Thoughts at Fourscore (5)
Home Up Autobiography Gulf of Time Old Fashioned Stories Self-help Prison Rhymes, etc. Baron's Yule Feast Purgatory of Suicides Paradise of Martyrs Poets of the Poor Reviews, etc. Main Index Site Search
 


 

[Previous Page]


 
— XIV.—

THE PRODIGAL SON.

A PLAIN SERMON FOR POOR, PLAIN PEOPLE.

"I will arise and go to my Father."—LUKE xv. 18.


I TAKE the most thrilling words in the Parable of the Prodigal Son for a text; but I mean that we shall have the whole parable for our subject—nay, the whole chapter.  You all know how it begins—for we all know the 15th of Luke better than any other chapter in the New Testament.


"Then drew near unto Him all the publicans and sinners, for to hear Him.  And the Pharisees and Scribes murmured—murmured—saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them."


They murmured—did the self-righteous Pharisees—because they were so very good—so very good—in their own estimation—and therefore they felt a proud contempt for the Publicans—those proverbial sinners.  But, what right had they to denounce the τελωυαι, or publicans?  Who were these publicans?  Don't, any of you, imagine that they were like some of the people who are called publicans in our country:—sellers of strong drink, and not only sellers of strong drink, but sellers of strong drink to drunkards.  If such men were called sellers of men's souls, it would only be a fit name for them—for they sell thousands of men into moral ruin.  And how some of them can sleep quietly in their beds, is a wonder—for they have not only sold the man to ruin, but have very often robbed his wife and children of bread and clothing.  I wonder that some of them do not fear the Old Lad will fetch 'em before they awake in the morning.

    The Publicans that we read about in the New Testament were not sellers of strong drink, but collectors of the public revenue—of the Roman taxes.  The publican was a sort of tax-gatherer, custom-house officer, and excise-officer rolled into one.  Judea was a conquered country.  The stern all-conquering Romans held it in their iron grasp; and so the Jews had to pay taxes to them.  But the proud Romans did not send their tax-gatherers round to men's houses to collect the taxes.  The publican "sat at the receipt of custom"—at the receipt of the customs, or excise, or taxes.  Men were expected to take their payments to him.

    Sometimes, he farmed the taxes, as the expression goes: he agreed to pay so much money to the government, and receive authority to collect the taxes for himself.  Of course, if the man were a grasper, he would make as much as he could out of the bargain, in the way of profit.  But all the publicans were not graspers.  There must have been some honest and upright men among them; and, perhaps, some who had more real piety than the high-professing Pharisees who called them sinners.  Such must have been Matthew.  He must have been one of the pious souls who were waiting for the promised Messiah—looking for the coming of the Redeemer—or Jesus would not have summoned him so peremptorily, when he saw him "sitting at the receipt of custom": "Follow Me!" Christ said—and Matthew instantly obeyed.  Nor can Zaccheus have been far from the kingdom of God.  Christ must have known, too, how he wanted to be right, and was praying with a lowly heart—a heart as lowly as his stature—to be right; or Jesus would not have said so positively—"Zaccheus, make haste and come down, for to-day I must abide at thy house."

    I question if many of the publicans deserved the evil epithet of sinners by pre-eminence, which the Pharisees dealt towards them. The meaning—the real meaning of the Pharisees in using it seems to have been that they were very guilty, being Jews, in collecting taxes for their Pagan conquerors. But, who were the greater sinners—the men that collected taxes, like the publicans—or the men that paid the taxes, like the Pharisees? The sin of the Jews, as a nation, was that they had come into such a condition as to have to pay taxes to Pagan conquerors.
.
    "Whose is this image and superscription?" asked Jesus.  "Cæsar's," they answered.  "Render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's, and unto God the things which are God's."  You know God is your king—Christ meant, and you ought to have had nothing to do with earthly sovereigns.  But you deserted your Almighty and Heavenly King, and now, you are the enslaved people of proud Pagan conquerors.  There lay the sin: not with the poor publicans.  Surely, somebody must collect the taxes from the conquered Jews, unless soldiers were to do it, with violence, and perhaps, murder.

    The Saviour knew all about these wicked murmurings of the Pharisees—and how does He meet them?  By following the custom of an Oriental teacher—the way of instruction by parables.  If you wish to teach an Eastern man, you must condescend to tell him a story, a tale, an imaginary narrative of some sort.  You are sure to guide him most effectually by appealing to his imagination.  That would do little good with a Western or Northern man: with a Scotsman, for instance.  "Dinna fash me with your stories, mon," he would say.  "Lay doon your propositions in a soond, common-sense way, and I'll listen to ye.  I want to ken the logic of it, sir!"

    Our Lord knew his countrymen well; and so He speaks to them story-fashion.  And, mind ye,—He does not begin by denying that the poor publicans are sinners; or denying that the Pharisees are as righteous as they profess to be.  He is not so unskilful as to offend their prejudices when He wishes to convince them that He is right in receiving poor sinners and eating with them.  He sets about the work of instructing them, so as to lead them to the conclusion that He is right and they are wrong—if they are willing to be convinced.

    What a Master the Saviour was in the art of instruction is shown by the way in which He opens His lesson of instruction.  He lays hold of their worldliness and love of wealth, and compels their attention irresistibly.—"What man of you having a hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost until he find it?"  What man of us?—the Pharisees would repeat to themselves—why, of course, every man of us would do that: not, for a moment, having any suspicion of what the Saviour was leading to.—"And, when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders rejoicing."  Ay, no wonder at that—they would be thinking—we all should do the like.—"And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost."—Quite natural—they would say—feeling He could not have said anything more consistent with human nature and common-sense.  But they were not expecting Christ to close down the lesson upon their consciences so quickly and so powerfully.  "I say unto, you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one inner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance."

    One feels sure that every Pharisee who stood on the borders of the crowd would cease his murmuring at the commencement of Christ's discourse; and when the lesson was thus pressed down upon the conscience, so suddenly, would let his head fall upon his breast, and say, within himself—"This was what He meant, then.  And is there such joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth?  We must be wrong then, in murmuring against this Man.  But He means, doubtless, to insinuate that He goes to seek the lost sheep, and we do not."

    There, perhaps, prejudice would spring up again; but the Saviour checks it by presenting the same great truth of the value of the sinner, to the mind of the Pharisee, in another form.  "Either what woman, having ten pieces of silver—(ten drachmas, each worth about 7.½d.)—if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?  And, when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I had lost."  Yes, Christ means them fully to understand it: the sinner is of great value, although they have treated the sinner as if he were worthless.

    They believed silver was of great value, and that lost piece was well worth lighting a candle, and sweeping the house and seeking diligently till it were found.—But Jesus repeats the truth that He means should fasten on their hearts and minds—Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth."  Some of these proud, self-righteous Pharisees must have powerfully felt the application of the Saviour's words, and have begun to feel ashamed that they had not shown joy at the return of poor sinners, and the finding of the lost.  And what must the poor publicans have felt?  How different were the words of the sweet Saviour from the silent contempt and proud scorn they had, all along received from the self-righteous Pharisees!  Who can wonder that they flocked to hear Jesus, and heard Him gladly?

    The plainness of this instruction seems one of the chief points of its excellence.  Christ meant to get at the heart and conscience; and so the lesson is so clear that its meaning cannot be mistaken.  And there is not a sinner who hears the Gospel preached, or who reads it for himself, but knows how plain it is.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and always.  He is still the Good Shepherd that He declared Himself to be: and, still,


'He goes and seeks the one lost sheep,
 And brings His wanderer home.'


There is not an unconverted man who hears the Gospel preached but knows how true this is.  Yes, my friend, Christ has often sought you, and He seeks you still.  He wants to bear you on His shoulders rejoicing to the flock of His people—His own sheep, who hear His voice and follow Him.  He regards you as of great value: He knows that neither the figure of the lost sheep, nor of the lost piece of silver can set forth your real, your eternal value.  Have you so little value for yourself that you will not be found of Him?  His own sheep,—His own people—wander sometimes:—many of us have often wandered—but


'When like wandering sheep we strayed,
 He brought us to His fold again'—


Blessed be His holy Name!  Oh, that I could awaken in some heart to-night the sense of deep and lasting repentance for all this wandering, and the resolve to yield to the Good Shepherd, and seek to be made a true member of His flock!—What joy there would be in heaven!

    And is it really so?  Does the King of Angels assure us that there is joy among them, in heaven, over one sinner that repenteth?  Have they, then—those spiritual beings, who are so near the throne of God, and who are the messengers of His will—have they, then, this sympathy with us?  What is called "Science," and is so pompously spoken of in our time, discovers to us nothing of the future world; and our Men of Science, whom some people regard; with so much wonder-stricken and foolish admiration, can tell us nothing about it.  Nay—because they know nothing about it, they would, in their pride and arrogance, have us believe that there is nothing to be known.  But the Saviour knows all about it; and He assures us that this sympathy of he angels with men exists: that there is a great bond of sympathy of the higher orders of God's moral and spiritual creation towards men.

    What a grand opening for thought the Saviour's declaration gives us!  Jesus means us to understand that the great Moral Government of God is one No wonder, then, that this beautiful bond of sympathy is felt by the angels—and, doubtless, by departed saints too,—in the conversion of sinners—in the spread of Christ's kingdom.  Do not let us undervalue ourselves.  We are not mere matter—born simply to live a few toilsome days here and then die like dogs and be no more.  The holy angels feel our conversion to be of value—for the King of Angels declares it is so.  Poor man—poor woman—who have not given your hearts to the Saviour, do you not see what value Christ sets upon you?  Oh, come to Christ!  Say, Lord, I am thy poor wandering sheep: lead me to the fold of Thy people, and let the angels rejoice over me!  Perhaps, I am talking to some poor wanderer who has a father or mother in heaven.  Surely, if there be joy among the angels, there is joy in the hearts of fathers and mothers who have gone home to heaven, over their children that repent.  Perhaps, I am talking to more than one husband who has a wife in heaven—to more than one wife who has a husband in heaven.  Surely, if there be joy among the angels, there is richer joy in the hearts of wives and husbands who have gone home to heaven, over the repentance of those they dearly loved when on earth!  Oh, you who remember the prayers of those who loved you on earth, for your conversion—will you let their prayers be lost, and refuse to join them in heaven.  God help you to yield your hearts to Him!

    Has the Saviour finished His appeal to the hearts of the proud, self-righteous Pharisees?  Nay, He is not half-way through it, yet.  There are some of them with hearts untouched—hearts hard to reach -feeling hardened scorn for poor publicans and sinners, and equal scorn—nay, perhaps, wrath and hate for the Divine Teacher.  But Jesus does not mean to give them up.  He knows that however powerful and well-adapted what He has already said may have been to move worldly minds—there are chords in the human heart which tremble still more thrillingly, and yield, when touched by a Master hand.  Stories of the finding of a lost sheep, or piece of silver, have a certain influence on the mind; but we all feel that it is a story of thorough human interest—of human rectitude and human error—of human pain and human pleasure—of human joy and human sorrow—which affects us most deeply.  So the Saviour leaves the story of the inanimate piece of silver, and of the sheep, the mere animal, and begins a story of deep human interest: a story of which the whole age of man, and of which all the pages of the literature of the world, knows not such another: a story which has been blessed to the salvation of thousands of poor sinners since Christ uttered it.  God grant it may be blessed to the salvation of some poor sinner to-night!

    And how begins the matchless story?  The words are familiar to all our ears; but we are never weary of the sound of them.—"And He said, A certain man had two sons."—Observe that there is skilful personal point in these words.  Christ is about to give a portrait of the Pharisee and the Publican, in the close of the parable—but He reserves it to the close.  He does not let the Pharisee see His intent, at first; but concentrates all the interest upon the younger son—the Prodigal—the Publican.  "A certain man had two sons, and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me."  Just like the lads in our day, you know.  They ask for their father's money as if it were their own.  "Give me the portion of goods that falleth to me."  How did he know that any of his father's property would fall to him?  Why, because it was his father's, to be sure.  No matter whether they have earned a penny of the money, the lads always expect to have it, if it be their father's.  And if he be unwilling to give it to them, they will soon show him a piece of their mind, and tell him to his face, that he is a stingy old good-for-nothing, and ought to be ashamed of himself.  And if he will not give it, they will tell it abroad, that the world may know what he is.

    Remonstrance and good advice?  They don't want either: they have had too much of both, already.  So Christ does not tell us how the father depictured here remonstrated with his younger son, and said, as many a father says "My lad, you had better not have the money.  You know you are very green and inexperienced, and know very little of human life.  You may soon be led away by bad advisers, and lose the money.  You had much better let it remain in my hands and increase, until you know how to take care of it."  No: Christ does not tell us of any expostulation or friendly remonstrance on the part of the father—for such remonstrances, the Saviour knew, are usually vain—so He simply tell us that "He divided unto them his living"—and the wilful younger son is left to take his own way.

    "He divided unto them his living."  The words have a good deal of solemnity about them, if you think upon them a little.  A youth brought up under the eye of a pious father, trained amidst family prayer and all pious observances, and treated with the most loving and tender care by his earthly parent, visited also, often, by the Holy Spirit—listens to some evil lad whose companion he becomes, and soon grows discontented, and demands money from his father, that he may go and try to do the best for himself, as he says.  Oh, how ruinous that day may be, when his father yields to him and "divides to him the living"!  What a day of evil that may prove both for the soul and body of that discontented and corrupt youth!

    "He divided unto them his living."  God often bears long with those who will not serve Him and love Him.  He sends His Holy Spirit, for years, to strive with that sinful man, and to render him uneasy on account of his sins—to render his pillow a pillow of thorns when he places his guilty head upon it, at night—and to awake him with keen pangs of the accusing conscience, in the morning.  But the sinner, at length, finds some other sinner more hardened than himself, and listening to that hardened sinner's advice, resolves to try and stifle conscience.  And God gives him up to his own evil will—"He divided unto them his living"—lets him go and find what sinful indulgence will do for him.  An awful day for the sinner, when the Holy Spirit gives him up to hardness of heart, and ceases to strive with him!  God grant it may never be the case with any unconverted man or woman here!

    "And he divided unto them his living.  And, not many days after"—it would not be many days after, for he was in a great hurry, this wilful younger son—"not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country"—determined to be out of his father's sight—to have no more leading-strings or governance; but to set up for himself and be his own master—"a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living"—had his fill of sin—sinned up to the neck and wallowed in wickedness.—"And, when he had spent all"—he would not be long doing that with "riotous living"—"when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land, and he began to be in want."  Ay, ay, people who spend their money in riotous living, in our day, little calculate that the mighty famine may come; but a good many have bitterly proved it of late.  God grant it may teach them wisdom!

