[Preached for a Charitable Institution. What was local is omitted.]
The Merciful Shall Obtain Mercy.
St. Matthew 25: 31-46.
When the Son of Man shall come in His Glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He, sit upon the Throne of His Glory: And before Him shall be gathered all nations: and lie shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And He shall set the sheep on His Right Hand, but the goats on the Left. Then shall the King say unto them on His Right Hand, Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: Naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in prison and ye came unto Me. Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee an hungred and fed Thee? or thirsty, and gave Thee drink? When saw we Thee a stranger, and took Thee in? or naked and clothed Thee? Or when saw we Thee sick, or in prison, and came unto Thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me. Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave Me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me not in: naked, and, ye clothed Me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited Me not. Then shall they also ansiver Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison and did not minister unto Thee? Then shall He answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me. And these, shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
OFTEN as we have heard these solemn words, they come to us each time anew, with a deep penetrating awe, yet tempered with an almost overwhelming sweetness. Awe they must have; for that to which they relate is the final severance of all the mingled good and evil in this our confused state, whenceforward evil shall no more cleave to the good, and from the evil shall be stripped all seeming, all remains of, good. Each shall live on endlessly, perfect in love, or complete in hatred, yet neither shall approach the other. No shadow of evil shall in the good darken the life-giving brightness of the Divine Presence; no ray of light or love shall soften the darkness and hate of hell. Neither can then have any fellow-feeling with the other. Now God's saints on earth are fellow-sinners with those which shall be damned. As far as they have sin, although subdued, and by God's mercy again and again forgiven, they have that about them which is in common with devils, or with those who shall for ever be in eternal death with devils. Not, (God forbid), that they are themselves such. God is their life, although they have around them this body of death. But because they have it, they dare riot judge another, lest they be judged, while their fellow-sinner is justified. Then God's judgment will have passed. He, in His unerring judgment, will have separated them one from another, placed a deep gulf between them, wholly withdrawn all evil from the good, wholly withdrawn His Holy Spirit from the evil. The good cannot then pray for the evil, who can never be other than evil; the evil shall have no love left, that they can love the good. What seems now so much alike that we cannot distinguish it--so much seeming good there often appears to be in evil men, so much real evil there is in the good--shall be endlessly parted. We know not where the line shall be drawn; we see not how; yet a parting there shall be of those now alike in outward show, rank, employment, blood: a parting made by God's unerring judgment, a parting to the joy of our Lord, or to everlasting fire. The unrepentant father, mother, brother, sister, child, shall be parted for ever from those who have turned from their evil ways, and live. Close though one be to another, closer shall be the severance, for each has a nearer inmate, Him whom he serves, God or satan. "In that night "of darkness, there shall be two men in one bed, or in the field, two women grinding together, "the one shall be taken, the other left." [S. Matt. xxiv. 40, 41; S. Luke xvii. 34-36.] Yea, this parting must go on in ourselves also. If we are to pass unharmed by the sword of the Cherubim, into our restored Paradise, the Sword of the Spirit, the word of God, must first have severed us from ourselves. If the fire of the Day of Judgment which shall burn up this world is to curl around us and destroy us not, the fire of God's Holy Spirit must first have consumed what is evil and earthly in us, refined us from our dross, so that death, which severs soul and body, shall but finish what God's Grace had begun, and free us finally from the body of this living death wherewith we are now encompassed and held down.
