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Men in the Making
by Ambrose Shepherd
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I was told some time ago of a place of worship which had a billiard-table on its premises. Provided at the suggestion of the minister with the best of intentions, it was soon turned into a means of betting. The managers were obliged to take the matter into serious consideration, and out of a regard to the susceptibilities of the young men who used the table, they decided not to prohibit stakes upon a game, but to insist that all winnings should be handed over to the Hospital Fund. The room was soon comparatively deserted. The interest was not billiards, so much as billiards plus the money won or lost in betting on billiards.

When I am told that to stake a trifle upon a game is not for the sake of winning money, so much as to give the due seasoning of excitement to amusement, I have to remark that in a few cases this may be so, but it is not the explanation of betting. Almost entirely it comes to mean the desire to win money for which we have given, and intend to give, no just equivalent. That almost deserted room on the church premises tells the truth about the whole squalid business. Almost any kind of amusement, not accompanied with betting, is, to an increasing number of people, as insipid as water is to the palate of a brandy-drinker. In the case of young men the habit does two things: it gives rise to false and ruinous impressions, and it murders the soul. As touching the former, it tempts a young man to think he can get a living, and a flourishing one, without working for it—a greatly coveted science in these days. It seems so much easier to put money in the pocket this way, than by honest toil with head or hands, or both. The notorious fact that betting strikes at the root-principle of worthy and strenuous labour, is not the least of the vicious features of this many-sided evil.

It also creates the most hopeless form of selfishness, and it grows by what it feeds on. The avarice of betting destroys the best part of us. As I have said, it kills the soul. Who, indeed, can call that which is left in the confirmed gambler, a soul! It is rather, as one well describes it, "a shrunken, useless organ, a noble capacity sentenced to death by an ignoble passion, which droops as a withered hand by the side, and cumbers Nature like a rotten branch."

To my thinking, it is a waste of time to ask, and it is an abuse of time to discuss the question, wherein the wrong or evil of betting consists. The practice has evil consequences, and evil consequences only; and they necessarily become the more evil the more widely it is diffused throughout society. What other proof of wrong does a right-minded person ask? My estimate of the effects of betting is such that I would neither employ nor trust any man who is addicted to it.

I hope and believe that I am talking to young men who have never touched this dangerous thing. Continue to be wise. Others, it may be, have ventured a little way. My message to you is, turn away from it, another step may make retreat impossible. As you value the things that rightly enter into life for attainment and possession—honest enterprise, true success, worthy ambition, upright character, peace of mind, and hopefulness of outlook—bind these words about your neck, write them upon the table of your heart: "He that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool."

And once more, we may defile the temple of the body by Drunkenness. Or if this term, and the state it connotes, be unduly aggressive, let me say by an intemperate use of strong drink.

There are those who tell us that any use which passes it through the lips is intemperate. If I offer a word of criticism on this position, it is because I want the assent of your reason in the few things I have to say about this part of the subject before us. The first condition of permanent reform is, that it shall be founded on truth. The peculiar temptation, it has been said, of the ardent reformer is to exaggerate. Intense feeling is apt to build upon a half-truth—the unsafest of all foundations. It is one thing to insist upon the evils that are inseparable from an intemperate indulgence in strong drink, it is quite another thing to assert that it is evil, and evil only, to touch it at all. The latter order of polemic is always liable to bring about a reaction which is terribly prejudicial to the good we desire to accomplish.

I have no warrant to question a man's loyalty to the forward movements of our time, who conscientiously for the sake of health, as he thinks, or social arrangements, cannot recognize it as his duty to forswear drink altogether. When a man claims his liberty to be the arbiter of his habits in his home, or in society, for me to arrogate the right to censure him may be impertinence; and, so far as I am concerned, to read him out of Christian consistency may be to make myself, as St. James puts it, a judge of evil thoughts. When a man has reached fifty years of age, and has worked hard and lived sparingly, if he should consider it advisable to relax somewhat the severities of earlier years, I have nothing to say to him unless it be to remind him of the example he owes to others, and of the need there always is to keep before us the warning: "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall."

I think it right to put this side of the question in its just evidence, and having done so I willingly dismiss it with the remark that I am not talking to middle-aged nor to old men. My appeal is to young men, and I say to you without qualification, without a suspicion of mental reservation, you do not need strong drink. There are conceivable circumstances where it may be medically prescribed, but such prescription from competent men has well-nigh reached the vanishing-point. Near as any statement can get to its ultimate, I affirm that you never have need of this drink. Keep it, then, out of your blood in your threshold years, and you will have less or no craving for it at all in those that are travelling your way. If you should imagine that you inherit the craving, there is, at any rate, one rampart which, if held, the craving cannot force—that is, total abstinence from the thing craved. Range yourselves with the abstainers, and be proud of your legion. It will be better for you in every way, whether it be in physical health, mental efficiency, moral force, or spiritual attainment. Settle it with yourselves, that there are no conditions in your life which can be called normal, and few that are abnormal, where you need the drink, and that to trifle with a thing so unnecessary, and yet so dangerous, is moral idiocy.

I plead with you to take high ground in your conceptions of the duty you owe to yourselves, and to your day and opportunities. As a nation we have to conquer drunkenness, or it will go far, as it is doing now, to conquer the nation. And we have a right to look to you young men to lead us forth to this great victory. We have the right to ask you to quit yourselves like men in mighty attack upon this devil's trinity of impurity, gambling, and drunkenness. I have said little in this address on what is called its distinctively religious side. The religion is in the subject itself. Realize what it is that needs to be done in yourselves and in the world around you, and I will trust religion to take care of itself. Face this work of conquest first by self-conquest, and you will find the need of a help not yourselves and greater than yourselves. And the help will come: "I can do all things," said the Apostle, "through Christ which strengtheneth me."

"I wish he would find the point again in this speaking man, and stick to it with tenacity, with deadly energy, for there is need of him yet." So wrote Thomas Carlyle of the preacher. "Could we but find the point again—take the old spectacles off his nose, and looking up discover, almost in contact with him, what the real Satanas, the soul-devouring, world-devouring devils are." I have tried, however imperfectly, yet faithfully, to talk to you about three of these "soul-devouring, world-devouring devils." Give them no inch of foothold in your life, and do a brother's part for others who, perhaps weaker than you, are waging the same conflict in the interest of the things that are sacred, and kingly, and divine. And when your brief mortal life is over you shall have the noble satisfaction of knowing that you have done something to make sure and real the power of that new day when our "sons shall be as plants grown up in their youth, and our daughters shall be as corner-stones, polished after the similitude of a palace."



TEMPTATION AND RESPONSIBILITY

"Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempteth no man; but each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed."—St. James i. 13, 14.

V

TEMPTATION AND RESPONSIBILITY

St. James has been called the Saxon of the goodly company of the Apostles. It is in many ways a happy description. We associate the term with thought, rugged, perspicuous, easily grasped, and expressed in the shortest and most readily understood words. St. Peter, in a reference to the letters of his "beloved brother Paul," warns the reader of these letters that there are things in them hard to be understood, which the ignorant handle only to their own confusion. If the former part of this warning were written about the Epistle General of St. James it would be dismissed at once, as having neither point nor application.

St. James does not think deeply, but he thinks clearly. He knows what he wants to say, and he says it in language that he who runs may not only read but understand. He touches most of the great themes that engage the commanding mind of St. Paul, and settles them—for no other word so well describes the process—in his own characteristic fashion. In the passage before us he attacks the most difficult subject which the mind of man can approach, and disposes of it to his own satisfaction in some forty-two of the shortest and most decisive words to be found in any speech or language.

It is well to come across a man like this occasionally; he may not be profound, but he has abundance of common-sense. We see him just as God made him—genuine, sincere, calm, and clear, touching with searching words, if not quite the roots of things, yet, without a doubt, the things themselves. He was the Apostle of that myriad-headed person known as the "man on the streets." St. Paul, however, to the end of his manifold and strenuous life, was always the student and the theologian.

