Leighton Parks.

Moral leadership, and other sermons online

. (page 1 of 7)
Online LibraryLeighton ParksMoral leadership, and other sermons → online text (page 1 of 7)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook



3 3433 06827955 7






This book is under no circumstances to be
taken from the Building

- -

^ '■■'■ -,

form 410
















R 1914 , L

ccc'cccc (

< ,cc,cc<
• ' c ' • ' *





DEmtA-sEb - ^ '" '' "' ,' , ' ; •


To-day brings to a close ten years of a
happy ministry as Rector of St. Barthol-
omew's Church, and I thought I might
be permitted to commemorate it by
gathering together ten sermons — the
same number as the years. Which to
choose of the hundreds I have preached
was a task I did not care to undertake.
The simplest way seemed the best. The
ten last sermons I have preached are here
printed. With the exception of the last,
all are from the stenographic notes made
at the time of their delivery. They lack
the literary finish that the printed page
presupposes, but it may be that in this
rough form they will accomplish their
purpose — serve as a memorial of plain
speech from a loving heart.

L. P.

St. Bartholomew's Rectory,
February 1st, 1914.



I. Maranatha 1

December 7, 1913

II. Moral Leadership 17

December 14, 1913

III. Moral Responsibility 37

December 21, 1913

IV. Moral Privilege 59

December 28, 1913

V. God's Christmas Gift 87

Chrittmas Day, 1913

VI. Expectation 97

January 4, 1914

VII. The Inn 113

January 11, 1914

VIII. The Abandoned Farm 135

January 18, 1914

IX. Election 151

January 25, 1914

X. The Church in the House 1C9

February 1, 1914



"Maran-atha."— I Cor. 16 : 22.

Something Kke the thrill which the
geologist experiences when he uncovers
the strata in which is embedded the fossil
of animal or plant long extinct, or the
more familiar experience that some of
you here have had when walking in Rome
along the Via Sacra you said to yourself,
"On these very stones where I stand
tribunes and consuls, emperors and con-
querors, martyrs and apostles have trod,"
the student of the Bible feels when, turn-
ing over the familiar pages, he comes upon
this mysterious word "Maranatha."

The punctuation of our King James
version has obscured the meaning of the
word. It is a part of a text: "If any
[ 1 ]


man love not the Lord Jesus Christ let
him be Anathema, Maranatha." We
have assumed that Maranatha simply
adds to the force of the mysterious curse
** Anathema," but it has nothing to do
with it. The verse should read: **If any
man love not the Lord Jesus Christ let
him be accursed (leave him to his fate).*

It is an Aramaic word, a part of that
dialect or patois which our Saviour spoke,
and is one of the few words contained in
the Greek New Testament that show us
what that speech was. They who ought
to know tell us that this was the word
the early Christians in Palestine spoke
to one another at the end of the Lord's
Supper. So just as the word ''Mass"
spread all over the mediaeval world as
the title of the Communion Service, in the
Palestinian Churches of old the Commun-
ion might have been called the ''Maran-

* See Rev. 22 : 11.

[ 2 ]


atha/' The word means: "Our Lord
is near." It is the key to the Bible.
From the very beginning, in the story of
Eden, when the Lord God walked in the
garden in the cool of the evening, until
the Book of Revelation, where the soul
is asked to sit dov/n at a supper with God,
there is the revelation of the nearness of
God to man.

So I would ask you this morning to
think with me for a little while of the in-
fluence of that great thought upon Paul,
and the men and women to whom he
wrote his letters. Of course this nearness
of the Lord took a form which you and I
cannot appreciate to-day. The immedi-
ate expectation, on the part of the early
Christians, of the passing away of all the
things that are seen, the sun and moon
and stars and earth, and then the reap-
pearance in physical form of Jesus, who
had walked the hills of Gahlee, led them
to say to themselves, "He may come

[ 3]


to-day." "Our Lord is near." Without
that divine illusion I do not see how they
could have lived. It was because they
thought that any day the end would come
that their thought of life and time and the
experiences of life was changed.

