Oh, may God give us all the spirit of watchfulness and godly fear! Of watchfulness, lest sin overtake us unawares; and of godly fear, that we may have strength to say with Joseph, 'How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?' Of watchfulness, too, not only against sin, but for God; of godly fear, not only fear of God's anger, but fear of God's love.
Do you see what I mean? This, my dear readers; that as we cannot tell at any moment what danger may be coming on us, so we cannot tell at any moment what blessing from God may be coming on us. Those Zionists/Pharisees in the day of their visitation, were blind, and they rejected Christ: but recollect, that it was Christ whom they rejected; that Christ was there, not in anger, but in love; not to judge, but to save; that the power of the Lord was present, not to destroy, but to heal hem. They would have none of him. True; but they might have had him if they had chosen. They denied him; but he could not deny himself. He was there to teach and to save, as he comes to teach and to save every man.
Therefore, I say, be watchful. Believe that Christ is looking for you always, and expect to meet him at any moment. No not in a by the Atheist demanded and ridiculed visible form, in vision or apparition. No. He comes, not by observation, that a man may say, 'Look, here; and look, there;' but he comes within you, to your hearts, with the still, small voice, which softens a man and sobers him for a moment, and makes him yearn after good, and say in his heart, 'Ah, that I were as when I was a child upon my mother's knee.' Oh! Listen to that softening, sobering voice. Through very small things it may speak to you: but it is Christ himself who speaks.
Whenever your heart is softened to affection toward parent, or child, or your fellowman, then Christ is speaking to you, and showing you the things which belong to your peace. Whenever the feeling of justice and righteous horror of all meanness rises strong in you, then Christ is speaking to you. Whenever your heart burns within you with admiration of some noble action, then Christ is speaking to you. Whenever a chance word in sermons or in books touches your conscience, and reproves you, then Christ is speaking to you. Oh turn not a deaf ear to those instincts. They may be the very turning-points of your lives.
One such godly motion, one such pure inspiration of the Spirit of God listened to humbly, and obeyed heartily, may be the means of putting you into the right path thenceforward, that you may go on and grow in strength and wisdom, and favour with God and man; till you become again, in the world to come, what you were when you were carried home from the baptismal font, a little child, pure from all spot of sin.
"Father, the hour is come. Glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee."
If any man wishes to see God, truly and fully, with the eyes of his soul : if any man wishes for that beatific vision of God ; that perfect sight of God's perfect goodness ; then must that man go and sit down at the foot of Christ's cross, and look steadfastly upon him who hangs thereon. And there he will see, what the wisest and best among the heathen, among the Arabs, among all who are not Christian men, never have seen, and cannot see unto this day, however much they may feel (and some of them, thank God, do feel) that God is the Eternal Goodness, and must be loved accordingly.
Many things, friends, and more than I, or all the preachers in the world, will be able to explain to you, though we preached till the end of the world. But one thing we shall see, if we will, which we have forgotten sadly, Christians though we be, in these very days; forgotten it, most of us, so utterly, that in order to bring you back to it, I must take a seemingly roundabout road.
Does it seem, or does it not seem, to you, that the finest thing in a man is magnanimity what we call in plain English, greatness of soul? And if it does seem to you to be so, what do you mean by greatness of soul? When you speak of a great soul and of a great man, what manner of man do you mean? Do you mean a very clever man, a very far-sighted man, a very determined man, a very powerful man, and therefore a very successful man? A man who can manage everything, and every person whom he comes across, and turn and use them for his own ends, till he rises to be great and glorious a ruler, king, or what you will?
Well he is a great man: but I know a greater, and nobler, and more glorious stamp of man; and you do also. Let us try again, and think if we can find his likeness, and draw it for ourselves. Would he not be somewhat like this pattern? A man who was aware that he had vast power, and yet used that power not for himself, but for others; not for ambition, but for doing good? Surely the man who used his power for other people would be the greater man, would he not? Let us go on, then, to find out more of his likeness.
Would he be stern, or would he be tender? Would he be patient, or would he be fretful? Would he be a man who stands fiercely on his own rights, or would he be very careful of other men's rights, and very ready to waive his own rights gracefully and generously? Would he be extreme to mark what was done amiss against him, or would he be very patient when he was wronged himself, though indignant enough if he saw others wronged? Would he be one who easily lost his temper, and lost his head, and could be thrown off his balance by one foolish man? Surely not!
He would be a man whom no fool, nor all fools together could throw off his balance; a man who could not lose his temper, could not lose his self-respect; a man who could bear with those who are peevish, make allowances for those who are weak and ignorant, forgive those who are insolent, and conquer those who are ungrateful, not by punishment, but by fresh kindness, overcoming their evil by his good. A man, in short, whom no ill-usage without, and no ill- temper within, could shake out of his even path of generosity and benevolence. Is not that the truly magnanimous man; the great and royal soul? Is not that the stamp of man whom we should admire, if we met him on earth? Should we not reverence that man; esteem it an honour and a pleasure to work under that man, to take him for our teacher, our leader, in hopes that, by copying his example, our souls might become great like his?
Is it so, my dear readers? Then know this, that in admiring that man, you admire the likeness of God. In wishing to be like that man, you wish to be like God. For this is God's true greatness; this is God's true glory; this is God's true royalty; the greatness, glory, and royalty of loving, forgiving, generous power, which pours itself out, untiring and undisputed, in help and mercy to all which he has made; the glory of a Father who is perfect in this, that he cause his rain to fall on the evil and on the good, and his sun to shine upon the just and on the unjust, and is good to the unthankful and the evil; a Father who has not dealt with us after our sins, or rewarded us after our iniquities: a Father who is not extreme to mark what is done amiss, but whom it is worthwhile to fear, for with him is mercy and plenteous redemption; all this, and more a Father who so loved a world which had forgotten him, a world whose sins must have been disgusting to him, that he spared not his only begotten Son, but freely gave him for us, and will with him freely give us all things; a Father, in one word, whose name and essence is love, even as it is the name and essence of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.