Page images
PDF
EPUB

Why are you to demand of God, that he should over and above cleanse you from the consequences of your sin? He may leave them there to trouble and sadden you, just because he loves you, and desires to chasten you, and keep you in mind of what you were, and what you would be again, at any moment, if his Spirit left you to yourself. You may have to enter into life halt and maimed: yet be content; you have a thousand times more than you deserve, for at least you enter into Life.

SERMON V.

NIGHT AND DAY.

(Preached at the Chapel Royal.)

ROMANS XIII. 12. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore

cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

CERTAIN commentators would tell us, that

St. Paul wrote these words in the expectation that the end of the world, and the second coming of Christ, were very near. The night was far spent, and the day of the Lord at hand. Salvation-deliverance from the destruction impending on the world, was nearer than when his converts first believed. Shortly the Lord would appear in glory, and St. Paul and his converts would be caught up to meet him in the air.

No doubt St. Paul's words will bear this meaning. No doubt there are many passages in his writings, which seem to imply that he thought the end of the world was near; and that Christ would reappear in glory, while he, Paul, was yet alive on the earth. And there are passages, too, which seem to imply that he afterwards altered that opinion, and, no longer expecting to be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, desired to depart himself, and be with Christ, in the consciousness that He was ready * to be offered up, and the time of his departure

was at hand.' · I say that there are passages which seem to imply such a change in St. Paul's opinions. I do not say that they actually imply it. If I had a positive opinion on the matter, I should not be hasty to give it. These questions of criticism,' as they are now called, are far less important than men fancy just now. A generation or two hence, it is to be hoped, men will see how very unimportant they are, and will find that they have detracted very little from the authority of Scripture as a whole; and that

they have not detracted in the least from the Gospel and good news which Scripture proclaims to men—the news of a perfect God, who will have men to become perfect even as he, their Father in heaven, is perfect; who sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that the world through him might be saved.

In this case, I verily believe, it matters little to us whether St. Paul, when he wrote these words, wrote them under the belief that Christ's second coming was at hand. We must apply to his words the great rule, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretationthat is, does not apply exclusively to any one fact or event: but fulfils itself again and again, in a hundred unexpected ways, because he who wrote it was moved by the Holy Spirit, who revealed to him the eternal and ever-working laws of the Kingdom of God. Therefore, I say, the words are true for us at this moment. To us, though we have, as far as I can see, not the least reasonable cause for supposing the end of the world to be more imminent than

it was a thousand years ago—to us, nevertheless, and to every generation of men, the night is always far spent, and the day is always at hand.

And this, surely, was in the mind of those who appointed this text to be read as the Epistle for the first Sunday in Advent.

Year after year, though Christ has not returned to judgment; though scoffers have been saying, · Where is the promise of his coming ? • for all things continue as they were at the

beginning'-Year after year, I say, are the clergy bidden to tell the people that the night is far spent, that the day is at hand ; and to tell them so, because it is true. Whatsoever St. Paul meant, or did not mean, by the words, a few years after our Lord's ascension into heaven, they are there, for ever, written by one who was moved by the Holy Ghost; and hence they have an eternal moral and spiritual significance to mankind in every age.

Whatever these words may, or may not, have meant to St. Paul when he wrote them first, in

« PreviousContinue »