First of all their thought of what we
call the world; it has a great hold upon
us, it seems to us that the things we see,
from the familiar furniture of the room
to the pyramids of history, must be the
real things. The things we hear, from
the child's prattle to the sublimest sym-
phony; the things we touch, from our
own bodies to the sun and moon and
stars which we now can weigh— these seem
to us the real things, and that is what
they seemed to Paul and the men and
women to whom he wrote, until they be-
gan to say to themselves, "Maranatha."
Then, with that expectation of the imme-
diate passing away of all the things that
the senses apprehend, they could never


feel about them as they once had felt, as
you and I feel; no more could they seem
the real things. The real thing is life,
and not the things that surround life.

And this was not merely a vague feel-
ing about the things that they touched
and saw — it entered into the deepest ex-
perience of their lives and affected their
value of property. Paul says in one of his
letters: "I know how to be rich (that is,
I have been in my day rich), I know how
to be poor. It is an indifferent thing
whether I am rich or poor. I used to
think that life consisted in the abundance
of the things that a man possesses. I now
know that it has nothing to do with the
things that he possesses. I experience,
and you men and women to whom I write
experience, life and joy and hope; can the
richest man in Corinth have more than
that.'^ The poorest man in Corinth may
have these things;" therefore the things
that seem to us so important were not


important to them. They had only a
secondar^^ value. They had learned, be-
cause of the nearness of their Lord, to
seek the kingdom of God and his right-
eousness first, sure that God would give
them what he knew they needed for the
little time that remained. They only
prayed for bread for "to-day" or '* to-

The second thing that this faith pro-
duced in these men and women was this:
they came to understand the meaning of
pleasure and pain. The history of the
world might be written on those two
words, pleasure and pain. As soon as the
animal life appeared on earth we see it
first searching here for the luscious food
and the refreshing drink and the satis-
faction of all the animal appetites, and
then turning, rushing away, because out of
the dark jungle some enemy approached.
Running after pleasure, fleeing from pain
is the natural life of man. It is the life
[ 6 1


of many men and women in this city
to-day. We all have known it. Paul
was lifted far above it all. He did not
look on pain as the Stoic did, saying to
himself: "I can endure all the gods can
send and from my quivering lips they will
never wring a cry." No, not at all; the
man suffered from an incurable disease.
He had before him a great work to which
he felt he had been called by God. The
awful pain that he endured hindered him
from accomplishing this work, and in
agony and sweat he prayed God to save
him from it, and God would not answer
his prayer. *'Then," said Paul, ''I came
to understand the meaning of that pain.
I besought the Lord that it might depart
from me, but he said to me, 'My grace,
my strength, my peace, my joy, my love
is all you need, and in your pain and in
your weakness the power and glory of
God may be seen.' Then," says Paul,
"I am glad I am in pain, I am glad I


suffer, if by suffering the glory of my God
can be revealed in my life." You have
known men and women who have gone
through that experience, who have prayed
to be relieved of their sickness and suffer-
ing, and then have known that patience
and cheerfulness and sweetness and un-
selfishness, which came in and through
the pain, were better than any of the
pleasures of life.

And the last thing that this great faith
did for these men and w^omen was to
change their conception of death. The
world had been dominated by its fear of
death; the spirit had been broken by the
certainty of death. Now Paul said: "It
is an insignificant thing when all is said."
You cannot turn over any one of the
Epistles without seeing how^ differently
those men and women thought about
death from the way in which we at least
are tempted to think of it. All along
there had been in humanity a vague hope


that somehow it was not the end. Like
the words of Lear when he thinks Cor-
delia is not really dead:

"She lives ! if it be so.
It is a chance that does redeem all sorrows
That ever I have felt."*

But with Paul there was no "if," there
was no "chance." Jesus Christ was the
revelation of the everlasting yea of God.
The Son of God can no more die than
God can die. Those who are one with
the Son of God can never die, and what
Paul was preaching all along the shore of
the Mediterranean Sea was at last em-
bodied in that sublime Gospel of John at
Ephesus, seventy years perhaps after the
death of our Saviour. In the great story
of Lazarus' death and Jesus' communion
with his stricken sisters, John embodied
the great thought into which the Church
at last had entered. " Lord, if thou hadst

