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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
live.

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.



SERMON XII. THE LIGHT OF GOD



[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
this, if we are really Christians. If we have faith in God; if we
believe that God is worthy of our faith - a God whom we can trust; in
whom is neither caprice, deceit, nor darkness, but pure and perfect
light; - if we believe that we are His children, and that He wishes
us to be, like Himself, full of light, knowing what we are and what
the world is, because we know who God is; - if we believe that He
sent His Son into the world to reveal Him, to unveil Him, to draw
aside the veil which dark superstition and ignorance had spread
between man and God, and to show us the glory of God; - if we believe
this, then we shall be ready to expect that whatsoever is made
manifest would be light; for if God be light, all that He has made
must be light also. Like must beget like, and therefore light must
beget light, good beget good, love beget love; and therefore we
ought to expect that as true and sound knowledge increases, our
views of God will be more full of light.

Yes, my friends; under the influence of true science God will be no
longer looked upon, as He was in those superstitions which we well
call dark, as a proud, angry, capricious being, as a stern
taskmaster, as one far removed from the sympathy of men: but as one
of whom we may cheerfully say, Thy name be hallowed, for Thy name is
Father; Thy kingdom come, for it is a Father's kingdom; Thy will be
done, for it is a Father's will; and in doing Thy will alone men
claim their true dignity of being the sons of God.

Our views of our fellow-men will be more cheerful also; more full of
sympathy, comprehension, charity, hope; in one word, more full of
light. If it be true (and it is true) that God loves all, then we
should expect to find in all something worthy of our love. If it be
true that God willeth that none should perish, we should expect to
find in each man something which ought not to perish. If it be true
that God stooped from heaven, yea stoops from heaven eternally, to
seek and to save that which is lost, then we should have good hope
that our efforts to seek to save that which is lost will not be in
vain. We shall have hope in every good work we undertake, for we
shall know that in it we are fellow-workers with God.

Our notions of the world - of God's whole universe, will become full
of light likewise. Do we believe that this earth was made by Jesus
Christ? - by Him who was full of grace and truth? Do we believe our
Bibles, when they tell us, that He hath given all created things a
law which cannot be broken; that they continue as at the beginning,
for all things serve Him? Do we believe this? Then we must look on
this earth, yea on the whole universe of God, as, like its Master,
full of grace and truth; not as old monks and hermits fancied it, a
dark, deceiving, evil earth, filled with snares and temptations; a
world from which a man ought to hide himself in the wilderness, and
find his own safety in ignorance. Not thus, but as the old Hebrews
thought of it, as a glorious and a divine universe, in which the
Spirit of God, the Lord and Giver of life, creates eternal melody,
bringing for ever life out of death, light out of darkness, letting
his breath go forth that new generations may be made, and herein
renew the face of the earth.

And experience teaches us that this has been the case; that for near
one thousand eight hundred years there has been a steady progress in
the mind of the Christian race, and that this progress has been in
the direction of light.

Has it not been so in our notions of God? What has the history of
theology been for near one thousand eight hundred years? Has it not
been a gradual justification of God, a gradual vindication of His
character from those dark and horrid notions of the Deity which were
borrowed from the Pagans, and from the Jewish Rabbis? a gradual
return to the perfect good news of a good God, which was preached by
St. John and by St. Paul? - In one word, a gradual manifestation of
God; and a gradual discovery that when God is manifested, behold,
God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all?

That progress, alas! is not yet perfect. We still see through a
glass darkly, and we are still too apt to impute to God Himself the
darkness of those very hearts of ours in which He is so dimly
mirrored. And there are men still, even in Protestant England, who
love darkness rather than light, and teach men that God is dark, and
in Him are only scattered spots of light, and those visible only to
a favoured few; men who, whether from ignorance, or covetousness, or
lust of power, preach such a deity as the old Pharisees worshipped,
when they crucified the Lord of Glory, and offer to deliver men,
forsooth, out of the hands of this dreadful phantom of their own
dark imaginations.

