When man was created, he was endowed withal with gifts above his own nature, by means of which that nature was perfected. As some potent stimulant which is not nourishment, a scent or a draught, rouses, invigorates, concentrates our animal powers, gives keenness to our perceptions, and intensity to our efforts, so, or rather in some far higher sense, and in more diversified ways, did the supernatural grace of God give a meaning, and an aim, and a sufficiency, and a consistency, and a certainty, to the many faculties of that compound of soul and body, which constitutes man. And when man fell, he lost this divine, unmerited gift, and, instead of soaring heavenwards, fell down feeble to the earth, in a state of exhaustion and collapse. And, again, when God, for Christ’s sake, is about to restore any one to His favour, His first act of mercy is to impart to him a portion of this grace; the first-fruits of that sovereign, energetic power, which forms and harmonises his whole nature, and enables it to fulfil its own end, while it fulfils one higher than its own.
Now, one of the defects which man incurred on the fall was ignorance, or spiritual blindness; and one of the gifts received on his restoration is a perception of things spiritual; so that, before he is brought under the grace of Christ, he can but inquire, reason, argue, and conclude, about religious truth; but afterwards he sees it. “Blessed art Thou, Simon, Son of Jona,” said our Lord to St. Peter, when he confessed the Incarnation, “for flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but My Father, which is in heaven.” Again: “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hath revealed them unto little ones … No one knoweth the Father, save the Son, and no one knoweth the Son but the Father, and he to whom it shall please the Son to reveal Him.” In like manner St. Paul says, “The animal” or natural “man perceiveth not the things of the Spirit of God;” and elsewhere, “No one can say the Lord Jesus, but in the Holy Ghost”. And St. John, “Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things”. The Prophets had promised the same gift before Christ came;—”I will make all thy sons taught of the Lord,” says Isaias, “and the multitude of peace upon thy sons;” “No more,” says Jeremias, “shall man teach his neighbour, and man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for all shall know Me from the least of them even to the greatest of them”.
Now here you may say, my brethren, “What is the meaning of this? are we men, or are we not? have we lost part of our nature by the fall, or have we not? is not the Reason a part of man’s nature? does not the Reason see, as the eye does? cannot we, by the natural power of our Reason, understand all kinds of truths, about this earth, about human society, about the realms of space, about matter, about the soul? why should religion be an exception? Why, then, cannot we understand by our natural reason about Almighty God and heaven?—if we can inquire into one thing, we can inquire into another; if we can imagine one thing, we can imagine another; how then is it that we cannot arrive at the truths of religion without the supernatural aid of grace?” This is a question which may give rise to some profitable reflections, and I shall now attempt to answer it.
You ask, what it is you need, besides eyes, in order to see the truths of revelation: I will tell you at once; you need light. Not the keenest eyes can see in the dark. Now, though your mind be the eye, the grace of God is the light; and you will as easily exercise your eyes in this sensible world without the sun, as you will be able to exercise your mind in the spiritual world without a parallel gift from without. Now, you are born under a privation of this blessed spiritual light; and, while it remains, you will not, cannot, really see God. I do not say you will have no thought at all about God, nor be able to talk about Him. True, but you will not be able to do more than reason about Him. Your thoughts and your words will not get beyond a mere reasoning. I grant then what you claim; you claim to be able by your mental powers to reason about God; doubtless you can, but to infer a thing is not to see it in respect to the physical world, nor is it in the spiritual.
Consider the case of a man without eyes talking about forms and colours, and you will understand what I mean. A blind man may pick up a good deal of information of various kinds, and be very conversant with the objects of sight, though he does not see. He may be able to talk about them fluently, and may be fond of doing so; he may even talk of seeing as if he really saw, till he almost seems to pretend to the faculty of sight. He speaks of heights and distances and directions, and the dispositions of places, and shapes, and appearances, as naturally as other men; and he is not duly aware of his own extreme privation; and, if you ask how this comes about, it is partly because he hears what other men say about these things, and he is able to imitate them, and partly because he cannot help reasoning upon the things he hears, and drawing conclusions from them; and thus he comes to think he knows what he does not know at all.
