by Phillips Brooks
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And do not you see how immediately this sweeps aside, as one gush of the sunlight sweeps aside the darkness, do not you see how it sweeps aside all the foolish and little things that people are saying? I say to my friend, "Be a Christian." That means to be a full man. And he says to me, "I have not time to be a Christian. I have not room. If my life was not so full. You don't know how hard I work from morning to night. What time is there for me to be a Christian? What time is there, what room is there for Christianity in such a life as mine?" But does not it come to seem to us so strange, so absurd, if it was not so melancholy, that man should say such a thing as that? It is as if the engine had said it had no room for the steam. It is as if the tree had said it had no room for the sap. It is as if the ocean had said it had no room for the tide. It is as if the man said that he had no room for his soul. It is as if life said that it had no time to live, when it is life. It is not something that is added to life. It is life. A man is not living without it. And for a man to say that "I am so full in life that I have no room for life," you see immediately to what absurdity it reduces itself. And how a man knows what he is called upon by God's voice, speaking to him every hour, speaking to him every moment, speaking to him out of everything, that which the man is called upon to do because it is the man's only life! Therefore time, room, that is what time, that is what room is for—life. Life is the thing we seek, and man finds it in the fulfilment of his life by Jesus Christ.

Now, until we understand this and take it in its richness, all religion seems, becomes to us such a little thing that it is not religion at all. You have got to know that religion, the service of Christ, is not something to be taken in in addition to your life; it is your life. It is not a ribbon that you shall tie in your hat, and go down the street declaring yourself that you have accepted something in addition to the life which your fellow-men are living. It is something which, taken into your heart, shall glow in every action so that your fellow-men shall say, "Lo, how he lives! What new life has come into him?" It is that insistence upon the great essentialness of the religious life, it is the insistence that religion is not a lot of things that a man does, but is a new life that a man lives, uttering itself in new actions because it is the new life. "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." So Jesus said to Nicodemus the ruler, Nicodemus the amateur in religions, who came and said, "Perhaps this teacher has something else that I can bind into my catalogue of truths and hold it." Jesus looked him in the face and said: "It is not that, my friend, it is not that; it is to be a new man, it is to be born again. It is to have the new life, which is the old life, which is the eternal life. So alone does man enter into the kingdom of God." I cannot help believing all the time that if our young men knew this, religion would lift itself up and have a dignity and greatness—not a thing for weak souls, but a thing for the manliest soul. Just because of its manliness it is easy. "Is it easy or is it hard, this religion of yours?" people say to us. I am sure I do not know the easy and the hard things. I cannot tell the difference. What is easier than for a man to breathe? And yet, have you never seen a breathless man, a man in whom the breathing was almost stopped, a drowning man, an exhausted man? have you never seen, when the breath was put once more to his nostrils and brought down once more into his empty lungs, the struggle with which he came back to it? It was the hardest thing for him to do, so much harder for him to live than it was for him to die. But by and by see him on his feet, going about his work, helping his fellow-men, living his life, rejoicing in his days, guarding against his dangers, full of life. Is life a hard thing for him? You don't talk about its being hard or easy any more than you talk about life itself. The man who lives in God knows no life except the life of God. Let men know that it is not mere trifling, it is not a thing to be dallied with for an instant, it is not a thing for a man to convince himself by an argument, and then keep as it were locked in a shelf: it is something that is so deep and serious, so deep and serious that when a man has once tested it there is no more chance of his going out of it than there is of his going out of the friendship and the love which holds him with its perpetual expression, with the continued deeper and deeper manifestation of the way in which the living being belongs to him who has a right to his life.

Now in the few moments that remain I want to take it for granted most seriously, most earnestly, that the men who are listening to me are in earnest, and I want to try to tell them as a brother might tell a brother, as I might tell to you or try to tell to you if sitting before my fireside, I want to try to answer the question which I know is upon your hearts. "What shall I do about this?" I know you say; "Is this all in the clouds? Is there anything I can do in the right way?" If you are in earnest, I shall try to tell you what I should do, if I were in your place, that I might enter into that life and be the free man that we have tried to describe, of whom we believe certain special and definite things. What are they? In the first place I would put away my sin. There is not a man listening to me now who has not some trick of life, some habit that has possession of him, which he knows is a wrong thing. The very first thing for a man to do is absolutely to set himself against them. If you are foul, stop being licentious, at least stop doing licentious things. If you, in any part of your business, are tricky, and unsound, and unjust, cut that off, no matter what it costs you. There is something clear and definite enough for every man. It is as clear for every man as the sunlight that smites him in his eyes. Stop doing the bad thing which you are doing. It is drawing the bolt away to let whatever mercy may come in come in. Stop doing your sin. You can do that if you will. Stop doing your sin, no matter how mechanical it seems, and then take up your duty, whatever you can do to make the world more bright and good. Do whatever you can to help every struggling soul, to add new strength to any staggering cause, the poor sick man that is by you, the poor wronged man whom you with your influence might vindicate, the poor boy in your shop that you may set with new hope upon the road of life that is beginning already to look dark to him. I cannot tell you what it is. But you know your duty. No man ever looked for it and did not find it.

And then the third thing—pray. Yes, go to the God whom you but dimly see and pray to Him in the darkness, where He seems to sit. Ask Him, as if He were, that He will give you that which, if He is, must come from Him, can come from Him alone. Pray anxiously. Pray passionately, in the simplest of all words, with the simplest of all thoughts. Pray, the manliest thing that a man can do, the fastening of his life to the eternal, the drinking of his thirsty soul out of the great fountain of life. And pray distinctly. Pray upon your knees. One grows tired sometimes of the free thought, which is yet perfectly true, that a man can pray anywhere and anyhow. But men have found it good to make the whole system pray. Kneel down, and the very bending of these obstinate and unused knees of yours will make the soul kneel down in the humility in which it can be exalted in the sight of God.

And then read your Bible. How cold that sounds! What, read a book to save my soul? Read an old story that my life in these new days shall be regenerated and saved? Yes, do just that, for out of that book, if you read it truly, shall come the divine and human person. If you can read it with your soul as well as with your eyes, there shall come the Christ there walking in Palestine. You shall see Him so much greater than the Palestine in which he walks, that at one word of prayer, as you bend over the illuminated page, there shall lift up that body-being of the Christ, and come down through the centuries and be your helper at your side. So read your Bible.

And then seek the Church—oh, yes, the Church. Do you think, my friends, you who stand outside the Church, and blame her for her inconsistencies, and tell of her shortcomings, and point out the corruptions that are in her history, all that are in her present life to-day—do you really believe that there is an earnest man in the Church that does not know the Church's weaknesses and faults just as well as you do? Do you believe that there is one of us living in the life and heart of the Church who don't think with all his conscience, who don't in every day in deep distress and sorrow know how the Church fails of the great life of the Master, how far she is from being what God meant she should be, what she shall be some day? But all the more I will put my life into that Church, all the more I will drink the strength that she can give to me and make what humble contribution to her I can bring of the earnestness and faithfulness of my life. Come into the Church of Jesus Christ. There is no other body on the face of the earth that represents what she represents—the noble destiny of the human soul, the great capacity of human faith, the inexhaustible and unutterable love of God, the Christ, who stands to manifest them all.

Now those are the things for a man to do who really cares about all this. Those are the things for an earnest man to do. They have no power in themselves, but they are the opening of the windows. And if that which I believe is true, God is everywhere giving himself to us, the opening of the windows is a signal that we want Him and an invitation that He will be glad enough to answer, to come. Into every window that is open to Him and turned His way, Christ comes, God comes. That is the only story. There is put aside everything else. Election, predestination, they can go where they please. I am sure that God gives Himself to every soul that wants Him and declares its want by the open readiness of the signal which He knows. How did the sun rise on our city this morning? Starting up in the east, the sun came in its majesty into the sky. It smote on the eastward windows, and wherever the window was all closed, even if it were turned eastward, on the sacred side of the city's life, it could not come in; but wherever any eastward window had its curtains drawn, wherever he who slept had left the blinds shut, so that the sun when it came might find its way into his sleepiness, there the sun came, and with a shout awoke its faithful servant who had believed in him even before he had seen him, and said, "Arise, arise from the dead, and I will give thee life." This is the simplicity of it all, my friends. A multitude of other things you need not trouble yourselves about. I amaze myself when I think how men go asking about the questions of eternal punishment and the duration of man's torment in another life, of what will happen to any man who does not obey Jesus Christ. Oh, my friends, the soul is all wrong when it asks that. Not until the soul says, "What will come if I do obey Jesus Christ?" and opens its glorified vision to see all the great things that are given to the soul that enters into the service of the perfect one, the perfect love, not until then the perfect love, the perfect life, come in. A man may be—I believe it with all my heart—so absolutely wrapped up in the glory of obedience, and the higher life, and the service of Christ, that he never once asks himself, "What will come to me if I do not obey?" any more than your child asks you what you will do to him if he is not obedient. Every impulse and desire of his life sets toward obedience. And so the soul may have no theory of everlasting or of limited punishment, or of the other life.