* "King Lear," Act V, Scene m.
[ 9 1


been here my brother had not died."
How pathetic is that lament which must
have been repeated by hundreds who had
heard of Jesus' mighty works. "If he
still walked this earth, the brother, the
sister, the mother, wife, or child would
not have died." But every Lord's Supper
said, '*'Maran-atha,"' Our Lord is near.
They have not died — He w^ho is near is
the resurrection and the life. " Whosoever
believeth in him can never die." They
had a privilege that Martha and Mary
never had. In that day there must have
been times when he could not be with
them; now he is near every stricken life.
Now let us ask ourselves what was the
ground of their faith? Sometimes it is
thought that it was the continuation of
the influence that had gone out from
Jesus' earthly life, and that they had a
great advantage over us because they
were nearer to Palestine than we are.
But they were not. Really you and I
[ 10 1


are nearer to the earthly Hfe of Jesus than
were these men and women in Corinth
centuries ago. We know more about the
country than they did; we know more
about the details of Jesus' life than they
did; we know more about the conditions
under which He lived and worked than
they did — we really are nearer to Him
than they were.

Or we say: *'It was this illusion, this
expectation of the passing away of all
things and the coming of Christ and the
snatching up in the air of those who still
lived, to be with Christ, that gave them
their faith." Not at all; that is to mis-
read the whole story. The form their
faith took was inevitable, and you and I
cannot reproduce it nor enter into that
atmosphere, nor is it necessary; because
you and I have a larger and a deeper
thought of the coming of Christ than
those men and women had of old, because
we know that it is no physical reappear-
[ 11 ]


ance — it is the recurring consciousness of
a spiritual presence that stands near us
and is our dearest friend.

No, it was no accident of time or place,
it was no confusion about the meaning of
the world. Their faith was based on a
living, daily experience.

They thought. They stopped drifting
and thought about the meaning of life,
and as they thought they had an experi-
ence that almost every man and woman
has had, perhaps over and over again.
Husband and wife, parent and child,
lovers and friends, — ^you sit and think
deeply of something and the one nearest
to you suddenly speaks and anticipates
the word you were about to speak. Who
has not had that experience? Who has
not had it over and over again? Some-
thing like this was the experience of these
men and women. They thought about
the meaning of life, and it was as if some
one standing beside them spoke and in-
[ 12]


terpreted life to them, so that, with no
boasting but in the simplest way imagina-
ble, they began to say: ''We have the
mind of Christ. He is so near that we
know what He thinks of hfe and death,
and what He thinks we think/'

They sprayed, and here in joy they
passed beyond the experience of him who
is preaching, and of many of you who
hear. And yet there is something in that
experience that even the simplest and the
most commonplace amongst us may know.
We cannot express it in the great words
that Paul used, nor would Paul use those
words if he were alive to-day. He said:
''We know not how to pray, but the spirit
helpeth our infirmities, making interces-
sion for us with groanings that cannot
be uttered, and the prayer of the spirit
which we feel hut cannot formulate, God
hears and grants because it is 'according
to the will of God.' "

I say that few can enter into the mean-
[ 13 1


ing of that deep experience, and yet there
is something in it that every one who has
ever earnestly prayed knows. The prayer
may have begun with a definite, earnest
petition for some particular thing, an in-
dividual private prayer, and in the pray-
ing we have felt ourselves borne along
and upward into a great longing for the
fulfilment of the will of God. "O let
that be done no matter what happens to
me" — this is the universal spiritual prayer;
it becomes your prayer, because the Lord
is the Spirit and He has been near you,
as He was near Paul.

