(Of Wadham College, Oxford, and Incumbent of St. Alban's, Holborn,
A. R. MOWBRAY,
J. MASTERS; SIMPKIN, MARSHALL & CO.
MY DEAR FRIENDS,
I venture to offer to you, in this printed form, the Sermon which I preached before the University on Advent Sunday, When I was called, in my regular turn, to preach this Sermon, it seemed to me that one, whose acquaintance with the University was almost wholly formed as an Undergraduate, could speak best to those with whom he could most closely sympathise. I did not, however, think my Sermon worth printing. On the day on which it was preached, I was asked to do so by one of my seniors, to whose opinion on the subject I felt in a measure bound to defer, both from old association and present friendship. Since that time, several from among yourselves have in various ways made the like request. This alone has induced me to publish a Sermon, the purely practical character of which seems so little to justify me in doing so. If its publication shall prove a gratification or a help to any of you--DEO GRATIAS.
A. H. MACKONOCHIE.
"Blessed is HE that cometh in the Name of the LORD. Hosanna in the Highest."--S. MATT. xxi. 9.
So saith the Spirit, by the lips of a Jewish rabble, half believing, or, perhaps, altogether unbelieving. No doubt many, if not all those who were foremost to welcome the Son of David to His father's throne on Palm Sunday, were equally ready to cry "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" six days later. Popular excitement was the apparent impulse under which they gave vent to the Truth of God, and popular excitement no less was the apparent impulse under which they shouted for the triumph of the false accusation's of Satan. It is always thus with the voice of man. He will accept Christ if Christ come in a form which attracts; but he will as certainly, and far more energetically, reject Him, if the form under which He presents Him- self be mortifying to self-love. Yet the Blessedness of Christ endures. Man may himself change, but cannot change the Truth of God. They who once confessed it confessed Him, as it seemed, to their salvation; when they denied and blasphemed it was to their own damnation, not to the diminution of His Blessedness. He went on, it is true, to judgment and to death, but the Blessed One still. Their voices prevailed, and they triumphed over Him, Whom now, in the text, they hail as King, but Whom they had afterwards set up as their enemy; but they did so only to increase His glory by their own miserable destruction. They could accuse, bear their false witness, mock, scourge, crucify,--but, still, "Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the LORD."
But where, perhaps it is asked, is the Blessedness in the last hour of the triumph of His enemies? Blessed, indeed, we may answer, is He then. Blessed in Himself,--in His spotless human soul. Blessed in His heroic endurance, even in the eyes of those who can see no deeper; Blessed in the unbroken love of the Son and of the Master; Blessed in the majestic authority with which He, from the very Cross, "divides the spoil with the strong" conqueror of man; [5/6] Blessed in the triumphant love which yearns for the salvation of His murderers, and offers first His Sacrifice for them; arid Blessed in the abiding power of His Cross, the everlasting confusion of Satan, the Tower of Strength and the Harbour of Refuge to the sinner and the troubled soul in all ages.
