Innumerable troubles are come about me. My sins have taken such hold upon me, that I am not able to look up; yea, they are more in number than the hairs of my head, and my heart hath failed me.--Ps. xl. 15.
I acknowledge my faults, and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight.--Ps. li. 3.
I said, I will confess my sins unto the Lord; and so Thou forgavest the wickedness of my sin.--Ps. xxxii. 6.
Blessed is the man whose iniquity is forgiven, and whose sin is purged.--Ps. xxxii. 1.
There is forgiveness with Thee, therefore shalt Thou be feared.--Ps. cxxx. 1.
God is not against you but for you, in all the struggles of life; He wants you to get through safe; wants you to succeed; wants you to conquer; and He will hear your cry out of the deep and help you. And therefore when you find yourselves wrong, utterly wrong, do not cry to this man or that man, "Do you help me; do you set me a little more right before God comes, and finds me in the wrong and punishes me." Cry to God Himself, to Christ Himself; ask Him to lift you up; ask Him to set you right. Do not be like St. Peter before his conversion, and cry, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord; wait a little till I have risen up, and washed off my stains, and made myself somewhat fit to be seen."--No. Cry, "Come quickly, O Lord--at once--just because I am a sinful man; just because I am sore let and hindered in running my race by my own sins and wickedness; because I am lazy and stupid; because I am perverse and vicious, therefore raise up Thy power, and come to me, Thy miserable creature, Thy lost child, and with Thy great might succour me. Lift me up, because I have fallen very low; deliver me, for I have plunged out of Thy sound and safe highway into deep mire where no ground is. Help myself I cannot, and if Thou help me not, I am undone."
Do so. Pray so. Let your sins and wickedness be to you not a reason for hiding from Christ, who stands by; but a reason, the reason of all reasons, for crying to Christ, who stands by. And then, whether He delivers you by gentle means or by sharp ones, deliver you He will, and set your feet on firm ground, and order your goings, that you may run with patience the race which is set before you along the road of life and the pathway of God's commandments wherein there is no death.
Good News of God, Sermons.
What are we to do when our sins bring us, as they certainly will some day bring us, into trouble, but to open our eyes and see that the only thing for men and women whom God has made is to obey Him? How can we prosper by doing anything else? It is ill fighting against God. But some one may say, "I know I have sinned, and I do wish and long to obey God, but I am so weak, and my sins have so entangled me, that I cannot obey God. I long to do so. I feel and know, when I look back, that all my sin and shame and unhappiness come from being proud and self-willed and determined to have my own way. But I cannot mend."
Do not despair, poor soul! I had a thousand times sooner hear you say that you cannot mend than that you can. For those who really feel they cannot mend--those who are really weary and worn out with the burden of their sins--those who are tired out with their own wilfulness, and feel ready to lie down and die, like a spent horse, and say, "God take me away, no matter to what place; I am not fit to live here on earth, a shame and a torment to myself day and night"--those who are in that state of mind are very near--very near--finding out glorious news.
God knows as well as you what you have to struggle against; ay, a thousand times better. He knows--What does He not know? Therefore pray to Him. Cry to Him to make your will like His own will, that you may love what He loves, hate what He hates, and do what He wishes you to do; and you will surely find it come true that those who try to mend, and yet know that they cannot mend themselves, God will mend them.
Sin, [Greek text], is literally, as it signifies, the missing of a mark; and that each miss brings a penalty, or rather is itself the penalty, is to me the best of news, and gives me hope for myself and for every human being, past, present, and future, for it makes me look on them all as children under a paternal education, who are being taught to become aware of, and use their own powers in God's house, the universe, and for God's work in it; and in proportion as they learn to do that, they attain salvation, [Greek text], literally health and wholeness of spirit, which is, like the health of the body, its own reward.
Letters and Memories.
If in sorrow the thought strikes you that you are punished for your sins, mourn for them, but not for the happiness they have prevented. Rather thank God that He has stopped you in time, and remember His promises of restoring us if we profit by His chastisement.
Letters and Memories.
Ah! how many a poor, foolish creature, in misery and shame, with guilty conscience and sad heart, tries to forget his sin, to forget his sorrow; but he cannot. He is sick and tired of sin. He is miserable, and he hardly knows why. There is a longing, and craving, and hunger at his heart after something better. Then he begins to remember his Heavenly Father's house. Old words, which he learnt in childhood; good old words out of his Catechism and Bible, start up strangely in his mind. He had forgotten them, laughed at them perhaps in his wild days. But now they come up, he does not know where from, like beautiful ghosts gliding in. And he is ashamed of them. They reproach him, the dear old lessons; and at last he says, "Would God that I were a little child again; once more an innocent little child at my mother's knee! Perhaps I have been a fool; and the old Sunday books were right after all. At least, I am miserable! I thought I was my own master, but perhaps He about whom I used to read in the old Sunday books is my Master after all. At least, I am not my own master; I am a slave. Perhaps I have been fighting against Him, against the Lord God, all this time, and now He has shown me that He is the stronger of the two."