And in nothing does the difference between these two men better illustrate itself than in their separate treatment of what is called the Problem of Evil. St. Paul speaks of evil as the law in his nature, as so entrenched there that the good he would do he does not, and the evil he would not do he does. Unless we weigh these words carefully, we overlook the significance, in the connection before us, of this term law. It implies that evil is, somehow, a part of our being; a something not our higher selves, and yet so deeply rooted in our nature, that like an unsleeping sentinel must a man be on his guard against it to the end of his mortal days. Were it not for this Apostle's mighty faith in Him who can give us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, we should say that he stands ever on the margin of that dark river in whose mysterious deeps are possibilities of wickedness and disaster, the sorrow of God, and the despair of man.

St. James would not have put himself in opposition to a single thing that St. Paul wrote about the seat and nature of evil, but to him the practical question was not its source but its control, and concerning the latter he is sufficiently explicit: "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man; but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and by his own lust permits himself to be enticed." You will notice that in this passage the writer puts no emphasis on outward inducements to sin; he says nothing, for example, about a devil. I do not assume that he would have questioned for a moment the traditional teaching about Satan. But he will allow no man to transfer to circumstances, inheritances, temptation, or devil, a responsibility which is his own. Comprehensively speaking, he declares that if men do wrong it is because they want to do wrong, or because they are not disposed to make a creditable fight against it. So far as men know the right, the right they can do, if they will.

We can readily imagine how this Apostle would handle one of the modern and enlightened critics, who appear to think they have but to refuse a name in order to get rid of the thing which the name is held to represent. "You tell us," he says to a man of this order, "that there is no devil; that to think or talk of him in any personal sense, say in the sense that Milton incarnates him in Paradise Lost, is mischievous and absurd. That sounds formidable, but to what does it amount? The word, or name, 'devil,' you, tell us, simply connotes a principle. Very well, take the initial letter from the word, and what have you left? You have 'evil,' and that is the only thing about which you and I need concern ourselves. In what degree have you advanced 'liberal thought,' as you choose to call it, by telling us there is no devil, while yet there is so much that is devil-like in yourself and in us all?"

The Apostle leaves a legion of questions unanswered, and, as compared with St. Paul's treatment of this complex problem of moral evil, he moves on the surface. But he is himself; and, in his plain and terse fashion, he forces upon our attention one truth which, on the principle that an inch of fact is worth a yard of theory, is, if well in the mind, more useful than acres of metaphysics which leave us very much where we were. His broad affirmation is, that temptation does not, and cannot, put sin into a man's mind or heart. Temptation does not make, it only finds. "The prince of this world cometh," said our Lord, "and hath, or findeth, nothing in Me." And His Apostle takes his stand on the position, that temptation does no more than reveal the latent evil within us, waiting its opportunity to come out. I mind me of a remark I once read, and which has suggested whatever of worth there is in this address. "As to the notion," says the writer, "that our adversary the devil puts evil thoughts in our mind, I contend that neither God nor devil does it. God would not, the devil cannot. The most that the enemy of our souls can do, is to stir and use the possibilities already there." [1]

This, if I rightly apprehend his meaning, is essentially the contention of the Apostle James. The temptation is to the latent evil what the spark is to the inflammable material. If the material were not there the spark would be as harmless as though it dropped into ice-water. "I can hear words, I can see things, but they will have power over me only in the measure that something in me answers to the words and the things." "I was so tempted," says a man, "and I yielded," which means that the desire already there came into contact with the opportunity to gratify it, and in what struggle there was, the desire was greater than the will-power put out to control it. To say that the sight of opportunity to do evil often makes evil done may be true, but the sight does not make the evil, it only discovers the evil ready for the sight.

In the first place, then, the Apostle admonishes us, that we cannot refer the guilt of our sin, or the responsibility for moral failure, to causes and sources outside ourselves. We may do that with failure of many kinds, but never in a case of conscious moral obliquity. The Apostle James would have agreed with the greater Apostle when he said: "I find a law within me, that when I would do good, evil is ever present"; but he would not the less have stood his ground and said: "Call it a law if you like, but it is not, and is not meant to be, beyond our control. It is one thing to be tempted, it is another thing to fall." Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed.

Let us allow at this point for a word of qualification, or we may find ourselves in confusion. As I have just hinted, we must not confound moral guilt and its consequences with the consequences of troubles and failures over which we have next to no control.

Here is a man, let us say, who is a hard worker, temperate, enterprising, and upright. He is making headway in a certain business. But a powerful combination is formed in the same line, which offers him the two alternatives of absorption or almost certain ruin. He decides to hold out against it, to find possibly after a time that his business is gone, and with it his capital, and he himself in a world that apparently has no further use for him. Then, soured and bitter, nursing a sense of wrong, he gradually parts with his self-respect, probably takes to drink, and goes down below the hope-mark of social redemption.

The man—and you probably have known such an one—may, or he may not, have been responsible for his business disasters. He had a right to trust to his own judgment, and providing that he did not choose to enter the combination, he was justified in making a struggle for his own independence. Whether his decision was a wise one is nothing to the point; it was his decision, and he had the right to exercise it. It brought trouble. That was a contingency to be reckoned in the risk; but having taken it, he had no right to sacrifice his manhood to his trouble. He might not be able to resist the strength of the circumstances that selected him for a commercial victim, but he was bound to overcome the weakness in himself to which the circumstances appealed. He might not be responsible for losing his business, but he was responsible for losing himself.

We talk about people doing wrong from force of circumstances. Well, every man who knows anything about it, has felt something of the touch of omnipotence there may be in circumstances. It is not always either kind or wise to try to hearten people who are in difficulties, by concealing or underrating their force and gravity. It is a terrible experience for a man past a certain age in his life, to find himself in the grip of financial difficulties, and face to face with social annihilation. I have seen men there, and the very thought of it unnerves me.

But past it all, the old saying holds good, there is nothing in life we can afford to do wrong for; and if, in the stress of circumstances, a man elects to take a wrong turn, he takes it according to the teaching of the text, because the inclination towards wrong is there, waiting its turn. We may sympathize with a man who goes down in his outward affairs and social status before the impact of circumstances he cannot resist, but we must maintain at the same time, that while circumstances may explain the trouble, whatever it is, they cannot justify wrong-doing either to escape trouble or as a refuge when in it.

Victor Hugo declares that for every crisis we have in us an instinct to meet it. That is a fine saying. If any man, who has had some moral training, will obey his first instinct of right, it is marvellous what possibilities there are at the heart of it. If, finding himself after the best he can do apparently defeated, he will take heed and be quiet—that is, do the best he can with what is left, and trust God—he will also find that the resources of the old word are not yet exhausted: "Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart."

He may have to lose his means, and step down in the world, as it is called, but let him do it with a clean conscience and a fine integrity; and just as "man's periods are only God's commas," so this man's going down is but a more splendid way of going up. I can imagine that nothing is more pleasing in the sight of Heaven than to see uprightness only the more enlightened, quickened, and made imperative by the troubles and vicissitudes of life. Let a man keep, if he can, what he has honourably got; but if go it must, let it go rather than attempt to save it at the cost of moral integrity. Let him say: "Empty my purse if need be, but fill my soul; take my world, but spare my life; darken my circumstances, but keep bright my spiritual outlook." And what are the slights and neglect of a passing and superficial world to a man whose life is in tune with the Infinite, who hears in secret what one day will be said from the housetops of time and eternity: "Well done, good and faithful servant"?

We are not always responsible for the temptations that sweep into our life. I will go further than that, and say that we are not necessarily responsible for what the attack of temptation finds in us; that, in some cases, may be our inheritance, and in others faults of early training; but we are responsible for what temptation does with what it finds. For it cannot be repeated too often that temptation never puts evil in our thoughts, it only makes manifest the evil that is there.

And hardly more do we differ in our features than we do in the things which, and through which, we are temptable. We cannot all be tempted by the same thing, but all of us can be tempted by something. You remember how Achilles was dipped in the magic water and made invulnerable in all parts except one. "Where the finger and thumb held the heel it was dry, and, though the arrows glanced off from the other parts of the body, when they pierced this one soft place he was wounded, and that unto death."

Each one of us has his vulnerable place, and it is our life-business to guard it. The weak place is there; the arrow will be aimed at it, and if it find the place it is aimed at, we may refer the blame to what or where we will, it does not affect the truth, that the blame is nigh unto us, even at our own door.

"Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil things; neither tempteth He any man with, or unto, evil things; but every man is tempted when he is drawn away, when he yields to his own lust, and by it is enticed, by it is overcome."

