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Jesus has absolutely no tendency to make us careless; on the contrary, it does truly tend to establish the law. A belief in God's indifference to sin, in what is sometimes called His mercy, that is, His not caring for our evil deeds, because He makes such large allowance for the weakness of our nature, this of course would have a tendency to make us careless. But how totally different is a belief in God's mercy generally to all who do evil, and a belief in His love for us individually. No man was ever tempted to neglect or displease another by his belief in that other person loving him. What we experience in our human relations shows this quite certainly. Take the relation which subsists here between us, and is it not certain that in proportion as any one under instruction believes that his instructor has a real disinterested personal interest in his welfare, he is the more disposed to comply with all his directions? The mere absence of strictness is a totally different thing from real personal interest or kindness, absence of strictness may be either indifference or indolence, it may proceed entirely from a selfish feeling, and therefore deserves no return of gratitude. And in this way mere easiness or lenity constantly excites in the minds of those to whom it is exercised not gratitude but contempt. But totally different is this from the belief that we ourselves are loved; for that cannot but excite a feeling in return; it is not in human nature not to be moved by it, and in proportion to our belief in its reality must be our desire to return it.
And therefore the apostle has well said, “We love God because He first loved us.” And it is quite certain that what we ordinarily want is a belief of God's love to us; we do not realize to ourselves all that Christ's death shows us of God's love; we do not believe that our own single individual soul is and ever has been the direct object of the infinite love of the most high God. Yet this we are warranted, nay, we are commanded to believe. I know that it is hard to believe it, hard because of our own littleness in part, hard also because of our own hardness.
And no doubt the great enemy of our salvation uses all his arts to hinder us from being impressed fully with this truth, for if it once takes possession of our hearts, then are we redeemed indeed. Yet I would wish to put it before you—before us, I would say rather, for it is the one truth which we all need to believe. The evil one puts into our minds something which may seem at first sight like it, but which is indeed infinitely different. He whispers, “ God will not punish, we shall therefore not surely die.” How different from the Christian truth: “God loves us, therefore why will we die ?” How different in its fruits, and how different also in itself, because the one says that God is careless or powerless, the other says that He is loving.
This belief, this faith in God's love shown or proved to us by Christ's death, is the only way by which we can enjoy that peace of God which passeth all understanding. For it tells us that God is at peace with us already, we have only to be at peace with Him. It tells us that we may rely confidently on His help to overcome all our temptations, because He loves us. It tells us that it is His desire that we should be victorious, and have all things that we need in order to win the victory, because He loves us. It tells us that it is His desire that we should be with Him for ever because He loves us. And does it not tell us also, that we may go on our way rejoicing, and full of strength and earnestness to put down all our spiritual enemies under our feet because He loves
And now for those among us who having believed this already have been encouraged by it, as is natural, and have overcome many of their sins, and are struggling with the rest, and have walked with God with something of the feeling of a child towards his father, cannot you now believe in God's love yet more, and do you not feel how the consciousness of it is indeed a peace which passeth all understanding ? Do not you perceive how this faith hallows every worldly blessing of which you are tasting so many, because it teaches you to re
, gard each as the gift of God? And as for those who have not yet believed it, and whose hearts are so full of sin that they are in no disposition to believe it, yet it is no less true even of them at this moment that God loves them. Infinite indeed is that love of the Most Holy, which regards us not only after we are turned to Him, but while we are yet in our sins, with no thought looking heavenward. God loves even such, and has given His only begotten Son to save them. Believe it while it is yet true, for if you will not believe it, it will not be true for ever. And that will be a thought of intolerable misery, when God's face being utterly turned away from us for evermore, we shall say to ourselves, “ Now He has fulfilled what we believed, we thought that He cared not for us, and behold it is now true: but yet a little while past and He loved us even as He loved those whom He will love for ever, and had we believed His word when He told us so, He would have loved us still, and we should have been His children, and He would have been our Father for evermore.”
December 19, 1841.
CHRIST'S WARNING TO THE YOUNG.
St. MARK, X. 21, 22.
Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One
thing thou lackest : go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven : and come, take up
the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved : for he had great possessions.
You will wonder perhaps why I should have chosen these words as the text on which to address
you to-day. Or remembering that this is the first Sunday in Lent, and that I have sometimes at this season reminded you of the duty of giving to the poor, and that there is a box at this time put up in the chapel to receive the alms of such as are disposed to give, you may think that I took this text to urge you to almsgiving, and not to resemble the young man in the Gospel, who when called