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man," and will He be able to restrain His bowels of compassion, if He sees a soul struggling towards Him as best it may? Remember, at all events, that you are responsible for the use you make of the good instigations which from time to time visit your heart. They are given you for a purpose, to begin the spiritual life upon, to be the starting-point of holy effort and prayer. You are not the better man for having them, for they come of free grace, not of nature; but you are the better for surrendering yourself to them, and following their lead. I say, following their lead; for what the Holy Spirit does is to lead—and to move, in order that He may lead. Do not imagine that He does more. Do not imagine that He drives or compels. To do so would be to destroy the moral nature of the creature, instead of renewing it. The Holy Spirit extends His hand to us, entices, allures, invites, remonstrates, but never forces. Let us place our hand in His, and make ourselves over to His guidance. The way may be occasionally thorny and rough, but it ends in such a vision of God's perfections as will fully content the soul; yea, it ends in that knowledge of Him, "wherein "standeth our eternal life."
THE FIRST PRINCIPLE OF HOLINESS, AND HOW TO
“He entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered. And looking round about upon them all, He said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand, and he did so : and his hand was restored whole as the other."-LUKE vi. 6. 10.
T is probable that many persons are deterred from
beginning a religious course in right earnest by a feeling that the very beginning is out of their own reach. Faith, they know, is the great principle of the spiritual life; the just man lives by his faith. But then faith is declared to be the gift of God, not the product of human effort. And therefore their notion is, that faith drops upon people from Heaven quite arbi
1 The substance of this Chapter appeared many years ago in a volume of Parochial Sermons, preached by me in my (then) Church of Holywell, in Oxford. But I have rewritten the whole argument for the purpose of the present work.
trarily, according to no known laws, and that there is no regular and prescribed method for the attainment of it. Though surely the mere consideration of God's infinite goodness might teach these people that He cannot possibly lay upon us a command which He will not give us power to obey, and that, therefore, since He bids us believe the Gospel, or (in other words) exercise faith in Christ, it must be within our power, aided by His gracious Spirit, to do so.
I believe we shall nowhere better see the true relation between God's gift of faith, and the part which human effort has to play in the attainment of it, than in the narrative of the cure wrought by Our Lord upon a man that had a withered hand.
A withered hand;-of what spiritual defect is this bodily defect a type or figure? The hand is the organ of touch. He, therefore, whose hand is withered has lost the sense of touch in that which is the chief organ of the sense. Now consider what impressions we gain from the sense of touch. It is touch which, more than any other sense, convinces us of the reality of matter. What you see might be merely a phantom, an optical illusion, a picture painted on the retina of the eye, and nothing more; but if you go up to the thing you see, and touch it, and handle it, you become assured of its existence, you know that it is substantial. Now what is faith? It may be defined as the faculty by which we realize unseen things-such as the Being and Presence of God, the work which Our Lord did for us,
the future judgment, the future recompense of the righteous, and the like unseen things.
I say the faculty (not by which we conceive, but) by which we realize these things, feel them to have a body and a substance. To imagine the truths of Religion is not to believe them. We may from time to time imagine God as He is in Heaven, surrounded by myriads of glorious angels, we may imagine Christ looking down upon us from God's right hand, interceding for us, calling us to account at the last day, and awarding to us our final doom; but the mere picturing these things to ourselves is not the same thing as believing them; the believing them is the having such a conviction of their reality, as to live under their influence, and to be in some measure at least governed by them. In short, to imagine the truths of religion is like surveying things by the eye; to believe in the truths of religion is like grasping the same things with the hand, and thus proving them to have substance and consistency. I need say no more to show that a withered hand, being a hand without the sense of touch, is a very just and suitable emblem of the soul of the natural man, which has lost the power of faith. For faith is nothing more nor less than the faculty of spiritual touch.
The patient, however, on whose story we are founding these remarks, had not lost the sense of touch altogether. It was only his right hand which was withered; he could handle things with his left. And
this may usefully remind us of what has often been pointed out, that man by nature is not a stranger to faith or to its power, that he does exercise it, though within a very limited horizon. Yes, surely. Every victory which man has achieved over Nature has been achieved in the power of faith. The husbandman ploughs and sows in full persuasion of a harvest ;that persuasion is faith. The man in full health and full work lays by a part of his earnings, against a time when he shall be able to work no longer that act of saving is an act of faith; for why does he save but that he believes a time of decrepitude and infirmity will surely come to him, though at present there are no symptoms of it? All the many precautions, which we take against evil contingencies-precautions which follow every where in the train of civilization—are all instances of faith, and of its power in man's natural life. For the future, against which these precautions are taken, is unseen, and faith is the only faculty which grasps the unseen, which brings it home to us, and gives it a living power. The strange and melancholy thing is, that our faith has no power of grasping such things as lie beyond the horizon of time and experience. Ask it to realize judgment to come, or a future state of existence, or the Presence of God, or the intercession of Christ, or any of the unseen things of which with no uncertain voice the Word of God assures us, and it drops paralyzed by our sides: the handthe right or better hand, that which might enable us, if