Simply now, here, he must have that without which he cannot live, that without which there is no life. Jesus the soul must have, the one yesterday, to-day, and forever; He that is and was and is to be. Men dwell upon what He was, upon what He is; I rather think to-day of what He is to be. And when I see these young men here before me looking to the future and not to the past,—nay, looking to the future and not to the present, valuing the present only as it is the seed ground of the future, the foundation upon which the structure is to rise whose pinnacle shall some day pierce the sky,—I want to tell them of the Jesus that shall be. In fuller comprehension of Him, with deeper understanding of His life, with a more entire impression of what He is and of what He may be to the soul, so men shall understand Him in the days to be, and yet He shall be the same Christ still. The future belongs to Jesus Christ, yes, the same Christ that I believe in and that I call upon you to believe in to-day, but a larger, fuller, more completely comprehended Christ, the Christ that is to be, the same Christ that was and suffered, the same Christ that is and helps, but the same Christ also who, being forever deeper and deeper and more deeply received into the souls of men, regenerates their institutions, changes their life, opens their capacities, surprises them with themselves, makes the world glorious and joyous every day, because it has become the new incarnation, the new presence of the divine life in the life of man.

Men are talking about the institutions in which you are engaged, my friends, about the business from which you have come here to worship for this little hour. Men are questioning about what they care to do, what they can have to do with Christianity. They are asking everywhere this question: "Is it possible for a man to be engaged in the activities of our modern life and yet to be a Christian? Is it possible for a man to be a broker, a shopkeeper, a lawyer, a mechanic, is it possible for a man to be engaged in a business of to-day, and yet love his God and his fellow-man as himself?" I do not know. I do not know what transformations these dear businesses of yours have got to undergo before they shall be true and ideal homes for the child of God; but I do know that upon Christian merchants and Christian brokers and Christian lawyers and Christian men in business to-day there rests an awful and a beautiful responsibility: to prove, if you can prove it, that these things are capable of being made divine, to prove that a man can do the work that you have been doing this morning and will do this afternoon, and yet shall love his God and his fellow-man as himself. If he cannot, if he cannot, what business have you to be doing them? If he can, what business have you to be doing them so poorly, so carnally, so unspiritually, that men look on them and shake their heads with doubt? It belongs to Christ in men first to prove that man may be a Christian and yet do business; and, in the second place, to show how a man, as he becomes a greater Christian, shall purify and lift the business that he does and make it the worthy occupation of the Son of God.

What shall be our universal law of life? Can we give it as we draw toward our last moment? I think we can. I want to live, I want to live, if God will give me help, such a life that, if all men in the world were living it, this world would be regenerated and saved. I want to live such a life that, if that life changed into new personal peculiarities as it went to different men, but the same life still, if every man were living it, the millennium would be here; nay, heaven would be here, the universal presence of God. Are you living that life now? Do you want your life multiplied by the thousand million so that all men shall be like you, or don't you shudder at the thought, don't you give hope that other men are better than you are? Keep that fear, but only that it may be the food of a diviner hope, that all the world may see in you the thing that man was meant to be, that is, the Christ. Ah, you say, that great world, it is too big; how can I stretch my thought and imagination and conscience to the poor creatures in Africa and everywhere? Then bring it home. Ah, this dear city of ours, this city that we love, this city in which many of us were born, in which all of us are finding the rich and sweet associations of our life, this city, whose very streets we love because they come so close to everything we do and are, cannot we do something for it? Cannot we make its life diviner? Cannot we contribute something that it has not to-day? Cannot you put in it, some little corner of it, a life which others shall see and say, "Ah, that our lives may be like that!" And then the good Boston in which we so rejoice, which we so love, which we would so fain make a part of the kingdom of God, a true city of Jesus Christ, we shall not die without having done something for it.

I linger, and yet I must not linger. Oh, my friends, oh, my fellow-men, it is not very long that we shall be here. It is not very long. This life for which we are so careful—it is not very long; and yet it is so long, because, long, long after we have passed away out of men's sight and out of men's memory, the world, with something that we have left upon it, that we have left within it, will be going on still. It is so long because, long after the city and the world have passed away, we shall go on somewhere, somehow, the same beings still, carrying into the depths of eternity something that this world has done for us that no other world could do, something of goodness to get now that will be of value to us a million years hence, that we never could get unless we got it in the short years of this earthly life. Will you know it? Will you let Christ teach it to you? Will you let Christ tell you what is the perfect man? Will you let Him set His simplicity and graciousness close to your life, and will you feel their power? Oh! be brave, be true, be pure, be men, be men in the power of Jesus Christ. May God bless you! May God bless you! Let us pray.


An earnest appeal to all that enter that Liberty. May I read to you a few words from the eighth chapter of St. John? "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

