This is the heart of the promise which our Saviour made to His disciples, when, with the feelings of bewilderment and desolation that were natural at the time, they were gathered round Him in the supper-room. The day, they felt, was near when they would no longer see and hear, at any rate, as heretofore, the wise and gracious Friend Who had taught and was teaching them so much that was best worth knowing. And He did not directly combat or relieve the sad anticipation. Nay, He told them frankly that He was leaving them; that in a little while they would not see Him, because He was going to the Father. But His place, He said, would be taken by Another Who would not disappoint them; but Who would only arrive when He had Himself departed. "If I go not away the Comforter will not come unto you, but if I depart, I will send Him unto you." And what was this Envoy and Successor to achieve when He did come? He was, no doubt, to change the hearts and minds of those who were outside the sacred fold. He was to "convince the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment." But He was also to do a yet greater service for the orphaned Church. "When the Comforter is come, Whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth Which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me." . . . "He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsover He shall hear, that shall He speak." . ..." He shall glorify Me; for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are Mine; therefore [64/65] said I, that He shall take of Mine, and shall show it unto you."
That this promise would be kept became clear to the Apostles on that solemn occasion, the anniversary of which the Church observes to-day. When the crucified and risen Lord had ascended into heaven there was an interval of hushed and awful expectation before the promised Comforter came down. And when He came, essential Spirit though He was, He condescendingly came in such guise that the senses of men should apprehend His approach. He came as a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind; His arrival was pourtrayed in tongues like as of fire, which rested upon the Apostles; it was followed by such sudden endowment of a band of Galilean peasants with a gift of speech in various dialects as to astonish a mixed multitude of men who represented almost every race and district between the Tiber and the Euphrates. These were but outward signs, marking the advent of a supernatural power: this was the birthday of the Church of Christ. As our Lord Jesus Christ Himself had been conceived of the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary, so the society, which was to perpetuate among men His mind and His life, sprang from a kindred union between the Eternal Spirit and a sample--sufficiently poor and unrepresentative it might have seemed, yet still a sample--of our common humanity; and thus the little community, hallowed and invigorated from on high, entered on the career which has already lasted for nearly nineteen centuries, and which will end only with the close of time.
I. We have to consider, first of all, that particular account of the work of the Holy Spirit which our Lord here sets before us--"He shall glorify Me." The prediction belongs to that class of His sayings which only admits 61 moral justification if the Speaker is indeed more than man. Natural modesty and good taste, not to speak of distinctively Christian virtues, would make such language impossible in the mouth of any honest and humble man who knew himself to be no more than man, and was conscious of the failure and weakness which in every merely human life must so largely outweigh any solid claims to glory or renown. And our Lord's words cannot be understood to foretell any gradual accumulation and wreathing of titles or doctrines round His person, by the devotional or speculative activity of a later [65/66] time, if, in fact, He had no exact right to that which they implied. No being, whether Divine or human, is really glorified by having anything ascribed to him which is not his. The Caesars were not glorified; they were only made ridiculous, as the wiser of them saw, by official or popular apotheosis. In proportion to a man's perception of the truth of things and the directness and integrity of his moral nature is his dislike of any exaggerated praise. And when we give glory to God we do not and cannot add to that which already belongs to Him; we only make a place in our own hearts, and, it may be, in the hearts of others, for some more adequate apprehension than as yet exists of what He is and what is His due.