Let them be. Let the dead bury their dead, and let us follow
Christ. Believe indeed that He is the likeness of God's glory, and
the express image of God's person, and you will be safe from the
dark dreams with which they ensnare diseased and superstitious
consciences. Let them be. Light is stronger than darkness; Love
stronger than cruelty. Perfect God stronger than fallen man; and
the day shall come when all shall be light in the Lord; when all
mankind shall know God, from the least unto the greatest, and
lifting up free foreheads to Him who made them, and redeemed them by
His Son, shall in spirit and in truth, worship The Father.

Does not experience again show us that in the case of our fellow-
men, whatsoever is made manifest, is light?

How easy it was, a thousand years ago - a hundred years ago even, to
have dark thoughts about our fellow-men, simply because we did not
know them! Easy it was, while the nations were kept apart by war,
even by mere difficulty of travelling, for Christians to curse Jews,
Turks, Infidels, and Heretics, and believe that God willed their
eternal perdition, even though the glorious collect for Good Friday
gave their inhumanity the lie. Easy to persecute those to whose
opinions we could not, or would not, take the trouble to give a fair
hearing. Easy to condemn the negro to perpetual slavery, when we
knew nothing of him but his black face; or to hang by hundreds the
ragged street-boys, while we disdained to inquire into the
circumstances which had degraded them; or to treat madmen as wild
beasts, instead of taming them by wise and gentle sympathy.

But with a closer knowledge of our fellow-creatures has come
toleration, pity, sympathy. And as that sympathy has been freely
obeyed, it has justified itself more and more. The more we have
tried to help our fellow-men, the more easy we have found it to help
them. The more we have trusted them, the more trustworthy we have
found them. The more we have treated them as human beings, the more
humanity we have found in them. And thus man, in proportion as he
becomes manifest to man, is seen, in spite of all defects and sins,
to be hallowed with a light from God who made him.

And if it has been thus, in the case of God and of humanity, has it
not been equally so in the case of the physical world? Where are
now all those unnatural superstitions - the monkish contempt for
marriage and social life, the ghosts and devils; the astrology, the
magic, and other dreams of which I will not speak here, which made
this world, in the eyes of our forefathers, a doleful and dreadful
puzzle; and which made man the sport of arbitrary powers, of cruel
beings, who could torment and destroy us, but over whom we could
have no righteous power in return? Where are all those dark dreams
gone which maddened our forefathers into witch-hunting panics, and
which on the Continent created a priestly science of witch-finding
and witch-destroying, the literature whereof (and it is a large one)
presents perhaps the most hideous instance known of human cruelty,
cowardice, and cunning? Where, I ask, are those dreams now? So
utterly vanished, that very few people in this church know what a
great part they played in the thoughts of our forefathers; how
ghosts, devils, witches, magic, and astrology, filled the minds, not
only of the ignorant, but of the most learned, for centuries.

And now, behold, nature being made manifest, is light. Science has
taught men to admire where they used to dread; to rule where they
used to obey; to employ for harmless uses what they were once afraid
to touch; and, where they once saw only fiends, to see the orderly
and beneficent laws of the all-good and almighty God. Everywhere,
as the work of nature is unfolded to our eyes, we see beauty, order,
mutual use, the offspring of perfect Love as well as perfect Wisdom.
Everywhere we are finding means to employ the secret forces of
nature for our own benefit, or to ward off physical evils which
seemed to our forefathers as inevitable, supernatural; and even the
pestilence, instead of being, as was once fancied, the capricious
and miraculous infliction of some demon - the pestilence itself is
found to be an orderly result of the same laws by which the sun
shines and the herb grows; a product of nature; and therefore
subject to man, to be prevented and extirpated by him, if he will.

Yes, my friends, let us teach these things to our children, to all
children. Let us tell them to go to the Light, and see their
Heavenly Father's works manifested, and know that they are, as He
is, _Light_. I say, let us teach our children freely and boldly to
know these things, and grow up in the light of them. Let us leave
those to sneer at the triumphs of modern science, who trade upon the
ignorance and the cowardice of mankind, and who say, 'Provided you
make a child religious, what matter if he does fancy the sun goes
round the earth? Why occupy his head, perhaps disturb his simple
faith, by giving him a smattering of secular science?'

Specious enough is that argument: but shortsighted more than
enough. It is of a piece with the wisdom which shrinks from telling
children that God is love, lest they should not be sufficiently
afraid of Him; which forbids their young hearts to expand freely
towards their fellow-creatures: which puts into their mouths the


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