« PreviousContinue »
veil, and disclosed what before was hidden; he did not create it. Apart from him the world would go on just as now, light would still shine, gravitation would still draw, the sun would still rise and set, the moon would still wax and wane, and the tides still throb with their mighty, measured pulse from shore to shore. We have a world of scientific lore, rich, deep, varied and ever-increasing; but not one of the truths of which it consists has any personal quality, or depends in any wise for its value on the man whose genius first flashed upon it its searching light.
But while the truths of nature are not Kepler, nor Newton, nor Brewster, nor Herschel, nor Faraday, nor Owen, nor Huxley, nor Tyndall, and have no vital connection with these men, the truths of Christianity are Christ. They are not merely revealed by Him; they were made by Him. They once were not at all. They constitute a world which is as much a creation as the material universe itself. They are not true except in Christ. They express Him. He is their Fountain; and apart from Him they fail. He is their Root; and apart from Him they die. Men have striven, and do still strive, to cast away the personal form of Christianity and retain what they deem essential truth. But what essential truth can you retain when you have dismissed all that pertains to the Person and work of Christ? Will you retain the doctrine of the Incarnation, and reject the 'God manifest in the flesh'? Will you retain the doctrine of the Atonement, and reject Him Who died as a 'propitiation for our sins'? Will you retain the doctrine of the Resurrection, and reject Him Who was buried and on the third day rose again? Will you retain the doctrine of the Heavenly Blessedness, and reject Him Who said: 'I go to prepare a place for you'? Retain the essential and reject the personal you cannot. The essential is the personal; and the personal is the essential. You cannot retain light and reject the sun and moon and stars; nor retain health and reject the atmosphere you respire. Christianity, so far as it embodies spiritual force and motive; so far as it meets man in his sin, weakness, sorrow and despair, is Christ-nothing less than Christ, nothing more than Christ, nothing else than Christ. It is not merely a creed, any more than a painted skeleton is a man. It is not a system of morals, any more than trees without roots would form a garden. Christianity has a personal voice—the voice of one person to another, the voice of Christ to man; and its voice is: 'FOR MY SAKE.'
II. We have in our text not merely a Person, but a unique Person. We have One Who first and alone of all living men has made a new standard for determining a true life. We have One Who tells us that as we stand related to Him, we shall stand related to God and eternity. We have One Who enjoins upon us the importance of a holy life-not merely for the sake of holiness, but for His sake; not for the sake of heaven, but for His sake. And the Being Who thus places Himself before us, and so fills the whole field of our vision as to shut out every other person or consideration, is One Who says of Himself: Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.'
'Who is He?' do you ask. Who can He be but One? What creature, how long soever he has been in existence, and how high soever he stands in the stupendous scale, or how near soever his station be to the throne of God, and whatsoever be his wisdom, or the seraphic ardour of his devotion, or the achievements he has wrought as a servant of God,-what creature has a right to summon, as it were, the whole world around his feet, and to say: 'Whatever you purpose, purpose for my sake; whatsoever you do, do for my sake; whatsoever you suffer, suffer for my sake; whatsoever
you sacrifice, sacrifice for my sake'? If this be not the voice of God which we are to obey, it is the voice of a usurper which we are to disobey and resist; for there can be no one, and there must be no one to whom our whole life is consecrated but He by Whom that life has been given and preserved.
Upon what, then, are the claims of our Saviour grounded? Why may He say: For My sake,' and why may no other being in the universe usurp such wide authority over mankind as to make the one motive of life, the doing and the suffering, for His sake?
The answer is twofold. First, because of what Christ is in His essential nature; and second, because of what He has done for the benefit of man. The first ground is that of Dignity, and the second is that of Redemptive love and service. He thought it not robbery to be equal with God.' He is the brightness of His Father's glory and the express image of His person. He was the Word that was God,' but also the Word made flesh and dwelling amongst us. When He says: 'For My sake,' He interferes with no higher authority. There is none above Him who can forbid the homage that He seeks. Did I not see in Christ more than a man like myself, or even more than a creature however exalted, I dare not listen to Him when He claims to be the Lord of my life and my service. I must not only hesitate, I must refuse. My reply must be: No, not for thy sake supremely dare I do aught, if thou art not King of kings and Lord of lords I dare not give to thee the homage which is due to Him Who sitteth upon the throne. My thoughts, feelings, actions, words, must point to God, and if thou art not God, they point wrongly if they point to thee. A life wholly given to thee, pervaded by thoughts of thee, inspired by regard to thee, must be a life of worship towards thee, and I am forbidden to worship any but the only living and true God.'
