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burthens, unsatisfied with their husks, conscious of being in a
distant land, and finding nothing which men can give to allay
their hungering and thirsting, is this: "Show us the Father, and it
sufficeth us!" Now supposing an earnest spirit, seeking after the
Father, comes to us as His profest ministers in order to discover
the truth of what we preach, he might very naturally say, "You
preach to me a Savior who came a long time ago into the world
professing to save sinners, and you tell me that He is coming again
at some future period to judge the world and to bestow salvation
upon many; but I want to know whether there is a Savior now; or
is it all empty space between that past and that future? You tell
me about salvation from the suffering of sin; I ask, 'Is there
salvation from sin itself, without which I feel there can be no
deliverance from suffering'? You tell me about a medicine that is an
infallible cure for 'this ineradicable taint of sin,' and describe
the terrible consequences of the disease to me if I be not cured,
and the blessed results of joyous spiritual health and peace; but
'Can you show me any person who has actually been restored from
disease to health by this divine medicine'? Is all this preaching a
mere idle theory of life? Or if not, where is the life itself? Art
thou thyself saved? If not - 'physician, heal thyself'; for until
then thou canst not cure me." But suppose, further, that this same
person comes into close contact with the mind of the preacher, and
that the more he sees and knows it the more he discerns in the man
such thoughts regarding God, such a knowledge of Him, such a love
to Him, as convince him that here at least is a reality and not a
pretense; suppose that the more he discerns his whole inner life,
the things which give him pain and joy, the things which he desires
and loves, with his whole feelings towards his fellow-men - feelings
expressed in a life of action, which, in spite of infirmities and
shortcomings belonging to all human beings, the questioner cannot
but recognize as a kind of life he never saw before - a life, too,
which commends itself, from what it is, as being the most real
and the most satisfactory to reason, conscience, and heart: can
anything, I ask, be more calculated to convince him of the account
which its possessor gives him as to its origin, when he says, "The
life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me, and gave himself for me." "It is a faithful saying,
and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ came into the world to
save sinners, of whom I am the chief." What then? What else must
be the result of such a vision of true life than the conviction
that God is our Father and that God is love, because it is evident
from observation as well as from testimony that He hath sent His
Son to save men, not in the past only, but to save them now - not
to save only those who are called "good," but to save those who
are the chief of sinners? If a man truly believes all this, then
does he know God, and in so doing possesses eternal life. But more
than this, how will his convictions be deepened if, in searching
for others who may have the same life, and if, tho failing to
discover any one visible body of Christians that show it forth in
the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace, he is yet able
to satisfy himself that there have been, during the last eighteen
centuries, and that there are now, in every church, in every land,
among all races of men, among those of different temperaments,
different culture, and amidst a variety of all possible outward
circumstances, men with like passions as himself, who have faith in
the same Lord, and are thereby possest of a true love of God and
of one another - how will this, I say, deepen in him the conviction
that God is a Father, because a Savior, who "gave his Son, not that
any should perish, but that all should possess everlasting life?"
Will he not be thus led to "believe the record that God has given
us eternal life, and that this life is in his Son?" I am persuaded
that a man of the highest intellectual culture and the greatest
learning, earnestly searching after God and Christ, and the truth
of Christianity, would be more convinced of the love of the one
as manifested in the truth of the other, by coming into contact
with one true soul which, without perhaps intellectual culture or
learning, yet truly loved God and man, than he would be by all the
volumes on the evidence of Christianity ever written, without such a
spiritual vision of a holy life.

On the other hand, supposing that no such evidence of the truth of
Christianity could be discovered in the preacher of Christianity;
nay, if his character contradicted his preaching; if, while
he preached love to God and man, he manifested neither, but
indifference, to say the least of it, to both; if, while he preached
the necessity and the excellence of the Christian life, he himself
revealed its very opposite - what effect would this have upon an
earnest spirit, but that Christianity was a mere ideal system
unsuited to the world, a philosophy of life that might be believed
in, but not a life itself that might be possest?

