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these doubts than those which were reasonable and popular in an age when men racked women, burned heretics, and believed that every Mussulman killed in a crusade went straight to Tartarus, then very serious times are at hand, both for the Christian clergy and for Christianity itself.
What, then, are we to believe and do? Shall we degenerate into a lazy skepticism, which believes that everything is a little true, and everything a little false-in plain words, believes nothing at all? Or shall we degenerate into faithless fears, and unmanly wailings that the flood of infidelity is irresistible, and that Christ has left His Church?
We shall do neither, if we believe the text. That tells us of a firm standing ground amid the wreck of fashions and opinions; of a kingdom which can not be moved, tho the heavens pass away like a scroll, and the earth be burnt up with a fervent heat.
And it tells us that the King of that kingdom is He, who is called Jesus Christ—the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.
An eternal and changeless kingdom, and an eternal and changeless King--these the Epistle to the Hebrews preaches to all generations.
It does not say that we have an unchangeable cosmogony, an unchangeable eschatology, an unchangeable theory of moral retribution, an unchangeable dogmatic system; not to these does it point the Jews, while their own nation and worship were in their very deathagony, and the world was rocking and reeling round them, decay and birth going on side by side, in a chaos such as man had never seen before. Not to these does the epistle point the Hebrews : but to the changeless kingdom and to the changeless King.
My friends, do you really believe in that kingdom, and in that King? Do you believe that you are now actually in a kingdom of heaven, which can not be moved; and that the living, acting, guiding, practical, real King thereof is Christ who died on the cross ?
These are days in which a preacher is bound to ask his congregation-and still more to ask himself—whether he really believes in that kingdom, and in that King; and to bid himself and them, if they have not believed earnestly enough therein, to repent of having neglected that most cardinal doctrine of Scripture and of the Christian faith.
But if we really believe in that changeless kingdom and in that changeless King, shall we not-considering who Christ is, the coequal and coeternal Son of God-believe also, that if the heavens and the earth are being shaken, then Christ Himself may be shaking them? That if opinions be changing, then Christ Himself may be changing them? That if new truths are being discovered, Christ Himself may be revealing them? That if some of those VI-11
truths seem to contradict those which He has revealed already, they do not really contradict them? That, as in the sixteenth century, Christ is burning up the wood and stubble with which men have built on His foundation, that the pure gold of His truth may alone be left? It is at least possible; it is probable, if we believe that Christ is a living, acting King, to whom all power is given in heaven and earth, and who is actually exercising that power; and educating Christendom, and through Christendom the whole human race, to a knowledge of Himself, and through Himself of God their Father in heaven.
Should we not say-We know that Christ has been so doing, for centuries and for ages! Through Abraham, through Moses, through the prophets, through the Greeks, through the Romans, and at last through Himself, He gave men juster and wider views of themselves, of the universe, and of God. And even then He did not stop. How could He, who said of Himself, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work”? How could He, if He be the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever? Through the apostles, and especially through St. Paul, He enlarged, while_He confirmed, His own teaching. And did He not do the same in the sixteenth century? Did He not then sweep from the minds and hearts of half Christendom beliefs which had been sacred and indubitable for a thousand years? Why should He not be doing so now? It it be answered, that the Reformation of the sixteenth century was only a return to simpler and purer apostolic truth-why, again, should it not be so now! Why should He not be perfecting His work one step more, and sweeping away more of man's inventions, which are not integral and necessary elements of the one catholic faith, but have been left behind, in pardonable human weakness, by our great reformers ? Great they were, and good: giants on the earth, while we are but as dwarfs beside them. But, as the hackneyed proverb says, the dwarf on the giant's shoulders may see further than the giant himself: and so may we.
Oh! that men would approach new truth in something of that spirit; in the spirit of reverence and godly fear, which springs from a living belief in Christ the living King, which is—as the text tells us—the spirit in which we can serve God acceptably. Oh! that they would serve God; waiting reverently and anxiously, as servants standing in the presence of their Lord, for the slightest sign or hint of His will. Then they would have grace by which they would receive newthought with grace; gracefully, courteously, fairly, charitably, reverently; believing that, however strange or startling, it may come from Him whose ways are not as our ways, nor His thoughts as our thoughts; and that he who fights against it, may haply be fighting against God.
True, they would receive all new thought with caution, that conservative spirit, which is the duty of every Christian; which is the peculiar strength of the Englishman, because it enables him calmly and slowly to take in the new, without losing the old which his forefathers have already won for him. they would be cautious, even anxious, lest in grasping too greedily at seeming improvements, they let go some precious knowledge which they had already attained: but they would be on the lookout for improvements; because they would consider themselves, and their generation, as under a divine education. They would prove all things fairly and boldly, and hold fast that which is good; all that which is beautiful, noble, improving and elevating to human souls, minds, or bodies; all that increases the amount of justice, mercy, knowledge, refinement; all that lessens the amount of vice, cruelty, ignorance, barbarism. That at least must come from Christ. That at least must be the inspiration of the Spirit of God: unless the Pharisees were right after all when they said, that evil spirits could be cast out by the prince of the devils.
Be these things as they may, one comfort it will give us, to believe firmly and actively in the changeless kingdom, and in the changeless King. It will give us calm, patience, faith and hope, tho the heavens and the earth be shaken around us. For then we shall see that