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“ Return unto Me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of Hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return ?"
OUR life in this world, if there be in it health or hope, is, in substance, a returning to God. Most of us are like wayward children, following the road for a while, then straying; anon recovering it, and, with repentance, proceeding. So, all the life through, we are returning to God; lapsing here and there; erring and straying like lost sheep; finding the way back, we often wonder how ; and so, as for our general direction, working a slow course, toward final safety, through the temptations and dangers of the track by which we go.
But it says in the text: “Wherein shall we return ?" The question suggests some thought on motives which may act to lead men back to God. How shall they that are astray be brought home? By what shall they be persuaded to seek the Lord ? If we, one by one, grow lax, cold, and hard ; if, becoming careless, we fall below the mark, how shall we rise again?
There are two great motives that can keep men near to God, and keep God's name in honour in the world. It is true of men, one by one; it is true of men in society. Were both those strong moral and spiritual forces to fail at once,
the race would pass, for the time, under the shadow of an eclipse. Those two motives are Love and Fear: the Love of God for His Mercy, the Fear of God for His Justice. Either of these may save a man; either may keep a race alive and strong;
but where neither exists, in the individual spirit, or in the public general consciousness, darkness shall cover the earth and gross darkness the people.”
With the heart we lay fast hold on Him, as the Father, and the Saviour. This is the first of motives, and the noblest: cold must be that soul which this fire cannot warm. God calls Himself our Father; the word includes His act in giving us our being, His providence which keeps, upholds, and blesses us day by day. God, as Creator, Ruler, and Governor, asks of us our love. But again, He reveals Himself as God our Saviour :. He who brought us back when we had gone astray, and reconciled the world unto Himself, That relation of Redeemer-God is so wonderful, that what went before is often forgotten. The symbol of the mighty, all-constraining Love, is, and must ever be, the Cross. God's love for us is manifested in countless ways besides, but that way seems to make all other ways little; it amazes, it astounds. II. THERE IS ONE OTHER MOTIVE
TO BRING MEN TO GOD; IT IS
Not merely the fear of punishment; that is common to all; even bad men when they sin count it among possibilities that they may suffer punishment: the dread of that does not stay them. Nor the fear of suffering; we all suffer, first or last, and men can face that, and come through it, not altogether badly, when helped by material or immaterial anodynes such as are at hand. The Fear that may bring a man to his senses, and so to God, is a deeper dread than that of a suffering which can be alleviated, or a punishment that will end. It is the fear of irreparable disaster, of everlasting loss. That, men cannot face. That is the dread of dreads.
But there are those in whom is no such dread; they do not feel the lov
-as soon as
of God, they cannot be shaken by the sins are ripe for judgment, are so fear of God. I ask: what next? destructive to each other, that no What other motive can you name, agents but themselves are needed when both these fail ? There is no to wreak the fulness of the penalty
Show us the man who incurred. neither loves God nor fears God: The world, as soon as it becomes who finds in his present life nothing infidel, if ever it does,to inspire thankfulness, and in the it comes to the final and formal uncertainties of the dim future denial of the Creator,
the Saviour, nothing to awaken alarm; and in and the Righteous Judge, - that his case our resources are at an world shall be its own executioner, end. Let him take his way, and and with sword, rack, wheel, and let the Almighty decide what shall bonfire, with whatsoever of the be done with him at the last. formidable and frightful men can
But what will men do when invent, shall the vengeance come. fallen so low ? Let us consider. God is the shield over us all ; if Can love and fear die out of the that shield be taken away, we are heart? Never. The love and fear lost. There are red phantoms of God can die ; but love and fear which society knows too well. of something will remain. Toward They cannot walk out at noon; not what shall these direct themselves ? till the light of religion fades do Nothing is left above man: he has
they venture to emerge.
When built up a wall between himself that light grows dim, look for them and heaven. Love and fear live in their place, stealing forth from on: their objects are no longer their ancient haunts and gaining high objects, but low. They are boldness as the atmosphere thick110 longer spiritual instincts, rais
Each of those figures has its ing and ruling us; they name and pedigree: expect them earthly passions and human appe- at the hour and in the region tites, centering in ourselves. When where you see knowledge without man will no longer love God, he love, and sin without fear. must come to loving himself; and
MORGAN DIx, D.D. when it comes to loving himself, his main fear is lest, in that self
The Gospel Feast love, he should be interfered with
LUKE xiv. 16, 17, 18. or balked. He loves his ease, his
" Then said He unto them. A certain pleasure, and those persons man made a great supper and bade many : things in life which minister to his And sent his servant at supper-time to content and satisfaction: no high say to them that were bidden : Come for and disinterested passion is left, all things are now ready. And they all but all is personal and mean : the
with one consent began to make excuse. apprehensions which sway him, are It is a remarkable fact that the dread of the loss of power, of sick- people to whom the Gospel was first ness or of poverty, dread of not preached--to whom salvation by being able to keep what one has; Jesus Christ and the inheritance dread of the blank, chill future; of the kingdom of God
were first dread of the hour of death, not for offered-rejected the offer. that which it hides, but for the end nation the Jews rejected Christ. which it sets to all. Such men are They first denied and crucified everywhere about us; wrapped up Him. And then, when, through in their own thoughts, projects, His unspeakable mercy, life was and pleasures.