But what has this tale of Passion-tide to do with Advent? We answer, it is at Advent that the Lord of Hosts goes forth to war. It is then that we commemorate the beginning of that great campaign whose last victorious struggle was heralded by the shouts of the multitude on the Mount of Olives, and whose triumph is being celebrated anew continually, as soul after soul, redeemed by that atoning Life, learns to kneel at the feet of its Saviour, renouncing the broken dominion of sin, and owning its Redeemer to be Very and Eternal God. At this season is placed before us the spectacle of most exalted Blessedness. God, the Eternal Son, presents Himself to our thoughts, calmly contemplating, from the serene peace of Heaven, the depth of woe unutterable and inconceivable which He must bear to rescue man from his self-inflicted punishment. We see Him with full knowledge of coming misery, decreeing to pass forth from those joys which belong essentially to His Godhead, and to take into His Divine Person the nature which could suffer,--the nature which man had stained, and in which it was possible even for God Himself, remaining in His all-spotless sinlessness, to be "made sin" for us. At such a moment, the grandeur of God's great work of Love seems spread before us; the ungrateful rebellion of the creature,--the taint with which "this rebellion has infected his nature,--the 4000 years during which man has steeped this nature more and more in the ocean of ever-increasing sin,--the loathing of God for sin,--His necessary hatred of all that is in man of man's own,--and the resolute, all-conquering love with which He decrees to pour forth Himself in the Person of Him in Whom dwells all the "Fulness of the Godhead bodily," and thus to bestow afresh on His offending creature the innocency which he had lost. We wait for the coming of the Divine Child, Who is at once the despised offspring of a holy Maiden, and the Lord of lords and King of kings. We wait to see Him, and to blend with our mutual congratulations--"Unto us a Child is born"--our praise of His Name,--"He shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace,"--our act of worship with adoring shepherds, and [6/7] our shout of Glory with the Angels, "Glory be to God on High, and in earth peace, good-will towards men," for "Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord." And Blessed is He because He cometh in that Holy Name. Blessed because He comes to tie up again the cord of union with God which man had so ungratefully broken, and to give back to man that Hope of Salvation and Inheritance in Heaven which man, by his wilful sin--that bitter sorrow to His God--had put away from him.
The great Blessedness of this Advent teaching of the coming of God in the Flesh is to be found in that bountiful out-pouring of His desire to give, whereby, in this act, He crowns all His other gifts and promises, by giving no partial nor created gift, but Himself the Giver as well as the Gift, the One Essential Good Whence all else derives its excellence, and wherein all other good is contained. In this He preaches by His act, before He utters with His lips, the great Law of His kingdom, that the Blessing of the giver is greater than that of the receiver; that the gift, however costly, flows back again, in the very act of its being given, into the bosom of him who gives, and enriches him with a new and more perfect wealth, which fills him now with joy, and endures to life everlasting. Look for a moment into the face of Jesus suffering; picture to yourself, with the utmost vividness of imagination and faith, the depth of His anguish, and then say to yourself,--"all this is the suffering of the Love of God for His sinful creatures." Where will you find on earth so perfect a picture of joy unutterable? Surely not in the easy-going luxury of an age like this, which, while it readily sacrifices even Truth itself rather than disturb its own equanimity, becomes almost heroic in its indignation at the slightest hint of the necessity for self-denial. Anything else is endurable; but speak to it of life in earnest; speak of the responsibility of the gifts of God; speak of the supreme value of a soul, and of the danger, nay the condemnation, of a lavish squandering of time, and goods, and thought for that which avowedly profiteth not; speak of the sinfulness of throwing broad cast among one's companions words of evil, lightly, carelessly said, without intention, indeed, to do hurt, but yet without a thought of the tight grip which the evil curiosity and bad tendencies of many will lay upon the word-- hastily uttered, and perhaps forgotten by the speaker almost before it is said--but caught up by the hearer, and treasured as some further revelation of sin, or [7/8] suggestion of an excuse for his own shortcomings; speak thus of the awful responsibility of life, and you are condemned at once; such teaching, you are told, is contrary to the spirit of the age. Is it, then, in this vapid epicureanism, or in the stern earnestness of Gospel Blessedness, that we are to look for joys that will last?
You will, I think, see, my brethren--and I speak to you specially, my younger brethren, who still have a life before you, which you may, if you will, devote to God,--that I have no intention this afternoon of merely amusing your minds with certain observations on the spectacle of an Incarnate God, but that my purpose is, if so God will suffer me, to work with Himself in bringing home to you the meaning of those strivings of the Holy Spirit within you, which so often and so deeply prompt you to be doing something for God as soldiers of His mighty army.
It is one chief point in the Blessedness of Him that cometh, that He is able to impart to others that same Blessedness which is His--of going forth in the Name of the Lord. The lump of leaven in the three measures of meal does not extend its influence through the whole by its own direct action upon each individual particle, but as one by one these particles are assimilated to itself, it makes each partaker of its own leavening power of its own responsibility for the transmission of this imparted grace, and therefore of the right to a share in its own Blessedness. I need hardly say that the Manhood of God the Son is this lump of leaven, and that all we are particles of meal who have received from Him, in our several degrees, a share in this privilege of self-dedication, and in the hope of that Blessedness, as a gift from Him, which exists in Him as His own of right.
