« PreviousContinue »
spiest out all my ways.” He knew what was in man ; Jesus knew their thoughts; and when a man said one thing and meant another, He answered not the word but the thought. He shewed men to themselves; shewed them what the soul is, naked in the sight of God.
When you read the New Testament, read it with this view : remember what the woman of Samaria said, when He told her how she was living :
:-" Come, see a Man which told me all things that ever I did.” When you read a chapter, or hear it read, a parable or a miracle, do not read it as a mere history or a dead letter, but as the Word of the living God speaking to your inmost conscience : read it as the Word of Him who said, words I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life:” and wherever you are, whether at home or at work, whether in your chamber at night or in the fields by day, commune with your own bearts, and search out your spirits ; say, again and again,“Thou, God, seest me: Thou hast searched me out and known me.”
Do this day by day; and thus may you learn to say, not with terror but with comfort, when you come to die,“ Thou art with me.”
When you come here to worship and to hear God's Word, worship and listen each of you as in His Presence, and do not look upon what is said as addressed to you all in a mass; do not apply what you hear to your neighbours ; let every soul bring it home to himself. So account of us, as ministers of CHRIST, commending ourselves to every man's conscience, by itself, in the sight of God.
It is a blessed thing, indeed, to assemble and meet together, and with one mind and one mouth to glorify God; a blessed time, indeed, it was for Christians, when the whole multitude of them that believed were of one heart and soul; a blessed time, indeed, shall it be when all shall be one, one fold and one SHEPHERD, and God All in all. Meanwhile, I say to every man that is among you, singly, if souls are ever to be so brought together, it will be hy each soul being brought to understand what it is in the sight of God. He can make men to be of one mind in a house, by turning the hearts of all at once as the heart of one man; or by drawing heart after heart to Him. SELF, and touching conscience after conscience by His. SPIRIT.
I say, then, to every man that is among you, when you come to worship, worship as an immortal soul, in the Presence of God, and on the brink of eternity; not forgetting that all the souls with whom you worship are His; that your God is their God. He is thy LORD God, and worship thou Him : He is a Spirit, and the FATHER of the spirits of all flesh: pray to Him at Church and at home, in spirit and in truth; and in your daily life, live as an immortal soul on its trial, every moment in the Presence of an All-seeing JUDGE. Think of souls departed to whom you may have done good or harm, and consider that all which are yet on their trial, all with whom you are thrown from day to day,-fathers, children, brothers, companions, and fellowlabourers, -are souls, and that those souls are His; each is a soul for whom Christ died, and in whom His Spirit is present; and may be influenced, He only knows how deeply, by every thought, and word, and deed, and even look of yours.
So may every soul learn what it is to be a soul, a soul sanctified ; to have a conscience enlightened to know God, and a heart to love and dread Him; and may learn by degrees the great secret,--how to bear that Eye which is in every place, beholding the evil and the good. So may every soul learn to abide in its earthly calling with the Unseen and All-seeing God, and understand what that means, “None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth unto himself; but whether we live, we live unto the LORD, or whether we die, we die unto the LORD; so that, living and dying, we are the Lord's;" and feel the depth of that prayer, that “our whole spirit, and soul, and body, may be preserved to the coming of our LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ,"
Psalm xxxiv. 11-16.
“Come, ye children, and hearken unto me: and I will teach you the fear of
the LORD. What man is he that lusteth to live, and would fain see good days? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips, that they speak no guile. Eschew evil, and do good: seek peace, and ensue it. The eyes of the LORD are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers. The countenance of the Lord is against them that do evil, to root out the remembrance of them from the earth.”
THERE is a great deal thought in these days, and a great deal said without much thought, about education, about teaching the young. When thoughtful Christians look at the state of grownup people in any neighbourhood, how very many are living utterly careless and reckless lives, without God in this world, and without any hope for the next; spending their time and money in rioting and drunkenness, in chambering and wantonness, till their consciences become seared, their hearts hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, and their whole souls dead to God :—when thoughtful Christians see this, and yet more, when they consider it, they are almost dismayed and overwhelmed at it.