When, then, our Lord said that the Spirit of Truth would glorify Him He meant only that the Spirit of Truth would enable men to do justice to the real character of His life and person. And there were then, as generally, causes enough at work to make such assistance needful. There were the passions of powerful classes, which made up the great majority of His countrymen, and which were bent on nothing less than casting out His very name as evil. There was the ordinary decay of memory, which would in a few years overtake His most intimate companions. And there was the more perilous activity of fancy, which might substitute for the preservation and exhibition of facts the fictions, or at least the decorative embellishments, of theory or enthusiasm. A great deal is said about the power and endurance of posthumous influence; but after all how little can a man generally reckon on it! It is, in ordinary human experience, out of a man's keeping; it takes its own course, or the course which events prescribe for it. It falls into the hands of some clever adventurer and is manipulated for his own purposes; or it is of a kind to discover unsuspected ingredients, any one of which in its exaggeration may give it a fatally false turn; or it is crowded out of its due place by more vigorous and self-asserting competitors for public favour; or it shows early symptoms of being in a decline, and presently dies of exhaustion. A posthumous influence! It is wedded to a philosophy like that of Socrates, which may presently break up into two or more contending schools of thought; or it is embodied in a political inheritance, like that of Alexander, which may be distributed among three or four successors; [66/67] whose jealous rivalries are fatal to its permanent integrity; or it is a literary or artistic tradition, which in the mere act of passing into other keeping is transformed or dissolved through contact with new and powerful minds. A posthumous influence! It must, alas! be made over to the care of others; whether they be foes or friends; whether children or disciples. The biography of a modern philosopher has taught us that friends may not always be its safest guardians; Marcus Aurelius lived long enough to discover what weight would be attached to his meditations when the Caesar Corn-modus would alone represent the Antonines on the throne of the world; and history has again and again shown how disciples may pay compliments to a departed master, while they set aside his clearest and most emphatic instructions. And thus the Preacher might seem in one mood of his thought to express the sombre reality--"Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart that this also is vanity. For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever: seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. . . . Yea! I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun, because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me. And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? . . . This also is vanity." [Eccles. ii. 15-19]
That, therefore, which must strike us in the words of our Lord is His conscious supeiiority to the fate which may be commonly expected to befall the influence of a man's character or teaching after death. He had put His life and work into such sort of keeping that it would be unaffected by the varying moods of human minds and the incalculable contingencies of human circumstances. And how would the promised Guardian of Christ's glory set about His work?
First of all, by exerting a transforming, purifying, invigorating influence upon human characters.
No merely natural account can be given of the change which is observable in the Apostles between the eve of the Crucifixion and the morrow of Pentecost. The perplexed, doubting, timid, half-suspicious, gloomy peasants, who misunderstand their Master's words and shrink from His side in [67/68] the hour of danger, have been transformed into men conscious of being the trustees of a supernatural creed, and more than willing--aye, joyful--at any moment to attest its truth with their lives. And in the great Apostle, whose experience was so different from that of the eleven, a profound transformation of character, as well as of purpose, is no less observable. As he preached the faith which once he destroyed men recognised, he says, a Higher Power that had wrought the change--"They glorified God in me." [Gal. i. 24]
And in after years, as we know from the genuine Acts of the Martyrs, the Holy Spirit gave glory to the unseen Christ, by displaying again and again before the eyes of the heathen the courage, and patience, and meekness, and dignity of His suffering servants. Nor is it otherwise at the present day. There are lines, well known to some of you, which describe at least one actual, and probably a not uncommon, experience:--
"I saw thee once, and naught discerned
For stranger to admire:
A serious aspect, but it burned
With no unearthly fire.
"Again I saw, and I confessed
Thy speech was rare and high;
And yet it vexed my burdened heart,
And scared--I knew not why.
"I saw once more, and awestruck gazed
On face and form and air;
God's living glory round thee blazed,
A saint--a saint was there." [Lyr. Apost.]
And the glory of our Lord was further promoted when the Holy Spirit organised a visible body--the Christian Church. The Church was not an afterthought, founded by men, who, finding that they thought and felt alike, combined to form an association which could enable them the better to work together, and might secure weight and currency for their convictions. The Church already existed as a home of souls on the day of Pentecost. And for a believer to belong to it was a matter of necessity, not of propriety or choice. [68/69] And apart from its faith, its life, its perpetual, scarcely observed, but incessant and resistless expansion, nothing is more wonderful in the early ages than its coherence. It is less remarkable that the Church was not crushed to death by relentless persecutions than that she was not tempted to make terms with the pagan Syncretism which was especially in vogue for instance in the second and third quarters of the third century. From Elagabalus down to Aurelian a constant series of efforts were made to induce the Church to mingle her creed and life with one or another of the conglomerate forms of decaying paganism. So cleverly were the sacraments and rites of Christianity reproduced at one period by the priests of Mithra, that St. Augustine, referring to it, could, almost humorously, exclaim, "Mithra Christianus est." But it was all to no purpose. A few Gnostics might yield to the spell. The great Catholic body would have nothing to do with it, though refusal meant a renewal of persecution. The truth was that the business of the Church, informed by the Holy Spirit, was to uphold in undiminished lustre the unshared, unapproachable glory of the Redeemer; and her separate existence witnessed to it in the ratio of the dangers whether of violence or seduction to which she was exposed. The question how she still came to be there could only be answered in the minds of thoughtful men by reference to the unique person of her Lord. She was there to proclaim His glory.
