A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good: and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. And why call ye me Lord, Lord, and Do not the things which I say?-–LUKE vi. 45, 46.
WHEN true religion is possessed, it pervades a man’s whole life and conduct. When religion is united once more to every work in which we are engaged, and the workman and the employer, the tradesman, the merchant, the artist, the man of letters, and the man of government, are all animated by the bright light and the pure warmth of wisdom derived from love to God, the golden age will once more have blessed the world.
When religion is separated from life, it makes a weak religion, and a bad world. Faith, separated from work, is pretense and hypocrisy. Faith, when not producing good works, is not rooted in the deep sources of our being. WORDS proceed from the intellect, WORKS from the heart, and what the heart is, such is the real man. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things. An evil man, out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth evil things (Matt. xii. 3). What a man DOES, then, is the test of the state of his heart.
It is a test to himself. It is a test to the world. It will be a test when he comes into the eternal world. They that have done good shall come forth to the resurrection of life; and they that have DONE evil unto the resurrection of condemnation (John v. 29).
The heart, or will, of man, is the receptacle of love in him, the outbirth and the image of the Divine Love. The good treasure of the heart is love to the Lord, giving rise to love for man, and this good treasure brings forth the good things of obedience to the Divine Commandments. The evil treasure of the heart is imperious self-love, giving rise to overweening love of the world, and this brings forth the evil things of disobedience, quarrelsomeness, fraud, and impurity. Once more then, we say, what the heart is, such the acts are. Hence the supreme importance of a religion of deeds. The apostle expresses this in the strongest language, when he says, Who (God) will render to every man according to his DEEDS: to them who by patient continuance in well doing, seek for glory, honor, and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation, and wrath: tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile: but glory, honor, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile: for there is no respect of persons with God (Rom. ii. 6-11).
From acts, come habits; from habits, character; and to form a character for heaven–a character that can be happy in heavenly principles and a heavenly life–is the one great use of the world, in the ways of Divine Providence. The world is the seminary for heaven, the nursery for Paradise. To be happy, man must be trained to be like his Heavenly Father–loving, wise, and actively good; and work is the grand instrumentality for the formation of such characteristics in man.
The Creator could undoubtedly have supplied all human wants as readily as He supplies those of the animal and vegetable worlds, without human contrivance or human labor, had it suited His grand design in the formation of man to do so. Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feedeth them.
Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Man might have been endowed, without his effort, with sufficiency and splendor, had the Lord chosen that thus it should be. But it is not so. Divine Wisdom has judged it best to be otherwise, and Divine Love bas ordained that the earth should yield its riches and be abundantly supplied only by the exertion of labor. The fields teem with plenty when cheerful toil has ploughed, and sown, and harrowed, and weeded them. The mines yield their gems, their metals, and their marbles, only to hard work. The fibers adapted for clothing are transformed into useful and brilliant textures, only when thoughtful art, plodding science, and persevering industry have spun and woven the dull threads into forms of exquisite delicacy, and covered them with shapes and hues of beauty. The blessings of civilized life are all the result of work inspired by energy and directed by intelligence. Without work the human lace could never have been sustained, and would quickly perish. With work the barren wilderness soon smiles with waving corn, lovely flowers, blooming fruit-trees; cities and states are formed, commerce unites nations in friendly interests, arts flourish, sciences spread, philosophy, literature, religion expand themselves and bless mankind.
In Paradise man was pieced, not to be idle, but to dress and to keep it (Gen. ii. 15). It is an error of ancient date, and quite destitute of support from truth, that work was the penalty of mans fall. It is rather mans likeness to his Maker; for by work man becomes a kind of creator. Painful, toilsome work, work with the sweat of the brow (Gen. iii. 17), overwork, may be attributed to the fall, but not the cheerful activity of loving labor. The Lord is a worker. He works in creation; He works in redemption; He works in our regeneration. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth His handiwork. The angels are all workers, though of higher businesses than ours. Their active ministries, all from love, are of innumerable varieties. He maketh His angels spirits, His ministers flames of fire. Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth for them who shall be heirs of salvation? All good men are workers either with head or hand; only the evil, desire to live upon the toil of others, and render no service in return,–to absorb and not to give. The Creator ministers to all.
Creation reflects its Maker in this; each part ministers to the other. The sun pours out its heat, light, and actinic power–its morning splendor and evening glory for all. The atmosphere bears its health,breezes, not only to supply all living things with life and vigor, but it is laden with the perfumes of innumerable flowers, and offers a magnificent feast of odors rich with grateful fragrance. The mountains yield both soil and streams, and lessons of majesty, and might, and silence. Each tiny stream that dances down the mountain side, and pearls with diamond drops its neighbor shrubs and blades of grass, is also a bright worker. The trees bear, the flowers bloom for others. The earth, from all her fertile bosom and her wondrous deeps, yields treasures,–all for others. Each creature, each plant, each atom, has a use by much it stands in relation to others, and imparts uses, and receives them in return. The kingdom of the Lord is a kingdom of uses. One grand purpose stands out in that constitution of things which makes it necessary for man to work–it is to bring out in him this likeness to His Heavenly Father, to initiate Him into the blessedness of doing good. Hail, then, O ministry of work, all-hail! Thine is the godlike province of leading out the young immortal to nobleness and service; to draw him from apathy of self to genial ministry; from barrenness to plenty; from pining helplessness to self-help and helpfulness for others; from the destitution of ignorance to the riches of knowledge, intelligence, and wisdom. Thine is it to make of emptiness a scene of beauty, a banquet of abundance, a store-house of plenty, a paradise below, and a preparation for a paradise in heaven!
The necessity for usefulness, and the love of use, are therefore both from the All-wise. And, when we survey the innumerable varieties of talent, and endowment, which go to make the wondrous perfection of graceful human life, we cannot doubt that these varieties of good and glorious gifts which enable some to supply the nutriment or the embellishment which others need, and all mutually subservient to each, and each to all, are also from Him, who is the author of every good and perfect gift (James i. 17).
It was said of Bezaleel, the director of the tabernacle work of the Israelites in the wilderness, I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship……and in the hearts of all that are wise-hearted I have put wisdom, that they make all that I have commanded thee (Ex. xxli. 3-6).
And, indeed, may me not ask, if the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom to devise works in precious stones, and metals, and wood, and all manner of workmanship, were the inspirations of the Divine Wisdom then, must they not be from the same adorable source now? Whence but from Infinite Wisdom, can any interior light be derived? That is the True Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world (John i. 9).
And if we have rightly drawn the conclusion from the very constitution of the world, that the Creators intention is to form man into His own image, to make him happy in being useful to others, as He is infinitely happy in being infinitely useful, for He ministers to all; to countless heavens and to the meanest worms, through all the vast chain of being; then, must not his daily life have the weightiest bearing upon his mental constitution? Will it be all the same for his everlasting condition, whether six days out of seven he is doing justly, or acting fraudulently? In the slow formation of character, will the selfishness which is busy in his daily acts, or the prayers and meditations of Sunday, be the most potent? Will what a man thinks and says in pious hours or moments affect his perpetual states, or what be loves and does in his daily operations? Blessed are the dead, it is written, that die in the Lord, from henceforth. Yea, saith the Spirit, for they rest from their labors, and their works do follow them; or, more correctly, follow with them (Rev. xiv. 13). Those who die, take their works with them. But what works? Not the outward results which appeared before men. The things they manufactured, the buildings they erected, or the treasures of art they produced, are all left behind. But was there not an inner series of works going on in the soul which through thought after thought, affection after affection, motive after motive, effort after effort, they were building themselves up to become characters noble, loving, truthful, benevolent, and adoring; or were desecrating themselves to become characters domineering, defiant, self-seeking, fraudulent, mean, sensual, polluted, and insane? THESE WORKS WILL FOLLOW WITH THEM.
