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Lent profitable to their souls, by such observances as have ever been in use at this season since Christianity was, beware lest they lose this world without gaining the next; for instance, as I said just now, by relapsing. Or again, by observing what is in itself right in a cold and formal manner.
We can use the means, but it is God alone who blesses them. He alone turns the stones into bread, and brings water from the hard rock. He can turn all things into nourishment, but He alone can do so. Let us pray Him to bless what we venture for Him, that we may not only labour, but may receive our wages, and gather fruit unto life eternal. This world is a very little thing to give up for the next. Yet, if we give it up in heart and conversation, we shall gain the next. Let us aim at the consistent habit of mind, of looking towards God, and rejoicing in the glory which shall be revealed. In that case, whether we eat or drink, or abstain, or whatever we do, we shall do all unto Him. Let us aim at being true heirs of the promise ; let us humbly aspire to be His elect, in whom He delighteth, holy and undefiled, “blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation,” among whom we may shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life.
CHRIST'S PRIVATIONS A MEDITATION FOR CHRISTIANS.
2 Cor. viii. 9.
“ Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich.”
As time goes on, and Easter draws nearer, we are called upon not only to mourn over our sins, but especially over the various sufferings which Christ our Lord and Saviour underwent on account of them. Why is it, my brethren, that we have so little feeling on the matter as we commonly have? Why is it that we are used to let the season come and go just like any other season, not thinking more of Christ than at other times, or, at least, not feeling more? Am I not right in saying that this is the case ? and if so, have I not cause for asking why it is the case ? We are not moved when we hear of the bitter passion of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, for us. neither bewail our sins which caused it, nor have any sympathy with it. We do not suffer with Him. If we come to Church, we hear, and then we go away
again; not distressed at all; or if distressed, only for the moment. And many do not come to Church at all; and to them, of course, this holy and solemn time is like other times. They eat, and drink, and sleep, and rise up, and go about their business and their pleasure, just as usual. They do not carry the thought of Him who died for them, along with them,—with them wherever they are,—with them“ whether they eat, or drink, or whatever they do.” They in no sense “live,” to use St. Paul's words, “ by the faith of the Son of God, who loved them and gave Himself for them.”
This, alas, cannot be denied. Yet, if it be so, that the Son of God came down from heaven, put aside His glory, and submitted to be despised, cruelly treated, and put to death by His own creatures,—by those whom He had made, and whom He had preserved up to that day, and was then upholding in life and being,—is it reasonable that so great an event should not move us? Does it not stand to reason that we must be in a very irreligious state of mind, unless we have some little gratitude, some little sympathy, some little love, some little awe, some little self-reproach, some little self-abasement, some little repentance, some little desire of amendment, in consequence of what He has done and suffered for us? Or, rather, may not so great a Benefactor demand of us some overflowing gratitude, keen sympathy, fervent love, profound awe, bitter self-reproach, earnest repentance, eager desire and longing after a new heart? Who can deny all this? Why then, O my brethren, is it not so ? why are things with us as they are ? Alas ! I sorrowfully foretel that time will go on, and Passion-tide, Good Friday, and EasterDay will pass by, and the weeks after it, and many of
you will be just what you were—not at all nearer heaven, not at all nearer Christ in your hearts and lives, not impressed lastingly or savingly with the thought of His mercies and your own sins and demerits.
But why is this? why do you so little understand the Gospel of your salvation ? why are your eyes so dim, and your ears so hard of hearing? why have you so little faith ? so little of heaven in your hearts ? For this one reason, my brethren, if I must express my meaning in one word, because you so little meditate. You do not meditate, and therefore you are not impressed.
What is meditating on Christ? it is simply this, thinking habitually and constantly of Him and of His deeds and sufferings. It is to have Him before our minds as One whom we may contemplate, worship, and address when we rise up, when we lie down, when we eat and drink, when we are at home and abroad, when we are working, or walking, or at rest, when we are alone, and again when we are in company; this is meditating. And by this, and nothing short of this, will our hearts come to feel as they ought. We have stony hearts, hearts as hard as the high-ways; the history of Christ makes no impression on them. And yet, if we would be saved, we must have tender, sensitive, living hearts; our hearts must be broken, must be broken up like ground, and dug, and watered, and tended, and cultivated, till they become as gardens, gardens of Eden, acceptable to our God, gardens in which the Lord God may walk and dwell; filled, not with briars and thorns, but with all sweet-smelling and useful plants, with heavenly trees and flowers. The dry and barren waste must burst forth into springs of living water. This change must take place in our hearts if we would be saved ; in a word, we must have what we have not by nature, faith and love; and how is this to be effected, under God's grace, but by godly and practical meditation through the day?
St. Peter describes what I mean, when he says, speaking of Christ, “Whom having not seen ye love: in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory'.”
Christ is gone away; He is not seen; we never saw Him, we only read and hear of Him. It is an old saying, “out of sight, out of mind.” Be sure, so it will be, so it must be with us, as regards our blessed Saviour, unless we make continual efforts all through the day to think of Him, His love, His precepts, His gifts, and His promises. We must recal to mind what we read in the Gospels and in holy books about Him; we must bring before us what we have heard
1 Pet. i. 8.