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matters little, what a man believes, if only he be sincere—rather it matters much, very much, or, so to say, it matters everything : (otherwise, surely, God would not have wrought so great a miracle to bring about the conversion of St. Paul, to
and to make him to see and receive the truth, against which his early education had blinded and hardened him)—but that God, of His mercy, has regard to such as are serious, earnest, and sincere, and saves them, not usually, in their error, but by leading them to the truth. Again, that when God touches
. men's hearts by His grace, even when He works a miracle to convert and save them, it is to His Church, to His ministers, to His sacraments, that He sends then, to perfect in them that good work which His grace has begun. It was so at the first ; so we read, “ the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved,” it is so now, it is in the Church that God wills to save men, by the ministry of His word and sacraments, by His pure word preached, by His sacraments duly ministered. The Church is the sheepfold, wherein the good shepherd hath set the sheep and lambs of His flock. There He careth for them. There He washeth away their sins by the cleansing waters of holy Baptism. There He
feedeth them with the word of life, and with the bread from heaven. And blessed are they, who are content and glad to remain within that secure fold, who, having been washed from their sins, endeavour to keep themselves pure, feeding on such food as their heavenly Father hath provided for them, not yearning after strange pastures, not seeking meat for their lusts, not hewing them out broken cisterns. Blessed are they, who can take to them the words of holy David, and can say from the heart, “ The Lord is my shepherd, therefore can I lack nothing; He shall feed me in a green pasture, and lead me forth beside the waters of comfort : He shall convert my soul, and bring me forth in the paths of righteousness for His Name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me, Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me: Thou shalt prepare a table before me against them that trouble me, Thou hast anointed my head with oil, and my cup shall be full. But Thy loving-kindness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
Now all this is very contrary to what men at this day say and feel; men make light of religious error, however serious, provided the persons in
error appear to be sincere and earnest in their error; again, men take little account of the loss of sacraments and means of grace, where the persons who refuse or slight them have what is called faith ; not so holy Scripture; not so the word of God; not so the Church of God. Holy Scripture and the Church have ever taught another lesson, even the lesson of to-day ; that God's truth is a great and awful gift, precious and blessed to them who receive it, dangerous and harmful to them who reject it ; that the sacraments and ordinances of religion are necessary, so far as God has revealed to us, unto the salvation of the soul, that they are the ordained channels of God's grace, the means whereby He washes away our sins, causes us to be born again of the Spirit, engrafts us into, and continues us in, the Body of Christ, and feeds us with the Body and Blood of His dear Son. This is the teaching of holy Scripture and of the Church ; this the lesson of to-day. When persons in error in religion appear to us to be sincere and earnest in their error; we may be thankful that they are so, we may even hope well of them, so far as this is the case. But then one ground to hope well of them, so far as we are warranted by the event of to-day, will be this; we may hope that God, by His grace, will teach them and lead them into His perfect truth, into the faith once delivered unto the saints. We may hope that God will cause them to partake of His sacraments, and so to be found with His Church. Thus it was that God set forth His grace and mercy in the conversion of St. Paul, not leaving him in his error ; not leaving him an alien from His Church; but first, making Himself known unto him by miracle, and then, calling him by His servant Ananias, to arise, and be baptized, and wash away his sins.
Sermons for the Christian Seasons.
THE HONOURING OF THE LAW.
Sr. LUKE ï. 22-24. And when the days of her puri
fication according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought Him to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord; (as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord ;) and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons.
This day, forty days after Christmas Day, we commemorate two events, the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, which happened forty days after the birth of our Saviour: both solemn and touching events in themselves, and yet more so when we consider them as circumstances connected with the mystery of His holy incarnation, wherein “ the only-begotten Son of God ... God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God ... for us men and for our salvation came down