John Wogan Festing.

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Rev. J. W. FESTING, M.A., Vicar,

On the Morning of the Third Sunday in Advent,
14th DECEMBER, 1884.

Published by Request.

A. MACKAY & Co., 185, Albany Street, N.W.








Rev. J. W. FESTING, M.A., Vicar,

On the Morning of the Third Sunday in Advent,
14th DECEMBER, 1884.

Piihlislied by Request.

ILonlioit :

A. MACKAY & Co., 1S5, Albany Street, N.W.


This Sermon is printed in deference to the strongly expressed
wish of some who heard it.

Those who know the published Sermons of the present Bishop
of Ely, and a volume of Parochial Sermons by the late Professor
Mozley, will see how largely I am indebted to them.


St. Luke xii., 2. — " There is nothing covered that shall not be
revealed ; neither hid that shall not be known."

These words, or some very like them, expressing the same
idea, were used by our Lord on more than one occasion. In
St. Matthew x. we read that when he was warning his disciples
of the persecutions they would have to endure, how they
would have to be as their Master in meeting with opposition
and insult at the hands of men, he said " Fear them not : for
there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, and hid
that shall not be known." The secret fear that holds men
back, the secret courage, courage that triumphs over fear,
shall one day be made known.

On another occasion (St. Luke viii.), just after the
Parable of the Sower, our Lord called the attention of His
disciples to the purposes for which knowledge is given, and
He did so by using the figure of Light, and pointing to men's
ways. " No man," He says, " who lights a candle, immediately
covers it over and hides it away ; he sets it out where its light
can spread around. For nothing is secret that shall not be
made manifest : neither anything hid that shall not be known
and come abroad. Take heed, therefore, how ye hear." If
God gives you the Light of Truth, He means it to shew itself
in you before the world, and not to be covered over and made
useless by negligence and forgetfulness.

In the passage from which my text comes the words are
connected with a different subject — " Beware ye of the leaven
of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing
covered that shall not be revealed ; neither hid that shall not
be known."

We may set on one side by itself the second passage to
which I have called your attention. Our Lord is speaking
there of God's way of teaching men. Truths are taught
secretly ; they are wrapped up in parables ; they are like the

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little seed sown in the darkness of the earth — they are com-
municated to men in the silences, the darknesses, the solitudes
of life. But taught secretly, they are to be proclaimed openly.
" What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light : and
what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye on the housetops."
Bring forth the Light of Truth, set it up where it can be seen
and be of use. Let it illumine your heart and conscience,
your whole life ; let it illumine the lives of others. God's pur-
pose is, that that which is covered shall be revealed, and that
which is hid shall be known. Recognize this purpose. Don't
let the hidden remain hidden. As you hear the Word, look
for that secret which is to be made known to you and to
transform you. Take heed how ye hear.

By following such a line of thought we are easily led to
that which the other passages bring more distinctly and more
directly before us ; they point on to a great disclosing of
secrets in the future. In the view of that disclosure, the dis-
ciples are to find the ground why, with regard to one set of
circumstances they were not to fear, but they are also to find
the ground why, with regard to another, they were to take
heed and beware.

It is of a future — a future different in character from the
present state of things in which we now find ourselves — that
our Lord is speaking in the text. For these words give the
reason why they are to beware of being like the Pharisees in
their hypocrisy ; but it is not the mere dread of exposure now
in this life that is put forward ; our Lord does not say this
only. Do not pretend to be something you are not, for you
will be found out. The hypocrisy of the Pharisees was some-
thing deeper, something more subtle than that coarse hypocrisy
which consists of putting on a character just for a time.
It was not an hypocrisy which sought to deceive the eye of
the world ; it was an unconscious hypocrisy to a great
extent, the man professing to be religious and thinking him-
self religious; his fault lying not so much in the inconsistency
between his life and his profession, as in the character of his
profession, in the idea of religion which he had formed. It


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was an hypocrisy which followed upon the not taking heed
how the word of God was heard, how the secret things in it
were to be manifested. So it was not of detection by other
men that our Lord was speaking, but of some more thorough
sifting of the character. And then in what follows, He leads
the minds of His hearers on into the future ; He speaks of
the time when He shall have to confess men or to deny them
before His Father which is in Heaven, It is clear, then, that
the words do refer to that great future which awaits us. The
truth they express is that which finds place in to-day's epistle,
where St. Paul speaks of the coming of the Lord, who both
Avill bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will
make manifest the counsels of their hearts. The truth ex-
pressed is that great one, that in the day of judgment all
things will be laid bare. All things, indeed, are now open to
the eyes of God ; there is nothing which He needs to have
revealed or made known to Him. But all things will then be
revealed and made known before angels and men ; yes, re-
vealed and made known to man himself. Now, in this life,
many things are covered over and hid — many things, good as
well as bad. God's judgments are in the world even now ;
for God ruleth all things, but we cannot trace out His ruling.
The causes of things, the real character of things, the conse-
quences of things are all very much hidden. " I know nothing
by myself," St. Paul says in to-day's epistle, " I cannot accuse
myself of anything," (he is speaking of his discharge of the
duties of his apostleship), "yet am I not hereby justified.
There are parts of my life, parts of my very self, which are
hidden from me, though known to God."