This want of personal character, however imperfect, yet real, may
account for the want of success in the mission of the Church to
convince the world, whether at home or abroad. We may give religion
but not godliness; the means of grace, as they are called, but not
the grace seen and exprest in the living man. We would thus hear of
Christianity without seeing it; hear about the love of God, and the
love of Christ as a Savior, without being convinced even by those
who send missionaries to India, who, altho they may individually
reveal this life, yet how often are looked upon as mere official
teachers; while the "Christians" from "Christendom" may, in coming
into contact with the heathen, show by their denial of Christianity
that it is a matter for the priesthood, not for all men; a book
theology, but not an actual power working in humanity: and of such
persons it may be said that they have profaned God's great name
among the heathen.

And this, too, may also account for the secret of success by many
a minister of whom the world knows nothing: "For greatest minds
are those of whom the noisy world hears least." They may not be
great in the ordinary sense of the word - great as thinkers, great
as orators, or great in the possession of any remarkable gifts; but
they are nevertheless great in the kingdom of heaven; great because
little children - great in meekness, in patience, in humility, in
love of God and man, and who carry this music in their heart,
"through dusky land and wrangling mart." What is the secret of their
power? What but an eternal reality! the reality of a godly, godlike
life obtained from God, and sustained by God, and seen in the eye,
felt in the hand, heard in the words - a light of life which shines
beside many a dying bed in many a home of sorrow, as well as in the
pulpit. This is a kind of life whose biography will be written with
the tears of the grateful orphan and widow, and of many a saved
soul which remembers its possessor as its spiritual father. Such a
ministry as this can no more fail than the love of God which gives
it birth. Let us thank God, therefore, that such a secret power as
this is within the reach of us all. We may not be men of talent,
and for that we are not responsible; but we may be good men because
little children towards God, and for that we are responsible: "I
thank thee, heavenly Father, that thou hast hid these things from
the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes."

And now, fathers and brethren, such is our high calling, to proclaim
the glad tidings that God has sent Christ into the world to save
sinners. Our chief authority for doing this is that we know it to be
true; and if so, no one can deprive us of the high privilege and joy
of proclaiming it. A glorious work is thus given us to do; we are
ambassadors for God, beseeching men to be reconciled to Him, and we
are fellow-workers with our Lord Himself. But this involves a great
responsibility, corresponding to the greatness of our calling. For
it is at once a glorious and a tremendous thought that Christ perils
the chief evidence of the truth of Christianity, not upon what we
say, but more upon what we are; and what we are is neither more nor
less than what God knows us to be. Our preaching may, nevertheless,
fail in some cases to convince the world, as it has done before; for
the glory of Christ Himself was not seen by Judas. Indeed the light
of life, when it shines, requires the single eye to see it. But in
so far as the ministry of men, as an instrumentality, can convince
the world, let our ministry be such as is calculated according to
Christ's purpose to produce this result. Let it consist of those who
can say, "We know whom we have believed." "We know and believe the
love that God hath to us." "We testify that he sent his Son to be
the Savior of the world."

But I must bring my sermon to a close.

Pardon me, my brethren, if I have appeared to address you in any
other spirit than that of one who would with you confess his sins
and shortcomings, and lament with shame and sorrow how much time and
power have been lost never to be regained; how many gifts and noble
opportunities have been neglected and perverted through unbelief and
sloth, which might have been used for our own good and that of our
fellow-men. Verily the day is far spent with many of us, and the
night is near in which no man can work. Whatever our hands find to
do must be done now or never. Let us pray that the living Spirit of
God, given to all who seek Him, and whose work it is to glorify the
Son, may take of His things and show them to our souls, and open
our spiritual eye to see the glory of God in the face of Christ, so
that we may be changed into the same glory. May we strive to keep
the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and be enabled so
to preach and so to live that the world may be convinced, by what
it sees and hears, of the reality of the love of God the Father in
giving us and all men eternal life through Jesus Christ His Son! May
He who makes us sons of God enable us, as sons, to be glorified in
the perfection and revelation of our characters, so that with our
elder Brother we may glorify His Father and our Father!