He who is holy will be holy still; he who is righteous will be righteous still; he who is filthy will be filthy still; and he who is unjust will be unjust still (Rev. xxii. 11).
Piety and faith are constituent of practice; but deeds are the embodiment of the whole man. A man IS what he DOES, when he sets unforced. The temper he indulges when no one is present by whom he cares to be controlled, exhibits his real spirit. The uprightness with which he does his work when no checking eye is over him, or the dishonesty with which he deals and slights his obligations where he can, these display his real character. These already announce the rising angel, or the partly formed infernal. By their fruits ye shall know them. So taught the Great Teacher, our Divine Savior Himself. Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A god tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn dawn, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that DOETH the will of my Father who is in heaven (Matt. vii. 17-20).
Whenever mans final judgment is described in the Sacred Scriptures it is always announced to be according to his works: not to the exclusion of piety and faith, but including these. If the works of a man are sincerely good, his piety will be sincere and his faith sincere; if his works, are dishonest, his piety will be dishonest, and his faith hypocritical. Hence, what a mans work is, so is he altogether. And, hence, the sufficiency of the divine judgment, being a judgment of works, as undoubtedly it is always represented by the Great Judge Himself. I, the Lord (Jehovah) search the heart, I try the reins, even to give to every man according to his WAYS, and according to the FRUIT OF HIS DOINGS (Jer. xvii. 10). Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy, for thou renderest to every man according to his WORK (Ps. lxii. 10). I am He which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you ACCORDING TO YOUR WORKS (Rev. ii. 23). And behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his WORK shall be (Rev. xxii. 12).
In the sublime representation of judgment given in the 25th chapter of Matthew, the Judge is represented as saying to the sheep on His right hand, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have DONE it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have DONE it unto Me. And to the goats on His left hand, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye DID it not unto the least of these, ye DID IT NOT to me. What they had DONE in life fired their destiny on both sides. Doubtless, because it had before fixed their characters. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things DONE IN HIS BODY according to that HE HATH DONE, whether it be good or bad (2 Cor. v. 10).
The religious life, according to the Scriptures, is beautifully simple, rational, and complete. It is, to use the talents with which the All-Good has endowed us, and do no evil. We are shown what evil is by the Divine Commandments.
The law of life is sometimes given in the Divine Word by illustration, by example, and by parable, and sometimes by a single sentence; but it is always clear, and always reasonable. It is the absolute law of happiness. The virtues it commands are the essential foundations of well-being and peace. The evils it forbids are the certain causes of misery. God’s Commandments are easy in themselves; and if we obey sincerely and from our hearts, they soon become easy to us. It is delightful to learn of the Lord Jesus, who says, My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Human devices have made false virtues. Burdens have been laid upon man in the name of religion that are no duties at all in the sight of the Most High; and just as these human contrivances are multiplied the real duties of true religion are lightly esteemed.
To a large class in Christendom it has been represented that a higher perfection could be attained than that of the ordinary obedient Christian, by abstaining from marriage; and to the priesthood it has been made compulsory, as if the highest perfection was not the truest obedience to the ordinations of the Creator. The result of this war against that central source of all excellence and well-being, the sacred love of marriage, has been not blessedness, but untold impurity and misery.
Others have taken themselves from active life, and made a virtue of standing day and night on pillars, living in caves, fasting excessively, multiplying prayers and religious ceremonies, substituting their own fanatical conceits for the grand and simple laws of Divine Order, and the result has been the brutalization of themselves, not the production of those noblest of all our Heavenly Fathers works,wise, noble, beautiful, and happy human beings.
As self-conceit has substituted their unauthorized whims for the grand and simple lows of the Word of God, so self-will makes them fierce and exacting from others. They become self-absorbed, furious, and impatient, ready to persecute and to slaughter in the name of the Lord, but really under the influence of their own unsubdued and pent-up passions.
The inquisitions, those fellest crimes against the human race, were founded and worked by persons thus cut off from holy sympathies with their kind, holy because from the Divine Love; and because they cut themselves off from the blessed sympathies of social life, they became hard, unfeeling, and persecuting men, with whom it was no heaven to live here, and who had made themselves repulsive to the joys of heavenly life hereafter. In modern times, when it has become unhappily the practice to repudiate works altogether from religion, and to profess that we have a warrant to enter heaven by faith in the Lord’s death for us, solely, whenever that faith is experienced and confessed, it has, nevertheless, come to pass that works of a peculiar kind have been highly magnified, while the works of obedience to the Divine Will, of justice and mercy, have been correspondingly undervalued, and even decreed not to conduce to salvation.
Frequent attendance on the means of grace, diligence at prayer meetings, class meetings, revival meetings, continual reading of books of piety, ore by many regarded as the great duties of religion; and though not loudly avowed as meritorious in the sight of the Lord, are, nevertheless, suffered to engross so entirely the attention of many, as to evince that they have not yet well-learned the Divine lesson. To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. Means of grace are not grace. And, if they are multiplied, until duties are neglected, and the weightier matters of the law-justice, mercy, and faith–are not duly exercised, they make Pharisees, but not Christians. Justice is the central virtue of Christianity, and piety the means of attaining this. He hath showed thee, O man, what is good, and what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God (Micah. vi. 8).
Means should be attended to in the order of their importance; but the end should never be sacrificed; and the end of the Commandment is charity (the love of goodness), out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned (1 Tim. i. 5).
The red life of religion is twofold–the life of piety and the life of justice. The life of piety includes prayer to the Lord morning and evening, at especial times when the especial needs of the soul require it, and also at meals, reading the Word, and meditating upon Divine things. Faithfulness to Sabbath duties, as means to enable us to be faithful to all other duties. A constant effort to be well instructed in sound doctrine and spiritual truth, and the constant desire to be influenced by the Divine love and wisdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, and abide in communion with His angelic kingdom.
The life of justice is to do right in all things; to sacrifice selfish gain to the claims of truth and goodness always; to love the Divine commandments as the ways of peace and purity; and to do unto others as we would they should do unto us.
These comprehend the whole duty of man; and when these are attended to, life becomes beautiful, true, and happy. We experience then the fulfillment of the assurance of the blessed Savior–I come not to take your joy away from you, but that My joy may remain in you, and your joy may be full (John xv. 11).
The life of religion is a delightful life. It is the denial of nothing but sin. It is a life in harmony with the love of God and man. It is a life of uprightness and justice, of innocence and goodwill, without crookedness and without remorse. It secures the roses of life without its thorns. It is a life of cheerful energy and health, of vigorous manhood and true enjoyment, far from the aches and pains which revelries induce. At peace with his Savior, the good man knows all is well. He has a cheerful spirit, rejoicing in life, and passing it as his Master did–doing good. Life here having been blessed, he knows it is a blessed thing to die.
A good man and an angel! These between,
How thin the barrier, what divides their fate?
Perhaps a moment, or perhaps a year.
The life of religion ought to begin in early childhood. The Lord has prepared the young soul for a true knowledge of Himself, for help thoughts, and sacred lessons. A child will hang wonderingly and lovingly on the sweet narration that tells of angels and of heaven, of good men, and the victories of virtue in days gone by; and above all, of the Lord of life, and of His wonders when He dwelt on earth. The child will love to lisp its little prayer, and gather from the prayer of prayers that the will of God should be done on earth as it is done is heaven. The little soul should be gently led, and fortified by the histories and precepts of Holy Writ lovingly as it delights to hear them; but they should be given, here a little, and there a little. We should teach them diligently unto our children, and talk of them when we sit in the house, and when we walk by the way, and when we lie down, and when we rise up (Deut. vi. 7), Thus is the young soul prepared for the struggles of life, and especially for that greatest of all struggles–the conquest of self.