He hears men converse; he may have books read to him; he gains vague ideas of objects of sight, and when he begins to speak, his words are tolerably correct, and do not at once betray how little he knows what he is talking about. He infers one thing from another, and thus is able to speak of many things which he does not see, but only perceives must be so, granting other things are so. For instance, if he knows that blue and yellow make green, he may pronounce, without a chance of mistake, that green is more like blue than yellow is; if he happens to know that one man is under six feet in height, and another is full six feet, he may, when they are both before him, boldly declare, as if he saw, that the latter is the taller of the two. It is not that he judges by sight, but that reason takes the place of it. There was much talk in the world some little time since of a man of science, who was said to have found out a new planet; how did he do it? Did he watch night after night, wearily and perseveringly, in the chill air, through the tedious course of the starry heavens, for what he might possibly find there, till at length, by means of some powerful glass, he discovered in the dim distance this unexpected addition to our planetary system? Far from it; it is said that he sat at his ease in his library, and made calculations on paper in the daytime, and thus, without looking once up at the sky, he determined, from what was already known of the sun and the planets, of their number, their positions, their motions, and their influences, that, in addition to them all, there must be some other body in that very place where he said it would be found, if astronomers did but turn their instruments upon it. Here was a man reading the heavens, not with eyes, but by reason. Reason, then, is a sort of substitute for sight; and so in many respects are the other senses, as is obvious. You know how quick the blind are often found to be in discovering the presence of friends, and the feelings of strangers, by the voice, and the tone, and the tread; so that they seem to understand looks, and gestures, and dumb show, as if they saw, to the surprise of those who wish to keep their meaning secret from them.
Now this will explain the way in which the natural man is able partly to understand, and still more to speak upon, supernatural subjects. There is a large floating body of Catholic truth in the world; it comes down by tradition from age to age; it is carried forward by preaching and profession from one generation to another, and is poured about into all quarters of the world. It is found in fulness and purity in the Church alone, but portions of it, larger or smaller, escape far and wide, and penetrate into places which have never been blest with her presence and ministration. Now men may take up and profess these scattered truths, merely because they fall in with them; these fragments of Revelation, such as the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, or the Atonement, are the religion which they have been taught in their childhood; and therefore they may retain them, and profess them, and repeat them, without really seeing them, as the Catholic sees them, but as receiving them merely by word of mouth, from imitation of others. And in this way it often happens that a man external to the Catholic Church writes sermons and instructions, draws up and arranges devotions, or composes hymns, which are faultless, or nearly so; which are the fruit, not of his own illuminated mind, but of his careful study, sometimes of his accurate translation, of Catholic originals. Then, again, Catholic truths and rites are so beautiful, so great, so consolatory, that they draw one on to love and admire them with a natural love, as a prospect might attract us, or a skilful piece of mechanism. Hence men of lively imagination may profess this doctrine or that, or adopt this or that ceremony or usage, for its very beauty sake, not asking themselves whether it be true, and having no real perception or mental hold of it. Thus, too, they will decorate their churches, stretch and strain their ritual, introduce candles, vestments, flowers, incense, and processions, not from faith, but from poetical feeling. And, moreover, the Catholic Creed, as coming from God, is so harmonious, so consistent with itself, holds together so perfectly, so corresponds part to part, that an acute mind, knowing one portion of it, would often infer another portion, merely as a matter of just reasoning. Thus a correct thinker might be sure, that if God is infinite and man finite, there must be mysteries in religion. It is not that he really feels the mysteriousness of religion, but he infers it; he is led to it as a matter of necessity, and from mere clearness of mind