THE RIGHT REVEREND
BISHOP OF MASSACHUSETTS
I. THE BEAUTY OF A LIFE OF SERVICE 9
II. THOUGHT AND ACTION 34
III. THE DUTY OF THE CHRISTIAN BUSINESS MAN 63
IV. TRUE LIBERTY 88
V. THE CHRIST IN WHOM CHRISTIANS BELIEVE 110
VI. ABRAHAM LINCOLN 140
I. THE BEAUTY OF A LIFE OF SERVICE.
I should like to read to you again the words of Jesus from the 8th 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 forever, but the Son abideth ever. If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."
I want to speak to you to-day about the purpose and the result of the freedom which Christ gives to His disciples and the freedom into which man enters when he fulfils his life. The purpose and result of freedom is service. It sounds to us at first like a contradiction, like a paradox. Great truths very often present themselves to us in the first place as paradoxes, and it is only when we come to combine the two different terms of which they are composed and see how it is only by their meeting that the truth does reveal itself to us, that the truth does become known. It is by this same truth that God frees our souls, not from service, not from duty, but into service and into duty, and he who makes mistakes the purpose of his freedom mistakes the character of his freedom. He who thinks that he is being released from the work, and not set free in order that he may accomplish that work, mistakes the Christ from whom the freedom comes, mistakes the condition into which his soul is invited to enter. For if I was right in saying what I said the other day, that the freedom of a man simply consists in the larger opportunity to be and to do all that God makes him in His creation capable of being and doing, then certainly if man has been capable of service it is only by the entrance into service, by the acceptance of that life of service for which God has given man the capacity, that he enters into the fulness of his freedom and becomes the liberated child of God. You remember what I said with regard to the manifestations of freedom and the figures and the illustrations, perhaps some of them which we used, of the way in which the bit of iron, taken out of its uselessness, its helplessness, and set in the midst of the great machine, thereby recognizes the purpose of its existence, and does the work for which it was appointed, for it immediately becomes the servant of the machine into which it was placed. Every part of its impulse flows through all of its substance, and it does the thing which it was made to do. When the ice has melted upon the plain it is only when it finds its way into the river and flows forth freely to do the work which the live water has to do that it really attains to its freedom. Only then is it really liberated from the bondage in which it was held while it was fastened in the chains of winter. The same freed ice waits until it so finds its freedom, and when man is set free simply into the enjoyment of his own life, simply into the realization of his own existence, he has not attained the purposes of his freedom, he has not come to the purposes of his life.
It is one of the signs to me of how human words are constantly becoming perverted that it surprises us when we think of freedom as a condition in which a man is called upon to do, and is enabled to do, the duty that God has laid upon him. Duty has become to us such a hard word, service has become to us a word so full of the spirit of bondage, that it surprises us at the first moment when we are called upon to realize that it is in itself a word of freedom. And yet we constantly are lowering the whole thought of our being, we are bringing down the greatness and richness of that with which we have to deal, until we recognize that God does not call us to our fullest life simply for ourselves. The spirit of selfishness is continually creeping in. I think it may almost be said that there has been no selfishness in the history of man like that which has exhibited itself in man's religious life, showing itself in the way in which man has seized upon spiritual privileges and rejoiced in the good things that are to come to him in the hereafter, because he had made himself the servant of God. The whole subject of selfishness, and the way in which it loses itself and finds itself again, is a very interesting one, and I wish that we had time to dwell upon it. It comes into a sort of general law which we are recognizing everywhere—the way in which a man very often, in his pursuit of the higher form of a condition in which he has been living, seems to lose that condition for a little while and only to reach it a little farther on. He seems to be abandoned by that power only that he may meet it by and by and enter more deeply into its heart and come more completely into its service. So it is, I think, with the self-devotion, consecration, and self-forgetfulness in which men realize their life. Very often in the lower stages of man's life he forgets himself, with a slightly emphasized individual existence, not thinking very much of the purpose of his life, till he easily forgets himself among the things that are around him and forgets himself simply because there is so little of himself for him to forget; but do not you know perfectly well how very often when a man's life becomes intensified and earnest, when he becomes completely possessed with some great passion and desire, it seems for the time to intensify his selfishness? It does intensify his selfishness. He is thinking so much in regard to himself that the thought of other persons and their interests is shut out of his life. And so very often when a man has set before him the great passion of the divine life, when he is called by God to live the life of God, and to enter into the rewards of God, very often there seems to close around his life a certain bondage of selfishness, and he who gave himself freely to his fellow-men before now seems, by the very intensity, eagerness, and earnestness with which his mind is set upon the prize of the new life which is presented to him—it seems as if everything became concentrated upon himself, the saving of his soul, the winning of his salvation. That seat in heaven seems to burn so before his eyes that he cannot be satisfied for a moment with any thought that draws him away from it, and he presses forward that he may be saved. But by and by, as he enters more deeply into that life, the self-forgetfulness comes to him again and as a diviner thing. By and by, as the man walks up the mountain, he seems to pass out of the cloud which hangs about the lower slopes of the mountain, until at last he stands upon the pinnacle at the top, and there is in the perfect light. Is it not exactly like the mountain at whose foot there seems to be the open sunshine where men see everything, and on whose summit there is the sunshine, but on whose sides, and half way up, there seems to linger a long cloud, in which man has to struggle until he comes to the full result of his life? So it is with self-consecration, with service. You easily do it in some small ways in the lower life. Life becomes intensified and earnest with a serious purpose, and it seems as if it gathered itself together into selfishness. Only then it opens by and by into the largest and noblest works of men, in which they most manifest the richness of their human nature and appropriate the strength of God. Those are great and unselfish acts. We know it at once if we turn to Him who represents the fulness of the nature of our humanity.
When I turn to Jesus and think of Him as the manifestation of His own Christianity—and if men would only look at the life of Jesus to see what Christianity is, and not at the life of the poor representatives of Jesus whom they see around them, there would be so much more clearness, they would be rid of so many difficulties and doubts. When I look at the life of Jesus I see that the purpose of consecration, of emancipation, is service of His fellow-men. I cannot think for a moment of Jesus as doing that which so many religious people think they are doing when they serve Christ, when they give their lives to Him. I cannot think of Him as simply saving His own soul, living His own life, and completing His own nature in the sight of God. It is a life of service from beginning to end. He gives himself to man because He is absolutely the Child of God, and He sets up service, and nothing but service, to be the ultimate purpose, the one great desire, on which the souls of His followers should be set, as His own soul is set, upon it continually.
What is it that Christ has left to be His symbol in the world, that we put upon our churches, what we wear upon our hearts, that stands forth so perpetually us the symbol of Christ's life? Is it a throne from which a ruler utters his decrees? Is it a mountain top upon which some rapt seer sits, communing with himself and with the voices around him, and gathering great truth into his soul and delighting in it? No, not the throne and not the mountain top. It is the cross. Oh, my brethren, that the cross should be the great symbol of our highest measure, that that which stands for consecration, that that which stands for the divine statement that a man does not live for himself and that a man loses himself when he does live for himself—that that should be the symbol of our religion and the great sign and token of our faith? What sort of Christians are we that go about asking for the things of this life first, thinking that it shall make us prosperous to be Christians, and then a little higher asking for the things that pertain to the eternal prosperity, when the Great Master, who leaves us the great law, in whom our Christian life is spiritually set forth, has as His great symbol the cross, the cross, the sign of consecration and obedience? It is not simply suffering too. Christ does not stand primarily for suffering. Suffering is an accident. It does not matter whether you and I suffer. "Not enjoyment and not sorrow" is our life, not sorrow any more than enjoyment, but obedience and duty. If duty brings sorrow, let it bring sorrow. It did bring sorrow to the Christ, because it was impossible for a man to serve the absolute righteousness in this world and not to sorrow. If it had brought joy, and glory, and triumph, if it had been greeted at its entrance and applauded on the way, He would have been as truly the consecrated soul that He was in the days when, over a road that was marked with the blood of His footprints, He found His way up at last to the torturing cross. It is not suffering; it is obedience. It is not pain; it is consecration of life. It is the joy of service that makes the life of Christ, and for us to serve Him, serving fellow-man and God—as he served fellow-man and God—whether it bring pain or joy, if we can only get out of our souls the thought that it matters not if we are happy or sorrowful, if only we are dutiful and faithful, and brave and strong, then we should be in the atmosphere, we should be in the great company of the Christ.
