James Houston Eccleston.

The James Houston Eccleston day-book, containing a short account of his life & readings ... chosen from his sermons; online

. (page 9 of 10)
Online LibraryJames Houston EcclestonThe James Houston Eccleston day-book, containing a short account of his life & readings ... chosen from his sermons; → online text (page 9 of 10)
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Him. We love Him, but only because He
loved us. We serve Him, but He serves us first.
We may praise Him, but it can only be when
He has glorified us here or hereafter. The
stream can give the ocean only what, through
the clouds, the ocean has sent to the stream;
and the stream feeds only as it has been fed.


I think if I were driven to say just what the
hidden manna was, I should say it was the full
consciousness of the forgiveness of sins.


The size of my income, my place in society,
the condition of those I love, and my own
battle with temptation, — these make up my
daily need for which I ask food. And these
are not a philosophical speculation about God's
providence, but a daily reality to every man



and woman on this earth, differing only in ex-
tent, never in kind.


God is omnipotent, but to make me love
Him by sheer decree of power is beyond omnip-
otence; He must lure me by undoubted and
indomitable love.


There is nothing for which the world clamors
more than a religion for every day. Jesus
answers, **The simplest, first prayer I ever gave
was that." And you say it in your grandest
worship, and your child Hsps it as you teach his
sleepy little lips to repeat it, "Give us this day
our daily bread." It is just this which makes
it a prayer for us each and all. The cross is
daily, but the faith and the food are daily too.


Over and over we find the gifts of God so
wonderfully abundant, and the trouble all is
that we have no receivers. And there is only
one thing to do. Go to someone out of your-
self, maybe some neighbor dead two thousand
years ago and living only in some book he wrote,



but he is your neighbor, go borrow a receiver
from him. Or it may be, someone who fought
out the Hfe-battle in a quiet circle, and in God's
providence preserved in some Httle story of
courage and faith and hope, and there possibly
in a child's biography, he is a neighbor — go,
he will lend you a bigger thought, or a deeper
purpose and will, or a wider, warmer heart,
to catch and hold God's ready gifts of grace.
There is never any trouble about the supply;
but often we have nothing to hold it.


The office of God's Spirit may be easily mis-
taken. It is true that the Spirit may act upon
men by direct influence, so that in providence
and grace God may directly guide: I should be
slow to deny that. But that is not His rule:
His usual mode of action is to use information
stored in memory, and passed through the
reason, and by the Spirit's influence, put into
the heart and hfe.


I think we sometimes read that old story of
Adam and Eve as if we thought the great lov-



ing God stood by in human form, rejoicing over
the scene as Adam and Eve went out by their
own act from the garden into the sorrow and
trial of the world where now we live. Depend
upon it, the Father saw them go with the same
deep heartache with which Jesus in that night
received the kiss of Judas, no more, no less.


The dear Lord Himself echoes the words,
"See thou to that." Christ comes nearer than
any other, but He leaves you that sentence.
He is nearer to sinful men than any other can
be, nearer the Magdalen as she touched His
feet, nearer the thief with whom, and for whom.
He died. And He comes to you. He bears your
griefs, as only love can Hft them. He carried
your sins, as only purity, love and power divine
can carry. He reaches out His hand, and you
may put yours in it, — but, "See thou to that."


It may fairly be doubted if there is a single
sentence in all the knowledge of this world like
this one, "Our Father, who art in heaven,"
older than earth and as new as the face and



heart of the Httle child to whom you teach it.
Everywhere over this broad earth angel messen-
gers wait to bear children's and adults' prayers
above, and never one loses sight of another as
from worshipper to worshipper they move,
while the sun brings round the hour for evening
prayer, and these words bear our petition, from
hamlet and cottage, from city and wilderness,
aye, upon the great wide seas, men and women
and children kneel and say, as Christ taught,
**Our Father."


