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.
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.
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.
With the magnificence of eternity before us, let time, with all its fluctuations, dwindle into its own littleness.
Every man is a missionary, now and forever, for good or for evil, whether he intends or designs it or not. He may be a blot, radiating his dark influence outward to the very circumference of society; or he may be a blessing, spreading benediction over the length and breadth of the world: but a blank he cannot be. There are no moral blanks; there are no neutral characters. We are either the sower that sows and corrupts, or the light that splendidly illuminates, and the salt that silently operates; but being dead or alive, every man speaks.
His eye is upon every hour of my existence. His spirit is intimately present with every thought of my heart. His inspiration gives birth to every purpose within me. His hand impresses a direction on every footstep of my goings. Every breath I inhale is drawn by an energy which God deals out to me.
Since the spirit of Lord Bacon’s philosophy began to be rightly understood, the science of external nature has advanced with a rapidity unexampled in the history of all former ages. The great axiom of his philosophy is so simple in its nature, and so undeniable in its evidence, that it is astonishing how philosophers were so late in acknowledging it, or in being directed by its authority. It is more than two thousand years since the phenomena of external nature were objects of liberal curiosity to speculative and intelligent men: yet two centuries have scarcely elapsed since the true path of investigation has been rightly pursued and steadily persevered in; since the evidence of experience has been received as paramount to every other evidence; or, in other words, since philosophers have agreed, that the only way to learn the magnitude of an object is to measure it, the only way to learn its tangible properties is to touch it, and the only way to learn its visible properties is to look at it.
I find successful exertion is a powerful means of exhilaration, which discharges itself in good humor upon others.
Tell us, ye men who are so jealous of right and of honor, who take sudden fire at every insult, and suffer the slightest imagination of another’s contempt, or another’s unfairness, to chase from your bosom every feeling of complacency; ye men whom every fancied affront puts in such a turbulence of emotion, and in whom every fancied infringement stirs up the quick and the resentful appetite for justice, how will you stand the rigorous application of that test by which the forgiven of God are ascertained, even that the spirit of forgiveness is in them, and by which it will be pronounced whether you are, indeed, the children of the Highest, and perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect?
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.