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Christian Life

Christian Life

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Published by: BrotherChris32 on Nov 16, 2009
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10/21/2011

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_I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you_.

These passages, of which the first is taken from the gospel of this

morning's service, the other from the second lesson, differ in words,
but their meaning is very nearly the same. The house which was empty,
swept and garnished, was especially one empty of the love of God.
Whatever evil there may not have been in it; whatever good there may
have been in those of whom Christ spoke in the second passage: yet it
and they agreed in this; one thing they had not, which alone was worth,
all the rest besides; they had not the love of God.

And so it is still; many are the faults which we have not; many are the
good qualities which we have; but the life is wanting. What is so rare
as to find one who is not indifferent to God? What so rare, even rarer
than the other, as to find one who actually loves him?

Therefore it is that those who go in at the broad gate of destruction
are many, and those who go in at the narrow gate of life are few. For
destruction and life are but other terms for indifference to God on the
one hand, and love to him on the other. All who are indifferent to him,
die; a painless death of mere extinction, if, like the brute creation,
they have never been made capable of loving him; or a living death of
perpetual misery, if, like evil spirits and evil men, they might have
loved him and would not. And so all who love him, live a life, from
first to last, without sin and sorrow, if, like the holy angels, they
have loved him always; a life partaking at first of death, but
brightening more and more unto the perfect day, if, like Christians,
they were born in sin, but had been redeemed and sanctified to
righteousness.

Whoever has watched human character, whether in the young or the old,
must be well aware of the truth of this: he will know that the value of
any character is in proportion to the existence or to the absence of
this feeling, or rather, I should say, this principle. An exception may,
perhaps, be made for a small, a very small number of fanatics; an
apparent exception likewise exists in the case of many who seem to be
religious, but who really are not so. The few exceptions of the former
case are so very few, that we need not now stop to consider them, nor to
inquire how far even these would be exceptions if we could read the
heart as God reads it. The seeming exceptions being cases either of
hypocrisy, or of very common self-deceit, we need not regard either; for
they are, of course, no real objection to the truth of the general
statement. It remains true, then, generally, that the value of any
character is in proportion to the existence, or to the absence, in it of
the love of God.

But is there not another exception to be made for the case of children,
and of very young persons? Are they capable of loving God? and are not
their earthly relations, their parents especially, put to them, as it

were, in the place of God, as objects of trust, of love, of honour, of
obedience, till their minds can open to comprehend the love of their
Father who is in heaven? And does not the Scripture itself, in the few
places in which it seems directly to address children, content itself
with directing them to obey and honour their parents? Some notions of
this sort are allowed, I believe, to serve sometimes as an excuse, when
young persons are blamed for being utterly wanting in a sense of duty
to God.

The passages which direct children to obey their parents, are of the
same kind with those, directing slaves to obey their masters, and
masters to be kind to their slaves; like those, also, which John the
Baptist addressed to the soldiers and publicans: in none of all which
there is any command to love God, but merely a command to fulfil that
particular duty which most arose out of the particular relation, or
calling of the persons addressed. In fact, when parents are addressed,
they are directed only to do their duties to their children, just as
children are directed to do theirs to their parents; in both cases
alike, the common duty of parents and children to God is not dwelt upon,
because that is a duty which does not belong to them as parents, or as
children, but as human beings; and as such, it belongs to all alike. In
fact, the very language of St. Paul's command to children implies this;
for he says, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is
right:" right, that is, in the sight of God: so that the very reason for
which children are to discharge their earthly duties is, because that
earthly duty is commanded by, or involved in, their heavenly duty; if
they do not do it, they will not please God. But it is manifest that, in
this respect, there is for all of us one only law, so soon as we are
able to understand it. The moment that a child becomes capable of
understanding anything about God and Christ,--and how early that is,
every parent can testify,--that moment the duty to love God and Christ
begins. It were absurd to say, that this duty has not begun at the age
of boyhood. A boy is able to understand the force of religious motives,
as well as he can that of earthly motives: he cannot understand either,
perhaps, so well as he will hereafter; but he understands both enough,
for the purposes of his salvation; enough, to condemn him before God, if
he neglects them; enough to make him derive the greatest benefit from
faithfully observing them.

And what can have been the purpose with which the only particular of our
Lord's early life has been handed down to us, if it were not to direct
our attention to this special truth, that our youth, no less than our
riper age, belongs to God? "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's
business?" were words spoken by our Lord when he was no more than twelve
years old. At twelve years old, he thought of preparing himself for the
duties of his after-life; and of preparing himself for them, because

they were God's will. He was to be about his Father's business. This is
Christ's example for the young; this, and scarcely anything more than
this, is recorded of his early years. Those are not like Christ who, at
that same age, or even older, never think at all of the business of
their future lives, still less would think of it, not as the means of
their own maintenance or advancement, but as the duty which they owe
to God.