But men like this truth of the Fatherhood of
God, because they think it is so tolerant and
patient and forbearing. So it is on one side.
But do you know anything so intolerant, and
at times impatient, as a father's love? Will
he stand patiently by, and see someone take
what is his? Will he hear patiently and with-
out remonstrance the suspicion cast by his son
upon his kindness and gentleness and love?
Hardly. And when men ask me if, after all,
it makes any difference as to what views they
hold of the Divine Nature, provided they are
honest, I must answer that it depends entirely



upon whether Christ was right in saying the
oldest of truths is that God is Father: and if
He is, it makes a world of difference what we
think of Him.


The wound of love is the secret of sin. Wound
your child, and you sin against him: wound
your wife, and you sin against her: wound a
parent, and you sin against him: wound God,
and you sin. Say one moment, "Our Father'*
and then spend a Hfe careless of who or what
He is, and you have awaked all that is justly
"jealous'' in that Father. Could He be a
Father, and not be so.? Because He is a Father,
man's offence is sin.


The forming of idle dreams which are kept
for a moment and then gone forever has ruined
many a Hfe. The calling up of the possibihties
of life, the gathering of good intentions to be
laid away and never dreamed of afterwards,
pious dreams and better thoughts, — these float
away, and we are worse, because weaker. Catch
it! Put it in form! Give the thought of obe-



dience the form of obedience, give the dream of
humihty the form of humility. God wants no
dreamy worship, no subhme ideals, which you
know, and He knows, will amount to nothing.
Embody your thought of lowly reverence in
an act showing obedience, and then it will be
worship !


With some of us the religion of Jesus is a
pregnant subject for philosophical discussion,
with others for speculation, with others a strange
jewel of thought preserved and delivered by tra-
dition, with others an inheritance from the
fathers, with others an aid to civilization, and
a possible help to government, with others an
incident to polite, well-bred life, with some
an occasion for loathsome hypocrisy, and with
how many the effort of the great God of Heaven
to restore His wandering children to a service
of love and truth and enduring life!


I thank God that long ago I learned that no
miracle, not even Christ's own Resurrection, is
great compared to the enormous measure of



power which Hes back of and around and behind
it all.


I have sometimes thought, as I have watched
homes blessed of God, that I found the highest
happiness and the truest children where love
and law were so well poised that the parents
were the trusted, easy companions of their chil-
dren, where association sometimes ran out to
almost romp in its safe companionship, and the
lessons of honor and love were so well taught
that respect grew with the play of this familiar
affection, and love grew with this assured re-
spect. BeHeve me, nothing makes your homes
so beautiful as this well-balanced companionship
of father and mother and child.


A Strange company gathered into Pilate's
court. Some were slaves to love of place and
power, some to wealth, some to hate and anger,
some to fear. One alone was free: He was their
prisoner. They thought they were trying the
Lord, but the whole world knows the Lord was
trying them.




I am far from denying that men read a good
deal now; that the range of intelligence is above
the average of days gone by, I admit, if you
like. All I say is, there is a danger of losing
interest or any desire to build up on what they


I pray God I am not to live to see the day
when, if God*s Providence place before me a
Spirit-taught man, I shall doubt how and by
whom his word was learned, and through whose
heart the stream of God's grace flowed into his
own. I do not believe God's Spirit allows a
human counterfeit, and a Christian man is
God-made, be the human instrument what it


Our language is often much more loyal than
our hearts.


We see God's care moving around us day by
day without knowing it; but at times for our
help God writes it in plain words over the life



of some man or woman, who has by no means
been kept from trial, with whom the world has
by no means always gone smoothly, but to
whom, somehow, the grace of God has come once
for all, bringing a faith that never fails. It
takes hold of the mind, and becomes its faithful
servant to seek, to learn and to hold the mystery
of God's love as it is told in the life of Jesus
Christ, and the wonder of His power in the
Resurrection: and it takes hold of the heart,
and each after experience only drills the saint
into a stronger faith, never abandoned to com-
plaint, though there may come a whisper of
wonder how there can come so much sorrow in
the midst of so much love.


