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and that the people might grow to look on him as one of themselves.
Those Scribes and Pharisees, one may suppose, were just the people
whom they could not understand; fine, rich scholars, proud people
talking very learnedly about deep doctrines. The country folk must
have looked at them as if they belonged to some other world, and
said, - Those Pharisees cannot understand us, any more than we can
them, with their hard rules about this and that. Easy enough for
rich men like them to make rules for poor ones. Indeed our Lord
said the very same of them - 'Binding heavy burdens, and grievous to
be borne, and laying them on men's shoulders; while they themselves
would not touch them with one of their fingers.'

Then the Lord himself came and preached to these poor wild folk, and
they heard him gladly. And why? Because his speech was too deep
for them? Because he scolded and threatened them? No.

We never find that our Lord spoke harshly to them. They had plenty
of sins, and he knew it: but it is most remarkable that the
Evangelists never tell us what he said about those sins. What they
do tell us is, that he spoke to them of the common things around
them, of the flowers of the field, the birds of the air, of sowing
and reaping, and feeding sheep; and taught them by parables, taken
from the common country life which they lived, and the common
country things which they saw; and shewed them how the kingdom of
God was like unto this and that which they had seen from their
childhood, and how earth was a pattern of heaven. And they could
understand that. Not all of it perhaps: but still they heard him
gladly. His preaching made them understand themselves, and their
own souls, and what God felt for them, and what was right and wrong,
and what would become of them, as they never felt before. It is
plain and certain that the country people could understand Christ's
parables, when the Scribes and Pharisees could not. The Scribes and
Pharisees, in spite of all their learning, were those who were
without (as our Lord said); who had eyes and could not see, and ears
and could not hear, for their hearts were grown fat and gross. With
all their learning, they were not wise enough to understand the
message which God sends in every flower and every sunbeam; the
message which Christ preached to the poor, and the poor heard him
gladly; the message which he confirmed to them by his miracles. For
what were his miracles like? Did he call down lightning to strike
sinners dead, or call up earthquakes, to swallow them? No; he went
about healing the sick, cleansing the leper, feeding the hungry in
the wilderness; that therefore they might see by his example, the
glory of their Father in heaven, and understand that God is a God of
Love, of mercy, a deliverer, a Saviour, and not, as the Scribes and
Pharisees made him out, a hard taskmaster, keeping his anger for
ever, and extreme to mark what was done amiss.

Ah that, be sure, was what made the Scribes and Pharisees more mad
than anything else against Christ, that he spoke to the poor
ignorant people of their Father in heaven. It made them envious
enough to see the poor people listening to Christ, when they would
not listen to them; but when he told these poor folk, whom they
called 'accursed and lost sinners,' that God in heaven was their
Father, then no name was too bad for our Lord; and they called him
the worst name which they could think of - a friend of publicans and
sinners. That was the worst name, in their eyes: and yet, in
reality, it was the highest honour. But they never forgave him.
How could they? They felt that if he was doing God's work, they
were doing the devil's, that either he or they must be utterly
wrong: and they never rested till they crucified him, and stopped
him for ever, as they fancied, from telling poor ignorant people
laden with sins to consider the flowers of the field how they grow,
and learn from them that they have a Father in heaven who knoweth
what they have need of before they ask him.

But they did not stop Christ: and, what is more, they will never
stop him. He has said it, and it remains true for ever; for he is
saying it over and over again, in a thousand ways, to his sheep,
when they are wandering without a shepherd.

