Expositions of Holy Scripture
RPM, Volume 18, Number 2, January 3 to January 9, 2016

Expositions of Holy Scripture

ST. MATTHEW Chaps. I to VIII
Part 2

By Alexander Maclaren, D. D., Litt. D.

(1826-1910)
Public Domain
Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: 34. But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: 35. Nor by the earth; for it is His footstool; neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. 36. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. 37. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.'--MATT. v. 33-37.

In His treatment of the sixth and seventh commandments, Jesus deepened them by bringing the inner man of feeling and desire under their control. In His treatment of the old commandments as to oaths, He expands them by extending the prohibitions from one kind of oath to all kinds. The movement in the former case is downwards and inwards; in the latter it is outwards, the compass sweeping a wider circle. Perjury, a false oath, was all that had been forbidden. He forbids all. We may note that the forms of colloquial swearing, which our Lord specifies, are not to be taken as an exhaustive enumeration of what is forbidden. They are in the nature of a parenthesis, and the sentence runs on continuously without them--Swear not at all . . . but let your communication be Yea, yea; Nay, nay.' The reason appended is equally universal, for it suggests the deep thought that whatsoever is more than these' that is to say, any form of speech that seeks to strengthen a simple, grave asseveration by such oaths as He has just quoted, cometh of evil' inasmuch as it springs from, and reveals, the melancholy fact that his bare word is not felt binding by a man, and is not accepted as conclusive by others. If lies were not so common, oaths would be needless. And oaths increase the evil from which they come, by confirming the notion that there is no sin in a lie unless it is sworn to.

The oaths specified are all colloquial, which were and are continually and offensively mingled with common speech in the East. Nowhere are there such habitual liars, and nowhere are there so many oaths. Every traveller there knows that, and sees how true is Christ's filiation of the custom of swearing from the custom of falsehood. But these poisonous weeds of speech not only tended to degrade plain veracity in the popular mind, but were themselves parents of immoral evasions, for it was the teaching of some Rabbis, at all events, that an oath by heaven' or by earth' or by Jerusalem' or by my head' did not bind. That further relaxation of the obligation of truthfulness was grounded on the words quoted in verse 33, for, said the immoral quibblers, it is "thine oaths to the Lord" that thou "shalt perform," and for these others you may do as you like' Therefore our Lord insists that every oath, even these mutilated, colloquial ones which avoid His name, is in essence an appeal to God, and has no sense unless it is. To swear such a truncated oath, then, has the still further condemnation that it is certainly an irreverence, and probably a quibble, and meant to be broken. It must be fully admitted that there is little in common between such pieces of senseless profanity as these oaths, or the modern equivalents which pollute so many lips to-day, and the oath administered in a court of justice, and it may further be allowed weight that Jesus does not specifically prohibit the oath by the Lord,' but it is difficult to see how the principles on which He condemns are to be kept from touching even judicial oaths. For they, too, are administered on the ground of the false idea that they add to the obligation of veracity, and give a guarantee of truthfulness which a simple affirmation does not give. Nor can any one, who knows the perfunctory formality and indifference with which such oaths are administered and taken, and what a farce kissing the book' has become, doubt that even judicial oaths tend to weaken the popular conception of the sin of a lie and the reliance to be placed upon the simple Yea, yea; Nay, nay.'

NON-RESISTANCE

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39. But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.'--MATT. v. 38-42.

The old law directed judges to inflict penalties precisely equivalent to offences--an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth' (Exod. xxi. 24), but that direction was not for the guidance of individuals. It was suited for the stage of civilisation in which it was given, and probably was then a restriction, rather than a sanction, of the wild law of retaliation. Jesus sweeps it away entirely, and goes much further than even its abrogation. For He forbids not only retaliation but even resistance. It is unfortunate that in this, as in so many instances, controversy as to the range of Christ's words has so largely hustled obedience to them out of the field, that the first thought suggested to a modern reader by the command Resist not evil' (or, an evil man) is apt to be, Is the Quaker doctrine of uniform non-resistance right or wrong, instead of, Do I obey this precept? If we first try to understand its meaning, we shall be in a position to consider whether it has limits, springing from its own deepest significance, or not. What, then, is it not to resist? Our Lord gives three concrete illustrations of what He enjoins, the first of which refers to insults such as contumelious blows on the cheek, which are perhaps the hardest not to meet with a flash of anger and a returning stroke; the second of which refers to assaults on property, such as an attempt at legal robbery of a man's undergarment; the third of which refers to forced labour, such as impressing a peasant to carry military or official baggage or documents--a form of oppression only too well known under Roman rule in Christ's days. In regard to all three cases, He bids His disciples submit to the indignity, yield the coat, and go the mile. But such yielding without resistance is not to be all. The other cheek is to be given to the smiter; the more costly and ample outer garment is to be yielded up; the load is to be carried for two miles. The disciple is to meet evil with a manifestation, not of anger, hatred, or intent to inflict retribution, but of readiness to submit to more. It is a hard lesson, but clearly here, as always, the chief stress is to be laid, not on the outward action, but on the disposition, and on the action mainly as the outcome and exhibition of that. If the cheek is turned, or the cloak yielded, or the second mile trudged with a lowering brow, and hate or anger boiling in the heart, the commandment is broken. If the inner man rises in hot indignation against the evil and its doer, he is resisting evil more harmfully to himself than is many a man who makes his adversary's cheeks tingle before his own have ceased to be reddened. We have to get down into the depths of the soul, before we understand the meaning of non-resistance. It would have been better if the eager controversy about the breadth of this commandment had oftener become a study of its depth, and if, instead of asking, Are we ever warranted in resisting?' men had asked, What in its full meaning is non-resistance?' The truest answer is that it is a form of Love,--love in the face of insults, wrongs, and domineering tyranny, such as are illustrated in Christ's examples. This article of Christ's New Law comes last but one in the series of instances in which His transfiguring touch is laid on the Old Law, and the last of the series is that to which He has been steadily advancing from the first--namely, the great Commandment of Love. This precept stands immediately before that, and prepares for it. It is, as suffused with the light of the sun that is all but risen, Resist not evil,' for Love beareth all things.'

It is but a shallow stream that is worried into foam and made angry and noisy by the stones in its bed; a deep river flows smooth and silent above them. Nothing will enable us to meet evil' with a patient yielding love which does not bring the faintest tinge of anger even into the cheek reddened by a rude hand, but the love of God shed abroad in the heart,' and when that love fills a man, out of him will flow a river of living water,' which will bury evil below its clear, gentle abundance, and, perchance, wash it of its foulness. The quality of' this non-resistance is twice blessed,' it blesseth him that gives and him that takes.' For the disciple who submits in love, there is the gain of freedom from the perturbations of passion, and of steadfast abiding in the peace of a great charity, the deliverance from the temptation of descending to the level of the wrong-doer, and of losing hold of God and all high visions. The tempest-ruffled sea mirrors no stars by night, nor is blued by day. If we are to have real communion with God, we must not flush with indignation at evil, nor pant with desire to shoot the arrow back to him that aimed it at us. And in regard to the evil-doer, the most effectual resistance is, in many cases, not to resist. There is something hid away somewhere in most men's hearts which makes them ashamed of smiting the offered left cheek, and then ashamed of having smitten the right one. It is a shame to hit him, since he does not defend himself,' comes into many a ruffian's mind. The safest way to travel in savage countries is to show oneself quite unarmed. He that meets evil with evil is overcome of evil' he that meets it with patient love is likely in most cases to overcome evil with good.' And even if he fails, he has, at all events, used the only weapon that has any chance of beating down the evil, and it is better to be defeated when fighting hate with love than to be victorious when fighting it with itself, or demanding an eye for an eye.

But, if we take the right view of this precept, its limitations are in itself. Since it is love confronting, and seeking to transform evil into its own likeness, it may sometimes be obliged by its own self not to yield. If turning the other cheek would but make the assaulter more angry, or if yielding the cloak would but make the legal robber more greedy, or if going the second mile would but make the press-gang more severe and exacting, resistance becomes a form of love and a duty for the sake of the wrong-doer. It may also become a duty for the sake of others, who are also objects of love, such as helpless persons who otherwise would be exposed to evil, or society as a whole. But while clearly that limit is prescribed by the very nature of the precept, the resistance which it permits must have love to the culprit or to others as its motive, and not be tainted by the least suspicion of passion or vengeance. Would that professing Christians would try more to purge their own hearts, and bring this solemn precept into their daily lives, instead of discussing whether there are cases in which it does not apply! There are great tracts in the lives of all of us to which it should apply and is not applied; and we had better seek to bring these under its dominion first, and then it will be time enough to debate as to whether any circumstances are outside its dominion or not.

THE LAW OF LOVE

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45. That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47. And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others! do not even the publicans so? 48. Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.'--MATT. v. 43-48.

The last of the five instances of our Lord's extending and deepening and spiritualising the old law is also the climax of them. We may either call it the highest or the deepest, according to our point of view. His transfiguring touch invests all the commandments with which He has been dealing with new inwardness, sweep, and spirituality, and finally He proclaims the supreme, all-including commandment of universal love. It hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour'--that comes from Lev. xix. 18; but where does and hate thine enemy' come from? Not from Scripture, but in the passage in Leviticus neighbour' is co-extensive with children of thy people,' and the hatred and contempt of all men outside Israel which grew upon the Jews found a foothold there. Who is my neighbour?' was apparently a well-discussed question in the schools of the Rabbis, and, whether any of these teachers ever committed themselves to plainly formulating the principle or not, practically the duty of love was restricted to a narrow circle, and the rest of the wide world left out in the cold. But not only was the circumference of love's circle drawn in, but to hate an enemy was elevated almost into a duty. It is the worst form of retaliation. An eye for an eye' is bad enough, but hate for hate plunges men far deeper in the devil's mire. To flash back from the mirror of the heart the hostile looks which are flung at us, is our natural impulse; but why should we always leave it to the other man to pitch the keynote of our relations with him? Why should we echo only his tones? Cannot we leave his discord to die into silence and reply to it by something more musical? Two thunder-clouds may cast lightnings at each other, but they waste themselves in the process. Better to shine meekly and victoriously on as the moon does on piled masses of darkness till it silvers them with its quiet light. So Jesus bids us do. We are to suppress the natural inclination to pay back in the enemy's own coin, to give him as good as he gave us,' to show proper spirit,' and all the other fine phrases with which the world whitewashes hatred and revenge. We are not only to allow no stirring of malice in our feelings, but we are to let kindly emotions bear fruit in words blessing the cursers, and in deeds of goodness, and, highest of all, in prayers for those whose hate is bitterest, being founded on religion, and who are carrying it into action in persecution. We cannot hate a man if we pray for him; we cannot pray for him if we hate him. Our weakness often feels it so hard not to hate our enemies, that our only way to get strength to keep this highest, hardest commandment is to begin by trying to pray for the foe, and then we gradually feel the infernal fires dying down in our temper, and come to be able to meet his evil with good, and his curses with blessings. It is a difficult lesson that Jesus sets us. It is a blessed possibility that Jesus opens for us, that our kindly emotions towards men need not be at the mercy of theirs to us. It is a fair ideal that He paints, which, if Christians deliberately and continuously took it for their aim to realise, would revolutionise society, and make the fellowship of man with man a continual joy. Think of what any community, great or small, would be, if enmity were met by love only and always. Its fire would die for want of fuel. If the hater found no answering hate increasing his hate, he would often come to answer love with love. There is an old legend spread through many lands, which tells how a princess who had been changed by enchantment into a loathly serpent, was set free by being thrice kissed by a knight, who thereby won a fair bride with whom he lived in love and joy. The only way to change the serpent of hate into the fair form of a friend is to kiss it out of its enchantment.

No doubt, partial anticipations of this precept may be found, buried under much ethical rubbish, elsewhere than in the Sermon on the Mount, and more plainly in Old Testament teaching, and in Rabbinical sayings; but Christ's originality' as a moral teacher lies not so much in the absolute novelty of His commandments, as in the perspective in which He sets them, and in the motives on which He bases them, and most of all in His being more than a teacher, namely, the Giver of power to fulfil what He enjoins. Christian ethics not merely recognises the duty of love to men, but sets it as the foundation of all other duties. It is root and trunk, all others are but the branches into which it ramifies. Christian ethics not merely recognises the duty, but takes a man by the hand, leads him up to his Father God, and says: There, that is your pattern, and a child who loves his Father will try to copy his ways and be made like Him by his love. So Morality passes into Religion, and through the transition receives power beyond its own. The perfection of worship is imitation, and when men call Him Father' whom they adore, imitation becomes the natural action of a child who loves.

A dew-drop and a planet are both spheres, moulded by the same law of gravitation. The tiny round of our little drops of love may be not all unlike the colossal completeness of that Love, which owns the sun as His sun,' and rays down light and distils rain over the broad world. God loves all men apart altogether from any regard to character, therefore He gives to all men all the good gifts that they can receive apart from character, and if evil men do not get His best gifts, it is not because He withholds, but because they cannot take. There are human love-gifts which cannot be bestowed on enemies or evil persons. It is not possible, nor fit, that a Christian should feel to such as he does to those who share his faith and sympathies; but it is possible, and therefore incumbent, that he should not only negatively clear his heart of malice and hatred, but that he should positively exercise such active beneficence as they will receive. That is God's way, and it should be His children's.

The thought of the divine pattern naturally brings up the contrast between it and that which goes by the name of love among men. Just because Christians are to take God as their example of love, they must transcend human examples. Here again Jesus strikes the note with which He began His teaching of His disciples' righteousness' but very significantly He does not now point to Pharisees, but to publicans, as those who were to be surpassed. The former, no doubt, were models of righteousness' after a rigid, whitewashed-sepulchre sort, but the latter had bigger hearts, and, bad as they were and were reputed to be, they loved better than the others. Jesus is glad to see and point to even imperfect sparks of goodness in a justly condemned class. No doubt, publicans in their own homes, with wife and children round them, let their hearts out, and could be tender and gentle, however gruff and harsh in public. When Jesus says even the publicans,' He is not speaking in contempt, but in recognition of the love that did find some soil to grow on, even in that rocky ground. But is not the bringing in of the reward' as a motive a woful downcome? and is love that loves for the sake of reward, love at all? The criticism and questions forget that the true motive has just been set forth, and that the thought of reward' comes in, only as secondary encouragement to a duty which is based upon another ground. To love because we shall gain something, either in this world or in the next, is not love but long-sighted selfishness; but to be helped in our endeavours to widen our love so as to take in all men, by the vision of the reward, is not selfishness but a legitimate strengthening of our weakness. Especially is that so, in view of the fact that the reward' contemplated is nothing else than the growth of likeness to the Father in heaven, and the increase of filial consciousness, and the clearer, deeper cry, Abba, Father.' If longing for, and having regard to, that recompense of reward' is selfishness, and if the teaching which permits it is immoral, may God send the world more of such selfishness and of teachers of it!

But the reference to the shrunken love-streams that flow among men passes again swiftly to the former thought of likeness to God as the great pattern. Like a bird glancing downwards for a moment to earth, and then up again and away into the blue, our Lord's words re-soar, and settle at last by the throne of God. The command, Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,' may be intended to refer only to the immediately preceding section, but one is inclined to regard it rather as the summing up of the whole of the preceding series of commandments from verse 20 onwards. The sum of religion is to imitate the God whom we worship. The ideal which draws us to aim at its realisation must be absolutely perfect, however imperfect may be all our attempts to reproduce it. We sometimes hear it said that to set up perfection as our goal is to smite effort dead and to enthrone despair. But to set up an incomplete ideal is the surest way to take the heart out of effort after it. It is the Christian's prerogative to have ever gleaming before him an unattained aim, to which he is progressively approximating, and which, unreached, beckons, feeds hope of endless approach, and guarantees immortality.

TRUMPETS AND STREET CORNERS

Take heed that ye do nob your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. 2. Therefore, when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues, and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 3. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth; 4. That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, Himself shall reward thee openly. 5. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.'--MATT. vi. 1-5.

Our Lord follows His exposition of the deepened sense which the old law assumes in His kingdom, by a warning against the most subtle foes of true righteousness. He first gives the warning in general terms in verse 1, and then flashes its light into three dark corners, and shows how hankering after men's praise corrupts the beneficence which is our duty to our neighbour, the devotion which is our duty to God, and the abstinence which is our duty to ourselves. We deal now with the two former.

We have first the general warning, given out like the text of a sermon, or the musical phrase which underlies the various harmonies of some concerto. The first word implies that the evil is a subtle and seducing one. Take heed' as of something which may steal into and mar the noblest lives. The serpent lies coiled under the leaves, and may sting and poison the unwary hand. The generality of the warning, and the logical propriety of the whole section, require the adoption of the reading of the Revised Version, namely, righteousness.' The thing to be taken heed of is not the doing it before men,' which will often be obligatory, often necessary, and never in itself wrong, but the doing it to be seen of them.' Not the number of spectators, but the furtive glance of our eyes to see if they are looking at us, makes the sin. We are to let our good works shine, that men may glorify our Father. Pious souls are to shine, and yet to be hid,--a paradox which can be easily solved by the obedient. If our motive is to make God's glory more visible, we shall not be seeking to be ourselves admired. The harp-string's swift vibrations, as it gives out its note, make it unseen.

The reason for the warning goes on two principles: one that righteousness is to be rewarded, over and above its own inherent blessedness; another, that the prospect of the reward is a legitimate stimulus, over and above the prime reason for righteousness, namely, that it is righteous. The New Testament morality is not good enough for some very superfine people, who are pleased to call it selfish because it lets a martyr brace himself in the fire by the vision of the crown athwart the smoke. Somehow or other, however, that selfish morality gets itself put in practice, and turns out more unselfish people than its assailants manage to produce. Perhaps the motive which they attack may be part of the reason.

The mingling of regard for man's approbation with apparently righteous acts absolutely disqualifies them for receiving God's reward, for it changes their whole character, and they are no longer what they seem. Charity given from that motive is not charity, nor prayer offered from it devotion.

I. The general warning is applied to three cases, of which we have to deal with two. Our Lord speaks first of ostentatious almsgiving. Note that we are not to take blowing the trumpets' as actual fact. Nobody would do that in a synagogue. The meaning of all attempts, however concealed, to draw attention to one's beneficence, is just what the ear-splitting blast would be; and the incongruity of startling the worshippers with the harsh notes is like the incongruity of doing good and trying to attract notice. I think Christ's ear catches the screech of the brazen abomination in a good many of the ways of raising and giving money, which find favour in the Church to-day. This is an advertising age, and flowers that used to blush unseen are forced now under glass for exhibition. No one needs to blow his own trumpet nowadays. We have improved on the ruder methods of the Pharisees, and newspapers and collectors will blow lustily and loud for us, and defend the noise on the ground that a good example stimulates others. Perhaps so, though it may be a question what it stimulates to, and whether B's gift, drawn from him in imitation or emulation of A's, is any liker Christ's idea of gifts than was A's, given that B might hear of it. To a very large extent, the money getting and giving arrangements of the modern Church are neither more nor less than the attempt to draw Christ's chariot with the devil's traces. Christ condemned ostentation. His followers too often try to make use of it. They have their reward.' Observe that have means have received in full, and note the emphasis of that their. It is all the reward that they will ever get, and all that they are capable of. The pure and lasting crown, which is a fuller possession of God Himself, has no charms for them, and could not be given. And what a poor thing it is which they seek--the praise of men, a breath, as unsubstantial and short-lived as the blast of the trumpet which they blew before their selfish benevolence. Their charity was no charity, for what they did was not to give, but to buy. Their gift was a speculation. They invested in charity, and looked for a profit of praise. How can they get God's reward? True benevolence will even hide the giving right hand from the idle left, and, as far as may be, will dismiss the deed from the doer's consciousness. Such alms, given wholly out of pity and desire to be like the all-giving Father, can be rewarded, and will be, with that richer acquaintance with Him and more complete victory over self, which is the heaven of heaven and the foretaste of it now.

In its coarsest forms, this ostentation is out and out hypocrisy, which consciously assumes a virtue which it has not. But far more common and dangerous is the subtle, unconscious mingling of it with real charity--the eye wandering from the poor, whom the hand is helping, to the bystanders--and it is this mingling which we have therefore to take most heed to avoid. One drop of this sour stuff will curdle whole gallons of the milk of human kindness. The hypocrisy which hoodwinks ourselves is more common and perilous than that which blinds others.

II. We need not dwell at length on the second application of the general warning--to prayer; as the words are almost, and the thoughts entirely, identical with those of the former verses. If there be any action of the spirit which requires the complete exclusion of thoughts of men, it is prayer, which is the communion of the soul alone with God. It is as impossible to pray, and at the same time to think of men, as to look up and down at once. If we think of prayer, as formalists in all times have done, as so many words, then it will not seem incongruous to choose the places where men are thickest for saying our prayers,' and we shall do it with all the more spirit if we have spectators. That accounts for a great deal of the devotion' in Mohammedan and Roman Catholic countries which travellers with no love for Protestant Christianity are so fond of praising. But if we think of prayer as Christ did, as being the yearning of the soul to God, we shall feel that the inmost chamber and the closed door are its fitting accompaniments. Of course, our Lord is not forbidding united prayer; for each of the assembled worshippers may be holding communion with God, which is none the less solitary though shared by others, and none the less united though in it each is alone with God.

III. Our Lord passes for a time from the more immediate subject of ostentation to add other teaching about prayer, which still farther unfolds its true conception. Another corruption arising from the error of thinking that prayer is an outward act, is vain repetition,' characteristic of all heathen religion, and resting upon a profound disbelief in the loving willingness of God to help. Of course, earnest, reiterated prayer is not vain repetition. Jesus is not here condemning His own agony in Gethsemane when He thrice said the same words.' The persistence in prayer, which is the child of faith, is no relation to the parrot-like repetition which is the child of disbelief, nor does the condemnation of the one touch the other. The frenzied priests who yelled, O Baal, hear us!' all the long day; the Buddhists who repeat the sacred invocation till they are stupefied; the poor devotee who thinks merit is proportioned to the number of Paternosters and Aves, are all instances of this gross mechanical conception of prayer. Are there no similar superstitions nearer home? Are there no ministers or congregations that we ever heard of, who have a regulation length for their prayers, and would scarcely think they had prayed at all if their devotions were as short as most of the prayers in the Bible? Are we in no danger of believing what Christ here tells us is pure heathenism--that many words may move God?

The only real remedy against such degradation of the very idea of prayer lies in the deeper conceptions of God and of it which Christ here gives. He knows our needs before we ask. Then what is prayer for? Not to inform Him, nor to move Him, unwilling, to have mercy, as if, like some proud prince, He required a certain amount of recognition of His greatness as the price of His favours, but to fit our own hearts by conscious need and true desire and dependence, to receive the gifts which He is ever willing to give, but we are not always fit to receive. As St. Augustine has it, the empty vessel is by prayer carried to the full fountain.

SOLITARY PRAYER

Enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, . . .'--MATT. vi. 6.

An old heathen who had come to a certain extent under the influence of Christ, called prayer the flight of the solitary to the Solitary.' There is a deep truth in that, though not all the truth.

Prayer is not only the most intensely individual act that a man can perform, but it is also the highest social act. Christ came not to carry solitary souls by a solitary pathway to heaven, but to set the solitary in families and to rear up a church. Of that church the highest function is united worship.

No one is likely to fall into the mistake of supposing that this passage before us condemns praying in the synagogues, or even, if need were, at the street corners. It does not, of course, interdict social public prayer, though it enjoins solitary secret communion with the solitary, secret God.

I. What is the practice here enjoined?

Since that they may be seen of men' constitutes the evil, we may fairly say that Christ is not here prescribing the place where, but the spirit in which, we ought to pray; that what He condemns is not the fact of praying where we can be seen, but of picking out the place in order that we may be seen; that, in a word, the contrast here is between ostentation and sincerity. A man that has sidelong looks at the passers-by in his devotions has not much devotion.

But then, as a material help to this, we need solitude and secrecy; they are not indispensable, but almost so. And in that solitude what is to be our occupation? One word answers the question--Communion. We are to be alone that we may more fully and thrillingly feel that we are with God. That communion will have an intellectual element in which we try to rise to perception of the high truths as to God, or in meditation gaze on Him, and a petitionary element in which we ask for the communication of His grace according to our needs.

II. What is the special worth of such a habit?

1. The truths that we profess to believe are in their nature such as can only be vividly realised by such an exercise. They are all matters of faith, not of sense. God is a spirit, and is felt near by none but still and waiting spirits. Our religion has to do with the Unseen, the Solemn, the Profound, the Remote. These are not to be fully felt hastily. They are like mountains that grow on us as we gaze, like a fair scene that we must be alone in, rightly to feel. They must be allowed to saturate the soul. The eye must be slowly accustomed to the light.

2. The pressure of the world can only be resisted by such an exercise.

Our business as Christians is to keep ourselves free from it.

3. The tone and balance of our own minds can only be preserved and restored thus. Solitude is the mother-country of the strong. I was left alone, and I saw this great vision.' We get hot and fevered, interested and absorbed, and we need solitude as a counterpoise.

4. What is the connection of this with other kinds of worship and with our life's work? It has a function of its own.

These cannot be substituted for it--public worship, reading Christian books, bring a different class of feelings altogether into play.

They are not to be excluded by it. They find their true foundation in it. A tree's branches stretch to the same circumference as its roots.

5. What is the special need of this precept for this age?

It is neglected in our modern life. The evils of our modern Christianity, the low tone of religion, the small grasp of Christian truth, the irreligious cast of religious work.

The thought of being alone with God will be a joy--or a terror.

THE STRUCTURE OF THE LORD'S PRAYER

After this manner therefore pray ye.'--MATT. vi. 9.

After this manner' may or may not imply that Christ meant this prayer to be a form, but He certainly meant it for a model. And they who drink in its spirit, and pray, seeking God's glory before their own satisfaction, and, while trustfully asking from His hand their daily bread, rise quickly to implore the supply of their spiritual hunger, do pray after this manner,' whether they use these words or no.

All begins with the recognition of the Fatherhood of God. The clear and fixed contemplation of God is the beginning of all true prayer, and that contemplation does not fasten on His remote and partially intelligible attributes, nor strive to climb to behold Him as in Himself, but grasps Him as related to us. The Fatherhood of God implies His communication of life, His tenderness, and our kindred. This is the prayer of the children of the kingdom, and can only be truly offered by those who, by faith in the Son, have received the adoption of sons. It gathers all such into a family, so delivering their prayer from selfish absorption in their own joys or needs. As our Father in Heaven,' He is lifted clear above earth's limitations, changes, and imperfections. So childlike familiarity is sublimed into reverence, our hearts are drawn upward, and freed from the oppressive and narrowing attachment to earth and sense.

The perfect sevenfold petitions of the prayer fall into two halves, corresponding roughly to the first and second tables of the decalogue. The first half consists of three petitions, which refer to God and His kingdom. They are three, in accordance with the symbolism of numbers which, in the Old Testament, always regards three as the sacred number of completeness and of divinity. The second half consists of four petitions, which refer to ourselves. They are four--the number which symbolises the creature. The lessons taught by the order in which these two halves occur do not need to be dwelt upon. God first and man second, His glory before our wants--that is the true order. For how few of us is it the spontaneous order! Do we first rise to God, and only secondly descend to ourselves?

Note, too, the sequence in each of these halves. In the first we may say that we begin from above and come down, or from within and come outwards. In the second, the process is the opposite. We begin on the lowest level with our external needs, and go upwards and inwards to removal of sin, exemption from temptation, and complete deliverance from evil. The first half gives us the beginning, middle, and end of God's purposes for the world. The recognition of His name is the basis of His kingdom, and His kingdom is the sphere in which alone His will is done. The second half, in like manner, gives us the beginning, middle, and end of His dealings with the individual, the common mercies of daily bread, forgiveness, guidance, protection in conflict, and final deliverance.

The name' of God is His revealed character. He hallows it when He so acts as to make His holiness manifest. We hallow it when we regard it as the holy thing which it is. That petition is first, because the knowledge of God as He is self-revealed is the deepest want of men, and the spread of that knowledge and reverence is the way by which His kingdom comes.

God's kingdom is His rule over men's hearts. Christ began His ministry by proclaiming its near approach, and in effect brought it to earth. But it spreads slowly in the individual heart, and in the world. Therefore, this second petition is ever in place, until the consummation. God's rule is established through the hallowing of His name; for it is a rule which works on men through their understandings, and seeks no ignorant submission.

The sum of this first half is, Thy will be done, as in Heaven, so on earth.' Obedience to that will is the end of God's self-revelation. It makes all the difference whether we begin with the thought of the name or of the will. In the latter case, religion will be slavish and submission sullen. There is no more horrible and paralysing conception of God than that of mere sovereign will. But if we think of Him as desiring that we should know His name, and as gathering all its syllables into the one perfect Word of God' then we are sure that His will must be intelligible and good. Obedience becomes delight, and the surrender of our wills to His the glad expression of love. He who begins with Thy will be done' is a slave, and never really does the will at all; he who begins with Our Father, hallowed be Thy name,' is a son, and his will, gladly yielding, is free in surrender, strong in self-abnegation, and restful in putting the reins into God's hands.

The two halves make a whole. The second, which deals with our needs, starts with the cry for bread, and climbs up slowly through the ills of life, from bodily hunger to trespasses and human unkindness and personal weakness, and a world of temptation, and the double evil of sin and of sorrow, and so regains at last the starting-point of the first half, Heaven and God. The probable meaning of the difficult word rendered daily' seems to be sufficient for our need.' The lessons of the petition are that God's children have a claim for the supply of their wants, since He is bound, as a faithful Creator, not to send mouths without sending meat to fill them, but that our desires should be limited to our actual necessities, and our cravings, as well as our efforts for the bread that perishes, made into prayers. Such a prayer rightly used would put an end to much wicked luxury among Christians, and to many questionable ways of getting wealth. Bless my cheating, my sharp practice, my half lies!' If we dare not pray this prayer over what we do in earning our living,' we had better ask ourselves whether we are not rather earning our death.

Sin is debt Incurred to God. So Christ taught in the previous chapter by His parable of agreeing with the adversary; and in the other parables of the two debtors (Luke vii. 41) and of the unmerciful servant (Matt. xviii. 23). As universal as the need for bread is the need for pardon. It is the first want of the spiritual nature, but it is a constantly recurring want, as this petition teaches us. Forgiveness is the cancelling of a debt; but we must not forget that it is a Father's forgiveness, and therefore does not merely, or even chiefly, imply the removal of penalty, but much rather the unimpeded flow of the Father's love, and consequently the removal of the miserable consciousness of separation from Him. The appended comparison as we have forgiven' does not mean that our forgiveness is the reason for God's forgiveness of us. The ground of our pardon is Christ's work, the condition of it our faith; but, as we saw in considering the Beatitudes, the condition on which the children of the kingdom can retain the blessing of the divine pardon is their imitation of it.

The next petition is the expression of conscious weakness. The forgiven man, though in his deepest soul hating sin, is still surrounded with sparks which may fire the combustibles in his heart. If we ask not to be led into temptation, because we want a smooth and easy road, we are wrong. If we do so from self-distrust and fear lest we fall, then it is allowable. But perhaps we may draw a distinction between being tempted and being led into temptation. The former may mean the presentation of an inducement to do evil which we cannot hope to escape, and which it is not well that we should escape. The latter may mean the further step of embracing or being entangled in it by consenting to it. We do not need to dread the entrance into the Valley of the Shadow of Death, for if the Lord be with us we shall pass through it. Our prayer may mean, lead us, not into, but through, the trial. It is the plaint of conscious weakness, the recognition of God as ordering our path, the cry of a heart which desires holiness most of all, and which trusts in God's upholding hand in the hour of trial.

Deliver us from evil' is a petition which, in its width, fits the close of the prayer better than does the translation of the Revised Version. There seems an echo of the words in Paul's noble confidence while the headsman's axe was so near, The Lord will deliver me from every evil work.' Entire exemption from evil of every sort, whether sin or sorrow, is the true end of our prayers, as it is the crown of God's purpose. Nothing less can satisfy our yearnings; nothing less can fulfil the divine desire for us. Nothing less should be the goal of our faith and hope. To the height of meek assurance, and the reaching out of our souls in desire which is the pledge of its own fulfilment, Christ would have us attain on the wings of prayer. They can have no narrower bonds to the horizon of their hopes, nor any lesser blessing for the satisfaction of their longings, whose prayer begins with Our Father which art in heaven' for where the Father is, the child must wish to be, and some day will be, to go out no more.

OUR FATHER'

Our Father which art in heaven.'--MATT. vi. 9.

The words of Christ, like the works of God, are inexhaustible. Their depth is concealed beneath an apparent simplicity which the child and the savage can understand. But as we gaze upon them and try to fathom all their meaning, they open as the skies above us do when we look steadily into their blue chambers, or as the sea at our feet does when we bend over to pierce its clear obscure. The poorest and weakest learns from them the lesson of divine love and a mighty helper; the reverent, loving contemplation of the profoundest souls, and the experience of all the ages discern ever new depths in them and feel that much remains unlearned. They did all eat and were filled, men, women, and children--and they took up of fragments that were left five baskets full.'

This is especially true about the Lord's Prayer. We teach it to our children, and its divine simplicity becomes their lisping tongues and little folded hands. But the more we ponder it, and try to make it the model of our prayers, the more wonderful does its fulness of meaning appear, the more hard does it become to pray after this manner.' There is everything in it: the loftiest revelation of God in His relations to us and in His purposes with the world; the setting forth of all our relations to Him, to His purposes, and to one another; the grandest vision of the future for mankind; the care for the smallest wants of each day.