It surprises me very often when I hear good Christian people talk about Christ's entrance into this world, Christ's coming to save this world. They say it was so marvellous that Jesus should be willing to come down from His throne in heaven and undertake all the strange sorrow and distress that belonged to Him when He came to save the world from its sins. Wonderful? There was no wonder in it; no wonder if we enter up into the region where Jesus lives and think of life as He must have thought of life. It is the same wonder that people feel about the miracles of Jesus. Is it a wonder that when a divine life is among men, nature should have a response to make to Him, and He should do things that you and I, in our little humanity, find it impossible to do? No, indeed, there is no wonder that God loved the world. There is no wonder that Christ, the Son of God, at any sacrifice undertook to save the world. The wonder would have been if God, sitting in His heaven, the wonder would have been if Jesus, ready to come here to the earth and seeing how it was possible to save man from sin by suffering, had not suffered. Do you wonder at the mother, when she gives her life without a hesitation or a cry, when she gives her life with joy, with thankfulness, for her child, counting it her privilege? Do you wonder at the patriot, the hero, when he rushes into the battle to do the good deed which it is possible for him to do? No; read your own nature deeper and you will understand your Christ. It is no wonder that He should have died upon the cross; the wonder would have been if, with the inestimable privilege of saving man, He had shrunk from that cross and turned away. It sets before us that it is not the glories of suffering, it is not the necessity of suffering, it is simply the beauty of obedience and the fulfilment of a man's life in doing his duty and rendering the service which it is possible for him to render to his fellow-man.
I said that a man when he did that left behind him all the thought of the life which he was willing to live within himself, even all the highest thought. It is not your business and mine to study whether we shall get to heaven, even to study whether we shall be good men; it is our business to study how we shall come into the midst of the purposes of God and have the unspeakable privilege in these few years of doing something of His work. And yet so is our life all one, so is the kingdom of God which surrounds us and infolds us one bright and blessed unity, that when a man has devoted himself to the service of God and his fellow-man, immediately he is thrown back upon his own nature, and he sees now—it is the right place for him to see—that he must be the brave, strong, faithful man, because it is impossible for him to do his duty and to render his service, except it is rendered out of a heart that is full of faithfulness, that is brave and true. There is one word of Jesus that always comes back to me as about the noblest thing that human lips have ever said upon our earth, and the most comprehensive thing, that seems to sweep into itself all the commonplace experience of mankind. Do you remember when He was sitting with His disciples, at the last supper, how He lifted up His voice and prayed, and in the midst of His prayer there came these wondrous words: "For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified"? The whole of human life is there. Shall a man cultivate himself? No, not primarily. Shall a man serve the world, strive to increase the kingdom of God in the world? Yes, indeed, he shall. How shall he do it? By cultivating himself, and instantly he is thrown back upon his own life. "For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified." I am my best, not simply for myself, but for the world. My brethren, is there anything in all the teachings that man has had from his fellow-man, all that has come down to him from the lips of God, that is nobler, that is more far-reaching than that—to be my best not simply for my own sake, but for the sake of the world into which, setting my best, I shall make that world more complete, I shall do my little part to renew and to recreate it in the image of God? That is the law of my existence. And the man that makes that the law of his existence neither neglects himself nor his fellow-men, neither becomes the self-absorbed student and cultivator of his own life upon the one hand, nor does he become, abandoning himself, simply the wasting benefactor of his brethren upon the other. You can help your fellow-men: you must help your fellow-men; but the only way you can help them is by being the noblest and the best man that it is possible for you to be. I watch the workman build upon the building which by and by is to soar into the skies, to toss its pinnacles up to the heaven, and I see him looking up and wondering where those pinnacles are to be, thinking how high they are to be, measuring the feet, wondering how they are to be built, and all the time he is cramming a rotten stone into the building just where he has set to work. Let him forget the pinnacles, if he will, or hold only the floating image of them in his imagination for his inspiration; but the thing that he must do is to put a brave, strong soul, an honest and substantial life into the building just where he is now at work.
It seems to me that that comes home to us all. Men are questioning now as they never have questioned before whether Christianity is indeed the true religion which is to be the salvation of the world. They are feeling how the world needs salvation, how it needs regeneration, how it is wrong and bad all through and through, mixed with the good that is in it everywhere. Everywhere there is the good and the bad, and the great question that is on men's minds to-day, as I believe it has never been upon men's minds before, is this: Is this Christian religion, with its high pretensions, this Christian life that claims so much for itself, is it competent for the task that it has undertaken to do? Can it meet all these human problems, and relieve all these human miseries, and fulfil all these human hopes? It is the old story over again, when John the Baptist, puzzled in his prison, said to Jesus, "Art thou He that should come? or look we for another?" It seems to me that the Christian Church is hearing that cry in its ears to-day: "Art thou He that should come?" Can you do this which the world unmistakably needs to be done?
Christian men, it is for us to give our bit of answer to that question. It is for us, in whom the Christian Church is at this moment partially embodied, to declare that Christianity, that the Christian faith, the Christian manhood, can do that for the world which the world needs. You say, "What can I do?" You can furnish one Christian life. You can furnish a life so faithful to every duty, so ready for every service, so determined not to commit every sin, that the great Christian Church shall be the stronger for your living in it, and the problem of the world be answered, and a certain great peace come into this poor, perplexed phase of our humanity as it sees that new revelation of what Christianity is. Yes, Christ can give the world the thing it needs in unknown ways and methods that we have not yet begun to suspect. Christianity has not yet been tried. My friends, no man dares to condemn the Christian faith to-day, because the Christian faith has not been tried. Not until men get rid of the thought that it is a poor machine, an expedient for saving them from suffering and pain, not until they get the grand idea of it as the great power of God present in and through the lives of men, not until then does Christianity enter upon its true trial and become ready to show what it can do. Therefore we struggle against our sin in order that men may be saved around us, and not simply that our own souls may be saved.
Tell me you have a sin that you mean to commit this evening that is going to make this night black. What can keep you from committing that sin? Suppose you look into its consequences. Suppose the wise man tells you what will be the physical consequences of that sin. You shudder and you shrink, and, perhaps, you are partially deterred. Suppose you see the; glory that might come to you, physical, temporal, spiritual, if you do not commit that sin. The opposite of it shows itself to you—the blessing and the richness in your life. Again there comes a great power that shall control your lust and wickedness. Suppose there comes to you something even deeper than that, no consequence on consequence at all, but simply an abhorrence for the thing, so that your whole nature shrinks from it as the nature of God shrinks from a sin that is polluting and filthy and corrupt and evil. They are all great powers. Let us thank God for them all. He knows that we are weak enough to need every power that can possibly be brought to bear upon our feeble lives; but if, along with all of them, there could come this other power, if along with them there could come the certainty that if you refrain from that sin to-night you make the sum of sin that is in the world, and so the sum of all temptation that is in the world, and so the sum of future evil that is to spring out of temptation in the world, less, shall there not be a nobler impulse rise up in your heart, and shall you not say: "I will not do it; I will be honest, I will be sober, I will be pure, at least, to-night"? I dare to think that there are men here to whom that appeal can come, men who, perhaps, will be all dull and deaf if one speaks to them about their personal salvation; who, if one dares to picture to them, appealing to their better nature, trusting to their nobler soul, that there is in them the power to save other men from sin, and to help the work of God by the control of their own passions and the fulfilment of their own duty, will be stirred to the higher life. Men—very often we do not trust them enough—will answer to the higher appeal that seems to be beyond them when the poor, lower appeal that comes within the region of their selfishness is cast aside, and they will have nothing to do with it.
