Sermons for the Times
Charles Kingsley

Part 2 out of 4

explanations which were given of it were no explanations at all, but
another doctrine, which our forefathers knew not: either Dissenting
or Popish; either a religion of fancies, and feelings, and
experiences, or one of superstitious notions and superstitious
ceremonies which have been borrowed from the Church of Rome, and
which, I trust in God, will be soon returned to their proper owner,
if the free, truthful, God-trusting English spirit is to remain in
our children. I know that there are good men among Dissenters, my
friends; good men among Romanists. I have met with them, and I
thank God for them; and what may not be good for English children
may be good for foreign ones. I judge not; to his own master each
man stands or falls. But I warn you frankly, from experience (not
of my own merely--Heaven forbid!--but from the experience of
centuries past), that if you expect to make the average of English
children good children on any other ground than the Church Catechism
takes, you will fail. Of course there will be some chosen ones here
and there, whose hearts God will touch; but you will find that the
greater part of the children will not be made better at all; you
will find that the cleverer, and more tender-hearted will be made
conceited, Pharisaical, self-deceiving (for children are as ready to
deceive themselves, and play the hypocrite to their own consciences,
as grown people are); they will catch up cant words and phrases, or
little outward forms of reverence, and make a religion for
themselves out of them to drug their own consciences withal; while,
when they go out into the world, and meet temptation, they will have
no real safeguard against it, because whatsoever they have been
taught, they have not been taught that God is really and practically
their Father, and they His children.

I have seen many examples of this kind. Perhaps those who have eyes
to see may have seen one or two in this very parish. Be that as it
may, I tell you, my friends, that your children shall be taught the
Church Catechism, with the plain, honest meaning of the words as
they stand. No less: but as God shall give me grace, no more. If
it be not enough for them to know that God, He who made heaven and
earth, is their Father; that His Son Jesus Christ redeemed them and
all mankind by being born of the Virgin Mary, suffering under
Pontius Pilate, being crucified, dead, and buried, descending into
hell, rising again the third day from the dead, ascending into
Heaven, and sitting on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, in
the intent of coming from thence to judge the living and the dead;
to believe in the Holy Spirit, in the holy universal Church in which
He keeps us, in the fellowship of all Saints in which He knits us
together; in the forgiveness of our sins which He proclaims to us,
in the resurrection of our body which He will quicken at the last
day, in the life everlasting which is His life,--if, I say, this be
not enough for them to believe, and on the strength thereof to trust
God utterly, and so be justified and saved from this evil world, and
from the doom and punishment thereof, then they must go elsewhere;
for I have nothing more to offer them, and trust in God that I never
shall have.


Micah vi. 6-8. Wherewith shall I come before the Lord and bow
myself before the most High God? Shall I come before him with burnt
offerings? . . . Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams? .
. . Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression; the fruit of my
body for the sin of my soul?

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord
require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk
humbly with thy God?

There are many now-a-days who complain of that part of the Church
Catechism which speaks of our duty to God and to our neighbour; and
many more, I fear, who shrink from complaining of the Church
Catechism, because it is part of the Prayer-book, yet wish in their
secret hearts that it had said something different about Duty.

Some wonder why it does not say more about what are called
'religious duties,' and 'acts of worship,' 'mortification,'
'penitence,' and 'good works.' Others wonder no less why it says
nothing about what are called 'Christian frames and feelings,' and
'inward experiences.'

For there is a notion abroad in the world, as there is in all evil
times, that a man's chief duty is to save his own soul after he is
dead; that his business in this world is merely to see how he can
get out of it again, without suffering endless torture after his
body dies. This is called superstition: anxiety about what will
happen to us after we die.

Now if you look at the greater number of religious books, whether
Popish or Protestant, you will find that in practice the main thing,
almost the one thing, which they are meant to do, is to show the
reader how he may escape Hell-torments, and reach Heaven's pleasures
after he dies: not how he may do his Duty to God and his neighbour.
They speak of that latter, of course: they could not be Christian
books at all, thank God, without doing so; but they seem to me to
tell men to do their Duty, not simply because it is right, and a
blessing in itself, and worth doing for its own sake, but because a
man may gain something by it after he dies. Therefore, to help
their readers to gain as much as possible after they die, they are
not content with the plain Duty laid down in the Bible and in the
Catechism, but require of men new duties over and above; which may
be all very good if they help men to do their real Duty, but are
simply worth nothing if they do not.

Let me explain myself. I said just now that superstition means
anxiety about what will happen to us after we die. But people
commonly understand by superstition, religious ceremonies, like the
Popish ones, which God has not commanded. And that is not a wrong
meaning either; for people take to these ceremonies from over-
anxiety about the next life. The one springs out of the other; the
outward conduct out of the inward fear; and both spring alike out of
a false notion of God, which the Devil (whose great aim is to hinder
us from knowing our Father in Heaven) puts into men's minds. Man
feels that he is sinful and unrighteous; the light of Christ in his
heart shows him that, and it shows him at the same time that God is
sinless and righteous. 'Then,' he says, 'God must hate sin;' and
there he says true. Then steps in the slanderer, Satan, and
whispers, 'But you are sinful; therefore God hates you, and wills
you harm, and torture, and ruin.' And the poor man believes that
lying voice, and will believe it to the end, whether he be Christian
or heathen, until he believes the Bible and the Sacraments, which
tell him, 'God does not hate you: He hates your sins, and loves
you; He wills not your misery but your happiness; and therefore
God's will, yea, God's earnest endeavour, is to raise you out of
those sins of yours, which make you miserable now, and which, if you
go on in them, must bring of themselves everlasting misery to you.'
Of themselves; not by any arbitrary decree of God (whereof the Bible
says not one single word from beginning to end), that He will
inflict on you so much pain for so much sin: but by the very nature
of sin; for to sin is to be parted from God, in whose presence alone
is life, and therefore sin is, to be in death. Sin is, to be at war
with God, who is love and peace; and therefore to be in
lovelessness, hatred, war, and misery. Sin is, to act contrary to
the constitution which God gave man, when He said, 'Let us make man
in our image, after our likeness;' and therefore sin is a disease in
human nature, and like all other diseases, must, unless it is
checked, go on everlastingly and perpetually breeding weakness, pain
and torment. And out of that God is so desirous to raise you, that
He spared not His only begotten Son, but freely gave Him for you, if
by any means He might raise you out of that death of sin to the life
of righteousness--to a righteous life; to a life of Duty--to a
dutiful life, like His Son Jesus Christ's life; for that must go on,
if you go on in it, producing in you everlastingly and perpetually
all health and strength, usefulness and happiness in this world and
all worlds to come.

But men will not hear that voice. The fact is, that simply to do
right is too difficult for them, and too humbling also. They are
too proud to like being righteous only with Christ's righteousness,
and too slothful also; and so they go about like the old Pharisees,
to establish a righteousness of their own; one which will pamper
their self-conceit by seeming very strange, and farfetched, and
difficult, so as to enable them to thank God every day that they are
not as other men are; and yet one which shall really not be as
difficult as the plain homely work of being good sons, good fathers,
good husbands, good masters, good servants, good subjects, good
rulers. And so they go about to establish a righteousness of their
own (which can be no righteousness at all, for God's righteousness
is the only righteousness, and Christ's righteousness is the only
pattern of it), and teach men that God does not merely require of
men to do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with their God,
but requires of them something more. But by this they deny the
righteousness of God; for they make out that he has not behaved
righteously and justly to men, nor showed them what is good, but has
left them to find it out or invent it for themselves. For is it not
establishing a righteousness of one's own, to tell people that God
only requires these Ten Commandments of Christians in general, but
that if any one chooses to go further, and do certain things which
are not contained in the Ten Commandments, 'counsels of perfection,'
as they are called, and 'good works' (as if there were no other good
works in the world), and so do more than it is one's duty to do, and
lead a sort of life which is called (I know not why) 'saintly' and
'angelic,' then one will obtain a 'peculiar crown,' and a higher
place in Heaven than poor commonplace Christian people, who only do
justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with their God?

And is it not, on the other hand, establishing a righteousness of
one's own, to say that God requires of us belief in certain
doctrines about election, and 'forensic justification,' and
'sensible conversion,' and certain 'frames and feelings and
experiences;' and that without all these a man has no right to
expect anything but endless torture; and all the while to say little
or nothing about God's requiring of men the Ten Commandments? For
my part, I am equally shocked and astonished at the doctrine which I
have heard round us here--openly from some few, and in practice from
more than a few--that because the Ten Commandments are part of the
Law, they are done away with, because we are not now under the Law
but under Grace. What do they mean? Is it not written, that not
one jot or tittle of the Law shall fail; and that Christ came, not
to destroy the Law, but to fulfil it? What do they mean? That it
was harm to break the Ten Commandments before Christ came, but no
harm to break them now? Do they mean that Jews were forbid to
murder, steal, and commit adultery, but that Christians are not
forbidden? One thing I am afraid they do mean, for I see them act
up to it steadily enough. That Jews were forbidden to covet, but
that Christians are not; that Jews might not commit fornication, but
Christians may; that Jews might not lie, but Christians may; that
Jews might not use false weights and measures, or adulterate goods
for sale, but that Christians may. My friends, if I am asked the
reason of the hypocrisy which seems the besetting sin of England, in
this day;--if I am asked why rich men, even high religious
professors, dare speak untruths at public meetings, bribe at
elections, and go into parliament each man with a lie in his right
hand, to serve neither God nor his country, but his political party
and his religious sect, by conduct which he would be ashamed to
employ in private life;--if I am asked why the middle classes (and
the high religious professors among them, just as much as any) are
given over to cheating, coveting, puffing their own goods by
shameless and unmanly boasting, undermining each other by the
dirtiest means, while the sons of religious professors, both among
the higher and the middle classes, seem just as liable as any other
young men to fall into unmanly profligacy;--if I am asked why the
poor profess God's gospel and practise the Devil's works; and why,
in this very parish now, there are women who, while they are
drunkards, swearers, and adulteresses, will run anywhere to hear a
sermon, and like nothing better, saving sin, than high-flown
religious books;--if I am asked, I say, why the old English honesty
which used to be our glory and our strength, has decayed so much of
late years, and a hideous and shameful hypocrisy has taken the place
of it, I can only answer by pointing to the good old Church
Catechism, and what it says about our duty to God and to our
neighbour, and declaring boldly, 'It is because you have forgotten
that. Because you have despised that. Because you have fancied
that it was beneath you to keep God's plain human commandments. You
have been wanting to "save your souls," while you did not care
whether your souls were saved alive, or whether they were dead, and
rotten, and damned within you; you have dreamed that you could be
what you called "spiritual," while you were the slaves of sin; you
have dreamed that you could become what you call "saints," while you
were not yet even decent men and women.'

And so all this superstition has had the same effect as the false
preaching in Ezekiel's time had. It has strengthened the hands of
the wicked, that he should not turn from his wicked way, by
promising him life; and it has made the heart of the righteous sad,
whom God has not made sad. Plain, respectable, God-fearing men and
women, who have wished simply to do their duty where God has put
them, have been told that they are still unconverted, still carnal--
that they have no share in Christ--that God's Spirit is not with
them--that they are in the way to endless torture: till they have
been ready one minute to say, 'Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow
we die'--'Surely I have cleansed my hands in vain, and washed my
heart in innocency;' and the next minute to say, with Job, angrily,
'Though I die, thou shalt not take my righteousness from me! You
preachers may call me what names you will; but I know that I love
what is right, and wish to do my duty;' and so they have been made
perplexed and unhappy, one day fancying themselves worse than they
really were, and the next fancying themselves better than they
really were; and by both tempers of mind tempted to disbelieve God's
Gospel, and throw away the thought of vital religion in disgust.