What comfort or sweetness can there be in the description of that which is so full of awe? It is that our Saviour speaks, that He, at that hour of unutterable awe and anxiety, and woe, and joy, Himself speaks and declares His love to those who love. Elsewhere, He speaks of the Day of Judgment, as "a Day of wrath," "a Day of trouble and distress," "a Day of wasteness and desolation," "a Day of darkness and gloominess," "a Day of clouds and thick darkness," "a Day of darkness and not light, very dark and no brightness in it," no ray of hope to cheer its gloom, to those whom it shall overwhelm; the "evil Day," "the great and terrible Day," "the great Day of the wrath of the Lamb," "the great and dreadful Day," "a Day cruel with wrath and fierce anger,"' "a Day which shall come with destruction from the Almighty;" "and the mighty man shall cry there bitterly." Or, all from which our natural fears would shrink is gathered in one to increase its terrors; the stars of heaven falling unto the earth, the "heavens themselves shrivelling as a scroll before the fire, and passing away with a great noise," "the elements melting with fervent heat;" "fire shall devour before Him and burn up His enemies on every side;" "and the ungodly shall melt like wax at the Presence of God." All nature beneath our feet or above our head dissolved in fire, the earth and the works thereof burned up! "the sun black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon as blood." And more aweful yet, the scroll of our own conscience is brought forth to view in the light of the aweful Presence; "nothing hid which shall not be manifest;" "every secret thing brought into judgment, whether it be good or bad;" our "very hearts and reins searched out;" "the counsels of our hearts made manifest;" no word of folly or of sin "whispered in the ear," but "shall be proclaimed on the house-top;" all our whole lives standing out before us, with every secret forgotten sin, in that dreadful light; deeds or words, which, if they were named aloud in this House of God, men might sink into the earth for shame, proclaimed before men and angels! how can there be aught of sweetness or of comfort at such a Day? "Who can dwell amid the everlasting burnings?
The comfort is, our Redeemer speaks. He, our Judge Himself, draws a veil for the time over the terrors of that day,--all but that terror which cannot in thought be severed from the Day of Judgment, that which is its very essence, that it is the endless parting--all else He veils over, and tells us whereby we may escape its terrors, whereby we may win Himself, our Judge, by love. We should think it much, were we on a trial before an earthly judge, that he was our friend; yet an earthly judge, although our friend, may not bend the strict rule of justice. Our Judge speaks of Himself, not only as one of us, "the Son of Man," but that our very trial shall be of those things wherein we may show Him our love. All else is for the time put aside. Glories there will be, we know, for "the faith of Patriarchs, the hope of Prophets, the labours of Apostles, the truth of Evangelists, the blood of Martyrs, the zeal of Confessors, the diligence of Teachers, the tears of Ascetics, the purity of Virgin souls:" there will be the hundred, the sixty, the thirty fold: star will differ from star in glory; and while some shall "shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father," well must many of us feel it to be for our earth-dimmed souls, if we be, by His mercy, the very meanest and lowest in that Heavenly Company, the tarnish of our souls at length cleansed off by our tears and His Precious Blood. Yet here our Blessed Lord is not speaking of rewards and of glory, but of that one mark which shall sever all those whom He shall bless from those He shall pronounce cursed; and this mark is love, love to Himself in His members.
It is then to us, as members of Himself, that He speaks. He shall say to those on His Right Hand, "Come ye blessed of My Father, "and we know that it is in the Well-Beloved Son alone, "Who is over all God blessed forever," that we are the "blessed of His Father." He speaks of love to Himself, as shown to those whom He vouchsafeth to call His brethren; "forasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me."
It is not, then, of any mere natural works that our Lord so speaks. Natural kindliness attains not to the rewards of grace; kindliness of this world reaches not to everlasting rewards. What is of the world ends with the world. What is to reach even unto God, must come forth from God, to Whom it flows back. What is to win a Divine Love, must be an effluence from that Love which it wins. Love which is to have power with the Heart of God, love for which we are to be beloved of the Father, must have first streamed forth from the everlasting Fount of Love, and circling through us to those in whom He dwelleth, reach again to Him, to Whom we would return love for love.
Much less, then, can the deeds of mercy, whose blessedness our Lord proclaims, co-exist with deeds of known sin. He cannot love with a Divine love, who loves what God loves not. "Doth a fountain send forth at the same time sweet water and bitter?" Divine love cannot live with love of self. Divine love, when it is kindled in the soul, is a fire ever burning, ever active, darting itself forth upward to its Source, burning on the altar of the heart whereon it has descended, ever fed with the inward part of the burnt offerings dedicated to God, consuming as a whole burnt-offering, yea, like that which fell at Elijah's prayer, devouring every thing earthly, the burnt-sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust. The soul, capacious as it is, can have but one object of love. It may be expanded to receive Him Who filleth heaven and earth: it may contract itself around any sordid thing of earth. It cannot love both. "Ye cannot love God and mammon." "Love not the world, neither the things of the world. Whoso loveth the world, the love of the Father is not in him." He cannot love Christ, who, by any sin, wilfully causeth one of Christ's little ones, who believe in Him, to offend. "Love worketh no ill to his neighbour, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."