Here, then, is our own personal point of contact with the text,-- the subject which is to occupy the remainder of our time this afternoon. "In Him we live and move and have our being" is the simple declaration of Holy Scripture about the Christian life. "In Him," then, "in His Name," is the motto which the cross of Holy Baptism writes on our foreheads and on our lives in characters which no power can ever efface. Baptism into Him--incorporation, bodily, into Him--dwelling in Him, and He in us--faith in Him, whereby we see all in Him and Him in all things--His Word, like Himself, the worker of all marvels in our soul--Faith in Him, and in ourselves as called of Him, our shield against our spiritual enemies-- that which changes the very character of our actions, so that "what [8/9] is not of faith is sin"--"the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen"--Faith, whereby, as by a hand, our spiritual being stretches itself forth, and lays hold upon the great realities of Heaven, and, drawing them into itself, feeds upon them, makes them its life, and grows out of self into Him on Whom it is thus feeding--Faith, which is of such power that without it CHRIST Himself is the minister of condemnation to the soul, while with it He is Life Eternal--Grace, too, that unspeakable gift of GOD'S true love, by help of which we can do all things; which, coming down from heaven without merit or desert of ours, inspires our weakness with the strength of God, and fills our imperfect obedience with His perfectness--such are our privileges.
Great indeed is the contrast between the life of the Christian and that of the worlding--the natural man. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned." We wonder to find people so little concerned about their souls or the souls of others. They are not foolish people, we say; grave, thoughtful, wise in all matters of daily life, men of common sense, and full of all natural endowments which should make them reliable as advisers; but ask them about religion, and they are simply scornful, if it go beyond conventional proprieties. Why? Because they have not the Spirit of God, without Whose in-dwelling such things cannot be known. You might as well try to make a man, blind from his birth, enthusiastic about some specially beautiful tint of your favourite colour. He cannot see it; he never has seen it; not even memory of the past helps him to conceive of the things which fill you with ecstacy. So it is with the natural man and the things of the Spirit of God. The words which speak of them convey to him no meaning at all. You see, then, that the difference lies far deeper than a mere defect in the value which he attaches to the things which are all-important to the Christian. It is a fundamental difference in the very principle of his spiritual life. He has not the faculty necessary for obtaining even the barest knowledge of them. He might have this faculty if he chose. Either it once was his and he has thrown it away, or God "stands at the door and knocks," waiting only for him to open and let Him in. But the door is closed; the man is comfortable in his ignorance, and will not suffer himself to be disturbed even by God Himself.
 My brethren, let us leave him in his self-satisfaction, while we ourselves go on to see how we may find the secret of the life of Christ.
