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his betrayal and crucifixion, in particular, is so full of the deepest interest, that I am sure if it were not so connected with thoughts of God, from which our inborn sense of sin makes us instinctively shrink, it would be read for the mere pleasure of the story. So, again, with the account of the raising of Lazarus, and of many other of our Lord's miracles; and the same may be said of the perfect beauty of many of his parables and other discourses. By reading these often, we get clear and lively notions of our Saviour's character; we learn unavoidably to love it. Then it is, I think, that the facts of his resurrection and ascension, and of his divine nature, come upon us with such exceeding comfort. If we have become deeply interested in any other character of ancient days, yet we feel, that after all, it is an interest about a thing that is past ;
the virtues which we admire, the character which we love, have no longer any existence with respect to ourselves. In whatever state the dead are reserved till the day of the general resurrection, the veil is purposely drawn over their condition, that we might not seek to hold too close communion with them. But when, from a study of Christ's life in the
flesh, we have learnt to admire and to love him, then how delightful is the recollection, that over him death has had no power—that at this very moment he lives in the same human nature, the very self-same Jesus, in all tenderness, in all watchful care of his disciples, in all human affections and divine excellencies, as when he parted from his disciples at Bethany, and a cloud received him out of their sight. He was dead, but he liveth for evermore, and the Son of man is sitting at the right hand of God till he shall come to earth once more to complete the number of his redeemed. Say not, then, nor think, nor feel, that Christ was merciful, that he was all kindness and all wisdom, that he did many mighty works, and had the spirit of his Father given him without measure; but say,—and you will say truly,and think, and feel, that he is merciful, that he is all kindness and all wisdom, that he does mighty works every day,--for all power is given to him in heaven and in earth :--that he has the spirit of his Father, and daily distributes of it to his disciples, that so we may all receive of his fulness. These are the feelings which we may gain from the New Testament. Faith will come by reading,
as of old time it came by hearing ; and when we have thus become familiar with Christ, have learned to love him, and to know that he not only was, but is now, a living object of our love, the prospect of being with him for ever will not seem like a vague promise of we know not what, but a real substantial pleasure, which we would not forfeit for all that the world can offer.
But I have been led away by my subject, and find that there is not time to pursue it further: I must reserve the other two means of acquiring Christian faith for consideration in another sermon. Only may God grant, that what I have hitherto said, may lead some of you, at least, to acquire a greater familiarity with the words and deeds of Christ ; that your own experience might tell you whether I have over-valued the advantages of knowing them and loving them.
JOHN VI. 58.
This is the bread which came down from heaven : not as
your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.
I MENTIONED in my last sermon, that there were three ordinary means of acquiring that faith which is so necessary to us, and of which we all of us have too little a portion. These three means were, reading the Scriptures, prayer, and the partaking of the Lord's supper. Of the first of these I spoke last Sunday: I mentioned how, by reading the story of Christ's life and death in particular, we should bring the thought of him home to our minds as something of a reality; and, when we had learnt to fancy and to love him as he was on earth, that then it was a comfort to think, that such as he had been on earth, such he now is at the right hand of God, with almighty power
and infinite love; and I earnestly recommended the making ourselves familiar with the words and deeds of Christ, as a first and most important step towards believing in him and loving him. Still it is but too certain, by every day's experience, that the reading of the Scriptures of itself is not sufficient; that although faith may come at first by reading, yet it needs something else to sustain it; in short, that it is very possible to know the Scriptures thoroughly, and yet not to have that faith which overcometh the world. Nay, I may go further : it is possible not only to know the Scriptures, but heartily to admire them ; not only to be familiar with Christ's words and actions, but to feel a great delight in and love for them ; and yet still not to have that saving, that victorious faith, of which St. John speaks in the words of my last Sunday's text. We cannot doubt Peter's familiar knowledge of his Lord, nor yet his lively recollection of his words, nor his warm affection for his person; yet, with all this, what is it that Christ said to him just before he was betrayed to be crucified ?“ Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have thee, that he may sift thee as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; and, when thou art converted, strengthen