And now, to Father, Son and Holy Ghost, one God, be glory, dominion,
and praise for evermore. Amen!




MOZLEY

THE REVERSAL OF HUMAN JUDGMENT




BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE


JAMES B. MOZLEY, English divine and philosopher, was born at
Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, in 1813. He was educated at Oxford,
and is particularly known for his discourses on Baptism and
Predestination. Gladstone appointed him as professor of divinity at
Oxford. His Bampton Lectures on Miracles (1863) are still considered
of classical authority. Dr. Brastow, in speaking of his clear and
well-ordered thought, says: "He was intent upon getting at the heart
of all subjects investigated, and his slowness in clearing up a
subject and his deliberation and fastidiousness with respect to his
diction embarrassed him. The result was a mastery of thought and an
exactness and clearness and strength of speech that are more than an
offset for the difficulties he encountered; and one can hardly fail
to see that this patient, self-poised mental habit saved him from
one-sidedness and kept the balance of his judgement and made him
the safer guide. We see here the immense value of thorough mental
training." He died in 1878.




MOZLEY

1813-1878

THE REVERSAL OF HUMAN JUDGMENT[3]

[3] By permission of the publishers, Messrs. Longmans, Green & Co.

_Many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be
first._ - Matthew xix., 30.


Perhaps there is hardly any person of reflection to whom the thought
has not occurred at times, of the final judgment turning out to
be a great subversion of human estimates of men. Society forms
its opinions of men, and places some on a high pinnacle; they are
favorites with it, religious and moral favorites. Such judgments are
a necessary and proper part of the present state of things; they
are so, quite independently of the question whether they are true
or not; it is proper that there should be this sort of expression
of the voice of the day; the world is not nothing, because it is
transient; it must judge and speak upon such evidence as it has,
and is capable of seeing. Therefore those characters of men are by
all means to be respected by us, as members of this world; they
have their place, they are a part of the system. But does the idea
strike us of some enormous subversion of human judgments in the next
world, some vast rectification, to realize which now, even if we
could, would not be good for us? Such an idea would not be without
support from some of those characteristic prophetic sayings of our
Lord, which, like the slanting strokes of the sun's rays across
the clouds, throw forward a tract of mysterious light athwart the
darkness of the future. Such is that saying in which a shadow of the
Eternal Judgment seems to come over us - "Many that are first shall
be last; and the last shall be first." It is impossible to read this
saying without an understanding that it was intended to throw an
element of wholesome scepticism into the present estimate of human
character, and to check the idolatry of the human heart which lifts
up its favorites with as much of self-complacency as of enthusiasm,
and in its worship of others flatters itself.

Indeed, this language of Scripture, which speaks of the subversion
of human judgments in another world, comes in connection with
another language with which it most remarkably fits in, language
which speaks very decidedly of a great deception of human judgments
in this world. It is observable that the gospel prophecy of the
earthly future of Christianity is hardly what we should have
expected it beforehand to be; there is a great absence of brightness
in it; the sky is overcast with clouds, and birds of evil omen fly
to and fro; there is an agitation of the air, as if dark elements
were at work in it; or it is as if a fog rose up before our eyes,
and treacherous lights were moving to and fro in it, which we could
not trust. Prophecy would fain presage auspiciously, but as soon as
she casts her eye forward, her note saddens, and the chords issue
in melancholy and sinister cadences which depress the hearer's
mind. And what is the burden of her strain? It is this. As soon as
ever Christianity is cast into the world to begin its history, that
moment there begins a great deception. It is a pervading thought
in gospel prophecy - the extraordinary capacity for deceiving and
being deceived that would arise under the gospel; it is spoken of
as something peculiar in the world. There are to be false Christs
and false prophets, false signs and wonders; many that will come in
Christ's name, saying, I am Christ, and deceive many; so that it
is the parting admonition of Christ to His disciples - "Take heed,
lest any man deceive you" - as if that would be the greater danger.
And this great quantity of deception was to culminate in that one
in whom all power of signs and lying wonders should reside, even
that Antichrist, who as God should sit in the temple of God, showing
himself that he is God. Thus before the true Christ was known to the
world, the prophecy of the false one was implanted deep in the heart
of Christianity.

