(Tenth Sunday after Trinity.)
1 Cor. xii. 3, 4, 5, 6. Wherefore, I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
We are to come to the Communion this day in love and charity with all men. But are we in love and charity with all men?
I do not mean, are there any persons whom we hate; against whom we bear a spite; whom we should be glad to see in trouble or shame? God forbid, my friends, God forbid. There are, indeed, devil's tempers. And yet more easy for us to keep in the bottom of our hearts, and more difficult to root them out, than we fancy.
It is easy enough for us to forgive (in words at least) a man who has injured us. Easy enough to make up our minds that we will not revenge ourselves. Easy enough to determine, even, that we will return good for evil to him, and do him a kindness when we have a chance. Yes, we would not hurt him for the world: but what if God hurt him? What if he hurt himself? What if he lost his money? What if his children turned out ill? What if he made a fool of himself, and came to shame? What if he were found out and exposed, as we fancy that he deserves? Should we be so very sorry? We should not punish him ourselves. No. But do we never catch ourselves thinking whether God may not punish him; thinking of that with a base secret satisfaction; almost hoping for it, at last? Oh if we ever do, God forgive us! If we ever find those devil's thoughts rising in us, let us flee from them as from an adder; flee to the foot of Christ's Cross, to the cross of him who prayed for his murderers, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do; and there cry aloud for the blood of life, which shall cleanse us from the guilt of those wicked thoughts, and for the water of life, which shall cleanse us from the power of them: lest they get the dominion over us, and spring up in us, and spread over our whole hearts; not a well of life, but a well of poison, springing up in us to everlasting damnation. Oh let us pray to him to give us truth in our inward parts; that we may forgive and love, not in word only, but in deed and in truth.
I could not help saying this in passing. But it is not what the text is speaking of; not what I want to speak of myself to-day. I want to speak of a matter which is smaller, and not by any means so sinful: and which yet in practice is often more tormenting to a truly tender conscience, because it is more common and more continual.
How often, when one examines oneself, whether one be in love and charity with all men, one must recollect that there are many people whom one does not like. I do not mean that one hates them. Not in the least: but they do not suit one. There is something in them which we cannot get on with, as the saying is. Something in their opinions, manners, ways of talking; even--God forgive us--merely in their voice, or their looks, or their dress, which frets us, and gives us what is called an antipathy to them. And one dislikes them; though they never have harmed us, or we them; and we know them, perhaps, to be better people than ourselves. Now, are we in love and charity with these people? I am afraid not.
I know one is tempted to answer; but I am afraid the answer is worth very little--Why not? We cannot help it. You cannot expect us to like people who do not suit us: any more than you can expect us to like a beetle or a spider. We know the beetle or the spider will not harm us. We know that they are good in their places, and do good, as all God's creatures are and do; and there is room enough in the world for them and us: but we have a natural dislike to them, and cannot help it; and so with these people. We mean no harm in disliking them. It is natural to us; and why blame us for it.
Now what is the mistake here? Saying that it is natural to us. We are not meant to live according to nature, but according to grace; and grace must conquer nature, my friends, if we wish to save our souls alive. It is nature, brute nature, which makes some dogs fly at every strange dog they meet. It is nature, brute nature, which makes a savage consider every strange savage as his enemy, and try to kill him. But unless nature be conquered in that savage, it will end, where following brute nature always ends, in death; and the savages will (as all savages are apt to do) destroy each other off the face of the earth, by continual war and murder. It is brute nature which makes low and ignorant persons hate foreign people, because their dress and language seem strange. But unless that natural feeling had been in most of us conquered by the grace of God, which is the spirit of justice and of love, then England would have remained alone in conceit and ignorance, hated by all the nations; instead of being what, thank God! she is--the Sanctuary of the world; to which all the oppressed of the earth may flee; and find a welcome, and safety, and freedom, and justice, and peace.
