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John, xiii. 10.
He that is washed, needeth not, save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit : and ye are clean, but not all. Hardly, since the very earliest days of the Gospel, could these words have been repeated with exactly the same truth to any assembly of Christians. In saying to his disciples, " Ye are clean, but not all," our Lord declared, that the clean were by far the greater number amongst them, although there was one single person who was an exception. Eleven of those who heard him were pronounced to be clean, while one only was found wanting. What a state of almost heavenly blessedness should we think it now, if, when looking round upon any number of persons assembled in any Christian place of worship, we could persuade ourselves that eleven out of every twelve were such as Christ would pronounce to be clean ! not indeed free from sin, and far less removed above the
SERMON XVIII. 171 reach of temptation ; but yet so sound in principle, so sincere in their love of Christ, that they would need only to wash the feet, to cleanse themselves from the common and almost necessary stains which daily life brings with it ; and would then be
accounted by Christ to be " clean every whit." Surely, when we look around on what men are, we should think that our lot was thrown in a most happy ground, if not eleven out of every twelve, but even one half of those whom we met in the house of God, could be thought such as Christ would call " clean." The words of the text were spoken by our Lord just before he was beginning the season of his sufferings, and only a few hours before he was crucified. His disciples were all around him, and one of them said, that he was ready to go with his Master into prison and to death. The words were spoken in entire sincerity, and, therefore, Christ declared, that he who spoke them was clean, although he knew that when the trial came they would not be fulfilled in practice. Even so we are here assembled at the beginning of the week in which we celebrate the memory of our Lord's sufferings, and only a few days before the time when we shall be invited to partake of his most blessed body and blood, in the sacrament of the holy communion. May we suppose Christ speaking to us as he did to his Apostles; could we
172 SERMON XVIII. hope that he would say to us, ' " Ye are clean but not all ;" although some few of you may be lost, yet by far the greater number are my true disciples, and will follow me whithersoever I go ? ' Or would he rather speak to us in the language which he himself foretold would be most fitting for the latter days, " When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith upon the earth ? " Our own consciences will be able best to tell us ; if we examine a little what it was in our Lord's Apostles
which made him say of them, that, with one exception, they were all clean. We have said already, that it certainly was not because they were free from sin altogether. The Gospels contain many instances of faults, even amongst the most eminent of their number, which prove quite clearly that they were far from perfect. There are marks of ambition, of violence, of worldly-mindedness in their characters, which on different occasions drew forth our Lord's reproof. But yet he calls them " clean," because, as he said to them, that very same evening, " Ye are they who have continued with me in my temptations." They were men, who, when many others had gone back and walked no more with him, and when they themselves did not understand aright those words of their Lord which had given so much offence, yet replied to him, when he asked them, " Will ye also go away ?" " Lord, to whom shall
SERMON XVIII. 173 we go ? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God." He calls them " clean," therefore, because their faith in him had not failed ; but they had continued with him in all his temptations, and loved him better than any other service. If this is the case, then, we may think at first sight, that we too are all clean, because our faith in Christ has never failed us, and we have continued in his service ever since we were born. And so, indeed, we might think justly, if our notions of faith were the same as those of the Scripture. True it is, that none of us, perhaps, have ever
doubted the fact of our Lord's resurrection ; but it is, 1 fear, no less true, that many of us have, in the scripture sense of the word, never believed it ; and I will go even farther, and say, that many who have doubted the fact, even in the very moment of their doubting, have shown more of Christian faith than many who never doubted it at all. This sounds like a paradox ; but it is a I >lain and certain truth to those who are familiar with the Scriptures on one side, and have ever watched the workings of their own hearts <n the other. Many have doubted it, like the Apostle Thomas in the Gospel, from their exceeding wish to find it true; they believe not for \n\ joy. Alive to their own sins, alive to the utter
174 SERMON XVIII. darkness of all beyond the grave, without the aid of revelation, alive to the surpassing wisdom and excellence of the great revelation of God in Christ Jesus, it is almost too good to be hoped for, that, for all they most lament and shrink from, there should be so perfect a remedy, that all, and more than all, that their fondest imaginations could picture, of good and excellent, should be a real and sober truth. Surely all those who know the Gospel and the nature of man, would pray earnestly that thousands who never have doubted of Christ's resurrection might doubt of it this instant, so that they might have with their doubt so much of a real Christian faith, a heart and mind so much in agreement with the mind of the Spirit of God. On the other hand, and this is to our present purpose most particularly, it does not at all follow that they who do not doubt, therefore believe. Taught the facts of our religion from childhood, taught to consider them as very
certain and very sacred, but too often not taught how to use them, the events of Christ's life and death have no more occupied their hearts and minds than the movements of the sun, and moon, and stars : as far as practice is concerned, they think of the one no more than they do of the other. As children, they have said their Catechism as a lesson, as boys, they have gone to church, when at home, because it is the custom
SERMON XVIII. 1 75 of their families, and when at school, because the rules of the school oblige them to do so. But neither the Catechism nor the church service have gone beyond the particular portion of time I may almost say, the particular part and corner of the mind that has been given to them. They have never fully entered into the system, so as visibly to affect the health and strength of the constitution. It is possible that, in many cases, a boy knows nothing of what may be called faith, till he begins to prepare for confirmation. But it is possible also that even that solemn service, admirable as is its design, and great as are its uses, if understood and applied, may pass over to some unprofitably. They may look upon it as a sort of examination in divinity, and think that if they can answer the questions put to them, so as to be reported fit for confirmation, in point of knowledge, they have done their business, and are qualified for the ceremony ; and, after it is over, they look upon it as on an examination when past, as a thing with which they have no further concern. Then comes the preparation, for the first time, of receiving the communion of the Lord's supper : and this, perhaps, is the first time that some have ever acquired a notion of what Christian faith really is.