Such, then, must be the limits wherewith these gracious words of our Redeemer must be understood, that we neither restrain nor enlarge them unduly. The Blood of Christ must ever be our only hope. Through it alone can any sin be pardoned, any good be performed or accepted. This is His own ineffable love, out of which He died for sinners. Our Lord's words relate not to that in Himself, for which He pardoncth or accepteth us, but to that in us, for which He still vouchsafes to own us. Nor yet is it to be thought that this mark could exist in us apart from all other graces. Love, the foundation and summit of all virtues, the very bond of them all, which holds them together, and knits the soul in one to God, the life of faith, the mother of all good, the offspring of God, cannot be without them, since it is the very Presence of God in the soul. It is not then as a mark which may dispense us with cherishing all other graces, or which, if we think we have, we might be at ease, though struggling not to subdue all sin. God forbid! It is a mark above, not in place of, all other graces.
What then, it may be asked, is the special value of deeds of mercy, if the body must still be kept in subjection, if the same weary strife must still be kept up with the lusts which war in the members, if penitence still has its hardness, if in the memory of past grievous sin we must still wash our couch with our tears? These were indeed grudging questions; for every act of love to God or our neighbour were its own reward, even were there none beyond in store. Enough were it, that love is of God, that it likens us to God, Who is Love; that it traces His Image on our soul, and He must love the soul which bears the faint lineaments of His all-perfect love. Yet our Lord does meet even this mistrusting craving. He tells us in this place that it has an especial value in the Day of Judgment, is the special ground of acceptance, that they who have it shall be blessed for ever, they who have it not shall he cursed for ever. And we need not explain to ourselves, or understand "how can these things be'?" Enough that He, our Merciful Judge, the Truth, hath said it. Yet, elsewhere He tells us that office distinctly. Love and deeds of mercy are the chief appointed means for casting out present and for blotting out past sins. Mercy to man calleth down the mercy of God. He lays it as the foundation of His teaching, the entrance of His kingdom. "Blessed," He saith, "are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy;" and of the penitent sinner, "Her sins which are many are forgiven, for she loved much;" and the yet impenitent Pharisees our Lord exhorts, "Give alms of such things as ye have; and behold all things are clean unto you." And enlarging on our Lord's blessing, the Apostle says, "lie shall have judgment without mercy that hath showed no mercy; and mercy glorieth over judgment." God loveth Himself to be conquered by love. Love for our lost world had power with God and prevailed. It brought down (as at this blessed time) the Creator to take the form of the creature. It brought the Lord of Glory to suffer shame, Him Who is blessed for ever in the love of the Father to endure for us the Father's wrath; the Author of Life to be subject to death. Love overcame the justice of God then; it forgave man, and paid the ransom due to Himself. And so He would that it should be still. He Who humbled Himself to become Man, humbles Himself still to dwell in man; in men, as members of Himself, to receive our love; and "mercy glorieth over judgment" as over one subdued and yielding to herself, for "love is strong as death" which it overcame, since "God is Love." And in other Scripture, "A good man is merciful, and lendeth, and (so the words mean) he shall maintain his cause in the judgment;" and to show that it means chiefly the Great Day, there follows--"he shall not be moved for ever." Yea, as being an especial means of applying to our souls the Precious Blood of Christ, Holy Scripture uses of the gifts of mercy the very terms of redemption. "Redeem," (such is the original word,) "thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor;'" and "By mercy and truth iniquity is purged away or atoned for; "and alms are entitled a sacrifice,--"To do good and to distribute forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased," even as He was with those of Abel and of Noah, which were types of the Sacrifice of His Son.
We may not shrink from such teaching, my brethren, lest we be found to be ashamed of the words of Christ, Rather let us gather it up, and pray we to receive it thankfully, for it is our Redeemer's Voice of love.
