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and darkness. He who reads these four gospels passes his life in a constant progress towards conscious possession of reality and deeper and deeper faith.
This only-begotten Son of the Father was “full of grace.” Men who had been accustomed to hear of religion only as stereotyped tradition or gloomy law, “ wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.” He was full of the revealed mercy of God to sinners. That was the general impression made by his life and ministry. It is the impression still made by the record of it. We see him still across the distance of ages, as his Divine head rises above the corn-fields through which he walked; we see him under the trees at eventide, or on Jacob's well at noon, or in the boat on the edge of Tiberias, or sitting in the meadows near Bethsaida. Everywhere the impression made concerning him is uniform. It is divine Love in earnest, “ seeking and saving that which was lost.” You see here not a speculative teacher, not a great analyst of the mystery of human life, not a disputatious theologue, not a dealer in doctrines and articles of belief, not a great intellect addressing the human understanding so as to found a school—but a living practical love, coming into the midst of men's sorrows, and sufferings, and sins, and earnestly trying to relieve them. Sin alienates men from God. A bad life fills them with fear of the Authority offended against, fills them at length with a dislike for supreme goodness, and utter despair of salvation. They say at last,“ We are delivered to do all these abominations,” and wilfully supplement the force of passion and habit by a perverse doctrine of predestination. In such a state of soul, so common yet so awful in its hopelessness, there is but one power which can diseolve the deadly enchantment—the power of all conquering self-sacrifice and love. Christ repre. sented God and religion in such a way as to make the very most sunken people entertain hope of salvation. He threw the golden, radiant sunshine of a Divine compassion into the darkness of a sinner's heart and around his pathway, and declared in words of authority and grace that “to-day salvation was come to his house.” Not even the soul of a tax-gathering miser and thief, whose heart was bound around with iron bars, like his strong-boxes and coffers of gold, could stand against that. It opened to the celestial love-Christ made known a "fulness of grace,” which met the sinner's case. Any limited manifestation would have failed of its end. The sinful soul would have responded in despair, “Jy sin is greater than your limited kindness can reach. It is gone up to heaven, it has sunk down to the shades of hell; I am ingrained with sin; sin has eaten like a cancer into my rery vitals— full of wounds and bruises, and putrefying sores.' Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord !” But Jesus appeared to this sinner, ready to call upon the mountains to fall upon him, ready to rush forward into the woes of the unseen, as a love, a mercy, a compassion, which, while it was bright around him as the cloud of glory that shone around the shepherds at Bethlehem, extended into immensity. He spoke of the forgiveness of all manner of sins, and of blasphemies wherewith soever they should blaspheme. The sick, the lost, the weary, the heavy-laden, the worn-out body, the aching, distracted, doubting, demon-driven soul-these were declared to be the very objects of his mission. The leper, the woman which was a sinner, the adulteress, the dying robber-of all these he was the Saviour “to the uttermost." He • showed forth all long-suffering,” so revealing God the Father; for he was the word of the Father speaking in him.
He was, and he is; for he is the same yesterday and to-day. Are you leading a sinful life, and feel the bondage such as if you were in a prison, manacled and watched by four quarternions of soldiers ? Say, “I will arise and go to my Father,” and a light of deliverance shall shine amid your darkness--a light of freedom in your slavery. There is A FATHER at the journey's end. The prodigal would not have arisen to journey forward to his Judge. He never would have risen from the husks which the swine do eat, unless he were attracted by paternal love. Baptism is given as a sign of willing reconciliation, of free and immediate pardon. It is "the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins," the sign of the washing away of the past which is the obstacle to a blessed future. You need not be afraid of Jesus Christ any more than his disciples were afraid of him; your remaining faults need not make you afraid, if you do but welcome the redeeming love. Your good qualities will not save you while you continue unforgiven. Your remaining imperfections will not cause your ruin when you are grafted on the “living Vine." There is no time to lose. Life is rolling away. Nothing less than endless glory in the heavens of God is at stake, nothing less than an eternity of rapture. An account is to be given of the reception of this message. “If ye believe not, ye shall die in your sins.” God's own hand shall close the gates of heaven against those who despise its mercy.