I. Many of you will tell me, no doubt, that the University is not the place for self-devotion. I fearlessly assert that to say so is to libel yourselves, your University, and your God. Are your hearts so utterly soured by your short intercourse with the world, or so chilled by its early disappointment, that you have no longer a soul to give to God? Or, is the University so completely demoralized as to make it impossible for you to serve your God steadily and fearlessly in this place? Or, will you say that your God is so unjust as to make your career here necessary for your future life, and yet so evil as to incapacitate you from His Service, while you are here? Shall I offer to my God of that which doth cost me nothing? Is this the example given by Him Who first came "in the Name of the LORD?" Surely not. And, then, if you say that the University life, though not utterly heartless, is yet unfit for such solemn dedication, I reply that, on the contrary, it is exactly the time when you have something which you can rightly, and, in a sense, worthily offer to Almighty God. To many of you sin has been already laying itself open. The first knowledge of it may, it is only too likely, have been brought to you in the shelter of your own home, by some elder brother or ungodly friend, who, having learnt sin by a freer communication with the world than you had then had, brought back to you strange tales of its abominable mysteries. At first you heard them with a loathing, which could only be overcome by the child's reverence for an elder's greater knowledge (perverted, alas! too often by the enemy of souls to his own purpose), but, at length, it may be that you greedily listened to all, and perhaps even, with much self-importance, passed it on to others. Then, at school, you know how it seemed to you that the whole array of hell's poisons was placed at your disposal. It may be--I trust in all cases it was--your happinesss to have special grace from God to use His Grace in avoiding this most terrible, most destructive snare. I am sure that in very many of you this grace was manifest. But still you could not escape the knowledge of evil. And so you have passed to the University. You have come to it with your souls, I trust, pure from those horrible defilements, but certainly (at least in the case of those who come from public schools) with your minds fully opened to the facts of sin. Now, your present life sets before you a more refined and therefore a much [10/11] more dangerous form of all the sins of school life. And this, too, with the necessity for less restraint. The idleness of school, the ungodly recreations of school, the poisonous reading of school, the profaneness and sensuality of school, are all within your reach. You may, if unhappily you should choose to do so, live in your colleges, victims of every conceivable sin, your characters known perhaps to your tutors almost as exactly as they are written in heaven and hell; though you may, at the same time, have so carefully acted as to make it impossible for them to interfere with you. You may thus live, going forth in the name of Satan, as to your outward life, and yet, in every detail, pledged by the self- sacrificing love of the Divine Redeemer to go forth only in His own most blessed Name, and as the avenger of His Gospel, sustained by His power, encouraged by His example, enlightened by His Holy Spirit, comforted by His indwelling, called onward, step by step, by the marks of His footsteps in your path, strengthened by the Hope of sharing His Glory. Which will you do--drift downwards with the stream and perish? or offer your lives, still young as they are, to Christ, in diligence, obedience, love, purity, and integrity, with the ever-present voice of the Holy Spirit, "Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the LORD?" You may, "in the Name of the LORD," pursue your studies, meet the snares of an impure poetry and a philosophy, often sophistical, which will cross your path in those studies, and feel no evil from their poison. You may go into the Schools, and encounter the dangers of worldly ambition, and yet, "in the Name of the LORD," consecrate all with deepest humility to God Who gave you those gifts by which you hope to succeed in your examinations. You may join and be foremost of your time in the sports of the University, and yet they may, sanctified by the Name of the Lord, be only the healthful cultivation of those energies which God has given to you to be used one day in far other efforts for the advancement of the Glory of His Holy Name. I will go further, and say this,--if you do not strive to excel both in the studies and in the amusements of the University there is great reason to fear that you are not going forth in the Name of the LORD. He has thought good to make us compound beings--body, mind, spirit. The latter is indeed the ruling element; but it must rule by infusing" energy into both the others, and this an energy suited to the age and pursuits of him in whom it dwells. Above all things, then, avoid an effeminate [11/12] sentimentality, whether about religion, or taste, or art, or some quasi-scientific pursuit. It is the Manhood of Jesus which is your pattern. In mind and body be strong, be vigorous, be manly, yea, more than manly, be Godlike. All that God has given you is good, if you will develope and use it for His sake. I say then, again, that to treat the time of University life as a time alien to the call of God's service is to libel the University. Your first duty to it is to think of it as your Mother to whom God has entrusted your minds and habits that they may be trained for Him. Live, then, within her walls "in the Name of the Lord;" live as those who are practising in the narrower sphere of the University to work for God in the great world beyond. Take always--not the popular side--but that which is truly high and noble, and acceptable to God. You will often find it too noble for the popular mind to grasp it, but go on, true to your University and to your God, and your time of residence will be, by its example, a seed-plant which God will bless with increase. To do no good in your generation is to do evil. So, also, not to live energetically for God in your University life, is to do evil. To live for Him here is to find the fullest scope for all the energies which He has given. What is the great attraction for youth? Surely to be told of adventure, of gallant deeds, of danger to be encountered, difficulty overcome, of a despised cause rescued from its obscurity, of a name wrongly defamed cleared from the calumny of assailants. But where will you find more gallant deeds to do than in the warfare of GOD against the world? Where else more appalling risks and dangers? Where difficulties more seemingly insuperable to be overcome? Where a cause more despised? Where a name more wrongly defamed than that of your dear Redeemer? The little boy--whose story you know so well--kneeling to say his prayers in the long-room of a public school on the first night of his arrival, indifferent to the laughter, the reviling, and the blows of his schoolfellows, has left to you, my brethren, an example of courage, and of victorious courage, greater than any which all the heroes of the world can show. Again, let me remind you, that the victory of the soul is not fought and won in a single great battle or in several such notable encounters, but in a multitude of daily skirmishes each by itself seemingly insignificant. The stopping short in a conversation when it becomes ill-natured, the checking some small expense for conscience sake, and like small victories over thought, and word, and act, [12/13] opportunities for which so specially abound here, are of incalculable importance in the work of Christ. Espouse, then, heartily, I pray you, the cause of God. Go forth "in the Name of the Lord," and you will find all the blessings for which you crave, and many to which you have not dared lo aspire.
