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2 Corinthians, v. 11. The love of Christ constraineth us. There can be but little wanting to the happiness of any person who can, with sincerity, say that these words describe the habitual state of his own mind. It is possible that faith, the deepest and liveliest faith in the excellence and worthiness of Christ, may be so mixed with fears for our own unworthiness that we may not taste fully the comfort of Christ's Spirit. But he who is constantly constrained by the love of Christ, who leaves evil things undone, who does good things actively, because his sense of Christ's love is ever present with him, will feel what St. John expresses, no doubt from the experience of his own heart, that " perfect love casteth out fear, beVOL. III. B
2 SERMO I. cause fear hath torment." And with this love so strong in him, there is an end at once of all unhappiness. There is no need of giving him comfort, let his earthly troubles be as great as they will ; for he has that in him which will make him more than patient ; which puts him already half in heaven. His love shows that his sins are forgiven, for no one can love God thoroughly who feels himself guilty in his sight, and fears lest he should be unpardoned ; and with the sense of sin
and condemnation thus destroyed, death has lost its sting, and he lives and will live for evermore, because he belongs to God. On the other hand, St. Paul says also, in the first Epistle to the Corinthians, " If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema." These words are not to be strained harshly, as if all those were shut out from God's covenant whose fear surpassed their love. But where there is no love at all, there commonly is no fear either, and such are the persons against whom God's judgment is threatened. There is no fear in their common way of living, while they are well and comfortable ; but when any thing makes them think of death, then they are afraid, and their fear then is of no use to them. But for those who fear God constantly when they are in health, it is certain that they must love him also ; and it is rather their misfortune than their fault that they do not
SERMO I. .5 feel more happy in their love. However, the more common case, I am afraid, is theirs who neither fear much nor love much ; to whom the words of the text express a feeling altogether strange, — they know not what it is to be constrained by the love of Christ. We know and understand a great many motives, some leading to good and others to evil, and some leading partly to one and partly to the other. We know what it is to please ourselves, we know also (none is so vile as not to know it) what it is to please others ; we know the pleasure of being praised, of being honoured, of being esteemed, of being loved : we know what it is to be constrained
by the love of amusement, and many of us also know what it is to be constrained by the love of knowledge; or, at least, of the distinction which knowledge brings with it. These feelings act upon our minds, and influence our characters, but the constraining power of the love of Christ is a motive which we read of in the ew Testament, we read of it also in the lives of martyrs or of missionaries ; but what it is from our own experience there are too many of us who know nothing at all, who can perhaps hardly conceive themselves so changed as that they should know it. Yet the facts which should naturally excite this love are all known to them. They know what this week celebrates ; there is no part of the story b L>
4 SERMO I. of our Lord's sufferings with which their ears are not familiar. They have heard and read often even of his agony in the garden of Gethsemane, — even of his exclaiming on the cross, " My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" or have any more particulars been known to good men of old than are now known to us. Go back as far as we will, approach as closely to the time of our Lord's appearing on earth as our existing records will allow, still we can trace no fuller knowledge of the facts of our Lord's sufferings and death than we can all gain — than we have actually gained from the four Gospels now in our possession. That story which we know so well, but feel so little, is precisely the same which constrained so many of God's servants in different ages, which constrains so many at this moment, to count all
