Part 2 out of 2
and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that
my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."
"FIRST!" An Address to boys.
I have three heads to give you. The first is "Geography," the
second is "Arithmetic," and the third is "Grammar."
First. Geography tells us where to find places.
Where is the Kingdom of God? It is said that when a Prussian
officer was killed in the Franco-Prussian war, a map of France was
very often found in his pocket. When we wish to occupy a country,
we ought to know its geography. Now, WHERE is the Kingdom of God?
A boy over there says, "It is in heaven." No; it is not in heaven.
Another boy says, "It is in the Bible." No; it is not in the
Bible. Another boy says, "It must be in the Church," No; it is not
in the Church. Heaven is only the capital of the Kingdom of God;
the Bible is the guide-book to it; the Church is the weekly parade
of those who belong to it. If you turn to the seventeenth chapter
of Luke you will find out where the Kingdom of God really is: "The
Kingdom of God is within you"--within YOU. The Kingdom of God is
I remember once taking a walk by the river near where the Falls of
Niagara are, and I noticed a remarkable figure walking along the
river bank. I had been some time in America. I had seen black
men, and red men, and yellow men, and white men; black men, the
Negroes; red men, the Indians; yellow men, the Chinese; white men,
the Americans. But this man looked quite different in his dress
from anything I had ever seen. When he came a little closer, I
saw he was wearing a kilt; when he came a little nearer still, I
saw that he was dressed exactly like a Highland soldier. When he
came quiet near, I said to him:
"What are you doing here?"
"Why should I not be here?" he replied; "don't you know this is
British soil? When you cross the river you come into Canada."
This soldier was thousands of miles from England, and yet he was
in the Kingdom of England. Wherever there is an English heart
beating loyal to the Queen of Britain, there is England. Wherever
there is a boy whose heart is loyal to the Kingdom of God, the
Kingdom of God is within him.
What is the Kingdom of God? Every Kingdom has its exports, it
products. Go down the river here and you will find ships coming
in with cotton; you know they come from America. You will find
ships with tea; you know they are from China. Ships with wool;
you know they come from Australia. Ships with sugar; you know they
come from Java.
What comes from the Kingdom of God? Again, we must refer to our
Guide-book. Turn to Romans, and we shall find what the Kingdom
of God is. I will read it: "The Kingdom of God is righteousness,
peace, joy"--three things. "The Kingdom of God is righteousness,
peace, joy." Righteousness, of course is just doing what is right.
Any boy who does what is RIGHT has the Kingdom of God within him.
Any boy who, instead of being quarrelsome, lives at peace with
the other boys, has the Kingdom of God within him. Any boy whose
heart is filled with joy because he does what is right, has the
Kingdom of God within him. The Kingdom of God is not going to
religious meetings, and hearing strange religious experiences; the
Kingdom of God is doing what is right--living at peace with all
men, being filled with joy in the Holy Ghost.
Boys, if you are going to be Christians, be Christians as boys, and
not as your grandmothers. A grandmother has to be a Christian as
a grandmother, and that is the right and the beautiful thing for her;
but if you cannot read your Bible by the hours as your grandmother
can, or delight in meetings as she can, don't think you are
necessarily a bad boy. When you are your grandmother's age you will
have your grandmother's kind of religion. Meantime, be a Christian
as a boy. Live a boy's life. Do the straight thing; seek the
kingdom of righteousness and honor and truth. Keep the peace with
the boys about you, and be filled with the joy of being a loyal,
and simple, and natural, and boy-like servant of Christ.
You can very easily tell a house, or a workshop, or an office where
the Kingdom of God is NOT. The first thing you see in that pace
is that the "straight thing" is not always done. Customers do not
get fair play. You are in danger of learning to cheat and to lie.
Better a thousand times to starve than to stay in a place where
you cannot do what is right.
Or, when you go into your workshop, you find everybody sulky, touchy,
and ill-tempered, everybody at daggers-drawn with everybody else,
some of the men not on speaking terms with some of the others, and
the whole FEEL of the place miserable and unhappy. The Kingdom of
God is not thee, for IT is peace. It is the Kingdom of the Devil
that is anger, and wrath and malice.
If you want to get the Kingdom of God into your workshop, or
into your home, let the quarreling be stopped. Live in peace and
harmony and brotherliness with everyone. For the Kingdom of God
is a kingdom of brothers. It is a great Society, founded by Jesus
Christ, of all the people who try to live like Him, and to make the
world better and sweeter and happier. Wherever boy is trying to
do that, in the house or on the street, in the workshop or on the
baseball field, there is the Kingdom of God. And every boy, however
small or obscure or poor, who is seeking that, is a member of it.
You see now, I hope, what the Kingdom is.
I pass, therefore, to the second head; What was it? Arithmetic.
Are there any arithmetic words in this text? "Added." What other
arithmetic words? "First."
Now, don't you think you could not have anything better to seek
"first" than the things I have named to do what is right, to live
at peace, and be always making those about you happy? You see at
once why Christ tells us to seek these things first--because they
The best worth seeking.
Do you know anything better than these three things, anything
happier, purer, nobler? If you do, seek them first. But if you
do not, seek first the Kingdom of God. I do not tell you to be
religious. You know that. I do not tell you to seek the Kingdom
of God. I tell you to seek the Kingdom of God FIRST. FIRST.
Not many people do that. They put a little religion into their
life--once a week, perhaps. They might just as well let it alone.
It is not worth seeking the Kingdom of God unless we seek it FIRST.
Suppose you take the helm out of a ship and hang it over the bow,
and send that ship to sea, will it ever reach the other side?
Certainly not. It will drift about anyhow. Keep religion in its
place, and it will take you straight through life and straight to
your Father in heaven when life is over. But if you do not put
it in its place, you may just as well have nothing to do with it.
Religion out of its place in a human life is the most miserable
thing in the world. There is nothing that requires so much to be
kept in its place as religion, and its place is what? second? third?
"First." Boys, FIRST the Kingdom of God; make it so that it will
be natural to you to think about that the very first thing.
There was a boy in Glasgow apprenticed to a gentleman who made
telegraphs. (The gentleman told me this himself.) One day this
boy was up on the top of a four-story house with a number of men
fixing up a telegraph wire. The work was all but done. It was
getting late, and the men said they were going away home, and the
boy was to nip off the ends of the wire himself. Before going
down they told him to be sure to go back to the workshop, when he
was finished, with his master's tools.
"Do not leave any of them lying about, whatever you do," said the
The boy climbed up the pole and began to nip off the ends of the
wire. It was a very cold winter night, and the dusk was gathering.
He lost his hold and fell upon the slates, slid down, and then
over and over to the ground below. A clothes-rope stretched across
the "green" on which he was just about to fall, caught him on the
chest and broke his fall; but the shock was terrible, and he lay
unconscious among some clothes upon the green.
An old woman came out; seeing her rope broken and the clothes all
soiled, thought the boy was drunk, shook him, scolded him, and
went for the policeman. The boy with the shaking came back to
consciousness, rubbed his eyes, and got back on his feet. What do
you think he did? He staggered, half-blind, up the stairs. He
climbed the ladder. He got on to the roof of the house. He gathered
up his tools, put them into his basket, took them down, and when
he got to the ground again fainted dead away.
Just then the policeman came, saw there was something seriously
wrong, and carried him away to the hospital, where he lay for some
time. I am glad to say he got better.
What was his first thought at that terrible moment? His duty.
He was not thinking of himself; he was thinking about his master.
First, the Kingdom of God.
But there is another arithmetic word. What is it? "Added."
You know the difference between ADDITION and SUBTRACTION. Now,
A very important difference
in religion, because--and it is a very strange thing--very few
people know the difference when they begin to talk about religion.
They often tell boys that if they seek the Kingdom of God, everything
else is going to be SUBTRACTED from them. They tell them that they
are going to become gloomy, miserable, and will lose everything
that makes a boy's life worth living--that they will have to stop
baseball and story-books, and become little old men, and spend all
their time in going to meetings and in singing hymns.
Now, that is not true. Christ never said anything like that.
Christ said we are to "Seek first the Kingdom of God," and
Everything else worth having
is to be ADDED unto us. If there is anything I would like you to
remember, it is these two arithmetic words--"first" and "added."
I do not mean by "added" that if you become religious you are all
going to become RICH. Here is a boy, who, in sweeping out the
shop tomorrow, finds a quarter lying among the orange boxes. Well,
nobody has missed it. He puts it in his pocket, and it begins to
burn a hole there. by breakfast time he wishes that money were
in his master's pocket. And by-and-by he goes to his master. He
says (to HIMSELF, and not to his master), "I was at the Boys' Brigade
yesterday and I was told to seek FIRST that which was right." Then
he says to his master:
"Please, sir, here is a quarter that I found upon the floor."
The master puts it in the till. What has the boy got in his pocket?
Nothing; BUT HE HAS GOT THE KINGDOM OF GOD IN HIS HEART. He has
laid up treasure in heaven, which is of infinitely more worth than
Now, that boy does not find a dollar on his way home. I have known
that to happen, but that is not what is meant by "adding." It does
not mean that God is going to pay him in his own coin, for He pays
in better coin.
Yet I remember once hearing of a boy who was paid in both ways.
He was very, very poor. He lived in a foreign country, and his
mother said to him one day that he must go into the great city and
start in business, and she took his coat and cut it open and sewed
between the lining and the coat forty golden dinars, which she had
saved up for many years to start him in life. She told him to take
care of robbers as he went across the desert; and as he was going
out of the door she said:
"My boy, I have only two words for you--'Fear God, and never tell
The boy started off, and towards evening he saw glittering in the
distance the minarets of the great city. But between the city and
himself he saw a cloud of dust. It came nearer. Presently he saw
that it was a band of robbers.
One of the robbers left the rest and rode toward him, and said:
"Boy, what have you got?"
The boy looked him in the face and said:
"I have forty golden dinars sewed up in my coat."
The robber laughed and wheeled around his horse and went away back.
He would not believe the boy.
Presently another robber came and he said:
"Boy, what have you got?"
"Forty golden dinars sewed up in my coat."
The robber said: "The boy is a fool," and wheeled his horse and
rode away back.
By and by the robber captain came and he said:
"Boy, what have you got?"
"I have forty golden dinars sewed up in my coat."
The robber dismounted, and put his hand over the boy's breast,
felt something round, counted one, two, three, four, five, till he
counted out the forty golden coins. He looked the boy in the face
"Why did you tell me that?"
The boy said: "Because of God and my mother."
The robber leaned on his spear and thought and said:
"Wait a moment."
He mounted his horse, rode back to the rest of the robbers, and
came back in about five minutes with his dress changed. This time
he looked not like a robber, but like a merchant. He took the boy
up on his horse and said:
"My boy, I have long wanted to do something for my God and for my
mother, and I have this moment renounced my robber's life. I am
also a merchant. I have a large business house in the city. I
want you to come and live with me, to teach me about your God; and
you will be rich, and your mother some day will come and live with
And it all happened. By seeing first the Kingdom of God, all these
things were added unto him.
Boys, banish forever from your minds the idea that religion is
SUBTRACTION. It does not tell us to give things up, but rather
gives us something so much better that they give themselves up.
When you see a boy on the street whipping a top, you know, perhaps,
that you could not make that boy happier than by giving him a top,
a whip, and half an hour to whip it. But next birthday, when he
looks back he says,
"What a goose I was last year to be delighted with a top. What I
want now is a baseball bat."
Then when he becomes an old man, he does not care in the least for
a baseball bat; he wants rest, and a snug fireside and a newspaper
every day. He wonders how he could ever have taken up his thoughts
with baseball bats and whipping-tops.
Now, when a boy becomes a Christian, he grows out of the evil
things one by one--that is to say, if they are really evil--which
he used to set his heart upon; (of course I do not mean baseball
bats, for they are not evils); and so instead of telling people to
give up things, we are safer to tell them to "seek first the Kingdom
of God," and then they will get new things and better things, and
The old things will drop off
of themselves. This is what is meant by the "new heart." It means
that God puts into us new thoughts and new wishes, and we become
Lastly, and very shortly. What was the third head? "Grammar."
Now, I require a clever boy to answer the next question. What
is the verb? "Seek." Very good: "seek." What mood is it in?
"Imperative mood." What does that mean? "A command." What is
the soldier's first lesson? "Obedience." Have you obeyed this
command? Remember the imperative mood of these words, "SEEK first
the Kingdom of God."
This is the command of your King. It MUST be done. I have been
trying to show you what a splendid thing it is; what a reasonable
thing it is; what a happy thing it is; but beyond all these reasons,
it is a thing that MUST be done, because we are COMMANDED to do
it by our Captain. Now, there is His command to seek FIRST the
Kingdom of God. Have you done it?
"Well," I know some boys will say, "we are going to have a good
time, enjoy life, and then we are going to seek--LAST--the Kingdom
Now, that is mean; it is nothing else than mean for a boy to take
all the good gifts that God has given him, and then give him nothing
back in return but
His wasted life.
God wants boys' LIVES, not only their souls. It is for active,
service that soldiers are drilled, and trained, and fed, and armed.
That is why you and I are in the world at all--not to prepare to
go out of it some day, but to serve God actively in it NOW. It
is monstrous, and shameful, and cowardly to talk of seeking the
Kingdom LAST. It is shirking duty, abandoning one's rightful post,
playing into the enemy's hand by doing nothing to turn his flank.
Every hour a Kingdom is coming in your heart, in your home, in the
world near you, be it a Kingdom of Darkness or a Kingdom of Light.
You are placed where you are, in a particular business, in a
particular street, to help on there the Kingdom of God. You cannot
do that when you are old and ready to die. By that time your
companions will have fought their fight, and lost or won. If they
lose, will you not be sorry that you did not help them? Will you
not regret that only at the last you helped the Kingdom of God?
Perhaps you will not be able to do it then. And then your life
has been lost indeed.
Very few people have the opportunity to seek the Kingdom of God
at the end. Christ, knowing all that, knowing that religion was
a thing for our life, not merely for our death-bed, has laid this
command upon us now: "Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God."
I am going to leave you with this text itself. Every boy in the
world should obey it.
Boys, before you go to work to-morrow, before you go to sleep
to-night, resolve that, God helping you, you are going to seek
FIRST the Kingdom of God. Perhaps some boys here are deserters;
they began once before to serve Christ, and they deserted. Come
back again, come back again today! Others have never enlisted at
all. Will you not do it now? You are old enough to decide. The
grandest moment of a boy's life is that moment when he decides to
"SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD."
The Changed Life: The Greatest Need of the World.
God is all for quality; man is for quantity. The immediate need
of the world at this moment is not more of us, but, if I may use
the expression, a better brand of us. To secure ten men of an
improved type would be better than if we had ten thousand more of
the average Christians distributed all over the world. There is
such a thing in the evangelistic sense as winning the whole world
and losing our own soul. And the first consideration of our
own life--our own spiritual relations to God--our own likeness to
Christ. And I am anxious, briefly, to look at the right and the
wrong way of becoming like Christ--of becoming better men: the
right and the wrong way of sanctification.
Let me begin by naming, and in part discarding some processes in
vogue already for producing better lives. These processes are far
from wrong; in their place they may even be essential. One ventures
to disparage them only because they do not turn out the most perfect
1. The first imperfect method is to rely on
In will power, in mere spasms of earnestness, there is no salvation.
Struggle, effort, even agony, have their place in Christianity, as
we shall see; but this is not where they come in.
In mid-Atlantic the Etruria, in which I was sailing, suddenly
stopped. Something had gone wrong with the engines. There were
five hundred able-bodied men on board the ship. Do you think that
if we had gathered together and pushed against the mast we could
have pushed it on?
When one attempts to sanctify himself by effort, he is trying to
make his boat go by pushing against the mast. He is like a drowning
man trying to lift himself out of the water by pulling at the hair
of his own head.
Christ held up this method almost to ridicule when He said, "Which
of you by taking thought can add a cubit to his stature?" Put down
that method forever as being futile.
The one redeeming feature of the self-sufficient method is this--that
those who try it find out almost at once that it will not gain the
2. Another experimenter says: "But that is not my method. I have
seen the folly of a mere wild struggle in the dark. I work on a
principle. My plan is not to waste power on random effort, but to
concentrate on a single sin. By taking
One at a time
and crucifying it steadily, I hope in the end to extirpate all."