Oh, this marvellous, this awful power that we have over other people's lives! Oh! the power of the sin that you have done years and years ago! It is awful to think of it. I think there is hardly anything more terrible to the human thought than this—the picture of a man who, having sinned years and years ago in a way that involved other souls in his sin, and then, having repented of his sin and undertaken another life, knows certainly that the power, the consequence of that sin is going on outside of his reach, beyond even his ken and knowledge. He cannot touch it. You wronged a soul ten years ago. You taught a boy how to tell his first mercantile lie; you degraded the early standards of his youth. What has become of that boy to-day? You may have repented. He has passed put of your sight. He has gone years and years ago. Somewhere in this great, multitudinous mass of humanity he is sinning and sinning and reduplicating and extending the sin that you did. You touched the faith of some believing soul years ago with some miserable sneer of yours, with some cynical and sceptical disparagement of God and of the man who is the utterance of God upon the earth. You taught the soul that was enthusiastic to be full of scepticisms and doubts. You wronged a woman years ago, and her life has gone out from your life, you cannot begin to tell where. You have repented of your sin. You have bowed yourself, it may be, in dust and ashes. You have entered upon a new life. You are pure to-day. But where is the sceptical soul? Where is the ruined woman whom you sent forth into the world out of the shadow of your sin years ago? You cannot touch that life. You cannot reach it. You do not know where it is. No steps of yours, quickened with all your earnestness, can pursue it. No contrition of yours can drawback its consequences. Remorse cannot force the bullet back again into the gun from which it once has gone forth. It makes life awful to the man who has ever sinned, who has ever wronged and hurt another life because of this sin, because no sin ever was done that did not hurt another life. I know the mercy of our God, that while He has put us into each other's power to a fearful extent, He never will let any soul absolutely go to everlasting ruin for another's sin; and so I dare to see the love of God pursuing that lost soul where you cannot pursue it. But that does not for one moment lift the shadow from your heart, or cease to make you tremble when you think of how your sin has outgrown itself and is running far, far away where you can never follow it.
Thank God the other thing is true as well. Thank God that when a man does a bit of service, however little it may be, of that too he can never trace the consequences. Thank God that that which in some better moment, in some nobler inspiration, you did ten years ago to make your brother's faith a little more strong, to let your shop boy confirm and not doubt the confidence in man which he had brought into his business, to establish the purity of a soul instead of staining it and shaking it, thank God, in this quick, electric atmosphere in which we live, that, too, runs forth. Do not say in your terror, "I will do nothing." You must do something. Only let Christ tell you—let Christ tell you that there is nothing that a man rests upon in the moment, that he thinks of, as he looks back upon it when it has sunk into the past, with any satisfaction, except some service to his fellow-man, some strengthening and helping of a human soul.
Two men are walking down the street together and talking away. See what different conditions those two men are in. One of them has his soul absolutely full of the desire to help his fellow-man. He peers into those faces as he goes, and sees the divine possibility that is in them, and he sees the divine nature everywhere. They are talking about the idlest trifles, about the last bit of local Boston politics. But in their souls one of those men has consecrated himself, with the new morning, to the glorious service of God, and the other of them is asking how he may be a little richer in his miserable wealth when the day sinks. Oh, we look into the other world and read the great words and hear it said, Between me and thee, this and that, there is a great gulf fixed; and we think of something that is to come in the eternal life. Is there any gulf in eternity, is there any gulf between heaven and hell that is wider, and deeper, and blacker, that is more impassable than that gulf which lies between these two men going upon their daily way? Oh, friends, it is not that God is going to judge us some day. That is not the awful thing. It is that God knows us now. If I stop an instant and know that God knows me through all these misconceptions and blunders of my brethren, that God knows me—that is the awful thing. The future judgment shall but tell it. It is here, here upon my conscience, now. It is awful to think how the commonplace things that men can do, the commonplace thoughts that men can think, the commonplace lives that men can live, are but in the bosom of the future. The thing that impresses me more and more is this—that we only need to have extended to the multitude that which is at this moment present in the few, and the world really would be saved. There is but the need of the extension into a multitude of souls of that which a few souls have already attained in their consecration of themselves to human good, and to the service of God, and I will not say the millennium would have come, I don't know much about the millennium, but heaven would have come, the new Jerusalem would be here. There are men enough in this church this morning, there are men enough sitting here within the sound of my voice to-day, if they were inspired by the spirit of God and counted it the great privilege of their life, to do the work of God—there are men enough here to save this city, and to make this a glowing city of our Lord, to relieve its poverty, to lighten its darkness, to lift up the cloud that is upon hearts, to turn it into a great, I will not say psalm-singing city, but God-serving, God-abiding city, to touch all the difficult problems of how society and government ought to be organized then with a power with which they should yield their difficulty and open gradually. The light to measure would be clear enough, if only the spirit is there. Give me five hundred men, nay, give me one hundred men of the spirit that I know to-day in three men that I well understand, and I will answer for it that the city shall be saved. And you, my friend, are one of the five hundred—you are one of the one hundred.
"Oh, but," you say, "is not this slavery over again? You have talked about freedom, and here I am once more a slave. I had about got free from the bondage of my fellow-men, and here I am right in the midst of it again. What has become of my personality, of my independence, if I am to live thus?" Ay, you have got to learn what every noblest man has always learned, that no man becomes independent of his fellow-men excepting in serving his fellow-men. You have got to learn that Christianity comes to us not simply as a luxury but as a force, and no man who values Christianity simply as a luxury which he possesses really gets the Christianity which he tries to value. Only when Christianity is a force, only when I seek independence of men in serving men, do I cease to be a slave to their whims. I must dress as they think I ought to dress; I must walk in the streets as they think I ought to walk; I must do business just after their fashion; I must accept their standards; but when Christ has taken possession of me and I am a total man, I am more or less independent of these men. Shall I care about their little whims and oddities? Shall I care about how they criticise the outside of my life? Shall I peer into their faces as I meet them in the street, to see whether they approve of me or not? And yet am I not their servant? There is nothing now I will not do to serve them, there is nothing now I will not do to save them. If the cross comes, I welcome the cross, and look upon it with joy, if, by my death upon the cross in any way, I may echo the salvation of my Lord and save them. Independent of them? Surely. And yet their servant? Perfectly. Was ever man so independent in Jerusalem as Jesus was? What cared He for the sneer of the Pharisee, for the learned scorn of the Sadducee, for the taunt of the people and the little boys that had been taught to jeer at Him as He went down the street, and yet the very servant of all their life? He says there are two kinds of men—they who sit upon a throne and eat, and they who serve. "I am among you as he that serveth." Oh, seek independence. Insist upon independence. Insist that you will not be the slave of the poor, petty standards of your fellow-men. But insist upon it only in the way in which it can be insisted upon, by becoming absolutely the servant of their needs. So only shall you be independent of their whims. There is one great figure, and it has taken in all Christian consciousness, that again and again this work with Christ has been asserted to be the true service in the army of a great master, of a great captain, who goes before us to his victory, that it is asserted that in that captain, in the entrance into his army, every power is set free. Do you remember the words that a good many of us read or heard yesterday in our churches, where Jesus was doing one of His miracles, and it is said that a devil was cast out, the dumb spake? Every power becomes the man's possession, and he uses it in his freedom, and he fights with it with all his force, just as soon as the devil is cast out of him.