But that secrecy which is part of the present order of
things will be done away with hereafter. The Bible puts
strongly before us that the future judgment will be an open
judgment ; in the first place it will be before all and address
itself to the conscience of all ; and then, secondly, it will
make all things manifest, even the very secrets of the heart.
All this, as I have just said, is a great contrast to the state
of things in which we live. It is not that there are no

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judgments of God working now in the world, that there is
no system of consequences which is a system of rewards and
punishments, for there is all this, but for the most part it is
now secret. Here is the great difference. Now, we do not
see how our present circumstances ; the things that affect us
now are springing out of things that have gone before. Look
at the matter in this way : consider one or two points which
are suggested by the thought of our dependence on others, the
way in which our life is constantly affected by the action of
others. Our life is so affected. People do not always tell
us, and in fact they could not always tell us, why they treat
us as they do. Yet things we have said or done, perhaps
little things, have made them form an opinion about us,
which guides them in their treatment of us. Think how
common offences of the tongue are. " If any man offend not
in tongue," says St. James, " the same is a perfect man." We
may have said something hastily. We may have said some-
thing which was unkind, which was insolent, which was
untrue. People who heard it did not point out the wrong to
us. They did not declare what they thought of us. They
were silent, but they remembered. To say the least they
retained an impression that we were thoughtless and inac-
curate, or that we were were unreliable and not to be trusted
with a secret, or that we were self-seeking, and this impression
made them act differently from what they might have done.
We lost something which their kindness and goodwill might
have procured for us. We have brought evils upon ourselves,
and also, besides bringing evil on ourselves, we have turned
aside blessings which were coming on us. And this last evil
is perhaps a greater one than the former, while certainly it is
the more hidden from us. We are conscious of the evils of
our position, though we cannot trace back the causes, but we
are quite ignorant of the many blessings which were very
near us, but have not come upon us. Perhaps if we could
see all that has surrounded our path of life, we should be
astonished at their multitude. We should be astonished to
find how often we have thwarted God's good purposes for us

by our own negligence, bad temper, indolence, forgetfulness
of right, or positive wrong doing of some kind, how we have
unwittingly punished ourselves.

A great deal in life is hidden now from our eyes. It is
part of the present system which God has ordained, a system
which is to test men's characters, that we should not see
clearly how His justice is working in the world, how it is
working in our own life. " Verily," says Isaiah, " Thou art a
God that hidest thyself" "He purposely conceals His plans
of action and allows them to perplex us as enigmas."*

The working of divine justice in the world now is a
hidden working — it will be at the last an open working. But
it is not only the working that will be open and manifest, but
the grounds on which it works. Now it takes cognizance of
things which are secret and hidden from man, but those
things will then be revealed and made known. It will deal
openly with things that are open. This is a truth which must
awe us. It is one which the Bible puts before us constantly,
that "God will bring every work into judgment, with every
secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil." And
not only that he brings it all into judgment now in His
dealings with us during life — in the consequences that flow
from every secret thing, consequences in the external cir-
cumstances, in the fortunes of our life as we call them,
consequences in the changes that come more or less gradually
in the heart and mind and character, those gradual changes
which are so very secret, but which may be so very terrible in
their end ; not only is there all this, but the Bible also tells
us that in the day of the Lord the secrets of the heart shall
be made manifest. Judgment and the grounds of judgment
will be made plain before all. Our Lord will not whisper His
judgments into the ear of each. He will not even declare the
sentence without giving his reasons. All will be made
known. Secrets ! There is a power in that word to make
each think and speak softly, and almost hold his breath.
Secrets ! Have you ever seen a man surprised into betraying

* For this quotation and the ideas expressed in this part of the Sermon, see
Mozley's Parochial Sermons, p. 341, "The Secret Justice of Temporal Providence."


some secret about himself which told against him ? What
pain and perhaps shame was there ! Yet it was but one
secret, one out of many, and one out of the many which he
had himself hidden away and knew of. But there are other
secrets, man does not know all about himself. It is bad
enough to think of being compelled to say before others
what we do know about ourselves, but what an aggravation
to all that is terrible in the disclosures of that day is the
thought of the secrets unknown to ourselves, which the
records of our life contain.

The secrets of your life, the secrets that you know, could
you face them here before God and this congregation .'' The
unknown secrets, what of them ? Yet all will be set forth,
open and manifest, before God and the great congregation of
angels and men at that day.

And there are unknown secrets — it is no rhetorical artifice
to speak of them. The only man who doubts it is the man
who knows nothing about himself, who is one great secret to
himself, being utterly blind. Men who have thought at all have
ahvays spoken of the difficulty of self-knowledge. So much
of our life passes away out of our remembrance. So much
that we try to seize in it for examination slips away from
our grasp. Who can number, who can remember the actions
of a single day .-' How incessant is the activity of life, that
outward activity which others can perceive. But there is for
each of us another world of activity than that external world
which lies around us ; there is another w'orld in the heart of
each. " Thoughts and passions, motives and wishes, hopes
and fears, lusts and abhorrences, hatreds and affections, inten-
tions and resolutions, of good and of evil, these are the
shadowy inhabitants of that inner world. Shrouded in
darkness they hustle one another. Now they prompt our
outward deeds — now our outward deeds are but the cloak
beneath which they disguise themselves, so that men perceive
them not. Now they show themselves openly to all, now we
ourselves are deceived as to their real character."*

* Bishop of Ely's Sermons — Vol. I., p. 268. — " The Secrets of the Heart."