He then tells us that His boundless condescension in taking our nature upon Him, is not yet passed by. He came not down, as at this time, from Heaven, to be Immanuel, or God with us, and then, after a while, to cease so to be. He is still with us, by His Spirit; with us, by His blessed Sacrament; with us, in another way, by those who are most like what He was on earth, His poor; He is with us, by His gifts to us, with us also by the gifts which He vouchsafes to receive from us. By a bountiful contrivance of His mercy, He so vouchsafes to be with us, as by His Holy presence in us, to make our poor gifts acceptable through His in-dwelling Spirit of Love, whereof they are the fruits, acceptable doubly, in that they are accepted in Him, from Whom Alone all things have their acceptable-ness. He Whom prophecy foretold as "the Poor and the Needy," He Who "had not where to lay His Head," He Who, while He fed Angels, deigned to be supplied by the ministry of others, to ask drink of an outcast, to be naked upon the Cross, to have His sacred Body wrapped in that linen cloth not His own, still vouchsafes to be hungry, athirst, naked, sick, houseless, in these His brethren, yea, as one has said, "the more His brethren, because poor, because abject, for such especially doth He call to brotherhood, the unknown, the despised;" for such He was Himself. He Who, for us, became a little Child, to sanctify childhood, may still be received, cherished in little children. "He who receiveth one such little child in My Name, receiveth Me." He still supplies us from Heaven, that He may, in these, receive from us on earth that for which, before men and Angels, He shall own Himself our debtor; for which, when Heaven shall be emptied of all its glorious Hosts, and Angels, Archangels, Powers, Dominions, shall stand gazing by, He Who supplied our wants, gave us what to give, and the love to give, He the Lord of all, shall, before all, own:--"Ye have fed Me, have sheltered Me, have visited Me, have received Me, have relieved Me, your King and your God; ye, through My love, have, in them, loved Me on earth, receive ye My love; ye, in them, have shared earthly things, your earthly inheritance, with Me on earth, lo, I share with you My inheritance, the inheritance which is Mine by right, that ye be co-heirs with Me in Heaven; ye, in pains, or weariness, or self-denial for them, shared My sorrows on earth, now share ye My joy, cuter ye into the Joy of your Lord." He, our Just and All-knowing Judge, Whom we have so often offended, He Who has so much ground to condemn us for wasting His gifts, refusing His calls, disobeying His commands,--would, it might not be profaning the price of His Blood, and putting Him again to open shame, defiling perhaps anew His temple;--He is still, in His poor, present with us. He goeth up and down unknown among us, that we, reverencing His presence, may show our love towards Him, that we, ever loved by Him, may at length show Him our love, and Pie receive from us that for which He may forgive us, for which He may own our love.
Oh wonderful fruits of Incarnate love! Oh unutterable loving-kindness and lowliness of our Redeemer! Who would not only redeem us once for all, gave us not once only our new birth of God, retraced His Image on us, clothed us anew with the robe of righteousness, but when we had defaced that linage, rent and defiled our robe, wasted our Heavenly Inheritance, not restores us only, but would crown us; not forgives us only, but would account Himself our debtor for that for which He forgives us. "He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord, and look, what he layeth out shall be paid him again."
My brethren, may God more and more keep you from the evil one; yea, would that it were so, that many or most of you may have been kept from such deep wounds, the memory of which remains as a burden and a sorrow through the whole life. Yet too many, it is to be feared, would they examine their past lives by God's all-holy law, and pray to see themselves as God seeth them, might find there, even deadly sins, which they had smoothed over until they had forgotten their deadliness. An awakened heart will feel one deadly sin more than others will such loads of sin as might well break them down, or would break a less strong heart. Yet short of this, who may not discover a long dreary period, wherein perhaps he was loving himself only and the world, while he thought he was loving God; was subtly seeking man's praise, while he thought all was right with God; was rich in his own sight, while with God he was poor, and naked, and blind, and miserable; allowed one unheeded besetting sin to canker all which was good in him; has toiled perhaps, but for the wind. Who may not, at least in youth, while conscience was yet unawakened, or was lulled by petty stifling sins, remember that which he would give the whole world that it had not been? Yet it is there; one sore festering spot, under which his heart ever aches, some blighting memory, which saddens the past and casts a dark shade over his future. Each may know his own sore and his own grief; blessed if any know not of it, so that he own it to be of His great mercy that He hath upheld him, Who is the Restorer of the fallen. "Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to Thy mercy remember Thou me, for Thy goodness' sake, O Lord." Blessed they, if they be yet awakened, who have not been suddenly startled as out of a deep sleep, seen life wasted, when they thought all safe, deadly inroads made into their souls, "while they said, peace peace;" found themselves benighted, as in a strange land, while they thought they were in their journey heavenward; found that they had scarce set out, or had all to undo; doubted even whether they had any love to God, so chill were their devotions; any faith, so dim and confused were their thoughts of Him, the Object of our faith; any trust in the Cross, for how could they think they believe in Him Whom they seem so little to love; any penitence, while their very penitence is so hard, arid dry, and impenitent. "All the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them" would they give for one deep gush of love, that they might know that they loved and lived.
