Scottish Presbyterian Minister and Theologian
Scottish Presbyterian Minister and Theologian
Write your name in kindness, love and mercy on the hearts of the thousands you come in contact with year by year, and you will never be forgotten.
Man should trust in God as if God did all, and yet labor as earnestly as if he himself did all.
The law of habit when enlisted on the side of righteousness not only strengthens and makes sure our resistance to vice, but facilitates the most arduous performances of virtue. The man whose thoughts, with the purposes and doings to which they lead, are at the bidding of conscience, will, by frequent repetition, at length describe the same track almost spontaneously,—even as in physical education, things laboriously learnt at the first come to be done at last without the feeling of an effort. And so in moral education every new achievement of principle smooths the way to future achievements of the same kind; and the precious fruit or purchase of each moral virtue is to set us on higher and firmer vantage-ground for the conquests of principle in all time coming.
The only popularity worth aspiring after is a peaceful popularity—the popularity of the heart—the popularity that is won in the bosom of families and at the side of death-beds. There is another, a high and a far-sounding popularity, which is indeed a most worthless article, felt by all who have it most to be greatly more oppressive than gratifying,—a popularity of stare, and pressure, and animal heat, and a whole tribe of other annoyances which it brings around the person of its unfortunate victim,—a popularity which rifles home of its sweets, and by elevating a man above his fellows places him in a region of desolation, where the intimacies of human fellowship are unfelt, and where he stands a conspicuous mark for the shafts of malice, and envy, and detraction,—a popularity which, with its head among storms, and its feet on the treacherous quicksands, has nothing to lull the agonies of its tottering existence but the hosannahs of a drivelling generation.
A man's needs are few. The simpler the life, therefore, the better. Indeed, only three things are truly necessary in order to make life happy: the blessing of God, the benefit of books, and the benevolence of friends.
Music is the language of praise; and one of the most essential preparations for eternity is delight in praising God; a higher acquirement, I do think, than even delight and devotedness in prayer.
The public! The public! How many fools does it require to make the public?
Amid all that illusion which such momentary visitations of seriousness and of sentiment throw around the character of man, let us never lose sight of the test, that “By their fruits ye shall know them.” It is not coming up to this test, that you hear and are delighted. It is that you hear and do. This is the ground upon which the reality of your religion is discriminated now; and on the day of reckoning, this is the ground upon which your religion will be judged then; and that award is to be passed upon you which will fix and perpetuate your destiny forever.
Nothing seems much clearer than the natural direction of charity. Would we all but relieve, according to the measure of our means, those objects immediately within the range of our personal knowledge, how much of the worst evil of poverty might be alleviated! Very poor people, who are known to us to have been decent, honest, and industrious, when industry was in their power, have a claim on us, founded on our knowledge, and on vicinity and neighbourhood, which have in themselves something sacred and endearing to every good heart. One cannot, surely, always pass by, in his walks for health, restoration, or delight, the lone wayside beggar without occasionally giving him an alms. Old, care-worn, pale, drooping, and emaciated creatures, who pass us by without looking beseechingly at us, or even lifting up their eyes from the ground, cannot often be met with without exciting an interest in us for their silent and unobtrusive sufferings or privations. A hovel, here and there, round and about our own comfortable dwelling, attracts our eyes by some peculiar appearance of penury, and we look in, now and then, upon its inmates, cheering their cold gloom with some small benefaction. These are duties all men owe to distress: they are easily discharged; and even such tender mercies are twice blessed.
The sum and substance of the preparation needed for a coming eternity is, that we believe what the Bible tells us and do what the Bible bids us.
Behold the lilies of the field; they toil not, neither do they spin, yet your heavenly Father careth for them. He expatiates on a single flower, and draws from it the delightful argument of confidence in God. He gives us to see that taste may be combined with piety, and that the same heart may be occupied with all that is serious in the contemplations of religion, and be at the same time alive to the charms and the loveliness of nature.
O God, impress upon me the value of time, and give regulation to all my thoughts and to all my movements.
The train which would have terminated in a vicious indulgence is dispossessed by the train which conducts to a resolution and an act of virtuous self-denial. The thoughts which tend to awaken emotions and purposes on the side of duty, find readier entrance into the mind; and the thoughts which awaken and urge forward the desire of what is evil, more readily give way. The positive force on the side of virtue is augmented by every repetition of the train which leads to a virtuous determination. The resistance to this force, on the side of vice, is weakened in proportion to the frequency wherewith that train of suggestions which would have led to a vicious indulgence is broken and discomfited. It is thus that, when one is successfully resolute in his opposition to evil, the power of making the achievement, and the facility of the achievement itself, are both upon the increase, and virtue makes double gain to herself by every separate conquest which she may have won. The humbler attainments of moral worth are first mastered and secured, and the aspiring disciple may pass onward, in a career that is quite indefinite, to nobler deeds and nobler sacrifices.
But a blank he cannot be: there are no moral blanks; there are no neutral characters.
O Heavenly Father, convert my religion from a name to a principle! Bring all my thoughts and movements into an habitual reference to Thee!
There is a set of people whom I cannot bear—the pinks of fashionable propriety,—whose every word is precise, and whose every movement is unexceptionable, but who, though versed in all the categories of polite behaviour, have not a particle of soul or cordiality about them. We allow that their manners may be abundantly correct. There may be eloquence in every gesture, and gracefulness in every position; not a smile out of place, and not a step that would not bear the measurement of the severest scrutiny. This is all very fine: but what I want is the heart and gaiety of social intercourse; the frankness that spreads ease and animation around it; the eye that speaks affability to all, that chases timidity from every bosom, and tells every man in the company to be confident and happy. This is what I conceive to be the virtue of the text, and not the sickening formality of those who walk by rule, and would reduce the whole of human life to a wire-bound system of misery and constraint.
But should these suggestions be admitted, and, far more, should they prevail, then, on the principle of association, will they be all the more apt to intervene on the repetition of the same circumstances, and again break that line of continuity, which, but for this intervention, would have led from a temptation to a turpitude or a crime. If, on the occurrence of a temptation, formerly conscience did interpose, and represent the evil of a compliance, and so impress the man with a sense of obligation as led him to dismiss the fascinating object from the presence of his mind, or to hurry away from it; the likelihood is, that the recurrence of a similar temptation will suggest the same train of thoughts and feelings, and lead to the same beneficial result; and this is a likelihood ever increasing with every repetition of the process.
Oftentimes, in contemplating the history of this empire; the greatness of its power; the peculiarity of its condition; its vast extent,—one arm resting on the East, the other on the West; its fleets riding proudly on every sea; its name and majesty on every shore; the individual energy of its people; their noble institutions, and, above all, their reformed faith,—we are tempted to think that Heaven’s high Providence has yet in store for us some high and arduous calling.
This character wherewith we sink into the grave at death is the very character wherewith we shall reappear at the resurrection.
By the very constitution of our nature moral evil is its own curse.
One of the most essential preparations for eternity is delight in praising God; a higher acquirement, I do think, than even delight and devotedness in prayer.
We do not steady a ship by fixing the anchor on aught that is within the vessel. The anchorage must be without. And so of the soul, when resting, not on what it sees in itself, but on what it sees in the character of God, the certainty of His truth, the impossibility of His falsehood.
Even in the fiercest uproar of our stormy passions, conscience, though in her softest whispers, gives to the supremacy of rectitude the voice of an undying testimony.