    "And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.  And he would fain have stifled his hunger with the wild carobs that the swine did eat."  The young prodigal left his father's house to sow his wild oats; and he finds, now, that he has sown them with a witness—for the sowing has produced a crop of degradation and shame—a harvest of hunger and wretchedness—and he would fain have shared the dinner of the swine, the fruit or pods of the carob tree, which are so coarse that our old translators have rendered the word "husks."

    " And no man gave unto him."  What! did not the young roysterers, who had helped him to spend his fortune in riotous living, come to his help?  Not one of them!  And, if any of you young lads get a fortune and spend it, depend upon it, the young scapegraces who help you to spend it, will be the last to think of helping you, or relieving you.  "Serve him right," they will say: "he was a great fool to throw his money away in the way he did, we all knew that."

    Serious writers tell us that there is another and more recondite, but solemnly important meaning, in this part of the parable.  When it is said that in his destitution he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, it is meant that the sinner when he has brought himself into deep trouble by his sin, often thinks he will give over sinning.  He tries to serve the moral Law—the "citizen of that country"—but finds his attempt end in worse misery.  For, so far from enabling him to give over sinning, the Law shows him what a wretched sinner he is.  It sends him into the fields to feed swine.  Shows him he is utterly undone and cannot give over sinning, by his own strength.  That he is utterly helpless: "no man gave unto him" he can neither get forgiveness, nor power over sin.

    "And when he came to himself"—How striking the little words of Scripture, sometimes, are!—"When he came to himself."  We are not ourselves while we are running on in sin.  If there be any madness in the world, it is sin.  What can be so insane as for a poor worm of the earth to defy his Maker and break God's laws?  To show the Maker that, Almighty as He is, we defy Him—that although He can smite us with death in a moment we will defy Him; and, although He has never done us evil, but always good, and is the best friend we ever had, we will treat Him with scorn—I say, this is madness, and every sinner is really mad.  "When he came to himself"—came to his right mind—came to understand how foolish he had been, how basely ungrateful and wicked—"he said, How many hired servants of my father have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!"

    This is the sinner seeing his madness and folly in the true light.  The prodigal thought it was a fine thing to leave his father's house, and be independent—to go where he liked and do as he liked, and spend his father's money in riot and wickedness; and now he sees his madness has brought him to hunger and starvation, and memory flies back to the home of plenty that he left, and to the thought that the lowliest servant in that house has bread enough and to spare, and he cries, "I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before thee; and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants."

    The prodigal son is thoroughly humbled and is a real penitent.  He will tell his father of his entire unworthiness—he will ask to be employed in clearing out the stables and carrying fodder to the cattle—he will crave to be employed in doing the meanest household work—he feels that any humbling post is too good for him, and that he is so base and undeserving.  This is always the feeling of the true penitent.  The man who thinks he is not so very bad, is no true penitent.  "I am the chief of sinners," said holy Paul, and that is sure to be the feeling of the man who is truly penitent.  A good Quaker told me, once, how he visited a sick neighbour and began to talk to the man about soul-matters.  Religion was all very good the poor sick man acknowledged—but he could not see what need he had to concern himself about it—for he had never done anybody any harm in his life.  The good Quaker tried to convince him that he had lived without hope and without God in the world, and that he was not fit to die: that he had neither prayed nor worshipped, nor read his Bible, nor trained up his children in the fear of God, and he ought to feel himself a sinner in the sight of his Maker.  The good Quaker knelt and prayed with him, and visited him again and again, and began to observe that the man gradually forgot to boast of his innocence; and, at last, seemed to be growing very tender—for he observed him in tears.  At last, he could conceal his state no longer, but burst out into weeping—"I am too great a sinner," said he; "there is no mercy for me!"

    "Thank God!" said the good Quaker, "I have hope of thee now.  Let us pray once more, and see if there be no mercy for thee."  The Quaker prayed, and the poor sinner prayed; and before they gave over, the sinner's soul was set free, and he rejoiced in the pardoning love of God.

    Is there a poor sinner, here, who feels his vileness before God?  Whose heart is thoroughly stricken with the conviction that he is a sinner and a great sinner?  Then he is in the right way to find for giveness for his sin.  It must be thorough humility—for if we really feel what we have done—how we have acted—towards the greatest and best of beings, we shall never feel that we can be humbled enough for our sin.  We shall feel it to be an unspeakable mercy that we are alive—that we are not utterly lost.  We shall wonder at the goodness of God in sparing us through years of rebellion, and own that if he were to reject us, it would only be what we deserve.

    But, did the Prodigal Son think his father would reject him?  Reject him!  There is not such a thought in his mind.  It was confidence in his heart that his father would receive him that made him cry, "I will arise, and go to my father."  It is an exultant—not a despairing cry.  Is there some poor sinner here who is despairing of finding forgiveness, and yet avowing that he deeply repents of his sin?  My dear fellow-sinner, you cannot entertain a thought more dishonouring to God than that He will not forgive you.  Despair is not true repentance.  The man who truly repents is he who feels heartbroken because he has offended against the God and Father who loves him.  He knows that God loves him, and he cannot forgive himself because he has offended against such matchless—such inexpressible love as God has bestowed upon him.  It was the thought of the goodness he had experienced in his father's house, that made the prodigal feel his own baseness and foolishness, his ingratitude and madness.  And it was his confidence in his father's heart of mercy—I repeat—that led him to cry, so exultantly, "I will arise and go to my father."

    Oh, poor sinner—you who are feeling your own base ingratitude to God your Father—take up the prodigal's cry "I will arise and go to my father."  Say unto Him, as the prodigal said, "Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before thee, and am not worthy to be called thy son."  Should not God's goodness to you, in the past, encourage you to come?  Has not your Heavenly Father done you good and not evil, all your life long, although you have rendered  Him evil in return?  Are you not—do you not feel that you are—a monument of His mercy?  And do you not feel that He has spared you, in order to save you?  Are not all His promises Yea and Amen in Christ Jesus, to every returning sinner?  Be resolved to say with the prodigal, "I will arise and go to my father."

    Remember, that if the poor prodigal had cast away confidence in his father's love, he must have perished.  "No man gave unto him."  There was no other help for him.  And if he had said, "I cannot go back and acknowledge my sin and shame, and let even the hired servants point the finger of scorn at me," he must have perished.  Nay—nay—he was truly repentant.  He knew how basely he had acted, and he was resolved to own it.  And if he had doubted his father's love, and said in his heart, "He will never forgive me," he must have perished.  My dear fellow-sinner, you must take up the poor prodigal's language with all your heart, if you really mean to be saved.  You must exert your own will.  God will not force you to be saved.  He will not push you by the shoulders into heaven.  The resolve to be saved must be your own.  You will be guilty if you do not make the resolve; but, if you try God will help you to make it.  Take it up, cheerfully, my dear fellow-sinner!  Take it up, exultantly—"I will arise and go to my father!"—The angels in heaven will rejoice—the Church of Christ will rejoice—Christ Himself will rejoice when He sees of the travail of his soul and is satisfied—The Holy Spirit will rejoice Who has striven with thee so often and so long, poor stubborn-hearted sinner—God the Father will rejoice at the return of His poor, wandering, sinful child—for look how the Saviour affirms it!

Don't put off the resolve till another time.  Look at the prodigal and imitate him—"And he arose and came to his father."  He did not say he would consider of it.  He did not say he would go next week.  If you put it off, my dear friend, the Holy Spirit may leave you.  Resolve just now, while He strives with you.  Say the words with all your heart, just now, "I will arise and go to my Father."  Look at the blessed encouragement the Saviour gives you—"When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion and ran, and fell on his neck and kissed him."  Thou hast been a long way off, poor sinner, but God has been looking for thy return.  The prodigal's father had gone out thinking, "Where is this poor lost lad of mine, I wonder!  Oh, what has become of him?  He knew nothing of the world, and he may have got into the hands of sharpers who have robbed him of his money, and he may be now in rags."  And yonder he saw him, at last, coming miserably along the road, and in rags, sure enough; but the father "had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck, and kissed him."

    Thou art in the rags and wretchedness of sin, poor sinner, but thy Heavenly Father's heart is filled with compassion towards thee—only come: He is waiting to receive thee with joy and love.  "And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make"—nay, the father will not let him say those words, "make me as one of thy hired servants"—the father will not let him utter them.  "But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet"—Depend upon it, the poor wilful prodigal was in a wretched shabby condition—ragged and shoeless "and bring hither the fatted calf and kill it,"—Oh what words for the poor hunger-bitten wandering lad to hear!" and let us eat, and be merry.  For this my son was dead, and is alive again: he was lost and is found.  And they began to be merry."

    Oh, what a blessed picture has the Saviour thus drawn us of His Father's heart of mercy and forgiveness!  Surely, there is not a heart here but will acknowledge such love and mercy—surely, we are all disposed to be returning sinners, and come back to the Heavenly Father Who thus loves us and is willing to receive us.  Do not delay; you have been wandering afar off.  God waits to make you His regenerate children.  He will put the best robe on you—the robe of Christ's righteousness.  He will put a ring on your hand—for you shall be married to Christ—united to Him and made His own.  He will put shoes on your feet.  Your steps shall be ordered and sure.  You shall be no longer a wanderer, but walk before Him in holiness and new ness of life.  May God help every poor sinner in His presence to accept His mercy, even at this moment!

    Ah! but there is a sequel to this tale of mercy.  Christ has to apply the parable, now, to the murmurers.  He has beheld their excited looks during the time he has been telling them this wondrous story; and perhaps, some of them have perceived that he was pointing to the poor publicans and sinners while depicturing the prodigal.  But Christ means to give the scornful, self-righteous Pharisees their own picture, now.  He means to come down upon them, and in such a manner as shall touch them to the quick, and make them feel ashamed of their guilty pride and self-righteousness—if they can be moved to feel any shame at all.

    "Now, his elder son was in the field, and as he came and drew nigh to the house, be heard music and dancing.  And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant."

    His dignity is offended.  What strangers can have entered the house to make this rabble riot without his leave and his knowledge?  What does this unlicensed mirth mean?—he wants to know.  "And he (the servant) said unto him, Thy brother is come, and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound."  The servant evidently thinks he will not only be surprised but feel pleased.  "Thy brother is come"—says the servant, meaning to touch his heart and fill him with delight.  But like many other elder brothers in our own day, he had no wish to see the younger brother come back.  He would have been well content that he never came back.  Just so the self-righteous Pharisee cares nothing about poor sinners being converted.  "If they be wasting their money, the scamps!" he thinks, "they will soon spend all they have, and then they will starve—and they will deserve it."  If he hears a common swearer pouring out oaths and imprecations in the street, the Pharisee will wish some judgment may fall upon him.  And if he sees a poor drunkard fall in the street, he will call him a brute beast and pass him in scorn.  The truly religious man will rather weep at what he hears and sees, and feel his heart melt with pity, that his poor fellow-creatures should so sorely disgrace and degrade themselves.

    But this elder brother has no pity.  He is none of your tender-hearted brothers.  "And he was angry and would not go in.  Therefore"—"Therefore" what?  How did Christ treat these murmuring Pharisees.  I had one sceptical friend who was exceedingly sharp in his observations on the character of the Saviour.  "Jesus Christ was not a gentleman," he would say; "He called the Pharisees and Scribes liars and hypocrites; and that is not gentlemanly language."  He called them so, because they were so—I replied—for a true gentleman must speak the truth."  "He might have used more gentlemanly language and less harshness," returned my sceptical friend.

    But is the Saviour harsh with the Pharisees, in :he story before us?"  Therefore" it relates—"therefore, came his father out, and entreated him."  God entreats the self-righteous Pharisee!  Jesus is enforcing the lesson, and applying it to the murmuring Pharisees, in order to convince them, if they will be convinced; and so far from showing that they deserve harshness, He represents His Heavenly Father as entreating them to put away their pride, and begin to care for poor sinners.  "Therefore came his father out and entreated him."  But the entreaty is all in vain. "And he, answering, said to his father, Lo these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I, at any time, thy commandment"—Hark, at the self-righteous Pharisee!  How perfect he is, in his own estimation!—"and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends"—He has had his father's house at his command and done as he liked in it—for he wondered that any one dared to come thither without his leave—and yet the ungrateful wretch asserts he has never had any real kindness from his father in his life—"and yet, thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends"—he throws his father's goodness in his teeth, and counts it worth nothing!

    If the elder brother treats his father thus, what may we expect he will say about his poor wandering younger brother?  "But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf."  He vents all the power of malicious feeling upon him, like a true Pharisee.

    How did Christ treat the Pharisees?  Does He use harshness and nothing but harshness in dealing with them?  Let the rich closing words of the chapter answer.  "And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine."—Poor narrow-hearted Pharisee! there's enough for thee and all the sinners on earth, in My mercy.  "All that I have is thine"—enjoy it all—thou canst never exhaust My mercy, or impoverish My goodness—"it was meet that we should make merry, and be glad; for this thy brother"—see how the father reminds him of the relationship: he had said in scorn "as soon as this thy son was come"—refusing to acknowledge him as a brother—"for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found."  What a lesson of mercy and goodness—of pity and love!  Surely, it reached the hearts of some of the Pharisees.

    Surely, I have no cold, narrow-hearted Pharisee here, who treats poor sinners with scorn.  Oh, I think here is nothing which ought to draw out our pity, so much as the sight of a man who is ruining himself by sin.  And if pity does not move us, we ought to remember that it is only by God's mercy we differ from the sinner.  Some of you will call to mind the saying of one of the old martyrs—Praying Bradford, as he was called: "I never see a man going to be hanged," he used to say, "but I think there goes John Bradford, if it were not for the grace of God!"

    Oh, let none of us imagine that we are so much better than other people.  We are bad enough, every one of us.  And have all need to cry with the poor Publican that smote upon his breast, "God be merciful to me a sinner!"

    Is there any poor sinner here to-night convinced that he is a sinner, and who is desirous of leaving his sins?  Let me entreat you to cry with the Prodigal Son, "I will arise and go to my father!"  God help you so to cry—and if you do arise and go to Him, depend upon it, the Father will meet you with compassion.  You cannot have too great confidence that God will save you, if you are resolved to leave sin.  Tell your Heavenly Father that you know all things are ready, in Christ, and you are sure He will forgive you for Jesu's sake.  Come just now, to God.  Remember, the Prodigal Son went at once.  Don't throw a moment away—for happiness awaits you, and there will be joy in heaven and on earth at your return.  God help you and save you for Christ's sake!  Amen.


