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ence even unto death? Would that we could all preserve ourselves as his disciples; would that we could find the nature of the spirit which inspires us described rightly in the words of our hymn :
Him who on the cross in pain
Him my love shall aye retain.
all be of this mind.
that we may
III. We will mention one thing more, my brethren. That which was the crown of the conduct and minds of those first Christians was their unfeigned humility and love. They well knew their human weakness, and it was therefore no confidence in their own strength, which inspired them, but confidence in the strength of Him who can and will shew forth his strength in weakness. They acknowledged with St Paul, “ When I am weak, then am I strong," and therefore sought not their own honour, and their own fame, but wished only to glorify their God and their Saviour. It was from love they suffered all those pangs and tortures ; and had their confession, their courage, their constancy not been a fruit and work of this love, had they sought only their own glory and honour of men, whilst they suffered so many and grievous pains, the word of the Lord would have been true of them also, “ they have their reward,” and the declaration of the apostle,
though I give my body to be burned, and have no charity, it profiteth me nothing. The outward confession of the Lord, even were it made amid tortures and in the prospect of death, does not in and for itself make true Christians, if it does not proceed from the spirit of love, and from a lowly heart; for love and
humility are the fairest fruits and most sure proofs of a true faith. It was of this the teachers of the church in those ages spoke continually, in order to warn Christians, especially as it sometimes happened that individual believers forgot how that it was not their own strength in which they triumphed in their conflicts with pains and torments, and thus through proud reliance on the victory of their faith, and through want of watchfulness over themselves, fell from the right path of humility and obedience, and were in danger of being overcome by the emotions of self-love. They must learn,” writes Bishop Cyprian to the Christians, “ to be quiet and humble, in order to preserve the honour of his name, and after they have glorified the Lord by the confession of their lips, glorify him also by that of their lives. There remains to them more than they have done ; for it is written, “ he that endureth to the end shall be saved.' Would they would follow the example of the Lord, who in time of sorrow became not more high-minded but holier, and of his apostle who, after many captivities, and scourgings, waited in humility, and allowed himself no glorying or presumption, even when he had been caught up into the third heaven and into paradise. And since only he who humbleth himself shall be exalted, they must the more beware of their besetting adversary, since he becomes more embittered when he is conquered, and strives the more to conquer the conqueror.” To the confessors themselves, the same bishop writes: “ We are still in the world, we still stand on the battle-field, we still have to fight daily for our lives. Your object must be to grow and continue according to this beginning, and to take care that be perfected in
which hath been so prosperously commenced. It is still but little that we have attained something. It is more to be able to preserve what we have attained, as indeed it is not the reception, but the preservation of faith and the new birth that leads to life. Of this our Lord reminds us: Behold, thou art made whole, sin no more, lest
a worse thing befall thee.' Saul and many others were able to preserve the grace given unto them, as long as they walked in the way of the Lord, but when obedience left them, the grace left them also. We must tarry upon the straight and narrow way of life; softness, and gentleness, and quiet, beseem all Christians, according to the word of the Lord, who looks on none but the humble and gentle, who hear his word with fear and trembling, confessors must so much the more lay this to their hearts, as they have become an example to their other brethren. Our Lord was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. And does any one who lives through him and in him, dare to exalt' himself and boast, unmindful of what the Lord has done and taught. But if the servant be not greater than his Lord, those who belong to Christ must follow his footsteps, humbly, quietly, and silently; for the humbler a man is, the more will he be exalted, saith the Lord, and whoever is the least among you shall be great.”
By such humble minds and such inward love to the Lord, the Christians of the first ages in general distinguished themselves in time of persecution. These were the thoughts and feelings of martyrs, and by this spirit which animated them they overcame the world. O let us look to their example, my brethren, and follow them in this calm, constant, humble life of faith! Let us joyfully acknowledge our Lord in word and life, and seek to be found faithful in his service, faithful in the most toilsome pains and conflicts! We have not, as they had, to contend against persecutions, raised by men against us, to shake our courage and weaken our steadfastness in the faith ; but our own heart persecutes us with its evil lusts and desires ; a world lying in wickedness persecutes us, whilst it strives to seduce us from the right path by its false gods, and pleasure : sin persecutes us in a myriad forms. Let us “ look up to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,” and in the power of his might “ run with patience the race that is set before us," and let us " watch and pray
that we enter not into temptation.” And if it be our duty to walk in the hard and narrow way of self-denial and sorrow, we know whither that path leads, and what a gracious reward waits us at its end. Happy he who suffers, fights and conquers with the Lord ! Happy he who remains faithful to him even unto the end ! He will also be raised with Him in glory. Amen.
THE CONDUCT OF THE EARLY CHRISTIANS UNDER
BLESS, O Lord, to our edification, the remembrance of those faithful men who sealed with their blood the confession of their faith, and grant us grace to glorify thee in our whole lives, to praise thee amid sorrows and conflicts, and remain faithful to thee even unto death, so that we may one day receive of thee the crown of everlasting life. Amen.
During the preceding week, my brethren, we have been commemorating the blessed work of the reformation during the sixteenth century. With regard even to this wonderful event the declaration of the apostle has been confirmed, “ God hath chosen the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise ; and God has chosen the weak things of the world, to confound the things that are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no Aesh should glory in his presence." It was a poor, weak, despised monk, Martin Luther, who, on the 31st October 1517, undertook that great work, and thereby took the field against the fearful power of the papacy. But because it was not his quarrel, but the quarrel of the Lord, that he undertook, and because he did not begin the conflict with Romish tyranny, trusting in his own power, but in firm and joyful reliance on the aid of God, he succeeded in gaining the victory for truth over falsehood and darkness, and in purifying the church from the monstrous abuses which