Only let them be Christ's sheep, and he will have compassion on
them, and teach them many things. Many may neglect them: but
Christ will not. Whoever you may be, however simple you are,
however ignorant, however lonely, still, if you are one of Christ's
sheep, if you are harmless and teachable, willing and wishing to
learn what is right, then Christ will surely teach you in his good
time. There never was a soul on earth, I believe, who really wished
for God's light, but what God's light came to it at last, as it will
to you, if you be Christ's sheep. If you are proud and conceited,
you will learn nothing. If you are fierce and headstrong, you will
learn nothing. If you are patient and gentle, you will learn all
that you need to know; for Christ will teach you. He has many ways
of teaching you. By his ministers; by the Bible; by books; by good
friends; by sorrows and troubles; by blessings and comforts; by
stirring up your mind to think over the common things which lie all
around you in your daily work. But what need for me to go on
counting by how many ways Christ will lead you, when he has more
ways than man ever dreamed of? Who hath known the mind of the Lord;
or who shall be his counsellor? Only be sure that he will teach
you, if you wish to learn; and be sure that this is what he will
teach you - to know the glory of his Father and your Father, whose
name is Love.



SERMON VI. THE HEARING EAR AND THE SEEING EYE



Proverbs xx. 12. The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath
made even both of them.

This saying may seem at first a very simple one; and some may ask,
What need to tell us that? We know it already. God, who made all
things, made the ear and the eye likewise.

True, my friends: but the simplest texts are often the deepest; and
that, just because they speak to us of the most common things. For
the most common things are often the most wonderful, and deep, and
difficult to understand.

The hearing of the ear, and the seeing of the eye. - Every one hears
and sees all day long, so perpetually that we never think about our
hearing or sight, unless we find them fail us. And yet, how
wonderful are hearing and sight. How we hear, how we see, no man
knows, and perhaps ever will know.

When the ear is dissected and examined, it is found to be a piece of
machinery infinitely beyond the skill of mortal man to make. The
tiny drum of the ear, which quivers with every sound which strikes
it, puts to shame with its divine workmanship all the clumsy
workmanship of man. But recollect that _it_ is not all the wonder,
but only the beginning of it. The ear is wonderful: but still more
wonderful is it how the ear _hears_. It is wonderful, I mean, how
the ear should be so made, that each different sound sets it in
motion in a different way: but still more wonderful, how that sound
should pass up from the ear to the nerves and brain, so that we
_hear_. Therein is a mystery which no mortal man can explain.

So of the eye. All the telescopes and microscopes which man makes,
curiously and cunningly as they are made, are clumsy things compared
with the divine workmanship of the eye. I cannot describe it to
you; nor, if I could, is this altogether a fit place to do so. But
if any one wishes to see the greatness and the glory of God, and be
overwhelmed with the sense of his own ignorance, and of God's
wisdom, let him read any book which describes to him the eye of man,
or even of beast, and then say with the psalmist, 'I am fearfully
and wonderfully made. Marvellous are thy works, O Lord, and that my
soul knoweth right well.'

And remember, that as with the ear, so with the eye, the mere
workmanship of it is only the beginning of the wonder. It is very
wonderful that the eye should be able to take a picture of each
thing in front of it; that on the tiny black curtain at the back of
the eye, each thing outside should be printed, as it were,
instantly, exact in shape and colour. But that is not sight. Sight
is a greater wonder, over and above that. Seeing is this, that the
picture which is printed on the back of the eye, is also printed on
our brain, so that we _see_ it. There is the wonder of wonders.

Do some of you not understand me? Then look at it thus. If you
took out the eye of an animal, and held it up to anything, a man or
a tree, a perfect picture of that man or that tree would be printed
on the back of the dead eye: but the eye would not _see_ it. And
why? Because it is cut off from the live brain of the animal to
which it belonged; and therefore, though the picture is still in the
eye, it sends no message about itself up to the brain, and is not
seen.

And how does the picture on the eye send its message about itself to
the brain, so that the brain sees it? And how, again - for here is a
third wonder, greater still - do _we_ ourselves see what our brain
sees?

That no man knows, and, perhaps, never will know in this world. For
science, as it is called, that is, the understanding of this world,
and what goes on therein, can only tell us as yet what happens, what
God does: but of how God does it, it can tell us little or nothing;
and of why God does it, nothing at all; and all we can say is, at
every turn, "God is great."