and love of consistency, he maintains it. Again, a man may say, “Since this or that doctrine has so much historical evidence in its favour, I must accept it;” he has no real sight or direct perception of it, but he takes up the profession of it, because he feels it would be absurd, under the conditions with which he starts, to do otherwise. He does no more than load himself with a form of words instead of contemplating, with the eye of the soul, God Himself, the source of all truth, and this doctrine as proceeding from His mouth. A keen, sagacious intellect will carry a man a great way in anticipating doctrines which he has never been told;—thus, before it knew what Scripture said on the subject, it might argue; “Sin is an offence against God beyond conception great, and involving vast evils on the sinner, for, if it were not so, why should Christ have suffered?” that is, he sees that it is necessary for the Christian system of doctrine that sin should be a great evil, without necessarily feeling in his conscience that it is so. Nay, I can fancy a man conjecturing that our bodies would rise again, as arguing it out from the fact that the Eternal God has so honoured our mortal flesh as to take it upon Him as part of Himself. Thus he would be receiving the resurrection, nay, eternal punishment, merely as truths which follow from what he knew already. And in like manner learned men, outside the Church, may compose most useful works on the Evidences of religion, or in defence of particular doctrines, or in explanation of the whole scheme of Catholicity; in these cases reason becomes the handmaid of faith: still it is not faith; it does not rise above an intellectual view or notion; it affirms, not as grasping the truth, not as seeing, but as “being of opinion,” as “judging,” as “coming to a conclusion”.
Here, then, you see what the natural man can do; he can feel, he can imagine, he can admire, he can reason, he can infer; in all these ways he may proceed to receive the whole or part of Catholic truth; but he cannot see, he cannot love. Yet he will perplex religious persons who do not understand the secret by which he is able to make so imposing a display; for they will be at a loss to understand how it is that he is able to speak so well, except he speak, though he be out of the Church, by the Spirit of God. Thus it is with the writing of some of the ancient heretics, who wrote upon the Incarnation; so it is with heretics of modern times who have written on the doctrine of grace; they write sometimes with such beauty and depth, that one cannot help admiring what they say on those very subjects, as to which we know withal that at the bottom they are unsound. But, my brethren, the sentiments may be right and good in themselves, but not in those men; these are the solitary truths which they have happened to infer in a range of matters about which they see and know nothing, and their heresy on other points, which are close upon the acceptance of these truths, is a proof that they do not see what they speak of. A blind man, discoursing upon form and colour, might say some things truly, and some things falsely; but even one mistake which he happened to make, though only one, would be enough to betray that he had no real possession of the truths which he enunciated, though they were many; for, had he had eyes, he not only would have been correct in many, but would have been mistaken in none. For instance, supposing that he knew that two buildings were the same in height, he might perhaps be led boldly to pronounce that their appearance was the same when he looked at them, not knowing that the greater distance of the one of them from us might reduce it to the eye to half or a fourth of the other. And thus men who are not in the Church and who have no practical experience of Catholic devotion to the Blessed Mother of God, when they read our prayers and litanies, and observe the strength of their language, and the length to which they go, confidently assert that she is, in every sense and way, the object of our worship, to the exclusion, or in rivalry, of the Supreme God; not understanding that He “in whom we live, and move and are,” who new-creates us with His grace, and who feeds us with His own Body and Blood, is closer to us and more intimately with us than any creature; that Saints and Angels, and the Blessed Virgin herself, are necessarily at a distance from us, compared with Him, and, that whatever language we use towards them, though it be the same as that which we use to our Maker, it only carries with it a sense which is due and proportionate to the object we address. And thus these objectors are detected, as Catholics feel, by their objection itself, as really knowing and seeing nothing of what they dispute about.
