English Wesleyan Minister
William Morley Punshon
English Wesleyan Minister
God has been always working, evolving, in His quiet power, from the seeming, the real, from the false, the true. Not for nothing blazed the martyr's fires ? not for nothing toiled brave sufferers up successive hills of shame. God's purpose doth not languish. The torture and the trial of the past have been the stern ploughers in His service who never suspended their husbandry, and who have made long their furrows. Into those furrows the imperishable seed hath fallen. The heedless world hath trodden it in; tears and blood have watered it; the patient sun hath warmed and cheered it to its ripening; and it shall be ready soon.
Wearily have the years passed, I know; wearily to the pale watcher on the hill who has been so long gazing for the daybreak; wearily to the anxious multitudes who have been waiting for his tidings below. Often has the cry gone up through the darkness, " Watcher, what of the night?" and often has the disappointing answer come, " It is night still; here the stars are clear above me, but they shine afar, and yonder the clouds lower heavily, and the sad night winds blow." But the time shall come, and perhaps sooner than we look for it, when the countenance of that pale watcher shall gather into intenser expectancy, and when the challenge shall be given, with the hopefulness of a nearer vision, " Watcher, what of the night?" and the answer will come, " The darkness is not so dense as it was; there are faint streaks on the horizon's verge; mist is in the valleys, but there is a radiance on the distant hill. It comes nearer ? that promise of the day. The clouds roll rapidly away, and they are fringed with amber and gold. It is, it is the blest sunlight that I feel around me ? Morning! It is Morning!"
God has taught in the Scriptures the lesson of a universal brotherhood, and man must not gainsay the teaching. Shivering in the ice-bound or scorching in the tropical regions; in the lap of luxury or in the wild hardihood of the primeval forest; belting the globe in a tired search for rest, or quieting through life in the heart of ancestral woods; gathering all the decencies around him like a garment, or battling in fierce raid of crime against a world which has disowned him, there is an inner humanness which binds me to that man by a primitive and indissoluble bond. He is my brother, and I cannot dissever the relationship. He is my brother, and I cannot release myself from the obligation to do him good.
With quaint manners and quaint names these men had the hero's heart and the confessor's faith. Their faith was, indeed, their strength. Strong in the supremacy of conscience, in that real earnestness which springs from conviction, and which prompts to enterprise; far-sighted in political sagacity, because seeing Him that is invisible; shrewd enough to know that the truest policy for the life that now is, is a reverent recognition of the life that is to come, they were brave in endurance and patient under trial; and never losing sight of the principle for which they struggled, and of the purpose of their voyage afar, they "won the wilderness for God."
Labor is not, as some have erroneously supposed, a penal clause of the original curse. There was labor, bright, healthful, unfatiguing, in unfallen Paradise. By sin, labor became drudgery ? the earth was restrained from her spontaneous fertility, and the strong arm of the husbandman was required, not to develop, but to " subdue " it. But labor in itself is noble, and is necessary for the ripe unfolding of the highest life.
Ye are born, all of you, to a royal birthright. Scorn not the poor, thou wealthy ? his toil is nobler than thy luxury. Fret not at the rich, thou poor ? his beneficence is comelier than thy murmuring. Join hands, both of you, rich and poor together, as ye toil in the brotherhood of God's great harvest-field ? heirs of a double heritage ? thou poor, of thy kingly labor ? thou rich, of thy queenly charity ? and let heaven bear witness to the bridal.
Labor is the true alchemist that beats out in patient transmutation the baser metals into gold.
Young men, terminate, I beseech you, in your own experience, the sad divorce which has too often existed between intellect and piety. Take your stand, unswerving, heroic, by the altar of truth; and from that altar let neither sophistry nor ridicule expel you. Let your faith rest with a child's trust, with a martyr's grip, upon the truth.
Let a man be firmly principled in his religion, he may travel from the tropics to the poles, it will never catch cold on the journey.
Young men, you who have any piety at all, what sort is it? Is it a hot-house plant, which must be framed and glassed, lest March, that bold young fellow, should shake the life out.of it in his rough play among the flowers? or is it a hardy shrub, which rejoices when the wild winds course along the heather or howl above the crest of Lebanon ' We need, believe me, the bravery of godliness to bear true witness for our Master now.
Let it be ours to be self-reliant amidst hosts of the vacillating ? real in a generation of triflers ? true amongst a multitude of shams; when tempted to swerve from principle, sturdy as an oak in its maintenance; when solicited by the enticement of sinners, firm as a rock in our denial.
Never more than to-day were needed the men of calm and resolute faith. Brothers, to your knees and to your ranks! To your knees in humblest supplication; to your ranks in steadfast bravery which no foe can cause to quail. Stand forth in courage and in gentleness for the truth which you believe to be allied to Freedom and Progress and God. Be so strong that you are not afraid to be just. Cherish a tender humanity and a catholic heart. Then take your stand, calm and moveless as the stars.