Men have by clear faith beheld Christ's cross
till they have been pure. Men have, by study
of men's lives, and by measure of Calvary's
awful story, learned the deep possibilities of Hfe,
its chances and changes, its hopes and defeats,
its ruins and its triumphs, till fairly burdened
under the opportunities of this life they have
pleaded and warned, and men have listened.
Few of them, if you Hke, but they are here.




St. John was far outside the spirit of his
Master, and made a very sad mistake, when he
wanted fire from heaven to destroy his Lord's
enemies. But what would the Church have
been if he had had no more fire from heaven
than too many of us cautious Christians re-
joice in! What is wanted among us is not only
a little more, but a great deal more fire from
heaven: and we need to use it too!


The Atonement is done, the great trumpet
sounds and bids me rise to a new life. So Christ
called Zaccheus with his love of money, and
called the beggar Bartimeus, called Matthew
from the receipt of custom, and the maniac from
the tombs, called the sisters of Lazarus, and the
poor soul over whom men stood ready with
stones to take her Hfe — called all to forgiveness,
and to something else: called all to another
great chance to take and hold from God the
sacred trust of a human life.




Paul knew his own life too well to ask people
never to get angry. He and St. Peter had it
out, even the gentle and good Barnabas and he
had it out: but he evidently thought that people
might find that what pride calls sometimes
"righteous indignation," the indwelling Guest
might know to be something else. He thought
one might be angry and sin not, provided only he
took care of the tongue; if he only could stop
that! How many bitter things we have said
that we need not have said, how many hasty
things, which we call a "piece of our mind,'*
and which we wish might be blotted out of God's
own memory: how home might have been saved,
and friendship might have gone on, if only one
stinging word had been kept back!




Struggle against evil I must, but not because
God is not here, but because He is ever coming,-
— coming in pity, coming in love, coming ever
in the sympathy of the Nazarene's life, coming
in the resistless majesty of the forgiveness of
the Nazarene^s death, coming ever in the power
of Christ, and His Resurrection, till man and
God meet where the angels of light are the
choir around the throne of God.


May God in infinite goodness keep alive in
our hearts the privilege of worship, by keeping
ever within our souls the conviction that He is
ever coming to meet with us!


Christ never has but one text for sermons on
His second coming. It is not the numbers and
name in Revelation, trying to drag out the
secret of God, nor is it an attempt to find a
name in history which would let us have a hint



of when the Advent would be. It is always
one thing, to make His people "watch'* — this
is His text. As a porter is diligent expecting
the house-lord, as a bridal company await the
bride-groom, as a householder awaits a coming
thief, evening, morning, midnight, cock-crow-
ing, each may be the time. Watch!


"See thy way in the valley, know what thou
hast done." If your way is not there, then I do
not speak to you. But this I ask: let God and
conscience hold high court, and answer there,
has never claim of self-indulgence ruled you.f*
Has no claim of amusement dragged you from
known duty to God on high? Has no craving
ever kept you from Christian duty clear beyond
mistaking? Then strange indeed must be your
life! The grim walls of the Holy City may look
dark and forbidding: they did then. The
groves of Hinnom are fair and inviting: they
were then. Now you and your Maker look
down from the wall of His holy place, and tell
Him, "Is thy way not there in that valley?"




I walked one night the deck of a vessel, and
as we talked, someone said, "Only a night more
till we shall sleep securely in our homes." An
officer said, "I feel more secure here: there is
always someone on watch!" Yes, there was
Someone on watch when the little boat labored
in the waves of Gahlee, and over them came
the Watcher, and said, "Peace! It is I." Jesus,
Deliverer! Come Thou to me, soothe my voy-
aging over Hfe's sea! Thou, when the storm of
death roars sweeping by, whisper. Oh! Truth of
truth! "Peace! It is I!"


The Baptist could warn and preach, and then
he was done. He must send men to Christ, or
else fail his office: only that has saved him from
oblivion — not that which drew his crowds, but
the telHng of Him to come after, that has saved
his earthly fame, as it has his heavenly. To-
day men are angered because they are told that
human power fails where the warning is ended,
and only the Christ can forgive and help: and



they leave, as they left first the Baptist and
then His Lord! But where human power fails,
there this Christ is found!