For this witness of the Church was not that of a voiceless or inert body. She spoke through great saints and writers whose words commanded the attention of the world; she spoke through assemblies which, before the division of East and West, represented, either by delegation or by subsequent consent, the whole of the company to which the promise had been made in the supper-room. Can we fail to see the hand of Providence in this--that before the separations had taken place which suspended the action of the collective Church, every question had been asked and answered that could bear upon the personal glory of the Redeemer; from the truth of His Divinity down to the separate reality of His human will? In those days of eager speculation, and sincere, if not always instructed belief, there was, indeed, many a wave of unhallowed passion surging round the eternal truths at stake; but the informing, presiding, chastening Spirit rode the storm, and not many a thoughtful man, it may be supposed, who [69/70] begins by believing that Christ's words are true, can trace the action of the Church in the great Conciliar period without feeling himself in the presence of a Power, the law of Whose action is revealed in the promise--"He shall glorify Me."
Thirdly, and especially, the glorification of the ascended Christ was achieved by the creation of a new sacred literature; the Books of the Canon of the New Testament. The Church is indeed historically older than the New Testament; but the New Testament is the supreme work of the Holy Spirit when glorifying Christ in the Church. Pentecost had not long passed when a group of biographers and letter-writers appeared upon the scene of Christendom, each retaining whatever was characteristic and individual in expression and style, yet so controlled by a unifying and illuminating Power as to combine harmoniously in the setting forth many sides of a single truth. There were, indeed, among the first teachers of the Church minds so divergent by temper and genius, that had all, indeed, depended upon merely human influences, had there been no supernatural bond of unity, they would assuredly have parted into irreconcilable factions. As it is, nothing is more discernible than the controlling and modifying action of God the Holy Spirit in the New Testament writings.
St. Matthew and St. Luke enable us to observe how St. Mark and St. John are only recording differing aspects of a single life: the sermons and discourses reported in the Acts, and the First Epistle of St. Peter, discover the point of unity between the Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians on the one side, and the Epistle of St. James on the other. The Ejternal Spirit presides like the leader of a great choir over instruments and voices of the most various compass; and while each contributes something which no other can give, all are duly subordinated to a single Will, directed to a supreme end. Look through the Apostolic writings and say whether there be any one motive in them so constant or so powerful as the giving His due place and honour in the thoughts and lives of men to our Lord and Saviour. Each evangelist glorifies one aspect of His life; whether it be His fulfilment of prophecy, or His true humanity, or His redemptive mission and work, or His pre-existent and Personal Divinity. Each writer of Epistles, or each group of Epistles, sets forth some one truth which shall add to our apprehension of Him; whether it be His example of patience, as in St. Peter, or His [70/71] lessons of love, as in St. John, or His perfect law of liberty, as m St. James, or His Second Coming, or His justification of the sinner through faith in His blood, or the transcendent qualities and ordered structure of His mystical Body the Church, as in St. Paul. Whatever else may be divergent in the Apostolic writings, this is the note of their underlying unity of aim: everywhere we trace in them the fulfilment of the promise, "He shall glorify Me."
II. This leads us to consider the method employed by the promised Comforter: "He shall take of Mine, and shall show it unto you."