As a theology, it smites into fragments all false, unworthy human thoughts of God. As an exposition of religion, the man who has drunk in its spirit has ceased from self-will and sin. As a foundation of social morals it lays deep the only basis for true human brotherhood, and he who lives in its atmosphere will live in charity and helpfulness with all mankind. As a guide for personal life, it gives us authoritatively the order and relative worth of all human desires, and with these the order and subordination of our pursuits and life's aims. As a prayer it is all comprehensive and intended to be so, holding within the perfect seven of its petitions, all for which we should come to God, and resting them all on His divine name, and closing them all with a chorus of thanksgiving. As a prophecy it opens the loftiest vision, beyond which none is possible, of the final transformation of this world into the kingdom in which God's will shall be perfectly done, and of the final deliverance from, all evil of the struggling, sinning, sorrowing souls of His children.

I desire to try in a series of sermons to set forth what little I can see of the depth and comprehensiveness of this model of all prayer, and of its ever fresh applicability to the wants and difficulties of our days as of all days. But before dealing with that great invocation of the divine name on which all rests, a word or two must be said touching the introductory clause.

After this manner pray ye.' The question which is usually made prominent in thinking of these words is really a very subordinate one. Did Christ intend to establish a form, or only to give an example? Churchmen say, a form; Dissenters generally say, an example. But it would be better for both Churchmen and Dissenters to try to realise for themselves what this manner' is.

Unquestionably, whether our Lord is giving us a form or not, His chief object was not to prescribe words. To pray is not to repeat petitions, and His commandment has for its chief meaning a much deeper one than that He was giving us either a form which we are to incorporate verbally with our prayers, or an outline according to which our spoken supplications are to be shaped. Whether in addition to this we are to regard the very words as to be used by us, will be determined by each man and church according as he regards the use of set forms in prayer as being the true and noblest manner of prayer. Such use is certainly not inconsistent with the utmost spirituality, but the habitual use of forms, especially their exclusive use, seems to many of us to be dangerous, regard being had to the tendency of human nature to rest in them. And it is not without significance that this very prayer of our Lord's, which was given as the corrective of vain repetitions and idle, heathenish chattering of forms of prayer, has itself come to be the saddest instance in all Christendom of these very faults, while the beads slip through the fingers of the mechanical repeater of muttered Paternosters. Instead of wrangling about this subordinate question, let us try to pray after this manner. We shall find it hard, but blessed. Be sure that every prayer not after this manner is after a wrong manner.

This prayer helps to reverse our foolish desire to make earth foremost. The true end of prayer is to get our wills harmonised with His, not to bend His to ours. Surely if self-denial and submission be the very heart of Christianity, that should be most expressed in prayer which is the very sanctuary of religion. The prayers that are to be offered after this manner will not be passionate, petulant pleadings or prescriptions to God to do this or that, but in them God and His glory will be first, I second, and through Him and as He wills.

Ah, brethren! this is an awful requirement of Christ's. Who dare take such holy words into his lips? It is a hard matter to pray as Christ taught us. The prayer seems to move in a height of unapproachable elevation, and the air there is too thin and pure for our gross lungs. For be it remembered, we are not praying after this manner unless our lives in some sort repeat and confirm our prayers. Do our hearts seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness? Are our energies given to this, as their noblest aim, to hallow God's name; or does the very blood in our hearts throb hot, passionate desires for worldly things, and God's name and kingdom and will seem dreamy and far-off objects which kindle no desire in our souls and rule no effort of our lives, like suns far away which shed little light upon the earth and sway not its rolling tides, that are obedient to the nearer but borrowed light of the changeful moon? If so, no matter whether we use this form or not, we are not praying after this manner.

Look, now, at this first clause, which is the basis of all.

I. The divine Name which is the ground and object of all our prayers. It is not merely a formula of address, like the superscription on a letter, but the reality of His character as revealed before us. There is inseparable from all prayer the effort to conceive worthily of Him to whom we speak; to raise our souls to that height.

How much of our prayer, even while truest, fails here! We may be distinctly conscious of our wants; our wishes may be right, and our confidence may be firm that God will give us what we ask; yet how often there is no vivid thought of Him filling the mind! How often our prayers are offered to a mere name! How seldom through the cloud-wrack beneath His feet do we see His face!

This absorbed contemplation is the necessary preliminary of all real prayer, and there is a truth in the thought that such losing of self in gazing on God is the highest form of prayer. We should feel as some peasant come to court who stands on the threshold of the presence-chamber, and forgetting his grievances and his embassy, gazes entranced on the splendour and benignity of his sovereign.

Look, then, at this Name: what it expresses. It is not new. The Jews dimly had it, and even Greek and other paganisms knew of a father of Gods and men.' The name of Father carries with it primarily the idea of the Source of life (we also are His offspring'), and also, secondarily, that of loving care.

How wonderful, how beautiful, that that earthly relation should find its deepest reality in God! God be thanked that, like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.'

But the true Christian idea of God's fatherhood is more than all this. This is a prayer for disciples, for those who alone can really pray. All men are God's children because all draw their life from Him, were made in His image, and are objects of His love. But there is a fatherhood and a sonship which are not universal, and for which another birth is necessary. Its conditions are plainly laid down by the Evangelist: To as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become sons of God,' and by the Apostle, Ye are the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.'

We are made sons through Jesus. We are made sons by faith.

And now, how should this Fatherhood affect our prayers? We shall come with hope and familiar confidence, for your heavenly Father knoweth what things ye have need of.' Does a father love to have his children about him? Does a child shrink from telling its wishes to a father? Also we must bend our wills to His--to a Father.

Contrast that conception with the ideas of God which we are all tempted to cherish, the slavish one which dwells upon the gulf between God and man, with the cold deity of natural religion,' with the Epicurean notion of Him which divorces Him from all living interest in His creation.

Contrast it with the ghastly image which our consciences and our fears frame, the heathen notion of an avenger and cruel. We do not need to seek to avert His anger. This mighty word shatters all cowering terror and abject prostration.

And it is a vow as well as an Invocation, binding us to supreme love to Him, to obedience to Him, to moral conformity with Him. Be ye perfect as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. The noblest prayer is Abba, Father.'

II. The loftiness and perfectness of that divine Name.

In heaven.' Not fact, but symbol, to express His exaltation above the earth, and so suggesting all ideas of remoteness from creatures, from earth's limitations and conditions, changes and imperfection, and showing the gulf between man and God.

1. The thought that He is in heaven deepens our reverence, love casting out fear, but making us more lowly. It leads to familiar yet awe-stricken approach.

2. It exalts the preciousness of the Fatherhood, as being free from all weakness and all change. It reveals a better Father than we can know here; one not narrow of view, infirm of purpose, weak in tenderness, bounded in power. As the heavens stretch calm and serene above us, far from all our trouble and noise, unvexed, pitying, and dropping rain and dew on earth, so is He.

3. It draws our hearts and hopes to our Father's home.

4. It delivers us from worship of the visible and from worship by means of the visible. So the Name guards against placing stress on externals and secondary forms, places, times of worship.

III. The Community of Brotherhood of the Worshippers.

Our Father.

1. All true enjoyment of blessings depends on our being willing to share them. To keep for ourselves is to lose. We enter by faith into a great community.

2. The effect of this on our prayers: to destroy their selfishness. We bow to Him of whom the whole family is named.

3. Effect on our lives.

Dare we rise from our knees to plan and plot for ourselves? How we are tempted to forget our brotherhood in personal animosities, vanity, and self-interest, competing with others! Our differences of ideas arising from differences of race, training, occupation, country, fling us apart. Our differences of wealth and position alienate us. Our differences of conception of Christianity often separate and embitter us. But do these not crumble when we say Our Father'?

Think of the generations who have gone to the grave saying this prayer. What a prophecy of the heaven, where all shall be gathered and each feel his sense of Fatherhood increased by his brethren!

And this is the only possible basis for true fraternity among men.

Opinion? Men are not thinking machines.

Interest? Men are not ruled by calculations, and such union is the destruction of true unity.

Common aims?--shallow.

Nation or race?--artificial and not capable of universality.

There is no brotherhood but that which rests on God's Fatherhood, Christ's Sonship. For the world Christ has come, therefore we are no more strangers and foreigners.'

Therefore, listening to His voice, and trusting in Him who has made us heirs together with Him, let us lift up our voices, Our Father,' and therein proclaim that God who loves every soul of man, who knows each man's wants, who bends over him in pitying tenderness, who can neither die nor change, and who will gather into His eternal home all His prodigal children and keep them blessed by His side for evermore.

HALLOWED BE THY NAME'

Hallowed be Thy name.'--MATT. vi. 9.

Name is character so far as revealed.

I. What is meaning of Petition?

Hallowed means to make holy; or to show as holy; or to regard as holy. The second of these is God's hallowing of His Name. The third is men's.

The prayer asks that God would so act as to show the holiness of His character, and that men, one and all, may see the holiness of His character.

i.e. Hallowed by divine self-revelation.

Hallowed by human recognition.

Hallowed by human adoration and appropriate sentiments.

Hallowed by human action.

II. On what it rests:

On the Fatherhood of God.

On the confidence that God wills that His Name should be known. In other words, the petition rests on the assurance of God's fatherly love, which cannot but will that His children should know their Father as He is.

On the fact that men need the knowledge of the Name.

On the conviction that men cannot attain it for themselves.

That Christ is the great means of His hallowing His Name.

His finished work does not render this prayer unnecessary.

I have declared Thy name, and will declare it.'

That this is to be issue of all. A grand prophecy.

III. Why put first.

Singular, that so remote a petition should stand at beginning. We should begin not with ourselves, but with God; not with temporal wants, not even with our own spiritual ones.

We begin not with men, but with God.

It is God's glory even more than men's knowledge of Him that the petition contemplates. And though the two things coincide, which of them is foremost in our minds makes an infinite difference.

Then in regard to God, we first ask not that His law may be kept, but that His nature may be known.

The place of this petition in the prayer is explained by considerations which suggest very important thoughts for ourselves and all men.

That true knowledge of God is the deepest and fundamental necessity for all men.

That the knowledge will affect their whole scheme of thought and life.

That the most important of all questions is, How does a man think of God?

That the Inward comes before the Outward.

That knowledge is the guide of emotions and of practical life, as set forth here in the order of petitions.

This sequence of petitions corrects many errors into which we are apt to fall.

(a) That religion is chiefly to give us forgiveness.

(b) That accurate knowledge of God and His will matters comparatively little if we have devout emotions and experiences.

(c) That plans for the reformation of men should begin with the exterior, leaving theological subtleties to themselves.

But this is not a theological subtlety.

Seek ye first the kingdom of God,' is a maxim for social reformation as well as for individual life.

IV. To what practical life this prayer binds us.

Following in our estimates, aims, and practice the sequence which it prescribes. Desiring for world most of all that it may hallow the Name.

Seeking for ourselves to hallow it.

Seeking for ourselves that we may be the means of others doing so.

The ever-present remembrance, that the name of God is blasphemed or hallowed, that God is glorified or disgraced, by us.

That to be like His name is true way to commend it. Do you know this name?

THY KINGDOM COME'

Thy kingdom come.'--MATT. vi. 10.

The Lord reigneth, let the earth be glad' The Lord reigneth, let the people tremble,' was the burden of Jewish psalmist and prophet from the first to the last. They have no doubt of His present dominion. Neither man's forgetfulness and man's rebellion, nor all the dark crosses and woes of the world, can disturb their conviction that He is then and for ever the sole Lord.

The kingdom is come, then. Yet John the Baptist broke the slumbers of that degenerate people with the trumpet-call, Repent, for the kingdom is at hand.' It is not come, then--but coming. And the Master said, If I by the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.' It is come, then, in Him. This prayer throws it forward again into the future, and far down on the stream of prophecy; we hear borne up to us through the darkness the shouts that shall hail a future day when here on earth the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. It is a kingdom, then, that has ever been, and yet has stages of progress, a kingdom that was established in Jesus; a kingdom that has a past, a present, and a future on earth. It is after this world that the words are said, Come, ye blessed, enter into the kingdom.' It is a kingdom, then, manifested on earth, and yet a kingdom into which death, who keeps the keys of all secrets, admits us.

Once more--the kingdom of God is within you. The kingdom of God is righteousness, and peace, and joy.' But there is beyond earth to be a manifestation of the kingdom in a more perfect form. It is the kingdom of heaven,' not only because the King is Our Father which art in heaven,' but because we cannot completely come into it, or it into us, till we pass out of earth by death, and enter through that gate into the city. He has translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son.

It is a dominion, then, over heart and soul, having its realm within, standing not so much in outward institutions as in inner experiences; and yet a kingdom which, though like leaven hid, shall like leaven be seen in its effects; though like a seed buried deep, shall like a seed blossom into a mighty tree; though it cometh not with observation, yet is like to the lightning that flashes with a kind of omnipresence in its rapid course from end to end, everywhere at once; which though it be within, yet clearly is meant to rule over all outward acts, and one day to have all kings bowing down before it.

These are the varieties with which the one thought of the kingdom of God, or of heaven, is presented in Scripture. It is eternal yet revealed in time, ever here but ever coming, ever coming but never come on earth, but entered when we go yonder, ruling us man by man, inward, spiritual, unseen, and yet moulding nations and institutions, outward and visible, compelling sight and filling all the earth.

But these varieties are not contradictions, still less are they the effects of a vague and imperfect notion which means anything or everything according to the fancy of the writer. The conception is clear and well defined. The kingdom of God is an organised community which is subject to the will of the personal God. The elements of subordination and society are both there. On the one hand there is the Ruler, on the other there is the mass of subjects. The whole of the varieties in the use of the term can be all reconciled in the one simple central notion, but we cannot afford to lose sight of any of them if we would understand what is meant by this prayer.

Let us take these thoughts which I have suggested, as expressing the Scriptural meaning of this phrase, and by their help try to ascertain what this prayer suggests.

I. God reigns, yet we pray for the coming of His kingdom.

That is to acknowledge that the world has departed from Him. It is at once to separate ourselves from those who see in it no signs of departure and rebellion. It is to confess that, Lord as He is whether men believe it or no, whether men will it or no, yet that the relation of common subordination as to a supreme Lord which we hold with all creatures is not all that we are fit for, not all that we should be. That dominion which the psalmist saw making the sea and the fulness thereof rejoice, which is at once the control and the upholding, the sustaining and the commanding, of all orders of being, is not the whole of the dominion which can be exercised over man. The rule, which we share with the trees of the field and the tribes of life, is not all; and the unwilling control which the thought of an overruling Providence demands that we shall believe that God exercises over all the workings of men--that is not enough. And the terrible bending of men into unconscious instruments, by which He that sitteth in the heavens laughs at princes' and rulers' counsel, speaking to the tyrant as the rod of His anger, using men as the axe with which He hews, and the staff in His hand, and then casting away the tool into the fire--that is not the kingdom that men are made to be. Something more, even the loving, willing submission of heart and life to Him is possible, is needed, unless, indeed, it is true that a man hath no pre-eminence over a beast. Enough for them that He feedeth them when they cry; enough for them that led they know not how, and fed by they know not whom, they live they know not why, do they know not what, and die they know not when. But be ye not as the horse or the mule which have no understanding' it is our prerogative to be led by His eye speaking to the heart, not by His bridle appealing to the sense; to do Him loyal service, to understand His purposes, to sympathise with them, and sympathising to execute. This our prayer gives us the clear distinction, then, between mere blind obedience and the true goal of man. The kingdom is other and better than the creature-wide dominion.

And then, this prayer reposes on the confession that that higher, better form of obedience is not yet attained. In a word, it can only be prayed aright by a man who feels that the world has gone away from God and His commandments. We separate ourselves by it from all who think that this present state is the natural condition of men, the order into which they were born, the kind of world which God intended; and we assert, in sight of all the evils and sore sorrows that fill the world, that this is not God's intention. People tell us that the doctrine of a fall, an earth which has departed from God, a race which has rebelled, is a gloomy and dark one, covering the face of life with sackcloth. But it seems to me that instead of being so, it is the only conviction that can make a man bear to see the world as it is. Brethren, which of these two is the gloomy--the creed that says, Look at all these men dying--in dumb ignorance, living in brutal sin; look at blood, rapine, lies, battlefields, broken hearts, hopes that never set to fruit but died in the bud, the stream of sad groans, and sadder curses, and wild mirth, saddest of all. Look at it all, coming to pass on this fair earth amid the pomp of sunsets and the calm beauty of autumn, and beneath the cold stars, in a world where the noblest creature is the saddest, and accept for explanation that it is the necessary road for the perfecting of the creature; that it is all for the best, that it is exactly what God meant the world to be;--or the creed which sees the same things and says: This is not what God intended: an enemy hath done this'? Sin hath entered into the world, and death by sin.

The Christian doctrine does not make the facts, but only the Christian doctrine can explain them. It seems to me that if I believed that life as I see it in the world, and as I feel it in myself, is life as God meant it to be, I should either go mad or be a wise man, not a fool, if I were to look up at the unpitying stars that could sing for joy over such a creation, and say, There is no God. It is a refuge from such possible horrors, not an aggravation of them, which this prayer teaches us when it teaches us to pray for a kingdom yet to come, from which men have departed, and in departing have worked for themselves all this woe and ruin.

II. The kingdom for the coming of which we pray is established already.

Christ has established it. His name is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is Prince of all the kings of the earth. He is crowned with glory and honour. By Him, that is to say, it becomes possible for men to serve God with the energies of their will, and by Him it becomes possible for men to take the pardon which God gives in Him. He founds the kingdom, and He exercises the dominion. On an eternal relation and on an historical fact that dominion of His is grounded,--on an eternal relation inasmuch as He, the everlasting Word of God, has from the beginning been the Lord and King of the world; on an historical fact inasmuch as that eternal Word has been manifested on earth, and tasted death for every man. Christ founds the kingdom, for He by His Incarnation and Sacrifice sets forth the weightiest motives for service; He opens the path to return; He brings God's forgiveness to men, and so shall rule over them for ever--a King and Priest upon His throne: the Prince of all the kings of the earth, both because He has from everlasting been the anointed King, and because in time He has been, and will for ever be, the faithful and true witness, and the first begotten from the dead. The foundation is thus laid, the dominion established, the kingdom is come; but we are to pray for its perfecting as the one hope of the world.

Then let us remember that we are thus guarded from the error that is always rife, of looking for some new thing as the one deliverance for earth. It is sad to mark how undying that tendency is. Age after age, men have had the heartache of seeing hopes blasted, and fair schemes for the regeneration of the world knocked to pieces about the ears of their projectors, and yet they hope on. Every period, as every man, has its times of credulity, its firm conviction that it has found the one thing needful, and the shout of Eureka goes ever up. Alas, alas! time after time the old experience is repeated, and the gratulations die down into gloomy silence. Yet men hope on. What a strange testimony at once of the futility of all the past attempts, and of the indestructible conviction that men have of the certainty that the world will be better and brighter some day, that undying expectation is! It is sorrowful and yet ennobling to think of the persistency of the expectation, and the disappointment of it.

God forbid that I should say a word to seem to disparage it! Not so. I say the expectations are of God, and if men give them false shapes, and scarcely understand them when they utter them, that does not in any degree make the expectation less noble or less true. But what I wish to urge is this, that the Christian attitude towards all such hopes should not be unsympathising. Rather we are bound to say yes, it is so, and we know how.' We are bound to proclaim that it is not any new thing that we expect, but only the working out of the old. God be thanked that it is not! The evils are not new, they have been from the beginning; and God has surely not been so cruel to the world as to leave it till now in the dark. Our hopes are not set on any new, untried remedy. This bridge across the Infinite for us is not a frail plank on which no one has yet walked, and which may crack and break when the timid foot of the first passenger is on the centre, but it is a tried structure upon which ages have walked.

Then if I have any hearers who are fancying that the gospel is worn out, any who are glowing with the anticipation of great new things, who scarcely know how, but believe that somehow, the ills that have in all ages cursed humanity are to be exorcised by some new methods of social organisation or the like--I pray them to ponder this prayer and to receive its lesson. Do not say, you are but adding one more to the Babel of opinions which confound us. Not so. We are not arguing for an opinion, we are proclaiming a fact. We are not ventilating a nostrum, we are preaching a divine revelation, a divine revealer. We are not setting forth our notion of the evil, and our idea of what may be a remedy. We are telling men God's word about both. We are preaching an old, old truth: not man's opinion, but God's act; not man's device, but Christ's power. We proclaim that the kingdom of God is nigh you, and while a Babel, as you say, of private opinions, of passionate complaints, of despairing cries afflicts the silence, one serene voice rises, Come unto Me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden,' and after that sole voice rings out the twofold choral anthem--of praise, Rejoice, O earth, for thy King is come' and of prayer, Thy kingdom come.'

III. We pray for the coming of a kingdom which is inward and spiritual.

I do not mean to weary you with any proofs that this is so. The whole language of Christ, the whole tenor of Scripture, the common sense of the case, the testimony of our own souls as to what we want most, confirm this. But it is enough to note the admitted fact; to enforce the thought that thus the kingdom assumes a purely individual character, and that thus its power over individuals is the pledge of its power over masses, and is its way of exercising universal sway. We have all of us one human heart, and therefore what the kingdom can do and has done for me or for any oilier man, it can do for all.

Let me remind you of two or three consequences that flow from this thought.

1. Lessons for politicians, for all men, as to the true way to cure the evils of the world: Not by external arrangements; not by better laws; not by education; not by progress in arts; not by trade, etc.

You must go deeper than these pills to cure an earthquake'--it is the soul, the individual will that is diseased; and the one cure for the world's evil is that it should be right with God; and that loyal, hearty obedience by Christ should be in it.

2. Lessons for Christian men as to hasty externalising of the kingdom:

Theocracies, State Churches, and the like.

3. We pray for a kingdom that will be external. If spirit, then body; if individuals, then communities.

It is to be all-comprehensive governing:--institutions, arts, sciences. All spheres of human life are capable of sanctification and will receive it. A prophet had a vision of a day when the very bells of the horses should bear the same inscription of holiness to the Lord' as was engraved on the High Priest's mitre, and when every pot and pan in the kitchens of Jerusalem should be sacred as the vessels of the Temple.

The fault of Christians in losing sight of this--how all the aspects are reconciled--and how this must be the completion--the point to which all tends; how clearly maimed the gospel would be if such were not the goal.

So much, then, the prayer assumes:--the certainty that the world is wrong; the certainty that the kingdom is the only thing to set it right; the certainty that it can set it all right; the certainty that it will.

4. We pray for a kingdom to come which cannot be fully realised on this side the grave. Large as are the capabilities of this scene, they are not large enough for the full display of all the blessedness that lies in that kingdom. And so it is not all a mistake when men say, Ah, this world can never do for us' it is not all an unhealthy dream that says, I am weary of this; let me die.'

Think of the chorus of voices that present this prayer--the unconscious cries that have gone up; the voices of sorrow and want. The cry hath entered into the ears of the Lord God of Sabaoth; the creature groaneth and travaileth; all men unconsciously pray this prayer when they weep and when they hope. Christian men pray it when they mourn their rebellious wilfulness and when they feel the weight of all this anarchic world, or when their work in bringing it back to its King seems almost vain, the souls underneath the altar pray it when they cry, How long, O Lord, how long?'

And ah, dear friends--there should come a sadder, humbler cry from us, each feeling his own sinful heart. To me the glory of that coming, and the life from the dead which it shall be to the world, will be as nothing unless I know the King and trust Him. Let us each re-echo the cry of that dying thief, which He cannot refuse to answer, Lord, remember me when Thou comest in Thy kingdom.'

THY WILL BE DONE'

Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.'--MATT. vi. 10.

It makes all the difference whether the thought of the name, or that of the will, of God be the prominent one. If men begin with the will, then their religion will be slavish, a dull, sullen resignation, or a painful, weary round of unwelcome duties and reluctant abstainings. The will of an unknown God will be in their thoughts a dark and tyrannous necessity, a mysterious, inscrutable force, which rules by virtue of being stronger, and demands only obedience. There is no more horrible conception of God than that which makes Him merely or mainly sovereign will.

But when we think first of God as desiring that His name should be known, and to that end mirroring Himself in all the great and beautiful, the ordered whole of creation, and energising through all the complexities of human affairs, and gathering the scattered syllables of His name into one full and articulate utterance in the Word of God, then our thoughts of His will become reverent and loving; we are sure that the will of the self-revealing God must be intelligible, we are sure that the will of the loving God must be good. Then our obedience becomes different, and instead of being slavish is filial; instead of being reluctant submission to a mightier force, is glad conformity to the fountain of love and goodness; instead of being sullen resignation, is trustful reliance; instead of being painful execution of unwelcome duties, is spontaneous expression in acts which are easy of the indwelling love. He who begins with Thy will be done' is a slave, and never really does the will at all; he who begins with Our Father, hallowed,' is a son, and obeys from the heart.

This, then, is one reason for the order in which the clauses of the prayer follow each other, perhaps the chief reason.

Let us consider--

I. Obedience is here set forth as the end of all divine revelation.

II. As the issue in man of all religious thought and emotion.

III. As the sum of all Christ's and our desires for men.

IV. As the bond which unites all creation into one.

I. Obedience to the will of God is the end of all divine revelation.

God's name is made known before His will is proclaimed. That order suggests as to God's will--

1. That it is not mere naked omnipotent authority.

2. That it is not inscrutable.

3. That its scope and direction are to be determined by His name. All these thoughts are included in this, that it is the will of a loving, good God, the will of a Father.

How that destroys all harsh, awful ideas such as those of a stony fate, or a cold necessity, or an omnipotent tyrant, or an inscrutable sovereign.

How Christianity has been affected by these ideas--extreme Calvinism, for instance; but it is more profitable to think how the tendency to them lies in us all.

II. Obedience is the issue of all religion.

The knowledge of the name, and the hallowing of it must go first. Note--

1. How inward the nature of obedience is. This sequence of petitions shifts the centre from without to within, from actions to dispositions.

2. How nothing is obedience that is not cheerful and loving. Not constrained, not sullen, not task-work.

3. How naturally dominant over all life the principles of God's truth are. Let them be known, and all the rest will follow. They have power to control all acts, great and small.

4. How impossible practical righteousness is without religion. The Name is the true basis of morality. We hear a great deal about life rather than creed; the Gospel is both. The one foundation of theoretical and practical morals is the will of God.

5. How maimed and spurious is religion without practical obedience.

Religion in the form of thought and of emotion is intended to influence life.

The ultimate result of God's revelation of Himself and of God's kingdom among men is the conformity of our life and actions with the Will of God. That is the test of our religion. Character and conduct are all important. Here is a lesson for us all as to what the final issue of religious profession ought to be. Knowledge of God, true reverent thoughts of Him, submission in spirit to His kingdom--all these have for their final sphere the full sanctification of the nature and the free, spontaneous obedience of the life. We are all tempted to separate between our consciousness and emotions of a religious nature, and our daily life. Many a man is a good Christian in his heart, with real religious feeling, but when you get him into the field of the world he is full of sins. There must always be a disproportion in this world between convictions, resolutions, and actions; we imperfectly live out our principles; the force of gravity pulls down the arrow, and however true the bow and careful the aim and strong the hand, its course will be a curve, not a straight line.

Our machinery does not work in vacuo, and the force of friction and atmosphere opposes it and brings it to a standstill. This must be; but the discrepancy may be indefinitely lessened, and this prayer is a prophecy and kindles a hope.

III. Obedience is the sum of all Christ's desires for the world.

This is the last loftiest petition, beyond that there is nothing, for if our wills are conformed to God's, then we are perfect and blessed.

1. The loftiest dignity of man is to obey. We have will: God has will. Ours is evidently meant to submit, His to rule. He only is what he ought to be whose whole soul bows to the divine command.

2. The will submitted to God is free, strong, restful. He does not desire that it should be crushed or absorbed, but freely acting in obedience. That will is truly free which is delivered from bondage, and the burden of sin and evil. Submission to God strengthens the will. Sin overbears it, as we all know. Obedience braces and nerves it. Submission to God makes it restful. It is the conflict of self-will which troubles us. Peace is to will as God does; so He flows through us, and He is the living will that shall endure.'

3. The results of obedience will be perfect blessedness.

God's will is only for our good. His will for men and nations observed would change the face of the world.

Then this prayer includes everything that ardent lovers of their kind would desire.

How Christianity reforms from within, giving new life and letting that work on laws and institutions. Here is a lesson for all social reformers and for Christian men to see to it that they, for the world, try to spread the knowledge of His name, and for themselves, seek to be harmonised with His will.

But this petition sets forth an apparently unattainable example as our pattern of obedience. As in heaven,' refers perhaps to the visible universe, which has always left on thoughtful minds the impression of beauty and order, and is the great revelation in nature of the omnipotent will of God. There clouds float on in peacefulness obeying Him, there stars burn and planets roll on their mighty revolutions. These all continue this day, according to Thine ordinance.'

But that is by no means the exhaustive idea of this clause. We should not desire, were it possible, that men should be lowered to the level of the stars, doing a will which they know not, and swayed by a force which they have no eyes to discern. The obedience, the only true obedience, is that of spiritual beings who know God and can turn themselves to contemplate the will which rules their currents, as the sea looks up to the moon that sways its tides. So the reference is obviously to higher orders of beings, either higher by creation as angels, or higher because they have died, and are glorious saints before the Throne.

This petition, then, is a revelation as well. For the doing of God's will there must be spiritual beings, like ourselves. If our doing it like them is the highest last desire which He who came to do that will can form for us, and is the ultimate goal which, if reached, the world's history would be crowned, then these spiritual beings must do it perfectly. Their obedience must be complete. There can be no interruption to it from sin, no effort in it because of weakness, no resistance because of temptation, no flaw because of ignorance, no pause because of weariness, no pain because of rebellious will. Their obedience must be free, constant, spontaneous, happy. It must cover all their lives. Their whole being must be a sacrifice and service to the God whom they behold, and their life must be a life of activity. It is not the knowledge that floods the perfect spirits in heaven that is proposed for our example, nor their blessedness, but their service. So the thoughts of those who regard that heavenly existence only as idleness are corrected, and we are taught that, while we know little as to that future life, the conformity to the will of God, which in its present partial attainment is the secret of the purest blessedness, in its perfection will be the heaven of heaven.

Then again, there is here the grand idea that the whole creation will be bound into a unity by obedience to one will. We and they now form one whole, because now we serve the one Lord. And there comes a time when there shall be one Lord and His name one; when the omnipresent energy of His will in the physical universe shall be but a faint shadow of the universal dominion of His loving will in all His creatures. Then indeed it will be true, Thou doest according to Thy will in the armies of heaven and the inhabitants of earth.'

What glorious harmonies will sound then, when all co-operate with God and with one another, and one purpose, and one will, and one love fills the whole creation!

The petition has a bearing of this upon the dreams of moralists and reformers. They were true, they shall be more than fulfilled. Earth will be no longer separated from heaven, but united with it, and from one extremity of creation to another will be no creature which does not obey and rejoice.

THE CRY FOR BREAD

Give us this day our daily bread.'--MATT. vi. 11.

What a contrast there is between the two consecutive petitions, Thy will be done, and Give us this day! The one is so comprehensive, the other so narrow; the one loses self in the wide prospect of an obedient world, the other is engrossed with personal wants; the one rises to such a lofty, ideal height, the other is dragged down to the lowest animal wants.

And yet this apparent bathos is apparent only, and the fact that so narrow and earthly a petition has its place in the pattern of all prayer is full of instruction. No less instructive is the place which it has. A single word about that place may constitute a fitting introduction to our remarks now. We have already seen how the former petitions constitute together a great whole. That first part of the prayer expresses the desires which should ever be foremost in a good man's soul--those which have to do with God, and point to the advancement of His glory. It begins, as I said, with the inward, and advances to the outward, as must ever be the law of progress in the sanctifying of human souls and life. It begins with heaven and brings heaven down to earth, that earth may become like heaven, and both according well may make one music.' Then, in the second part of the prayer we come to individual wants. These have their legitimate place in our approaches to God. Prayer is not merely communion with God, not merely reverent contemplation of His fatherly and holy name, though that should always be first and chiefest in it. It is not merely the expression of absorbed contemplation, but of a nature that desires and is dependent. Nor is it only the utterance of world-wide desires, and the expression of a being that has conquered self. The perfection of man is not to have no desires, or to be petrified or absorbed into a state without a will and without a wish, still less to be elevated into a condition of absolute possession of all he seeks, without a want. And the perfection of prayer is not that it should be the utterance of that impossible emotion, disinterested love' to God, but that it should be the recognition of our dependence on God, the expression of our many wants, and the frank telling Him, with wills submitted, or rather conformed, to His, what we need. To pray is to adore; to pray is also to ask. We have to say Our Father, and we have also to say, Give us, being sure that if we, being evil, know how to give good gifts to our children, much more does He know how to give good things to them that ask Him.

So much for the general considerations applicable to the whole of this second part.

As to the connection of its several petitions with each other, it may be noticed that it is the exact opposite of the former part. That began with the highest and came downwards; this begins with the lowest and goes upwards. That began with the inward and worked outwards; this begins with the outward and passes inwards. That set forth the heavenly order in its gradual self-revelation, working the transformation of earth; this sets forth the earthly order in its gradual appropriation of Heaven's gifts. The former declares, that foremost in importance and in God's order are the spiritual blessings which come from knowledge of His name; the latter, beginning with the prayer for bread, and thence advancing to deeper necessities, reminds us, that in the order of time the least important is still the condition of all the rest. The loftiest pinnacles looking out to the morning sky must have their foundations rooted in common earth. That was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural, and afterwards that which is spiritual.' This order, then, is in symmetrical opposition to that of the previous part. There is a rhythmical correspondence in inverted movement, like the expansion and contraction of the heart, or the rise and fall of a fountain.