And now I have explained sufficiently what is meant by saying that the natural man holds divine truths merely as an opinion, and not as a point of faith; grace believes, reason does but opine; grace gives certainty, reason is never decided. Now it is remarkable that this characteristic of reason is so clearly understood by the persons themselves of whom I am speaking, that, in spite of the confidence which they have in their own opinions, whatever that be, still, conscious that they have no grounds for real and fixed conviction about revealed truth, they boldly face the difficulty, and consider it a fault to be certain about revealed truth, and a merit to doubt. For instance, “the Holy Catholic Church” is a point of faith, as being one of the articles of the Apostles’ Creed; yet they think it an impatience to be dissatisfied with uncertainty as to where the Catholic Church is, and what she says. They are well aware that no man alive of fair abilities would put undoubting faith and reliance in the Church Established, except by doing violence to his reason; they know that the great mass of its members in no sense believe in it, and that of the remainder no one could say more than that it indirectly comes from God, and that it is safest to remain in it. There is, in these persons, no faith, only a mere opinion, about this article of the Creed. Accordingly they are obliged to say, in mere defence of their own position, that faith is not necessary, and a state of doubt is sufficient, and all that is expected of us. In consequence they attribute it to mere restlessness, when one of their own members seeks to exercise faith in the Holy Catholic Church as a revealed truth, as they themselves profess to exercise it in the Holy Trinity or our Lord’s resurrection, and when in consequence he hunts about, and asks on all sides, how he is to do so. Nay, they go so far as to impute it to a Catholic as a fault, when he manifests a simple trust in the Church and her teaching. It sometimes happens that those who join the Catholic Church from some Protestant communion, are observed to change the uncertainty and hesitation of mind on religious subjects, which they showed before their conversion, into a clear and fearless confidence; they doubted about their old communion, they have no doubt about their new. They have no fears, no anxieties, no difficulties, no scruples. They speak, accordingly, as they feel; and the world, not understanding that this is the effect of the grace which (as we may humbly trust) these happy souls have received,—not understanding that, though it has full experience of the region of the shadow of death in which it lies, it has none at all of that city, whereof the Lord God and the Lamb is the light,—measuring what Catholics have by what itself has not, the world, I say, cries out, “How forward, how unnatural, how excited, how extravagant”; and it considers that such a change is a change for the worse, and is proved to be a mistake and a fault, because it produces precisely that effect, which it would produce were it a change for the better.
It tells us that certainty, and confidence, and boldness in speech are unchristian; is this pleading a cause, or a judgment from facts? Was it confidence or doubt, was it zeal or coldness, was it keenness or irresolution in action, which distinguished the Martyrs in the first ages of the Church? Was the religion of Christ propagated by the vehemence of faith and love, or by a philosophical balance of arguments? Look back at the early Martyrs, my brethren, what were they? why, they were very commonly youths and maidens, soldiers and slaves;—a set of hot-headed young men, who would have lived to be wise, had they not been obstinately set on dying first; who tore down imperial manifestoes, broke the peace, challenged the judges to dispute, would not rest till they got into the same den with a lion, and who, if chased out of one city, began preaching in another! So said the blind world about those who saw the Unseen. Yes! it was the spiritual sight of God which made them what they were. No one is a Martyr for a conclusion, no one is a Martyr for an opinion; it is faith that makes Martyrs. He who knows and loves the things of God has no power to deny them; he may have a natural shrinking from torture and death, but such terror is incommensurate with faith, and as little acts upon it as dust and mire touch the sun’s light, or scents or voices could stop a wheel in motion. The Martyrs saw, and how could they but speak what they had seen? They might shudder at the pain, but they had not the power not to see; if threats could undo the heavenly truths, then might pain silence their confession of them. O my brethren, the world is inquiring, and large-minded, and knows many things; it talks well and profoundly; but is there one among its Babel of religious opinions which it would be a Martyr for? Some of them may be true, and some false; let it choose any one of them to die for. Its children talk loudly, they declaim angrily against the doctrine that God is an avenger; would they die rather than confess it? They talk eloquently of the infinite indulgence of God; would they die rather than deny it? If not, they have not even enthusiasm, they have not even obstinacy, they have not even bigotry, they have not even party spirit to sustain them,—much less have they grace; they speak upon opinion only, and by an inference. Again, there are those who call on men to trust the Established Communion, as considering it to be a branch of the Catholic Church; they may urge that this opinion can be cogently defended, but an opinion it is; for say, O ye who hold it, how many of you would die rather than admit a doubt about it? Do you now hold it sinful to doubt it? or rather, as I have said, do you not think it allowable, natural, necessary, becoming, humble-minded and sober-minded to doubt it? do you not almost think better of a man for doubting it, provided he does not follow his doubts out, and end in disbelieving it?