 
XV.

THE BOLDNESS OF FAITH.

[A Discourse delivered in London and various parts of the Country.]


"Let us, therefore, come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."—H
EB. iv. 16.


WE commonly speak of the Epistle to the Hebrews as an undoubted production of St. Paul, just as we speak of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, or Corinthians.  And, in the revised version, as well as in our common translation, it is styled.  'The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews.'  Yet, this title is more than questionable.  Some of the early Fathers attributed the authorship of this most eloquent and valuable letter to Clement of Rome; and one asserts that although the thoughts may be Paul's, the language is Luke's.  But that must be a mistake, for there is no gorgeous eloquence, either in St. Luke's Gospel, or in the Acts of the Apostles: in other words, there is nothing in either comparable to the brilliant writing of this treatise.

    Origen and Clement of Alexandria, in the third century, speak of Paul as the author; but, in the same century, Tertullian says the author was Barnabas; and all the Latin Fathers of the third century reject the opinion that St. Paul is the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews.  So does Jerome, in the fourth century; and he is generally held to be the most learned of all the ancient Fathers.

    At the period of the Reformation, the great Greek scholar of the time, Erasmus—the man who edited the first printed Greek Testament—utterly denied the authorship of St. Paul for this Epistle; and so did Luther and Calvin—and they were no mean scholars.  But Luther put forth a new opinion: an opinion, be it observed, which finds great favour with many scholars of our own times.  Martin Luther expressed a belief that this most precious 'Epistle to the Hebrews' is the work of Apollos: that eloquent and learned Jew of Alexandria, who is described, in the 18th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, as "mighty in the Scriptures," and of whom it is related that he entered boldly into the synagogue at Ephesus, and taught what he believed to be full Christian truth, until Aquila and Priscilla, two of Paul's co-workers, instructed him more perfectly.  And that, afterwards, he passed from Ephesus, the metropolis of the Lesser Asia, as it was called, to populous Corinth, which was, at that time, the real capital of Greece; and that, in Corinth, he "helped them much who had believed through grace—for he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the Scriptures, that Jesus was Christ."  Indeed his converts at Corinth seem to have divided the Christian Church with the converts of St. Paul—for some said "I am of Paul " and others said "I am of Apollos."

    The wondrous power of expression, the magnificence of style and richness of language, displayed in this Epistle, seem clearly to denote that it is the composition—not of a logician, like St. Paul—but of a first-rate orator, such as Apollos is described to have been.  This is perhaps the chief reason why many scholars and critics of the present day have given in their opinion that Martin Luther is most probably right, and that the Epistle to the Hebrews is, really, the work of Apollos, the eloquent Jew of Alexandria.

    Listen to the magnificent opening of the Epistle:—


    "God, who, at sundry times, and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, Whom He hath appointed heir of all things;—by Whom, also, He made the worlds;—Who being the effulgence of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;—being made so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

    "For unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?  And again, I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to me a Son?

    "And again, when He bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him.

    "And, of the angels He saith, Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire.

    "But, unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom."


    I have ventured to repeat the whole of this most splendid exordium to you, not only because it is the most eloquent opening of any book of the New Testament; but, because one may really say that the British Public—if they may, in general, be reckoned readers of the New Testament—seem unaware of the fact that there is such a passage of eloquence in the book.  For, who ever talks of the "splendid opening of the Epistle to the Hebrews"?  I never heard any one—either in the office of a preacher, or any other person—denote that he knew that there was any measure of eloquence to be found in that part of the New Testament.

    And how does the eloquent Apollos—the man mighty in the Scriptures—follow up this grand and stately introduction of one Whom he thus shows us is a Divine Personage—"the effulgence of the Father's glory, and the express image of His Person?"  He boldly draws aside the veil from before the eyes of his own people the Jews—for he is writing expressly to them, remember—and shows them the clear and distinct fact that Jesus has realised the principal figure in their great typical system of sacrifice and atonement—the entry of the High Priest, once a year, into the Holy of Holies, to sprinkle all things with blood, and make atonement for the sins of the people.

    Read the 16th chapter of Leviticus for yourselves—for it is too dry a portion of the old economy for me to read, in the pulpit—and you will learn how fully "the man mighty in the Scriptures" had comprehended the spiritual bearing and meaning of the slaughter of the bullock for the priest and his family—the killing of the goat and the sprinkling of his blood on the scape-goat that was sent into the wilderness—and then the thrilling and solemn entry of the High Priest within the Veil, and his sprinkling of all things there—the altar of incense—even the cherubim—with the typical blood of atonement.

    So, he shows them Christ is entered into the Holy of Holies above, not with the blood of bulls and goats, but with the virtue of His own blood,—not entering thither once a year to make a new offering, but abiding there as the great intercessor for sinners, and therefore, being able to save sinners to the uttermost because he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

    And that, in order to constitute Himself such a High Priest, He had to lay aside His glory and majesty, and take upon Him our human nature, and become acquainted with all its weaknesses and trials.  And thus, Apollos tells us, that, "in the days of His flesh" our great Atoning One "offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears."  Nay, he assures us that our great High Priest became perfect through sufferings.

    "Seeing then," says he, "that we have a great High Priest that has passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.  For, we have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.  Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."

    "Boldly!—boldly!"—"Is it not a mistranslation, or a mistake of some kind, think you?" repeats some poor contrite penitent.  "I'm sure I can never come boldly to the throne of grace—such a guilty sinner as I am.  Oh, when I look at my sins, I am frightened at the very remembrance of them!  I'm sure I can never presume to come boldly to the throne of grace."

    Of course you cannot presume to come, my dear fellow-sinner; and it is not the boldness of presumption with which God's word directs you to come.  In order to prevent our making any mistake in trying to practise the boldness which is recommended in the text—


I. Let us consider what kind of boldness it is
not, which we are to practise:

II. What kind of boldness
it is: and

III. What we are to gain by practising this Scriptural boldness.


    You see I have made the divisions of my discourse as plain as any old Puritan divine would have made them, two hundred years ago; and I humbly think it would be better if we had more of the old Puritan plainness among us.


I.


    Then, I am to try to show all who have any concern for their spiritual state what this Scriptural boldness with which we are to come to the throne of grace—is not.

    1. It is not, as I said before, the boldness of Presumption which the writer is recommending.  Terms of familiarity are sometimes employed in prayer which, one would think, no rightly constituted mind could use.  Terms which seem to imply a forgetfulness of the fact that we are all sinners, and that God is the High and Holy One that inhabiteth eternity.  It is an act of presumption to approach the Almighty and Infinite Creator without the lowliest reverence.  Even the commonplace tone in which public prayer is sometimes uttered, and the haste with which the Lord's Prayer is muttered, and the business-like way in which the "Grace" is despatched, at table—seem to me all— all—all wrong.  The slightest degree of irreverence in the language and manner of poor, guilty sinners addressing their Maker seems, to me, sorely out of place and character.  Surely, it should be remembered that it is a "throne" to which we are coming: that is to say, it is the seat of a king.  And, if the throne of an earthly king should not be approached without homage and obeisance, surely the throne of the King of kings—of the Lord and Giver of life—of the Being who made all things and supports all things—of the dread Being of whom Isaiah tells us that He "measures the waters in the hollow of His hand, and metes out heaven with a span, and comprehends the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighs the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance"—that, to Him "the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance,"—and that He "taketh up the isles as a very little thing"—I say assuredly, the throne of such a Being should be approached by poor sinners with lowly hearts and lowly words, and never with the boldness of presumption.

    2. Neither should we dare to come to our Maker's throne with the boldness of Ignorance.  Our ignorance often leads us to Presumption.  I believe there is far more wilful ignorance—I say wilful ignorance—among men respecting God, than some people suppose.  I mean ignorance of the God of the Bible.  For, as for the God of Nature, we seldom hear of Him, now.  The Philosophers of our day have taught us to ignore His existence.  And what real, wilful ignorance there is among the men who call themselves "Secularists" about the Deity as He is taught in the Bible.  You will hear them make quotations which refer to Him, in the most vulgar scoffing spirit, and put an interpretation on the words which they know to be wilfully false.  But, let it be fully kept in mind, that we who believe the Bible, and profess to have that knowledge of God which the Bible teaches, should endeavour to spread it, so that all who come to the throne of grace may never dare to approach it with the boldness of Ignorance.

    3. Nor, again, should we dare to come to our Maker's footstool with the boldness of Pomposity and conceit.  Oh, I would sooner hear the prayer of ignorance than of pomposity.  I would rather listen to the prayer of a poor uneducated man whose language verged on impropriety, than hear the language of mock-homage: the prayer of a man Who tries to string a great number of three- or four-syllabled sounding words together, in order to compliment the Almighty on the greatness of His attributes.  Our Maker looks for none of our compliments.  He knows, millions of times better than we can tell Him, how great He is.  We had, far better try to feel our own littleness, than to express, in pompous terms, His greatness.

    4. Above all, we are not to come to the throne of grace with the boldness of Self-righteousness.  The way, you know, that the Pharisee came, in the parable—"God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.  I fast twice in the week; I give tythes of all that I possess."  He seems to have thought that if he gave back to God a few thimblefuls of all that God had given him, he ought to be reckoned very good.

    Oh no, it is not the boldness of self-righteousness that this valuable writer is recommending.  He knew that nothing can be more fatal to the success of any petition that we present before God, than for us to present it self-righteously.  Nothing is so likely to harden the heart and render it unsusceptible of God's mercy and grace, as a spirit of self-righteousness.  He that comes to the throne self-righteously, comes boastingly.  He does not feel that he needs anything.  Holiness? he is not seeking for holiness; he is holy already, in his own estimation.  What can he need who believes himself to be already full of excellences? What can he need who is already perfect?

    How blinding is self-righteousness!—nay its blindness is the result of our fallen nature. We are all prone to it.  I have never found more than a few of the very best men in the world who could conceal their good deeds.  We all like to talk about the good we think we have done, and to parade it, if it be but modestly.  That practice of modest parade, however, will increase upon us, if we do not take care, till it renders us objects of dislike to some, and of open ridicule to others.

    Self-righteousness is a hideous sin, if we see it in the right light.  Paying our Maker for His goodness to us!  Doing deeds of supererogation.  So the Pharisee thought whom Christ describes: "I give tythes of all that I possess": I pay Thee back, Lord, for Thy goodness!  Oh no, it is not the boldness of self-righteousness with which we are to come to the throne of grace.


II.


    Let us hasten to consider, then, What kind of boldness it is with which we are to come.

    1. First and foremost, it is the boldness which arises from the sense of our need. But, now, we meet the difficulty which confronts us when we strive to awaken men to a sense of their need.  Men sit under the sound of the Gospel for long years, and never seem to awake up spiritually.  They remain in a dead sleep of sin, although they are told faithfully and frequently of their sins.  They can bear severe probings of conscience and never wince.  Their earthliness may be exposed, their selfishness, their sensuality—but they are unmoved and remain unmoved.

    Once get men to feel that they are sinners, and to feel it thoroughly, and you will soon hear of it, and see it, too.  Conviction for sin—deep, heartfelt conviction of a man's guilt before God—is sure to make itself known.  It is that conviction of sin which men cannot conceal that proves the reality of their conviction.  And then comes the cry for mercy "Lord, I'm a sinner—be merciful to me, or I shall be ruined!"  "For shame!" says the man's respectable self-righteous neighbour, who hears the sinner's vehement prayer—"go into your chamber, and don't cry out in that vulgar way; or wait till the evening and say your prayers at bed-time, as other respectable people do."  "Nay," says the needy soul, "I want mercy now.  I may die before bed-time.  I've tried long enough to be respectable; but it has not saved me, and it never will save me.  So I'm coming boldly to the throne of grace.  I can't delay.  I want deliverance!"

    How is it that we hear so much respectable objection to men's crying out for mercy when they feel they are sinners?  A man in the midst of a storm, on a wild heath, at midnight, if he sees a dim light tries to reach it—and if it comes from a cottage window, he never thinks of knocking respectably at the door, but he knocks loudly and cries out with all his might, "Let me in!  I'm perishing!"

    Why should not the hunger of the soul for the pardon of sin, compel me to cry out, as does the hunger of the body for food?  Turn to that thrilling page of Carlyle's 'French Revolution,' and listen to the cry of thousands in the streets of Paris, at midnight!  "Pain!—pain!—pain!" they shouted (Bread!—bread!—bread!).  Oh how the trembling noblesse and bourgeoisie woke up in terror—knowing the Revolution was come.  Oh for a cry like that for the pardon of sin, in the streets of London!  Do you think it will never come?  Are we perpetually to go on in this poor, dreamy way?  Nay, nay: it will come as surely as the Holy Spirit reaches the heart of Man: it will come—the day when thousands shall feel God's holy power, and be compelled to cry for mercy.

    2. The soul that comes in this way soon learns to come with another kind of boldness: the Boldness of Reliance on the Saviour's Invitations.  He hears Christ, so sweetly saying, "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 to your souls; for My yoke is easy and My burthen is light."

    "Yes, Lord," says the earnest soul, "I know that Thy yoke is easy and Thy burthen is light, and I want to experience what it is to carry them; but I am laden with this heavy yoke of my sin.  Yet, as Thou hast invited me to come to Thee, I'll try to come!"  But, how often the poor labouring soul shrinks back in the attempt to come to Christ!  The old, troublesome thoughts come back again.  "Oh, I cannot presume to come—I'm not fit to come—I want a better preparation and deeper repentance before I come."

    But, my dear fellow-sinner, Christ does not say you are not fit to come.  His invitation is to all who labour and feel heavy laden with the weight of their sins, and so you are the very person He calls.  And He does not say you need a better preparation and deeper repentance before you come to Him.  Where is it written that He says so?  "Yes, yes, you are a sinner sure enough; but you must weep more and be more sorrowful before I relieve you.  Don't think you are to have mercy just when you ask for it.  How many months have you spent in repentance?  Get away into some solitary place and cry for mercy until you feel you have no strength left to cry any longer.  Get away, I say, and sigh and weep and mortify yourself with fasting, and pray whole nights—and think yourself well off if you find mercy in a few years!"

