Men in the Making
by Ambrose Shepherd
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E-text prepared by Al Haines




Author of "The Gospel and Social Questions," Etc.

Hodder and Stoughton London MCMIX











The addresses which make up this book are printed, almost exactly, as they were spoken from my pulpit in Glasgow. I have yielded to repeated requests that I would put them in a more permanent form than memory, or notes, can supply. There is always room for a book to young men; whether or not the book I now offer them is worth its room, is a matter about which I, possibly, am not the best judge. This I can say: There was a time in my life when I should have been helped, had I met through the spoken word, or printed page, some of the things I have tried to say as faithfully as I know how to say them, within the limits of taste and discretion. Whatever these addresses lack in thought, and in the handling of the subjects discussed, I have done my best to make them readable. In the case of the average young man of to-day, if a book does not interest him in the matter of style, any other merits it may possess will have a weakened chance of making themselves felt. If I have failed to meet this one condition of securing his attention—provided he give me a fair trial—I shall be disappointed and, to be candid, surprised. Should, however, his interest be tolerably well sustained through the ethical part of these addresses, say to the end of the chapter on "The Royal Law," I shall, perhaps, have no reason to complain. At the same time I would advise him to persevere with the rest, even at the cost of some effort.

There are one or two things which should be said by way of introduction to these addresses. When the manuscript was out of my hands and in those of the printer, I was informed that Archdeacon Wilberforce had, in one of his books, a sermon on much the same lines that are found in my chapter entitled "A Devil's Trinity." I have only to say that, so far as I know, I have never seen a line from the pen of Archdeacon Wilberforce. And in this connection I should like to quote a sentence or two from the Preface to my book on The Gospel and Social Questions. I remark there that, fortunately or otherwise for me, I have a tenacious memory which retains for long, not only a thought which arrests me, but the form in which it is expressed. Where I have made use of a quotation, or tried to paraphrase something I have read—and this applies to the following addresses—I have indicated the circumstances in the usual way.

The concluding chapter of this series is, in the main, a transcript of my booklet on The Responsibility of God, published by Oliphant, Anderson and Ferrier, of Edinburgh. I have to thank these gentlemen, and I do so heartily, for their permission to make this further use of it. Considerable changes are made in the reproduction; but I think this admission is due to any buyers the book may secure. I have also to mention my great indebtedness to Rev. J. F. Shepherd, M.A., of Manchester, for his help with the proofs, and for some valuable suggestions as to emendations of expression.


6, Thornville Terrace, Glasgow.























"And Terah died in Haran."—Gen. xi. 32.


"And Terah died in Haran." This bit of prosaic information becomes suggestive by the emphasis of one word: "And Terah died in Haran." This was not his birthplace, but here he ended his days, and that for a reason over which it is worth our while to pause. "And Terah died in Haran." What of that? All people have died somewhere, who have lived and are dead.

When we first meet this man, he was a citizen of no mean city. Ur of the Chaldees was a great and representative centre in its day. Rising sheer from the midst of it, we are told, was an immense tower, or observatory, from the height of which men, reputed wise, watched the movements of the heavenly bodies; and especially the moon, for the moon was worshipped in Ur of the Chaldees as the great tutelary deity of this people. Here it was that Terah lived, at this time an old man, and "to trade," as the Scotch people would say, a maker of images. His craft was in things which symbolized some form of this lunar worship, and which people bought to put in their houses.

Terah had a son called Abram, who, as he came to years of thought, did not fall in very readily with this worship of the moon. He appears to have become very early in life one of an order of doubters to whom the world owes much; to have suspected, at least, that the moon was not, as the priests taught, a cause in itself, but the effect of a cause. What was that cause? What was the fashioning hand behind the effect? In other words, he had come upon the doubt which explains much of the faith and achievement of the reformers and path-finders of the world. Neither doubt nor belief has any virtue in itself; we must determine the moral quality by its expression in action. Had Abram merely begun and ended with his doubts about the moon, he would have died and been as soon forgotten as any other commonplace sceptic before or since his day. The trouble is not that men doubt, but that they are often content to do nothing else. It may be better that they should believe wrong things, than that they should cease to believe in anything.

Abram began, we imagine, to talk to his father about his misgivings, and notwithstanding the fact that Terah's trade was dependent on the popular religion, he seems to have yielded with something like enthusiasm to the greater personality of his son. Eventually they determined to leave Ur of the Chaldees and go, no matter how far, until they came to some place where they could worship in the new light which had come to them, or, as we should say, according to conscience.

It was a formidable undertaking, for they knew not their destination—if even, indeed, they knew their direction. Some one—I forget who—has traced their route through Larsa, where men worshipped the sun; through Erech, where they worshipped the planet Venus—the bright evening star; through Nipur, where they bowed the knee to Baal; through Borsippa, where they worshipped the planet Jupiter; and on and on until they came to Haran, where the people worshipped—the moon! It was not until they came to Haran, that they touched, as it were, their first footprints, and found the old religion.

And this was the finish for the poor old father Terah. Whatever the motives with which he had set out on this pilgrimage, whether of conviction more or less, or parental affection entirely, he was now weary. There had been little temptation to pause before on the score of a people's worship. That of the sun, of Venus, of Baal, of Jupiter, probably did not arouse in him even a passing interest. But when, worn out in body and mind, he suddenly came upon the old religion, his journeyings after another faith and form of worship were at an end. This powerful appeal to his past, with its resurrection of old memories, old prejudices, and the pathos of old associations, was too much for the old man. No second call came to him; or if it did, he had neither heart nor ear for it. It was Abram the younger man who withstood the temptations of Haran and with the faithful went on to a land they knew not of. It was the younger who had the staying power which, when acquired early, goes through life, and rejoins it in eternity sure as ever it came to it in time. Terah travelled some six hundred miles—a big journey in those days—to get away from the worship of the moon, and in the worship of the moon he ended his years. His evening and his morning were the same day: "And Terah died in Haran."

You see the thought underlying this bit of prosaic information. It simply means that the years close down the possibilities of a certain kind of moral exodus. It is in the days of your youth that you must make the "legs of iron," as Emerson calls them, for the journey which lies before you. If you wait until you get into years before you find right principles, and form good resolutions—well, even then it is better to make some start in the right direction. But why pile up the odds, that start you never will; or that you will not go far if you do? The enthusiasms of old men are as rare as they are short-lived, unless they are evolved out of earlier and worthy days.

There may be exceptions. If there are, I have never known one. The rule is practically a law, that old men, who are nothing more than old men, cannot make mighty resolves and carry them through. They may, for many reasons, start out from Ur of the Chaldees; but it is not often they get past Haran, if, indeed, they ever get so far. More likely will it end in the old defeat: "I will return into the house whence I came out," which is much the same, or, in some cases, is even worse, than if they had never left it. The old man Terah would get an interesting tour; although very probably people would hear from him more about it at the end than he had ever seen on the way. He would be a much-travelled man for those days, but he never found the new religion. It was the old religion that re-found him.

Understand me: I am far from saying that old age necessarily blocks the way to great attempts, or to conspicuous success in them. All history would cry out against such a statement. There is an old age we delight to honour, and which reverses the ordinary attitude to it in the general world. Instead of considering it a legitimate matter for lying about, and polite not to be aware of its presence, we make our boast in the virility which, in some men, accompanies their years until they quite shade out in a mellow maze of glory.

