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[PREACHED ON ASH WEDNESDAY.]
1 CORINTHIANS XIII. 11.
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a
child, I thought as a child : but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
These words contain the reason why so many of the sermons delivered from the pulpit in our own times, and our own country, produce so little effect upon their hearers. They are the address of a man who speaks and thinks in one way, to persons who speak and think in another. It is only by experience that we find what strong barriers are raised by age, by education, by manners of living, between one class of men and another; so that what are the most natural and familiar thoughts to one set of persons, are to another strange and unnatural, and quite above their
understanding. But the words of the apostle, although they will suit a great many other cases, are more particularly suited to ours, who are now here assembled: “ When I was a child, I thought, spake, and understood as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” And so it is daily
' found to be: we not only put them away, but forget them; insomuch that it is sometimes as hard for a man to put himself again into the place of a boy, and to remember what he once was, as it is for a boy to imagine what he will be when he becomes a man, of which he has hitherto had no experience at all. Our Lord himself seems, in one place, to speak of this particular difficulty which his ministers would meet with ; the difficulty of making themselves understood by their hearers. Every scribe,” he says, “who is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven, is like unto a man that is an householder, who bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old :” that is, as the people whom he will speak to are so different, he must be furnished with something to say to all of them ; with things new and old; with things plain and things learned; with things solemn and things familiar; with things of heaven and things of earth. However good what he says may be of itself, it is worth nothing for practice, if it be not also suited to the particular understandings and feelings of those he is speaking to. It is not enough to speak of sin in general, and holiness in general, of God and Christ, of death and judgment. Something more clear and distinct is wanted; or else we do but fill the ears of our hearers with empty words, rather than bring home to their minds any truths that will do them good. You know very well that your faults
. are not those which you read of most in books; for books are written by men, and, in general, are intended to be read by men: they speak therefore mostly of the sins and temptations of manhood,—of covetousness, ambition, injustice, pride, and other older vices,—with which you feel that you have as yet but small concern. Besides, the pulpit is a solemn and sacred place; whereas the matters with which you are daily engaged are so common and so humble, that it seems like a want of reverence to speak of them in a sermon plainly by their names. if we do not speak of them plainly by their names, half of what we say will be lost in the air. I purpose then, with God's help, now,
And yet, and, perhaps, at some future times also, during this season of Lent which is now begun, to say something to you all about your own particular state and dangers; nor shall I care how plain and familiar is the language I use, as it is my wish to speak in such a manner that the youngest boy amongst you may understand, if he chooses to listen and to attend.
It is now a little more than a week ago, since there was read in this chapel the story of Adam eating the forbidden fruit, and being on that account driven out of paradise, and made liable to death. This story tells us how the first man that ever lived became a sinner; and we know, if we look into our own hearts with any care and sincerity, that we shall find enough that is sinful in ourselves. That this is so generally,—that bad, if left to itself, is too strong for good, and that the greatest number are apt to follow the bad rather than the good,-men learn every year of their lives more fully, by their experience of the world around them; but you too have had some experience of it already. Several of you are only just come to this place; some of you were never at any school at all till you came here. Some of you, at least, and
I hope very many, have had the blessing of good parents at home; you have been taught to hear of God, and of Christ, to say your prayers, and to remember that wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, God ever sees you.
You have seen in your own house nothing base, nothing cruel, nothing illtured, and, especially, nothing false.
You thought a lie was one of the most hateful things in the world; and that to give up to your brothers and sisters, and to please your parents, was a great deal better than to be always quarrelling and envying, and to think of pleasing no one but yourselves. I hope and believe that many of you, before you came to school, were thus taught, and that the teaching was not in vain; that you not only heard of what was good, but, on the whole, practised it. But how is it with you now? I am afraid that I dare not ask those who have been here so much as one half year or more: but even if I were to ask those who have not yet been here so much as one month, what sort of an answer could you give, if
you answered truly? Do you think of God now ? Do you remember that he ever, and in every place, sees what you are doing? Do you say your prayers to him ? Do you still