It is worth noticing how these two opposed halves make one whole; and as the former begins with contemplation of the fatherly greatness in the heavens, so the latter part, starting with the cry for bread, climbs slowly up through all the ills of life, and passing from want to trespass, human unkindness and hatred, and again to personal weakness and a tempting world, and the evil of sin and the evil of sorrow, reaches once more after cries and tears the point from which all began, and rises to heaven and God. The doxology comes circling round to the invocation, and the prayer, which has winged its weary way through all weltering floods of human sorrow and want, comes back like Noah's dove, with peace born of its flight, to its home in God, and ends where it began. They whose prayer and whose lives start with Our Father which art in Heaven,' will end with the confidence and the praise, Thine is the kingdom and the honour.'

Now looking at this petition in itself, I note--

I. The prayer for Bread.

This contains first an important lesson as to what may be legitimately the subject of our prayers.

The Lord by this juxtaposition condemns the overstrained and fantastic spiritualism which tramples down earthly wants and condemns desires rooted in our physical nature as sin. It is a wonderful testimony from Jesus of the worth of common gifts, that the desire for them should here stand beside that great one for the doing of God's will. There is nothing here of the false asceticism which undervalues the life which now is, nothing of the morbid tone of feeling which despises and condemns as sinful the due appreciation of and desire for the blessings of this life. To give predominance to material wants and earthly good is heathen and unchristian, therefore the petition for these follows the others. But to despise them and pretend to be indifferent to them is heathen and unchristian too; therefore the prayer for them finds its place among the others. So the right understanding of this prayer is a barrier against the opposite evils of a false sensuousness which forgets the spirit that is in the flesh, and of a false spirituality which forgets the flesh that is around the spirit. He who made us desire truth in the inward parts, made us also to desire our daily bread, and we observe His order when we do both, and seek the Kingdom of God, not exclusively, but first.

And not only is this petition the vindication of a healthy naturalism, but it also shows us that we may rightly make prayers of our desires for earthly things.

We sometimes hear it said that we have only a right to ask God for such gifts as holiness and conformity to His will. This has a truth, a great truth, in it. But it may be overstrained. We are to subdue our wishes, we are to be more anxious for our soul's health than for our bodily wants. We are to present our desires concerning all things in this life, with an implied if it be Thy will,' but while all that is true, we are also to ask Him for these lower blessings. Our prayers should include all which we desire, all which we need. Our desires should be such as we can turn into prayers. If we dare not ask God for a thing, do not let us seek for it. But whatever we do want, let us go to Him for it, and be sure that He does not wish lip homage and fine-sounding petitions for things for which we do not really care, but that He does desire that we should be frank with Him, making a prayer of every wish, and seeing that we have neither wishes which we dare not make prayers, nor prayers which are not really wishes. Let our supplications cover all the ground of our daily wants, and be true to our own souls. If any man lack anything, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men life and breath and all things.

Then still further--the prayer is the recognition of God as the Giver of daily bread.

Thou openest Thine hand,' says the old psalm, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.' There is no part of the divine dealings of which the Bible speaks more frequently and more lovingly than His supply of all creatures' wants. It is a grand thought, Who feedeth the young ravens when they cry, who maketh the grass to grow on the mountains. The eyes of all wait upon Thee.' There is a magnificent verse in the 104th Psalm, which regards even the roar of the lion prowling for its prey in midnight forests as a cry to God--The young lions seek their meat from God.' As Luther says somewhere in his rough prose--Even to feed the sparrows God spends more than the revenues of the French king would buy.' And that universal bounty applies truly to those whose lot is In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread.' For us it is true. God feeds us. Thou givest meat to them that fear Thee, Thou wilt ever be mindful of Thy covenant.' In giving us our daily bread, His hand is hid under second causes, but these should not mask the truth from us.

God is the life of nature. His will is the power whose orderly working we call nature's laws. Force is the sign manual of God. There would be no harvest, no growth, unless to each seed God gave a body as it hath pleased Him. The existence of bread is the effect of His work. He hath not left Himself without witness in that He giveth rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.' as Paul said to the rough farmer folk of Lycaonia.

The distribution of the bread is of God.

By second causes, our work and other means.

Be it so. Here is a steam engine, in one room away at one end of your mill; here is a spindle whirring five hundred yards off. What then? Who thinks that that bit of belting moves the drum round which it turns, or that the cog-wheel that carries the motion originates it? The motion here has force at the other end, the effect here has its cause in God.

The nourishment by bread is of God.

Man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.'

The reason why any natural substance has properties is by reason of present will of God; they reside not in itself, but in Him.

All this we say that we believe when we pray this prayer.

How much it conflicts with our modern habit of putting God as far away from daily life as we can!

The prayer is the consecration of our work for bread.

The indirect way by which it is answered is a great blessing, and it pledges us to labour.

Orare est laborare. Not, as it is sometimes quoted, as if toil was to do instead of prayer, but that active life may be consecrated to God, and all our efforts which terminate in gaining bread for ourselves and for those we love may become prayer, and be offered to God.

How can we pray for God to give us our daily bread, and then go to seek it by means which we dare not avow or defend in our prayers? Bless my cheating, bless my sharp practice, bless my half-heartedness. It is no part of my business to apply principles to details of conduct, but it is my business to say--take this prayer for a test, and if you dare not pray it over what you do in earning your living, ask yourself whether you are not rather earning your death.

Then the prayer is a pledge of thankful recognition of God in our blessings.

Ah! dear friends, are we not all guilty in this? How utterly heathenish is our oblivion of God in our daily life! How far we have come from that temper which recognises Him in all joys, and begins every new day with Him! Daily mercies demand daily songs of praise. His love wakens us morning by morning. It follows us all the day long with its fatherly benefits. It reveals itself anew every time He spreads our table, every time He gives us teaching or joy. And our thanksgiving and consciousness of His presence should be as constant as are His gifts. My voice shalt thou hear in the morning.' They walk all the day long in the light of Thy countenance.' I will both lay me down in peace and sleep.' They ate their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.'

II. The union with our brethren in our prayer.

Give us.' The struggle for existence is represented by many as the very law of human life. The fight for bread is the great antagonist of brotherly regard for our fellows. Trade is said to be warfare; and then others starting from that conception that one man's gains are some other man's losses, proclaim with undoubted truth on these premises property is robbery.' But surely this clause of our prayer teaches us a more excellent way. We are not to be like stiff-necked men who fight with one another for the drop of brackish water caught in the corner of a sail, but we are to be as children bowing down together before a great Father, all sitting at His table where nothing wants, and where even the pet dogs below it eat of the crumbs.

The main thing is to note how our Lord teaches us here to identify ourselves with others, to make common cause with them in our petition for bread. He who rightly enters into the meaning of this prayer, and feels the unity which it supposes, can scarcely regard his possessions as given to himself alone, or to be held without regard to other people. We are all one in need; high and low, rich and poor, we all hang on God for the same supplies. We are all one in reception of His gifts. Is it becoming in one who is a member of such a whole, to clasp his portion in both his hands and carry it off to a corner where he gnaws it by himself? That is how wolves feast, with one foot on their bone and a watchful eye all round for thieves, not how men, brethren, should feast.

I am not here to deal with economical questions, or to apply principles to details, but surely one may say that this petition contemplates as possible a better state of things than each for himself,' whether God is for us all or no, and that it does teach that at all events a man is part of a whole which has a claim on his possessions. Neither said any man that aught which he possessed was his own.'

The Christian doctrine of property does not seem to be communism. You have your property. It is your own. You have the power, and as far as law is concerned, the right, to do with it none but selfish acts. You have it, but you are not an owner--only a steward. You have it, but you hold it not for your own sake, but as a trustee. You have it as a member of a family, a great community. You have it that you may dispense to others, you have it that you may help to multiply the bonds of affection to benefactors and of love to the great Giver.

And this liberality is founded, according to this petition, in our common relation to God. We do not want charity--we want justice. The needy cannot enforce their claims, but their cry enters into the ears of the Lord, and what is withheld from them is kept back by fraud.' The Bible always puts benevolence and liberality on the ground of their being a debt. Withhold not good from him to whom it is due.'

So how, beside this prayer, does it look to see two men who have united in it, the one being Dives clothed and faring sumptuously, and the other Lazarus with scraps for his food and dogs for his doctors? There is many a contrast like that to-day. All I have to say is--that such contrasts are not meant as the product of Christianity and civilisation and commerce for eighteen hundred years, and that one chief way of ending them is that we shall learn to feel and live the true communism which traces all a man's possessions to God, and feels that he has received them as a member of a community for the blessing of all, even as Christ taught when He bid us say, Give us our daily bread.'

III. The prayer for bread for to-day.

This carries with it precious truths as to the manner of the divine gifts and the limit of our cares and anxieties.

God gives not all at once, but continuously, and in portions sufficient for the day.

As with the manna fresh gathered every morning, so all our gifts from Him are given according to the present exigencies.

Note the beauty and blessedness of this method of supplying our wants. It gives to each moment its own special character, it gives to each the glory of having in it a fresh gift of God. It binds all together in one long line of brightness made up of an infinite number of points, each a separate act of divine love, each a glittering sign of His presence. It brings God very near to all life. It draws us closer to Him, by giving us at each moment opportunity and need for feeling our dependence upon Him, by bringing us once again to His throne that our wants may be supplied. And as each moment, so each day, comes with its new duties and its new wants. Yesterday's food nourishes us not to-day. To-day's strength must come from this day's God and His new supplies. And thus the monotony of life is somewhat broken, and there come to us all the fresh vigour and the new hope of each returning day, and the merciful wall of the night's slumber is built up between us and yesterday with its tasks and its weariness. And fresh elastic hopes, along with renewed dependence on God, should waken us morning by morning, as we look into the unknown hours and say, Give us this day our daily bread.'

Then, again, let us learn not to try to abrogate this wise ordinance by onward-looking anxieties. We have to exercise forethought, and not to possess it is to be a poor creature, below the ant and the bee. No man is in a favourable position for intellectual or moral growth who has not some certainty in his life, and a reasonable prospect of such perpetuity as is compatible with this changeful state. But that is a very different thing from the careful, anxious forebodings in which we are all so prone to indulge. These are profitless and harmful, robbing us of strength and contributing nothing to our wisdom or to our security. They are contrary to this law of the divine dealings that we shall get our rations as we need them, no sooner; that the path will be opened when we come to it, not till then. God knows the line of march, and will issue our route each morning. God looks after the commissariat and saves us the trouble of carrying it.

Let us try not to be over-inquisitive to cast the fashion of uncertain evils,' nor magnify trouble in the fog of our own thoughts, but limit our cares to to-day, and let to-morrow alone, for our God will be in it as He has been in the past. He will never take us where He will not go with us. Each day will have its own brightness, as each place its own rainbow. If we are led into dry lands, there will be a fountain opened in the desert, and He will feed us by His ravens ere we shall want. Bread shall be given and water made sure. To-morrow shall be as this day. Then let the veil still hang, nor try to lift it with the hand of forecasting thought, nor be over-careful to make the future sure by earthly means, but let present blessings be parents of bright hopes. Remember Him who is the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever. In Him the past is unwept for and the future sure. Accept the merciful limitations on His gifts, and let them be the limitations which you set to your own desires while you pray, Give us this day our daily bread.'

IV. The prayer for bread suited to our needs.

Daily bread' clearly cannot be the right rendering, for after this day' that would be weak repetition.

The word is difficult, for it only occurs here and there in Luke.

It may be rendered for the coming (day),' but that can scarcely be supposed to be our Lord's meaning, when His precept to take no thought for the morrow is remembered. A more satisfactory rendering is, sufficient for our subsistence,' the bread which we need to sustain us.

Such a petition points to desires limited by our necessities. What we should wish, and what we have a right to ask from God, is what we need--no more and no less.

This does not reduce us all to one level, but leaves Him to settle what we do want. How different this prayer in the mouth of a king and of a pauper! But it does rebuke immoderate and unbridled desires. God does not limit us to mere naked necessaries--He giveth liberally, and means life to be beautiful and adorned. That which is over and above bread is to a large extent that which makes life graceful and refined, and I have no wish to preach a crusade against it; but I have just as little hesitation in declaring what it is not left to pulpit moralists to say, that the falsely luxurious style of living among us looks very strange by the side of this petition. So much luxury which does not mean refinement; so much ostentatious expenditure which does not represent increased culture or pleasure or anything but a resolve to be on a level with somebody else; so much which is so ludicrously unlike the poor little shrimp of a man or woman that sits in the centre of it all!

Plain living and high thinking are no more.'

My riches consist not in the abundance of my possessions, but in the fewness of my wants.'

The less a man needs, the nearer is he to the gods.'

So, what a lesson for us all in this age, where everyone of us is tempted to adopt a scale of what is necessary very far beyond the truth.

Young and old--dare, if need be, to be poor. Having food and raiment, let us therewith be content.'

We cannot all become rich, but let us learn to bring down our desires to, and bound them by, our true wants.

Christ has taught us here to put this petition after these loftier ones, and He has taught us to pass quickly by it to the more noble and higher needs of the soul. Do we treat it thus, making it a secondary element in our wishes? If so, then our days will be blessed, each filled with fresh gifts from God, and each leading us to Him who is the true Bread that came down from Heaven.

FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS'

Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.'--MATT. vi. 12.

The sequence of the petitions in the second half of the Lord's Prayer suggests that every man who needs to pray for daily bread needs also to pray for daily forgiveness. The supplication for the supply of our bodily needs precedes the others, because it deals with a need which is fundamental indeed, but of less importance than those which prompt the subsequent petitions. God made us to need bread, we have made ourselves to need pardon. The answer to the later petition is as certain as that to the earlier. He who gives meat will not withhold forgiveness. Give and forgive refer to our deepest wants, but how many who feel the one are all unconscious of the other!

I. The consciousness of sin, of which this petition is the expression.

Debt' and duty' are one word. Owe' and ought' are one word. Duty is what is due. Ought is what we owe--to some one or other. We are under obligations all round, which conscience tells us that we have not fulfilled. The unfulfilled obligation or duty becomes a debt. We divide our obligations into duties to God, our neighbours, and ourselves; but the division is superficial, for whatever we owe to ourselves or to men, we owe also to God, and the non-fulfilment of our obligations to Him is sin. No man liveth to himself, . . . we live unto God.' Our consciences accuse us of undone duties to ourselves, the indulgence of evil tempers, a slack hand over ourselves, a careless husbandry which leaves furrows full of weeds, failure to bend the bow to the uttermost, to keep the mirror bright. It accuses us of undone duties to our neighbours, unkindness, neglect of opportunities of service, and many another ugly fault. Duties undone are debts not only to ourselves or to our fellows, but to God. The great Over-lord reckons offences against His vassals as crimes against Himself.

That graver aspect of our faults as being sins may seem a gloomy thought, but it is really one full of blessing, for it lodges the true power of remission of our burdensome debts in the hands of the one true creditor, whom the prayer has taught us to call Our Father.'

That consciousness of sin should be as universal as the sense of bodily hunger; but, alas! it is too often dormant. It is especially needful to try to awake it in this generation, when the natural tendency of the heart to ignore it is strengthened by talk of heredity and environment, and by the disposition to think of sin with pity rather than reprobation. Men are apt to regard a consciousness of sin as morbid. They will acknowledge failure or imperfection, but there is little realisation of sin, and therefore little sense of the need for a deliverer. If men are ever to be brought to a saving grip of Jesus Christ, they must have learned a far more heart-piercing consciousness of their sin than this morally relaxed age possesses.

II. The cry to which that consciousness gives voice.

We often ask for forgiveness; have we any definite notion of what we are asking for? When we forgive one another, he who forgives puts away alienation of heart, every cloud of suspicion from his mind, and his feeling and his conduct are as if there had never been a jar or an offence, or are more tender and loving because of the offence that is now forgiven. He who is forgiven has, on his part, a deeper shame for the offence, which looks far darker now, when it is blotted out, than it did before forgiveness. Both are eager to show love, not in order to erase the past, but because the past is erased.

When a father forgives his child, does that merely or chiefly mean that he spares the rod; or does it not much rather mean that he lets his love flow out to the little culprit, undammed back by the child's fault? And when God forgives He does so, not so much as a judge but rather as the Father. It is the father's heart that the child craves when it cries for pardon. The remission of punishment is an element, but by no means the chief element, in man's forgiveness, and that is still more true as to God's. There are present, and for the most part outward, consequences of a forgiven man's sin which are not averted by forgiveness, and which it is for his good that he should not escape. But when the assurance of God's unhindered love rests on a pardoned soul, those consequences of its sins which it has to reap cease to be penal and become educative, cease to be the expressions only of God's hatred of evil, and become expressions of His love to the forgiven evil-doer. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men . . . but My mercy shall not depart from him.'

III. The startling addition to the cry.

As we forgive.' Is, then, our poor forgiveness the measure or condition of God's? At first sight that addition seems to impose a limit on His pardon which might well plunge us into despair. But reflection on the words brings to light more comforting, though solemnly warning, thoughts.

We learn that our human forgiveness is the faint reflection of the light of His. We have a right to infer His gentleness, forbearance, and forgiveness from the existence of such gracious qualities in ourselves. God is all that is good in men. Whatsoever things are reverend, whatsoever things are honourable, whatsoever things are lovely--all these are in Him, and all as they are seen in men are from Him. He that formed the eye, shall not He see?' We forgive, and will not He?

In a very real sense our forgiving is the condition of our being forgiven. We are accustomed to hear that faith and repentance are conditions of receiving the divine forgiveness. But the very same disposition which, when directed to God, produces faith and repentance, when directed to men, produces a forgiving temper. A deep sense of my own unworthiness, and of having no ground of right to stand on, will surely lead me to be lenient and placable to others. We cannot cut our lives into halves, and be inwardly filled with contrition, and outwardly full of assertion of our rights. We cannot plead with God to do for us what we will not do for others. Our prayer for forgiveness must, if it is real, influence our whole behaviour; and if it is not real, it will not be answered.

The possession of God's forgiveness will make us forgiving. Forgiving one another, even as also God in Christ hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children.'

Our continuous possession and conscious enjoyment of God's forgiveness will be contingent on our forgivingness. He who took his fellow-servant by the throat and half choked him in his determination to exact the last farthing of his debt was, by the act, cancelling his own discharge and piling up a mountain of debt, against himself. Our consciousness of forgiveness will be most clear and satisfying when we are forgiving those who trespass against us. We shall pardon most spontaneously and fully when our hearts are warm with the beams of God's pardon.

LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION'

And lead us not into temptation.'--MATT. vi. 13.

The petition of the previous clause has to do with the past, this with the future; the one is the confession of sin, the other the supplication which comes from the consciousness of weakness. The best man needs both. Forgiveness does not break the bonds of evil by which we are held. But forgiveness increases our consciousness of weakness, and in the new desire which comes from it to walk in holiness, we are first rightly aware of the strength and frequency of inducements to sin. A man may by mere natural conscience know something of what temptation is, but only he understands its strength who resists it.

The sense of forgiveness and the new desires and love thereby developed, lead to the falling of the mask from the deceitful forms that gleam around us. He who is forgiven has his eyesight purged, and can see that these are not what they seem, but demons that lure us to our destruction. It is true that the sign of the Cross compels the foul thing to appear in its own true form. Then started up in his own shape the fiend.' The love which comes from forgiveness and the new sympathies which it engenders are the Ithuriel's spear. What a wonderful change passes upon the siren tempters when we believe that Christ has pardoned us, and have learned to love Him! Then the fishtail is seen below the sunlit waters.

Forgiveness is one of the chief means of teaching us our sin. The removal of all dread of personal consequences, which it effects, leaves us free to contemplate with calmed hearts the moral character of our actions. The revelation of God's love which is made in forgiveness quickens our consciences as well as purges them, and our standard of purity is raised. The effort to live rightly, which is the sure result of God's love believed, first teaches us thoroughly how wrong we are. We know the strength of the current when we try to pull against it. Looking to God as our Father, our blackness shows blacker against the radiant purity of His white light.

Forgiveness does not at once and wholly annihilate the tendency to transgress. True, the belief that God has forgiven supplies the strongest motives for holiness, and the new life which comes to every man who so believes will by degrees conquer all the lingering garrisons of the Philistines which hold scattered strong-posts in the land. But though this be so, still the purifying process is a slow and gradual one, and evil may be forced out of the heart while yet it is in the blood. The central will may be cleansed while yet habits continue to be strong, and the power of resistance, new-born as it is, may be weak in act though omnipotent in nature. All sin leaves some tendency to recurrence. The path which one avalanche has hollowed lies ready for another. It is true, on the one side, that no purity is so bright and no obedience so steadfast as that of the man who has been cleansed and reclaimed from rebellion. But it is also true that, on the road to that ultimate purity, a pardoned man has to struggle daily with the bitter relics of his old self, to wage war against evils the force of which he never knew till he tried to resist them, against sins which were all sleek, and velvety, and purring, as long as he fondled and stroked them, but which flash out sharp claws when he would fling them from their dens in his heart. Forgiveness does not at once conquer sin, and forgiveness leads to deeper consciousness of sin. Hence the order of petitions here. Following on the prayer for pardon, comes that for shelter from and in temptation which arises from deep consciousness of our own weakness and liability to fall.

Temptation has two parts in it--the circumstances which lead to sin, the desire which is addressed by them. There must be tinder as well as spark, if there is to be flame. Fire falling on water or upon bare rock will kindle nothing. God sends the one, we make the other.

The Prayer:--

I. Expresses our recognition of God as ordering all circumstances.

There is the general faith that His Providence orders our lot, and the specific that God orders and brings about temptations.

To tempt is to present inducements to sin, but a secondary significance is to do so maliciously, and with desire that we should fall. It is in this secondary sense that James denies that God tempts any man. We tempt ourselves, or evil tempts us. But God does tempt in so far as He presents outward circumstances which become occasions of falling or of standing, as we take them. He sends temptations, He sends trials, and the two only differ in name, and in what is implied in the word, of the disposition of the sender. Christ was led into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted. If God does not in malice tempt, still He does in mercy try. God sends trials; we make them temptations.

II. Implies that our chiefest wish is holiness, our greatest dread sin.

This is the only negative petition.

What would be our deprecatory prayers? Lead us not into sorrow, loss, poverty, disease, death?

How we fill our prayers with womanish shriekings and fears!

This petition can come only from a man whose will is resigned and fixed on God. One thing he fears, and that is to sin.

The one thing to be desired is not outward well-being, but inward character.

Think of our lives: what do we dread most?

III. Expresses our self-distrust.

It is from consciousness of our weakness that we pray thus. The language at first sight seems to breathe only a wish to be exempt from temptation. If that were its meaning, it were contrary to Christ's teaching and to the whole tenor of Scripture. But such a wish is included in it, and corresponds to one tone of mind, and to what ought always to be our feeling. We rightly shrink from temptation because we know our own weakness. That is the only allowable ground; if we do it from indolence, or dread of trouble, we are wrong. If flesh shrinks from pain, we are carnal and walk as men.' If we desire simply to have a smooth path, then we have yet to learn what our Master meant when He said, In the world ye shall have tribulation.' His servants should count it all joy when they fall into divers temptations.'

But if we rightly understand our own weakness, we shall dread to meet the enemy, because we know how often circumstances make all the difference between saint and sinner.

IV. Expresses our reliance on God if temptation comes.

I take to be tempted' as being presentation of inducement to sin. I take to enter into temptation' as the further step of consenting to it.

Perhaps there may be hovering in the words of the petition a half-conscious allusion to a captive being led into a prison.

What we should chiefly desire is that God would lead us not into, but through and out of, temptation. To pray simply for exemption from trial is--

1. To ask what is impossible.

All scenes of life, all stages, both sexes, all relations, all professions, are and ever will be full of inducements to sin.

Whether any given circumstance will tempt you or not depends on what you are. If there is nothing adhesive on you, it will not stick.

2. To ask what would not be for our good.

Effect of conquered temptation on the Christian life.

Effect on character. The old belief that the strength of a slain enemy passed into his slayer is true in regard to a Christian's overcome temptations.

Effect on grasp of truth.

Effect on consciousness of relation to God.

Effect on Future.

So then we ought to desire not so much exemption from temptation, as strength in it.

And He will always be at our side to grant us this.

We should seek not freedom from furnace, but His presence in it; not to be guided away from the dark valley, but through it. His prayer is our model; His life is our pattern, who was tempted though He were the Son' His strength is our hope. He is able to succour them that are tempted.'

We identify ourselves in such a prayer with all who have sinned, and knowing that we are men of like passions, and that we may fall like them, we cry lead us not.'

He who offers this prayer from such motives will best and most willingly meet temptation when it comes. The soldier who goes into the field with careful circumspection, knowing the enemy's strength and his own weakness, is the most likely to conquer. It is the presumptuous men, confident in their own strength, who are sure to get beaten.

DELIVER US FROM EVIL'

But deliver us from evil.'--MATT. vi. 13.

The two halves of this prayer are like a calm sky with stars shining silently in its steadfast blue, and a troubled earth beneath, where storms sweep, and changes come, and tears are ever being shed. The one is so tranquil, the other so full of woe and want. What a dark picture of human conditions lies beneath the petitions of this second half! Hunger and sin and temptation, and wider still, that tragic word which includes them all--evil. Forgiveness and defence and deliverance--what sorrows these presuppose! Each step of these latter supplications seems to carry us deeper into the shadow and the darkness, each to present a darker aspect of what human life really is; and now that we have reached the last, we have an all-comprehensive cry which holds within its meaning every ill that flesh is heir to.

But seeing that we have to do with a prayer, we have also to do with a prophecy. We know that if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us, and therefore the sadder the want which is expressed, the fuller of hope is the prayer. This petition gives a dark picture of human wants, but whatsoever thing we pray about or against, we thereby profess to believe to be contrary to God's will, and to be certain of removal by Him; and when our Lord commanded us to say Our Father, . . . deliver us from evil,' He gave us the lively hope that all which is included in that terribly wide word should be swept away, and that He would break every yoke and let His oppressed go free. The whole sum of human sorrow is gathered into one petition, that we may all feel that every item of it is capable of attenuation and extinction; and so our prayer, in the very clause which seems to sound the lowest depth, really rises to the loftiest height, and the words which sound likest a wail over all the misery that is done under the sun, have in them the notes of triumph. The sweetest songs are those which tell of saddest thought.' The most jubilant and confident prayer is that which feels most keenly the burden of evil, and falling with its weight of sins upon the great world's altar-stairs,' cries to God for deliverance.

Consider, then:--

I. The width of this petition.

What is evil?

Well, we leave God to decide what it is, but also we have no reason that I can see for limiting the impressive width of the word. It is a profound insight into the nature of evil which, in our own language and in other tongues, uses one word to express both what we call sin, and what we call sorrow. And I know not why we should suppose that our Lord does not include both of these here. There is what we call physical evil, pain, sorrow, meaning thereby whatever wars against our well-being and happiness. There is what we call moral evil, sin, meaning thereby whatever wars against our purity. Both are evil. Men's consciences tell them so of the one. Men's sensibilities tell them so of the other.

You cannot sophisticate a man into believing that he is not suffering when his flesh is racked or his heart wounded. It is evil to be in pain. It is evil to carry a heavy heart. It is evil to be stripped of what we have long been accustomed to lean upon. It is evil to be crushed down by loss and want. It is evil to stand by the black hole that swallows the coffin that holds the light of our eyes. It is evil to have the arrows of calumny or hate sticking in our quivering spirits. It is evil to be battered with the shocks of change and doom in the world, to have to toil at ungrateful tasks beyond our strength. The life which turns the child's rounded features into the thin face lined and wrinkled, and the child's elastic run into the slow, heavy tread, is after all a life which in its outward aspects is a life of evil.

And many a man who has had little sympathy with what seem to him the hazy platitudes of the rest of the prayer, learns to pray this clause, and is always ready to pray it. For we may be sure of this, that they who make the world their all are they who feel its evils most keenly. From how many lips unused to prayer are cries every hour going up in this sorrowful world which really mean, deliver us from evil'!

But it is not only these external evils which the prayer includes. It means every kind of sin, all dominion of what is contrary to God's will.

And the petition is deliver,' pull us out, drag us from. It is a cry for the entire emancipation or utter extinction of evil in its effect upon us.

So this petition in its clear recognition of evil sets forth man's condition distinctly, and is opposed to that false stoicism which tries to argue men out of their senses, and convince them that the fire which burns them is only a painted fire. Christianity has nothing in common with that insensibility to suffering which it is sometimes supposed to teach. Christ wept, and bade the daughters of Jerusalem weep also.

Christianity has deep words to say about evil and pain as being salutary and for our good, and about submission to God's will as being better than wild wishes to be delivered now and at once from all pain and sorrow. But it begins with full admission that evil is evil, and all its teachings presuppose that. Job was tormented by the well-meaning platitudes of his friends, who lifted up their hands in holy horror that he did not lie on his dunghill, as if it had been a bed of roses; and Job, who felt all the sorrow of his losses and ground out many a wrong saying between his teeth, was justified because he had held by the truth that his senses taught him, that pain was bitter and bad, and by the other which his faith taught him, that God must be good. He could not reconcile them. We can in part; but our Lord has taught us in this prayer that it is not to be done by denying or sophisticating facts. Then let us use this prayer in all its breadth, and feel that it covers all which makes our hearts heavy, and all which makes our consciences sore.

From all evil and mischief--plague, pestilence, and famine, as well as envy, hatred, and hypocrisy--from sin, from the crafts and assaults of the devil,--Good Lord, deliver us.' In all time of our tribulation; in all time of our wealth, in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment,--Good Lord, deliver us.'

II. The unity and source of the evil.

The singular number suggests that all evil, multiform as it seems, is at bottom one. It is a great weltering coil, but wilderness and tangle as it appears, there is a tap root from which it all comes, like a close-clinging mass of ivy which is choking the life out of an elm-tree. If that root were grubbed up, all would fall. It is like some huge sea monster floating many a rood,' but there is only one life in it. The hydra has a hundred heads, but one heart. And the place in the prayer in which this clause comes suggests what that is--sin.

That place implies that all human sorrows and sufferings are consequences of human evil. And that is true inasmuch as many of them are distinctly and naturally its results. Disease is often the result of dissipation, poverty of indolence, friendlessness of selfishness. How many of the miseries of our great cities, how many of the miseries of nations, result from criminal neglect and injustice! Man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn.' Ah! if all men were saying from the heart, Thy will be done,' how many of their griefs would be at an end! And it is true that sorrows are the consequences of sin inasmuch as suffering has been introduced by God into the world because of sin. He has been forced by our rebellion to use judgments, and that to bring us back.

And it is true that sorrows are the consequences of sin inasmuch as the sting is taken out of them when our sins are forgiven and we love God. Then they so change their characters as scarcely to deserve to be called by their old name, and the paradox, sorrowful yet always rejoicing,' becomes a sober fact of experience.

III. The divine opposition to evil.

This prayer implies that all evil is contrary to His will. The one kind is so, absolutely and always. The other is a method to which He has had recourse, but not that which, if things had gone right, He would have adopted.

So this prayer breathes confidence that God will overcome both kinds.

How much there is to make us believe that evil is eternal.

How apt we are to fall into despair, to lose heart for ourselves and our fellows; to say that it has always been so, and it always will be so.

For all social reformers here is encouragement.

For ourselves, when we seem to do so little in setting ourselves right, here is confidence.

But it must be God who conquers the world's evil.

Our most potent weapon in the struggle with our own and the world's evil is the earnest offering of this petition.

Think of the failure of godless schemes; how often we have been on the verge of political and other millenniums.

Only the God, who cures sin, can cure the world's ills.

We are not to substitute praying for working. God may answer our prayer by setting us to work.

Remember that you pledge yourselves to work for your fellows by that Us, and to try to reduce, were it by ever so little, the sum of human misery.

IV. The manner of God's deliverance from evil. God delivers us by Christ, that is the sum of all.

He delivers us from sin by His answers to the previous petitions.

He delivers us from suffering by teaching us how to bear it, and by showing us the meaning of it. The evil in evil is taken away. There shines a brightness round about the devouring fire (Ezek. i. 4). All things work together for good.'

Finally, He delivers by taking us to Himself.

This prayer goes beyond present experience. It is the yearning for full redemption. It is the last which is answered. But there lies in it a not indistinct prophecy of that great and blessed time when we shall be like Him, and delivered from all evil.

For ourselves and for the world it carries the assurance that neither sorrow nor sin shall be permitted to deform for ever the face of this fair creation; but that the day comes when God's name being everywhere hallowed, and His will done on earth, and His kingdom set up, and all our wants supplied, and all our sins forgiven, and all temptations taken out of the way, evil of every kind shall be scourged out of God's universe, and the ransomed of the Lord shall return with joy upon their heads, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.'

Then shall this mighty prayer be answered, the prayer of God's children in all ages, the prayer which He offers before the Throne who on earth prayed, Not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil' the prayer which the white-robed souls offer when they cry, How long, O Lord, how long?' the prayer which, all unconsciously, the sobs, and cries, and sorrows of six thousand years have been offering; the prayer which is every hour being answered in hourly mercies, and multitudes of forgivenesses and gracious guiding; the prayer which has been steadily tending towards its fulfilment, through all the ages during which God's name has been growing in men's love, and His will more and more obeyed, and His kingdom more and more fully come; the prayer which will be at last completely realised when all His children shall stand before His Throne happy and good, and the noise of earth's evil shall sound only in the ear of memory, like the murmur of some far-off sea heard from the sacred mountain, or the remembrance of the tempest when all the winds are still.