Jesus Christ is “full of grace.” Let these words carry hope and help to the fallen Christian. You have drawn back; you have ceased to pray; and with this you have lost insight, hope, and blessing; you are full of unrest, anxiety, and alarm when you think at all, but are tempted to extinguish thought by fresh sins and follies. No doubt there is suffering in store for you, but it may be a healing sorrow. “The Lord turned and looked upon Peter, and Peter went out and wept bitterly.” That glance must have pierced to his heart like an arrow. But Christ's eye was not cold and hard towards Peter. It was the look of wonder and of love which caused the bitter tears.. And Peter, on the dawn of Sunday, ran to the sepulchre - not so fast as John, for his feet were heavy with the leaden sandals of his sin -but he ran, and the Lord “ appeared unto Simon.” So will it be with you. If you return even limpingly, and at a slower pace than Peter's, Christ will appear to you near to his sepulchre, as that was near to his cross. If there was a genuine love before, it was reciprocal, and Jesus has not forgotten his. If there was not, then you were no Peter, but must begin afresh like the leper or the thief. Let your cry be, “Lord, save, or I perish ;” and this game Saviour will stretch forth his hand, and avert your impending doom.
These words, “full of grace," comprise the supply of “all our need” on earth, but they comprise heaven itself as well. These sunbeams fly over an eternal future. Other rays are lost in distance, swallowed up in darkness, absorbed in the bosom of eternal night; but these go forward, bright as at first, into the profound, and show along the surface of that shoreless ocean the isles of the blessed stretching onward until they are lost in a horizon beyond which no eye but One can direct a space-penetrating beam. “He seeth under the whole heaven;" and that which he sees is a “fulness of grace” for evermore-_“an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away ;" for ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's.
THE HARDNESS AND THE EASINESS OF THE CHRISTIAN
“ Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple."-Luke xiv. 27.
“ Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." - Matt. xi. 29-30.
Most startling and perplexing must this | Master was risen from the dead-for as yet statement about the cross have been to Clirist had not predicted to them even his Jewish ears. Clearly one of those things own crucifixion ; and how could the cross which the disciples understood not till the symbolize to the chosen people any virtue
or duty, when that accursed mode of death, actual life the two are partially blended was only known to them through their into one. Amongst those eager multitudes, cruel and idolatrous oppressors, the Ro- | indeed, may be found men altogether “carmans ? Certainly, this early symbolical nal, sold under sin ;' but amongst the use of the cross has in it something which “weary and heavy laden” the “flesh and we do not even now well understand. But the spirit" make up the complex man. it is to the seeming paradox involved in To the flesh, Christ's service will still be the above texts that we now give our found the cross; to the spirit it will be an attention.
easy yoke. The nearer we come to him in How can the same service be at once loving confidence, in spiritual likeness, in a “cross," and an “easy yoke"? Per prayerful devotion, the greater the struggle haps the key to this may be found of the flesh, but the greater also the rest in the different characters addressed by for the spirit. Here then is the hardness our Lord in these different sayings. The and the easiness of the Christian life. Not word about the cross is spoken to an eager that all Christian service is hard, even to multitude, who see but one side of the the flesh; and in this respect we must truth concerning his kingdom. It may be “ beware of the leaven of the Pharisees." that the report of the wonderful parable, Men talk glibly of taking up their cross in which that kingdom is likened to a in certain lines of conduct, when, in “great supper," has reached their ears. truth, the cross to them would be found in The temper of their minds may be that of quite another direction. In the various those who on another occasion sought him spheres of Christian duty, what is torture not because they “saw the miracle,” but to one man is joy to another. Crosses are because they "did eat of the loaves and not formed after one pattern, but fitted to were filled," and would on that account the idiosyncracy of each Christian man. by force have made him a king. “If the And of this let us be well assured, that kingdom means abundance of bread and of somewhere we shall find each one his own good cheer, then by all means let us have cross-if it be taken up well; if not, he the kingdom !” “Let us follow this man, cannot,” saith Christ, be my disciple"and let us cry, 'All hail !'" “But he that is, he cannot experience the easy yoke, turned and said unto them, “Whosoever the light burden--he cannot find “rest for ! doth not bear his cross, and come after me, his soul.” If we will not have the hardness, cannot be my disciple.'” The kingdom is neither shall we have the easiness of Christ's a feast indeed, and of fat things there is service, for, indeed, the two are one: the sea abundance, but it is also a “cross.” Its crown is made from the cross. overflowing cup of welcome, and its anoint What a grand and solemn illustrations ing vil, come only through a great agony; of our principle we get in the “noble army and in this the disciple must be as his of martyrs :5 men who led the van under juice master.
