« PreviousContinue »
one, that glorious cause, which aims to regenerate a world, or bring from its sad wreck many sons and daughters home to glory, is darkened and defaced. Does not this open the wounds of Christ afresh ?
3. Christ is wounded in the house of his friends, when indiffer. ence is shown by them to the success of the instrumentalities by which his cause is promoted. These instrumentalities are vital with Christ, as though his blood flowed through them, and his voice spake by them, and his heart beat in them. He is in the word, the sermon, the prayer, the praise. They are his eye, piercing the souls of backsliding Peters; bis breath, withering the
vipers” of the temple — lawyers, scribes, and Pharisees; his fingers, touching the sick of the palsy or the blinded eye of the soul; his hands, stretched out in blessing to the little children whom he calls around him. They are not sanctuary husks, dry forms, the mere shells of devotion. They are instinct with the power of the Gospel, and the very life of Jesus. He bleeds, as it were, when they are maimed or robbed of their power by lack of your coöperation, when, by unnecessary or cold-hearted absence, his friends leave them thinned in attendance or chilled in fervor. Yes! Christ so identifies himself with his own ordinances and means of grace, that he suffers when they suffer, is slighted when they are slighted, wounded when they are wounded. Angels might see Christ crucified afresh by your neglect of his sanctuary and ordinances; might see the equivalent of the soldier's bloodstained spear, dropped by your hands, a swift witness against you, in your vacant seats; thorns and sponges of vinegar in your empty pews. Deem not this mere fancy. Our services in preaching, prayer, praise, and conference, are the merest mockery if Christ is not in them, and in that case, the sooner they are dispensed with the better; but if he is in them, your treatment of them is your treatment of him. Your influence, by your presence or absence, your sympathy or alienation, tells on Christ's cause : cheers or disheartens your brethren, speaks to sinners for weal or woe; and if that influence or example helps to thin the sanctuary or the praying-circle, then do you stille, as it were, the breath of intercession ; you wound or contribute to strike down the band that, in the name of Jesus, breaks the bread of life to dying souls. Are you guilty ? In the writings of the great English dramatist, there is a scene where the culprit is suddenly confronted with the specter of his bleeding victim, and, horror-stricken, he puts forth the lying plea: “Thou canst not say I did it.” If Christ should turn and look on you with an eye like that which smote through Peter's soul, and should hold up before you his pierced hands, and show you the print of the nails driven perhaps by your coldhearted neglect, would not the very falsehood of the plea your heart may be suggesting now carry out to its conclusion a darker parallel ?
4. Christ is wounded in the house of his friends by inattention to the Gospel, with its messages of duty, its invitations and exhortations. True, they are presented in what the Apostle styles " the foolishness of preaching;" the treasure is committed to earthen vessels; but it is treasure still. Christ himself speaks, although through lips of clay. Yet some listen just as though it were but a man talking, just as though they were hearing a stump speech ; and so they yawn, or dose, or sleep, or turn away the head. I must confess, that in this phase of the matter I have not much occasion of complaint. You hear the word, and that is right; but you may all bear, and yet be inattentive in the most important sense. You may hear, and then go away to dissipate attention; you may look at Christ, and then turn your him and his message. This is wounding, not the preacher, but him. Would you not feel wounded, if, after you had gone and carried food and medicine to a sick man, he should receive you with thanks, but only wait till you bad left, to throw all out of the window? So men may hear the Gospel, and even thank the preacher for the manner in which it is served up, and yet make no use of it after all.
5. Christ is wounded in the house of his friends by their lack of sympathy and coöperation within their sphere, with the institutions of charitable beneficence for the spread of the Gospel. True, these institutions are devised by human wisdom, as each branch of the Church studies out the methods by which it can best perform that portion of the great task which is committed to its bands. But when once instituted-like human government called into being by a providential necessity, through human agency, and thenceforth made a divine ordinance—these channels of spiritual effort, Christian charity, and missionary zeal, become thenceforth the veins and arteries of Christ's spiritual body, the Church. It is for us to sustain them, to pour through them the full tide of our sympathies, till they beat strong and healthy with the life-blood of a true devotion. I know we may be crippled in our power to give; but we can command the widow's mite, and
we have the best of all gifts to bestow : our hearts and our • prayers.
We can at least remove the obstructions of our own indifference, which either chokes these arteries or makes poor and meager the tide that pours through them.
6. Christ is wounded in the house of his friends, when Christians, instead of keeping the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, treat one another with superciliousness or bitterness; when their intercourse is not marked by that gentleness and forbearance which the Gospel requires. Here looks may be daggers, and words blows. The laceration of Christian feeling by the wantonness of passion, is, between members of the same body, a selfmutilation, a wounding of the body of Christ. It is as if the
hand should wring the nose or pluck out the eye; as if it should tear the flesh with its nails. So the lack of Christian sociability, an indulgence of an exclusive spirit, is a wounding of Christ's members, and thus of Christ himself. A heedless or needless offense to the feelings of a Christian brother-all unkindness, harshness, railing, and evil-speaking, pass over, as it were, from the injured one to Cbrist himself." He is stabbed through his members. He is lacerated by the blows that fall upon his disciples. "Inasmuch,” he says, "as ye have done it to one of the least of these, ye have done it unto me."
