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- The Water of Life and Other Sermons - 2/29 -


grace and truth, both love and justice, in one Eternal essence. That is the life which God lives for ever in heaven. That is The one Eternal Life, which must be also the Life of God. For, as there is but one Eternal, even God, so is there but one Eternal Life, which is the life of God and of His Christ. And the Spirit by which it is inspired into the hearts of men is the Spirit of God, who proceedeth alike from the Father and from the Son.

Have you not seen men and women in whom these words have been literally and palpably fulfilled? Have you not seen those who, though old in years, were so young in heart, that they seem to have drunk of the Fountain of perpetual Youth,--in whom, though the outward body decayed, the soul was renewed day by day; who kept fresh and pure the noblest and holiest instincts of their childhood, and went on adding to them the experience, the calm, the charity of age? Persons whose eye was still so bright, whose smile was still so tender, that it seemed that they could never die? And when they died, or seemed to die, you felt that THEY were not dead, but only their husk and shell; that they themselves, the character which you had loved and reverenced, must endure on, beyond the grave, beyond the worlds, in a literally Everlasting Life, independent of nature, and of all the changes of the material universe.

Surely you have seen such. And surely what you loved in them was the Spirit of God Himself,--that love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, which the natural savage man has not. Has not, I say, look at him where you will, from the tropics to the pole, because it is a gift above man; the gift of the Spirit of God; the Eternal Life of goodness, which natural birth cannot give to man, nor natural death take away.

You have surely seen such persons--if you have not, _I_ have, thank God, full many a time;--but if you have seen them, did you not see this?--That it was not riches which gave them this Life, if they were rich; or intellect, if they were clever; or science, if they were learned; or rank, if they were cultivated; or bodily organization, if they were beautiful and strong: that this noble and gentle life of theirs was independent of their body, of their mind, of their circumstances? Nay, have you not seen this,--_I_ have, thank God, full many a time,--That not many rich, not many mighty, not many noble are called: but that God's strength is rather made perfect in man's weakness,--that in foul garrets, in lonely sick-beds, in dark places of the earth, you find ignorant people, sickly people, ugly people, stupid people, in spite of, in defiance of, every opposing circumstance, leading heroic lives,--a blessing, a comfort, an example, a very Fount of Life to all around them; and dying heroic deaths, because they know they have Eternal Life?

And what was that which had made them different from the mean, the savage, the drunken, the profligate beings around them? This at least. That they were of those of whom it is written, 'Let him that is athirst come.' They had been athirst for Life. They had had instincts and longings; very simple and humble, but very pure and noble. At times, it may be, they had been unfaithful to those instincts. At times, it may be, they had fallen. They had said 'Why should I not do like the rest, and be a savage? Let me eat and drink, for to-morrow I die;' and they had cast themselves down into sin, for very weariness and heaviness, and were for a while as the beasts which have no law.

But the thirst after The noble Life was too deep to be quenched in that foul puddle. It endured, and it conquered; and they became more and more true to it, till it was satisfied at last, though never quenched, that thirst of theirs, in Him who alone can satisfy it--the God who gave it; for in them were fulfilled the Lord's own words: 'Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.'

There are those, I fear, in this church--there are too many in all churches--who have not felt, as yet, this divine thirst after a higher Life; who wish not for an Eternal, but for a merely endless life, and who would not care greatly what sort of life that endless life might be, if only it was not too unlike the life which they live now; who would be glad enough to continue as they are, in their selfish pleasure, selfish gain, selfish content, for ever; who look on death as an unpleasant necessity, the end of all which they really prize; and who have taken up religion chiefly as a means for escaping still more unpleasant necessities after death. To them, as to all, it is said, 'Come, and drink of the water of life freely.' But The Life of goodness which Christ offers, is not the life they want. Wherefore they will not come to Him, that they may have life. Meanwhile, they have no right to sneer at the Fountain of Youth, or the Cup of Immortality. Well were it for them if those dreams were true; in their heart of hearts they know it. Would they not go to the ends of the earth to bathe in the Fountain of Youth? Would they not give all their gold for a draught of the Cup of Immortality, and so save themselves, once and for all, the trouble of becoming good?