If a child is thus early taught that God is love, and its unchangeable friend; that His providence watches over all events and circumstances of life, and overrules all things for the best; that the Lord’s commandments are the laws of happiness, and can never be contravened but at the expense of self-inflicted misery; and if these precepts are manifestly the laws of life to its parents, then is such a child trained as the Lord would have it trained, and it will escape ten thousand false fears and cruel mischiefs. Such a child will be easily guided in the great concerns of life, and saved from defilements and errors which engulph millions, and from which some escape but with rude conflicts and terrible scars.
Imbued thus early with a life of piety and virtue in the atmosphere of a happy religious home, the young soul would be stored with every requisite for meeting those self-revelations which the temptations of later life would unfold. The struggles against sin would be real struggles, and real victories would be achieved. Owing to the too limited application of religion to life, a large amount of our conduct is supposed by many to be neutral ground. The temper is usually dealt with very leniently, if a person does not swear. A hasty, bitter, unkind manner, is often attributed to temperament, and not made the subject of prayer and especial persevering effort, that it may he changed into a patient, considerate, gentle respect for the feelings and the rights of others.
The whole domain of business is considered neutral, and in the transactions of trade, a latitude is allowed at which angels must weep.
Trade swarms with frauds. So many tricks and misrepresentations abound, that the utmost vigilance and the utmost skill are scarcely able to defend even the long-established; and hard indeed is it for novitiates to withstand the impositions of the conning. The crafty wiles of some wide-reaching villains, who spread their meshes through vast dishonest undertakings over half county, spread sorrow among thousands, and gild their harness with the plundered savings of honest industry, the filched support of widows and of orphans, are deadlier far than open robbery. The highwayman strips one victim of what he carries; these cheat multitudes of their all. The one is readily condemned; the other, through a depraved public sentiment, often escapes. Only the light of religion can combat these subtle refuges of lies, and tear these spider-webs asunder.
They are not always detected here, but in the eternal world they will be all unveiled, for there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, neither hid that shall not be made known.
Whether successful or unsuccessful it the worlds esteem, the selfish plunderer is no doubt punished here. Could we lift the mask, and see the sordid man as he is, filled with cares, anxieties, lusts, passions, fears, doubts, hates, gnashing with disappointment when defeated, clutching the poor booty when successful, and for another figure in his bank-book, or for a larger house and more fields, hardening himself in villainy, and digging a deeper pit, and insuring a deadlier fall, we might pity those who are so ruthless to their fellow citizens.
Conspicuous, some short time ago, was the case of the bankers clerk, who had carried on a long fraud of twenty years; giving himself no respite, no holiday for all that time; incessantly on the watch and on the rack, yet still plundering. He had heaped up sixty thousand pounds, but was fit last detected, and while being conveyed away, sunk in paralysis, a helpless imbecile; the type, sooner or later, of all his tribe. A prostration, slow but sure, of all that is manly, that is angelic, even of the intellect itself, comes from persistent sin. The outer darkness of which the Savior speaks, is that horrid night of the soul that comes when conscience and reason are both alike completely wrecked by guilty perseverance in wrong.
When the heart, that is deceitful above all things, has so depraved the understanding that the light which is in a man becomes darkness, and he is insane from baseness, all is over with him, and such is the awful termination of every way that leads to destruction, no matter how far covered over by worldly success.
When the Savior had been prepared by going down into Egypt, by the training of the temple, by obedience to home duties and attendance in the synagogues, he was led into the wilderness to be tempted. Now, men are taken into the workshop, the counting-house, the bank-parlor, or on change to be tempted, and there temptations as real occur, as those of old, and essentially similar to them. Angels and fiends are near. Their principles operate in man. He stands between heaven and hell, and has to fight his fearful battle. His eternal destiny depends upon what he chooses. The Savior was tried first by the suggestion to get at bread in some ready way, not wait for the slow but divine method, but take what was at hand, and turn stones into bread. Next he was urged to recklessness, to cast Himself down, expecting that Divine Providence would prevent the consequences of His willfulness and folly. And, lastly, the false glare of worldly dominion was spread before Him, and He was promised by the deluding demon the kingdoms of the world and its glory, if He would but become a self-seeking demon-worshiper. The Savior conquered by the Word, to show us how to conquer; the devil departed, and angels came and ministered unto Him.
Now, see that young man in his counting-house. He is at the early part of his career, and poor. He has come into a low state, and is discouraged. Trade is gloomy, returns are slow; the ordinary operations of genuine business will be a considerable time before they make that successful return for which he longs; the tempter comes. The idea is suggested, that the supply in the usual way will be very slow; there are short ways in his power to become speedily rich. He can make a false show. He can adulterate his wares. He can put out worthless paper. He can present in some form that which to many will appear to be bread, but which will turn out only to be a stone. Near this young man are infernals with their fraud, and also angels with the suggestion, that all true life is lived in harmony with that Divine Word, which proceeds from the mouth of God.
Happy is he who listens to the angels, and conquers like his Lord.
Again the tempter comes. Be reckless care nothing about orderly means–make a dash. You see no good down there, but plunge. It seems wrong enough, but perhaps Providence will make it right; who knows? The temptation thickens. Others have done wild things, and sometimes they have seemed to answer; shall he?
Self-will is urged to plunge recklessly down to meannesses, from which it has revolted, to a blind, rash, base course, under the delirious fancy that somehow no harm will be done; in some way the destruction that others have sustained will be averted. The tempter says, make the plunge, dash down. The young man is enveloped in gloom, and agitated with doubt, fear, and distress. But a voice comes from within, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. He listens. He adopts it in faith, and a second time is saved.
Again the tempter comes. This time love of the world is greatly excited. There is displayed before the young mans mind the large business, the great profits, the extensive establishments of many who are reputed to stick at nothing which will accomplish ready success. Look at that millionaire, whose ledger is his Bible, and whose counting-house is his church, even on Sunday. See his splendid mansion in the country, the respect that is paid to him in the city. His goods are falsely marked, to imitate whatever is successful; his lengths are dishonest; he will take advantage of any poor tradesmans necessities to grind him down to the dust nothing is too unfair for him to propose, or to carry out, if only it will succeed. Do as he does, and glories equal to his shall be yours, nay, greater even, for the kingdoms of this world, and the glory of them are given up to the unprincipled, the ambitious, the false, the energetically unscrupulous. The young man is sorely tried; an overweening desire to be great and powerful infests him; the devil; taketh him up to an exceedingly high mountain. Day after day, and month after month the tempting influence assails in many cases. The young man prays fur help, but for a while no help comes. The infernal delusion is pressed on. All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. At times he is near falling; but faith in Divine Truth sustains Him. He is almost in despair, when there comes over his mind, like a dictate from heaven, which indeed it is,–Get thee hence, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shall thou serve.
Then the devil leaveth him, and behold angels come and minister unto him (Matt. iv. 11).
These temptations are life temptations. The weak fall in them; the faithful conquer.
Let us analyze a scene like this, and something like it must be the experience of every young man in the present condition of trade and commercial affairs in the world, where gilded fraud is rampant, and where by vast numbers of professing Christians it is said, and by another great number the idea is connived at, that religion has in this field nothing to do.
These say, religion is a matter of faith, faith in the fact that Christ died for you. Believe that, and you are saved that very minute. Religion is indeed a matter of faith; but it is faith not in one incident only, but in all we know of the Savior, His character, His life, His works, His teachings, His death, His resurrection and ascension; His government of heaven and earth, His coming to us and regenerating us by His Spirit. It is a faith in what HE REQUIRES US to do and be, as well as a faith in what HE WAS AND IS. He who believes what he pleases, and passes over what he pleases, of the Lord’s teaching, has no faith in the Savior. He has only a faith in his own intellect, rather in his own caprice. True faith is the entire surrender of the heart, soul, and life, to the Spirit and commandments of the Lord Jesus, and is founded on love to Him. With the heart a man believes unto righteousness.