I have tried to tell you the noblest motive in which you should be a pure, an upright, a faithful, and a strong man. It is not for the salvation of your life, it is not for the salvation of yourself. It is not for the satisfaction of your tastes. It is that you may take your place in the great army of God and go forward having something to do with the work that He is doing in the world. You remember the days of the war, and how ashamed of himself a man felt who never touched with his finger the great struggle in which the nation was engaged. Oh, to go through this life and never touch with my finger the vast work that Christ is doing, and when the cry of triumph arises at the end to stand there, not having done one little, unknown, unnoticed thing to bring about that which is the true life of the man and of the world, that is awful. And I dare to believe that there are young men in this church this morning who, failing to be touched by every promise of their own salvation and every threatening of their own damnation, will still lift themselves up and take upon them the duty of men, and be soldiers of Jesus Christ, and have a part in the battle, and have a part somewhere in the victory that is sure to come. Don't be selfish anywhere. Don't be selfish, most of all, in your religion. Let yourselves free into your religion, and be utterly unselfish. Claim your freedom in service.
II. THOUGHT AND ACTION.
I want once more to read to you these words from the eighth chapter of the Gospel of St. John:
"As He spake these words, many believed on Him. 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."
There are two great regions in which the life of every true man resides. They are the region of action and the region of thought. It is impossible to separate these two regions from one another and to bid one man live in one of them alone and the other man live only in the other of them. It is impossible to say to the business man that he shall live only in the region of action, it is impossible to say to the scholar that he shall live only in the region of thought, for thought and action make one complete and single life. Thought is not simply the sea upon which the world of action rests, but, like the air which pervades the whole solid substance of our globe, it permeates and fills it in every part. It is thought which gives to it its life. It is thought which makes the manifestation of itself in every different action of man. I hope we are not so deluded as men have been sometimes, as some men are to-day, that we shall try to separate these two lives from one another, and one man say, "Everything depends upon my action, and I care not what I think," or, as men have said, at least, in other times, "If I think right, it matters not how I act." But the right thought and the right action make one complete and single man.
Now we have been speaking, upon these Monday noons, with regard to the freedom of that highest life which is lived under the inspiration of Jesus Christ and which we call the Christian life. We have claimed that it is the highest of all lives because it is the freest of all lives, that it is the freest of all lives because it is the highest, and it may be that we have thought that it was true with regard to the active life in which men live, it may be that we have somehow persuaded ourselves, that it has seemed to us as if there were evidence that a man who lived his life in the following of Jesus Christ was a free man in regard to his activity. But now there comes to us the other thought, and it is impossible for us to meet together as we have met together again and again here without asking with regard to the other region of man's life and how it is with man there, for there are a great many people, I believe, who think that while the Christian faith offers to man a noble sphere of action and sets free powers that would otherwise remain unchanged, yet when we come to the region of thought or belief, there it is inevitable that man should know himself, when he accepts the faith of Jesus Christ, it is inevitable that there the man should become less free than it has been thought that he was before the blessed Saviour was accepted as the Master and the ruler of his life. Men say to themselves and to one another, "Yes, I shall be freer to act, I shall be nobler in my action, but I shall certainly enchain mind and spirit, I shall certainty bind myself to think, away from the rich freedom of thought in which I have been inclined to live." We make very much of free thought in these days. Let us always remember that free thought means the opportunity to think, and not the opportunity not to think. We rejoice in the way in which our fathers came to this country and in their children perpetuated the purpose of their coming, in order that they might have freedom to worship God. Do we worship God? Simply to have attained freedom and not to use freedom for its true purpose, not to live within the world of freedom according to the life which is given to us there—that is to do dishonor to the freedom, to disown the purpose for which the freedom has been given to us. I want to speak to you then, while I may speak to-day, with regard to the freedom of the Christian thought.
I want to claim, that which I believe with all my soul, that he who lives in the faith of Jesus Christ lives in the freest action of his mental powers, and there sees before him and makes himself a part of the large world into which man shall enter, in which he has perfect liberty and can exercise his powers as he could never have exercised them without. It is not very strange to think that men should have sometimes come to think that the religion of Jesus Christ was a slavery that was laid upon the mind of man, because very often those who have been the disciples of that religion, those who have been the preachers and exponents of that religion, have claimed just exactly that thing. They have seemed to say to themselves and to one another, to the world to which they speak, that man does give up the powers of his reason when he enters into the powers of his faith, when he enters into the great realm of faith. Led by some sort of influence, led by some heresy with regard to the capacity of man, or with regard to the dealing of God with man, or with regard to the purposes of man's life upon the earth, they have been content to say that man must give up the power of thought in order that he might enter into the Christian life and attain to all the purposes of the Christian discipline, they have been content to say that man must give up the noblest power of his nature in order to enter upon the highest life. Well might a man hesitate, hesitate whatever the blessings that were offered to him in the fulness of the Christian experience, if he were called upon to give up that which made the very centre and glory of his life, that which linked him most immediately to the God from whom he sprang. It would be as if in the storm the ship should cast over its engine in order to save its own life. The ship might be saved a little while from going down in the depths of despair, but it never would reach the port to which it had been bound; it never would accomplish the purpose of the voyage upon which it had set forth. Let us put absolutely away from, us all such thoughts. Let us come under the inspiration of Jesus Christ Himself, who says to us, in these words which we have repeatedly read to one another, that it is the truth that is to make us free, and that the entrance of the man therefore into that freedom is the largest freedom, of every region of man's life.
I want to speak to you of the way in which my Master, Jesus Christ, appeals to the intelligence of man, of the way in which He comes to us in the noblest part of our nature, and claims us there for our true life within Himself. I would feel altogether wrong if I let you depart, if I allowed you to meet here with me week after week and say these words which I am privileged to speak to you unless I did thus claim that the Christian life is the largest life of the human intellect, that in it the noblest and central powers of man shall attain to their true liberty. It is given for us perhaps to ask ourselves for one moment why it is that man thinks, is ready to think, that he must give up the very noblest part of his life, his powers of thinking, in order that he may enter into Christianity. It seems to me that there are certain reasons for it which we can see; but how fallacious those reasons are! Is it not partly because man, when he is called upon to live Jesus' life, when he is called upon to be a spiritual creature, immediately sees that he is entering into a new and different region from that in which his reason has always been exercised. He has been dealing with those things that belong to this earth, with the different duties and opportunities and pleasures that present themselves to him every day, and that higher and loftier region into which he has entered seems to have no capacity to call forth those powers which he has been using in this lower region. And then I think again there is upon the souls of men who deal with Christianity one great conviction which is very deep and strong. It is that the Christian religion cannot be absolutely that which it presents itself to human mankind as being, because it is so rich in the blessings that it offers, because it comes with such a large enjoyment to our human life, and opens such great opportunities for human living. Is it not because it seems to us too good to be true that we sometimes turn away from Christianity, and think that if we enter it at all we must enter it in the dark, that it cannot possibly appeal to these human natures and make them understand its truth, and let them take it into their intelligence that thence it may issue into the soul and become the guiding power of the life? Sometimes it seems as if Christianity were so high that it was impossible that man should attain to it, as if it were something altogether beyond our human powers. Do you want me, a creature with this human body and this human relationship, with this body and with these perpetual bindings and connections with my fellow-men, do you want me to mount up and live among the stars and hold communion with the God of all? And if you want me to, is there any possibility of my doing it? Such a life is glorious, but not for me. It goes beyond any capacity that I possess. Ask yourselves, my friends, if something like this which I have tried to describe is not very often in your minds as you hear the magnificent invitations which Christ gives to the human soul to live its fullest life, to man to be his fullest being. There are, no doubt, other reasons which present themselves to men, and of those I do not speak. I will not think that the men who are listening here to me now, in a base and low way shrink from the evidence of Christianity and from the life of Christ because they do not want to enter into that religion because it would make too great demands upon them in the sacrifices that they would be called upon to make. It is said sometimes, and I doubt not that it is sometimes true, that men will not see the power and truth of Christianity because they do not want to see it. It seems to me that the other is also often true, and it is that upon which we would much rather dwell. Men sometimes hesitate at Christianity and tremble, and will not enter into the great region that is open to them, because they do not want it so intimately. The critical, the sceptical disposition is very often born just of man's perception of the glory of the life that is offered to him, and of the intense desire that is at the bottom of his soul to enter into that life. Who is the man that criticises the ship most carefully as she lies at the wharf, that will see what capacity she has for the great voyage that she has set before her? Is he the man who means to linger carelessly upon the bank and never sail away, or the man who is obliged, if she can sail across the ocean, to go with her? Just in proportion to the depth of interest with which we look upon all Christian truth we must be deep questioners with regard to the truth of that truth. We must search into all its evidence. We must try to understand how it commends itself to all our minds. But first of all we want to know certainly what Christianity is, if it is able to deal with the thing with which we are puzzling or never to give an intelligent definition of it.