And now people are raising the cry that Popery is about to overrun
England. It may be so, my friends. If it is so, I cannot wonder at
it; if it is so, Englishmen have no one to blame but themselves.
And whether Popery conquers us or not, some other base superstition
surely will conquer us if we go on upon our present course, and set
up any new-fangled, self-invented righteousness of our own, instead
of the plain Ten Commandments of God. For I tell you plainly they
are God's everlasting law, the very law of liberty, wherewith Christ
has made us free; and only by fulfilling them, as Christ did, can we
be free--free from sin, the world, the flesh, and the Devil. For to
break them is to sin: and whosoever commits sin is the slave of
sin; and whosoever despises these commandments will never enjoy that
freedom, but be entangled again in the yoke of bondage, and become a
slave, if not to open and profligate sins, still surely to an evil
and tormenting conscience, to superstitious anxieties as to whether
he shall be saved or damned, which make him at last ask,
'Wherewithal shall I come before the Lord? Will the Lord be pleased
with this, that and the other fantastical action, or great sacrifice
of mine?' or at last, perhaps, the old question, 'Shall I give my
firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of
my soul? Shall I cheat my own family, leave my property away from
my children, desert them to shut myself up in a convent, or to
attempt some great religious enterprise?'--Things which have
happened a thousand times already, and worse, far worse, than them;
things which will happen again, and worse, far worse than them, as
soon as a hypocritical generation is seized with that dread and
terror of God which is sure to arise in the hearts of men who try to
invent a righteousness of their own, and who forget what God's
righteousness is like, and who therefore forget what God is like,
and who therefore forget what God's name is, and who therefore
forget that Jesus Christ is God's likeness, and that the name of God
is 'Love.'

Now, I say that the Church Catechism, from beginning to end, is the
cure for this poison, and in no part more than where it tells us our
duty to God and our neighbour; and that it does carry out the
meaning of the text as no other writing does, which I know of, save
the Bible only.

For what says the text?

'He hath showed thee, O man, what is good.'

Who has showed thee? Who but this very God, from whom thou art
shrinking; to whom thou art looking up in terror, as at a hard
taskmaster, reaping where He has not sown, who willeth the death of
a sinner, and his endless and unspeakable torment? The very God
whom thou dreadest has stooped to save and teach thee. He hath sent
His only begotten Son to thee, to show thee, in the person of a man,
Jesus Christ, what a perfect man is, and what He requires of thee to
be. This Lord Jesus is with thee, to teach thee to live by faith in
thy heavenly Father, even as He lived, and to be justified thereby,
even as He was justified by being declared to be God's well-beloved
Son, and by being raised from the dead. He will show thee what is
good; He has shown thee what is good, when He showed thee His own
blessed self, His story and character written in the four Gospels.
This is thy God, and this is thy Lord and Master; not a silent God,
not a careless God, but a revealer of secrets, a teacher, a guide, a
'most merciful God, who showeth to man the thing which he knew not;'
that same Word of God who talked with Adam in the garden, and
brought his wife to him; who called Abraham, and gave him a child;
who sent Moses to make a nation of the Jews; who is the King of all
the nations upon earth, and has appointed them their times and the
bounds of their habitation, if haply they may feel after Him and
find Him; who meanwhile is not far from any one of them, seeing that
in Him they live, and move, and have their being, and are His
offspring; who has not left Himself without witness, that they may
know that He is one who loves, not one who hates, one who gives, not
one who takes, one who has pity, not one who destroys, in that He
gives them rain and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food
and gladness. This is thy God, O man! from whose face thou desirest
to flee away.

Next, 'He hath showed thee, O _man_.' Not merely, 'He hath showed
thee, O deep philosopher, or brilliant genius;'--not merely, 'He
hath showed thee, O eminent saint, or believer who hast been through
many deep experiences:' but, 'He hath showed thee, O _man_.'
Whosoever thou art, if thou be a man, subsisting like Jesus Christ
the Son of Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh; thou labourer
at the plough, tradesman in thy shop, soldier in the battle-field,
poor woman working in thy cottage, God hath showed thee, and thee,
and thee, what is good, as surely and fully as He has shown it to
scholars and divines, to kings and rulers, and the wise and prudent
of the earth.

And He hath showed _thee_; not you. Not merely to the whole of you
together; not merely to some of you so that one will have to tell
the other, and the greater part know only at second-hand and by
hearsay: but He hath showed to thee, to each of you; to each man,
woman, and child, in this Church, alone, privately, in the depths of
thy own heart, He hath showed what is good. He hath sent into thine
heart a ray of The Light who lighteth every man who comes into the
world. He has given to thy soul an eye by which to see that Light,
a conscience which can receive what is good, and shrink from what is
evil; a spiritual sense, whereby thou canst discern good and evil.
That conscience, that soul's eye of thine, God has regenerated, as
He declares to thee in baptism, and He will day by day make it
clearer and tenderer by the quickening power of His Holy Spirit; and
that Spirit will renew Himself in thee day by day, if thou askest
Him, and will quicken and soften thy soul more and more to love what
is good, and strengthen it more and more to hate and fly from what
is evil.

Next, 'He hath showed thee, O man, what is GOOD.' Not merely what
will turn away God's punishments, and buy God's rewards; not merely
what will be good for thee after thou diest: but what is good, good
in itself, good for thee now, and good for thee for ever; good for
thee in health and sickness, joy and sorrow, life and death; good
for thee through all worlds, present and to come; yea, what would be
good for thee in hell, if thou couldst be in hell and yet be good.
Not what is good enough for thy neighbours and not good enough for
thee, good enough for sinners and not good enough for saints, good
enough for stupid persons and not good enough for clever ones; but
what is good in itself and of itself. The one very eternal and
absolute Good which was with God, and in God, and from God, before
all worlds, and will be for ever, without changing or growing less
or greater, eternally The Same Good. The Good which would be just
as good, and just, and right, and lovely, and glorious, if there
were no world, no men, no angels, no heaven, no hell, and God were
alone in his own abyss. That very good which is the exact pattern
of His Son Jesus Christ, in whose likeness man was made at the
beginning, God hath showed thee, O man; and hath told thee that it
is neither more nor less than thy Duty, thy Duty as a man; that thy
duty is thy good, the good out of which, if thou doest it, all good
things such as thou canst not now conceive to thyself, must
necessarily spring up for thee for ever; but which if thou
neglectest, thou wilt be in danger of getting no good things
whatsoever, and of having all evil things, mishap, shame, and misery
such as thou canst not now conceive of, spring up for thee
necessarily for ever.

This seems to me the plain meaning of the text, interpreted by the
plain teaching of the rest of Scripture. Now see how the Catechism
agrees with this.

It takes for granted that God has showed the child what is good:
that God's Spirit is sanctifying and making good, not only all the
elect people of God, but him, that one particular child; and it
makes the child say so. Therefore, when it asks him, 'What is thy
duty to God and to thy neighbour?' it asks him, 'My child, thou
sayest that God's Spirit is with thee, sanctifying thee and showing
thee what is good, tell me, therefore, what good the Holy Spirit has
showed thee?--tell me what He has showed thee to be good, and
therefore thy duty?'

But some may answer, 'How can you say that the Holy Spirit teaches
the children their Duty, when it is their schoolmaster, or their
father, who teaches them the Ten Commandments and the Catechism?'

My friends, we may teach our children the Ten Commandments, or
anything else we like, but we cannot teach them that that is their
_duty_. They must first know what Duty means at all, before they
can learn that any particular things are parts of their Duty. And,
believe me, neither you nor I, nor all the men in the world put
together, no, nor angel, nor archangel, nor any created being, nor
the whole universe, can teach one child, no, nor our own selves, the
meaning of that plain word DUTY, nor the meaning of those two plain
words, I OUGHT. No; that simple thought, that thought which every
one of us, even the most stupid, even the most sinful has more or
less, comes straight to him from God the Father of Lights, by the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, the Spirit of Duty, Faith,
and Obedience.

For mind--when you teach a child, 'If you do this wrong thing--
stealing, for instance--God will punish you: but if you are honest,
God will reward you,' you are not teaching the child that it is his
Duty to be honest, and his Duty not to steal. You are teaching him
what is quite right and true; namely, that it is profitable for him
to be honest, and hurtful to him to steal: but you are not teaching
him as high a spiritual lesson as any soldier knows when he rushes
upon certain death, knowing that he shall gain nothing, and may lose
everything thereby, but simply because it is his Duty. You are only
enticing your child to do right, and frightening him from doing
wrong; quite necessary and good to be done: but if he is to be
spiritually honest, honest at heart, honest from a sense of honour,
and not of fear; in one word, if he is to be really honest at all,
or even to try to be really honest, something must be done to that
child's heart which nothing but the Spirit of God can do; he must be
taught that it is his DUTY to be honest; that honesty is RIGHT, the
perfectly right, and proper, and beautiful thing for him and for all
beings, yea, for God Himself; he must be taught to love honesty, and
whatsoever else is right, for its own sake, and therefore to feel it
his Duty.

And I say that God does that by your children. I say that we cannot
watch our children without seeing that, though there is in them, as
in us, a corrupt and wilful flesh, which tempts them downward to
selfish and self-willed pleasures: yet there is in them generally,
more than in us their parents, a Spirit which makes them love and
admire what is right, and take pleasure in it, and feel that it is
good to be good, and right to do right; which makes them delight in
reading and hearing of loving, and right, and noble actions; which
makes them shocked, they hardly know why, at bad words, and bad
conduct, and bad people. And woe to those who deaden that
tenderness of conscience in their own children, by their bad
examples, or by false doctrines which tell the children that they
are still unregenerate, children of the Devil, not yet Christians;
and who so put a stumbling-block in the way of Christ's little ones,
and do despite to the Spirit of Grace by which they are sealed to
the day of redemption. I see parents thinking that their children
are to learn the deceitfulness of the human heart from themselves,
and the working of God's Spirit from their parents; but I often
think that the teachers ought to be converted indeed, that is,
turned right round and become the learners instead of the teachers,
and learn the workings of God's Spirit from their children, and the
deceitfulness of the human heart from themselves; if at least the
Lord Jesus's words have any real force or meaning at all, when He
said, not, 'Except the little children be converted, and become as
you,' but, 'Except ye be converted, and become as one of these
little children, ye' (and not they) 'shall in no wise enter into the
kingdom of heaven.'

Believe me, my friends, that your children's angels do indeed behold
the face of their Father which is in heaven; that there is a direct
communication between Him and them; and that the sign and proof of
it is, the way in which they understand at once what you tell them
of their duty, and take to it, as it were, only too readily and
hopefully, and confidently, as if it were a thing natural and easy
to them. Alas! it is neither natural nor easy, and they will find
out that too soon by sad experience: but still, the Divine Light is
there, the sense of duty is in their minds, and the law of God is
written in their hearts by the Holy Spirit of God, who is
sanctifying them, not merely by teaching them to hope for heaven, or
to dread hell, but by showing them what is good.

And herein, I say, the simple and noble old Church Catechism, by
faith in God's Spirit, does indeed perfect praise out of the mouths
of babes. Without one word about rewards or punishments, heaven or
hell, it begins to talk to the child, like a true English Catechism
as it is, about that glorious old English key word, DUTY. It calls
on the child to confess its own duty, and teaches it that its duty
is something most human, simple, everyday, commonplace, if you will
call it so. I rejoice that it is commonplace; I rejoice that in
what it says about our duty to God, and to our neighbour, it says
not one word about those counsels of perfection, or those frames and
feelings, which depend, believe me, principally on the state of
people's bodily health, on the constitution of their nerves, and the
temper of their brain: but that it requires nothing except what a
little child can do as well as a grown person, a labouring man as
well as a divine, a plain farmer as well as the most refined,
devout, imaginative lady. May God bless them all; may God help them
all to do their Duty in that station of life to which it has pleased
God to call them; but may God grant to them never to forget that
there is but one Duty for all, and that all of them can do that Duty
equally well, whatever their constitution, or scholarship, or
station of life may be, provided they will but remember that God has
called them to that station, and not try to invent some new and
finer one for themselves; provided they remember that they are to do
in that station neither more nor less than every one else is to do
in theirs, namely, to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly
with their God.

