SERMON XV. THOU ART WORTHY
Eversley, 1869. Chester Cathedral, 1870. Trinity Sunday.
Revelation iv. 11. "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created."
I am going to speak to you on a deep matter, the deepest and most important of all matters, and yet I hope to speak simply. I shall say nothing which you cannot understand, if you will attend. I shall say nothing, indeed, which you could not find out for yourselves, if you will think, and use your own common sense. I wish to speak to you of Theology--of God Himself. For this Trinity Sunday of all the Sundays of the year, is set apart for thinking of God Himself--not merely of our own souls, though we must never forget them, nor of what God has done for our souls, though we must never forget that--but of what God is Himself, what He would be if we had no souls--if there were, and had been from the beginning, no human beings at all upon the earth.
Now, if we look at any living thing--an animal, say, or a flower, and consider how curiously it is contrived, our common sense will tell us at once that some one has made it; and if any one answers--Oh! the flower was not made, it grew--our common sense would tell us that that was only a still more wonderful contrivance, and that there must be some one who gave it the power of growing, and who makes it grow. And so our common sense would tell us, as it told the heathens of old, that there must be GODS--beings whom we cannot see, who made the world. But if we watch things more closely, we should find out that all things are made more or less upon the same plan; that (and I tell you that this is true, strange as it may seem) all animals, however different they may seem to our eyes, are made upon the same plan; all plants and flowers, however different they may seem, are made upon the same plan; all stones, and minerals, and earths, however different they may seem, are made upon the same plan. Then common sense would surely tell us, one God made all the animals, one God made all the plants, one God made all the earths and stones. But if we watch more closely still, we should find that the plants could not live without the animals, nor the animals without the plants, nor either of them without the soil beneath our feet, and the air and rain above our heads. That everything in the world worked together on one plan, and each thing depended on everything else. Then common sense would tell us, one God must have made the whole world. But if we watched more closely again, or rather, if we asked the astronomers, who study the stars and heavens, they would tell us that all the worlds over our heads, all the stars that spangle the sky at night, were made upon the same plan as our earth--that sun and moon, and all the host of heaven, move according to the same laws by which our earth moves, and as far as we can find out, have been made in the same way as our earth has been made, and that these same laws must have been going on, making worlds after worlds, for hundreds of thousands of years, and ages beyond counting, and will, in all probability, go on for countless ages more. Then common sense will tell us, the same God has made all worlds, past, present, and to come. There is but one God, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.
So we should learn something of how all things were made; and then would come a second question, why all things were made? Why did God make the worlds?
Let us begin with a very simple example. Simple things will often teach us most. You see a flower growing, not in a garden, but wild in a field or wood. You admire its beautiful colours, or if it is fragrant, its sweet scent. Now, why was that flower put there? You may answer, "to please me." My dear friends, I should be the last person to deny that. I can never see a child picking a nosegay, much less a little London child, born and bred and shut up among bricks and mortar, when it gets for the first time into a green field, and throws itself instinctively upon the buttercups and daisies, as if they were precious jewels and gold;--I never can see that sight, I say, without feeling that there are such things as final causes--I mean that the great Father in heaven put those flowers into that field on purpose to give pleasure to His human children. But then comes the question, Of all the flowers in a single field, is one in ten thousand ever looked at by child or by men? And yet they are just as beautiful as the rest; and God has, so to speak, taken just as much pains with the many beautiful things which men will never see, as with the few, very few, which men may see. And when one thinks further about this--when one thinks of the vast forests in other lands which the foot of man has seldom or never trod, and which, when they are entered, are found to be full of trees, flowers, birds, butterflies, so beautiful and glorious, that anything which we see in these islands is poor and plain in comparison with them; and when we remember that these beautiful creatures have been going on generation after generation, age after age, unseen and unenjoyed by any human eyes, one must ask, Why has God been creating all that beauty? simply to let it all, as it were, run to waste, till after thousands of years one traveller comes, and has a hasty glimpse of it? Impossible. Or again--and this is an example still more strange, and yet it is true. We used to think till within a very few years past, that at the bottom of the deep sea there were no living things--that miles below the surface of the ocean, in total darkness, and under such a weight of water as would crush us to a jelly, there could be nothing, except stones, and sand, and mud. But now it is found out that the bottom of the deepest seas, and the utter darkness into which no ray of light can ever pierce, are alive and swarming with millions of creatures as cunningly and exquisitely formed, and in many cases as brilliantly coloured, as those which live in the sunlight along the shallow shores.