Hence these very same persons, who speak so severely of any one who leaves the communion in which he was born, doubting of it themselves, are in consequence led to view his act as an affront done to their body, rather than as an evil to himself. They consider it as a personal affront to a party and an injury to a cause, and the affront is greater or less according to the mischief which it does them in the particular case. It is not his loss but their inconvenience, which is the real measure of his sin. If a person is in any way important or useful to them, they will protest against his act; if he is troublesome to them, if he goes (as they say) too far, if he is a scandal, or a centre of perverse influence, or in any way disturbs the order and welfare of their body, they are easily reconciled to his leaving them; the more courteous of them congratulate him on his honesty, and the more bitter congratulate themselves on being rid of him. Is such the feeling of a mother and of kinsmen towards a son and a brother? “can a woman forget her babe, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?” Did a man leave the Catholic Church, our first feeling, my brethren, as you know so well, would be one of compassion and fear; we should consider that, though we were even losing one who was a scandal to us, still that our gain would be nothing in comparison of his loss. We know that a man cannot desert the Church without quenching an inestimable gift of grace; that he has already received a definite influence and effect upon his soul, such, that he cannot dispossess himself of it without the gravest sin; that, though he may have had many temptations to disbelieve, they are only like temptations to sensuality, harmless without his willing cooperation. This is why the Church cannot sanction him in his reconsidering the question of her own Divine mission; she holds that such inquiries, though the appointed means of entering her pale, are superseded on his entrance by the gift of a spiritual sight, a gift which consumes doubt so utterly, in any proper sense of the word, that henceforth it is not that he must not, but that he cannot entertain it; cannot entertain it except by his own great culpability; and therefore must not, because he cannot. This is what we hold and are conscious of, my brethren; and, as holding it, we never could feel satisfaction and relief, on first hearing of the defection of a brother, be he ever so unworthy, ever so scandalous; our first feeling would be sorrow. We are, in fact, often obliged to bear with scandalous members against our will from charity to them; but those, whose highest belief is but an inference, who are obliged to go over in their minds from time to time the reasons and the ground of their creed, lest they should suddenly find themselves left without their conclusion, these persons not having faith, have no opportunity for charity, and think that when a man leaves them who has given them any trouble, it is a double gain—to him, that he is where he is better fitted to be; to themselves, that they are at peace.