Who is there : who, as he looks into himself and thinks,
does not wonder and fear at that busy world within him ?
And we see it not all. The heart is deceitful above all
things ; who can know it ? Our own motives and purposes,
our own objects, do not always stand out clear before us.
But " the eyes of the Lord are in every place," and what He
sees now shall one day be stripped of every covering and laid
bare before the eyes of all.

My brethren, think of this. Think of it, not as something
which a preacher is bound to say in an Advent Sermon, but
as something which really lies before yoii, something which
yoit must meet.

The very secrets of the heart will be made known and
will be judged. Religion is something more than external
conduct. Our Lord came into the world, and God the Holy
Spirit came to dwell in the Church of Christ on earth for
something more than to give men such laws as might repress
crime and promote benevolence. Think of the Sermon on
the Mount. Think of what our Lord there says about the
man who looks on a woman to lust after her. There He tells
you the kind of judgment He will pronounce ; the secrets of
the heart pass before the eyes of Him with whom we have
to do.

Here then is one practical point to which we come. Do
you want an Advent resolution } Do you want Advent
thoughts to leave a mark on your life, and so to prepare
you for your Lord's coming .'' Resolve then to take heed to
your thoughts. Resolve before God, looking to Him for
help, and knowing that He will help. He will help you
through His Holy Spirit ; it will be help in temptation
remember, not freedom from temptation, but it will be help.

Watch your thoughts. Many a one who fears to offend
openly, indulges in thought of an offence. For example :
there are not a few who have gratified themselves with thoughts
how they would like to treat some one who has done them
an ill turn as they think. There are not a few who have set
themselves up on a pinnacle of greatness or of happiness,


and imagined life and delighted in the thoughts of its
pleasures, where pride or idleness or selfishness have all they
ask. Indulgence in bad thoughts, especially indulgence in
impure thoughts, is a deliv^ering oneself to the power of the
enemy. Such thoughts, when indulged in, as it were, saturate
the character and weaken it and degrade it. " Keep thy
heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life."

But do not think that we are powerless for good because
we know so little of ourselves. Do not be appalled at the
thought of secrets working in you, which siiall condemn you
at the last. The world within us is in God's hand as well as
the world around us, and " His mercy is over all His works."
Aspirations after good are noted by Him as well as thoughts
of evil. He hears the dumb cry of fear from the startled
heart, and hears to deliver His own from the fear of the
enemy. Times do come in life when we see ourselves anew,
and see what we have not seen before, and if such sight be
not always and constantly vouchsafed to us, the remembrance
of such times teaches us that we have secret sins ; that we
must cry with the Psalmist, " Who can tell how oft he
offendeth. O ! cleanse thou me from my secret faults."
And we know that of such a cry our Lord's words hold good,
" Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will
give it you."

I have dwelt upon the idea of the secret evil that is in us,
rather than the secret good ; upon the fear, rather than the
comfort that the thought of all secrets being known to God
must inspire ; and I have done so because we are sinners.
And it is the great primary work of God the Holy Ghost to
"convince the world of sin and of righteousness and of judg-
ment." He shews us first of all what must be recorded
ao-ainst us that each of us may know what God's mercy in
Christ means for him.

And then He comforts us. He tells us that those who
feel the bondage of sin and cry to the Saviour are heard.
The world knows nothing of the secret sorrows of such, of
their repentance, of their bitter self-accusation, of their humble


cry for pardon, of their trembling hope, of their keen desire
for better things, of their contest with self, of the secret
troubles of their life, of their secret courage and endurance.
The world judges them by another standard. It cannot judge
them by the things that are covered and hidden from its eyes.
But " there are last that shall be first." The secrets of the
heart shall be revealed and the grounds of their exaltation
will then be seen. It will then be seen how they lived
abiding in the Son, and, therefore, why "at His appearing"
they "have confidence and are not ashamed before Him at
His coming." They confessed Him before men. They were
not afraid of saying and doing the right. They were not
hypocrites. They served Him in deed and in tr2itJi. And
He abode with them and kept them His. Made members of
Him in baptism they remained in Him, living members ; and
the life of the divine nature passed into them in their
sacramental union with Him, and the strength, and the
confidence, and the courage which man's nature needs when
it stands in the light of God's presence was given in this
imparting of the divine nature. Their nature now is fitted to
endure the glory of that day, and they stand confessed by
Christ to be His before the Father and all the holy angels,
and all fear passes away in the joy of that honour which is

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Online LibraryJohn Wogan FestingThe open judgment : a sermon preached in Christ Church, Albany Street, Saint Pancras (Volume Talbot Collection of British Pamphlets) → online text (page 1 of 1)