And when the Lord has drawn a man thus far, does He stop? Not so. He does not leave His work half done. If the work is half done, it is that we stop, not that He stops. Whoever comes to Him, however confusedly, or clumsily, or even lazily they may come, He will in no wise cast out. He may afflict them still more to cure that confusion and laziness; but He is a physician who never sends a patient away, or keeps him waiting for a single hour.
The blessed St. Augustine found he could never conquer his own sins by arguing with himself, or by any other means, till he got to know God, and to see that God was the Lord. And when his spirit was utterly broken, when he saw himself to have been a fool and blind all along--then the old words which he learned at his mother's knee came up to his mind, and he knew that God had been watching, guiding him, letting him go wrong only to show him the folly of going wrong, caring for him, bearing with him, pleading with his conscience, alluring him back to the only true happiness, as a loving father will a rebellious and self-willed child; and he became a changed man. To that blessed state may God of His great mercy bring us in His own good time. And if He does bring us to it, it is little matter whether He brings us to it through joy or through sorrow, through honour or through shame, through the Garden of Eden or through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. For what matter how bitter the medicine is if it does but save our lives?
. . . Your sense of sin is not fanaticism; it is, I suppose, simple consciousness of fact. As for helping you to Christ, I do not believe I can one inch. I can see no hope but in prayer, in going to Him yourself, and saying: "Lord, if Thou art there, if Thou art at all, if this be not all a lie, fulfil Thy reputed promises, and give me peace and the sense of forgiveness, and the feeling that, bad as I may be, Thou lovest me still, seeing all, understanding all, and therefore making allowance for all!"
I have had to do that in past days; to challenge Him through outer darkness and the silence of night, till I almost expected that He would vindicate His own honour by appearing visibly, as He did to St. Paul and St. John; but He answered in the still, small voice only; yet that was enough.
Letters and Memories.
. . . Dear friend, the secret of life for you and for me is to lay our purposes and our characters continually before Him who made them, and cry, "Do Thou purge me, and so alone shall I be clean. Thou requirest truth in the inward parts. Thou wilt make me to understand wisdom secretly." What more rational belief? For surely if there be any God, and He made us at first, He who makes can also mend His own work if it gets out of gear. What more miraculous in the doctrines of regeneration and renewal than in the mere fact of creation?
Letters and Memories.
As for the sins of youth, what says the 130th Psalm? If Thou, Lord, were extreme to mark what is done amiss, who could abide it? But there is mercy with Him, therefore shall He be feared. And how to fear God I know not better than by working on at the special work which He has given us, trusting to Him to make it of use to His creatures, if He needs us. Therefore fret not nor be of doubtful mind, but just do the duty which lies nearest.
Letters and Memories.
Yes; this is our comfort, this is our hope; Christ, the Great Healer, the Great Physician, can deliver us, and will deliver us from the remains of our old sins, the consequences of our own follies. Not, indeed, at once or by miracles, but by slow education. Better, indeed, for us perhaps that He should not cure us at once, lest we should fancy that sin was a light thing which we could throw off whenever we chose; and not that it is an inward disease, corroding and corrupting, the wages whereof are death. And so it is that because Christ loves us He hates our sins, and cannot abide or endure them, but will punish them, and is merciful and loving in punishing as long as a tincture or remnant of sin is left in us. Therefore let us put ourselves into the hands of Christ, the Great Physician, and ask Him to heal our wounded souls, and purge our corrupted souls, and leave to Him the choice of how He will do it. Let us be content to be punished and chastised. Let Him deal with us, if He sees fit, as He dealt with David of old, when He forgave the sin, and yet punished it by the death of his child. Let Him do what He will by us, provided He does--what He will do--make us good men.
All Saints-Day Sermons.