The Master touched the root of all when He
said, "Forgive." Your gospel is none without
it; mens' hearts will always drag the Church,
however recreant, back to the dreadful truth of
offence, and long for pardon. Christ came for
nothing, if He did not come to bring it: it is
not part of the gospel, it is the whole of it. Only
one Name given can bring salvation, only one
Voice say "Forgive," and make it good, only
One can challenge men and angels to test His
power, and He never risked that power in a
little hand hke yours or mine. It was enough
when He gave the knowledge of repentance and
forgiveness !


A "word" seems a little thing wherewith to
convert a world: but this world never has been,
and never can be, led by anything but just that,
a "word." A general can lead his army, and
beat down opposition, and hold men captives:



SO can a jailer catch and hold them behind iron
bars. But when you send them out to live and
grow and be men, you must give them some
"word/' whose wisdom shall lead and guide the
growing manhood within. A sword can kill, a
shackle can bind, only a word can help a human
being to live and grow as God means he shall.
And only one Man ever dared take that as His
name to tell His nature, "the Word.'*


God has faith where man has not. He be-
lieves in the seed, that it will spring and grow
and bear. God has faith in the seed in His
hand, and faith in the soil of your soul and
mine. So God ploughs, not to torture, but to
plant. And He sows to reap. Join in His
faith that in your life it may grow!


I do not wonder where human faith falls
exhausted and begins to doubt, but let us thank
God that while doubt may lessen our use of
truth, it does not by any means destroy God's
plan or work.




"The fellowship of the Holy Ghost be with
us all." There is no restriction! It means where
you are now, and where you were yesterday,
and where you will be to-morrow. It means in
your homes, making up the endless little things
of life, which tax and weary the most patient
and purest of Christian women. It means in
your private office, where you are making up
your books, into which you will not admit the
eye of a stranger. But did you have the "fel-
lowship of the Holy Ghost?"


Not only familiar blessings are apt to be for-
gotten, but even if extraordinary blessing comes
through what wears a familiar aspect, it is so
far taken for granted that it produces but little
impression upon us, and arouses but scant

Anticipation can make us so famihar with a
blessing expected that we forget the good God
when the blessing is here. We cannot perhaps
remember always to be grateful, but I think
there are a good many of us who have not much



room to censure the nine lepers who did not
turn back.

And to-day when you are looking for some-
thing to thank God for, look back over the most
familiar lines of your life and hope, and see how
anticipation has stopped you from knowing
when blessings have come.


People say, "The Church is bigoted and
blind and intolerant." Yes, we are intolerant
of assault upon truth. You, our assailants,
have some ultimate truth from which you start,
and you demand that we shall give up ours and
take yours: and we decidedly prefer to take
that which "is laid," to taking yours! I de-
cline to give up my belief to the demand of
somebody, who is the follower of somebody else:
because my faith is the guarded gift of the
Church through eighteen centuries.

And besides, there is one person who is always
allowed to be narrow, fanatic, anything you please
to call it: that is the man or woman who shows
in kindly, faithful life that the foundation fact
of their whole moral structure, and that on
which rests their whole heart-life, in home and



in the world, is just this same truth that Jesus
Christ is the Son of God! A consistent, true
and kindly life, built on Christ, silences attack,
and challenges respect and reverence. Let us
be thankful for the Church's wealth of holy and
saintly men and women!


There were no locks on the gates of Paradise,
and no police angels to carry the people back
when once outside. Men to-day, with position,
with good minds and good training, crush
everything under their feet, and walk down into
pits of ruin in the awful freedom of human
choice. Nobody is obliged to keep the Bible,
any more than they are obliged to be decent if
they choose to be else. But they must decide
at their peril. We are here to learn. This is
our school-house: and if we reject our spelling
books, it is no fault of the School-teacher that
we never learn to read. You are to do with
your Bible as you do with all life, — choose at
your peril.