In a word, to be perfect, even as their Father in heaven is perfect.
To do justly, because God is just, faithful, and true, rewarding
every man according to his works, and no partial accepter of
persons; so that in every nation he that feareth God and worketh
righteousness is accepted by Him.

To love mercy, because God loves mercy; to be merciful, because our
Father in heaven is merciful; because He willeth not the death of a
sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live;
because God came to seek and to save that which is lost, and is good
to the unthankful and the evil; and because God so loved sinful man,
that when man hated God, God's answer to man's hate, God's vengeance
upon man's rebellion, was, to send His only-begotten Son, that
whosoever believed in Him should not perish, but have everlasting

And to walk humbly with your God, because--and what shall I say now?
Does God walk humbly? Can there be humility in God? Can God obey?
And yet it must be so. If, as is most certain from Holy Scripture,
man, as far as he is what man ought to be, is the image and glory of
God; if man's justice ought to be a copy of God's justice, and man's
mercy a copy of God's mercy, and all which is good in man a copy of
something good in God: if, as is most certain, all good on earth is
God's likeness, and only good because it is God's likeness, and is
given by God's Spirit,--then our walking humbly with God, if it be
good, must be a copy of something in God. But of what?

That, my friends, is a question which can never be answered but by
those who believe in the mystery of the ever-blessed Trinity, The
Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost. It is too solemn and great a
matter to be spoken of hastily at the end of a sermon. I will tell
you what little I seem to see of it next Sunday, with awe and
trembling, as one who enters upon holy ground. But this I will tell
you, to bear in mind meanwhile, that if you wish to know or to do
what is right, you must firmly believe and bear in mind this,--that
God's justice is exactly like what would be just in you and me,
without any difference whatsoever: that God's mercy is exactly like
what would be merciful in you and me; and that, as I hope to show
you next Sunday, God's humility, wonderful as it may seem, is
exactly like what would be humble in you and me. For I warn you,
that if you do not believe this, you will be tempted to forget God's
righteousness, and to invent a righteousness of your own, which is
no righteousness at all, but unrighteousness. For there can be but
one righteousness--mind what I say--only one righteousness, as there
can be only one truth, and only one reason. Forget that, and you
will be tempted to invent for yourselves a false justice, which is
dishonest and partial; a false mercy, which is cruel; a false
humility, which is vain and self-conceited; and you will be tempted
also, as men of all religions and denominations have been, to impute
to God actions, and thoughts, and tempers, which are (as your own
consciences, if you would listen to God's Word in them, would tell
you) unjust, cruel, and proud; and then you will be tempted to say
that things are justifiable in God, which you would not excuse in
any other being, by saying: 'Of course it must be right in Him,
because He is God, and can do what He will.' As if the Judge of all
the earth would not do Right; as if He could be anything, or could
do anything, but the Eternal _Good_ which is His very being and
essence, and which He has shown forth in His Son Jesus Christ our
Lord, who went about doing good because God was with Him. We all
know what the good which He did was like. Let us believe that God
the Father's goodness is the same as Jesus Christ's goodness. Let
us believe really what we say when we confess that Jesus was the
brightness of His Father's Glory, and the express image of His


John v. 19, 20, 30. Then answered Jesus, Verily, verily, I say unto
you, The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father
do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son
likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth Him all things
that Himself doeth.

I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my
judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of
my Father which is in Heaven.

This, my friends, is why man should walk humbly and obediently with
his God; because humility and obedience are the likeness of the Son
of God, who, though He is equal to His Father, yet to do His
Father's will humbled Himself, and took on Him the form of a slave,
and though He is a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which He
suffered; sacrificing Himself utterly and perfectly to do the
commands of His Father and our Father, of His God and our God; and
sacrificing Himself to His Father not as a man merely, but as a son;
not because He was in the likeness of sinful flesh, but because He
was The Everlasting Son of His Father; not once only on the cross,
but from all eternity to all eternity, the Lamb slain before the
foundation of the world. This is a great mystery; we may understand
somewhat more of it by thinking over the meaning of those great
words, Father and Son.

Now, first, a son must be of the same nature as his father,--that is
certain. Each kind of animal brings forth after its kind: the lion
begets lions, the sheep, sheep; the son of a man must be a man, of
one substance with his earthly father; and by the same law, the Son
of God must be God. Take away that notion: say that the only-
begotten Son of God is not very God of very God, of one substance
with His Father, and the word son means nothing. If a son be not of
the same substance as his father, he is not a son at all. And more,
a perfect son must be as great and as good as his father, exactly
like his father in everything. That is the very meaning of father
and son; that like should beget like. Among fallen and imperfect
men, some sons are worse and weaker than their fathers: but we all
feel that that is an evil, a thing to be sorry for, a sad
consequence of our fallen state. Our reasons and hearts tell us
that a son ought to be equal to his father, and that it is in some
way an affliction, almost a shame, to a father, if his children are
weaker or worse than he is. But we cannot fancy such a thing in
God; the only-begotten perfect Son of the Almighty and perfect
Father must be at least equal to His Father, as great as His Father,
as good as His Father; the brightness of His Father's glory, and the
express image of His Father's person.

But there is another thing about father and son which we must look
at, and that is this: a good son loves and obeys his father, and
the better son he is, the more he loves and obeys his father; and
therefore a perfect son will perfectly love and perfectly obey his

Now, here is the great difference between animals and men. Among
the higher animals, the mothers always, and the fathers sometimes,
feed, and help, and protect their young: but we seldom or never
find that young animals help and protect their parents; certainly,
they never obey their fathers when they are full grown, but are as
ready to tear their fathers in pieces as their fathers are to tear
them: so that the love and obedience of full-grown sons to their
fathers is so utterly human a thing, so utterly different from
anything we find in the brutes, that we must believe it to be part
of man's immortal soul, part of God's likeness in man.

And in the text our Lord declares that it is so; He declares that
His obedience to His Father, and His Father's love to Him, is the
perfect likeness of what goes on between a good son and a good
father among men; only that it is _perfect_, because it is between a
perfect Father and a perfect Son.

Father and Son! Let philosophers and divines discover what they may
about God, they will never discover anything so deep as the wonder
which lies in those two words, Father and Son. So deep, and yet so
simple! So simple, that the wayfaring man, though poor, shall not
err therein. 'Who is God? What is God like? Where shall we find
Him, or His likeness?'--so has mankind been crying in all ages, and
getting no answer, or making answers for themselves in all sorts of
superstitions, idolatries, false philosophies. And then the Gospel
comes, and answers to every man, to every poor and unlearned
labourer: Will you know the name of God? It is a Father, a Son,
and a Holy Spirit of love, joy, peace; a Spirit of perfect
satisfaction of the Father in the Son, and perfect satisfaction of
the Son with the Father, which proceeds from both the Father and the
Son. It needs no scholarship to understand that Name; every one may
understand it who is a good father; every one may understand it who
is a good son, who looks up to and obeys his father with that filial
spirit of love, and obedience, and satisfaction with his father's
will, which is the likeness of the Holy Spirit of God, and can only
flourish in any man by the help of the Holy Spirit which proceeds
from the Father and the Son.

Father and Son! what more beautiful words are there in the world?
What more beautiful sight is there in the world than a son who
really loves his father, really trusts his father, really does his
duty to his father, really looks up to and obeys his father's will
in all things? who is ready to sacrifice his own credit, his own
pleasure, his own success in life, for the sake of his father's
comfort and honour? How much more fair and noble must be the love
and trust which is between God the Father and God the Son!

I wish that some of those who now write so many excellent books for
young people, would write one made up entirely of stories of good
sons who have obeyed, and worked for, and suffered for their
parents. Sure I am that such a book, wisely and well written, would
teach young people much of the meaning of the blessed name of God,
much of their duty to God. And yet, after all, my friends, is not
such a book written already? Have we not the four Gospels, which
tell us of Jesus Christ, the perfect Son, who came to do the will of
a perfect Father? Read that; read your Bibles. Read the history of
the Lord Jesus Christ, keeping in mind always that it is the history
of the Son of God, and of His obedience to His Father. And when in
St. John's most wonderful Gospel you meet with deep texts, like the
one which I have chosen, read them too as carefully, if possible
more carefully, than the rest; for they are meant for all parents
and for all children upon earth. Read how The Father loves The Son,
and gives all things into His hand, and commits all judgment to The
Son, and gives Him power to have life in Himself, even as The Father
has life in Himself, and shows Him all things that Himself doeth,
that all men may honour The Son even as they honour The Father.
Read how The Son came only to show forth His Father's glory; to be
the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person: to
establish His Father's kingdom; to declare the goodness of His
Father's Name, which is _The_ Father. How He does nothing of
Himself, but only what He sees His Father do; how He seeks not His
own will, but the will of the Father who sent Him; how He sacrificed
all, yea even His most precious body and soul upon the cross, to
finish the work which His Father gave Him to do. How, being in the
form of God, and thinking it no robbery to be equal with God, He
could boldly say, 'As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the
Father. I and my Father are one:' and still, in the fulness of His
filial love and obedience, declared that He had no will, no wish, no
work, no glory, but His Father's; and in the hour of His agony cried
out, 'Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me:
nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.'

My friends, you will be able to understand more and more of the
meaning of these words just in proportion as you are good sons and
good fathers; and therefore, just in proportion as you are led and
taught by the Holy Spirit of God, without whose help no man can be
either a good father or a good son. A bad son; a disobedient, self-
willed, self-conceited son, who is seeking his own credit and not
his father's, his own pleasure and not his parent's comfort; a son
who is impatient of being kept in order and advised, who despises
his parent's counsel, and will have none of his reproof,--to him
these words of our Lord, the deepest, noblest words which were ever
spoken on earth, will have no more meaning than if they were written
in a foreign language; he will not know what our Lord means; he will
not be able to see why our Lord came and suffered; he will not see
any beauty in our Lord's character, any righteousness in His
sacrificing Himself for His Father; and because he has forgotten his
duty to his earthly father, he will never learn his duty to God.

For what is the duty of the Lord Jesus Christ is our duty, if we are
the sons of God in Him. He is The Son of God by an eternal never-
ceasing generation; we are the sons of God by adoption. The way in
which we are to look up to God, The Holy Spirit must teach us; what
is our duty to God The Holy Spirit must teach us. And who is The
Holy Spirit? He is The Spirit who proceeds from The Son as well as
from The Father. He is The Spirit of Jesus Christ, The Spirit of
the Son of God, the Spirit who descended on the Lord Jesus when He
was baptized, the Spirit which God gave to Him without measure. He
is the Spirit of The Son of God; and we are sons of God by adoption,
says Saint Paul; and because we are sons, he says, God has sent
forth into our hearts the Spirit of His Son, by whom we look up to
God as our Father; and this Spirit of God's Son, by whom we cry to
God, Abba, Father, St. Paul calls, in another place, the Spirit of
adoption; and declares openly that He is the very Spirit of God.