Thus must we have spoken were it not true that Jesus Christ was the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. It is because He that hath seen the Son hath seen the Father also, that we can bow at His feet, and, like Thomas, when his doubts were scattered and his faith established, can exclaim without fear of idolatry: My Lord and my God.' But when He says: For My sake,' He does not stand alone on His Divine nature. On that He must stand. But He speaks also with a special regard to what He has been to us as our Saviour. His words point us back to a history of love, suffering and sorrow such as was never known before. When a man asks for our service or our sacrifice for his sake, there is nothing
which can give such emphasis to his appeal as to be able to show us some important service he has rendered us. If when he says: For my sake,' he can tell us that once we were in peril of death, and he came to our rescue; that we were once in deep pecuniary distress, and he voluntarily discharged our obligation; that he stood our friend once under a foul calumny, and did this, too, at considerable obloquy to himself; then we feel that the words: 'For my sake,' have a fulness of meaning which we cannot disregard. If we possess any spark of gratitude it must rise into flame at such an appeal as that. O! what force the words acquire when they come from the lips of one who is on the brink of the tomb; the lips of a mother who has been a mother indeed, toiling with ungrudging sacrifice for her children, watching over them with unslumbering eye in their sickness, and warning them against every danger that besets their youthful and treacherous path. When those wan lips whose moisture death is fast drying up, plead in the last words they shall utter that you would live for heaven for her sake'; that you would forsake every evil companion and way for her sake'; that you would read the Bible 'for her sake'; that you would reverence the Sabbath 'for her sake,' do you not feel that no amount of reasoning, no stringency of appeal, would have half the force with you which the words possess of one who has loved you with so deep a love, and whose death is embittered at the thought that she is now leaving her son or daughter it may be for ever, though she trusts it may be but for a little while?
But what is a mother's love compared with that which Christ has shown to you? It is but as a faint taper's beam compared with the effulgence of the noontide sun. O, what is the love of man or woman compared with the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord! 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend.' But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.' If you would estimate and feel rightly the force of the words 'For My sake,' fill them with all they represent of what Christ is to you. Fill them with the fact of His humiliation, when He Who was in the form of God was found in fashion as a man,' and was cradled in a manger Bethlehem; fill them with the fact of His temptation, when the powers of hell were let loose upon Him to destroy His purity and His faith; fill them with the toilsome life He led when, less favoured than His own irrational creatures, He had not where to lay His head; fill them with the obloquy, the mockery, the shame which fell upon Him; fill them with the darkness and the agony of the garden, and the woe of the cross; fill them with His resurrection too, which was not for His sake alone, but for yours: and fill them with His loving intercession in heaven, Whose benefits you are daily receiving; and then you must be insensate indeed, if you do not feel that for His sake nothing should be too hard, nothing should be too painful; that for His sake it should be a privilege to live, and for His
sake an honour to die.
(To be concluded.)
MEMORIAL SKETCH OF MRS. TOWNSHEND,
BY R. D. WILSON.
MRS. CATHERINE TOWNSHEND, of Birkenhead, daughter of John and Dorothy Killey, was born in Liverpool, 1799. Her parents, enjoying true religion, carefully and prayerfully trained their children in the fear and love of God. Her mother was granddaughter of the Rev. Samuel Lowe, Rector of Bunbury, Cheshire; and her lineage embraced the honoured and pious Matthew and Philip Henry. Mrs. Townshend was thankful that in her direct line of ancestors were so many who loved and served God, and were careful not only for the souls, but also for the bodies of the poor. Mrs. Lowe, Mrs. Killey and Mrs. Townshend found ample opportunities, while ministering to the physical, of attending also to the spiritual wants of hundreds, of all classes.