Take some of our statesmen. Were not the mighty men of the great nineteenth century aged men, if we count age only by shadows on the dial? At a time of life when most men are honoured with a natural right to senility, Mr. Gladstone was girding on his armour for one of the biggest conflicts ever waged in the arena of our Parliament. And years after, as the struggle still raged—to see him, almost blind and deaf, looking like so much vitalized parchment rather than a figure of flesh and blood, as night after night he stood up to the agility of a Chamberlain, and the subtlety of a Balfour—each perfected to a fine art—surely never gamer, grander sight ever challenged the imagination of poet, patriot, or historian. It was a testimony to all time of what can come out of the brain and soul of a man, when the body that houses them is written and re-written over with the hieroglyphics of age. It was a fitting termination to what may be, and ought to be, the great and sacred processes of life.

But Mr. Gladstone was great at the end, because all the way had been a preparation for it. This is the secret, if secret it be, which young men cannot know and master too soon. To end well, you must begin well; and you must fill in well the distance between the one and the other. Study carefully the triumph of old age in statesmanship, in science, and in affairs, and you will have to connect them with years of stern discipline and strenuous endeavour. In no case will you find strength where there has been no strain, or palm where there has been no dust. There are levels on which the truth, that "we reap what we sow," admits of no qualification. Omnipotence itself cannot make it possible for us to gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles. To attempt after a given age, and on the strength of a chance impulse, to leave Ur of the Chaldees with its old habits and associations, its old moral settings, will carry us far as the impulse lasts, but that in all probability will be only as far as Haran. And as Terah died at Haran, so shall we. It will be from moon to moon. Youth is the time to determine whether old age shall be a beautiful consummation, or a bitter regret. The threshold of manhood is the place to form resolutions that will have some chance of being kept, to cultivate the thoughts you would have ultimately become things. The serious danger is that, with the impression of a long future before you, you should merely drift in the present, and forget how inextricably the texture of to-day will be woven into the fabric of to-morrow.

I am quite aware that what I have so far said is more likely to hinder than help the purpose I have in saying it. You will not question that a clear nexus runs through our years, but my teaching about it, you tell me, is needlessly severe. If as the beginning is, so must the end be, what are we to say of a man's will? What are we to say about the power and working of divine grace? While there is life, does there ever come a time when it is no longer true to say that out of it can pass the old, or into it can come the new?

Surely to affirm that such a time can be is to give the lie to religion and experience. Many a young man is having what is called his "fling," who is yet quite sure in his own mind that when the time comes to accept the more serious responsibilities of life, he will change his habits and turn to ways that befit the new occasion. So we are told. And is it not true? Have we not known young men cover a considerable space of life with questionable, and even more than questionable courses, and yet settle down into exemplary domestic men and admirable citizens?

Yes, we have known them, and, whatever influences have brought about the change, let us be thankful for it. But what proportion do they bear to the legions who, once in Ur of the Chaldees, have neither thought nor desire for a better country? While, again, they may leave it from anything but worthy motives. Men may be compelled to change their habits without changing their natures. It is really to multiply words to no profit to debate the question. Your instinct tells you that it would be wickedness to encourage you to take your "fling" in Ur of the Chaldees on the risk that you can get away from it when prudence speaks the word. Settle it, then, as true for you, that out of to-day walks a to-morrow; and that what you shall do with to-morrow is practically determined by what you are doing to-day.

This counsel, or admonition, cannot be over-emphasized. I assume that I am talking to young men who do not intend to make a failure of life; then, I tell you again, that you must seize the one great chance you have, to make it a success.

Permit me now to apply very briefly what has been so far advanced, first, to your pleasures; and, secondly, to something more important to you than old age, and that is—middle life.

To everything, says the Preacher, there is a time and a season, and it must be that youth is the time for amusements and pleasures, which are not so much the privileges of youth as native to it. We are told that Darwin in his old age expressed regret that he had deprived himself of so many of the pleasures and resources of life by his concentration upon that study, the results of which have made his name so justly famous. He gave to get; but he lived to doubt his own right to pay the price. And no young man should give place, no not for a moment, to a doctrine of work which excludes his right to the joys and abandon of his years. There is danger, and very real danger, lest we should take for granted what the "Grad-grinds" tell us, that the only thing which matters is that we do work, and are not idle. Work for its own sake is not enough. It may turn men into machines—all clatter and monotony; or it may make them fussy nuisances. "A soulless activity," says Canon Ainger, "may save a man from vagrancy only by turning him into a thing; or it may keep him from idleness by making him an egotist." There is the man who, to use the common phrase, "sticks at it" with scarcely a competing thought or interest. He scorns ease, and lives laborious days. For what? I once heard it said, and I believe it was true, of a prosperous Yorkshireman, that the real pleasure he had in his money, for which he had toiled hard, was in a kind of mental calculation as to how many of his neighbours he could buy up.

"I do all things that I may honour the Father," said Jesus: and work which is not under this impulse, has in it no element of permanent satisfaction. In some way every work has to be brought into a conscious relation to God, or we only swell the crowd either of self-seekers, or of the men whose toil leaves no such impression upon their character as gives sign or evidence of a sane or worthy aim and end.

To give to work its essential dignity, and preserve it from mechanical routine we must bring motive into it—high and worthy purpose. There is no virtue necessarily in being always at work, but there is tremendous power in being able to work when we do work. Do not discount the old advice because it is commonplace: "work when you work, and play when you play." Master the distinction there is between having what is called your "fling," and having your really "good time." Get all the rational pleasure you can out of your young days. Let your religion be no dog Cerberus, snarling at the heels of innocent enjoyment. But never lose sight of the fact that unless you have a definite and worthy purpose, to attain which you keep your good time subordinate, that good time will have the same relation to genuine pleasure that the throbbings of an ulcer have to the healthy action of the heart. And a very plain word is needed here. Our trouble to-day is not that young people will have their pleasures and amusements; it is that so many of them will have nothing else. One who knows his day has told us, that were it not for the sporting intelligence in the evening paper, not a few of our young men would forget how to read. It is a common experience to meet young men who have been decently educated, as things go, and yet they are ignorant as babies about the social and political questions which so vitally affect the welfare of the State. Decently educated, I say, as things go. But how far is that? "I have five clerks in my office," said a Bradford merchant lately, "who probably could tell me all I want to know and more, about a horse race, a cricket, or a football match; and not one of them could translate for me a foreign business letter. This is one principal reason," he added, "why Bradford is overrun with Germans, and why the Germans are getting hold of so much of our trade." On what is called the practical side of life, the first duty of a young man is to be efficient in whatever honest thing he is doing to earn his bread; and at the same time be preparing himself for whatever surprise or opportunity the future may have in store for him. A few hours in the week given seriously to the latter, will leave an ample margin of time for recreation and amusement; and who knows what he may need, until the need is there to test what he knows? To be great on sport, and a "stick" at one's business; to be an authority on amusements, and an ignoramus about almost everything else that is anything, is the surrender of manhood, and that in a day which has no need comparable with its need of capable men.

And such surrender has consequences that lie nearer than those which make themselves manifest in old age. Your next step is into middle life; and it is here where the question is finally decided whether it is, or is not, well for us that we are here at all. If a man has put little more than the rubbish of a selfish existence into his years he will, by the time he is old in them, be the victim of a callous insensibility which will carry him over into the stage beyond our human ken. An unworthy old age rarely feels much moral suffering; that but waits its awakening in the fires which shall try every man's work of what sort it is.

But when a man begins to sight the middle years, he learns to know himself as never before or after. This is the stage where increase of knowledge often means increase of sorrow. It is, in truth, the sorrow of finding out our limitations which, on their first acquaintance, often seem more appalling than they actually are. While youth may be saved by hope, by what is to be, middle life is often lost in the drab reality of what is. Every youth, who is not as indifferent to his possibilities as though he were nothing more than a lump of flesh, is about to become a numeral in the world. The tragedy enters when he knows himself to be what in a sense he must remain—a cipher, merely giving value to the men who do represent the numerals. When the youth, who used to talk about having the "ball at his feet," seems to have become very much the ball itself, to be kicked hither and thither as circumstances may determine, what then? Will he show that kicked he may be, but ball he is not? That circumstances may use him, but they shall not make him? The answer to this question will very much depend upon the stuff he put into his years, while as yet he knew not his limitations.