Therefore, in whatsoever way the Spirit of God is to teach you to
look up to God, He will teach you to look up to Him as a Father; the
Father of Spirits, and therefore your Father; for you are a spirit.
Whatsoever duty to God the Holy Spirit teaches you, He teaches you
first, and before all things, that it is filial duty, the duty of a
son to a father, because you are the son of God, and God is your

Therefore, whatsoever man or book tells you that your duty to God is
anything but the duty of a son to his father does not speak by the
Spirit of God. Whatsoever thoughts or feelings in your own hearts
tell you that your duty to God is anything but the duty of a son to
his father, and tempt you to distrust God's forgiveness, and shrink
from Him, and look up to Him as a taskmaster, and an austere and
revengeful Lord, are not the Spirit of God; no, nor your own spirit,
'the spirit of a man,' which is in you; for that was originally made
in the likeness of God's Spirit, and by it rebellious sons arise and
go back to their earthly fathers, and trust in them when they have
nothing else left to trust, and say to themselves, 'Though all the
world has cast me off, my parents will not. Though all the world
despise and hate me, my parents love me still; though I have
rebelled against them, deserted them, insulted them, I am still my
father's child. I will go home to my own people, to the house where
I was born, to the parents who nursed me on their knee, I will go to
my father.'

Fathers and mothers! if your son or daughter came home to you thus,
though they had insulted you, disgraced you, and spent their
substance in riotous living, would you shut your doors upon them?
Would not all be forgiven and forgotten at once? Would not you call
your neighbours to rejoice with you, and say, 'It is good to be
merry and glad, for this our son was dead and is alive again, he was
lost and is found?' And would not that penitent child be more
precious to you, though you cannot tell why, than any other of your
children? Would you not feel a peculiar interest in him henceforth?
And do you not know that so to forgive would be no weak indulgence,
but the part of a good father; a good, and noble, and human thing to
do? Ay, a human thing, and therefore a divine thing, part of God's
likeness in man. For is it not the likeness of God Himself? Has
not God Himself, in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, declared that
He does so forgive His penitent children, at once and utterly, and
that 'There is more joy among the angels of God over one sinner that
repenteth, than over ninety and nine just persons who need no
repentance?' So says the Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son
of God. Let who dare dispute His words, or try to water them down,
and explain them away.

And why should it not be so? Do you fancy God less of a father than
you are? Is He not _The_ Father, the perfect Father, 'from whom
every fatherhood in heaven and earth is named?' Oh, believe that He
is indeed a Father; believe that all the love and care which you can
show to your children is as much poorer than the love and care God
shows to you, as your obedience to your earthly parents is poorer
and weaker than the love and obedience of Jesus Christ to His
Father. God is as much better a Father than you are, as Jesus
Christ is a better Son than you are. There is a sum of proportions;
a rule-of-three sum; work it out for yourselves, and then distrust
God's love if you dare.

And believe, that whatsoever makes you distrust God's love is
neither the Spirit of God who is the spirit of sonship, nor the
spirit of man: but the spirit of the Devil, who loves to slander
God to men, that they may shrink from Him, and be afraid to arise
and go to their Father, to be received again as sons of God; that
so, being kept from true penitence, they may be kept from true
holiness, and from their duty to God, which is the duty of sons of
God to their Father in heaven.

Believe no such notions, my friends; howsoever humble and reverent
they may seem, they are but insults to God; for under pretence of
honouring Him, they dishonour Him; for He is love, and he who
feareth, that is, who looks up to God with terror and distrust, is
not made perfect in love. So says St. John, in the very chapter
wherein he tells us that God is love, and has manifested His love to
us by sending His Son to be the Saviour of the world; and that the
very reason for our loving God is, that He loves us already; and
that therefore He who loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.

Yes, my friends, God is your Father; and God is love; and your duty
to God is a duty of love and obedience to a Father who so loved you
and all mankind that He spared not His only begotten Son, but freely
gave Him for you. 'Our Father which art in heaven,' is to be the
key-note of all your duty, as it is to be the key-note of all your
prayers: and therefore the Catechism is right in teaching the child
that God is his Father, and Jesus Christ the perfect Son of God his
pattern, and the Holy Spirit of the Father and of the Son his
teacher and inspirer, before it says one word to the child about
duty to God, or sin against God. How indeed can it tell him what
sin is, until it has told him against whom sin is committed, and
that if he sins against God he sins against a Father, and breaks his
duty to his Father? And how can it tell him that till it has told
him that God is his Father? How can it tell him what sin is till it
has told him what righteousness is? How can it tell him what
breaking his duty is till it has told him what the duty itself is?
But the child knows already that God is his Father; and therefore,
when the Catechism asks him, 'What is his duty to God?' it is as
much as to say, 'My child, thou hast confessed already that thou
hast a good Father in heaven, and thou knowest as well as I (perhaps
better) what a father means. Tell me, then, how dost thou think
thou oughtest to behave to such a Father?' And the whole answer
which is put into the child's mouth, is the description of duty to a
father; of things which there would be no reason for his doing to
anyone who was not his father; nay, which he could not do honestly
to anyone else, but only hypocritically, for the sake of flattering,
and which differs utterly from any notion of duty to God which the
heathen have ever had just in this, that it is a description of how
a son should behave to a father. Read it for yourselves, my
friends, and judge for yourselves; and may God give you all grace to
act up to it--not in order that you, by 'acts of faith,' or 'acts of
love,' or 'acts of devotion,' may persuade God to love you; but
because He loves you already, with a love boundless as Himself;
because in Him you live, and move, and have your being, and are the
offspring of God; because His mercy is over all His works, and
because He loved the world, and sent His Son, not to condemn the
world, but that the world through Him might be saved; because He is
The Giver, The Father of lights, from whom comes every good and
perfect gift; because all which makes this earth habitable--all
justice, order, wisdom, goodness, mercy, humbleness, self-sacrifice--
all which is fair, or honourable, or useful, in men or angels, in
kings on their thrones or in labourers at the plough, in divines in
their studies or soldiers in the field of battle--all in the whole
universe, which is not useless, and hurtful, and base, and damnable,
and doomed (blessed thought that it is so!) to be burned up in
unquenchable fire--all, I say, comes forth from the Father of the
spirits of all flesh, the Lord of Hosts, who is wonderful in counsel
and excellent in working; who spared not His only begotten Son, but
freely gave Him for us, and will with Him freely give us all things.


Matt. vi. 9, 10. After this manner pray ye: Our Father which art
in heaven.

I have shown you what a simple account of our duty to God and to our
neighbour the Catechism gives us. I now beg you to remark, that
simple and everyday as this same duty is, the Catechism warns us
that we cannot do it without God's special grace, and I beg you to
remark further, that the Catechism does not say that we cannot do
these things well without God's special grace, but that we cannot do
them at all. It does not say that we cannot do all these things of
ourselves, but that we can do none of them. But I want you to
remark one thing more, which is very noteworthy: that in this case,
for the first time throughout the Catechism, the teacher tells the
child something. All along the teacher has, as I have often shown
you, been making the child tell him what is right, calling out in
the child's heart thoughts and knowledge which were there already.
Now he in his turn tells the child something which he takes for
granted is not in the child's heart, of which, if it is, has been
put into it by his teachers, and of which he must be continually
reminded, lest he should forget it; namely, that he cannot do these
of himself; that, as St. Paul says, 'in him,' that is, in his flesh,
'dwells no good thing;' that he is not able to think or to do
anything as of himself, but his sufficiency is of God, who works in
him to will and to do of His good pleasure, who has also given him
His Holy Spirit.

The Catechism, in short, takes for granted that the child knows his
duty; but it takes for granted also that he does not know how to do
that duty. It takes for granted, that in every child there is as
St. Paul says, 'a law in his members warring against the law of his
mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin' (literally,
of short coming, or missing the mark) 'which is in his members.'
Now man's natural inclination is to suppose that good thoughts are
part of himself, and therefore that a good will to put them in
practice is in his own power. I blame no one for making that
mistake: but I warn them, in the name of the Bible and of the
Catechism, that it is a mistake, and one which every man, woman, and
child will surely discover to be a mistake, if they try to act on
it. Good thoughts are not our own; they are Jesus Christ's; they
come from Him, The Life and The Light of men; they are His voice
speaking to our hearts, informing us of His laws, showing us what is
good. And good desires are not our own: they come from the Holy
Spirit of God, who strives with men, and labours to lift their
hearts up from selfishness to love; from what is low and foul, to
what is noble and pure; from what is sinful and contrary to God's
will, to what is right and according to God's will.

This is the lesson which you and I and every man have to learn:
that in ourselves dwells no good thing; but that there is One near
us mightier than we, from whom all good things do come; and that He
loves us, and will not only teach us what is good, but give us the
power to do the good we know. But if we forget that, if we take any
credit whatsoever to ourselves for the good which comes into our
minds, then we shall be surely taught our mistake by sore
afflictions and by shameful falls; by God's leaving us to ourselves,
to try our own strength, and to find it weakness; to try our own
wisdom, and find it folly; to try our own fancied love of God, and
find that after all our conceit of ourselves, we love ourselves
better, when it comes to a trial, than we love what is right; until,
in short, we are driven with St. Paul to feel that, howsoever much
our hearts may delight in the Law of God, there is a corrupt nature
in us which fights against our delight in God's law, and will surely
conquer it, and make us slaves to our own fancies, slaves to our
passions, slaves to ourselves, ay, slaves to the very lowest and
meanest part of ourselves: unless we can find a deliverer; unless
we can find some one stronger than us, who can put an end to this
hateful, shameful war within us between good wishes and bad deeds.

And then, if we will but cry with St. Paul, 'Oh, wretched man that I
am, _who_ shall deliver me from the body of this death?' we shall
surely, sooner or later, hear a voice within our hearts, a voice
full of love, of comfort, of fellow-feeling for us,--'_I_ will
deliver thee, my child; _I_, even I thy Father in heaven; I will
teach thee, and inform thee in the way wherein thou shouldest go;
and I will guide thee with mine eye.' And then with St. Paul we
shall be able to answer our own question, and say, 'Who will deliver
me? I thank God, that God Himself will deliver me, through Jesus
Christ our Lord.'

This, then, is the reason why we need to pray: because we need to
be delivered from ourselves. This is the reason why we may pray,
because God is willing to deliver us from ourselves, if we be

But every human being round us needs to be delivered from
themselves, just as much as we do. Without that deliverance we
cannot do our duty, neither can they. And just in proportion as men
are delivered from themselves, will mankind do its duty, and the
world go right.

Now their duty is the same as ours; and therefore the prayer which
is right and good for us is equally right and good for them. And
what is more, we cannot pray rightly for ourselves unless we pray
for them in the very same breath; for the Catechism tells us that
there is one duty for all of us, to love and obey and serve our
heavenly Father, and to love our neighbour as ourselves, because
they are our brothers, children of one common Father, members of the
same God's family as we are, and their interest and ours are bound
up together. Yes, to love all mankind as ourselves; for though too
many of them, alas! are not yet in God's family, and strangers to
His covenant, yet God's will is that they too should come to the
knowledge of the truth; and therefore for them we can pray hopefully
and trustfully, 'Lord have mercy on all men, on Jews, Turks,
Infidels, and heretics; and bring them home, blessed Lord, to Thy
flock, that they may be saved and made one fold under one Shepherd,
through Jesus Christ our Lord, in whom Thou hast declared Thy good
will to all the children of men.'

This is the right prayer. That all men may do their duty where God
has put them. That those who, like the heathen, do not know their
duty, may be taught it; that we who do know it, may have strength to
do it.

And therefore it is that the Catechism teaches us the need of
prayer, immediately after making us confess our duty; and therefore
it is that it begins by teaching the Lord's Prayer, because that
prayer is the one, of all prayers which ever have been offered upon
earth, which perfectly expresses the duty of man, and man's relation
to Almighty God.

It is throughout a prayer for strength. It confesses throughout
what we want strength for, to what use we are to put God's grace if
He bestows it on us. Our delight in the Lord's Prayer will depend
on what we consider our duty here on earth to be.

If we look upon this earth principally as a place where we are to
pray for all the good things which we can get, our first prayer will
be, of course, 'Give us this day our daily bread.'

