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much of our work is ploughing the sands, and so often we labour for vanity and spend our strength for nought. What is the use of a mill full of spindles and looms until the fire-born impulse comes rushing through the pipes? Then they begin to move.
Let me remind you, too, that the words which our Lord here employs about these great gifts, when accurately examined, do lead us to the thought that we, even we, are not altogether passive in the reception of that gift. For the expression, 'Receive ye the Holy Ghost' might, with more completeness of signification, be rendered, 'take ye the Holy Ghost.' True, the outstretched hand is nothing, unless the giving hand is stretched out too. True, the open palm and the clutching fingers remain empty, unless the open palm above drops the gift. But also true, things in the spiritual realm that are given have to be asked for, because asking opens the heart for their entrance. True, that gift was given once for all, and continuously, but the appropriation and the continual possession of it largely depend upon ourselves. There must be desire before there can be possession. If a man does not take his pitcher to the fountain the pitcher remains empty, though the fountain never ceases to spring. There must be taking by patient waiting. The old Friends had a lovely phrase when they spoke about 'waiting for the springing of the life.' If we hold out a tremulous hand, and our cup is not kept steady, the falling water will not enter it, and much will be spilt upon the ground. Wait on the Lord, and the life will rise like a tide in the heart. There must be a taking by the faithful use of what we possess. "To him that hath shall be given. There must be a taking by careful avoidance of what would hinder. In the winter weather the
water supply sometimes fails in a house. Why? Be-
Now, lastly, we have here
I am not going to enter upon controversy. The words which close our Lord's great charge here have been much misunderstood by being restricted. It is eminently necessary to remember here that they were spoken to the whole community of Christian souls. The harm that has been done by their restriction to the so-called priestly function of absolution has been, not only the monstrous claims which have been thereon founded, but quite as much the obscuration of the large effects that follow from the Christian discharge by all believers of the office of representing Jesus Christ.
We must interpret these words in harmony with the two preceding points, the Christian mission and the Christian equipment. So interpreted, they lead us to a very plain thought which I may put thus. This same Apostle tells us in his letter that · Jesus Christ was manifested to take away sin.' His work in this world, which we are to continue, was 'to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. We continue that work when,as we have all, if Christians, the right to do-we lift up our voices with triumphant confidence, and call upon our brethren to behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world!' The proclamation has a twofold effect, according as it is received or rejected; to him who receives it his sins melt away, and the preacher of forgiveness through Christ has the right to say to his brother, “Thy sins are forgiven because
thou believest on Him.' The rejecter or the neglecter binds his sin upon himself by his rejection or neglect. The same message is, as the Apostle puts it, 'a savour of life unto life, or of death unto death. These words are the best commentary on this part of my text. The same heat, as the old Fathers used to say, 'softens wax and hardens clay. The message of the word will either couch a blind eye, and let in the light, or draw another film of obscuration over the visual orb.
And so, Christian men and women have to feel that to them is entrusted a solemn message, that they walk in the world charged with a mighty power, that by the preaching of the Word, and by their own utterance of the forgiving mercy of the Lord Jesus, they may remit' or 'retain 'not only the punishment of sin, but sin itself. How tender, how diligent, how reverent, how-not bowed down, but-erect under the weight of our obligations, we should be, if we realised that solemn thought!
THOMAS AND JESUS
'And after eight days, again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them, Then camo Jesus.'-JOHN XX. 26.
THERE is nothing more remarkable about the narrative of the resurrection, taken as a whole, than the completeness with which our Lord's appearances met all varieties of temperament, condition, and spiritual standing. Mary, the lover; Peter, the penitent; the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, the thinkers; Thomas, the stiff unbeliever - the presence of the Christ is enough for them all; it cures those that need cure, and gladdens those that need gladdening. I am not going to do anything so foolish as to try to tell
over again, less vividly, this well-known story. We all remember its outlines, I suppose: the absence of Thomas from Christ's first meeting with the assembled disciples on Easter evening; the dogged disbelief with which he met their testimony; his arrogant assumption of the right to lay down the conditions on which he should believe, and Christ's gracious acceptance of the conditions; the discovery when they were offered that they were not needful; the burst of glad conviction which lifted him to the loftiest height reached while Christ was on earth, and then the summing up of all in our Lord's words-Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed!'—the last Beatitude, that links us and all the generations yet to come with the story, and is like a finger pointing to it, as containing very special lessons for them all.
I simply seek to try to bring out the force and instructiveness of the story. The first point isI. The isolation that misses the sight of the Christ.
Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.' No reason is assigned. The absence may have been purely accidental, but the specification of Thomas as one of the Twelve,' seems to suggest that his absence was regarded by the Evangelist as a dereliction of apostolic duty; and the cause of it may be found, I think, with reasonable probability, if we take into account the two other facts that the same Evangelist records concerning this Apostle. One is his exclamation, in which a constitutional tendency to accept the blackest possibilities as certainties, blends very strangely and beautifully with an intense and brave devotion to his Master. Let us also go,' said Thomas, when Christ announced His intention, but a few days before the Passion, of returning to the grave
of Lazarus, 'that we may die with Him.' 'He is going to His death, that I am sure of, and I am going to be beside Him even in His death.' A constitutional pessimist! The only other notice that we have of him is that he broke in—with apparent irreverence which was not real,-with a brusque contradiction of Christ's saying that they knew the way, and they knew His goal. “Lord! we know not whither Thou goest'there spoke pained love fronting the black prospect of eternal separation,-'and how can we know the way?'—there spoke almost impatient despair.
So is not that the kind of man who on the Resurrection day would have been saying to himself, even more decidedly and more bitterly than the two questioning thinkers on the road to Emmaus had said it, .We trusted that this had been He, but it is all over now'? The keystone was struck out of the arch, and this brick tumbled away of itself. The hub was taken out of the wheel, and the spokes fell apart. The divisive tendency was begun, as I have had occasion to remark in other sermons.
Thomas did the very worst thing that a melancholy man can do, went away to brood in a corner by himself, and so to exaggerate all his idiosyncrasies, to distort the proportion of truth, to hug bis despair, by separating himself from his fellows. Therefore he lost what they got, the sight of the Lord. Heo was not with them when Jesus came.' Would he not have been better in the upper room than gloomily turning over in his mind the dissolution of the fair company and the shipwreck of all his hopes?
May we not learn a lesson? I venture to apply these words, dear friends, to our gatherings for worship. The worst thing that a man can do when disbelief, or doubt,