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(2.) Again, there is a tendency in man to confound the will of God with the thought of an unsearchable self-will
. As the idea of God's will being an irresistible force arises from the sense of feebleness in us, this thought may spring from a sense of ignorance. Perplexed by the mystery of life, startled by the stern fact that God often takes away blessings which we had not made idols, and looking up to the eternal light before which all the little rays of human reason pale and expire, man may be easily led to regard the will of God as an utterly unknown mystery; a will that acts notfrom love and righteousness, but from God's own sovereign pleasure. And history bears witness to the strength of this temptation. The followers of Mahometbelieving that God's will was a boundless self-will that made all things, not a will that was ever one with righteousness-aid in His name deeds of violence and cruelty, and having inscribed on their banners the name of the one infinite will, thought they were doing His work among men. We see a tendency to this thought in many of our fellow-men who have come to believe that the ruling attribute of God is a will that pleases itself, that can at pleasure overturn the distinctions between right and wrong, and that it is utterly inscrutable and mysterious. They affirm that whatever God chooses to do, His choice makes just, not that He always acts from eternal righteousness and love. They would solve all the mysteries of life by telling the men who sadly ponder the evils and miseries of the world, that it is God's will they should exist; and while the Bible declares that Christ, who pleased not Himself, but sacrificed Himself through everlasting love, was the image of God, they see on the throne of heaven a will that ever pleases itself, and to which all things must bow. This cannot be reconciled with the words, Our Father.” Believing in them, you must think of Him as ever choosing the right, the loving, the true.
Here again we find another tendency that darkens the meaning of the prayer. Blinded by suffering, a man may feel that his thoughts are very dark, and yet not believe that a love rules life, which he cannot trace. Enfeebled by conflict, a man's own will may be calm, and yet not surrendered to God in the faith that He does all things well. "The thought of an irresistible unaccountable mystery may awe him into șilence, while trust in the hidden rectitude and graciousness of God's choice may not
In that spirit He may say in all quietness, “Thy will be done, but because he has submitted to a mere
ill, not to rightevus will; because he has bowed to a pure sovereignty, not to a sovereignty of love eternal; because he is not able to say, and mean it, *“ Father, thy will be done”—I say in the name of Christ and all His teaching that he has not yet learnt the meaning of that prayer. If, then, both these ideas of God's
will are opposed to the revelation of a Father, and destroy the true spirit of the prayer, how shall we determine the real nature of that will
, and learn how to submit to it? We find it expressed in Christ. He who taught us to say, “ Father, thy will be done,” can alone teach us what that will is to which we are to surrender our own. By the cross we learn that God's will is for all that is good and righteous, against all that is evil
. There we learn that it is not an infinite force compelling men irresistibly, but that it acts through influences of love and spiritual power ; and that when men disobey that will,
that very disobedience God causes to work out His gracious and righteous plan. There we learn that though there are depths in it which no creature's eye can pierce, yet beneath all there is a love and righteousness with which it is ever in harmony. We may, indeed, be unable to perceive this. We may, we must, often be lost in infinite mystery. We may be led to fancy that God is arbitrary, and that He is ruling by an incomprehensible power which appears sternly unkind. But if in the cross of Christ we behold a revelation of God's will , we can fåll back no more on the thought
that He is arbitrary, for Christ
proclaims Him as ever pleasing to do that which is loving and righteous. We dare not say God's will makes right wrong, but must believe that in its profoundest mystery that will is ever working for the broadest and most universal love, combined with the loftiest rectitude. It is Christ, then, who teaches us to pray, “Thy will be done.” And we may, therefore, feel that that will, though sovereign, is for our
highest good; though working darkly, for our greatest blessedness. We may look out from our poor finite thought on life and the universe, to the everlasting will of a gracious and loving Father. Thus it is not when bowing to an irrevocable iron destiny, but to an eternal love; not when yielding slavishly to an unknown providence, but to a Providence which we feel to be working in love and righteousness, although we know not how: then it is that we pray as Christ meant us to pray, “ Father, thy will be done."