If our prayer is, Deliver us from evil,' our life's experience will be that He delivered us from so great a death and will deliver,' our dying word will be thanksgiving to the angel who delivered us from all evil,' and our death will bring the full deliverance for which while here we pray, and admit us into that region of unmingled good and blessing and purity, whose distant brightness we, tossing on the unquiet sea, behold from afar and long to possess. After this manner pray ye,' and to you the promise will be blessedly fulfilled, Because he hath set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him. I will set him on high, because he hath known My name' (Ps. xci. 14).

THINE IS THE KINGDOM'

Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.'--MATT. vi. 13.

There is no reason to suppose that this doxology was spoken by Christ. It does not occur in any of the oldest and most authoritative manuscripts of Matthew's Gospel. It does not seem to have been known to the earliest Christian writers. Long association has for us intertwined the words inextricably with our Lord's Prayer, and it is a wound to reverential feeling to strike out what so many generations have used in their common supplications. No doubt this doxology is appropriate as a conclusion, and serves to give an aspect of completeness. It sounds cold and cheerless to end our prayer with evil.' But the question is not one of feeling or of our notions of fitness, but purely one of criticism, and the only evidence which has any right to be heard in settling the text of the New Testament is dead against this clause. If we regard that evidence, we are obliged to say that the doxology has no business here. How it stands here is a question which may be answered satisfactorily. When the Lord's Prayer came to be used in public worship, it was natural to append to it a doxology, just as in chanting the psalms it became the habit to repeat at the end of each the Gloria. This doxology, originally written on the margin of the gospel, would gradually creep into the text, and once there, was naturally retained.

It does not follow that, because Christ did not speak it, we ought not to use it. It should not be in the Bible, but it may well be in our prayers. If we think that our Lord gave us a pattern rather than a form, we are quite justified in extending that pattern by any additions which harmonise with its spirit. If we think He gave us a form to be repeated verbatim, then we ought not to add to it this doxology.

At first sight it seems as if the prayer without it were incomplete. It contains loving desires, lowly dependence, humble penitence, earnest wishes for cleansing, but there appears none of that rapturous praise which is also an element in all true devotion. And this may have been one reason for the addition of the doxology. But I think that that absence of praise and joy is only apparent; the first clause of the prayer expresses the highest form of both. The doxology, if you will think of it, adds nothing to the contemplation of the divine character which the prayer has already taught us. It is only a repetition at the close of what we had at the beginning, and its conception, lofty and grand as it is, falls beneath that of Our Father.' We might almost say that the doxology is incongruous with the prayer as presenting a less blessed, spiritual, distinctively Christian thought of God. That would be going too far, but I cannot but feel a certain change in tone, a dropping from the loftiest elevation down to the celebration of the lower aspects of the divine. Kingdom, power, and glory' are grand, but they do not reach the height of ascription of praise which sounds in the very first words of the prayer.

Properly speaking, too, this doxology is not a part of the prayer. It expresses two things: the devout contemplation of God which the whole course of the petitions has excited in the soul--and in that aspect it is the Church's echo to the Lord's Prayer; and the confidence with which we pray--and in that aspect it is rather the utterance of meditative reflection asking of itself its reasons for hope and stirring itself up to lay hold on God.

Notice, then--

I. The meaning of the doxology.

Kingdom, power, and glory correspond to kingdom, will, and hallowing in the first part. The order is not the same, but it is still substantially identical.

Thine the kingdom.' All earthly things, the whole fates of men here, are ruled by Him. The prayer asked that it might be so; here we declare that it is so already, not, of course, in the deepest sense, but that even now and here He rules with authority. Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,' and this conviction is inseparable from our Christianity. How hard it is to believe it at all times, from what we see around us! The temptation is to think that the kingdom is men's, or belongs to blind fate, or chance, and our own evil hearts ever suggest that the kingdom is our own. Satan said, All is mine, and I will give it Thee.'

The affairs of the world seem so far from God, we are so tempted to believe that He is remote from it, that nations and their rulers and the field of politics are void of Him. We see craft and force and villainy ruling, we see kingdoms far from any perception that society is for man and from God. We see Dei gratia on our coins, and by the grace of the Devil' for real motto. We see long tracks of godless crime and mean intrigue, and here and there a divine gleam falling from some heroic deed of sacrifice. We see king and priest playing into each other's hands, and the people destroyed, whatever be the feud. But we are to believe that the world is the kingdom of God; to learn whence comes all human rule, and to be sure that even here and now Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.'

Thine the Power.' Not merely has He authority over, but He works indeed through all--the whole world and all creatures are the field of the ever present energy of God. That is a simple truth, deep but clear, that all power comes from Him. He is the cause of all changes, physical and all other. Force is the garment of the present God, and among men all power is from Him. His will is the creative word.

Thine the Glory.' God's glory is the praise which comes from the accomplishment of His purpose and will. This is the end of all Creation and Manifestation. The thought of Scripture is that all things are for the greater glory of God. It may be a most cold-blooded and cruel doctrine, or it may be a most blessed one. All depends on what is our conception of the character of the God whose self-revelation is His glory.

An almighty Devil is the God of many people. But we have learned to say Our Father,' and hence this thought is blessed. Unless we had so learned, the thought that His end was His glory would make Him a selfish tyrant. But since we know Him to be our Father, we know that His Glory is the revelation of His Love, His Fatherhood; that when we say that He does all things for His own glory, we say that He does all things that men may know His character as it is, and to know Him is life eternal.'

Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory': whatsoever we may have lost and suffered in the past; whatsoever fiery baptism and strife of arms or of principles we may yet have to go through; whatsoever shocks of loss and sorrow may strike upon our own hearts; whatsoever untraversed seas our nation or our race may have to embark upon, One abides, the same One remains ours and is ever with us. We may have to face storm and cloud, and neither sun nor stars may appear' we may have to fling out the best anchors we can find, if haply they may hold on anything, and may wearily wish for the day.' But the Lord sitteth upon the flood,' and in the thickest of the night, when we lift our wearied eyes, we shall see Him coming to us across the storm, and the surges smoothing themselves to rest for His pavement, and the waves subside into their caves at His voice.

Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory.' Then the world and we shall be guided right and kept safe, and whatsoever is true and good shall rule, and the weak cause shall be the conquering, and all false fame shall fade like morning mist, and every honest desire and effort for man's blessedness shall have eternal honour. God is King; God is mighty; God's name shall have glory; then for us there is Hope invincible in spite of all evil. Courage to stand by His truth and His will, endless patience and endless charity, are our fitting robes, the livery of our King. Because He is our Father, He will deliver us and our brethren from all evil, and by His all-powerful Love will found His universal kingdom and get the glory due unto His name, the glory of loving and being loved by all His children.

II. The force of the doxology in its place here.

It reminds us that the ground of our confidence is in God's own character. We do not need to make ourselves worthy to receive. We cannot move Him, but He is self-moved, and so we do not need to be afraid. Nor is our prayer to be an attempt to bend His will.

Our confidence digs deep down to build on the rock of the ever-living God, whose is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.' We flee to Him for a refuge against ourselves. We bring nothing. We look to His own character, which will always be the same, and to His past, which is the type and prophecy for all His future. He is His own reason, His own motive, His own end.

When we ground our prayers on Him, then we touch ground, and in whatever weltering sea of trouble we may be buffeted, we have found the bottom and can stand firm.

But the Amen' which closes the doxology is not the empty form which it has now become. It means not only, So may it be! but also, So will it be! It is not only the last breathing of desire, but also the expression of assured expectancy and confidence; not merely be it so, but confident expression of assurance that it will be so.

How much of our prayer flies off into empty air because there is no expectation in it! How much which has no certainty of being answered in it! How much which is followed by no marking of the future to discern the answer! We should stand praying like some Grecian statue of an archer, with hand extended and lips parted and eye following the arrow of our prayer on its flight till it touches the mark. We have a right to be confident that we shall be heard. We should apply the Amen to all the petitions of the prayer. So it becomes a prophecy, and the Christian man is to live in the calm expectation that all the petitions will be accomplished. For the world they will be, for us they may be. It is for each of us to decide for ourselves whether they will be answered in and for us.

The place of the doxology here suggests that all prayer should lead to thankful contemplation of God's character.

We have seen how the prayer begins with contemplation, and then passes into supplication. Thus all prayer should end as it began. It has a circular motion, and starting from the highest heavens and coming down to earth, is thither drawn again and rests at the throne of God, whence it set out, like the strong Spirits before His throne who veil their faces while they gaze upon the glory, and then fly forth to help human sorrows and satisfy human hearts, and then on unwearied pinions winging their way to their first station, meekly sink their wings of flight, and veil their faces again with their wings. The rivers that flow through broad lands, bringing blessing and doing humble service in drinking-cup and domestic vessel, came in soft rain from heaven, and though their bright waves are browned with soil and made opaque with many a stain, yet their work done, they rest in the great ocean, and thence are drawn up once more to the clouds of heaven. So with our prayers; they ought to start from the contemplation of our God, and they ought to return thither again.

And as this is the last word of our prayers, so may we not say that it represents the perpetual form of fellowship with God? Prayers for bread, and pardon, and help, and deliverance, are for the wilderness. Prayers for the hallowing of His name, and the coming of His kingdom, and the doing of His will, are out of date when they are fulfilled; but for ever this voice shall rise before His throne, and that last new song, which shall ring with might as of thunder and sweetness as of many harps from the thousand times ten thousand, shall be but the expansion and the deepening of the praise of earth. Then every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth and under the earth and in the sea, shall be heard saying, "Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever."'

So we finish these meditations. I have felt all along how poorly my words served me to say even what I saw, and how poorly my vision saw into the clear depths of the divine prayer. But I hope that they may have helped you half as much as they have myself, to feel more strongly how all-comprehensive it is. I said at the beginning, and I repeat with more emphasis now, that there is everything in this prayer--God's relations to man, man's to God and his fellows, the foundation stones of Christian theology, of Christian morals, of Christian society, of Christian politics. There is help for the smallest wants and light for daily duties; there is strength for the hour of death and the day of judgment. There is the revelation of the timeless depths of our Father's heart; there is the prophecy of the furthest future for ourselves and our brethren. No man can exhaust it. Every age may find in its simple syllables lessons for their new perplexities and duties. It will not be outgrown in heaven. But, thank God, we do not need to exhaust its meaning in order to use it aright. Jesus interprets our prayers, and many a dumb yearning, and many a broken sob, and many a passionate fragment of a cry, and many an ignorant desire that may appear to us very unlike His pattern for all ages, will be accepted by Him. He inspires, presents and answers every prayer offered through Him to the Father in heaven. He counts the poorest prayer to be after this manner,' if it comes from a heart seeking the Father, owning its sin, longing dimly for deliverance and purity, and hoping through its tears in the great and loving tenderness of the Father in heaven who has sent His Son, that through Him we might cry Abba, Father.

FASTING

Moreover, when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 17. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18. That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.'--MATT. vi. 16-18.

Fasting has gone out of fashion now, but in Christ's time it went along with almsgiving and prayers, as a recognised expression of a religious life. The step from expression to ostentation is a short one, and the triple repetition here of almost the same words in regard to each of the three corruptions of religion, witnesses to our Lord's estimate of their commonness. We are exposed to them just as the Pharisees of His day were. If there is less fasting now than then, Christians still need to take care that they do not get up a certain sad countenance' for the sake of being seen of men, and because such is understood to be the proper thing for a religious man. They have to take care, too, not to parade the feelings, of which fasting used to be the expression, as, for instance, a sense of their own sinfulness, and sorrow for the nation's or the world's sins and sorrows. There are deep and sorrowful emotions in every real Christian heart, but the less the world is called in to see them, the purer and more blessed and purifying they will be. The man who has a sidelong eye to spectators in expressing his Christian (or any other) emotion, is very near being a hypocrite. Expressing emotion with reference to bystanders, is separated by a very thin line from feigning emotion. The sidelong glance will soon become a fixed gaze, seeing nothing else, and the purpose of fasting will slip out of sight. The man who only wishes to attract attention easily succeeds in that shabby aim, and has his reward, but misses all the true results, which are only capable of being realised when he who fasts is thinking of nothing but his own sin and his forgiving God.

TWO KINDS OF TREASURE

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.'--MATT. vi. 19-20.

The connection with the previous part is twofold.

The warning against hypocritical fastings and formalism leads to the warning against worldly-mindedness and avarice. For what worldly-mindedness is greater than that which prostitutes even religious acts to worldly advantage, and is laying up treasure of men's good opinion on earth even while it shams to be praying to God? And there is a close connection which the history of every age has illustrated between formal religious profession and the love of money, which is the vice of the Church. Again, the promise of rewarding openly naturally leads on to the positive exhortation to make that reward our great object.

The connection with what follows is remarkable. The injunction and prohibition of the text refer to two species of the same genus, one the vice of avarice, the other the vice of anxiety.

I. The Two Treasures.

These are--on earth, all things which a man can possess;--in heaven, primarily God Himself, the reward which has been spoken of in previous verses, viz. God's love and approbation, a holy character, and all those spiritual and personal graces, beauties, perfections and joys which come to the good man from above.

This command and prohibition require of Christ's disciples--

1. A rectification of their judgment as to what is the true good of man.

(a) Sense and flesh tend to make us think the visible and material the best.

(b) Our peculiar position here in a great commercial centre powerfully reinforces this tendency.

(c) The prevailing current of this age is all in the same direction. The growth of luxury, the increase of wealth, and set of thought, threaten us with a period when not only religious thought will fail, but when all faith, enthusiasm, all poetry and philosophy, the very conception of God and duty, all idealism, all that is unseen, will be scouted among men. Naturalism does not fulfil its own boast of dealing with facts; there are more facts than can be seen. So the first thing is to settle it in our minds, in opposition to our own selves and to prevailing tendencies, that truth is better than money, that pure affections and moderate desires and a heart set on God are richer wealth than all external possessions.

2. Desire that follows the corrected judgment. It is one thing to know all this, another to wrench our wishes loose from earth.

3. A practical life that obeys the impulse of the desire. Christ's command and prohibition here do not refer only to a certain course of action, but to a certain motive and purpose in action, and to actions drawn from these. If we obey Christ we shall lead lives obviously different from those which are based upon an estimate which we are to reject; but the main thing is to live and work with an eye to the eternal, not the temporal, results of our doings. We are to administer our lives as God does His providence, using the temporal only as means to an end, the eternal. We are to live to be God-like, to love God, and be loved by Him.

There is here the idea of which we are somewhat too much afraid, that our life on earth adds to the rewards of blessedness in heaven. The idea of reward is emphatically and often inculcated in Scripture, however much a mistaken jealousy for the doctrines of Grace' may be chary of it. We need only recall such words as They shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy' or, Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation' or, Thou shalt have treasure in heaven.' If people would only think of heaven less carnally, and would regard it as the perfection of holiness, there would be no difficulty in the notion of reward. Men get there what they have made themselves fit for here. Their works do follow them.'

II. The foes of the earthly, which are powerless against the heavenly.

The imagery implies a comparatively simple state of society and primitive treasures. Moths gnaw rich garments. Rust, or more properly corruption, would get into a man's barns and vineyards, hay-crops and fruits. Thieves would steal the hoard that he had laid by, for want of better investment. Or to generalise, corruption, the natural process of wearing away, natural enemies proper to each kind of possession, human agency which takes away all external possessions--these multifarious agents co-operate to render impossible the permanent possession of any treasure on earth.'

On the other hand, what a man has laid up in heaven, and what he is partially here, have no tendency to grow old. Men never weary of God, never find Him failing, never exhaust truth, never drink the love of God to the dregs, never find purity palling upon the taste, Age cannot wither, nor custom stale, "their" infinite variety.'

Treasure in heaven' has no enemies which destroy it. Every earthly possession has its own foes, every earthly joy has its own destructive opposite; but nothing touches this treasure in heaven.

It has nothing to fear from men. Nobody can take it out of a man's soul but himself. The inmost circle of our life is inviolable. It is incorruptible and undefiled and fadeth not away, for it all comes from the eternal God and our eternal union to Him. He is our portion for ever.

III. The madness of fastening the heart down to earth.

The heart must be in heaven in order to find its true home. It is unnatural, contrary to the constitution of the heart' that it should be fettered to earth.

If it is, it will be restless and unsatisfied.

If it is, it will be at the mercy of all these enemies.

If it is, what will happen when the man is no longer on earth? What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?'

HEARTS AND TREASURES

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.'--MATT. vi. 21.

Your treasure' is probably not the same as your neighbour's. It is yours, whether you possess it or not, because you love it. For what our Lord means here by treasure' is not merely money, or material good, but whatever each man thinks best, that which he most eagerly strives to attain, that which he most dreads to lose, that which, if he has, he thinks he will be blessed, that which, if he has it not, he knows he is discontented.

Now, if that is the meaning of treasure,' then this great saying of nay text is, as a matter of course, true. For what in each case makes the treasure is precisely the going out of the heart to grapple it, and it is just because the heart is there that a thing is the treasure.

Now, I need not do more than remind you, I suppose, that in Scripture heart' means a great deal more than it does in our modern usage, for we employ it as an expression for the affections, whereas the Bible takes it as including the whole inner man. For instance, we read, As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he' and of the thoughts and intents of the heart.' So then the affections, as with us, but also thoughts, purposes, volitions, are all included in the word; and as one passage of Scripture says, Out of it are the issues of life.' It is the central reservoir, the central personality, the indivisible unit of the thinking, willing, feeling, loving person which I call myself.' So what Christ says is that where a man's treasure lies, not merely his affections will twine round it, but his whole self will be, as it were, implicated and intertwisted with it, so as that what befalls it will befall him.

Now, further, notice that this saying, so obviously true, is introduced by a for,' and that it is the broad basis on which rest the obligation and the wisdom of the double counsel which has preceded, on the one hand, the warning against choosing perishable and uncertain good for our treasure, and mixing ourselves up with that, and on the other the loving counsel to choose for ourselves the wealth which is perpetual, unprecarious, and certain.

So I think we may look at these words from a threefold point of view, and see in them a mirror that will show us ourselves, a dissuasive and a persuasive. Let us take these three aspects.

I. Here, then, is a mirror that a man may hold up before himself, and find out something about himself by it.

For, like other general statements of the same sort, you can turn this saying round about, and take it the other way, and not only say, as the text says, where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,' but, where your heart is, there is your treasure.' A man's real god is the thing that he counts best, and for which he works most earnestly, and which, as I said, he most longs to have, and trembles to think he will lose. That is his god, and his treasure, whatever his professions may be. Where your heart is, there is your treasure.

Now, of course, for the larger part of the lives of all of us, there are certain lines laid down by our circumstances, our trades, our various duties, on which the train of our thoughts and efforts must run. But the question is, When I am set free from the constraint of my daily avocations and pressing duties, and am at liberty to go as I like, where do I go? When the weight is taken off the sapling in the nursery garden, which has been hung on it to turn it into a weeping-tree, its elastic stem springs to the erect position. Where do I spring to when the weights are taken off? The mother bird will hover over her nest. Where her treasure is, there is her maternal instinct. The needle follows the drawing of the pole-star; the sunflower turns to the sun. Being let go, they went to their own company.' Where do you go? The reins laid upon the horse's neck, it will trot straight home to its stable; the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib,' and our instincts are not less sure than theirs. You go home' when you are left to yourselves; where do you go?

We call ourselves Christians. If our treasure is in Christ, our hearts will turn to Him. And what does that mean? Hearts,' as I said, mean thoughts. Now, can you and I say, In the multitude of my thoughts within me, Thy comforts delight my soul'? Does there come stealing into my mind often and often the blessed contemplation of my wealth in Jesus Christ? The river of thought brings down, in its continual flow, much mire and sand. Does it bring any gold? Do I think about Christ, and find it to be my refreshment to do so? An old mystic said, If I can tell how often I have thought of God to-day, I have not thought of Him often enough.' Where your treasure is, there will your thoughts be also.'

The heart means love. Where do my affections turn when I am set free? The heart means the will. Is my will all saturated with, and so made pliant by, the will and commandment of Jesus Christ? If He is my treasure, then thoughts, affection, obedience will all turn to Him, and the current of my being, whatever may be the surface-ripple--ay, or the surface-storm--will be ever sliding surely, though it may be silently, towards Himself. Ah! brethren, if we would be honest with ourselves and look into this mirror, we should have cause to be ashamed, some of us, of our very profession of being Christians, and all of us to feel that we have far too much heaped up for ourselves other treasures and forgotten our true wealth, and we should all have to pray, Unite my heart to fear Thy name.' The Assyrians had a superstition that a demon, if he saw his own reflection in a mirror, would fly. I think if some of us professing Christians saw ourselves, as the looking-glass of my text might give us to see ourselves, we should shudderingly depart from that self, and seek to have a better self formed within us. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.'

II. Now let me ask you to look at this saying, in the connection in which our Lord adduced it, as being a dissuasive.

He applies it to both branches of His previous advice. He had just said, Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.' These are very primitive methods of depriving men of their treasures, arguing a comparatively simple state of society. The moth is that which destroys wealth in garments, which was a great part of ancient Eastern wealth. Rust rather means corrosion, or corruption, and applies to the other great kind of primitive wealth, in food and the stores of the harvest. And the thieves who dig through the mud wall of the house, and carry away the owners' little hoard of gold and silver, point also to a primitive condition of society. But whatever may be the special force of these different words, they suggest to us this, that all that is here has its own particular and special enemy which wars against its permanence. There are bacteria of all sorts, every vegetable has its own kind. Every growth has to fear the gnawing of some foe. And so every treasure that I can gather into my heart, excepting one, is threatened by some kind of danger.

No man can have lived as long in a great commercial community, as some of us have done, without knowing that there are a great many besides professional and so-called thieves in it, that take away the gold and silver. How many instances I can look back upon, of lords of the exchange and magnates of trade, who carved their names, as they thought, in imperishable marble on the doors of their warehouses, and then became bankrupt and fugitive, and were lost sight of. We all know the uncertainty of riches.

And are the other kinds of treasure that we cleave to more reliable? Have they not their moths and their rusts? Is it pleasure? Well, I say nothing about the diseases that fill the bones of many a young man who flings himself into dissipation; but I remind you of just this one thing, that all that pleasure tends to become flat, stale, and unprofitable. That which the poet said of his own class, that it begins in gladness, and thereof cometh in the end despondency and madness,' is true of every delight of sense, ay! and of more than sense, of taste and of intellect. As the Book of Proverbs has it, the end of that mirth is heaviness.'

Brethren, the moth and the rust claim as their prey all treasures except one. Is it love-pure, blessed, soul-filling, soul-resting as it is? Yes, and on a hundred walls in any city there hangs, and in a thousand hearts there hangs, that great picture where the feeble form of Love is trying to repel from entrance into the rose-covered portal of the home the inevitable and mighty shrouded form of Death. Is it culture? Whether there be tongues they shall cease; whether there be knowledge it shall vanish away.' The last illuminator and teacher, which is Death, antiquates and brushes aside, as of no use in the new conditions, most of the knowledge which men, wisely in a measure, but foolishly if exclusively, have sought to acquire for themselves here below.

And when the moth and the rust come, and the separating, bony fingers of the skeleton Death filch away at last your treasure, what about you who are wrapped up with it, implicated in it; so grown into it, and it into you, that to wrench you from it opens your veins, and you bleed to death? There is a pathetic inscription in one of the rural churches of this country, in which two parents record the death of their only child, and add, All our hopes were in this frail bark, and the shipwreck is total.' I have heard of a man that might have been saved from a foundering ship, but he lashed his money-bags round him, and he sank along with them. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,' pierced by all the wounds, gnawed by all the moths, rotted by all the corruption that affects it, and when the thief, the last great thief of all, comes, you will only have to say, They have taken away my gods, and what have I more?' And the answer out of the waste places of an echoing universe will be, Nothing! Nothing!'

III. Now, lastly, let me show you the persuasive in my text.

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,' therefore, says Christ, lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal.' If my treasure is in heaven it is secure. And oh! brethren, we need for our blessedness, we need for our rest, we need for our peace and joy, to know that the thing which we count best shall never be taken away from us, and we cannot have that certainty in regard to any treasure except the treasure that is in God. All outward things which we say we possess are incompletely possessed, because they remain outside us. However intertwined with them, we are separate from them, and we are just so much intertwined with them that the separation from them is agony, even if it is not death. What we need is to be so incorporated with, and infused into, what is our treasure, that we are quite sure that as long as we last it will last, and that nothing can rend it from us. I bear all my goods with me,' said the old heathen. We should be able to say more than that. I carry all my good in me, because my good is God, who is in the heavens, and though in the heavens, dwells in the hearts that love Him. Then in all changes, life, or death, or things present or things to come, height or depth, or any other creature,' we can afford to smile on, and say: You cannot take my wealth from me, for I am in God, and God is in me.'

Further, if our hearts are in heaven, then heaven will be in our hearts, and here we shall know the joy and the peace that come from sitting in heavenly places in Christ Jesus,' even whilst on earth. There is no blessedness, no stable repose, no victorious independence of the buffets and blows of life, except this, that my heart is lifted above them all, and, I was going to say, is inhaled and sucked into the life of Jesus Christ. Then if my heart is where my treasure is, and He is my treasure,' my life is hid with Christ in God.' If my heart is in heaven, heaven is in my heart.

Further, my text is a promise as well as a statement of a present fact. Where your treasure now is there will your whole self one day be. A man who has by God's grace, through faith and love and the wise use of things temporal, chosen God his chief good, and possessed in some degree the good which he has chosen, even Jesus Christ in his heart, that man bears in himself the pledge and the foretaste of eternal life. So the old psalmist found out, who lived in a time when that future world was shrouded in far thicker clouds of darkness than it is to us, for when he had risen to the height of saying, My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever,' he immediately sprang to this assurance--an assurance of faith before it was a fact certified by Revelation--Thou wilt guide me by Thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory.' The possession of Christ for our treasure, which possession always follows on our estimating Him as such, and desiring to have Him, that possession bears in its bosom the germ of the assurance that, whatever befalls my physical life, I shall not be less immortal than my treasure, and that where my heart to-day, by aspiration and desire and faith and love, has built its nest, thither I shall follow in His own time. They that have laid up treasure in heaven will at last be brought to the enjoyment of the treasure that they have laid up, and to the possession of the inheritance that is incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.'

ANXIOUS CARE

Ye cannot serve God and Mammon. 25. Therefore I say unto you. Take no thought for your life.'--MATT. vi. 24-25.

Foresight and foreboding are two very different things. It is not that the one is the exaggeration of the other, but the one is opposed to the other. The more a man looks forward in the exercise of foresight, the less he does so in the exercise of foreboding. And the more he is tortured by anxious thoughts about a possible future, the less clear vision has he of a likely future, and the less power to influence it. When Christ here, therefore, enjoins the abstinence from thought for our life and for the future, it is not for the sake of getting away from the pressure of a very unpleasant command that we say, He does not mean to prevent the exercise of wise and provident foresight and preparation for what is to come. When this English version of ours was made, the phrase taking thought' meant solicitous anxiety, and that is the true rendering and proper meaning of the original. The idea is, therefore, that here there is forbidden for a Christian, not the careful preparation for what is likely to come, not the foresight of the storm and taking in sail while yet there is time, but the constant occupation and distraction of the heart with gazing forward, and fearing and being weakened thereby; or to come back to words already used, foresight is commanded, and, therefore, foreboding is forbidden. My object now is to endeavour to gather together by their link of connection, the whole of those precepts which follow my text to the close of the chapter; and to try to set before you, in the order in which they stand, and in their organic connection with each other, the reasons which Christ gives for the absence of anxious care from our minds.

I mass them all into three. If you notice, the whole section, to the end of the chapter, is divided into three parts, by the threefold repetition of the injunction, Take no thought.' Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.' The reason for the command as given in this first section follows:--Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?' The expansion of that thought runs on to the close of the thirtieth verse. Then there follows another division or section of the whole, marked by the repetition of the command, Take no thought,'--saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?' The reason given for the command in this second section is--(for after all these things do the Gentiles seek): for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God.' And then follows a third section, marked by the third repetition of the command, Take no thought--for the morrow.' The reason given for the command in this third section is--for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.'

Now if we try to generalise the lessons that lie in these three great divisions of the section, we get, I think, first,--anxious thought is contrary to all the lessons of nature, which show it to be unnecessary. That is the first, the longest section. Then, secondly, anxious thought is contrary to all the lessons of revelation or religion, which show it to be heathenish. And lastly, anxious thought is contrary to the whole scheme of Providence, which shows it to be futile. You do not need to be anxious. It is wicked to be anxious. It is of no use to be anxious. These are the three points,--anxious care is contrary to the lessons of Nature; contrary to the great principles of the Gospel; and contrary to the scheme of Providence. Let us try now simply to follow the course of thought in our Lord's illustration of these three principles.

I. The first is the consideration of the teaching of Nature. Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?' And then comes the illustration of the fowls of the air and the lilies of the field.

The whole of these verses fall into these general thoughts: You are obliged to trust God for your body, for its structure, for its form, for its habitudes, and for the length of your being; you are obliged to trust Him for the foundation--trust Him for the superstructure. You are obliged to trust Him, whether you will or not, for the greater--trust Him gladly for the less. You cannot help being dependent. After all your anxiety, it is only directed to the providing of the things that are needful for the life; the life itself, though it is a natural thing, comes direct from God's hand; and all that you can do, with all your carking cares, and laborious days, and sleepless nights, is but to adorn a little more beautifully or a little less beautifully, the allotted span--but to feed a little more delicately or a little less delicately, the body which God has given you. What is the use of being careful for food and raiment, when down below these necessities there lies the awful question--for the answer to which you have to hang helpless, in implicit, powerless dependence upon God,--Shall I live, or shall I die? shall I have a body instinct with vitality, or a body crumbling amidst the clods of the valley? After all your work, your anxiety gets but such a little way down; like some passing shower of rain, that only softens an inch of the hard-baked surface of the soil, and has no power to fructify the seed that lies feet below the reach of its useless moisture. Anxious care is foolish; for far beyond the region within which your anxieties move, there is the greater region in which there must be entire dependence upon God. Is not the life more than meat? Is not the body more than raiment?' You must trust Him for these; you may as well trust Him for all the rest.

Then, again, there comes up this other thought: Not only are you compelled to exercise unanxious dependence in regard to a matter which you cannot influence--the life of the body--and that is the greater; but, still further, God gives you that. Very well: God gives you the greater; and God's great gifts are always inclusive of God's little gifts. When He bestows a thing, He bestows all the consequences of the thing as well. When He gives a life, He swears by the gift, that He will give what is needful to sustain it. God does not stop half way in any of His bestowments. He gives royally and liberally, honestly and sincerely, logically and completely. When He bestows a life, therefore, you may be quite sure that He is not going to stultify His own gift by retaining unbestowed anything that is wanted for its blessing and its power. You have had to trust Him for the greater; trust Him for the less. He has given you the greater--no doubt He will give you the less. The life is more than meat, and the body than raiment.' Which of you, by taking thought, can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment?'

Then there is another thought. Look at God's ways of doing with all His creatures. The animate and the inanimate creation are appealed to, the fowls of the air and the lilies of the field, the one in reference to food and the other in reference to clothing, which are the two great wants already spoken of by Christ in the previous verses. I am not going to linger at all on the exquisite beauty of these illustrations. Every sensitive heart and pure eye dwell upon them with delight. The fowls of the air,' the lilies of the field,' they toil not, neither do they spin' and then, with what an eye for the beauty of God's universe,--Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these!' Now, what is the force of this consideration? It is this-- There is a specimen, in an inferior creation, of the divine care which you can trust, you men who are better than they.' And not only that:-- There is an instance, not only of God's giving things that are necessary, but of God's giving more, lavishing beauty upon the flowers of the field. I do not think that we sufficiently dwell upon the moral and spiritual uses of beauty in God's universe. That everywhere His loving, wooing hand should touch the flower into grace, and deck all barren places with glory and with fairness--what does that reveal to us about Him? It says to us, He does not give scantily: it is not the mere measure of what is wanted, absolutely needed, to support a bare existence, that God bestows. He taketh pleasure in the prosperity of His servants.' Joy, and love, and beauty, belong to Him; and the smile upon His face that comes from the contemplation of His own fairness flung out into His glorious creation, is a prophecy of the gladness that comes into His heart from His own holiness and more ethereal beauty adorning the spiritual creatures whom He has made to flash back His likeness. The flowers of the field are so clothed that we may learn the lesson that it is a fair Spirit, and a loving Spirit, and a bountiful Spirit, and a royal Heart, that presides over the bestowments of creation, and allots gifts to men.

But notice further, how much of the force of what Christ says here depends on the consideration of the inferiority of these creatures who are thus blessed; and also notice what are the particulars of that inferiority. We read that verse, They sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns,' as if it marked out a particular in which their free and untoilsome lives were superior to ours. It is the very opposite. It is part of the characteristics that mark them as lower than we, that they have not to work for the future. They reap not, they sow not, they gather not;--are ye not much better than they? Better in this, amongst other things, that God has given us the privilege of influencing the future by our faithful toil, by the sweat of our brow and the labour of our hands. These creatures labour not, and yet they are fed. And the lesson for us is--much more may we, whom God has blessed with the power of work, and gifted with force to mould the future, be sure that He will bless the exercise of the prerogative by which He exalts us above inferior creatures, and makes us capable of toil. You can influence to-morrow. What you can influence by work, fret not about, for you can work. What you cannot influence by work, fret not about, for it is vain. They toil not, neither do they spin.' You are lifted above them because God has given you hands that can grasp the tool or the pen. Man's crown of glory, as well as man's curse and punishment, is, In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread.' So learn what you have to do with that great power of anticipation. It is meant to be the guide of wise work. It is meant to be the support for far-reaching, strenuous action. It is meant to elevate us above mere living from hand to mouth; to ennoble our whole being by leading to and directing toil that is blessed because there is no anxiety in it, labour that will be successful since it is according to the will of that God who has endowed us with the power of putting it forth.

Then there comes another inferiority. Your heavenly Father feedeth them.' They cannot say Father!' and yet they are fed. You are above them by the prerogative of toil. You are above them by the nearer relation which you sustain to your Father in heaven. He is their Maker, and lavishes His goodness upon them: He is your Father, and He will not forget His child. They cannot trust: you can. They might be anxious, if they could look forward, for they know not the hand that feeds them; but you can turn round, and recognise the source of all blessings. So, doubly ought you to be guarded from care by the lesson of that free joyful Nature that lies round about you, and to say, I have no fear of famine, nor of poverty, nor of want; for He feedeth the ravens when they cry. There is no reason for distrust. Shame on me if I am anxious, for every lily of the field blows its beauty, and every bird of the air carols its song without sorrowful foreboding, and yet there is no Father in heaven to them!'

And the last Inferiority is this; To-day it is, and to-morrow it is cast into the oven.' Their little life is thus blessed and brightened. Oh, how much greater will be the mercies that belong to them who have a longer life upon earth, and who never die! The lesson is not--These are the plebeians in God's universe, and you are the aristocracy, and you may trust Him; but it is--They, by their inferior place, have lesser and lower wants, wants but for a bounded being, wants that stretch not beyond earthly existence, and that for a brief span. They are blessed in the present, for the oven to-morrow saddens not the blossoming to-day. You have nobler necessities and higher longings, wants that belong to a soul that never dies, to a nature which may glow with the consciousness that God is your Father, wants which look before and after,' therefore, you are better than they' and shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?'

II. And now, in the second place, there is here another general line of considerations tending to dispel all anxious care--the thought that it is contrary to all the lessons of Religion, or Revelation, which show it to be heathenish.

There are three clauses devoted to the illustration of this thought: After all these things do the Gentiles seek' your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things' seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.'

The first clause contains the principle, that solicitude for the future is at bottom heathen worldly-mindedness. The heathen tendency in us all leads to an overestimate of material good, and it is a question of circumstances whether that shall show itself in heaping up earthly treasures, or in anxious care. These are the same plant, only the one is growing in the tropics of sunny prosperity, and the other in the arctic zone of chill penury. The one is the sin of the worldly-minded rich man, the other is the sin of the worldly-minded poor man. The character is the same in both, turned inside out! And, therefore, the words, ye cannot serve God and Mammon,' stand in this chapter in the centre between our Lord's warning against laying up treasures on earth, and His warning against being full of cares for earth. He would show us thereby that these two apparently opposite states of mind in reality spring from that one root, and are equally, though differently, serving Mammon.' We do not sufficiently reflect upon that. We say, perhaps, this intense solicitude of ours is a matter of temperament, or of circumstances. So it may be: but the Gospel was sent to help us to cure worldly temperaments, and to master circumstances. But the reason why we are troubled and careful about the things of this life lies here, that our hearts have taken an earthly direction, that we are at bottom heathenish in our lives and in our desires. It is the very characteristic of the Gentile (that is to say, of the heathen) that earth should bound his horizon. It is the very characteristic of the worldly man that all his anxieties on the one hand, and all his joys on the other, should be cribbed, cabined and confined' within the narrow sphere of the visible. When a Christian is living in the foreboding of some earthly sorrow coming down upon him, and is feeling as if there would be nothing left if some earthly treasure were swept away, is that not, in the very root of it, idolatry--worldly-mindedness? Is it not clean contrary to all our profession that for us there is none upon earth that we desire besides Thee'? Anxious care rests upon a basis of heathen worldly-mindedness.

Anxious care rests upon a basis, too, of heathen misunderstanding of the character of God. Your heavenly Father knoweth that you have need of all these things.' The heathen thought of God is that He is far removed from our perplexities, either ignorant of our struggles, or unsympathising with them. The Christian has the double armour against anxiety--the name of the Father, and the conviction that the Father's knowledge is co-extensive with the Father's love. He who calls us His children thoroughly understands what His children want. And so, anxiety is contrary to the very name by which we have learned to call God, and to the pledge of pitying care and perfect knowledge of our frame which lies in the words our Father.' Our Father is the name of God, and our Father intensely cares for us, and lovingly does all things for us.

And then, still further, Christ points out here, not only what is the real root of this solicitous care--something very like worldly-mindedness, heathen worldly-mindedness; but He points out what is the one counterpoise of it--seek first the kingdom of God.' It is of no use only to tell men that they ought to trust, that the birds of the air might teach them to trust, that the flowers of the field might preach resignation and confidence to them. It is of no use to attempt to scold them into trust, by telling them that distrust is heathenish. You must fill the heart with a supreme and transcendent desire after the one supreme object, and then there will be no room or leisure left for anxious care after the lesser. Have inwrought into your being, Christian man, the opposite of that heathen over-regard for earthly things. Seek first the kingdom of God.' Let all your spirit be stretching itself out towards that divine and blessed reality, longing to be a subject of that kingdom, and a possessor of that righteousness; and the cares that infest the day' will steal away from out of the sacred pavilion of your believing spirit. Fill your heart with desires after what is worthy of desire; and the greater having entered in, all lesser objects will rank themselves in the right place, and the glory that excelleth' will outshine the seducing brightness of the paltry present. Oh! it is want of love, it is want of earnest desire, it is want of firm conviction that God, God only, God by Himself, is enough for me, that makes me careful and troubled. And therefore, if I could only attain unto that sublime and calm height of perfect conviction, that He is sufficient for me, that He is with me for ever,--the satisfying object of my desires and the glorious reward of my searchings,--let life and death come as they may, let riches, poverty, health, sickness, all the antitheses of human circumstances storm down upon me in quick alternation, yet in them all I shall be content and peaceful. God is beside me, and His presence brings in its train whatsoever things I need. You cannot cast out the sin of foreboding thoughts by any power short of the entrance of Christ and His love. The blessings of faith and felt communion leave no room nor leisure for anxiety.

III. Finally, Christ here tells us, that thought for the morrow is contrary to all the scheme of Providence, which shows it to be vain. The morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.'

I interpret these two clauses as meaning this: To-morrow has anxieties enough of its own, alter and in spite of all the anxieties about it to-day by which you try to free it from care when it comes. Every day--every day will have its evil, have it to the end. And every day will have evil enough to task all the strength that a man has to cope with it. So that it just comes to this: Anxiety,--it is all vain. After all your careful watching for the corner of the heaven where the cloud is to come from, there will be a cloud, and it will rise somewhere, but you never know beforehand from what quarter. The morrow shall have its own anxieties. After all your fortifying of the castle of your life, there will be some little postern left unguarded, some little weak place in the wall left uncommanded by a battery; and there, where you never looked for him, the inevitable invader will come in. After all the plunging of the hero in the fabled waters that made him invulnerable, there was the little spot on the heel, and the arrow found its way there? There is nothing certain to happen, says the proverb, but the unforeseen. To-morrow will have its cares, spite of anything that anxiety and foreboding can do. It is God's law of Providence that a man shall be disciplined by sorrow; and to try to escape from that law by any forecasting prudence, is utterly hopeless, and madness.

And what does your anxiety do? It does not empty to-morrow, brother, of its sorrows; but, ah! it empties to-day of its strength. It does not enable you to escape the evil, it makes you unfit to cope with it when it comes. It does not bless to-morrow, but it robs to-day. For every day has its own burden. Sufficient for each day is the evil which properly belongs to it. Do not add to-morrow's to to-day's. Do not drag the future into the present. The present has enough to do with its own proper concerns. We have always strength to bear the evil when it comes. We have not strength to bear the foreboding of it. As thy day, thy strength shall be.' In strict proportion to the existing exigencies will be the God-given power; but if you cram and condense to-day's sorrows by experience, and to-morrow's sorrows by anticipation, into the narrow round of the one four-and-twenty hours, there is no promise that as that day thy strength shall be.' God gives us (His name be praised!)--God gives us power to bear all the sorrows of His making; but He does not give us power to bear the sorrows of our own making, which the anticipation of sorrow most assuredly is.

Then: contrary to the lessons of Nature, contrary to the teachings of Religion, contrary to the scheme of Providence; weakening your strength, distracting your mind, sucking the sunshine out of every landscape, and casting a shadow over all the beauty--the curse of our lives is that heathenish, blind, useless, faithless, needless anxiety in which we do indulge. Look forward, my brother, for God has given you that royal and wonderful gift of dwelling in the future, and bringing all its glories around your present. Look forward, not for life, but for heaven; not for food and raiment, but for the righteousness after which it is blessed to hunger and thirst, and wherewith it is blessed to be clothed. Not for earth, but for heaven, let your forecasting gift of prophecy come into play. Fill the present with quiet faith, with patient waiting, with honest work, with wise reading of God's lessons of nature, of providence, and of grace, all of which say to us, Live in God's future, that the present may be bright: work in the present, that the future may be certain! They may well look around in expectation, sunny and unclouded, of a blessed time to come, whose hearts are already fixed, trusting in the Lord.' He to whom there are a present Christ, and a present Spirit, and a present Father, and a present forgiveness, and a present redemption, may well live expatiating in all the glorious distance of the unknown to come, sending out (if I may use such a figure) from his placid heart over all the weltering waters of this lower world, the peaceful seeking dove, his meek hope, that shall come back again from its flight with some palm-branch broken from the trees of Paradise between its bill. And he that has no such present has a future dark, chaotic, a heaving, destructive ocean; and over it there goes for ever--black-pinioned, winging its solitary and hopeless flight--the raven of his anxious thoughts, which finds no place to rest, and comes back again to the desolate ark with its foreboding croak of evil in the present and evil in the future. Live in Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever' and His presence shall make all your past, present, and future--memory, enjoyment, and hope--to be bright and beautiful, because all are centred in Him.

JUDGING, ASKING, AND GIVING

Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 3. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4. Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye! 5. Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. 6. Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. 7. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 9. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? 10. Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11. If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him? 12. Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.'--MATT. vii. 1-12.

I. How can we help judging,' and why should we not judge'? The power of seeing into character is to be coveted and cultivated, and the absence of it makes simpletons, not saints. Quite true: but seeing into character is not what Jesus is condemning here. The judging' of which He speaks sees motes in a brother's eye. That is to say, it is one-sided, and fixes on faults, which it magnifies, passing by virtues. Carrion flies that buzz with a sickening hum of satisfaction over sores, and prefer corruption to soundness, are as good judges of meat as such critics are of character. That Mephistophelean spirit of detraction has wide scope in this day. Literature and politics, as well as social life with its rivalries, are infested by it, and it finds its way into the church and threatens us all. The race of fault-finders we have always with us, blind as moles to beauties and goodness, but lynx-eyed for failings, and finding meat and drink in proclaiming them in tones of affected sorrow. How flagrant a breach of the laws of the kingdom this temper implies, and how grave an evil it is, though thought little of, or even admired as cleverness and a mark of a very superior person, Christ shows us by this earnest warning, embedded among His fundamental moral teachings.

He points out first how certainly that disposition provokes retaliation. Who is the Judge that judges us as we do others? Perhaps it is best to say that both the divine and the human estimates are included in the purposely undefined expression. Certainly both are included in fact. For a carping spirit of eager fault-finding necessarily tinges people's feelings towards its possessor, and he cannot complain if the severe tests which he applied to others are used on his own conduct. A cynical critic cannot expect his victims to be profoundly attached to him, or ready to be lenient to his failings. If he chooses to fight with a tomahawk, he will be scalped some day, and the bystanders will not lament profusely. But a more righteous tribunal than that of his victims condemns him. For in God's eyes the man who covers not his neighbour's faults with the mantle of charity has not his own blotted out by divine forgiveness.

This spirit is always accompanied by ignorance of one's own faults, which makes him who indulges in it ludicrous. So our Lord would seem to intend by the figure of the mote and the beam. It takes a great deal of close peering to see a mote; but the censorious man sees only the mote, and sees it out of scale. No matter how bright the eye, though it be clear as a hawk's, its beauty is of no moment to him. The mote magnified, and nothing but the mote, is his object; and he calls this one-sided exaggeration criticism,' and prides himself on the accuracy of his judgment. He makes just the opposite mistake in his estimate of his own faults, if he sees them at all. We look at our neighbour's errors with a microscope, and at our own through the wrong end of a telescope. We see neither in their real magnitude, and the former mistake is sure to lead to the latter. We have two sets of weights and measures: one for home use, the other for foreign. Every vice has two names; and we call it by its flattering and minimising one when we commit it, and by its ugly one when our neighbour does it. Everybody can see the hump on his friend's shoulders, but it takes some effort to see our own. David was angry enough at the man who stole his neighbour's ewe lamb, but quite unaware that he was guilty of a meaner, crueller theft. The mote can be seen; but the beam, big though it is, needs to be considered.' So it often escapes notice, and will surely do so, if we are yielding to the temptation of harsh judgment of others. Every one may be aware of faults of his own very much bigger than any that he can see in another, for each of us may fathom the depth of our own sinfulness in motive and unspoken, unacted thought, while we can see only the surface acts of others.

Our Lord points out, in verse 4, a still more subtle form of this harsh judgment, when it assumes the appearance of solicitude for the improvement of others, and He thus teaches us that all honest desire to help in the moral reformation of our neighbours must be preceded by earnest efforts at mending our own conduct. If we have grave faults of our own undetected and unconquered, we are incapable either of judging or of helping our brethren. Such efforts will be hypocritical, for they pretend to come from genuine zeal for righteousness and care for another's good, whereas their real root is simply censorious exaggeration of a neighbour's faults; they imply that the person affected with such a tender care for another's eyes has his own in good condition. A blind guide is bad enough, but a blind oculist is a still more ridiculous anomaly. Note, too, that the result of clearing our own vision is beautifully put as being, not ability to see, but ability to cure, our fellows. It is only the experience of the pain of casting out a darling evil, and the consciousness of God's pitying mercy as given to us, that makes the eye keen enough, and the hand steady and gentle enough, to pull out the mote. It is a delicate operation, and one which a clumsy operator may make very painful, and useless, after all. A rough finger or a harsh spirit makes success impossible.

II. Verse 6 comes in singular juxtaposition with the preceding warning against uncharitable judgments. Christ's calling men dogs and swine does not sound like obeying His own precept. But the very shock which the words give at first hearing is part of their value. There are men whom Jesus, for all His gentleness, has to estimate thus. His pitying eyes were not blind to truth. It was no breach of infinite charity in Him to see facts, and to give them their right names; and His previous precept does not bid us shut our eyes, or give up the use of common sense. This verse limits the application of the preceding one, and inculcates prudence, tact, and discernment of character, as no less essential to His servants than the sweet charity, slow to suspect and sorrowful to expose a brother's fault. The fact that His gentle lips used such words may well make us shudder as we think of the deforming of human nature into pure animalism which some men achieve, and which is possible for all.

The inculcation of discretion in the presentation of the truth may easily be exaggerated into a doctrine of reserve which is more Jesuitical than Christian. Even when guarded and limited, it may seem scarcely in harmony with the commission to preach the gospel to every creature, or with the sublime confidence that God's word finds something to appeal to in every heart, and has power to subdue the animal in every man. But the divergence is only apparent. The most expansive zeal is to be guided by prudence, and the most enthusiastic confidence in the universal power of the gospel does not take leave of common sense. There are people who will certainly be repelled, and perhaps stirred to furious antagonism to the gospel and its messengers, if they are not approached with discretion. It is bad to hide the treasure in a napkin; it is quite as bad to fling it down before some people without preparation. Jesus Himself locked His lips before Herod, although the curious ruler asked many questions; and we have sometimes to remember that there are people who will not hear the word,' and who must first be won without the word.' Heavy rains run off hard-baked earth. It must first be softened by a gentle drizzle. Luther once told this fable: The lion made a great feast, and he invited all the beasts, and among the rest, a sow. When all manner of costly dishes were set before the guests, the sow asked, "Have you no bran?" Even so, said he, we preachers set forth the most dainty dishes,--the forgiveness of sins, and the grace of God; but they turn up their snouts, and grub for guilders.'

This precept is one side of the truth. The other is the adaptation of the gospel to all men, and the obligation on us to preach it to all. We can only tell most men's disposition towards it by offering it to them, and we are not to be in a hurry to conclude that men are dogs and swine.

III. It may be a question whether, in verse 8, the emphasis is to be laid on every one' or on that asketh,' or, in other words, whether the saying is an assurance that the universal law will be followed in our case, or a statement of the universal condition without which no receiving is possible, and, least of all, the receiving of the gifts of the kingdom by its subjects. In either case, this verse gives the reason for the preceding exhortation. Then follows the tender illustration in which the dim-sighted love of earthly fathers is taken as a parable of the all-wise tenderness and desire to bestow which move the hand of the giving God. There is some resemblance between an Eastern loaf and a stone, and some between a fish and a serpent. However imperfect a father's love, he will neither be cruel enough to cheat his unsuspecting child with what looks like an answer to his wish but is useless or hurtful, nor foolish enough to make a mistake. All human relationships are in some measure marred by the faults of those who sustain them. What a solemn attestation of universal sinfulness is in these words of Christ's, and how calmly He separates Himself by His sinlessness from us! I do not know that there is anywhere a stronger scriptural proof of these two truths than this one incidental clause, ye, being evil.' I wonder whether the people who pit the Sermon on the Mount against evangelical Christianity are ready to take this part of it into their creeds. It is noteworthy, also, that the emphasis is laid, not on the earthly father's willingness, but on his knowing how to give good gifts. Our Lord seems to think that He need not assure us of the plain truth that of course our Father in heaven is willing, just because He is our Father, to give us all good; but He heartens us with the assurance that His love is wisdom, and that He cannot make any mistakes. There are no stones mingled with our bread, nor any serpents among the fish. He gives good, and nothing but good.

IV. The great precept which closes the section is not only to be taken as an inference from the immediately preceding context, but as the summing up of all the duties to our neighbours, in which Christ has been laying down the law of the kingdom from Matthew v. 17. This general reference of the therefore' is confirmed by the subsequent clause, this is the law and the prophets' the summing up of the whole past revelation of the divine will, and therefore in accordance with our Lord's previous exposition of the relation between His new law and that former one. As Luther puts it in his vigorous, homely way, With these words He now closes His instructions given in these three chapters, and ties it all up in a little bundle.'

But a connection may also be traced with the preceding paragraph. There our desires were treated as securing God's corresponding gifts. Here our desires, when turned to men, are regarded, not as securing their corresponding conduct, but as obliging us to action. By taking our wishes as the rule of our dealings with others, we shall be like God, who in regard to His best gifts takes our wishes as the rule of His dealings with us. Our desires sent heavenward procure blessings for us; sent earthward, they prescribe our blessing of others. That is a startling turn to give to our claims on our fellows. It rests on the principle that every man has equal rights, therefore we ought not to look for anything from others which we are not prepared to extend to others. A. should give B. whatever A. thinks B. should give him. Our error is in making ourselves our own centre, and thinking more of our claims on others than of our obligations to them. Christ teaches us that these are one. Such a principle applied to our lives would wonderfully pull down our expectations and lift up our obligations. It is really but another way of putting the law of loving our neighbours as ourselves. If observed, it would revolutionise society. Nothing short of it is the law of the kingdom, and the duty of all who call themselves Christ's subjects.

This is the inmost meaning, says Jesus, of the law and the prophets. All former revelations of the divine will in regard to men's relations to men are summed in this. Of course, this does not mean, as some people would like to make it mean, that morality is to take the place of religion, but simply that all the precepts touching conduct to men are gathered up, for the subjects of the kingdom, in this one. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.'

OUR KNOCKING

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.'--MATT. vii. 7.

In the letter to the church at Laodicea, we read, Behold, I stand at the door and knock.' The image is there employed to set forth the tenderness and patience of the exalted Christ, who condescends to sue for entrance into every human heart, and comes in with His hands full of blessing. Now, it is very striking, I think, that the same symbol is employed in this text in reference to our duty. There is such a thing as our knocking at some door for entrance and blessing. What is that knocking?

The answer which is popularly given, I suppose, is that all these three injunctions in our text, Ask--seek--knock,' are but diverse aspects of the one exhortation to prayerfulness. And that may, perhaps, exhaust their meaning; but I am rather disposed to think that it is possible to trace a difference and a climax in them. To ask is obviously to apply to a person who can give, and that is prayer. To seek is not, as I think, quite the same thing, but rather expresses the idea of effort, the personal effort which ought to accompany and will accompany all real prayer. And to knock possibly adds to the conception of prayer and of effort, the idea, as common to both of them, of a certain persistency and continuity born of earnestness. So that we have here, as I think, a threefold statement of the conditions under which certain great blessings are given, and a threefold exhortation as to our Christian duty.

I. In considering these words I would first inquire to whom such exhortations are rightly addressed.

Now, it is to be remembered that these words occur in that great discourse of our Lord's which is called the Sermon on the Mount. And for the right understanding of that great embodiment of Christian morality, and of its relations to the whole body of Christian truth, it is, I think, very needful to remember that the Sermon on the Mount is addressed to Christ's disciples, that it is the promulgation of the laws of the kingdom by the King for His subjects; that it presupposes discipleship and entrance into the kingdom, and has not a word to say about the method of entrance. So that, though very many of its exhortations are but the republication in nobler form of the common laws of morality which are binding upon all men, and may be addressed to all men, the form in which they appear in that Sermon, the connection in which they stand, the height to which they are elevated, and the motives by which they are enforced, all limit their application to men who are truly followers and disciples of Jesus Christ. And this consideration especially bears on these words of our text.

The first exhortation which Christianity addresses to a man is not ask.' The first duty that a man has to discharge in regard to Christ and His grace, and the revelation that is in Him, is neither to seek nor to knock, but it is to take and to open. Christ knocks first, and when He knocks we should say, Come in, Thou blessed of the Lord.'

To bid a man pray, when he should be exhorted to believe, is to darken the clearness of the divine counsel, and to narrow the fulness of the divine grace. God does not wait to be asked for His mercy and His pardon. Like the dew on the grass, He tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men.' Before we call, He answers; and to say to people, Pray!' Seek!' Knock!' when the one thing to say is Take the gifts that God sent you before you asked for them,' is folly, and has often led to a course of painful and profitless struggling, which was all unnecessary and wide of the mark. It is like telling a man to pray for rain when the reservoirs at his side are full, and every flower is bending its chalice, charged with the blessing. It is needless to tell a man to seek for the treasure that is lying there at his side, and to which he has only to turn his eyes and stretch out his hands. It is folly to exhort a man to beat at a door that is standing wide open. The door of God's grace is thus wide open, and the treasure of God's mercy has come down, and the rain of God's forgiving love has dropped upon all of us, and made the wilderness to rejoice.

And so my message to some of you, dear brethren, is to say that you have nothing whatever to do, primarily, with this text. You have neither to ask, nor to seek, nor to knock, but to listen to Him, whose gentle hand knocks at your hearts, and to open the door and let Him come in with His grace and mercy.

II. And now, in the next place, let me ask you to consider in what region of life these promises are true.

They sound at first as if they were dead in the teeth of the facts of life. Is there any region of experience in which to ask is to receive, to seek is to find, and in which every door flies open at our touch? If there be, it is not in the ordinary work-a-day world in which you and I live, where we all have to put up with a great many bitter disappointments and refused requests, where we have all searched long and sorely for some things that we have not found, and the search has aged and saddened us.

It seems to be perfectly certain that the distinct purpose which our Lord here has in view, is to assert that the law of His Kingdom is the direct opposite of the law of earthly life, and that the sad discrepancy between desire and possession, between wish and fact, is done away with for His followers. Be it unto thee even as thou wilt,' is the charter of His Kingdom.

Now, dear brethren, it does not want much wisdom to know that that would be a very questionable blessing indeed, if it were taken to apply to the outward circumstances of our lives. There are a good many people, in all ages, and there are some people in this day, who set themselves up for very lofty and spiritual Christians who have made deep discoveries as to the power of prayer, and who seem to understand by it just exactly this, that if a man will only pray for what he wishes instead of working for it, he will get what he wishes. And I make bold to say that all forms of so-called higher experience which involve anything like that thought are, instead of being an exaltation, a degradation, of the very idea of Christian prayer. For the meaning of prayer is not that I shall force my will upon God, but that I shall bend my will to His.

There is one region, and one only, in which it is true, absolutely, unconditionally, without limitation, and always, that what we ask we get, what we seek we find, and that the door at which we knock shall be opened unto us; and that is not the region of outward, questionable, and changeful good.

Why, the very context of these words shows us that. It dwells upon the discrimination of an earthly father in answering his child's requests; and says: he knows how to give good gifts,' and so will your heavenly Father.' And it takes an illustration which we may extend in that same direction when it says, If a child ask a loaf, will the father give him a stone? or if he ask for a fish, will he give him a serpent?' We may turn the question and say: If the child ask for a serpent because he fancies that it is a fish, will his father give him that? Or if he cast his eye upon a thing which he imagines to be a loaf when it is only a stone, will his father let him break his teeth upon that? Surely no! He knows how to give good gifts, and an essential condition of that divine knowledge of how to give good gifts is the knowledge of how to refuse mistaken and foolish wishes.

So let us be thankful that His divine providence does not spoil His children, and make them, as all spoiled children are, a curse and a misery to themselves and to everybody round about them; but He disciplines them by a gracious No' as well as by a frank, glad Yes,' and often refuses the petition and grants the deeper-lying meaning of the same.

Therefore, I say that the region in which this great and liberal charter of entire response to our desires has force is simply and only the spiritual region in which the highest good is. You may grow as Christian men just as fast and just as far as you choose. A fuller knowledge of God's truth, a more entire conformity to Christ's pattern, a deeper communion with God--they are all possible for every one of us in any measure to which we choose to set our expectations, and to shape our desires and our actions. Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it.' The stretch of the jaws determines the size of the portion that is put into them; and He Himself who is the only real limit of His gifts, in His endless fulness, always imparts to you and me just as much of Himself as we like and wish to take. Ye are not straitened in Me, ye are straitened in yourselves.'

And oh! brethren, what a solemn light such thoughts as that throw on the low attainments of our average Christianity! So many of us, like Gideon's fleece, dry in the midst of the dew that comes down from heaven! So many of us in the midst of the blessed sunshine of His grace, standing like deep gorges on a mountain in cold shadow! How much you have lying at hand; how little of it you take for your own!

Suppose one of those old Spanish explorers in the sixteenth century had been led into some of those rich Mexican treasure-houses, where all round him were massive bars of gold and gleaming diamonds and precious stones, and had come out from the abundance with sixpence-worth in His palm, when he might have loaded himself with ingots of pure and priceless metal. That is what some of you do, when Jesus Christ puts the key of His storehouse in your hands and says to you, Go in and help yourselves,' You stop as soon as you are within the threshold. You do little more than take some insignificant corner nibbled off the great solid mass of riches that might belong to you, and bear that away. The only conclusion is that you do not care much about His wealth. Dear brethren, you professing Christian people that are listening to me, if life is scant in your veins, if your faith is, as it is with many of you, all but dead, if your Christian character is very little better than the character of the people round you, if your religion does not give you any happiness, nor do other people much good, if your love is so cold that it has almost expired, and your hopes dim, there is no creature in heaven or earth or hell that is to blame for it but yourselves. Ye have not because ye ask not; ye ask and have not because ye ask amiss.'

III. And that brings me to the last question, namely, on what conditions these promises depend.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened.' I said at the beginning of these remarks that I traced a difference between these three commands, and I take that difference for granted now as the basis of the few words I have to say. The first condition is--desires presented to Him who can grant them. To ask implies the will of a person that will hear and respond and has the power to bestow. That Person is God in Christ. Go and ask Him. We all know that prayer is essential, and so I do not need to dwell upon it; go and ask Him, and you will get what you need.

Do you ever pray, you professing Christian people? I do not mean with your mouths, but with your hearts; do you ever pray to be made less worldly? Do you ever wish to be so? Do you ever really desire that your love of this present should be diminished? Have you any appetite for righteousness? Does it seem to you to be a good thing that you should have less pleasure in the present and more joys in the future? Would you like to be a devouter Christian than you are? I very much question it about many of you. I am not hitting at individuals, but I am speaking about the average type of professing Christians in this generation.

If you desire it you will ask it. Is there any place in any of your rooms where there is a little bit of carpet worn white by your knees? Or do you pray when you are half asleep at night, and before you are well awake in the morning, and scramble through a prayer as the necessary preliminary to going to the work that really interests you, the work of your trade or business? Ask, and ye shall receive.'

The second condition is effort. Seek, and ye shall find.' There are a great many things in this world that cannot be given to a wish. There are a great many things in the Kingdom of Grace that Jesus Christ cannot give to a mere wish. There must be my own personal effort if I am to secure that which I desire. That is the reason why so many prayers seem to go unanswered. Think of the thousands of supplications that will go up in churches and chapels to-day for spiritual blessings. How comes it that such an enormous proportion of these prayers will never be answered at all? Well, if a man stand at the butts and shoot his arrow at a target, and does not care enough for its fate to stand there long enough to see whether it hits the bull's eye, the probability is that it will never reach its aim. And if men pray, and pray, and pray, in public, and then come out of their churches and chapels and not only forget all about their prayers but never expect an answer to them, and do nothing in their lives in accordance therewith, is there any wonder that they are not answered? Men repeat the Lord's Prayer every morning, and ask God day by day lead us not into temptation,' and then go out into daily life, and are willing to fling themselves into temptation, and go through the very thick of the fire of it, if there is a ten pound note on the other side of the flame. And men ask God that He will help them to grow in grace' and Christian character, and seldom do a single thing that they know will promote that growth. All such prayer is vain and unresponded to. With prayer there must go effort.

And then, lastly, the third condition is continuity or persistence. Knock, and it shall be opened unto you,' Then there is such a thing as a delay in these answers that you have been speaking about,' you say. No! there is no delay, but there is such a thing as the beginning of a long task; and therefore there is such a thing as the necessity for persistent and continuous perseverance even in the offering of the desires, which to express is to have satisfied; and in putting forth of the efforts in which to seek is to find. 'Tis a lifelong task ere the lump be leavened.' Eternal life is a gift, but the building of a Christian character is the result of patient, continuous, well-directed efforts to the appropriation and employment of the gift that we have received. Forty-and-six years was this temple in building,' they said, and it was not finished then. It will take more than forty-and-six years to build up in my poor heart, full of rubbish and of evil, a temple to the Holy Ghost.

I need not insist upon the virtue of perseverance; that is a commonplace written on the head of all copybooks, but let me remind you that in the Christian life, as much as in any other, that virtue is needful, and unless a man is content to do as Abraham Lincoln said, Keep pegging away' at the duties of Christian life with continual effort, there is no promise and no possibility that that man shall grow in grace.

Now, two last words: one is, we want nothing more for the largest and most blessed possession of the true riches and eternal joys of the kingdom than the application to our Christian life of the very same qualities, virtues, excellences, which we need for the successful prosecution of our daily business. Dear brethren, draw for yourselves the contrast between the eagerness with which you pursue that, and the tepidity with which you pursue this. You know that effort and perseverance are wanted there, and you do not grudge them; they are wanted just as much here. Do you put them forth? Some of you are all fire in the one place, and are all frost in the other. You Christian men and women, give the kingdom as much as you give the world, and you will be strong and growing Christians; but if you will not, do not wonder that you are so feeble as you are.

And the last remark I make is--this great symbol of my text which is used in reference to our Lord's condescending beseechings for the entrance into our hearts, and is also used, as we have seen, in reference to our own continuity of prayerful effort, is used in another and very solemn application, in words of His Many will seek to enter in, and shall not be able, when once the Master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door; and will begin to stand without and to knock at the door, saying, Lord! Lord! open to us; and He'--He who said Knock, and it shall be opened'--He shall answer and say to you, I know you not whence ye are.' That you may escape that repulse, oh my friend! do you open your heart now to the knocking Christ, and then, then, and not till then, Ask!' that you may be filled with the treasures of His love, seek!' that you may find the rich provision He has laid up for us all, knock!' that door after door in the many mansions of the Father's House may be opened unto you; until at last an entrance is ministered abundantly into the everlasting kingdom, and you go in with the King to the eternal feast.

THE TWO PATHS

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: 14. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.'--MATT. vii. 13-14.

A frank statement of the hardships and difficulties involved in a course of conduct does not seem a very likely way to induce men to adopt it, but it often proves so. There is something in human nature which responds to the bracing tonic of the exhortation: By doing thus you will have to face many hardships and many difficulties which you may avoid by leaving it alone; but do it, because it is best in the long run, being right from the beginning.' So the story of the martyrs' fires has lighted many a man to the faith for which the martyr was burned. Many a youth has been led to take the shilling and enlist by reading accounts of wounds and battles and sufferings.

