« PreviousContinue »
appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face: that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."* It is, I think, certainly true, that what the confusions and worldliness of these latter days have made inevitable, these words have been understood even to enjoin ; and we may therefore take great comfort in the thought, that under the cold, naked exterior of our public religion, and the reserve of private habits, there does exist a deep and severe reality of spiritual life; that under the most unlikely and adverse appearance there lies hidden a real work of mortification. We read even of a king of Israel, “ that he rent his clothes; and he passed by upon the wall, and the people looked, and, behold, he had sackcloth within upon his flesh."'t Let us hope that God, who weigheth the spirits, does discern the deep moving of the inmost heart, the tokens of the cross, the mind of Christ, in those who, to us, seem no more than just, temperate, amiable, and gentle ; and that many who appear to be drifting to and fro on the waterflood, are held by “an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil."I God only knows. We may perhaps have spoken, and even dwelt, with men who had in them the mind of apostles and martyrs. We have known them only by their outward aspect, as they who said in His own country, " Is not this the carpenter ?”
Let us hope this, I say, of others: but we must do more than hope it of ourselves ; here there can be no mistaking. We are within the closet even when the door is shut. What is seen by our Father in secret is not hidden from us. Whether or no there be, under our every-day life, the devo* St. Matt. vi. 1-6, 16-18. + 2 Kings vi. 30. # Heb. yi. 19.
tion of a saintly mind, can be no matter of doubt to those who desire to know themselves. It is plain, from what has been said, that if it be not so with us, the fault is not in our outward state, nor in its circumstances, but in ourselves. We may therefore rest assured, that the duties of the day and fellowship with God are enough to lead us on to any measure of Christian perfection. But these must not be separated. It is impossible for us to make the duties of our lot minister to our sanctification without a habit of devout fellowship with God. This is the spring of all our life, and the strength of it. It is prayer, meditation, and converse with God, that refreshes, restores, and renews the temper of our minds, at all times, under all trials, after all conflicts with the world, when our own carnal will and frailty has betrayed us to our fall, and breaches have been made in our most stedfast resolutions. By this contact with the world unseen we receive continual accesses of strength. The counter-working of the world is thereby held in check. As our day, so is our strength. Without this healing and refreshing of spirit, duties grow to be burdens, the events of life chafe our temper, employments lower the tone of our minds, and we become fretful, irritable, and impatient. Our outward circumstances become provocations and offences. A busy life, or one that is full of this world's duties and gifts, needs much devotion to sanctify it. The less directly our outward lot disposes us towards inward holiness, the more need have we of recollection, self-chastisement, and prayer. Without these we shall never be able to walk with circumspection, in gentleness, sincerity, pureness, and love. Our hidden life with God is the very soul of our spiritual being in our own home, in the church, and in the world.
And so also, on the other hand, it is impossible for us to
It is merc
live in fellowship with God without holiness in all the relative duties of life. These things act and react on each other. Without a diligent and faithful obedience to the calls and claims of others upon us, our religious profession is simply dead. To disobey conscience when it points to relative duties irritates the whole temper, and quenches the first beginnings of devotion. We cannot go from strife, breaches, and angry words, to God. Selfishness, an imperious will, want of sympathy with the sufferings and sorrows of other men, neglect of charitable offices, suspicions, hard censures of those with whom our lot is cast, will miserably darken our own hearts and hide the face of God from us. folly to go from a breach of the second great commandment to attempt the fulfilment of the first. When a man is ill at ease with others, he is sure to be so with God. That much-abused proverb is most true, “Charity begins at hoine.” It is but Pharisaism and self-delusion for a man that is “a lion in his house and frantic among his servants"* to make profession of prayer and fellowship with the Lamb of God.
Let this, then, be our token. Let us whose lot is cast in these latter times, when the Church has once more become almost hidden in the world, be of the holy fellowship of Him who to the eyes of men was only the carpenter, but in the eyes of God was the very Christ. Let us look well to our daily duties. The least of them is a wholesome discipline of humiliation: if, indeed, any thing can be little which may be done for God. If we were worthy of greater things, He would call us: if He do not, He bids us to know burselves better, to mortify vanity and high thoughts of our own powers to do Him service. Every state has its peculiar graces. They who are blessed with full homes and many
* Ecelas. ix. 30.
friends are called to goodness, mercy, long-suffering, tender affection towards the burdened and afflicted. The Jews would have no man to be a judge but one that had children, that he might know how to show mercy as a father. There is a discipline of humanity in the cares and burdens of life which mellows the hearts of the just. Joseph is their type and example. Others are otherwise led and disposed of, and are thereby called to toil, hardness, deadness to self, patience, humiliation; to be content with God alone ; to have charity to God's elect, boldness for the truth, suffering for the Church, and to receive in the “body the marks of the Lord Jesus."
THE WORLD WE HAVE RENOUNCED.
ST. JOHN xv. 18, 19. “ If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you.
If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."
PERHAPS there is no word more commonly in our mouths than “the world;" and yet hardly any to which we attach less clear and certain meaning. Indeed, the sense intended by it varies according to the character of the person that uses it. Some people denounce the world as unmixed evil ; some say it is for the most part good, or at least innocent; some profess to see its deceitful workings everywhere ; some will see them nowhere; some make their religion to consist in a separation from the world ; some think the field of their religious duty is in the world ; in a word, there is little or no agreement or certainty but in this, that there is such a power and reality as the world, and that it is of great moment to us to know what it is. Let us therefore endeavor to come at something better than these floating notions about it.