Here let us remark that our Lord does not sanction any of those conceptions of the work of the Holy Spirit which treat it as something independent of His own. The Spirit is not the author of a new dispensation: He perpetuates, explains, expands the teaching and work of Jesus Christ: "He shall not speak of Himself," " He shall take of Mine." Therefore is He called, in the Apostolic writings, not only the Spirit of God, but the Spirit of Christ; since it is Christ's mind and teaching--aye, and Christ's renewed human nature, which He conveys to the souls of men.
(a) If then we examine the three great departments of the Holy Spirit's work in the inverse order to that followed just now let us observe, first, how He takes of the things of Christ and exhibits them to the Church in the New Testament writings. The first five books of the New Testament are biographical or historical. Popular language often assumes that inspiration must always create; but if this were true there could be no such thing as inspired history. If history be the faithful record of facts, the function of inspiration in history must be limited to the grouping of facts* to the assigning to certain facts a relative prominence, above all to the selection out of a large number of facts of those facts which illustrate a particular aspect of higher truth. Popular language is wont to speak disparagingly of the copyist or the reporter, but the inspiring Spirit did not by any means abhor the work of the reporter or copyist; His inspiration consisted often enough in guidance to select from a large field those materials which would best illustrate the truth He had in view, and to exhibit them in such wise as to secure this object most effectively.
This faculty of judicious selection is higher and rarer than [71/72] may be at first supposed. To select wisely out of an embarrassingly large assortment of facts and thoughts requires a combination of penetration and resolve, in order to perceive what is really worth preserving, and to resist the seductions of what is not. Without this gift one writer will bury his true purpose beneath a mass of ill-selected and undigested details; while another will not exhibit details sufficient to give his subject the body and outline which it demands. Sometimes books even of high excellence in other respects, and which have laid the world under such great obligations, as, for instance, the "Ecclesiastical History" of Eusebius, may give us reason to regret that their authors have not used more freely certain sources of knowledge which must have been before them, or that they have not touched some matters on which they are discursive with a lighter hand. They may have many merits; but they lack the inspiration of selection.
Now, contrast with this the work of the Holy Spirit in the composition of the Gospels. The supernatural is always haunted by its counterfeit; but the Holy Spirit at once swept aside a mass of legends such as are handed down to us in a somewhat later shape by the New Testament apocryphal literature. Nay, more, He took only some of the true words and acts of Christ. Christians might well believe that no acts or words of the Son of God during His earthly life could have been without high import of some kind. But they were not all equally useful for the specific purposes of the several Evangelists. Each Gospel bears traces of being a selection from a larger assortment of materials; the last says expressly that " there are many other things which Jesus did," and which the Evangelist had not recorded. [St. John xxi. 25.] Each writer having clearly before him that aspect of the life of Jesus which it was his task to illustrate--whether Messianic, or human, or redemptive, or Divine--traverses with this object the stores of his own memory, or the recitals and reports of other eye-witnesses, and records just so much as is needed for his purpose. Each fulfils the prediction--"He shall take of Mine, and shall show it unto you."
The same principle of selection, although it is differently applied, meets us in the Apostolic Epistles. A phrase of Jesus becomes in the hands of an Apostle the warrant of a [72/73] doctrine, which is thus seen to have been always latent in it. The title "Son of Man," for instance, reappears in St. Paul as the Second Adam," the ideal Representative of mankind, Whose work is placed in vivid contrast with that of the first father of our race. A word about "giving His life a ransom for many," or "My Blood of the New Testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins," warrants St. Paul and St. John in teaching a propitiatory atonement which wins for sinners pardon and peace. A self-proclamation, not less observable in the Synoptists than in St. John, constantly repeated and so unlimited in its scope that, if it were not rendered necessary by the facts of the Speaker's consciousness, it would be fatal to those moral qualities which win the love and respect of men, issues in the great passages of St. Paul on the Divinity of Christ, which thus takes its place as the cardinal truth of the Christian creed. These are but samples of the manner in which the Spirit took of the words of Christ, and showed their full meaning to the Church in the Apostolic Letters.