Our Lord will have no soldiers in His army on false pretences. They shall know exactly what they have to reckon on if they take service with Him. And thus, in the solemn and familiar words of my text, He enjoins each of us to become His disciples; and that not only because--as is sometimes supposed--of the blessing that lies at the end for His servants, but because of the very things on the road to the end which, at first sight, seemed difficulties. For you will observe that in my text the exhortation, Enter ye in at the strait gate,' is followed by two clauses, each of which begins with a for' the one being a description of the road that is to be shunned; the other, an account of the path that is to be followed. In each description there are four contrasted particulars: the gate, strait or wide; the road, narrow or broad; the travellers, many or few; and the ends, life or destruction.

Now, people generally read these words as if our Lord was saying, Though the one path is narrow and rugged and steep and unfrequented, yet walk on it, because it leads to life; and though the other presents the opposite of all these characteristics, yet avoid it, because pleasant and popular as it is, its end is destruction.' But that is not what He says. All four things are reasons for avoiding the one and following the other; which, being turned into plain English, is just this, that we ought to be Christian people precisely because there are difficulties and pains and sacrifices in being so, which we may ignobly shirk if we like. It is not, Though the road be narrow it leads to life, therefore enter it; but Because it is narrow, and leads to life, therefore blessed are the feet that are set upon it.

Let us, then, look at these four characteristics, and note how they all enforce the merciful summons which our Lord is addressing to each of us, as truly as He did to the hearers gathered around Him on the mountain: Enter ye in at the strait gate.'

I. The gates.

The gate is in view here merely as a means of access to the road, and the metaphor simply comes to this, that it is more difficult to be a Christian man than not to be one, and therefore you ought to be one.

Now, what makes a Christian? We do not need to go further than this Sermon on the Mount for answer. The two first of our Lord's Beatitudes, as they are called, are Blessed are the poor in spirit,' and Blessed are they that mourn.' These two carry the conditions of entrance on the Christian life. There must be consciousness of our own emptiness, weakness, and need; there must be penitent recognition of our own ill-desert and lamentation over that. These two things, the consciousness of emptiness, and the sorrow for sin, make--I was going to say--the two door-posts of the narrow gate through which a man has to press. It is too narrow for any of his dignities or honours. A camel cannot go through the eye of a needle, not only because of its own bulk, but because of the burdens which flap on either side of it, and catch against the jambs. All my self-confidence, and reputation, and righteousness, will be rubbed off when I try to press through that narrow aperture. You may find on a lonely moor low, contracted openings that lead into tortuous passages--the approaches to some of the ancient Picts' houses,' where a feeble folk dwelt, and secured themselves from their enemies. The only way to get into them is to go down upon your knees; and the only way to get into this road--the way of righteousness--is by taking the same attitude. No man can enter unless--like that German Emperor whom a Pope kept standing in the snow for three days outside the gate of Canossa--he is stripped of everything, down to the hair-shirt of penitence. And that is not easy. Naaman wanted to be healed as a great man in the court of Damascus. He had to strip himself of his offices, and dignities, and pride, and to come down to the level of any other leper. You and I, dear brother, have to go through the same process of stripping ourselves of all the adventitious accretions that have clung to us, and to know ourselves naked and helpless, before we can pass through the gate.

Further, we have to go in one by one. Two cannot pass the turnstile at the same time. We have to enter singly, as we shall have to pass through the other dark gates, across the wild which no man knows,' at the end of life.

Because it is strait, it is a great deal easier to stop outside, as so many of those to whom I speak are doing. For that, you have nothing to do but to drift and let things drift. No decision nor effort is needed; no coming out of yourselves. It is all as easy as it is for a wild animal to enter in between the broadly extending palisades that converge as they come nearer the trap, so that the creature is snared before he knows. The gate is wide: that is the sure condemnation of it. It is always easy to begin bad and unworthy things, of all sorts. And there is nothing easier than to keep in the negative position which so many of my audience, I fear me, are in, of not being a Christian.

But, on the other side, it is not so hard as it looks to go in, and it is not so easy as it seems to stop out. For there are two men in every man--a better and a worse; and what pleases the one disgusts the other. The choice which each of us has to make is whether we shall do the things that are easiest to our worst self, or those that are easiest to our best self. For in either case there will be difficulties; in either case there will be antagonisms.

But it is good for us to make the effort, apart altogether from the end. If there were no life eternal at the far end of the road which at this end has the narrow gate, it would contribute to all that is noblest and best in our characters, and to the repression of all that is ignoble and worst, that we should take that lowly position which Christ requires, and by the heroism of a self-abandoning faith, fling ourselves into His arms.

Remember, too, that the strait gate, by reason of its very straitness, is in the noblest sense wide. If there were anything else required of a man than simply self-distrust and reliance on Jesus Christ, then this great Gospel that I am feebly trying to preach would be a more sectional and narrower thing than it is. But its glory is that it requires nothing which any man is unable to bring, that it has no invitation for sections, classes, grades of culture or intelligence or morality, but that in its great cosmopolitanism and universality it comes to every man; because it treats all as on one level, and requires from each only what all can bring--knowledge of themselves as sinners, and humble trust in Jesus Christ as a Saviour. It is narrow because there is no room for sin or self-righteousness to go in; it is wide as the world, and, like the capacious portals of some vast cathedral, ample enough to receive without hustling, and to accommodate without inconvenience, every soul of man.

II. Notice the contrast of the two roads, which, in like manner, points the exhortation to choose the better.

The one is broad; the other is narrow. Which, being turned into plain English, is just this--that the Christian course has limitations which do not hamper the godless man; and that on the path of godlessness or Christlessness there is a deceptive appearance of freedom and independence which attracts many.

Narrow is the road.' Yes, if you are to be a Christian, you must have your whole life concentrated on, and consecrated to, one thing; and, just as the vagrant rays of sunshine have to be collected into a focus before they burn, so the wandering manifoldnesses of our aims and purposes have all to be brought to a point, This one thing I do,' and whatsoever we do we have to do it as in God, and for God, and by God, and with God. Therefore the road is narrow because, being directed to one aim, it has to exclude great tracts on either side, in which people that have a less absorbing and lofty purpose wander and expatiate at will. As on some narrow path in Eastern lands, with high, prickly-pear hedges on either side, and vineyards stretching beyond them, with luscious grapes in abundance, a traveller has to keep on the road, within the prickly fences, dusty though it may be, and though his thirsty lips may be cracking.

I remember once going to that strange island-fortress off the Normandy coast, which stands on an isolated rock in the midst of a wide bay. One narrow causeway leads across the sands. Does a traveller complain of having to keep it? It is safety and life, for on either side stretches the tremulous sand, on which, if a foot is planted, the pedestrian is engulfed. So the narrow way on which we have to journey is a highway cast up, on which no evil will befall us, while on each hand away out to the horizon lie the treacherous quicksands. Narrowness is sometimes safety. If the road is narrow it is the better guide, and they who travel along it travel safely. Restrictions and limitations are of the essence of all nobleness and virtue. So did not I because of the fear of the Lord.'

Set side by side with that the competing path. Wide? Yes! Do as you like'--that is sufficiently wide. And even where that gospel of the animal has not become the guide to a man, there are many occupations, pursuits, recreations which men who lack the supreme concentration and consecration that come through over mastering love to Jesus Christ who has redeemed them, may legitimately in their own estimation do, but which no Christian man should do.

But, as I said before about the gates, it is not so easy as it looks to walk the broad road, nor so hard as it seems to tread the narrow one. For her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace' and, on the other hand, licentiousness and liberty are not the same thing, and true freedom is not to do as you like, but to like to do as you ought. Besides, the path which looks attractive, and tempts to the indulgence of many appetites and habits which a Christian man must rigidly subdue, does not continue so attractive. Earthly pleasures have a strange knack of losing their charm, and, at the same time, increasing their hold, with familiarity. Many a man who has plunged into some kind of dissipation because of the titillation of his senses which he found in it, discovers that the titillation diminishes and the tyranny grows; and that when he thought that he had bought a joy, he has sold himself slave to a master.

So, dear friends, and especially you young people, let me beseech you to be suspicious of courses of conduct which come to you with the whisper, pleasant, sweet.' If you have two things before you, one of which is easy and the other hard, ninety times out of a hundred it will be safe for you to choose the hard one, and the odd ten times it will be at least as well for you to choose it. Thus we travel to the stars.' As one of our poets has it, the path of duty is the way of glory,' and those that scorn delights and live laborious days,' and listen not to the voices that say Come and enjoy this,' but to the sterner voice that says Come and bear this'--these will

Find the stubborn thistles bursting Into glossy purples that outredden All voluptuous garden roses.'

So, because the road is narrow, therefore choose it. Because the other path is wide, I beseech you to avoid it.

III. Note the travellers.

On the one road there are few,' on the other, by comparison, 'many.' That was true in Christ's time, and although the world is better since, and many feet have trodden the narrow way, and have found that it leads to life, yet I am afraid it is so still.

Now, did you ever think, or do you believe, that the fact of a course of conduct, or of an opinion, being the conduct or the opinion of a majority, is pro tanto against it? What everybody says must be true,' says the old proverb, and I do not dispute it. What most people say is, I think, most often false. And that is true about conduct, as well as about opinion. It is very unsafe to take the general sense of a community for your direction. It is unsafe in regard to matters of opinion, it is even more unsafe in regard to matters of conduct. That there are many on a road is no sign that the road is a right one; but it is rather an argument the other way; looking at the gregariousness of human nature, and how much people like to save themselves the trouble of thinking and decision, and to run in ruts; just as a cab-driver will get upon the tram-lines when he can, because his vehicle runs easier there. So the fact that, if you are going to be Christ-like Christians, you will be in the minority, is a reason for being such.

You young men in warehouses, and all of you in your different spheres and circles, do not be afraid of being singular. And remember that Jesus Christ, and one man with Him, though it is Athanasius contra mundum, are always in the majority.

Now that is good, bracing teaching, apart altogether from Christianity. But I wish to bring it to bear especially in that direction. And so I would remind you that after all, the solitude in which a man may have to walk, if he sets Christ before him, and tries to follow Him with His cross upon his shoulders, is only an apparent solitude. For, look, whose footsteps are these on my path, not without spots of blood, where the tender feet have trod upon thorns and briars? There has been Somebody here before me. Who? Let him take up his cross and follow Me.' And if we follow Him, the solitude will be like that in which the two sad disciples walked on the Resurrection day, when a third came and joined Himself to them. So a second will come to each of us, if we are alone, and our hearts will burn within us. Nor shall we need to wait till the repose of the evening and the breaking of bread, before we know that it is the Lord' nor, known and recognised, will He vanish from our sides.

Dear brethren, because few there be that go in thereat,' and walk thereon, I beseech you to go in through the door of faith, and to walk in the way of Christ, who has left us an ensample that we should follow in His steps. If of thee it can be said, as the great Puritan poet said of one virgin pure, that thou

--Wisely hast shunned the broad way and the green, And with those few art eminently seen That labour up the hill of heavenly truth,'--

his assurance to her will be applicable to thee, and

--Thou, when the Bridegroom, with His feastful friends, Passes to bliss at the mid-hour of night, Hast gained thy entrance.'

IV. That leads me to the last point--viz. the contrasted ends of these two paths.

Christ assumes the right to speak decisively and authoritatively with regard to the ultimate issues of human conduct, in a way which, as I believe, marks His divinity, and which no man can venture upon without presumption. Of the one path He declares without hesitation that it leads to life; of the other He affirms uncompromisingly that it leads to destruction.' Now, I dare not dwell upon these solemn thoughts with any enfeebling expansion by my own words, but I beseech you to lay them to heart--only take the simple remark, as a commentary and an exposition of the solemn meaning of these issues, that life does not mean mere continuous existence, but, as it generally does upon His lips, means that which alone He recognises as being the true life of such a creature as man--viz. existence in union with Himself, the Source of life; and that, conversely, destruction does not mean merely the cessation of being, or what we call the destruction of consciousness and the annihilation of a soul, but that it means the continued consciousness of a soul rent away from Him in whom alone is life, and which therefore has made shipwreck of everything, and has destroyed itself.

There are the issues, then, before us, and I dare not blur the clear distinction which Jesus Christ draws. I listen to Him, and accept His word, and I press upon you, dear brethren, that the main thing about a road is, after all, where it leads us; and I ask you to remember that your life-path--as I try to remember that mine--is tending to one or other of these two issues. The one path may be, and is, rough and steep though its delights are nobler, more poignant, and more permanent than any that can be found elsewhere. Steadily climbing like some mountain railway, it reaches at last the short tunnel on the summit level, and then dashes out into the blinding blaze of a new sunshine. The other goes merrily enough, at first, downhill, but at last it comes to the edge of the abyss, and there it stops, but the traveller does not. He goes over; and nobody can see the darkness into which he falls.

Dear friends, Christ says, I am the Way.' Do you go to Him and cry, See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me into the way everlasting.'

THE TWO HOUSES

Therefore, whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock. . . . 25. And every one that heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand.'--MATT. vii. 24, 25.

Our Lord closes the so-called Sermon on the Mount, which is really the King's proclamation of the law of His Kingdom, with three pairs of contrasts, all meant to sway us to obedience. The first is that of the two ways: one broad, and leading down to abysses of destruction; the other narrow, and leading up to shining heights of life. The second is that of the two trees, one good and one bad, each bearing fruit according to its nature; by which our Lord would teach us that conduct is the outcome and revelation of character, and the test of being a follower of His. The third is that of our text, the two houses on the two foundations, and their fate before the one storm; by which our Lord would teach us that the only foundation on which can be built a life that will stand the blast of final judgment is His sayings and Himself.

Now, there are many very important and profound links of connection and relation between these three contrasted pictures, but I only point to one thing here, and that is that in all of them Jesus Christ most decisively divides all His hearers--for it is about them that He is speaking--into two classes: either on the broad road or on the narrow, not a foot in each; either the good tree or the bad; either the house on the sand or the house on the rock. Such a sharp division is said nowadays to be narrow, and to be contradicted by the facts of life, in which the great mass of men are neither very white nor very black, but a kind of neutral grey. Yes, they are--on the surface. But if you go down to the bottom, and grasp the life in its inmost principles and essential nature, I fancy that Jesus Christ's narrowness is true to fact. At all events, there it is.

Now, following out the imagery of our text, I wish to bring before you the two foundations, the two houses, the one storm, the two endings.

I. The two foundations: Rock, Sand.

Now, to build on the Rock, Jesus Christ Himself explains to us as being the same thing as to hear and do His sayings. The one representation is plain fact, the other is metaphor which points precisely in the same direction. It is scarcely a digression if I pause for a moment, and point you to the singular and unique attitude which this Carpenter's Son of Nazareth takes up here, fronting the whole race with that whosoever,' and alleging that His sayings are an infallible law for conduct, and that He has the right absolutely to command every man, woman, and child of the sons and daughters of Adam. And the strange thing is that the best men have admitted His claim, have recognised that He had the right, and have seen that His precepts are the very ideal of human conduct, and, if they have ventured to criticise at all, their criticism has only been that the precepts are too good to be obeyed, and contemplate an ideal that is unreachable in human society. Be that as it may, there stands the fact that this Man, in this Sermon on the Mount, which so many people say has no doctrinal teaching in it, assumes an attitude which nothing can warrant and nothing explain except the full-toned belief that in Him we have God manifest in the flesh.

But what I desire to point to now is the significance of this demand that He makes, that we shall take His sayings as the foundation of our lives. The metaphor is a very plain one, by which the principles that underlie or dominate and mould our conduct are regarded as the foundation upon which we build the structure of our lives. But the Sermon on the Mount is not all of these sayings of Mine.' It is fashionable in certain quarters to-day to isolate these precepts, and to regard them as being the part of Christian Revelation by which men who set little store by theological subtleties, and reject the mysteries of the Incarnation and the Atonement, may still abide. But I would have you notice that it is absurd to isolate this Sermon on the Mount, or to deal with it as if it were the very centre of the Christian Revelation. It is nothing of the sort. Beautiful as it is, wonderful as it is as a high ideal of human conduct, it is a law still, though it is a perfect law; and it has all the impotences and all the deficiencies that attach to a law, if you take it and rend it out of its place, and insist upon dealing with it as if it stood alone. There is not a word in it that tells you how to keep its precepts. There is no power in it, or raying from it, to make a man obey any one of its commandments. It comes radiant and beautiful, but imperative, and just because no man keeps it to the full, its very beauty becomes menacing, and it stands there over against us, showing us what we ought to be, and, by consequence, what we are not. And is that all that Jesus Christ came into the world to do? God forbid! If He had only spoken this Sermon on the Mount--which some of you take for the Alpha and the Omega of Christianity as far as you are concerned--He would not have been different in essence from other teachers,--though high above them in degree,--who speak to us of the shining heights of duty that we are to scale, but leave us grovelling in the mire.

The Sermon on the Mount, with its stringent requirements, absolutely demands to be completed by other thoughts and other sayings of Mine.' And so I remind you, not only that there are other sayings of Mine' to be kept than it, but also that there is no keeping of it without keeping other sayings first. For the highest of Christ's commandments is Believe also in Me,' and you have to take Him as your Redeemer and Saviour from death before you will ever thoroughly accept Him as your Guide and Pattern for life. We must first draw near to Him in humble penitence and lowly faith, and then there comes into our hearts a power which makes it possible and delightsome to keep even the loftiest, and in other aspects the hardest, of those sayings of Mine.' So, brethren, the obedience of which this text speaks is second, and the building of ourselves on Jesus Christ Himself, by faith in Him, is first. Only when we build on Him as our Saviour shall we build our lives upon Him in obedience to His commands.

Behold! I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried corner-stone, a sure foundation, and he that believeth shall not make haste' and long after the prophet said that, the Apostle catches up the same thought when he says, Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid. Let every man take heed how he buildeth thereon.' Jesus Christ is the foundation of our lives, if we have any true life at all. He ought to be the foundation of all our thinking. His word should be the absolute truth, His life the final all-satisfying, perfect revelation of God, to our hearts. In Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.' The facts of His Incarnation, earthly life, Death, Resurrection, Ascension, and present Sovereignty--these facts, with the truths that are deduced from them, and the great glimpses which they afford into the heart of God and the depths of things, are the foundations of all true thinking on moral and social and religious questions, and on not a few other questions besides. Christ in His Revelation gives us the ultimate truth on which we have to build.

He is also the foundation of all our hope, the foundation of all our security, the foundation of all our effort and aspiration. His Cross goes before the nations and leads them, His Cross stands by the individual, and anodynes the sense of guilt, and breaks the bondage and captivity of sin, and stirs to all lofty emotions and holy living, and moves ever in the van like the pillar of cloud and fire, the Pattern of our lives and the Guide of our pilgrimage. It is Christ Himself who is the foundation, and His death and sacrifice which are the sure basis of our hope, safety, and blessedness; and it is only because He Himself is the Foundation, and what He has done for us is the basis of hope and blessedness, that He has the right to come to us and say, Take My commandments as the foundation on which you build your lives.'

The Rock of Ages cleft for us, is the Rock on which we build if we are Christians; the other man built his house upon the sand. That is to say, shifting inclinations, short-lived appetites, transitory aims, varying judgments of men, the fashions of the day in morality, the changing judgments of our own consciences--these are the things on which men build, if they are not building upon Jesus Christ. Like a vessel that has a raw hand at the helm, you sometimes head one way, and then the puff of wind that fills your sails dies down, or the sails that were flat as a board belly out a little, or you are caught in some current, and round goes the bowsprit on another tack altogether. How many of us are pursuing the objects which we pursued five-and-twenty years ago, if we have numbered so many years? What has become of aims that were everything to us then? We have won some of them, and they have turned out not half as good as we thought they would be. The hare is never so big when it is in the bag as when it is hurrying across the fields. We have missed some of them, and we scarcely remember that we once wanted them. We have outlived a great many, and they lie away behind us, hull down on the horizon, and we are making for some other point that, in like manner, if we reach it, will be left behind and be lost. There is nothing that lasts but God and Christ, and the people that build their lives upon them.

I press upon all your hearts that one simple thought--what an absurdity it is for us to choose for our life's object anything that is shorter-lived than ourselves!--and how long-lived you are you know. They tell us that sand makes a very good foundation under certain circumstances. I believe it does, but what if the water gets in? What about it then? But in regard to all these transitory aims and short-lived purposes on which some of you are building your lives, there is a certainty that the water will come in some day. So, friend, dig deeper down, even to the Eternal Rock. That is the only foundation on which an immortal man or woman like you is wise to build your life. Are you doing it?

II. Let me say a word, in the next place, about the two houses.

The one is built upon the rock. That just means, of course--and I need not enlarge upon that--a life which is based upon, and shaped after, the commandments of Jesus Christ, His Pattern and Example. And that life will stand. Now, of course, the ideal would be that the whole of His sayings should enter into the whole of our lives, that no commandment of that dear Lord should be left unobeyed, and that no action of ours should be unaffected by His known will. That is the ideal, and for us the task of wisdom is daily to draw nearer and nearer to that ideal, and to bring the whole of our lives more and more under the sway and sanctifying influence of the whole sum of Christ's precepts. Of course, on the other side, the life that is built on the sand is the life which is not thus regulated by Christ's will and known commandments.

But I desire rather to bring out, in a word or two, some of the lessons that may be gathered from this general metaphor of a man's life as a house. And the first that I would suggest is this:--Have you ever thought of your life as being a whole, with a definite moral characteristic stamped upon it? I look upon the men and women that I come across in the world, and I cannot help seeing that a great many of them have never got into their heads the idea that their life is a whole. A house? No. A cartload of bricks, tumbled down at random, would be a better metaphor. A chain? No! A heap of links not linked. Many of you live from hand to mouth. Many of you have such unity in your life as comes from the pressure of the external circumstances of your trade or profession. But for anything like the living consciousness that life is a whole, with a definite moral character for which you are responsible, it has never dawned upon your mind. And so you go on haphazard, never bringing reflection to bear upon the trend and drift of your days; doing what you must do because your occupation is this, that, or the other thing; doing what you incline to do in the matter of recreation; now and then sporadically, and for a minute or two, bringing conscience to bear, and being very uncomfortable sometimes when you do. But as for recognising the mystic solemnity of all these days of yours in that they are welded together, and are all tending to one end, and that each passing moment contributes its infinitesimal share to the awful solemn whole--that has seldom entered your minds, and for a great many of you it has never had any effect in restraining or stimulating or regulating your conduct.

Then there is another consideration which this metaphor suggests--viz. that the house is built up by slow degrees, brick upon brick, course by course, day by day, and moment by moment. It is slow work, but certain work. Let every man take heed how he buildeth,' and never despise the little things. Very small bricks make a large house.

Then there is another consideration that I would suggest, and that is, you have to live in the house that you build. Your deeds make the house that Christ is here speaking of. Like the chrysalis that spins out of its own entrails the cocoon in which it lies, so are you spinning, to vary the metaphor, what you lodge in, until you eat your way through it, and pass into the next stage of being. Our deeds seem transient, but although we are building on the sand we are building for Eternity, because, though the deeds are transient in appearance, they abide.

They abide in memory. Some of you know how true that is. Black memories haunt some of us, and there could be for some no worse hell than that God should say, Son, remember.' You have to live in the house that you build. The deeds abide in habit. They abide in limiting and determining what we can be and do in the future; and in a hundred other ways that I must not touch upon. Only, I bring to you this question, and I pray God that you may listen to it and answer it: What are you building? A shop? That is a noble ambition, is it not? A pleasure-house? That is worse. A prison? Some of you are rearing for your incarceration a jail where you will be tied and held by the cords of your sins, and whence you will be unable to break out. Or are you building a temple? If you are building on Christ it is all right. Only take heed what you build on that foundation.

III. Now let me say a word, in the next place, about the storm.

I need not dwell upon the picturesque force of our Lord's description, so true to the sudden inundations of Eastern lands, and as true to the sudden floods of Northern countries when the snows melt. The house is attacked on all sides. From above, the rain comes down to beat on the roof, the wind rages round the walls, the flood comes swirling round the eaves from beneath, and if the house stands upon a cliff, the polished rock turns the flood off innocuous, but if it stands upon sand, the furious rush of waters eats a way beneath and undermines the whole.

But you will notice that the description of the storm is repeated in both cases, and is verbatim the same in each. And the lesson from that is just this--let no Christian man fancy that he is not going to be judged according to his works, for he is. The storm that comes, which I take distinctly to mean the final judgment which falls upon all men, beats against the house that is built upon the rock. For every one of us, Christian or not Christian, must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, that we may receive according to the deeds done in the body.' Christian people, do not fancy that the great doctrine of forgiveness of sins and acceptance in the Beloved, means that you have not to stand His judgment according to your works. According to the other metaphor of the Apostle, working out the same idea with some changes in figure, the Christian man who builds upon the foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble,' has his work tried by fire.' So all of us have to face that prospect, and I beseech you to face it wisely. A sensible builder calculates the strain to which his work will be exposed before he begins to put it up. Or if he does not there will befall it the same fate that years ago befell that unfortunate Tay Bridge, where, by reason of girders too feeble, and piers not solid enough, and rivets left out where they should have been put in, one December night the whole thing went over into the water below. You have to stand the hurtling black storm. Take into account the strain which your building will have to resist, and build accordingly.

IV. And now, lastly, one word about the two endings.

It stood' it fell' that is all. A life of obedience to Christ is stable, a life not based on Christ vanishes; and these two statements are true because whatsoever a man does for himself, apart from God in Christ, he is sowing to corruption, and he will reap corruption. As I said, nothing lasts but God, and what is done according to the will of God. And when the storm conies, whether the builder was a Christian man or not, all which was not thus built on Christ will be swept away, as the flimsy habitation of Eastern people, made of bamboos and oiled paper, are whirled away before the typhoon. All that was not built upon Christ--and much of you Christian people's lives is not built on Christ--will have to go.

And what about the builders? If any man's work abide he will receive a reward.' Their works do follow them.' If any man's work is burned, he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.' And if any man has reared a structure of a life ignoring Jesus Christ, and with no connection with Him, then house and builder will perish together.

Jesus Christ does not speak in my text about the righteousness or the unrighteousness of these two courses of conduct. He does not say, a good man does so-and-so, or a bad man does the other thing,' but he says: A wise man builds his house on the Rock, and a foolish man builds his on the sand. To live by faith and obedience is supreme wisdom. Every life which is not built upon Christ is the perfection of folly.

THE CHRIST OF THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT

And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at His doctrine: 29. For He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.'--MATT. vii. 28-29.

It appears, then, from these words, that the first impression made on the masses by the Sermon on the Mount was not so much an appreciation of its high morality, as a feeling of the personal authority with which Christ spoke. Had the scribes, then, no authority? They ruled the whole life of the nation with tyrannical power. They sat in Moses' seat, and claimed all manner of sway and control. And yet when people listened to Jesus, they heard something ringing in His voice that they missed in the rabbis. They only set themselves up, in their highest claims, as being commentators upon, and the expositors of, the Law. Their language was Moses commanded' Rabbi this said so-and-so; Rabbi that said such-and-such.' But as even the crowd that listened to Him detected, Jesus Christ, in these great laws of His kingdom, adduced no authority but His own; stood forth as a Legislator, not as a commentator; and commanded, and prohibited, and repealed, and promised, on His own bare word. That is a characteristic of all Christ's teaching; and, as we see from my text, to the apprehension of the first auditors, it was deeply stamped on the Sermon on the Mount.

I purpose to turn to that Sermon now, and try if we can make out the points in it which impressed these people, who first heard it, with the sense that they were in the presence of an autocratic Voice that had a right to speak, and which did speak, with absolute and unexampled authority.

And I do that the more readily because I dare say you have all heard people that said Oh! I do not care about the dogmas of Christianity; give me the Sermon on the Mount and its sublime morality; that is Christianity enough for me.' Well, I should be disposed to say so pretty nearly too, if you will take all the Sermon on the Mount, and not go picking and choosing bits out of it. For I am sure that if you will take the whole of its teaching you will find yourself next door to, if not in the very inmost chamber of, the mysticism of the Gospel of John and the theology of Paul.

I. I ask you, then, to note that the Sermon claims for Jesus Christ the authority of supremacy above all former revelation and revealers.

Think not,' says He, that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.' And then He goes on, in five cases, to illustrate, in a very remarkable way, the authority that He claimed over the former Law, moulding it according to His will.

Now I do not propose to do more than suggest, in a sentence, two points that I think of importance. Observe that remarkable form of speech, I am come.' May we not fairly say that it implies that He existed before birth, and that His appearance among men was the result of His own act? Does it not imply that He was not merely born, but came, choosing to be born just as He chose to die? In what sense can we understand the Apostle's view that it was an infinite and stupendous act of condescension in Christ to be found in fashion as a man,' unless we believe that by His own will and act He came forth from the Father and entered into the world, just as by His own will and act He left the world and went unto the Father?

But I do not dwell upon that, nor upon another very important consideration. Why was it that Jesus Christ, at the very beginning of His mission, felt Himself bound to disclaim any intention of destroying the law or the prophets? Must not the people have begun to feel that there was something revolutionary and novel about His teaching, and that it was threatening to disturb what had been consecrated by ages? So that it was needful that He should begin His career with this disclaimer of the intention of destruction. Strange for a divine messenger, if He simply stood as one in the line and sequence of divine revelation, to begin His work by saying, Now, I do not mean to annihilate all that is behind Me!' The question arises how anybody should have supposed that He did, and why it should ever have been needful for Him to say that He did not.

But I pass by all that, and ask you to think how much lies in these words of our Lord: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.' They imply a claim that His life was a complete embodiment of God's law. Here is a man beginning His ministry as a religious teacher, with the assertion, stupendous, and, upon any other lips but His, insane arrogance, that He had come to do everything which God demanded, and to set forth before the world a living Pattern of the whole obedience of a human nature to the whole law of God. Who is He that said that? And how do we account for the fact that nineteen centuries have passed, and, excepting in the case of here and there a bitter foe whose hostility had robbed him of his common sense, no lip has ventured to say that He claimed too much for Himself when He said, I am come to fulfil the law' or that He falsely read the facts of His own experience and consciousness when He declared, I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.'

Still further, here our Lord claims specifically and expressly to fulfil not only law but prophets. That is to say, He sets Himself forth as the Reality which had filled the imaginations and the hearts of a whole nation for centuries; as the living Reality which had been meant by all those lofty words of seers and prophets in the past. He declares that all those rapturous forecastings, all those dim anticipations, all those triumphant promises, were not left to swing in vacuo, or to float about unfulfilled, but that He stood there, the actual Realisation of them all; and in Him, wrapped up as in a seed, the Kingdom of Heaven was among men.

And still further, He claims not only personal purity and completeness, and the fulfilment of all prior and prophetic anticipation, but also He claims to have, and He exercises, the power of moulding, expanding, interpreting, and in some cases brushing aside, laws which He and they alike knew to be the laws of God. I do not need to specify in detail the instances which are contained in this Sermon on the Mount. But I simply ask you to consider the formula with which our Lord introduces each of His references to that subject. Ye have heard that it hath been said to them of old time' so-and-so,--and then follows a command of the Mosaic law; but I say unto you' so-and-so,--and then follows a deepening or a modification or a repeal, of statutes acknowledged by Him and His hearers to be divine. He certainly claims to speak with the same right and authority as the old Law did. He as certainly claims to speak with incomparably higher authority than Moses did, for the latter never professed to give precepts of his own. He was not the Lawgiver, as he is often called, but only the messenger of the Lawgiver. But Christ is Himself the fountain of the laws of His Kingdom. Nor only so, but He puts Himself without apology or explanation in front of Moses and asserts power to modify, to set aside, or to re-enact with new stringency, the precepts of the divine law.

One supposition alone accounts for Christ's attitude to law and prophets in this Sermon, and that is that the Eternal Wisdom and Personal Word of God, which at sundry times and in divers manners' spake to the old world by Moses, itself at last, in human form and personal guise, came here on earth and spake to us men. It is the same Voice that breathed through the prophets of old, and that spake on the lips of the Christ of Nazareth; the same Eternal Word who manifested Himself in a fiery law' on Sinai, and in words of no less majesty and of deepened gentleness, when He gathered the people round about Him, and said to them, It hath been said to them of old time, . . . but I say unto you . . . '

Here is the sum and climax of all revelation, the last word of the divine mind and will and heart, to the world. Moses and Elias stand beside Him on the Mount of Transfiguration, witnesses of His superiority and servants at His feet, and they vanish into mist and darkness, and leave there, erect, white-robed, solitary, the unique figure of the One Lawgiver and the perfect Revealer of God to men.

And this is the authority which struck even on the unsusceptible hearts of the listening crowds.

II. Still further, let me ask you to consider how, in this same great Sermon, He claims the authority of One who is unique in His relation to the Father.

You will find that in it there occurs very frequently the expression, your Father which is in Heaven' or sometimes with the variation, thy Father which is in Heaven,' or, which seeth in secret.' But you will also find that whilst our Lord speaks about My Father which is in Heaven,' He never says our Father' excepting in the exception which proves the rule when He is putting into the lips of His disciples the great formula of prayer which we call the Lord's Prayer' and there speaking as through their consciousness, and teaching them their lesson, He says Our Father,' not as if He Himself were praying, but as if He were telling them how to pray. But when He speaks out of His own consciousness He speaks of My Father' and your Father,' never of our Father.'

And that corresponds with other phenomena in Scripture in our Lord's own language where you find that always He draws this broad distinction. He never associates Himself with us in His Sonship. He ever asserts that He is the Son of God. Even when He wishes to speak with the utmost tenderness, He bids the weeping Mary hear the message, I go unto My Father and your Father.' This doctrine is thought by many to be one of those which they get rid of by professing the Christianity of the Sermon on the Mount. But it is there as plainly as in other parts of Scripture. If we accept all which it teaches, we cannot escape from the belief that He is the only begotten and well-beloved Son of the Father; and also that through Him and in Him we, too, may receive the adoption of sons.

