Man has wants deeper than can be supplied by wealth or nature or domestic affections. His great relations are to his God and to eternity.
No, there is nothing on the face of the earth that can, for a moment, bear a comparison with Christianity as a religion for man. Upon this the hope of the race hangs. From the very first, it took its position, as the pillar of fire, to lead the race onward. The intelligence and power of the race are with those who have embraced it; and now, if this, instead of proving indeed a pillar of fire from God, should be found but a delusive meteor, then nothing will be left to the race but to go back to a darkness that may be felt, and to a worse than Egyptian bondage.
The essential elements of giving are power and love - activity and affection - and the consciousness of the race testifies that in the high and appropriate exercise of these is a blessedness greater than any other.
The moral government of God is a movement in a line onwards towards some grand consummation, in which the principles, indeed, are ever the same, but the developments are always new?in which, therefore, no experience of the past can indicate with certainty what new openings of truth, what new manifestations of goodness, what new phases of the moral heaven may appear.
The movement has indeed been slow, and not such as man would have expected; but it has been analogous to the great movements of God in His providence and in His works. So, if we may credit the geologists, has this earth reached its present state. So have moved on the great empires. So retribution follows crime. So rise the tides. So grows the tree with long intervals of repose and apparent death. So comes on the spring, with battling elements and frequent reverses, with snow-banks and violets, and, if we had no experience, we might be doubtful what the end would be. But we know that back of all this, beyond these fluctuations, away in the serene heavens, the sun is moving steadily on; that these very agitations of the elements and seeming reverses, are not only the sign, but the result of his approach, and that the full warmth and radiance of the summer noontide are sure to come. So, O Divine Redeemer, Sun of Righteousness, come Thou! So will He come. It may be through clouds and darkness and tempest; but the heaven where He is, is serene; He is ?traveling in the greatness of His strength;? and as surely as the throne of God abides, we know He shall yet reach the height and splendor of the highest noon, and that the light of millennial glory shall yet flood the earth.
The patriarchal, the Jewish, and the Christian dispensations, are evidently but the unfolding of one general plan. In the first we see the folded bud; in the second the expanded leaf; in the third the blossom and the fruit. And now, how sublime the idea of a religion thus commencing in the earliest dawn of time; holding on its way through all the revolutions of kingdoms and the vicissitudes of the race; receiving new forms, but always identical in spirit; and, finally, expanding and embracing in one great brotherhood the whole family of man! Who can doubt that such a religion was from God?
We are to regard the mind, not as a piece of iron to be laid upon the anvil and hammered into any shape, nor as a block of marble in which we are to find the statue by removing the rubbish, nor as a receptacle into which knowledge may be poured; but as a flame that is to be fed, as an active being that must be strengthened to think and to feel -- and to dare, to do, and to suffer.
All mental discipline and symmetrical growth are from activity of the mind under the yoke of the will or personal power.
Whatever capacities there may be for enjoyment or for suffering in this strange being of ours, and God only knows what they are, they will be drawn out wholly in accordance with character.
But for us there are moments, O, how solemn, when destiny trembles in the balance, and the preponderance of either scale is by our own choice.
Everywhere the tendency has been to separate religion from morality, to set them in opposition even. But a religion without morality is a superstition and a curse; and anything like an adequate and complete morality without religion is impossible. The only salvation for man is in the union of the two as Christianity unites them.
Faith then, in its relation to salvation, is that confidence by which we accept it as a free gift from the Saviour, and is the only possible way in which the gift of God could be appropriated.
Faith, then, generically, is confidence in a personal being. Specifically, religious faith is confidence in God, in every respect and office in which He reveals Himself. As that love of which God is the object is religious love, so that confidence in Him as a Father, a Moral Governor, a Redeemer, a Sanctifier, in all the modes of His manifestation, by which we believe whatever He says because He says it, and commit ourselves and all our interests cheerfully and entirely into His hands, is religious faith.
Favored by temperament and education, individuals may measurably escape; but if the race is to triumph in the conflict between the flesh and the spirit, between the lower propensities and the higher nature, they must, as Constantine is said to have done, see the cross, and on it the motto, ?In hoc signo vinces.? By this sign we conquer.
Language is the picture and counterpart of thought.
Let the church come to God in the strength of a perfect weakness, in the power of a felt helplessness and a child-like confidence, and then, either she has no strength, and has no right to be, or she has a strength that is infinite. Then and thus, will she stretch out the rod over the seas of difficulty that lie before her, and the waters shall divide, and she shall pass through, and sing the song of deliverance.
Man can have strength of character only as he is capable of controlling his faculties; of choosing a rational end; and, in its pursuit, of holding fast to his integrity against al! the might of external nature.
Religion without morality is a superstition and a curse, and morality without religion is impossible.
You can throw yourselves away. You can become of no use in the universe except for a warning. You can lose your souls. Oh, what a loss is that! The perversion and degradation of every high and immortal power for an eternity! And shall this be true of any one of you? Will you be lost when One has come from heaven, traveling in the greatness of His strength, and with garments dyed in blood, on purpose to guide you home - home to a Father’s house - to an eternal home?
Of the systems above us, angelic and seraphic, we know little; but we see one law, simple, efficient, and comprehensive as that of gravitation - the law of love, extending its sway over the whole of God’s dominions, living where He lives, embracing every moral movement in its universal authority, and producing the same harmony, where it is obeyed as we observe in the movements of nature.
Never was there a time, in the history of the world, when moral heroes were more needed. The world waits for such, the providence of God has commanded science to labor and prepare the way for such. For them she is laying her iron tracks, and stretching her wires and bridging the oceans. But where are they? Who shall breathe into our civil and political relations the breath of a higher life? Who shall touch the eyes of a paganized science, and of a pantheistic philosophy, that they may see God? Who shall consecrate to the glory of God the triumphs of science? Who shall bear the life-boat to the stranded and perishing nations.
Indecision is debilitating; it feeds upon itself; it is, one might almost say, habit-forming. Not only that, but it is contagious; it transmits itself to others.
Whatever is physiologically right, is morally right; and whatever is physiologically wrong is morally wrong.