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Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in tfie depth of the sea. You see by the strong language which our Lord here uses, that the sin which he is threatening in these words is a very great one ; and he goes on to repeat the threat in the verse following: " Woe unto the world because of offences ; for it must needs be that offences come ; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh." Some of you, I trust, will know already what the words mean, and will see directly what I am going to turn them to ; for it is a passage which I have often dwelt upon, as it is one which, while it is generally useful to all persons, strikes especially at one of the greatest sins of schools. But there are many, I dare say, who do not know what it means ; and who have never thought, when they heard this solemn threat read in the Church, that they were
SERMON VIII. G5 themselves some of the very persons concerned in it, that they were daily " offending," in the Scripture meaning of the word, some of Christ's little ones. I could not indeed have chosen a text which came home more directly to your daily practice, than the one which I have just read : I could not have noticed any sin with which your consciences will tell you, the mo-
ment that our Lord's words are explained to you, that you are more familiar. I proceed, therefore, to explain them ; and will then apply them, in one or two common instances, to your life and daily habits. When our Lord speaks of offending one of these little ones who believe in him, I should first say that the word " offend," in common speech, has a very different meaning from that in which the translators of the Bible have here used it. You know that our translation was made more than two hundred years ago; so that it is not wonderful that some words in the course of that time have changed their meanings. " Offend," in the text, and in many other places in the New Testament, means " to tempt or lead another into sins ;" so that by " offending one of these little ones," our Lord does not mean, " vexing them," " making them angry," or " ill using them;" but " tempting or leading them into evil," or " throwing any hindrances in the May of their doing wiiat they ought to do." It is this which lie calls bo VOL. II. J'
66 SERMON VIII. wicked, that it were better for us to die this moment than be guilty of it. But now, by " little ones," whom are we to understand? Jesus had just before taken a little child, and sat him in the midst, and told his disciples, that unless they were converted and became as little children, they could not enter into the kingdom of heaven. And then he says, that " they must not mislead or tempt to evil one of these little ones who believe in him." Now, a very little child cannot believe in Christ, because he cannot understand much, about him. And we know also, that it must be a
sin to tempt any one to evil, whether they be really little children in age or no. But the more like children they are, that is, the more ignorant and simple-minded, and ready to believe and to do what others tell them, so much the more wicked it is to tell them wrong, or to hinder them from going right. It applies then to any one who is young in character, even though he should happen to be old in years; but it applies particularly to those who are at once young in years and young in character. It applies therefore particularly to those boys who are desirous of doing their duty, who have no great confidence in themselves, but are ready to be guided by others ; who are shy and timid, and unable to stand against laughter or ill usage. There are such in every school ; and it is the worst reproach of schools, and the most awful
SERMON VIII. 67 responsibility for all who are connected with them, to think, that so many of them are utterly lost in consequence of the temptations which they here meet with : they are " offended," in the Scripture sense of the word, that is, they are laughed or frightened out of their Saviour's service, and taught very often, ere long, not only to deny their Lord themselves, but to join in " offending others, who are now as innocent as they once were, and to draw them over to the worship and service of Satan, to which their own souls are already abandoned. Now, then, you see what the text means, and you feel how it applies to you. You know that there are amongst you many boys who remember and wish to keep the lessons that they have received at home ; and you know also, how much it is the fashion of schools to teach just the contrary.