To such and each of us, amid our several sins, our Lord says, in those gracious words, "Seek Me in My poor, and ye shall find Me. Ye cannot gain for yourselves the gift of tears; ye cannot warm your own chilled hearts; cannot gather together your own distracted thoughts; ye cannot undo what has been done, or regain what has been neglected; ye have spent your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not; ye have squandered your substance, and now these swine-husks will not satisfy you; but feed Me in My poor, and I will give you anew Angels' food; in them give Me to drink, and ye shall never feel that parching fire where no drop of water cools the tongue; clothe Me, in My naked ones, and I will clothe you anew in My "best Robe," the Robe of My Righteousness, that all your shame be not seen; visit Me, in My sick, and I will visit you now by the secret inspirations of My grace, in Paradise, by My Presence, and in the Day of Judgment I will look upon you, and will own you; receive one little child in My Name, and ye shall receive Me, born, as it were, as a little Child, in your hearts, renewing your decay, converting you, that ye should become again as little children, giving you back childlike hearts, childlike faith, and love, and trust, and purity, and innocence; ye shall receive Me, to dwell in your hearts by love, that, when ye fail, I may receive you into everlasting habitations, I may be, in the Day of Judgment, the Everlasting Rock, pierced for you, wherein to hide you, I, in Eternity, your Reward."
Such gracious words docs our Good Lord say to us on every occasion of mercy, which He offers to us, and now again, at this season of the year, in which "He Who was rich, for your sakes became poor," does He again, in all the manifold distresses of the poor, come to you, by His tender Providence, so ordering it that ye should, in His stead, benefit His poor, that He may, in their stead, repay you with His own everlasting love; that your gifts abounding to their need, should abound much more to your own endless bliss. It is He Who speaketh to you by the cry of that distress which reacheth His own Ear in Heaven; which unrelieved, were a cry to Him against us; if ministered to, entreats His mercy for us. We know, most of us, if not in ourselves, yet at the sick or dying beds of those we love, what sickness is. Hunger, or thirst, or cold, or nakedness, many, perhaps scarcely to any great extent, know: sickness binds us all in one common bond of suffering; may it bind us in one common bond of love. And yet to us or to ours it has been mitigated by every aid which His goodness allows to soften His chastening stroke: we know not untimely death or fixed disease in those we love, the stay of our families, the desire of our eyes, the joy of our age, because there is none to minister until it is too late; we know not what it is to watch the strength decay, because there is no support; the fever burn, because there is nothing to allay; the heavy uncertainty is not made heavier to us, because none can answer our enquiries; when all is closed, we have not to think that God would have spared us the sorrow, had man had pity. Yet all these, and almost all of which our Lord speaks together, hunger, thirst, nakedness, sickness, friendlessness, are often gathered together upon our poor, whose scanty pittance, at all times too small, is, in their hour of utmost need, narrowed further still. Not the poor, but Christ Himself asks you. Reverence the poor, as ye would reverence Christ; cherish little ones, for they are the lambs of Christ; He is every where, inviting you, by those into whose hearts He has put to plan works of love for His members; every where are His members, neglected, suffering, dragging out dreary lives, dying hopeless deaths, because we have not yet a burning love for Him, Who came down to earth to kindle the fire of His love, that it might ascend as a memorial well-pleasing to Himself.
My brethren, gladly would I close with words of comfort only, with the blessedness of giving, treasures laid up with our Lord, to be repaid with usury; petty gifts, perishable goods, some brief toil, repaid with everlasting rest, the joy of His Presence, the penetrating, transforming, unutterable fulness of His love; for nothing, All; yea, the fulness of Him Who filleth all in all, to be our All, that we should rest for ever, never to thirst nor hunger more, ever satisfied, ever fed, by beholding His Face in love.
