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GEORGE HOWARD WILKINSON, D.D.
" There standeth One among you. Whom ye know not" S. JOHN i. 26. WHATEVER else may be uncertain, my brethren, two facts are certain. The one fact is the existence of a GOD. The other fact is that of our own existence. Both are equally difficult to know, in the technical philosophical sense of knowledge. Both are equally difficult to prove, in the mathematical sense of proof. Yet I suppose there is no one here who would not acknowledge those two facts : GOD is I am. This Almighty GOD, Who created us, has put us into this world, as a father sends his son to a public school. This world, as any student of physical science knows, is but the tiniest part of GOD S great universe. It is a miniature of the invisible Kingdom of GOD ; just as a public school is a miniature of public life in England. As the boy in a public school faces, on a smaller scale, the temptations, the difficulties, the work of his after-life, so are we being prepared, in this world, for the life of the world to come. Now, in this present world, Almighty GOD is continually making certain demands upon us, and in various ways supplying us with the strength in which to respond to those demands. There is a continual Epiphany ; a gradual uplifting of the veil for GOD S work is usually still and silent so that a certain
14 THE MeSScJGE OF TEACE portion of GOD S Will, of GOD S demands upon us, is revealed unto us. And, on the other hand, the needed grace is given, continually, and in divers manners, to enable us to say, in response to each revelation of His Will, " Lo, I come to do Thy Will, O my GOD." We have already considered some of the means whereby Almighty GOD thus reveals to us His Will, and communicates to us the grace by which that Will is to be fulfilled. There was, primarily, the life of JESUS CHRIST on earth ; GOD was manifest in the flesh. Closely linked with that are the Sacraments, the Bible, the Ministry, the Church in its widest aspect, and the education of the ordinary daily life. And the point, you remember, which we saw as binding together all these varied instrumentalities, was this : the outside
was so ordinary, so commonplace, that the vast majority of mankind, if left to themselves, would see in it nothing wonderful ; they would pass it by unnoticed. We traced the life of JESUS CHRIST upon earth. We saw how natural it was that a boy growing up in the village carpenter s shop, with the surroundings that we considered, should have been regarded by the mass of the educated people of the day as not worthy of much attention, because all that they saw outwardly was so common and ordinary. And yet we know that He, in Whom they saw no beauty that they should desire Him, was nothing less than GOD of GOD, Light of Light, very GOD of very GOD ; GOD manifest in the flesh. To-day I wish to direct your attention to the Sacraments which the LORD JESUS CHRIST appointed. Our LORD JESUS CHRIST came into the world for a threefold purpose : to reveal the FATHER to man ; to die on the Cross, so as to make an Atonement for
SSGN, IN PART 15 man s sin ; and to establish upon earth a spiritual Kingdom, a Divine Society. The whole of His work on earth was always leading up to this end. " JESUS went about, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom." (S. Matt. iv. 23 ; ix. 35.) Much of the glory and magnificence of the divine mission of the SON of GOD on earth is lost, through the non-recognition of this fact. Take that word, " kingdom," and follow it, with the help of a concordance, through the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. It will open to you the magnificent idea of GOD coming on earth to establish a Divine Society divine yet human, even as CHRIST Himself was divine yet human in order that we might be trained, here, for the eternal, incorruptible life of the saints in glory. In this Divine Society JESUS CHRIST appointed two Sacraments. To put it into ordinary language : some means were wanted by which men should be admitted into the Society ; and something was also required by which, when admitted, they should be kept together, and known to belong to it. You follow the line of thought, brethren ? I need not say that you and I, who believe the teaching of our own old Church Catechism, believe something far more than all I am saying now, about the Sacraments. We believe in the " inward and spiritual grace," as well as the " outward and visible sign," of Baptism and the LORD S Supper. But to-day we are simply looking at this plain historical fact which we find in our Bible. JESUS CHRIST, the SON of GOD, established a Society on earth ; and He
said that anybody who wished to be admitted into that Society must be so admitted by Baptism, and that water must be part of that Baptism. And then, secondly, He said that anybody who wished to continue in the Society must from time to time receive what we now
1 6 THE MSSStAGE OF TEACE call the Sacrament of the LORD S Supper, or Holy Communion. Now observe how, in these two Sacraments, appointed by JESUS CHRIST, the same law is manifested a commonplace outside, veiling from the mass of the people something divine and glorious, transcending all human language. As in the life of CHRIST, beneath the commonplace exterior, there was the hidden Divinity, the glory of the Godhead, the Eternal SON of the Eternal FATHER ; so, in the Sacraments, beneath the commonplace outside, there is hidden an inward and spiritual grace, too trans cendent to be defined, too glorious to be expressed in any human language ; nothing less, indeed, than the communication of the divine grace and strength of the Creator to the beings whom He has brought into existence ! Look for a moment at the outside. Two men, journeying together, come to a stream. One says, " Behold, here is water " ; and he is baptized by the other, in the Name of our LORD. Common enough, anywhere ! " Behold, here is water ! " What is more
Or, again, we see a few poor people meeting together, singing a hymn, saying a few words, eating some bread, and drinking some of the wine of the country, mere " creatures of bread and wine " ; what more common ? Or, look around in England itself, especially as it was a few years ago, in some out-of-the-way country church. Baptism administered in a way that it would be irreverent even to describe ; Holy Communion with the dirty surplice, the torn Communion-cloth, the bottle in which the wine was taken to church, hardly hidden even from the eyes of the worshippers ! The outside common, ordinary, vulgar !
