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.
I have no sympathy whatever with those who would grudge our workmen and our common people the very highest acquisitions which their taste, or their time, or their inclinations, would lead them to realize; for next to the salvation of their souls, I certainly say that the object of my fondest aspirations is the moral and intellectual, and, as a sure consequence of this, the economical, advancement of the working classes,—the one object which of all others in the wide range of political speculation is the one which should be the dearest to the heart of every philanthropist and every patriot.
That balancing moment at which pleasure would allure, and conscience is urging us to refrain, may be regarded as the point of departure or divergency whence one or other of the two processes (towards evil, or towards good) take their commencement. Each of them consists in a particular succession of ideas, with their attendant feelings; and whichever of them may happen to be described once has, by the law of suggestion, the greater chance, in the same circumstances, of being described over again. Should the mind dwell on an object of allurement, and the considerations of principle not be entertained, it will pass inward from the first incitement to the final and guilty indulgence by a series of stepping-stones, each of which will present itself more readily in future, and with less chance of arrest or interruption by the suggestions of conscience than before.
In like manner did the King eternal, immortal, and invisible, surrounded as he is with the splendours of a wide and everlasting monarchy, turn him to our humble habitation; and the footsteps of God manifest in the flesh have been on the narrow spot of ground we occupy; and small though our mansion be amid the orbs and the systems of immensity, hither hath the King of glory bent his mysterious way, and entered the tabernacle of men, and in the disguise of a servant did he sojourn for years under the roof which canopies our obscure and solitary world.
That even among the most hackneyed and most hardened of malefactors there is still about them a softer part which will give way to the demonstrations of tenderness; that this one ingredient of a better character is still found to survive the dissipation of all the others, that, fallen as a brother may be from the moralities which at one time adorned him, the manifested good will of his fellow-man still carries a charm and an influence along with it; and that, therefore, there lies in this an operation which, as no poverty can vitiate, so no depravity can extinguish.
Infidelity is one of those coinages, — a mass of base money that won't pass current with any heart that loves truly, or any head that thinks correctly. And infidels are poor sad creatures; they carry about them a load of dejection and desolation, not the less heavy that it is invisible. It is the fearful blindness of the soul.
The beauty of holiness has done more, and will do more, to regenerate the world and bring in everlasting righteousness than all the other agencies put together.
It is not scholarship alone, but scholarship impregnated with religion, that tells on the great mass of society. We have no faith in the efficacy of mechanic's institutes, or even of primary and elementary schools, for building up a virtuous and well-conditioned peasantry, so long as they stand dissevered from the lessons of Christian piety.
The brute animals have all the same sensations of pain as human beings, and consequently endure as much pain when their body is hurt; but in their case the cruelty of torment is greater, because they have no mind to bear them up against their sufferings, and no hope to look forward to when enduring the last extreme pain. Their happiness consists entirely in present enjoyment.
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.