Yet doth not our Lord speak of these alone, and there is need not only to encourage those who give, but to rouse, while there is time, those who give not. It is one of the tokens of God's mercy towards us, we may trust, that He is, year by year, opening our eyes to the untold sufferings and privations of our poor; distresses, destitution, squalid wretchedness, vicious childhood, abandoned youth, premature decay of body and soul, because there is none to care for those for whom Christ died. Year by year is opening to us some fresh mine .of wretchedness, some new form of the deep decay and misery produced by the crying sin of our wealthy nation, a reckless heaping up of riches, careless of the bodies and souls of those by whose toil they are gathered. It is of His tenderness that He has laid this mass of misery and neglect slowly more open to us, and has accustomed our hearts to give more largely, and is drawing some to give themselves, and has set forth more fully the rewards of self-denying charity, and so made known to us deeper and deeper needs, and leadeth us on, step by step, to follow at a distance His self-denial. And yet we seem to be learning the extent of our ills, rather than how to remove them: they who give in proportion to their means are every where very few, they who scarcely give at all, or never give, the many. It were very sore to think of money wasted in luxury and idle show, or heaped up needlessly for those who shall waste it, to be worshipped as a god, or to make men great in this world; very sore were it to think of this, find that thereby those lasting joys, the brilliancy of the heavenly crown, our Redeemer's praise at the last Day, is forfeited. But what, my brethren, when all these things are a witness against men, and, in themselves suffice to their damnation! what when, if such could have all other virtues, and had not charity, it would profit nothing in that Aweful Day, on which our eternal doom depends. Could men, without charity, be sound in faith, gentle, chaste, upright, temperate, pure, all which could win the respect of their equals in society, and yet neglect Christ in His poor, we have the terrible sentence of our Judge--"Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire." To "fare sumptuously every day," and neglect Lazarus at the door, is the one recorded sin of the rich man; to neglect Christ's poor, (He telleth us Who willeth not that we should perish) is alone damnation.
It were an aweful thought to all of us, my brethren, to think of our Lord at this time severing us, who are here assembled, through this one quality of mercy. Sever then not, I beseech you, yourselves. And yet, as most perhaps are, from childhood to their graves, step by step, severing themselves, and moving, it may be, slowly on, yet in one direct course to their everlasting doom, so, on each occasion of showing real charity, if we make to ourselves excuses, and harden our hearts, and shut our ears to the cry of His poor, what do we but close the ears of our Judge against our own bitter fruitless cry? What would ye hereby do but take your place among those whom lie, our Redeemer, our only Hope and Stay, pronounces accursed, who, He forewarns us, shall be accursed, that we may not be found among them?
My brethren, look once more, as steadfastly as ye can, on that Aweful Day, when the thrones shall be set and the books opened, when the tempter shall become the accuser, and, for every forgotten sin, claim us as his own lawful property, as again having sold ourselves to him from whom Christ died to redeem us, as having fulfilled his commandments, obeyed his will, put on his likeness, walked in his steps, and having defaced the Image of our God, broken His loving commands, neglected the steps which He traced for us, in Sufferings and Blood, that we might follow them; think we of that dreadful strife when, even about the body of God's saint, he would dispute with Michael, the Archangel; conceive we that dreadful parting, when Heaven shall fade from sight, Hell yawn from beneath, and we see the fire unquenchable, the never-dying worm, the rayless darkness, the prison from which none goeth forth, the fierce intolerable hatred of devils, and we must confess that we deserve it all.