Very early in childhood she was the subject of the influences of the Holy Spirit. An incident which occurred when she was only seven years old illustrates her tenderness of conscience. Being at a party for children where they played at personating characters, after she had gone to bed that night her mother, as was her custom, went into the nursery, and found her weeping. She asked the cause: the child replied, 'I am so afraid, should I die to-night; for in our play I had to pretend I was some one else, and was not that untrue?' In the morning she came down quite cheerful, and said: 'Mamma, I am happy now: Jesus has pardoned me for acting in pretence.'
When she was thirteen years of age, one day she was left at home with the servant. On ascending a flight of steps to the garden, it looked so fresh and lovely that she stood entranced to enjoy the scene, and she thought: 'The garden looks lovely, peaceful and bright, why may not my soul be like it? No doubt such is God's wish for me.' At once stepping into the shade of the shrubs, she solemnly, yet joyfully prayed to God to receive her heart's love, and to help her to live to and for Him only. God then sent His love into her heart, filled her with His peace, and made her rich with His joy. Thus was she intelligently and soundly converted to God. His Spirit witnessed with hers, that she was His child. And that happy testimony she never lost for the remaining sixty-six years of her life.
She now joined a Class led by Miss Birkett (afterwards Mrs. Budgett, of Bristol), and received her first Ticket from the Rev. W. Bramwell, and from that time she lived a most cheerful and consistent member of the WesleyanMethodist Society. She left a note in her pocket-book for 1872, stating. that she esteemed such membership as one of the greatest blessings she had enjoyed in her life.' The old-fashioned 'Band-meeting,' so greatly blessed in early Methodism, she highly prized. Of this the Rev. F. Payne writes: 'Mrs. Payne's chief remembrance of early experience is the Band-meetings, over which your dear mother chiefly presided, including herself, Miss
Roberts and three Misses Taylor; such meetings will be held in everlasting remembrance by Mrs. Payne.'
Miss Killey's Christian walk and her well-informed and intelligent mind induced Dr. Adam Clarke and others to wish that she should fill an important office in the Church; but her humble views of herself caused her to decline it, although the Doctor pressed it on her. Her time was now wholly filled up with home duties and Christian work till 1828, when she was married to Mr. Cecil Wray Townshend. During the three years of the Rev. Theophilus Lessey's ministry in the Liverpool (North) Circuit, she met in his Class, and on his departure she was appointed as Leader of that Class. Providence led her husband to remove to Tranmere, where she eventually became a Leader, which office she held till her death, particularly caring for the lambs of the flock.'
Her married life was much chequered for a period by severe trials, but through all she invariably maintained firm trust and unwavering faith in God's constant care for and guidance of her interests. Her frequently expressed motto was: 'Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.' One of the great troubles of her life was the death of her eldest son, who went abroad early in life. After some years, a letter arrived from her daughter-in-law, merely stating the fact of his death. She never heard anything further, and for a long time she was in a most depressed state of mind.
For fully half a year previous to her hearing of her son's decease, she regularly awoke every morning at three o'clock to pray for him specially; she also arranged that at the first Class-meeting in every month, prayer should be made for the conversion of her own and the members' children; and she believed that He Who prompted these prayers would certainly answer them. Her faith was simple, and was often honoured. Her step-daughter when dying, suffered great agony whenever she drank cold water, while still thirsting for it. An aunt who was waiting on her, and was very hostile to everything religious, was addressed by her niece: '0, I am so wishing for a glass of cold water! my mouth is parched, and I can fancy nothing but water, although the least drop increases my agony; but just one thought has come to my mind: If Ma would come up, and pray that I might be able to take water, God would answer.' Her aunt came down, and in an incredulous manner stated what her niece had said. Mrs. Townshend tremblingly responded to the call; knelt down at the bedside, and most earnestly prayed that, if in accordance with God's will, her daughter might be enabled to take a draught of water. On rising, she handed the invalid a full glass of water, which she drank, and no pain followed, and from that time till her death she was able to take as much as she required. By the aunt, this was thought almost a miracle. Many times in her life God made her the instrument in converting souls, and notably on sick-beds. Two of her servants owed their conversion to living with her; one soon after died triumphantly.