And so with us, my friends. It is natural, and according to the brute nature of the old Adam, to dislike this person and that, just because they do not suit us. But it is according to grace, and the new Adam, who is the Lord from heaven, to honour all men; to love the brotherhood; to throw away our own private fancies and personal antipathies; and, like the Lord Jesus Christ, copy the all-embracing charity of God. And no one has a right to answer, 'But I must draw the line somewhere.' Thou must not. I am afraid that thou wilt, and that I shall, too, God forgive us both! because we are sinful human beings. We may, but we must not, draw a line as to whom we shall endure in charity. For Christ draws no line. Is it not written, 'No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.' Is not the Spirit of Christ in a Christian man, unless he be a reprobate? and who is reprobate, we know not, and dare not try to know; for it is written, 'Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned.'
But what has the text to do with all this?
My friends, is not this just what the text is telling us? I said this moment, that the Spirit of Christ was in a Christian man, unless he be a reprobate. And the text says further, that there are diversities of gifts in Christian men: but the same spirit in all of them.
Yes: people will be different one from another. There are diversities of gifts. Differences in talents, in powers, in character, in kinds of virtue and piety; so that you shall find no two good men, no two useful men, like each other. But there is the same Spirit. The same Spirit of God is in each, though bearing different fruit in each. And there are differences of administrations, of offices, in God's kingdom. God sets one man to do one work, and another to do another: but it is the same Lord who puts each man in his place, and shows him his work, and gives him power to do it. And there are diversities of operations, that is, of ways of working; so that if you put any two men to do the same thing, they will most probably do it each in a different way, and yet both do it well. But it is the same God, who is working in them both; the God who works all in all, and has his work done by a thousand different hands, by a thousand different ways.
And it is right and good that people should be so different from each other. 'For the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.' To profit, to be of use. If all men were alike, no one could learn from his neighbour. If all mankind were as like each other as a flock of sheep, there would be no more work, no more progress, no more improvement in mankind, than there is in a flock of sheep. Now each man can bring his own little share of knowledge or usefulness into the common stock. Each man has, or ought to have, something to teach his neighbour. Each man can learn something from his neighbour: at least he can learn this--to have patience with his neighbour. To live and let live. To bear with what in him seems odd and disagreeable, trusting that God may have put it there; that God has need of it; that God will make use of it. God makes use of many things which look to us ugly and disagreeable. He makes use of the spider and of the beetle. How much more of our brethren, members of Christ, children of God, inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. Shall they be to us, even if they be odd or disagreeable in some things--shall they be to us as the beetle or the spider, or any other merely natural things? They are men and women, in whom is the Spirit of the living God. And my friends, if they are good enough for God, they are good enough for us. Think but one moment. God the Father adopts a man as his child, God the Son dies for that man, God the Holy Ghost inspires that man; and shall we be more dainty than God? If, in spite of the man's little weaknesses and oddities, God shall condescend to come down and dwell in that man, making him more or less a good man, doing good work; shall we pretend that we cannot endure what God endures? Shall we be more dainty, I ask again, than the holy and perfect God? Oh my friends, let us pray to him to take out of our hearts all selfishness, fancifulness, fastidiousness, and hasty respect of persons, of all which there is none in God. Let us ask for his Spirit, the Spirit of Charity, which sees God in all, and all in God, and therefore sees good in all, and sees all in love.
Then we shall see how much more there is in our neighbours to like, than to dislike. Then all these little differences will seem to us trifles not to be thought of, before the broad fact of a man's being, after all, a man, an Englishman, a Christian, and a good Christian, doing good work where God has put him. Then we shall be ashamed of our old narrowness of heart; ashamed of having looked so much at the little evil in our neighbours, and not at the great good in them. Then we shall go about the world cheerfully; and our neighbour's faces will seem to us full of light: instead of seeming full of darkness, because our own eyes and minds are dark for want of charity. Then we shall come to the Communion, not with hearts narrowed and shut up, perhaps, from the very person who kneels next to us: but truly open-hearted; with hearts as wide--ah God, that it were possible!--as the sacred heart of Christ, in which is room for all mankind. And so receiving his body, which is the blessed company of all faithful people, we shall receive Christ, who dwelleth in them, and they in him.
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