How is it now? I go to a certain man and ask him, "Why do you not believe in Christianity?" and he says, "It is incredible. I cannot believe in it." "What is it that you cannot believe in?" and then he takes forsooth some little point of Christian doctrine, some speculation of some Christian teacher, some dogma of some Christian church, and says, "That is incredible," as if that were Christianity. Over and over again men are telling that they do not believe in Christianity, when the real thing that they do not believe in is something that is no essential part of Christian faith whatsoever. They never have given to themselves a real definition of what the Christ and the Christianity in which they are called upon to believe, into which they are invited to enter, really is. The lecturer goes up and down the land and in the face of mighty audiences he denounces Christianity. He declares it to be unintelligible and absurd, to be monstrous and brutal. And when you ask what it is that he is thus denouncing, what it is that he is thus convicting over and over again, you find that it is something not simply which makes no part of Christianity, but which is absolutely hostile to the spirit of Christianity itself. Many and many a sceptical lecturer is denouncing that which Christian men would, with all their hearts, denounce; is declaring that to be untrue which no true Christian thinker really believes, that which is no real part of the great Christian faith, which is our glory. Do not think when I speak thus, when I say that there are things attached to Christianity which men do not believe, that they do not believe in the great truth of Jesus, without them, which men denouncing think that they are denouncing the religion which is saving the world. Do not think that I am simply paring away our great Christian faith, and making it mean just as little as possible in order that men may accept it into their lives. I am coming to the heart and soul of it. I want to know, if my life is all bound up with this religion of Jesus Christ, I want to know intrinsically what that religion is. I will scatter a thousand things which in the devout thought of men have fastened themselves to it. It is but clearing the ship for action, the making it ready that it may do its work, the binding everything tight just before the storm comes on, for that is just the moment when nothing essential to the ship itself must be cast away, when I make sure, if I can, that every plank and timber, that every iron and brass is in its true place and ready for the strain that may be put upon it.
But what, then, is the Christian religion? It is the simple following of the divine person, Jesus Christ, who, entering into our humanity, has made evident two things—the love of God for that humanity, and the power of that humanity to answer to the love of God. The one thing that the eye of the Christian sees and never can lose is that majestic, simple figure, great in its simplicity, in its innocence, in its purity and in its unworldliness, that walked once on this earth and that walks forever through the lives of men, showing Himself to human kind, manifest in human kind. The power to receive it, the divine life wakened in every child of man by the divine life manifested in Jesus Christ. That is the great Christian faith, and the man becomes a Christian in his belief when he assures himself that that manifestation of the divine life has been made and is perpetually being made, and he answers to that appeal of the Christ. He manifests his belief in action when he gives himself to the education and the guiding of that Christ, that in him there may be awakened the life of divinity, which is his true human life. Is it not glorious, this absolute simplicity of the Christian faith? It is not primarily a truth; it is a person, it is He who walked in Galilee and Judea, who sat in the houses of mankind, who hung upon the cross, in order that He might perfectly manifest how God could live and how man could suffer in the obedience to the life of God, and then sent forth out of that inspiration and said, "Lo, I am with you always, doing this very thing, being this very Saviour, even to the end of the world." That which the Christian man believes to-day as a Christian, whatever else he may believe in his private speculation, in his personal opinion, is this: The life of God manifest in Jesus of Nazareth and thenceforth going out into the world wakening the divine capacity in every man.
You say, "How can a man believe that? What evidence is there of it?" The personal evidence of Jesus Christ himself. It is the self testimony of Christ that makes the assurance of the Christian faith. Does that sound to you all unreasonable? Do you turn here in your pew or in your aisle and say, "After all, it is the old story which I have tested and know to be untrue."
Suppose yourself back there in Jerusalem. Suppose the self testimony came to you from the very person of Jesus Christ. Suppose the words that He absolutely said and the deeds that He absolutely did bore to you a testimony that some greater than a human life was there, and that then, as you pressed close to Him and became a part of His life, you found your own life awakened and became a nobler man, ashamed to sin, aspiring after holiness, thinking noble thoughts, lifting yourself not above the earth, but lifting yourself with the whole great earth, which then is taken up into the presence of God and made sacred through and through. I know no man in whom I trust except by the personal evidence that he bears to me of himself. I know no man's nature finally but by that testimony which the nature gives me of him. Bring me all evidence that the man is trustworthy, and then when I am convinced I will go and stand in the presence of that man himself, and he shall tell me. So the world stood, so the world stands to-day in the presence of Jesus Christ. His presence on earth is an historic fact. The words that He spoke are written down in a true record. The deeds that He did are the history of the manifestations of His character, and the story of His christendom is the continued manifestation of His life, the divine life in the life of man, made divine through Him. Now, a question that comes in the Christian's mind is "Why don't people believe this?" Why should they not? Is it not written in the historical record? Has it not manifested itself in the experience of mankind? If it has, surely then it appeals to man's reason, and is not merely the act of the blind, stupid thing which we call faith, but it is the noblest action of that hour in which I believe, in the heavens above me and in the earth under my feet, in the brother with whom I have to do in the long course of history, in the total humanity which has grandly lived. The reason that men do not believe it is that of course there seems to be to them some strange and previous presumption with regard to it, something which makes the story incredible. They say it is the supernatural in it, that it goes beyond the ordinary experience of man. Ah! it seems also strange to me, the ordinary experience of man. Who dares to dream that human life has lived its completest and shown the noblest power of receiving God into itself? Who dares to think that these few thousand years have exhausted this majestic and mysterious being that we call man? Who dares to think of his own life that, in these few thirty, forty, fifty years that he has lived, he has known and shown all that God can do in and for him? Who dares to say that it is impossible, that it is improbable, that he who is the child of God shall receive some newer and closer access to his father, that there shall come some new revelation which shall be written not in a book, not upon the skies, not in the history of human kind, not on the rocks under our feet, but here in our human flesh, that there shall be an incarnation, that the God who is perpetually trying to manifest Himself to human kind should find at last, should take at last the most exquisite, the most sensitive, the most perfect, the most divine of all material on which to write His message, and in that human nature show at once what God was and what man is? Until there be some exhaustive sight of human nature as that, it is in no wise improbable that there would be that which outgoes our observation, that once in the long music of our human life the great key-note of humanity shall be struck, that once in our great groping after the God who made us He shall seem to draw the veil aside, nay, more than that, shall come and like the sunlight crowd Himself through every cloud until He takes possession of our humanity.
