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tion, and to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit:" and Holy Scripture describes those who alone are accepted of God, as “They who in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.”
This is the only temper in which a sinful creature can receive a message which comes from God, or, as we might say, a reprieve which is sent from God to a guilty criminal, under sentence of death,-a respite of his sentence, and a pardon on certain conditions being fulfilled; for this is what the Scriptures of God are to us. The only manner in which sinful man can rightly receive this, must be, as it were, upon his knees, praying that he may
understand it aright, and may not for ever perish for not understanding it, and therefore humbled to the dust under the fear of not rightly comprehending it. Or if not on his knees, i. e. in a spirit of humiliation and prayer; yet surely as Scripture expresses it, with his loins girded, and his shoes on his feet, ready instantly to set out in obedience to what it requires of him, in passing over from the shadow of death and darkness unto the kingdom of God. If such a reprieve or such a message sent from God to His guilty creatures, lying under sentence of eternal death, were written in difficult characters, in writing « hard to be understood,” then such a one would, if he had any serious regard to his salvation, take all the means in his power rightly to understand it; he would ask of those who brought it, how they understood it, how all good and serious men had understood it from the beginning : but, above all things, he would seek by prayer of GoD HIMSELF Who gave it, and sent it, what was the true meaning of it; and he would wish to know the meaning merely in order that he might fulfil the same.
It is most evident, that it is only this temper of mind which can come to the true understanding of the Scriptures ; it is not learning and scholarship which is needed, but meekness, and an obedient spirit. This is very clear from the case of the Scribes and Pharisees, whom our Lord calls the "wise and prudent," from whom all saving knowledge was hidden; and our Blessed Saviour rejoiced in this dispensation of God, Who had hidden this knowledge from them, and had revealed it to ignorant and illiterate men, whom they despised on account of their ignorance of the Scriptures. It was not their learning that hindered the
Pharisees from coming to the truth, but their pride and presumption ; it was not their ignorance that brought the Apostles to Christ, but their teachable, humble hearts; therefore it was given to them to understand parables and the mysteries of the kingdom.
Now where shall we find such in these days ? where shall we find a sincere desire to know the truth and to follow it? And yet in this consists the whole of religion ;- to love that which God commands, and to desire that which He has promised, so that the heart may be there fixed, where true joys are to be found. All other things are but snares of the great enemy: and yet even in religion itself we may easily find every thing else but this alone.
If pure religion is a matter of party and controversy, of disputes and outward profession,-intended to make us comfortable and satisfied with ourselves,—then surely it is a broad way, and one on which many travel ; but if it is such as is to humble us more and more in our own sight, if it is to be received with fear and meekness, with a temper exceedingly desirous and anxious to fulfil the whole will of God in every part; then, surely, out of " many" that “are called, few are chosen :" straitened “is the gate that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
Then we may see the full force of our Lord's parable of the Sower; and why, out of four different kinds of hearers, He speaks of one class only who receive the Word unto the saving of their souls. Thus does the power of His Word overtake us, and find us out,-holding up, at all times, as it were, a glass before us, in which we may see our own hearts. He has gone forth as the Sower of seed unto the end of the world, scattering it on all sides in great abundance ; part is gathered up by the birds of the air, part is cast on shallow rocky ground, part of it is received among thorns; but wherever He scatters, there are some, it is to be hoped, who receive with meekness the Word which is able to save their souls; bringing forth fruit which He carefully gathers, and lays up in His treasure-house, so that nothing is lost; as we shall all find on the great day of recompense.
THE FAITH THAT OVERCOMETH THE WORLD.
1 JOHN v. 5.
“ Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the
Son of God?"
In the passage from whence the text is taken two things are evident; first, that there is no overcoming the world, without faith in Jesus CHRIST; and secondly, that there cannot be faith in the Son of God, such as Scripture speaks of, unless it overcomes the world.
But now is it not too manifest, wherever we cast our eyes, that Christians, as we are called, do not in general overcome the world, and therefore may we not conclude that, so far, they cannot have the faith which is here spoken of ?