Dear friends, I press this upon you as no mere piece of hard theological doctrine, but as containing in it the very essentials of all spiritual life for each of us, that all our spiritual life must come by participation in Christ, and that we enter into an altogether new and blessed relation to God when, laying our humble and penitent hands on the head of that dear Sacrifice that died on the Cross for as, we through Him cease to be children of wrath and become heirs of God. To as many as received Him, to them gave He authority to become the children of God, even to them that believe in His name,' but His Sonship stands unique and unapproachable, though it is the foundation from which flows all the sonship of the whole family in heaven and in earth. Moses and the prophets, teachers and guides, Apostles and Helpers, they are all but the servants of the family; this is the Son through whom we receive the adoption of sons.

III. We have in this great discourse the authority of One who is absolute Lord and Master over men.

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord! Lord! shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord! Lord! have we not prophesied in Thy name, and in Thy name done many wonderful works?' Whoso heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them, I will liken him to a wise man, which built his house upon a rock.'

Jesus Christ here comes before the whole race, and claims an absolute submission. His word is to control, with authoritative and all-comprehensive scrutiny and power, every aim of our lives, and every action. In His name we may be strong, in His name we may cast out devils, in His name we may do many wonderful works. If we build upon Him we build upon a rock; if we build anywhere else we build upon the sand.

Strange, outrageous claims for a man to make! Give me the Sermon on the Mount, and keep your doctrinal theology,' say people. But I want to know what kind of morality it is that is all traceable up to this--Do as I bid you, My will is your law; My smile is your reward; to obey Me is perfection.' I think that takes you a good long way into theology.' I think that the Man who said that--and you all know that He said it--must he either a good deal more or a good deal less than a perfect man. If He is only that He is not that; for if He is only that, He has no business to tell me to obey Him. He has no business to substitute His will for every other law; and you have no business--and it will be at the peril of your manhood if you do--to take any man, the Man Christ or any other, as an absolute example and pattern and master.

My brethren, Christ's claim to absolute obedience rests upon His divine nature and on His redeeming work. He has delivered us from our enemies, and therefore He commands us. He has given Himself for us, and therefore He has a right to say, Give yourselves to Me.' He is God manifest in the flesh, and therefore absolute power becomes His lips, and utter submission is our dignity. To say to Him Lord, Lord,' carries us whole universes beyond saying to Him, Rabbi, Rabbi.'

IV. And now, lastly, we have in this great discourse the authority of our Lord set forth as being the authority of Him who is to be the Judge of the world.

Then will I profess unto you I never knew you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.' He, the meek, the humble, who never claimed for Himself anything except what His consciousness compelled Him to assert, who desired only that men should know Him for what He was, because it was their life so to know Him, here declares that the whole world is to be judged by Him, that He has such knowledge of men as will pierce beneath the surface of professions and will be undazzled by the most stupendous miracles, and beneath the eloquent words of many a preacher and the wonderful works of many a so-called Christian philanthropist, will see the hidden rottenness that they never saw, and, tearing down the veil, will reveal men at the last to themselves.

That is no human function, that is no work that belongs to a mere teacher, pattern, martyr, sage, philosopher, or saint. That is a divine work; and the authority of Him whose final word to each of us will settle beyond appeal our fate, and reveal beyond cavil our character, is a divine authority. He has a right to command because He is going to judge; and the lips that declare the law are the lips that will read the sentence.

So, my brethren, do you take the whole Christ for yours, the Son of God, the crown and end of revelation, the sinless and the perfect, who died on the Cross for our salvation, and loves and pities, and is ready to help every one of us; who, therefore, commands us with an absolute authority, and who one day comes to be our Judge? If you turn to Him and ask Him, Art Thou He that should come?' let Him speak for Himself, and He will answer you: I that speak unto thee am He.' When He asks each of us, as He does now, Whom sayest thou that I am?' oh that we may all answer, with the assent of our understandings, with the love of our hearts, with the submission of our wills, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.'

THE TOUCH THAT CLEANSES

When He was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. 1. And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped Him, saying, Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean. 3. And Jesus put forth His hand, and touched him, saying, I will; he thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4. And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.'--MATT. viii. 14.

THE great collection of Jesus' sayings, which we call the Sermon on the Mount, is followed by a similar collection of Jesus' doings, which we call miracles. It is significant that Matthew puts the words first and the works second, as if to teach us the relative importance of the two. Some one has said that miracles are the bell rung before the sermon,' but Matthew thinks that the sermon comes first. He masses together nine miracles (the raising of Jairus' daughter and the healing of the woman with the bloody issue being so closely connected that they may be regarded as one) which are divided into three groups of three each, and are separated by three sections of more general character, like three landings in a broad flight of stairs, or three breaks in a procession (ch. viii. 18-22; ix. 9-17, 35-38).

The first triplet comprises miracles of bodily healing, and shows Jesus as the great physician, curing leprosy, palsy, and fever, three types of disease which have their analogues in the moral world. The cure of the leper comes first, apparently not from chronological reasons, but because leprosy had been made by the Old Testament legislation the symbol of sin. The story is found in all the Synoptic Gospels, with slight variations, which make more impressive their verbal identity in reporting the leper's appeal and the Lord's answer.

A leper had to keep apart from men and was shunned by them, but this one ventured to mingle with the great multitudes' that followed' Jesus, till he reached His side. He must have known something of Christ to have approached Him with a flicker of long-absent hope in his heart. No doubt he had heard of some of the earlier miracles; and no doubt the crowd recoiled from him so that he could easily reach Jesus. When he got there he worshipped, or, as Luke puts it, fell on his face,' and made his appeal. It would be all the more piteous, because it was spoken in that feeble, hoarse voice characteristic of leprosy, and it was in itself most pathetic. The poor creature has won his way to a surprising confidence, dashed with a yet more surprising diffidence and doubt. He is sure of the power, but not of the willingness, of this wonderful healer. Thou canst,' does not make him confident, because it is weakened by If Thou wilt.' Faith, desire, humility, and submissiveness are beautifully smelted together in the wistful words, which are all the more prevalent a prayer, because they do not venture to take the form of prayer. To tell Jesus that His will was all that was needed to heal him was, as it were, to throw the responsibility for this continued misery on Him who could so easily deliver, if He only willed to do it. But the hope which gleamed before his poor eyes was only a gleam, obscured by his ignorance of Jesus' disposition towards him. The lowly acquiescence, with which he leaves Jesus to decide whether he is to be freed from his horrible, living death, is very beautiful, and speaks of a patient, disciplined spirit, as well as of a profound insight into our Lord's authority. The leper does cling to the hope that Jesus does will to heal him, but he will not rebel if he is left shut up in his prison-house. Surely in such a blending of trust, yearning, and acceptance of that Will, whatever it involved, there was the germ of discipleship. Surely there was, at least, the beginning of a living union with Jesus, which would heal more than the leprosy of the flesh.

Mark gives the precious addition to the narrative, of a glimpse into the heart of Jesus, when he tells us that, moved with compassion,' He put forth His hand and touched him.' Swift and, we may almost say, instinctive was the outgoing of pity from the heart, which was so pitiful because it was so pure, and laid on itself every man's sorrow because it carried no burden of its own sin or self-regard. That touch had deep meaning, but it was not done for the sake of a meaning. It was the spontaneous expression of love, and revealed the delicate quickness of perception of another's feelings which flows from love only. The leper had almost forgotten what the touch of a hand felt like. He had lived, ever since his disease was manifest, apart from others, had perhaps lost the embraces of wife and children, had walked alone in crowds, and had a heart-chilling circle cleared round him everywhere. But now this Man stretches His hand across the dreary gulf, and lets him feel once more the sweetness of a warm and gentle touch. It was half the cure; it was the complete clearing away of the last film of the cloud of doubt as to the will of Jesus. It answered the if' by something that spoke louder than any word. And, though it was not meant for anything but the silent voice of pity and love, we do not rob it of its beautiful spontaneity when we see, in the touch of that pure hand on the rotting feculence of leprosy, a parable of the Incarnation, in which He lays hold on our flesh of sin and is yet without sin--contracts no defilement by contact, but by touching cleanses the foulness on which He lays His white fingers. By that touch He proclaimed Himself the priest, to whom the Law gave the office of laying his hand on the leper.

But the great word accompanying the touch is majestic in its brevity and absolute claim to absolute power. Jesus accepts the leper's lofty conception of His omnipotent will, as He always accepted the highest conceptions that any formed of His person or authority. The sovereign utterance, I will,' claims possession of the divine prerogative of affecting dead matter by the mere outgoing of His volition. Not only is it true of Him that He spake and it was done,' but He willed and it was done; and these are the hall-marks of divine power. Neither the touch of His hand nor the word of His lips cleansed the leper, but simply the exercise of His will, of which word and touch were but audible and visible tokens for sense to grasp. The form of the poor husky croak for help determined the form of the answer, and the correspondence is marked by all the evangelists as a striking instance of Christ's loving way of echoing our petitions in His replies, and moulding His gifts to match our desires. Thunder in heaven wakes echoes on earth, but more wonderful is it that the thin voice of our supplications, when we scarcely dare to shape them into prayers, should wake a voice from the throne, which, though it is mighty as the voice of many waters' and sweet as that of harpers harping with their harps,' deigns to echo our poor cries.

The prohibition to speak of the cure till the priests had pronounced it real and complete is more stringent in Mark, who also tells how utterly it was disregarded. Its reason was obviously the wish to comply with the law, and also the wish to get the official seal to the cure. Jesus did desire the miracle to be known, but not till it was authoritatively certified by the priest whose business it was to pronounce a sufferer clean. It was for the leper's advantage, too, that he should have the official certificate, since he would not be restored to society without it. One does not wonder that the prohibition was disregarded in the uncontrollable delight and wonder at such an experience. The leper was eloquent, as we all can be, when our hearts are engaged, and his blessing refused to be hid. Alas, how many of us, who profess to have been cleansed from a worse defilement, find no such impulse to speak welling up in ourselves! Alas, how superfluous is the injunction to hundreds of Christ's disciples: See thou say nothing to any man'!

THE FAITH WHICH CHRIST PRAISES

The centurion answered and said: Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof, but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. 9. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go! and he goeth; and to another, Come I and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this; and he doeth it.'--MATT. viii. 8-9.

This miracle of the healing of the centurion's servant is the second of the great series which Matthew gives us. It is perhaps not accidental that both the first and the second miracles in his collection point out our Lord's relation to outcasts from Israel. The first of them deals with a leper, the second with the prayer of a heathen. And so they both contribute to the great purpose of Matthew's Gospel, the bringing out of the nature of the kingdom and the glory of the King.

My object now is to deal with the whole of the incident of which I have read the most important part. We have in the story three things: the man and his faith; Christ's eulogium upon the faith, and declaration of its place in His kingdom; and the answer to the faith. Look, then, at these three in succession.

I. We consider, first, the man and his faith.

He was a heathen and a Gentile. The Herod, who then ruled over Galilee, had a little army, officered by Romans, of whom probably this centurion was one; the commander, perhaps, of some small garrison of a hundred men, the sixtieth part of a legion, which was stationed in Capernaum. If we look at all the features of his character which come out in the story, we get a very lovable picture of a much more tender heart than might have been supposed to beat under the armour of a mercenary soldier set to overawe a sullen people. He loveth our nation,' say the elders of the Jews,--not certainly because of their amiability, but because of the revelation which they possessed. Like a great many others in that strange, restless era when our Lord came, this man seems to have become tired of the hollowness of heathenism, and to have been groping for the light. His military service brought him into contact with Judaism and its monotheism, and his heart sprang to that as the thing he had been seeking. He hath built us a synagogue,' thereby expressing his adhesion to, or at least his lofty estimate of, the worship which was there carried on. Just as, if an English officer in India were, in some little village or other, to repair a ruined temple, he would win the hearts of all the people, because they would think he was coming over to Brahminism; so this soldier was felt to be nearer to the Jews than his official position might have suggested.

Then, there was in him a beautiful human kindliness, which neither the rough military life, nor that carelessness about a slave--which is one of the worst fruits of slavery, had been able to sour or destroy. He was tenderly anxious about his servant, who, according to Luke's expression, was dear to him.' Then we get as the crown of all the beauty of his character, the lowliness of spirit which the little brief authority' in which he was dressed' had not puffed up. I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof.' That lowliness is emphasised in Luke's version of the story, which is more detailed and particularly accurate than Matthew's summary account. By it we learn that he did not venture to come himself, but sent His messengers to Jesus. If we take Matthew's version, there is another lovely trait. He does not ask Christ to do anything. He simply spreads the necessity before Him, in the confidence that His pitying love lies so near the surface that it was sure to flow forth, even at that light touch. He will not prescribe, he tells the story, and leaves all to Him. Christ's answer, I will come and heal him,' throbs with the consciousness of power, and is gentle with tenderness, quick to interpret unspoken wishes, and not slow to answer, unless it is for the wisher's good to be refused. When He was asked to go, because the asker considered that His presence was necessary for His power to have effect, He refused; when He is not asked to go, He volunteers to do so. He is moved to apparently opposite actions by the same motive, the good of the petitioner, whose weak faith He strengthens by refusal, whose strong faith He confirms by acquiescence. And that is the law of His conduct always, and you and I may trust it absolutely, He may give, or retain ungiven, what we desire; in either case, He will be acting in order that our trust in Him may be deepened.

That brings us to the remarkable and unique conception of our Lord's manner of working and power to which this centurion gives utterance. I also' (for the true text of Matthew has that also,' as the Revised Version shows), I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me, and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; to another, Come, and he cometh; to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. Speak thou with a word only and my servant shall be healed.' A centurion was likely to understand the power of a word of command. His whole training had taught him the omnipotence of the uttered will of the authoritative general, and although he was but an officer over a poor sixtieth part of a legion, yet in some limited measure the same power lay in him, and his word could secure unhesitating submission. One good thing about the devilish trade of war is that it teaches the might of authority and the virtue of absolute obedience. And even his profession, with all its roughness and wickedness, had taught the centurion this precious lesson, a jewel that he had found in a dunghill, the lesson that, given the authoritative lip, a word is omnipotent. The commander speaks and the legion goes, though it be to dash itself to death.

So he turns to Christ. Does he mean to parallel or to contrast his subordination and Christ's position? The also,' which, as I remarked, the Revised Version has rightly replaced in the text here, is in favour of the former supposition, that he means to parallel Christ's position with his own. And it is much more natural to suppose that a heathen man, with little knowledge of Christ and of the depths of the divine revelation in the past, should have attained to the conception of Jesus as possessing a real but subordinate and derived authority, than to suppose that he had grasped, at that early stage, the truth which Christ's nearest friends took long years to understand, and which some of them do not understand yet, viz. that Christ possessed as His own the power which He wielded.

But if we take this point of view, and consider that the centurion's conception falls beneath the lofty Christian ideal of Christ's power in the universe, as it is set forth to us in the New Testament, even then His words set forth a truth. For if we believe on the one hand in the divinity of our Lord and Saviour, we also believe that the Son is subject to the Father' and listen to His own words when He says, All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.' So that whatever difference there may be between His relation to the power which He wields and that of a prophet or miracle-worker, who derives his power from Him, this is true, that Christ's power, too, is a power given to Him. But the other side is one that I desire to emphasise in a few words, viz. that the centurion's conception falls short of the truth, inasmuch as, if we believe in Christ's witness to Himself, we must believe that the power which acted through His word, dwelt in Him, in an altogether different relation to His person from that in which an analogous power may have dwelt in any other man. He spake and it was done, He commanded and it stood fast.' Diseases fled at His word. By the breath of His mouth He slew' these enemies of men. He rebuked the storm, and the howling of the wind and the dashing of the waves were less loud than His calm voice. He flung a word into the depths of the grave, strangely speaking to, and yet more strangely heard by, the dull cold ear of death, and Lazarus, dazzled, stumbles out into the light. Who is this, that commandeth the waves, and the seas, and the sicknesses, and they obey Him? My brother, I pray that you and I, in these days of hesitation, when many a truth is clouded by doubt, may be able to answer with the full assent and consent of understanding and heart, this is God manifest in the flesh.'

And remember that this prerogative of dealing with physical nature, by the bare forth-putting of His word, is not only a doctrine of Christianity, but that more and more physical investigation is coming to the unifying of all forces in one, and to the resolving of that one into the force of a will, and that all that will, as the Christian scheme teaches us, is lodged in Jesus Christ. His lip speaks, and it is power. He moves in nature, in providence, in history, in grace, because in Him abides now in the form of a man, that same everlasting Word which was with the Father, and by whom all things were made. The centurion bows before the Commander, and the Christ says, as Captain of the Lord's host am I now come.' Such, then, is the faith of this soldier taught him by the Legion.

II. Now a word next as to our Lord's eulogium on his faith.

Jesus Christ accepts and endorses the centurion's estimate of Him, as He always accepts the highest place offered Him. No one ever proffered to Jesus Christ honours that He put by. No one ever brought to Him a trust which He said was either excessive or misdirected. Speak the word and my servant shall be healed,' said the centurion. Contrast Christ's acceptance of this confidence in his power with Elijah's Am I a God, to kill and to make alive, that they send this man to me to recover him of his leprosy?' Or contrast it with Peter's Why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?' Christ takes as His due all the honour, love, and trust, which any man can give Him--either an exorbitant appetite for adulation, or the manifestation of conscious divinity.

And He marvelled.' Twice we read in Scripture that Christ wondered--once at this heathen's faith, so strongly grown, with so few advantages of culture; once at Jewish unbelief, so feeble and fruitless, after so much expenditure of patience and care. But passing from that, notice how much lies in these sad and yet astonished words of His: Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.' Then, He came seeking faith from this people whom God had cared for during centuries. The one fruit that He desired was trust in Him. That is what He is seeking for in us--not lives of profession, not orthodoxy of conception, not even fruits in work, but before all this, and productive of all that is good in any of them, He desires to find in our hearts the child's trust that casts itself wholly on His Omnipotent word, and is sure of an answer. This man's faith was great, great in the rapidity of its growth, great in the difficulties which it had overcome, great in the clearness of its conception, great in the firmness of its affiance, great in the humility with which it was accompanied. Such a faith He seeks as the thirsty traveller seeks grapes in the wilderness, and when He finds it growing in our hearts, then He is satisfied and glad.

Still further, there is brought out the dignity of faith as being not only the great desire of Christ's heart for each of us, but also as being the one means of admission into the kingdom. I say unto you, many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, in the Kingdom of Heaven; but the children of the Kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness.' Strange that Matthew's, the Jewish gospel, should record that saying. Strange that Luke's, the universal human gospel, should omit it. But it was relevant to Matthew's great purpose to make very plain this truth--which the nation were forgetting, and which was gall and wormwood to them,--that hereditary descent and outward privileges had no power to open the door of Christ's Kingdom to any man, and that the one thing which had, was the one thing which the centurion possessed and the Jews did not, a simple trust in that divine Lord.

My brethren, there are many of us who attach precisely the same value as these Jews did, in slightly different forms, to external connection with religion and religious institutions. What blunts the sharpest words that come from pulpits, and prevents them from getting to hearts and consciences, is just that pestilent old Jewish error, that because men have always had a kind of outward hold on the Kingdom, therefore they do not need the teaching that the publicans and the harlots want.

My dear friend, nothing binds a man to Christ but trust. Nothing opens the doors of His Kingdom, either here on earth or yonder, but reliance upon Him. And although you were steeped to the eye-brows in religious privileges, and high in place in His church, it would avail nothing. The Kingdom of Christ is a Kingdom into which faith, and faith only, admits a man. Therefore from the furthest corners of the world Christ's sad prescience saw the Gentiles flocking, and the Jews who trusted in externals, cast out.

I need not dwell on the two halves of the picture here, the radiant glow of the one, the tragic darkness of the other. The feast expresses abundance, joy, rest, companionship. They shall come' says Christ; then He is there, and sitting at the head of the table; and the Master's welcome makes the feast. On the other hand, that which is without the banqueting hall is dark. That darkness is but the making visible of the nature of the men. Hell comes out of a man before it surrounds him. They were sometime darkness,' and now they are in the darkness. I say no more about that, I dare not; but I pray you to remember that the lips which said this spake that He did know' and to take heed lest, speculating and arguing, and sometimes quarrelling, about the nature and the duration of future retribution, we should lose our sense of the awfulness and certainty of the fact.

III. So one word lastly as to the answer that faith brings.

Go thy way; as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee.' He heals at a distance, and shapes His gift by the man's desire. The form of the vase that is dipped into the sea settles the quantity and the shape of the water that is taken out. There is a wide truth in that, on which I do not now enlarge. The measure of my faith is the measure of my possession of Christ. He puts the key of the treasure-house into our hands and says, Go in, and take as much as you like' and some of us come out with a halfpenny as all that we care to bring away. You are starving, some of you, whilst you are sitting in a granary bursting with plenty. Suppose a proclamation were made, There will be given away gold to anybody that likes to come. Let them bring a purse, and it will be filled.' How large a purse do you think you would like to take? A sack, I should think. Christ says that to you; and you bring a tiny thing like what they keep sovereigns in, that will scarcely hold a farthing, with such a narrow throat is it provided, and so small its interior accommodation. Ye have not because ye ask not.' Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it.'

SWIFT HEALING AND IMMEDIATE SERVICE

And when Jesus was come into Peter's house, He saw his wife's mother laid, and sick of a fever. 15. And He touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose and ministered unto them.'--MATT. viii. 14-15.

Other accounts give a few additional points.

Mark:--

That the house was that of Peter and Andrew.

That Christ went with James and John.

That He was told of the sickness.

That He lifted her up.

Luke, physician-like, diagnoses the fever as great.' He also tells us that the sick woman's friends besought Jesus and did not merely tell' Him of her. May we infer that to His ear the telling of His servants' woes is a prayer for His help? He does not mention Christ's touch, which Mark here and elsewhere delights to record, and which Matthew also specifies. He fixes attention on the all-powerful word which was the vehicle of Christ's healing might.

Both evangelists put this miracle in its chronological order, from which it appears that it was done on the Sabbath day, which explains our verse 16, when the even was come.'

I. The scene of the miracle.

The domestic privacy of the great event seems to have struck the evangelists. It stands between the narrative of Christ's public work in the synagogue, and the story of the eager crowds who came round the doors. So it gives us a glimpse of the uniformity of that life of blessing as being the same in public and in private.

Again, it suggests the characteristic absence of all ostentation in His works. We can scarcely suppose this miracle done for the sake of showing His divinity. It was pure goodness and sympathy which moved Him.

It occurred in a household of His disciples. There, too, sorrow will come. But there, if they tell Him of it, His help will not be far away. This is one of the few miracles wrought on one of His more immediate followers. The Resurrection of Lazarus, so like this in many respects, is the only other.

This scene of the healing Christ in His disciples' household suggests the whole subject of the effect on domestic life of Christianity, or more truly of Christ Himself. It is scarcely too much to say that the home, as many of us blessedly know, is the creation of Christ. Cana of Galilee--The household at Bethany.

II. The time.

After His long day's toil--the unwearied mercy. On the Sabbath--the Lord of the Sabbath.

III. The person.

The woman. How Christianity embodies the true emancipation of women. They are participants in an equal gift, honoured by admission to equal service.

IV. The effect.

She ministered' testimony of the completeness of the cure. Which completeness is also real in the spiritual region.

How the basis of all our service must be His healing. Ours second, not first.

How the end of His healing is our service. We are bound to render it: He desires it. How each one's character and circumstances determine his service. How common duties may be sanctified. He accepts our service whatever it be.

The Sabbath. The services of love come before ritual observance, in Jesus and in the cured woman.

THE HEALING CHRIST

Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.'--MATT. viii. 17.

You will remember, probably, that in our Old Testament translation of these words they are made to refer to man's mental and spiritual evils: He bare our griefs and carried our sorrows.' Our evangelist takes them to refer, certainly not exclusively, but in part, to men's corporeal evils--our infirmities' (bodily weaknesses, that is) and our sicknesses.' He was distinctly justified in so doing, both by the meaning of the original words, which are perfectly general and capable of either application, and by the true and deep view of the comprehensiveness of our Lord's mission and purpose. Christ is the antagonist of all the evils that affect man's life, whether his corporeal or his spiritual; and no less true is it that, in His deep sympathy, He bare our sicknesses' than that, in the mystery of His atoning death, He was wounded for our transgressions.'

It is, therefore, this point of view of Christ, as the Healer, which I desire to bring before you now.

I. First, I ask you to look at the plain facts as to our Lord's ministry which are contained in these words:--Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.'

Now, there are two points that I desire to emphasise very briefly. One is the prominence in Christ's life which is given to His healing energy. We are accustomed to think of His cures as miracles. We are accustomed to think of them in that aspect as evidences of His mission, or as difficulties and stumbling-blocks, as the case may be. But I ask you to put away all such thoughts for a minute, and think about the miracles simply as being cures. Remember how enormous a proportion of our Lord's time and pains and sympathy and thoughts was directed to that one purpose of healing people of their bodily infirmities. We may almost say that to an outsider He would look a great deal liker a man who, as the Apostle Peter painted Him in one of his earliest addresses, went about doing good and healing,' than as a teacher of divine wisdom, to say nothing of an incarnation of the divine nature. His miracles of healing were certainly the most conspicuous part of His life's work.

And then, remember, that whilst the great proportion of our Lord's miracles are miracles of healing, we are sure that the whole of the recorded miraculous works of our Lord are the smallest fraction of what He really did. You remember how there crop up, here and there, in the Gospels, general resume of our Lord's work, of such a kind as this:--And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And they brought unto Him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy and He healed them.' Or, again:--And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee, and went up into a mountain, and sat down there. And great multitudes came unto Him, having those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus' feet, and He healed them.' Now these are but specimens of the occasional generalisations which we find in the Gospels, which warrant us in saying that, according to the New Testament record, Christ's works of healing were to be numbered, not by tens, but by hundreds, and perhaps by thousands.

That is the first fact calling for notice. The words of our text suggest a second thought as to the cost at which these cures were wrought. Himself took and bare' does not mean only took away.' It includes that, as a consequence, but it points to something before the removal of the sicknesses. It points to the fact that Christ in some real sense endured the loads which He removed. Of course, His cross is the highest exemplification of the great law which runs through His whole life, that He identifies Himself with all the evil which He takes away, and is able to take it away only because He identifies Himself with it. But whilst the cross is the highest exemplification of this, every miracle of mercy which He wrought is an illustration of the same principle in its appropriate fashion, and upon a lower level. And although we cannot say that the physical sufferings which He alleviated were physically laid upon Him, yet we can say that He so identified Himself with all sufferers by His swift sympathy as that He bore, and therefore bore away, the diseases as well as the sins of the men for whose healing He lived, and for whose redemption He died.

The proof of this crops up now and then. What did it mean that, when He stood beside one poor sufferer, before He could utter from His authoritative lips the divine word of power, Ephphatha, be opened,' the same lips had to shape themselves for the utterance of an altogether human and brotherly sigh? Did it not mean that the condition of His healing power was sympathy, that He must bring Himself to feel the burden that He will roll away? That sigh proves that His cures were the works, not without cost to the doer, of a sympathising heart, and not the mere passionless acts of a miracle-monger.

In like manner, what meant that strange tempest of agitation that swept across the pacific ocean of His nature ere He stood by the grave of Lazarus? Why that being troubled in Himself' before He raised him? Wherefore the tears that heralded the restoration of the man to life? They could not be shed for the loss that was so soon to be repaired. They can only have been the emotion and tears of One who saw, as massed in one black whole, the entire sorrows that affected physical humanity, and rose in a holy passion of indignation and of sorrow at the sight of that enemy, Death, with whose beginnings He had wrestled in many a miracle of restoration, and whose sceptre He was now about to pluck from his bony clutch. Therefore I say that Christ the healer bore, and thereby bore away, the sicknesses and the infirmities of men.

Amidst mountains of rubbish and chaff, the Rabbis have a grain of wheat in their legend which tells us that Messias is to come as a leper, and to be found sitting amongst the lepers at the city's gate; which is a picturesque and symbolical way of declaring the same truth that I am now insisting upon, the participation by the Redeemer in all burdens and sorrows of body and of spirit which He takes away.

II. And now with these facts--for I take them to be such--for the basis of our thoughts, let me ask you to turn, in the second place, to some plain practical conclusions that come from them.

The first of these that I would suggest is the lesson as to the proper sweep and sphere of Christian beneficence. As I said in my introductory remarks, we do not rightly measure the whole circumference of Christ's work unless we regard it as covering and including all forms of human evil. He is the antagonist of everything that is antagonistic to man--pain, misery, sickness, death itself. All these are excrescences on the divine design, transient accompaniments of disordered relations between God and man. And this great physician of souls fights the disease and does not neglect the symptoms; deals with the central evil and is not so absorbed with that as to omit from His view or His treatment the merely superficial manifestations of it.

So that if Christian people, individually and as Churches, are justly exposed, in any measure, to the sarcasm which is freely cast upon them, that they neglect the temporal well-being of men in order to attend exclusively to their spiritual wants, they have not learned the example of such partial treatment from their Master; nor have they taken in the significance and the power of His life in its relation to human sorrow. All that makes the heart bleed Christ comes to take away. All the ills that flesh is heir to,' as well as those which each spirit, by rebellion, brings upon itself--are the foes with whom Christ has left His Church in the world in order to wage incessant warfare. If we Christians, oppressed with the sense of the depth and central nature of the evil of man's sin, have so devoted ourselves to preaching and evangelising, that we are, in any measure, rightly chargeable with neglecting hospitals and infirmaries and other forms of relief for temporal necessities, just in that proportion have we departed from our Master's spirit. But I do not, for my part, much believe, either in the good faith of the accusers or in the applicability of the charge which men, who never do anything for the religious improvement of their fellows, are apt to bring against us. My little experience, I think, teaches me that the folk who say to us Do not waste your money on Bibles and missionaries, give it to hospitals and schools,' are not usually the people that waste their money' on either; and that the largest portion of all the work that is done in England to-day, for the temporal well-being of men, comes from the Christians who also do work for their spiritual well-being.

But let us learn the lesson, if we need it, from our enemies and our critics; and see to it that the more we feel the lofty and transcendent importance of carrying Christ's salvation to men's souls, the more we endeavour, likewise, to live amongst them as He did, the embodiment of pity, wide-eyed and comprehensive, for every evil that racks their hearts and every pain that tortures their nerves. As a fact, hospitals are found within the limits of Christianity, and not outside it; and so far, Christendom, though it is largely professing Christendom only, has learned that it follows a Christ who is the Saviour of the body and the Physician of the soul.

In the next place, another practical lesson which I would draw from this is, as to the sole conditions upon which any form of Christian help can be rendered. The condition for the elevation of men is that the lever which lifts them must have its point below them. That is to say, you have to go down if you would heave up. You have to go amongst if you would deliver; you have to make your own, by a sympathy which you have learned of your Master, the sorrows and the sins of humanity, if you would effectually remedy them. A guinea to an hospital is not your contribution to the Christ-like relief of human suffering. It wants, and He wants, your heart, your sympathy. Think for a moment of the universe of anguish that may lie within the narrow limits of one human body--that awful mystery of pain which holds in its red-hot pincers hundreds and thousands of men and women in this city at this moment. Try to imagine the mass of bodily agony, an enormous percentage of which is utterly innocent, and a still larger percentage of it perfectly remediable, which at this hour, whilst we sit here, is torturing mankind. And oh! brethren, do not let any thought of the transcendent importance of Christ's gospel, and what it does to men's hearts, make us careless about these real, though lesser, evils which lie beside us, and which we can remedy and help.

Only, remember the condition of help for them all. The newspapers went into raptures some years since, and wisely, over a Roman Catholic priest who shut himself up in a little island with a colony of lepers. Some Protestant martyrs have done the same before him, without any chorus of newspaper praise. Whoever did it had penetrated to the secret of Christian help--identification with the evil. If we would take away any misery or sin, we must act like that doctor who shut himself up in the wards of an hospital, and kept a diary of the symptoms of his disease, till the pen dropped from his fingers and the film came over his eyes. Are we ready to do anything like that for our brethren? Until we are, we have yet to learn and to practise the pattern which He has set, Who, though He was rich, for our sins became poor': and who, forasmuch as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, Himself likewise'--in their own fashion of weakness, and weariness, and sorrow, and pain, and ultimately death--took part of the same.' He bore our sicknesses,' therefore He bore them away, and, in so doing, taught us the law of Christian help.

And lastly, let me not pass from this subject without leaving on your hearts, dear friends, the other thought, of the connection and the relative importance of these two hemispheres of Christ's work. The sicknesses are symbols of the sins; the removal of the bodily pain and disease is a prophecy and a visible parable proclaiming the removal of all the harassment and abnormal action that afflict intellect, will, or spirit. Christ Himself has taught us to regard His miracles of healing as the making visible, in the outward sphere, of the analogous miracles of healing in the spiritual realm. And although I have been saying a great deal about the preciousness and the sacredness of the curative influences which flow from Christ, and deal with outward diseases and evils, let us not forget that a sound body is of small worth as compared with a sound mind; that the body is the servant of the spirit, meant mainly to do its behests, bring it knowledge, and express its will; and that high above, and pointed to by, the lower, though precious work of healing men's sicknesses, towers that work which we all of us need, and the robustest of us, perhaps, need most, the healing of our sick souls and their deliverance from death.