II. Taking the prayer, then, in this, its Christian meaning, we proceed to show the pecessity of living it. By necessity, I do not only mean that any other law of living is unchristian—that is obvious; I mean also that there is no other rational law of life than this. We shall try to show that all thought upon life leads us to feel that this prayer should be the constant language of man's heart, and the constant rule of his actions. We may view life in three aspects-experimentally, philosophically, and spiritually. Looking at it in the light of experience, we may safely affirm that no thoughtful man dare choose what the events of his life should be, even if God offered Him his choice; for the first lesson we learn from experience is that we know not what we are, nor what we need. In youth the heart would desire unclouded joy, but experience soon corrects this, and as life's golden promises faile and prove to be hollow, the young soul learns that unmingled gladness were an unmingled curse. rience deepens, every man discovers that much which he desired most earnestly, would have been for his misery. That from which we have shrunk in fear as it approached, and which as hope slowly perished we thought would be unbearable, has often proved an unspeakable blessing; for who does not find that the fairest rainbows of hope and joy spring from the darkest clouds ? Look back on the past. What, that God has sent, would you alter? Dare you change one trouble ? "Dare you calmly wish that one disappointment had been removed? Or looking at the future, and feeling your own deep ignorance, would you choose what shall be ? Would you not shrink in iwe from the choice? Then what other law of life can we have than this, “Thy will be done”?
Let us now glance at life in its deeper aspects. Look at it philosophically. Every one who has thought upon life deeply, has been struck by the fact that its events seem bound together. Great sorrows and
great joys have had an abiding influence
, and no less real has been the influence of life's trifles.
Every day's occurrences have a power. A mysterious chain of events binds life into one. has said, " Take a grain of sand from some lonely sea-shore where it has been cast by the waves, and left undisturbed by man, that grain of sand has been flung there by forces which have been acting since the creation day. For had the storm which flang it there not happened, the whole order of storms must have been changed siuce God first made the winds to blow.” In that thought we find an illustration of the events of life. Things we call trifles, things of no visible importance at the time, have often altered a whole life. Our childhood, although its incidents seem so trivial--things long forgotten, which impressed our minds too faintly to be remembered, have yet had an influence upon our destiny. All the past has helped to make us what we are... Can we understand it? Can we disbelieve it? Dare
we say we comprehend life, and ery, “My will be done"?
Once more, look at life in its spiritual aspects. Spiritually, life is a pathway opening upon an infinite-an infinite rise or an infinite fall. Every man's soul has boundless capacities; life develops them; and the two points from which life starts are these: “My will be done,” or “Goil's will be done.” Not only so, but every moment of life is a rise or a fall, every moment adds to the impulse. Do you this ? Take, then, the case of a man whose soul has become utterly darkened in crime-one of those men who only
now and then startle the world into horror, from whose heart all loving and righteous thought has faded, and ask, how did he become what he is ? He was once a child. Can you conceive how that child grew with such giant progress into such a monster of evil? It was by the gradual progress of self
A great thinker
will-of the “my will ”_till it reached an awful climax in crime. It was by resolving to carry out, unchecked, every dark impulse of the heart. Is not this a proof of an infinite fall in life, hasting through every moment, gathering fresh force day by day, - like the stream above the cataract, sweeping onwards with ever increasing swiftness towards the final plunge in the depths below?
But a man may say this is altogether an extreme instance-an illustration drawn from the life of dark and desperate crime—it cannot apply to me. My brother, there is a dark nature in each one of us, of which the will is the warder, whose impulses, even if they do not flame out in deeds of passion and crime or great outward sin, will yet gradually harden the spirit into a batred and defiance of God which death will only deepen into an eternal rebellion. Let a man persistently oppose God's will, and the time will inevitably come when he will be left to the dark way of his own devices.
On the other hand, remember that in a life of obedience, every struggle, every sorrow, every tear has a bearing on the future. They chasten the spirit and help to purify it from its earthliness. Every victory over self-will strengthens the soul, and makes it" more than conqueror.” What, then, should be the language of life? 'We have no choice. Whether health or sick vess; wealth or poverty; joy or sorrow; life or death; through all it should be, “Thy will, O Father, be done.”
EVERY BODY'S TEXT.
BY THE REV, T. R. STEVENSON.