If we look at this earth principally as a place where we have a
chance of being saved from punishment and torment after we die, then
our first prayer will be, 'Forgive us our sins.' And, in fact, that
is all that too many of our prayers now-a-days seem to consist of,--
'Oh, my Maker, give me. my daily bread. Oh, my Judge, forgive me my
sins.' Right prayers enough, but spoilt by being taken out of their
place; spoilt by being prayed before all other prayers; spoilt, too,
by being prayed for ourselves alone, and not for other people also.

But if we believe, as the Bible and the Catechism tell us, that we
and all Christian people are God's children, members of God's
family, set on earth in God's kingdom to do His work by doing our
duty, each in that station of life to which God has called us, in
the hope of a just reward hereafter according to our works, then our
great desire will be for strength to do our duty, and the Lord's
Prayer will seem to us the most perfect way of asking for that
strength; and if we believe that we are God's children and He our
Father, we shall feel sure that we must get strength from Him, and
sure that we must ask for that strength; and sure that He will give
it us if we do ask.

But if His will is to give it us, why ask Him at all? Why pray at
all, if God already knows our necessities, and is able and willing
to supply them?

My friends, the longer I live, the more certain I am that the only
reason for praying at all is because God is our Father; the more
certain I am that we shall never have any heart to pray unless we
believe that God is our Father. If we forget that, we may utter to
Him selfish cries for bread; or when we look at His great power, we
may become terrified, and utter selfish cries to Him not to harm us,
without any real shame or sorrow for sin: but few of us will have
any heart to persevere in those cries. People will say to
themselves, 'If God is evil, He will not care to have mercy on me:
and if He is good, there is no use wearying Him by asking Him what
He has already intended to give me: why should I pray at all?'

The only answer is, 'Pray, because God is your Father, and you His
child.' The only answer; but the most complete answer. I will
engage to say, that if anyone here is ever troubled with doubts
about prayer, those two simple words, 'Our Father,' if he can once
really believe them in their full richness and depth, will make the
doubts vanish in a moment, and prayer seem the most natural and
reasonable of all acts. It is because we are God's children, not
merely His creatures, that He will have us pray. Because He is
educating us to know Him; to know Him not merely to be an Almighty
Power, but a living, loving Person; not merely an irresistible Fate,
but a Father who delights in the love of His children, who wishes to
shape them into His own likeness, and make them fellow-workers with
Him; therefore it is that He will have us pray. Doubtless he
_could_ have given us everything without our asking; for He _does_
already give us almost everything without our asking. But He wishes
to educate us as His children; to make us trust in Him; to make us
love Him; to make us work for Him of our own free wills, in the
great battle which He is carrying on against evil; and that He can
only do by teaching us to pray to Him. I say it reverently, but
firmly. As far as we can see, God cannot educate us to know Him,
The living, willing, loving Father, unless He teaches us to open our
hearts to Him, and to ask Him freely for what we want, just
_because_ He knows what we want already.

If I have not made this plain enough to any of you, my friends, let
me go back to the simple, practical explanation of it which God
Himself has given us in those two words--father and child.

Should you like to have a child who never spoke to you, never asked
you for anything? Of course not. And why? 'Because,' you would
say, 'one might as well have a dumb animal in one's family instead
of a child, if it is never to talk and ask questions and advice.'
Most true and reasonable, my friends. And as you would say
concerning your children, so says God of His. You feel that unless
you teach your children to ask you for all they want, even though
you know their necessities before they ask, and their ignorance in
asking, you will never call out their love and trust towards you.
You know that if you want really to have your child to please and
obey you, not as a mere tame animal, but as a willing, reasonable,
loving child, you must make him know that you are training him; and
you must teach him to come to you of his own accord to be trained,
to be taught his duty, and set right where he is wrong: and even so
does God with you. If you will only consider the way in which any
child must be educated by its human parents, then you will at once
see why prayer to our Heavenly Father is a necessary part of our
education in the kingdom of heaven.

Now the Lord's Prayer, just this sort of prayer, is man's cry to his
Heavenly Father to train him, to educate him, to take charge of him,
daily and hourly, body and soul and spirit. It is a prayer for
grace, for special grace; that is, for help, daily and hourly, in
each particular duty and circumstance; for help from God specially
suited to enable us to do our duty. And the whole of the prayer is
of this kind, and not, as some think, the latter part only.

It is too often said that the three first sentences are not prayers
for man, but rather praises to God. My friends, they cannot be one
without being the other. You cannot, I believe, praise God aright
without praying for men; you cannot pray for men aright without
praising God; at least, you cannot use the Lord's Prayer without
doing both at once, without at once declaring the glory of God and
praying for the welfare of all mankind.

'Hallowed be Thy name.' Is not that a prayer for men as well as
praise to God? Yes, my friends, when you say, 'Our Father, hallowed
be Thy name,' you pray that all men may come at last to look up to
God as their Father, to love, serve, and obey God as His children;
and for what higher blessing can you pray? Ay, and you pray, too,
that men may learn at last the deep meaning of that word--father;
that they may see how Godlike and noble a trust God lays on them
when He gives them children to educate and make Christian men; you
pray that the hearts of all fathers may be turned to the children,
and the hearts of all children to the fathers; you pray for the
welfare, and the holiness, and the peace of every home on earth; you
pray for the welfare of generations yet unborn, when you pray, 'Our
Father, hallowed be Thy name.'

'Thy kingdom come.' Is not that too, if we will look at it
steadfastly, prayer for our neighbours, prayer for all mankind, and
still prayer for ourselves; prayer for grace, prayer for the life
and health of our own souls?

'Thy kingdom come.'--That kingdom of the Father which Jesus Christ
proved by His works on earth to be a kingdom of justice and
righteousness, of love and fellow-feeling. When we pray, 'Thy
kingdom come,' it is as if we said, 'Son of God, root out of this
sinful earth all self-will and lawlessness, all injustice and
cruelty; root out all carelessness, ignorance, and hardness of
heart; root out all hatred, envy, slander; root them out of all
men's hearts; out of my heart, for I have the seeds of them in me.
Make me, and all men round me, day by day, more sure that Thou art
indeed our King; that Thou hast indeed taught us the laws of Thy
Father's kingdom; and that, only in keeping them and loving them is
there health, and righteousness, and safety for any soul of man, for
any nation under the sun.' 'Thy will be done;'--no, not merely 'Thy
will be done;' but done 'on earth as it is in heaven;' done, not
merely as the trees and the animals, the wind and clouds, do Thy
will, by blindly following their natures, but done as angels and
blessed spirits do it, of their own will. They obey Thee as living,
willing, loving persons; as Thy sons: teach us to obey Thee in like
manner; lovingly, because we love Thy will; willingly, because our
wills are turned to Thy will; and therefore, oh Heavenly Father,
take charge of these wayward wills and minds of ours, of these
selfish, self-willed, ignorant, hasty hearts of ours, and cleanse
them and renew them by Thy Spirit, and change them into Thy likeness
day by day. Make us all clean hearts, oh God, and renew within us a
right spirit, the copy of Thine own Holy Spirit. Cast us not away
from Thy presence, for from Thee alone comes our soul's life; take
not from us Thy Holy Spirit, who is The Lord and Giver of Life;
whose will is Thy will; who alone can strengthen and change us to do
Thy will on earth, as saints and angels do in heaven, and to be
fellow-workers with each other, fellow-workers with Thee, O God,
even as those blessed spirits are who minister day and night to all
Thy creatures.

'Give us this day our daily bread.' People sometimes divide the
Lord's Prayer into two parts--the ascriptions and the petitions--and
consider that after we have sufficiently glorified and praised God
in the first three sentences of the prayer, then we are at liberty
to begin asking something for ourselves, and to say 'Give us day by
day our daily bread.' I cannot think so, my friends. I have been
showing you that 'Hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will
be done,' if we do but recollect that they are spoken to our Father,
are just as much prayers for all mankind, as they are hymns of
honour to God; and so I say of these latter: 'Give us--Forgive us--
Lead us not--Deliver us'--that if we will but remember that they,
too, are spoken to our Father, we shall find that they are just as
much hymns of honour to God as prayers for mankind.

Yes, my friends, when we say, 'Give us this day our daily bread,' we
do indeed honour God and the name of God. We declare that He is
Love, that He is The Giver, The absolutely and boundlessly _generous
and magnanimous_ Being. And what higher glory and honour or praise
can we ascribe, even to God Himself, than to say that of Him? Next,
we pray not for ourselves only, but for our neighbours; for England,
for Christendom, for the heathen who know not God, and for
generations yet unborn. We pray that God would so guide, and teach,
and preserve the children of men, as to enable them to fulfil in
every country and every age the work which He gave them to do, when
He said, 'Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue
it.' We know that our Father has commanded us to labour. We know
that our Father has so well ordered this glorious earth, that
whosoever labours may reap the just fruit of his labour; therefore
we pray that God would prosper our righteous plans for earning our
own living. We pray to Him not only so to order the earth that it
may bring forth its fruits in due season, but that men may be in a
fit state to enjoy those fruits, that God may not be forced for
their good to withhold from them blessings which they might abuse to
their ruin. But we pray, also, 'Give _us_:' not me only, but _us_;
and therefore we pray that He would prosper our neighbour's plans as
well as ours. So we confess that we believe God to be no respecter
of persons; we confess that we believe He will not take bread out of
others' mouths to give it to us; we declare that God's curse is on
all selfishness and oppression of man by man; we renounce our own
selfishness, the lust which our fallen nature has to rise upon
others' fall, and say, 'Father, we are all children at Thy common
table. Thou alone canst prosper the richest and the wisest; Thou
alone canst prosper the poorest and the weakest; Thou wilt do equal
justice to all some day, and we confess that Thou art just in so
doing; we only ask Thee to do it now, and to give us and all mankind
that which is good for them.'

Thus we pray not for this generation only, but for generations yet
unborn; not for this nation of England only, but for heathens and
savages beyond the seas. When we say, 'Give us our daily bread,' we
pray for every child here and on earth, that he may receive such an
education as may enable him to get his daily bread. We pray for
learned men in their studies, that they may discover arts and
sciences which shall enrich and comfort nations yet unborn. We pray
for merchants on the seas, that they may discover new markets for
trade, new lands to colonize and fill with Christian men, and extend
the blessings of industry and civilization to the savage who lives
as the beasts which perish and dwindles down off the face of the
earth by famine, disease, and war, the victim of his own idleness,
ignorance, and improvidence.

And all the while we are praying for the widow and the orphan, that
God would send them friends in time of need; for the houseless
wanderer, for the shipwrecked sailor, for sick persons, for feeble
infants, that God would send help to them who cannot help
themselves, and soften our hearts and the hearts of all around us,
that we may never turn our faces away from any poor man, lest the
face of the Lord be turned away from us.

So far we have been praying to our Heavenly Father, first as a
Father, then as a King, then as an Inspirer, then as a Giver; and
next we pray to Him as a _For_giver--'Forgive us our trespasses.'
We have been confessing in these four petitions what God's goodwill
to man is; what God wishes man to be, how man ought to live and
believe. And then comes the recollection of sin. We must confess
what God's law is before we can confess that we have broken it; and
now we do confess that we have broken it. We know that God is our
Father. How often have we forgotten that He is a father; how often
have we forgotten to be good fathers ourselves.

We are in God's kingdom. How often have we behaved as if we were
our own kings, and had no masters over us but our own fancies,
tempers, appetites! We are to do His will on earth as it is done in
heaven. How have we been doing our own will!--pleasing ourselves,
breaking loose from His laws, trying to do right of our own wills
and in our own strength, instead of asking His Spirit to strengthen,
and cleanse, and renew our wills, and so have ended by doing not the
right which we knew to be right, but the wrong which we knew to be
wrong. God is a giver. How often have we looked on ourselves as
takers, and fancied that we must as it were steal the good things of
this world from God, lest He should forget to give us what was
fitting! How often have we forgotten that God gives to all men, as
well as to us; and while we were praying, give _me_ my daily bread,
kept others out of their daily bread!

