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GEORGE HOWARD WILKINSON, D.D.
" Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see : for I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and ha^e not seen them" S. LUKE x. 23, 24. WE are told, my brethren, in these words by the SON of GOD Himself that our position as Chris tians is a very remarkable one. However little we may think on the subject, however little gratitude we may feel towards our GOD for all His goodness, the fact remains the same. Many an ancient king would have gladly parted with his purple robe and have cast his royal crown to the ground if he could only have been allowed to hear the truths which are taught in every Christian school. Many a wise seer, many a grey-haired prophet would have burst forth with songs of joy if only he could have listened to the simple words which every LORD S Day are uttered in every church throughout the land. " For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them ; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them." My friends, have you ever thought of the meaning of this text ? Have you ever sat down for one quiet half-hour and tried to recall the blessings which you have received from your FATHER in heaven ? Too many never do so. Too many in this
219 Christian country, both rich and poor, live and die with out ever thinking of the GOD Whose tender love has surrounded them with so many proofs of His goodness. They are too busy. The cares of this world take such hold upon their minds. They are so intent upon their farms and their cattle and their money-making that they have no time to think of GOD and heaven and the life eternal, that they have no time to think. How foolish is this oh, what madness, at which the spirits of evil rejoice and angels weep, to see men marked out by GOD as His own children, enriched with all the blessings of heaven, preferring to grovel in the dust, choosing to sacrifice eternal happiness rather than lose a few golden coins, not one of which they can carry beyond the grave : like Esau of old selling their heavenly birthright for a mess of earthly pottage ! My brethren, do you not imitate such madness as this whatever your past life may have been, to whatever
extent you (like your neighbours) may have been occupied with the vanities of earth. Pray GOD this night to put away from you all worldly thoughts, and to fill your hearts with His HOLY SPIRIT, while I remind you of some of the blessings which He in His mercy has bestowed upon us. i . Then, have you ever thought of the deep meaning of those words which we all know so well, " GOD so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten SON " ? Have you ever realized the unspeakable mercy which is contained in that simple sentence, " He spared not His own SON, but freely gave Him up for us all ? " He, the Creator of heaven and of earth, Who reigns above far out of our sight, Who sends forth rain and sunshine, thunder and lightning, wind and storm, the Almighty GOD in Whom we live and move and have our being, Whom angels and archangels worship, and before Whose
220 THE MESSAGE OF PROGRESS glorious Throne cherubim and seraphim bow down in lowly reverence ! He has loved this world of ours. He, the High and Holy One, before Whose awful Majesty the very angels veil their faces and cry by day and by night, " Holy, Holy, Holy, LORD GOD Almighty " ; He, Who so hates sin that on account of it He banished Adam and Eve from Paradise, and swept away a whole world by the waters of a flood, and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire from heaven this high and holy GOD has loved us in spite of our sins, in spite of our repeated rebellion against His Will, and He has shown this love not by words only but by deeds, not merely inviting us to return and offering to forgive us our sins, but by sacrificing His own SON and freely giving Him up for us all. Sacrificing His own SON ! Brethren, is any one of you to whom I speak a parent ? Do you know what it is when the day s toil is over to take your little child on your knee and listen to its baby talk and watch its baby ways and thank GOD for sending such a sunbeam into your home ? You then, perhaps, in some degree, can feel what a sacrifice it was to the great loving heart of GOD to give His own Child to die for us. You can imagine what sorrow He must have felt when He saw the Beloved SON in Whom He was well pleased taken by the cruel hands of a Jewish mob and nailed to a block of wood, and mocked and scourged and spit upon, His hands pierced, the blood pouring forth from His side, obliged to cry out in His bitter agony, " Oh, My GOD, My GOD, why hast Thou forsaken Me ?" You who have a parent s heart can fancy what the great Parent of all must have felt when He saw that heavy suffering and listened to that sad, sad cry. You can imagine how He
must have longed for the salvation of mankind if He endured all that pain to save them from everlasting
TRIVILE GSS 221 misery. What a certain pledge of the Almighty s love for man is contained in the touching words, " He spared not His well-beloved SON, but freely gave Him up for us all." For such a proof of GOD S love the best and noblest hearts of old were all yearning. Wise and holy men in every land were restless and dissatisfied, desiring some token for good, some sign that GOD was reconciled to His sinful creatures, some ladder on which their spirits could rise to heaven and rest in the sunshine of their FATHER S love. But this token was not given ; their yearnings were never satisfied. These saints of old died in hope, yet did not receive the promise : " GOD having provided some better things for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." Yes, brethren, without us : we are so familiar with the love of GOD that the words are often powerless to arouse even the commonest feelings of gratitude. Every Sunday we hear of it. Every sermon alludes to it. Every Christ mas the angelic hymn peals forth in our ears, " Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, . . . for unto you is born ... a Saviour, which is CHRIST the LORD." 2. Have you ever realized the still further proof of GOD S goodness which is contained in the words, " the Man, CHRIST JESUS" ? It would have been easy for the Almighty to have sent His SON on earth and accomplised our salvation without clothing Him with a human body or making Him a partaker of our human nature. But how different would have been our feelings if the Saviour had been only the SON of GOD and not at the same time the Son of Man. He might have possessed all power and glory and goodness. He might have been equally ready to help us, equally able to supply our wants, but He could never have answered the deepest need of our hearts.
222 THE MESS^QE OF PROCESS We are poor, weak, suffering creatures, and we require in our GOD some One into Whose ear our sorrows may be poured, some Friend on Whom our wearied spirits may repose, some One to Whom we can go with perfect confidence for help and strength. From the mere thought of GOD, true and holy and just, our sin-laden consciences cannot but shrink. He may bid us approach, He may stretch out His arms to receive us, but our first thought is, like Adam, to hide
ourselves in the trees of the garden, or, like S. Peter, to cry, " Depart from me ; for I am a sinful man, O LORD." If, then, our GOD were only divine we should be like some child wandering on a lonely mountain. It may be surrounded by everything which is most grand and sublime. The thunder s roar may be heard and the lightning flash be seen, but these awful forms of nature only bring fresh terror to the soul : only make it long more intensely to see the well-known face, to hear the still small whisper of the old familiar voice, to reach the sheltered home where it may nestle on a parent s bosom and be at rest. This characteristic of our human nature is known to GOD. He is well aware that the mere thought of a divine and Almighty King would only drive us from His Presence in fear and trembling. Therefore in His mercy He has given to us as our LORD and King One Who hast been born of human parents, and spoken our human speech, and felt our human trials, and loved us with a human heart. What a blessing it is that instead of terrifying you with the Majesty of GOD we can invite you to draw near to that Blessed Saviour Who was born as a little Child and said, " Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not," that we can go to you in your poverty and your trials and say, " JESUS the SON of GOD was poor as you are poor. He was often thirsty
"PRIVILEGES 223 and hungry, and knew not where to lay His head. He can feel for your sorrow, for He was Himself a Man of Sorrows. He can help you in temptation, for He has known the pain of being tempted, and in heaven s high courts He still thinks of us, counts us as His brethren, says to every troubled spirit amongst us, * I have borne your griefs, I have carried your troubles. Come unto Me, come unto Me, all that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. To all these encouraging aspects of GOD S nature those who lived before the coming of our LORD were strangers. Till the manger was filled with the form of the Infant Saviour ; till JESUS was seen wearied with the long day s journey, asking for a drop of water to quench His thirst ; until mankind had beheld Him actually shedding human tears, and weighed down by human sorrows, and tried and tempted and agonized and dying, they could never have gathered the rich comfort which is contained in these glorious words, " the Man CHRIST JESUS " could never have believed that the SON of GOD had in all things been made like unto His brethren, sin only excepted. All this, however, brethren, is known to us. Though many an ancient king desired in vain to see it, we may
behold it written on every page of the Gospel. Though many a holy prophet longed in vain to listen to the glad tidings, we can hear in any village school how JESUS CHRIST was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. Blessed are the eyes which see the things that we see, and blessed are the ears which hear the things that we hear, for " many prophets and kings have desired to see the things which ye see, and have not seen them ; and to hear the things which ye hear, and have not heard." What more, then, could GOD have done for His
224 THE MESStAQE OF PROGRESS vineyard which He has not done in it ? What proof of His love could have been conceived which He has not bestowed upon us ? For us He has not grudged the sacrifice of His own SON. For our sakes He has made Him partaker of all the sorrows to which our human nature is liable. In Him He offers to us day by day everything for which our human nature craves. If any one enters the house of GOD whose soul is weighed down by the memory of past shortcomings, who feels that he has sinned beyond forgiveness, that for him the door of mercy can never be opened, that he must bear his heavy burden down to the grave and through all the long ages of eternity, to him He offers a full and free pardon. " JESUS," He says, " died for your sins." In His Blood they can all be washed away. " Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow ; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." " Believe on the LORD JESUS CHRIST, and thou shalt be saved." Is there any one here who is weighed down by conscious weakness ? Do you feel as if it were use less for you to struggle against sin, as if it were no good for you to try to be better ? Do the cares and trials and temptations of life so press upon your soul that you despair of ever entering in at the golden gates, and wearing the golden crown, and joining the band of happy spirits who surround the Throne of GOD in heaven ? To you also, my desponding brother, your heavenly FATHER addresses Himself. He tells you that in the LORD JESUS all fullness dwells, that His strength can be made perfect in your weakness, that He can feel for you because He has suffered as Man, and help you because He lives as GOD. In all the changing scenes of life, in trouble and in joy, our FATHER gives this same Blessed
TRIFILEGSS 225 Saviour to comfort and support His brethren, to strengthen those who do stand, to cheer the weakhearted, to raise up those who have fallen, to bear every weak and wayworn lamb in His own tender arms, and carry it safely through the rough and stormy pathways of this earthly wilderness. But this is not all ; not merely does GOD thus give His SON to us, but by every means in His power He tries to arouse us from our careless sleep, that we may open to the heavenly Visitant Who is knocking at the door of our hearts. He knows how easily our minds are distracted by the cares and vanities of the world, how hard it is for us to live a life of faith. Therefore from the cradle to the grave He endeavours, as it were, to open our eyes, that we may see the Saviour Who is so near ; to unclose our ears, that we may listen to the gentle voice which is call ing us so lovingly to Himself. Therefore at our Baptism He puts us into CHRIST S Church, makes us members of CHRIST S Body, partakers of CHRIST S Spirit ; at our Con firmation invites us to give up our hearts afresh to the same Blessed LORD, to sign, as it were, our own fore heads with His Cross, and to pledge ourselves to fight for ever beneath His banner. At each celebration of the Sacrament of the LORD S Supper He offers us the broken bread and invites us to drink of the wine poured out, tells us that the Body of CHRIST was broken for us, that for us His Blood was shed, bids us feed on our crucified and risen LORD, that by that heavenly food our souls may be strengthened and refreshed. And when the dark shroud of mourning has been thrown around our hearts, when we stand by the open grave and listen to the last sad words, "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust," again GOD lifts our eyes to our crucified and risen LORD, tells us that CHRIST is "the Resurrection and the Life, that whosoever believeth in Him, though he were dead, yet shall he 2G
226 THE MESStAQE OF TROGRSSS live, and that whosoever liveth, and believeth in Him, shall not see death." So is it, brethren, by His Church, His ministers, His Sabbaths, His Sacraments, our FATHER tries to lead our wayward steps to the foot of the Saviour s Cross, to guide us to Him Who is our only Deliverer from guilt, our only Comforter in trouble, our only strength in the dark hour of temptation. How feeble is all human language, how powerless to express the love which our FATHER in heaven has poured down upon us. Blessed indeed are the eyes which see the things that ye see.
But dare we believe that GOD S goodness will prove a blessing to all on whom it is bestowed ? Have you never read that to whom much is given, from them will much be required ? Did you never hear that he who knew His LORD S Will, and did it not, will be beaten with many stripes ? If there be one spectacle more awful than another it is the sight of a human being who has been baptized into CHRIST, with whom CHRIST S Spirit has been striving ; who has had the doors of CHRIST S church week after week opened to receive Him, to whom week after week CHRIST S Gospel has been preached, to whom month after month CHRIST S Body and Blood have been offered ; and who, in spite of all GOD S love, in spite of all his Christian privileges, has turned away from GOD, has trodden under foot the SON of GOD, has counted the Blood of the covenant wherewith He was sacrificed as unholy. At the Last Day it will be far better for the poor heathen who has never heard of a Saviour, who has tortured his body and slain his children because he thinks that such cruelty is pleasing to the god whom he ignorantly worships ; it will be far better for him than
PRIVILEGES 227 for any member of this congregation who has known the Will of GOD, and has refused to do it because he is too afraid of the remarks of his neighbours, because he is too fond of his pleasure, or his money, or his merchandise, to give up his heart to the LORD JESUS, and come boldly forward as a follower of the Saviour. The proof of GOD S goodness which we have received must be to us either a blessing or a curse. If we are trying to live to CHRIST, it is indeed a comfort to dwell on these signs of our FATHER S love : to feel that, in spite of our way ward, sinful ways, He still cares for us ; to feel that if He has given His own SON to die for us, if He has taken us as His own children, if He has sent his own Spirit into our hearts, He will never leave us till the trials of life are ended, never forsake us till we have entered into our eternal rest. But if we are living away from CHRIST, every day is adding to our condemnation, every fresh warning, every fresh pleading of GOD S Spirit, every fresh proof of His love, is adding to the load of mercy which will oppress our hearts for all eternity. Decide, then, brethren, at once for CHRIST. Waver no longer between two masters. Determine, by GOD S grace, no longer to slight your FATHER S love, no longer to trample under foot the blessed privileges which were denied to prophets and to kings, and are granted so freely to each of you. "The Spirit and the Bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let
him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
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