the Great Captain of our salvation! Taken On the other hand, those who are ad Stephen. How hard it was, for a loving dressed in Matthew are of quite another witness to the truth, to die the cruel death me spirit. They have apprehended the king. of stoning! And yet how easy! See bim .. dom from another side-virtually, are with upturned face, radiant with the in already in it. These are not the clamorous etfable light-his eye piercing the visible multitude, but the stricken weeping ones, heavens, and seeing the Son of M shrinking sensitively in the soreness of their standing (not now sitting) at the right souls' travail. “Weary and heavy laden,” hand of God,--standing ready to come conscious of sin, crying for deliverance, forth and help his servant. And he di they have taken up their cross, in a sense, help him. “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,
pirit!" ** even now. And when they come to him, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge...
ge!" and see his cross, their own loses its When you contrast this and the “sleeps
and the anguish; love to him makes all burdens of Stephen with the maledictions and the light; and while they seek not any longer gnashings of teeth of the Sanhedrim and to be relieved by this "worldly-wise man" its officers, you see that it is an easier and that, they find "rest to their souls.” thing for him to die among the crues *
But while the line of separation between stones, than for them to live, though they ** these characters may be thus indicated, and should seek their ease on silken cushions. along this line the clue to our paradox | The Apostle Peter, writing of his deceast: songht, it must not be forgotten that in I waiting calmly for it, is a grand stues.
The more so, when we contrast the ease ill-advised Monmouth expedition. He is a with which he speaks of putting off “this Christian ; and as the last hour draws near, tabernacle" as the Lord had shown him, his fortitude rises to meet it. On the fatal with the hardness he had felt it to confess day, having dined, he sleeps, as was his Christ on a former occasion. Then, indeed, l custom. A lord of the council, who had the flesh prevailed over the spirit, and so sold his conscience to the king, seeks adprevailed as that Peter found the service mittance to the prisoner's room, deems the of the devil to be harder than Christ's. statement that his lordship is sleeping an For in that is bondage, but in this freedom. evasion, but, having thrust himself in, In that, the iron enters into the soul-the stands awe-stricken, conscience-stricken, at spirit is tortured; that is where, as in sight of one who can sleep so serenely in Peter's case, the vitality and power of the the immediate shadow of death! With a conscience remain ; for sometimes, indeed, | palpitating heart, and a blanched cheek, he the devil proffers his intoxicating, stupifying | totiers from the place. Entering the draught; and then, if we drink, we may | house of a kinswoman, she, observing his say, we feel no pain; but if we refuse it, faintness, proposes a cup of wine. “No!” the agony of remorse, the stings of con he replies, " that will do me no good. I science, make up a cross, hearier and have seen Argyle, within an hour of his sharper than ever Christ would have laid death, sleeping peacefully as a child on its upon us. Peter, weeping bitterly over the mother's bosom ; but as for me!”... denial by which he has evaded the cross, It was an easier thing for the Christian finds the yoke he bears to be much harder to die upon the scaffold than for this man than when, with John, having cheerfully to live under the smiles of royalty! The taken up the cross, he rejoices to suffer artist has well painted the hardness and the shame for the name of Jesus. While Peter easiness of the Christian life. But our shrank from the burden of the Master's principle is realised and illustrated in our service, he knew not its easiness; but when life of to-day. In these British Islands, he shrank from it no more, his soul en- where no man's blood is shed, or property tered into the perfect rest. Looking super- confiscated, for his love to Christ, there are ficially, and with the carnal eye, at the life yet spheres of Christian faithfulness and of Paul, we might ask, where is the pro steadfastness which involve the cross for mised rest? Where the easy yoke for this the flesh, and the rest for the soul. true disciple of the Lord ? What a life of ex Let us take a very common-place ex. citement, labour, and persecution! Stripes, | ample. Let us apply the test of money, imprisonments, shipwrecks—these are his s for even in this, sordid as it is, an acceptportion! And yet, looking more closely, able sacrifice may be offered. In the “unand with the spiritual eye, did ever man righteous mammon” we may find our rise higher into the majestic calmness of cross. Here is one man, with ample means the heavens than he ? What tenderness, and a large heart, naturally benevolent and what patient love, what deep repose in all open-handed; to him giving has become a his letters! “Gentle among you, as a labit, a pleasure, and a joy of his life. nurse cherisheth her children!” This is Here is another, with means also ample, the temper of the man while the storm of but naturally of a disposition close and adversity is beating upon him, while hard, giving, indeed, but with reluctance, enemies are clamouring like wolves around with a slow hand, and a sour face. Let us him. Seen in one of its aspects, the life of not be hasty in our judgment of these men. the Apostle Paul is like a battle-field Let us not say here, in the former we have soaked with blood, and strewn with the the true disciple of Christ, in the latter the slain; but in another aspect, like quiet spurious. For in the one case the heart is meadow.lands, where the grass is green and naturally benevolent. Its exercise in this the rivers full to the brim. It is the hard- | direction involves no cross, and, conseness and the easiness of the Christian lite! 1 quently, no test of Christian discipleship.