Mind, again, that these are not all the wonders which are in the ear
and in the eye. It is wonderful enough, that our brains should hear
through our ears, and see through our eyes: but it is more
wonderful still, that they should be able to recollect what they
have heard and seen. That you and I should be able to call up in
our minds a sound which we heard yesterday, or even a minute ago, is
to me one of the most utterly astonishing things I know of. And so
of ordinary recollection. What is it that we call remembering a
place, remembering a person's face? That place, or that face, was
actually printed, as it were, through our eye upon our brain. We
have a picture of it somewhere; we know not where, inside us. But
that we should be able to call that picture up again, and look at it
with what we rightly call our mind's eye, whenever we choose; and
not merely that one picture only, but thousands of such; - that is a
wonder, indeed, which passes understanding. Consider the hundreds
of human faces, the hundreds of different things and places, which
you can recollect; and then consider that all those different
pictures are lying, as it were, over each other in hundreds in that
small place, your brain, for the most part without interfering with,
or rubbing out each other, each ready to be called up, recollected,
and used in its turn.

If this is not wonderful, what is? So wonderful, that no man knows,
or, I think, ever will know, how it comes to pass. How the eye
tells the brain of the picture which is drawn upon the back of the
eve - how the brain calls up that picture when it likes - these are
two mysteries beyond all man's wisdom to explain. These are two
proofs of the wisdom and the power of God, which ought to sink
deeper into our hearts than all signs and wonders; - greater proofs
of God's power and wisdom, than if yon fir-trees burst into flame of
themselves, or yon ground opened, and a fountain of water sprung
out. Most people think much of signs and wonders. Just in
proportion as they have no real faith in God, just in proportion as
they forget God, and will not see that he is about their path, and
about their bed, and spying out all their ways, they are like those
godless Scribes and Pharisees of old, who must have signs and
wonders before they would believe. So it is: the commonest things
are as wonderful, more wonderful, than the uncommon; and yet, people
will hanker after the uncommon, as if they belonged to God more
immediately than the commonest matters.

If yon trees burst out in flame; if yon hill opened, and a fountain
sprang up, how many would cry, 'How awful! How wonderful! Here is
a sign that God is near us! It is time to think about our souls
now! Perhaps the end of the world is at hand!' And all the while
they would be blind to that far more awful proof of God's presence,
that all around them, all day long, all over the world, millions of
human ears are hearing, millions of human eyes are seeing, God alone
knows how; millions of human brains are recollecting, God alone
knows how. That is not faith, my friends, to see God only in what
is strange and rare: but this is faith, to see God in what is most
common and simple; to know God's greatness not so much from
disorder, as from order; not so much from those strange sights in
which God seems (but only seems) to break his laws, as from those
common ones in which he fulfils his laws.

I know it is very difficult to believe that. It has been always
difficult; and for this reason. Our souls and minds are disorderly;
and therefore order does not look to us what it is, the likeness and
glory of God. I will explain. If God, at any moment, should create
a full-grown plant with stalk, leaves, and flowers, all perfect, all
would say, There is the hand of God! How great is God! There is,
indeed, a miracle! - Just because it would seem not to be according
to order. But the tiny seed sown in the ground, springing up into
root-leaf, stalk, rough leaf, flower, seed, which will again be sown
and spring up into leaf, flower, and seed; - in that perpetual
miracle, people see no miracle: just because it is according to
order: because it comes to pass by regular and natural laws. And
why? Because, such as we are, such we fancy God to be. And we are
all of us more or less disorderly: fanciful; changeable; fond of
doing not what we ought, but what we like; fond of showing our
power, not by keeping rules, but by breaking rules; and we fancy too
often that God is like ourselves, and make him in our image, after
our own likeness, which is disorder, and self-will, and
changeableness; instead of trying to be conformed to his image and
his likeness, which is order and law eternal: and, therefore,
whenever God seems (for he only _seems_ to our ignorance) to be
making things suddenly, as we make, or working arbitrarily as we
work, then we acknowledge his greatness and wisdom. Whereas his
greatness, his wisdom, are rather shown in not making as we make,
not working as we work: but in this is the greatness of God
manifest, in that he has ordained laws which must work of
themselves, and with which he need never interfere: laws by which
the tiny seed, made up only (as far as we can see) of a little
water, and air, and earth, must grow up into plant, leaf, and
flower, utterly unlike itself, and must produce seeds which have the
truly miraculous power of growing up in their turn, into plants
exactly like that from which they sprung, and no other. Ah, my
friends, herein is the glory of God: and he who will consider the
lilies of the field, how they grow, that man will see at last that
the highest, and therefore the truest, notion of God is, not that
the universe is continually going wrong, so that he has to interfere
and right it: but that the universe is continually going right,
because he hath given it a law which cannot be broken.