    My dear fellow-sinner, thank God! there is no such language as that in the Bible!  "Come!" is the language always; and it is never—Come, when you are more fit—Come, next week—Come, next month—no, nor even, Come to-morrow.  Today, is always the tone of the invitation.  Come, then, all who need Christ with the Boldness of Reliance on His Own invitations.

    3. Come, also, with the Boldness of Trust in God's Promises and Confidence in His faithfulness.  Do you not remember how it is written that He proclaimed Himself to Moses in the Mount, as "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,—keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin"?  And the Psalmist declares that "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger," and that He is "plenteous in mercy."  Oh, if God were not "plenteous in mercy," what would become of the human race?  Think of the sin and wickedness God has had to look upon in this earth for long ages!  He sees all things, every moment !  And, if any good man could see all the sin that is being committed on this earth at this moment, he would shudder with horror at the sight.  What then must the Holy Jehovah feel, Who has beheld this sight of horror every moment since sin came into the world?  Yet He is still "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in mercy and truth."  He is still "plenteous in mercy"!  He still cries to the wicked, as He did in the time of His prophet Isaiah, "Come, now, and let us reason together: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow: though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."  "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else."  "I bring near My righteousness; it shall not be far off, and My salvation shall not tarry."  "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon."  Surely, with such declarations on God's part, every poor contrite sinner ought to come to the throne of grace with the boldness of Trust in God's Promises and confidence in His faithfulness.  Yea, such promises should surely encourage every penitent sinner to come to the throne of grace with the boldness of Faith.

    4.  Ay, this is the most prevalent of all kinds of boldness at the throne of grace: the Boldness of of Faith.  But what, really, is Faith?—some are asking.  "In the 11th chapter of the superb treatise from which your text is taken, we read, 'Faith is the substance of things hoped for'—but we cannot see the meaning of that expression."  And, my good souls, I tell you, honestly, that I do not wonder at what you say.  Please bear with me and attend closely to me, while I attempt a little critical explanation.

    First, understand that the translation is a true one—only, our good old translators have used the word substance in its metaphysical, and not in its vulgar sense. "There is some substance in this cloth," you say, feeling a man's sleeve. But, you know that way of using the word substance gives no meaning to the text. Listen ! I have, most likely, a Latin scholar or two here. They will understand me when I say sub stans: reverse the words and you have stans sub—that is to say, standing under. Use the Greek word in the text ΰπόστασις the same way, stasis hypo, if you reverse the syllables as before; and you have again standing under.  Now, this is the great vital question men asked in old time—"What is the standing under?"  We want to get out of our puzzle.  Solve the mystery of Nature for us.  You present us with a board, and you talk of mere phenomena, or appearances, for you say it has length and breadth and thickness—but what really is the piece of board?  "Matter," you reply; and think you have given an answer which ought to satisfy the most critical inquirer.  But it does not satisfy anybody who thinks.  "But what is Matter? what is the standing under in Nature?  Tell us what is the reality."  "It is the standing under," you reply: "it is the only answer I can give you."  Thus, the word hypostasis has come to be employed for reality.

    So, when the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews says "Faith is the substance of things hoped for," does he mean "assurance," as the new translators say? No: for the Christian Church has knocked that word about, till they have made it mean anything, and we had better leave off using it.  No: the true, full, and right translation of the important passage we are talking about is "Faith is the realisation of things hoped for."

    "It is Christ that I want," says the penitent soul; "all the promises are Yea and Amen in Him. What am I waiting for?" asks the penitent soul, with the boldness of Faith: "the Saviour offers me all I want.  They are His own blessed words: "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  "Whosoever?  Then I am the very soul, and I will rest upon my Saviour's declaration, and I'll keep my hold of it.  None shall drive me from it, or argue, or cozen me, out of it.  I am to come boldly to the throne of grace, and I am coming with the boldness of faith.  Whosoever!—Thou hast said it, blessed Lord, and I believe it and will believe it."

    "Ah," says some disconsolate soul, "I have tried so to believe, and have supposed it was all right with me.  But, in a day or two, I found I was mistaken.  I found I really did not believe."

    My dear fellow-sinner, you have been playing at believing: trying it, to see how it would succeed.  You will never get salvation that way.  If you are always going back to look at your sins instead of your Saviour, you will never get right.  Do remember that you are coming to a throne of grace: not a throne of indignation, or of abstract justice.  Mark how that real penitent and real believer finds deliverance.  He is in an agony of sorrow and almost in an agony of despair.  But after wrestling with his doubts and feeling terrified at the heinousness of his sins and their great demerit, he resolves to perish believing, if he must perish, and he casts himself, in desperation, on the mercy of God, through the atonement of Christ.  And so he succeeds.  There is no other way; and he soon feels he has taken the right way.  His faith is indeed the realisation of things hoped for.

    He took the Saviour at His word; and, in the same way any other poor sinner who is present, to-night, and feels the burthen of sin and guilt to be grievous, may be released from it.  "Whosoever" is the word, remember, in that precious declaration of the Saviour. Lay hold of it, with the boldness of faith, and you will also find mercy and grace to help in your time of need.  Only believe with all your heart, in the Saviour, and you are sure to feel that faith is the realisation of things hoped for—for by the boldness of faith you will be able to realise the pardon of sin, and glorify God for it.

    Hark!—hush!  From whom came that suppressed groan—that stifled sigh?  Oh, it was from the heart of that poor backslider.  "How can I come boldly to the throne of grace?" he is saying "I that have crucified Christ afresh, and put Him to open shame!  Oh, no, there's no mercy or grace for me.  I have listened to the promises you have quoted from the Bible—but they only serve to torture me, I have sinned away my day of grace."  Nay, nay, not while thou art alive and Christ lives to plead for thee—not while God gives thee breath and offers mercy to the man who can only cry, "God be merciful to me a sinner."  Where, in the blessed Gospel, is it ever said that Christ turned away any human soul that acknowledged its sin?  Where is it said, in the Gospel, that when the Saviour, after His resurrection, gave His Apostles their commission to go and preach the Gospel, that He charged them to preach it only to moderate sinners—to small sinners—to sinners who only sinned in a whisper, and never did much harm in the world?

    Remember what St. Luke tells us in the close of his Gospel: that Christ charged His disciples to "preach repentance and remission of sins among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."  "Beginning at Jerusalem"?  Why, then, He meant that salvation should be offered to the guiltiest of all sinners, first.  It is as if the Saviour had said, "Go, and find out the priestly traffickers in blood, who paid Judas the thirty pieces of silver for betraying Me, and tell them that there's grace and mercy, even for them!"  "Beginning at Jerusalem": go, and find out the unfeeling official who smote Me on the face in the presence of the high-priest, Caïaphas, and tell him that there's grace and mercy, for him!  "Beginning at Jerusalem": go, and find out them who mocked and derided Me, as I hung upon the cross, and say there's mercy and grace, for them!  "Beginning at Jerusalem": go, and find out the hardened Roman soldiers who spat upon Me, and blindfolded and buffetted Me, and put on Me the purple robe, and in mockery bowed the knee to Me, and tell them that there's mercy and grace, for them!"   Beginning at Jerusalem": go and find out the men who plaited the crown of thorns, and thrust it upon My brow, and tell them there's grace and mercy, for them!  "Beginning at Jerusalem": go and find out the men who drove the nails into My hands and feet, upon the cruel cross, and tell them there's mercy and grace, even for them!

    Oh, while it is recorded that Jesus directed His disciples to preach remission of sins, in the very first act, to the vilest sinners of all, canst thou despair, poor backslider?  Oh, if thou hast defiled thy soul with adultery and murder, since God pardoned David, cannot He pardon thee?  If thou has denied thy Lord with oaths and curses, since God pardoned Peter, cannot He pardon thee?  Did He not assure the backsliding Israelites, again and again, that if they would return unto Him, He would heal their backslidings, and love them freely?  And dost thou forget that Jehovah is the Unchangeable One?

    Come!—this is thy time of need, backslider.  Accept the invitation, now—for I preach unto thee, at this moment, repentance and remission of sins, in the Name of Him who died for thee—in the Name of Him who shed His blood for thee.  May the Lord help thee to feel that this is, indeed, thy time of need, and help thee to come to the throne of grace and find mercy!

    "Don't forget me!" says some poor, weak, trembling and fearing, and sometimes stumbling child of God.  " I almost think, sometimes, that I shall have to give it up, and be classed with backsliders.  For I get wrong so often: I promise the Lord, so often, to be better, and then, instead, I grow worse: I listen so often to the voice of temptation, although I know it to be wrong, and I'm sure to get wrong, if I listen to it"—Stop, stop, my poor weak brother, and look at one word in the text. "Let us, therefore."  "Therefore," sir!  "Why that's a very insignificant word.  A lawyer's word, as we call it: therefore, and wherefore, and nevertheless and notwithstanding, and a score of similar words.  You know, the lawyers ring changes upon them, when they make your Will, or a Deed of Conveyance."  Ay, ay, but a lawyer will show you that there is often a deal of importance in what you call that insignificant word in the Will.  Take care that you never throw away your "therefores" and "wherefores," whenever you meet them in Scripture.  They are often of more worth than you imagine.  Think of that splendid "therefore," in the first verse of the 8th of Romans.  "There is, therefore, now, no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus."  Think of the miserable confession poor Paul has been making of his state, in the 7th chapter—"I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.  For to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not.  For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil that I would not, that I do. . . . I find a law that when I would do good, evil is present with me. . . . I see a law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin. . . . O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"  And then, suddenly seeing the way of escape, he exclaims, "I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!"  And he takes a running jump of faith, and clears the gap between the 7th chapter of Romans and the 8th in a moment—for he lands, safe, on the other side, and triumphantly exclaims, "There is, therefore, now, no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus!"

    Now, my dear tempted and tried brother, mark the word that leads in the meaning of the text "Let us, therefore, come boldly"—but why?  "For we have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."  That is the therefore; and remember it, poor tried and tempted child of God.  You are full of infirmities.  But "we have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities."  Therefore, you are to come boldly to the throne of grace.  You are tempted.  So was He.  Therefore, you are to come boldly to the throne of grace.  "Ah !" say you, "but I am so very much tempted!"  Yea but He "was in all points tempted like as we are?"  Therefore, you are to come boldly to the throne of grace.  You are tempted to doubt that you are a child of God; and you are even driven to fear that you will have to "give it up," as you say.  Do you think Jesus was never tempted to give up His struggle for Man's salvation?

    Christian believer! you who know by long experience that Faith is the realisation of things hoped for, keep on believing to the end—for I must now come to an end as soon as possible—the time being nearly gone.  I must say little on the third head.


III.


    What are we to gain by practising this Christian boldness?—"Mercy, and grace to help us in the time of need."  And does not that comprehend all that we shall want as long as we are on earth?  You have heard the text preached from often, it may be; and you remember how the time of need was described as the time of temporal difficulty—the time of temptation—the time of sickness —the time of danger—the time of death.  Think of all these, and expand them in your own thoughts when you get home; and God help you and help us all, ever to come boldly, through the Saviour, to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help us in the time of need.


 
XVI.

THE ORIGIN OF MAN.


THIS is still the great philosophical moot-point of the day.  Of course, the party which, for the present, hold sway, is the party of Evolution—the doctrine of Lamarck, and Hæckel, and Darwin.  But, there are a few distinguished men who refuse to yield up their independence of thought, and join the "Popular" cry, because it is called "popular."  Among these is the profound and intelligent linguist, Max Müller.

    I mentioned, at page 154 of this volume, that "Darwin found the black natives of Terra del Fuego—the extreme south of America—perfectly naked, and sleeping on the ground without any covering."  With very deep interest, I have just now read a little paper, concerning these Fuegians, by the Rev. W. R. Stevenson, in the March number of our little General Baptist Magazine; and a most valuable statement concerning them, by Max Müller, in the first number of the Nineteenth Century for the present year.  I have also procured Mr. Young's valuable missionary volume, entitled "Light in Lands of Darkness," and have read his statement with thankfulness.

    To one who, like my poor self, has been, for the last ten years, doing all that he can, by plain speaking, to stem the torrent of Scepticism in the guise of Evolution, these several publications have given deep joy.  For, I have had many "stones in the other pocket," as we say in old Lincolnshire.  A little time ago, after a lecture exposing the fallacy of Evolution, in one of the chapels in Lancashire, a friend came to me and said that the minister of another chapel was present, and told his mind to this friend before he went home: "I would have defended Darwin's doctrine all the way through," said he, "if the lecturer would have given me leave."  "Thank God," said I, "that he has gone home without asking me for leave to spread error."

    "But is it Error?" is the pertinacious question asked me by scores of young men, many of whom are members of Christian churches.  And some of their ministers, they tell me, are bold to maintain that a man may be a good Christian, and yet hold the whole of Darwin's doctrines to be true.  Nay, I have been told by several credible witnesses, who have a high admiration for one who may be called the leading Dissenting minister of the Midlands, that he has openly and unreservedly declared his belief before his congregation, that Man comes out of the Apes!

    Let no one mock at an old man, when he tells them that all this causes him grief.  He fell into error in his past life, and therefore he cultivates no unkindness towards them who fall into error; but he is thankful that his common-sense has protected him from holding, even in any modified shape, the absurd fallacy that Man is only an improved Ape.

    But I leave this gossip—which I beg the reader to excuse—and proceed to the point I have in view. In his very interesting book, entitled "A Naturalist's Voyage round the World," Mr. Darwin thus gives us his impressions of what, in 1832, he saw of the natives of Terra del Fuego":—


    "It was without exception the most curious and interesting spectacle I ever beheld.  I could not have believed how wide was the difference between the savage and civilized man: it is greater than between a wild and domesticated animal, inasmuch as in man there is a greater power of improvement.

    "The language of these people, according to our notions, scarcely deserves to be called articulate.  Captain Cook has compared it to a man clearing his throat; but certainly no European ever cleared his throat with so many hoarse, guttural, and clicking sounds.

    "These poor wretches were stunted in their growth; their hideous faces were bedaubed with white paint, their skins filthy and greasy, their hair entangled, their voices discordant, and their gestures violent.  Viewing such men, one can hardly make oneself believe that they are fellow-creatures, and inhabitants of the same world.  It is a common subject of conjecture what pleasure in life some of the lower animals can enjoy; how much more reasonably the same question may be asked with respect to these barbarians.

    "The different tribes when at war are cannibals.  From the concurrent but quite independent evidence of the boy taken by Mr. Low, and of Jemmy Button (the chief of the tribe), it is certainly true that when pressed in winter by hunger they kill and devour their old women before they kill their dogs.