To this, unfortunately, there are four objections: For one thing,
life is too short; the name of sin is legion. For another thing,
to deal with individual sins is to leave the rest of the nature
for the time untouched. In the third place, a single combat with
a special sin does not affect the root and spring of the disease.
If you dam up a stream at one place, it will simply overflow higher
up. If only one of the channels of sin be obstructed, experience
points to an almost certain overflow through some other part of the
nature. Partial conversion is almost always accompanied by such
moral leakage, for the pent-up energies accumulate to the bursting
point, and the last state of that soul may be worse than the
first. In the last place, religion does not consist in negatives,
in stopping this sin and stopping that. The perfect character can
never be produced with a pruning knife.
3. But a third protests: "So be it. I make no attempt to stop
sins one by one. My method is just the opposite.
I copy the virtues
one by one."
The difficulty about the copying method is that it is apt to be
mechanical. One can always tell an engraving from a picture, an
artificial flower from a real flower. To copy virtues one by one
has somewhat the same effect as eradicating the vices one by one;
the temporary result is an overbalanced and incongruous character.
Some one defines a PRIG as "a creature that is over-fed for its
size." One sometimes finds Christians of this species--over-fed
on one side of their nature, but dismally thin and starved looking
on the other. The result, for instance, of copying Humility, and
adding it on to an otherwise worldly life, is simply grotesque. A
rabid temperance advocate, for the same reason, is often the poorest
of creatures, flourishing on a single virtue, and quite oblivious
that his Temperance is making a worse man of him and not a better.
These are examples of fine virtues spoiled by association with
mean companions. Character is a unity, and all the virtues must
advance together to make the perfect man.
This method of sanctification, nevertheless, is in the true direction.
It is only in the details of execution that it fails.
4. A fourth method I need scarcely mention, for it is a variation
on those already named. It is
The very young man's method;
and the pure earnestness of it makes it almost desecration to touch
it. It is to keep a private note-book with columns for the days
of the week, and a list of virtues, with spaces against each for
marks. this, with many stern rules for preface, is stored away in
a secret place, and from time to time, at nightfall, the soul is
arraigned before it as before a private judgment bar.
This living by code was Franklin's method; and I suppose thousands
more could tell how they had hung up in their bedrooms, or hid in
locked-fast drawers, the rules which one solemn day they drew up
to shape their lives.
This method is not erroneous, only somehow its success is poor.
You bear me witness that it fails. And it fails generally for very
matter-of-fact reasons--most likely because one day we forget the
All these methods that have been named--the self-sufficient method,
the self-crucifixion method, the mimetic method, and the diary
method--are perfectly human, perfectly natural, perfectly ignorant, and
as they stand perfectly inadequate. It is not argued, I repeat,
that they must be abandoned. Their harm is rather that they distract
attention from the true working method, and secure a fair result
at the expense of the perfect one. What that perfect method is we
shall now go on to ask.
I. The formula of sanctification.
A formula, a receipt for Sanctification--can one seriously speak
of this mighty change as if the process were as definite as for
the production of so many volts of electricity?
It is impossible to doubt it. Shall a mechanical experiment
succeed infallibly, and the one vital experiment of humanity remain
a chance? Is corn to grow by method, and character by caprice?
If we cannot calculate to a certainty that the forces of religion
will do their work, then is religion vain. And if we cannot express
the law of these forces in simple words, then is Christianity not
the world's religion, but the world's conundrum.
Where, then, shall one look for such a formula? Where one would
look for any formula--among the text-books. And if we turn to the
text-books of Christianity we shall find a formula for this problem
as clear and precise as any in the mechanical sciences. If this
simple rule, moreover, be but followed fearlessly, it will yield
the result of a perfect character as surely as any result that is
guaranteed by the laws of nature.
The finest expression of this rule in Scripture, or indeed in any
literature, is probably one drawn up and condensed into a single
verse by Paul. You will find it in a letter--the second to the
Corinthians--written by him to some Christian people who, in a city
which was a byword for depravity and licentiousness, were seeking
the higher life. To see the point of the words we must take them
from the immensely improved rendering of the Revised translation,
for the older Version in this case greatly obscures the sense.
They are these:
"We all, with unveiled face reflecting as a mirror the glory of
the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory,
even as from the Lord, the Spirit."
Now observe at the outset the entire contraction of all our previous
efforts, in the simple passive: "WE ARE TRANSFORMED."
We ARE CHANGED, as the Old Version has it--we do not change
ourselves. No man can change himself. Throughout the New Testament
you will find that wherever these moral and spiritual transformations
are described the verbs are in the passive. Presently it will be
pointed out that there is a RATIONALE in this; but meantime do not
toss these words aside as if this passivity denied all human effort
or ignored intelligible law. What is implied for the soul here
is no more than is everywhere claimed for the body. In physiology
the verbs describing the processes of growth are in the passive.
Growth is not voluntary; it takes place, it happens, it is wrought
upon matter. So here. "Ye must be born again"--we cannot be born
ourselves. "Be not conformed to this world, but BE YE TRANSFORMED"--we
are subjects to transforming influence, we do not transform ourselves.
Not more certain is it that it is something outside the thermometer
that produces a change in the thermometer, that it is
Something outside the soul of man
that produces a moral change upon him. That he must be susceptible
to that change, that he must be a party to it, goes without saying;
but that neither his aptitude nor his will can produce it, is
Obvious as it ought to seem, this may be to some an almost startling
revelation. The change we have been striving after is not to
be produced by any more striving. It is to be wrought upon us by
the moulding of hands beyond our own. As the branch ascends, and
the bud bursts, and the fruit reddens under the co-operation of
influences from the outside air, so man rises to the higher stature
under invisible pressures from without. the radical defect of all
our former methods of sanctification was the attempt to generate
from within that which can only be wrought upon us from without.
The radical defect of all our former methods of sanctification was
the attempt to generate from within that which can only be wrought
upon us from without. According to the first Law of Motion,
every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion
in a straight line, except in so far as it may be compelled BY
IMPRESSED FORCES to change that state. This is also a first law of
Christianity. Every man's character remains as it is, or continues
in the direction in which it is going, until it is compelled BY
IMPRESSED FORCES to change that state. Our failure has been the
failure to put ourselves in the way of the impressed forces. There
is a clay, and there is a Potter; we have tried to get the clay to
mould the clay.
Whence, then, these pressures, and where this Potter? The answer
of the formula is--"By reflecting as a mirror the glory of the Lord
we are changed." But this is not very clear. What is the "glory"
of the Lord, and how can mortal man reflect it, and how can that
act as an "impressed force" in moulding him to a nobler form? The
word "glory"--the word which has to bear the weight of holding
these "impressed forces"--is a stranger in current speech, and our
first duty is to seek out its equivalent in working English. It
suggests at first a radiance of some kind, something dazzling or
glittering, some halo such as the old masters loved to paint round
the head of their Ecce Homos. But that is paint, mere matter, the
visible symbol of some unseen thing. What is that unseen thing? It
is that of all unseen things the most radiant, the most beautiful,
the most Divine, and that is CHARACTER. On earth, in Heaven,
there is nothing so great, so glorious as this. The word has many
meanings; in ethics it can have but one. Glory is character, and
nothing less, and it can be nothing more. The earth is "full of
the glory of the Lord," because it is full of His character. The
"Beauty of the Lord" is character. "The Glory of the Only
Begotten" is character, the character which is "fullness of grace
and truth." And when God told His people HIS NAME, He simply gave
them His character, His character which was Himself: "And the Lord
proclaimed the name for the Lord...the Lord, the Lord God, merciful
and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth."
Glory then is not something intangible, or ghostly, or transcendental.
If it were this, how could Paul ask men to reflect it? Stripped
of its physical enswathement it is Beauty, moral and spiritual
Beauty, Beauty infinitely real, infinitely exalted, yet infinitely
near and infinitely communicable.
With this explanation read over the sentence once more in
paraphrase: We all reflecting as a mirror the character of Christ
are transformed into the same Image from character to character--from
a poor character to a better one, from a better one to a little
better still, from that to one still more complete, until by slow
degrees the Perfect Image is attained. Here
The solution of the problem of sanctification
is compressed into a sentence: Reflect the character of Christ.