Oh, my friends, we cannot blame ourselves too much for all these
sins; we cannot think them too heinous. We cannot confess them too
openly; we cannot cry too humbly and earnestly for forgiveness. But
we never shall feel the full sinfulness of sin; we never shall
thoroughly humble ourselves in confession and repentance, unless we
remember that all our sins have been sins against a Father, and a
forgiving Father, and that it is His especial glory, the very beauty
and excellence in Him, which ought to have kept us from disobeying
Him, that He does forgive those who disobey Him.

And, lastly, in like manner, when you say, 'Lead us not into
temptation, but deliver,' &c., you are not only entreating God to
lead you, but you are honouring and praising Him, you are setting
forth His glory, and declaring that He is a God who does _lead_, and
a God who does not leave His poor creatures to wander their own
foolish way, but guides men, in spite of all their sins, full of
condescension and pity, care and tender love. You do not only ask
God to deliver you from evil, but you declare that He is righteous,
and hates evil; that He is love, and desires to deliver you from
evil; One who spared not His only-begotten Son, but gave Him freely
for us, to deliver us from evil; and raised Him up, and delivered
all power into His hand, that He might fight His Father's battle
against all which is hurtful to man and hateful to God, till death
itself shall be destroyed, and all enemies put under the feet of the
Saviour God.


Psalm viii. 1 and sqq. O Lord our Governor, how excellent is Thy
name in all the earth, Thou that hast set Thy glory above the

Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast Thou ordained strength,
because of Thine enemies, that Thou mightest still the enemy and the

This is the text which I have chosen to-day, because I think it will
help us to understand the end of the Lord's Prayer, which tells us
to say to our Father in Heaven, 'Father, Thine is the kingdom;
Father, Thine is the power; Father, Thine is the glory.'

The man who wrote this psalm had been looking up at the sky,
spangled with countless stars, with the moon, as if she were the
queen of them all, walking in her brightness. He had been looking
round, too, on this wonderful earth, with its countless beasts, and
birds, and insects, trees, herbs, and flowers, each growing, and
thriving, and breeding after their kind, according to the law which
God had given to each of them, without any help of man. And then he
had thought of men, how small, weak, ignorant, foolish, sinful they
were, and said to himself, 'Why should God care for men more than
for these beasts, and birds, and insects round? Not because he is
the largest and strongest thing in the world; for I will consider
Thy heavens, even the work of Thy hands, the moon and the stars,
which Thou hast ordained, how much greater, more beautiful they are
than poor human beings. May not glorious beings, angels, be
dwelling in them, compared to whom man is no better than a beast?'

And yet he says to himself, 'I know that God, though He has put man
lower than the angels, has crowned him with glory and honour. I
know that, whatever glorious creatures may live in the sun, and
moon, and stars, God has given man the dominion and power here, on
_this_ world. I know that even to babes and sucklings God has given
a strength, because of His enemies--that He may silence the enemy
and the avenger; and I know that by so doing, God has set His glory
_above_ the heavens, and has shown forth His glory more in these
little children, to whom He gives strength and wisdom, than He has
in sun, and moon, and stars.'

Now how is that? The Catechism, I think, will tell us. The
Doxology, at the end of the Lord's Prayer, will tell us, if we
consider it.

If you will listen to me, I will try and show you what I mean.

Suppose I took one of your children, and showed him that large
bright star, which you may see now every evening, shining in the
south-west, and said to him, 'My child, that star, which looks to
you only a bright speck, is in reality a world--a world fourteen
hundred times as big as our world. We have but one moon to light
our earth; that little speck has four moons, each of them larger
than ours, which light it by night. That little speck of a star
seems to you to be standing still; in reality, it is travelling
through the sky at the rate of 25,000 miles an hour.' What do you
think the child's feeling would be? If he were a dull child, he
might only be astonished; but if he were a sensible and thoughtful
child, do you not think that a feeling of awe, almost of fear, would
come over him, when he thought how small and weak and helpless he
was, in comparison of those mighty and glorious stars above his

And next, if I turned the child round, and bade him look at that
comet or fiery star, which has appeared lately low down in the
north-west, and said, 'My child, that comet, which seems to you to
hang just above the next parish, is really eighty millions of miles
off from us. That bright spot at the lower part of it is a fiery
world as large as the moon,--that tail of fiery light which you see
streaming up from it, and which looks a few feet long, is a stream
of fiery vapour, stretching, most likely, hundreds of thousands of
miles through the boundless space. It seems to you to be sinking
behind the trees, so slowly that you cannot see it move. It is
really rushing towards us now, with its vast train of light, at the
rate of some eighty thousand miles an hour.' And suppose then, if,
to make the child more astonished than ever, I went on--'Yes, my
child, every single tiny star which is twinkling over your head is a
sun, a sun as large, or larger than our own sun, perhaps with worlds
moving round it, as our world moves round our sun, but so many
millions of miles far off, that the strongest spy-glass cannot make
these stars look any larger, or show us the worlds which we believe
are moving round them.'

Do you not think that just in proportion to the child's quickness
and understanding, he would be awed, almost terrified?

And lastly, suppose that to puzzle and astonish him still more, I
took a chance drop of water out of any standing pool, and showed him
through a magnifying-glass, in that single drop of water, dozens,
perhaps hundreds, of living creatures so small that it is impossible
to see them with the naked eye, each of them of some beautiful and
wonderful shape, unlike anything which you ever saw or dreamed of,
but each of them alive, each of them moving, feeding, breeding,
after its kind, each fulfilling the nature which God has given to
them, and told him, 'All the whole world, the air which you breathe,
the leaves on the trees, the soil under your feet, ay, even often
the food which you eat, and your own flesh and blood, are as full of
wonderful things as that drop of water is. You fancy that all the
life in the world is made up of the men and women in it, and the few
beasts, and birds, and insects, which you see about you in the
fields. But these living things which you do see are not a
millionth part of the whole number of God's creatures; and not one
smallest plant or tiniest insect dies, but what it passes into a new
life, and becomes food for other creatures, even smaller than,
though just as wonderful as itself. Every day fresh living
creatures are being discovered, filling earth, and sea, and air,
till men's brains are weary with counting them, and dizzy with
watching their unspeakable beauty, and strangeness, and fitness for
the work which God has given each of them to do.'

And then suppose I said to the child, 'God cares for each of these
tiny living creatures. How do you know that He does not care for
them as much as He does for you? God made them for His own
pleasure, that He might rejoice in the work of His own hands. How
do you know that He does not rejoice in them as much as in you?
Those mighty worlds and suns above your head, which you call stars,
how do you know that they are not as much more glorious and precious
in God's sight than you are, as they are larger and more beautiful
than you are? And mind! all these things, from the tiniest insects
in the water-drop, to the most vast star or comet in the sky, all
obey God. They have not fallen, as you have; they have not sinned,
as you have; they have not broken the law, by which God intended
them to live, as you have. The Bible tells you so; and the
discoveries of learned men prove that the Bible is right, when it
declares that they all continue to this day according to His
ordinance; for all things serve Him; that sun, and moon, and stars,
and light are praising Him; that fire and hail, snow and vapour,
wind and storm, mountains and all hills, fruitful trees and all
cedars, beasts and all cattle, worms and feathered fowl, are showing
forth His glory day and night; because He has made them sure for
ever and ever, each according to its kind, and given them a law
which shall not be broken; for all His works praise Him, and show
the glory of His kingdom, and the mightiness of His power, that His
power, His glory, and the mightiness of His kingdom might be known
unto the children of men.

And you!--They keep God's ordinance, and you have broken it; they
fulfil God's word, you fulfil your own fancies. They have a law
which shall not be broken, you break God's law daily. Are not they
better than you? Is not, not merely sun and stars, but even the
meanest gnat which hums in the air, better than man, more worthy of
God's love than man? For man has sinned, and they have not.'

Do you not think that I should sadden, and terrify the child, and
make him ready to cry out, 'Whither shall I flee from the wrath of
this great Almighty God; who has made this wondrous heaven and
earth, and all of it obeys Him, except me--I a rebel against Him who
made and rules all this?'

My friends, I only say, suppose that I spoke thus to your children.
For God forbid that I should speak thus to any human being, without
having first taught him the Lord's Prayer, without first having
taught him to say, 'I believe in Jesus Christ, Very God of Very God,
who was born of the Virgin Mary, and took man's nature on Him;'
without having taught him to say, 'Our Father which art in heaven,
Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and
ever, Amen.' So it is, and so let it be: for so it is well, and so
I am safe, sinner and rebel though I be.

I would not say it, unless I had taught him this; for then I should
be speaking the Devil's words, and doing the Devil's work: for
these are the thoughts of which he always takes advantage, whenever
he finds them in men's hearts; because he is the enemy who hates
men, and the avenger who punishes them for their bad thoughts, by
leading them on into dark and fearful deeds; because he is the
Devil, the Slanderer, as his name means, and slanders God to men,
and tries always to make them believe that God does not care for
men, and grudges them blessings; in order that he may make men dread
God, and shrink from Him into their own pride, or their own carnal
lusts and fancies.

These are the thoughts of which the Devil took advantage in the
heathen in old times, and tempted them to forget God--God, who had
not left Himself without a witness, in that He gave them rain and
fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness--God,
whose unseen glory, even His eternal power and Godhead, may be
clearly seen from the creation of the world, being understood from
the things which are made--God, in whom, as St. Paul told the
heathen, they lived and moved, and had their being, and were the
offspring of God. This--that man is the offspring of God, and has a
Father in heaven--is the great truth which the Devil has been trying
to hide from men in every age, and by a hundred different devices.
By making them forget this, he tempted them to worship the creature
instead of the Creator; to pray to sun and moon and stars, to send
them fair weather, good crops, prosperous fortune: to look up to
the heaven above them, and down to the earth beneath their feet, in
slavish dread and anxiety: and pray to the sun, not to blast them
to the seas, not to sweep them away; to the rivers and springs, not
to let them perish from drought; to earthquakes, not to swallow them
up; ay, even to try to appease those dark fierce powers, with whom
they thought the great awful world was filled, by cruel sacrifices
of human beings; so that they offered their sons and their daughters
to devils, and burned their own children in the fire to Moloch, the
cruel angry Fire King, whom they fancied was lord of the earthquakes
and the burning mountains. So did the Canaanites of old, and so did
the Jews after them; whensoever they had forgotten that God was
their Father, who had bought them, and that the kingdom, and the
power, and the glory, throughout heaven and earth, were His, then at
once they began to be afraid of heaven and earth, and worshipped
Baalim, and Astaroth, and the Host of Heaven, which were the sun and
moon and stars, and Moloch the Fire King, and Thammuz the Lord of
the Spring-time, and with forms of worship which showed plainly
enough, either by their cruelty or their filthy profligacy, who was
the author of them, and that man, when he forgets that heaven and
earth belong to his Father, is in danger of becoming a slave to his
own lowest lusts and passions.

And do not fancy, my friends, that because you and I are not likely
to worship sun and moon and stars as the old heathen did, that
therefore we cannot commit the same sin as they did.

My friends, I believe that we are in more danger of committing it in
England just now than ever we were; that learned men especially are
in danger of so doing, because they know so far more of the wonders
and the vastness of God's creation than the heathens of old knew.

But you are not learned, you will say: you are plain people, who
know nothing about these wonderful discoveries which men make by
telescopes and magnifying-glasses, but use your own eyes in a plain
way to get your daily bread, and you feel no such temptations. You
believe, of course, that the kingdom and power and glory of all we
see is God's.

Yes; but do you believe too that He whom people are too apt to call
God, just because they have no other name to call Him, is your
Father? That it is your Father's will which governs the weather,
which makes the earth bear fruit and gladden the heart of man with
good and fruitful seasons?

