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for their sins. This is part of a creed, unconsciously very widely held to-day, that comfort, not character, is the chief end of life. Now if God is too kind to allow his children to suffer some of the natural consequences of sin, he is not a really kind and loving father, he is spoiling his children. Salvation is soundness, sanity, health; just as holiness is wholeness, escape from the disease, and not merely from the consequences of sin. A physician, unless a quack, never promises relief from a deep-seated disease without any pain or discomfort. And if the disease is the result of indulgence, he warns us that relapse into indulgence will bring a worse recurrence of the pain. Perhaps, after all, Socrates was not so far from right when he maintained that if a man had sinned the best and only thing for him is to suffer for it. "God the Lord will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly." And our Lord says, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." If we would be great in the kingdom of heaven we must do and teach the commandments. One of the best lessons that the clergy can learn from science is that law and penalty are not things of the past. They are eternal facts; and if so, ought sometimes to be at least mentioned from the pulpit as well as remembered in the pew.
But if God is a person striving to communicate with man, and if man is a person intended to conform to environment by becoming like God, what is more probable from the scientific stand-point than that God should seek and find some means of making himself clearly known to man in some personal way? I do not see how any scientific man who believes in a personal God can avoid asking this question. And is there any more natural solution of the question than that given in the Bible? "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself." "God, who spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his son." Philip says, "Lord, show us the Father and it sufficeth us." Jesus saith unto him, "Have I been so long time with you, and dost thou not know me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; how sayest thou shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father and the Father in me? the words that I say unto you I speak not from myself: but the Father abiding in me doeth his works."
"And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."
Something more is needed than light. We need more light and knowledge of our duty; we need vastly more the will-power to do it. I know how I ought to live; I do not live thus. What I need is not a teacher, but power to become a son of God. "I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members. O
wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?"
This is the terrible question. How is it to be answered? Let us remember our illustration of the change wrought in that panic-stricken army before Winchester by the appearance of Sheridan. What these men needed was not information. No plan of battle reported as sure of success by trustworthy and competent witnesses, and forwarded from the greatest leader could have stayed that rout. What they needed was Sheridan and the magnetic power of his personality. This is the strange power of all great leaders of men, whether orators, statesmen, or generals. It is intellect acting on and through intellect, but it is also vastly more; it is will acting on will. The leader does not merely instruct others, he inspires them, puts himself into them, and makes them heroes like himself.
Now something like this, but vastly grander and deeper, seems to me to have been the work of our Lord. Read John's gospel and see how it is interpenetrated with the idea of the new life to be gained by contact with our Lord, and how this forms the foundation of his hope and claim to give men this new life by drawing them to himself. And Peter says that it was impossible for the Prince of Life to be holden of death, for he was the centre and source from which not only new thoughts and purposes, but new will and life was to stream out into the souls of men. This power of our Lord may have been miraculous and supernatural in degree; I feel assured that it was not unnatural in kind and mode of action.
And here, young men, pardon a personal word
about your preaching. You will need to preach many sermons of warning against, and denunciation of, sin; many of instruction in duty. The Bible is a storehouse of instruction and men need it, and you must make it clear to them. All this is good and necessary, but it is not enough. Learn from the experience of the greatest preacher, perhaps, who ever lived.
Paul, the greatest philosopher of ancient times, came to Athens. You can well imagine how he had waited and longed for the opportunity to speak in this home of philosophy and intellectual life. Now he was to speak, not to uncultured barbarians, but to men who could understand and appreciate his best thoughts. He preached in Athens the grandest sermon, as far as argument is concerned, ever uttered. I doubt if ever a sermon of Paul's accomplished less. He could not even rouse a healthy opposition. The idea of a new god, Jesus, and a new goddess, the Resurrection, rather tickled the Athenian fancy. He left them, and, in deep dejection, went down to Corinth. There he determined to know only "Christ and him crucified," and thus preaching in material, vicious Corinth he founded a church.
Some of you will go through the same experience. You will preach to cultured and intelligent audiences, and they will listen courteously and eagerly as long as you tell them something new, and do not ask them to do anything. The only possible way of reaching Athenian intellect or Corinthian materialism and vice is by preaching Christ, "the power of God and the wisdom of God." And you will reach more Corinthians than Athenians."
You may preach sermons full of the grandest phi
losophy and theology, and of the highest, most exact, science; you may chain men by your logic, thrill them by your rhetoric, and move them to tears by your eloquence, and they will go home as dead and cold as they came. What they need is power, life. But preach "Christ and him crucified "-not merely dead two thousand years ago-but risen and alive for evermore, and with us to the end of the world, the grandest, most heroic, divinest helper who ever stood by a man, one all-powerful to help and who never forsakes, and every one of your hearers who is not dead to truth will catch the life, and go home alive and not alone.
So long as we preach a dead Christ we shall have a dead church, as hopeless as the apostles were before the resurrection. "But now is Christ risen from the dead," "alive for evermore." See how Paul and Peter and John, and doubtless all the others, talked with him and he with them, after he was taken from them, and you have found the secret of their power, and of that of all the great Christian heroes and martyrs who could truly say, Lord Jesus, we understand each other. Better yet, prove by experience that it is possible for every one of us.
And our Lord and Master is the connecting link between God and man, through whom God's own Holy Spirit is poured like a mighty flood into the hearts and lives of men, transfiguring them and filling them with the divine power. This is the biblical idea of Christianity; man, through Christ, flooded and permeated and interpenetrated with the Holy Spirit of God. And thus Paul is dead and yet alive, but fully possessed and dominated by the spirit of Christ. Alive as never