Let us not think, my friends, that there is anything strange about the spectacle which we witnessed this morning. The only strange thing that there could be about it is that anybody should think that it is strange that men should turn aside for half an hour from their ordinary business pursuits, that they should come from the details of life to inquire in regard to the principles, the everlasting principles and purposes of life; that they should turn aside from those things which are occupying them from day to day and make one single hour in the week consecrated to the service of those great things which underlie all life—surely there is nothing very strange. There is nothing more absolutely natural. Every man does it in his own sort of way, in his own choice of time. We have chosen to do it together, on one day of the week during these few weeks which the Christian Church has so largely set apart for special thought and prayer and earnest attempt to approach the God to whom we belong. It is simply as if the stream turned back again to its fountain, that it might refresh itself and make itself strong for the great work that it had to do in watering the fields and turning the wheels of industry. It is simply as if men plodding along over the flat routine of their life chose once in a while to go up into the mountain top, whence they might once in a while look abroad over their life, and understand more fully the way in which they ought to work. These are the principles, these are the pictures which represent that which we have in mind as we come together for a little while each Monday in these few weeks, in order that we may think about things of God and try to realize the depth of our own human life. The first thing that we ought to understand about it is that when we turn aside from life it is only that we go deeper into life. This hour does not stand apart from the rest of the hours of the week, in that we are dealing with things in which the rest of the week has no concern. He who understands life deeply and fully, understands life truly; he has forever renewed his life; and if there comes into our hearts, in the life which we are living, a perpetual sense that life needs renewal, a richening and refreshing, then it is in order that we may go down into the depths and see what lies at the root of things—things that we are perpetually doing and thinking. It is this that brought us together here: it is that we may open to ourselves some newer, higher life. It is that we may understand the life that we may live, along side of and as a richer development of that life which we are living from day to day, which we have been living during the years of our life. How that idea has haunted men in every period of their existence, how it is haunting you, that there is some higher life which it is possible to live! There has never been a religion that has not started there, lifted up its eyes and seen, afar off, what it was possible for man to do from day to day, in contrast with the things which men immediately and presently are. There is not any moment of the human soul which has not rested upon some great conception that man was a nobler being than he was ordinarily conceiving himself to be; that he was not destined to the things which were ordinarily occupying his life; that he might be living a greater and nobler life. It is because the Christian Scriptures have laid most earnestly hold of this idea, it is because it was represented not simply in the words which Christ said, but in the very being which Christ was, that we go to them to get the inspiration and the indication, the revelation and the enlightenment which we need. I have read to you these few words in which Christ declares the whole subject, the whole character of which His life is and what His work is about to do, because it seems to me that they strike at once the key-note of that which we want to understand. They let us enter into the full conception of that which the new life which is offered to man really is. There are two conceptions which come to every man when he is entering upon a new life, changing his present life to something that is different from the present life, and being a different sort of creature and living in a different sort of a way. The first way in which it presents itself to him—almost always at the beginning of every religion, perhaps—is in the way of restraint and imprisonment. Man thinks of every change that is to come to him as in the nature of denial of something that he is at the present doing and being, as the laying hold upon himself of some sort of restraint, bringing to him something which says: "I must not do the thing which I am doing. I must lay upon myself restraints, restrictions, commandments, and prohibitions. I must not let myself be the man that I am." You see how the Old Testament comes before the New Testament, the law ringing from the mountain top with the great denials, the great prohibitions, that come from the mouth of God. "Thou shalt not do this, that, or the other—Thou shalt not murder. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods." That is the first conception which comes to a man of the way in which he is to enter upon a new life, of the way in which the denial in his experience is to take effect. It is as if the hands were stretched out in order that fetters might be placed upon them. The man says, "Let some power come that is to hinder me from being this thing that I am." And the whole notion is the notion of imprisonment, restraint So it is with all civilization. It is perfectly possible for us to represent civilization as compared with barbarism, as accepted by mankind, as a great mass of restrictions and prohibitions that have been laid upon human life, so that the freedom of life has been cast aside, and man has entered into restricted, restrained, and imprisoned condition. So it is with every fulfilment of life. It is possible for a man always to represent it to himself as if it were the restriction, restraint, and prohibition of his life. The man passes onward into the fuller life which belongs to a man. He merges his selfishness into that richer life which is offered to human kind. He makes himself, instead of a single, selfish man, a man of family; and it is easy enough to consider that marriage and the family life bring immediately restraints and prohibitions. The man may not have the freedom which he used to have. So all development of education, in the first place, offers itself to man, or seems to offer itself to man, as prohibition and imprisonment and restraint. There is no doubt truth in such an idea. We never lose sight of it. No other richer and fuller idea which we come to by and by ever does away with the thought that man's advance means prohibition and self-denial, that in order that man shall become the greater thing he must cease to be the poorer and smaller thing he has been. But yet there is immediately a greater and fuller. When we hear those words of Jesus, we see immediately that not the idea of imprisonment but the idea of liberty, not the idea of restraint but that of setting free, is the idea which is really in His mind when he offers the fullest life to human kind. Have you often thought of how the whole Bible is a Book of Liberty, of how It rings with liberty from beginning to end, of how the great men are the men of liberty, of how the Old Testament, the great picture which forever shines, is the emancipator, leading forth out of imprisonment the people of God, who were to do the great work of God in the very much larger and freer life in which they were to live? The prophet, the psalmist, are ever preaching and singing about liberty, the enfranchisement of the life of man, that man was not imprisoned in order to fulfil himself, but shall open his life, and every new progress shall be into a new region of existence which lie has not touched as yet. When we turn from the Old Testament to the New Testament, how absolutely clear that idea is! Christ is the very embodiment of human liberty. In His own personal life and in everything that He did and said, He was forever uttering the great gospel that man, in order to become his completest, must become his freest, that what a man did when he entered into a new life was to open a new region in which new powers were to find their exercise, in which he was to be able to be and do things which he could not be and do in more restricted life. It is the acceptance of that idea, it seems to me, that makes us true disciples of Christ and of that great gospel, and that transfigures everything. When my friend turns over some new leaf, as we say, and begins to live a new life, what shall we think of him? I learn that he has become a Christian man, that he is doing something, that he is working in a way and living a life which I have not known before. What is my impression in regard to him? Is not your impression, as you look upon that man, that somehow or other he has entered into a slavery or bondage, that he has taken upon his life restrictions and imprisonments which he did not have before? And you think of him, perhaps, as a man who has done a wise and prudent thing, who has done something that is going to be for his benefit some day in some distant and half-realized world, but as a man who, for the present, has laid a burden and bondage upon his life. That is never the tone of Christ; it is never the tone of the Christian gospel. When a man turns away from his sins and enters into energetic holiness, when a man sacrifices his own self-indulgence and goes forth a pure servant of his God and his fellow-men, there is only one cry in the whole gospel of that man, and that is the cry of freedom. As soon as he can catch that, as soon as I can feel about my friend, who has become a better man, that he has become a larger and not a smaller, a freer and not a more imprisoned man, as soon as I lift up my voice and say that the man is free, then I understand him more fully, and he becomes a revelation to me in the higher and richer life which is possible for me to live. But think of it for yourselves, for a moment, and ask what freer life really is. Try to give a definition of liberty, and I know not what it can be said to be except something of this kind: Liberty is the fullest opportunity for man to be and do the very best that is possible for him. I know of no definition of liberty, that oldest and dearest phrase of men, and sometimes the vaguest also, except that. It has been perverted, it has been distorted and mystified, but that is what it really means: the fullest opportunity for a man to do and be the very best that is in his personal nature to do and to be. It immediately follows that everything which is necessary for the full realization of a man's life, even though it seems to have the character of restraint for a moment, is really a part of the process of his enfranchisement, is the bringing forth of him to a fuller liberty. You see a man coming forward and offering himself as one of the defenders of his country in his country's need. You see him standing at the door where men are being received as recruits into the army of the country. He wants liberty. He wants to be able to do that which he cannot do in his poor, personal isolation here at home. He wants the badge which will give him the right to go forth and meet the enemies of his country, and he enrolls himself among these men. He makes himself subject to obligations, duties, and drill. They are a part of his enfranchisement. They are really the breaking of the fetters upon his slavery, the sending him forth into freedom. He is like a bit of iron or steel that lies upon the ground. It lies neglected and perfectly free. You see it is made by the adjustment of the end of it so that it can be set into a great machine and become part of a great working system. But there it lies. Will you call it free? It is bound to be nothing there. It is absolutely separate, and with its own personality distinct and individual and all alone. What is to make that bit of iron a free bit of iron, to let it go forth and do the thing which it was meant to do, but the taking of it and the binding of it at both ends into the structure of which it was made to be a part? It seems to me the binding of a man,—it seems to me that the binding of the iron is not the yielding of its freedom. It is not merely after finding its place within the system that it first achieves its freedom and so joins in the music and partakes of the courses with which the whole enginery is filled. Is not it, then, for the first time a free bit of iron, having accomplished all that it was made to do when it came forth from the forge of the master, who had this purpose in his mind? This, then, is freedom; everything is part of the enfranchisement of a man which helps to put him in the place where he can live his best. Therefore every duty, every will of God, every commandment of Christ, every self-surrender that a man is called upon to obey or to make—do not think of it as if it were simply a restraint to liberty, but think of it as the very means of freedom, by which we realize the very purpose of God and the fulfilment of our life. It is interesting to see how all that is true in regard to the matter of belief, doctrine, and opinions which we are apt to accept. How strange it very often seems that men go to the Church, or to one another, and say: "Must I believe this doctrine in order that I can enter into the Church?" "Must I believe this doctrine in order that I may be saved?" men say, with a strange sort of notion about what salvation is. How strange it seems, when we really have got our intelligence about us and know what it is to believe! To believe a new truth, if it be really truth and we really believe it, is to have entered into a new region, in which our life shall find a new expansion and a new youth. Therefore, not "Must we believe?" but "May I believe?" is the true cry of the human creature who is seeking for the richest fulfilment of his life, who is working that his whole nature may find its