    "I believe in this extreme part of America Man exists in a lower state of improvement than in any other part of the world."


    So much for the young philosopher's opinion of what he saw in 1832, and of what he thought it proved.  The idea that a few Christian missionaries could improve these savages never seems to have entered his mind.  And yet, during that same voyage in the Beagle, he visited New Zealand, and thus writes of what he saw there:—


    "The lesson of the Missionary is the enchanter's wand. . . . To think that this was the centre of the land of cannibalism, murder, and all atrocious crimes!  I took leave of the missionaries with thankfulness for their kind welcome, and with feelings of high respect for their gentlemanlike, useful, and upright character.  I think it would be difficult to find a body of men better adapted for the high office which they fulfil."


    It is gratifying to learn that the philosopher, in after-life, had the pleasurable surprise of knowing that even Fuegian savages were not beyond the transforming influences of Christianity.  What missionaries endured before they succeeded—how some perished of hunger—how others were massacred by the clubs of the natives, I must leave the reader to learn from Mr. Young's book.  I can assure him that he will find he never read a more heart-thrilling narrative in his life.  They educated a few children of these poor savages, and so, at length, learnt the language of some of the Fuegians, and by perseverance of the most extraordinary character, made their way clear.  And now, what shall be said?—for I must cut the story short—the Church of England has established a mission, and—


    "In 1872, Bishop Stirling, assisted by Mr. Bridges, at one service baptized thirty-six adults and children, and joined seven couples in Christian marriage.  It was a day to be remembered.  The baptized organized evening worship spontaneously, and met in each other's houses for prayer and praise.

    "Since then the work has steadily progressed.  There is now a Christian village.  Instead of the miserable wigwams, cottages have been erected, gardens have been planted and fenced, roads have been made, cattle and goats have been introduced; an orphanage containing twenty-six children, clothed fed, and educated at the expense of friends in England, has been erected; polygamy, witchcraft infanticide, wrecking, theft, and other vices have been abolished.

    "Mr. Bridges has compiled a grammar and an extensive vocabulary and dictionary, and he has also completed a translation of the Gospel of St. Luke, and the Acts of the Apostles, in the Yaghan language, five hundred copies of the former having been printed and sent out.  The baptismal register at the close of 1881, showed a total of one hundred and thirty-six names."


    The concluding account given by Mr. Young will be startling to some of the Ape-theorists.

    "On the occasion of the annual meeting of the South American Missionary Society, 1881, Admiral Sir B. J. Sullivan, stated that he had informed Darwin of the kindness shown to the crews of shipwrecked vessels on the part of natives who had been more or less under the influence of the mission, and had also communicated to him the fact, reported by Mr. Bridges, of there being fowl-houses unlocked at the mission station, with plenty of eggs, and that during all the years he had been there the missionaries had not lost one fowl or one egg."  In reply, the great naturalist wrote, "He could not have believed that all the missionaries in the world could ever have made the Fuegians honest."  The admiral also spoke of Darwin having long maintained that "nothing could be done by means of mission work, that all the pains bestowed on the natives would be thrown away, and that they could never be civilized," and of his admitting afterwards that he was wrong in this opinion, and writing to him in these terms—"I had always thought that the civilisation of the Japanese is the most wonderful thing in history, but I am now convinced that what the missionaries have done in Terra del Fuego in civilising the natives is at least as wonderful."  So impressed indeed was Darwin with the greatness of the change thus wrought by the mission, that he became a regular subscriber to the society's funds!

    After all, the frank avowal of his error by Charles Darwin ought not to surprise us, for he was a real philosopher.  He always talked of his philosophy as "my theory."  I have pointed that out a thousand times to my audiences.  He never said, "I have discovered an absolute and irrefragable truth, and I'll knock the man down that denies it."

    Let us now turn to noble Max Müller, who for "denying the gospel of the day, that man is the offspring of a brute" is, as he says, under the anathema of the dictatorial Evolution party.  Being, at least, one of the greatest linguists in the world, he is entitled to speak with decision on the great question of Man's origin—for, as Man only can speak, language must be one of the surest tests of his origin.  Thus the great professor of language says,—


    "As I look upon language neither as a ready-made gift of God, nor as a natural growth of the human mind, but as, in the true sense of the word, a work of human art, I must confess that nothing has surprised me so much as the high art displayed in the languages of so-called savages.  I do not wish to exaggerate; and I know quite well that a great abundance of grammatical forms, such as we find in these savages dialects, is by no means a proof of high intellectual development.  But if we consider how small is the number of words and ideas in the ordinary vocabulary of an English peasant, and if then we find that one dialect of the Fuegians, the Tagan, consists of about 30,000 words, we certainly hesitate before venturing to classify the possessors of so vast an inherited wealth as the descendants of poor savages, more savage than themselves.  Such facts cannot be argued away.  We cannot prevent people from despising religious concepts different from their own, or from laughing at customs which they themselves could never adopt.  But such a treasure of conceptual thought as is implied in the possession of a vocabulary of 30,000 entries, cannot be ignored in our estimate of the antecedents of this Fuegian race.  I select the Fuegians as a crucial test, simply because Darwin selected them as the strongest proof of his own theory, and placed them almost below the level reached by the most intelligent animals.  I have always had a true regard for Darwin, and what I admired in him more than anything else was his fearlessness, his simple devotion to truth.  I believe that if he had seen that his own theories were wrong, he would have been the first to declare it, whatever his followers might have said.  But in spite of all that, no man can resist the influence of his own convictions.  When Darwin looked at the Fuegians, he no doubt saw what he tells us; but then he saw it with Darwinian eyes."


    Professor Max Müller contends that Mr. Darwin was mistaken in his estimate of the Fuegian language.  He shows that some tasteful judges of language have expressed their opinion in the contrary direction; and then, he thus proceeds:—


    "And, even if the sound of their language was as guttural as some of the Swiss dialects, how shall we account for the wealth of their vocabulary?  Every concept embodied in their language is the result of hard intellectual labour; and although here again excessive wealth may be an embarrassment, yet there remains enough to prove a past that must have been very different from the present.

    "The workman must at least have been as great as his work; and as the ruins of Central America tell us of architects greater than any that country could produce at present, the magnificent ruins in the dialect, whether Fuegians, Mohawks, or Hottentots, tell us of mental builders whom no one could match. at present.  Even in their religious beliefs there are here and there rays of truth which could never have proceeded from the dark night of their actual superstitions.  The Fuegians, according to Captain FitzRoy, believe in a just god, and a spirit moving about in forests and mountains.  They may believe in a great deal more, but people who believe in a great spirit in forests and mountains, and in a just god, are not on the lowest step of the ladder leading from earth to heaven.

    "The Duke of Argyll, in examining the principal races that are commonly called savage, has pointed out that degraded races generally inhabit the extreme ends of continents or tracts of country almost unfit for human habitation, or again whole islands difficult of access except under exceptionally favourable conditions.  He naturally concludes that they did not go there of their own free will, but that they represent conquered races, exiles, weaklings, cowards, criminals, who saved nothing but their life in their flight before more vigorous conquerors, or in their exile from countries that had thrown them off like poison.  Instead of looking on the inhabitants of Terra del Fuego as children of the soil, Autochthones, or the immediate descendants of the mythical Proanthropoi, the Duke points out that it is far more likely they may have come from the north; that their ancestors may have participated in the blessings of the soil and climate of Chili, Peru, Brazil, or Mexico, possibly in the early civilisation of that part of the world; and that the wretchedness of the country into which they were driven fully accounts for their present degradation.  Take away the wretchedness of their present home, educate a baby, as Captain FitzRoy did, under the beneficent influence of an English sky and of European civilisation, and in one generation, as Mr. Darwin tells us, 'his intellect and disposition were good."'


    The concluding words of Max Müller, in the article which I have taken the liberty to quote, in the first number for the present year, of the Nineteenth Century, are very wise words.  They are as follows:—


    "Disappointing as it may sound, the fact must be faced, nevertheless, that our reasoning faculties, wonderful as they are, break down completely before all problems concerning the origin of things.  We may imagine, we may believe, anything we like about the first man; we can know absolutely nothing.  If we trace him back to a primeval cell, the primeval cell that could become a man is more mysterious by far than the man that was evolved from a cell.  If we trace him back to a primeval pro-anthropos, the pro-anthropos is more unintelligible to us than even the protanthropos would be.  If we trace back the whole solar system to a rotating nebula, that wonderful nebula, which by evolution and revolution could become an inhabitable universe is, again, far more mysterious than the universe itself.

    "The lesson that there are limits to our knowledge is an old lesson, but it has to be taught again and again.  It was taught by Buddha, it was taught by Socrates, and it was taught for the last time in the most powerful manner by Kant.  Philosophy has been called the knowledge of our knowledge; it might be called more truly the knowledge of our ignorance, or, to adopt the more moderate language of Kant, the knowledge of the limits of our knowledge."


    Let us hope we are not far from the time when the little people who so fussily show us their collections of chipped flints, and desire so earnestly, that we will mark how artistically they are chipped, proving, they contend, that the flints must have been chipped by human beings—will see that their reasoning cuts the other way: not that Man came out of the Apes, but that he lost his civilisation, and had to resort to such substitutes as he could invent, when he had wandered away from the land where he had lived in a higher condition.  And the fragments of bone, with drawings upon them—so artistic!  the exhibitors charge you to observe—do they show also that Man was just rising out of the brute when he was able to draw that figure of a deer, so artistically?

    I freely confess that no flint, or bone, or ancient fragment of any kind, has ever been shown to me, by the most enthusiastic Ape-theorist—and I know here and there one—which proved or seemed likely to prove anything more than that he who worked and formed the same was merely imitating the convenient tool, or the more perfect drawing, he had possessed before he wandered away from a higher condition in which he and his ancestors lived.


 
XVII.

ON THE 'MESSIAH' OF HANDEL.


DID the musicians among our English working men and lower middle classes who assisted in the occasional performance of the Messiah fifty years ago, know what they were doing?  Let none of the intellectuals of the present day be surprised if I be so audacious as to answer—No.  For that is the true answer.  It will be remembered by all who have read my 'Life written by Myself' what an enthusiastic connection I had with the Lincoln Choral Society, fifty years ago.

    Now, the first time that a performance of the entire Messiah was announced in our advertisements, we had, as is usual with such societies, a book of the words sold to those who attended to hear.  I had strongly suspected that there was a profound degree of ignorance among people in general, respecting the true character of the Messiah, since I found it to be so common among musicians.  So I drew up a plain description of what the Messiah really is, and had it printed and prefixed to the book of words, that every listener to the music might know what it really was to which he was listening.

    I do not think that a tenth part of the crowd of listeners read the description—for I never heard any one of them mention it.  But, judge of my astonishment, on my first visit to our organist after the performance—and, on my visit, the following day, to a clerical gentleman who had the reputation of being the best pianist and the most accomplished musician in Lincoln—both of whom, I found, were as ignorant as the crowd of the real nature of Handel's priceless work!

    "Pray, where did you find this excellent description of the Messiah?"  I was asked.

    "Oh, sir," said I, to the one and the other, "I drew it up hastily myself—for I find people in general go to hear music without thinking much of the nature of what is being performed."

    In each case, the skilled musician gazed at me, incredulously, and said, "How can you have written it?  I have gone through Handel's work hundreds of times in my life, and I never understood the meaning of it before—but, for a certainty, this is the meaning of it!"

    The greater frequency of musical performances in England, and, I suppose one may add, the improved musical taste of the people, have led, no doubt, to a better estimate, arising from greater thoughtfulness, of the true nature and value of great master-pieces in music.  I have no copy of the description I drew up to prefix to our book of words: so I must take the liberty to give the reader a substitute which embodies that description.

    In my novel entitled 'The Family Feud'—now out of print—I have three heroines: a plain country girl, a fine attractive lady, and a romantic musical enthusiast.  Now, when you are writing for bread—an experience which many scores of men in London, will understand—you are ready to snatch at almost any scrap of writing you have in your desk, and make use of it, if you can.  I remembered the "description" and so made use of it in a dialogue between the musical enthusiast and the hero of the story.  I extract some part of the dialogue.  It is as follows:—


    "Handel failed—if it be not profane to say that such a giant could fail," said Una, "in attempting to portray in music the vivid and rapturous thoughts of  'Il Penseroso' and 'L'Allegro.'  But, if he could not translate Milton's own ineffable language into a higher, he transcends Milton in his management of a great subject on which they have, each, essayed his colossal genius independently."

    "I do not exactly know to what you allude," said Wilfred.

    "To the 'Messiah,' his great musical epic.  It is the true 'Paradise Regained': the proper sequel to the 'Paradise Lost."'

    "There is glorious poetry in the 'Paradise Regained'—glorious poetry "

    "Such as none but our all-glorious Milton could write," interjected Una.

    "Yet, I have always thought," continued Harlow, "that the attempts to overthrow noble old Johnson's objection to it were unsuccessful.  It is founded on too narrow a basis: the theme required a wider platform for full treatment than that afforded by the narrative of the temptation in the wilderness.  The stupendous event of Man's redemption demanded a more lofty and plenary effort from Milton.  But, does the 'Messiah' fulfil the requisitions we might put forth for the treatment of such a theme?"

    "All—all! " replied Una, with triumphant enthusiasm.

    "I had understood it to be a grand, but hasty creation thrown together in a hurry, and partly composed of adaptations from some of the great master's early efforts: the anthems composed for Christmas, and other festivals, in his youth.  I remember reading, somewhere or other, something to that effect: I think it was said to be so stated in a published correspondence between Zelter and Goethe."

    After a few preliminary remarks, defining the subject of the 'Messiah,' Una showed that the Oratorio might be considered as composed of eight sections.  "The first," said she, "concluding with the magnificent chorus, 'For unto us a Child is born,' has for its whole subject the prophecies of the Old Testament directly prefiguring the advent of Messiah.  The second section narrates the birth of the Divine Child.  It commences with the Pastoral Symphony, and concludes with the chorus of the angels, 'Glory to God in the highest!'"

    "You have said that music has a positive language," interrupted Wilfred, "and I think I felt that it had, while you played the 'Pastoral Symphony' on the organ last night.  Does it not describe the sweet calm, the rest, and peacefulness of night?"