Now, my dear friends,--surely beautiful things were made to be seen by some one, else why were they made beautiful? Common sense tells us that. But who has seen those countless tribes, which have been living down, in utter darkness, since the making of the world? Common sense, I think, can give but one answer--GOD. He, and He only, to whom the night is as clear as the day, to whom the darkness and the light are both alike. But more--God has not only made things beautiful; He has made things happy; whatever misery there may be in the world, there is no denying that. However sorrow may have come into the world, there is a great deal more happiness than misery in it. Misery is the exception; happiness is the rule. No rational man ever heard a bird sing, without feeling that that bird was happy; and, if so, his common sense ought to tell him that if God made that bird, He made it to be happy; He intended it to be happy, and He takes pleasure in its happiness, though no human ear should ever hear its song, no human heart should ever share in its joy. Yes, the world was not made for man; but man, like all the world, was made for God. Not for man's pleasure merely, not for man's use, but for God's pleasure all things are, and for God's pleasure they were created.
And now, surely, common sense will tell us why God made all things. For His own pleasure. God is pleased to make them, and pleased with what He has made, because what He has made is worth being pleased with. He has seen all things that He has made, and, behold, they are very good, and right, and wise, and beautiful, and happy, each after its kind. So that, as the Psalmist says, "The Lord shall rejoice in His works." And Scripture tells that it must be so, if we only recollect and believe one word of St. John's that "God is Love"--for it is the very essence of love, that it cannot be content to love itself. It must have something which is not itself to love that it may go out of itself, and forget itself, and spend itself in the good and in the happiness of what it loves. All true love of husband and wife, mother and child, sister and brother, friend and friend, man to his country,--what does it mean but this? Forgetting one's selfish happiness in doing good to others, and finding a deeper, higher happiness in that. The man who only loves himself knows not what Love means. In truth, he does not even love himself. He is his own worst enemy: his selfishness torments him with discontent, disgust, pride, fear, and all evil passions and lusts; and in him is fulfilled our Lord's saying, that he that will save his life shall lose it. But the man who is full of love, as God is full of love, who forgets himself in making others happy, who lives the eternal life of God, which is alone worth living, he is the only truly happy man; and in him is fulfilled that other saying of our Lord, that he who loseth his life shall save it.
And the loving, unselfish man too is the only sound theologian, for he who dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. He alone will understand the mystery of who God is, and why He made all things. The loving man alone, I say, will understand the mystery--how because God is love He could not live alone in the abyss, but must create all things, all worlds and heavens, yea, and the heaven of heavens, that He might have something beside Himself, whereon to spend His boundless love. And why? Because love can only love what is somewhat like itself, He made all things according to the idea of His own eternal mind. Because He is unchangeable, and a God of order and of law, He made all things according to one order, and gave them a law which cannot be broken, that they might continue this day as they were at the beginning, serving Him and fulfilling His word. Because He is a God of justice, He made all things just, depending on each other, helping each other, and compelled to sacrifice themselves for each other, and minister to each other whether they will or not. Because He is a God of beauty, He made all things beautiful, of a variety and a richness unspeakable, that He might rejoice in all His works, and find a divine delight in every moss which grows upon the moor, and every gnat which dances in the sun. Because He is a God of love, He gave to every creature a power of happiness according to its kind, that He might rejoice in the happiness of His creatures. And lastly, because God is a spirit--a moral and a rational Being--therefore He created rational beings to be more like Him than any other creatures, and constituted the services of men and angels in a most wonderful order, that they might reverence law as He does, and justice as He does--that they might love to be loving as He loves, and to be useful as He is useful--that they might rejoice in the beauty of His works as He rejoices in them Himself; and, catching from time to time fuller and fuller glimpses of that Divine and wonderful order according to which He has made all things and all worlds, may see more and more clearly, as the years roll on, that all things are just, and beautiful, and good; and join more and more heartily in the hymn which goes up for ever from every sun, and star, and world, and from the tiniest creature in these worlds: "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power; for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created."
Now, to God the Father, who, out of His boundless love, ordains the making of all things; and to God the Son, who, out of His boundless love, performs the making of all things; and to God the Holy Spirit, who, out of His boundless love, breathes law and kind, life and growth into all things, three Persons in one, ever-blessed Trinity, be all glory, and honour, and praise, for ever and ever. Amen.
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