And even where middle life has won success in the things men covet, and for which they strive, it may be the success that is just deadly in its reaction of monotony. How often do we hear it said of a prosperous man, who in middle years is giving place to unworthy habits, or to ill-humour and chronic depression: "Would he had something to take him out of himself; some interest in anything, if it were but a harmless hobby." Think of a man being reduced to the need of a "hobby" to keep him out of moral mischief! What such a man, if man he can be called, really needs is some higher interest or a coffin. A hobby is well enough in its place, and much can be said for it, but when it becomes a man's only peradventure between himself and the devil, the world can probably spare him to its own advantage. The young have no little safety in their years, in the temporary buoyancy of the blood. It is when the former draw in, and the latter thins out, that dangerous things get their more obvious and, too often, fatal chance with men. It is when the first fires of passion have slowed down, and the ties of early friendship have relaxed, and the outlook appears to leave us with the problem, not how to live, but how to exist. I tremble at times when my experience suggests the dangers of those long stretches of emptiness, that so easily fill with the sinister and the unspeakable. I would pray, as a man in mortal terror, against the bottomless pit of a motiveless existence.

This is why I put emphasis upon the threshold of manhood; not that I believe it to be the most dangerous part of human life, but because I believe it is the time to safeguard the part that is. It is the time when habits can be cultivated, and resources acquired, which can make middle life as crowded with interest and good to enjoy as any of the earlier years, and infinitely more useful. But this is possible only when the middle years can command their own. Just as many of us "postpone life until after our funeral," so may we find ourselves in middle life discouraged and sullen because we cannot do what we would, only because we have not done what we ought. Men do not always go under because they cannot do things. They fail, not because they do not know what it is well to do, but because they do not choose to attempt it. And why do they not choose? So far as this question affects middle life, it is largely because so few of us have the grit to face its difficulties, and attack them, when we have to do it with the serious handicap of self-made disadvantages. It is while you are young that you must lay up these stores of living material for the after years; and this is the significance of it all—you can only do it, or you can do it most effectually, when you are young. As touching certain advantages, "the day after to-morrow is the only day that never comes."

Have your good time, I say, and in it fear God, and fear nothing else. Keep a clean youth, and enjoy it to the full. But let the thought have its place as a goad when required, or as a steadying influence when the spirits would gallop too fast—the thought in the question: How will it be with me when my years are thirty-five or forty? That trying, and in so many cases, that fatal forty! When the youth of "rose-light and romance has faded into the light of common day, and the horizon of life has shrunk incalculably, and when the flagging spirit no longer answers to the spur of external things, but must find its motive and energy from within, or find them not at all." See to it while you may, that these forces, when needed, are there, or whatever else you may gain will be but a mocking remembrancer of the greater thing you have lost.

I have but another word to add. If there are, as I trust there are, middle-aged, or even old men, who would leave this Ur of the Chaldees, with all its unworthy past, and make for a better country, do not, I plead with you, be discouraged by anything I have said. Remember, I have been talking to the young; but God forbid that what I have said to them should seem to exclude hope for you. Make your start, though you should get no further than Haran. In a matter so supreme, it is better to have tried and failed, than never to have tried at all. But you need not fail in any degree that success is possible to you; and a success is possible to you in which are issues of everlasting life. Whatever the past, build up with courage and humility what you can do. God willing, and by His grace, you have time yet to prove how a consecrated determination can stretch out life's limits, and wondrously redeem no little of past failure.


"I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong."—1 St. John ii. 14.



"I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong." This description "young men" probably indicates that those to whom this part of St. John's letter was addressed were seriously engaged in the work of grounding their character, forming their habits, disciplining their inclinations, and confirming the election all must make between good and evil. He was not writing to those who had failed in the struggle, and had accepted their defeat. He was not writing to those who, beaten, knew that they did not intend to try again, and had thus written themselves out of the progressive forces of the human world. He was writing to those who had shown promise of better things, who were evidently pressing "toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." I do not take it that the Apostle credits the young men to whom he wrote with having won a victory which is never finally decided on this side the grave, or with having attained to a moral altitude outside the reach of their years. When he says, "I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong," he may be understood as referring to a strength consistent with, and yet peculiar to, their years—a strength the whole force of which was set in a right and healthy direction.

I want now to deal with the first part of this particular reference to the strength of young men. It would be away from my present purpose to weight this address with any attempt to say what the writer means when he tells them that, "The word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one." I shall take the words of our text out of their context, and use them as a topic: "I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong." Strong in what sense? How may we give the words a useful setting, as a remembrancer and a call to the young men of to-day?

In the first place, one great constituent of strength which is, or ought to be, the special possession of young life is—Hope. It is a common remark that as we grow older we become chary of convictions, and content ourselves with opinions. I should be sorry to believe it, but I am obliged to admit that age, even with good people, changes to a large extent their centre of gravity from hope to faith.

It is suggestive to mark the order of these in St. Paul's famous procession—faith, hope, love. Love, he says, is the greatest. But he ranks hope before faith. Why? The passage in which this classification occurs is part of the distinctive literature of the Bible. Hence terms are not used carelessly. What is the difference between the two? "Hope," says David Hume, "is the real riches of human life; as fear is the real poverty."

Hope is that which is "at the bottom of the vase," as the ancients said, when "every other thing has gone out of it"—by which, as it has been suggested, they probably meant the human heart. "While hope trembles in expectation, faith is quiet in possession. Hope leaps out towards what will be; faith holds on to what is. Hope idealizes; faith realizes. Faith sees; hope foresees." [1] In other words, faith is apt to be content with what it has; hope ventures out to annex the wider provinces of the imagination. Faith is the prose of our religious life, hope is its poetry.

Unless you think about it, this will glance off your mind as a distinction without a difference. It is more than that, in the sense I am using the distinction. The loss of youth is not so much in the flight of years, as in the stealing away of our hopes. We may be justified by faith, but we are saved by hope, in theology and in life. There are twenty men who have faith in Christ for one man who has hope that His Spirit will ever incarnate itself in the life of the world. As we get older, most of us, I am afraid, are only too glad to keep our faith in great principles, without hoping much for them. The usual product of experience, and more especially experience gained in attempting some great reform, is, as Dr. Martineau remarks, "a certain caution and lowering of hope. When the spent enthusiast looks back upon the riches of his early hopes, and the poverty of his achievements, he is tempted to regret the magnitude of his aims, and advise a zeal too temperate to live through the frosts of inevitable disappointments."

Nothing more damps the ardour of young people with good stuff in them than this caution called wisdom, which so often creeps over us as we advance in years. Then it is so frequently the case that the precepts that most naturally flow from our lips are the negatives that stifle hope. "I can no longer afford convictions," said a man to me once, "I have come to limit myself to opinions; they can be held at less risk, and changed at less cost." And the disposition to regard both faith and hope in great things as subject to the same insecure and miserable tenure, is apt to grow with the growing years, until we come to sympathize with nothing which cannot take out a policy of assurance.

When we are young we may be susceptible to the new, only because it is new to us. We are ready to welcome in book or speech anything which charms us with a novelty we readily mistake for originality. After we have crossed a line it may be well that most of us should become a bit obstinate, a little stiff in our beliefs, lest we be blown about by every wind of doctrine.[2] At the same time, there is always the danger of becoming so rigid in our opinions and faith as to permit no horizon of hope. There are multitudes, in our churches and outside them, who, from want of the hope that saves, are dying from the top downwards.