offered to them through the very Men left to themselves, forsaken blood which they had shed, they and cast off by the Lord, as they continued hardened in unbelief, have been, and will be, when their and forfeited their high privilege
as the chosen people of God. They the gift of righteousness or justifibecame outcasts, and the Gentile cation before God; the pardon of Church was accepted in their room. all our sins, be they red like crimIt is to this that this parable in the son, and more than the hairs of first instance refers : the rejection our head in number. It is adoption of the Gospel salvation by the un- into the family of God, so as to believing Jews, and the consequent become his sons and daughters; it invitation to all nations, kindreds, is sanctification, or the new creation and people to repent and believe in of the soul in the image and likeJesus Christ, and to be baptized in- ness of God's holiness; it is a title to His name, that they might be- to the inheritance of the saints in come the people of God.
everlasting glory, and a share in But the parable has another the resurrection of the just, when application, suited to all times, and they shall awake, and come forth no less fitting to us now than it from their graves clad in the beauwas to the Jews eighteen hundred tiful garments of salvation, and years ago. The Gospel is slighted take their place among the children and rejected in its spirit and power, of light around the throne of God. and its gracious offers of mercy are It is an eternal feast, an everlasting unheeded as truly and as effectually rest, an imperishable kingdom, an now by many among ourselves as uninterrupted joy in the glorious by the Jews of old. The world at city of our God. large is not more ready to embrace What are the means, the costly Christ crucified as its only life and preparation, by which God has prohope now than the Jewish people vided such a great salvation, and were in the days of the apostles placed it within the reach of man? Three things are here suggested :- He has sent His only begotten Son
into the world, in the likeness of I. WHAT THE GOSPEL INVITATION IS.
sinful flesh, to bear the sins of the It is set forth under the simili- world in His own body, and to tude of a certain man, who made make atonement for them by the a great supper and bade many, and shedding of His own precious blood sent his servants at supper-time to on the cross. He has ransomed say to them that were bidden, and redeemed us by providing a Come, for all things are now ready. substitute and a surety in the perThe leading idea of the Gospel is, son of His own well-beloved Son. not that something is required of
He has exacted from Him what was us, but that an immense gift is due to our transgressions, and prooffered to us.
We are told that vided for us an inexhaustible treaGod has made vast preparations sury of righteousness in His merits for the happiness and salvation of and perfect obedience to the law of mankind; that for four thousand God. In His person He has visited years these preparations were going upon us the awful wrath for sin, on; that at last all has been accom- the vengeance of death; and in plished that was necessary to deli- His person He bestows upon us ver man from the curse and death, resurrection, and life, and glory. and to open to him the gates of In a word, He has washed us from life; and that now it only remains sin in Christ's precious blood. All for each individual to lay hold of things are ready. Come. Nothing and appropriate to himself the has been left undone by Christ great salvation. Come, for all which was needful for salvation. things are now ready."
II. How IS THE INVITATION BY What is the gift of salvation which
MOST RECEIVED ? we are invited to come and partake of? It is the deliverance of our They all with one consent besouls from the second death ; it is gan to make excuse. “ They
would not come.” The Gospel
you come to Christ ? And if not, still meets with the same neglect, why have you not? and the same contempt, from numbers to whom it is preached in
III. THE CONSEQUENCE OF SLIGHTour day and in our land. Number- ING THE INVITATION. less are the excuses which men give The lord of the feast says of for not repenting, for not coming those who make
excuses, None of to Christ, for not being saved.
those men which were bidden shall With some, it is old custom and
taste of my supper.” The day will old habit which prevents them. Just
come, and heaven's gates shall be as the Jews could not forsake the
thrown open and the heavenly banreligion of their fathers, so they, quet will be spread ; Jesus Christ having been brought up, perhaps, will be there; Abraham, Isaac, and in formal religion, cannot now so Jacob, and all the prophets and far change as to admit any new
holy apostles shall be there, joy in light, not even the light of the
their faces, bliss in their hearts. Gospel of Christ. Or, perhaps, All the humble and holy men of they are grown old and cannot change
heart, who received the Gospel intheir opinions at their time of life; vitation in faith and love, will be no, not to save their souls.