And I will take two instances which will have come, I fear, often enough within the experience of you all. I mean the case of idleness, and the case of extravagance. First, for Idleness. There are boys who have either never learnt, or have quite forgotten, all that may have been told them at home, of the duty of attending to their school-lessons. We know that there are boys who think all their lessons merely tiresome, and who are resolved never to take any more trouble about them, than what they cannot possibly avoid. But being thus idle
68 SERMON VIII. themselves, they cannot bear that others should be more attentive. We all know the terms of reproach and ridicule which are thrown out against a boy who works in earnest and upon principle. He is laughed at for taking unnecessary trouble, for being afraid of punishment, or for wishing to gain favour with his masters, and be thought by them to be better than other boys. Either of these reproaches is one which a boy finds it very hard to bear ; he does not like to be thought afraid, or plodding, or as wishing to court favour. He has not age or sense, or firmness enough to know and to answer, that the only fear of which he need be ashamed is the fear of his equals, the fear of those who are in no respect better than himself, and have therefore no sort of right to direct him. To be afraid then of other boys is, in a boy, the same sort of weakness as it is in a
man to be afraid of other men : and as a man ought to be equally ashamed of fearing men and of not fearing God ; so a boy ought to be ashamed of fearing boys, and also to be ashamed of not fearing his parents and instructors. And as, in after life, the fear of God makes no man do any thing mean or dishonourable, but the fear of men does lead to all sorts of weakness and baseness; so amongst boys the fear of their parents and teachers will only make them manly, and noble, and high spirited ; but the fear of their companions leads them to
SERMON VIII. (!!) every thing low, and childish, and contemptible. Those boys, then, who try to make others idle, and laugh at them for trying to please their masters, are exactly like the men who laugh at their neighbours for being religious, and for living in the fear of God : and both are like the more hardened ruffians in a gang of thieves or other criminals, whose amusement it is to laugh at the fear of justice, which beginners in crime have not yet quite got over. In all these instances there is not only the guilt of our own sin, but the far worse guilt of encouraging sin in others; and, as I showed you last Sunday how your school faults, although very trifling in their worldly consequences, were yet as serious in the sight of God as the faults of grown men, because they showed that you were not serving or loving him, but serving and lovingevil ; so it may be said, without the least going beyond the truth, that a boy who, being idle himself, tries to make others idle also, is exactly " offending one of those little ones who believe in Christ," and is in the daily habit of that sin which Christ says it were better for him to die directly than to be guilty of.
Again, with regard to extravagance, and the breach of school regulations. There are sonic boys who, remembering the wishes of their parents, are extremely unwilling to incur debts, and to Bpend a groat deal of money upon their own eating, and
70 SERMON VIII. drinking, and amusements. There are some too, who, knowing that the use of wine or any liquor of that sort is forbidden, because the use of it among boys is sure to be the abuse of it, would not wish to indulge in any thing of the kind themselves. But they are assailed by the example, and the reproaches, and the laughter of others. It is mean, and poor spirited, and ungenerous, not to contribute to the pleasures and social enjoyments of their companions ; in short, not to do as others do. The charge of stinginess, of not spending his money liberally, is one which a boy is particularly sore at hearing. He forgets that in his case such a charge is the greatest possible folly. Where is the generosity of spending money which is not your own, and which, as soon as it is spent, is to be supplied again with no sacrifice on your part ? Where is the stinginess of not choosing to beg money of your dearest friends, in order to employ it in a manner which those friends would disapprove of? for, after all, the money must come from them, as you have it not, nor can you earn it for yourselves. But there is another laugh behind : a boy is laughed at for being kept so strictly at home that he cannot get money as he likes ; and he is taught to feel ashamed and angry at the hard restraint which is laid upon him. Truly that boy has gone a good way in the devil's service, who will dare to set another against his father and his mother, who
SERMON VIII. 71 will teach him that their care and authority are things which he should be ashamed of. Of those who can do this, well may Christ say, that " it were better for them that a millstone were tied about their neck, and that they were drowned in the depth of the sea." Yet these things are done; and the consciences of many who now hear me will say to the eye of Him who can look into the inmost heart, that they are the doers of them. For you who are assailed by these and other such temptations, for you, whom Christ calls his children, and whom the devil and his servants would fain make ashamed of your Father and your Lord, for you, who are laughed at because you will not be idle, or drunken, or extravagant, or undutiful, or in some way or other base and low principled, beware lest you suffer yourselves to be " offended," that is, lest you are laughed and frightened out of your eternal salvation. After all, they that are with you are more and greater than they who are against you, all the wise and good and noble among yourselves; all good and wise and honourable men ; all blessed spirits that love the service of God, ami delight to aid those who are fighting in his cause; and, above all, that Holy and Eternal Spirit himself, your Comforter and mighty Deliverer, whose aid and perpetual presence with yon was purchased by your Redeemer's blood. Trust in these, and be not afraid of all thai
72 SERMON VIII.
hell and its servants can do to you : " Fear not them who can kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do ; but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."
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