And for this very reason, because there is a general feeling, that the receiving of the sacrament i^ different from our common religious services, that it
176 SERMON XVIII. cannot be trifled with in the manner in which we know that we do trifle with those other services ; it is, in short, because the sacrament does really require faith, and faith is a thing which our evil nature knows not and shrinks from, that therefore we so often find young persons so unwilling to come to the Lord's table. Nay sometimes, even if they do receive it, they do not yet learn fully what it is to believe. So manifold are the tricks of our self-deceiving hearts, that some go to the communion itself as a matter of form, because they think that it would be marked in them to stay away ; and then they try to persuade themselves that they cannot help going ; and if they cannot help going, then they do not profane it by going unworthily ; that it is not their own free choice to go, and the guilt of profaning it will not rest upon their heads. Strange and shocking as it seems, I know that this argument has been used where the rules of a school or college have required every one to attend as a matter of regulation ; I fear it may have been used even where no such rule exists, and where it can only be supposed that an habitual absence from the communion, in persons of a certain age, cannot fail to be remarked as strange, and as a just matter of regret. But so it is, that from whatever cause, whether from wilful neglect before they went, or more commonly from inveterate
SERMON XVIII. 1 77 carelessness afterwards, too many of those, who do attend the communion, still appear to be strangers to the principle of faith. They cannot be said, like the Apostles, to " have continued with Christ in his temptations," for they have never known what it is to struggle against temptation for Christ's sake. They have never made it their deliberate choice to abide with him, let who would forsake him, because they were sure that he had " the words of eternal life." As to leaving him outwardly, that is, of changing their religion, and becoming heathens and Mahometans, that is a question which has never come before their minds, as there is nothing to tempt them to do it ; but, as to leaving him really, that is to say, ceasing to obey him, to honour him, to love him, they do not cease to do these things, only because they have never begun to do them at all ; they do not turn back from Christ, only because they have never really followed him. However much then we may be called Christians, and however little Ave have ever doubted the fact of Christ's life and death, we cannot on that account lay claim to that true and lively faith which Christ saw in his eleven Apostles, and for which he did not hesitate to pronounce them to be " clean every whit." But what follows then? If we are not thus clean, if we have need <>f far more than a partial washing, are we in the condition of our Lord's \ OL. II. N
178 SERMON XVIII. twelfth disciple, of whom it is said, that he was
the son of perdition, and that when his hand was on the table of Christ, it was the hand of one who was betraying his Master ? God forbid ! much rather may we hope that it may be said of us, that we are not far from the kingdom of God, even if we are not yet spiritually entered into it. We are not clean, indeed, too many of us ; but that Gospel which is preached unto us, that Gospel whose great and most solemn completion we this week celebrate, holds out to you and to me, to every one of the children of men who need it, a fountain for sin and for uncleanness a means whereby our sins, though scarlet, may be made as white as snow, and we, like the Apostles, may stand in the sight of God as " clean every whit." The Gospel is " Christ crucified ;" the power of God, and the wisdom of God ; power to root out the most hardened evils of our nature, wisdom to give even to babes a knowledge beyond all that earthly learning could ever acquire or teach. " Christ crucified" is this week more especially set forth before us : would to God that you and I, and all that in name belong unto him, might so dwell with humble and penitent hearts upon that solemn story, that, when we meet in this place next Sunday, we might be able, with something of a fitting joy, to celebrate and give thanks to " Christ risen." How often have we lived over this week of our Lord's
SERMON XVIII. 1 7 l .) passion, and felt no grief and no repentance : how often have we attended his service on Easter-day, and felt no joy. I speak not of the observance of these particular days for any especial sacredness in themselves ; one week in itself is but like another : but I speak of the opportunity which it offers ; I speak of the necessity, if we ever hope to
see God, of feeling at some one time or other of our lives what is contained in those few words, " Christ crucified, and Christ risen ;" of letting our minds embrace the reason why he was crucified, and for what he rose ; of learning what it is to be a sinner, and what it is to stand acquitted before the throne of God, forgiven and beloved. This is faith, and by this, and this alone can we ever be acquitted, or ever overcome the world. We may have a deep knowledge of divinity, still more may we have a deep knowledge of earthly things ; we may have many qualities which our friends dearly love, many which even our enemies cannot refuse to honour ; we may live in comfort, with large enjoyment of the pleasures of sense, the pleasures of understanding, and the delights of affection, and our names may be repeated in after times as men who did worthily in their generation to their neighbours and their country; all this may be; and yet we may awake from our graves, when earth falls in ruin around us, and hear from Him, whom we must hear as a Judge, though \\- may reject N2
180 SERMON XVIII. him as a Saviour, that we have had our reward, that in our lifetime, or at least in earth's lifetime, we have received our good things, and that the cup is now empty for ever. All will have passed away, as a thousand worlds, with all their interests and pleasures, may have passed away already, in infinite space and in infinite time. But of eternal life, and of eternal happiness, there is but one fountain, even God : and to sinners such as we are, that fountain is for ever closed, unless we have access to it through Christ, and for his sake are regarded
by his Father as " clean every whit.
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