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Sermons on the Black Letter Days
Or Minor Festivals of the Church of England
by John Mason Neale

London: Joseph Masters, 1872. Third edition.


O Adonai. December 17.


THE Collect about which I shall speak to you this evening, is this:--

"O LORD, and ruler of the House of Israel, Who didst appear to Moses in a flame of fire in the bush: and didst give the Law in Sinai: come and deliver us with a stretched out arm."

I spoke to you the other night of the Bush that burned with fire, and yet was not consumed, and therefore I shall not now go over that again. I will rather say something about the other part of the Collect, that JESUS CHRIST came to be a Lawgiver. He came to give us a new law instead of the old, but He came to give us a Law still.

This is what I want you to feel more than anything else: that we have a certain work to do for GOD here, which if we do, we shall be saved, if we do not, we shall perish. GOD gives us the strength to do it, but then GOD expects it to be done. Because He gives us the strength, all the glory of our best works belongs to Him only: but because He expects us to do it, of ourselves, and will not force us to do it, whether we will or not, therefore it is that, if we keep His commandments, we have a right to Heaven. For, if I promise any one of you a reward for doing something, and at the same time give you the means of doing it, then if you do it, though it will be entirely of my kindness, first and last, that you are rewarded, still because I promised it, you will have a right to the reward.

Now the first difference between the Law of CHRIST and the Law of Moses is this. The Law of Moses gave commandments, but gave no power to keep them. The Law of CHRIST gives commandments also: but then it gives power to fulfil them. The Law of Moses said, Thou shalt do this, Thou shalt not do the other; but it nowhere said, Because all this is so difficult, so impossible for you in your own strength, I will give you a new and better strength, which shall make it possible. But CHRIST'S Law does say this. We become subject to His Law when we are baptized. Then He tells us what to do, and what to leave undone. He commands us to renounce the Devil and all his works, the pomps and vanity of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh: to believe all the Articles of the Christian Faith; and to keep GOD'S holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of our life. But then, when we become bound by this Law, we also have power given us to keep it. He gives us, at that moment, a new heart, and He puts a new spirit within us. He changes us, who by nature were children of the Devil, into children of GOD. He gives new strength, at the same time that He requires us to use it.

Then again; see how much stricter our LORD'S Law is than the Law of Moses was. The Law of Moses only concerned itself about what man did: the Law of CHRIST has also to do with what he thinks and intends. The Law of Moses says; "Thou shalt do no murder:" The Law of CHRIST says; "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer." The Law of Moses says; "Thou shalt not steal:" The Law of CHRIST says; "Sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven." The Law of Moses says; "Thou shalt not commit adultery." The Law of CHRIST says, "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."

Then again, as I was lately saying, the Law of Moses is a law of fear, the Law of CHRIST is a law of Love. The Law of Moses threatens punishment to them that break it. CHRIST promises glorious things to them that keep His commandments. Look all through the books of Moses: you will find no such promise as an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. You will hear nothing of a time when GOD shall wipe all tears from all faces. You will see no such loving words as these, "That where I am, there ye may be also."

Now see how the giving of the Law was a type of this. The Law of Moses was given, as we all know, from Mount Sinai: the Law of CHRIST was given on the Day of Pentecost, that first Whitsun Day, when the HOLY GHOST came down on the Apostles. Now notice, the Law was given from the mountain: the Holy Spirit was given in the upper chamber. At Sinai, it was a GOD afar off Who uttered His voice amidst thunderings and lightnings and thick darkness, and with a voice of the trumpet that waxed exceeding loud--so that all the people in the camp trembled, and so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake: the Israelites were kept off, there were bounds set, which if so much as a beast passed, it should be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: but on the Day of Pentecost, the HOLY GHOST came as it were into the room where the Apostles were: He was with them as a Friend: instead of driving them afar off, He drew them to Himself.

And now, what do all these things teach us? That at this time, while we are looking forward to our LORD'S Coming to be our SAVIOUR, born for us, living for us, suffering for us, dying for us, rising again for us, we must not forget that He will come to give us a Law: and that hereafter He will come to judge whether we have kept that Law or not. This it is that makes Advent not only a time of comfort, but a time of fear also: a time of comfort, because unto us shall be born a SAVIOUR, Which is CHRIST the LORD; but a time of fear, because the SAVIOUR comes to give us a Law, which our own consciences condemn us for not keeping: but for keeping or not keeping which He will come again, not an Infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, not with the ox and the ass at His side, not the outcast of a country inn: but in the clouds of Heaven, and in the glory of the Holy Angels, He will come again to judge us.

GOD grant us now so to receive Him as a SAVIOUR, that then we may not fear Him as a judge; for His merit's sake, to Whom, with the FATHER and the HOLY GHOST, be all honour and glory for ever. Amen.

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