Which means, in the second place, that not only is a man his own worst enemy, but that no enemy outside of man's self can vitally hurt him, except so far as he places himself within the enemy's power. This is not to say that other people cannot hurt us; still less is it to say that it is not their will and wish to hurt us. To commit oneself to such a statement would be to speak in the teeth of the commonest experience of human life. There are men, and women too, who have the will, the wish, and the power to hurt us. They are, as Christ said of this brood in His day, of their "father the devil." To say a kind word about any one, to do a generous turn for others on the road of life, would be to them a positive task. There are people with whom I would as soon think of entrusting anything I held sacred, as I would think of risking the blood in my veins to the instinct of a deadly snake.

Nor is it want of charity to say this; it is want of sense to deny it. "Beware of men" is as much a word of Jesus as His command to love one another. There does not seem to be in the mind of most people any clear conception of the attitude of Christ towards sin and sinful people. And this confusion is at the bottom of many of our speculative difficulties, as well as of our practical troubles in the Christian Church. When we are convinced that a man's policy and his motives as translated in his policy are inimical to the highest interests of others, to the commonwealth of good, then we owe it to ourselves and others to speak and act upon our conviction.

There are men, again, whose vested interests mean our hurt, working through institutions that are co-extensive with our civilization. Look about you on the effects of drink, and then think how attractive its surface accessories are made. Consider the men who make fortunes out of lust itself; how seductive they make the openings and avenues which end in the lethal chambers wherein are dead men's bones. We have in our midst a well-organized body of men who make it their business for money to trade upon and to tempt the lowest and most dangerous forces of our carnal nature. And what does it mean when these men are, by the acknowledgment of public sentiment, the representatives of what is called "legitimate business"? It can only mean that the sentiment which should be the active and protective side of a worthy manhood is being used to destroy it.

Beware of men who say to evil: "Be thou my good!" Reckon with the fact that in so far as we stand for anything in a life worth living, there are people who have the will, the wish, and the power to do us hurt.

And yet, I say again, they can hurt us vitally—mark the word vitally—only so far as we place the opportunity within their power. We have to hurt ourselves before we can be hurt by anything outside us. We have to be our own enemy to give the enemy his advantage. "Nothing," says St. Bernard, "can work me harm except myself; the harm I sustain I carry about with me, and never am I a real sufferer but by my own fault."

Recall once more the word of the Lord Jesus, how He said: "The prince of this world cometh, and findeth nothing in Me." The prince of this world crucified Christ; he made Him the victim of the fear, the hate, the murderous fury of the organized religious classes of that day. But the prince of this world could not pass by a shade the extent which the saving purpose of the Saviour had Himself decreed and set fast. When the prince of this world came to the soul of the Saviour, the power of the prince of this world had reached its limits. Had there been, I will not say sin, but a sin; had there been the shade of a suspicion of what the world significantly calls a "past" in that Soul, the devil would have had his leverage, and the Divine Saviourhood would have thinned out at the most in the ordinary tragedy of a human martyrdom.

The emissaries of the prince of this world could lay violent hands on the body of Christ—that was permitted for your salvation and mine; but their power became impotence when it approached the soul, and there is where the battle is won or lost. "Fear not him who can kill the body only, but fear it"—that is the better translation—"fear it, the evil principle within thee, that can cast both body and soul in hell."

We are told that a man once wrote the late Mr. Spurgeon saying that unless he received from him within two days a specified sum of money, he would publish certain things that would go far to destroy the great preacher's hold upon public estimation. And Mr. Spurgeon wrote back upon a postcard: "You, and your like, are requested to publish all you know about me across the heavens." There is a world of meaning in the answer. This master in Israel had his enemies, who would have hailed as a providence any report, true or false, which could have been effectually used to strike at the message through the man. And it was because the man had not made himself his own enemy, in the past or in the present, that he could look this devil in the face and tell him that he was the devil.

This is how one man came out of an encounter with an enemy outside him; take another case where the enemy of a man was the man himself. He came to me, this man, when I was working in the South of England. In a bitter temper he told me that he had been dismissed from a business house in the town. He had left a good situation six months before he entered this house, and was now ousted to make room for one who had resented his appointment from the first, and had been his enemy. I spoke, as I promised to do, to the employer, with whom I had some influence, and in whose integrity I had implicit confidence. "It is an absolute misrepresentation of the facts," he assured me. "The man," he said, "got his situation on no better than false pretences. He had not been with us a week when it was evident that he was quite unequal to the duties of the position he had professed himself competent to fulfil. It is nonsense to say that any one has ousted him; the truth is, that he has wasted his time, and thrown away his opportunity, so that in what should be his own line he has neither training nor proficiency to be other than a low-placed man."

This is a single line in a large literature. It was a foolish use of the past that became the man's enemy the moment his present required something better. And this is an instance of how we can so become our own enemy, as to make it impossible for God to be our friend, in the sense we imagine God should be our friend. It would be, not the law which is the deepest expression of divine thought and love, but immoral force, if we could waste the time sacred to the preparation for a better position, and yet be ready for the position when it comes our way. God can forgive the waste, but God cannot give us back what the waste has lost out of our life. We must never lose sight of the fact that divine forgiveness cannot be vulgarized into impunity. I do not say for a moment, in the case of a middle-aged man, that the enemy he has made of himself is irredeemable and hopeless. I believe that a man's own effort and the grace of God can change this enemy into a valuable friend, if a man is man enough to accept and honour the cost of the great transformation. But how few people, past a given age, ever do quite conquer the inward foes whose sinister power is of their own cultivation? For one man who goes down before an outward enemy, there are a score who lay themselves in the dust and keep themselves there by acts that become habits, and habits that become character, and character that hardens into something that looks like destiny.

This, therefore, suggests a closing word to you younger people. Many of you to whom I speak are in the making. You are on the threshold of your manhood, with practically the future in your own hands.

I often recall my faltering energies in thought of a remark I once heard the revered principal[2] of my college make to a body of students who were about to enter upon their ministry: "Gentlemen," said he; "you may be able to offer twenty good reasons in after life for your failure, if fail you do. People will not concern themselves about your reason, they will simply look at the fact that you have failed." The truth in this remark is preeminently a truth for young people. The world, on one side of it, is very hard and cruel. It will apologize for failure in the abstract under tricks of speech, and cant about charity, but for individual failure it has no mercy.

Listen to one who has to fight bitterly his own self-made enemies, when I counsel you to begin straight from the beginning. Beware of making to-day the enemy of to-morrow. The present, says a wise man, has always got to pay the purchase price of the past. Never let the temptation overcome you, to take a "short and shady" cut to the gratification of desire, or in the achievement of what is sought as success. Nothing in life is unrelated, and everything you do which cannot pass the bar of your higher self is not only sin, but also a blunder. It may sleep to-day, but it sleeps to wake. When you can least afford it, it will be more than awake, it will be hungry. Educate and cultivate your conscience, and never disregard its voice. Keep your heart with all diligence; keep your heart, and always have in it room for God.

In the open, and in the secret of your life, watch and pray that day by day you may say with Spurgeon: "Write, if you like, all you know about me across the heavens." And while you may have your enemies in men and circumstances, they will be as nothing and vanity compared with the friend you have in God and yourself. Never seek to refer your moral responsibility for actions to influences outside you. Settle it once and for good, that a thing can radically hurt you there only so far as you place yourself within its reach. Yield yourselves to the Power that can lift you by your real need, the need of regeneration, which can so change your nature that while you are free to many things that have in them the elements of temptation, you are yet too free to want them—the Power which can enable each one of us to say: "I fear no foe, because, by the help of God, I am my own friend."



[1] George Dawson, M.A.

[2] Rev. Dr. Falding—Clarum et venerabile nomen.



SELF-RESPECT AND COMPANIONSHIPS

"Is Saul also among the prophets?"—1 Samuel x. 12.