    "Yes: Night, so beautiful in the East—with the flocks at rest, and the simple and happy shepherd watching them.  That sweetest of symphonies shows that music has a higher vocation than that of being the mere handmaid to poetry.  Handel has proved to us there the independent power of music, and how rich it is in expression of its own.  He would not degrade his art by fitting the words 'There were shepherds,' etc., to an air.  He threw them carelessly into recitative, as not sufficiently poetical and richly descriptive, though they are full of suggestion; and created, in the independent language of his own Art, that lovely scene of the happy night when the beneficence of Heaven was about to be realised for men."

    "The third section," continued Una, "describes the Saviour's ministerial life, commences with the air 'Rejoice greatly,' and concludes with the light, pleasing chorus 'His yoke is easy.'  The fourth section depicting with unequalled pathetic power the sufferings and death of Christ, commences with the chorus 'Behold the Lamb of God,' and concludes with the recitative  'He was cut off out of the land of the living.'  The fifth has for its subject the resurrection and ascension of the Saviour: it bursts suddenly, in tones of returning joyousness on the ear, with the air 'But Thou didst not leave,' and ends with the air 'Thou art gone up on high.'

    "The sixth section, describing the spread and universal triumph of Messiah's gospel, in spite of earthly opposition, begins with the sprightly chorus 'The Lord gave the word,' and ends with the splendid 'Hallelujah Chorus.'  The seventh portraying the Christian's steadfast confidence in a resurrection, commences with the beautiful air 'I know that my Redeemer liveth,' and concludes with the air 'If God be for us.'  The last section completes the grand epic by describing the eternal employment of the blessed in heaven: it contains two choruses—'Worthy is the Lamb' and the 'Amen Chorus.'  And the great master, as a consummating proof of his devotion, has almost exhausted his science in the construction of the last piece."

    "Solve me one mystery before you finish your description," said Wilfred Harlow:  "you speak of the 'Amen Chorus' as a matchless piece of musical science; but to me it is a puzzle.  I heard it once, when, unlike the 'Pastoral Symphony,' it did speak a positive language to me.  I could not comprehend the meaning of the variations on the one word 'Amen."'

    "You would have comprehended the meaning of the fugue, if you had listened to a performance of the whole Messiah thoughtfully.  Handel is not saying 'Amen' in a whimsical way at the end of his lesson, like a quaint clerk responding to the parson at the end of the prayers.  He is expressing eternity—the eternity of praise."

    "I see it—I see it! " cried Wilfred,

    "Take the first opportunity you may have for hearing a full performance of the Messiah," said Una, earnestly, "and you will be wholly of my persuasion that Handel's work is the true 'Paradise Regained': the only worthy sequel to the transcendent 'Paradise Lost.'"


    No doubt, as I have before said, there is a more widely diffused and intelligent understanding of the worth and real meaning of Handel's great work than there was, in England, fifty years ago; but I have frequently seen, in some of the small periodicals, during the last fifty years, a rash guess which shows great ignorance of what the writers were naming.  "The entire Oratorio was composed in a very few days"—one has asserted.  "It was struck off at a heat"—asserted another, "and therefore ought to be regarded as one of the greatest triumphs of the human mind."  One wonders how any sensible man could either conceive or receive such an idea.  Does anybody ever try to befool us by telling us that "Hamlet" was "struck off at a heat"—or "Lear," or "Othello," or "Macbeth"?

    That man must be a man of no thought who can imagine that any great product of the human mind is ever "struck off at a heat."  The seeds of great thoughts are conceived in the mind by influences and causes we cannot always trace; and they often are long in budding, and still longer before they blossom.  Undoubtedly there is truth in what one of the writers relates in the correspondence between Zelter and Goethe: that Handel, while only a young musician, composed anthems for the festivals of the Protestant church, and remembered many of the beautiful passages in the airs and choruses with which his wondrous genius began to teach men how to celebrate Christmas and Easter.  And when the first thought of a musical epic which should embody the great subject of our redemption by Christ germed in his mind, he could not fail to remember many of the grandest and most beautiful musical achievements of his youth, and to see their fitness to form a part of his new project.

    Perhaps he revolved that project for years in his mind, during the busy life into which he plunged in his manhood.  There was a great deal more religiousness in Handel than some people are willing to allow.  A few whimsical or grotesque anecdotes are not real tests of a man's character.  That "First Part," as it is usually termed, of the Messiah, from "Comfort ye my people" to the close of "For unto us a Child is born," is very beautifully and strongly indicative of the fact that Handel's mind frequently and deeply pondered the ancient Scriptures—doubtless with the gradually developing thought, and then, the resolution, that he would one day do something great with their inspiring aid.

    Thus one may imagine that he did not read on to the fortieth chapter of Isaiah, before he found what he judged to be a right commencement of his great musical epic—without much reverent pondering over the earlier books of the Old Testament.  The giving of the Law from Sinai, however attractive the awful theme might be for musical treatment, he perceived would not form a suitable beginning for his Oratorio.  The Plagues of Egypt and the Passage of the Red Sea, most likely caused him to hesitate as to whether he should enfold a lofty treatment of them into something like an introduction.  But he passed over them, one cannot help thinking, at an early period, determining to try his genius upon them at a later date.

    There was so much that was suitable for musical interpretation also in the histories of Abraham and the other patriarchs, that he would, belike, have to constrain himself to pass by them—for, the more he thought of the mode by which he should introduce his great theme, the more powerfully the sweet strains of Isaiah would lay hold of his heart and imagination, till he saw clearly that the prophecies foregoing the birth of the Divine Child were what he must first deal with.  It was to be a revelation of Divine love and beneficence to Man, that he was to deal with, and so it seemed clearly right that the very starting note itself and all the introductory part should be joyous: the two airs in this part which are not so, are skilful contrasts to enhance the joy of the general introduction.

    No musical critic that I remember has ever taken note of one fact in the Messiah which is really a most noteworthy fact.  That the glorious "Hallelujah Chorus" is the grandest effort and triumph of Handel's genius is a universal opinion; and one never thinks of King George the Third, small-minded and obstinate in wrong, as he was, without a lenient feeling, when we call to mind that he instituted the custom of rising and uncovering the head whenever the sublime chorus is performed before a London audience: a custom now practised also in the country.

    But what is the really noteworthy fact that I wish to impress on the mind of the reader?  Not that the great composer gave the world his grandest chorus as a triumphant close to the period of prophecy—although "For unto us a Child is born" is one of his noblest choruses.  Not that he conceived it right and good to give the world his master-chorus as a conclusion to his work—although "Worthy is the Lamb" and the "Amen Chorus" form a transcendent attempt to realise the rapturous worship of the saints in heaven.  It may cause a sneer with some irreverent minds, but I must contend that there was a large measure of the missionary spirit in the mind of Handel, or he would not have created his grandest chorus to celebrate the spread of Christ's gospel all over the earth—in fact, to celebrate the Millennium.

    There must have been much religiousness in the heart and mind of Handel, as I have before hinted.  He was a literal believer in Christianity: not a quibbler, in any degree.  That simple story of what he said in his last illness proves it: "I should like," said he, "to die on Good Friday, that I might be in heaven with my dear Lord, on Easter Sunday."  He died on Good Friday, as the reader will no doubt remember.  The wish which some very wise people will deem childish, very likely, seems to me indicative of a great and valuable truth: that the Bible and all it reveals—but more especially the theme of Redemption—dwelt much in Handel's memory, and in his heart and mind: that he grasped the statements of Christianity as facts—facts as veritable as his own existence—and rejoiced with an elevated joy in the belief that this Christianity would, one day, fill the earth. It is this elevated joy of his own heart and soul, that he strives to express, in the unequalled "Hallelujah"!

    Let us thank God that ever He created such a soul as Milton's to give us the "Paradise Lost"; and that He called into being such a soul as Handel's to give us the true "Paradise Regained"—the Messiah!


 
XVIII.

ON THE MISUSE OF LANGUAGE IN CONVERSATION.


A FOREIGNER who was condemned to hear our daily speech could not be deemed harsh, if he avowed his belief that English people considered their native tongue as too beggarly for use—if he judged that we believed the successive generations of our ancestors had left us heirs to a speech too troublesome and untasteful for us to take it daily into our mouths, and sound it in one another's ears.  The poor, neglected adjectives of our language, for instance—although so highly prized and carefully treasured up in his memory by the Poet—seem to be commonly regarded as worn out and worthless.  I am not pointing to the practice of the profanum vulgus: I am talking of the daily and hourly conversation of thousands who are held unquestionably to be gentlefolks.  They have fixed on the one small pitiable adjective, nice ; and they murder it, every day of their lives.

    Thus we hear of a nice man, a nice fellow, a nice boy or girl, a nice woman, and a nice lady, a nice gentleman, and his nice wife or daughter, a nice pony, a nice chaise, a nice coat or waistcoat, a nice hat, a nice pair of shoes or boots, a nice table or chair, a nice book, a nice inkstand, a nice plate, a nice house, a nice garden, a nice flower or tree, a nice dog, a nice cat, a nice bird, a nice cage, a nice pudding, a nice tart, a nice apple or orange, a nice pear or plum, a nice glass, a nice decanter, a nice mutton chop, a nice veal cutlet, a nice veil, a nice bonnet, a nice handkerchief, a nice dress, a nice frill, a nice piece of silk, lace, or muslin, a nice player on the piano, a nice singer, a nice speaker, a nice tune, a nice song, nice music, nice wine, nice tea, nice coffee, a nice place, a nice town, a nice street or square, a nice walk, a nice sleep, a nice dinner, nice company, nice talk, a nice visit, a nice drive, a nice sofa, a nice watch, a nice gold chain, a nice church or chapel, a nice pew, and, even a nice minister!  What is there that poor, infatuated people, of so many grades, do not call nice?

    If it be right and sensible to go on with this vulgar practice, let editions be printed of dictionaries which have no adjectives in them except this four-lettered thing—nice.  As the other adjectives are deemed not worth using, let them be abolished; and let it be fineable for any person who can afford to pay a fine, to speak of a good man, an agreeable man, a courteous man, a kind man, a polite man, a pleasant man, a well-disposed man, a clever manor a man of any description except a nice man.  And let there be equal dealing towards the gentler sex: they are to be fined if they substitute any other adjective for nice.  And, if there be any working man so self-opinionated and ill-mannered, that he will not,—say or threaten what you may,—use the word nice, but will use adjectives which his conceit selects as more appropriate—why, give him a day's fasting on the tread-wheel, to teach him "manners."  As to enlisting people in a crusade against this murdering of the word nice—nobody could be found to join it.  I see no remedy but to let the infatuation wear itself out, but that will not be in my time.

    Another word which has been for some years common among uneducated working men, is now coming into use among what are called "the respectable people."  I mean the poor little word lot.  The use of it is often really disgusting.  "Lots of folks "—"lots of fun"—"lots of sheep and cattle"—"lots of pigs and pigeons "—"lots of crows and sparrows"—"lots of time: "we've an hour to spare yet"—"lots of rubbish"—"lots of butter and eggs in the market, to-day"—"lots of books"—"lots of fiddlers and dancers"—"lots of singers"—"lots of parsons"—"lots of chapels and churches"—I need not go on: everything is vulgarized by being described consisting of lots!

    I have tried a reforming experiment with some of these lot-people.  "My friend," I have said, "do you not know that a lot is a share?  It is quite right to say "that piece of ground is to be sold in lots of three or four acres each"; but it would be wrong to say "that piece of ground grows lots of thistles."  Lot does not mean abundance: it means a share, or "divided portion."  My listener, instead of being reformed, has usually laughed at me, in derision, and walked away!

    Other words are wrongly used, and their wrong use has a current acceptation even among highly-cultured people—who never seem to suspect that they are speaking incorrectly.  I may instance the word quantity, so commonly substituted for "number."  Addison commits the error in his first paper in the dear old Spectator: he talks if a "quantity of people"; and I have heard Thomas Carlyle make the same blunder, again and again—but I had not the courage to tell him of it.  One would think that it requires small culture to perceive that while it is right to speak of a quantity of meal, or anything that can be measured—we ought to use the word number when we speak of what can be counted.

    Living as we do, in an age of exaggeration, we need not wonder at the current use of such epithets as "splendid," "frightful," "awful," and "terrific"; but in whatever violations of rational speech sane people may choose to indulge—no one should be allowed to establish a habit of daily corrupting our grammar, without notice being taken of such a barbarous propensity.

    Exceedingly few people among the classes which are not really well-educated seem to know that they are speaking incorrectly by using the word very in the way they always use it.  "I am very pleased to see you," they commonly say.  I venture, sometimes, to ask young ministers, or others, "Why do you say you are very pleased?  Does not 'pleased' express what you mean without very?  Do you ever say 'I am very loved'—or 'I was very struck'—or 'I was very clothed'—or 'very adapted,' or 'very pledged,' or ' very watched,' or 'very pruned,' or 'very digged,' or 'very bathed,' or 'very washed,' or 'very shortened'?"

    No: the nature of the perfect participle—whether you know it to be one, or not—has the mysterious effect of preventing you from joining it with a wrong word.  Instead of very, you use "much," or "well," or "greatly": you must exaggerate, to be in fashion: but, by instinct—for it may be by instinct only, and not by knowledge: you, by instinct, avoid the use of bad grammar.

    I am sorry to say that this bad habit is growing.  I heard a young preacher say, the other day, that he was "very interested" in reading a certain book; and a good lady say she was "very distressed " on hearing that so many poor people were in want.

    Let the critics know that I am aware of there being a little difficulty in this case.  We are so much in the habit of converting perfect participles into what are called "participial adjectives," that it is not a violation of language to place the word "very" before a word which is so converted.  The first word in our common version of the Psalms furnishes us with a good instance, or example: "Blessed is the man," and so forth: we may correctly say of such a man, "Yes: he is a very blessed man."

    I will not say more about our common misuse of language in conversation.  Some will, perchance, think I had better have said nothing about it.  But, surely, an old man may be excused for trying to abolish errors of any kind, before he goes out of this world of error.


 
XIX.

WHAT OUR MORAL NATURE PROVES.

[An Argument addressed to a small company of moral men, who were professed Atheists: thirty years ago.]


NOTHING ever cost me more anxious thought than the word "Duty."  All of you who have heard me in this place and elsewhere, for some years past, must remember that it was a very frequent word with me: as frequent as the word "Retribution."  And you may also remember how often some of our young friends attempted to get up an opposition to my views of " Duty" and "Retribution."  They did not succeed in convincing me; nor, perhaps, did I succeed in convincing them.  That very opposition, however, served to make me think more deeply.  I began to see the reason why they did not like my notions of "Retribution"; and I began to see that it was also impossible they could receive my notions of "Duty."