things but loss for Christ's sake, to govern their whole lives and thoughts by the principle of love and gratitude to their Saviour. The difference is assuredly not in our knowledge but in ourselves — that which has been the very bread of life to others is to us tasteless, weak, and ineffectual. Yet, although it is true that we have the facts of our Lord's sufferings before us, as well as those of his life ; and though we may, in one sense, be said to have the knowledge of them, yet we still labour under a strange ignorance respecting them ; we have not, it is to be feared, brought them home
SERMO I. to ourselves, and fully digested them. We still are apt to say in our hearts, " Who shall ascend into heaven, or who shall descend into the grave?" or, in other words, we connect the thought of our Lord only with heaven, which is far above out of our sight ; or with death, which we strive to keep out of our minds so long as we can. We do not enough consider that the word is nigh us, in our mouths, and in our hearts ; that it is now, whilst we are in this world, whilst we are talking and thinking and acting in our various ways, that Christ offers himself to us as our Saviour. We do not enough value nor understand the extent of his mercy in coming upon earth to live with us, as well as to die for us. We do not enough remember that he was, in all points, tempted like as we are. ay, although the wisdom of God has hidden from us the particulars of our Lord's early life, to prevent, perhaps, many superstitions ; yet that he was a child, that he was young, and knew the thoughts and feelings of boyhood no less than those of manhood, is a thing which we ought not
to forget, nor omit to turn it to our benefit. Men forget what they were in their youth, or at best only partially remember it : it is hard, even for those whose memory is strongest and most lively, to put themselves exactly into the same position in which they stood as boys; they can scarcely fancy that there was once a time when they cared
SERMO I. so much for pleasures and troubles which now seem so trifling. And it may be, that if we rise hereafter to angels' stature; if wisdom be ours such as now we dream not of; if being counted worthy to know God as he is, the poorness of all created pleasures shall be revealed to us, flashing upon our awakened spirits like light, it may be that we shall then feel it as hard to fancy how we could have cared for what we now deem most important ; how twenty years, more or less, taken from this span of our earthly life; how being parted for a few years, more or less, from those friends with whom we are now united for ever; how this could have seemed of any importance to beings born for immortality. It is quite reasonable to suppose that the interests of manhood will hereafter appear to us just as insignificant, — I ought rather to say, ten thousand times more so, than the interests of our boyish years can seem to us now. We forget, — and to all minds short of God's the past must something fade away ere the present can fully possess them. But with Him, who is the First and the Last, it is not so, — to him all things are present, and nothing is despised. Surely there is something for the youngest child to think of with comfort, when he recollects how Jesus, far from turning children away from him, " took them up in his arms, and laid his hands
upon them, and blessed them." Or was it for no-
SERMO I. 7 thing that it was recorded, or are we merely to say, coldly, that this was a beautiful instance of Christ's meekness and humility, and so dismiss it from our thoughts as a fact of history ? It was a proof of his meekness and humility, but it is so still ; he changes not, but is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever ; and the value of this proof of his love is not to show us what he did to the children of Judaea eighteen hundred years ago, but what he will do now to ours, whenever we bring them to him ; it is the assurance to every child, so soon as he can think or understand who Christ is, that he may go boldly to beg for his Saviour's mercy; that Christ calls him to him, and is ready to take him into his care, and to bless him with au enduring blessing. I believe, however, that while we admit this of young children, and while many a parent has felt the deepest pleasure in the thought of this promised love of Christ to his infants, or those only a few years removed from infancy ; yet that there is an age with which we are not so apt to connect the thought of Christ's love ; the age, namely, between childhood and manhood. With manhood we are, of course, in full sympathy, because it is the period to which we have ourselves arrived ; and childhood, partly perhaps from the strongness of the contrast which it offers, we are apt to invest with a certain romantic and poetical interest, and