You will be changed, in spite of yourself and unknown to yourself,
into the same image from character to character.
(I.) All men are reflectors--that is
The first law
on which this formula is based. One of the aptest descriptions of
a human being is that he is a mirror. As we sat at table to-night
the world in which each of us lived and moved through this day was
focused in the room. What we saw when we looked at one another was
not one another, but one another's world. We were an arrangement
of mirrors. The scenes we saw were all reproduced; the people we
met walked to and fro; they spoke, they bowed, they passed us by,
did everything over again as if it had been real. When we talked,
we were but looking at our own mirror and describing what flitted
across it; our listening was not hearing, but seeing--we but looked
on our neighbor's mirror.
All human intercourse is a seeing of reflections. I meet a stranger
in a railway carriage. The cadence of his first words tell me he
is English and comes from Yorkshire. Without knowing it he has
reflected his birthplace, his parents, and the long history of their
race. Even physiologically he is a mirror. His second sentence
records that he is a politician, and a faint reflection in the way
he pronounces THE TIMES reveals his party. In his next remarks I
see reflected a whole world of experiences. The books he has read,
the people he has met, the companions he keeps, the influences
that have played upon him and made him the man he is--these are
all registered there by a pen which lets nothing pass, and whose
Never be blotted out.
What I am reading in him meantime he is also reading in me; and
before the journey is over we could half write each other's lives.
Whether we like it or not, we live in glass houses. The mind, the
memory, the soul, is simply a vast chamber paneled with looking-glass.
And upon this miraculous arrangement and endowment depends the
capacity of mortal souls to "reflect the character of the Lord."
(2). But this is not all. If all these varied reflections
from our so-called secret life are patent to the world, how close
the writing, complete the record within the soul itself! For the
influences we meet are not simply held for a moment on the polished
surface and thrown off again into space. Each is retained where
first it fell, and stored up in the soul forever.
This law of assimilation
is the second, and by far the most impressive truth which underlies
the formula of sanctification--the truth that men are not only
mirrors, but that these mirrors, so far from being mere reflectors
of the fleeting things they see, transfer into their own inmost
substance, and hold in permanent preservation the things that they
No one knows how the soul can hold these things. No one knows
how the miracle is done. No phenomenon in nature, no process in
chemistry, no chapter in necromancy can ever help us to begin to
understand this amazing operation. For, think of it, the past is
not only FOCUSED there, in a man's soul, it IS there. How could
it be reflected from there if it were not there? All things that
he has ever seen, known, felt, believed of the surrounding world
are now within him, have become part of him, in part are him--he
has been changed into their image. He may deny it, he may resent
it, but they are there. They do not adhere to him, they are
transfused through him. He cannot alter or rub them out. They
are not in his memory, they are in HIM. His soul is as they have
filled it, made it, left it. These things, these books, these
events, these influences are his makers. In their hands are life
and death, beauty and deformity. When once the image or likeness
of any of these is fairy presented to the soul, no power on earth
can hinder two things happening--it must be absorbed into the soul
and forever reflected back again from character.
Upon these astounding yet perfectly obvious psychological facts,
Paul bases his doctrine of sanctification. He sees that character
is a thing built up by slow degrees, that it is hourly changing
for better or for worse according to the images which flit across
it. One step further and the whole length and breadth of the
application of these ideas to the central problem of religion will
stand before us.
II. The alchemy of influence.
If events change men, much more persons. No man can meet another on
the street without making some mark upon him. We say we exchange
words when we meet; what we exchange is souls. And when intercourse
is very close and very frequent, so complete is this exchange that
recognizable bits of the one soul begin to show in the other's
nature, and the second is conscious of a similar and growing debt
to the first.
Now, we become like those whom we habitually reflect. I could
prove from science that applies even to the physical framework of
animals--that they are influenced and organically changed by the
environment in which they life.
This mysterious approximating of two souls, who has not witnessed?
Who has not watched some old couple come down life's pilgrimage
hand in hand, with such gentle trust and joy in one another that
their very faces wore the self-same look? These were not two
souls; it was a composite soul. It did not matter to which of the
two you spoke, you would have said the same words to either. It
was quite indifferent which replied, each would have said the same.
Half a century's REFLECTING had told upon them; they were changed
into the same image. It is the Law of Influence that WE BECOME
LIKE THOSE WHOM WE HABITUALLY REFLECT: these had become like because
they habitually reflected. Through all the range of literature,
of history, and biography this law presides. Men are all mosaics
of other men. There was a savor of David about Jonathan, and a
savor of Jonathan about David. Metempsychosis is a fact. George
Eliot's message to the world was that men and women make men and
women. The Family, the cradle of mankind, has no meaning apart
from this. Society itself is nothing but a rallying point for these
omnipotent forces to do their work. On the doctrine of Influence,
in short, the whole vast pyramid of humanity is built.
But it was reserved for Paul to make the supreme application of
the Law of Influence. It was a tremendous inference to make, but
he never hesitated. He himself was a changed man; he knew exactly
what had done it;
It was Christ.
On the Damascus road they met, and from that hour his life was
absorbed in His. The effect could not but follow--on words, on
deeds, on career, on creed. The "impressed forces" did their vital
work. He became like Him Whom he habitually loved. "So we all,"
he writes, "reflecting as a mirror the glory of Christ, are changed
into the same image."
Nothing could be more simple, more intelligible, more natural, more
supernatural. It is an analogy from an every-day fact. Since we
are what we are by the impacts of those who surround us, those who
surround themselves with the highest will be those who change into
the highest. There are some men and some women in whose company
Always at our best.
While with them we cannot think mean thoughts or speak ungenerous
words. Their mere presence is elevation, purification, sanctity.
All the best stops in our nature are drawn out by their intercourse,
and we find a music in our souls that was never there before.
Suppose even THAT influence prolonged through a month, a year, a
lifetime, and what could not life become? There, even on the common
plane of life, talking our language, walking our streets, working
side by side, are sanctifiers of souls; here, breathing through
common clay, is Heaven; here, energies charged even through a
temporal medium with the virtue of regeneration. If to live with
men, diluted to the millionth degree with the virtue of the Highest,
can exalt and purify the nature, what bounds can be set to the
influence of Christ? To live with Socrates--with unveiled face--must
have made one wise; with Aristides, just. Francis Assisi must
have made one gentle; Savonarola, strong. But to have lived with
Christ must have made one like Christ: that is to say, A CHRISTIAN.
As a matter of fact, to live with Christ did produce this effect.
It produced it in the case of Paul. And during Christ's lifetime
the experiment was tried in an even more startling form. A few
raw, unspiritual, uninspiring men, were admitted to the inner circle
of His friendship. The change began at once. Day by day we can
almost see the first disciple grow. First there steals over them
the faintest possible adumbration of His character, and occasionally,
very occasionally, they do a thing or say a thing that they could
not have done or said had they not been living there. Slowly the
spell of His Life deepens. Reach after reach of their nature is
overtaken, thawed, subjugated, sanctified. Their manner softens,
their words become more gentle, their conduct more unselfish. As
swallows who have found a summer, as frozen buds the spring, their
starved humanity bursts into a fuller life. They do not know how
it is, but they are different men.
One day they find themselves like their Master, going about and
doing good. To themselves it is unaccountable, but they cannot
do otherwise. they were not told to do it, it came to them to do
it. But the people who watch them know well how to account for
it--"They have been," they whisper, "with Jesus." Already even,
the mark and seal of His character is upon them--"They have been
with Jesus." Unparalleled phenomenon, that these poor fishermen
should remind other men of Christ! Stupendous victory and mystery
that mortal men should suggest GOD to the world!
There is something almost melting in the way his contemporaries,
and John especially, speak of the influence of Christ. John lived
himself in daily wonder at Him; he was overpowered, over-awed,
entranced, transfigured. To his mind it was impossible for any one
to come under this influence and ever be the same again. "Whosoever
abideth in Him sinneth not," he said. It was inconceivable that he
should sin, as inconceivable as that ice should live in a burning
sun, or darkness coexist with noon. If any one did sin, it
was to John the simple proof that he could never have met Christ.