For to overcome, and obtain the victory, must of course mean a contest and a struggle, and the final mastery in the struggle; and yet can it be in any way said, that people in general live and die, as if they had mastered the world; that they spend their lives under a higher, and nobler, and better principle, subduing all along and getting the better of its temptations, “overcoming evil with good ;" so as to be at last, as St. Paul says,
more than conquerors through Him Who loved us ?”
But if we do not overcome the world, then with regard to any saving faith in Christ, such as the Bible speaks of, it must be said now, as it was. of old, in mournful surprise at the fewness of the number, Who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed ?".
For may it not be said that the generality, even including the better sort of Christians, are content to make as it were a sort of compromise with their three great enemies, which they renounced at Baptism, the world, the flesh, and the devil ?
They are careful not to fall into great crimes, such as would very much disturb and agitate their consciences, and cover them perhaps with shame; they are desirous for the most part not to lose their Christian privileges and consolations ; but are also desirous to obtain what gratifications they can by the way; and when their minds are thus divided between the two, between things future and unseen, and objects which are seen and present, we know which must have the advantage. Religion will indeed come in for its share, as on Sundays, or on Sunday afternoons, and for some little time, and distracted attention, morning and night; but their treasures, that is to say the objects they are engaged about, will be temporal; and therefore their hearts also will be on earth.
They would not for the world be thought profane persons and unbelievers, like Esau, who “ lightly esteemed his birthright,” gave it away under the
pressure of immediate want, and it is said, “ did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way.”
This, indeed, they consider the part of men of the world, and hope and think that it may be far from being their case.
Esau, indeed, put himself without the covenant of promise, which he openly gave up and renounced; and so far is more like those persons now, who openly give up the outward ordinances of religion, public prayer, and the Holy Communion, or live in notorious crimes, selling their birthright, their heavenly inheritance given at Baptism, for a mess of pottage.
But there are examples of others who continued within the covenant, which the lives of most Christians resemble. There are God's chosen people, the children of Israel, in the wilderness, who in their hearts kept turning back to Egypt; there are the same who had not courage and hope enough to go up to the promised land, nor faith to value it. There are the Israelites in the land of Canaan, who instead of overcoming and casting out their enemies, which God showed them they might have done by His strength, did it only by halves; the consequence of which was, that they continued as thorns in their sides : when indeed they were much oppressed by them, then they turned and called on God, and He succoured them in their distress. Showing thereby what He would be to them, if they would have given themselves up entirely to His service : but they had no heart for this, for as soon as they were relieved they fell away again.
This is a true but sad picture of the state of most Christians, keeping as it were by halves with the world, they fall into many temptations, which they would otherwise have been free from: they do not drive out their spiritual enemies by prayer and fasting ; but only resist them from time to time, and when brought into distress by them, they are relieved by calling upon God and by the comforts of religion; and with this they are satisfied. But as for thoroughly mastering their corruptions, this they never in earnest attempt to do, with any real seriousness or consistency.
With regard for instance to the desires, which are the temptations of youth, the victory over these, which faith and the Christian law of holiness requires, is no less than purity of heart. How little this is the law by which people think it necessary to chasten and examine and regulate their thoughts, as being the law by which they will be judged at the last Day, on which their Christian well-being now and their final condition depend ;-how little this is the case, each person may be left to judge for himself.
One proof of our state is obvious, that what the Prayer-book calls “ deadly sin,” is thought scarcely any sin at all if it is followed by marriage; that is to say, that as long as the injury is made up in the eyes of the world, the crime against God is considered as a matter of little or no consequence.
Now if persons judge of others by this worldly rule, instead of that of the Gospel, much more will they be apt to palliate and excuse their own bad thoughts by a law of this kind, and so be content to fall short of that holiness without which no shall
see God." For it is very evident that the laws of the New Testament are more directed against the thoughts than they are against outward actions.
Take again the love of money. The miseries of great covetousness, the bad name it has in the world, and the extreme folly of it, are such that we naturally desire and endeavour to keep clear of it, from common worldly prudence. And with regard to any