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."-Matt. xi. 28. This is everybody's text. It is meant
I will give you rest, rest unto your for everybody. It is needed by everybody. souls.” He did not promise in every case It can be understood by everybody. When to remove the burden and to take away the it was first spoken it was addressed to a labour, but to give rest in the soul, a rest very mixed and motley multitude. The that would make each yoke easy and all loving, earnest eyes, and the pale, pathetic burdens light. face of Christ, were turned upon represen- “Come unto me," says the Saviour. tatives of almost all classes and conditions There is a marked difference between Chrisof men, women, and children. Some were tianity and the schools of the world in at heavy laden with over-work; weary be- least one particular. It is this : in the cause they had so much to do. Others were schools of the world systems are taught, heavy laden with under-work; weary be- not men. You may study geometry and cause they had so little to do. Others were yet know little of Euclid. You may study beavy laden with no work; weary because astronomy and yet know little of Newton. they had nothing to do. Some were You may study botany and yet know heavy laden because of worldly cares ; little of Linnæus. You may study geology others were heavy laden because of spiritual and yet know little of Hugh Miller. cares. Some were heavy laden with the • Measures, not men,
” is the maxim of anxious hopes of youth ; others were heavy science and philosophy. But, in utter conladen with the infirmities of age. They trast to this, Christianity sets before us a had heard the fame of the wonderful certain Person, and the Great Author of young prophet of Nazareth, and from city Christianity cries, “ Come to me.” He and town, from village and hamlet, they not only presents divers great truths and had travelled to see Him and listen to important doctrines for our faith to grasp, Him. And now, looking upon them with but bids us, with divine emphasis, to contender compassion, He says,
6 Welcome. fide in Himself. Approach. Draw nigh. Come. I know It is as possible to come to Christ now you are burdened; I know you are heavy as it ever was. In one sense the verse
before us has no tense. It does not belong exclusively to the past, or the present, or the future. It belongs to all time. This, alas, is sometimes practically ignored. In looking round, one cannot but be struck with the fact that the world's notion of Christ, and to some extent the Church's notion of Him, is that of a dead Christ. The Christ of art, for instance, is clearly a dead and departed Christ. The great painters depict Him as He was. Looking at their pictures you see Christ dying on the cross, or Christ taken down from the cross, Christ lying in the sepulchre, or Christ watched over by radiant angels and wept over by devout, mourning women. One exception to this there certainly is, and it is a noble one. A living artist, in his grand painting, “ The Light of the World,” brings before us Christ as He now is. Not Christ as He was, for the crown of thorns is represented as bursting into blossom and flowers; that self-denial which was once an object of hatred and ridicule to men is now an object of beauty and attraction. Not Christ as He will be, for He is represented as still standing and knocking at the long closed door of the human heart, and the day will come when He will have ceased knocking. But this is the only painting of any note and mark which teaches a present Saviour. And the Christ of poetry and of theology is, to a great extent, a dead Christ. It is a suffering Christ, a tempted Christ, a dying Christ, a buried Christ. It is comparatively seldom that we think, speak, ana hear of an ever-living and everywherepresent Christ.
Turn aside, however, from what men do now, and look at the apostles and early Christians. Evidently Christ was to them a near and a living Christ. “ Christ dwell. eth in me," “ Christ in you the hope of glory,” “ The Lord is at hand :" words like these meet you repeatedly in reading the epistles. And they are right. They are right and we are wrong. If we were to see a crowd collected around a certain person, in one of our town streets or city thoroughfares; if we knew by his looks, his words, or by some infallible proofs that that person was Christ; if we heard His eloquent, gentle voice teaching, and saw His beneficent hand outstretched to heal the afflicted ; if all this were to occur, still Christ would not be nearer to us there and then than He is here and now. One of the great ends for which He was once visibly
present on earth was to show that He was
Because His tokens in the sky
To teach thee He is ever nigh.” This being the case, it is possible for us, in the most veracious and emphatic sense of the term, to come to Christ nom. My friend, are you anxious for pardon ? Has God aroused within you an intense longing for His peace and presence? Do you want to be forgiven, and to begin life anew? know the glad Gospel, that Jesus is near you. Yes, very near you. He can hear the beating of that troubled heart, see that anxious look, mark that tear of penitence that glistens in the eye; and if at this moment you lift your soul in earnest prayer for His mercy and help, at this moment He hears and answers you.
