Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

yield to them no mastery over his inward purpose. He submits to them as to a rule of God's ordaining; accomplishing day by day his toil, or study, or professional offices; mixing, too, in life, taking pleasure in its pure happiness and fond affections, without fear or doubting, knowing that he is where God has willed his probation. But the deep movements of his heart are reserved for God. All other emotions are shallow, affecting only a portion of his spiritual life; but this extends over all, and concentrates all upon itself. It is only towards God that he turns with a perfect unity of will. And, besides that the necessary entanglements of our lot are thus in themselves safe and lawful, God in His mercy shields the obedient mind from the deteriorating effect of inevitable contact with the world. When He leads men into positions of great trial, whether by wealth, or rank, or business, He compensates by larger gifts of grace. The spiritual life is perpetually replenished by the "powers of the world to come ;" and we find men who are the most burdened, and even overborne, by the thronging toils of daily life, or lured and solicited by the splendours of the world, not only holding out against the secularising action of worldly things, but even confirmed and elevated to a higher pitch of devotion. The world not only has no power to conform them to itself, but it

becomes a sort of counter-pressure, which forces them to take shelter in a secret life of self-renouncement. It keeps them ever on the watch, by a consciousness that to relax is to be in peril; and therefore it often happens that none are more dead to the world than they that have it around them in the largest measure. They have learned its emptiness and its bitterness, and recoil into themselves, as into the silence where the presence of God is heard. They have had many struggles with it, and gained many masteries, and suffered many wounds, and they have become estranged from it, and suspicious of all its advances and allurements; and have learned that, whensoever they have leaned upon it, an edge has pierced them, and that there is no safety but in God.

From all this, then, it is plain that we can never charge the worldliness of our hearts upon our lot in life; for our hinderances are either made by entanglement in things which are unnecessary, or, if in necessary things, are made through some inward fault of our own. Let us therefore no more pretend to excuse the withholding of our hearts from God, or the poverty and dulness of our affections, on the plea that the cares and duties of the world keep us back from a devoted life. Still less let us persuade ourselves, that the temptations to which we needlessly expose ourselves are inevitable

and appointed of God, or that we can resist their action. They have already overcome us, as soon as we suffer them to pass within the precinct of our daily life. We can still, however, with great ease, in due season, disentangle ourselves from all needless hinderances. The rest will be no let to the love of God. All pure loves may dwell under its shadow. Only we must not suffer them to shoot above, and to overcast it; for the love of God will not grow in the shade of any worldly affection. Above all, let us pray of Him to shed abroad in our hearts more and more of His love; that is, a fuller and deeper sense of His exceeding love towards us. It is thus He draws our love upward to Himself. "We love Him because He first loved us." The consciousness of this divine love comes down like a flood of light upon our darkened hearts, transfiguring all pure love of God's creatures with exceeding brightness, making all the affections of our spiritual life harmonious and eternal.

SERMON VI.

SALVATION A DIFFICULT WORK.

ST. MATTHEW vii. 13, 14.

"Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."

In these words our Lord uttered a startling and awful truth. He declared, that they who make forfeit of eternal life are many, and they who gain it few. And the reason He affirmed to be this: that the way of destruction is broad, and the way of life narrow. By these words, He designed to express some great difficulty which lies in the way of salvation, some barrier which few surmount. Now one thing is most certain ; I mean, that this difficulty is not of God's making. He "would have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”1 "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from

11 Tim. ii. 4.

his way and live."1 "God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."2 It is not, then, any difficulty ordained of God; and therefore it is plain that this difficulty must be on man's part. It is something in our own nature, viz. a moral difficulty. And what this is we will go on to see.

And, first, strange as it may seem, this difficulty will be found in the unwillingness of men to be saved. In holy Scripture this is broadly charged upon mankind. God asks, as pleading with His people, "Why will ye die?" And our Lord, weeping over Jerusalem, "How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"3 And again, "Ye will not come unto me, that may have life."4 And in the parable of the marriage-feast, a type of eternal life, "They all with one consent began to make excuse." It is manifest that there is in man's nature a deep and settled unwillingness, which is the first and greatest barrier to his salvation; an unwillingness not simply to be saved, that is, to be made everlastingly blessedthis, as a mere end of their desires, all men long

1 Ezek. xxxiii. 11.
3 St. Matt. xxiii. 37.

2 St. John iii. 16.

4 St. John v. 40.

ye

« FöregåendeFortsätt »