What I have been saying will account for another thing, which otherwise will surprise us. The world cannot believe that Catholics really hold what they profess to hold; and supposes that, if they are educated men, they are kept up to their profession by external influence, by superstitious fear, by pride, by interest, or other bad or unworthy motive. Men of the world have never believed in their whole life, never have had simple faith in things unseen, never have had more than an opinion about them, that they might be true and might be false, but probably were true, or doubtless were true; and in consequence they think an absolute, unhesitating faith in anything unseen to be simply an extravagance, and especially when it is exercised on objects which they do not believe themselves, or even reject with scorn or abhorrence. And hence they prophesy that the Catholic Church must lose, in proportion as men are directed to the sober examination of their own thoughts and feelings, and to the separation of what is real and true from what is a matter of words and pretence. They cannot understand how our faith in the Blessed Sacrament is a genuine, living portion of our minds; they think it a mere profession which we embrace with no inward assent, but only because we are told that we should be lost unless we profess it; or because, the Catholic Church having in dark ages committed herself to it, we cannot help ourselves, though we would if we could, and therefore receive it by constraint, from a sense of duty towards our cause, or in a spirit of party. They will not believe that we would not gladly get rid of the doctrine of transubstantiation, as a heavy stone about our necks, if we could. What shocking words to use! It would be wrong to use them, were they not necessary to make you understand, my brethren, the privilege which you have, and the world has not. Shocking indeed and most profane! a relief to rid ourselves of the doctrine that Jesus is on our Altars! as well say a relief to rid ourselves of the belief that Jesus is God, to rid ourselves of the belief that there is a God. Yes, that I suppose is the true relief, to believe nothing at all, or, at least, not to be bound to believe anything; to believe first one thing, then another; to believe what we please for as long as we please; that is, not really to believe, but to have an opinion about everything, and let nothing sit close upon us, to commit ourselves to nothing, to keep the unseen world altogether at a distance. But if we are to believe anything at all, if we are to make any one heavenly doctrine our own, if we are to take some dogmas as true, why, in that case, it should be a burden to believe what is so gracious and what so concerns us, rather than what is less intimate and less winning,—why we must not believe that God is among us, if God there is, why we may not believe that God dwells on our Altars as well as that He dwells in the sky, certainly is not so self-evident, but that we have a claim to ask the reasons for it of those, who profess to be so rational and so natural in their determinations. O my brethren, how narrow-minded is this world at bottom after all, in spite of its pretences and in spite of appearances! Here you see, it cannot by a stretch of imagination conceive that anything exists, of which it has not cognisance in its own heart; it will not admit into its imagination the mere idea that we have faith, because it does not know what faith is from experience, and it will not admit that there is anything in the mind of man which it does not experience itself, for that would be all one with admitting after all that there is such a thing as a mystery. It must know, it must be the measure of all things; and so in self-defence it considers us hypocritical, as professing what we cannot believe, lest it should be forced to confess itself blind. “Behold what manner of love the Father had bestowed on us, that we should be named, and should be, the sons of God; therefore the world knoweth not us, because it knoweth not Him!”
It is for the same reason that inquirers, who are approaching the Church, find it difficult to persuade themselves that their doubts will not continue after they have entered it. This is the reason they assign for not becoming Catholics; for what is to become of them, they ask, if their present doubts continue after their conversion? they will have nothing to fall back upon. They do not reflect that their present difficulties are moral ones, not intellectual;—I mean, that it is not that they really doubt whether the conclusion at which they have arrived, that the Catholic Church comes from God, is true; this they do not doubt in their reason at all, but that they cannot rule their mind to grasp and keep hold of this truth. They recognise it dimly, though certainly, as the sun through mists and clouds, and they forget that it is the office of grace to clear up gloom and haziness, to steady that fitful vision, to perfect reason by faith, and to convert a logical conclusion into an object of intellectual sight. And thus they will not credit it as possible, when we assure them of what we have seen in so many instances, that all their trouble will go, when once they have entered the communion of Saints and the atmosphere of grace and light, and that they will be so full of peace and joy as not to know how to thank God enough, and from the very force of their feelings and the necessity of relieving them, they will set about converting others with a sudden zeal which contrasts strangely with their late vacillation.
Two remarks I must add in conclusion, in explanation of what I have been saying.
First, do not suppose I have been speaking in disparagement of human reason: it is the way to faith; its conclusions are often the very objects of faith. It precedes faith, when souls are converted to the Catholic Church; and it is the instrument which the Church herself is guided to make use of, when she is called upon to put forth those definitions of doctrine, in which, according to the promise and power of her Lord and Saviour, she is infallible; but still reason is one thing and faith is another, and reason can as little be made a substitute for faith, as faith can be made a substitute for reason.