Let it be repeated; this is our first duty, if seeking salvation, to come Christ. Strange mistakes are often made about this. For instance, some come to theology instead of coming to Christ. They seem to fancy that they must have a perfect creed and a complete system of divinity before they come to Him. They appear to imagine that they must be well versed in what are considered orthodox doctrines; that they must know all about justifica. tion, sanctification, election, final perseverance, and the like, before they come. What a mistake! Theology is a noble science, but it is not necessary for a man to study it in order to get pardon, and begin to be good. On the contrary, he will, perhaps, lay his hand on some theological books which only perplex one, and darken counsel with a multitude of words. There is too much theology in the
world, which is no better than so much dust and cobweb on the windows of the Bible, keeping us from getting the light of truth as freely and fully as we ought and want to do. It is a blessed thought that Jesus is not bound by our theologies, not controlled by them, but is better than all. “Our little systems have their day,
They have their day and cease to be ;
They are but broken lights of thee, And thou, O Lord, art more than they." Again, there are others who come to themselves instead of to Christ. They have, with the fatal facility of human nature to "fall into error, gone from one extreme to another. There was a time when they never looked at themselves--never thought of their sin and guilt. But now, aroused by the preaching of the word, or some other means, they are almost always looking at themselves. They look, and look, and look at their sin, until it well nigh brings them to despair; just as one may lean over the side of a bridge at night, and look at the “ black, flowing river," until one can hardly refrain from leaping in and de. stroying oneself. Now, self-examination is a good thing in itself, but, like all other good things, it may be abused, and so become a positive evil. Carried too far, and practised too often, it makes people morbid, nervous, and timid. Self-examinan tion should be used like a looking-glass. You do not spend whole days or hours before your mirror; you use it now and then. So should it be with self-scrutiny. And as a mirror leads us to cleanse the face from any impurities thereon, so selfexamination should lead, not to despair, but to wash in the fountain open for sin and uncleanness,
Hitherto the word “ Come” has been used freely, and quoted often in the course of these remarks. Let us look at it a little more closely. Its beauty and glory lie in its indefiniteness. Sometimes we have reason to thank heaven for the definiteness of certain passages of Scripture, but here we have cause to bless God for the indefiniteness of the text. Christ does not say, "You must come to me in this way, you must not come in that.” He does not say, “'You must apply to me in such and such a manner, or not at all.” No. He simply says,“Come.” Come any how, come in any way, so long as you do come. Theologians are often very fond of laying down minute directiong and particular rules as to how we
must come to Christ. They tell people, perhaps, about half-a-dozen different kinds of faiths, giving the law as to which is the right and genuine, which the wrong and counterfeit. Or they build such a high wall of conditions and prerequisites around the mercy seat that poor sinners cannot get to it. But Jesus says, “ Come.” “ You may come imperfectly, you may come with fear and trembling, you may come in an ordinary or an eccentric fashion, but never mind, come, and I will give you rest." You know how it was when Christ was incarnate. The lame, and halt, and blind came to Him to be healed. Did they all come in the same manner ? By
Some came on beds, some on crutches, one even came by being let down through the roof of a house. But Jesus never asked how they came. They came ; that was enough. They were woe-begone and helpless; that pathetic argument reached His heart, and He healed them.
May we not for our encouragement lay stress on the word “ will ” ? “ I will give you rest.” You know, most likely, by sad experience, that the “ I will's” of men are often fickle, feeble, faithless. It is not so with the “I will " of the great Being who speaks in the text. His “I will is faithful, powerful. He said, “ I will that the earth be made," and forthwith it was made. He said, “I will that man be created,” and straightway he was created. In a later day He said to a poor leper, “I will; be thou clean," and the leper was at once hale and strong. And when
“I will give you rest,” He means it, and will do it.
But, alas! some of us are not coming to Christ. We are not coming but going. He says, “Come,” but we go from Him. My upsaved reader, is it not so with you ? Oh, how often you have heard the voice of Jesus saying, “ Come.” Years and years ago you heard Him say it. Yesterday, today, you heard Him say it. The voice has met you at almost every turn you have taken in the journey of life. By your neglected Bible, by manifold religious books, by innumerable sermons the Saviour has said, “Come.” Perhaps He said it by the voice of a revered father, a beloved mother, a dying friend. But you have gone instead of come. Well, what have you got by going? You know what you would have got by coming-rest unto your soul. Have you got that by going? Have you ? No. You have got this: a troublesome