« PreviousContinue »
Now this subject-a habit of reverencing God-is so much more important than every other in the world, that our blessed LORD has placed it the very first in the prayer which He has given us : “ Hallowed be Thy Name;" as if it were quite in vain and wrong to go on with that prayer unless we were reverencing His most holy and ever-adorable Name. And surely unless we do so use it, even of this Divine prayer it may be said, “ The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” To use the words only, without thinking of what we are doing, will make us worse than we were before; and therefore one of our Lord's first cautions is, “Use not vain repetitions” when ye pray.
It is evident that, of all persons, those who are most in danger upon this subject are the Clergy; for they have more than others to live among holy things; and in every part of their calling, whether in speaking to others, or of ministering before God, they are peculiarly liable to irreverence; so that without care, they are likely to become, not better, but worse than others. one out of that number, who were thus called upon to approach more nearly unto and to wait on their LORD, that Judas was found. This sin of irreverence is, perhaps, of all others, the worst, and approaches most nearly to the sin against the Holy Ghost; for if a person has lost all reverence to God, he cannot recover it again, he cannot repent; for if he reveres not God, who can help him ?
But though the Clergy are more especially in danger of this sin, yet doubtless there is no one whatever present among us but has great need to amend himself in this particular, lest God should be near him, as being ever present in his holy Church, and yet he know it not, like Judas, until God leaves him to himself, and he goes on, like that wretched man, to take part perhaps, either in private or in public, with the persecutors of God's holy Church; or to be ensnared in some deadly sin.
Now if a habit of reverence is of so much importance, of course it cannot be acquired in a day, but must be a work of much pains and labour; but yet there is no day of our life but when we may make some advances towards obtaining such a spirit. People have sometimes found that a short and severe affliction has brought them more to a true sense of things than years would otherwise have done; and therefore, of course, any one sincere and hearty effort may do much, by humbling ourselves and by earnest prayer, towards recovering a due sense of God's infinite perfections.
As the first petition in the Lord's Prayer is for this reverence in ourselves and others, so is the last an act of reverence, acknowledging that to Him is "the kingdom, and the power, and the glory ;” and which, as it suggests to us how impossible it is ever to escape from Him, so would lead us also to trust in His infinite power to grant what we ask.
Let us endeavour more and more to have on our minds a sense of our blessed Saviour's awful words : “I say unto you, my friends, be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do; but I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear; fear Him which, after He hath killed, hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, fear Him." Shall
any Christian, however advanced, dare to think that he has not to learn this fear above all things ? Even the saints in Heaven cry aloud, saying, “Great and marvellous are Thy works, LORD God Almighty ; just and true are Thy ways, thou King of Saints! Who shall not fear Thee, O LORD, and glorify Thy Name !"
MEDITATION ON CHRIST'S PASSION.
Job. xlii. 5, 6.
“I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth TнEE. .
“Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
These words may, indeed, be applied to any manifestation of God to His sinful creatures; but with a peculiar force and propriety may we consider them as applicable to God manifest in the flesh” in Christ Crucified. Nothing like the Cross of Christ, could ever teach us the great lessons of repentance and humiliation ; never could the teaching of man, nor, indeed, could the words of Holy Scripture itself, ever set before us so strongly those two things, which we are so unwilling to learn,—the exceeding heinousness of sin in God's sight, and, at the same time, His tender love for the sinner. We have, indeed, heard of these “by the hearing of the ear,” for the whole of the Scriptures, both old and new, do nothing but set before us these two great truths ;—by warning, by example, by precept, by the history of terrible judgments, by instances and by expressions of inconceivable mercy ;-but all these are comparatively cold and lifeless of themselves, compared with what it is when we, as it were, see in the flesh “Christ Crucified.” Nothing, I say, like this can set before us these two points combined together, God's hatred of sin and love for mankind : other things might teach us these separately, but then either of these separately would profit us but little without the other. The judgments of God,—the Day of the last account,—the worm that dieth not, and the fire that will never be quenched, these are things, the knowledge of which may, indeed, tend to show the heinousness of sin: but what would it avail us to know this only? it would only lead us to sit down in despair, unless we knew also that God had compassion for us in proportion to the greatness of our guilt in His sight. Or what would it profit us merely to know that God is Love, if we did not know also that He was of infinite holiness, and that He will by no means spare the guilty? we should only be tempted, as we too often are, to abuse His goodness, and to add sin to sin, and that, alas ! too many of us without remorse.
Now, nothing, I say, could teach us these things like the Cross of Christ; and therefore it is that, if rightly understood, the Cross of Christ, to be brought to the knowledge of it,--to be made conformable unto it, may in some sense be said to be the whole of our religion : not, indeed, in that sense in which it is now often taken and preached, as implying nothing more than the forgiveness of sins in Christ; but as that one great principle which is most opposed to the world, “Christ Crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block and foolishness to the Greek.” The whole of Scripture may, indeed, be considered as all tending to bring us to this knowledge of the Cross of Christ, as implying the exceeding sinfulness of sin in God's sight, and His love for the sinner. On the contrary, every thing that partakes of this world, and the inclinations of our own heart, all tend to take us further and further from this knowledge. And therefore, as this knowledge is the noblest and highest that Heaven itself is able to teach us, so we may well suppose it is the very hardest that man can learn. The only knowledge worth learning, and such as may well be the study of our whole lives.
Is it possible for any one to have too deep a sense of his own guilt in God's sight? Certainly this cannot be: or is it possible for any one to have too high a sense of God's loving kindness to himself in particular? Certainly not; neither of these can he. ever feel enough. And how shall he learn these, but by every thing that leads him to the Cross of Christ. This our Church teaches us ; for let me ask, Why is fasting and self-denial,
humiliation, and confession of sins, considered by our Church as so necessary through the season of Lent, and more especially through Passion Week, and, indeed, for a Christian at all times ?
does she set aside for these exercises in every week the solemn day of our LORD's sufferings ? It is because they serve to bring us to this knowledge ; it is because the sight of Christ's Cross will not profit us, but rather add to our condemnation, unless we thus prepare our hearts to approach it. Our daily prayer through the season of Lent is, that “worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, we may obtain perfect remission and forgiveness,”--that is, that we may thus, by these humiliations and mortifications of the spirit, come to that knowledge which is hid in CHRIST;-a knowledge of our own sins and wretchedness and a hope of forgiveness. These practices have an especial power in producing this state of mind : and whenever we cease from them, from practices of fasting and self-denial, then we begin immediately to think better of our condition in God's sight, to think not so bad of our sins, and therefore not so much to value that forgiveness for the penitent which is with God. Where is the great benefit of daily self-examination, of keeping a strict account with ourselves of time neglected, opportunities of good lost, of daily infirmities and failings, in thought, word, and deed ? The more we do this, the more sensible we become of sin, the more sensible of God's Mercy: and therefore these things are the means that bring us near to the Cross of Christ. Or again, why are self-denials and mortifications of themselves unprofitable, unless they are accompanied with goodwill to man, and active means of doing good to our fellowcreatures ? It is because, if not accompanied with these, they do not bring us unto the Cross of Christ. Such exercises, indeed, have, as it were, a natural connexion with Christ's Cross, so that what humbles ourselves after the example of CHRIST, makes us also, after His example, tender and compassionate to others; when we pray for ourselves, it disposes us to pray for others likewise ; when it brings us to a sense of God's Mercy to ourselves, we feel that He has mercy, and that we also must have mercy for others also. Any doctrine of CHRIST Crucified which is not closely connected with these duties in ourselves, and these practices of self-denying charity to others, any doctrine which separates it