8 SERMO I.
are not unwilling to believe that the innocence of that yet untainted age may be thought worthy of communion with heaven. But the years subsequent to childhood lose this interest of the imagination, without yet acquiring the deeper interest of our habitual sympathy ; nor can it be concealed, that life, in these intermediate years, is far from wearing its most engaging aspect; it may be likened to the cold and backward springs of our own climate, the most unlovely season of the year, because we expect luxuriance of growth and beauty, and find all chilled and hard and dulL Such is very often the season of boyhood ; the innocence of childhood is manifestly tainted, and the fruits of manhood are not come, and many times show as yet no blossom. It is a season of fear and of anxiety on the part of older persons, the more so, because their children, at that age, seem so little to fear or to be anxious for themselves. It is a season of great spiritual danger, when the seed of eternal life is necessarily weak and tender, and the climate of outward circumstances to which it is exposed, unusually bleak and ungenial. And, therefore, because it is so, it is the very season in which Christ watches over us the most, and would receive us with the tenderest love. He came to seek and to save that which was lost ; he came to open the eyes of the blind, to heal those who walked not uprightly, to call the dead that they
SERMO L 9 might live. It is his own saying, " They that are whole need not a physician, but they who are sick." And, of all periods of life, there is none at which Christ will more gladly receive us than at this very time of our greatest weakness and great
temptations; at the very time of our struggling with the besetting faults of boyhood — when, with lives stained by sin, and consciences not acquitting us, and yet not hardened ; — we are wandering out of our way daily, more and more, unless the great Shepherd of our souls recall us to himself. To Him, then, who felt the same temptations which you now feel, — who was himself a boy, and knows that part of human life as well as all the rest, — who feels for it as deep a sympathy, — and who, because it is a time of peculiar danger, regards it, for that very reason, with peculiar care, — with Him let his surpassing love constrain you to take refuge. Remember, — (it is not a little thing to remind you of,) — remember that feelings which you migh shrink from exposing to any human eye, — annoyances, weaknesses, which even your dearest friends might treat lightly, or perhaps with ridicule, — hie lightest distress that can vex you, the humblest temptation which can beset you, — little trials, little uneasinesses, which I could not even mention here without seeming to trifle with the sacredness of the place, which, in fact, you would hardly like to make much of to your own selves, and yet which do affect the goodness and
10 SERMO I. happiness of your lives ; all these are regarded as tenderly by Christ as if they were the greatest matters in the world in human estimation. Whatever affects your comfort, and so affects your conduct, is of importance in the eyes of Him with whom you have to do. Perhaps you would hardly express some things in words, even in your secret prayers ; they seem so trifling to bring before God. But Christ can read your hearts, and knows what
is labouring within them ; he knows what it is which most troubles you, or most tempts you ; and though it be not uttered in words, he regards you with his sympathy, and will deliver you, or strengthen you to your need. Or, if feeling that you neglect him, that you have often heard his call in vain, you think that you are unworthy of his regard ; — if you would fain be better before you offer yourselves to him, then remember that it was the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind, whom the king in the parable called in to his marriage supper. When they came in, he furnished them with the wedding garment ; but he did not expect that they should wait till they had themselves procured one. It is a true parable : Christ's Spirit is given to Christ's redeemed ; it is his promise to his people. Think you that you can obtain it of yourselves before you offer yourselves to him ? o ; it is not only a great truth of the Gospel, but it is the very Gospel itself, that all which is demanded of us, in the first instance,
SERMO I. 11 is, that the love of Christ should constrain us to come to him ; — that feeling our own weakness and his power, we should come to him with repentance and faith, grieving for our own evil, and trusting to him to cure us. And that this love of Christ, our mighty and perfect Saviour, might indeed constrain us all to come unto him with humble hearts, that he might purify us and strengthen us unto life eternal ! Might it constrain us to appear at his table, however unworthy we feel to be admitted there ! If we wait till we are worthy, heaven and earth shall sooner pass away, and the judgment overtake us in our sins. But rather let us go to be made worthy; let us go,
because he has loved us ; and we, though cold, and careless, and full of sin, would fain love him. Let us go, because we are poor and needy, and because we would fain be made rich in all good works, which are the gift of his Spirit. Let us go, because we want help, — because a veil is drawn between us and heaven, and we yearn for our eyes to be opened. Let us go, because we are afraid to go, and half unwilling. Let us go, that our fond fears may be stilled, and our dishonest backwardness removed ; that we may fear less, and be more active and zealous; that our will may be wholly as his will, and our weakness strengthened by his power.
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