Nor was this method of selection from and interpretation of existing materials a new procedure of the Spirit in the Apostolic age. He then did what He had done in ages before the Incarnation. As we say in the Creed, He spake by the Prophets; and the Prophets in the sense of the Creed are not only members of the particular order which was endowed with a supernatural faculty for interpreting the Divine will, whether at the passing moment or in the more or less remote future, but also the leading rulers, statesmen, and historians who were intrusted with the guidance of the people of Revelation. And the records of their work, as the authors of the historical books tell us, were largely compiled out of documents already in existence. One historian borrows from another--nay, even one prophet from another; while the Spirit takes now and again from the conglomerate mass of early traditions or records those fragments which had on them the mint-mark of the Eternal Word, and shows them in a new and inspired combination to His ancient people.
And thus we are led to notice a feature common both to the Old and New Testaments--the startling presence of what may at first sight appear to be foreign elements in the Sacred Book. The early history of Genesis may suggest traditions which belonged to ancient Pagan peoples living in the great [73/74] Mesopotamian plain; the original text of its early genealogies may lie buried, as a distinguished Oxford scholar has suggested, at Kirjath Sepher, or elsewhere, in brick libraries as yet unexamined; the sacred utensils and buildings of Israel, though consecrated to the worship of the Alone Eternal, may have been shaped more or less upon Egyptian models; its later literature may betray affinities--however we explain them--with Persian forms of thought. [Professor Sayce.] Nay, the sacred tongue itself, which was selected to be the vehicle of that earlier Revelation, was not, as was once supposed, unique; it was spoken, like Greek, by neighbouring pagans as well, and, as in the Moabite Stone, it sometimes heralded the praise of pagan deities. These and such like facts have been pointed to as showing that the Jewish Revelation did not come from God in any but a merely naturalistic sense. What they really show is that the inspiration which dictated its worship and its sacred records was largely an inspiration of selection.
In like manner the New Testament presents us with facts supplementary to the Old Testament narrative, and often only derived from later Jewish traditions. Such are the prophecy of Enoch; the double call of Abraham from Ur, as from Haran; the hope that sustained Abraham in offering Isaac; the names of the Egyptian magicians; the motive of Moses for leaving the Court of Pharaoh, and Egypt; the exclamation of Moses at Sinai; the rock that followed the Israelites in the desert; the prayer of Elijah for rain.
Again, St. Paul employs rabbinical arguments and modes of exegesis; and he quotes heathen authors not to refute, but to endorse them.
In instances like these, too, the words are fulfilled, "He shall take of Mine." For the Speaker in the supper-room is none other than the Eternal Word Who is announced in the prologue of the Fourth Gospel. "His " are not only the sayings and acts of the incarnate Christ, but whatever is true in the earlier history and thought of our race. Inspired men, like Melchizedek and Balaam and Job, were discoverable beyond the fence of race with which the Divine Wisdom had guarded His earlier Revelation: and, indeed, in all ages, here and there, in the desert wastes of heathendom there are to be met with patches of spiritual beauty; flowers which alike by [74/75] creation and by culture are His, Who nevertheless ever had in the world only one garden for the human soul, and Who did make Israel His people and Jacob His inheritance, before in the last days He spoke by His Son.
One work of the Holy Spirit is to collect these outlying and--may I say it?--less regular creations of the Divine Mind; it is to disinter the gems that lie hidden beneath the accumulated soil of ages; it is to bring to a focus the rays of light scattered throughout heathendom, and to exhibit their place in the true Self-revelation of God.
For if the Holy Spirit thus selects materials from imperfect or false systems, He does not thereby sanction these systems as a whole, or even imply that those portions of them which He does not employ are after the Mind of God. The quotation from the book of Enoch does not prove that the whole of that composition is inspired. The traces of Egyptian influence in the Mosaic ritual and legislation do not imply wholesale approval of the Egyptian theology. The prologue of St. John does not commit the Apostle of Love to a general sanction of the speculations of Philo. Rabinnical arguments which may be found here and there in St. Paul's Epistles do not mean that all other reasonings current in the Rabbinical schools are valid or even legitimate. An adoption of the particular Jewish tradition about the rock that followed the Israelites in the desert does not commit the Apostle to an approval of all the legendary stories that were already current in the Israel of his day. To quote a line from Epimenides, or Aratus, or Menander did not imply that every fragment of these writers had the sanction of Apostolic authority. The inspiration of selection sanctions that which it selects, and nothing beyond.
