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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


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