2. But, my brethren, the University life is not simply a life in itself; it is distinctly one which is preparatory to another. Its very object, as I have had occasion to notice, is to form you intellectually and socially for the stage in life which is to follow it. Many of you, doubtless, have still to say what that stage of life is to be. How, in choosing that which is to be my calling in life, shall I best seek for the blessing of those who cast in their lot with their Redeemer, as "coming in the Name of the Lord?" One thing is quite clear, that, wherever your work shall be eventually, and whatever profession you shall at last enter, the obligation will follow you, and with it the possibility of living in it, "in the Name of the Lord." Still, coming as I do from the crowded masses of the poor of a large city, and seeing them the prey of every delusion which can keep them from God, I cannot but utter on their behalf the cry, "Come over and help us." The time is come, thank God, when His Church is more fully than for centuries past recognising her duty to the poor and the unbelievers in this land. The demand, too, on the part of the people for more churches, more clergy, more services, more work of all kinds from the clergy, is heard on every side. Whence is it to be met, unless our Universities will send us out in rapidly increasing numbers men filled with the spirit to come forth "in the Name of the Lord." We have to grapple with unbelief and misbelief of every kind. We need a clergy recruited from among those to whom God has given talents and a will to use those talents; who are learned, able, ready, clear-sighted. The Church asks her sons who are courageous to stand now in the ranks of the Priesthood, to defend, not the outworks of the Faith, but the Godhead of Jesus. It is a glorious call. He died on Calvary,--a witness to His Own Godhead. He asks you now, saved from sin and hell by that His Death, to cast aside all earthly allurements and devote yourselves wholly to the same great work as Himself. He is able, as in the first three centuries of Christianity, to call you by all that is unselfish in the heart of a young man. He can indeed say to you, "Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart." Offer yourselves to the Captain [13/14] of your Salvation as uncompromising soldiers; and of this much I can assure you,--whatever phase of religionism may at any time be in the ascendant, you will always be excluded from wealth and dignity. You will have plenty of opportunity of following your dear Lord in the bounty of His gift. You will be continually called to tread in His steps in that which seems to the "natural man" the extravagance of His self-sacrifice, and your reward will be that which flows from Him, that which will grow as your labour increases, ever drawing nearer to the brightness which is to be hereafter. I will not for a moment hold out to you the idea that the Ministry of the Crucified has any earthly inducement to offer. All I say is this, England's Church has a debt to pay both to her own children and to the world. Her ships, her merchants, her colonists have proved missionaries of sin to every region of the globe. At home she has allowed her mighty trade and commerce and industry to gather men into swarming cities with spiritual provision more suitable for villages. Hence the source of wealth to the State becomes the source of death to the soul. Look at any such great centre of industry and you will find men by hundreds, who ought to be the bulwarks of the Church, but who, through her sloth in years gone by, have been suffered to become her most bitter enemies. I ask you, then, in any decision which has yet to be made for the future of your life, enquire first, does God speak to my soul and bid me come forward and stand among the ranks of the Ministry? Oh! if He do so call in one soul here present, may He grant to that soul grace gladly to answer to the call. "Whom shall we send?" is the inquiry, in the mysterious council of the Ever-Blessed Three,--send, that is, to be the fellow of Him Who came "in the Name of the Lord." Blessed is he whose heart shall answer, "Behold, here am I; send me."