(b) There is now unhappily little time for tracing the selective method of the Holy Spirit in the organisation and Creeds of the Church. Even if it could be shown that in the Apostolic age the presbyterate was certainly modelled upon Jewish and the Episcopate on Gentile precedents, this would not of itself affect the question of their necessity to the true form and life of the Christian society. But the selective action of the Spirit is especially observable in the Church's use of ancient philosophy. The varying phases of that attitude were determined by the capacity of this or that school to furnish materials that in a given set of circumstances would [75/76] assist the supreme work of the Spirit among men. In one century Platonism was distrusted, as a solvent dangerous to Christian belief; in another it was laid under contributions by Christian writers, and even furnished terminology to the Catholic creed. Early Fathers may ban Aristotle; yet he is subsequently preferred to Plato, as not venturing upon topics as to which nothing can be known certainly without a revelation. The Church is led to reject such a symbol as the Homoousian at one time for reasons which are perfectly compatible with her adoption of it at another. The subject is too large to be more than hinted at. In this field, too, the Spirit is constantly choosing whatever has really come from the Word and Wisdom of the Father and can be, at a given time and place, made serviceable to the interests of His people.
As we follow the Holy Spirit in this department of His work, we may venture without presumption to observe that His action is limited by His own attributes. He is the Spirit of Truth, not only because it is the truth which He teaches, but also because He Himself is true. Therefore He cannot contradict Himself. If, for instance, He really through the Sixth Council pronounced Honorius to be a heretic, He cannot in our day have pronounced Honorius by implication to be infallible. Nor can He take into His service literary fictions which trifle with the law and the sense of truth. If it could really be shown that the addresses ascribed to Moses in Deuteronomy were the composition of a writer of the age of Josiah, who desired to secure for later legal decisions or institutions the countenance of the great Lawgiver; or that speeches attributed to David in the Book of Chronicles were never uttered by the real David at all, but only represent the ' opinion of a sacerdotal scribe after the exile as to what David, if properly instructed, would or should have said; or that passages in Daniel which claim to be predictions of still future events are really a history of events which the writer had himself witnessed, and are thrown into a predictive form in order to invigorate national enthusiasm at a critical moment by the spectacle of the imaginary fulfilment of a fictitious prophecy; or that the discourses of our Lord reported by St. John are not the ipsissima verba of the same Son of Man Who speaks in the Synoptic Gospels, but only the [76/77] voice of some Christian of the second century, or earlier, whose thought had been steeped in the Platonised Judaism of Alexandria,--or, perhaps, of the Apostle of Love, who, however, could not distinguish clearly between his own and his Divine Master's words; or that the sermons of St. Peter and St. Paul in the Acts resemble each other too closely to have been really uttered by those Apostles, and only represent a literary effort to produce ecclesiastical harmony in the sub-Apostolic age; or that the pastoral Epistles of St. Paul, although expressly claiming to be his work, were in fact composed when the struggle with Gnosticism had obliged the Church to create a more elaborate organisation, and are largely due to an endeavour to procure for this organisation the sanction of the great Apostle's name:--if, I say, these and other such-like theories which might be mentioned could be shown to be based on fact, it surely would be shown at the same time that the Holy Spirit could not have inspired the writings in question. He is not responsible for speeches which cultivated pagans like Thucydides or Tacitus could naturally and without scruple put into the mouths of their heroes. Those great writers had no more the Divine law of truth upon their hearts and consciences than they had the Divine law of love or purity; and nothing depends upon the historical worth of those fictitious speeches of theirs beyond the degree and quality of literary entertainment which we at this day may or may not derive from them. It is quite otherwise when we pass within the sacred precincts of the canon of Scripture. If the Holy Spirit is in any degree concerned in the production of its contents we may at least be sure that language is not used in it to create a false impression, and that that which claims, on the face of it, to be history is not really fiction in an historical guise. The Book of Truth cannot belie either the laws of truth or the Spirit and Source of truth.