And lastly, they lived and show^ed their
love by sitting down together, rich and
poor, old and young, wise and foolish, at
God's table and found that Christ fed
them and Christ refreshed them. They
came away from that Love Feast know-
ing that the Lord had been near. No
wonder that they ended the solemn serv-
ice with ''Maran-atha." It is the secret

[ 14 ]


of life. God grant that according to our
needs and in and through our daily experi-
ence of pain and in the affairs of life,
in thought, in prayer, in love, and in
death, you and I may be lifted into that
atmosphere of life and joy and peace
which can only be because our Lord is




"He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Re-
ceive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye re-
mit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever
sins ye retain, they are retained." — St. John 20:22-23.

It was my privilege last Sunday to speak
to some of you of what is called the mys-
tic aspect of the religion of Jesus, — the
communion of the soul with God. I
know that there are some of you here to
whom such an appeal meant more than
it could mean to your preacher, but there
were no doubt some to whom it meant
very little. They say: "We are not
mystics, and when the religion of Jesus
is placed before us as a mystical experi-
ence there is no response in mind or
heart." Well, let it be so. We cannot
all be poets, we cannot all be scholars, we
[ 17 1


cannot all be philosophers, but we can all
be good men and women, and so to-day I
want to speak to you of the ethical aspect
of religion. I take my text from the
Gospel of John, the 20th chapter at the
23d verse. ''And he breathed on them
and saith unto them. Receive ye the Holy
Ghost; Whose soever sins ye remit, they
are remitted unto them ; and whose soever
sins ye retain, they are retained."

First, to whom were these words
spoken.^ The Greek Church, the Roman
Catholic Church, a very large number of
clergy and laity in our own Church say:
''These w^ords were spoken to the Apostles
and Christ was giving to them the official
power to forgive sins and to bind sins upon
the human conscience. A power which
they, in their turn, transmitted to their
successors in office." Two things I w^ill
remark. Thomas was not present, there-
fore, according to this theory Thomas
seems to have been excluded from the
[ 18 1


Apostolic gift. But there is another ques-
tion, the question that men and women
are asking about everything to-day. Does
it work.^ Has it been found that in those
countries where that theory held sway
the moral life has been nobler and holier
than in those countries where that theory
was utterly repudiated?

As I understand it, and as many good
men and women understand it, this was
not a power given to the ten Apostles
alone who were present. It is said dis-
tinctly that it was given when the dis-
ciples w^ere assembled together — disciples,
men and women, the Church. It was the
revelation of the moral leadership of
Christ's Church that was being declared
in these words of the risen Lord. The
moral leadership of the Christian Church,
so that the Church should be able to lift
off of men the burden of sin and the
Church should be able to bind the heavy
burden of sin upon men's consciences un-
[ 19 1


til they cried out for the reHef of the
living God.

Before we come to consider what this
means in our own day, in this city, in this
congregation, I think we should do well
to recall what it meant to the Church in
the past. That I think might help to an
understanding of the Church's present
duty and privilege.

There are two great moments in the
history of the Christian Church when the
consciousness of this great power, the re-
sult of breathing in the Spirit of God,
manifested itself in the Hfe of the Church.
The first was in what we call the con-
version of the Roman Empire. And of
course that does not mean what the later
conversions of some of the Germanic
tribes meant — the mere baptism and
change of name of those people so that
whereas heretofore they had been called
Heathen or Arian, now they were called
Christians or Catholics. Not at all. The
[ 20]


conversion of the Roman Empire means
the conversion of the moral ideal, and the
change in the moral life of the men and
women who lived in the great cities and
towns and on the scattered farms of the
Roman Empire.

Of course there is always the danger
that besets the controversiaUst, to paint
his opponent in too black colors, and per-
haps this has been done. Therefore, I
will avoid all temptation to exaggerate
the state of the case morally before the
disciples of Jesus Christ began to go
through the great cities and the villages
and tell their story of the ideal life that
they had seen and touched and handled
and knew — showing that they were near
to God.