Alas, my friends, if we will open our eyes, see things in their true
light, and call things by their true name, we shall see many a man
in England now honouring the creature more than the Creator;
trusting in the seasons and the soil more than he does in God, and
so sinning in just the same way as the heathen of old.

When people say to themselves, 'I must get land, I must get money,
by any means; honestly if I can, if not, dishonestly; for have it I
must;' what are they doing then but denying that the kingdom, the
power, and the glory of this earth belong to the Righteous God, and
that He, and not the lying Devil, gives them to whomsoever He will?

When people say to themselves (as who does not at moments?) 'To be
rich is to be safe; a man's life does consist in the abundance of
what he possesses;' what are they doing but saying that man does
_not_ live by every word which proceeds out of the mouth of God, but
by what he can get for himself and keep for himself? When they are
fretful and anxious about their crops, when they even repine and
complain of Providence, as I have known men do because they do not
prosper as they wish, what are they doing but saying in their
hearts, 'The weather and the seasons are the lords and masters of my
good fortune, or bad fortune. I depend on them, and not on God, for
comfort and for wealth, and my Heavenly Father does _not_ know what
I have need of?' When parents send their girls out to field-work,
without any care about whom they talk with, to have their minds
corrupted by hearing filthiness and seeing immodest behaviour, what
are they doing but offering their daughters in sacrifice, not even
to Moloch, but to Mammon; saying to themselves, 'My daughter's
modesty, my daughter's virtue, is not of as much value as the paltry
money which I can earn by leaving her alone to learn wickedness,
instead of keeping watch over her, if she does work, that she may be
none the worse for her day's labour.'

I might go on and give you a thousand instances more, but they all
come alike to this; that whensoever you fancy that you cannot earn
your daily bread without doing wrong yourself, or leaving your
children to learn wrong, then you do not believe that the kingdom,
the power, and the glory of this earth on which you work is your
Heavenly Father's. For if you did, you would be certain that gains,
large or small, got by breaking the least of His commandments, could
never prosper you, but must bring a curse and a punishment with
them; and you would be sure also, that because God is your Father,
and this earth and all herein is His, that He would feed you with
food sufficient for you, if you do but seek first His kingdom--that
is, try to learn His laws; and seek first His righteousness--that
is, strive and pray day by day to become righteous even as He is

Yes, my friends, this is one meaning, though only one, of St. John's
words, 'This is the victory which overcometh the world, even our
faith.' We all see the world full of pleasant things, for which we
long; of necessary things, too, without which we should starve and
die. And then the temptation comes to us to snatch at these things
for ourselves by any means in our power, right or wrong; like the
dumb animals who break out of their owners' field into the next, if
they do but see better pasturage there, or fight and quarrel between
themselves for food, each trying to get the most for himself and rob
his neighbour. So live the beasts, and so you and I, and every
human being shall be tempted to live, if we follow our natures, if
we forget that we are God's children, in God's kingdom, under the
laws of a Heavenly Father, who has shown forth His own love and
justice, His own kingdom, and power, and glory, in the person of the
Lord Jesus Christ. But if we remember that, if we remember daily
that the kingdom, and power, and glory is our Father's, then we
shall neither fear storms and blights, bad crops, or anything else
which is of the earth earthly. We shall fear nothing of that kind,
which can only kill the body, but only fear the evil Devil, lest, by
making us distrust and disobey our Heavenly Father, he should, after
he has killed, destroy both body and soul in hell. And as long as
we fear him, as long as we renounce him, as long as we trust utterly
in our Heavenly Father's love and justice, and in the love and
justice of His dear Son, the Man Christ Jesus, to whom all power is
given in heaven and earth--then out of the youngest child among us
will God's praise be perfected; for the youngest child among us, by
faith in God his Father, may look upon all heaven and earth, and
say, 'Great, and wonderful, and awful as this earth and skies may
be, I am more precious in the sight of God than sun, and moon, and
stars; for they are things: but I am a person, a spirit, an
immortal soul, made in the likeness of God, redeemed into the
likeness of God, sanctified into the likeness of God. This great
earth was here thousands and thousands of years before I was born,
and it will be here perhaps millions and millions of years after I
am dead; but it cannot harm _me_; it cannot kill _me_. When earth,
and sun, and stars are past away, I shall live for ever; for I am
the immortal child of an Immortal Father, the child of the
everlasting God. These things He only made: but me He begot unto
everlasting life, in Jesus Christ my Lord. I seem to depend on this
earth for food, for clothing, for comfort, for life itself: and yet
I do not do so in reality; for man doth not live by bread alone, but
by _every_ word which proceeds out of the mouth of God my Father.
In Him I have eternal life: a life which this earth did not give,
and cannot take away; a life which, by the mercy of my Father in
heaven, I trust and hope to be living when sun and earth, stars and
comets, are returned again to their dust, and blotted from the face
of heaven. For the kingdom, the glory, and the power of this world,
and all other worlds, past, present, and to come, belong to Him who
spared not His only-begotten Son, but freely gave Him for us, and
will with Him freely give us all things.'

And thus, my friends, may God's praise be perfected out of the mouth
of any Christian child, when He declares that God put man a little
lower than the angels only to crown him with the glory and worship
of having the only-begotten Son of God take man's nature upon Him,
and walk this earth as a man, and live, and die, and rise again as a
man, that so He might raise fallen man again to the glory and honour
which God appointed for men from the beginning, when He said, Let us
make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have
dominion over the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air, and the
beast of the earth; and be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the
earth and subdue it.


1 Kings xxi. 2, 3. And Ahab spake unto Naboth, saying, Give me thy
vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is
near unto my house: and I will give thee for it a better vineyard
than it; or, if it seem good to thee, I will give thee the worth of
it in money. And Naboth said unto Ahab, The Lord forbid it me, that
I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee.

You heard to-day read for the first lesson, the story of Naboth and
King Ahab. Most of you know it well. Naboth's vineyard has passed
into a proverb for something which we covet.

It is good that it should be so. We cannot know our Bible too well;
we cannot have Bible words and Bible thoughts too much worked into
our ways of talking and thinking about everyday matters. As far as
I can see, the best days of England, the best days of every
Christian country of which I ever read, have been days when men were
not ashamed of their Bibles; when they were ready to live by their
Bibles; to ask advice of their Bibles about buying and selling,
about making war and peace, about all the business of life; and were
not ashamed to quote texts of Scripture in the parliament, and in
the market, and in the battle-field, as God's law, God's rule, God's
word about the matter in hand, which was, therefore, sure to be the
right word and the right rule. People are grown ashamed of doing so
now-a-days; but that does not alter the matter one jot. We may deny
God, but He cannot deny Himself. His laws are everlasting, and He
is ruling and judging us by them now, all day long, just as much as
He ruled and judged those Jews by them of old. The God of Abraham
is our God; the God of Moses is our God; the God of Ahab and Naboth
is our God; neither He nor His government are altered in the least
since their time, and they never will alter for ever, and ever, and
ever; and if we do not choose to believe that now in this life, we
shall be made to believe it by some very ugly and painful schooling
in the life to come.

What laws of God, now, can we learn from this story?

First, we may learn what a sacred thing _property_ is. That a man's
possessions (if they be justly come by) belong to him, in the sight
of God as well as in the sight of man, and that God will uphold and
avenge the man's right.

Naboth, you see, stands simply on his right to his own property.
'The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my
fathers unto thee.' I do not think that he meant that God had
actually forbidden him: it seems to have been only some sort of
oath which he used. He may certainly have had reasons for thinking
it wrong to part with his lands; hurtful, perhaps, to his family
after him. Yet, as Ahab had promised him a better vineyard for it,
or its worth in money, I cannot help thinking that Naboth's reason
was the one which shows on the face of his words. It was the
inheritance of his fathers, this vineyard. They had all worked in
it, generation after generation; perhaps, according to the Jewish
custom, they were buried somewhere in it; at least, it had been
theirs and now was his; he had worked in it, and played in it--
perhaps since he was a child--and he loved it; it was part and
parcel of his father's house to him, a sacred spot.

And so it should be. It is a holy feeling which makes a man cling
to the bit of land which he has inherited from his parents, even to
the cottage, though it be only a hired one, where he has lived for
many a year, and where he has planted and tilled, perhaps with some
that he loved, who are now dead and gone, or grown up and gone out
into the world, till the little old cottage-garden is full of
remembrances to him of past joys and past sorrows. The feeling
which makes a man cling to his home and to his own land is a good
feeling, and breeds good in the man. It makes him respect himself;
it keeps him from being reckless and unsettled. It is a feeling
which should not be broken through. It is seldom pleasant to see
land change hands; it is seldom pleasant to see people turned out of
their cottages. It must often be so, but let it be as seldom as
possible. One likes to see a family take root in a place, and grow
and thrive there, one generation after another; and you will find,
my friends, that families do take root and thrive in a place just in
proportion as they fear God and do righteousness. The Psalms tell
you, again and again, that the way to abide in the land, and prosper
in it, is to trust in the Lord and be doing good; and that the
wicked are soon rooted out, and their names perish out of the land.
One sees that come true daily.

But to return to Naboth. He loved his own land, and therefore he
had a right to keep it. We may say it was but a fancy of his, if he
could have a better vineyard, or the worth of it in money.
Remember, at least, that God respected that fancy of his, and
justified it, and avenged it. When (after Naboth's death) Elijah
accused Ahab, in God's name, he put two counts into the indictment;
for Ahab had committed two sins. 'Hast thou killed, and also taken
possession?' Killing was one sin; taking possession was another.

And so Ahab learnt two weighty and bitter lessons. He learnt that
God's Law stands for ever, though man's law be broken or be
forgotten by disuse. For you must understand, that these Jews were
a free people, even as we are. They were not like the nations round
about them, or as the Russians are now--slaves to their king, and
holding their property only at his will. The law of Moses had made
them a free people, who held their property each man from God, by
God's Law, which had said, 'Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not
covet. Cursed is he who removes his neighbour's landmark.' And
their kings were bound to govern by Moses' law, just as our kings
and rulers are bound to govern by the old constitutions of England,
and to do equal justice by rich and poor. But the wicked kings of
Israel were trying to break through that law, and make themselves
tyrants and despots, such as the Czar of Russia is now. First,
Jeroboam began by trying to wean his people from Moses' law, by
preventing their going up to worship at Jerusalem, and making them
worship instead the golden calves at Dan and at Bethel. For he knew
that if he could make idolaters of them, he should soon make slaves
of them; and he succeeded; and the kingdom of Israel grew more
miserable year by year; and now Ahab, his wicked successor, was
breaking down the laws of property and wrongfully taking away his
subjects' lands. Perhaps he said in his heart, 'I am king; there is
no law stronger than I. I have a right to do what I like.' If he
did so, he found that he was mistaken. He found that though he
forgot Moses' law, God had not; that the law stood there still,
because it was founded on eternal justice, which proceeds for ever
out of the mouth of God; and by the Law, which he had chosen to
forget, he was judged; by the Law of God, which deals equal justice
to rich and poor, which is, like God Himself, no acceptor of
persons; but says, 'Thou shalt not covet,' to the king upon his
throne as sternly as to the beggar on the dunghill.

And that Law stands still, my friends, doubt it not. Thanks to the
wisdom and justice of our forefathers who built the laws of England
on those old Ten Commandments, which hang for a sign thereof in
every church to this day. Thanks to them, I say, and to God, the
root of the law of England is, equal justice between man and man, be
he high or low; and it is a thing to bless God for every day of our
lives, that here the poor man's little is as safe as the rich man's
wealth: but there is many a sin of oppression, many a sin of
covetousness, my friends, which no law of man can touch. Make laws
as artfully as you will, bad men can always slip through them, and
escape the spirit of them, while they obey the letter: and I
suppose it will be so to the world's end; and that, let the laws be
as perfect as they may, if any man wishes to cheat or oppress his
neighbour, he will surely be able to work his wicked will in some
way or other. Well then, my friends, if man's law is weak, God's is
not;--if man's law has flaws and gaps in it, through which
covetousness can creep, God's has none;--even if (which God forbid)
man's law died out, and sinners were left to sin without fear of
punishment, still God's Law stands sure, and the eye of the living
God slumbers not, and the hand of the living God never grows weary,
and out of the everlasting heaven His voice is saying, day and
night, for ever, 'I endure for ever. I sit on the throne judging
right; a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of My kingdom. I
judge the world in justice, and minister true judgment unto the
people. I also will be a refuge for the oppressed, even a refuge in
due time of trouble.'