Every one of these manifold miracles which the Saviour wrought may be taken as parabolical. You and I grope in darkness as the blind. You and I have ears deaf to hear, and lips dumb to speak, the praises and the love and the word of God. We are lame in the powers of mind and spirit to run in the way of His commandments, and to walk unfainting in the paths of duty. The fever of hot, passionate, foolish desires burns in the veins of us all with its poison. The paralysis of a will that is slothful to good infests and hinders us all. But there comes to us that great hope and promise that Christ has the Spirit of the Lord upon Him to bring liberty to the captive, sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, healing to the fevered, vigour to the palsied, activity to the lame. Only let us set our trust in Him, carry our weaknesses to Him, acknowledge our sins to Him, seek the touch of His healing and quickening hand, and the miracle shall be wrought.

The old-fashioned surgery used to believe in the transfusion of blood from a sound to a diseased person, and the consequent expulsion of disease. That is the fact about our relation to Christ. Put your arm side by side with His by simple faith in Him. Come into contact with Him, and the blood of Jesus Christ, the law of the spirit of life that was in Him,' will pass into the veins of your spirits, and make you whole of whatsoever disease you have. Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped; then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing.' And so shall you begin that course of healing and purifying, which will know no pause nor natural termination until, redeemed in body, soul, and spirit, you reach the land where the inhabitant thereof shall no more say, I am sick,'--and there shall be no more death, neither shall there be any more pain.'

CHRIST REPRESSING RASH DISCIPLESHIP

And a certain scribe came, and said unto Him, Master, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest. 20. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.'--MATT. viii. 19-20.

Our Lord was just on the point of leaving Capernaum for the other side of the lake. His intended departure from the city, in which He had spent so long a time, and wrought so many miracles, produced precisely opposite effects on two of the crowd around Him, both of whom seem to have been, in the loose sense of the word, disciples. One was this scribe, whom the prospect of losing the Master from his side, hurried into a too lightly formed and too confidently expressed undertaking. The other presented exactly the opposite fault. That other man in the crowd, at the prospect of losing sight of the Christ, began to think that there were imperative duties at home which would prevent his following the Master, and said, Suffer me first to go and bury my father.' A sacred obligation, and one which Christ would not have desired him to suspend, unless there had been something more behind it!

These two men, then, represent the two opposite poles of weakness, the one too swift, the other too slow, to take a decisive step. And Christ's treatment of them is, in like manner, a representation of the two opposite methods which He adopts for curing opposite diseases, and bringing both back to the same state of health. He stimulates the too sluggish, He represses the too willing (if such a paradox may be allowed). His treatment is at once spur and bridle. To the one man He administers a sobering representation of what he is undertaking with so light a heart; to the other He gives the commandment that sounds so stern: Leave the highest duty, if you cannot do it without conflicting with your higher to Me.'

And so I think that Matthew's arrangement of this pair of companion pictures is to be preferred to that which we find in Luke, who localises the incident in a different part of our Lord's ministry, and on a different occasion. I deal now only with the first of these two contrasted pictures, and consider the lightly-made vow, and Christ's sobering treatment of it.

I. The too lightly uttered vow.

There is a certain almost jaunty air of self-complacence about the man and his facile promise. What he promised was no more than what Christ requires from each of us, no more than what Christ was infinitely glad to have laid at His feet. And he promised it with absolute sincerity, meaning every word that he said, and believing that he could fulfil it all. What was the fault? There were three: taking counsel of a transitory feeling; making a vow with a very slight knowledge of what it meant; and relying with foolish confidence on his own strength.

Vows which rest on no firmer foundation than these are sure to sink and topple over into ruin. Discipleship which is the result of mere emotion must be evanescent, for all emotion is so. Effervescence cannot last, and when the cause ceases the effect ceases too. Discipleship which enlists in Christ's army, in ignorance of the hard marching and fighting which have to be gone through, will very soon be skulking in the rear or deserting the flag altogether. Discipleship which offers faithful following because it relies on its own fervour and force will, sooner or later, feel its unthinkingly undertaken obligations too heavy, and be glad to shake off the yoke which it was so eager to put on.

These three things, singly or combined, are the explanations, as they are the causes, of half the stagnant Christianity that chokes our churches. Men have vowed, and did not know what they were vowing, pledging themselves, in a moment of excitement, to what after years discover to them to be a hard and uncongenial course of life. They have been carried into the position of professed disciples on the top of a wave of emotion which has long since broken and retreated, leaving them stranded and motionless in a place where they have no business to be. Every community of professing Christians is weakened, and its vitality is lowered, by the presence and influence of members who have said, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest,' but whose vow was but a flash in the pan, and never meant anything. They did not know what they were saying. They had not stopped to think why they were saying it, still less did they take the advice of the Master to count their forces before they went into the battle, and see whether their ten thousand could meet him that would come against them with twenty thousand.

I do not suppose that much of our modern religionism is in great danger from too fervid emotion. That, certainly, is not the side on which our average Christianity is defective. No feeling can be too fervid which has been kindled by profound contemplation and hearty acceptance of Christ's redeeming love. The facts to which sound religious emotion looks, warrant, and the work in the Christian life which it has to do, needs that it shall be at white-heat, if it is to be worthy of its object and equal to its tasks. But there very often is emotion which is too fervid for the convictions which are presumed to kindle it, and which burns itself out quickly because it neither comes from principle nor leads to action. No resolution to follow Christ can be too enthusiastic, nor any renunciation for His sake too absolute, to correspond to His supreme authority. But there may very easily be brave words much too great for the real determination which is in them. A half-empty bottle makes more noise, if you shake it, than a full one. We cannot estimate the hindrances of the Christian life too lightly; if we do so knowing them, and thinking little of them because we think so joyfully of Christ our helper. But there may very easily be a presumptuous contempt of these, which is only the result of ignorance and self-confidence, and will soon be abased into dread of them, and probably end in desertion of Him.

A sadly large number of professing Christians may see their own faces in this mirror. How many of us are exactly like this man? Long, long ago we vowed to follow Christ. Have we advanced a yard on the Christian course since then, or do we stand very much at the same point as on that far-off day? Some of us, who spent no breath in saying what we were going to do, but used it in the prayer, Draw me, and I will run after Thee,' have followed the Captain. Some of us have been like clumsy recruits, who have only been marking time all the while, one foot up and the other down, but always in the same place. That is the kind of advance that the lightly formed resolution--formed in ignorance of what it involved, and in foolish confidence in the resolver's strength--is too apt to lead to. Is it not so in all life? No caravan ever starts from a port on the coast to go up-country, but there is a percentage of deserters in the first week. There are always, in every good work, adherents, easily moved, pushing themselves into the front, full of resolves in the beginning, and then, when the tug comes, they drop out of the ranks and leave the quiet ones, that did not say, I am going to do it,' but thought to themselves, I should uncommonly like to try whether I can.' to bear the burden and heat of the march. A sad, wise, self-distrustful valour is the temper that wins.

Let us see to it, dear brethren, not that our fervour be less--I do not know how the fervour of some of you could be less and keep alive at all--but that our principle be more; not that our resolutions be less noble, but that they be more deeply engrained. You can light a fire of the chips and paper in an instant, and the flimsier the material the more quickly it will crackle; it takes a longer time to get coals in a blaze, and they will last longer. Be your resolves slow to begin and never-ending,' especially when you say, as we are all bound to say, Lord! I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest.'

II. Note our Lord's treatment of this too lightly uttered vow.

It is wonderfully gentle and lenient. He speaks no rebuke. He does not reject the proffered devotion. He does not even say that there was anything defective in it, but simply answers by a quiet statement of what the vow was pledging the rash utterer to do. Christ's words are a douche of cold water to condense the steam which was so noisily escaping, to turn the vaporous enthusiasm into something more solid, with the particles nearer each other. His object was not to repel, but to turn an ignorant, somewhat bragging vow into a calm, humble determination, with a silent God helping me' for its foundation. To repel is sometimes the way to attract. Jesus Christ would not have any one coming after Him on a misunderstanding of where he is going, or what he will have to do. It shall be all fair and above board, and the difficulties and sacrifices and necessary restrictions and inconveniences shall all be stated. He does not need to hide from His recruits the black side of the war for which He seeks to enlist them, but He tells it all to them to begin with, and then waits--and He only knows how longingly He waits--for their repeating, with full knowledge and humble determination, the vow that sprang so lightly to their lips when they did not understand what they were saying. Of course our Lord's words had literal truth, and their original intention was to bring clearly before this man the hard fact that following Jesus meant homelessness. It is as if He had said, You are ready to follow Me wherever I go--are you? You will have to go far, and to be always going. Creatures have their burrows and their roosting-places, but I, the Lord of creatures, the Son of Man, whose kingdom prophets proclaimed, am houseless in My own realm, and My followers must share My wandering life. Are you ready for that?' Jesus was homeless. He was born in a hired stable, cradled in a manger, owed shelter to faithful friends, was buried in a borrowed grave; He had not where to lay His head,' living or dying. And His servants, in literal truth, had to tramp after Him, through the length and breadth of the land. And if this man was meaning to follow Him whithersoever He went, he had not before him a little pleasure-journey across the lake, to come back again in a day or two, but he was enlisting for a term of service, that extended over a life.

But then, beyond that, there is a deeper lesson here. The Son of Man' on our Lord's lips not only expressed His dignity as Messiah, but His relation to the whole race of men; and declared that He was what we nowadays call ideal manhood. And that is the point, as I take it, of the contrast between the restful lives of the lower creatures, who all have a place fitted to them, where they curl themselves up, and go to sleep, and are comfortable, and the higher life of men, which is homeless in the deepest sense. The Son of Man,' He in whom the whole essence of humanity is, as it were, concentrated; and who, in His own person, presents the very type and perfection of manhood, cannot but be homeless.

Ah, yes I man's prerogative is unrest, and he should recognise it as a blessing. It is the condition of all noble life; it is the condition of all growth. The foxes have holes,' and the fox's hole fits it, and therefore the hole of the fox to-day is what it was in the beginning, and ever shall be. Man has no such abode, therefore he grows. Man is blessed with that great discourse that looks before and after,' and his thoughts wander through eternity, and therefore he is capable of endless advance, and if he is in the path where his Maker has meant him to be, sure of endless growth. The more a man gets like a beast, the more has he of the beast's lot of happy contentment in this world. And the more he gets like a man, like the Son of Man,' the more has he to realise that he is a pilgrim and a sojourner, as all his fathers were.

And so, dear friends, because disciples must follow the Son of Man who is the King, and whose life is the perfect mirror of manhood, restless homelessness is our lot, if we are His disciples. Ay! and it is our blessing. It is better to sleep beneath the stars than beneath golden canopies, and to lay the head upon a stone than upon a lace pillow, if the ladder is at our side and the face of God above it. Better be out in the fields, a homeless stranger with the Lord, than huddling together and perfectly comfortable in houses of clay that perish before the moth.

Do not let us repine; let us be thankful that we cannot, if we are Christ's, but be strangers here; for all the bitterness and pain of unrest and homelessness pass away, and all sweetness and gladness is breathed into them, when we can say, I am a sojourner and a stranger with Thee,' and when in our unrest we are following the Lamb whithersoever He goeth.'

CHRIST STIMULATING SLUGGISH DISCIPLESHIP

And another of His disciples said unto Him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. 22. But Jesus said unto him, Follow Me; and let the dead bury their dead.'--MATT. viii. 21-22.

The very first words of these verses, And another of His disciples,' show us that the incident recorded in them is only half of a whole. We have already considered the other half, and supplement our former remarks by a glance at the remaining portion now. The two men, whose treatment by Christ is narrated, are the antipodes of each other. The former is a type of well-meaning, lightly formed, and so, probably, swiftly abandoned purposes. This man is one of the people who always see something else to be done first, when any plain duty comes before them. Sluggish, hesitating, keenly conscious of other possibilities and demands, he needs precisely the opposite treatment from his light-hearted and light-purposed brother. Some plants want putting into a cold house to be checked, some into a greenhouse to be forwarded. Diversity of treatment, even when it amounts to opposition of treatment, comes from the same single purpose. And so here the spur is applied, whilst in the former incident it was the rein that was needed.

I. Note, then, first of all, this apparently most laudable and reasonable request.

Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.' Nature says Go,' and religion enjoins it, and everything seems to say that it is the right thing for a man to do. The man was perfectly sincere in his petition, and perfectly sincere in the implied promise that, as soon as the funeral was over, he would come back. He meant it, out and out. If he had not, he would have received different treatment; and if he had not, he would have ceased to be the valuable example and lesson that he is to us. So we have here a disciple quite sincere, who believes himself to have already obeyed in spirit and only to be hindered from obeying in outward act by an imperative duty that even a barbarian would know to be imperative.

And yet Jesus Christ read him better than he read himself; and by His answer lets us see that the tone of mind into which we are all tempted to drop, and which is the characteristic natural tendency of some of us, that of being hindered from doing the plain thing that lies before us, because something else crops up, which we also think is imperative upon us, is full of danger, and may be the cover of a great deal of self-deception; and, at any rate, is not in consonance with Christ's supreme and pressing and immediate claims.

The temper which says, Suffer me first to go and bury my father,' is full of danger. One never knows but that, after he has got his father buried, there will be something else turning up equally important. There was the will to be read afterwards, and if he was, as probably he was, the eldest son, he would most likely be the executor. There would be all sorts of affairs to settle up before he might feel that it was his duty to leave everything and follow the Master.

And so it always is. Suffer me first, and when we get to the top of that hill, there is another one beyond. And so we go on from step to step, getting ready to do the duties that we know are most imperative upon us, by sweeping preliminaries out of the way, and so we go on until our dying day, when somebody else buries us. Like some backwoodsman in the American forests who should say to himself, Now, I will not sow a grain of wheat until I have cleared all the land that belongs to me. I will do that first and then begin to reap,' he would be a great deal wiser if he cleared and sowed a little bit first, and lived upon it, and then cleared a little bit more. Mark the plain lesson that comes out of this incident, that the habit, for it is a habit with some of us, of putting other pressing duties forward, before we attend to the highest claims of Christ, is full of danger, because there will be no end to them if we once admit the principle. And this is true not only in regard to Christianity, but in regard to everything that is worth doing in this world. Whenever some great and noble task presents itself with its solemn call for consecration, some dwarf of an apparent duty thrusts itself in between and perks up in our faces with its demand, Attend to me first, and then I will let you go on to that other.'

But morally, this plea, however sincerely urged, is more or less unconscious self-deception. The person who says Suffer me first' is usually hoodwinking conscience, and covering over, if not a determination not to do, at least a reluctance to determine to do, the postponed duty. And although we may think ourselves quite resolved in spirit, and only needing the fitting vacant space to show that we are ready to act, in the majority of cases the man who says Suffer me first' means, though he often does not know it, I do not think I will do it, after all, even then.' Now there are a great many good people who, when urged to some of the plain duties of discipleship--such as Christian work, Christian beneficence, the consecration of themselves to the service of their Master--have always something else very important, and of immediate, pressing urgency, that has to be done first. And then and then, ay? and then,--something else, and then--something else. And so some of you go on, and will go on, unless by God's grace you shake off the evil habit, to the end of your days, fancying yourselves disciples, and yet all the while delaying really to follow the Master until the close. And all your yesterdays will be but lighting you, with unfulfilled purposes, to dusty death.'

II. Now look at the apparently harsh and unreasonable refusal of this reasonable request.

It is extremely unlike Jesus Christ in substance and in tone. It is unlike Him to put any barrier in the way of a son's yielding to the impulses of his heart and attending to the last duties to his father. It is extremely unlike Him to couch His refusal in words that sound, at first hearing, so harsh and contemptuous, and that seem to say, Let the dead world go as it will; never you mind it, do you not go after it at all or care about it.'

But if we remember that it is Jesus Christ, who came to bring life into the dead world, who says this, then, I think, we shall understand better what He means. I do not need to explain, I suppose, that by the one dead' here is meant the physical and natural dead,' and by the other the morally and religiously dead' and that what Christ says, in the picturesque way that He so often affected in order to bring great truths home in concrete form to sluggish understandings, is in effect, Nay! For the men in the world that are separated from God, and so are dead in their selfhood and their sin, burying other dead people is appropriate work. But your business, as living by Me, is to carry life, and let the burying alone, to be done by the dead people that can do nothing else.'

Now the spirit of our Lord's answer may be put thus:--It must always be Christ first, and every one else second; and it must therefore sometimes be Christ only, and no one else. Let me bury my father and then I will come.' No,' says Christ; first your duty to Me': first in order and time, because first in order of importance. And this is His habitual tone, He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.'

Did you ever think of what a strange claim that is for a man to make upon others? This Jesus Christ comes to you and me, and to every man, and says, I demand, and I have a right to demand, thy supreme affection and thy first obedience. All other relations are subordinate to thy relation to Me. All other persons ought to be less dear to thee than I am. No other duty can be so imperative as the duty of following Me.' What right has He to speak thus to us? On what does such a tremendous claim rest? Who is it that fronts humanity and says, He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me'? He had a right to say it, because He is more than they, and has done more than they, because He is the Son of God manifest in the flesh, and because on the Cross He has died for all men. Therefore all other claims dwindle and sink into nothingness before His. Therefore His will is supreme, and our relation to Him is the dominant fact in our whole moral and religious character. He must be first, whoever comes second, and between the first and the second there is a great gulf fixed.

Remember that this postponing of all other duties, relationships, and claims to Christ's claims and relationships, and to our duties to Him, lifts them up, and does not lower them; exalts, and does not degrade, the earthly affections. They are nobler and loftier, being second, than when perversely, and, in the literal sense, preposterously, they assume to be first. The little hills in the foreground are never so green and fair as when they are looked at in connection with the great white Alps that tower behind them; and all earthly loves and relationships catch a tinge of more ethereal beauty, and are lifted into a loftier region, when they are rigidly subordinated to our love to Him. Being second, they are more than when they bragged that they were first.

Again, if it must be Christ first, and everybody and everything besides second, then to carry that out, it will often have to be Christ only, and no one else. There will come in every man's life the need for a sharp decision between conflicting allegiances. Life is full of harsh alternatives, and it is of no use to kick against the pricks. The divine order is Jesus first and all things second. But we sometimes break that order, and then it comes to be, Very well, then, if you cannot keep the lower in their right places, you must learn to do without them altogether; and if you will not have Him first and them second, you must not have them at all.' If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out,' it would be far better for thee to keep it without offence. If thine hand offend thee,' put it down on the block, and take the cleaver in the other hand, and off with it, it would be better for thee to go into life whole than maimed, but it is better to go into life maimed, than to go into destruction whole. The abandonment of the father's bier is second best; but it is sometimes imperative. When you find a taste, a pursuit, a study, an occupation, a recreation coming between you and Jesus Christ--when you do not know how it is, but, somehow or other, the sky that was blue a minute or two ago has a doleful veil of grey creeping all over it, be sure that something or other which ought to be under has got topmost, and you will have to get rid of it in order to come right again. If this man would certainly have come back had Jesus let him go, he would have been let go; but because Jesus knew that he would not come back, therefore He said, You must deny your natural affection, because it is coming between you and Me.'

So, dear brethren, when we find that earthly duties, pursuits, occupations of any kind, affections, pure and beautiful as in themselves they may be, are hindering our following the Master, then, if they are things of which we can denude ourselves, though it be at a distinct sacrifice, we are bound to do so; or else we are not loving the Master more than all besides.

Let me remind you in closing of the variation in this story which the evangelist Luke gives us. He interprets Christ's commandment, Follow Me,' and expands it into preach the Gospel,' which was involved in it. There are many of you who are busily engaged in legitimate occupations, and devoting yourselves in various degrees to various forms of beneficence touching the secular condition of the people around us. May I hint to such, Let the dead bury their dead; preach thou the gospel?' A Christian man's first business is to witness for Jesus Christ, and no amount of diligence in legitimate occupations or in work for the good of others will absolve him from the charge of having turned duties upside down, if he says, I cannot witness for Jesus Christ, for I am so busy about these other things.' This command has a special application to us ministers. There are hosts of admirable things that we are tempted to engage in nowadays, with the enlarged opportunities that we have of influencing men, socially, politically, intellectually, and it wants rigid concentration for us to keep out of the paths which might hinder our usefulness, or, at all events, dissipate our strength. Let us hear that ringing voice ringing always in our ears, Preach thou the gospel of the kingdom.'

THE PEACE-BRINGER IN THE NATURAL WORLD

And when He was entered into a ship, His disciples followed Him. 24. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves; but He was asleep. 25. And His disciples came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. 26. And He saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27. But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man la this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!'--MATT. viii. 23-27.

The second group of miracles in these chapters shows us Christ as the Prince of Peace, and that in three regions--the material, the superhuman, and the moral. He stills the tempest, casts out demons, and forgives sins, thus quieting nature, spirit, and conscience.

Mountain-girdled lakes are exposed to sudden storms from the wind sweeping down the glens. Such a one comes roaring down as the little boat, probably belonging to James and John, is labouring across the six or seven miles to the eastern side. Matthew describes the boat as it would appear from shore, as being covered' and lost to sight by the breaking waves. Mark, who is Peter's mouthpiece, describes the desperate plight as one on board knew it, and says the boat was filling.' It must have been a serious gale which frightened a crew who had spent all their lives on the lake.

Note Christ's sleep in the storm. His calm slumber is contrasted with the hurly-burly of the tempest and the alarm of the crew. It was the sleep of physical exhaustion after a hard day's work. He was too tired to keep awake, or to be disturbed by the tumult. His fatigue is a sign of His true manhood, of His toil up to the very edge of His strength; a characteristic of His life of service, which we do not make as prominent in our thoughts as we should. It is also a sign of His calm conscience and pure heart. Jonah slept through the storm because his conscience was stupefied; but Christ, as a tired child laying its head on its mother's lap.

That sleep may have a symbolical meaning for us. Though Christ is present, the storm comes, and He sleeps through it. Lazarus dies, and He makes no sign of sympathy. Peter lies in prison, and not till the hammers of the carpenters putting up the gibbet for to-morrow are heard, does deliverance come. He delays His help, that He may try our faith and quicken our prayers. The boat may be covered with the waves, and He sleeps on, but He will wake before it sinks. He sleeps, but He never over-sleeps, and there are no too-lates with Him.

Note next the awaking cry of fear. The broken abruptness of their appeal reveals the urgency of the case in the experienced eyes of these fishermen. Their summons is a curious mixture of fear and faith. Save us' is the language of faith; we perish' is that of fear. That strange blending of opposites is often repeated by us. The office of faith is to suppress fear. But the origin of faith is often in fear, and we are driven to trust just because we are so much afraid. A faith which does not wholly suppress fear may still be most real; and the highest faith has ever the consciousness that unless Christ help, and that speedily, we perish.

So note next the gentle remonstrance. There is something very majestic in the tranquillity of our Lord's awaking, and, if we follow Matthew's order, in His addressing Himself first to the disciples' weakness, and letting the storm rage on. It can do no harm, and for the present may blow as it listeth, while He gives the trembling disciples a lesson. Observe how lovingly our Lord meets an imperfect faith. He has no rebuke for their rude awaking of Him. He does not find fault with them for being fearful,' but for being so fearful' as to let fear cover faith, just as the waves were doing the boat. He pityingly recognises the struggle in their souls, and their possession of some spark of faith which He would fain blow into a flame. He shows them and us the reason for overwhelming fear as being a deficiency in faith. And He casts all into the form of a question, thus softening rebuke, and calming their terrors by the appeal to their common sense. Fear is irrational if we can exercise faith. It is mere bravado to say I will not be afraid,' for this awful universe is full of occasions for just terror; but it is the voice of sober reason which says I will trust, and not be afraid.' Christ answers His own question in the act of putting it,--ye are of little faith, that is why ye are so fearful.

Note, next, the word that calms the storm. Christ yields to the cry of an imperfect faith, and so strengthens it. If He did not, what would become of any of us? He does not quench the dimly burning wick, but tends it and feeds it with oil--by His inward gifts and by His answers to prayer--till it burns up clear and smokeless, a faith without fear. Even smoke needs but a higher temperature to flame; and fear which is mingled with faith needs but a little more heat to be converted into radiance of trust. That is precisely what Christ does by this miracle. His royal word is all-powerful. We see Him rising in the stern of the fishing-boat, and sending His voice into the howling darkness, and wind and waves cower at His feet like dogs that know their master. As in the healing of the centurion's servant, we have the token of divinity in that His bare word is able to produce effects in the natural realm. As He lay asleep He showed the weakness of manhood; but He woke to manifest the power of indwelling divinity. So it is always in His life, where, side by side with the signs of humiliation and participation in man's weakness, we ever have tokens of His divinity breaking through the veil. All this power is put forth at the cry of timid men. The storm was meant to move to terror; terror was meant to evoke the miracle--the result was complete and immediate. No after-swell disturbed the placid waters when the wind dropped. There had been a great tempest,' and now there was a great calm,' as the fishermen floated peacefully to their landing-place beneath the shadow of the hills. The wilder the tempest, the profounder the subsequent repose.

All this is a true symbol of our individual lives, as well as of the history of the Church. Storms will come, and He may seem to be heedless. He is ever awakened by our cry, which needs not to be pure faith in order to bring the answer, but may be strangely intertwined of faith and fear. The Lord will help . . . and that right early,' and the peace that He brings is peace indeed. So it may be with us amid the struggles of life. So may it be with us when the voyage on this storm-tossed sea of time is done! They cry unto the Lord in their trouble. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so He bringeth them unto their desired haven.'

THE PEACE-BRINGER IN THE SPIRITUAL WORLD

And when He was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met Him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. 29. And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art Thou come hither to torment us before the time? 30. And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding. 31. So the devils besought Him, saying, If Thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. 32. And He said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters. 33. And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils. 34. And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw Him, they besought Him that He would depart out of their coasts.'--MATT. viii. 28-34.

Matthew keeps to chronological order in the first and second miracles of the second triplet, but probably His reason for bringing them together was rather similarity in their contents than proximity in their time. For one cannot but feel that the stilling of the storm, which manifested Jesus as the Peace-bringer in the realm of the Natural, is fitly followed by the casting out of demons, which showed Him as the Lord of still wider and darker realms, and the Peace-bringer to spirits tortured and torn by a mysterious tyranny. His meek power sways all creatures; His word runneth very swiftly.' Winds and seas and demons hearken and obey. Cheap ridicule has been plentifully flung at this miracle, and some defenders of the Gospels have tried to explain it away, and have almost apologised for it, but, while it raises difficult problems in its details, the total effect of it is to present a sublime conception of Jesus and of His absolute, universal authority. The conception is heightened in sublimity when the two adjacent miracles are contemplated in connection.

There is singular variation in the readings of the name of the scene of the miracle in the three evangelists. According to the reading of the Authorised Version, Matthew locates it in the country of the Gergesenes' Mark and Luke, in the country of the Gadarenes' whereas the Revised Version, following the general consensus of textual critics, reads Gadarenes' in Matthew and Gerasenes' in Mark and Luke. Now, Gadara is over six miles from the lake, and the deep gorge of a river lies between, so that it is out of the question as the scene of the miracle. But the only Gerasa known, till lately, is even more impossible, for it is far to the east of the lake. But some years since, Thomson found ruins bearing the name of Khersa or Gersa, at the only portion of that coast on which the steep hills come down to the shore' (Smith, Historical Geography of the Holy Land, p. 459). This is probably the site of the miracle, and may have been included in the territory dependent on Gadara, and so have been rightly described as in the country of the Gadarenes.'

Matthew again abbreviates, omitting many of the most striking and solemn features of the narrative as given by the other two evangelists, and he also diverges from them in mentioning two demoniacs instead of one. That is not contradiction, for if there were two, there was one, but it is divergence, due to more accurate information. Whether they were meant so or no, the abbreviations have the striking result that Jesus speaks but one word, the permissive Go,' and that thus His simple presence is the potent spell before which the demons cower and flee. They know Him as the Son of God' a name which, on their lips, must be taken in its full significance. If demoniacal possession is a fact, there is no difficulty in accounting for the name here given to Jesus, nor for the sudden change from the fierce purpose of barring an intruder's path to abject submission. If it is not a fact, to make a plausible explanation of either circumstance will be a task needing many contortions, as is seen by the attempts to achieve it. For example, we are told that the demoniacs were afraid of Jesus, because He was not afraid of them,' and they knew Him, because men with shattered reason also felt the spell, while the wise and the strong-minded often used their intellect, under the force of passion or prejudice, to resist the force of truth.' Possibly the last clause goes as far to explain some critics' non-recognition of demoniacal possession as the first does to explain the demoniacs' recognition of Jesus!

To the demonic nature Christ's coming brought torture, as the sunbeam, which gives life to many, also gives death to ugly creatures that crawl and swarm in the dark. Turn up a stone, and the creeping things hurry out of the penetrating glare so unwelcome. What maketh heaven, that maketh hell,' and the same presence is life or death, joy or agony. The dear perception of divine purity and the shuddering recoil of impotent hatred from it are surely of the very essence of the demonic nature, and every man, who looks into the depths of his own spirit, knows that the possibilities of such a state are in him.

Our Lord discriminated between healing the sick and casting out demons. He distinguished between forms of disease due to possession and the same diseases when dissociated from it, as, for example, cases of dumbness. His whole attitude, both in His actual dealing with the possessed and in His referring to the subject, gave His complete adhesion to the reality of the awful thing. It is vain to say that He humoured the delusions of insanity in order to cure them. That theory does not adequately explain any of the facts and does not touch some of them. It is perilous to try to weaken the force of the narrative by saying that the evangelists were under the influence of popular notions (which are quietly assumed to have been wrong), and hence that their prepossessions coloured their representations. If the mirror was so distorted, what reliance can be placed on any part of its reflection of Jesus? There can be no doubt that the Gospel narrative asserts and assumes the reality of demoniacal possession, and if the representation that Jesus also assumed it is due to the evangelists, what trust can be reposed in authorities which misrepresent Him in such a matter? On the other hand, if they do not misrepresent Him, and He blundered, confounding mere insanity with possession by a demon, what reliance can be reposed in Him as our Teacher of the Unseen World? The issues involved are very grave and far-reaching, and raillery or sarcasm is out of place.

But the question is pertinent: By what right do we allege that demoniacal possession is an exploded figment and an impossibility? Do we know ourselves or our fellows so thoroughly as to be warranted in denying that deep down in the mysterious subliminal consciousness' there is a gate through which spiritual beings may come into contact with human personalities? He would be bold, to the verge of presumption or somewhat further, who should take up such a position. And have we any better right to assume that we know so much of the universe as to be sure that there are no evil spirits there, who can come into contact with human spirits and wield an alien tyranny over them? The Christian attitude is not that of such far-reaching denial which outruns our knowledge, but that of calm belief that Jesus is the head of all principality and power, and that to Him all are subject. It is taken for granted that the supposed possession is insanity. But may it not rather be that to-day some of the supposed insanity is possession? Be that as it may--and perhaps those who have the widest experience of lunatics' would be the least ready to dismiss the possibility,--Jesus recognised the reality that there were souls oppressed by a real personality, which had settled itself in the house of life, and none of us has wide and deep enough knowledge to contradict Him. Might it not be better to accept His witness in this, as in other matters beyond our ken, as true, and to ponder it?

The demons' petition, according to the Received Text, takes the form, Suffer us to go,' while the reading adopted by most modern editors is Send us.' The former reading seems to be taken from Luke (viii. 32), while Mark has Send' (not the same word as now read in Matthew). But Mark goes on to say, not that Jesus sent them, but that He suffered them' or gave them leave' (the same word as in Matthew, according to the Received Text). Thus, Jesus' part in the transaction is simply permissive, and the one word which He speaks is authoritative indeed in its curtness, and means simply away,' or begone.' It casts them out but does not send them in. He did not send them into the herd, but out of the men, and did not prevent their entrance into the swine. It should further be noted that nothing in the narrative suggests that the destruction of the herd was designed even by the demons, much less by Jesus. The maddened brutes rushed straight before them, not knowing why or where; the steep slope was in front, and the sea was at its foot, and their terrified, short gallop ended there. The last thing the demons would have done would have been to banish themselves, as the death of the swine did banish them, from their new shelter. There is no need, then, to invent justifications for Christ's destroying the herd, for He did not destroy it. No doubt, keeping swine was a breach of Jewish law; no doubt the two demoniacs and the bystanders would be more convinced of the reality of the exorcism by the fate of the swine, but these apologies are needless.

The narrative suggests some affinity between the demoniac and the animal nature, and though it is easy to ridicule, it is impossible to disprove, the suggestion. We know too little about either to do that, and what we cannot disprove it is somewhat venturesome hardily to deny. There are depths in the one nature, which we cannot fathom though its possessors are close to us; the other is removed from our investigation altogether. Where we are so utterly ignorant we had better neither affirm nor deny. But we may take a homiletical use out of that apparent affinity, and recognise that a spirit in rebellion against God necessarily gravitates downwards, and becomes more or less bestialised.

No wonder that the swineherds fled, but, surely, it is a wonder that eagerness to be rid of Jesus was the sole result of the miracle. Perhaps the reason was the loss of the swine, which would bulk largest in their keepers' excited story; perhaps the reason was a fear that He would find out and rebuke other instances of breach of strict Jewish propriety, perhaps it was simply the shrinking from any close contact with the heavenly, or apparently supernatural, which is so instinctive in us, and witnesses to a dormant consciousness of discord with Heaven. Depart from me, for I am a sinful man,' is the cry of the roused conscience. And, alas! it has power to send away Him whom we need, and who comes to us, just because we are sinful, and just that He may deliver us from our sin.

END OF VOL. I

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