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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 their prayers. 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
ourselves to ears perfectly closed, to hearts which think of nothing, and love nothing but themselves and their own pleasure. If such as these are ever to be touched, it will scarcely be by any preaching of man's: God Himself can alone in His good time find the way to their hearts; by troubles of some kind or another saying to them, in a voice not to be disputed, ye shall think, ye shall not enjoy; and till He does so, vain are all words of man, and vain are all ordinary means of grace: these persons are amongst God's people, but not really of them; what is said of the struggles, and fears, and hopes of God's servants, is to them as words spoken to the air.
I am speaking, and I have been speaking, to those, and surely there are many such amongst us, who listen to what is said with more than mere curiosity; who know that, whether my words be impressive or unimpressive, right or wrong, still the matter to which they relate is the great matter of their lives; that God's favour and God's love are real things of infinite value, that they have souls which can know God and love Him, or must else pine for ever in a living death without Him. Some there are surely to whom it is not wholly without interest that another week of irreparable time has passed away since we were last assembled here; who watch themselves to see whether in that week they have in any way ad
vanced in their course or no. And because it may happen that such persons may seek God long and may not find Him, and there is the greatest danger of their being discouraged and giving up their efforts altogether, because it is darkness with them, and they see no dawn, therefore I have wished to speak to them words of encouragement; to assure them that their struggle is one which holy men have often undergone; to conjure them that they go on with patience, that they still keep steadily stemming the stream, not relaxing their efforts, although it may be that as yet they make no progress.
Nor is it unfit to call to their recollection such passages as the text, where the Psalmist says to God, "And of thy goodness slay mine enemies, and destroy all them that vex my soul." We have nothing to do with the historical sense of these and other like passages; it is not and cannot be in their historical and human meaning that the Psalms are the perpetual storehouse of prayer and thanksgiving for the people of God in every age. But the spiritual meaning of these words expresses an eternal truth, which we should do ill not to remember. We have enemies, we have those that vex our soul; the Psalmist spoke a language, which every one of God's servants may echo; and these enemies are bringing our life every day nigh into hell. Did St. Paul mean any