(g) Once more, observe how the Holy Spirit gradually builds up or develops the Christian character. He takes of Christ's teaching and example and shows it in its attractive beauty to the Christian conscience. This work of His is always going forward in those who will. As we pass through life the Holy Spirit, while endowing us through sacramental channels with the new Humanity of the [77/78] Redeemer, discovers to us more and more the splendour and import of His Person and work. We have learnt, or think that we have learnt, something of truth, and we are suddenly startled at the deeper meanings of the Parable of the Sower. We have succeeded to an estate, or we have won academical honours, and we learn the import of the Parable of the Talents. Our thoughts have been led to dwell on the great problems of capital and labour, wealth and poverty, which are so prominent in the modern world, and we see a new significance in the history of Dives and Lazarus, and in the precept given to the rich young man. We have been brought up to measure the worth of men by some class or artificial prejudice, and the position assigned to the Good Samaritan, though we have read about his going down to Jericho all our lives, flashes at a certain moment upon our thoughts as an overwhelming discovery. We have come to suppose that spiritual liberty implies the rejection of all outward authority, and the Holy Spirit reminds us of the words about even the Scribes and Pharisees who sit in Moses' seat. We have wandered, it may be, from the path on which in earlier and happier years our feet had been set to go, and we find guidance and consolation as nowhere else in the story of the prodigal Son. We are getting on in life, and mapping out, with ambitious confidence, a future which, God perhaps knows, will never be ours; and we are brought to our senses by the record of the man who would pull down his barns and build greater on the eve of the very night on which his soul was required of him. And all through life, and assuredly not less as life is drawing towards its close, the great doctrines of redemption and grace are brought home with new power and clearness to the hearts and consciences of those who will. These are lessons which may make Pentecost a perpetual reality, and bridge over the interval between the most prosaic of lives and companionship with that incomparable Life which was lived nineteen centuries ago on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
And our Lord's words furnish us with a decisive criterion of the exact worth of dominant influences around us, of currents of thought which, now and again, would sweep us imperiously along with them, of the temper of our own time, of the [78/79] Zeitgeist. It is natural to us to think that the days in which we live are wiser and better than any before, and that in throwing our thoughts without restraint into the main currents of the hour we are doing the best we can with our short span of life. And yet we might observe that many a past generation has cherished this notion of an absolute value attaching to the thought and temper of its day, while we, as we look back on it, with the aid of a larger experience, can see that it was the victim of an illusory enthusiasm. When we analyse the ingredients that go to make up the spirit of the time, of any one phase of time, and when we observe that, notwithstanding its stout assertions of a right to rule, it melts away before our very eyes like the fashions of a lady's dress, into shapes and moods which contradict, with equal self-confidence, its former self, we may hesitate before we listen to it as if it were a prophet, or make a fetish of it, as though it had within it a concealed divinity. The spirit of any generation may have, must have, in it some elements to recommend it; but assuredly it has also other and very different elements, and the question is whence do they come, and whither are they drifting? All that is moving, interesting, exciting in the world of ideas, in the successive conceptions of the meaning and purpose of life that flit across the mental sky, is not necessarily from, nor does it necessarily tend towards, the Source of good. The mere movement of the ages does not in itself imply a progress from lower to higher truth, from darkness to light; movement is possible in more directions than one. "Brethren," exclaims an Apostle to some of his flock, to whom every claimant for speculative sympathy seems to have been welcome, "brethren, believe not every spirit; but try the spirits whether they are of God..... Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God; and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God."
The test of the true worth of the spirit of our day--of the spirit which rules our own thoughts and lives--is the saying, "He shall glorify Me." All that wins for the Divine Redeemer more room in the thoughts and hearts of men; all that secures for Him the homage of obedient and disciplined wills; all that draws from the teachings of the past and the [79/80] examples of the present new motives for doing Him the honour which is His eternal due, may be safely presumed to come from a Source higher than any in this passing world, and to have in it the promise of lasting happiness and peace. And, for the rest--
"Sunt multa fucis illita
Quae luce purgentur Tua,
Tu vera Lux coelestium
Vultu sereno illumine."