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clearer than I can make it by simply talking round it. A young man tells me that his experience of Christ began in this wise: He had been what we call a wastrel, though he was of good family, had a public-school education, and, I believe, a commission in the British Army—that school for saints. He went wrong somehow, and, as young men will—it is a great mysterythough he knew he was breaking his mother's hearthe was not particular about his father. He went on and went down. He left the army, went to America, took part in the Cuban War, got wounded. His people at home knew nothing about it; he went off by himself, sank lower and lower, until in a public-house brawl somewhere he was seriously hurt, and had to lie up for a while. Then he took a situation as gardener, in order to think over the course that he had been adopting up to then, and have time to do it. He said one day, It seemed to me, while I was at my daily task in the garden, as though the Spirit of all things spoke to me, remonstrated with me, humbled me, called me, and I found myself saying in reply, 'If You will help me, I will.'” So slender was his theol
' ogy that he did not know who Jesus Christ was, though he had thumbed the prayer-book every time he had gone to church in his boyhood, and repeated with the rest. “Through Jesus Christ our Lord.” He had a very hazy idea of the identity of the Master. He just prayed through Jesus Christ our Lord. His first act was to purchase a Bible; he read these Gospels, and particularly these valedictory chapters and utterances in St. John's Gospel, and then he said, “I found out who Jesus Christ was; I made no theory about it, but I said to myself, His was the voice that I heard in
the garden." You may live for a hundred years as a Christian man, but you will never get any nearer to reality than that. I might have said to him, by the Holy Spirit, it was true, Christ spoke to you in the garden. But he would not have known exactly what I meant. It was quite enough for him to say that Christ spoke—this was the voice that I heard in the garden—tremendous, intimate, personal, near. The Christ spoke and claimed him, and he serves Him today as a faithful, humble follower, working in the Anglican Church, his experience all his own. For Christ never comes to any two men in precisely the same way. Every man has his own value with the living Lord. Suppose you were to ask that man whether he thinks he is heard by the Lord of life and death he prays to. He would make answer, “Yes, for I stand in the atmosphere of the Christ; His spirit is my teacher. I would rather not pray against His will; but, when praying, I am rising and learning how to pray. His words abide in me. I ask what God wills and it is done.” I am trying to be as simple and plain as I can, and emphatic in the statement of truth. I don't want to say, “If” and “but”-you shall be
, heard now, but you shall not be heard then; you may pray about that, but you must leave this out. You may pray about anything that matters to your experience, but if you pray in the Spirit of Christ you will soon find that some of your old petitions are left behind. Prayer wins a man away from selfishness. Praying, said the present Bishop of Oxford, will either make a man leave off sinning, or sinning must make him leave off praying. If you come to me with curious questions about whether you can pray about the removal of the street-pump, or something of that sort, my answer is, Abide in Christ, and you won't be thinking about the removal of the street-pump; you will be thinking upwards, and to be thinking upwards is to be growing nobler as you pray.
“ Abide in me and I in you "-fusion with Christ, to be looking at His dear face while we pray, to so escape from all things sordid, selfish, mean, base, that we rise into another atmosphere and to another life, and the impulse to pray to the Master leads to our placing ourselves upon the altar of service for Him, and you learn by-and-bye that to pray in His Spirit is to enter into that perfect freedom of the sons of God, without which eternal life is not yours. Let me give you another picture. When I spoke just now about personal atmosphere I could see the puzzled look on the faces of some of my hearers. Do you not feel that every person has his individual value for you, and that you know that person's presence, apart from speech, to have made a certain influence upon you? One man comes to you with words of honeyed greeting, but you don't trust him, for behind the words there is something that he did not say which is eloquent to your spirit-his personality, you call it; his aura, his atmosphere, is making its impression all the time. You can close yourself up against it, you can keep him off, sometimes with difficulty; nevertheless, you can and
It is possible to shut off the higher, as well as the lower, to keep a good man at bay as well as a bad man, and in the differing values of the people who come to us we are either better or worse, according as we receive them. One man will come to me downstairs, I know as well as can be, and he will tire me while he talks, not because he is saying stupid things I shall be saying them myself—but he exhausts me somehow -not by his speech, but by himself. Another man will come and talk to me and vitalise me; I feel the better for having shaken that man's hand. Another man will come who calls forth the best in me; perhaps I feel that, though there were no speech between us, we are brothers; spirit makes answer unto spirit. Every man throws his atmosphere round about those with whom he has to deal, and you can abide in the atmosphere of a man until you are better, if he is better than you, or worse, if he is worse.
You can open yourself to the influence of a man so that your own personality is dwarfed and injured, or expanded and glorified. Lift all these things to the plane where they should be, and think of the Person behind all, all personality, the Lord of all life, and He who holds the keys of death and hell. An atmosphere it is, but a Person in the middle of it, through whom and to whom I pray. We can't lose sight of the face of the Master. We are praying to God and trying to get a glimpse of the face of the Father; our eyes rest upon the countenance of the Son. I never can get nearer to God than Christ takes me, and I never want God to be other than Christ is. If the Eternal is like Jesus, then it is well with humanity all the time.
One more familiar and homely figure. Last Thursday there were not quite so many people here as there are now. Many of you had gone for a holiday. A number of you who were here last Thursday, and who would dearly like to have been out of London and away at the dear old home, will appreciate what I am going to say.
Here is the sort of letter that one of you wrote home—the young fellows behind the counter, I
"DEAR MOTHER: I can't get off this Easter. I should only have one day, and I am rather short of money, and it is a long way home. not persuade father to send me a sovereign or two before Whitsuntide, and I will come home then and have one week-end with you."
That was a prayer, was it not, sent to somebody far away, but somebody on whom you can count. You know perfectly well that dear old lady will wring that money out of your father, be he never so scrupulous, though he can tell her all kinds of wise things about the way in which you are sure to behave with it when you might get it. She will get it beforehand, and you will have it in time, with a carefully made-out list of the railway trains and her advice to you to take the earliest of the lot. And when you see her face to face you will simply have a closer vision of the face that you have seen all the time. You sent your first request to an atmosphere of personal experience, which will be intensified, but not something new, when you meet her by-and-bye in the holiday time you have been seeking for. I know not that we can come very much nearer to the great heart of things than by such symbolism as this. God is at once Father and Mother, and I often think that the mother side of God is to be sought in Christ. I am not the first to have said that by a great deal. He is the pledge and the guarantee of the goodwill of the Father. We not only pray in