It is only those who have no enthusiasm who
feel their duty to be a dose. Enthusiasm is



kindled by the Holy Spirit: it is strengthened
in prayer: it is fed by the truth of God.


However God acts, He knows how to choose.
Miracle has its place, a restricted one, and He
uses it but httle. But there is one thing with-
out which even He never seems able to work,
and that is a whole-souled, honestly consecrated
human being. And the nearer that life comes
to Him, the better the work will be done.


Without the lesson of obedience in the Church
of God at large, no good work would have been
done. But in the individual it is hard for many
of us to find it, and especially in ourselves. We
grow weary with the repeated effort to fill our
own memories with the words of the Christ.
The reading of God's word becomes tiresome
and a task. Prayer is at times a hard duty,
ill-met and of doubtful use. But perhaps at
such times we are only filling the jars with water,
for a work which only the Greater One can and
will do!




In all the ages of Christ's Church, the only
thing which He has asked is that we fill our
own minds with His gracious words of peace and
pity and kindness and love, and fill our memories
with the story of His life among men, and His
death at their hands: till by the touch of the
Spirit of all Truth, the Child of Bethlehem, the
Boy of Jerusalem, and the Man of Cana shall
become the Christ of Lazarus's tomb, the Divine
Messenger of the sepulchre and of Olivet!


Most of US believe and say that the present
is ours, to do as we will with it. By God's
blessing the present is ours, and so is the past
and so is the future. But the past is not ours
to alter, the present is not ours to waste, and
the future is not ours to prejudice.


It must always be the privilege of a few in
quiet life to seek through deep, unrevealed mys-
teries the secrets of God the Creator in His



mighty making and keeping. And while some
touch this great earth in the search to do no
more than throng with the multitudes, others
will lay down a reverent hand, and Christ will
say, "Some one touched ME, for power is gone


Did you ever look at the passage, "God
loveth a cheerful giver?" Happily for us, Paul
does not say that God loves no other givers:
he only says He does love cheerful ones. And
the word is that from which comes our word,
"hilarious.'' And it helps our estimate. Breth-
ren, I fear there are too many and too few hila-
rious givers. Too many, where I have seen
people hand out their money or put down their
names because something was going around the
room, and nobody dared, on pain of losing place
in the crowd, to refuse to give. And too few,
where men can rejoice honestly over a wisely
chosen object for the sake of the Child of Beth-


In spite of all doubt, in spite of easy irrever-
ence, no spot on this earth is so hallowed in



memory, over none have been laid the offerings
of art in color and song, as have been laid over
that spot, where the rudest of earth's buildings
was made the dwelling place of the Infant
Christ, the Son of God.

God give us to move with the hosts who are
moving to see and to wonder, to worship and to
give at that manager of old!


Each miracle in the history of revelation is
only one tiny bit of power and blessed light,
which pierces through the walls of our human
darkness and need, from the great universe of
love and power which encloses us on every side.

Once the rift tore open wide enough for a
host of the heavenly choir to rush through and
sing ere it closed.


The wonder is in the song of the angels, when
and where it came. There is no attempt to
elaborate, it is the light of heaven piercing the
earth darkened with human wrong, suffering and
need. It is the song of heaven breaking in upon



the triumph of earth to change a battle-song
into an oratorio, to help out the melodies of
earth, with the harmonies of heaven, it is to
insist upon peace and good-will in a life where
even an inspired Virgin and Priest could sing of
conflict and the delight of conquest!


The one approach to our Maker is through
that stream of light with which He approaches
us: and that light is the light of LOVE. The
whole song of Bethlehem has its inspiration,
message and power in the thought of love,
infinite and divine, approaching till it reaches
the children of men. Admit it or not, use it
well or ill, the impulse which excites the atmos-
phere which at this time we breathe, and which
rouses all men, is distinctly and definitely the

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Online LibraryJames Houston EcclestonThe James Houston Eccleston day-book, containing a short account of his life & readings ... chosen from his sermons; → online text (page 9 of 10)