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Sermon for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity
(From the Epistle for the day)
Teaching us that we ought to receive God, in all His gifts, and in all His burdens, with true long-suffering.
2 Cor. iii. 6.—“The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”
THERE are two sorts of men among God’s friends; those of the Old Testament, and those of the New. All the men who should be saved before the birth of Christ had to observe the old dispensation with all its rites, until the new dispensation came with its laws and its rites. The old law served as a way unto the new, and was a perfect foreshadowing of it. And this new law we have under our very eyes, but it was the old law that prepared us to receive it. And everything that is meant to receive somewhat must first be made able to receive. The old law had many intolerable burdens, and terrible judgments for offenders, and a far sterner manifestation of the justice of God, with a dark, distant hope of redemption. For five thousand years the gates were altogether closed 375against those who lived under the Old Covenant; so that, with all their pain and weary ceremonies, they could not enter into the Kingdom of God, but had to wait long in gloom and sorrow for the coming of the new law, which is peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. Now he who would come to the new law with full assurance of faith must first be made at one with the old. Man must learn to suffer, and to bear heavy burdens, and to bow down humbly beneath the mighty hand of God; he must be afflicted outwardly and inwardly, from wheresoever his pain cometh, and whether it be deserved or not.
Dear children, behold! this thing must be brought to pass after a very different fashion from what you like to dream; but hold fast the doctrine of God, and let him who hath received it be wise, and hold it fast as long as he hath it. But submit and endure God’s dealings in all that befalls you, through whomsoever it may come. If you would come to the new law, you must first suffer under the old one, and be subject to it in the humility of your hearts. So, whatever consolation may be granted you, spiritual or earthly, it will not follow you all your course through. And you must travel this road and no other; turn it which way you will, it must be even so. Therefore, dear children, learn to do without the Holy Sacraments, spiritual light, the sense of God’s presence, and all human help. Dearly beloved, bow down your old man under the yoke of the old law, with all meekness and resignation, and receive all God’s gifts with all their burdens. Of a truth, His burdens are light and His yoke is easy. Children, I commend you from the bottom of my heart into the captivity of the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; that it may be 376in you, over you, behind you, and before you, lying heavy on you, and yet received by you with free and full acquiescence to the will of God, whatever it may please Him to do with you. May God, of His mercy, give you to bear with a good courage all the sorrow that is before you, and also, when ye are despised of all men, and slandered, and counted for nought. Thus let your old man be subject unto the old law, until Christ be born in you of a truth, where peace and joy in the truth do spring up. The patriarchs, greatly as they longed to see the advent of our Lord, yet had to wait five thousand years. But, verily, if you would thus humbly yield yourselves up, you need never wait a year. If you had had a quartan ague one year or two, you must bear it till you became well again; so you must bear the yoke of the old law.
The second burden of the old law was its awful judgments, and stern display of God’s justice. This is manifested in many ways—by afflictions and by the gnawings of conscience. Now some try to work themselves out of this by confession. But if you were to confess your sins a thousand times, it would avail you nothing, save indeed the confessing of mortal sin, accompanied by satisfaction for it. The rest leave humbly to God, and bear what He appoints unto you, till He of His mercy send you relief. But confess all to Him inwardly in your soul, to the very last tittle, with humble submission to His will, and acquiescing in His unknown judgments, without looking to yourself or to other men for help. Meanwhile there are some who endeavour to get rid of the burden of sin by asking counsel and hearing preachers, hoping to hear somewhat that may afford 377them a stay, and thus they may find deliverance. Behold, dear friend, if thou spend all thy years in running from church to church, thou must look for and receive help from within, or thou wilt never come to any good; however thou mayest seek and inquire, thou must also be willing to be tormented without succour from the outward help of any creature. I tell you, children, that the very holiest man I ever saw in outward conduct and inward life, had never heard more than five sermons in all his days. When he saw and perceived how the matter stood, he thought that was enough, and set to work to die to that to which he ought to die, and live to that to which he ought to live. Let the common people run about and hear all they can, that they may not fall into despair or unbelief; but know that all who would be God’s, inwardly and outwardly, turn to themselves, and retire within. And know that if ever you desire to be spiritual and blessed men, you must cease from running outwards for help, and turn within; for you will never get what you want by a multitude of words, hear as many as you will; but only by loving and serving God from the bottom of your heart, and your neighbour as yourself, and leaving all things to stand on their own foundation. But pant after God with all your heart, as the holy patriarchs did, and covet that which you truly ought to covet, and leave all things, whether concerning yourself or any other creatures, to God’s most blessed will.
The third characteristic of the old law was that it had a dark hope of a distant redemption; for the gates were closed, and there was no prophet who could tell when the redemption might come to pass. 378So likewise must we simply commit ourselves to God with perfect trust in His eternal purpose; for when He pleases that it shall be accomplished to our waiting souls, then, no doubt, He will come to us, and be born in us. But when? Leave that to Him: to some He comes in their youth; to others in old age; to some in death: this leave to His Divine will, and do not take upon thyself to adopt any singular exercises, but keep the Commandments, and believe the articles of the Christian faith. Learn the Creed and the Commandments, and have patience, and give up thyself in all things according to the will of God, and assuredly Christ, the new law, will be born in thee with peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, and thou wilt have a life like that of the angels, in freedom from the bonds of matter and in intelligence. This seems to thee a great thing! No; the truth is much greater. “The Spirit giveth life;”—a spark of His own Divine life, which is higher than all angelic life, and passes man’s comprehension, lying beyond the sphere of sense and of reason. But this must come to pass in the way that I have told you, and no other. A man may, indeed, attain so far as to catch a glimpse of this glorious truth, and play upon the surface of it with his sense and reason; but to become and be such an one, to this none can attain but by this path of true self-surrender; but through that assuredly it will be found.
In the Old Testament the Levites bare the ark, but here the holy ark bears us. Thus, whoso will not yield to God in His justice and His judgments, without doubt he shall fall under God’s eternal justice and eternal condemnation; it cannot be otherwise. Turn it as thou wilt, thou must give 379thyself to suffer what is appointed thee. But if we did that, God would bear us up at all times in all our sorrows and troubles, and God would lay His shoulder under our burdens, and help us to bear them. For if with a cheerful courage we submitted ourselves to God, no suffering would be unbearable. For it is because now we are without God, and standing in our own weakness, that we are neither able to endure nor yet to act. God help us all worthily to bear His yoke! Amen.
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