And among them is an increasing proportion of young men. I hear them boast that they have no ideals, no hopes or aspirations that are above the earth earthy. For once, at any rate, they have a conviction, and it is, that man lives by bread alone, that his life is in the abundance of the things which he possesses. They are too "knowing" to be caught prisoners by ideas, too much "men of the world" to concern themselves about the "Utopias of religion." And they call it strength. Strength! It reminds one of the bitter remark of an historian on the march of the Roman legions: "They make a solitude, and call it peace." Strength! There are those in perdition at this moment who could tell them that what they call strength is the stupidity which adds to sin the increment of a huge blunder.

The young man who is strong is he who has the moral genius of his years. He does not deny that man lives by bread, but he does deny that man lives by bread alone. He has faith in the upward trend of the world; and he has the hope which can give to faith its adequate translation. He does not believe that there are two Almighties in the world and that the devil is the greater; that sin shall breed sin for ever. He does not believe that the many must drudge to the limit of endurance and starve their higher nature as long as the world lasts, that the few may taste the sweets of culture and opulence. He does not believe that brute force shall for ever trample splendid intelligence underfoot, or that we must always stand on the margin of the dark river of wrong, in the unfathomed depths of which lie mysteries of terror—the despair of man, the sorrow of God. He has hope, that mighty dynamic—God's pledge to the young and unspoiled soul of a coming day when all that is false and unbelieving and wicked shall be cast into the consuming fire of divine holiness. He has faith in the great day of the Lord; and with the splendid optimism, the hope peculiar to his years, he cries: "I can, and I will, hasten the coming of my Lord." This is one great element of a young man's strength—hope in goodness, which goes so far to sustain the toil that can realize it. "I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong."

Another factor in this strength is—Freedom. I hardly like the word, but I want to express by it immunity from certain responsibilities. Young men, up to a given period, are, as never again, free to sacrifice for what look like the forlorn hopes and apparently lost causes of humanity. "My six reasons for taking no risks," said a man in the American Civil War, "are a wife and five children." The reasons which in one man may resolve themselves into prudence, in the case of another man, differently circumstanced, may be nothing better than cowardice. Some years ago four men stood on the cage at the mouth of the shaft that penetrated to the workings of a Yorkshire coal-mine. There had been an explosion, and over forty men were imprisoned in what seemed likely to be their grave. The brave fellows on the cage knew they were taking their lives in their hands, but they stood calmly waiting the signal which should lower them into a possible death. While some detail of the machinery was being adjusted, a fine stalwart young man, some three-and-twenty years of age, forced his way through the crowd, and, seizing one of the rescue-party, literally flung him out of the cage to the pit-bank, and before the people could recover from their astonishment the men were being lowered through the pathway of the deep. Then they realized the meaning of the action. "He did it," said the man who had been so summarily handled, and his voice shook with emotion, "because I have a wife and bairns." The younger man was free from responsibility; he could better afford the risk.

There is a very real sense in which the same consideration tells in the warfare against sin and wrong. Some of us have less to risk in taking up the challenge which the powers of death and hell throw down to every true man. I write unto you, young men, because from your relationship to circumstances you are more free to accept risks.

We often hear men lament, and it may be sincerely, that they cannot afford to face the practical logic of their social, political, and religious beliefs. They shrink from the consequences of the good fight of faith. "Had I only myself to consider," says one, "how gladly would I sacrifice myself to attack this wrong or that iniquity." We need offer no opinion about the moral quality of such a position; enough to say that it is idle to ignore, or even to underrate, the force of it.

There are circumstances which are too strong for most men after they have put themselves in a given relation to circumstances.

Let me say a word here about circumstances, which will seem to contradict some things you will find in this book, if you have interest enough in it to read it through. A Glasgow minister some time ago made a stand against a considerable minority in his church over some matter that, as he said, involved a principle for which he should fight. It cost him many of his more wealthy members and adherents. "Not many of us," I said to him after, "have your courage to take so serious a risk." "Nor should I have had it," he answered, "had I not means that make me independent of my salary." It was a candid admission, and it reaches a long way. The strength of this man was in his position quite as much as in himself; and this is probably true of the great average of us. Circumstances may mean possibilities, more often than possibilities mean, or create, circumstances. What we can do is not only determined by what we bring into the world, but by what we find when we get here. Give, then, whatever courage is native to you its full purchase, by whatever favour you have in circumstances. It is here the young man has a great advantage; he is at an age when he can afford risks; let him use it before his years are mortgaged by other demands.

In public life he can base his efforts on the fact that there are tremendous evils that need resistance, that there are sacred causes which need assistance. He can afford, as never again, to close with the truth that there is a corporate life, a public virtue, a humanity of the body politic, with laws, responsibilities, and duties. In social life he can refuse to bow to an arbitrary and often empty fashion, or to immolate himself on the altar of mammon. He can be a living protest against the tyranny and lust of money, which are eating away the heart and destroying the soul of Christendom. He can stand for the sane and rational ideas and habits of life, without which society but personifies the unscrupulous and vulgar parvenu. And in religion he can accept the teaching and obey the commands of Christ without any overwhelming temptation to escape them behind some exegetical device or the plea of expediency. He can devote the rose bloom of his years to great principles, before he has had time to catch the infection of a commonplace belief in God. He can be a soldier of the Cross, and have himself placed in the forefront of the battle. He can go down into the pit to rescue the perishing, and take daring, awful risks for the Captain of his salvation and the race of which he forms a part. I have written unto you, young men, because you can afford to be strong.

A third, and for my present purpose a closing consideration in a young man's strength is—Audacity. I might call it courage, but it is that plus something else. It is courage carried to a point of daring that amounts to what I have called it, audacity, or, as the world would call it, foolhardiness. It is the merciful blindness which will not see difficulties; it is the glorious recklessness which will not be stopped by them. It is neither blindness nor recklessness; it is the baptism with which a young man must be baptized whose life is penalized for the Cross.

When a certain woman came into the presence of Jesus, and anointed Him with an ointment very precious, He answered the selfish criticism of some of the disciples with the unqualified remark that "long as His Gospel should be preached, this that she had done would be told for a memorial of her." To these disciples it is probable that the answer sounded like a benediction on waste. Jesus saw in the deed an abandon on the side of good, which on the side of evil makes evil so popular and, as it seems at times, almost universal. No one but a woman, unless it were a young man of true fibre, would have broken the vessel. Your middle-aged or old man would have cautiously taken out the stopper, that the costly unguent might have been expended economically, even on the Saviour. But this woman, in her uncalculating devotion, broke the vessel, that all its contents might issue forth in one consecrated gift of love. And it was what this broken vase symbolized that explains, or does something to explain, the unmeasured recognition of the action.

This is the moral temper of the young man whom St. John describes as strong. He does not fumble with the stopper in the vase-held forces of good. "If you believe," he cries, "what Christ lived believing and died believing, then break the vase, and do not keep as a private possession powers that are meant for the world. Do not keep as a personal luxury what is meant to be the family treasure." Such a young man is the living exegesis of Christ's revolutionary word: "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force."

When he is warned not to expect too much from human nature, not to put too much trust in men, not to waste his strength in trying to remove mountains, not to jeopardize his chances on the threshold of manhood in trying to serve a world which, so far from thanking him, will very effectually resent his most disinterested efforts on its behalf; when he is reminded of some once aspirant who, young and confident as he, set out to reform the world, and now cynically affirms that the only wisdom is to let the world go to the devil in its own way—the young man who is strong says: "I acknowledge your facts, such as they are, but they are not facts for me. I, too, may be beaten in the right, but I would rather be that a thousand times over than succeed in the wrong. It is the temptation of the wicked one to conclude that, because history is said to have repeated itself hitherto, it must needs repeat itself for ever. I do not live on history; I live to make history. I believe that I was sent into the world new from the fashioning hand of the Creator, and that I have a new man's work to do. If my life of faith on the Son of God seem recklessness to you, wanting in proportion and eccentric, hold your opinions for all they are worth; but you shall not influence me by your abandoned hopes, you shall not even chill me with the east wind of your selfish ethics."