"Ay," but you say, "those miracles in the life of Jesus Christ, how strange those are; how strange that He should have touched the water and the water become wine; how strange that He should have called to the dead man and he should have come forth from the tomb; how strange that He should have spoken to the waters and the storm grow still!" Ah, my friends, it seems to me that there again we are dishonoring nature as just before we did dishonor man. There again we are thinking that we have exhausted the capacity of this wondrous world in which we live. What is the glory of that world? That it answers to human kind. In the mystic tradition of the Book of Genesis it is told how, when God first made man, He set him master of this world and all its powers; and, ever since, the world has been answering to man, who is its master, and every message that comes back to him, every response that the field makes to the farmer, or that the rock makes to the scientist, is but an assertion and the culmination and the fulfilment of that which God did back there. As man has been, so has the world responded to his touch and call. Suppose that to-morrow morning the perfect man should come, not the man simply of the twentieth century or of the twenty-first, who shall be greater in his humanity than we, but suppose the perfect man, the perfect man because the divine man, comes. I cannot dream that nature shall not have words to say and a response to make to him that it will not make to these poor hands of mine. I can do something with the rock and field, I can do something with the sea and sky. What shall he do who is to my humanity what the perfect is to the absolutely and dreadfully imperfect? What shall the divine man do? When Paul speaks in that great verse of his and tells us how the whole creation groaneth and travaileth waiting for the manifestation of the Son of God, the whole future history of human science, of man's knowledge and use of the world, is in his words. The world shall know man as fast as man shows himself, and when the Son of God shall be manifested, then the groaning and travailing creation shall set all its powers free, and with the knowledge with which it floods him and with the usages and service with which it supplies him, it shall claim at last its glory as the servant, the obedient servant of man. The Son of man has come. You may at least suppose it if you do not believe it. And if He came to-morrow morning, would not this whole world lift itself up and answer Him? Who can say what the hills and valleys and trees and oceans and seas would have to say to Him who at last manifested that which the world had been waiting and groaning for, the manifestation, the complete manifestation, of the Son of God? That is the reason why I claim that miracles—I do not know that there have not been fastened upon the miraculous power of Jesus stories of things, thinking that they were done miraculously, which He did by what we choose in our ignorance to call the ordinary powers of nature—but I do know that the coming into the world must have been more to this world, that it would have been the most unnatural and incredible thing if the divine man coming here had been to the world and the world had been to him only what it is to us.
And now the question comes to each one of us—for I must hasten on—how shall a man get within the region of that which perhaps you recognize, which I do not see how you can help believing, how shall a man get within the region of that higher power and let it be the rule of his life, let it manifest itself through him? How do you get within the power of any force, my friends? Here is Christ, a force if He is anything, not a spectacle, not a miracle, not a marvel, not wonderful to look at, but a force to feel. How do you get within the power of any force? You look out of your window, and men say the frost is freezing, and you see your neighbors wrapping their cloaks about them and going down the street as if they were cold. Men say that a storm is blowing, and you see them shelter themselves against the storm that blows. How will you make that storm a true thing for yourself? Go out into it. Let the frost smite your cheek, let the rain beat into your face, let the wind blow upon your back, and then you know by personal experience what you had known by your observation before. And so I say that only when a man puts himself where he can feel the power of the Christ, where it is possible for him, if there be a Christ, if Christ be all that the Christian religion claims that He is, only when a man puts himself where he needs and must have and must certainly feel that Christ, if there be a Christ, only then has he a right to disbelieve if the Christ be not there, only then has he a right to believe if the Christ find him there. And where is that? When a man takes up the highest duties, when he accepts the noblest life, when he lays open his soul to the great exactions and obligations which belong to him in his spiritual nature, when he tries to be a pure man, a devoted man, a noble man, only then has he a chance to know that force which only then comes into its activity. Only when a man tries to live the divine life can the divine Christ manifest Himself to him. Therefore the true way for you to find Christ is not to go groping in a thousand books. It is not for you to try evidences about a thousand things that people have believed of Him, but it is for you to undertake so great a life, so devoted a life, so pure a life, so serviceable a life, that you cannot do it except by Christ, and then see whether Christ helps you. See whether there comes to you the certainty that you are a child of God, and the manifestation of the child of God becomes the most credible, the most certain thing to you in all of history.
It may have been that such moments have been in some of your lives. Think of the noblest moment that you ever passed, of the time when, lifted up to the heights of glory, or bowed down into the very depths of sorrow, every power that was in you was called forth to meet the exigency or to do the work. Think of the time when you stood upon the mountain top or plunged into the gulf. Remember that time—it may have been the death of your little child, it may have been your own sickness, it may have been your failure in business, it may have been the moment of your complete success in business, when you were solemnized as the great shower of wealth poured down upon you, and you felt that now you really had some work for God to do in the world. Ah, look back to that moment and see if then it seemed so strange to you that God should come into the presence and person of His universe, of His children, and take possession of their life. We grow so easily to forget our noblest and most splendid times. It seems to me there is no maxim for a noble life like this: Count always your highest moments your truest moments. Believe that in the time when you were the greatest and most spiritual man, then you were your truest self. Men do just the other thing. They say it was "an exception, a derangement of my nature, an exultation, a frenzy, it was something that I must not expect again." How about the time when they plunged into baseness and made their soul like a dog's soul? They shudder at the thought of that because they think it would come again. Nay, nay, shudder if you will at the thought of that, but believe that the highest you ever have been you may be all the time, and vastly higher still if only the power of the Christ can occupy you and fill your life all the time.
I said that there were many things that people attached to Christianity that did not belong to Christianity. I know there are. It is impossible that a great system like the system of Christ, a great person like the great person of Christ, should be in the world, and men not have speculated and thought in regard to Him. Those are not Christianity. I want to-day, if I may do nothing else, to tell you absolutely how simple and single the Christian faith, the Christ, really is. It is not the inspiration of this book or any theory in regard to its inspiration. It is not the election of certain souls and the perdition of other souls. It is not the length of man's punishment, whether it is going to be forever and ever, or whether man is to go to his restoration. It is not even the constitution of the divine life, the great truth of the way in which God lives within His own nature. None of these are the essence of the Christian faith, but simply this: The testimony of the divine in man to the divine in man that lifts the man up and says: "For me to be brutal is unmanly; to be divine is to be my only true self." Why do I believe in God? If some man asked me, when on the street, I think I should have an answer to give him. I could give one great reason—two great reasons which are really but one great reason—why I believe in God. I believe in God, my friends, I believe in God with all my soul, because this world is inexplicable without Him and explicable with Him, and because Jesus Christ believed in Him; and it was Jesus Christ that showed me that this world demanded God and was inexplicable without Him; that made certain every suspicion and dream that I had had before, and Jesus Christ believed in Him. Shall I go to the expert about chemistry or geology and ask him the truth with regard to the structure of the world and the meeting of its atoms and forces? And shall not I go to the spiritual expert, to him in whom the spiritual life of man has been clearest, and say, "O Christ, tell me what is the centre and source and end of all?" When he says, "God," shall I not believe Him?