"Whosoever sinneth," he exclaims, "hath not seen HIM, neither known
HIM." Sin was abashed in this Presence. Its root withered. Its
sway and victory were forever at an end.
But these were His contemporaries. It was easy for THEM to be
influenced by Him, for they were every day and all the day together.
But how can we mirror that which we have never seen? How can all
this stupendous result be produced by a Memory, by the scantiest
of all Biographies, by One who lived and left this earth eighteen
hundred years ago? How can modern men to-day make Christ, the
absent Christ, their most constant companion still?
The answer is that
Friendship is a spiritual thing.
It is independent of Matter, or Space, or Time. That which I
love in my friend is not that which I see. What influences me in
my friend is not his body but his spirit. He influences me about
as much in his absence as in his presence. It would have been an
ineffable experience truly to have lived at that time--
"I think when I read the sweet story of old,
How when Jesus was here among men,
He took little children like lambs to his fold,
I should like to have been with Him then.
"I wish that His hand had been laid on my head,
That His arms had been thrown around me,
And that I had seen His kind look when he said,
'Let the little ones come unto me.'"
And yet, if Christ were to come into the world again, few of us
probably would ever have a chance of seeing Him. Millions of her
subjects in the little country of England have never seen their
own Queen. And there would be millions of the subjects of Christ
who could never get within speaking distance of Him if He were
here. We remember He said: "It is expedient for you (not FOR ME)
that I go away"; because by going away He could really be nearer
to us than He would have been if He had stayed here. It would
be geographically and physically impossible for most of us to be
influenced by His person had He remained. And so our communion
with Him is a spiritual companionship; but not different from most
companionships, which, when you press them down to the roots, you
will find to be essentially spiritual.
All friendship, all love, human and Divine, is purely spiritual.
It was after He was risen that He influenced even the disciples
most. Hence, in reflecting the character of Christ, it is no real
obstacle that we may never have been in visible contact with Himself.
There lived once a young girl whose perfect grace of character
was the wonder of those who knew her. She wore on her neck a gold
locket which no one was ever allowed to open. One day, in a moment
of unusual confidence, one of her companions was allowed to touch
its spring and learn its secret. She saw written these words--
"Whom having not seen I love."
That was the secret of her beautiful life. She had been changed
into the Same Image.
Now this is not imitation, but a much deeper thing. Mark
this distinction, for the difference in the process as well as in
the result, may be as great as that between a photograph secured
by the infallible pencil of the sun, and the rude outline from a
school-boy's chalk. Imitation is mechanical, reflection organic.
The one is occasional, the other habitual. In the one case,
man comes to God and imitates him; in the other, God comes to man
and imprints Himself upon him. It is quite true that there is an
imitation of Christ which amounts to reflection. But Paul's term
includes all that the other holds, and is open to no mistake.
What, then, is the practical lesson? It is obvious. "Make Christ
your most constant companion"--this is what it practically means for
us. Be more under His influences than under any other influence.
Ten minutes spent in His society every day, ay, two minutes if
it be face to face, and heart to heart, will make the whole day
different. Every character has an inward spring,--let Christ be
it. Every action has a key-note,--let Christ set it.
Yesterday you got a certain letter. You sat down and wrote a reply
which almost scorched the paper. You picked the cruelest adjectives
you knew and sent it forth, without a pang to do its ruthless work.
You did that because your life was set in the wrong key. You began
the day with the mirror placed at the wrong angle.
Tomorrow at day-break, turn it towards Him, and even to your enemy
the fashion of your countenance will be changed. Whatever you then
do, one thing you will find you could not do--you could not write
that letter. Your first impulse may be the same, your judgement
may be unchanged, but if you try it the ink will dry on your pen,
and you will rise from your desk an unavenged, but greater and more
Christian man. Throughout the whole day your actions, down to the
last detail, will do homage to that early vision.
Yesterday you thought mostly about yourself. Today the poor will
meet you, and you will feed them. The helpless, the tempted, the
sad, will throng about you, and each you will befriend. Where were
all these people yesterday? Where they are today, but you did not
see them. It is in reflected light that the poor are seen. But
your soul today is
Not at the ordinary angle.
"Things which are not seen" are visible. For a few short hours
you live the Eternal Life. The eternal life, the life of faith,
is simply the life of a higher vision. Faith is an attitude--a
mirror set at the right angle.
When tomorrow is over, and in the evening you review it, you will
wonder how you did it. You will not be conscious that you strove
for anything, or imitated anything, or crucified anything. You
will be conscious of Christ; that He was with you, that without
compulsion you were yet compelled; that without force, or noise,
or proclamation, the revolution was accomplished. You do not
congratulate yourself as one who has done a mighty deed, or achieved
a personal success, or stored up a fund of "Christian experience"
to ensure the same result again. What you are conscious of is "the
glory of the Lord." And what the world is conscious of, if the
result be a true one, is also "the glory of the Lord." In looking
at a mirror one does not see the mirror, or think of it, but only
of what it reflects. For a mirror never calls the attention to
itself--except when there are flaws in it.
Let me say a word or two more about the effects which necessarily
must follow from this contact, or fellowship, with Christ. I
need not quote the texts upon the subject--the texts about abiding
in Christ. "He that abideth in Him sinneth not." You cannot sin
when you are standing in front of Christ. You simply cannot do it.
Again: "If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall
ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." Think of that!
That is another inevitable consequence. And there is yet another:
"He that abideth in Me, the same bringeth forth much fruit."
Sinlessness--answered prayer--much fruit.
But in addition to these things, see how many of the highest Christian
virtues and experiences necessarily flow from the assumption of
that attitude towards Christ. For instance, the moment you assume
that relation to Christ you begin to know what the CHILD-SPIRIT
is. You stand before Christ, and He becomes your Teacher, and
you instinctively become docile. Then you learn also to become
CHARITABLE and TOLERANT; because you are learning of Him, and He is
"meek and lowly in heart," and you catch that spirit. That is a
bit of His character being reflected into yours. Instead of being
critical and self-asserting, you become humble and have the mind
of a little child.
I think, further, the only way of learning what FAITH is is to
know Christ and be in His company. You hear sermons about the nine
different kinds of faith--distinctions drawn between the right
kind of faith and the wrong--and sermons telling you how to get
faith. So far as I can see, there is
Only one way
in which faith is got, and it is the same in the religious world
as it is in the world of men and women. I learn to trust you, my
brother, just as I get to trust me just as you get to know me. I
do not trust you as a stranger, but as I come into contact with
you, and watch you, and live with you, I find out that you are
trustworthy, and I come to trust myself to you, and to lean upon
you. But I do not do that to a stranger.
The way to trust Christ is to know Christ. You cannot help trusting
Him them. You are changed. By knowing Him faith is begotten in you,
as cause and effect. To trust Him without knowing Him as thousands
do, is not faith, but credulity. I believe a great deal of prayer
for faith is thrown away. What we should pray for is that we may
be able to fulfill the condition, and when we have fulfilled the
condition, the faith necessarily follows. The way, therefore, to
increase our faith is to increase our intimacy with Christ. We
trust Him more and more the better we know Him.
And then another immediate effect of this way of sanctifying the
character is the tranquility that it brings over the Christian
life. How disturbed and distressed and anxious Christian people
are about their growth in grace! Now, the moment you give that
over into Christ's care--the moment you see that you are BEING
changed--that anxiety passes away. You see that it must follow
by an inevitable process and by a natural law if you fulfill the
simple condition; so that peace is the reward of that life and
fellowship with Christ.
Many other things follow. A man's usefulness depends to a large
extent upon his fellowship with Christ. That is obvious. Only Christ
can influence the world; but all that the world sees of Christ is
what it sees of you and me. Christ said: "The world seeth Me no
more, but ye see Me." You see Him, and standing in front of Him
reflect Him, and the world sees the reflection. It cannot see Him.
So that a Christian's usefulness depends solely upon that relationship.
Now, I have only pointed out a few of the things that follow from
the standing before Christ--from the abiding in Christ. You will
find, if you run over the texts about abiding in Christ, many
other things will suggest themselves in the same relations. Almost
everything in Christian experience and character follows and
follows necessarily, from standing before Christ and reflecting
his character. But the supreme consummation is that we are changed
into THE SAME IMAGE, "even as by the Lord the Spirit." That is to
say that in some way, unknown to us, but possibly not more mysterious
than the doctrine of personal influence, we are changed into the
image of Christ.
This method cannot fail. I am not setting before you an opinion
or a theory, but this is
A certainly successful means
of sanctification. "We all, with unveiled face, reflecting in a
mirror the glory of Christ (the character of Christ) assuredly--without
any miscarriage--without any possibility of miscarriage--are changed
into the same image." It is an immense thing to be anchored in
some great principle like that. Emerson says: "The hero is the
man who is immovably centered." Get immovably centered in that
doctrine of sanctification. Do not be carried away by the hundred
and one theories of sanctification that are floating about in
religious literature of the country at the present time; but go to
the bottom of the thing for yourself, and see the RATIONALE of it
for yourself, and you will come to see that it is a matter of cause
and effect, and that if you will fulfill the condition laid down
by Christ, the effect must follow by a natural law.
What a prospect! To be changed into the same image. Think of
that! That is what we are here for. That is what we are elected
for. Not to be saved, in the common acceptation, but "whom He did
foreknow He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of
His Son." Not merely to be saved, but TO BE CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE
OF HIS SON. Conserve that principle. And as we must spend time
in cultivating our earthly friendships if we are to have their
blessings, so we must
in cultivating the fellowship and companionship of Christ. And
there is nothing so much worth taking into our lives as a profounder
sense of what is to be had by living in communion with Christ, and
by getting nearer to Him. It will matter much if we take away with
us some of the thoughts about theology, and some of the new light
that has been shed upon the text of Scripture; it will matter
infinitely more if our fellowship with the Lord Jesus become a little
closer, and our theory of holy living a little more rational. And
then as we go forth, men will take knowledge of us, that we have
been with Jesus, and as we reflect Him upon them, they will begin
to be changed into the same image.
It seems to me the preaching is of infinitely smaller account than
the life which mirrors Christ. That is bound to tell; without
speech or language--like the voices of the stars. It throws out
its impressions on every side. The one simple thing we have to do
is to be there--in the right relation; to go through life hand in
hand with Him; to have Him in the room with us, and keeping us company
wherever we go; to depend upon Him and lean upon Him, and so have
His life reflected in the fullness of its beauty and perfection
III. The first experiment.
Then you reduce religion to a common Friendship? A common
Friendship--who talks of a COMMON Friendship? There is no such
thing in the world.
On earth no word is more sublime. Friendship is the nearest thing
we know to what religion is. God is love. And to make religion
akin to Friendship is simply to give it the highest expression
conceivable by man. But if by demurring to "a common friendship" is
meant a protest against the greatest and the holiest in religion
being spoken of in intelligible terms, then I am afraid the
objection is all to real. Men always look for a mystery when one
talks of sanctification, some mystery apart from that which must ever
be mysterious wherever Spirit works. It is thought some peculiar
secret lies behind it, some occult experience which only the
initiated know. Thousands of persons go to church every Sunday
hoping to solve this mystery. At meeting, at conferences, many
a time they have reached what they thought was the very brink of
it, but somehow no further revelation came. Poring over religious
books, how often were they not within a paragraph of it; the next
page, the next sentence, would discover all, and they would be
borne on a flowing tide forever. But nothing happened. The next
sentence and the next page were read, and still it eluded them;
and though the promise of its coming kept faithfully up to the end,
the last chapter found them still pursuing.
Why did nothing happen? Because there was nothing to happen--nothing
of the kind they were looking for. Why did it elude them? Because
there was no "it." When shall we learn that the pursuit of holiness
The pursuit of Christ?
When shall we substitute for the "it" of a fictitious aspiration,
the approach to a Living Friend? Sanctity is in character and not
in moods; Divinity in our own plain calm humanity, and in no mystic
rapture of the soul.
And yet there are others who, for exactly a contrary reason,
will find scant satisfaction here. Their complaint is not that a
religion expressed in terms of Friendship is too homely, but that
it is still too mystical. To "abide" in Christ, to "make Christ
our most constant companion," is to them the purest mysticism. They
want something absolutely tangible and absolutely direct. These
are not the poetical souls who seek a sign, a mysticism in excess,
but the prosaic natures whose want is mathematical definition in
details. Yet it is perhaps not possible to reduce this problem to
much more rigid elements. The beauty of Friendship is its infinity.
One can never evacuate life of mysticism. Home is full of it, love
is full of it, religion is full of it. Why stumble at that in the
relation of man to Christ which is natural in the relation of man
If any one cannot conceive or realize a mystical relation with
Christ, perhaps all that can be done is to help him to step on
to it by still plainer analogies from common life. How do I know
Shakespere or Dante? By communing with their words and thoughts.
Many men know Dante better than their own fathers. Many men know
Dante better than their own fathers. He influences them more. As
a spiritual presence he is more near to them, as a spiritual force
more real. Is there any reason why a greater than Shakspere or
Dante, who also walked this earth, who left great words behind Him,
who has greater works everywhere in the world now, should not also
instruct, inspire and mould the characters of men? I do not limit
Christ's influence to this: it is this, and it is more. But Christ,
so far from resenting or discouraging this relation of Friendship,
Himself proposed it. "Abide in me" was almost His last word to
the world. And He partly met the difficulty of those who feel its
intangibleness by adding the practical clause, "If ye abide in Me,
AND MY WORDS ABIDE IN YOU."
Begin with His words. Words can scarcely ever be long impersonal.
Christ himself was a Word, a word made Flesh. Make His words flesh;
do them, live them, and you must live Christ. "HE THAT KEEPETH
MY COMMANDMENTS, he it is that loveth Me." Obey Him and you must
love Him. Abide in Him, and you must obey Him. CULTIVATE His
Friendship. Live after Christ, in His Spirit, as in His Presence,
and it is difficult to think what more you can do. Take this at
least as a first lesson, as introduction.
If you cannot at once and always feel the play of His life upon
yours, watch for it also indirectly. "The whole earth is full of
the character of the Lord." Christ is the Light of the world, and
much of his Light is reflected from things in the world--even from
clouds. Sunlight is stored in every leaf, from leaf through coal,
and it comforts us thence when days are dark and we cannot see the
sun. Christ shines through men, through books, through history,
through nature, music, art. Look for Him there. "Every day one
should either look at a beautiful picture, or hear beautiful music,
or read a beautiful poem." The real danger of mysticism is not
making it broad enough.
Do not think that nothing is happening because you do not see
yourself grow, or hear the whir of the machinery. All great things
grow noiselessly. You can see a mushroom grow, but never a child.
Paul said for the comforting of all slowly perfecting souls that
they grew "from character to character." "The inward man," he
says elsewhere, "is renewed from day to day." All thorough work
is slow; all true development by minute, slight and insensible
metamorphoses. The higher the structure, moreover, the slower the
progress. As the biologist runs his eye over the long Ascent of
Life, he sees the lowest forms of animals develop in an hour; the
next above these reach maturity in a day; those higher still take
weeks or months to perfect; but the few at the top demand the long
experiment of years. If a child and an ape are born on the same
day, the last will be in full possession of its faculties and doing
the active work of life before the child has left its cradle. Life
is the cradle of eternity. As the man is to the animal in the
slowness of his evolution, so is the spiritual man to the natural
man. Foundations which have to bear the weight of an eternal life
must be surely laid. Character is to wear forever; who will wonder
or grudge that it cannot be developed in a day?
To await the growing of a soul, nevertheless, is an almost Divine
act of faith. How pardonable, surely, the impatience of deformity
with itself, of a consciously despicable character standing before
Christ, wondering, yearning, hungering to be like that! Yet must
one trust the process fearlessly and without misgiving. "The Lord
the Spirit" will do His part. The tempting expedient is, in haste
for abrupt or visible progress, to try some method less spiritual,
or to defeat the end by watching for effects instead of keeping
the eye on the Cause. A photograph prints from the negative only
while exposed to the sun. While the artist is looking to see
how it is getting on he simply stops the getting on. Whatever of
wise supervision the soul may need, it is certain it can never be
over-exposed, or that, being exposed, anything else in the world
can improve the result or quicken it. The creation of a new heart,
the renewing of a right spirit, is an omnipotent work of God.