Well may they be dismayed and awestruck; and if they have not only Christian thoughts, but Christian hearts and Christian feelings also, all but broken-hearted—for here are not only creatures of the same flesh and blood as themselves, going down by millions into the grave, not only immortal souls dropping one by one every moment out of sight, and going we know not where; but members of Christ, of the same body with themselves; children of God, and so brethren of the same family with themselves; and inheritors of the kingdom of Heaven, and so fellowtravellers with themselves through this world of trial to the eternal world beyond, spending a few sad years of sin and sorrow here without a thought why they were placed in this world, or whither they shall go when they are called to leave it.
Were we really one body, one family, all brought up under our Heavenly Father's eye, walking by the same rule, minding the same thing, and alive to our high and holy privileges, we should feel this, feel it most deeply and acutely. Many of you must have felt before now, too deeply to allow of your dwelling upon it, what it is to have a relation, or a friend, or an acquaintance who cared little for God or eternity, suddenly snatched away by death, and hurried away without warning to judgment. And what must be the thought to a Christian, that some one of the great family, some brother, though unknown, still a brother, is dying every moment, and passing whilst we are speaking into the unseen world of spirits ! What each one's life. has been, what his opportunities have been, what his early training was, what he might have been, what he ought to have been, where he is, and what he is now he is gone, is known only to Him, who says in two or three thrilling words, “all souls are mine,” and “the soul that sinneth it shall die.” All we know is, that the sin of every soul is, in proportion to the light it has received and resisted, made exceeding sinful : the more each has received, the more it will have to answer for; the greater its opportunities have been, the more fearful will be its judgment, and the heavier its final sentence.
Now consider, my brethren, as you love your own souls and the souls of your brethren, consider, that of those countless millions of Christians who, in various ages and various countries have lived godless lives, and have died hopeless, or all but hopeless deaths, and who are passing one by one at this very moment in which I am speaking and you are listening, into the unseen eternal world of spirits unprepared ; of all these, there is not one of whom it might not once be said, “ He lusteth to live, and would fain see good days.” This was common, we may be sure, to them all; the love of life--the prospect of a long life and a happy one-this was common to all, young and old, rich and poor; and yet, what is life, which all love so much, and so dread to part with ?--something so very, very frail and subtle, that no one could ever describe it, or make out what it is, and of which the truest and most touching account is that of St. James, where he forbids us to look onward to to-morrow : "For what is your life ? it is even a vapour, which appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”
And what are the “ good days” we fain would see. Hear the touching account of them given by the Patriarch ; “ Few and evil are the days of the years of my pilgrimage :" and by the Apostle ; “ the days are evil.”
The question is, what could alone really have satisfied this love of life ? Amidst a scene of death and mortality, what could have made these evil days “good days ?” Nothing we may be sure on earth, nor of earth ; not what is called scholarship; not reading, and writing, and cyphering, and learning the Bible by heart; not what is called education, by which some are apt to think life is bettered, and good days secured. Do you think, that when the rich man wished Lazarus to be sent to his poor brethren from the world of spirits, it was to have them made scholars—to do with them no better than we are doing, when we teach them to read and write, and learn by heart? no, he would have had that taught them which should make thein holier and better men, keep them from the place of torment, and fit them for Paradise. The souls who are gone from us, are, next to our God and SAviour, Whose they are, best judges of what training should be.
We may say, indeed, of many, nay, of most who have gone before us, that had they been better taught, and better trained, they might have lived a better life, and died a happier death; but this innate " love of life," and desire of “good days," nothing could satisfy amidst a world of sorrow, but the abiding favour, and good pleasure, and loving-kindness of God here, and that which Jesus Christ brought to light by the Gospel-the promise of eternal life and a blessed immortality. Thus the Psalmist sings, in His pleasure is life,—His loving-kindness is better than the life itself: and the Apostle tells us, that if in this life only the Christian has hope in Christ, he is of all men most miserable; that this is the promise which He hath promised to us, even eternal life; not long life on earth, nor good days in this world, but eternal life. Hence it is clear, that the teaching and training