How great a blessing is it, my brethren, at all times, but especially in an age like this, that the tokens of Christ are not only without us, but more properly within us! I say in this age especially, because it is an age in which the outward signs of Christ's Presence have well nigh deserted us. Christ, in mercy to all who seek Him, has been accustomed in all ages, in anticipation of His true inward witness, to hold forth certain plain and general tokens of His Presence, to show the world where He is to be found. These are for beginners; or for those who are not yet beginners, that they may begin, and may thus be led on by such experience of His grace, to discern those holier and better notes of which He speaks in the text. Since then, in this our age, He has in judgment obscured the visible and public notes of His Kingdom among us, what a mercy is it to us that He has not deprived us of such as are personal and private! Alas! how few even of serious men could remain peaceful and steadfast, or be secure about themselves, that they would not run any whither, if they judged merely by what is seen! "We see not our tokens; there is not one prophet more; no, not one is there among us that understandeth any more." "Thou makest us to be rebuked of our neighbours, to be laughed to scorn and had in derision of them that are round about us; Thou makest us to be a by-word among the heathen, and that the people shake their heads at us. My confusion is daily before me, and the shame of my face hath covered me; for the voice of the slanderer and blasphemer, for the enemy and avenger." [Ps. lxxiv. 10; xliv. 14-17.] Who among us does not at this day participate in this ancient trial? for who would account that to be the Church of God in which we are, if he went merely by sight? who has not cause to appeal, and who may not appeal, and who will not find an answer when he appeals, to the notes of that Kingdom, which abides, as it came, "without observation," and which proclaims not "Lo here! or Lo there!" because it is a Kingdom of God which is "within us"? Yes, I say; who among us may not, if he will, lead such a life as to have these secret and truer tokens to rest his faith on, so as to be sure, and certain, and convinced, that the Church which baptized us has still the Presence of Christ, and therefore is within the bounds of His Kingdom, and is the gate to His eternal favour?

When, then, we are overwhelmed, as we well may be, at the confusion of all things around us, as Psalmists and Prophets have been before us, let us turn to the thought of that gift which Psalmists and Prophets had not as we may have, and which is personal and incommunicable and unspeakable, but known to religious men. What are signs and tokens of any kind whatever, but the way to Christ? what need of them should it so be, through His mercy, that we have found Him? Who asks his way when he has got to his destination? why seek the shadow, if we already have the substance? why seek Him elsewhere, if we have reason to trust we have found Him here? why turn from Him, if we are already in His Presence? If so be we have "tasted that the Lord is gracious," what need we more? When the women met Christ after His resurrection, "they came and held Him by the feet and worshipped Him." Magdalen would have done the like, but He forbade it. The two disciples, when "He made as though He would have gone farther," "constrained Him." When Jacob wrestled with the Angel, he would not refrain even at His word, but said, "I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me." "I held Him, and would not let Him go," says the Bride, "until I had brought Him into my mother's house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me." What want we more than His Presence? Andrew "findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto Him, We have found the Messias." What can we need beyond finding Him? Can we gain more than Him any where? shall we be thankful, shall we be dutiful, shall we be believing, if we leave Him? The holy women would not let Him go; can we be certain, if we once loose our hold of Him, that we shall ever regain it? shall we not rather, in that case, be of the number of those, who, though they saw His mighty works, came to Him, and "besought Him that He would depart out of their coasts"?

 

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