Let us, then, analyze the temptation to which we have adverted. The young man is in the midst, between two groups of influences. He is fresh, we will suppose, from a virtuous home. He has much love for God and goodness, which has been stored up and strengthened in him by his Heavenly Father, from within and from without, through earliest childhood and to his entrance upon life. He has been well taught in the Sacred Scriptures, and has faith in those teachings. He has a straightforward mind and truthful character. His imagination has pictured grand things to come from upright dealing and virtuous living. He has a high feeling of honor. He views trade as it means by which, with rectitude, frugality, perseverance, and energy, he can achieve competence and respectability, and render service to mankind.
He anticipates working hard, perhaps, but he anticipates civility and sympathy from his companions, uprightness in his employer, and fairness and honesty in those with whom his business brings him into contact. He has probably much poetry and romance in his disposition, and his musings have pictured life with a roseate hue, and presented an honorable career as his, sustained with comfort, and crowned with a goodly family, and the modest splendor of a beauteous home. Now, see him launched into life. His companions often coarse, flashy, rude, and unprincipled. His employer pursuing a trade tainted with questionable devices. He is expected to push business by cajolery, by misrepresentation, by tricks, by falsehood even. He observes those in high favor who do this. He sees all around him things done which shock his sense of truth and right. His faith begins to waver. Temptations commence.
The hereditary dispositions to evil are called out. His vanity, his pride, his envy, his love of gain, his love of pleasure are called up, and every weakness is skillfully played upon. He needs all the help that his religion can give him, and sad indeed is it for him if he has been led to think that religion has nothing to do with these things. He sinks down into a worldling, and throws aside his youthful virtuous impressions and religion altogether, as impracticable things that wont do for this world at all, or into that verbally Christian, but semi-infidel state which gives a Sunday respect to religion, but neglects it all the rest of the week. In either case the man is debased, the real work of life is left undone, and the evils of his hereditary nature are strengthened, hardened, and intensified by his whole actual daily life. A devil has no great objection to prayers, and a few stray pious thoughts transiently passing over the mind on the Sunday, so that the absolute, active, practical work of life is done by evil principles, which form the soul for hell. The lusts and passions which bear sway in such a soul acquire power by daily action and by evil deeds. Bad maxims and bird habits acquire strength continually. He gradually believes less and less in integrity, sincerity, and truth anywhere, as they die out in himself. He grows suspicious, malevolent, impatient; is never satisfied; ceases to believe in peace, contentment, or happiness on this side of the grave, and has many misgivings of a hereafter.
The love of the world goes on absorbing such an one more nod more completely, until his thoughts are ever wandering after the indulgence of his leading propensity, be it love of gain, the passion for fame, or the lust of sensual indulgence, and, if he lives long enough, he becomes a dotard and an imbecile, ever craving to indulge the ruling passion, his reason broken down, his candlestick taken out of his place (Rev. ii. 6).
On the other land, if the young disciple in life has been taught that the very object of living in the world is to acquire by choice and practice a Christian, that is, an angelic character, he will be prepared for the struggle, and armed with a sense of its tremendous issue. He will not deceive himself with lip-service, or with thought-faith. He will know that he must work out his salvation with fear and trembling, and the time to be true is the time when he is tempted. take up his cross daily (not weekly), and follow the Lord (Luke ix. 23); and when he is proposed to be a party to that which would be unjust and unprincipled, he will courteously but firmly intimate his obedience to God, rather than to unrighteous men. Sometimes he will find his integrity will win esteem; sometimes it will provoke dislike, and bring him loss. He must be prepared to be a martyr, if need be; for such are the martyrs required in our day. But he must preserve his love for his Saviors law and commandment under all circumstances, for on this his salvation depends. No matter that in fancy he prefers the Savior and His Kingdom, if in act he denies Him, in his inward soul he betrays his Master, and denies the Lord that bought him. There is a canker in his soul, and it will be sure to find him out.
If, however, he fight and overcome, he will find a blessing from the Lord; all that is good in him will be strengthened; his love, his faith, his virtue, will be established, and the foundation will be laid of a real heavenly character. Having conquered once by power from the Lord, he will conquer more readily the next time, and the next. The power of evil, like the house of Saul, will wax feebler and feebler; the power of good, like the house of David, will wax stronger and stronger. The grand constituents of a Christian life are three-charity, faith, and good works–the trinity in religion; and, like the Divine Trinity, these three are one. He who has charity in its strict and proper sense, that is, the LOVE OF GOODNESS, will have faith in goodness, and in the Lord the Source of goodness; and he who has love and faith will no GOOD. Charity rejoiceth in the truth, and believeth all things (1st Cor. xiii. 6, 7).
True faith is not a conviction or some one truth in which we suppose we see some selfish advantage, but a living confidence in all truth founded in the LOVE OR TRUTH, and going forth into obedience. Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works (James ii. 17, 18). Works, then, are the embodiment of faith and love. Such as the faith and love are, such are the works, and vice versa. Where there are no holy love and holy faith, there will be no good works; where there are some love and faith in the soul, there will be some good in the works; like fruit not ripe, the works will not be of that pure character they ought to be, but they will be improving. When love and faith reign in the soul, the works will be truly good; and while the Lord approves them, by them men will be led to glorify our Father who is in
Good works, truly good works, are never alone. They presuppose two other things which underlie them: FAITH, which believes in the truth that the Lord is, and that He concerns Himself with us, and requires our obedience; and under this, there is the LOVE of truth, which disposes us to accept and obey it. Those who are condemned, are so because they received not the love of truth, that they might be saved (2nd Ep. Thess. ii. 10).
Good works are not saving because there is any merit in them, but because they manifest the inner life which fits the soul for heaven. The fruit-tree has no merit that it bears, but because it bears it is fitted to be part of an orchard; and if it did not bear, or if it bore worthless fruit, it would be fitted only to be cut down and cast out.
A man has, of course, far different capabilities and powers from those of a tree, but he has no merit in the use of any of them, however wise he may be in such use, for in every good use he makes of them the greatest advantages fire with himself, and all he can do is to fit himself for higher and higher blessings. What have we that we have not received, will be the confession of the highest angel as well as the lowliest Christian. By the grace of God we care what we are.
Good works, though not meritorious, are essential to the salvation of man; for as a man is what his works are, when seen in their real character, if good works; are not present in it mans life, the man himself is not good; and if he is not good, he is evil; that is, NOT SAVED. The Lord is a Savior because He saves His people FROM THEIR SINS (Matt. i. 21).
In every stage of mans religious life, he is required in the Word of God to keep a steady eye on his works, as the evidences to himself as well as to others of his inner state. When he first begins the life of religion, and confesses himself a sinner, he should not do this in technical phrase and set expression, without examination and without reflection, but he ought really to compare himself with the Divine commandments, and see what his failings are, and pray to the Lord for power to overcome them. He should repent of the sins he sees in his conduct and feels in himself and be especially on his guard at those times and in those circumstances when they are most wont to beset him. Too many are betrayed into the idea that they are saved, because they are persuaded at some meeting they are saved, although their leading faults are the same after this fancied salvation as before.