What sort of a life was it these peo-
ple to whom they went were living?
Well, take from your library shelf this
afternoon Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of
the Roman Empire," and read over that
f 21 1


great 15th chapter. Disregard the cyni-
cism, and overlook the fat complacency
and remember that you are hearing a pre-
judiced witness, a man who neither un-
derstood the Christian Church nor loved
it, but did love to tell the truth, and had
a knowledge of that ancient time that
probably has never been surpassed, per-
haps never equalled. Read what that
man unwillingly admits was the result of
the spreading of the Christian influence
over that great empire — how the lives of
multitudes of men and women were
changed by this thing. For, as he sneer-
ingly remarks, the greatest advances at
first were made among the vilest people,
some of whom had been murderers and
escaped the executioner, many of whom
had been prostitutes on the streets of the
great cities; some of whom were thieves,
others adulterers.

Or listen to another witness, not hostile
as is Gibbon, but certainly not prejudiced.
[ 22 ]


Lecky, in the 3rd chapter of his great
work on European Morals, says: "The
chief cause of its (Christianity's) success
was the congruity of its teaching with the
spiritual nature of mankind. It was be-
cause it was true to the moral sentiments
of the age, because it represented faith-
fully the supreme type of excellence to
which men were then tending, because it
corresponded with their religious wants,
aims, and emotions, because the whole
spiritual being could then expand and
expatiate under its influence, that it
planted its roots so deeply in the hearts
of men. One great cause of its success
was that it produced more heroic actions
and formed more upright men than any
other creed."

There was no vile life in the cities of
Corinth, of Ephesus, or Alexandria, or of
Rome to whom the disciples who had re-
ceived the Holy Spirit did not go and de-
clare that by the grace of God every sin


could be forgiven, and a man could start
afresh, and a woman who had been down
in the mire of the city might walk with
uphfted face in the glory^ of God. What a
revelation ! What a tremendous message
this was, and they beheved it because it
answered to the deepest longings of their
spiritual nature, and thus became our
spiritual ancestors. The Church forgave
their sins and brought them to baptism,
and said: **This outward and visible sign
of washing witnesses to an inward reahty.
God's Spirit will heal your poor, sick,
shameful, defiled soul, and it will stand
up in the new life revealed by God."

This w ent on in every city and in every
hamlet, and wherever the messengers of
the Church came. But in addition to
these evident sins which all men condemn,
which the philosophers condemned as w ell
as the Apostles, but had no suggestion as
to how they were to be left behind and a
new hfe begun, 1 say in addition to these
f 24 1


there were other sins that lay heavy on
the consciences of men and women who
had not sunk into the degradation of
which I have been speaking. For in-
stance, it is difficult for you and me to
imagine it, but it was a real difficulty to
the Jew who felt the beauty and the power
of the life of Jesus, and desired to become
his disciple. Instantly he was beset by
a difficulty that was ingrained in his re-
ligious nature — the eating of meat that
had been offered to idols. It was the cus-
tom in the market to offer a certain por-
tion of the meat that was brought in from
the country to an idol, and the Jew came
there to buy that meat; or the Jew went
to a dinner party and he did not know
but what the meat that was set before
him had been contaminated by being
offered to an idol. To you and me it
seems an imaginary sin — it was a very
real one to the Jew, and the Christian
Church lifted it off his conscience and said
[25 ]


to him: "You are a free man because
you are a brother of the Son of man, and
he has shown that there is nothing com-
mon or unclean. You have no reason
to fear because the meat has been offered
to an idol."

And then there were the sins that lay
on the conscience of the Heathen. They
said to themselves: "It is all very well
for these people who live in cities, but
for us Pagans, country people, who are
ever near to Nature, it is a serious matter
if we neglect the gods. The rising river
will overflow the farm, the earthquake
will destroy our little hamlet, the sudden
burst of hail in the summer time will ruin
the harvest. There are many who say
that these things come because we no
longer sacrifice to the old gods." And
the Church went amongst those people
preaching the unity of God, laying the
foundation (though they little guessed
it, and little cared) of all the modern sci-
[ 26 1


entific conception of this universe as a
place of order which no demons can inter-
fere with. The sin, that is, the sense of
sin, lying heavy on the conscience because
the idols had been neglected, with its con-
sequent fear of the hatred of the gods, was
gradually lifted by the Christian Church.

1 3 4 5 6 7

Online LibraryLeighton ParksMoral leadership, and other sermons → online text (page 1 of 7)