Amongst the works of art which adorn This man will find his cross elsewhere ; the galleries of our senate-houses, and else and find it where he may, it shall be the where, we have seen a picture which moves true test of bis character. But the tardy us much. It is “The Last Sleep of Argyle.” benevolence of the other may be the sympArgyle was one of those whom the ty, tom of the struggle between grace and ranny of James had driven into rebellion; i nature; for the result so far attained, the and who perished in connection with the | cross may have been taken up.
“What's done we partly may compute, I that to minds naturally prone to indolence, But know not what's resisted.”
Christian activity is the cross-the test of Yet it is only by being unflinchingly discipleship. Before you test a man's piety honest to himself-only by fronting to the by the visible amount of work done, see uttermost all the hardness and closeness of that you know something of his natural his nature-only by crucifying it with disposition, his mental as well as his physiChrist, that such a man can enter into the cal constitution. To some it is no hardship perfect rest. It is in vain for him in to engage in multifarious labours; to be general terms to talk of glorying in the quiet would be to them the true hardship cross of Christ; of the “world being cruci - repose is their cross. No subscriptionfied to him," and he to the world; while list, new or old, but they must have a share this particular world, the love of money, is in collecting ; no fresh scheme, but they cherished in his heart. Let him employ are among its promoters; no “ deputation." no euphemisms to cloak his sin ; prudence, or" demonstration” from which they are thrift, cconomy, are virtues, and it is sad excluded. They realise almost Mrs. Brownto see men using these terms as phylac ing's description of “ One hand teaching in teries, while within covetousness lurks and the ragged-schools, the other washing in the lingers. For such there is no true rest. public baths." Amongst such are useful, deBenevolence, partially exercised under a voted, truly pious persons; yet the great test mere sense of duty and by constraint, will of their piety must be sought for in another prove a grievous yoke, an intolerable direction. But now suppose a Christian burden; but the cross, heartily taken up man to have a natural shrinking from these out of love to Christ, will be transformed active engagements; fond of ease, quietby his Divine touch into the easy yoke and ness, retirement; and yet to have within the light burden, and they shall find rest him a conviction that he is called by the unto their souls.
Lord himself to some department of Of this Sabbath and jubilee of the soul, Christian labour : to this man there is no this finding of one's life in losing it for ease, no rest, until he has taken up the Christ, we have a fine example in the Seram cross. Many perhaps are the shifts, and pore missionaries.
subtleties, and evasions, in the conflict that “My wife and I,” says Marshman, as goes on within. His name, his influence, the end draws near, “have been, by the his money, are offered in lieu of personal goodness of God, enabled to contribute no service; but the Lord accepts them not. less a sum than thirty thousand pounds to The voice, solemn and imperative, is ever the great cause of missions, from our own sounding in his ear—" Son, go work in my private earnings and resources; and how vineyard to-day." Yet this work involves much happier I feel than if I had that the cross. To sit in the summer's afteramount in landed property, or invested in noon in the drowsy hum of the Sundaythe funds, I am not able to tell. I have school; to give a tract to a neighbour, and never had a single regret or misgiving as | have it received with a sarcastic politeness to the course I have pursued, and yet I that cuts one to the heart; to speak a word have children unprovided for.” No, not for Christ with a stammering tongue and unprovided for-surely Marshman was with a burning cheek :--these are trials, wrong there ; he had made for them the “ crosses," which less sensitive souls know best and noblest of all provisions, the pro- nothing of. But when the victory over vision of a noble example! And that pro- | self has been attained, when the cross, out vision has not been without its blessing. of love to Him who bore all its sharpness One of his children is proprietor of the for us, has been taken up, then there fol“ Friend of India ;” another is Lady lows a rest, hallowed as the keeping of a Havelock! Carey, Marshman, and Ward Sabbath. The burden becomes light and are illustrious names in the annals of the yoke easy, when love's hands fill them Christian heroism and self-sacrifice. In the and balance them. privations they endured as good soldiers of 1 The victory over pride, too, as well Christ, and the slanders heaped so cruelly as over indolence, is sometimes involved upon them, they experienced the “hard in taking up the cross of labour ; but ness,” but in the internal peace, and the driving out of this evil spirit is only spiritual Sabbatic rest, the "easinesss” of by a sore battle, and even then he “hardly the Christian life.
departeth." Yet what a grevious yoke is Leaving now our money-test, we remark | pride itself to him who bears it! To what