O hear those words, my friends! hear and obey, if you love life, and
wish to see good days; and never, never say a thing is right, simply
because the law cannot punish you for it. Never say in your hearts
when you are tempted to be hard, cruel, covetous, over-reaching,
'What harm? I break no law by it.' There is a law, whether you see
it or not; you break a law, whether you confess it or not; a law
which is as a wall of iron clothed with thunder, though man's law be
but a flimsy net of thread; and that law, and not any Acts of
Parliament, shall judge you in the day when the secrets of all
hearts shall be disclosed, and every man shall receive the due
reward of the deeds done in the body, not according as they were
allowed or not by the Statute Book, but according as they were good
or evil.

Another lesson we may learn from this story: that if we give way to
our passions, we give way to the Devil also. Ahab gave way to his
passion; he knew that he was wrong; for when Naboth refused to sell
him the vineyard, he did not dare openly to rob him of it; he went
to his house heavy of heart, and fretted, like a spoilt child,
because he could not get what he wanted. It was but a little thing,
and he might have been content to go without it. He was king of all
Israel, and what was one small vineyard more or less to him? But
prosperity had spoilt him; he must needs have every toy on which he
set his heart, and he was weak enough to fret that he could not get
more, when he had too much already. But he knew that he could not
get it; that, king as he was, Naboth's property was his own, and
that God's everlasting Law stood between him and the thing he
coveted. Well for him if he had been contented with fretting. But,
my friends--and be you rich or poor, take heed to my words--whenever
any man gives way to selfishness, and self-seeking, to a proud,
covetous, envious, peevish temper, the Devil is sure to glide up and
whisper in his ear thoughts which will make him worse--worse, ay,
than he ever dreamt of being. First comes the flesh, and then the
Devil; and if the flesh opens the door of the heart, the Devil steps
in quickly enough. First comes the flesh: fleshly, carnal pride at
being thwarted; fleshly, carnal longing for a thing, which longs all
the more for it because one cannot have it; fleshly, carnal
peevishness and ill-temper, at not having just the pleasant thing
one happens to like. That is a state of mind which is a bird-call
for all the devils; and when they see a man in that temper, they
flock to him, I believe, as crows do to carrion. It is astonishing,
humbling, awful, my friends, what horrible thoughts will cross one's
mind if once one gives way to that selfish, proud, angry, longing
temper; thoughts of which we are ashamed the next moment;
temptations to sin at which we shudder, they seem so unlike
ourselves, not parts of ourselves at all. When the dark fit is
past, one can hardly believe that such wicked thoughts ever crossed
one's mind. I don't think that they are part of ourselves; I
believe them to be the whispers of the Devil himself; and when they
pass away, I believe that it is the Lord Jesus Christ who drives
them away. But if any man gives way to them, determines to keep his
sullenness, and so gives place to the Devil; then those thoughts do
not pass; they take hold of a man, possess him, as the Bible calls
it, and make him in his madness do things which--alas! who has not
done things in his day, of which he has repented all his life
after?--things for which he would gladly cut off his right hand for
the sake of being able to say, 'I never did that?' But the thing is
done--done to all eternity: he has given place to the Devil, and
the Devil has made him do in five minutes work which he could not
undo in five thousand years; and all that is left is, when he comes
to himself, to cast himself on God's boundless mercy, and Christ's
boundless atonement, and cry, 'My sins are like scarlet, Thou alone
canst make them whiter than snow: my sin is ever before me; only
let it not be ever before Thee, O God! Punish me, if thou seest
fit; but oh forgive, for there is mercy with Thee, and infinite
redemption!' And, thanks be to God's great love, he will not cry in
vain. Yet, oh, my friends, do not give place to the Devil, unless
you wish, forgiven or not, to repent of it to the latest day you

And this was Ahab's fate. He knew, I say, that he was wrong; he
knew that Naboth's property was his own, and dare not openly rob him
of it; and he went to his house, heavy of heart, and refused to eat;
and while he was in such a temper as that, the Devil lost no time in
sending an evil spirit to him. It was a woman whom he sent,
Jezebel, Ahab's own wife: but she was, as far as we can see, a
woman of a devilish spirit, cruel, proud, profligate, and unjust, as
well as a worshipper of the filthy idols of the Canaanites. Ahab's
first sin was in having married this wicked heathen woman: now his
sin punished itself; she tempted him through his pride and self-
conceit; she taunted him into sin: 'Dost thou now govern the
kingdom of Israel? I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth.' You
all remember how she did so; by falsely accusing Naboth of
blasphemy. Ahab seems to have taken no part in Naboth's murder.
Perhaps he was afraid; but he was a weak man, and Jezebel was a
strong and fierce spirit, and ruled him, and led him in this matter,
as she did in making him worship idols with her; and he was content
to be led. He was content to let others do the wickedness he had
not courage to carry out himself. He forgot that, as is well said,
'He who does a thing by another, does it by himself;' that if you
let others sin for you, you sin for yourself. Would to God, my
friends, that we would all remember this! How often people wink at
wrong-doing in those with whom they have dealings, in those whom
they employ, in their servants, in their children, because it is
convenient to them. They shut their eyes, and their hearts too, and
say to themselves, 'At all events, it is his doing and not mine; and
it is his concern; I am not answerable for other people's sins. I
would not do such a thing myself, certainly; but as it is done, I
may as well make the best of it. If I gain by it, I need not be so
very sharp in looking into the matter.' And so you see men who
really wish to be honest and kindly themselves, making no scruple of
profiting by other people's dishonesty and cruelty. Now the law
punishes the receiver of stolen goods almost as severely as the
thief himself: but there are many receivers of stolen goods, my
friends, whom the law cannot touch. The world, at times, seems to
me to be full of them; for every one, my friends, who hushes up a
cruel or a dishonest matter, because he himself is a gainer by it,
he is no better than the receiver of stolen goods, and he will find
in the day of the Lord, that the sin will lie at his door, as
Jezebel's sin lay at Ahab's. There was no need for Ahab to say,
'Jezebel did it, and not I.' The prophet did not even give him time
to excuse himself: 'Thus saith the Lord, Hast thou killed, and also
taken possession?' By taking possession of Naboth's vineyard, and
so profiting by his murder, he made himself partaker in that murder,
and had to hear the terrible sentence, 'In the place where dogs
licked the blood of Naboth, dogs shall lick thy blood, even thine.'

Oh, my friends, whatsoever you do, keep clean hands and a pure
heart. If you touch pitch, it will surely stick to you. Let no
gain tempt you to be partaker of others men's sins; never fancy
that, because men cannot lay the blame on the right person, God
cannot. God will surely lay the burden on the man who helped to
make the burden; God will surely require part payment from the man
who profited by the bargain; so keep yourselves clear of other men's
sins, that you may be clear also of their condemnation.

So Ahab had committed a horrible and great sin, and had received
sentence for it, and now, as I said before, there was nothing to be
done but to repent; and he did so, after his fashion.

Ahab, it seems, was not an utterly bad man; he was a weak man, fond
of his own pleasure, a slave to his own passions, and easily led,
sometimes to good, but generally to evil. And God did not execute
full vengeance on him: his repentance was a poor one enough; but
such as it was, the good and merciful God gave him credit for it as
far as it went, and promised him that the worst part of his
sentence, the ruin of his family, should not come in his time. But
still the sentence against him stood, and was fulfilled. Not long
after, as we read in the second lesson, he was killed in battle, and
that not bravely and with honour (for if he had been, that would
have been but a slight punishment, my friends), but shamefully by a
chance shot, after he had disguised himself, in the cowardice of his
guilty conscience, and tried to throw all the danger on his ally,
good King Jehoshaphat of Judah; 'and they washed his chariot in the
pool of Samaria, and the dogs licked up his blood, according to the
word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah the prophet.'

So ends one of the most clear and terrible stories in the whole
Bible, of God's impartial justice. May God give us all grace to lay
it to heart! We are all tempted, as Ahab was; rich or poor, our
temptation is alike to give place to the Devil, and let him lead us
into dark and deep sin, by giving way to our own fancies, longings,
pride, and temper. We are all tempted, as Ahab was, to over-reach
our neighbours in some way; I do not mean always in cheating them,
but in being unfair to them, in caring more for ourselves than for
them; thinking of ourselves first, and of them last; trying to make
ourselves comfortable, or to feed our own pride, at their expense.
Oh, my friends, whenever we are tempted to be selfish and grasping,
be sure that we are opening a door to the very Devil of hell
himself, though he may look so smooth, and gentle, and respectable,
that perhaps we shall not know him when he comes to us, and shall
take his counsels for the counsel of an angel of light. But be sure
that if it is selfishness which has opened the door of our heart,
not God, but the Devil, will come in, let him disguise himself as
cunningly as he will; and our only hope is to flee to Him in whom
there was no selfishness, the Lord Jesus Christ, who came not to do
His own will, but His Father's; not to glorify Himself, but His
Father; not to save His own life, but to sacrifice it freely, for
us, His selfish, weak, greedy, wandering sheep. Pray to Him to give
you His Spirit, that glorious spirit of love, and duty, and self-
sacrifice, by which all the good deeds on earth are done; which
teaches a man not to care about himself, but about others; to help
others, to feel for others, to rejoice in their happiness, to grieve
over their sorrows, to give to them, rather than take from them--in
one word, The Holy Spirit of God, which may He pour out on you, and
me, and all mankind, that we may live justly and lovingly, as
children of one just and loving Father in heaven.


[Preached for the Chelsea National Schools.]

Ephesians v. 13. All things which are reproved are made manifest by
the light: for whatsoever is made manifest is light.

This is a noble text, a royal text; one of those texts which forbid
us to clip and cramp Scripture to suit any narrow notions of our
own; which open before us boundless vistas of God's love, of human
knowledge, of the future of mankind. There are many such texts,
many more than we fancy; but this is one which is especially
valuable at the present time; one especially fit for a sermon on
education; for it is, as it were, the scriptural charter of the
advocate of education. It enables him boldly to say, 'There is
nothing I will refuse to teach; there is nothing which man shall
forbid me to teach; there is nothing which God has made in heaven or
earth about which I will not tell the truth boldly to the young.'

For light comes from God. God is light, and in Him is no darkness
at all. And therefore He wishes to give light to His children. He
willeth not that the least of them should be kept in darkness about
any matter. Darkness is of the Devil; and he who keeps any human
soul in darkness, let his pretences be as reverent and as religious
as they may, is doing the Devil's work. Nothing, then, which God
has made will we conceal from the young.

True, there are errors of which we will not speak to the young; but
they are not made by God: they are the works of darkness. Our duty
is to teach the young what God has made, what He has done, what He
has ordained; to make them freely partakers of whatsoever light God
has given us. Then, by means of that light, they will be able to
reprove the works of darkness.

For whatsoever is made manifest is light. Our version says;
'Whatsoever makes manifest is light.' That is true, a noble truth;
but I should not be honest, if I did not confess that that is not
what St. Paul says here. He says, 'That which _is_ made manifest is
light.' On this the best commentators and scholars agree. Our old
translators have made a mistake, though in grammar only, and have
substituted one great truth for another equally great.

'Whatsoever is made manifest is light.' We should have expected


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