But there are those here, I doubt not, who have in them, by grace of God, that same divine thirst for the Higher Life; who are discontented with themselves, ashamed of themselves; who are tormented by longings which they cannot satisfy, instincts which they cannot analyse, powers which they cannot employ, duties which they cannot perform, doctrinal confusions which they cannot unravel; who would welcome any change, even the most tremendous, which would make them nobler, purer, juster, more loving, more useful, more clear- headed and sound-minded; and when they think of death say with the poet, -

''Tis life, not death for which I pant, 'Tis life, whereof my nerves are scant, More life, and fuller, that I want.'

To them I say--for God has said it long ago,--Be of good cheer. The calling and gifts of God are without repentance. If you have the divine thirst, it will be surely satisfied. If you long to be better men and women, better men and women you will surely be. Only be true to those higher instincts; only do not learn to despise and quench that divine thirst; only struggle on, in spite of mistakes, of failures, even of sins--for every one of which last your heavenly Father will chastise you, even while He forgives; in spite of all falls, struggle on. Blessed are you that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for you shall be filled. To you--and not in vain-- 'The Spirit and the Bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him drink of the water of life freely.'

SERMON II. THE PHYSICIAN'S CALLING (Preached at Whitehall for St. George's Hospital.)

ST. MATTHEW ix. 35.

And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.

The Gospels speak of disease and death in a very simple and human tone. They regard them in theory, as all are forced to regard them in fact, as sore and sad evils.

The Gospels never speak of disease or death as necessities; never as the will of God. It is Satan, not God, who binds the woman with a spirit of infirmity. It is not the will of our Father in heaven that one little one should perish. Indeed, we do not sufficiently appreciate the abhorrence with which the whole of Scripture speaks of disease and death: because we are in the habit of interpreting many texts which speak of the disease and death of the body in this life as if they referred to the punishment and death of the soul in the world to come. We have a perfect right to do that; for Scripture tells us that there is a mysterious analogy and likeness between the life of the body and that of the soul, and therefore between the death of the body and that of the soul: but we must not forget, in the secondary and higher spiritual interpretation of such texts, their primary and physical meaning, which is this--that disease and death are uniformly throughout Scripture held up to the abhorrence of man.

Moreover--and this is noteworthy--the Gospels, and indeed all Scripture, very seldom palliate the misery of disease, by drawing from it those moral lessons which we ourselves do. I say very seldom. The Bible does so here and there, to tell us that we may do so likewise. And we may thank God heartily that the Bible does so. It would be a miserable world, if all that the clergyman or the friend might say by the sick-bed were, 'This is an inevitable evil, like hail and thunder. You must bear it if you can: and if not, then not.' A miserable world, if he could not say with full belief; '"My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him. For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth." Thou knowest not now why thou art afflicted; perhaps thou wilt never know in this life. But a day will come when thou wilt know: when thou wilt find that this sickness came to thee at the exact right time, in the exact right way; when thou wilt find that God has been keeping thee in the secret place of His presence from the provoking of men, and hiding thee privately in His tabernacle from the spite of tongues; when thou wilt discover that thou hast been learning precious lessons for thy immortal spirit, while thou didst seem to thyself merely tossing with clouded intellect on a bed of useless pain; when thou wilt find that God was nearest to thee, at the very moment when He seemed to have left thee most utterly.'

Thank God, we can say that, and more; and we will say it. But we must bear in mind, that the Gospels, which are the very parts of Scripture which speak most concerning disease, omit almost entirely that cheering and comforting view of it.

And why? Only to force upon our attention, I believe, a view even more cheering and comforting: a view deeper and wider, because supplied not merely to the pious sufferer, but to all sufferers; not merely to the Christian, but to all mankind. And that is, I believe, none other than this: that God does not only bring spiritual good out of physical evil, but that He hates physical evil itself: that He desires not only the salvation of our souls, but the health of our bodies; and that when He sent His only begotten Son into the world to do His will, part of that will was, that He should attack and conquer the physical evil of disease--as it were instinctively, as his natural enemy, and directly, for the sake of the body of the sufferer.

Many excellent men, seeing how the healing of disease was an integral part of our Lord's mission, and of the mission of His apostles, have wished that it should likewise form an integral part of the mission of the Church: that the clergy should as much as possible be


The Water of Life and Other Sermons - 2/29

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