These are the young men we need to-day. Strong in hope, in position, and in daring; strong in the strength which they find in their years, and the strength they put into them.

And the Church has a right, society has a right, the nation has a right to look to young men for a greater and a better future. We who are older have a claim to look to you to confirm our faith in the survival of Christianity as the living force of the future. We need fresh leaders and men who incarnate new forces. We need, in fact, a certain style of man—we never needed him more. We want young men who are inspired by the truth that ideas are realities, and that scepticism about high principles is the most destructive form of ignorance.

We want young men of vision in business. Not cranks, not men who are responsible for their own failure in whatsoever their hand findeth to do; but men who see that the institution of business is God's present plan for distributing wealth, comfort, and intelligence. We want men in law who shall realize that the function of the legal profession is to build up justice and ensphere it in the will of the people. We want men in politics who have a clear conception of what the kingdom of God is, who recognize that the work of legislation and legislators is to think and speak and act for the interests of that kingdom—in the spirit and on the basis of Divine Fatherhood and human brotherhood. And in the pulpit we want men who have in them the vision of an Isaiah, a Paul, a John, and a Luther; men who shall make themselves felt as perennial gifts to their day—to tell us what we can do and what we ought to do, to lift up a voice for the eternally true, amid the clamour of self-interest and cries of craven fear.

"The world needs nothing more; the great English-speaking race has no need comparable with this need of men who can carry the spirit of vision, which is really the power of achievement, into every phase of our individual and collective life." [3]

Many of you represent great possibilities. You are, or you ought to be, at the flow-tide of an untainted enthusiasm. Your life should be a moral heat, which radiates in ever-enlarging circles of hope and service. But there are fires which, once they are allowed to slow down, can never be rekindled. There are large and generous beliefs at twenty-five years of age which, unless we cultivate and keep ourselves in the love of them, thin out like wasting magic, and no necromancy can ever conjure them back again. You young men have potencies of hope and enthusiasm which, if denied expression, strike inwardly and corrupt the source out of which they came.

And now, I repeat, is the time when you can give a true man's best hostages to the future. Now is the time to make the most of your strategic places in life. Almost before you know it, your power to determine many things will have merged into obligations that not one man in fifty is free to disregard. While it is called your day—before you are compassed behind and before with a commonplace that locks up so many lives like a numbing fate—signalize your record by some bit of heroism. If you would have posterity call you wise, seize your chance, while you have it, to be God's fool. Find the faith that can help you to play a man's part in the world; find in your faith the power which can grasp you by your weakness and sin, and lift you into strength and achievement. The Church needs you. For of all the institutions in Christendom the Church is stifled with safety, propriety, and conventional wisdom. It is the world which seems to monopolize the sparkle, the daring, and the picturesque. Respect us, your seniors in years, if we have done anything worthy in the past; but do not let it influence you unduly if now we seem to you perhaps timid and conservative. Time will bring most of you to the same place. But if—which God forbid—you do little after, do at least something now to redeem your career from impotence or from miserable aims that all end in selfishness. Find, I say again, on the threshold of your years, the power that can grasp you by your real requirement. Your first need is not wisdom, but grace; it is not education, but regeneration; it is not an ideal even, but a Saviour. Wisdom, education, and moral enthusiasms are but the machinery of our uplifting, the driving-power is Life. You know the Source of this power; you know the way to Him of Whom it is written: "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men." Now is your accepted time—

"Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute: What you can do, or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Only engage, and then the mind grows heated; Begin, and then the work will be completed."

[1] Robert Collyer.

[2] Dr. Maclaren.

[3] Dr. Lyman Abbot.


"The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord."—Proverbs xvi. 33.



It is reported that Prince Bismarck once and again attributed some of the most remarkable successes he had won in diplomacy to the circumstance that he had used truth as one of his greatest resources. Well aware of the fact that truth, for its own sake, was not the first thing that was expected from him, the use of truth gave him the tactical advantage of knowing how almost inevitably the opposite diplomacy would interpret it. He told the truth in order that it might be acted upon as something else. To adopt his own characteristic phrase, he "used the truth." If half the truth, or an untruth, would have served his purpose better, either most likely would have been adopted and as readily used.

"You call that witty," said a great statesman once, when some one related to him the saying of a well-known politician to the same effect—"you call that witty—I call it devilish." It is a just description. If the report is reliable that Bismarck, even in grim jest, spoke of truth in this sense as one of his great resources, the confession ought to cover his name with infamy. I do not commit myself to the statement that he ever said this; but whether he did or not, he is credited with acting upon what is a very general impression of how truth may be used. With vast masses of people it has become perilously like a conviction that strict integrity, while good and desirable as an ideal, is yet too much of a risk for the purpose of what is popularly known as practical life. The advice said to have been given by a Yorkshireman to his son who was entering on a business career would, I imagine, be widely acclaimed as common-sense: "Get money; get it honestly, if you can—but get it."

We preachers tell young men that whether or not they get on in business, they cannot afford not to go up in character; and they are not in the world very long before they realize that its hopes in this admonition are but inverted fears, that the shake of its head is a scepticism which troubles not to articulate itself in words. A French cynic counsels us to always deal with a friend to-day on the possibility that he may be an enemy to-morrow. And there is a wide and deeply-rooted prejudice in favour of holding the imperatives of integrity on the same terms. Our very language in this direction betrays us. We talk about "smart" business men, "smart" professional men, and by the adjective we may mean men who, though "keen," are yet honourable in their methods; or we may mean men who are just as scrupulous as the law of the land or the arbitrary criterions of society oblige them to be. And young men feel the impress of this widely-shared sentiment in a way particularly vivid. They have, indeed, small chance to escape it. The world is profuse in its explanations of why men fail, but it has no mercy on the man who fails. It has its cheap jargon about inheritances and environment, and then kicks the man who is preached as their victim, into perdition. Our operations may not be nice, but young men soon find out, or they think they do, that it is success, not charity, which covers a multitude of sins. Hence the new commandment: "With all thy getting, get success"—

"Get place and wealth, if possible with grace, If not, by any means get wealth and place."

The clamant need of our day is a clear teaching that shall appeal to us all, but especially to young men, as to what are the things that cannot be shaken, the things inseparable from a human life that is worth living. It is easy to part with our fine sense of integrity, but, once it is gone, it is the hardest thing in the world to recover. There are more senses than one in which we may speak of riches that are "beyond the dreams of avarice." The most valuable possession any man can have is the fight, either in his own conscience or to the world, to affirm himself to be an honest man. And the position I shall maintain in this address is, that there can be no sure success without honesty. Nor shall I speak about "absolute honesty" or the "strictest honesty," for I agree with those who say that there is but one degree of honesty. It is not a quality with grades and modulations. As well think, or try to think, of grades and modulations in the chastity of man and woman. Honesty, like chastity, is, or it is not.

