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XVI

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Easter

(From the Gospel for the day)

John xvi. 7-11—“It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you. And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on Me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father and ye see Me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.”4747The greater part of this and the following sermon having been translated by Archdeacon Hare, in his Notes to “The Mission of the Comforter,” I obtained his kind permission to extract from that work the passages he had given there.—Tr.

CHILDREN, it behoves us to give diligent heed to the meaning of this passage, and see how it is that the Holy Ghost could not be given to the dear disciples and friends of Jesus, unless He first went away from them.

What is meant by Christ’s going away from us? Nothing else than our destitution, hopelessness, and helplessness, when we are heavy and slow in all good things, and cold and dark; for then Christ is gone from us. If persons who are in this state render it useful and fruitful for themselves, this would be a truly noble thing for them thus to master and bend it; and to such an one all variety will be fused into unity, and he will have joy in sorrow, and be patient 321under reproach, in constant peace amid war and trouble, and all bitterness will to him become true sweetness.

Now our Lord said: “When the Holy Ghost cometh, He will reprove the world.” What is the world which He will reprove, and how will He reprove it? He will enable man to see clearly whether the world is lying concealed within him, hidden in the principle of his being: this he will detect and rebuke. Now what is the world in us? It is the ways, the workings, the imaginations of the world, the world’s comfort, joy, love, and grief, in love, in fear, in sorrow, in care; for St. Bernard says: “With all wherein thou rejoicest and sorrowest, thou shalt also be judged.” Children, this will the Holy Ghost, when He comes to us, clearly reveal, and rebuke us on account thereof, so that we shall never have rest or quiet, so long as we know and find this evil and noxious possession within us. And when one finds this evil inclination in a man, that he is possessed by any creature, be it living or dead, and he remains unrebuked, all this is the world. And when a man keeps this in himself unrebuked, this is a true and manifest sign that the Holy Ghost has not entered into the principle of his life; for Christ has said: When He comes, He will rebuke all these things.

“He will reprove the world of sin.” What is sin? Ye know well, dear children, that God has made all things, and appointed each thing for its right end. Thus He made fire that it should rise up, and stones that they should fall down. Thus nature has given to the eye to see, to the ears to hear, to the hands to work, and to the feet to walk; and 322thus each member is obedient to the natural will, without any opposition, whether the matter be easy or hard, sweet or sour, if so be that the will thoroughly wills it; thus, too, the members are thoroughly obedient, even when it is an affair of life and death. This appears often in many lovers of this world, how they merrily and joyfully cast away all ease, and riches, and honour, for the sake of what they love, to the end that their carnal lust may thus be satisfied. Now sinners say, Who is thus obedient to God, and thus exact in all His commandments? Which of you dares thus to resign for God’s sake his body and goods, and all that he likes or fears,—nay, every thing save his conscience, of which God is the rightful Ruler? Now this is the sin which the Holy Ghost reproves, that man so greatly and so often resists His divine will and admonitions. This sin and many hidden offences the Holy Ghost rebukes when He comes to a man. This rebuke works a quick, sharp, hard judgment in a man, and a hellish pain, and an intolerable woe, whereof worldly men know little. When this judgment is indeed borne, the case is safe. For a thousand offences which a man truly acknowledges and confesses himself to be guilty of, are not so perilous and so mischievous to a man as a single offence which thou wilt not recognise nor allow thyself to be convinced of. Children, those who are so well pleased with themselves and others, nor have ever felt any anxiety about their sin, except to prove that they are in the right, are very wrong; they are in dangerous sin, and will never come to any good.

Next: the Holy Ghost will reprove the world of 323righteousness. Alas, merciful God, what a poor miserable thing our righteousness is in the eyes of God! For St. Augustine says: Woe and woe to all righteousness, unless Almighty God judge, for He has said by the prophet Isaiah: “All your righteousnesses are as filthy rags;” and our Lord said: “When ye have done all that ye can, say, we are unprofitable servants, we have done that which it was our duty to do.” He who thinketh somewhat of himself when he is nought, deceiveth himself, as St. John saith. Many a man is so heartily well pleased with his own ways, that he will neither open his heart to God nor to man, and keeps his eyes carefully shut, that he may not let God into his soul. If our Lord comes to him with his admonitions, directly or indirectly, he follows his own course, and heeds them not a straw. Such men are utterly untoward, both to God Almighty and to all His creatures: but wherever the Holy Ghost comes, he reproves these men’s ways; for wherever he is, man perceives his faults plainly, and learns self-renunciation, humbleness, and all things that belong to eternal life.