complete expansion and so its completest exercise. We talk a great deal in these days and in this place about a liberal faith. What is a liberal faith, my friends? It seems to me that by every true meaning of the word, by every true thought of the idea, a liberal faith is a faith that believes much, and not a faith that believes little. The more a man believes, the more liberally he exercise his capacity of faith, the more he sends forth his intelligence into the mysteries of God, the more he understands those things which God chooses to reveal to his creatures, the more liberally he believes. Let yourselves never think that you grow liberal in faith by believing less; always be sure that the true liberality of faith can only come by believing more. It is true, indeed, that as soon as a man becomes eager for belief, for the truth of God and for the mysteries with which God's universe is filled, he becomes all the more critical and careful. He will hot any longer, if he were before, be simply greedy of things to believe, so that if any superstition comes offering itself to him he will not gather it in indiscriminately and believe it without evidence, without examination. He becomes all the more critical and careful, the more he becomes assured that belief, and not unbelief, is the true condition of his life. The truth that God has entered into this world in wondrous ways and filled its life with Jesus Christ, the truth that man has a soul and not simply a body, that he has a spiritual need, that God cares for him and he is to care for himself, that there is an immortal life, and that that which we call faith is but the opening of a gate, the pushing back of a veil,—shall a man believe those things as imprisonments of his nature, and shall it not make him larger? Shall it not be the indulgence of his life when he enters into the great certainties which so are offered to his belief, believing them in his own way? Let us always feel that to accept a new belief is no to build a wall beyond which we cannot pass, but is to open the door to a great fresh, free region, in which our souls are to live. And just so it is when we come to the moral things of life. The man puts aside some sinfulness. He breaks down the wall that has been shutting his soul out of its highest life. He has been a drunkard, and he becomes a sober man. He has been a cheat, and becomes a faithful man. He has been a liar, and becomes a truthful man. He has been a profligate, and he becomes a pure man. What has happened to that man? Shall he simply think of himself as one who has crushed this passion, shut down this part of his life? Shall he simply think of himself as one who has taken a course of self-denial? Nay. It is self-indulgence that a man has really entered upon. It is an indulgence of the deepest part of his own nature, not of his unreal nature. He has risen and shaken himself like a lion, so that the dust has fallen from his mane, and all the great range of that life which God gave him to live lies before him. This is the everlasting inspiration. This is the illumination. I don't wonder that men refuse to give up evil if it simply seems to them to be giving up the evil way, and no vision opens before them of the thing that they may be and do. I don't wonder that, if the negative, restricting, imprisoning conception of the new life is all that a man gets hold of, he lingers again and again in the old life. But just as soon as the great world opens before him then it is like a prisoner going out of the prison door. Is there no lingering? Does not the baser part of him cling to the old prison, to the ease and the provision for him, to the absence of anxiety and of energy? I think there can hardly be a prisoner who, with any leap of heart, goes out of the prison door, when his term is finished, and does not even look into that black horror where he has been living, cast some lingering, longing look behind. He comes to the exigencies, to the demands of life, to the necessity of making himself once more a true man among his fellow-men. But does he stop? He comes forth, and if there be the soul of a man in him still, he enters into the new life with enthusiasm, and finds the new powers springing in him to their work. And if it be so with every special duty, then with that great thing which you and I are called upon to do—the total acceptance by our nature of the will of God, the total acceptance by our nature of the mastery of Jesus Christ. Oh! how this world has perverted words and meanings, that the mastery of Jesus Christ should seem to be the imprisonment and not the enfranchisement of the soul! When I bring a flower out of the darkness and set it in the sun, and let the sunlight come streaming down upon it, and the flower knows the sunlight for which it was made and opens its fragrance and beauty; when I take a dark pebble and put it into the stream and let the silver water go coursing down over it and bringing forth the hidden color that was in the bit of stone, opening the nature that is in them, the flower and stone rejoice. I can almost hear them sing in the field and in the stream. What then? Shall not man bring his nature out into the fullest illumination, and surprise himself by the things that he might do? Oh! the littleness of the lives that we are living! Oh! the way in which we fail to comprehend, or when we do comprehend, deny to ourselves the bigness of that thing which it is to be a man, to be a child of God! Sometimes it dawns upon us that we can see it opening into the vision of these men and women in the New Testament. Sometimes there opens to us the picture of this thing that we might be, and then there are truly the trial moments of our life. Then we lift up ourselves and claim our liberty or, dastardly or cowardly, slink back into the sluggish imprisonment in which we have been living. How does all this affect that which we are continually conscious of, urging upon ourselves and upon one another? How does it affect the whole question of a man's sins? Oh! these sins, the things we know so well! As we sit here and stand here one entire hour, as we talk in this sort of way, everybody knows the weaknesses of his own nature, the sins of his own soul. Don't you know it? What shall we think about those sins? It seems to me, my friends, that all this great picture of the liberty into which Christ sets man, in the first place does one thing which we are longing to see done in the world. It takes away the glamour and the splendor from sin. It breaks that spell by which men think that the evil thing is the glorious thing. If the evil thing be that which Christ has told us that the evil thing is—which I have no time to tell you now—if every sin that you do is not simply a stain upon your soul, but is keeping you out from some great and splendid thing which you might do, then is there any sort of splendor and glory about sin? How about the sins that you did when you were young men? How can you look back upon those sins and think what your life might have been if it had been pure from the beginning, think what you might have been if from the very beginning you had caught sight of what it was to be a man? And then your boy comes along. What are the men in this town doing largely in many and many a house, but letting their boys believe that the sins of their early life are glorious things, except that those things which they did, the base and wretched things that they were doing when they were fifteen and twenty and twenty-five and thirty years old, are the true career of a human nature, are the true entrance into human life? The miserable talk about sowing wild oats, about getting through the necessary conditions of life before a man comes to solemnity! Shame upon any man who, having passed through the sinful conditions and habits and dispositions of his earlier life, has not carried out of them an absolute shame for them, that shall let him say to his boy, by word and by every utterance of his life within the house where he and the boy live together, "Refrain, for they are abominable things!" To get rid of the glamour of sin, to get rid of the idea that it is a glorious thing to be dissipated instead of being concentrated to duty, to get rid of the idea that to be drunken and to be lustful are true and noble expressions of our abounding human life, to get rid of any idea that sin is aught but imprisonment, is to make those who come after us, and to make ourselves in what of life is left for us, gloriously ambitious for the freedom of purity, for a full entrance into that life over which sin has no dominion. And yet, at the same time, don't you see that while sin thus becomes contemptible when we think about the great illustration of the will of God and Jesus Christ, don't you see how also it puts on a new horror? That which I thought I was doing in the halls of my imprisonment I have really been doing within the possible world of God in which I might have been free. The moment I see what life might have been to me, then any sin becomes dreadful to me. Have you ever thought of how the world has stood in glory and honor before the sinless humanity of Jesus Christ? If any life could prove, if any argument could show on investigation to-day that Jesus did one sin in all his life, that the perfect liberty which was his perfect purity was not absolutely perfect, do you realize what a horror would seem to fall down from the heavens, what a constraint and burden would be laid upon the lives of men, how the gates of men's possibilities would seem to close in upon them? It is because there has been that one life which, because absolutely pure from sin, was absolutely free; it is because man may look up and see in that life the revelation and possibility of his own; it is because that life, echoing the great cry throughout the world that man everywhere is the son of God, offers the same purity—and so the same freedom—to all mankind; it is for that reason that a man rejoices to cling to, to believe in, however impure his life is, the perfect purity, the sinlessness of the life of Jesus. When you sin, my friends, it is a man that sins, and a man is a child of God; and for a child of God to sin is an awful thing, not simply for the stain that he brings into the divine nature that is in him, but for the life from which it shuts him out, for the liberty which he abandons, for the inthrallment which it lays upon the soul. There is one thing that people say very carelessly that always seems to me to be a dreadful thing for a man to say. They say it when they talk about their lives to one another, and think about their lives to themselves, and by and by very often say it upon their death-bed with the last gasp, as though their entrance into the eternal world had brought them no deeper enlightenment. One wonders what is the revelation that comes to them when they stand upon the borders of the other side and are in the full life and eternity of God. The thing men say is, "I have done the very best I can." It is an awful thing for a man to say. The man never lived, save he who perfected our humanity, who ever did the very best he could. You dishonor your life, you not simply shut your eyes to certain facts, you not simply say an infinitely absurd and foolish thing, but you dishonor your human life if you say that you have done in any day of your life or in all the days of your life put together, the very best that you could, or been the very best man that you could be. You! what are you? Again I say, The child of God, and this which you have been, what is it? Look over it, see how selfish it has been, see how material it has been, how it has lived in the depths when it might have lived on the heights, see how it has lived in the little narrow range of selfishness when it might have been as broad as all humanity, nay, when it might have been as the God of humanity. Don't dare to say that in any day of your life, or in all your life together, you have done the best that you could. The Pharisee said it when he went up into the temple, and all the world has looked on with mingled pity and scorn at the blindness of the man who stood there and paraded his faithfulness; while all the world has bent with a pity that was near to love, a pity that was full of sympathy because man recognized his condition and experience, for the poor creature grovelling upon the pavement, unwilling and unable even to look upon the altar, but who, standing afar off, said, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" Whatever else you say, don't say, "I have been the very best I could." That means that you have not merely lived in the rooms of your imprisonment, but that you have been satisfied to count them the only possible rooms of your life, and that the great halls of your liberty have never opened themselves before you. Shall not they open themselves somehow to us to-day, my friends? Shall we not turn away from this hour and go back into our business, into our offices, into the shops, into the crowded streets, bearing new thoughts of the lives that we might live, feeling the fetters on our hands and feet, feeling many things as fetters which we have thought of as the ornament and glory of our life, determined to be unsatisfied forever until these fetters shall be stricken off and we have entered into the full liberty which comes to those alone who are dedicated to the service of God, to the completion of their own nature, to the acceptance of the grace of Christ, and to the attainment of the eternal glory of the spiritual life, first here and then hereafter, never hereafter, it may be, except here and now, certainly here and now, as the immediate, pressing privilege and duty of our lives? So let us stand up on our feet and know ourselves in all the richness and in all the awfulness of our human life. Let us know ourselves children of God, and claim the liberty which God has given to every one of his children who will take it. God bless you and give some of you, help some of us, to claim, as we have never claimed before, that freedom with which the Son makes free!