    This caused me to weigh very thoughtfully the arguments for and against the Moral Nature of Man.  And I came at length to the conviction that there is no solid foundation for Morality, no certainty of securing moral practice, without the clear perception and belief in an Infinite Moral Governor of the Universe.  And I no sooner reached that conviction than I found it impossible to resist conscience, and so began to teach it.

    I have certainly not pleased my old friends in taking these steps—and it is not very evident, I think, that I have made many new friends by taking this course.  But I have long since learned that to obey conscience and speak truth, let the consequences be what they may, is far nobler than to seek to please men by telling them what they like, and what meets their views.

    To-night, I return to this great subject of Duty; and I must speak what I believe to be the truth, from conviction.  I impugn no other man's conviction.  I only entreat all to think, and to think seriously upon the grounds of Duty.

    And I must commence by saying that I hold it to be utterly impossible to show any real ground for Duty, in a high and noble sense, if men deny the existence of a Moral Governor of the World and His endowment of Man with a moral nature and attribute all existence to blind or unintelligent Necessity.

    1. Man's first duty, with the conviction of God's existence, would be submission to the will of God.  I have no canting meaning: I mean nothing slavish: I have a right to protest and resist oppression, for it is contrary to God's will.  The organic laws are violated by those who oppress us; and submission to the will of God does not consist in submitting to those who are not guided by His Will.

    Submission to the will of God ought at least to be general.  There ought to be no daring accusation of His wisdom and reckless denial of His goodness.  "We don't want a God: we can do without Him," some of you say.  I do not say you all talk in that manner.  I hope some of you do want to believe in a God, and would gladly believe if your difficulties were removed.  But from the signs of approval given to some reckless speakers, in these discussions, it would seem that some of you really like to hear an oppositionist all the better the more coarsely and recklessly he talks.  Submission that God has done right in making Man what he is—that is, human and not angelic; submission, to His Infinite Wisdom and perfect goodness in making Man; and confidence and trust that God had the most beneficent intent in thus making Man: these form "submission to His Will, in general."  But the Love of God is no duty with you who deny His existence.  You ignore such a feeling.  You will not allow yourselves to admire His wisdom, and you deny His goodness—therefore how can you love Him?  "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart," etc., words which express what we must feel to be the highest of all duties, when we believe in God: these words are unmeaning to you—or you sneer at them.

    Love God! you do not admit that there is one to love.  You contend that if there be one, He must rather deserve a grumbling hatred than a devout love, because He has not made the Universe right.  And yet how cheerfully you can acquiesce in the present condition of things, if you may be without God, and have for worship your favourite Necessity—blind, unintelligent Necessity. Then, it is all right—or it will be right in time—for you believe in endless progression.  You are the only gods: there are no other.  Thus your Atheism is really a Polytheism.

    But you will not like so much to be said about the passive duty: submission to the will of God.  And, perhaps, you will bear as impatiently anything that can be said about the active duty which is binding on Man—namely,

    2. Doing the will of God: I mean not merely submission, but doing it in act, and word, and thought.  I find a new language used of late, by some of the professed disciples of Atheism.  The word "Duty" is very much used and insisted on by them.  And I am glad of this; because I am sure, if you will only use reflection, that it will soon lead you and me to a happy agreement.  Active duties are commended, and you are encouraged to perform them, from the inward satisfaction they will give you.  Pray how is it that you expect to take delight in benevolence and self-denial and self-sacrifice?  What makes you capable of such a feeling?  Your nature is not altogether of such despicable origin, then, as some of you profess to think.

    Where did you get the nature to pity distress and to deny yourselves in order to relieve it, or to feel that you ought to do so?  Is it not a proof that God has made you much better than you profess to believe, while you are finding fault with the nature He has given to Man?  How came you to be capable of yearning over the distressed and labouring to relieve them, if all things spring from a blind Necessity—a Necessity without mind and without will?  Is it not very unaccountable that from unthinking atoms this creature Man should come to exist—filled with pity and love for his kind, and capable of progressing in such feelings, by reflecting upon their excellence and resolving to be more excellent?

    I tell you when lost amidst all the difficulties which surround these great questions—baffled by vain attempts to get right in one direction and another—and often feeling as if I must give up the struggle and resign myself to a hopeless scepticism—this was where light broke in upon me.  The exalted moral nature of Man—his aspirations after purity and rectitude, notwithstanding his lapses into error and crime—and the longing after that purity and rectitude which only becomes more deep and fervent the more the aspiration is cherished.

    Now, I speak home to your own experience, believing you to be sincere men.  I trust all of you—although I cannot read your hearts, and I have no right to judge you evilly,—I speak home to you, and I ask you if you do not know what it is to struggle against bad passions and bad desires, and to breathe after a higher nature; to desire to be freed from anger and pride and vindictiveness and unkind thoughts and selfishness and unclean thoughts and all the daily imperfection of which you are conscious?  Whence comes all this?  If you owe your existence to a blind Necessity, if no Great Power made you, if no Divine Power stirs in you, if this world has no Great Moral Governor, and you are only to live a few days here, and then die and be conscious no more for ever—why have you these aspirations?  Because God stirs within you: for He is in you, although you deny Him.

    All this aspiration is inconsistent with your principles, as Atheists.  A blind Necessity: the world was not made by the Divine Intelligence.  "Intelligence is no primary principle," says our sincere little friend there—for no doubt he is sincere.  There has come to be, somehow or other, what is called "intelligence"—but it was not from Intelligence: it was by unintelligent Necessity.  And why all this mental toil to acquire good dispositions and good tempers and good thoughts, that we may be enabled to take delight in doing good, and higher and still higher delight?  It is no preparation for another and a better state: it is only a bustle in the dust to which we shall soon return and be no more conscious for ever!  These are the principles of Atheistic Materialism ; and I contend that no "elevated morality" can spring from such principles.

    There is no Divine Moral Governor, you contend; and so you are amenable to none; and why, therefore, should you cherish the wish for purity of heart and life?  There is no righteous judge to whom you are accountable for your words, either; and therefore why should you be particular about the words you use—whether they be true or false, vile or noble, clean or unclean?  And your thoughts?  There is no All-Searching Power Who is privy to every thought and Whose eye seeth in secret—according to your belief; and therefore why, since man cannot see your thoughts, should you be delicate and nice about your thinkings—or be troubled and pained when evil thoughts come into your mind?  Aspire to think nobly and purely, and be pained when your thoughts are low and grovelling!—why should you?  Your principles proclaim that you are made to grovel, and your grovelling is simply to close with the grave.  But you cannot help being pained and disgusted with yourselves when low and grovelling thoughts pester your minds: no, because your principles do not tell the truth about your nature.  Try to show that it is not so, if you can.

    If I may be allowed to tell you plainly,—and if you will take no offence by my speaking plainly,—I think I can point you to some examples of consistent Atheism: for you who are aiming to subdue evil thoughts and passions and to live more purely and morally, every day, are not consistent Atheists—you are living as if you were really under the Moral Government that you deny.  I can easily point you to men who, whatever their professions might be, were consistent and practical Atheists: Cæsar, Napoleon the Great, and Napoleon the Little.  Our own George the Fourth, was a practical Atheist, in another line.  Men who amass riches by oppression of the poor, are in the same category; for they act as if God did not heed them, and would not call them to account.

    You will, doubtless, argue that this is a libel upon you; and you will say there are two valid and impelling reasons why you should practise the duties of benevolence to your fellow-men, and act truthfully and uprightly.  First, there is the immediate reward in your own bosoms; and secondly, you are doing something to mend the world, and to make it happier for posterity.

    1. But your first reason for the practice of moral duties only brings us back to the question I have already put to you.  Why does the practice of goodness bring an immediate reward to the bosom of him who practises goodness?  How is it that our natures are so constituted?  You still have to show me how this springs from a blind Necessity: for if there be only an unintelligent necessity in all things, man really deserves neither praise nor blame—he can neither keep nor transgress a moral law; for there is no Moral Lawgiver.

    And as there are only physical or organic laws, men practise kindness organically, by necessity, like machines; or they practise unkindness, like machines, and by necessity.  And neither deserves praise or blame: a rascal is one by necessity, and you have no right to charge him with moral guilt: there is no moral guilt according to consistent Atheism and Materialism.  You must free Napoleon the Little from execration: he is only acting according to the mechanical necessity of his nature.

    You talk of the reward virtue brings to a man's own bosom.  But the culture of virtue is a labour as well as a reward.

    Remember how often we have spoken here of the difficulty of acquiring habits for good, and of the ease with which we glide into habits of evil.  You acquiesced in these lessons at the time I taught them.  You approved of the teaching.  You knew then, and you know now, that there is the utmost need for the repetition of lessons of virtue, and that the oftener they are taught the better.  So many and so strong are the seductions of life, in whatever situation we are placed, that we are perpetually liable to go wrong.  It does not seem, then, that the reward which we know we shall have in our own bosoms is so very compelling and omnipotent in its operation upon us, as to constrain us always to do virtuously.

    And what elevated virtue or morality can there be without self-denial?  Self-denial—which does not mean the giving something to another which we can do as well without—but parting with something which we really want, in order to relieve another whose wants are, perhaps, greater.  Why should an Atheist practice such superfluous charity?  There is no praise, there is no blame: there is no merit, there is no demerit: there is no right, there is no wrong: a man may do as he likes, and live as he likes—and especially he may do as he likes with his own: there is no Power to which he is amenable for hardening his heart against a fellow-creature.  Why should the Atheist be soft-hearted and pitiful and self-denying?  Why should he not enjoy the little he can enjoy of the world while he is in it?  He will not have to stay in it long; and there is no other world for him, when he has done here.

    But why is it that some of you who profess to be Atheists, do often deny yourselves to relieve others?  Not so often as you ought.  You feel, as I feel, that Paul spoke truth when he said, "When I would do good, evil is present with me."  It is too often so with us.  We have none of us any cause to boast of our excellence.  The longer we live and the more deeply we learn to watch our own hearts, the more imperfect we see we are.  But why is it that we can deny ourselves at all to relieve others?  Because God has given us moral natures, hearts prone to pity, and open to kindness.  We may sin against God that is in our nature: we may yield to selfish thoughts till our hearts grow hard and callous to distress and suffering; but we are then trampling down and stifling the moral nature that God has given us and which we could not have inherited from any blind Necessity.

    2. But I observed that you would, doubtless, advance a second argument why you should practise virtue—that you may mend the world and make it happier for posterity.  Posterity, and the Future! why, what are they to the Atheist and Materialist?  Utter blanks.  You believe in no future state: you are to perish in the grave: you expect no future and higher existence wherein the advancement of the world with successive ages will be known to you, and add to your happiness.

    The future amelioration of this world is nothing to you, for you are not to live in it, or to be conscious of what is passing in it when you are removed to a higher condition of existence.  And why should you try to mend the world, if all things work by a blind Necessity?—if there be no Intelligent Providence superintending the world and designing to bring harmony out of discord?—ultimate happiness out of conflict?

    We spoke of self-sacrifice, as well as self-denial.  And there have been great and glorious human beings who have laid down their lives in order to mend the world, and with the full belief that by so laying down their lives they would make it happier for posterity.  But did you ever read of any man in all history, ancient or modern, who was accused of Atheism, tried for Atheism, and was offered pardon if he would give up his Atheism—but who refused to give it up, and who went to death proclaiming that he knew his death would bless the world?  Not one.  Not a single man.  Men have been tried for Atheism and denied it—so was Socrates.  Men have been burnt for Atheism—so was Vanini—but he vehemently denied it.

    But men have died for their consistent belief in God and refusal to believe superstition, and have triumphed professing that their death would benefit the world.  Latimer was one.

    Self-Sacrifice!—sacrifice his life—the only life he has, or believes he ever shall have—to benefit posterity—why should the Atheist do that?  What folly!  No man can be such a fool.  It is not in human nature.  We are not such born fools.

    True happiness is only to be obtained by devotedness to the will of God.  Seeking the universal good—the highest good of all.  Christ's teaching embodies the will of God.  Life can only be truly happy, not when we are in ecstasy, but when we are doing right.  Life can only be truly happy when we are seeking to be purer and holier and better—every day and every hour.  Can it be thought, if God exists and is in us and with us, that He will not assist all who breathe after Him, to become purer and holier and better?  Oh, let us try it!


 
XX.

A SHORT SEQUEL, AND CONCLUSION.


A DOZEN years have passed since I wrote the last word in my Autobiography: so my friends urge me to give them some kind of a Sequel.  It will be a short one, for, although I have revisited every part of England, and some parts of it over and over again, during these twelve years, it has been to do the same kind of work as I had done before.  So I have nothing new to communicate in that direction.

    I regret to add, that my work has been done more feebly, as my years have increased.  For the last six winters, I have been compelled to give up, almost entirely, my travelling and talking work, by the return of what is called Chronic Bronchitis.  I am very thankful when it leaves me—usually about May—and I am able to get out again, and travel and talk; and I am sad when I have to return home, in the latter autumn, knowing it is to encounter a solitary winter by the fireside, with less and less ability to read or write.  For, my left eye is no longer a working eye, and often prevents the right eye from working effectually: so that I have to shut my eyes, and sit and think, or occupy my mind as well as I can devise.

    In spite of these, and other disabilities, I have succeeded in book-making during these last twelve years, by the help of my kind publishers.  To a man of fourscore, as I have said, it is natural to look back on the past.  And I am thinking, just now how, in my youth, amid my repetitions of the 'Paradise Lost' and 'Hamlet' and the Latin Accidence, as I sat bending over the last, and wielding the awl, there were mingled ambitious day-dreams of the life of authorship that was to come: how I should reach London, with a finished poem in a few years, and commence a literary career resembling the literary lives of Johnson, Goldsmith, and others, and should rise to fame!

    But the bright vision—which so many have experienced—was never to be realized.  The schoolmaster life came instead—and the local-preacher life—and the newspaper writer's life—and the championship for the starving and oppressed—and the demagogue life—and the prison life: all these had to be accomplished before a book was produced that had in it something which, I trusted, my country men "would not willingly let die."  I thought, when the Britannia and some other periodicals, gave my 'Prison-Rhyme' such a triumphant reception, the life of authorship, which had so often been my day-dream, was now fairly begun.  But no!  It was soon remembered that I was a Chartist, and I was driven on the fatal sand-bank of trying to set up a weekly periodical, which broke down and plunged me into new debts; and I had to take to lecturing on politics, history, etc., for a living.