VI

SELF-RESPECT AND COMPANIONSHIPS

Ever since we could hear or notice sayings and things, and for long before we were here to do either, this text has been in the world as a kind of proverb-question: "Is Saul also among the prophets?" If a man says something which is decidedly in advance of his generally-accepted reputation for intelligence and good sense, if he surprise us by doing something which rises sheer above the plane of his average life, if we happen to find him in company that is made up of men who are his superiors in attainments, character, and social importance, we mark the unlooked-for circumstance by repeating this text. We say: "How does this come to pass? What is the explanation?" "Is Saul also among the prophets?" If we think out our impression, it means that the unexpected has somehow happened; that the man must have more in him, or about him, than hitherto he has been credited with having, or by some accident he is found where we should least have thought of looking for him. In a word, the popular interpretation of Saul among the prophets is that Saul had taken a step up. The truth is, the text may mean that he had taken one down. It all depends who these prophets were. Before we can say that it is to a man's credit to be found in a certain company, and that because he is there we must revise our judgments about him, we must know what the company is, and why for the moment he is in it. It is also well to reflect that a man may be in a company and not of it.

In these prophets of the time of Saul, when we first meet them, we have the type which prophesying had first assumed on Canaanitish soil. They were men, as Professor Cornill in his suggestive book tells us, after the manner of Mohammedan fakirs, or dancing and howling dervishes, who express their religious exaltation through their eccentric mode of life, and thus it comes that the Hebrew word, which means "to live as a prophet," has also the signification "to rave, to behave in an unseemly way."

These men lived together in Israel until a very late date in guilds, the so-called schools of the prophets. They were, in fact, a species of begging friars, and were held by the people in a contempt which they evidently did their best to deserve. To Ahab they prophesied whatsoever was pleasing to him to hear; and as one of them came into the camp unto Jehu with a message from Elisha to anoint him king, his friends asked him: "Wherefore came this mad fellow to thee?" Amos likewise indignantly resents being placed on the same level with this begging fraternity: "I was no prophet," he says, "neither was I a prophet's son." And so when the people exclaimed in astonishment: "Is Saul also among the prophets?" they did not mean: "How is it that such a worldly-minded man finds himself in the company of such pious people?" Their meaning is better represented in a question like this: "How comes a person of such distinction to find himself in such disreputable company?"

Let it be understood that these last two or three paragraphs are roughly paraphrased from Professor Cornill's book, The Prophets of Israel. My opinion as to how far his reading of this proverb-question will bear criticism is of no value. It may be open to debate whether, historically, he has not placed certain hysterical phenomena recorded of these prophets much too late. But whatever scholarship may have to say about his interpretation of our text, the interpretation commends itself to my judgment, and it serves the purpose before me. It has, I venture to think, a very timely message for us all, and especially to young people.

You have heard the question a score of times, and you will hear it again if you live. Hear it then, for once, as the remembrancer of this truth—that when Saul was found among these so-called prophets he had ceased to respect himself, and when a man does that he must either recover himself, or accept moral ruin. I care not what his exterior circumstances may be; just so far as he fears self-scrutiny is he self-damned, and he knows it. We talk about the "basis of character." It is this, or it is that, according as a man may regard it from his standpoint of morals or religion. We may call it what we choose, but one thing is certain, there can be no worthy character where we have not established some right to respect ourselves. And this right must be born and reared, not out of egotism, nor in religious professions, but in the findings of a cultivated conscience on the motives and actions of our everyday life. A man may have many things, and many things pre-eminently worth having—but as a question of character, if he have not the right to respect himself, that is the lack of the one thing which is virtually the lack of all.

I have mentioned religious profession, and it is well to mark the commonplace but important distinction there may be between religion and our profession of it. Religion, while it is a possession of infinite worth, may be of no worth to us so long as we know that we are keeping back some part of the righteousness which is the backbone of any religion worth the name. A man's religious beliefs and convictions are his own business. They are between him and a higher tribunal than ours. What he does concerns us; and what he does he is. It may take a time to identify the true relation between the two, but our instinct decides the question, long, it may be, before the actions appear to justify the verdict of the instinct. Somehow we know through this worth-discerning faculty whether a man is trying to be what we mean when we speak of a good man.

I believe that human character is homogeneous. It is of one substance and quality in each particular person. Untold mischief has been done by excusing the unpardonable in a man, on the ground that in some other directions he is a good man. If he is ill to live with in the home, or is hard and overreaching in his business, if he willingly makes life more difficult than it need be for others, this is conduct which is character; and when it is found with a profession of religion, let the man, who thus outrages religion, be anathema. But at the same time, young people should not conclude too hastily that a man is a hypocrite because he does some things they cannot reconcile with his profession. A man may be a very faulty man, and yet be a genuinely good man. His goodness does not excuse his faults, nor do his faults destroy his claim to goodness. I have known many a son judge a father very harshly, and find himself in after years glad to find a place of repentance. If you would have less reason later on to call yourself a fool, be told that as yet you are not the best judges of what are but faults on the surface of a man, and what are vices that are the man himself. The truth about others will out sooner or later; what most concerns you in the meanwhile is to know the truth about yourselves. While always trying to think fairly, and even generously about others, have you the right to think well of yourselves? "It is above all things necessary," said the late President Garfield, "that in every action I should have the good opinion of James Garfield; for to eat, and drink, and sleep, and awake with one whom you despise, though that one be yourself, is an intolerable thought, and what must it be as a life experience?"

This is his way of saying that, as he puts it, above all things he must be able to respect himself; and therefore there must be no double existence, no secret sin, no side streets off the open thoroughfare of his life, which he preferred to visit when it was dark—for, although his neighbours and friends might not know about them, James Garfield would know about them, and to be this creature whom you despise was Garfield's idea of what every rightly ordered man should think of with loathing. It is the word of wise old Polonius over again—

"This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man."

Let a man have the right to respect himself, and he has that which can take the sting out of his disappointments and the tyranny of victory out of his failures. He may be no great success, as the world appreciates success. He may not make much show at money-getting; the position he fills may not excite much envy. Whether or not he achieves this order of success will be all the same fourscore years hence. These things, seen and temporal, will be past and forgotten, but that which he makes himself in the use of them will remain, and that will not be all the same whatever it is.

I myself have been through a hard mill. I know what it is to have to struggle for self-respect over the toil by which I earned my bread. I have been counted as just a "hand" among a few hundred others, of importance only so far as it affected the cost of a certain production. But I say it advisedly, and speaking out of years which have left their mark, I would rather have this experience to the finish of my mortal days and all the way, and at the end be able to look my soul in the face and say: "There is no shadow between us, we are at peace"—rather this, I say, than any such success as I have had, multiplied a hundredfold, if it can only turn to conscience to be smitten by it.

I would have you succeed; and by success I mean, for the moment, what the world means by the term. Why should you not? There is no necessary connection between a straight life and failure to win the kingdoms of this world. You can be clean and conscientious in your methods, and you can succeed if you have it in you to succeed. If you have not, scorn the trick of blaming honesty for what is really lack of ability. There may be cases where honesty handicaps a man for a time, but they are comparatively few and short-lived in their operation. But lift the definition of success to higher levels, and I assert without qualification that with the right to respect ourselves there can be no failure, and without it there can be no success. That I do or do not make money is a question of gift or the favour of circumstances; that I am an honest man haps neither upon accident nor contingency. It is the deliberate and responsible exercise of my own moral will. I may make money or position and be a failure; I may do neither and be a success.

Let me counsel you to hold it true with the great President: "I must, above all things, have the good opinion of myself." Look up to God and pray: "Keep Thou me from secret faults"; then look in upon yourselves and say: "By the help of God I will make it possible for God to give me the help I ask." To thine own self be true. Put this estimate upon yourself, and whatever price the world may put upon you, time will show that you have no more valuable asset than your own self-respect. You may not be able to command the declarative success upon which the world places its emphasis, but you can always deserve it. He is the great man who can say, and mean it, I would rather be beaten in the right than succeed in the wrong.

Saul had ceased to respect himself, and this very probably supplies the explanation of his being found in this questionable company. Bear in mind who, and what, these so-called prophets were, and you gather the force of the surprise with which it was asked: "Is Saul also, the king, the Lord's anointed, in the company of men like these?"

For in this connection it suggests the influence of companionships. There is a well-known saying that a man is known by the company he keeps, and it is truer than many sayings that are oftener on our lips. "Do you think him beyond further effort?" I said lately to a good man concerning one in whom we were both interested—a young man fast heading towards ruin. "I am afraid there is, humanly speaking, no hope," was the answer; "he has taken up with company that forbids it."