Such as these are the very persons whose hearts are like the house in
the parable, empty, swept, and garnished. The house so described in the
parable is one out of which an evil spirit has just departed. In case of
the young, the evil spirit in this sense, that is, as representing some
one particular favourite sin, may perhaps have never entered it. That
empty, swept, and garnished house, how like is it to what I have seen,
to what I am seeing so continually, when a boy comes here with much
still remaining of the innocence of childhood! Evil spirit, in the sense
of any one particular vice, there is none to be found in that heart, nor
has there been any ever. It is empty, swept, and garnished: there is the
absence of evil; there are the various faculties, the furniture, as they
may be called, of the house of our spirits, which the spirit uses either
for evil or for good. There is innocence, then; there is, also, the
promise of power. God hath richly endowed the earthly house of our
tabernacle: various and wonderful is the furniture of body and mind with
which it is supplied. How can we help admiring that open and cheerful
brow which, as yet, no care or sin has furrowed; those light and active
limbs, full of health and vigour; the eye so quick; the ear so undulled;
the memory so ready; the young curiosity so eager to take in new
knowledge; the young feelings, not yet spoiled by over-excitement, ready
to admire, ready to love? There is the house, the house of God's
building, the house which must abide for ever; but where is the spirit
to inhabit it? Evil spirit there is none: is it, then, possessed by the
Spirit of God? Has the fire from heaven as yet descended upon that
house,--the living sign of God's presence, which alone can convert the
house of perishable clay into the everlasting temple?

Can that blessed Spirit of God be indeed there, and yet no sign of his
presence be manifest? It may be so, or to speak more truly, it might
have been supposed to be so, if God's word had not declared the
contrary. What God's secret workings are; in how many ways, to us
inscrutable, he may pervade all nature; in how many cases he may be near
us, and we know it not; may, perhaps, be amongst those real mysteries,
those truths revealed to none, nor to be revealed; those yet uncleared
forests, so to speak, of the world of nature, into which the light of
grace has not been permitted to penetrate. But all such mysteries are to
us as if they did not exist at all: we have nothing to do with them. God
has told us nothing of his unseen and undiscernible presence; when and

where he is so present, he is to us as if he were not present at all.
God was in the wilderness of Horeb before the bush was kindled; but he
was not there for Moses. God, in some sense discernible, it may be, to
other beings, may be in that house which, to us is empty; but God, our
own God, the Holy Spirit, into whose service we were baptized, where he
is, the house is not empty to us, but full of light. Invisible in
himself, the signs of his presence are most visible: where no works, no
fruits of the Holy Spirit are to be discerned, there, according to our
Lord's express declaration, there the Holy Spirit is not.

But the light which declares his presence may indeed be a little spark;
just to be seen, and no more. It may show that he has not abandoned all
his right to the house of our tabernacle as yet; that he would desire to
possess us fully. Such a little spark, such an evidence of the Holy
Spirit's presence, is to be found in the outward profession of
Christianity. They who call Jesus Lord, do it by the Holy Ghost; and,
therefore, it is quite true in this sense, that in every baptized
Christian, who has not utterly apostatized, there is that faint sign of
the Holy Spirit's still having a claim upon him; he is not yet utterly
cast off. This is true; but it is not to our present purpose; such a
feeble sign is a sign of God's yet unwearied mercy, but no sign of our
salvation. The presence with which the parable is concerned, is a far
more effectual presence than this; the house in which there is no more
than such a faint sign of a divine inhabitant, is, in the language of
the parable, empty. To no purpose of our salvation is the Spirit of God
present in the house, when the light of his presence does not flash
forth from every part of it, when it is not manifest, not only that he
has not quite cast it off to go to ruin, but that he has been pleased to
make it his temple.

In this sense, therefore, in this practical, scriptural, Christian
sense, those many young minds, which we have seen so often, may truly be
called empty. But will they remain so long? How often have I seen the
early innocence of boyhood overcast; the natural simplicity of boyhood,
its open truth, its confident affection, its honest shame, perverted,
blunted, hardened! How often have I seen the seven evil spirits enter in
and dwell there,--I know not, and never may know, whether to be cast out
again, or to abide for ever. But I have seen them enter, and, whilst the
person was yet within my view, I have not seen them depart. And why have
they entered; why have they marred that which was so beautiful? For one
only reason,--because the house was empty, because the Spirit of God was
not there: there was no love of God, no thought of God. Mere innocence
taints and spoils as surely before the influence of the world, as true
principle flourishes in spite of it, and strengthens. This, too, I have
seen, not once only: I have seen the innocence of early boyhood
sanctified by something better than innocence, which gave a promise of

abiding. I have seen, in other words, that the house was not empty; that
the Spirit of God was there. I have watched the effect of those
influences, which you know so well: the second half-year came, a period
when mere innocence is sure to be worn away, greatly tainted, if not
utterly gone; but still, in the cases which I am now alluding to, the
promise of good was not less, but greater, there was a more tried, and,
therefore, a stronger goodness. I have watched this, too, till it passed
on, out of my sight. I never saw the blessed Spirit of God depart from
the house which he had chosen: I well believe that he abides in it
still, and will abide in it even to the day of Jesus Christ.

This I have seen, and this I shall continue to see; for still the great
work of evil and of good is going on; still the house, at first empty,
is possessed by the spirits of evil, or by the Spirit of God. And if we
do not see the signs of the Spirit of God, we are but too sure that the
evil spirit is there. We know him by the manifold signs of folly,
coarseness, carelessness; even when we see not, as yet, his worse fruits
of falsehood and profligacy. We know him by the sign of an increased,
and increasing selfishness, the everlasting cry of the thousand passions
of our nature, all for ever calling out, "Give, give;" all for ever
impatient, complaining, when their gratification is withheld, when the
call of duty is set before them. We know him by pride and
self-importance, as if nothing was so great as self, as if our own
opinions, judgment, feelings were to be consulted in all things. We know
him by the deep ungodliness which he occasions--no thought of God, much
less any love of him; living utterly without him in the world, or, at
least, whilst health and prosperity continue. These are the fatal signs
which show that the house is no longer empty; that the evil spirits have
entered in, and dwell there, to make it theirs, as too often happens,
for time and for eternity.

LECTURE XVI.

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