It is impossible, as I have suggested to you again and again in what I have been saying, that a man can have his mind open to the receipt of the truth of a person unless he be a certain kind of man himself. I do not know but the basest and the wickedest man who lives may believe in the Copernican theory, or that two and two make four, yet I cannot help believing that if he were a better and truer man he would believe even those truths, outside of himself, of science and arithmetic, more fully and deeply. Men were not all astray in the first thing that they were seeking after, though they were wofully astray in many things that they said about it, when they talked about faith and works. Faith enters in through the soul that does a noble deed, and in the coming in of that faith the higher deed becomes possible to him. Hear the words that Jesus said, words that our age must take to itself until it shall be wiser than it is to-day: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God." Ponder those words, my friends. See how reasonable they are. See how important they are. See how they have the secret of your own life, of what it is to do, of what it is to be, forever and ever sealed up in them. These two things, I am sure, are true with regard to the method of belief—that no man can ever go forward to a higher belief until he is true to the faith which he already holds. Be the noblest man that your present faith, poor and weak and imperfect as it is, can make you to be. Live up to your present growth, your present faith. So, and so only, as you take the next straight step forward, as you stand strong where you are now, so only can you think the curtain will draw back and there will be revealed to you what lies beyond. And then live in your positives and not in your negatives. I am tired of asking man what his religious faith is and having him tell me what he don't believe. He tells me that he don't believe in baptism or inspiration or in the trinity. If I asked a man where he was going and he told me he was not going to Washington, what could I know about where he was going? He would not go anywhere so long as he simply rested in that mere negative. Be done with saying what you don't believe, and find somewhere or other the truest, divinest thing to your soul that you do believe to-day, and work that out: work it out in all the action and consecration of the soul in the doing of your work. This I take to be the real freedom of Christian thought—when the man goes forward always into a fuller and fuller belief as he becomes obedient to that which he already holds.
But yet I know I have not touched the opinion, the feeling, nay, I will say the black prejudice that is upon many, many minds. "Ah, but you have bound yourself," you say. "You have given your assent to a certain creed, you believe certain dogmas. To put it as simply as you have put it to us this morning, you believe a certain person. I, I am free, I believe nothing, I can go wandering here and everywhere and disbelieve to my heart's content." Yes, I do believe something, and I thank God for it. But I deny with all my intelligence and soul the very idea that in believing that something I have shut my soul to evidence. I am ready to hear any man living, any man living to-day who will prove to me that the Christ has never lived and that he is not the Lord of men. I will listen to any man who is in earnest and who is sincere. I will not listen to any trifler, caviller, who is merely trying to make a point and to get ahead of the poor arguments that I can use; but let any fellow-man come to me with an earnest face, either of puzzled doubt, or of earnest and convinced unbelief, and say to me, "Are you not wrong?" or "I believe that you are wrong," and I, of course, will talk to him. Do I want to believe anything that cannot be proved to be true, anything that my intelligence shall not receive? Why should I believe it? Shall I trust myself to the ship merely because I have refused to examine its timbers, when men tell me that it is unsound? Shall I throw away my truthfulness simply for the sake of holding what I want, what I choose to call the truth? It is not because it is safe, it is not because it is pleasant, it is because it seems to the Christian man to be true, that the Christian man believes in the presence, the life, the power of Jesus Christ. Therefore come, let me hear every one of you what you have to say. Let me see where that upon which my soul rests for its very life breaks down; but, until I hear, I will go forward, strong in the assurance of that which takes hold of all my life, convinces my reason, lays hold of my affections, enlarges my actions, and opens my whole being to the freedom of the child of God.
And why should not you, my friends, why should not you? I honor the sceptic, the faithful and devout sceptic, with all my soul. I am no scorner of the man who, without scorn, finds it impossible to accept that which to my soul seems to be the absolute truth. I will scorn only that which God scorns. He scorns the scorner, and only the scorning man is worthy of the scorn of human kind. But while I honor the sceptic, while I invite him to make manifest his scepticism, not merely for his sake but for my own, I will not hold, I cannot hold that he is living a larger life than the man whom the Christ invites to every noble duty, to every faithful fulfilment of himself. I will feel that he, perhaps by the necessity of his nature, perhaps by his circumstances, perhaps by something which came down to him from his ancestors, is shut in, is a contained and hampered and hindered man, and I will long for the day when he, lifting up his eyes, sees that Christ walking in the midst of humanity, and yet at the head of humanity, manifesting our human nature, but outgoing our human nature, glorifying our streets while He interprets our streets for the first time into their full meaning, giving to our shops and houses a radiancy which they have expected and dreamed of, but never felt, and tempting us always into a deeper belief in Him, which, embodying itself in a completer consecration to the right and true, shall lead us on into the fulness which he fills. Can I, can you, have Christ in human history, Christ in the world, and live as if He were not here? Will you not give yourself to that of Him which you know to-day? Will you not at least lay hold of the very skirts of His garment and say, "I see that Thou art good, I see that Thou art true. Lead me into the goodness and truth which by communion and sympathy shall know Thee more. Lord, I believe. I believe just a little. Lord, I know that that must come which Thou hast said has come in Thee. I would enter into Thee, to see whether it has indeed come in Thee, and Thou shalt lead me, Thou shalt teach me. Lord, I believe. I have not grasped Thee. No man has grasped Thee. The man who says that he has grasped Thee proves thereby that he does not know Thee. I know that I have not grasped Thee, but I will follow Thee by doing righteousness, by serving truth, by knowing and acknowledging Thee until all of that shall become clear to me. I will follow Thee, and Thou shalt lead me into the glory which Thou Thyself abidest in. Lord, I believe, Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief." The story of the present, the hope, the pure, certain hope of the future is in those great words: "Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief."
III. THE DUTY OF THE CHRISTIAN BUSINESS MAN.
I will read to you once again the words which I have read before, the words of Jesus in the eighth chapter of the Gospel of St. John:
"As He spake these words, many believed on Him. 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 forever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."
I do not know how any man can stand and plead with his brethren for the higher life, that they will enter into and make their own the life of Christ and God, unless he is perpetually conscious that around them with whom he pleads there is the perpetual pleading and the voice of God Himself. Unless a man believes that, everything that he has to say must seem, in the first place, impertinent, and, in the second place, almost absolutely hopeless. Who is man that he shall plead with his fellow-man for the change of a life, for the entrance into a whole new career, for the alteration of a spirit, for the surrounding of himself with a new region in which he has not lived before? But if it be so, that God is pleading with every one of His children to enter into the highest life; if it be so, that God is making His application and His appeal to every soul to know Him, and in Him to know himself, then one may plead with earnestness and plead with great hopefulness before his brethren. And so it is. The great truth of Jesus Christ is that, that God is pleading with every soul, not merely in the words which we hear from one another, not merely in the words which we read from His book, but in every influence of life; and, in those unknown influences which are too subtle for us to understand or perceive, God is forever seeking after the souls of His children.
I cannot stand before you for the last time that I shall stand In these meetings, my friends, without reminding myself and without reminding you of that; without reminding myself also and without trying to remind you of how absolutely conformable it is to everything that man does in this world. The great richness of nature, the great richness of life, comes when we understand that behind every specific action of man there is some one of the more elemental and primary forces of the universe that are always trying to express themselves. There is nothing that man does that finds its beginning within itself, but everything, every work of every trade, of every occupation, is simply the utterance of some one of those great forces which lie behind all life, and in the various ways of the different generations and of the different men are always trying to make their mark upon the world. Behind the power that the man exercises there always lies the great power of life, the continual struggle of nature to write herself in the life and work of man, the power of beauty struggling to manifest itself, the harmony that is always desiring to make itself known. To the merchant there are the great laws of trade, of which his works are but the immediate expression. To the mechanic there are the continual forces of nature, gravitation uttering itself in all its majesty, made no less majestic because it simply takes its expression for the moment in some particular exercise of his art. To the ship that sails upon the sea there are the everlasting winds that come out of the treasuries of God and fulfil His purpose in carrying His children to their destination. There is no perfection of the universe and of the special life of man in the universe until it comes to this. The greatest of all forces are ready without condescension, are ready as the true expression of their life, to manifest themselves in the particular activities which we find everywhere, and which are going on everywhere. The little child digs his well in the sea-shore sand, and the great Atlantic, miles deep, miles wide, is stirred all through and through to fill it for him. Shall it not be so then here to-day, and shall it not be the truth, upon which we let our minds especially dwell, and which we keep in our souls all the time that I am speaking and you are listening, that however He may be hidden from our sight God is the ultimate fact and the final purpose and power of the universe, and that everything that man tries to do for his fellow-man is but the expression of that love of God which is everywhere struggling to utter itself in blessing, to give itself away to the soul of every one for whom He cares?