We are often told that, from the lowest possible commercial standpoint, honesty is not only the best policy, it is the only policy. Whether or not it is the only policy depends upon the meaning we import into the term; of this I am sure—it is the best policy. But I shall not urge this doctrine upon you from the lower standpoint. That might do more than insult your intelligence; it would, I trust, offend against your moral self-respect. I assume that you all would hold it true with Archbishop Whately when he says, that though "honesty is the best policy, he is not an honest man who is honest for that reason." If, then, these latter remarks can carry the weight I want them to bear, what of those that have preceded them? How are we to explain a sentiment which is virtually a religion, having this one article for its creed: that honesty, while good as an ideal, cannot be invariably relied upon for practical concerns? How is it that so many men have to discover, when they are no longer young, that the thing which has passed from them and which they cannot recall is, after all, the one supreme value they possessed? There are many explanations of this tragedy, for tragedy it is, and not the least of them is, that so many young men have but one conception, one definition of success. These are men, and one is tempted to think at times that they are not so much a class as a people, who want material success and seek nothing else. They have no other standard by which to judge the thing behind the word. Not what we are, but what we have, if the latter is substantial and declarative, is the only idea which multitudes have of success. In a clever character-study of a well-known public man we are told that, "As far as he has a philosophy at all, it is this, that merit rides in a motor-car." It is a definition which fosters the impression that success can be secured the more quickly and surely by methods that are bound up with smartness, chance, or luck.

It is with the last of these I would come into somewhat close quarters. And let me admit, in the first place, that there is such a thing as luck, using the word in its common acceptation. In what is called a scientific treatment of the subject in hand I ought to say, as exactly as I can, what I myself understand by luck. It will leave abundance of room for criticism if I venture to define it—as some advantage that comes to a man independent of his moral worth, his native gifts, or of any equivalent he has rendered for it of industry and self-denial. That some people have such an advantage it would be useless to deny. Two youths, let us say, enter a business house about the same age, and at the same time. They are, as near as can be, equally matched in equipment to command success. In this respect there is little to choose between them. One begins entirely on his merits; he has no influence behind him to open doors before him as by some invisible hand. The other has influence; no matter what it is, or how it works, he has it, and it operates distinctly in his favour. A few years after, and the latter has far out distanced the former in position, salary, and outlook. And the reason is not the capacity of either; it is the arbitrary advantage, the piece of luck that one has had over the other from the start. "He has not much ability," I heard it remarked lately of a young fellow who, just having been licensed to preach, had also received a "call" to an influential church, and the remark elicited the significant answer: "No, but whether he has ability or not, his father has position and influence." This hints to us why certain men, if they do not fill, yet hold the positions they do. Take some men in high places, say in the political world. Recall a few names, if you can, of men who have held great positions in the State within the last quarter of a century, and does any sane person contend that in ability they stand out sheer above ten thousand good average men who crowd about them? I think it was Sydney Smith who said it was about equal to being canonized to marry into certain families. And a man would need to be a very emphasized fool quite to spoil the advantages of a long line of position, privilege, and family ascendency.

Take, again, a more typical case of what I mean by luck. It came under my own notice. A cloth-worker in Yorkshire, by carelessness or inadvertence, raises the nap of a given fabric a shade above the regulation height. He is dismissed, and the cloth is laid aside as spoiled. A French buyer comes in the place, and casting his eyes on it, instantly sees for it a future. That touch of heightened nap has done it. The manufacturer has his wits about him, and what a week before was a mistake is now a new and valuable design which, in a couple of years, makes him what some of us would regard as a substantial fortune. We are usually told that to admit the operation of this questionable factor in human affairs, called chance or luck, is inconsistent with a belief in the moral government of God, or, as we may prefer to call it, the reign of law. If this is so, how are we to read those old words that "chance happeneth to them all"? If we seriously contend that everything which happens in our human life is in accord with God's plans in us, and working through us, then I see not how we can refuse to hold such fore-ordination responsible for the grotesque, the irrational, the sinister, and the wicked in our actions. I could understand the objection were it limited to Nature, because that is a sphere in which it is the uses of things, and the uses precisely, which are the most obvious, and these compose, when taken together, a mighty reciprocal whole in which part answers to part, constituting an all-comprehensive and wondrous whole. There is no place in Nature for chance. Every particle of air is governed by laws of as great precision as the laws of the heavenly bodies. It keeps its appointed order, it serves its appointed ends. Nature never breaks out of its place. It has no such power—but human nature has. Man has enough free-will to make him responsible for what he does with it, and in the exercise of this mighty prerogative enters the element of chance or luck. We cannot establish free-will by rules of logic, we cannot gainsay it on the score of conviction. It helps us to interpret the great in human life and history, and what is sometimes even more to the purpose, it helps us to account for the little. As it has been well said: "It would save us much mental perplexity if we could assert without qualification that all is law, that everything happens as God ordains."

But God cannot make two mountains without a valley between; and He cannot give us free-will and withhold from us at the same time the freedom to make mistakes. The contradictions in human life do not yield to verbal simplicities, and, whether we like it or not, we have to acknowledge that this something called luck is a force in human events.

But let me say, in the second place, that there is nothing more easy than to exaggerate its extent and importance. Out of a hundred happenings that are generally attributed to luck, if we could find the genesis of each one and trace its evolution or unfolding, we should probably not find more than one that could be associated with the things that happen by chance. The case of a man who achieved what is called a "lucky fluke" out of a piece of spoiled cloth is perhaps the only instance of its kind on record in the history of cloth manufacture. I have admitted that there are cases where advantage falls to a man which cannot be explained by anything he deserves, or has done to win it. And the advantage, such as it is, often works untold hurt as an example. Just as the winnings of one gambler may tempt a hundred others to their undoing, so a single case of coveted luck is apt to encourage young men to transfer their hopes of success in many directions, from law to luck. You see here and there a man who accumulates a large fortune from beginnings that look as much like pure chance as was that piece of spoiled cloth. You see men close to you put into positions that have been secured, not by training or ability to fill them, but by the accident of influence, or, as you may think, by even more reprehensible methods; and your first impulse is to say that it is not merit but luck that holds the better cards. But let the impulse pass and bring quiet thought and good practical sense to this problem of success in men, and you will find that the instances are comparatively few where it is not about as wise to speak of it as luck as it would be so to characterize the law of cause and consequence. When you are discussing a man's success or his position, do not stop at the mere fact that he has it—that is obvious enough; try to know how he got it, and you may be surprised to find how little, after all, luck has had to do with it. In one of the most quoted of our Lord's parables we are told that "they that were ready went in to the marriage feast." And this right of entry was not a matter of luck. They went in because they were ready, and the others were left out because they had made no effort to be ready. And so if you would understand a man's success, know what he was doing while the opportunity tarried, while his chance seemed to wait, while his "psychological moment" appeared to linger.

Our fate or our fortune is not in great occasions; it is in our readiness to seize the opportunities that make great occasions. We frequently hear young men complain that they have not had a chance. Are they always sure of that? How often is it that their chance has been and gone, without their knowing it? "There are scores of young fellows in our place," said a large employer of labour lately, "who would be in vastly better positions than they are, had they worked as hard to be ready for the better positions as they are anxious to have them." There are multitudes of young men who appear to have lost sight of the distinction there may be between wishing for an opportunity and being ready to use the opportunity when it presents itself. As Sir Frederick Treves once said to the students at the Aberdeen University: "The man who is content to wait for a stroke of good fortune will probably wait until he has a stroke of paralysis." He who waits for good fortune without doing his part to make it possible, opens up the way for lazy habits and morbid conclusions about the arrangements of life. Luck in any serious business or profession is not so much the coming of opportunity as readiness to make the most of the opportunity when it comes. A man was speaking to me not long ago about one of the leading commercial men in this city. "What is there in him or about him to explain his success?" asked the man, and he answered his own question with the round assertion that "it was all luck." It happened that I had some reliable information about the man under discussion, and I want you to have it. Thirty years ago he was working from ten to twelve hours in the day as just an ordinary workman. At the close of each day's toil he had his programme of studies, which, in its range and character of the subjects attacked, would not have disgraced a good student at any university. Eventually his attention to business and his marked attainments won for him the recognition of his employers, which meant in after years a place which was ultimately a leading place, as one of them. Yet this was the man who was said to have won his success by a lucky turn of the wheel. I admit his advantages. I grant you that he showed himself to have brains and will above the average endowment of these great possessions. But let me ask you to mark this: he might have left his gifts unused, as so many of us do. It is probably not gifts, in eight cases out of every ten, that determine position, but our use of them. We have infinitely more in us than our will and determination ever bring out. How few of us know the rich things God has put in our nature; and we verily live and die in ignorance of rare deposits of wealth because we do not work the inward mines. This young man was wiser. He did not wait for his opportunity to turn up, he turned up the opportunity. Because he neither slumbered nor slept while it tarried, he was prepared to make the most of it when it presented itself. And I am persuaded that something like this is the true explanation of practically the whole of what thoughtless people set down to luck. What we call fore-ordination is verily the present which we have made out of the past. We first make habits, and then habits make us. In our to-day walks our to-morrow, and in a very solemn sense there is no "dead past." As it has been well said, "the tree that falls so disastrously is no accident; it had the fall determined a century ago in some injury it received as a sapling." [1]

