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a beginning by going unto God's altar with your sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, and there dedicating yourself afresh to His service, and seeking new strength for a new life to His glory ? Surely this is the right beginning. Surely this is the right way to fall down on your face at His Feet, giving Him thanks. Surely, till you have done this, it is mere deceiving of yourself to talk of thankfulness. If you will not obey your Lord's dying request, I cannot see how you can be truly thankful to Him.
But this is only a beginning, and easy by comparison. Yes, the hard thing is to persevere. I know it will be hard. Your present feelings will fade. Your present resolutions will slacken. Your old temptations will return. You will (alas, how easily !) drop back into the old ways, and settle into the old state. Nay, this must not be. By God's grace you must not let it be. By God's grace you must struggle on, not always successful, not always doing great things (there will be sure to come times of slackness and dimness), but never giving up trying, never letting sin take you captive again, never ceasing to fight, and never despairing of the victory ; to which may God bring
; you at last, for His dear Son's sake. Amen.
A FRESH START. *
I TRUST you
have resolved that, if God restores you again to health, you will make a fresh start. We are all so apt to grow weary in well-doing,
* Some of the thoughts in this Reading are taken from Faber's Posthumous Notes.
and to fall into an idle, dull, careless way of living in spiritual things, that it is a great thing for us when we are roused to make a fresh start. Now your
sickness has come to you to bid you make a fresh start. No; it would be truer to say God has come to you in this sickness to bid you make a fresh start.
Now, I can fancy you saying this—'I should like to make this fresh start, but I do not feel very hopeful about it.
The truth is, I have made so many fresh starts in my life, and one after another has so broken down and come to nothing, that I am almost in despair about it. I do not believe I shall succeed. I sometimes doubt whether it is any use trying again. In fact, I am such a poor, weak, wretched creature, that I shall never be good for anything.'
Well, I have got a good deal to say about all this.
1. In the first place, I have no doubt it is in the main true. I quite allow that your experience in the past is not very encouraging; and I think it very probable that you are right in fancying any other fresh starts you may make are likely enough to fail. In one thing I am sure you are right-namely, in saying that you will never be good for anything. Yet I want you to try again. You see God has taught you something by your failures.
You have learnt your own weakness and nothingness, and that is a good and wholesome lesson to have learnt. It will make you more humble.
2. Why have you been so disappointed at your failures ? Has it been because you wanted so much to serve God, and could not? Or was it because it was so mortifying and unpleasant to Are you
find how weak and sinful you were ? sure there has not been a little pride mixed up with it? It would have been so much pleasanter to find yourself strong, and able to do as you resolved. And so you dread trying again, because you do not like failing. To the humble each failure is the spring of new endeavour. Pride says, “If this is all I can do, it is not worth the trouble.' Humility says, 'I see what a poor, helpless creature I am ; I must strive harder, and lean more on a better strength than my own.'
3. Trying is what God asks for. Success rests with Him. It is better to try without succeeding than to succeed without trying. A general who fights all day against superior numbers, even though he loses the battle at the last, is worthy of higher honour than one at sight of whose troops the enemy runs away, leaving him master of the field without a struggle. Do not vex yourself as to whether you shall succeed or no. God bids you try.
And honest efforts are always successes, because they bring their own blessing, even though they fail in that which they aim at.
4. Your old starts ought to have taught you some lessons, besides that of
our own weakness, to help you now. Our old starts and old failures are like a heap of rubbish, in turning over which we may chance to find something of value, if we look carefully. What was the chief thing amiss in those old starts ? Was there too much self-trust? or too little prayer ? or a shrinking from self-denial ? or a neglect of Holy Communion ? or a continuance of some dangerous habit which should have been put away? or the keeping of some friendship which dragged you
back again ? Perhaps, if you can find out what was amiss then, you may at least do better now.
5. Fresh starts are the very law of the soul's progress.
Did you ever watch the waves on the sea-shore when the tide was rising? If so, you would see that each wave does not advance beyond the one before. A good many will fall short before any real advance is made ; yet, if you go away and come back in a little while, you will find that the tide has reached a far higher point on the shore. So with the spiritual life. Our fresh starts do not always succeed—nay, they are constantly failing. Yet by them only is any real advance made at last. I suppose it is true that the life of the greatest saint is only a continual series of fresh starts. So
you will try once more, will you not? Do I say “ once more’ only? No; I ask more -GOD asks more-than this. You will try again and again, and never give up trying, till the end.
Then, if you are found still trying, the success
My child, you are very weak and ill. Perhaps it seems hard, and you wonder why this sickness has come to you. Shall I try and tell you ? Your FATHER in heaven, who is far far wiser and kinder than even the wisest and kindest father on earth, has sent it to you; and I am quite sure He has not sent it because He likes to see you in pain or in weakness, and unable to run about and play and enjoy yourself. No, dear child, He loves you too well for that. And because He loves you, He wants you to become fit to go to Him, and to live with Him in His beautiful home above. When you were quite well, I dare say you did not think very much about God and heaven. Perhaps you were sometimes naughty, and did things which displeased God. Now God is taking you aside to whisper to you that you must try to think about Him more, and to love Him more, and to please Him better. Will you try to do these things? One thing, at any rate, you can do. You can ask God to help you. You can talk to Him. That, you know, is prayer.
You can talk to Him in your secret heart many times in the day. He does not want fine words or long prayers. He only wants you to speak to Him
heart. Shall I try to show you the sort of words you may speak to Him? You may say something like this—'O my FATHER, I am sure Thou lovest me. I am sure Thou hast sent this illness to make me good. I do wish to be good, and to love Thee and serve Thee better. If it is