It is in this truth that I find the real secret, the deepest meaning, of the everlasting dissatisfaction of man that is always ready to be stirred. We moralize, we philosophize about the discontent of man. We give little reasons for it; but the real reason of it all is this, that which everything lying behind it really signifies: that man is greater than his circumstances, and that God is always calling to him to come up to the fulness of his life. Dreadful will be the day when the world becomes contented, when one great universal satisfaction spreads itself over the world. Sad will be the day for every man when he becomes absolutely contented with the life that he is living, with the thoughts that he is thinking, with the deeds that he is doing, when there is not forever beating at the doors of his soul some great desire to do something larger, which he knows that he was meant and made to do because he is the child of God. And there is the real secret of the man's struggle with his sins. It is not simply the hatefulness of the sin, as we have said again and again, but it is the dim perception, the deep suspicion, the real knowledge at the heart of the man, that there is a richer and a sinless region in which it is really meant for him to dwell. Man stands separated from that life of God, as it were, by a great, thick wall, and every effort to put away his sin, to make himself a nobler and a purer man, is simply his beating at the inside of that door which stands between him and the life of God, which he knows that he ought to be living. It is like the prisoner hidden in his cave, who feels through all the thick wall that shuts him out from it the sunlight and the joyous life that is outside, who knows that his imprisonment is not his true condition, and so with every tool that his hands can grasp and with his bleeding hands themselves beats on the stone, that he may find his way out. And the glory and the beauty of it is that while he is beating upon the inside of the wall there is also a noble power praying upon the outside of that wall, The life to which he ought to come is striving in its turn, upon its side, to break away the hindrance that is keeping him from the thing he ought to be, that is keeping him from the life he ought to live. God, with His sunshine and lightning, with the great majestic manifestations of Himself, and with all the peaceful exhibitions of His life, is forever trying, upon His side of the wall, to break away the great barrier that separates the sinner's life from Him. Great is the power, great is the courage of the sinner, when through the thickness of the walls he feels that beating life of God, when he knows that he is not working alone, when he is sure that God is wanting him just as truly, far more truly, than he wants God. He bears himself to a nobler struggle with his enemy and a more determined effort to break down the resistance that stands between him and the higher life. Our figure is all imperfect, as all our figures are so imperfect, because it seems to be the man all by himself, working by himself, until he shall come forth into the life of God, as if God waited there to receive him when he came forth the freed man, and as if the working of the freedom upon the sinner's side had not something also of the purpose of God within him. God is not merely in the sunshine; God is in the cavern of the man's sin. God is with the sinner wherever he can be. There is no soul so black in its sinfulness, so determined in its defiant obstinacy, that God has abandoned his throne room at the centre of the sinner's life, and every movement is the God movement and every effort is the God force, with which man tries to break forth from his sin and come forth into the full sunlight of a life with God. Do you not think how full of hope it is? Do you not see that when this great conception of the universe, which is Christ's conception, which beamed in every look that He shed upon the world, which was told in every word that He spoke and which was in every movement of His hand—do you not see how, when this great conception of the universe takes possession of a man, then all his struggle with his sin is changed, it becomes a strong struggle, a glorious struggle. He hears perpetually the voice of Christ, "Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world. You shall overcome it by the same strength which overcame with Me."
And then another thing. When a man comes forth into the fulness of that life with God, when at last he has entered God's service and the obedience to God's will, and the communion with God's life, then there comes this wonderful thing, there comes the revelation of the man's past. We dare to tell the man that if he enters into the divine life, if he makes himself a servant of God and does God's will out of obedient love, he shall then be strong and wise. One great element of his strength is going to be this: A marvellous revelation that is to come to him of how all his past has been filled with the power of that spirit with which he has at last entered into communion, to which he has at last submitted himself. Man becomes the child of God, becomes the servant of Jesus Christ, and this marvellous revelation amazes him. He sees that back through all the years of his most obstinate and careless life, through all his wilfulness and resistance, through all his profligacy and black sin, God has been with him all the time, beating himself upon his life, showing him how He desired to call him to Himself, and that the final submission does not win God. It simply submits to the God who has been with the soul all the time. Can there be anything more winning to the soul than that, anything that brings a deeper shame to you, than to have it revealed to you, suddenly or slowly, that from the first day that you came into this world, nay, before your life was an uttered fact in this world, God has been loving you, and seeking you, and planning for you, and making every effort that He could make in consistency with the free will with which He endowed you from the centre of His own life, that you might become His and therefore might become truly yourself? Through all the years in which you were obstinate and rebellious, through all the years in which you defied Him, nay, through the years in which you denied Him and said that He did not exist, He was with you all the time. What shall I say to my friend who is an atheist? Shall I believe that until he comes to a change of his opinions and recognizes that there is indeed a ruling love, a great and fatherly God for all the world, that he has nothing to do with that God? Shall I believe that God has nothing to do with him until he acknowledges God? God would be no God to me if He were that, if He left the man absolutely unhelped until the man beat at the doors of His divine helpfulness and said, "I believe in Thee at last. Now help me." And to the atheist there appears the light of the God whom he denies. Into every soul, just so far and just so fast as it is possible for that soul to receive it, God beats His life and gives His help. That is what makes a man hopeful of all his fellow-men as he looks around upon them and sees them in all the conditions of their life.
And this could only be if that were true, if that is true, which we are dwelling upon constantly, the absolute naturalness of the Christian life, that it is man's true life, that it is no foreign region into which some man may be transported and where he lives an alien to all his own essential nature and to all the natural habitudes in which he is intending to exist. There are two ideas of religion which always have abounded, and our great hope is, our great assurance for the future of the world is, that the true and pure idea of religion some day shall grow and take possession of the life of man. One idea, held by very earnest people, embodied in very faithful and devoted lives, is the strangeness of religion to the life of man, as if some morning something dropped out of the sky that had had no place upon our earth before, as if there came the summons to man to be something entirely different from what the conditions of his nature prophesied and intended that he should be. The other idea is that religion comet by the utterance of God from the heavens, but comes up out of the human life of man; that man is essentially and intrinsically religious; that he does not become something else than man when he becomes the servant of Jesus Christ, but then for the first time he becomes man; that religion is not something that is fastened upon the outside of his life, but is the awakening of the truth inside of his life; the Church is but the true fulfilment of human life and society; heaven is but the New Jerusalem that completes all the old Jerusalem and Londons and Bostons that have been here upon our earth. Man, in the fulfilment of his nature by Jesus Christ, is man—not to be something else, our whole humanity is too dear to us. I will cling to this humanity of man, for I do love it, and I will know nothing else. But when man is bidden to look back into his humanity and see what it means to be a man, that humanity means purity, truthfulness, earnestness, and faithfulness to that God of which humanity is a part, that God which manifested that humanity was a part of it, when the incarnation showed how close the divine and human belonged together—when man hears that voice, I do not know how he can resist, why he shall not lift himself up and say, "Now I can be a man, and I can be man only as I share in and give my obedience to and enter into communion with the life of God," and say to Christ, to Christ the revealer of all this, "Here I am, fulfil my manhood."