« PoprzedniaDalej »
fore, our work to show how the life of humanity finds a living head in Christ; how the dependence of man on man, which is inevitable, becomes a witness to the faith ; how the necessary conditions of labour, if we regard them honestly, are a constraining motive to self-devotion ; how the acknowledgment of our present relation to our Lord and Saviour gives a sure foundation to the generous emotions with which our hearts are stirred towards our fellows.
“Ye all are one man in Christ Jesus.” This truth, as we reflect upon it, reveals to us the fulness of life, the promise of life, the motive of life.
I. THE FULNESS OF LIFE.
When St. Paul declared the impossibility of distinctions between peoples and classes, he did not look to their destruction, but to their perfect use—to their consecration. That one life takes up into itself all the partial developments which are represented by national and individual training ; in that one life all that existed separately finds unity under the influence of a sovereign power. We can understand how it is. Again and again it has happened in times of great conflict or peril that the thought of education, and rank, and sex, has passed away, and each one who has had to face the struggle has remembered only that he is an Englishman, or a man. All that he had, all that he was before, remained unchanged; every gift and every power was made to serve the immediate end ; but larger interests asserted their supremacy, and the soul acknowledged the claim. So it is with the nobler conflict to which we are called as believers in Christ. We all bring to it the fullest offering of individual service; we keep back nothing, and we rest in nothing. Whatsoever we have that is special the sign whereby God has revealed His purpose for us.
But this is the common thought which hallows every effort, which nerves us for concentrated labour, which bears us beyond the narrow limits of personal aim, which binds together with the strength of their manifold energies the scholar, and the artist, and the craftsman, “I am a Christian.” By that confession we know the vastness, the fulness of life in its unity in Christ.
II. THE PROMISE OF LIFE.
No one can look out upon the world without unspeakable sadness. Much that is noblest is soiled and hindered, much that is mean seems to prevail. Our days are occupied with trifles, and when we reach out to higher things we seem to sink back at once faint and wearied. But we see little after all, and we are unable to interpret much that we do see. The unseen life is greater than we know; now and then the veil is lifted from some dark scene, and through sordid and repulsive surroundings, light and tenderness and self-sacrifice flash out; revealed, not created, by the circumstances through which it is seen. national sorrow, a season of anxious suspense, a time of wide distress, shows us what the heart of the vast masses of the people is,-beating with the one life, and loyal beyond hope to truth and righteousness. And for ourselves, selfish as we are, swayed by passion as we are, and by love of pleasure, do we not know that there is that within us, unseen osten and unsuspected, which witnesses to a diviner presence not unwelcomed-momentary prayers, which go to mark some vision of suffering; longings for sympathy, which answer the look of jealous suspicions; stern self-questionings, which rouse the power of a forgotten duty ? Then, when the deep foundations are being laid open; then, when we remember how the Son of Man has fulfilled man's destiny,-we are sure that there shall
never be one lost virtue, sure that the one life with its purifying energy will not fail, sure that it is life and not death which is the seal of humanity.
III. THE MOTIVE OF LIFE.
To work for ourselves is a necessity.
If, then, we can be enabled to feel that our true self is in Christ, who has taken humanity to Himself, the whole aspect of the world is changed. The familiar line of the Roman dramatist,
“As man, I hold all that is man's my own,"
receives a meaning far beyond that which stirred the enthusiasm of his audience when the words were first spoken. Not in figure, but in very deed, the infirmities, the sorrows, the offences of others touch me by the connection of one life. No one can sin alone, no one, let us thank God, can strive alone, I cannot separate myself from the chequered record of human falls and achievements which every day's journal offers for our discipline. Each crime is a wound to Him in whom I live, each sacrifice is a sign of His working. The moral environment in which I act bears as certainly the effects of character as the atmosphere which I breathe bears the effect of physical influences. It is my own cause which is at stake there in the homes of thoughtless luxury; it is my own cause which is at stake there in the haunts of squalid misery. I may close my eyes to tbe facts which press upon me, but I cannot isolate myself.
Can we imagine any motive for labour more inexhaustible or more inspiring than this conviction that the well-being of the whole is imperilled in the least member; that subtle influences pass ever over each one of us at every moment which must work for all time; that at every moment we are all entering on the inheritance of the one life, marred or made richer, as it may be, by the action of our fellows? “Ye all are one man in Christ Jesus.”
