Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

claims to all the universe that the fangs of the world have gone deep into his heart, and that the poison of sin has congealed the life-blood of his soul. He to whom worship is strange and communion impossible, for whom Sunday seems to provide no spiritual solace, and no symbol of a peace and rest which he needs, declares how disordered and corrupted his nature has become. He spends his labour for that which is not bread. He lays up for himself wrath, and a fearful reckoning in the day of the Lord Jesus. He to whom the Church has no attractions, the Bible no message, and the Sacraments no meaning, can neither hope, nor rest, nor delight, nor believe in the living God.

But, on the other hand, the man whose piety consists altogether and entirely of these religious duties, and feelings, and thoughts; who confines his spiritual exercises to the house of God, to the Sunday, and to the holy communion; to the singing of hymns, or to the hearing of sermons; who limits his religious life by an occasional, stated, or spasmodic attention to any class of sacred observances whatsoever, is quite as far from the kingdom of heaven. It is often as difficult to rouse such a man to a sense of his danger and his mistake, as it is to disturb the cold sleep of one who makes no confession and professes no faith. There are, however, not a few who condemn the wretched compromise they make with God, and who grieve over their inconsistency. Many exclaim, “If we could only feel

through the week as we have felt on the Lord'sday, if we could preserve in our business the emotions we have had in the hour of prayer, all would be well! We make good resolutions, we imagine that our profession and our trade, our cares and our eager ambition, are all forced into their proper place. We pray, we sing, we weep, and think we gain the victory; but the world's temptations come upon us the next day, and we are as helpless, as stupid, and as worldly as ever. We put off our religion with our Sunday clothes, and never put it on again till the week is out. Do tell us how we are to be religious !

Permit me to make two observations on this confession. First, that religion is not a thing which it is possible to put off and put on like a Sunday dress. There are certain organs of your body to which you can allow repose, and if they are out of order you may afford to do without them for a season. But there are other organs which do not cease to move and work, from the first moment to the last moment of your existence. If these are diseased, impaired, or weary, they must work on, all out of order as they are, or you die. You cannot give a week's, a day's, a moment's rest to your heart or your lungs. The same thing may be said of your religion. It should be the very essence of your whole life,—the spring of all your emotions,—the ceaseless source of all your conduct; if it be not this, you have most certainly been confounding something else with it. You can

you think

a

not take up and put down, take off and put on, your religion. If

you are doing so, believe me that as yet it is not a religion, but a web of delusions. Still the desire to be a spiritual man is one of the first stages of the divine life. You could not use the language which I have imagined without much experience of life, without many humbling views of self, without some of the poverty of spirit which Jesus says is blessed; without a class of thought which is, in fact, a revelation of God to your soul. You are finding out that religion is not an occasional emotion; not a ceremonial routine; not a loud profession, but a life. You have learned the ennobling truth, that it is possible to do the most secular thing, to enjoy the most earthly blessing, in a devout spirit, and thus to consecrate it; and you have accepted the humbling revelation, that it is equally possible to engage in the most spiritual enterprise, to read and sing, to pray and praise, with the most ignoble intention, until God's worship is degraded into a trade, a mummery, or a sin. I think it will be well, then, to remind you of a few of those departments of LIFE which are, in fact, the realm of religion, quite as much as the Sunday, the Sacrament, or the Sanctuary

Let me enumerate a few things that combine to make up what we call our every-day life.

(1) CONVERSATION is a large element of every-day life. The power of speech is one of the grand distinctions of man, and of his life upon the earth. It is thus he clothes invisible thought with form, and confers upon the subtle intangible reality an immortality of earthly recognition. It is in speech that we most resemble our Almighty Father; for His Eternal Son is His word made flesh, and “in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.” It is in human speech that love finds her sweetest solace. Sympathy flies on its holy wings from heart to heart. Righteous indignation can with its aid thunder down a wrong, and humble faith by its means can utter all its praises and its hopes. But speech is also the power that man has of divulging his depravity, and spreading the foul contagion of his lusts. There is a holy converse which can consecrate the dark and troubled hours of our earthly life,—which expands the intellect and unfolds the heart; but there is also a kind of conversation whose hoarse whisper and indecent mirth boldly reveal the sheer devil that there is in a man. How much of our conduct, of the actual employment of our time, and how much of our pleasure and of our miseries, of our holiness or of our sins, are virtually included in our daily conversation! Our temper and spirit are expressed in the words we use, in the topics we talk about, and the purpose for which we talk of them. - Death and life are in the

power of the tongue.” A man cannot utter an impure word without leaving a blistering trail over his own soul, to say nothing of the deadly poison that he is breathing forth on all within his reach.

a

Our daily conversation determines all the tone of our mind; it stamps and it stereotypes our temper. It reveals whether charity and virtue, manly or womanly grace dignify our character; or whether we are frivolous, vain, heartless, and worldly. Who can measure the unkindness that may be crowded into a single word, or the thoughtlessness, the selfishness, the pride, the vanity, the cruelty, the crime, that may be condensed into a syllable ?

In our conversation is involved, on the one hand, all “ the soft answer that turneth away wrath ;" “ the excellent oil that will not break the head;" the endurance that will suffer a wrong, rather than commit one; the patience that endures affliction; the heroism that can rebuke a sin. In it is included, on the other hand, the scandal and the slander that have desolated so many

that have scattered firebrands in so many circles; all the backbiting and much of the injury that one man can do to another; the lies that divide men's hearts from each other; the falsehood which has crushed the buds of hope; the cowardice which can hide a debt; the meanness that can conceal a flaw; and all the wretched want of brotherhood which leads so many to say, 'Each man for himself, and God for us all.' My brethren, if a man is to be religious at all, his talk, which makes up so much of his life, must be penetrated, illumined, dictated by religious. principle. I do not mean, of course, that he must always be talking piously, and have no conversation save that which concerns

homes;

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »