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Lord Bishop of Rochester
Who art Thou, Lord.' — Acts i.\. 5. IT has been observed that three qualities represent the main conditions of a "complete effective human life," and that reverence is one of them. Reverence — if we may venture, though with much diffidence, to define it — is the habitual, almost instinctive recognition of a goodness which it cannot emulate ; of a wisdom which it cannot fathom ; of an almighty power which fills the soul with unspeakable awe, yet of a love which in its inexpressible tenderness passeth knowledge. It is the strongest as well as the deepest souls that arc fullest of reverence ; it is u
306 QUESTIO S OF FAITH A D DUTY also they who know most, and love best, who are readiest to say, Let knowledge grow from more to man-, But more of reverence in us dwell, That mind and will according well, May make one music as before, But vaster. Reverence, in a sentence, is created and sustained by the constant thought of God, which helps us not so much to go in and out of His presence, as ever to stand in it, with heart and mind and feet and eyes veiled, lest His glory smite them. Reverence, which, while it re-
strains the lips, feeds the fire within of holy and even rapturous meditation, is slow to promise, but does not perform less for its not promising, and invisibly moulds the highest and finest type of character the Church can ever see on earth. The scope of reverence is fourfold : in our daily common life ; in the doing of Christian service ; in the enduring of trouble ; in the offering of worship. In each of these departments of our existence we should, again and again, with all his sincerity, if with none of his bewilderment, humbly put the apostle's question, "Who art Thou, Lord ? " Then all our life through, with more or less imperfectness and lack of continuity, His promise will be felt to be fulfilled to us, " My presence shall go with thee and give
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thee rest"; and our hearts' adoration to Him shall be in the words we all love : Holy, Holy, Holy, though the darkness hide Thee, Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may //.> Only Thou art holy, there is none beside Thee, Perfect in powir, in love and purity. In daily life, with its secular activities, its pleasant companionships, its sudden and sometimes critical vicissitudes, and its swoops of temptation on the will, nothing so exalts, steadies, dignifies us, as the thought of the nearness of God. To fear God is quite a distinct thing from feeling terror of Him. Mow can we be terrified at one Who we know loves us, and Whom we constantly, though with a deep sense of shortcoming, desire to love in return ? A somewhat inexact way of talking is prone to dwell on our being on the way to Heaven ; and it is quite true that an apostle cheers us " by the hope that is laid up for us in Heaven." So far as Heaven is to be understood as a locality, " where
faith is lost in sight, and patient hope is crowned, and everlasting light its glory throws around," the expression is correct. But in a very real and exalted sense, we are in Heaven now, — "the Hcavenlies," as St. Paul so often describes them. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews did not conceive himself to be holding up a future promise, so much as declaring a present reality, when he wrote to his troubled brethren, " Ye
3o8 QUESTIO S OF FAITH A D DUTY are come unto Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born which are written in Heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and unto Jesus, the mediator of the ew Covenant." We are there now, though the limitations of the body make an impenetrable barrier that debars us of the sensible fruition of all that glory and joy. We cannot hear the fluttering of the angels' wings, nor watch the greeting of the saints as they walk under the tree of life, nor hear the harpers harping upon their harps, nor catch the strain of the new song from the lips of the hosts of the redeemed. But it is all there for us to see. when we are ready. Death will not so much take us there, as do for us what Elisha did for his servant Jothan, open our eyes that we may see what has been all round us for years. This being so, how the thought of our citizenship in that glorified society, and our place in the rest that remaineth for the people of God, should help us to walk in the commonest acts of our life, worthily of the vocation wherein we are called ! We are on earth, and we must fulfil the duties and taste the joys of earth. But we are also in Heaven, and there need be no inconsistency between the two. It will take the edge off the keenest disappointment to remember that our treasure is in Heaven. The occasional
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sadness that comes with the recollection of the shortening" years should be chased away by the feeling that we are a day's march nearer home. To say again and again to ourselves, " Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is," softens the annoyances of life, and smooths its frictions, and widens its horizon, and on the dullest homes, as well as on the most commonplace duties, brings the splendour of the eternal day. In the service which from time to time He permits us to do for Him, it helps us to reverence, and exactness, and fidelity, and diligence, to remember that the Master's eye is upon us, that He has given us our work, and will pay us our wages ; that He is full of kindness and consideration, not repelling us because our motives are sometimes mixed, not taking it too ill of us If we wish to do the best we can, where it is to be done best. It will keep us from being too much elated by man's praise, or cast down by his censure. We bow our heads and hold our peace, and wait. In the sorrows of life how reverence helps us, Help in how beautiful, how edifying, how sustaining, yet s " how hard it is ! Take illness, of which most of us know something. It is a great trial, it may also be an unspeakable blessing. When it takes from us the duties we love, even to the extent of
310 QUESTIO S OF FAITH A D DUTY indefinitely postponing them ; when it brings with it sharp pain, with much sorrow and alarm to those we love, who can only watch us and pray for us ; when even doubts distract us, and the tempter puts it into our heart to ask, "What is
it we have done, that we are so sorely punished ? " reverence helps us to see God not only near, but all round us, clasping us in the everlasting arms. We do not care to search for second causes ; of these there are always enough and to spare. The great first cause is enough : " It is the Lord, let Him do what seemeth Him good." Some may even have known what it means to be on the very threshold of the invisible land. The flutter of the angels' wings ready to take us away was almost audible ; and as through gently opening doors a distant strain came near as of one of the songs of Zion. Those who stood by watched to see us pass, and all seemed to be just over. But we were called back, and we live, for our task is not yet finished. Yet for weeks and months there rested an awe over our spirits, as on those who have been fetched in to see the Lord ; an awe which we would not lose too soon, for it makes the Saviour, Who has tasted death and conquered it, unspeakably and blessedly near. Once more, in worship, how reverence helps us, and helps others ! I do not mean an ostentatious exhibition of bodily reverence, which to some minds is even disturbing, but the bowed
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knee; the face covered with reverent hands ; the lips resonant with praise ; the intelligent spirit eagerly drinking in the Gospel of its salvation. Think how reverent and solemn and yet ardent the worship in Heaven must he ! Letus honour God, and help His Church by making ours so now. Once more, reverence, to he acceptable to God Reverence and complete in itself, includes reverence of ourselves. Self-respect is not self-conceit ; it is only the rightful measure of a soul which has been thought worthy to be redeemed by the blood of the Son of God, and whose name is written in
Heaven. " What, know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwellcth in you ?" Joseph's answer is good and fitted for us all. How can I do this sin against God, when I am His adopted child, and share His very nature ? It means reverence for the famil}' ; a reverence which should show itself in restrained speech, in judicious kindness, and in sagacious discipline. When we think what a making there is in every child, what innate capacities, what inherited infirmities, what manifold temptations, what great opportunities must more or less be in store for him, how can we refuse the kindness of helping him a little on his way, and of removing from his path the stones over which he might stumble ? It means reverence for the poor. Their hardships, their difficulties, their necessities are greater
312 QUESTIO S OF FAITH A D DUTY than we think of. They deserve our respect and our courtesy, as well as the justice which the law gives them. Jesus was poor ; the poor are especially His kinsfolk. It means reverence for the sorrowful, and the disappointed, and the dying. We cannot as yet know or fathom the tremendous meaning of life, or the account we shall have to give of it, or the reward we shall one day receive for the things done in it. Every human soul has something of the nature of God left in it. About every human soul we may safely say, we shall do well to remember, there is room for it in the heart of God. Finally, let us have reverence even for the straying, and tempting, and sinful. We may find it our duty to rebuke them with stern words, but so long as there is life there is hope ; and the way both to hope and to save is to love. In revering them, at least in being willing to see
what is good in them, we only do what the Lord Himself did, what we too must do, if we would have our part in His work of salvation. To despise man is to despise God. To despair of man is to dishonour God. We are none of us able to throw many stones at each other ; we have sins enough of our own, from which only Christ's blood can wash us into perfect whiteness. " Such were some of you, but ye are washed, ye are justified, ye are sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."
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