"Ye have not so learned Christ."
Education is a very prominent feature in the England of to-day. Schools are among the most conspicuous of our public buildings, and competitive examinations are thronged by eager crowds; and, seeing all this, it seems almost impossible that a few years ago most of our poorer brethren could neither read or write. I am not going to speak to you now about the blessings and the evils of the present state of education; I want you to think of another school, and another kind of lessons, which are far more important than all else in the world. The time comes when the schoolboy can lay his books by, and when the young man quits college, they have finished their education. But it is never so in Christ's school, about which I am going to speak. As long as we are here in the world we must go to school. And when we come to die, our education is not finished, but we go to a higher class, as it were, to learn such lessons as we never could master on earth.
In the school of Jesus Christ it is not always the oldest or the cleverest who are the best scholars. There are white-haired old men who are only just learning the alphabet of Christ's religion, in the lowest place; and there are little children, so pure and white-souled, that they have already mastered some of the hardest lessons. In other schools the scholar must be naturally clever, or, at least, most industrious, if he is to gain a high place, and win a prize. In Christ's school there is a place, and a prize, for the dullest, and he will succeed very well if only he wants to learn. I have known many people who, as they said, "were no scholars," and yet they were not very far from the kingdom of Heaven. Brethren, some of us have never yet been to Christ's school. We have been playing truant, or altogether taken up with the lessons of that great, selfish, public-school -- the world. I want you all to come to Christ's school to-day, old and young, clever and dull, and to hear some of the lessons which that school teaches. I think that if we examine ourselves honestly in these lessons, we shall find how little we really know, and we shall begin with shame to take the lowest place. And we must remember this, that in Christ's school we shall have to unlearn a great deal which the world's school has taught us. The world will have instructed us to take care of ourselves, at the expense of others. One of the favourite mottoes in the great world school-room is -- "every man for himself." The world will have taught us that to make money, and to be successful, are the highest aims possible. And there are many similar lessons which are being daily learnt in the world school. Now, when we become scholars of Christ, we have to unlearn a great deal of this. Instead of finding the text, "every man for himself," placed conspicuously before us, we see another, and quite opposite command -- "No man liveth unto himself, and no man dieth unto himself." We were taught in that other school outside that to make money and to succeed were the greatest good. Here we are instructed differently. "Lay not up for yourselves treasure on the earth, where rust and moth doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal." One of the chief things which we learnt in the world's lesson-book was to mistrust our fellow men, and to be ready to resent an injury when discovered. In Christ's school the lesson is quite different, we are told to love our neighbour as ourself, and more than this, to love our enemies. There are some here to-day, perhaps, who are very old scholars of the world's school. They have got all its lessons by heart, they can repeat its selfish maxims, and practise its hard teachings. My brothers, God grant that you may find out how greatly your education has been neglected! God grant that you may learn, before it is too late, how little you know about the things which concern your peace. You, who have grown grey in the great world school, learning its sordid, selfish lessons, grinding away at its daily tasks, adding up your sums of addition, and interest, scanning the money table with eager eyes, practising your skill in profit and loss, and daily writing as your one copy -- make money, and be rich -- to you, I say, come into Christ's school to-day, and see whose teaching is the better: that of the world, or that of the Son of God. There comes to every school a day of breaking up, when the scholars go home. One day a man is missed in the great world school. His place is vacant. The shutters are up at the shop, or office, the servants at the place of business speak in smothered whispers. They miss the sound of the master's voice, the echo of his step upon the stair. He has learnt his last lesson in worldliness, and his schooling is over. The world has broken up, as far as he is concerned, and he has gone home. But where? He knew nothing beyond the world's lessons, he never provided for another home. "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"
Briefly, then, let us look at some of the chief lessons which we must learn in the school of Jesus Christ.
First, we must learn to hate our old sins. Like David, like S. Peter, like every penitent, when we think of the past we abhor ourselves, and sit down among the ashes of humiliation. Like the Prodigal, we cry, "I am no more worthy to be called Thy son." If you find yourself taking pleasure in the thought of former sin, boasting of your evil deeds, be sure you are yet in your ignorance, you have never learnt the alphabet of Christ's lesson.
Next, we must learn to know our own weakness, and our need of a Saviour. The world will not give us that lesson. The world will tell us to make our own way, to trust to ourselves, to our cleverness, and sharpness. In Christ's school we shall be taught our weakness, and shall learn to say, "Lord, save me, I perish."
Another of the lessons we must learn is to conquer ourselves. The world gives a great many instructions about conquering difficulties, beating down obstacles, overcoming enemies; but it is Christ's school alone which can show us how to conquer ourselves. You have probably noticed the change in a young country lad after he has enlisted for a soldier, and gone through his drill. Whereas he was a high-shouldered, slouching, ungainly figure, now he has learnt to carry himself like a soldier, he has conquered the old bad habits which he acquired by lounging in the lanes, or plodding along the furrow. My brethren, we have all got our bad habits, our ugly tempers, our sharp tongues, our discontented feelings, and it is only the drill of Christ's soldiers, and the teachings in Christ's school, which will make us get the better of them. Christ's school will make a radical change in us. Jesus -- our Master -- says, "behold I make all things new," and we know that they who are in Christ are become new creatures, old things are passed away. We may be quite sure that if we are Christ's scholars we shall be changed people. S. Paul tells us, as he told the Ephesians, some of the marks of this change. We shall learn to speak, and act, the truth. "Putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour." We shall learn to control our temper, -- "be ye angry, and sin not. Let not the sun go down upon your wrath." We shall learn to work, and to work honestly, -- "let him that stole steal no more; but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good." We shall learn to control our tongue, -- "let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying." We shall learn to be kind and gentle to our neighbours, -- "let all bitterness and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil-speaking, be put away from you, with all malice." The great world school will teach us to practise these things, but not the school of Jesus. There we shall learn "to be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake hath forgiven us."
And we shall learn in Christ's school to be brave. The world school can teach us a certain kind of courage, but not the highest, nor the best. The world can teach us how to resent an injury, not how to forgive one. It is in Christ's school only that true heroes are made. The world can make such soldiers as Caesar, or Napoleon, but the school of Christ alone can make a Havelock or a Gordon. I have read of a poor boy who came to school with a patch on his clothes. One of his schoolmates singled him out for ridicule and insult; and the boy answered -- "do you suppose I am ashamed of my patch? I am thankful to a good mother for keeping me out of rags, and I honour my patch for her sake."
All the noble army of martyrs, of every rank and kind, learnt the secret of their courage in the school of Christ, and have left us an example to follow.
"By all the martyrs, and the dear dead Christ;
My brothers, it may be there are some here now who have not so learned Christ. Who have been in the world's school from the beginning, and have grown weary of its selfishness, and its hollow maxims. If it be so, pray now that Jesus, the Great Teacher, may give you a new heart, and a new mind, bow the proud head, and bend the unwilling knee, say to the Lord -- "Lord Jesu, make me as a little child, let me come to school to-night."