Not only do we witness on the Holy Mount the installation of the royal lawgiver, but of the great high-priest. It is a grand valedictory service in which He is re-ordained to duty ? as the banners are blessed before the army marches to the field. And the voice speaks from heaven as a sovereign gives audience to a chosen commander, and cheers him with the encouragement of royal favor. With what reverence, brethren, should we, sinners, look upon the scene! As we see Him standing alone upon the mountain ? fresh from His ordination of glory ? calm and kingly in His heaven-imparted strength; and then as we see Him, with firm step, treading the dark avenue which, through desertion, agony, insult, abandonment, terminates in His death upon the cross ? surely our distrust should vanish, and in reliance on such a champion we should have "joy in believing." Surely our indignation against the vile sin which made all this suffering necessary should be roused within us. Surely our hearts should bound with a fervor of devotion and gratitude which the obedience of a lifetime can only inadequately express.
One great want of the times is a commanding ministry--a ministry of a piety at once sober and earnest, and of mightiest moral power. Give us these men, "full of faith and of the Holy Ghost," who will proclaim old truths with new energy, not cumbering them with massive drapery nor hiding them beneath piles of rubbish. Give us these men! men of sound speech, who will preach the truth as it is in Jesus, not with faltering tongue and averted eye, as if the mind blushed at its own credulity--not distilling into it an essence so subtle and so speedily decomposed that a chemical analysis alone can detect the faint odor which tells it has been there--but who will preach it apostle-wise, that is "first of all," at once a principle shrined in the heart and a motive mighty in the life--the source of all morals and the inspiration of all charity--the sanctifier of every relationship, and the sweetener of every toil. Give us these men! men of zeal untiring--whose hearts of constancy quail not although dull men sneer, and proud men scorn, and timid men blush, and cautious men deprecate, and wicked men revile.
Surely there is a fitness in the institution of the Lord's Supper as a standing memorial by which the church at large may commemorate the grandest act, and by which the heart of each individual believer may be reminded of his dearest friend. You, who have learned to love the Saviour, will prize His ordinance for the Saviour's sake. You who rejoice in the salvation purchased by His dying, will not fail with gratitude and faith to show the Lord's death until He come.
And shall they rise, all these? Will there be a trumpet blast so shrill that none of them may refuse to hear it, and the soul, re-entering its shrine of eminent or common clay, pass upward to the judgment? "Many and mighty, but all hushed," shall they submit with us to the judgment of the last assize? And in that world is it true that gold is not the currency, and that rank is not hereditary, and that there is only one name that is honored? Then, if this is the end of all men, let the living lay it to heart. Solemn and thoughtful, let us search for an assured refuge; childlike and earnest, let us conf1de in the one accepted Name; let us realize the tender and infinite nearness of God our Father, through Jesus our Surety and our Friend.
The gospel proceeds on the basis of universal depravity; the gospel assimilates all varieties of human nature into one common experience of guilt and need and helplessness; and this is just what you do not like about it.
And so the blasts of calumny, howl they ever so fiercely over the good man's head, contribute to his juster appreciation and to his wider fame. Preserve only a good conscience toward God, and a loving purpose toward your fellow men, and you need not wince nor tremble, though the pack of the spaniel-hearted hounds snarl at your heels.
There are no trifles in the moral universe of God. Speak me a word to-day; ? it shall go ringing on through the ages.
Brethren, here in the sacrament is the rainbow of the new and better covenant, the renewed pledge of salvation purchased, and strength imparted, and blessing conferred on the believing soul. And now, as in your covenant you pay your vows ? time, talent, influence, property, life, all God's, ? He the Infinite, in boundless condescension stoops to whisper, "My light, my strength, my purity, my joy, my heaven, all yours." Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His statutes and His commandments, and His judgments, to hearken to His voice; and the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be His peculiar people, as He hath promised thee. And thus, brethren, in a mutual covenant of blessing, you do show forth His death until He come.
There is no inevitable connection between Christianity and cynicism. Truth is not a salad, is it, that you must always dress it with vinegar?
Do not mourn the past, my brother; it has given place to better times. Do not dread the coming of the future; it shall dawn in brighter and safer glory. Come, and upon the altars of the faith be anointed as the Daniels of to-day, at once the prophet and the worker ? the brow bright with the shining prophecy, the hands full of earnest and of holy deeds.
There's winter on the hills to-day, the sad wind soughs o'er churchyard knolls, and weary nature seems to say, 'Tis Lenten-tide for sinful souls.? The barb is in our heart to-day; sore crushed with sense of ail and sin, we feebly strive and faintly pray, 'gainst danger near, for grace within, we mourn our pride and passion's stain, the earthly in our hearts enshrined; the rebel flesh, too oft in vain commanded by the nobler mind; and all of human curse or care which lurks life's dangerous paths among, to quench the altar-flame of prayer, or hush the heavenward strain of song.
Don't aim at any impossible heroisms. Strive rather to be quiet in your own sphere. Don't live in the cloudland of some transcendental heaven; do your best to bring the glory of a real heaven down, and ray it out upon your fellows in this work-day world. Seek to make trade bright with a spotless integrity, and business lustrous with the beauty of holiness.
Though to us ? the toilers ? it is night still, to Him ? the Master who watcheth our labor, and to them ? our fellows whose labor is done ? "there is light with a clear sky." Though to us, down below, there is but the deafening roar, the shriek of discord, the wail of pain, blent in one jargon of strange sounds which have no chime; to them, above in the high, calm silence, there are heard only the striking of the hour which tells of the sure speed of time, and the voice of the joy-bells already ringing for the world's great bridal.