When we are young we are apt to evolve friendships out of our imagination. We do not so much prove them as create them, according to the impulses and undisciplined generosities of our disposition. It is only time, here as elsewhere, that can teach us how much there is that is human about the best of friends. But how much may have been done, for better or for worse, before we realize that the angels have gone away only because they were never here? As we get older outside friendships count for less. Life fills with other interests, or it empties in a sense friendships can never fill. If we who are older have carried into the later years one or two, or two or three, well-laid, well-tested and useful friendships, let us be very thankful, and cherish them. They are pearls of great price, for no friends are like old friends, and as they drop off we have to make the best we can of acquaintances. It is when we are young that we have the genius for friendships; they are, indeed, a necessary part of our life. And whether or not it is much use to warn young people about the formation of friendships, the warning is seriously needed. Much will be determined by affinities and by mutual sympathies. You may have to sample many friendships before you find a friend. And while it is difficult, not to say impossible, to lay down rules where affinities are involved, one thing you can do, you can allow the moral instinct to decide, as it can decide, whether in the real interests of character a given friendship is worth cultivation. If you realize that you must surrender something of your better self to be the friend of a certain person, you will be almost sure to establish that friendship at your peril. It is far harder to save your life than it is to lose it, and the chances are, not that you will lift the friendship up to your level, but that it will pull you down to its own.

These remarks on the general subject of personal friendship are warranted by its importance. But there is another aspect of it which, as a question of widespread and deep-seated influence, is even more important. And it is one that is too rarely touched in or out of the pulpit. There is something which begins with only an acquaintance, but it readily grows into more, and that more is supplied at a heavy cost to the individual and to the community.

In a well-known passage in one of his letters, St. Paul asks: "What concord hath Christ with Belial, or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? Wherefore come out from among them, saith the Lord, and be ye separate; touch not the unclean thing." Both the question and the admonition apply to personal friendships and to other relationships, such as marriage, social and business intercourse. But it has another and wider application. They refer to the general attitude of our thought, our bearing towards interests and people whom we have reason to believe are hurtful themselves and represent hurtful institutions. For me to call myself a Christian, and yet be on terms of apparent friendship, of easy good nature and tolerance of men and things that stand for Belial, that are Belial, is one of the most effective ways I know of crucifying Christ afresh, and putting Him to open shame. Whatever the King of Israel might think of his company, the fact that he was in it gave to their worthlessness a new tenure of existence and to their wickedness an added licence. He did not make them better men, but they made him a worse man. And for us to appear to countenance wrong things, so as to favour an impression that possibly they are not so wrong after all; to strengthen the wickedness which would hide itself behind the sinister expression, that the "devil may not be so bad as he is painted," is to be on the side of the devil. It is to hearten the foes of good and perplex and discourage the enemies of evil.

In that remarkable book, Mark Rutherford's Deliverance, the writer speaks of a day when politics will become a matter of life or death, dividing men with really private love and hate. "I have heard it said," he tells us, "that we ought to congratulate ourselves that political differences do not in this country breed personal animosities. To me this seems anything but a subject of congratulation. Men who are totally at variance ought not to be friends, and if Radical and Tory are not totally but merely superficially at variance, so much the worse for their Radicalism and Toryism. Most of us," he goes on to say, "have no real loves and no real hatreds. Blessed is love, less blessed is hatred, but thrice accursed is the indifference which is neither one nor the other, the muddy mess which men call friendship." The truth underlying these words is put in a severe form, but there is truth in it. Our compromises in politics, and the consequent slow and doubtful progress we make in social conditions, have many explanations, but the abiding one is, that at the moral root of things we have not, as Mark Rutherford means it, those real loves and hatreds which vitally influence conduct. Take any wrong that happens to appeal to your sense of indignation, and ask why it continues? in what does it get its lease of existence? And the answer is, the fact that we have too many Sauls among the prophets. The wrong remains because, although we do not profess to be its friends, its friends have no need to reckon with us as its foes.

I have already alluded to my experience in a hard school. Indulge me if I return to it for a moment. My earlier years were spent in a Lancashire cloth mill. In it I wrought from morning to night side by side with youths of my own age and men who were older. For the most part, young and old, they were practised in almost every conceivable coarse and brutal way of casting their existence as rubbish to the void. But I think I can truthfully say that, while I tried to be loyal to the conditions of contact, and as a comrade in the ranks was not unpopular, yet they knew that neither within those grim walls nor without them was I of their world.

It is not easy, sometimes it is very hard, to take up this positive position amid one's daily surroundings. And it is not only hard to do the thing itself; it may be even harder to do it wisely. It is not pleasant to have your conscientious attitudes to things which to you are neither expedient nor permissible interpreted by the old words used as a sneer: "Stand aside, for I am holier than thou." Young people like to be what is called "popular" with those who touch their lives; and within well-defined limits they owe it to themselves and others to cultivate the qualities that invite popularity. If, however, the price of popularity is some form of compromise with things that harm and things that hate—then, if you are worth world-room, you will draw the line sharply and keep on one side of it. And that can be done without giving the impression that you are either a prig or a snob. When you go the right way about it, the attitude I advise is far harder in contemplation than it is in practice. The real difficulty in eight out of every ten of the critical places in life is not what is in them, but what we imagine is in them. Let it be felt that the things you hold to be wrong must expect from you neither compromise nor show of friendship; that you are the open and declared enemy of unclean speech, filthy jesting, secret sins, with their hints and implied fascinations, brainless pursuits, frivolous conversation, and low down levels of existence, and, with the exception of those whose enmity it is a distinction to have, people will come to realize that your position is neither that of the religious crank nor of self-righteous conceit—that it is the expression and outcome of your reverence for whatsoever things are pure and lovely and of good report.

Human society has no need more pressing than its need of young men and women with moral courage and religious conviction to take up the right attitude to wrong things. "Know ye not that whoever will be the friend of the world is the enemy of God?" When Saul was found in a certain company he had ceased to respect himself. This is why he was found there; and these two things were more than enough to sweep his life to its tragic close. How many of us have read this man's life-finish? Let me suggest to you something new to read. A story that has in it more elemental material than half the fiction that ever was written, or half the facts that mortgage the attention of a superficial world. Read that chapter where Saul, face to face with the last things in his darkened career, and hard upon the Nemesis of his own evil past, seeks out the woman with the familiar spirit, and in the words that he addresses to the apparition which he conjures up before his distorted vision you have the confession of a lost soul: "The Philistines make war against me, and the Lord answered me no more, neither by prophet nor by dream." "I have read nothing," says a well-known novelist, "quite like this man's experience in its utter abandon of lonely horror."

Think what you may about the setting of this story, you will be strangely lacking in moral insight if you miss the meaning that pulsates through the words that were wrung out of Saul in his extremity. They point to the lost, which once lost is lost for ever. Even God, I say again, cannot give us back the yesterdays. Once they are gone we can only say: "That which is written is written."

Many of you have practically the best of your chances before you, but every day takes some part of them out of your hands, and gives it to an irrecoverable past. Be jealous about your own self-respect, and do only the things that command it. Take care of your self-respect, and your success will take care of itself; as also will your companionships. "Seek ye the Lord while He may be found; call ye upon Him while He is near." Do not put off and forget, forget and put off until your clock strikes, and so far as the best of your opportunities are concerned, you have to say: "The Lord answereth me no more, neither by prophet nor by dream." Lay hold at once upon the help that comes through genuine decision for God. Place yourself in position where God can help you; and you will find that God in Christ denies you nothing except that which disappoints in the seeking and defeats in the finding. You will realize that He offers you life; strong, sane, happy life all the way, and at the end the more life and the fuller.



THE ROYAL LAW

"Howbeit if ye fulfil the royal law, according to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well."—St. James ii. 8.

VII

THE ROYAL LAW

What St. James calls the Royal Law, is mentioned as far back as the time of Moses. It is one of the two commands to which our Lord gave new incidence, into which He put fresh meaning.

There has been, I hardly need remind you, endless debate about the source of some of Christ's most characteristic sayings. Was He original in His teaching, as we use the word, or was He eclectic, gathering together the most luminous things that had been said? Jewish scholars, as we might expect, have not been slow to point out that many of the sayings attributed to Jesus, and certainly many of His ideas, are to be found in the old Rabbinical writings; that many of His highest truths had been announced by saints and seers of His race long before He came.

