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nature upon Him, for it is still the same nature, essentially the same, though now fallen beyond our power to redeem, with that which was formed pure and holy by the Almighty. Let us never forget those memorable first words of man's history, “And GOD said, Let us make man after our image, after our likeness :"* and then, though it could never be other than an immeasurable condescension for God to take on Himself the nature of His creature, still this mystery will not be beyond our powers of belief, when we think how glorious that nature originally was ; and that it was so done, not only to redeem man from the powers and penalty of so abject a state, but to restore him to the condition and privileges of one so noble. For no less than this does the Bible declare to have been the intention of man's redemption, had his will consented to bend itself to the gracious offer.
It is also useful, and this is often insisted on, to help our thoughts in the contemplation of the unseen mysteries of Providence, by meditation on those which are seen, and of which no man can doubt. It has been well said that Providence is stranger than Revelation ; that the course of history, the daily events of the world, the constitution of man, his life and his death, would be far more inexplicable to the thinking man, without the light which the Gospel sheds on them, than they are with it. Without going the least beyond what we see and feel, our own senses and consciousness, let us endeavour sometimes to ask ourselves, with deep and calm thoughtfulness, such questions as these :—What we really are ? How and wherefore we were created and exist ? We sée and know that the outer world is, and has been as it is for a certain number of thousands of years ; have we any idea of its true purpose and meaning in the counsels of the Almighty? Can we give any account of what and how the earth and the heavens truly are, not merely as they are manifested to us, but as God sees them? No man has ever lived who could answer these questions. Let them be rightly understood : we know from the Bible how we are to look on all these wonders as connected with our own history, and how to use them as far as is necessary for the good of our own souls; but the more we endeavour to reflect on the great mystery of Creation as it is in itself, the more we shall feel that it is a mystery, and the less difficult shall we find it to realise in some measure the belief of the Incarnation of GOD the Son, and all other mysteries of Revelation.
* Gen. i. 26.
Above all, let us think often of death; and let us think of it as it really is, not as the end of our life, but as an event in our life. We cannot say with certainty that a man's life begins with his earthly birth;* we know with absolute certainty that it does not end at what is called his death, nor at any time after it. This is one of the oldest and best known of truths; but again the question is, not whether we admit this truth in words, but how far it is really present as a believed truth in the depth of our minds. That he will die indeed no man doubts; it is perhaps the only future event concerning himself that the ungodly man does really believe. But does he really believe, or try to believe, what God's word tells him that death is, and Eternity which comes
* See Wordsworth's Ode on the Intimations of Immortality, &c. : Works, Ed. 1832, III. 317.
after death, and how it concerns his soul ? Surely not, for if he did so, could he possibly act as he does ? That his mortal life is short he does feel and know; if he was equally convinced that his life after death will be endless, and that if ill-spent now it will be for ever miserable then, would he still be ungodly? These thoughts, though not solely referring to the text which we have been considering, lead to a general reflection which may be stated. What a man really believes, that he will act upon. No one doubts this in human affairs: it is equally true in spiritual. Have any of us ever been perplexed with the seeming contradiction of the words of St. Paul, “A man is justified by faith,”* and those of St. James, “ By works a man is justified, and not by faith only ?”+ O vain dispute! Assuredly from these words great questions may be raised with reference to some things, as for instance, in the case of deathbed repentance, which though awfully doubtful, no one can venture to call impossible; or other cases when from any reason the proof of faith cannot be given. But what are they to us? The simple explanation of these texts for us who are living and acting, the sufficient explanation within reach of all men's understanding, is surely this; that Faith, unless it produce works, is not Faith at all. St. James adds, “Faith without works is dead;"I but that which is dead is not, does not exist, as is too obvious to need to be repeated. The faith which St. Paul means is the faith which produces good works, as any simple-minded person could at once see from his writings, even if he had not said so distinctly. But * Rom. iii. 28. + James ii. 24.
. I James ii. 26.
he has said so. That which availeth, he says to the Galatians, is faith : what faith ? " faith which worketh by love.”* The works which St. James means are the necessary, the unavoidable proof or evidence of faith : “I will show thee," he says, “my faith by my works.”+
Wilful sin then is of unbelief: in so far as any man wilfully sins, it is because he is so far wanting in a true and living belief. And so it may have been well to have considered for a time the essential importance of a real belief in the deep things of Revelation, especially in that great and first mystery, the Godhead of the Everlasting Redeemer of mankind. He who believes this will assuredly believe the Gospel which He revealed. Let us not suppose that this real belief can be formed in those who have it not, or improved in those who have it in some measure, at once, by the mere wish, or by any act of the understanding. Let us remember those main means to it which were mentioned before ; prayer, submission, active obedience; using and striving after these, let us meditate on this great mystery of Godliness, GOD manifest in the flesh, in our measure and at fitting opportunities. Such an one there is at this time, I when the Church is preparing again to begin that long course of yearly commemoration of the Advent, the Birth, the manifestation, the trials, suffering, and Death, the Resurrection, the Ascension of our Blessed Lord, and the descent of the Holy Spirit that followed it; ending with the reverent contemplation of that unspeakable object of our faith and love, One God in three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the Blessed and Undivided Trinity.
* Gal. v. 6. † James ii. 18. I Read in November.
ON PSALM CVII. 34.
A fruitful land maketh he barren : for the wickedness of them
which dwell therein. (Read at Hagley on March 23, 1847, the Eve of the General
Fast-Day, on account of the Famine in Ireland and Scotland.)
TO-MORROW being the day appointed by public authority for a general fast, and national humiliation before God, on account of the famine now prevailing in the greater part of Ireland and in some parts of Scotland, it may be well for us to consider beforehand what the cause, and the meaning, and the object of this appointment are. It is well for me to speak to you on such a subject, as master of this house : and in this matter as in others, you have important duties towards each other, by mutual example, as members of one household.
The people of England are called upon to mourn and to pray for their brethren in Ireland and Scotland, who are dying of starvation. It is easier to talk about this than really to feel it. It is hardly possible for us in this country to have any idea what starvation really is. In fact, anywhere within the ordinary knowledge of English people, a real famine, such as this is, has not occurred for centuries. We read often in the Bible of great famines, which happened in those old days : and in Europe, hundreds of years ago, such things were known. But in most countries improvement in outward