Then said Jesus to the twelve, Will you also go away?…
(Sermon to Young Men): —
1. We can scarcely conceive of any one but Peter speaking these words. They would not have been the first answer of the critical Thomas or the more philosophical John. The truth they contain would at last have aroused the faith of Thomas, and have been the resting-place of the love of John. Their sudden, unqualified utterance could only have broken from the lips of Peter. At the bare mention of the possibility of departure from Christ, St. Peter's soul was on fire, and the utterance of his heart outran the slower processes of the intellect, and he spoke with the voice of one who had experienced the power of the words of eternal life.
2. Young men are specially tempted to go away. The distinctive feature of your age is that it abounds in temptations. There is —
I. THE TEMPTATION TO A LIFE OF IDLE SELF-INDULGENCE.
1. With health strong, spirits high, and companionship abundant, the pleasure of merely living is so very great as for the time to seem almost satisfying. The facilities for easy living increases this temptation; but to yield to it is to kill the heart of your truest life. Though there may be nothing positively sinful in the separate acts of such a life, it is as a whole most sinful. You are guilty of the sin of omission, and rendering yourself unfit for the work of the future when it comes. For in such a life the seeds of all future evil are sown — softness, slothfulness, selfishness, etc.
2. This temptation is not to be overcome by the dull aphorisms of morality, nor by the festering pricks of ambition — the one all powerless against the other, as dangerous as the evil. What you need is to know Christ for yourself, so that love for Him becomes a real passion in your heart. Personal affiance brings you into His presence; and to be in His presence is to love Him, and love makes all labour easy. There is no limit to the height to which this may not exalt the most common-place life.
II. THE TEMPTATION TO IMMORAL PLEASURES.
1. To attempt to restrain young men of strong passions by stoical philosophy or prudential maxims, is like throwing a little water on a great fire, which, hissing out its own feebleness, does but quicken the burning.
2. There is but one sufficient remedy: that which has turned the martyrs' flames into a pleasant whistling wind, and subdued the flesh in all the triumph of its strength — the love of Christ. Bring Christ by the cry of faith into thy life; set thy struggles against corruption in the light of His cross, and pardon, and purity, and power will come from the pierced hand.
III. THE TEMPTATION TO SENSUOUS RELIGIOUSNESS.
1. Our worship may easily be smothered by the weight of its external adorning till it sinks into the death of mere formality, or is sentimentalized into the languid feebleness of an unmanly emotion.
2. The charm of such a temptation can only be broken by the knowledge of Christ on the cross dying for our sin, awakening by His word the sense of guilt, bringing the message of forgiveness, and holding communion with the reconciled spirit. When this mighty revelation comes, the soul cannot rest in outer things, nor allow the most beautiful symbol to intercept one ray of His countenance, who is fairer than the children of men. You cannot starve the busy, intrusive fancy into a heavenly affection. The love of Christ must so elevate the spirit, that it shall rest in no form, but in every form seek Him supremely.
IV. THE TEMPTATION TO FREE-THINKING, AND THE LOSS OF ALL REALLY FIXED BELIEF IN CHRISTIANITY.
1. Ages have their own temper, and there is much that is noble in that of our own. It contrasts most favourably with sensual, dull, and easy-living times. Labour, conflict, victory, are its watch-words. But its victories breed in it a certain audacity, to which the authority and genius of the Christian revelation oppose themselves.
2. Safety is not to be found in sleepily disregarding what is passing around us, nor in setting ourselves against the temper of the day, or in inventing a concordat between it and revelation, nor in forbidding criticism and turning away from discoveries. The rock, whose rugged breast affronts the torrent, cannot stay, but can only chafe the troubled waters.
3. If there are hard sayings discovered in the Christian record, and many turn back because of them, this is but a sifting of the inner willingness of hearts to go away. What else do the many voices around us proclaim but that, more than ever, we need a personal knowledge of Christ to keep us safe amidst the strife of tongues?
4. The real talisman against unbelief is not in hard, narrow, exclusive views, but in personal love to Christ. This love will sweep away a thousand doubts and speculative difficulties, and supply a whole life of resistance which is quickened into action by the mere touch of what might harm the spirit.
(Bp. S. Wilberforce.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?