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moral phenomenon. For whom are we more likely to obey—one whom we love, and whom we know to love us, or one whom we simply fear? Who renders the more willing service, a son or a slave? Surely, under a “law of liberty,” all obedience, freely paid, becomes by that very freedom more hearty, more trustworthy, more true.
The reformation of the ills of modern society must come from a higher conception of duty, animating the consciences and governing the lives of us all. The first reform we all need, I take it, is of ourselves. We cannot be made better or happier by Acts of Parliament. They may remove an unwise restriction there, or impose a wise restriction here; but after all, the real improvement must take its source within. Less selfishness, less impatience, less vindictiveness, less brutality, less lust. Do not you think, my friends, that you and I could make this world a little better than it is if we tried ?
In itself it is a terrible thought that the past is irrevocable, but taken in connection with the assurance of the love of God, the thought of the immutability of the past almost ceases to be disturbing. At least there is no need, unless it be a case of very special deep-dyed guilt, for the memory or the conscience to dwell upon it with morbid, superstitious fear: no need to go in quest of strange atonements :
“No need to bid, for cloistered cell,
Our neighbour or our work farewell.” The surest remedy against bitter regret, the strongest proof of true repentance, is to throw ourselves on the
future—or rather on the present, which alone is oursstrong in the confidence that the God who spares our lives has not cast away our souls, with a steadfast purpose to serve our Master more loyally for the time to
And though nothing shall derange that principle of the great assize which shall reward every man "according as his works have been,” yet it has happened once, and may well happen again, that he who did not begin his work until the eleventh hour, but began it then heartily, without an excuse and without a murmur, when called in to take his wage, found to his surprise and joy that he received as much as those who had borne the burden and heat of the day.
Preached—St. Thomas's Salisbury, March 25, 1863. (Sermon
preached at Oxford in previous February largely worked in.) Portions of Sermon also preached to Ashbury's men, Openshaw, April 24, 1871.
CHRIST, THE HEALER.
“There went virtue out of Him, and healed them all.”—St.
LUKE vi. 19.
A CONSIDERABLE, and to some minds a distressing, difficulty emerges, when a man, observing the phenomena of the world, endeavours to fit them into a preconceived theory, and to reconcile them with what he believes to be the attributes and revealed character of Almighty God. And this difficulty is quite as apt to disconcert reason as to startle faith. It is even a more formidable embarrassment to the mere Deist than it is to a believer in a revelation which recognises the fact of the difficulty, even if it does not cxplain it.
The difficulty to which I refer arises from the presence of evil—of sin, suffering, disease, death—in the world; and the apparent incompatibility of these evils with any conception that it is natural to form of a beneficent and benevolent God. If God be Benevolent, and if He be also Omnipotent, why, we are tempted to ask, does He not prevent misery, and sin, and all that, to our eyes, seems to mar the perfection of His Creation, and to rob the great redemptive act of its completeness and efficacy ? Can it be true- as the fervid Oriental mind attempted to solve the problem—that there are two Gods: a principle of good and a principle of evil; an Ormuzd and an Ahriman; a Oeos and a onulovpyós, engaged in a perpetual conflict, of which this sublunary world is the scene, and poor humanity the victim ? Is Manicheism the soundest philosophy, the truest religion, after all ?
If such dreams and speculations ever chance to exercise an attractive influence upon our minds, there are two or three cautions that deserve to be remembered before entering upon them.
In the first place, that they are mere speculations, dim guesses or random gropings after truth; vain attempts of the human mind to construct, out of its own resources and by its own unaided powers, a satisfactory "philosophy of the Universe;" "systems” (as Mosheim calls the Gnostic speculations in the first age of Christianity, of which many of these modern theories are but the reproduction or modification) - "systems which have no solid foundation, and are indeed no more than airy phantoms blown up by the wanton fancies of selfsufficient men."
In the second place, we should recollect the limit put upon all such speculative enterprises by the very constitution of our own mind, and the utter inadequacy for such high flights of thought both of our faculties and of our language. We have no formula, nor even the capacity for framing one, to express, with any completeness, the full relation of Almighty God to His rational creatures, or to His material world. “All grand truth," said Frederick Robertson, “is the statement of two opposites; not a via media between them, nor either of them alone.” God is good, yet evil exists: God exists, yet evil is permitted. These are truths which we must hold and act on separately, but which, till the dawning of that day which shall see us “equal to the angels,” no breadth of intellectual grasp, no keenness of intellectual vision, will enable us to harmonise or comprehend.
Of course I am speaking of theoretical comprehension, of logical harmony. I am not aware that the believer ever found his steps practically hindered or embarrassed, even for a moment, by his faith in the goodness of God being suddenly confronted with the presence of evil- whether material or spiritual—in God's world. The phenomenon may sadden, but it does not perplex, him. He does not pretend to have a theory of the Universe, beyond the very simple one that all is in God's hands. The believer has a distinct vision of duty, and, for his comfort, he fancies he can see how the very existence of evil has a transmuting power, and gives to the moral and spiritual capacities of the soul a scope, an energy, a development which, without it, would be unknown. Even He who undertook to redeem a lost world was, in the mystery of His Temptation, brought into certain relations with the very essence of sin, in order to capacitate Himself for His high mission, and to endow Himself with that quick sympathy for the infirmities of others which they are ever first to
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