I want to read to you again the words of Jesus in the eighth chapter of the Gospel of St. John: "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." The service of God is not self-restraint, but self-indulgence. That is the first truth of all religion. That is the truth which we found uttered in those words of Jesus when we were thinking of them the other day. That is the truth to which we return as we come back again to think of those words and all that they mean and all that the speaker of them means to us and to our lives. When we remember that truth, when we recognize that no man is ever to be saved except by the fulfilment of his own nature, and not by the restraint of his nature, when we recognize that no man, no personal, individual man, is ever to be ransomed from his sins except by having opened to him a larger and fuller life into which he has entered, we seem to have displayed to us a large region, into which we are tempted to enter, and which is so rich and inviting to us that we immediately begin to ask ourselves if it is possible that there should be such a region. It is simply a great dream that we set before us. It is something that we imagine, something that comes out of the imaginations and anticipations of our own hearts, simply stimulated by the possibilities of the life in which we are living. It would be very much indeed, if it were only that. It would bear a certain testimony of itself, if it simply came out of the perpetual dissatisfaction of men's souls, even if there were no distinct manifestation of that life and no possibility of entering into it at once with our own personal consecration, with the resolution of our own wills. But if it were simply a dream, ultimately it must fade away out of the thoughts of men. It is impossible that men should keep on, year after year, age after age, this simple dream of something which does not exist. It would be like those pictures which the poet has drawn, something which appeals to nothing in our human nature and stands only as a parable of something that is a great deal lower than itself. The poet pictures to us in his imagination those things which do not appeal to our life, because they find nothing to correspond to their high portraits, to show those transformations of nature into something that is entirely different and foreign to itself. If religion be simply the dream that some men hold it to be, if it simply be the cheating of man's soul with that which has no reality to correspond to it, then it will be no more than this. Is there any assurance that is given to us, that is before the soul of man, of some great new life which it is given for man to seek, without which it is given for no man to be satisfied? I do not know where any man could find that assurance absolutely and entirely, unless there had stood forth before us the person of Him who spoke these words and who manifested them in His life. And therefore it is that, having pictured to you the richness of the life which is open to every man, his own true life, the large freedom into which he may go if, giving up his sins he enters into the fulness of the life of God, I cannot help now calling you to think about Him who gives, not merely by His words, but by the whole of His own person and life, that manifestation of the reality of the divine existence and tempts us to follow after Him. In other words, we come to-day to think of Christ, Christ who claims to be the master of the world, Christ from whom the revelation of that higher life has come, not in its first instance in the manifestation of the words which he spoke, for it had been the dream of human hearts through all the ages, but who made it so distinct and clear that ever since the time of Christ men have been able to cease to seek after it, men have never been able to give up the hope and dream that it was there. It is our Christ in whom we Christians believe. It is the Christ in whom a great many of you listening to me now claim to believe—I do myself—in whom many of you do believe, whom many of you have followed into that newer life. I would to God that I could so set Him before you to-day, could so make you feel his actual presence in the life which we are living, which we may be living, that there should be no question in any man of the power that is open before him to enter into the higher life and to fulfil his soul to God. What I want to do, in the few moments which I may speak to you this morning, is—laying aside all the theological conceptions regarding Him, laying aside everything that attaches to the complications and mysteries in which His nature has been involved in men's dreams of Him, laying aside everything which the churches are holding as the special doctrine of their especial creed—to go back to the very beginning and see if we can understand anything of what it is—this personal Christ, who lives here in the world and manifests the power of God and opens the possibility of every man. Surely it is good that we should know something about Him of whom we speak so much, that there should be some clear and directest conception of one whose name has been upon the lips of men for eighteen hundred years; and it is possible for us, in the simplest way, to understand how His power has come into the world and to see where it is possible that it should come and enrich our lives and make us different men. We go back, then, to the very beginning of the aspiration after God, which is in the heart of man everywhere. There has never been a race that has been without it. There has never been a generation that has not reached forward and thought there was a higher life, a fuller liberty, to which it could come. It has been in all the religions which have been not simply fears, but which have been the highest utterances of all the different races in all the different generations of mankind and all the different countries of the world; and there was one especial race in one especial part of the world in whom that aspiration was especially strong. We will not ask how it came to be there. There it was in this strange people living on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, and in all its history marked out by the strange peculiarity that it was a spiritual people, that in the midst of all its sins, blunders, and weaknesses it was forever lifting up its soul to God and striving to find Him out. Very often it blundered strangely and sadly. Very often it failed to get that for which it was seeking, by the very impetuousness, rashness, and earnestness of search. But it was always seeking after Him. And the years rolled by, and by and by in the midst of that great nation there was a little company of men who, accompanying one another from the beginning of their lives, had been searching after this God and trying everywhere if they could find Him. And one day they heard that down by the river which ran through their country, which was sacred to them from the multitude of old national associations, there was a great teacher come, who was declaring that for which the human soul was forever reaching after, the need of escaping from sin and entering upon and leading a higher life. This little company went down and met two disciples of John the Baptist, and learned from them everything that they had to teach them. Their souls were stirred by that which he had to say. But one day, while he was teaching them, it seemed as if they had come to an end of that which he could teach them. He looked up, and there upon the hill just above the river there was passing one upon whom the gaze of the fishermen by the river immediately kindled, and he lifted his hand and said, "He is the one who is to teach you now. You must go after him. Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." Great and mysterious words, that filled in that which men had believed in all the records they had read and the thinking they had done before! And they turned away from John and went after this new teacher and, following to His house, there they abode with Him during that day and the days that followed after. Little by little, as we read the story of their being with him, we can see them taken into His power, we can see how there was a certain fascination in His presence which laid hold upon them. It seemed at first to be purely human, to be the way in which one strong man takes possession of his fellow-man and compels him to rely upon him. It was upon purely human ground. It was in the manifestation of the excellence of this human nature of ours that they believed in Jesus and gradually became His disciples. Little by little it so commanded them that at last the moment came when it was impossible for them to separate themselves from Him; and one day, when the people were turning away from Him when He was preaching and saying things that it was hard for them to understand, He looked around upon them and said, "Are you going also, will you leave me now?" And then there burst forth from the lips of one of them, the most strong and characteristic act of the little company, those great words that declared how He had become necessary to them: "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." You see the power that Jesus had acquired over these men. You see the way in which He had taken them absolutely into His dominion, simply because of the manifestation of character and life, simply because He had shown them what man might be and opened the springs of the better life in themselves by the words He had spoken to them. And then they lived on with Him still, and by and by they had become so convinced by His truth and wisdom, His character had so taken possession of them, that they were ready to believe anything that He said. One day He lifted up His voice and declared that which had gradually been dawning upon them all the time, that He was more than they were, that He had brought in some mysterious way a divine life into this world and had much to communicate to them. He told them that He was the Father from whom His life and their life had come. He told them that He and the Father were one. He told them, not in theological statement, not as men have worked out since in their desire to know it fully, but in the simple statement of the truth that could be the inspiration of their life, that in His presence there was here the very presence of God among them. It was not strange to them, though human creatures, though men, that the highest aspiration of their humanity had never thought God so far from this world that it seemed to them strange that there should be in very human presence the divine life here with them. They could not explain it and did not try to explain it. Here it was, that which they had seen shadowed in the divinest men whom they had known, that which they had recognized. Here it was before them in this being who had won such a power over them that they were ready to accept His testimony with regard to Himself. Oh! my friends, let us not feel that the evidence of our Christian faith fails when it is seen to rest upon the word of Christ Himself. My neighbor knows more of himself than I know of him. I know more of myself than any man can know of me, if only I be earnest and sincere. And that the greatest of men who ever trod this earth should not know more of His nature than any other man should know, and that therefore His word should not be the richest revelation of that which is in His life and makes His power over mankind, that is incredible. Therefore the men were right when they believed Jesus' own word and looked to Him for the divinity which He said was present with Him upon the earth. Then His life went on, and by and by fulfilled itself in the one great action in which He declared those two things which He longed to know, the life and newness of God and the power of their human nature. He gave His life for them, indeed, in the awful suffering that preceded and that culminated upon the cross. He gave His life in crucifixion for them, and in that crucifixion opened the divinest doors of His life, when opening a sanctuary of sorrow; and He bade them enter in and know there the absolute life of God and the great capacity of human nature to sacrifice itself for God. And before He died, and afterward, He again appeared to them. He spoke great words which said that this was not the end of things, that after they had ceased to see Him and touch Him and hear His voice He still was to be present in the world. He said that the mysterious presence of those who had passed away, which all had known, was to culminate and be fulfilled in Him. "I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." Wherever you "are together in my name, there am I." Words and words and words again like those He spoke, in which He declared that He was to be an everlasting presence among mankind, and therefore that which had taken place in the life of those disciples might forever take place; that that which Jesus had done in the days when He was present upon the earth should be continually repeated, in that He was forever to do that which He had been doing, giving Himself to human kind for their inspiration, for their elevation, for their correction, for their reproof, as He had been doing, their salvation, as He had been doing in those days in which He was here among them. Men have believed that simply. They have recognized that word of Christ, and found the fulfilment of it in their own lives; and that has been the Christian religion,—just exactly what it was in the old days when Jesus was present in Jerusalem and Galilee. Just exactly what men did then men have been doing in all the generations that have come since. Just exactly what was possible then is possible for them now—that we may become the followers of that same Christ and the receivers through Him of the divine life, by which alone the human life is perfected and fulfilled.