And when a man sees that, there will arise within his soul a clear
light, and an awful joy, and an abiding peace, and a sure hope; and
a faith as of a little child.

Then will that man crave no more for signs and wonders, with the
superstitious and the unbelieving, who have eyes, and see not; ears,
and cannot hear; whose hearts are waxen gross, so that they cannot
consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: but all his cry
will be to the Lord of Order, to make him orderly; to the Lord of
Law, to make him loyal; to the Lord in whom is nothing arbitrary, to
take out of him all that is unreasonable and self-willed; and make
him content, like his Master Christ before him, to do the will of
his Father in heaven, who has sent him into this noble world. He
will no longer fancy that God is an absent God, who only comes down
now and then to visit the earth in signs and wonders: but he will
know that God is everywhere, and over all things, from the greatest
to the least; for in God, he, and all things created, live and move
and have their being. And therefore, knowing that he is always in
the presence of God, he will pray to be taught how to use all his
powers aright, because all of them are the powers of God; pray to be
taught how to see, and how to hear; pray that when he is called to
account for the use of this wonderful body which God has bestowed on
him, he may not be brought to shame by the thought that he has used
it merely for his own profit or his own pleasure, much less by the
thought that he has weakened and diseased it by misuse and neglect:
but comforted by the thought that he has done with it what the Lord
Jesus did with his body - made it the useful servant, and not the
brutal master, of his immortal soul.

And he will do that, I believe, just as far as he keeps in mind what
a wonderful and useful thing his body is; what a perpetual token and
witness to him of the unspeakable greatness and wisdom of God; just
in proportion as he says day by day, with the Psalmist, 'Thou hast
fashioned me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such
knowledge is too wonderful and excellent for me; I cannot attain
unto it. Whither shall I go, then, from thy Spirit; or whither
shall I go from thy presence? If I climb up into heaven, thou art
there. If I go down to hell, thou art there also. If I take the
wings of the morning, and remain in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there also shall thy hand lead me, thy right hand shall hold
me.'

Just in proportion as he recollects that, will he utter from his
heart the prayer which follows, 'Try me, O God, and seek the ground
of my heart; prove me, and examine my thoughts. Look well if there
be any way of wickedness in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.'



SERMON VII. THE VICTORY OF FAITH



(First Sunday after Easter.)

1 John v. 4, 5. Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world:
and this is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith.
Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that
Jesus is the Son of God?

What is the meaning of 'overcoming the world?' What is there about
the world which we have to overcome? lest it should overcome us, and
make worse men of us than we ought to be. Let us think awhile.

1. In the world all seems full of chance and change. One man
rises, and another falls, one hardly knows why: they hardly know
themselves. A very slight accident may turn the future of a man's
whole life, perhaps of a whole nation. Chance and change - there
seems to us, at times, to be little else than chance and change. Is
not the world full of chance? Are not people daily crushed in
railways, burnt to death, shot with their own guns, poisoned by
mistake, without any reason that we can see, why one should be
taken, and another left? Why should not an accident happen to us,
as well as to others? Why should not we have the thing we love best
snatched from us this day? Why not, indeed? What, then, will help
us to overcome the fear of chances and accidents? How shall we keep
from being fearful, fretful, full of melancholy forebodings! Where
shall we find something abiding and eternal, a refuge sure and
steadfast, in which we may trust, amid all the chances and changes
of this mortal life? St. John tells us - In that within you which is
born of God.