It is through us that Christ works. He is the vine, we are the branches; but where, without the branches, is the manifold fertility of the vine? He is the head, we are the members; but where without the members is the prevailing energy of the body? The Church is built on men and of men, on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. While Jesus Christ Himself is the head corner-stone it is through men that it is raised to its full proportions as the visible shrine of a present God. And is it not here that we fail most grievously to assert the power of our faith? Sometimes we seem to think that the Church is the splendid sepulchre of the dead Christ-dead, though not bereft of His Divinity. Sometimes we seem to think that it is a sad congregation of men looking for a lost Christ. Oh, when such thoughts tempt us may we hear ringing in our ears those old words,“ Why seek ye Him that liveth among the dead ? He is not here, but is risen.” And then again, “Why stand ye gazing up into Heaven?” May we learn for the accomplishment of our work that the fulness of the Divine energy is still revealed through human instruments, that the scene of Christ's victory is still the earth. May we first offer whatever we have ourselves of vigour, of enthusiasm, of sympathy, of love for Christ's service, and then boldly claim the fulness of every power of men, the whole range of national and social interests for His transfiguring revelation.
“Ye all åre one man in Christ Jesus.” As we ponder the words and follow them beyond this region of conflict and succession, they disclose a prospect in which our souls can rest. In that prospect the multitudinous fragments of our separate lives are seen in their unity ; nothing is lost, nothing is laid aside, but all of them are taken up into a higher and unimaginable type of being—the many are one ; we know ourselves even as God knows us, not as independent, scattered units, but all in Christ. In that last issue we can understand how we reach our goal of eternal peace, when we find that we, each with his little human gift, express one contributory element in Christ's humanity. The glory of the whole is the joy of all, one joy in one life. Words fail, thoughts fail, but the Spirit fails not. Touched by this vision, we come back again to our common daily work, distracted, baffled, weary, but we have found the fulness of life complete in spite of our divisions; we have found the promise of life sure in spite of our failures ; we have found the motive of life prevail over all selfishness; “ Ye all are one man in Christ Jesus.”
Tofiqal Outlines for the Nonth.
SUNDAYS AFTER TRINITY-TWENTY-FIRST TO TWENTY-FOURTH.
FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT.
Concerning them which
I Thess. iv. 13. “ But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep."
The Church at Thessalonica had been but lately planted. It was Christian community in the first, glowing, fresh, spring-tide of its life of ardent love and devotion to the Saviour ; and yet, already it had had to part with some of its members and to stand face to face with the great mystery of death. We do not know who the departed were, but we can easily imagine the practical difficulty of these converts when, either as Grecians or Jews, they had to try to master the influence of the New Revelation and the New Redeemer upon the fate and future of those whom relentless death would not spare. It was no mere speculative curiosity which Paul had to meet, when Timothy, returning, brought him the news of their sad and
sorrowful perplexity about their dead. It was a pressing burden, a weight of living woe, a dread fear, whose baleful shadow they could not disperse or drive away, which the apostle had to deal with. Their anxiety he regarded as natural-as human—and he sympathised with it. Ignorance of the state of the dead he regarded as unnecessary and improper in the case of believers in the Christian revelation. He knew there was light, and he held that they ought to walk in it. He had himself seen the rent veil and had looked within upon its marvels. Heaven had opened itself to the longing gaze of the apostle, for his Lord was there. And in the clear vision and undoubting certainty of assured knowledge he said: “I would not have you to be ignorant concerning them who are sleeping, that ye sorrow not as the rest, also, who have no hope.”
There are hardly any of us who have not touched a cold, impassive hand, put living lips to an irresponsive
and icy cheek or brow, and “ gone
of the homes they gladdened; of the the grave to weep there.” It is the services of Christ in which they took common lot of all who have lived even their part; of their voices heard often for only a few years, to cherish me- in the hymns of praise in which they mories of the departed. The aged, delighted; of social hours pleasantly especially, walk in a world which is not enlivened by their converse-give a theirs; their deepest interests are not peculiar charm to such declarations as so much in living contemporaries as
these we find in the text, and deepen in the hosts of the faithful who have much these living emotions which still “ fought the good fight” to the end entwine themselves around those who, and finished their course.
hidden from sight, are with the Lord, live among their hopes—the old among
and still to memory dear. retrospections. A world of change is
But we have another interest, and peopled by changing generations ;
one which touches us still more closely and“ they never continue in one stay.”
in such revelations. We look with No history is without the record of straining eyes into the future, our own death's separations and destructions.