there, everlasting songs and praises With others, it is pride and self
on their lips; but where will you conceit that induces them to make
be? If not at the feast of heavenlight of Christ's invitation to dying ly love, and redeeming grace,
and sinners. We are rich, say they, spiritual victory, where ? and increased with goods, and have
BISHOP OF BATH AND WELLS. need of nothing. We never stole; we never committed murder; we are not drunkards or adulterers :
Christ, the Christian's Life. what need to make so much ado
JOHN xiv. 6. about our souls ? Then there is a large class of
the life.” triflers; mere lovers of pleasure ; In the answer to the question, mere enjoyers of the world. These "What think ye of Christ ?” is have no thought but about amus
contained all that is of supreme ing and enjoying themselves; they interest to man. Christ came to cannot be brought to serious reveal to man God, to give to the thought.
eternal life. Another very large class of hear- All is embraced in Christ; all ers of the Gospel who do not ac- comes to us through the life of cept the invitation of Christ, but Christ. The life of the dying saint make excuse, are those who are pre
and the life of the infant believer vented doing so by some favourite sin, are alike in Christ. He is the first, some habitual indulgence which they and will be the last. The experiwill not give up. If two men meet ence of each Christian is like that on a very narrow plank, one must of the disciples on the Mount of turn back and make room for the Transfiguration who saw the Law other to pass over.
And so, when and the Prophets, in Moses and the holy Gospel and sin meet to- Elijah, disappear, leaving Christ gether in a man's heart, either the only. We may believe rite, cereGospel must drive the sin away, or mony, form, important; but we will the sin, if it remains, will keep the find, at last, that all these must Gospel out. The latter case is give way to Christ; that waiting sadly common, much more so than on Christ, that coming to Christ, most people think.
that yielding our hearts wholly to accepted Christ's invitation ? have Him, is the sum and substance of
" I am ...
all virtue, of all excellence, of all of ground where, if you go down value. Now, this accords with the deep enough, you cannot find declaration of Christ, that we can water. This life is given to us do nothing without Him; also through (b) the Sacraments. We with the declaration of the apostle,
do not value these as highly as we “Looking unto Jesus, the author ought. In that marvellous 6th and finisher of our faith.” I like chapter of John we read that if we the saying of the old saint who partake of Christ we shall live. said that he had not time to specu- This, of course, is but the outward late, for Christ so absorbed his expression of the infinite truth. attention that he found that when There is an inward oneness with he was all taken up with Christ, he
Christ revealed in the sacraments.. was all taken up by Christ.
union unless we have experienced it. I. LIFE IN CHRIST.
It is the coming down of the New As the life of the mother is im- Jerusalem into the soul, in which parted to the child, so Christ's life there is no night, no sound of soris imparted to the Christian. Bap
It is lying down on the · tism symbolizes our being born in bosom of Christ, where no shaft Christ, and the Lord's Supper sym- can reach us, no storm ruffle us, bolizes our being fed by Him. from which no hand can pluck us. Both exhibit a common life be- Oh, the triumphant, the glorious tween the believer and Christ. In experience of the child of God who this lies the security of the Chris- has his life in Christ and on Christ! tian. I have in my life the life of
III. IT IS A LIFE FOR CHRIST. Christ, who has declared that His life is everlasting. If you saw a
No one can realize Christ's worth rill running down a mountain side, to his soul until he works for Him, you might wonder if that stream until he consecrates his life to Him. would not soon cease to run; but In consecration Christ is revealed. if you found out that a fountain But now, if we need compensafed it, then you could readily be- tion for a life in Christ, on Christ, lieve that it would keep on running, for Christ, consider : and that, whatever obstacles might
IV. A LIFE WITH CHRIST. cross its course, it would go on and on toward the ocean. Christ The entire life of the Saviour, is the eternal fountain—the life of from Bethlehem to Calvary, is, I the soul. Not anything can separ- may say, an allegory, a mould in ate us from this life. With Paul which the Christian's life is cast. we are persuaded that“neither life Christ was born : the Christian is nor death,” etc., Rom viii. 38-39. born in Him, &c. We have no We may not understand this, but, trial that Christ did not experience. thank God, we may experience it. I shall never forget a conversation
I had with a brother who had been II. A LIFE ON CHRIST.
sorely tried. Said he: My great Some plants lean and grow on
burden filled me with anguish. I that on which they lean. So the went home; I threw myself on my life of Christ is to the Christian a knees, and cried out in the bittersupport and a supply. This life is ness of my soul to God. Suddenly given to us through (a) the Word. the room seemed filled with light, The words of the Bible are life. and I heard a voice say, Son, I Christ is in them. There is not a have borne the trial you bear. I word here in which, if you go will never leave you. I will susdown deep enough, you will not
My burden at find Christ, as there is not a spot rolled from me. I had spent sleep