The whole of the religion of a large number of persons, including especially the abettors and the attenders of revival meetings, consist of two states of excitement, each equally based on false persuasions, the one an excitement grounded on the idea that God is full of wrath, and is threatening them every moment with death here and horrors infinite in hell, and the other that as soon as they believe in Christ their sins are wiped away, and they become suddenly as white as snow. They are raised to a phrensy of terror by a false description of Deity, and then transferred to a phrensy of delight by a false confidence that all their salvation is completed, when the real work of changing their characters has hardly yet begun; while the mischief is increased by the assurances of the spreaders of this superficial religion, that man has nothing to do, no commandments to keep, no repentance to effect, no works to perform. How different is this from the calls of the Word, any sincere render of the Scriptures will readily perceive. A religion popularized at the expense of its truth and honesty, loses in depth and worth what it gains in breadth, and becomes an elaborate deception.
The code of worldly honor, artificial as it is, and overlooking as it does the detestable dishonor of betraying weak women to self-degradation and a loss for them of life’s brightest, purest treasures, is yet safer to be trusted in monetary matters than that spurious sanctimoniousness which teaches a man to believe he is saved, but leaves him selfish, keen, and greedy. Such a man will be honest where he MUST, and slippery where he CAN. He has merely altered the form of his sin. He may no longer be among the outwardly profane, but be is among those who betray the Son of Man with a kiss. He may be severed from the hell of the boldly bad, but he is fast as ever to the hell of the ill-tempered, the deceitful, the avaricious or the covetous, or some other of the more decent, but not less deadly sins. Little children, let no man deceive you; he that DOETH righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest; and the children of the devil; whosoever DOETH NOT RIGHTEOUSNESS, is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. And whatsoever we ask we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and DO those things that are pleasing in His sight. And he that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in Him, and He in him. And hereby we know that He abideth in us by the Spirit which he had given. us (1 John iii. 7, 10, 22, 24).
The works of a sincere religious life may be regarded as threefold, not because there is any essential difference in them, but merely for convenience and orderly arrangement.
There are, first, those which regard man’s personal life and duties; secondly, those which regard his domestic life and duties; and, thirdly, those which regard his public life and duties. Though we have noble germs of the Divine Image in us, yet by our fallen nature we are prone to evil; and all, more or less, in one form or another, have fallen into actual evil. When, therefore, the voice of religion begins to make itself powerful in the soul, and the eternal concerns of a man begin to affect him as they ought, when truth comes home to him and asks how he stands as to the things that belong to his peace, the light that flashes over him discovers his failings, and presents him to himself in an entirely new point of view. He is convicted of sins; he feels wrong in everything; he does nothing rightly as it ought to be done.
He sees sins of temper, sins of omission and sins of commission, sins of forgetfulness and sins of purpose, sins of habit and sins of passion. He who cannot discover what he has done and is doing amiss, knows nothing yet as he ought to know. The true penitent sees himself stained with sin all over. He feels himself convicted of sin, and he feels himself helpless. He may, perhaps, be some time before he comes to the sense of his helplessness. He tries a variety of resolutions and expedients, like the woman in the gospel who had tried all sorts of physicians for twelve years, but in vain, and then came to touch the Saviors garment, and was made whole. So with the real penitent. The voice of Divine truth, like that of John the Baptist, cries constantly within him, Bring forth fruits meet for repentance. Prepare ye the way of the Lord. He continues to feel a helplessness, a faultiness, and a hollowness in all he does. A sense of need of a Savior grows upon him, or perhaps flashes suddenly upon him. He is blind, and needs some one to open his eyes; he is deaf, and needs some one to make him quick to perceive, and docile to obey; his hands are withered, and he needs some one to give him power to stretch them forth; he is palsied altogether, and cannot walk; he is drowning; and he wants a hand to save him; or dead, spiritually, and bound in grave-clothes, and needs a voice Divine to permeate through him, and give him life to arise from the dead, and to command that the disciples shall loose him and let him go. To the real penitent these are real states, though spiritual. He does not confess himself a sinner without knowing himself to be so. He sees in what he sins. He sees he cannot regenerate himself. His want of a Savior grows daily more and more upon him, and at length arises to yearning, overpowering demand, Lord, help me, or I perish. To a soul in this state the Lord Jesus surely comes, sooner or later, and his fears are turned into joy his weakness into strength, his diseases into health, his death into life, and, as far as he can yet bear, his hell into heaven. His feet are placed on the path of life, and he goes on his way rejoicing. He feels the Saviors love as the balm of love infinite, as that of One who lived and died for him. All doubts fly at the feeling He died for me, and ever lives, with all power in heaven and earth to give repentance, remission of sins, salvation, and peace to all now effected is a real change. If he were sour, sulky, or peevish in temper, he will have become loving, gentle, and kind.
If guilty of the ruder sins, he will resolve to sin no more, and will feel new power to do so. He will feel pity for the faults of others, but be unsparing upon his own. In the exultation of the time, he will conceive much more has been done than could possibly be effected; this, time and Divine working within him will correct, but there will be a sincere, honest change is his habits, and especially in relation to the errors of life in which his weaknesses chiefly consisted. He will be sensitive as the mimosa to the touch of his old evils, and be impressed with the incalculable value of the prayer, Lead us not into temptation. There will be no mistake in his demeanor. He will sit at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind. He will exult, like the Israelites when they had crossed the Red Sea and suppose that all his work is done, because his early fetters are now completely broken. But no matter for that, let him rejoice in the Lord. He has become a freeman of heaven, a disciple of the Savior. And, though future toils, and labors, and combats will come, let him live awhile, mature himself, and gather strength and healing from the sun of righteousness, and when future wrestlings come, as his days, so shall his strength be.
Our Lord says, Make the tree good, and his fruit good (Matt. xii. 33). And, what we are especially anxious to urge now upon the young disciple of the Savior is, that he must look to his Lord for power to live, and look to his life that it be a genuine obedience to the commandments, from love to the Savior and faith in Him. If the fruits are not altered, the tree is not altered. The fruit will be young, and small, find immature for a time; but it will be honest fruit. It is described by an apostle thusThe fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (Gal. v. 22, 23). Whatever were his faults before, now, in meekness, gentleness, and goodness, he will strive to keep the commandments of his Lord and Savior. The young soldier of Christ will take up his cross DAILY, but he will rejoice in his cross; he will see it is surmounted by a crown. His salvation will be salvation from sin. His new life will be evidenced by his works; not, indeed, the works of a Judaising spirit, which Paul condemned, but the Christian works of faith, which he enforced–the faith which works by love, the holy works of loving obedience.
Paul said, For circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but the keeping of the commandments of God (1 Cor. vii. 19). In self-denying devotion to real usefulness, is temper, in rectitude, in temperance, in punctuality to word and work, in patience, he will be a new man. This will be seen by others, and he will feel himself that he has the inestimable treasures in himself of love, joy, and peace.
As he advances in his spiritual growth, and the early fervors of his blessed life pass away, he will discover defects in his obedience, and new interior foes to be encountered; but will a new heart nod a right spirit, he will persevere, and be another illustration of the Sacred promise–The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and He delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholdeth him with His hand (ver. 23, 24).
There are, however, 2ndly, household works of true religion, by which a Christian ought to be tested, and may test himself. The relations of home are inestimably important. An unhealthy sentimentality in religion which supposes that excitement is salvation, oftentimes absorbs the professors so entirely in self, that all others, and their duties to others, are of no account. They slight father, mother, husband, wife, sister, brother, servants their masters, and masters their servants, and all the duties embraced by these sacred relations are treated as trifling, or worthy only of contempt. Intoxicated by excited feeling, they undervalue the great laws of mutual relationship, sad mutual responsibility, in which we are placed by our Divine Creator, and the more religious they are, the less faithful they are to those great charges which result from the ordinations of the All-wise. But, in this respect, also, By their fruits ye shall know them. It was once said to me, by a sincere young Christian, who had been much hurt by the proceedings of many she had known, Can you tell me, sir, how it happens, that the people of God (to avoid mistake, I must remark, she meant on this occasion, excited Calvinists), have such very bad tempers? I fear, was the reply, that it is because they are not the people of God; they only think they are. So, often, zealous parents, excited by a fanatical religion, will neglect their duties to their children and their homes, under the idea that their own salvation depends upon this absorbing attention to means, instead of attention to duties.
