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His Spirit, but His Spirit teaches us to pray. More than that, His promise is towards you and me, that as our prayers ascend from the lower to the higher humanity, from our needy soul to the Christ who has been touched with the feeling of our infirmity, it is through and by Him that you have passed on, passed on to the heart of the Father. We have a Mediator who ever liveth to make intercession for us. Think of that, you men, who have been making ducks and drakes of your opportunities. Think of the boundless pity at the heart of our Father-Mother God, our Brother Christ. Think of that ceaseless solicitude for the souls of men, which knows no change, or ever shall till earth's foundations melt away. Think of it when you are low down in the depths of despondency, when you feel your human weakness most, and get up again and be strong, for the spiritual man is the strongest of men, seeing he is joined to the Spirit of all, and is abiding in Christ Jesus. Mary Queen of Scots used
. to say she feared the prayers of John Knox more than she feared an army
thousand men. There are men in the world to-day who do not appear much in the newspaper, and whose names are seldom on the lips of the public; but some day you will find out how many currents and influences they have been setting going in the world of things seen and unseen. There are some people who are omnipotent-I am not using the language of extravagance-omnipotent for the things that they want. They can lay firm hold on the things of God, and they can be trusted with His things, for they have been taught by the spirit of Christ ere they knelt to pray.
Dr. Parker once said to me, in his impulsive, hyper
bolical fashion, “I know a man who, if he were to pray for that chimney, would have it; it would come itself. I never could do that. But I should be much more afraid of that man's prayers than I should of an Act of Parliament." That was only his forceful, pungent, eager way of putting a profound spiritual truth. Prayer is the explanation of personal value; prayer is working with the arm of God; prayer is converse with the unseen; prayer is listening, as well as speaking. The Master's words abide in us as well as our words abide in Him, and, as I think I have said before, in the words of that mystical poet who changed our outlook upon nature and God a century or more ago-Wordsworth:
“ Think you 'mid all this mighty sum
Of things for ever speaking
But we must still be seeking ?
Which of themselves our minds impress,
In a wise passiveness.”
It is well sometimes to be still in the presence of Christ that He may teach us how to pray, and when once we learn of Him and feel that His Spirit is in harmony with all that we utter and will, we are praying with those who prevail, and the answer to the prayer comes in the moment of the praying. We have set heaven going, and the reply will soon come. " Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My Name. Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”
THE ESSENCE OF CHRISTIANITY*
Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eter. nity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.- Isaiah lvii. 15.
HAD at first intended to take for my text one clause of this verse, and, indeed, I think now
that I may venture with you to place the emphasis upon that particular clause, keeping the context in our mind,“ With him also.” I need not remind you of the circumstances under which the text came to be written or of the state of mind to which the exhortation was directed. Suffice it to say that it was aimed at the heart of a people who, in keeping their conscience, so to speak, had lost the idea of spiritual fellowship with God. In obedience to what they believed to be the demands and exactions of the law of God, they had forgotten God Himself; therefore they were reminded of the true condition of heart under which a man can expect to approach God, and to be accepted of Him. They were told in effect, in this prophetic language, that only that character is acceptable to God in which humility is the most prominent ingredient. Nay, would we not be justified in going so far as to say that not character but spirit is the
* Preached in Union Church, Brighton, Sunday morning, September 15, 1901.
essential condition upon which we can enter into relationship with God? For no human character, however exalted, can claim to be sinless, but every human character, however seemingly pure, or however utterly debased, can blend at once with the spirit of God if it possesses the spirit of lowliness. That is the message that the prophet endeavours here to convey.
It is of the highest importance in this as in every other generation that men should arrive at right views about God. A very trite observation to make, and yet how much we necessarily attach to it. Not one sermon only, but every sermon, must be concerned with that primary proposition. It is of the first necessity that we should all have and keep right views about the nature of God. The late Master of Balliol, Dr. Jowett, was once addressed by a lady who believed him to be somewhat liberal and vague in his views of religion; she said, “Sir, can you tell us what you really think about God?” The answer was:“Madam, it matters very little what I think about God, but it matters a great deal what God thinks about me. Yet beneath that assertion there was another which you can distinguish at once, namely: It matters very much what I think God thinks about me.
It is essential that I should have right views of that Divine nature which is every hour appealing to mine, the one unescapable reality of my life, without which one can neither think, nor speak, nor act. Every man must positively or negatively define his attitude to God. See what mistakes have been made in time past, not by Israel only, but by Christendom, when men have got away from the true conception of the nature of God. They have defined Him sometimes as an implacable Deity, without pity, without mercy for the frailties of humanity. He has been worshipped in blood; the worship even of the meek and lowly has often been a worship of agony and tears. In past history it has sometimes seemed as though the Christian Church was a malign influence in the world, so prominent were her professors in the infliction of anguishing pain. Men might have been saved all that if they had kept close to intelligent vision and thought of Him whose name and nature are love.
But at the present day it seems as though we are in danger of passing to another extreme.
We preach His love, and forget His holiness. For He who is high and lofty above the greatest that humanity can ever conceive has become to us, as it seems, a Being too familiar, whose stock-in-trade is mercy, who is ever waiting to forgive, and whose love is such that He will ever spare the loved, however heinous may
be the transgression against Himself. That is not Scriptural, that is not the truth concerning the God whom Jesus came to declare. Awful holiness inaccessible to natural human nature it is. Love is an ingredient and an expression of that holiness, it may be, but it is a love that will not spare the loved. When we sin against Him, we sin to our own hurt. It is impossible for us to live as though there were no God, and not be punished for the sin of that practical godlessness. He dwells in the high and holy place to judge the earth. True, there is a love of God which passeth knowledge, to which we cannot attain even in understanding; but true it is that there is a wrath of God revealed against all the ungodliness and unrighteous