death on the gibbet. Said not the prophet rightly, when he foretold that there should be nothing lovely in His life and circumstances, as men count loveliness; ‘no form nor comeliness;’ ‘no beauty that we should desire Him’? And the same paradox, which ruled the foundation of the Church, extended also to its building up. The great statesmen, the powerful captains, in the kingdom of God were fishermen and tentmakers. Never was this characteristic incongruity of the Gospel more signally manifested than in the preaching of S. Paul at Athens. Have we ever realised the force of that single word, with which the historian describes the impression left on the Apostle’s mind by this far-famed city? Gazing on the most sublime and beautiful creations of Greek art, the master-pieces of Pheidias and Praxiteles, he has no eye for their beauty or their sublimity. He pierces through the veil of the material and transitory; and behind this semblance of grace and glory the true nature of things reveals itself. To him this chief centre of human culture and intelligence, this Eye of Greece, mother of arts And eloquence appears only as κατείδωλος, overrun with idols, beset with phantoms which mislead, and vanities which corrupt. Art and culture are God’s own gifts, legitimate embellishments of life, even of worship, which is the highest form of life. But if culture aims at displacing religion, if art seeks to dethrone God, why then in the highest interests of humanity be it our prayer that the sword of the barbarian and the axe of the iconoclast may descend once more, and sweep them ruthlessly away. There was, at least, this redeeming feature in ancient art, that it gave expression to whatsoever sense of the Divine lay buried in the heathen mind. But art and culture, which studiously ignore God—what can be said for these? In this one word κατείδωλος lies the germ of that fierce and protracted struggle of Christianity with Paganism, which ended indeed in a splendid victory, though not without inflicting many a wound on humanity of which the scars and seams still remain. Notwithstanding the merciless scoffs of a Celsus and the biting sarcasms of a Julian, the Apostle’s words were verified in their literal truth. Strength was made perfect in weakness. God chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, aye, and the uncomely things of the world to confound the beautiful. The things which are not brought to nought the things which are. So then in its accompaniments, not less than in its main idea, this incident at Bethel is a type of the Gospel of Christ. This exile, the representative of the Israel after the flesh, prefigures a greater outcast and wanderer, the representative of the Israel after the Spirit, the representative of the whole family of man. This ladder reared up from earth to heaven, whereby angels ascend and descend—what is it but the Incarnation of the Eternal Word, wherein God is made man, and man is taken up into God? This it is, which establishes the title of Christianity as the absolute and final religion of the world—this indissoluble union of the human with the Divine—this one only adequate response to the deepest religious cravings of mankind. Hence the Church has ever clung with a tenacity of grasp which shallow hearts could ill understand, to this central idea, the indefeasible wedlock of heaven and earth in the God-Man. And to those whose sight is purged by faith, to those who are gifted with the eye of the Spirit, the vision of Bethel will be vouchsafed with a far more exceeding glory; ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man’—on the Son of Man; yes, and on thyself too, O man, for thou art one with this Son of Man, one with the Father in Him. ‘Gifted with the eye of the Spirit,’ I say: for in vain the heavens are riven asunder, and the glory streams forth, and all things are flooded with light, if the capacity of vision be absent. Only the cold bare stones beneath, only the midnight gloom overhead, only the dreary, monotonous waste around, these and these alone are visible otherwise. We have been saddened, perhaps we have been disconcerted, as recently we read the melancholy epitaph which sums up the creed of a brilliant man of science not long since deceased—a hopeless, soulless, lifeless creed, to which his own very faculties and acquisitions appear to us to give the lie. We have been saddened justly; but why should we be disconcerted? God be thanked, the most absolute childlike faith has not unfrequently been found united with the highest scientific intellect. We in this place have never yet lacked bright examples of such a union, and God grant we never may. But what right have we to expect it as a matter of course? What claim do the most brilliant