Leave it to the Creator. "He which hath begun a good work in you
will perfect it unto that day."
No man, nevertheless, who feels the worth and solemnity of what is
at stake will be careless as to his progress. To become
is the only thing in the world worth caring for, the thing before
which every ambition of man is folly, and all lower achievement
Those only who make this quest the supreme desire and passion of
their lives can ever begin to hope to reach it. If, therefore, it
has seemed up to this point as if all depended on passivity, let
me now assert, with conviction more intense, that all depends on
activity. A religion of effortless adoration may be a religion
for an angel, but never for a man. No in the contemplative, but
in the active, lies true hope; not in rapture, but in reality, lies
true life; not in the realm of ideals, but among tangible things,
is man's sanctification wrought. Resolution, effort, pain,
self-crucifixion, agony--all the things already dismissed as
futile in themselves, must now be restored to office, and a tenfold
responsibility laid upon them. For what is their office? Nothing
less than to move the vast inertia of the soul, and place it, and
keep it where the spiritual forces will act upon it. It is to rally
the forces of the will, and keep the surface of the mirror bright
and ever in position. It is to uncover the face which is to look
at Christ, and draw down the veil when unhallowed sights are near.
You have, perhaps, gone with an astronomer to watch him photograph
the spectrum of a star. As you enter the dark vault of the
observatory you saw him being by lighting a candle. To see the
star with? No; but to adjust the instrument to see the star with.
It was the star that was going to take the photograph; it was,
also, the astronomer. For a long time he worked in the dimness,
screwing tubes and polishing lenses and adjusting reflectors, and
only after much labor the finely focused instrument was brought
to bear. Then he blew out the light, and left the start to do its
work upon the plate alone.
The day's task for the Christian is to bring his instrument to bear.
Having done that he may blow out his candle. All the evidences of
Christianity which have brought him there, all aids to Faith, all
acts of worship, all the leverages of the Church, all Prayer and
Meditation, all girding of the Will--these lesser processes, these
candle-light activities for that supreme hour, may be set aside.
But, remember, it is but for an hour. The wise man will be he who
quickest lights his candle; the wisest he who never lets it out.
Tomorrow, the next moment, he, a poor, darkened, blurred soul, may
need it again to focus the Image better, to take a mote off the
lens, to clear the mirror from a breath with which the world has
No readjustment is ever required on behalf of the Star. That is
one great fixed point in this shifting universe. But THE WORLD
MOVES. And each day, each hour, demands a further motion and
readjustment for the soul. A telescope in an observatory follows
a star by clockwork, but the clockwork of the soul is called THE
WILL. Hence, while the soul in passivity reflects the Image of
the Lord, the Will in intense activity holds the mirror in position
lest the drifting motion of the world bear it beyond the line of
vision. To "follow Christ" is largely to keep the soul in such
position as will allow for the motion of the earth. And this
calculated counteracting of the movements of the world, this holding
of the mirror exactly opposite to the Mirrored, this steadying of
the faculties unerringly through cloud and earthquake, fire and
sword, is the stupendous co-operating labor of the Will. It is
all man's work. It is all Christ's work. In practice it is both;
in theory it is both. But the wise man will say in practice, "It
depends upon myself."
In the Gallerie des Beaux Arts in Paris there stands a famous
statue. It was the last work of a great genius, who, like many a
genius, was very poor and lived in a garret, which served as a studio
and sleeping-room alike. When the statue was all but finished, one
midnight a sudden frost fell upon Paris. The sculptor lay awake
in the fireless room and thought of the still moist clay, thought
how the water would freeze in the pores and destroy in an hour the
dream of his life. So the old man rose from his couch and heaped
the bed-clothes reverently round his work. In the morning when the
neighbors entered the room the sculptor was dead, but the statue
The Image of Christ that is forming within us--that is life's one
charge. Let every project stand aside for that. The spirit of
God who brooded upon the waters thousands of years ago, is busy
now creating men, within these commonplace lives of ours, in the
image of God. "Till Christ be formed," no man's work is finished,
no religion crowned, no life has fulfilled its end. Is the infinite
task begun? When, how, are we to be different? Time cannot
change men. Death cannot change men. Christ can. Wherefore PUT
Dealing With Doubt.
There is a subject which I think workers amongst young men cannot
afford to keep out of sight--I mean the subject of "Doubt." We are
forced to face that subject. We have no choice. I would rather
let it alone; but every day of my life I meet men who doubt, and I
am quite sure that most Christian workers among men have innumerable
interviews every year with men who raise skeptical difficulties
Now it becomes a matter of great practical importance that we should
know how to deal wisely with these. Upon the whole, I think these
are the best men in the country. I speak of my own country. I speak
of the universities with which I am familiar, and I say that they
men who are perplexed,--the men who come to you with serious and
honest difficulties,--are the best men. They are men of intellectual
honesty, and cannot allow themselves to be put to rest by words,
or phrases, or traditions, or theologies, but who must get to the
bottom of things for themselves. And if I am not mistaken,
Christ was very fond
of these men. The outsiders always interested Him, and touched Him.
The orthodox people--the Pharisees--He was much less interested
in. He went with publicans and sinners--with people who were in
revolt against the respectability, intellectual and religious, of
the day. And following Him, we are entitled to give sympathetic
consideration to those whom He loved and took trouble with.
First, let me speak for a moment or two about
The origin of doubt.
In the first place, WE ARE BORN QUESTIONERS. Look at the wonderment
of a little child in its eyes before it can speak. The child's
great word when it begins to speak is, "Why?" Every child is full
of every kind of question, about every kind of thing, that moves,
and shines and changes, in the little world in which it lives.
That is the incipient doubt in the nature of man. Respect doubt
for its origin. It is an inevitable thing. It is not a thing to
be crushed. It is a part of man as God made him. Heresy is truth
in the making, and doubt is the prelude of knowledge.
Secondly: THE WORLD IS A SPHINX. It is a vast riddle--an unfathomable
mystery; and on every side there is temptation to questioning.
In every leaf, in every cell of every leaf, there are a hundred
problems. There are ten good years of a man's life in investigating
what is in a leaf. God has planned the world to incite men to
Thirdly: THE INSTRUMENT WITH WHCIH WE ATTEMPT TO INVESTIGATE TRUTH
IS IMPAIRED. Some say it fell, and the glass is broken. Some
say prejudice, heredity, or sin, have spoiled its sight, and have
blinded our eyes and deadened our ears. In any case the instruments
with which we work upon truth, even in the strongest men, are feeble
and inadequate to their tremendous task.
And in the fourth place, ALL RELIGIOUS TRUTHS ARE DOUBTABLE. There
is no absolute truth for any one of them. Even that fundamental
truth--the existence of a God--no man can prove by reason. The
ordinary proof for the existence of a God involves either an
assumption, argument in a circle, or a contradiction. The impression
of God is kept up by experience, not by logic. And hence, when
the experimental religion of a man, of a community, or of a nation
wanes, religion wanes--their idea of God grows indistinct, and that
man, community or nation becomes infidel.
Bear in mind, then, that all religious truths are doubtable--even
those which we hold most strongly.
What does this brief account of the origin of doubt teach us? It
Great intellectual humility.
It teaches us sympathy and toleration with all men who venture upon
the ocean of truth to find out a path through it for themselves.
Do you sometimes feel yourself thinking unkind things about your
fellow-students who have intellectual difficulty? I know how hard
it is always to feel sympathy and toleration for them; but we must
address ourselves to that most carefully and most religiously. If
my brother is short-sighted I must not abuse him or speak against
him; I must pity him, and if possible try to improve his sight, or
to make things that he is to look at so bright that he cannot help
seeing. But never let us think evil of men who do not see as we
do. From the bottom of our hearts let us pity them, and let us take
them by the hand and spend time and thought over them, and try to
lead them to the true light.
What has been
The church's treatment of doubt
in the past? It has been very simple. "There is a heretic. Burn
him!" That is all. "There is a man who has gone off the road.
Bring him back and torture him!"
