« PreviousContinue »
that Lent should give you a taste of this pleasure. Therefore I do not speak of the distress which exists around us, as I might well do, because I am not asking you to give in order to procure a large sum of money for the relief of the bodily wants of our neighbours, but in order to let you know and feel what it is to deny yourselves for Christ's sake. I will explain what I mean more clearly: if my main object was to obtain money from you for the relief of some of the poor around us, I should be glad of course to see a large sum collected, and I should not be sorry that some of you should write home to your friends to ask them to send you money for your subscription. This would be reasonable in that case, because then my chief object would be the bodily relief of the poor, and not your spiritual improvement. But now it is quite different; I ask you to give for your own sakes, that you may practise self-denial, for the sake of pleasing Christ. Therefore if any one writes home for money either beforehand in order to enable him to subscribe, or afterwards to make up to him what he has subscribed, his gift is wholly worthless; I would many times rather that it were not given. Whatever is given is absolutely thrown away for the purpose for which I desire it, if it is not so much fairly and honestly taken from your own indulgences and given to Christ. It is of no use if it be not truly your own gift, and given in
the spirit of charity. Therefore let every one give as he is disposed in his heart, for God loveth a cheerful giver. Those who did give in this cheerful and self-denying spirit last year, will, I am sure, enter into what I have been saying: they will know what it was that alone made their gift of value. Most earnestly do I hope that what is given may be given in this spirit only; and then, be it much or little, I shall think that for those who have given it, it has been at least a source of blessing.
Yet one thing more must be added. Lent was, by its institution, a season of discipline; it was to make us fit to rejoice with Christ, when we celebrate His resurrection. He who magnifies himself for having adopted the discipline of selfdenial, who dwells on his act with satisfaction, as a thing done, and on the strength of which he may afterwards live the more freely, he too makes his gift, and the self-denial that may have accompanied it, not only to be of no good to himself, but to be a positive evil.
The self-denial in that case is a mere cheat upon his own conscience; he has not practised it in order to learn what it is to please God and to be loved by Him, but in order to purchase, as he thinks, the right of not trying to please God afterwards: he denies his lower pleasure only for the sake of indulging it hereafter with less scruple, not at all that he may deny it again
and again more easily, and may feel more and more in the place of it the pleasure of pleasing Christ. Whatever is done in Lent becomes indeed a superstition and an injury to us if it does not help us and set us forward on our way to God, and so continue to benefit us when Lent is over. Then and then only is self-denial of value, when it has taught us to know and to love the higher pleasure of pleasing God: he who has in any degree learnt this cannot surely wish to unlearn it again, to lose the little which he may have gained, and when Lent is ended, to hasten to return to the condition in which he was before it began.
February 21, 1841.
ST. MATTHEW, xxvi. 34.
Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, that this night,
before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
THESE words were spoken by our Lord to Peter soon after the last supper; soon after the time when our Lord had said to Peter with the rest of the disciples, except Judas, that they were all clean. They were all clean then, yet He foresaw that in that very night one of them, and that one inferior to none of the rest in love to his Master, should deny Him. One of His disciples should deny Him, and yet that disciple was one whom He had pronounced to be clean; another of His disciples would betray Him, but of him He said, that it had been better for that man if he had never been born. Even so it is still: every day there are some of his disciples who deny Him; there are some, it is to be feared, who betray Him. Nor should we think that to deny Him can never be a sin equal, or almost equal, to that of betraying Him, for He himself has told us, that whoso shall deny Him before men, him will He also deny before His angels in heaven. Yet still the case of Peter shows that there is a denial of Him which may be forgiven, although there is also a denial of Him which will not. There is a denial of Him which may be forgiven, if we turn to Him, as Peter did, in sincere and hearty repentance. Peter went out and wept bitterly. But the denial of Him, which seems to us a little thing, and to require no earnest repentance, is, indeed, not far from being a betrayal of Him.
What is now the difference between the two sins of which we have been speaking, between the sin of Peter and the sin of Judas ? Let us see what was the difference of their general lives. We know that Peter loved our Lord sincerely, and that he followed Him with a real desire to do His will. When Christ saw many of His disciples leaving Him, He said unto the twelve, “Will ye also go away?” And then Simon Peter answered,
Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life :” whereas what we know of Judas, even before his great sin, is unfavourable. He complained of the waste of the oint