mathematical faculties, or the keenest scholarly instincts, give to a man to speak with authority on the things of the Spirit? Are we not told on authority before which we bow, that a special faculty is needed for this special knowledge; that ‘eye hath not seen and ear hath not heard;’ that only the Spirit of God—the Spirit which He vouchsafes to His sons—knoweth the things of God? And does not all analogy enforce the truth of this lesson? One man has a keenly sensitive musical ear, but he is colour-blind. Another has a quick eye for the faintest gradations of colour, but he cannot distinguish one note of music from another. Does the imperfect eye of the one throw any haze of uncertainty over the hues of the rainbow; or the obtuse ear of the other disparage the master works of a Handel or a Mozart or a Beethoven? Here is a mathematician who sees in a sublime creation of imaginative genius only a tissue of unproven hypotheses; and here is a poet, to whom the plainest processes of algebra and the simplest problems in geometry are mere barbarian gabble, conveying no distinct impression to the brain, and leaving no intelligible idea on the mind. Judge no man in this matter. To his own master he stands or falls. But judge yourselves. Yes, spare no rigour and relax no vigilance, when the judge is the criminal also. Believe it, this spiritual faculty is an infinitely subtle and delicate mechanism. You cannot trifle with it, cannot roughly handle it, cannot neglect it and suffer it to rust from disuse, without infinite peril to yourselves. Nothing—not the highest intellectual gains—can compensate you for its injury or its loss. The private prayer mechanically repeated, then hurried over, then intermitted, and at last dropped; the devotional reading found to be daily more irksome, because suffered to be daily more listless; the valuable moral and spiritual discipline of the early morning chapel, gradually neglected; the unobtrusive opportunities of witnessing for Christ by deeds of kindliness and words of wisdom suffered to slip by—these, and such as these, are the unfailing indications of spiritual decline; till disuse is followed by paralysis, and paralysis ends in death; and you are left without God in the world. And yet when again—you young men—when again, in the years to come, can you hope that the conditions of your life will be as favourable to this spiritual self-discipline as they are now? Where else do you expect to find in the same degree the opportunities for private meditation and retirement, the daily common prayer and the frequent communions, the inspiring and sanctifying friendships, the wholesome occupation for the mind and the healthy recreations for the body, every appliance and every aid, which if you will only employ them aright, neither disusing them nor misusing them, will combine to build up and to perfect the man of God? Choose ye, this day. To you, more especially, I appeal who have recently commenced your residence here, and to whom therefore with the changed conditions of life a heightened ideal of life also is suggested. This is the momentous alternative. Shall your life hereafter be typified by the barren rocks and the monotonous waste, hard and dreary, if nothing worse; or shall it be illumined within and around with the effulgence of God’s own presence, so that The earth and every common sight to you shall seem Appareled in celestial light, The glory and the freshness of a dream. A dream? Nay, not a dream, but an everlasting reality, eternal, as God’s own being is eternal. There are two ways of looking on the relations between the things of this life and the things of eternity—a false and a true. The false way regards the one as the negation of the other. They are reciprocally exclusive. The avocations, the interests, the amusements of daily life—nature and history, poetry and art—these are so many hindrances to the heavenly life. Every moment given to work is a moment subtracted from prayer. Thus the inward life becomes a constant reluctation against the conditions of the outward. This is the spirit which of old peopled the desert with anchorites; the spirit which in all ages, though under divers forms, has made a religion of selfishness. This is the voice which cries, lo, here! and lo, there! though all the while the kingdom of heaven is within us, is in the very midst of us. The true conception is the reverse of all this. Its ideal is not a separation, but an identification of the two. It takes its stand on the old maxim laborare est orare. It strives that its work shall be prayer, and its prayer shall be work. Nature and history to it are not the veil of God’s presence; they are the investiture of God’s glory. And therefore to it is vouchsafed