But nothing of this kind has the slightest sanction in the Word of God, or in reason. The man who prefers himself to his duties, is not denying self, and he who does not deny himself is not following the Lord. They who give good reason to their immediate connexions to complain that their just duties are neglected, are not serving the Lord by doing justly. We are placed in families to minister especially to the regeneration and happiness of those with whom the Providence of the Lord has placed us, and if we are neglecting this, and depressing them by our avoidance of our sacred duties at home, and to our home relations, we need much to distrust ourselves, and our excitements. We are offending our brethren for whom our Lord died. We are preferring feeling to DOING, and our Lord says, So likewise ye, when ye SHALL HAVE DONE all these things which are commanded, you say we are unprofitable servants, we have done that which was our duty to do (Luke xvii. 10). The religion that does not make fathers and mothers more loving, attentive, gentle, kind, faithful, and self-sacrificing to their children whom God has given them to train for heaven, the religion which does not more truly conjoin husbands and wives in the tenderest bonds of considerate affection, and blend them and more into one, the religion that does not make brothers and sisters deferential to each other, and heartily and generously helpful, the religion that does not invest all duty with the sacred charm of delight, this is not the religion of Him, who said, Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, shall in NO CASE enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matt. v. 21).
True religion remembers that heaven is a grand home, and seeks by every art and act of loving duty to make the home on earth like heaven; earthly brothels and sisters like brother and sister angels, and love and minister to them for the sake of Him who is the Father, and seeks to become the Savior, of them all.
Oh! Be kind to each other,
The nights coming on,
When friend and when brother
Perchance may be gone.
Then, midst our affliction,
How sweet to have earned,
The blest recollection
Of kindness returned.
Oh! Be kind to each other,
The nights coming on,
when friend and when brother
Perchance may be gone.
3rdly, In the order of good works which constitute the Christian life are the duties of our office, position, or employment.
We have already observed that different and varied uses and employments in the world are beautiful ministries, ordained by the Infinite Worker, who, from Divine love, operates to bless all His works, and who seeks to bless man by making him a loving worker.
The man or woman without any useful work in hand is the pitiable slave of ennui. Hard work is far better than no work. Hard work absorbs in useful toil the boiling energies of the masses, which otherwise would flow over into excesses destructive to the world. But, no doubt, as true Christianity wills the working classes to thought, to improvement, to spirituality and self-control, long bouts and heavy toil will both give way, and cheerful labor and enlightened relaxation will make human life easy as well as happy, while machines will multiply production and almost destroy fatigue. The head will do more and the hands less. This is evidently the whole destiny of things now. Bunt never will work cease; never should it, happy will it be when our children are all taught that work is a sacred thing inspired from the Most High; that in heaven even, the angels, that excel is strength, no His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His Word. All His hosts are ministers of His, that DO His pleasure (Ps. ciii. 20, 21). The seraphs are burning ones, who glow with love to do what the Lord has gifted them to perform. The cherubs are guarding ones, who keep sacredly the truths of heaven from being perverted or profaned. Every work on earth is a ministry from heaven. Can that be any other than a sacred change which turns barren wastes into smiling corn-fields and beauteous gardens? Can that work be any other than a sacred thing which builds and embellishes cities, forms beauteous mansions, which evolves and constructs the wondrous miracles of our machinery, connects counties and kingdoms by magnificent roads and rapid conveyances, which covets the ocean with countless fleets, each bearing its varying height, and all multiplying the blessed links which bind the whole human family in mutual benefit and mutual blessing.
What would man be, what would the world be, without this glorious ministry of work? A selfish reptile, coiled up in his miserable waste, driven at intervals to fiendish exertion, to seize and prey upon the plunder which would satisfy his hanger, and, when glutted, then sink down again. Can that, again, we say, which transforms the human serpent-savage to a man, be other than a sacred thing, an inestimable blessing?
While labor, for the good, is a blessed ministry; for the bad, it is the only amelioration. Benedict was compelled to provide work in the sixth century for his works, for without it these pseudo-pious men had become the pests of the church. Our criminals, without work, become moody and insane. Well, then, has religion no duties in relation to active life and business? What then, did our Lord mean when He said, Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (justice), and all things shall be added unto you? Is it not clear that we should seek the Lord’s kingdom, and justice in everything? he workmen should seek it in honestly and sincerely doing the best that skill and sincerity will permit him, and do it cheerfully, loving to think he is serving God by serving his fellow man. The employer should seek by every skilful arrangement to promote the well-being of his workman, and, by cheerfully giving the best wages he can afford, to contribute to the comfort and well-being of his family and home.
The capitalist, the merchant, the statesman, the legislator; all, from the highest to the lowest ministries of life, should strive in justice and judgment to bring religion into life, and remember that the measure by which they do this is the precise measure of their personal religion.
Religion’s path they never trod
Who equity condemn,
Nor ever are they just to God
Who prove unjust to men.
By this we know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. The want of these good works in life is precisely the one want of this age. It is precisely the want which prevents the will of our Heavenly Father being done on earth as it is done in heaven. It cannot be light for religion to disclaim this regeneration of the world, and profess to have nothing to do with these outer works.
Oh, no. By faith in the Saviors love and providence; by conscientious devotion to right; by lovingly seeking to perfect our talent and skill by increasing intelligence, and spreading it into every cottage; by a just performance of our duties, by seeking through prayer every help that we need, we shall feel heaven already within ourselves, know it in our homes, and spread it through every avenue of society and relation in life, until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever. Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.
Oh, that every reader of these pages would ponder well upon the unspeakable importance of DEEDS in human life!
An act of fraud in an employer who provides bad materials or stinted strength in a building, or an act of dishonest idleness, or careless incompetency in the erection of a building, often issues in a catastrophe which makes many a wife a widow, and many a child an orphan. An act of fraud in the commercial world may ruin a firm, stop a manufactory, send want, misery disease, and it may be death, to the cottage of the industrious artisan. An set of violence on the part of a despot, may lead, as in the late terrible instance of the Northern Autocrat, to the destruction of a quarter of a million of men. Acts of trickery, spread through all departments of society, fill life with suspicion and distrust and rob it of half its joys. Business, as it is, destroys that happy confidence, that loving reliance on one another, which would come from genial upright transactions, and make trade, what it is really intended to be, a blessed interchange of mutual good. Trade is a noble thing, a holy thing. It links man to man, family to family, kingdom to kingdom, by mutual needs and mutual benefits. Trade is no gambler, who only gains when another loses, and only rejoices in another’s distress. Gambling is akin to hell; but trade blesses all who partake in it. Both sides are givers and receivers. If one gains by honest trade, two gain, or it may be thousands. It is heavens own mode of civilizing, of raising, and blessing man. Can, then, those mean frauds which poison and degrade a thing so beneficial, and so sacred, be venial faults, or matters neutral? Real truth, and candid integrity in trade, would double at least the blessings, and the enjoyments of life.
Let us regard dishonesty in business in relation to the doer. If a man over-reach another in the duality of the article he makes or sells, or in its measures or genuineness in any say, why is it? Clearly he loves dishonest gain, more than he loves his neighbor; nay, more than he loves uprightness itself, or duty. He loves his own least gain more than he loves his neighbors prosperity, or comfort, his health, or life.