We need not question that there is truth in this representation. But we must question the inference from these words, "long before He came." For time has known no such solitude. He, which is, and was, and is to come, has ever been in the world teaching men how to pray, inspiring them what to say. He had taught "them of old time." "Before Abraham was," He says, "I am." And St. John tells us that "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not." Originality is no mere traffic with words however skilfully manipulated. There is a language of God transcending all words, and intelligible only when we meet Him spirit to spirit in the secret places of His eternity.

"Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Observe the setting of this admonition when first given: "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." This word "neighbour" connoted something that was a distinct advance in the upward trend of the race. It did, at any rate, a little to lift the Israelite out of himself into the lives of others. But it meant to him, at the most, only those who were of the same tribe or nation. In the fulness of time—when the world was ready—Jesus took up His own word spoken through Moses, and limited in its interpretation by the moral intelligence of that day; took up His own word, and made it co-extensive with humanity.

This is what I mean by a language of God transcending all speech. "You have been told," says Jesus, "to love your neighbour"; and to the question, "Who is my neighbour?" He makes the answer reach out to its full circumference—"Thy neighbour is he or she who bears thy nature." By the law which declares that God has made of one blood all the nations of the earth, the physical unity of the race is implied; so by the operation of the law of love the moral unity, or, what we now call the "solidarity of humanity," is intended.

"Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." And I hardly need point out, that it is this little word as in the text which gives us pause. Is it possible, then, to bring down this command and incarnate it in our daily life? It does not say, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour with certain arbitrary qualifications of thy own." It evidently means what it says: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Is it possible to do it? And many of us are ready to answer, It is not. Either there has been some mistake in the way it is reported, we tell ourselves, or it is useless to try to fulfil it with such natures as ours in such a world as this.

Put it in this way: granted we loved others as we love ourselves—this should be good and pleasant for those who possessed our love, if it had genuine strength in it. Granted, again, we had the fulness of the strong love of others, that should be helpful to us. If we may condition the Royal Law in some such manner as this, "Love them who love us;" or, "love them who are worthy of our love," the difficulty is obviously lessened, if not in fact removed. But such a limit, while it might amount to prudence, would not reach up to beatitude. "If ye love them who love you, what do ye more than others?" "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." But who is thy neighbour? And Jesus answers, "thy neighbour is he who bears thy nature." This is iteration, but I venture it because I want us to confront the real insistence of this text. They who share our nature may be, and often are, those who hate us with or without a cause. There are people who perpetuate an existence on others which is little better than a moral and physical calamity. To tell us to tolerate them, not to speak about loving them, is like telling us to attempt the impossible. And yet Jesus did not forget these people when He said: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you."

We, then, who say we accept Christ's teaching must accept it. This is one of the places where we cannot escape behind some ingenuity of exegesis or manipulation of text. The command is plain. We can take it or leave it. One thing we cannot do, we cannot re-write it. "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." As thyself. If this but fixes a hard standard; or simply indicates the measurement of neighbourly love, then we may almost as well close the discussion—its practical attainment is out of our reach.

But, as some one has very wisely said: "Love of self must become a medium before it becomes a measure." [1] In other words, we cannot love our neighbour as we ought until we love ourselves as we should. Out of love of self "flow the ingredients which must enter into neighbour love."

The text, then, lays down a twofold obligation: to cultivate a right love of self, and to translate this love of self into love for others.

As touching the first part of this obligation, it is useless to ask what it is in our neighbour we are to love as ourselves, until we know what it is in ourselves we are to love. In what sense is a man to love himself? Because there is a radical difference between self-love as taught and practised in the world, and the love of self sanctioned and regulated by the Royal Law. Love of self is a right anxiety to secure the things we need in this world. It is based upon the principle that life is not to be unclothed but clothed upon. The fact that we are in the world and have to fulfil its desired ends should carry with it reverence for our manhood, and the demand for space to work out its full equation. While the Apostle Paul was always ready to subject his rights to the law of love, he was equally careful to assert that they were his rights before he yielded them. In his care for the weak brethren, he did not become a weak brother. One of the first things we have to learn, is how to take wise care of ourselves; and then, step by step, a true life is a growth in the knowledge of how so to take care of ourselves as to promote the best interests of others. In this matter of a right love of self, the point of transition at which it passes into beneficence is the victory over a self-love which is selfishness. It is really the basal principle of moral government in the world.

But when this is said, the surest and simplest answer to the question, What is it in ourselves we are to love? is to say—We are to love that which God loves in us. And what does God love in us? From all we know of the divine nature as revealed in Jesus Christ, we are surely right in thinking that God loves in us what is most like Himself. No man can stand at Calvary reverently and thoughtfully for five minutes without being impressed with the truth of a wondrous self-sacrifice. I met with a remark lately in a story I was reading which fastened itself on my mind. It was made by a poor, toiling woman who had scarcely sufficient means to keep body and soul together: "I never, somehow," she said, "seem to think a thing is mine until I have given it away."

This is the spirit that God loves, a spirit ever getting further away from "miserable aims that end with self." God loves in us the self-mastery that scorns to compromise with self-indulgence. God loves in us that which cannot find its true home in the things seen and temporal, but must ever soar out to the things unseen and eternal; the things that live in and wait upon the earnest man and after which he must ceaselessly aspire. God loves in us the strenuous effort which proceeds from the conviction that there is sacred power in every life which must not be wasted in "egotistical pride, or in a narrowing self-love." From instinct, from the moral consciousness, from the Scriptures—these we know to be representative of the things that God loves. And we know we are right in loving in ourselves what God loves in us. We also know that no man can wisely love himself until he knows the purifying power of a love that is divine.

If now I may assume that this exposition of the text shows the ground, and defines the sphere of a right love of self, I may further say that the Royal Law does not require us to love in others what it does not permit us to love in ourselves. And we do well to be clear about this. Many of us stumble over this text because, not getting at its true inwardness, we have an uneasy feeling that it carries us too far. Others try to work up an artificial sentiment, and profess to exercise a charity which is not theirs to extend.

Here is a man, let us say, who calls himself a religious man, who yet notoriously is a mean and shabby creature. I once heard this man, well placed and prosperous, boast of having that day become richer by some twelve hundred pounds through an oversight of a solicitor in winding up the affairs of a late client. I afterwards learned that the mistake was at the expense of a widow and her young children, who, because of it, were brought within very measurable distance of want. Must my love for my neighbour include one callous enough, not only to do a thing like that, but to boast about it? Must it annex the whole low plane of such a squalid disposition? God forbid. What I hope I should hate in myself I am not asked to love in another. If a man is base and unworthy we are to recognize the fact, however ugly; we are to look the devil in him in the face, and say it is the devil.

But, on the other side, Christianity admonishes us that our judgments of our neighbours are neither infallible nor final. It has been well pointed out, that if we "have found any part of the secret of God's mercy shown to us, we shall not find it hard to believe in God's mercy for our neighbours." To realize that the essential thing the Redeemer saw in us and deemed it worth dying for, He sees in them, will help us, however weary at times in their service, not to weary of it.

In this command, then, we have the ground and motive for the sacrifice of each for the good of all. We see that it is possible to love our neighbour in the sense we are to love ourselves. We see that the command which, on the surface of it, seems to urge an unattainable experience, is, in truth, what St. James calls it, the Royal Law that binds us together not only as neighbours, but as children of the same All-Father.

"Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Should any one ask, "Who does it?" I answer, That is not the question. To deny that we can love our neighbour in this sense is to deny that we can love ourselves. Yet I know what fate, especially for young men, may lurk in this cold, faithless question. And I want it to be understood, that my single aim in this address—the reason why I have wrestled at this length for the meaning of the passage before us—is to show, that whether we choose to do it or not, it can be done. I affirm that this text is a simple statement of the principle of the only rational, helpful life man can live. And to prevail upon you to admit this, would be to accomplish much. To accept it as the truth, that you can love your neighbour as yourself, is to win intellectual confidence in the service which your day demands of you. It is to take the sting of death out of the old evil question: "Who does it?" Once recognize that Christ asks for nothing impossible, when He gave a new and ever-abiding authority to this ancient precept, and the question will not be, Who does it? Rather will it be, Who can afford not to do it? For not to do it is selfishness, and selfishness is self-defeat. He who exists only for himself, exists only to injure himself. It is the fashion now to get rid of a judgment to come by telling us that we are our own judgment here. The latter part of the statement is not the whole truth, but there is truth in it. The strain brings out the strength there is, but shirk it and we have weakness. Do as we like rather than do as we ought, and the price must be paid in loss of manhood. Everything we gain for selfishness we must steal from ourselves.

"Ah me," said Goethe once, "that the yonder is never here." Go deep enough into every wrong and sin and you find at its root this selfishness. So many of us degrade life into a heartless scramble. We fight each other because each man, dissatisfied himself, is convinced that his neighbour is getting more than his share. It may be doubted whether there has ever been a day in the Western world when more people were dominated by the conviction that gain is godliness. So many about us have virtually ceased to put their trust in anything about which they cannot lace their fingers. With them, dreamers about anything else are cranks, and martyrs for anything else are nuisances. And this reacts upon such apology as they have for more serious thinking. We seem in many ways to be returning to the pagan condition when judgment was not feared and spiritual influences were unfelt. In novel, drama, and much that passes for science, we have the monotonous iteration that man is the creature of blind chance under an indifferent sky.

But this, thank God, is not the whole story. There is another and brighter side. If we take a very subdued estimate of our modern day and world, I am yet persuaded that never were the saving ideas of the Saviour more potent, never have His high aspirations been more ardently welcomed or more strenuously followed than they are now.

Past all human speculations about Christ, men hopelessly divided in creed are yet getting nearer to what He lived believing and died believing. In the weariness of so much of the modern world, and in the hopelessness of its outlook, I see an age ready to receive anew the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I see a temper ready to grasp with fresh earnestness the thoughts of the "Living Lord and Supreme Teacher of our race." Men to-day are dreaming like dreams as shone before the souls of the ancient prophets, and in the visions of men who have wrought for human progress since the first days even until now. Waking dreams of a new and diviner order of society. A state marked by righteousness, peace, and happiness for the whole people; the golden age, when man, knowing what it is in himself he ought to love, loves that in his neighbour as in himself.

And Christianity, which came into the world to fulfil these heaven-born dreams, is being openly challenged as never before to substantiate them.

In the larger aims of our spiritual ideals the "yonder is never here," nor, indeed, can it be. There must always be above us something better than our best. When we cease to make progress we die, and that, in the language of Scripture, is the second death.

If, therefore, the searching demand of the text confronts us with the weakness of our nature, we need not wonder and we need not be discouraged. It is the purpose it has in view. "It discloses an ideal, and it reveals an end." If in seeking to realize the ideal and gain the end we are forced to know how insufficient we are in our own strength—this, I repeat, is the end it seeks to accomplish in us and for us. Until our life is in Christ linked on to God, we cannot love our neighbour as we ought, because we have not the higher power to love ourselves as we should.

But the power is offered us. And it is for you young men to lay fast hold of it, and accept the world's challenge in a way it has never been handled and faced before. "Do not talk about the things you believe," says the world to us who name the name of Christ; "convince me that you believe by what you do." And this is said, not from an indifference to dogma, as some would have us think. It means that a man's beliefs are between himself and God. It is what comes out of his belief, that can be reckoned with amid the forces of our everyday life.

You place in cold sheet one of the loftiest passages of a great composer before a man sensitive to music, but who does not know one note from the other, and he looks at it with indifference. You put the sheet before a gifted organist seated at his instrument; and as the melody rolls forth in swells of power, then in cadences of persuasive pathos, the indifference of the man vanishes as he catches his breath like a sob, and feels a prayer he cannot speak. We say we believe in Christ, and men turn aside with indifference. We live Christ, and men love Him. It is common enough to find this indifference about religion, and a marked want of what I have called intellectual confidence in Christianity as we preach it from the pulpit. But I have never yet found a man infidel to the fruits of its spirit, which are, love, peace, goodness, a living faith, and a genuine self-sacrifice. Before men can be expected to become Christ-like, they must know what Christ is like, and how far are we prepared to put our lives before men as an answer to the question: "What think ye of Christ?"

Preach Christ by living Christ. "All men," says the Koran, "are commanded by the Saint." And no man ever casts the wealth of his life and the crown of his devotion at the feet of Jesus without "quickening the earth with a diviner life, and uplifting it with a new courage." One of the most brilliant of the eighteenth-century poets said: "The lapse of time changes all but man, who ever has been, and ever will be, just what he is." Which means that man is by make incurably selfish. This is a lie. And it is the worst kind of lying, for it represents not only the inability to find good in man, but the inability to believe that there is good to be found. My own stand is where thought and experience have forced me. From human nature left to itself I hope for nothing; with that nature remade in Christ I despair of nothing. It all turns on the remake. And it can be remade: "As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become sons of God: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

Let us, therefore, by divine grace, refashion our lives on the mighty principle of divine love. And let us settle it as one of the truths never to be questioned, that nothing is worthy to be called love that cannot be affirmed of God. We know what God loves; or we know enough for the practical ordering of our daily life. Let us love in ourselves what God loves in us. This will include for ourselves and others all things which are good for us to have and enjoy; and because it will exclude all things that are narrow, mean, and selfish, it will go far to raise the world to a power of a new day. Then, through hearts and homes, through Churches and societies, the Royal Law, made royal life, will solve the problem of the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. It will become the touch of omnipotence that casts out of our life the unworthy, by bringing in the opposite virtues, resolving all into character which shall transform mankind into one realm over which the right and the might of Christ shall at last prevail—

"From creed and scheme the light goes out, The saintly fact survives, The Blessed Master who can doubt, Revealed in human lives?"



[1] Two or three sentences in this chapter are memorized from a sermon I heard years ago, preached by Rev. H. E. Michie, M.A., of Stonehaven.



'HE WAS DESPISED AND REJECTED'

"He is despised and rejected of men."—Isaiah liii. 3.

VIII

'HE WAS DESPISED AND REJECTED'

Some two or three years ago the picture, "He was despised and rejected," by Sigismund Goeetze, was on view in Glasgow. In this address I shall try to tell you something about the impression it made on me; and the reason will be given at the end why I include it in this series. Some of you may have seen the picture; others may have read or heard about it.

The conception of it appears to have formed itself in the mind of the artist out of what ordinarily is a very commonplace circumstance. He had attended a Sunday service at St. Paul's Cathedral, and heard a sermon that made a deep impression upon him; which found his higher being with something like the touch of an immortal influence. He thought within himself: "What a real difference a word like this must make in the thoughts and life of those who have been privileged to listen to it. Never again, surely, can they be as though they had not heard it." It was a message, so he felt, to shake men, to arouse them, and make them turn on one another and cry: "Men and brethren, what must we do?"

Under the impact of his own emotions and sensitive to his surroundings, he was eager at the close of the service to share with others what he virtually demanded they should impart to him. But he was grievously disappointed. Not a word did he hear, not a look did he see on the face of a departing worshipper which so much as betrayed the transient emotion stirred by dream or romance. If they had listened to the discourse, they had evidently forgotten what they had been at no pains to remember. No new experience befell this man of artistic and impulsive temperament. I heard a sermon a short time ago preached in a seaside church, which deeply moved me; a sermon I was thankful to have heard, and the like of which I would walk a long way to hear again. As I stood outside the building waiting for a friend, the congregation came out, and I heard the usual interchange of verbal nothings. The only reference I did hear to the service was from a well-dressed young man to a girl by his side, and this is what he said: "A long-winded fellow, that; let us go on the parade." The remark did not unduly surprise me. "I wonder," said a man to me lately, "why some people go to a place of worship at all; they appear to be as indifferent to what is said, sung, or prayed, as the dog that barks is indifferent about the dog-star." In every congregation of fair size there is a strange mixture. But it always includes those whose attention and evident interest do something to compensate for others who show neither. There are elect souls who hear the Word and receive it. You may not trace the fact by what they say, but you know it by the holiness of helpfulness, which radiates from them like light, and is made by them as an atmosphere. God has not ordained the foolishness of preaching—which does not mean foolish preaching—to thin out in the miserable anti-climax of a remark like that of the young man I have just quoted. Fortunately, however, our artist had not sufficient experience of the conventional congregation at a place of worship to have become philosophic about it—which usually amounts to indifference. Judging others by what he himself felt, he thought they must be equally moved. But instead of having received the preached Word, there was nothing, so far as he could discern, to indicate that they had even heard it, while there was much to lead to the conclusion that they had not. Hence he resolved to repeat the sermon through the translation of his art. They should, if he could accomplish it, receive through the eyes what they would not hear with the ears.