SSGN, IN PART 17
Now, without attempting, this morning, to define the words, we believe the teaching of our Prayer Book. And in the Office for Holy Communion, and in the Church Catechism, we are told that, by means of Holy Communion, "we dwell in CHRIST, and CHRIST in us ; we are one with CHRIST, and CHRIST with us" ; we are told there that just as truly as the faithful eat the bread and drink the wine, so do they receive into their souls the Body and Blood of CHRIST. The inward and spiritual grace, what is it ? " The Body and Blood of CHRIST, which are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the LORD S Supper." And what are the benefits ? " The strengthening and refreshing of our souls by the Body and Blood of CHRIST, as our bodies are by the bread and wine." And then, as to Baptism the outward sign, what is it ? " Water." And the inward grace, what is it ? " A death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness : for being by nature born in sin, and the children of wrath, we are hereby made the children of grace." You and I know and believe all this. We have said it from our childhood. We have seen the common outside ; and yet, even if we take merely the Bible words, without attempting to explain them, in which these Sacraments are described, we realize at once that there must be something very solemn and mysterious hidden beneath that common outside ; just as something divine was hidden beneath the outward form of JESUS of Nazareth. Take, for instance, such words as these : " As many of you as have been baptized into CHRIST have put on [i.e., did put on] CHRIST." Think what this means. You were " baptized into His death." " Baptism doth also now save us ... by the Resurrection of JESUS CHRIST." (Gal. iii. 27 ; Rom. vi. 3 ; I S. Peter iii. 21.) Observe how the Baptism is linked with CHRIST ; with putting
1 8 THE MSSSvfGE OF TEACE on CHRIST, with the Resurrection of CHRIST, with salvation. Trace it, again, in the LORD S Supper. S. Paul, whom, I suppose, even the nineteenth century would consider to have possessed sufficient instinct to separate by his human consciousness what was divine and what was human S. Paul, whom you and I know to have been inspired by the HOLY SPIRIT of GOD, tells us, as a simple matter of fact, in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, that it was so important a subject that the LORD JESUS CHRIST Himself taught it to him, " I received of the LORD that which also I delivered unto you." Now, what was this ? " That the LORD JESUS the same night in which He was betrayed took bread : and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said,
Take, eat : this is My Body" (i Cor. xi. 24). We are speaking now, remember, simply of what we might believe even if we were not Churchmen at all. JESUS CHRIST said, "This is My Body, which is broken for you : this do in remembrance of Me." And then S. Paul goes on to say, "As often as ye eat this bread " merely bread " and drink this cup, ye do show the LORD S death till He come." This evidently brings us very near to GOD ! " Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the LORD, unworthily, shall be guilty of the Body and Blood of the LORD." Now, surely, a thing that makes us " guilty of the Body and Blood of the LORD," is very solemn. " He that eateth and drinketh unworthily " repeating it a second time " eateth and drinketh judgement to himself, not discern ing the LORD S Body." (You know of course, that at the time when this translation of the Bible was made, the word " damnation " simply meant "judgement.") " For this cause, many are weak and sickly among you, and
IN PART 19 many sleep." "But," he adds, "when we are judged, we are chastened of the LORD, that we should not be condemned with the world." In other words : do not be disturbed and troubled, even if GOD does give you some great sufferings on account of your coming in a wrong way to the LORD S Table ; it is in love, in order that you may not be finally judged with the rest of the wicked world, but may be saved in the day of the LORD S appearing. And then, the writer of the Acts of the Apostles tells us what the early Christians did, when CHRIST had only just gone away from them. Observe, it is merely history that I am telling you. The historian watched the progress of the infant Church ; and then, he wrote the history which we find in the Acts of the Apostles. (Acts ii. 42, 46.) From the beginning, he says, the disciples " continued steadfastly in the breaking of the bread " as you know it is in the Greek " and in the prayers" ; " continuing daily with one accord in the Temple, and breaking bread from house to house." Day by day every day in those days, when they realized what it was to be brought so near to GOD when the door into heaven was opened, and the things of time and sense were seen in their true light valueless, contemptible, compared with the glory of the Kingdom into which GOD of His own great love had elected them day by day they continued in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers. And again, S. Paul says, "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the Blood of CHRIST ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the Body of CHRIST?" (i Cor. x. 16.)