If he knowingly persist in undermining the commands of God, does he not love himself and his will more than the Divine Commandments, or the Divine Love that gave them?
And if he cherish in his heart and act in his life self-love, and the unjust love of the world, is he not retaining and strengthening in himself the very essence of the lower kingdom? Will not the Searcher of hearts say, The kingdom of hell is within you?
What must the real belief of any one be who persists in corrupt acts in business? Must it not be a faith in cunning, in fraud, in over-reaching, in love of gain, in love of self? He may say, I believe the Savior died on the cross for me. And so he did. It was precisely to save us all, from every iniquity, that the Savior died. He lived and died, that we might have the perfect assurance from His own act, and His own lips, that He, the God of the universe, has conquered all hell, and will save us from all evil. But if a man believes that his well-being depends upon evil, that evil is still more powerful than good, he does not believe in the Savior; he dares not venture his all on Him; his faith is vain.
Life is the test of our faith. Our works reveal what we are. The Savior said, When the Son of Man shall come, shall he find faith in the earth? And, truly, if by faith we mean a full trust in Him, and His commandments, then must it be confessed that it is small and weak in the earth, and especially so in its business relations. Yet it is rising. There are germs in many n conscience, of a higher life in business. The snow-drops appear above the wintry chill. There are here find there men who pray not to be taken out of the work, but to be kept from the evil.
Oh, for the increase of this goodly reformation! Oh, that every Christian man would look at his business, or occupation, as the circle he has to make like heaven, and remember that his success or his failure is the measure of what he is.
Is he not true in his business? he is not a lover of truth. Is he not true in his business? he is not a lover of justice. Justice and truth are essentially emanations from the Divine Nature, and are like the Lord Himself. He who does love them, does not love Him.
To carry the Christian life into each mans work and occupation, should be the daily prayer, and daily effort of every one of us. What wonders might not then be achieved, what a happy life would business-life then become. Each trade would be ennobled, each workman would be a man of honor; an active co-operator with the Lord, higher, far higher, than the worlds men of honor.
The young workman, true and energetic, faithful and generous, with a holy love to the Lord, as the God of all that is useful, would go cheerfully to his labor, and do it as and act of religion. He would pray for strength to be dutiful and sincere, and to bring out in his work the greatest excellence, and the greatest beauty. When age had matured him, his habits would have become those of willing goodness, of entire trustworthiness. The employer would regard it as a work of religion to do justly by all in his service, to regard them as intelligent and worthy companions in life, as fellow-immortals, and each one as important is his sphere as himself, or the capitalist in his. The poor man would then be a noble man. There would be sympathy and association amongst all classes. The head and the hand, the heart and the feet, would cheerfully serve each other. The world of trade would be regenerated, and be truly a happy world. This would be the motto of all, One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren. The workers in metals, the workers in stones, the workers in wood, as in old time, would know that they were inspired by the Lord, and filled with wisdom and intelligence from Him, and were doing daily what He commanded them
The employer, the merchant, the commercial man, the artist, the poet, the philosopher, the legislator, the divine, each working from love and faith, each inspired from Jesus Christ, the central sun of the soul,–the Divine Man, infinite love manifested, each round Him, like the several planets, doing their daily duty, each receiving and imparting the affection and the light, in which they live and move, and have their being, would labor for holy ends; and whether they are able to do little or much, they would do it oil for Him, who has done all for them.
Every work when pursued from a lofty end, is a work most noble. Every use, however humble is dignified, when done from love and duty. The poorest shed where some great work was done, becomes thereby dignified. So every duty of life, however apparently insignificant in itself, when regarded as the part appointed us to do by the Lord of Life, and done from love to Him, becomes a grand work, and it is only for life’s whole duties to be performed in that spirit, and all the world would become truly blessed.
Some high or humble enterprise of good
Contemplate, till it shall possess thy mind,
Become thy study, pastime, rest, and food,
And kindle in thy heart a flame refined.
Pray heaven for firmness thy whole soul to bind
To this thy purpose–to begin, pursue,
With thoughts all fixed, and feelings purely kind,
Strength to complete, and with delight review.
And grace to give the praise, where all is ever due.
Rouse to some work of high and holy love,
And then an angels happiness shall know,
Shalt bless the earth, while in the world above.
In many a branching stream, and wider grow
The seed that in these few and fleeting hours
Thy hands unsparing and unwearied sow,
Shall deck thy gave with amaranthine flowers,
And yield thee fruits divine in heavens immortal bowers.
The true method of carrying religion into every department of life, into the warehouses and workshops, and overcoming the obstacles which stand in the way, the pulpit can only vaguely indicate. The workers themselves can far better do that. They know the details of wrong, and can, with divine help, best see the road to right. It should, therefore, be the aim of each man to tarry the lamp of divine truth into his own operations; to pray for the love, the faith, and the courage to do right; to be content with what his Heavenly Father gives him by right doing, he it little or much. The gaudy gains of unrighteousness are but gilded misery. In the race of fraud, he loses most who wins most. A corrupt soul can only carry its corruptions, not its gains, into its everlasting home, and cannot enjoy its gains, even here, as a human soul should. Innocence gives contentment and peace, and energy and intellect will always give comfort.
Let all men trust in God, live virtuously, and cultivate their powers, and all may say, in a ripe and virtuous old age, I have been young, and now am old; but I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.
There is a custom among the miners of Saxony exceedingly valuable and exceedingly interesting. They assemble before descending their pits, either of coal or silver, and sing a hymn, hear a psalm or chapter, and utter a short prayer to the Lord, for His protection and blessing. I have been with them at four o’clock in the morning, at such a service, lasting about twenty minutes, when relays of workmen have been needed to keep the works constantly in operation, and four hundred stalwart honest working men have shown piety and labor in loving union; and health, order, and happiness have been the goodly result. Why should not every trade have essentially the same thing? These men come along cheerfully, with their tools and their hymn-book; one of their number leads the service, and concludes by wishing them success in their labor in the name of the Lord; and these workmen, though their occupation is rude, are intelligent, polite, virtuous, self-reliant, trustful, and cheerful as any class of men can be. Why may not our miners and iron-workers do and be the same? Our hardy workmen, noble in their skill, and noble in their usefulness, and often noble in their good-will to one another, and their love of fairness, need only the purifying and hallowing influences of an intelligent religion, to make them as great blessings to their class as the work they do is a blessing to their race.
How grand it would be to see the workmen of our metal trades polish themselves, as they do their steel; make their own intellectual powers as thorough for their work as their steam-engines are, and advancing in self-progress as vigorously as the trains and vessels of whose machines they are the makers, and the life and soul! They would all be mutual supporters then, and their thousand comfortable homes would give a ready fund for instant help in the few cases of temporary sorrow. Let each man pray for this to the Lord Jesus Christ, who came in the workman’s class; who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and who now dignifies work by ministering unto all.
Oh! that the working classes would lay this seriously to heart, and follow the advice of one of our poets in their own ranks, whose bunting words are words of wisdom, as well as words of poetic fire.
O youth! Flame earnest, still aspire
With energies immortal;
to many a heaven of desire
Our yearning opes a portal.
And, tho Age wearies by the way,
And hearts break in the furrow,
Well sow the golden grain today,–
The Harvest comes tomorrow.
Build up heroic lives, and all
Be like a sheathen sabre,
Ready to flash out, at God’s call,
O chivalry of labor!
Triumph and toil are twins, and aye
Joy suns the cloud of sorrow;
And tis the martyrdom today
Brings victory tomorrow.
