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THE CHRISTIAN'S ENEMIES.
Psalm cxliii. 12.
And of thy goodness slay mine enemies, and destroy all them
that vex my soul ; for I am thy servant.
In the different parts of this day's service we see a good example of that variety in the Scripture which is one of its most precious properties, making it indeed that universal help and guide which we believe it to be. Compare, for instance, this 143rd Psalm, which is one of those read this evening, with the portion from St. John which was read this morning asthe Epistle. Compare St.John's language, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love;" compare this with the Psalmist's, “ for the enemy hath persecuted my soul; he hath smitten my life down to the ground; he hath laid me in the darkness as the men that have been long dead;” or with his earnest prayer “enter not into judgment with Thy servant; for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified.” Now when we read these things thoughtfully and in earnest, and begin to apply what we read to ourselves, then we feel thankful for this rich variety, because we find that in it there is something that suits our particular case now, as well as something which points out that more perfect state to which we may arrive hereafter.
And if whilst speaking of this property in the Scripture, I may follow up this point a little further, how perfect is the mercy shown to our weaknesses in those recorded words of our Lord upon the cross, “ My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” For as His other language is so fitted to assure us that He is a Saviour mighty to save, as when He says, “In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world;” or again, “No man taketh my life from me, but I lay it down of myself; I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again;"—50 when we think of our own infinite weakness, there arises perhaps the thought, that death is to us a very different thing from what it was to Him, that the waves may overwhelm us, although He walked on them unharmed. When we feel ourselves
full of fear, and cannot discern God's presence in the dark valley, our case seems very unlike to His, who had set God always before Him, who declared that when His disciples forsook Him, He was not alone, because the Father was with Him. To find Him therefore not sparing to taste of all the bitterness of death, to hear Him uttering the words of a troubled soul, and saying “my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me;" although into the mystery of those words so said by Him we may not dare to penetrate, still offers us comfort unspeakable ; and assures us that, sin alone excepted, He was in all things tempted like as we are; that in all our affliction He was afflicted also.
But to return to my immediate subject. When we hear St. John's language, declaring that perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment; although we acknowledge its truth and admire its loftiness; yet the contrast which it affords to our own state is perhaps almost fearful. For some of us, it may be, fear God very little; and also love Him very little; and some of us, it may be, love Him as far as they dare, and fear Him very much; and some perhaps love Him very much, and fear Him less than they love Him. But the state of such love as casts out all fear, seems to us, if I know what our state commonly is, a degree of perfection almost too high to hope for. It is true that it is the feeling of a child to his parent when
perfected; we have seen it, have known what it is in our earthly relations; the love to a parent is sometimes quite above all fear of displeasing him; the consciousness of love towards him is so deep in the heart, that we feel it impossible that we should give him pain ; that any willing act of ours should bring a shade over his brow as if we had ever for a moment been undutiful or unkind towards him. But so to feel towards God, seems, as I said, to be a perfection of blessedness almost too great for humanity.
But now let us turn to the language of others of God's servants, and see if they had all attained to so high a pitch; if nothing of fear, nothing of struggle, was at any time mingled with their faith. And here surely the Psalms are a comfort unspeakable, for there we find God's servants in trouble, in darkness, in great fear, praying earnestly, yet seeming to have received as yet no answer to
We find them beset with enemies, who were getting the mastery over them, and were well nigh driving them to despair; and yet surely we are not obliged to say, nay, may we not very confidently hope the contrary, that these servants of God so struggling, so beset with enemies, so downcast, so fearful, were all finally vanquished, that they were cast down and were never any more able to stand. We may hope surely the very opposite to this, that they were holden up; for God was
able to make them stand. And thus we do feel, I think, a real comfort in reading their language so answering to our own; it gives us a hope that, as they shared our trouble, so we may share also their victory
Is it necessary here to stop for an instant, in order to prevent a very shocking misunderstanding? Must I say in so many words that nothing which has been spoken is intended to be, or can be in any degree, a comfort to those who neither love God, nor yet fear Him? When I speak of the great variety of the scripture, of the different sorts of language used by God's servants in different parts of it, I do not mean that amidst all this variety, amidst all this different language, there is to be found any thing answering to the condition of those who live with no feeling towards God at all. Such persons are not, and cannot be among God's servants; their place is amongst His enemies. No Psalmist, nor Prophet, nor Apostle has spoken or written like these; they speak the language of remorse, of repentance, of great fear, of great distress; but never the language of hardness and indifference. Between us and them, if we neither love God nor yet fear Him, there is, in the words of this morning's Gospel, a great gulph fixed; they cannot come to us nor we go to them for ever. But surely we need not be speaking to those who will not hear: what good is there in addressing