3. But while I thus press upon you the claims of the Christian Ministry, I must not leave you without again urging upon you the great call of Advent to every one. It is not to the Ministry that union--no, nor yet that the very closest union--with our blessed Lord is confined. Many a one will excuse this or that fault by the thought, "I am but a layman," or, "I nave not a call to the Priesthood." Be it so. But you are a Christian. For your sanctification God was made Flesh. You have already in Holy Baptism renounced every one of those things which you allow [14/15] would be unbecoming in us Priests. Your life no less than ours is given in its integrity to God, and is, in fact, embraced in the Wonderful Life which you are, at this season, preparing to contemplate. Jesus took your life in all its littleness into the vast-ness of His own Life, that he might offer it, with that Life of His, to the Father, and so pledge you to this life of action for Him, whereby all our blessedness either now or hereafter is to be gained.
Accept then His choice. Go forth really and not only in name under His Standard. Challenge the powers of evil to do their worst. Go forth as the knights of old in the Power of the Truth. Let this Advent see you answering more fully than ever to the call of JESUS. Rouse yourselves to the encounter, and then you shall awaken in the Angels the cry of the Jewish multitude,--"Hosanna in the Highest." The heavenly Spirits shall see in you the Power of their Lord. They shall recognize the indwelling of that Arm of Salvation and of Strength which can alone make the forces of Satan tremble. In you they shall see Him going forth, as He delights to go forth, in the lowliest of servants, and shall rejoice.
Only, my brethren, let me, in conclusion, beg of you to fix upon some practical thing to do this Advent which may bring you really nearer to Jesus. Let it be some work in which you can help others, or some rule for your own inner life. Let it be something which will help you to make more of the great thought that your "life is hid with CHRIST in GOD"--that your present life, with all its great realities, is yet only a shadow compared with that which shall be revealed at the Second Coming of the LORD. In this deep conviction determine to set more value by prayer than you have ever done before. It is as thus hidden in CHRIST that the soul has her special power of communion with the Spirit of GOD in prayer. It is through this Oneness with Him that That Holy SPIRIT prays in us when we pray, making intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. You have been regular in your prayers before: be now more than regular--be earnest, be importunate. Resolve to move the All-Merciful, as though you had to deal with a selfish, niggardly companion, or an unjust judge. It is His own command to you to do so. Learn what it is, in simple contemplation of His love to suffer your heart to [15/16] be drawn up to Him in devout meditation and simply Mental Prayer. Study more than you have done the lives and examples of Christians of all times and countries in whom the spirit of sanctification has largely dwelt. Find out the maxims of their lives that you may see how much God has shown to them of the deep meaning of His Holy Word. Learn from them more and more the great value of that treasure. Become more regular or more thoughtful in reading it. Make use of its language in your secret communings with your own spirit and with your GOD. Love the times of your Communions, prepare for them with increasing reverence, cherish the Gift when you have received It, with deep and loving and prolonged thanksgiving. Guard your conscience with the utmost exactness. Be not ashamed of what you are doing for GOD; or fearful to attempt anything lest your weakness should lead to failure and bring discredit upon the Truth. Trust our Lord to aid your weakness, and you will find Him "a very present help in trouble." Let the spirit of manliness, which forbids you to make a show of piety, forbid you also to shrink from anything which is truly for the Glory of God, merely through fear of its being noticed. It is manly--according to the Divine Manhood of Jesus--to be holy. It is the most childish weakness to give way to sin.
My brethren, by the Grace of GOD the HOLY GHOST, may these few words enable some of you to make for this Advent such practical resolutions as shall bind your souls more closely to your dear Lord, and make you a sharer in His joy, of Whom it is said. "Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the LORD. Hosanna in the Highest."