One thing we must finally urge; the work of bringing religion into life is not a moments work, nor to be attained by a thought. It is a life-work. But it is our great work for eternity. By laboring to enter the strait gate, to put our house in order, to eat the meat that perisheth not, we shall find difficulties and temporary defeats, but not so great as sin finds. It is expensive sometimes to be good; it causes sweat of heart and brow; but it costs much more to be evil. In this worlds wealth, sin is a costly thing, though not worth having. To get a bloated body, full of disease and often-times racked with pain, it frequently costs a man his whole fortune perseveringly wasted, his time mis-spent, his character ruined, his soul demonized, his everlasting happiness impossible. What cost can be so tremendous?
To get health, competence, and happiness, would only have cost the throwing away of sins that are worth nothing. The labor to be good, is labor paid in lime, and blest in eternity. Let us all gird up our loins to the sacred work we have to do. Let us overcome our especial evils: We can well do it, if we are earnest. Let us, by communion each morning with our blessed Savior, abide in Him, and have Him abide in us. Let a portion of His Word, however small, and thoughts of Him and His kingdom, be with us at the beginning of each day, and in all our struggles His power will be perfected in our weakness. We shall triumph in Him.
He is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world, and He will take away ours. If we fail in temper, if we fail in truthfulness, in candor, in a holy life in any respect, let us go again, again, and again, to the same great God our Savior, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all evil, and we shall find progress being daily made. We shall be on His side from the day that me begin. Failures from weakness, but not from purpose, do not divide from Him, but bring the soul to a deeper sense of its wants, and a closer clinging to Him who is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.
The duty that was difficult at first will become easy by habit, for the commandments of the Lord Jesus are not grievous. Acts of love, faith, and persevering obedience will bring heaven into the soul. The genuine disciple of the Savior knows that heaven awaits him; he has it here. He has his changes, and droops as well as exults, but his cross is wreathed with crowns. He has heaven within and heaven at home, and at length the time comes when perfect love casts out fear, and death is awaited as the herald of his Master to call him to the palace.
A surface religion has no deep peace. The flimsy gilding of excitement wears off. The wild beasts of disorderly lusts and passions which have been hidden for a short period, soon begin to growl again, and excite their old fears. Nothing but sincere fighting with them in the wilderness of temptation and trial will destroy our lions and serpents, and cause the blessed bees of holy thoughts to make honey in the carcasses of slain sins. But each genuine struggle will be blessed with victory, and unite us more closely with the Lord Jesus, the blessed Conqueror, the Divine Hero, who fights in and for us. In Him we shall have peace.
Begin it, beloved learner of this great truth of Christian life, begin it. Wait not for others. Be a true servant of the Lord Jesus in your heart, in your home, in your circle of life, in your trade, in your position. Heaven is near you, will help you, and will be in you. Angels are near, and will rejoice over your heart-faith and heart-struggles; when in your deepest gloom, they will bear the cup that comforts. But oh! be true for the Lord Jesus; be honest for the Lord Jesus; be gentle for the Lord Jesus; be studious for the Lord Jesus be patient for the Lord Jesus; be temperate for the Lord Jesus, and Old things will pass away, and with you All things shall become new (2 Cor. v. 17).
The leaf-tongues of the forest and the flower-lips of the sod,
The happy birds their raptures sing all in the ear of God,
The summer wind that bringeth music over land and sea,
Have each a voice that singeth this sweet song of songs to me,
This world is full of beauty, as other worlds above;
And, if we did our duty, it might be full of love.
But beyond all other excellencies of the Christian life, and affecting every class and every station, is the sacred reverence for marriage.
Marriage, originating in the infinite union of love and wisdom in the Lord, and prepared for by creation of male and female minds as well as bodies, is the central safeguard of society, the focus of true morality, and the very home and defense of religion. In true and intelligent marriages there is provision made for the orderly extension of the Lord’s kingdom, by pure-minded and well-trained men and women; end thus, for the multiplication of angels. The heartfelt sympathies, the genuine confidences, the mutual aid, the thorough trust, the complimentary commingling, as it were, of thought, affection, and joy, in those whom God has joined together, forms so vast a fond of blessings, associated with true marriage-life, that it may well be regarded as the stem and center of all other excellencies in time and in eternity. A true, sensible, and well-trained man is a goodly representative, as he is a receiver, of intelligence from the All-wise; a true, gentle, and cultivated woman is the purest symbol on earth, as she is the receiver, of the Divine Love. Such a woman represents and exhibits the beauty, the gentleness, the joy, and the pity of Divine tenderness. When two such possessors of virtues at once human and heavenly, of firmness, intelligence, and moral worth in the man, of grace and goodness in the woman, feel the attraction of powerful feeling for each other, and form the sacred bond of marriage, then is exhibited earths most sacred union, society’s most precious pledge, life’s most charming condition, religions most hallowed safeguard, heavens truest image below, the perfection of human character and human bliss. In the mutual joys and mutual sorrows, the mutual efforts and the mutual cores of the husband and wife, the honored names, and sacred relations, and deep responsibilities which come in due time to the married home, the Divine Bridegroom and the Lord and His church–are ever represented.
A true marriage, then, from religious motives, is sacred, beyond all other sacred things. And, to preserve the mind in pure thought and in chaste feeling in religion to marriage, is one of the highest aims of the Christians life. Heaven rests on a pure marriage home.
The important character of this sacred relationship, and the importance of the principles upon which it rests, should, then, be carefully taught to the young; and the pure thoughts, the preservation of chaste emotions, the attainment of virtuous manhood and womanhood, the essentials; to that full unity of heart and mind which constitutes the perfect soul and charm of marriage, should be ever present to the minds of the young, and the opposites shrunk from and dreaded, fouler than the serpents breath, more deadly than his poison.
Chastity in mind as well as in person will be given by the Lord Jesus, to those who seek it, and this more than any other virtue raises man, and will raise society from the crimes of all kinds which pollute, degrade, and destroy it.
Let then the young pray for this virtue as the choicest gift of heaven. Let the faintest approach of impurity awake repulsion, and the upward prayer to the fountain of all-good. Let them avoid temptation and cut short the intrusion of a tempter as hells subtlest snare; and the deadliest lure to its loathsome deeps. The touch of this sin makes spots in the souls central principles, more corrupting and difficult to efface than sins which affect the body or the fortune only. Again, a then we say, by prayer, by solid thought, by reverence for the Divine commandments, by purity in thought as well as in practice, let the mind and body be prepared for that happy circle where all the virtues find their home, and are crowned by true religion. In His good time the Lord will provide for their fulfillment. Life is a serious thing!ours will be continued for ever. We are laying its foundations in every daily act and word. We have now passed many years of it. What progress have we made? Happiness in heaven is the result of heavenly principles in the angels, and these will produce happiness anywhere. They do produce happiness where they exist. To love the Lord Jesus Christ as our Maker, our Savior, and our Friend, with our supreme affection;–to love goodness and truth as divine things, that flow from Him,–to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to be careful of His rights as we are of our own,–to love to do good and be just, as the genuine tests to ourselves and to others of the angelic life we have attained; –to love the Holy Word and to desire its spiritual wisdom as treasure beyond all price,–to be content with the share of Divine blessings which falls to our lot as that which the All-good deems best for us,these dispositions make heaven, and they make happiness wherever they are. If you have not the frequent presence of happiness and peace within, be very jealous of yourself. Suspect your life-principles. It is an eternal truth–The kingdom of God is within you. If you have it not there, you will never find it anywhere else. You are yourself in formation a little heaven or a little hell. Which are you? Do not deceive yourself. Do not trifle. Honestly answer in the sight of the Lord, and happy will you be if your reply can truly be, I seek to be an angel, and I strive to live the Christian life. Hear your Heavenly Father say, O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments, then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea (Isa. xlviii. 15).
Author: Jonathan Bayley—Twelve Discourses (1862)