2. In the world so much seems to go by fixed law and rule. That is
even more terrible to our minds and hearts - to find that all around
us, in the pettiest matters of life, there are laws and rules ready
made for us, which we cannot break; laws of trade; laws of
prosperity and adversity; laws of health and sickness; laws of
weather and storms; laws by which not merely we, but whole nations,
grow, and decay, and die. - All around us, laws, iron laws, which we
do not make, and which we dare not try to break, lest they go on
their way, and grind us to powder.

Then comes the awful question, Are we at the mercy of these laws?
Is the world a great machine, which goes grinding on its own way
without any mercy to us or to anything; and are we each of us parts
of the machine, and forced of necessity to do all we do? Is it
true, that our fate is fixed for us from the cradle to the grave,
and perhaps beyond the grave? How shall we prevent the world from
overcoming us in this? How shall we escape the temptation to sit
down and fold our hands in sloth and despair, crying, What we are,
we must be; and what will come, must come; whether it be for our
happiness or misery, our life or death? Where shall we find
something to trust in, something to give us confidence and hope that
we can mend ourselves, that self-improvement is of use, that working
is of use, that prudence is of use, for God will reward every man
according to his work? St. John tells us - In that within you which
is born of God.

3. Then, again, in the world how much seems to go by selfishness.
Let every man take care of himself, help himself, fight for himself
against all around him, seems to be the way of the world, and the
only way to get on in the world. But is it really to be so? Are we
to thrive only by thinking of ourselves? Something in our hearts
tells us, No. Something in our hearts tells us that this would be a
very miserable world if every man shifted for himself; and that even
if we got this world's good things by selfishness, they would not be
worth having after all, if we had no one but ourselves to enjoy them
with. What is that? St. John answers - That in you which is born of
God. It will enable you to overcome the world's deceits, and to see
that selfishness is _not_ the way to prosper.

4. Once, again; in the world how much seems to go by mere custom
and fashion. Because one person does a thing right or wrong,
everybody round fancies himself bound to do likewise. Because one
man thinks a thing, hundreds and thousands begin to think the same
from mere hearsay, without examining and judging for themselves.
There is no silliness, no cruelty, no crime into which people have
not fallen, and may still fall, for mere fashion's sake, from
blindly following the example of those round him. 'Everybody does
so; and I must. Why should I be singular?' Or, 'Everybody does so;
what harm can there be in my doing so?'

But there is something in each of us which tells us that that is not
right; that each man should act according to his own conscience, and
not blindly follow his neighbour, not knowing whither, like sheep
over a hedge; that a man is directly responsible at first for his
own conduct to God, and that 'my neighbours did so' will be no
excuse in God's sight. What is it which tells us this? St. John
answers, That in you which is born of God; and it, if you will
listen to it, will enable you to overcome the world's deceit, and
its vain fashions, and foolish hearsays, and blind party-cries; and
not to follow after a multitude to do evil.

What, then, is this thing? St. John tells us that it is born of
God; and that it is our faith. _Faith_ will enable us to overcome
the world. We shall overcome by believing and trusting in something
which we do not see. But in what? Are we to believe and trust that
we are going to heaven? St. John does not say so; he was far too
wise, my friends, to say so: for a man's trusting that he is going
to heaven, if that is all the faith he has, is more likely to make
the world overcome him, than him overcome the world. For it will
make him but too ready to say, 'If I am sure to be saved after I
die, it matters not so very much what I do before I die. I may
follow the way of the world here, in money-making and meanness, and
selfishness; and then die in peace, and go to heaven after all.'

This is no fancy. There are hundreds, nay thousands, I fear, in
England now, who let the world and its wicked ways utterly overcome
them, just because their faith is a faith in their own salvation,
and not the faith of which St. John speaks - Believing that Jesus is
the Son of God.

But some may ask, 'How will believing that Jesus is the Son of God
help us more than believing the other? For, after all, we do


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