Something like this, we are told, was the genesis of this picture, with its central Figure of the Crucified One close by an ancient altar, yet immediately outside a modern building called a Christian church. There He stands unregarded and silent, but so far as His anguish speaks the eternal Passion of God, while there stream past Him the clearly-defined types of a twentieth-century multitude—each, with one doubtful exception, as indifferent about who, and whence, and why He is, as if He were one of the stone pillars that support the vestibule of the temple dedicated to His worship. Poverty sits at His very feet and it is not even curious; fashion and vice, toil and sport, science and ruin, culture and ignorance, want and opulence pass by, and do not so much as despise and reject Him—for that at least would argue some form of interest. It is the indifference which, as Confucius says, is the "night of the mind—night without a star." I need not linger over the types. You may see them any day in a characteristic London throng; you may see them in a less emphasized form in a city like Glasgow. If I may make one reference to them, let it be where the artist attempts to represent the attitude of the Churches to the Man of Sorrows. We have, for example, a high ecclesiastic in one of the sacerdotal communions, and by his side there is some order of Nonconformist minister. The latter is evidently in earnest, not to entreat the attention of the crowd to Him whom they pass by, but to convict his companion of error out of their commonly-received Scriptures. And the great ecclesiastic, sleek, debonair, and well preserved, has a bored look on his capacious face which says: "My dear good man, why excite yourself? I readily make you a present of your contention. You take your truth and I will keep my position. As we can settle nothing but ourselves, why not settle ourselves as comfortably as we can?"

According to the artist, each in his own way is in the crowd and of it. It is anything and everything except the Crucified One, as in St. Paul's it was anything and everything except the message spoken to those who, having ears, heard not. How do we explain it, then, from his point of view, that this stream of people, representative of a widespread society, is utterly indifferent to that Figure so pathetic in its loneliness, so tragic in its appeal, and almost aggressive in its sorrow? It is possible that not a type on the canvas is to be interpreted as quite ignorant of the letter of the claims made for Him who is yet the Object of the world's indifference. There is a sense in which it is true that Christ was never better known than He is in your day and mine. We have the well-authenticated Scriptures which testify of Him. We are more sure that we possess many of His sayings than we are sure that the writings known as Shakespeare's plays were written by a man called William Shakespeare. In these Scriptures He is reported to have said:

"Before Abraham was, I am." And in another word, that falls like a beam of light on everything He did and said, He tells us that "the Son of Man is come to seek and to save the lost." We have the key-word of the Father's message to the race in the wondrous declaration that "God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

We have a mighty Christian literature which, if it be evolved out of a myth, resolves itself into a miracle. We have the fact that never before was Christ so admired, so much quoted, and so generally applauded as He is at the opening of the twentieth century. We have accredited thinkers who reject, as they think, all dogmatic theologies about Christ, and yet tell us that the spirit which Christ incarnated in His words and actions reveals a God humanity cannot improve upon. We have, moreover, an army of men who are set apart by training, and what they believe to be their "calling," to preach Christ by precept, and to teach Him by a life derived, as they declare, from Him whom they preach and teach. And amid many failures, and motives of the earth earthy, these men do not all fail, nor do they all live by bread alone. Was there no place in that canvas-crowd for one of those devoted men who, ill-paid, half-starved, and overwrought, toil night and day in that most awful work on this earth, the attempt to rescue and raise the lapsed masses of our large populations? Was there no room for the man who penalizes body and soul to straining-point for words and thoughts that shall inspire and hearten men to steer their lives by the higher stars, those eternal principles of truth and right? Was there no room for a woman of the Salvation Army who is out of some hideous slum for a moment's breathing, before returning to it with a great self-renouncing life of love and healing?

But take the picture as the artist's impression of the ail-but universal indifference about Him who is yet declared to be the soul and centre of our Scriptures, our creeds, and our religious life, and how do we explain it? Or if we put the artist's impression aside, and on our own account face the truth which, for the purposes of constructive art, he may have exaggerated, is there any less need that we should ask: Why is Christ despised and rejected of men? Why is it that they do not come unto Him that they may have life? The answers are legion. To my thinking, they resolve themselves into practically one. Before we can know Christ, before we can understand Christ, before we can come to Christ, we must come to ourselves. And not a face on that crowded canvas suggests a hope that he, or she, had taken an honest step in this all-determining direction. Before I can look to Christ as my Saviour I must know that I need a Saviour. Before I can realize my need of salvation from sin I must realize that I am a sinner. So much, if not all, turns there. It is not every man who feels that he is a sinner because he talks about being one. But let him feel it, and out of the knowledge will come his saving health, or the death that dies.

It is declared to be the work of the Holy Spirit to convince men of sin, and the unbelief growing out of sin. Analyse the causes of indifference about the things that belong to our peace, and you find that for the most part they resolve themselves into sin, and the unbelief that follows sin, as consequence comes out of cause. I know with what impatience the world turns from what is called the evangelical teaching about the nature and effects of sin. And we need not go outside the Church to find the same impatience, not to say contempt. We have in our pulpits men who represent sin to us as good in the making. It is in some sense a necessary means to an end. They speak of arrested development, of defect of will, of inheritances and surroundings, of a vacancy as yet unfilled by virtue. It is hard to think that people held by a half-sceptical pantheism, and the relativity of evil, have ever been face to face with the awful deeps and disobediences of their own heart, or have felt the hot breath of the devil on their own cheek. If we have any worth-discerning faculty, we know when a man is handling certain subjects whether he knows what he is talking about; whether or not, to use an expressive colloquialism, "he has been there." No man who with the eyes of the soul has looked down that awful cleft that separates between the carnal mind and the holy will of God, can use words here under the wasting impression that he knows things. If Christ only died to save us from something which, after all, is only good in the making, then the Cross of Calvary is the supreme irony of time. We shall never find a Saviour by the road that, at the most, leads but to a martyr.

Here is a man—and he is not an imaginary case—who is married, and has young people growing up in the home. He is wealthy, with a reputable position in society. But there is a sinister something in the background of his life, and he sets himself to do what he knows full well is an irreparable wrong to an inexperienced and defenceless creature. He makes no fight against the wicked prompting, and does the hurt which if another man were to do to one of his own family he would willingly shoot him dead. And say when the hurt is done, a searchlight—he knows not whence it comes—is flashed across his soul and he sees himself as he is, a base scoundrel before God and man, will it help him to think of his sin as good in the making? For whatever he may become, he has done his part to damn another. And let his conscience become, as it can become, and woe to him if it do not become, as real as the wicked thing he has done, and his first and devastating question will be, not can God forgive him, but can he ever forgive himself? Let his one hope come to be in some means of expiation, which can give him a degree of rest from the sin by paying what he can of its wages, and he will begin to realize what is meant, not by the remission of the consequences of sin, but by the remission of sin. He will know the need, where the need is agony, which God in Christ has met for us, and which, had He not met, would have left the need something greater than God Himself. It is when a man must have peace with himself or die to all that is immortal in him—it is then I will trust him never again to pass by with unconcern the anguish of Him who bore our sin in His own body on the tree.

Sometimes we look at the Lamb of God without feeling that we are sinners, and then we have a thousand difficult questions to ask. At other times the burden of sin is so heavy upon us, we see the sinfulness of sin so vividly, that we get away from the mere accident of place and time as far as it relates to sin, we see sin as God saw it, and must ever see it—then it is we look to the Crucified One. "When I feel myself in my heart of hearts a sinner," I once heard Dr. Parker say, "a trespasser against God's law and God's love; when I feel that a thought may overwhelm me in destruction, that a secret, unexpressed desire may shut me out of heaven and make me glad to go to hell to be away from the face of Him that sitteth upon the throne—then when I am told that Jesus Christ was wounded for my transgressions, that upon Him was laid the chastisement of my peace, I press my way through all the difficulties and say: If I perish I will pray and perish at the Cross; for if this be not sufficient, it hath not entered into the heart of man to solve the problem of human depravity, and the human consciousness of sin."

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