That is the Christian religion. That is the Christian faith. Is it not clear and simple, whether it be true or not? My friends, you may believe it or you may disbelieve it, but the Christian faith is clear and simple enough surely in this statement, stripped of a thousand difficulties, perplexities, and bewilderments. That is it, that there is in the world to-day the same Christ who was in the world eighteen hundred and more years ago, and that men may go to Him and receive His life and the inspiration of His presence and the guidance of His wisdom just exactly as they did then. If you and I had been in Jerusalem in those old days, what would we have done, if we were more than mere creatures of others, more than men merely absorbed in our business, if there were any stirring in our souls after the deeper and diviner desires, could we, would we have been satisfied until we had gone wherever He might be,—in the temple, in the courts, or on the country road,—and found that Jesus, and entered into some sympathy with His life, that He might give to us what revelation of life and what guidance of will it might be possible should come from Him to men who trusted Him, until we had entered into sympathy with Him and the fascinations of His character? That is the Christian life, my friends, the thing we make so vague and mysterious and difficult. That is the Christian life, the following of Jesus Christ.

What is the Christian? Everywhere the man who, so far as he comprehends Jesus Christ, so far as he can get any knowledge of Him, is His servant, the man who makes Christ a teacher of his intelligence and the guide of his soul, the man who obeys Christ as far as he has been able to understand Him. What, you say, the man who imperfectly understands Christ, who don't know anything about His divinity, who denies the great doctrines of the Church in regard to Him, is he a Christian? Certainly he is, my friends. There is no other test than this, the following of Jesus Christ. So far as any soul deeply consecrated to Him, and wanting the influence that it feels that He has to give, follows Christ, enters into His obedience and His company, and receives His blessings, just so far He is able to bestow it. I cannot sympathize with any feeling that desires to make the name of Christian a narrower name. I would spread it just as wide as it can be possibly made to spread. I would know any man as a Christian, rejoice to know any man as a Christian, whom Jesus would recognize as a Christian, and Jesus Christ, I am sure, in those old days recognized His followers even if they came after Him with the blindest sight, with the most imperfect recognition and acknowledgment of what He was and of what He could do.

And then, again, is it not very strange, certainly, that there should be, in these later days, in all these centuries that have passed between the day of Jesus Christ and us, that there should have come a vast accumulation of speculation and conjecture, of theorizing and thought with regard to Christ and what He was, and that a great deal of it should have been very strange and should seem to us to-day to have been very silly, a great part of it should have seemed to be but a work of intelligences that were half dulled and blinded, full of prejudice, and shrinking from the error and the danger in which they stood? What does it mean—all these complicated theologies that we say are keeping us away from the simple following of the grandest figure that has ever presented Himself before human kind? I know not how else it can be when I see what has been the power of Jesus over thoughts and homes and hearts of men through all these years. It seems to be a previous necessity that He who most fastens the heart and life of man, who seems to be most necessary to the soul of men, shall so attract their thought, shall so draw them all to Himself that their crudest speculations, that their most erroneous conceptions, shall fasten upon him, and they shall be in some true way a testimony of the way in which He has always held the human heart. This is the way in which all crudities of theology, all the weaknesses of speculation, all even of the most strange and foul thoughts in regard to the life of Jesus and His manifestation in the world, have accumulated around that gracious figure, so simple and strong, which walks through our human life and manifests to us the God. Surely it is in one conception of it, and the true conception of it, the great perpetual testimony of how men have cared about Jesus, that they have speculated about Him in such strange perplexing ways. But He about whom the world does not care walks through the world and bears His simple being. There is nothing that fastens upon Him, that perplexes His life, that makes mysterious and strange the life He lives. But where is the great man in all the history of human kind that has not gathered about his person and work the speculations of those whom we find, with their crude and unguided minds, have formed their theories in regard to Him? It is the very abundance of the strange speculations with regard to Christ, it is the very strangeness of the theories that have been formed with regard to Him, that has shown me how He has drawn the hearts of men, how He has not let them go, but compelled them to fasten themselves to Him, to think about Him and try to follow Him in such poor, blind ways as they were able to give themselves to Him in. This, then, is the Christian faith. This is the way in which the larger life opens before mankind, by the following of a person, by the giving of the life into the dominion and the guidance and the obedience of one who goes forward into that life, himself thoroughly believing in it—for Jesus believed in it with all His human soul.

But then, we ask ourselves, is it possible that we can gather from such a life as Jesus lived so long ago, a life that was lived back in the very dust of history and that has come down to us in records which seem sometimes to be flecked with tradition and obscured with the distance in which they lived, is it possible that I should get from him a guidance of my daily life here? Am I, a man of the nineteenth century, when everything has changed, in Boston, in this modern civilization,—can Jesus really be my teacher, my guide, in the actual duties and perplexities of my daily life and lead me into the larger land in which I know he lives? Ah! the man knows very little about the everlasting identity of human nature, little of how the world in all these changeless ages is the same, who asks that; very little, also, of how in every largest truth there are all particulars and details of human life involved; little of how everything that a man is to-day, upon every moment, rests upon some eternal foundation and may be within the power of some everlasting law. The wonder of the life of Jesus is this—and you will find it so and you have found it so if you have ever taken your New Testament and tried to make it the rule of your daily life—that there is not a single action that you are called upon to do of which you need be, of which you will be, in any serious doubt for ten minutes as to what Jesus Christ, if He were here, Jesus Christ being here, would have you do under those circumstances and with the material upon which you are called to act. Men have tried to go back and imitate the very activities of the life of Jesus Christ, to do the very things that He did. Souls have fled across the sea and tried upon the hills and in the plains where Jesus lived to reproduce the life that has so fascinated them. They were poor and unphilosophic souls. The soul that takes in Jesus' word, the soul that through the words of Jesus enters into the very person of Jesus, the soul that knows Him as its daily presence and its daily law—it never hesitates. Do I doubt—I, who see myself called upon to be the slave of these conditions which are around me—to do this thing? Because it is the custom of the business in which I am engaged, do I doubt fora moment if I turn aside and open this New Testament, which is Jesus' law with regard to that thing? I, with my passion boiling in my veins, leading me to do some foul act of outrageous lust, have I a single moment's doubt what Jesus would have me do if He were here—what Jesus, being here, really wants me to do? There is no single act of your life, my friend, there is no single dilemma in which you find yourself placed, in which the answer is not in Jesus Christ. I do not say that you will find some words in Jesus' teachings in the Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John that will detail exactly the condition in which you find yourself placed; but I do say that if, with your human sympathies and your devoted love, you can feel the presence of that Jesus behind the words that He said, the personal perfectness, the divine life manifested in the human life, there is not a single sin or temptation to sin that will not be convicted.

There is where we rest when we claim that Jesus Christ is the master of the world, that He opens the great richness and infinite distances of the human life, that He shows us what it is to be men. It would be little if He did that simply with the painting of some glorious vision upon the skies beyond; but that He comes into your life and mine, into our homes and our shops, into our offices and on our streets, and there makes known in the actual circumstances of our daily life what we ought to do and what we ought not to do—that is the wonder of his revelation; that is what proclaims him to be the Son of God and the Son of man. Think, as you sit here, of anything that you are doing that is wrong, of any habit of your life, of your self-indulgence, or of that great, pervasive habit of your life which makes you a creature of the present instead of the eternities, a creature of the material earth instead of the glorious skies. Ask of yourself of any habit that belongs to your own personal life, and bring it face to face with Jesus Christ and see if it is not judged. A judgment day that is far away, that is off in the dim distance when this world is done—it shall come, no doubt. I know none of us can know much with regard to it, except that it is sure. But the judgment day that is here now is Christ; the judgment day that is right close to your life and rebukes you, if you will let Him rebuke you every time you sin, the judgment day that is here and praises you and bids you be of good courage, when you do a thing that men disown and despise, is Christ. Therefore it is no figure of speech, it is no mere ecstasy of the imagination of the preacher, when we say that in the midst of these streets of ours, more real than the men that walk in them, more real than the sidewalks that are under our feet, and the buildings that tower over us, there walks an unseen presence. An unseen presence? Yes. Are you and I going to be such creatures of our senses that we shall not believe that there are powers that touch us that we cannot see? Am I going to be so bound down to these poor fingers and to these poor eyes that I shall know myself in no larger connection with the great, unseen world? I will not. No great man, no manly man, has ever allowed such a limitation of himself. There is the unseen presence in the midst of our life, and he who will feel it may feel it, and that unseen presence speaks to him continually. It knows every one of us. It knows the rich man and knows what his wealth has made of him. It knows whether it has made him selfish. Shall I say it? He, the Christ, the present Christ, knows whether the rich man's riches have made him selfish and base and mean, covetous and poor and little-souled, or whether he has been glad to rise to the greatness of his privilege, and be the very utterance of the beneficence of God upon the earth. He knows the poor man and his struggles, he knows the poor man and his self-respect. He speaks to the poor man's soul, who has been kept poor because he will not enter into the baser methods and motives of our modern life, and is despised, and says to him, "Be of good courage, for I know what you are." He speaks to the poor in distress and poverty. He speaks to the wretched in their disappointment and their pain. He is their comforter. He knows every sin. He knows every sorrow of our life. He goes, unseen on earth, into the chambers where the dead lie dead, and where the sick lie dying, and He speaks His words of consolation, He opens up the glory of the perfect life. He lays his hand upon the mourner whose soul is bowed down to the earth and says, "Look up," and points into eternity and heaven. All these things Christ can do not merely, but Christ is doing. He is the inspiring power of this life, that keeps it from rotting in its corruption and degradation. We dwell too much, I think, upon some of these things; we cannot dwell too much, perhaps, but we dwell out of proportion, it may be, to the thought of Jesus Christ, the comforter of sorrow. He is the comforter of sorrow, for he knew and he knows what sorrow is. In His own crucifixion, in that which came before His crucifixion, He knew the suffering of this earthly life. There is no human being who ever has known the misery of man as Jesus knows it, and so He comes to all sorrows with tender consolation. God grant, God grant He may come to any of you who have come into these doors to-day with a sorrow, with a fear, with a dread upon your hearts, with souls that are wrung, with bodies that are suffering! God grant that the Christ may comfort you, may comfort you! But not only that. Shall there be no Christ for those who for the moment seem to need no comfort?