Behold your accusers, yourselves, your Judge. Behold Satan at thy right hand, with burning hate, yet, for once, accusing thee justly; bringing before the Judge thy many evil deeds, thy few good; thy "idle words," thy "love of the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life;" how much thou didst for thyself and for him, how little for God, how thou didst spoil that little by some by-end of thine own; how thou servedst God a little, and then grewest weary, but wert never weary of serving thyself; see him bringing before thee God's calls which thou wastedst, the promises thou brakedst, the mercy thou despisedst, the Grace thou slightedst, the times of prayer thou neglectedst, the Love against which thou sinnedst, the souls which, in the days of thy carelessness, thou neglectedst, or by idle, or flattering, or wrong words, thou temptedst or didst injure, and then asking--"Is this Thy Son's robe or no? is this the Robe of Righteousness wherewith Thou didst anew clothe him? this the Raiment Thou badest him buy of Thee, that his shame might not appear? are these "filthy rags," this "garment spotted by the flesh," which Thou didst bid him hate, are these Thy livery, or are these the filthy garments which Thou didst once take from him, and he has anew put on? Whose tokens are these, mine or Thine? Is this Thy wedding garment? If not, do Thou, Who art the Truth, cast him forth, as Thou saidst."
And what should we say, brethren? Can ye deny, too many of you, a bitter, bitter past of sins, negligences, ignorances, "the remembrance" whereof "is grievous" unto you, "the burden intolerable," which ye would wash out, if ye could, with tears of blood? All which we have hid from ourselves now, or have forgotten, every deed, thought, word of shame, will throng around us then; none will be absent when God calleth them to our memory, but they will say, "Here we are. "" We are thine," they will say, "thy offspring; God did not make us, for He made not sin." Thou wilt not be able to shake them off: how, even in this life, do they cling to the conscience, and haunt it! how much more then! What can we say, then, but "Enter not into judgment with Thy servant, O Lord."" To Him, then, we would look. But what a sight His Holiness and His Love! Do not His very Wounds and open Side upbraid us with unthankfulness? Do not they say to us, in His Name, "Where is the fruit of these My Sufferings? Where the Price of My Blood? I set you above the glory I had with the Father. For you I was born an Outcast, in cold and poverty; for you I was despised, blasphemed, set at nought, spit upon, scourged, crucified. To what have ye preferred Me? What have ye not preferred to Me? "How shall we then win our Judge? He cannot be resisted, for He is All-mighty. He cannot be deceived, for He knoweth the secrets of our hearts, which He shall bring before us. He cannot be an "Accepter of persons," for He is All-just. What will He accept? He hath told thee,--"Love." "Forasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me." He Who will own nothing without charity, not "prophesying in His Name," "in His Name casting out devils," not "giving thy body to be burned," "selling all thy goods to feed the poor," He will, He cannot but, own charity. For it is Himself, His Spirit within thee. Self-denying, self-emptying charity, is the faint shadow of that love which brought Him down from the Bosom of the Father, clothed Him with the form of a Servant, to save us sinners. It is, in a manner, to be as He was. His Cross hallows it; His Cross preaches it; His Cross sustains it; His Cross rewards it. He preaches to us from His Cross,--"This is My commandment, that ye love one another: as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." "Love ye Mine, as I have loved you; not in word, but in deed, with a deep self-sacrificing love." And whom He has "conformed" to His Image, in love and patience, in well doing to His brethren here, He will make like the Image of His glory in Heaven. Whom He hath made thus far like to the Son of Man, in self-forgetful love, He will make like to the Son of God, "for they shall see Him as HE is.'"
Think, then, what it will be, amid the terrors of that Day, on which hangs all Eternity, to see Thy Judge's Face shine upon thee, the earnest of that love which shall fill and satisfy His own with the very love of God, wherewith the Father loveth the Son: think again what it would be, at that hour, that His Face, on Which alone hangeth thy only hope, should be turned away from thee, unpitying then to thee, because thou pitiedst not Him, in His poor, sick, outcast, or His little ones: and, as ye would obtain mercy in that clay, be diligent, as ye can, out of your abundance, or out of your deep poverty, through the cup of cold water, or the widow's mite, or large glad giving out of your abundance, through the toils of thy whole self, whereto thou art called, body or mind, watchfulness or tender care, to show all deeds of mercy in this. "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." [S. Matt. vii. 2] Grudge not yourself heavenly crowns, the brightness of the bliss of God, the overflowing fulness of His unutterable love, His good pleasure, the life-giving light of His Countenance, the yearnings of His tender mercies, the gift of Himself to be your bliss; cause not Him to turn His Face from you, by turning your face from His brethren; for surely with Him and in Him is all good, and all delight, and entrancing joy for ever and ever.