« PreviousContinue »
opening the secrets of our hearts, and disclosing the whole plan of our course in life; of the highest wisdom clothed in a garb of most surpassing beauty; such is the pleasure to the mere understanding of searching into the words of Christ, and blending them into the image of His perfect will respecting us.
But if this be all, we shall surely search into them in vain. Let us apply them then to ourselves, not for our delight only, but for our benefit. And first of all, those who were confirmed yesterday, and those who have received the communion to-day, have, I doubt not, made many serious resolutions; or at any rate all were more or less moved to something better than their usual temper, and prayed and wished sincerely to be good. But consider that the week which is now begun is likely to lead to other thoughts; pleasure of another sort, the return to your homes, and all the enjoyments which that return brings with it, are likely to fill your hearts between this time and the period when you will actually depart. So that directly after the effect produced by the services of yesterday and to-day, there will come in something to lessen it. Now if you had expected any immediate change to take place in your minds, so that your thoughts would have been more fixed on God, and your enjoyment of earthly things less lively, you will in all probability be disappointed. Then if
you feel that you have fallen back so soon after
so solemn a service, you may think what hope there can be for the time to come that it may not be the same again ; you may consider it of no use to make up as it were the accounts of your souls, if they are so soon again to fall into confusion. But what is the truth? The seed, I earnestly hope, has been sown in your hearts, which may hereafter bring forth fruit unto life eternal. And what is the nature of the different soils on which it has been sown? This you can each tell for yourselves; that is, you can tell what your faults are most likely to arise from ; whether from thoughtlessness, or from some strong passion which masters you, and leads you to care for nothing but itself. These two characters are represented in the parable of the sower, by the stony ground, and that overgrown with weeds. It is clear that in the majority of persons—of young persons at any rate—the danger is of the former kind; it is not that with strong desires and powers for good, the desire for evil is yet stronger; but that in the light soil nothing will grow vigorously, except such plants as require no depth of earth ; ordinary follies and selfishnesses with no great crimes and no great virtues. This is the disadvantage which the seed sown has most commonly to struggle with. It is hard to give it root, and therefore the first temptations are apt to pluck it away. Here, then, the work required is to give depth to the soil, to make the character
more decided, to encourage the growth of kindly affections, of generous and ennobling pursuits, although they may not be by any means the highest of all, nor that with which we are to sit down contented at last. But the earth will bring forth, first the blade, then the ear, and last of all the full corn in the ear. We must rejoice at first to see the blade, although, if it never is followed by the ear, the seed certainly will have been sown in vain. For instance, whilst the pleasures of going home are so pressing on your minds, I would not say, “Strive to shut out your love of such things; they like all earthly things are vanity; God alone endures for ever:” but I would say, “ It is a great happiness which you are going to enjoy, and thank God for it. But consider whether the pleasure with which your return is looked forward to at home is not somewhat purer than yours. Your relations look forward to welcoming you, not that it will bring to them any relief from unpleasant work, any greater liberty, or greater indulgence; but because they are glad to see you for your own sake, because they love you. Dwell upon this thought, and let it urge you to return their love worthily. Encourage your family affections; in the manifold chances of life you may be soon separated; make the most of the time while you are yet together. Draw closer your friendship with your brothers and with your sisters, and avail your
selves of your increased age sinee you were last at home, to increase the confidence and openness of your intercourse with your parents. Return here, not confirmed in selfishness and coarseness by six weeks' indulgence, but with a spirit at once more manly and more affectionate, and therefore braced, not weakened, for the work which will again be set before you. If you go home with such resolutions, and begin to perform them when you arrive there, be sure that the thought of God will be no burden to you ; you will remember this day and yesterday with no painful shame. Thank God for His ness to you, and so learn to love Him better and better. You will be then more ready to do every duty which you have to do : pure happiness, such happiness as dwells in an open and a loving breast, is a wonderful excitement to labour in very thankfulness, that we may please those whom we love and who have made us so happy, whether it be our earthly friends or our heavenly one. Your whole character will then have been strengthened and raised, and so there will be more depth of soil in which the heavenly seed may hereafter ripen. The work will be going on, silently and surely; there will be the beautiful and healthy promise of a plentiful harvest."
If, again, there be any whose minds are of a different quality, whose characters are formed beyond their years, in whom the love of knowledge or the
Jove of distinction is already a strong passion, for them the approaching return to their friends offers no less the peculiar benefit which they need. The soil with them is deep enough, and its produce will be vigorous: may God grant that it be the fruit of the tree of life, and not merely of the tree of knowledge. But here too home has an influence softening and sweetening, as for the weaker mind it was strengthening and elevating. Most heartily do I pity him who feels the common intercourse of affectionate hearts wearisome, and is always longing for some intellectual stimulus. Most heartily do I pity him, who is insensible to the happiness of a well-spent Sunday in the midst of his family. For him who is too ambitious, whose intellect is growing unnaturally, and fast overbalancing his love both of God and man, it is no wisdom to carry on the same fevering process at home, to think time lost when it is not spent in advancing his idol. For him the most familiar and simple pleasures will have a healthful tendency, by reducing the overweening growth of that plant which is fast becoming a deadly poison.
If there are those also amongst us whose hearts may be likened to the good ground of the parable, not too shallow for good, not overgrown with any luxuriant weed, for them little needs be said, save to bid them thank God with the deepest humility. But let them, too, not expect the fruit