When we come to the explanation of this mass of deception as it
applies to the Christian society, and the conduct of Christians,
we find that it consists of a great growth of specious and showy
effects, which will in fact issue out of Christianity, not implying
sterling goodness. Christianity will act as a great excitement to
human nature, it will communicate a great impulse, it will move
and stir man's feelings and intellect; this impulse will issue in
a great variety of high gifts and activities, much zeal and ardor.
But this brilliant manifestation will be to a large extent lacking
in the substance of the Christian character. It will be a great
show. That is to say, there will be underneath it the deceitful
human heart - the _natura callida_, as Thomas à Kempis calls it,
_quæ se semper pro fine habet_. We have even in the early Christian
Church that specious display of gifts which put aside as secondary
the more solid part of religion, and which St. Paul had so strongly
to check. Gospel prophecy goes remarkably in this direction, as to
what Christianity would do in the world; that it would not only
bring out the truth of human nature, but would, like some powerful
alchemy, elicit and extract the falsehood of it; that it would not
only develop what was sincere and sterling in man, but what was
counterfeit in him too. Not that Christianity favors falsehood, any
more than the law favored sin because it brought out sin. The law,
as St. Paul says, brought out sin because it was spiritual, and
forced sin to be sin against light. So in the case of Christianity.
If a very high, pure, and heart-searching religion is brought into
contact with a corrupt nature, the nature grasps at the greatness
of the religion, but will not give up itself; yet to unite the two
requires a self-deception the more subtle and potent in proportion
to the purity of the religion. And certainly, comparing the
hypocrisy of the Christian with that of the old world, we see that
the one was a weak production in comparison with the other, which is
indeed a very powerful creation; throwing itself into feeling and
language with an astonishing freedom and elasticity, and possessing
wonderful spring and largeness.

There is, however, one very remarkable utterance of our Lord Himself
upon this subject, which deserves special attention. "Many will say
to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name,
and in thy name cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful
works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you." Now
this is a very remarkable prophecy, for one reason, that in the
very first start of Christianity, upon the very threshold of its
entrance into the world, it looks through its success and universal
reception, into an ulterior result of that victory - a counterfeit
profession of it. It sees, before the first nakedness of its birth
is over, a prosperous and flourishing religion, which it is worth
while for others to pay homage to, because it reflects credit on
its champions. Our Lord anticipates the time when active zeal for
Himself will be no guaranty. And we may observe the difference
between Christ and human founders. The latter are too glad of any
zeal in their favor, to examine very strictly the tone and quality
of it. They grasp at it at once; not so our Lord. He does not want
it even for Himself, unless it is pure in the individual. But
this statement of our Lord's is principally important, as being
a prophecy relating to the earthly future of Christianity. It
places before us public religious leaders, men of influence in the
religious world, who spread and push forward by gifts of eloquence
and powers of mind, the truths of His religion, whom yet He will
not accept, because of a secret corruptness in the aim and spirit
with which they did their work. The prophecy puts forth before us
the fact of a great deal of work being done in the Church, and
outwardly good zealous work, upon the same motive in substance, upon
which worldly men do their work in the world, and stamps it as the
activity of corrupt nature. The rejection of this class of religious
workers is complete, altho they have been, as the language itself
declares, forward and active for spiritual objects, and not only had
them on their lips.