Now, I appeal to you whether Christ be not, in view of these considerations, wounded in the house of his friends ? Are there not those who, by inconsistent conduct, by neglect of the ordinances of the sanctuary, by worldliness, by passion, by unbrotherly feeling and act, dishonor their profession, disregard their solemn vows, and do injury to the cause of Christ? Is he not wounded, then, in the very house of his friends? Is it not a fact, that all the assaults of infidelity, all the rage of profanity, all the recklessness of vice and crime, do far less to check the power of the Gospel than the scandals or offenses of professed disciples ? Here are the stumbling-blocks; here are the piles of cotton-bales that obstruct the battery of the Gospel, the broadsides of the pulpit, and shield the sinner's conscience. He that creeps into Christ's bosom can strike a blow such as no one else can; and He feels it, for his cause feels it, his members feel it, the Church feels it in palsied energy and enfeebled devotion.
But is it not something sadly aggravated? When the child lifts his hand to strike her that bore him and nursed him at her breast; when the son requites a father's counsels by a mockery or vice that breaks his beart and brings his gray hairs down with sorrow to the grave, even the world cries out: "For sbame!" And when a pardoned rebel abuses the forbearance of a ruler, and steals into his confidence to smite him down, as William of Orange was smitten by the assassin, the execration of ages is heaped upon the culprit's bead. But where is princely forbearance, or fatherly anxiety, or mother's love, to be compared with the tenderness and affection of Him by whose blood we are redeemed ? He has loved you, and oh! with what a love. Read it in bis manger-cradle, in his homeless wanderings. Read it in Gethsemane, and the bloody sweat, and the agony of the cross. Read it in the emblems of his broken body, in the sweet words of hope and blessing that fell from his lips for you, in his unwearied mediation and intercession for apostate rebels. Read it in the forbearance that has kept you back from death, that has called you here to-day, and once more allows you to look upon that cross to which belongs the glory of our salvation. And how shall that love be requited ? By wounds? By wounds in the house of his friends?
heaven! Oh! for one more prayer like that which once fell from dying lips : “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!"
I know that I speak too coldly. Feeling is chilled as you pour it off into words. But I would put myself, at the risk of wounds, between my Master and the blows that are aimed at him. Angels might account it a privilege to stand there. And now, though I should be forced to say, “Strike, but hear," I would unvail to your view a Saviour crucified afresh. Come, look and see what you have done. Will you do more? Will you inflict fresh wounds? You welcomed him to your hearts; will you drive him out despoiled? You surrendered your soul to him as its Redeemer; will you betray that Redeemer to his foes ? You declared that you would live to him; will you write “perjured” upon your solemn vows?
"And Nathanael said unto him, Can any good thing come out of Nazareth ?" -John 1: 46.
This inquiry was in reply to an assertion of Philip, that they had “found him, of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write,” Jesus of Nazareth. The whole Jewish nation had long been looking for and expecting the Messiah, the Saviour of the world. They understood from the prophecies, that he was to descend from the royal house of David. As David was the chosen of the Lord and honored with his peculiar favor, and bad reigned over the house of Israel, it had become the prevailing opinion among the Jews, that when he "of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write” should appear, he would come clothed with regal authority worthy of the ancient house of David, and would redeem Israel. Nor was this mistaken idea of the character of his kingdom wholly eradicated from the minds of his disciples, until after his resurrection; for as the two disciples journeyed from Jerusalem to Emmaus, and were talking of the scenes that had transpired in Jerusalem, when Jesus joined them, in giving him an account of the crucifixion and the manner of his resurrection, they said: “ We trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel." Hence, all eyes were turned toward Jerusalem as the place from whence the Messiah should come, and where he should appear, whither the tribes were required to bring their offerings to the Lord. So general was this expectation, that we can readily excuse Nathanael for his incredulity, his unwillingness to give up this long-cherished opinion of the learned and the wise of his nation, that Christ would come with great worldly pomp and power, and his advent be hailed with extraordinary public demonstration. But such an opinion could not justify his expression of contempt for the people of another place of less pretensions; thus passing a sentence of condemnation upon all its inhabitants. There was, at least in the family of Joseph, some good in Nazareth. Besides Jesus, wbo was then unknown to the world, there were Joseph and Mary and their children, who, we are warranted in believing, feared and worshiped the true God. There as some reason for Nathanael doubting the correctness of what Philip had asserted, for there was no prophecy intimating that Christ should come from Nazareth.
* A discourse furnished without the name of the author.
But concerning the little town of Bethlehem, where Christ was born, it was said by the prophet Micah : “But thou, Bethlehem Ephrata, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto me, that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been of old from everlasting." When, therefore, Philip said to Nathanael, We have found the longexpected Messiah, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, he was not prepared to believe; it was contrary to the expectation of the nation, for Nazareth was a place of low repute, its inhabitants immoral, while Nathanael, himself a Galilean, had so low an opinion of the Nazarenes, that he supposed there could be no good thing in all Nazareth. In this obscure place, of such low repute, our Lord spent most of the first thirty years of his life, from which circumstance he received the name, Jesus of Nazareth.
The subject derived from this portion of Scripture, and which I shall endeavor to illustrate, is the power of prejudice.
By prejudice, is meant that determination of the mind that is formed without a knowledge or careful examination of all the facts and circumstances that bear upon the point in issue, which are necessary to a just and an impartial decision; and this decision may be as unjust in favor of one as against him. We may commit as great an error, in judging too favorably of an individual, as in being too censorious or biased against him. Prejudice operates in both directions. It can as readily blind us to the faults of a friend as to the virtues of one toward whom we feel unfriendly, and perhaps is to be condemned as much in the one case as in the other. The world is not so much inclined to judge too favorably, as it is to condemn unsparingly. We are exhorted to judge righteous judgment, and in order to do this, the mind should be held as a