Observe, I have not explained a single syllable. My point is this. If words like these are used, with regard to Holy Communion, is it not a matter of common sense, is it not rational, to imagine that there must be some-
20 THE MESSAGE OF TEACE thing very glorious, something divine, hidden beneath that bread and wine ? I can only now mention one practical application of the whole matter. Why do we see so little glory in it all ? Why is it that we whose position, compared with the position of the unbaptized, is as glorious as the position of a sovereign compared to that of a crossingsweeper, do not realize the fact of our position ? Why GOD placed one person in the position of a sovereign, and another in that of a crossing-sweeper, none can tell. We only know that GOD loves both of them. And why you and 1 have been chosen into this Divine Society, when millions of men, like Socrates, and the great heathen chiefs of Africa and India, have never been admitted, I cannot tell. The fact, however, is this. You and 1, as the Bible says, have been elected, chosen of GOD. We are " a chosen generation, a royal priest hood, ... a peculiar people " ; called by GOD, to a noble life on earth, and a glorious Kingdom hereafter, (i S. Peter i. 2-5 ; ii. 9 ; ph. i. 4-6.) Why we have been thus chosen, I do not know. GOD will deal truly with the old heathen, and with the heathen of this generation also ; but you and I are chosen, not to be dumb, driven cattle, but heroes, princes, sons and daughters of the LORD Almighty. (2 Cor. vi. 13.) Why is it that we do not see the glory of our position ? One answer only this morning. Because we have not time to look at it ! We have not time ! GOD is ready to reveal it to us ; He is lifting up the veil. But we have not time to look beyond the veil ! And then, perhaps, GOD gives us an illness ; and for a while we leave the business, we leave the pleasure. Or, GOD takes the money away, and we have nothing to spend. Or, GOD calls us to watch by a sick bed. The wife dies, the child dies, the friend dies going to the
, IN PART 21 joy of Paradise. For a week or two we are quiet ; and the veil is raised, and we look beyond. But it falls again ; we have not time ! On Sunday, there is the luncheon, and the conversation, and the letters, and what is called the " harmless gossip," if not worse. In the
weekday, the excuse is, " I cannot get up in the morning for prayer ; I am tired. I cannot think at night ; I am tired," with the work, or with the pleasure. The man of business says, " I cannot do anything else but work, work, work ! " On goes the great machine in this labour-field of England : and it must go on ; for " in the sweat of thy brow thou shalt eat bread." But, dear brethren, GOD says, " Be still ! " GOD says, " One day in seven, at any rate, rest." Out of forty letters which may arrive on a Sunday, perhaps only two or three need be read on the Sunday. " Be still ! " The veil is rising ; and some of you, at least, are looking through. Some of you, beneath the common outside of the water of the brook, and the bread and wine, are seeing the invisible life and strength and joy and glory. But, dear brethren, why are any of you you who have been baptized living merely as Socrates might have lived ? Why is it ? Why is it, when GOD has loved you, died for you, given you Baptism to join you to Himself given you the Holy Communion to feed your soul ? Why is it ? " There standeth One among you, Whom ye know not." And what is He saying ? " Have you not time for Me Who died for you ? " What did He say when He was here upon earth ? " Will ye also go away ? " Will you go away from the privileges of your Baptism, from the teaching your mother gave you in your Catechism, from the grace of your Confirmation, from the blessed table where His Body and Blood
22 THE MESSAGE OF TEACE are offered to you from the joy of forgiveness, the peace of believing ? Will you go away ? I beseech you, brethren, turn not away from Him ! Let Him not be obliged again to say, as He said at Jerusalem, with the tears streaming down His sacred cheek, " O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings " to comfort you, to bless you, to forgive you " and ye would not ! "
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