Here then we have a remarkable subversion of human judgments in the
next world foretold by our Lord Himself; for those men certainly
come forward with established religious characters to which they
appeal; they have no doubt of their position in God's kingdom, and
they speak with the air of men whose claims have been acquiesced
in by others, and by numbers. And thus a false Christian growth is
looked to in gospel prophecy, which will be able to meet even the
religious tests of the current day, and sustain its pretensions, but
which will not satisfy the tests of the last day.

We are then perhaps at first surprized at the sternness of their
sentence, and are ready to say with the trembling disciple, "Who
then shall be saved?" But when we reflect upon it, we shall see
that it is not more than what meets the case; i. e., that we know
of sources of error in the estimate of human character which will
account for great mistakes being made; which mistakes will have to
be rectified.

One source of mistakes then is, that while the gospel keeps to one
point of its classification of men, - viz., the motive, by which
alone it decides their character, the mass of men in fact find it
difficult to do so. They have not that firm hold of the moral idea
which prevents them from wandering from it, and being diverted by
irrelevant considerations, they think of the spirituality of a
man as belonging to the department to which he is attached, the
profession he makes, the subject matter he works upon, the habitual
language he has to use. The sphere of these men, of whom the
estimate was to be finally reversed, was a religious one, - viz., the
Church, and this was a remarkable prop to them. Now, with respect
to this, it must be observed that the Church is undoubtedly in its
design a spiritual society, but it is also a society of this world
as well; and it depends upon the inward motive of a man whether it
is to him a spiritual society or a worldly one. The Church, as soon
as ever it is embodied in a visible collection or society of men,
who bring into it human nature, with human influences, regards,
points of view, estimates, aims, and objects - I say the Church,
from the moment it thus embodies itself in a human society, is
the world. Individual souls in it convert into reality the high
profest principles of the body, but the active stock of motives in
it are the motives of human nature. Can the visible Church indeed
afford to do without these motives? Of course it cannot. It must
do its work by means of these to a great extent, just as the world
does its work. Religion itself is beautiful and heavenly, but the
machinery for it is very like the machinery for anything else. I
speak of the apparatus for conducting and administering the visible
system of it. Is not the machinery for all causes and objects
much the same, communication with others, management, contrivance,
combination, adaptation of means to end? Religion then is itself a
painful struggle, but religious machinery provides as pleasant a
form of activity as any other machinery possesses; and it counts
for and exercises much the same kind of talents and gifts that
the machinery of any other department does, that of a government
office, or a public institution, or a large business. The Church,
as a part of the work, must have active-minded persons to conduct
its policy and affairs; which persons must, by their very situation,
connect themselves with spiritual subjects, as being the subjects
of the society; they must express spiritual joys, hopes, and
fears, apprehensions, troubles, trials, aims, and wishes. These
are topics which belong to the Church as a department. A religious
society, then, or religious sphere of action, or religious sphere
of subjects, is irrelevant as regards the spirituality of the
individual person, which is a matter of inward motive.

One would not of course exclude from the sphere of religion the
motive of _esprit de corps_: it is undoubtedly a great stimulus, and
in its measure is consistent with all simplicity and singleness of
heart; but in an intense form, when the individual is absorbed in
a blind obedience to a body, it corrupts the quality of religion;
it ensnares the man in a kind of self-interest; and he sees in
the success of the body the reflection of himself. It becomes an
egotistic motive. There has been certainly an immense produce from
it; but the type of religion it has produced is a deflection from
simplicity; it may possess striking and powerful qualities, but
it is not like the free religion of the heart; and there is that
difference between the two, which there is between what comes from
a second-hand source and from the fountain head. It has not that
naturalness (in the highest sense) which alone gives beauty to


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Online LibraryVariousThe World's Great Sermons, Volume 5: Guthrie to Mozley → online text (page 11 of 13)