    This lasted till I abandoned the errors into which I had fallen through reading Miss Evans's translation of Strauss's 'Leben Jesu,' and lecturing upon it.  The readers of my Autobiography know all about that struggle, and how it ended in my happy return to Christianity, and a determination to spend the remnant of my life in expounding and teaching the Christian Evidences.  And, so fully I became absorbed in my right work—for such I soon perceived it to be—that all thoughts of authorship were abandoned, and I thought they would never return, but that I should live, henceforth, a life of travel, visiting every region in Great Britain where I thought I could successfully sow the seeds of Christian Truth.

    The incessant urgency of friends, on all sides, almost compelled me, at last, to publish my 'Bridge of History over the Gulf of Time.'  The little book is now in its twenty-fifth thousand; and, thank God, has done unquestionable good, by its simple and plain, and yet full relation of the veritable historical evidence for the truth of Christianity.  During succeeding years, I have added four other small volumes on the Christian Evidences.  'God, the Soul, and a Future State ' embodies my lectures on the Design Argument and the Argument à priori for God's existence; and the argument for a Future State.  Two little volumes entitled 'The Verity and Value of the Miracles' and 'The Verity of Christ's Resurrection from the Dead' contain what I have advanced on these Christian truths in my itinerant course.  The fifth volume of what I may call my 'Christian Evidence Series' is entitled 'Evolution, the Stone Book, and the Mosaic Record of Creation.'  It contains what I said to my audiences in the beginning, rather than in the end, of my talk about Darwinism.  A short lecture on Geology is included in the volume because I found it necessary to teach many of my hearers something about that science before they could understand what I had to say about Evolution.  The reader must refer to the little book itself to learn what is my theory as it respects the Mosaic Record.

    I may add, that following up the volume called 'Plain Pulpit Talk,' I have published a volume of the same size, entitled 'The Atonement, and other Discourses.'  The two volumes contain plain sermons delivered on the Lord's Day, in the chapels of evangelical denominations, in almost every part of the country.  As the Stories published by Mr. How, in 1845, were out of print, I have republished them, with a few additions, under the title of 'Old Fashioned Stories.'  Lastly, my publishers issued for me, eight years ago, a portly volume entitled 'Poetical Works.'  It contains my 'Purgatory of Suicides,' 'Paradise of Martyrs,' and 'Minor Poems.'  I should observe that I only completed a part of my purposed 'Paradise of Martyrs,' and the 'Minor Poems' are only a selection from other rhymes that I have written—for I thought the world had had quite enough of 'Minor Poems,' and I would not add to the overplus.  And so concludes the catalogue of my literary labour—such as it has been: something very different from what I dreamt it would be, in my youth; but yet, I hope, containing something which may do good to some of my fellow-men.

________________________


    The most afflictive event I have to record as having fallen to my experience during these twelve years, is the the death of my beloved wife.  She died on the first of February, 1870, at the age of nearly seventy-nine.  She had been my gentle, loving, and intelligent life-companion for forty-six years.  The sight and hearing of the intense suffering she endured during the latter part of her life—together with her own earnest desire to depart and be with Christ—reconciled me to the fact of her death.  She came to the habitation where I now reside, to lodge with her sister when she could no longer travel with me.  Her sister died, and she died seven months after, leaving me tenant here—where I purpose remaining each winter so long as I live.  I look from my room window upon the spot (now part of the Great Northern Railway yard) where stood the little cottage we lived in when we were married, and I also look out on the little church of St. Mary-le-Wigford, where we were joined in holy wedlock.  My beloved one is buried in the southern cemetery of the old city, and I have bought myself ground for a grave near to her.

    The decease of many of my deeply-beloved friends and benefactors, is often the subject of sorrowful reflection with me.  The death of my dearest friend, the Rev. Dr. Jobson, Wesleyan minister, to whom I inscribed my Autobiography, is my greatest loss.  We had been friends for fifty years; and for many years, until his mind and body began to fail, we corresponded nearly every week of our lives.  He was my junior by nearly seven years, so I had no anticipation that I should lose the precious benefit of his friendship, by his dying before me.  The great age of my good and kind friend, Thomas Carlyle, rendered his death no surprise to me, though it was a source of mournful feeling; but this feeling is mingled with thankfulness that ever I enjoyed a friendship so illustrious.  The decease of dear Charles Kingsley—too early for the world that he helped to make better—was a real grief to me; and so was the death of my kind friend and benefactor, Tom Taylor.  James Harvey of London bore no literary rank, but I had not a human friend in existence whose kindly help was ever more ready, more hearty, more unwearied.

    I must not forget to record that I have lost my old playmate, Thomas Miller.  Such are the vicissitudes of a literary life, in too many instances, that although he had written nearly fifty books of light literature, he fell into the deepest poverty in his last days.  Mr. Disraeli compassionately sent him £100 from the Treasury, while he was on his death-bed; but it came nearly too late.  Two orphans survive him; and they are the heirs of his poverty.

________________________


    This volume must not come to a close without some registry of my convictions as to the work in which I have employed myself during the last thirty years of my life.   Surely, the Author of all good does not suffer any effort wholly to fail, however feeble it may be, if it be made with the sincere intent to draw men away from sin and error, and to lead them to Christ and His truth.   And I must inform the reader that as my labour has been solitary, it has not been mighty.  Letters expressing gratitude, and testimonials given to me verbally, that I have been made instrumental, through the mercy and condescension of God, in doing good, have cheered me, often.   But I have sometimes felt sad that no determined band of young men fitted for maintaining and defending the Evidences of their Saviour's religion has yet arisen.

    I do not lose the hope and confidence that such a band will, one day, arise, and pledge themselves to God and one another to pursue their work till death—despising poverty and difficulty and opposition and indifference on the part of those who ought to be their foremost helpers.

    No doubt the marvellous rapidity with which Darwinism and Evolution have spread in all directions and among all classes, and the haughty assertion on the parts of Evolutionists that they "are the people, and wisdom shall die with them," have an intimidating effect on the minds of such as do desire to belong to an army of defence for religion.  Many who are called "Scientists," when you come to learn something about their acquirements, prove to be only small men—and yet they hold their heads very high.  There is not the cause to dread them that some good Christians imagine to exist; and I wish I could get young men who wish to devote themselves to Christ's work to think so.

    There is, however, a strong apprehension among some highly-intelligent men, that it would be no easy work to encounter sceptical working men successfully—for the works of Darwin and Spencer have come into their hands, and they have so thoroughly digested the arguments found in these books as to have become thoroughly fortified against all possible ways of trying to bring them out of their errors.

    Last month (February) I received a letter from a highly-intelligent resident in a large manufacturing town in Lancashire, and will extract some part of it, to elucidate what I am saying.


    "The Secularists are very active here, just now, and, although I believe that the leaders in the movement are neither intellectually nor morally fit to be leaders in any progressive or constructive movement, yet their assertions are, without doubt, helping men's worse selves in the destruction of what little faith they have.

    "I am of opinion that thousands of men of all classes really believe the assertions of such blind leaders—which assertions, broadly stated, are


"1. That Science has clearly overthrown Revelation; and, that the leading thinkers and scholars of the age have given up Christianity as untenable.

"2. That Religion, or any kind of belief in the Supernatural, is Superstition.

"3. That, on the whole, Christianity has done more harm than good in the world.


    "I say nothing either of the fact that these men consistently put forward rather the fancies of sections of those professing Christianity, than the plain statements of the Bible, as being Christianity,—or of the fallacy underlying their notion of liberty either of thought or action, because I believe that at the root, the cause of their hatred of Christianity is not intellectual, but moral: certainly, I believe it to be so in the masses."


    Now, the letter from which I have taken this extract, comes from a town in which I have lectured more than twenty times within the last fourteen years.  I never heard that the town was more thickly crowded with sceptics than other great towns of the County Palatine; and I cannot help thinking that Secularism is, chiefly, of late growth in it.

    Besides, it should be noted that Secularism is spasmodic in its activity.  I have sometimes visited a town where, a few years ago, it was rampant—but now, it was comparatively silent and quiescent; and so I found it remained until something occurred to give it new life and vigour.  This may serve to allay the fears of the good friend who sent me the letter from which I have taken an extract.  The great champion of Secularism had just then visited the town, and £75 had been taken, in sixpenny and threepenny admissions to his lectures.

    One serious thought, however, arises out of this fact: that not only the working men in great numbers listened to this champion, but there must have been a considerable number of the middle class among his hearers.  Let us charitably hope that curiosity was the main motive which led many of them to listen, and that they came away disgusted, rather than charmed, with what he said.

    When I urge, again, the formation of a band of young men devoted to the defence of religion, I cannot promise them glittering rewards such as this champion of Secularism reaps.  What I said, while urging the same plea, in my Autobiography, I say now: "Let all come in to hear you free.  Sell no tickets, take no moneys for admission, have no practices that may leave a hair's breadth of room for Christ's enemies to charge you with selfishness.  Have a collection at the end of your discourse, on the ground that you cannot live on the air, and pay expenses of lodging, and travelling, and printing, from an empty pocket.  Make this simple appeal to your countrymen, and they will not fail to respond to it, generally."

    To such a band of young men, I would say—Suppose, sometimes, you do not get enough to pay your expenses, do not be discouraged, do not give up your trust in Him for whom you are working—and never let the fact of the small collection slip out, so that the poor people who have given you the collection may get to hear of it.  Never hurt the minds of the poor, by finding fault with what they have done in their poverty.

    But, to whom am I really appealing, at the present time?  Twelve years ago, my appeal was intended for working men; but the work is now become too difficult for them.  They have not the preparation of mind, nor the time, for mastering—as they ought to master—the works of Darwin and Spencer and Tyndall and Huxley, and their helpers.  I appeal, at once, to the young men of our Universities and high schools.  I would say to them—Do you imagine that to display true heroism you must enter either the army or the navy?  Suppose you cannot grow famous, or attain high rank by it, is not the enterprize truly glorious, of going forth to face all difficulties, to encounter scorn and mockery and malice, and yet to persevere in the championship for Christ's truth?  If you can acquire no worldly wealth by such a championship, you will be laying up treasures in heaven.

    I am addressing you because you have been schooled in thought and language, and you have, I make no doubt, become acquainted with Evolution and all that is so positively asserted in its favour.  Do not fear that you will find all thinking men against you.  However confident Sceptics may feel that Christianity is "done for," and that all real scholars and thinkers have "given it up"—you will find that they are mistaken.  Many true scholars and sterling thinkers in our own land are determined foes of the new doctrines.  And, on the Continent, not a few leading scholars and thinkers have declared their dissent from the prevailing views which are so adverse to Christianity.

    I have just met the following paragraph in the Leeds Mercury, one of our best-conducted local newspapers:—"The English admirers of Mr. Herbert Spencer will be astonished at the wholesale condemnation of his writings by M. Adolphe Franck, in his Essais de Critique Philosophique, just issued by Hachette & Co.  The-well-known Parisian professor avows that he experiences a veritable humiliation when he recalls the exceptional celebrity secured for the school of Mr. Spencer.  It would be difficult, he believes, in the entire history of philosophy to find so many arbitrary affirmations, chimerical hypotheses, sophistical reasonings, contradictory conclusions, such contempt for history, reason, the moral sense, and the religious sense of humanity, as are to be found in the innumerable, ill-digested, and prolix volumes of Mr. Spencer and his auxiliaries."

    M. Franck's estimate of the intelligence of Herbert Spencer is evidently unlike that of Mr. Darwin, who was accustomed to call him "our great philosopher," and that of Professor Tyndall, who described him as "the apostle of the understanding."  But all that was in the gay days of the "Mutual Admiration Society," as Wendell Holmes smartly named the new philosophers—when they were new, and mightily addicted to the habit of publicly paying each other fine compliments.

    There is another point on which, I think, I ought to say a little.  I laid aside Discussion, and the putting of questions at the end of my lectures, a dozen years ago, or more.  I was shown that they did no good, and I followed the advice to go on simply delivering my lectures, and allowing no discussion or putting of questions, publicly—but inviting all who wished to tell me of their doubts to call at my lodgings that I might converse with them.  Not a dozen persons have called on me, in so many years, to tell me of their doubts.  This is clearly significant of the fact that when the Secularists demand discussion, it is for the excitement of a public encounter and not with the strong desire to be right.

    And I found that when I sturdily refused all attempts to draw me into discussion, the Secularist working men began to fall off in their attendance on my discourses.  From that time I bent all my endeavours on preventing young Christian men from falling in to the Secularist snare; and in this, I trust, I may thankfully affirm that I have been blessed with success.

    Christian readers, however, will see that my championship might have been successful in another and desirable direction, if I had yielded to the Secularist demand for discussion.  And if a band of young men should respond to my appeal, and unite to labour as the defenders of Christian truth, I would advise that some of them who are physically strong and mentally ready, should willingly enter into debate when challenged.

I the more willingly gave up all discussion, because I formerly was in the habit of lecturing for two hours at a time ; and I found that I could no longer sustain the acrimony and
worry of debate.
In my later years I dare not exhaust nature either by giving long lectures or entering into discussion. One great gain for young lecturers who are fitted for discussion, will be
the larger attendance of Secularists, and therefore, the greater possibility of doing them good.

________________________


    Regarding this as my last appearance in print, I trust I may be forgiven if I record one little fact.  The lowly Christian Church of General Baptists in this city—where their predecessors, more than two hundred years ago, were stoned and imprisoned for preaching and practising immersion baptism—and who have continued to be a poor, and, I had almost said, a despised people—have lately taken courage and set about building a new and more commodious chapel and schools—and have determined to name the new place of worship "The Thomas Cooper Memorial Chapel."  I am utterly undeserving of the honour they put upon me; but they insist upon it that the name will have the desirable effect of inducing many who are not Baptists to subscribe towards their Building Fund.  I most heartily wish it may, and will most cordially thank all who send help to the lowly Christian people who so greatly need it.

_______________________________________

Printed by Hazell, Watson, & Viney, Limited, London and Aylesbury.

 



[Home] [Up] [Autobiography] [Gulf of Time] [Old Fashioned Stories] [Self-help] [Prison Rhymes, etc.] [Baron's Yule Feast] [Purgatory of Suicides] [Paradise of Martyrs] [Poets of the Poor] [Reviews, etc.] [Main Index] [Site Search]

Correspondence should be sent to Webmaster@Gerald-Massey.org.uk