There is much less luck in human affairs than is popularly supposed; and, if there were more than there is, it would, in the next place, be moral insanity to put our trust in it. "Nothing walks with aimless feet." Our life is no lottery. We may make foolish experiments with it, but we do so at our own risk. It is no plaything of chance, it is a stern responsibility which is determined by law that brooks no interference and excuses no indifference. The proverb tells us that "our lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing is of the Lord." And just as the dark forces that sweep through our life are not necessarily hostile forces but form part of the order of the world, so things that we regard as haphazard, merely cast into the lap of chance, may be divine agents working out a marvellous equality of opportunity throughout our human life. I affirm it without a shadow of qualification, that chance has no place whatever in the responsible formation of character, and the formation of character is the decision of destiny. Beware, then, lest in playing with this ignis fatuus of chance you are trifling with law, for law will not spare you.

You young men cannot make up your mind too soon that there can be no sure success apart from uprightness and integrity. You cannot too early in this life settle it as an immovable truth for you, that unswerving rectitude is not only a great and desirable ideal, it is the only practical course you can afford to follow. Goodness, I say again, is the only success, and I shall not try to save this statement by fencing the word "success" with any arbitrary definition of my own. I just mean by it what any man means by it who has a healthy moral perception of things. Success, like honesty, has but one degree, and as nothing is worthy to be called life which cannot be affirmed of God, so nothing can be called success which is not the resultant of right-doing. Every advantage which you would try to scheme or sneak or coerce in face of the protest of conscience, has in it its own curse and its certain defeat. Understand me: right-doing will not necessarily help you to make a fortune or achieve some great position. You may not have the special gifts to do either. Such gifts are something not ourselves which we might easily have been without. Neither religion nor morality promises to bestow these gifts, any more than religion or morality claims to regulate the colour of our hair or the inches of our stature. But when said, there is yet a wonderful power in right-doing. The man who does the right because he believes in it and loves it, whether it is called successful or not, is always bringing out far more than he thought was in him. The faithful doing of daily duty continually reveals opportunities which, used with readiness and a good conscience, act upon life with a perpetual and gracious benediction.

Then what about the end? It may seem a far-off cry to talk to you young men about that. But the end will come, and you will need nothing then which you do not need all the way. The end will only emphasize the need—the need of a good conscience. The day is coming when all tainted success will mock, as only a bad record can mock, when there is but time left to regret, and none to retrieve the past. "I am getting old," writes one, "and I am wealthy; but I would part with every shilling I possess, and take my risk for bread, to be at peace with my own conscience." Trample under your feet the immoral side of the maxim that nothing succeeds like success. Success is not always in hitting the things at which you aim; it is the good conscience that you are aiming only at right things. Let your success be goodness, and goodness will be your success. Leave luck to fools, and act as though it had no existence. Believe that character or manhood, without which nothing great is possible, is the content of your endowment put out to full advantage through grace and will. Believe that every man, worthy to be called a man, has in him the promise of the gradual supremacy of character over the accidents and happenings of circumstances. Be, then, your own luck. Link your life in Christ to God, and stand up to all the world and say—

"Perish policy and cunning, Perish all that fears the light. Whether losing, whether winning, Trust in God and do the right."

[1] Rev. Thomas Templeton, M.A.


"Know ye not that ye are a temple of God?"—I Corinthians iii. 16.



There are expressions taken from the Bible which, by length of popular usage, become, as it were, independent either of their setting, or of methods of exposition. This usage has its length of days, not always in the sense of the expression so much as in its sound. Those of you who have been accustomed to listen to Christian preaching will have often heard appeals to your manhood, to self-mastery, to kingship over your habitudes, rounded off with this question: "Know ye not that ye are a temple of God?"

In this way it has passed into what I have called popular usage. And whatever it may be as exegesis, it is good admonition. If we may speak of a house made with hands as a dwelling-place of the Most High, we may also claim an equal sacredness for this mortal temple which is the crowning achievement of His creative power. For myself, I have never had the least sympathy with a teaching that almost amounts to a vilification of the body, and which is at the basis of much that passes for religion, both Christian and pagan. Our body is a gift worthy of the Giver. We can do much to mar it in ourselves, and through us for others. Hitherto the one perennial idolatry of the world has been destruction; and if one thing has escaped this insanity less than another, it is the human body. But for all that, we do not deny that a picture may be a work of genius, because any madman could destroy it in less time than it takes to suggest the possibility.

Much is said and written about the duality that is in us; and many of us are Manichean without knowing technically what the term means. The two parts in the same self are represented as East and West, and "never the twain shall meet." We must understand, however, what we mean by this bisection of man. Between the carnal and the spiritual there must be no compromise and there can be no peace. But carnality is not in the body, it is in the principle that uses the body as its medium and expression. We say much about "sins of the flesh"; as a matter of fact there is no such thing. Sin is, before it is wrought out through the flesh. It is not the body that commits adultery or gets drunk, it is the creature which owns it. The same Apostle who tells us that the "flesh lusteth against the Spirit," also speaks about the "redemption of the body"; which means that as the latter can be degraded, so can it be honoured by him who uses it. Hence the people who weaken the body to strengthen the soul begin at the wrong end. Let them guard the life, and the strength of the body will become an agent of pleasure and service, not of sorrow and defeat. It is surely better to ride a fine steed well under control, than find our safety only because we mount a hack. I have heard young men complain bitterly about the disproportion between their bodily passions and their will-power. They overlook two things—first, that will can be acquired, that an act of will means more will; and, secondly, that passion in itself can be, and is intended to be, a great and precious possession. The absence of passion may mean an anaemia, which virtually cuts us off from some of the finest possibilities of human life. Our bodies are part, and the highest part, of a cosmic order which is "sinful only when it refuses to be spiritualized." If we regard the body as an exquisite instrument provided by our Maker for the translation of the things of the Spirit, then so long as the Spirit working by grace is the master, we can hardly attach too much importance to the body as a temple of God.

"If any man defile this temple," says the Apostle, "him shall God destroy." The ways in which it can be defiled are endless, as some of them are fatal. For my present purpose there are three which I want to urge upon your serious consideration. I must try to compress what I have to say about them into one address, because the first I shall mention is something about which no clean-minded person would choose to write or talk without having, what he conceives to be, the gravest reasons for so doing. In this case, the fewer the words the more effective they may be, if they arrest attention, arouse thought, and make some headway with the conscience.