My belief is that God will punish (has He not punished already somewhat?) every wrong thing I ever did unless I repent--that is, change my behaviour therein; and that His lightest blow is hard enough to break bone and marrow. But as for saying of any human being whom I ever saw on earth that there is no hope for them; that if ever, under the bitter smart of just punishment, they opened their eyes to their folly and altered their mind, even then God would not forgive them; as for saying that, I will not for all the world and the rulers thereof. I never saw a man in whom there was not some good, and I believe that God sees that good far more clearly, and loves it far more deeply, than I can, because He Himself put it there, and therefore it is reasonable to believe that He will educate and strengthen that good, and chastise the holder of it till he obeys it, and loves it, and gives himself up to it; and that the said holder will find such chastisement terrible enough if he is unruly and stubborn I doubt not, and so much the better for him. Beyond this I cannot say.
Letters and Memories.
If a man really believed himself to be a son, under a father's education, he would believe everything which happened to be a part of that education. And such a man, I believe, so praying and so working, keeping before him as his lode-star--"Our Father, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;" and asking even for his daily bread for that purpose and no other, would find selfishness and self-seeking die out of him, and active benevolence grow up in him. He would find past sorrows and falls turned unexpectedly to practical use for his own and other's good; and discover to his delight, that his Father had been educating him, while he fancied he was educating himself; and he would neither have leisure nor need to torment himself about the motives of his actions, but simply whatever his hand found to do, do it with all his might.
Letters and Memories.
Let us forward. God leads us; though blind, shall we be afraid to follow? I do not see my way; I do not care to; but I know that He sees His way, and that I see Him, and I cannot believe that in spite of all one's sins He will forget His gracious promises. "They had an eye unto Him, and were lightened. They that put their trust in Him shall not be ashamed."
I know the miserable, peevish, lazy, conceited, faithless, prayerless wretch that I am, but I know this too, that One is guiding me, and driving me when I would not be guided, who will make me, and has made me, go His way, and do His work, by fair means or by foul.
Letters and Memories.
Be of good cheer. WHEN the wicked man turneth from his wickedness (then, there and then) he shall save his soul alive--and all his sin and wickedness shall not be mentioned unto him. What your "measure" of guilt (if there can be a measure of the incommensurable spiritual) may be, I know not. But this I know that as long as you keep the sense of guilt alive in your own mind you will remain justified in God's mind; as long as you set your sins before your face He will set them behind His back.
Letters and Memories.
This is the Gospel, the good news for fallen men, that there is a Man in the midst of the throne of God to whom all power is given in heaven and earth; that the fate of the world and all that is therein, the fate of sun and stars, the fate of kings and nations, the fate of every publican and harlot, heathen and outcast, the fate of all who are in death and hell, depend alike upon the sacred heart of Jesus; the heart which grieved at the tomb of Lazarus, His friend; the heart which wept over Jerusalem; the heart which said to the blessed Magdalene, the woman that was a sinner, "Go in peace, thy sins are forgiven thee"; the heart that yearns over every sinful and wandering soul all over the earth of God, crying to all, "Why will ye die? Have I any pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord, and not rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live?" "Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest."
This is the message of the blessed sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, which tells you that in spite of all your daily sins and failings, you can still look up to God as your Father; to the Lord Jesus as your life; to the Holy Spirit as your guide and your inspirer; that though you be a prodigal son, your Father's house is still open to you; your Father's eternal love ready to meet you afar off the moment that you cry from your heart--"Father, I have sinned, and am no more worthy to be called Thy child;" and that you must be converted and turn back to God your Father not merely once for all, but weekly, daily, hourly, as often as you forget and disobey Him. This is the message of the blessed sacrament--that though you cannot come to it trusting in your own righteousness, you can come trusting in His manifold and great mercies; that though you are not worthy to gather up the crumbs under His table, yet He is the same Lord whose property is ever to have mercy, and He will grant that your souls shall be washed in Christ's most precious blood, that you may dwell in Him, and He in you, for ever.
Members of Christ, children of God, heirs of the kingdom of heaven, heirs of a Hope undying, pure, that will never fade away, you have a right given you by the promise and oath of Almighty God Himself, to hope for yourselves, for your neighbours, for this poor distracted world for ever and ever: a right to believe that there is an everlasting day of justice, and peace, and happiness in store for the whole world, and that you, if you will, may have your share in that glorious sunrise which shall never set again. Go to the Scriptures, and there read the promises of God, the grounds of your just hope, for all heaven and earth. "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." How dare we, who call ourselves Christians, who have been baptized into His name, who have tasted of His mercy, who have the might of His love, the converting and renewing power of His Spirit--how dare we doubt that He will take away the sins of the world? Ay, step by step, nation by nation, year by year, the Lord shall conquer; for He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. . . . He has promised to take away the sins of the world, and He is God, and cannot lie.
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