Again, I have been speaking as if a state of nature were utterly destitute of the influences of grace, and as if those who are external to the Church acted simply from nature. Recollect, I have so spoken for the sake of distinctness, that grace and nature might clearly be contrasted with each other; but it is not the fact. God gives His grace to all men, and to those who profit by it He gives more grace, and even those who quench it still have the offer. Hence some men act simply from nature; some act from nature in some respects, not in others; others are yielding themselves to the guidance of the assistances given them; others, who have faithfully availed themselves of that guidance and are sincerely in search of the Church and her gifts, may even already be in a state of justification. Hence it is impossible to apply what has been said above to individuals, whose hearts are a secret with God. Many, I repeat, are under the influence partly of reason and partly of faith, believe some things firmly, and have but an opinion on others. Many are in conflict with themselves, and are advancing to a crisis, after which they embrace or recede from the truth. Many are using the assistances of grace so well, that they are in the way to receive its permanent indwelling in their hearts. Many, we may trust, are enjoying that permanent light, and are coming steadily and securely into the Church; some, alas! may have received it, and, as not advancing towards the Holy House in which it is stored, are losing it, and, though they know it not, are living only by the recollections of what was once present within them. These are secret things with God; but the great and general truths remain, that nature cannot see God, and that grace is the sole means of seeing Him; and that, while grace enables us to do so, it also brings us into His Church, and is never given us for our illumination, without being also given to make us Catholics.
O my dear brethren, what joy and what thankfulness should be ours, that God has brought us into the Church of His Son! What gift is equal to it in the whole world in its preciousness and in its rarity? In this country in particular, where heresy ranges far and wide, where uncultivated nature has so undisputed a field all her own, where grace is given to great numbers only to be profaned and quenched, where baptisms only remain in their impress and character, and faith is ridiculed for its very firmness, for us to find ourselves here in the region of light, in the home of peace, in the presence of Saints, to find ourselves where we can use every faculty of the mind and affection of the heart in its perfection, because in its appointed place and office, to find ourselves in the possession of certainty, consistency, stability, on the highest and holiest subjects of human thought, to have hope here and heaven hereafter, to be on the Mount with Christ, while the poor world is guessing and quarrelling at its foot, who among us shall not wonder at his own blessedness? who shall not be awe-struck at the inscrutable grace of God, which has brought himself, not others, where he stands? As the Apostle says, “‘Through our Lord Jesus Christ let us have by faith access into this grace wherein we stand, and glory in the hope of the glory of the sons of God. And hope confounded not; because the love of God is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Ghost who is given to us.” And, as St. John says, still more exactly to our purpose, “Ye have an unction from the Holy One”;—your eyes are anointed by Him who put clay on the eyes of the blind man; “from Him have you an unction, and ye know,” not conjecture, or suppose, or opine, but “know,” see, “all things”. “So let the unction which you have received of Him abide in you. Nor need ye that any one teach you, but as His unction teaches you of all things, and is true and no lie, and hath taught you, so abide in Him.” You can abide in nothing else; opinions change, conclusions are feeble, inquiries run their course, reason stops short, but faith alone reaches to the end, faith only endures. Faith and prayer alone will endure in that last dark hour, when Satan urges all his powers and resources against the sinking soul. What will it avail us then, to have devised some subtle argument, or to have led some brilliant attack, or to have mapped out the field of history, or to have numbered and sorted the weapons of controversy, and to have the homage of friends and the respect of the world for our successes,—what will it avail to have had a position, to have followed out a work, to have re-animated an idea, to have made a cause to triumph, if after all we have not the light of faith to guide us on from this world to the next? Oh, how fain shall we be in that day to exchange our place with the humblest, and dullest, and most ignorant of the sons of men, rather than to stand before the judgment-seat in the lot of him who has received great gifts from God, and used them for self and for man, who has shut his eyes, who has trifled with truth, who has repressed his misgivings, who has been led on by God’s grace, but stopped short of its scope, who has neared the land of promise, yet not gone forward to take possession of it!
Discourses to Mixed Congregations, Discourse 9