Shall there be no Christ for the strong men who have before them the duties of their life, and who want the strength with which to do them? Shall there be no Christ for the young men, the young men standing in danger, but also standing in such magnificent and splendid chances? It is great to think of Christ standing by the sorrowing and comforting them. It is great,—we will not say it is greater,—it is very great, when by the side of the young man just entering into life there stands the Christ, saying to his soul, with the voice that he cannot fail to hear: "Be pure, be strong, be wise, be independent; rejoice in Me and My appreciation. Let the world go, if it is necessary that the world should go. Serve the world, but do not be the servant of the world. Make the world your servant by helping the world in every way in which you can minister to its life. Be brave, be strong, be manly by My strength." Oh! young man, if you can hear the Christ speak to you like that behind all the traditions of the street, behind the teachings of the books, behind all that the wise and successful men say to you, behind all the cynics and sneerers say to you, the great, strong, healthy voice of Jesus Christ, who believes in man because He has known man filled with divinity, and believes in you because He knows that which has been set before you by your Father in the sending out of your life, and who longs and prays and waits to strengthen you, that you may do your work, that you may escape from sin, that you may live your life, this great figure of the present Christ that Christianity can produce—it is not the memory of something that is away back in the past, it is not the anticipation of something to come in the future. We talk about Christ the Saviour, and think about Calvary long ago. We talk about the Christ the Judge, and think of a great white throne set in some mystic valley of Jehoshaphat, where some day the world is to be judged. We do not so get hold of Christ. The Christ who is in the past is not our Christ unless His power holds forth, the power of His spirit, which is the whole knowledge of the life in which we live. We think of the Christ of the future, for whom all the world is waiting. He will never enter into us and lead us unless we know that He is here and now. It does seem to me sometimes that if men would only take religion as a real and present thing, and if, instead of worshipping it in the past and expecting it with fear and dread and vain hope in the future, it could be a real thing with them here and now, something in which they are to live, not to which they are to flee in moments of doubt, not of which they should make rescue, but in which they should do all their work and live, then religion would be to the soul of man so that it could not be cast aside, so that they must enter into it and take it into themselves and make it their own. Religion is not the simple fire-escape that you build, in anticipation of a possible danger, upon the outside of your dwelling and leave there until danger comes. You go to it some morning when a fire breaks out in your house, and the poor old thing that you built up there, and thought you could use some day, is so rusty and broken, and the weather has so beaten upon it, and the sun so turned its hinges, that it will not work. That is the condition of a man who has built himself what seems to be a creed of faith, a trust in God in anticipation of the day when danger is to overtake him, and has said to himself, I am safe, for I will take refuge in it then. But religion is the house in which we live, it is the table at which we sit, it is the fireside to which we draw near, the room that arches its graceful and familiar presence over us; it is the bed on which we lie and think of the past and anticipate the future and gather our refreshment. There is no Christ except the present Christ for every man, unto whom all the power of the historic Christ is always appearing, and who is great with all the sweet solemnity that comes from the knowledge of what in the future He is to be to the world and to the soul. I am anxious to-day to impress this upon you: that the Christian faith is not a dogma, it is not primarily a law, but is a personal presence and an immediate life that is right here and now. I am anxious to have you know that to be a Christian does not mean primarily to believe this or that. It does not mean primarily, although it means necessarily afterward, to do this or that. But it means to know the presence of a true personal Christ among us and to follow. Here is the only true power by which a religion can become perpetual. Men outgrow many dogmas which they hold. The lines in which they try to live change their application to their lives. But I know a person with a deep, true life; I enter into a friendship with one who is worthy I should be his friend, and he is mine always. What is the meaning of this sort of talk that we hear about a faith that they held once, but they have outgrown? What is the reason of this expectation that seems to have spread itself abroad, of necessity that the boy who had a religion should lose his religion some time or other, and that by and by he should take up a man's religion somewhere upon the other side of the gulf of infidelity and godlessness, through which he has passed in the mean while? You expect your boy of ten years old to be religious with a child's sweet, trusting faith; and you hope that your man of forty and fifty, beaten by the world, is to have found a God who can be his salvation. But the years between? What do you think of your young men of fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, and thirty years old? To have outgrown the boy's faith, and not to have come to the man's faith? That seems almost to be an awful fate and destiny which you expect for them. But if our faith be this, then there shall be no need, no chance that a man shall outgrow it. Know Christ with the first conceptions, imperfect and crude, of his boy's life, and he shall go on knowing more and more of that Christ. That friend, the Christ he knows at twenty-five, shall be different from the Christ he knew at ten, just exactly as the friend I know at fifty is different from the friend I knew at thirty, twenty years ago; and yet He is the same friend still, forever opening the richness of an ever richer life, filling it with new experiences, with new manifestations of Himself. Let him drop something which seemed to him to be a part of the religion, but was only a temporary phase or condition of it, going forward with the soul all through the opening stages of life, and at last going forward with the soul into the life where it shall see as all along it has been seen, and know as it has been known. The old legend was that the clothes of the Israelites, which the Bible said waxed not old upon them in the desert during those forty years, not merely waxed not old those forty years, but grew with their growth, so that the little Hebrew who crossed the Red Sea in his boy's clothes wore the same clothes when he entered into the Promised Land. It is the parable of that which comes to the man who has a true Christian faith, a faith which comes in the personal friendship of Christ, a faith which comes not in the belief of certain things about Him, not in the doing slavishly of certain things which it seemed as if it had been said by Him that we must do, but in the personal entrance into His nature in a life for Him, in which He is able to send His life down into us.

Then there is another thing that people are always thinking, that I hear very often from men, and that I have no doubt that I should hear from many of you, one by one. You talk about your earlier religion as if it had been some sort of a bondage from which you had escaped. How common it is to hear men, especially in this region, say: "I would be, perhaps, religious, except that there was so much religion forced upon me in my earliest days. I was driven to church when I was a boy, in those old Puritan days. I went to school, where they forced prayers upon me all the time. I was made to be religious, so now I cannot be religious." Was there ever a more dreadful thing than for a soul to say that, because, it may be, of the unwisdom, or the imprudence, the overzeal and the mistaken zeal of other men, we have not got the full blessing of that rich, open, free life with Christ which the youth may have, and therefore we will abandon the privileges of our higher life which is given to us in our manlier years? It all comes of this awful way of talking as if religion were the duty and not the inestimable privilege of human kind. The Christ stands before us and says, "Come to me." You say, "Must I?" And He answers, "You may." He will not even say, "You must." You may. And duty loses itself in privilege, and the soul enters into independence and escapes from its sins, fulfils its life, lays hold of its salvation, becomes eternal, begins to live an eternal life in the accepted and loving service of Christ.

Now just one word, my friends. If this be so, whether you to-day are ready to make Christ your master and your friend or not, do not, I beg you, let yourself say that it is a silly or unreasonable belief, thus to know of a spiritual presence which is here among us, in which God is really in humanity. Do not let yourselves say, my friends, that the man who gives himself to Jesus Christ and earnestly tries to enter in deeper and deeper into his life and tries to do his will, that he may know the Christ and know himself in the Christ more and more—dare not call that brother a fool, as you have sometimes called your Christian man who watched scrupulously over his life and prayed, yes, prayed, the thing you think perhaps the foolishest thing that man can do, the thing that is the most reasonable act that any man does upon God's earth. If man is man and God is God, to live without prayer is not merely an awful thing: it is an infinitely foolish thing. When a man for the first time bows down upon his knees and prays, "Oh! Christ, come unto me, reveal Thyself to me, make me to know Thee, that I may receive Thee, make me to be obedient that I may take Thee into my life," then that man has claimed his manhood. I beg you, I implore you, I adjure you that, if you be not ready to be Christian, you at least will know that the Christian life is the only true human life, and that the man who becomes thoroughly a Christian sets his face toward the fulfilment of his humanity, and so for the first time truly is a man. "As many as received Him,"—so the great Scripture word runs of this Christ of whom we have been talking,—"As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God."

Just think of it!—the sons of God! The power to become that to as many as will receive the present Christ.


"He chose David also His servant, and took him away from the sheepfolds; that he might feed Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance. So he fed them with a faithful and true heart, and ruled them prudently with all his power."—PSALM lxxviii. 71, 72, 73.