and that of Christ's redeemed church There is no family he has not entered. throughout the world, and we often There is no love he has not wounded. ask what is to happen to them and to There is no union of hearts he has not
Shall we, also, die ? If so, what broken. There is no association of
shall be our state, and what shall men-no fellowship of Christians—he happen to us when we have our porhas not robbed and despoiled. These tion with the departed ? How shall facts forbid any, even the least indif- we appear in the great gathering toference on our part to this great theme. gether of the saintly who have died in We have felt death's mystery-its
the Lord ? Who shall then be our burden and its pang. There are ques
nearest associates ? What shall be tions it inspires which we would fain our relation to Him, whom, having not have answered. In which of all the seen, we love, and to whom we cling as starry worlds do the loved we have lost our life's chiefest support and only joy ? dwell? Is it altogether well with
I. THE FIRST THOUGHT WHICH MEETS them? In what are they employed ?
US HERE IS THAT OF DEATH TRANSHow do they subsist apart from the material organization we call body ? Things are not what they seem. The What ar their relations, as spirits un
disintegration of the body, its being clothed, to the material universe ? laid aside, its corruption and noisomeHow will they appear when they ness, its hiding `away and resolution receive the complete investiture of the into its constituent elements through spiritual body? How shall we recog. nature's great self-working law of nise them again on the other side of change and re-creation ; that is not the death ? On some of these and such destruction of life, that is not loss of like questions Holy Scripture is alto- individuality, that is not the end of gether silent; on others, there are humanity.
From all the ancient merely dark hints ; while on the others, heathen world, and even from those the information conveyed is full, clear,
who lived under the economy of Moses, definite, precise, leaving nothing for there rose up a loud wailing over the faith to desire or love to be anxious bodies of the departed, as about. Our interest in the holy and utter waste and ruin of life: “ Wilt happy dead ; our hallowed memories Thou show wonders to the dead ?
Shall the dead arise and praise Thee ? he sums up the whole Church, dead Shall Thy loving kindness be declared and living at the time when death is in the grave or Thy faithfulness in swallowed up in victory, and they destruction ? Shall Thy wonders be cannot taste it. In the 14th verse, he known in the dark and Thy righteous- describes the dead as those who sleep ness in the land of forgetfulness ? " in Jesus. But the real phrase is those The physical facts were naturally who sleep through Jesus.” enough dwelt upon, to the dimming, The figure is one of the most touchand sometimes the extinction, of faith ing, sweet, and beautiful. There is a in the spiritual ; and men regarding whole revolution of the faith and hope the death of their friends with sadness of the world in the idea here given. and grief, and shuddering to think of Destruction, that is gone; loss, prithe deprivations which were to be their vation, suffering ; they are gone; unown lot, said, My days are swifter consciousness, that is gone; king of than a weaver's shuttle, and are spent terrors, cruel mower, cutting down without hope. Mine eye shall no flowers and bearded corn ; prison more see good. The eye of him that keeper, holding in watch and ward hath seen, he shall see me no more. those deprived of liberty; horror of As the cloud is consumed and vanish- great darkness, in which men say to eth away, so he that goeth down to corruption, “thou art my brother,” and the grave shall come up no more, he to the worm “thou art my sister";—they shall return no more to his house, are all ideas which Christianity repuneither shall his place know him any diates ; which the empty sepulchre and more.” But here, this is all gone. the Throne of Glory of Christianity's The Acts of the Apostles and the Epis- Lord and King stamp as heathenish, tles make nothing whatever of the and unbelieving utterly. The tired mere physical accidents of death. They warrior, with his spoils about him, seldom, if ever, appear even on the
lies down in the tented field at sun surface. The Proto-Martyr, crushed down, to recruit his wasted energies. to death by the huge stones of his The labourer brings home the sheaves legal murderers, after seeing the vision in the full over-laden wain, and the of the glorified Christ through the master bids him rest. The worn and rent clouds of the firmament, mangled wasted seek renewal and re-invigoraand bleeding "fell asleep." Paul, re- tion. The child lays its rosy cheek ferring to the generation that is to against the mother's breast and the survive the working out of the physical eyelids droop, and nerve ceases to dissolution and destruction of death, waste itself; it gathers strength, and says, we shall not all sleep.” Here bone and muscle are fed for growth in the text, the idea is repeated. “I and new activity. There is an evenwould not have you to be ignorant ing of life as well as a morning; and concerning them which are fallen “man goeth forth unto his work and asleep.” The reference is not only to his labour until the evening.” The the dead of the Thessalonian Church, sleep of the labouring man is sweet. but also, to all who are not permitted “ He giveth His beloved sleep." to continue by reason of death. The There has been much perplexity interm includes those of our loved ones duced by forgetfulness of the essential whom we have seen borne hence. In nature and character of the experience another place he uses the phrase which the word “sleep” describes. “ whether we wake or sleep ;' in which Men do not cease to live in sleep. The