the vision of grace and comfort and strength, as to the patriarch of old. The solitary wanderer along the dreary thoroughfare of this life lays himself down. He has nothing but the bare stones beneath for a couch, and nothing but the midnight sky overhead for a tent. He closes his eyes for a moment; and the whole place is flooded with glory. Aye, the Lord was in this place, though he knew it not. He knew it not; but he knows it now—knows it in the access of strength, knows it in the promise of hope, knows it in the celestial voice and the ineffable light. All the common interests of life—the avocations, the amusements, the cares, the hopes, the friendships, the conflicts—all are invested with a dignity and an awe unsuspected before. Reverence is henceforth the ruling spirit of his life. This monotonous round of common-place toils, and common-place pleasures, is none other than the House of God. This barren stony thoroughfare of life is the very portal of heaven. To read these hieroglyphs traced on nature, on history, on the human soul—to decipher this handwriting of God wheresoever it appears, and where does it not appear?—is the ultimate and final study of man. All history is a parable of God’s dealings; and we must learn the interpretation of the parable. All nature is a sacrament of God’s being and attributes, and we must strive to pierce through the outward sign to the inward meaning. To realise God’s presence, to hear God’s voice, to see God’s visage—let this be henceforth the aim and the discipline of our lives. So at length we shall pass from Bethel to Peniel—from the palace courts to the presence chamber itself. We shall see God face to face. It is a vision of power, of majesty, of awe unspeakable; but it is a vision also of purification, of light, of strength, of life. The blessing is won at length by that long lonely wrestling under the midnight sky. The fraud, the worldliness, the self-seeking is thrown off like a slough. All is changed. Old things have passed away. The supplanter rises from the struggle the supplanter no more, but the Israel, the Prince, who has power with God and with men. Shall not Moses’ prayer then be our prayer, ‘Lord, I beseech thee, shew me Thy Glory?’ ‘Shew me Thy glory.’ Where else shall this glory reveal itself, if not in the studies of this place? These properties of numbers, these relations of space, these phenomena of light, of heat, of energy, of life, of language, of thought, what are they? Individual facts to be recorded, arranged, tabulated, marshalled under several heads, which we call laws and, having so called them, with a strange self-complacency and contentment fold our hands, as if nothing more were to be done, as if by the mere imposition of a name we had crowned them absolute sovereigns of the Universe? Or are they the manifestations—partial, indeed, and needing to be supplemented—of a power, a majesty, a wisdom, an order, a beneficence, a finality, a oneness, a One, Who is shewn to us as the Eternal Father in the revelation of the Eternal Son? Can we afford to look down from the serene heights of modern science and culture on the untutored Indian, who saw God’s face in the shifting clouds, and heard God’s voice in the whistling winds? Nay, was there not a truth in this childish ignorance, which threatens to elude the grasp of our manhood’s wisdom? Was it altogether a baseless dream in those Stoic Pantheists, who endowed each several planet with an animating spirit of its own? Was it altogether a wild fancy in those Christian fathers which assigned to each its particular angel, who should whirl it through space and hold it in its course? Was it not rather a Divine instinct feeling after a higher truth? Human life cannot rest satisfied with the science of phenomena alone. It needs to supplement science with poetry. And the true, the absolute, the final poetry is the recognition of God the Creator and Governor, of God the all-wise and all-powerful, of God the Father, the Redeemer, the Sanctifier, of God the Eternal Love. Blessed are they who have eyes and see—they to whom The meanest flower that blows can give Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears; thoughts of immortality, of wisdom, of light, of love. ‘Shew me Thy Glory.’ Where else again shall His glory be seen, If not in those friendships which are the crowning gift of University life? This intimate communion of soul with soul, this linking of heart with heart, is it merely a matter of human convenience, of human preference, or has it a Divine side also? This love, this devotion, this reliance of the weak on the strong, this reverence for a nature purer, nobler, more upright, more manly, more unselfish than your own—what is its meaning? It is a precious, unspeakably precious, gift of God, you will say—far beyond wealth, or fame, or popularity, or ease, or any earthly boon of which you can conceive? Yes, but it is more than this. May we not call it in some sense a sacrament, a sign and a parable of your relation to your Lord? You are awed—no other word will express this feeling—you are awed with the honour done to you by this friendship. You do not talk much about it—it is too sacred a thing—but you do feel it. You confess to yourself day and night your own unworthiness. And yet, though you strive to be worthy, you would not wish to feel worthy. The very sense of undeservedness invests the gift with a bountifulness and a glory which you would not forego. The fountains of your thanksgiving would cease to flow freely, if you claimed it as a right; and it is a joyful and a pleasant thing to be thankful. Apply this experience to the infinitely higher gift of Christ’s friendship, of Christ’s sacrifice. Herein lies the power of the Cross—which men called, and still call, weakness—the power which awes, inspires, energizes, which elevates the heart and sanctifies the life—here in this feeling of boundless thanksgiving arising from this sense of absolute undeservedness. For is it not true, that those will love most, to whom most is given and forgiven? So then this your friendship is found to be none other than the House of God. The Lord is in this place, and happy, thrice happy are ye, if ye know it. Once again; look into your own soul, and what do you find there? Yes, ye yourselves are the temple of the living God. He is there—there, whether you will or not. Through your reason, through your conscience, through your remorses and regrets, through your capacity of amendment, through your aspirations and ideals, He speaks to you. You are His coinage. His image and superscription are stamped upon you. Aye, and He has also re-stamped you, re-created you, in Christ Jesus by the earnest of His Spirit. If it be true of your body that it is fearfully and wonderfully made, is it not far more true of your soul? Henceforward you will regard yourself with awe and reverence, as a sanctuary of the Eternal Goodness. You will not, you dare not, profane this sanctuary. Here is the true self-respect—nay, not self-respect, for self is abased, self is overawed, self veils the face and falls prostrate in the presence of Infinite Wisdom and Purity and Love thus revealed. Surely, surely the Lord was in this place—in this poor, self-seeking, restless, rebellious soul of mine, and I thought it a common thing, I went on my way heedless, I followed my own devices and desires, I knew it not. In conclusion, I have been asked to plead before you to-day a cause which it should not require any words of mine to enforce. The Barnwell and Chesterton Clergy Fund appeals to you year by year for aid. Of all claims this (I say it advisedly) should be a first charge on the liberality of members of the University. These populous and growing suburbs are created by your needs. They are chiefly peopled by college servants and others for whom you are responsible. Zealous clergy are willing to work for the work’s sake in these districts commonly for stipends which no one could call remuneration—sometimes for no stipends at all. And yet it is still the same old story which I remember years ago. There is still the same difficulty in meeting current expenses; still the same fear lest the spiritual machinery should be impaired for lack of funds; still the same precarious hand-to-mouth existence, of which we heard complaint in years past. Is it quite creditable, that matters should go on thus? In a thousand ways you all, some directly, some indirectly, you all are reaping, materially, intellectually or spiritually, the fruits gathered from the liberality of past ages. Will you not make an adequate return? Steady, continuous subscriptions are needed. A liberal response to this day’s appeal is needed. The Fund is largely dependent on the proceeds of the University Sermon. Not less than a hundred pounds will suffice to meet all requirements. Will you not give it this day, either in this church, or in contributions sent afterwards to the treasurer? Think not that you hear only the poor words of the preacher in this appeal. Christ Himself pleads with you. Christ’s own words ring in your ears, ‘Ye did it, ye did it not, to Me’. Ah yes, the Lord was in this place—in this weary pleading of the preacher, in these trite commonplaces of spiritual need; and we, we knew it not. God grant that you may know it in time. God forbid that He should ever say to you, ‘I know you not.’ Lightfoot, J. B. (1890). Cambridge Sermons. London; New York: MacMillan and Co. (Public Domain) Comments are closed.