Thirdly: the Holy Ghost reproves man for judgment. What is this judgment? It means that every man passes judgment on his neighbour, and that they have no eyes for their own faults and sin, although Christ has said; “With what measure thou metest, with the same it shall be measured to thee again:” “Judge not that ye be not judged.” A holy man has said: “By as many as thou hast unjustly condemned, shalt thou be judged.” The people all want to be priests and provincials, that they may have a right to sit in 324judgment, and know not what they are themselves. And know that therewith ye build great thick walls between God and yourselves. Children, beware of judging any but yourselves, as ye love God and your souls and everlasting happiness. A man should judge nothing that is not a plain mortal sin. I would rather bite my tongue that it bleed, than judge any man. One should leave this to the eternal judgment of God; for from man’s judgment upon his neighbours there grows a complacency in one’s self, an evil arrogance, and a contempt for one’s neighbour. This fruit is therefore truly a seed of the Devil, whereby many a heart is defiled, and therein the Holy Ghost dwelleth not. But where the Holy Ghost is truly with His presence, He judges by that same man where it is necessary; and then that man waits for the hour and occasion when it is fitting to punish. This must not be done so that when we would heal one wound, we inflict two in doing it; not with violence, or harsh words, nor so as to crush a man nor lower him in any other man’s heart; but we should do it as from love and gentleness, and so as to preserve our own humility and poverty of spirit which we then bear within us wherever we go, and whatever we do, whether amid a congregation or alone. And herewith we profit no one else but ourselves in a true simplicity; and let all such things alone as do not concern us and are not committed to us.

Children, ye shall not seek after great science. Simply enter into your own inward principle, and learn to know what you yourselves are, spiritually and naturally, and do not dive into the secret things of God, asking questions about the efflux and reflux 325of the Aught into the Naught, or the essence of the soul’s spark, for Christ has said: “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power.” Therefore, let us maintain a true, entire, simple faith in one God in a Trinity of Persons, and yet not as manifold, but as one and simple. For Arius and Sabellius, who had a wonderful understanding of the Trinity, and the wise Solomon and Origen, who have marvellously instructed the holy Church, what has become of them? We know not. Wherefore, look to yourselves, and know that no one is answerable for you but yourselves. Therefore, give heed to God and His will, and to the calling wherewith He has called you, that ye may follow it in integrity and singleness of heart. And if ye know not what God’s will is, then follow those who have been more enlightened by the Holy Spirit than yourselves; and if you have not these either, then go alone to God: without doubt He will give you purely and simply that which you need, if you continue instant in prayer for it. If you are not satisfied with this, then, in all doubtful cases, consider the matter with sincerity and earnestness, and choose that course which you see to be most bitter to nature, and to which you feel least inclined. Do this in the first place, for in each death of nature, God becomes most truly living in you, and will grow in you of a certainty.

Now, children, since the Holy Ghost could not be given unto the dear disciples unless Christ went away from them, we should in reason look to see with what we are holding converse. Wherefore forsake all things for God, and then God will be truly given 326unto you in all things. If you do this in earnest, and with your eyes constantly fixed upon the truth, you shall receive a wonderful reward of God, even in this present time. And “when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all Truth.” . . . “And He will show you things to come.” Dear children, the Holy Ghost will not teach us all things in the sense that we shall be given to know whether there will be a good harvest or vintage, whether bread will be dear or cheap, whether the present war will come to an end soon. No, dear children; but He will teach us all things which we can need for a perfect life, and for a knowledge of the hidden truth of God, of the bondage of nature, of the deceitfulness of the world, and of the cunning of evil spirits. Children, walk in the ways of God diligently, earnestly, and circumspectly; and give heed to the calling in which God by His mercy hath called you, and follow it faithfully. Do not, as some do, who, when God will have them to mind the affairs of their soul, attend to outward things; and when God summons them to outward duties, want to turn their thoughts inwards. This is a hard, poor, perverse course.

Thus when the Holy Ghost comes to us, He teaches us all truth; that is, He shows us a true picture of our failings, and confounds us in ourselves, and teaches us how we shall live singly and purely for the truth, and teaches us to sink humbly into a deep humility, and to cast ourselves utterly down beneath God and beneath every creature. This is a true art in which all art and wisdom is concluded, and which we indispensably need for our true perfection and felicity. This is a true, hearty humility, without any 327pretence, and not in word or outward show, but of a truth wrought into the substance of our souls, May God help us at all times to be thus prepared for the Holy Ghost to come and enter in to us! Amen.


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