While I speak to you to-day, the body of the President who ruled this people, is lying, honored and loved, in our city. It is impossible with that sacred presence in our midst for me to stand and speak of ordinary topics which occupy the pulpit. I must speak of him to-day; and I therefore undertake to do what I had intended to do at some future time, to invite you to study with me the character of Abraham Lincoln, the impulses of his life and the causes of his death. I know how hard it is to do it rightly, how impossible it is to do it worthily. But I shall speak with confidence, because I speak to those who love him, and whose ready love will fill out the deficiencies in a picture which my words will weakly try to draw.

We take it for granted, first of all, that there is an essential connection between Mr. Lincoln's character and his violent and bloody death. It is no accident, no arbitrary decree of Providence. He lived as he did, and he died as he did, because he was what he was. The more we see of events, the less we come to believe in any fate or destiny except the destiny of character. It will be our duty, then, to see what there was in the character of our great President that created the history of his life, and at last produced the catastrophe of his cruel death. After the first trembling horror, the first outburst of indignant sorrow, has grown calm, these are the questions which we are bound to ask and answer.

It is not necessary for me even to sketch the biography of Mr. Lincoln. He was born in Kentucky fifty-six years ago, when Kentucky was a pioneer State. He lived, as boy and man, the hard and needy life of a backwoodsman, a farmer, a river boatman, and, finally, by his own efforts at self-education, of an active, respected, influential citizen, in the half-organized and manifold interests of a new and energetic community. From his boyhood up he lived in direct and vigorous contact with men and things, not as in older States and easier conditions with words and theories; and both his moral convictions and his intellectual pinions gathered from that contact a supreme degree of that character by which men knew him, that character which is the most distinctive possession of the best American nature, that almost indescribable quality which we call in general clearness or truth, and which appears in the physical structure as health, in the moral constitution as honesty, in the mental structure as sagacity, and in the region of active life as practicalness. This one character, with many sides, all shaped by the same essential force and testifying to the same inner influences, was what was powerful in him and decreed for him the life he was to live and the death he was to die. We must take no smaller view than this of what he was. Even his physical conditions are not to be forgotten in making up his character. We make too little always of the physical; certainly we make too little of it here if we lose out of sight the strength and muscular activity, the power of doing and enduring, which the backwoods-boy inherited from generations of hard-living ancestors, and appropriated for his own by a long discipline of bodily toil. He brought to the solution of the question of labor in this country not merely a mind, but a body thoroughly in sympathy with labor, full of the culture of labor, bearing witness to the dignity and excellence of work in every muscle that work had toughened and every sense that work had made clear and true. He could not have brought the mind for his task so perfectly, unless he had first brought the body whose rugged and stubborn health was always contradicting to him the false theories of labor, and always asserting the true.

As to the moral and mental powers which distinguished him, all embraceable under this general description of clearness of truth, the most remarkable thing is the way in which they blend with one another, so that it is next to impossible to examine them in separation. A great many people have discussed very crudely whether Abraham Lincoln was an intellectual man or not; as if intellect were a thing always of the same sort, which you could precipitate from the other constituents of a man's nature and weigh by itself, and compare by pounds and ounces in this man with another. The fact is, that in all the simplest characters that line between the mental and moral natures is always vague and indistinct. They run together, and in their best combinations you are unable to discriminate, in the wisdom which is their result, how much is moral and how much is intellectual. You are unable to tell whether in the wise acts and words which issue from such a life there is more of the righteousness that comes of a clear conscience, or of the sagacity that comes of a clear brain. In more complex characters and under more complex conditions, the moral and the mental lives come to be less healthily combined. They co-operate, they help each other less. They come even to stand over against each other as antagonists; till we have that vague but most melancholy notion which pervades the life of all elaborate civilization, that goodness and greatness, as we call them, are not to be looked for together, till we expect to see and so do see a feeble and narrow conscientiousness on the one hand, and a bad, unprincipled intelligence on the other, dividing the suffrages of men.

It is the great boon of such characters as Mr. Lincoln's, that they reunite what God has joined together and man has put asunder. In him was vindicated the greatness of real goodness and the goodness of real greatness. The twain were one flesh. Not one of all the multitudes who stood and looked up to him for direction with such a loving and implicit trust can tell you to-day whether the wise judgments that he gave came most from a strong head or a sound heart. If you ask them, they are puzzled. There are men as good as he, but they do bad things. There are men as intelligent as he, but they do foolish things. In him goodness and intelligence combined and made their best result of wisdom. For perfect truth consists not merely in the right constituents of character, but in their right and intimate conjunction. This union of the mental and moral into a life of admirable simplicity is what we most admire in children; but in them it is unsettled and unpractical. But when it is preserved into manhood, deepened into reliability and maturity, it is that glorified childlikeness, that high and reverend simplicity, which shames and baffles the most accomplished astuteness, and is chosen by God to fill his purposes when he needs a ruler for his people, of faithful and true heart, such as he had who was our President.

Another evident quality of such a character as this will be its freshness or newness; if we may so speak. Its freshness or readiness—call it what you will—its ability to take up new duties and do them in a new way, will result of necessity from its truth and clearness. The simple natures and forces will always be the most pliant ones. Water bends and shapes itself to any channel. Air folds and adapts itself to each new figure. They are the simplest and the most infinitely active things in nature. So this nature, in very virtue of its simplicity, must be also free, always fitting itself to each new need. It will always start from the most fundamental and eternal conditions, and work in the straightest even although they be the newest ways, to the present prescribed purpose. In one word, it must be broad and independent and radical. So that freedom and radicalness in the character of Abraham Lincoln were not separate qualities, but the necessary results of his simplicity and childlikeness and truth.

Here then we have some conception of the man. Out of this character came the life which we admire and the death which we lament to-day. He was called in that character to that life and death. It was just the nature, as you see, which a new nation such as ours ought to produce. All the conditions of his birth, his youth, his manhood, which made him what he was, were not irregular and exceptional, but were the normal conditions of a new and simple country. His pioneer home in Indiana was a type of the pioneer land in which he lived. If ever there was a man who was a part of the time and country he lived in, this was he. The same simple respect for labor won in the school of work and incorporated into blood and muscle; the same unassuming loyalty to the simple virtues of temperance and industry and integrity; the same sagacious judgment which had learned to be quick-eyed and quick-brained in the constant presence of emergency; the same direct and clear thought about things, social, political, and religious, that was in him supremely, was in the people he was sent to rule. Surely, with such a type-man for ruler, there would seem to be but a smooth and even road over which he might lead the people whose character he represented into the new region of national happiness and comfort and usefulness, for which that character had been designed.

But then we come to the beginning of all trouble. Abraham Lincoln was the type-man of the country, but not of the whole country. This character which we have been trying to describe was the character of an American under the discipline of freedom. There was another American character which had been developed under the influence of slavery. There was no one American character embracing the land. There were two characters, with impulses of irrepressible and deadly conflict. This citizen whom we have been honoring and praising represented one. The whole great scheme with which he was ultimately brought in conflict, and which has finally killed him, represented the other. Beside this nature, true and fresh and new, there was another nature, false and effete and old. The one nature found itself in a new world, and set itself to discover the new ways for the new duties that were given it. The other nature, full of the false pride of blood, set itself to reproduce in a new world the institutions and the spirit of the old, to build anew the structure of the feudalism which had been corrupt in its own day, and which had been left far behind by the advancing conscience and needs of the progressing race. The one nature magnified labor, the other nature depreciated and despised it. The one honored the laborer, and the other scorned him. The one was simple and direct; the other, complex, full of sophistries and self-excuses. The one was free to look all that claimed to be truth in the face, and separate the error from the truth that might be in it; the other did not dare to investigate, because its own established prides and systems were dearer to it than the truth itself, and so even truth went about in it doing the work of error. The one was ready to state broad principles, of the brotherhood of man, the universal fatherhood and justice of God, however imperfectly it might realize them in practice; the other denied even the principles, and so dug deep and laid below its special sins the broad foundation of a consistent, acknowledged sinfulness. In a word, one nature was full of the influences of Freedom, the other nature was full of the influences of Slavery.

In general, these two regions of our national life were separated by a geographical boundary. One was the spirit of the North, the other was the spirit of the South. But the Southern nature was by no means all a Southern thing. There it had an organized, established form, a certain definite, established institution about which it clustered. Here, lacking advantage, it lived in less expressive ways and so lived more weakly. There, there was the horrible sacrament of slavery, the outward and visible sign round which the inward and spiritual temper gathered and kept itself alive. But who doubts that among us the spirit of slavery lived and thrived? Its formal existence had been swept away from one State after another, partly on conscientious, partly on economical grounds, but its spirit was here, in every sympathy that Northern winds carried to the listening ear of the Southern slave-holder, and in every oppression of the weak by the strong, every proud assumption of idleness over labor which echoed the music of Southern life back to us. Here in our midst lived that worse and falser nature, side by side with the true and better nature which God meant should be the nature of Americans, of which he was shaping out the type and champion in his chosen David of the sheepfold.

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