There are three ways, I repeat, in which we may defile this temple, and the first I will venture to speak about is the sin of Impurity. And when I say I will venture to mention it, I quite realize that I am taking some risk. He who would speak with authority and with wisdom on this subject to a mixed audience, should possess a poet's gifts in the art of putting things. But some one must speak, and to whom does the duty fall, if not upon him whose calling it is to stand between the quick and the dead? If the good work of the world must wait to be done by perfect men, the lease of evil has a long while to run. It is, in truth, a sad reflection which should stir up strong protest in every earnest soul, that this sin—so deadly in its nature—should be practically safe so far as the pulpit is concerned. In many cases this is a result of sensitive timidity, or it may be an affectation of refinement which is but veneered coarseness. If it be the first, it should be respected but not yielded to; if it be the second, it should receive no indulgence from us. The great Hebrew prophets, and the Supreme Teacher Himself, did not surrender this stronghold of the soul to the evil one from a shrinking which, if a man cannot conquer, he is no preacher, and still less to a mental indolence that will not seek out acceptable words through which to convey a warning. I speak as unto wise men, and submit it to your judgment whether the preacher who has to any extent the ear of young men can afford this eternal silence concerning a subject that so vitally affects character, society, and the race to which we belong.

There are many reasons why this sin of impurity seems to be on the increase. The old order of town and country is fast breaking up, and practically the whole migration and emigration is to the former. Britain is fast becoming a series of congested centres of population. One consequence is the increasing number of women and girls who find it terribly hard to survive in the pitiless struggle to exist. And we know what this means in so many cases. It is no secret how the scanty earnings of a growing body of girls are eked out. This is not a matter on which to dwell, and while it is serious enough to compel some very searching thoughts, I refer to it in order to say how much I want to see the day when every calling, profession, and trade in which a woman can earn her bread and efficiently make her way, shall be open to her equally with a man. The education of our girls should be the care of parents and the State, every whit as much as the education of our lads. There are positions in which I should not care to see women, and hence I would work all the harder to bring about the economic conditions in which sex, and the means of livelihood, can have some fitting correspondence. This I say, that he who would exclude a woman because of her sex from any place where she can turn to honest account her capacities and industry, is the enemy of women. To the extent you restrict what is called the sphere of a woman who is dependent upon her own toil, you set up temptations which every man worthy the name of man should sacrifice much to make impossible.

There is also the growing reluctance of young men, more especially in the upper and middle classes, to undertake the responsibilities of married life; so rarely now are they content to creep before they walk. They must begin where their parents leave off in position, appearances, and comforts. This often means to defer marriage until these can be secured; but it does not always mean that these men keep a clean record in the meanwhile. A sinister consideration which has much to answer for in the existence of a class of women which, in turn, takes a terrible revenge on its makers! Nor are parents always as free from blame as they might be. I have known fathers and mothers who had the reputation of being good men and women, sternly forbid their daughters to engage themselves to young men who had most things to recommend them, except too much means; and I have known them encourage the advances of men whose past and present should have excluded them from any decent home—only because these men had money.

My purpose, however, in these remarks is not to discuss the sources or temptations to impurity, so much as to say a faithful word to young men about the thing itself. Permit me to counsel you to face the truth and not to fear it, that past a given age in your life and up to another the cravings of our lower nature are tremendously strong. If you would fight the good fight for a clean manhood, make no mistake about the task that lies before you. These cravings implanted in a healthy man or woman are in themselves beautiful and right. All turns upon the control of them. If Nature could have let us off more easily the conflict would have been less searching; but nothing weaker would have secured the perpetuation of the race, and all that it involves in struggle, anxiety, and self-sacrifice.

A young man came to me not long ago to ask for my signature to an application he was making for a certain position. He told me in a few words about the years he had given to the fitting of himself for the place he was seeking, and how anxious he was to get it, because, as he said, he wanted to be married and to make a home for himself. As he talked to me there was something so clean that looked out of the eyes of him, while at the same time he gave me the impression of so modest a self-efficiency, that my entire sympathy and heartiest good wishes were won for him. I mention this incident because I want to hint much that I cannot put into words. As you sight the years of responsibility you will, if you are wise, prepare yourselves by industry, thought, and control, with a view to married life; for marriage, among other things, is the natural, the honourable, and the divine provision for the legitimate cravings of our nature. Whenever I hear a man speak sneeringly of marriage, if I have to conclude that he says what he feels, I may not think him a fool, but I strongly suspect that he is a blackguard. "He who attacks marriage; he who by word or deed sets himself to undermine this foundation of our moral society, must settle the matter with me, and if I do not bring him to reason, then I have nothing more to do with him." So wrote Goethe, and I echo his words in your hearing.

Keep marriage before you as a sacred goal, and as an incentive to put out the best there is in you in order to reach it. Do more than this; resolve that when you enter this covenant you will carry into it as clean a conscience about the past as you expect her to have who gives her happiness into your keeping. One sex can substantiate no claim to licence, or even indulgence in this matter, that can be morally denied to the other. There are events in life that are worth more than it costs to meet them well; marriage is pre-eminently one of them, and you can, if you elect to do so, enter it unspotted men.

Get control of your imagination. Be lord over your thoughts. You cannot, as an old Puritan writer says, "prevent the birds from flying over your head, but you can prevent them making their nests in your hair." Which means that while you may not be able to prevent given thoughts from darting into the mind, you can forbid their finding a home there. The danger is not in what comes, but in what is permitted to stay. You have some sense of the training that is needed in certain parts of your nature; and if you join that training to the help of God, you can not only cast evil cravings out of your life, you can do something that is harder still—you can keep them out. Be careful about companionships. Have no friendship with him who boasts of his "amours," the "affairs of the heart," that he can sustain at the same time. Shun, as you would a pestilence, the man of unclean speech. Let it be a truth with you which must not be questioned, that the truest indication of nobility of character is reverence for womanhood. By the sweet and holy thoughts of your mother, by your sacred love and wishes for your sister, I would remind you of words in which the "wisdom of many buried ages lingers": "Keep innocence, keep purity, and do the thing which is right, so shalt thou be brought at the last to thine end in peace." May you watch and pray, that you yield not to temptation. May you watch and pray, that you enter not eternity with that stain upon the soul which no tears of your own can ever wash away, or time blot out of the memory.

Another way in which we may defile this temple of the body is by the habit of Betting. We usually speak of "betting and gambling," but the latter term includes and covers transactions so wide in extent, and complex in their nature, as to make it impossible for me in this address to do more than refer to them.

It must be understood in the few remarks I purpose to offer on this subject, that I confine them to what I have called the habit of betting. I shall not affirm that betting is necessarily a sin, but I do state it as my conviction that its tendency and results are practically always in that direction. William Cobbett—than whom no man has ever written more sensibly to young men—says that "betting is always criminal in itself, or in what it leads to. The root of it is covetousness, a desire to take from others something for which you have given, and intend to give, no equivalent." These statements may be debated, but they appeal to me as essentially sound. A young man says: "If I choose to risk a sum of money which I can afford to lose over a bet with some one else who can afford to do the same, what has talk about equivalent got to do with it? What, or where, is the wrong in such a transaction?" This is a test question, and I am disposed to answer it by saying that I do not think any young man who takes himself seriously will urge it; and when put on a lower plane, the closer you examine it the more rotten it is found to be. Is it wrong to cultivate and indulge a habit that inevitably leads to bad results? And that is what betting does, apologize for it as you may. Putting aside for the moment any considerations about the money you can afford to lose, you cannot afford, either in your own or in the interests of the community of which you are a part, to take the moral risks that are involved in betting. It is to insult our intelligence to deny that, comprehensively speaking, the basis of betting is cupidity, and cupidity of a particularly dangerous kind. There may be exceptions, but they are scarcely worth mentioning; whatever may be the inception of the habit of betting, it almost inevitably roots itself as greed; and it is greed that consumes character like a furnace. It is the black altar on which everything worth being must suffer immolation.

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