We have got past that physically; have we got past it morally? What
does the modern Church say to a man who is skeptical? Not "Burn
him!" but "Brand him!" "Brand him!"--call him a bad name. And
in many countries at the present time, a man who is branded as a
heretic is despised, tabooed and put out of religious society, much
more than if he had gone wrong in morals. I think I am speaking
within the facts when I say that a man who is unsound is looked
upon in many communities with more suspicion and with more pious
horror than a man who now and then gets drunk. "Burn him!" "Brand
him!" "Excommunicate him!" That has been the Church's treatment
of doubt, and that is perhaps to some extent the treatment which
we ourselves are inclined to give to the men who cannot see the
truths of Christianity as we see them.
of doubt. I have spoken already of His strange partiality for the
outsiders--for the scattered heretics up and down the country; of
the care with which He loved to deal with them, and of the respect
in which He held their intellectual difficulties. Christ never
failed to distinguish between doubt and unbelief. Doubt is "CAN'T
BELIEVE"; unbelief is "WON'T BELIEVE." Doubt is honesty; unbelief
is obstinacy. Doubt is looking for light; unbelief is content with
darkness. Loving darkness rather than light--that is what Christ
attacked, and attacked unsparingly. But for the intellectual
questioning of Thomas, and Philip, and Nicodemus, and the many
others who came to Him to have their great problems solved, He was
respectful and generous and tolerant.
And how did He meet their doubts? The Church, as I have said,
says, "Brand him!" Christ said, "Teach him." He destroyed by
fulfilling. When Thomas came to Him and denied His very resurrection,
and stood before Him waiting for the scathing words and lashing
for his unbelief, they never came. They never came! Christ gave
him facts--facts! No men can go around facts. Christ said, "Behold
My hands and My feet." The great god of science at the present
time is a fact. It words with facts. Its cry is, "Give me facts.
Found anything you like upon facts and we will believe it." The
spirit of Christ was the scientific spirit. He founded His religion
upon facts; and He asked all men to found their religion upon facts.
Now, get up the facts of Christianity, and take men to the facts.
Theologies--and I am not speaking disrespectfully of theology;
theology is as scientific a thing as any other science of facts--but
of Divine truths, and hence the varieties of the versions and the
inconsistencies of them. I would allow a man to select whichever
version of this truth he liked AFTERWARDS; but I would ask him
to begin with no version, but go back to the facts and base his
Christian life upon these.
That is the great lesson of the New Testament way of looking at
doubt--of Christ's treatment of doubt. It is not "Brand him!"--but
lovingly, wisely and tenderly to teach him. Faith is never opposed
to reason in the New Testament; it is opposed to sight. You will
find that a principle worth thinking over. FAITH IS NEVER OPPOSED
TO REASON IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, BUT TO SIGHT.
With these principles in mind as to the origin of doubt, as to
Christ's treatment of it, how are we ourselves to deal with those
who are in intellectual difficulty?
In the first place, I think WE MUST MAKE ALL THE CONCESSIONS TO
THEM THAT WE CONSCIENTIOUSLY CAN.
When a doubter first encounters you, he pours out a deluge of abuse
of churches, and ministers, and creeds, and Christians. Nine-tenths
of what he says is probably true. Make concessions. Agree with
him. It does him good to unburden himself of these things. He has
been cherishing them for years--laying them up against Christians,
against the Church, and against Christianity; and now he is startled
to find the first Christian with whom he has talked over the thing
almost entirely agrees with him. We are, of course, not responsible
for everything that is said in the name of Christianity; and now
he is startled to find the first Christian with whom he has talked
over the thing almost entirely agrees with him. We are, of
course, not responsible for everything that is said in the name
of Christianity; but a man does not give up medicine because there
are quack doctors, and no man has a right to give up his Christianity
because there are spurious or inconsistent Christians. Then, as I
already said, creeds are human versions of Divine truths; and we
do not ask a man to accept all the creeds, any more than we ask
him to accept all the Christians. We ask him to accept Christ,
and the facts about Christ and the words of Christ. You will find
the battle is half won when you have endorsed the man's objections,
and possibly added a great many more to the charges which he has
against ourselves. These men are
against the kind of religion which we exhibit to the world--against
the cant that is taught in the name of Christianity. And if the
men that have never seen the real thing--if you could show them
that, they would receive it as eagerly as you do. They are merely
in revolt against the imperfections and inconsistencies of those
who represent Christ to the world.
Second: BEG THEM TO SET ASIDE, BY AN ACT OF WILL, ALL UNSOLVED
PROBLEMS: such as the problem of the origin of evil, the problem
of the Trinity, the problem of the relation of human will and
predestination, and so on--problems which have been investigated for
thousands of years without result--ask them to set those problems
aside as insoluble. In the meantime, just as a man who is studying
mathematics may be asked to set aside the problem of squaring the
circle, let him go on with what can be done, and what has been
done, and leave out of sight the impossible.
You will find that will relieve the skeptic's mind of a great deal
that has been in his way.
Thirdly: TALKING ABOUT DIFFICULTIES, AS A RULE, ONLY AGGRAVATES
Entire satisfaction to the intellect is unattainable about any of
the greater problems, and if you try to get to the bottom of them
by argument, there is no bottom there; and therefore you make
the matter worse. But I would say what is known, and what can be
honestly and philosophically and scientifically said about one or
two of the difficulties that the doubter raises, just to show him
that you can do it--to show him that you are not a fool--that you
are not merely groping in the dark yourself, but you have found
whatever basis is possible. But I would not go around all the
doctrines. I would simply do that with one or two; because the
moment you cut off one, a hundred other heads will grow in its
place. It would be a pity if all these problems could be solved.
The joy of the intellectual life would be largely gone. I would
not rob a man of his problems, nor would I have another man rob
me of my problems. They are the delight of life, and the whole
intellectual world would be stale and unprofitable if we knew
Fourthly--and this is the great point: TURN AWAY FROM THE REASON
AND GO INTO THE MAN'S MORAL LIFE.
I don't mean, go into his moral life and see if the man is living
in conscious sin, which is the great blinder of the eyes--I am
speaking now of honest doubt; but open a new door into
The practical side of man's nature.
Entreat him not to postpone life and his life's usefulness until he
has settled the problems of the universe. Tell him those problems
will never all be settled; that his life will be done before he has
begun to settle them; and ask him what he is doing with his life
meantime. Charge him with wasting his life and his usefulness;
and invite him to deal with the moral and practical difficulties
of the world, and leave the intellectual difficulties as he goes
along. To spend time upon these is proving the less important
before the more important; and, as the French say, "The good is the
enemy of the best." It is a good thing to think; it is a better
thing to work--it is a better thing to do good. And you have him
there, you see. He can't get beyond that. You have to tell him,
in fact that there are two organs of knowledge: the one reason,
the other obedience. And now tell him there is but One, and lead
him to the great historical figure who calls all men to Him: the
one perfect life--the one Savior of mankind--the one Light of the
world. Ask him to begin to
and, doing His will, he shall now of the doctrine whether it be of
That, I think, is about the only thing you can do with a man: to
get him into practical contact with the needs of the world, and
to let him lose his intellectual difficulties meantime. Don't ask
him to give them up altogether. Tell him to solve them afterward
one by one if he can, but meantime to give his life to Christ and
his time to the kingdom of God. You fetch him completely around
when you do that. You have taken him away from the false side of
his nature, and to the practical and moral side of his nature; and
for the first time in his life, perhaps, he puts things in their true
place. He puts his nature in the relations in which it ought to
be, and he then only begins to live. And by obedience he will soon
become a learner and pupil for himself, and Christ will teach him
things, and he will find whatever problems are solvable gradually
solved as he goes along the path of practical duty.
Now, let me, in closing, give an instance of how to deal with
The question of miracles is thrown at my head every second day:
"What do you say to a man when he says to you, 'Why do you believe
I say, "Because I have seen then."
He asks, "When?"
I say, "Yesterday."
"Down such-and-such a street I saw a man who was a drunkard redeemed
by the power of an unseen Christ and saved from sin. That is a
The best apologetic for Christianity is a Christian. That is a
fact which the man cannot get over. There are fifty other arguments
for miracles, but none so good as that you have seen them. Perhaps,
you are one yourself. But take a man and show him a miracle with
his own eyes. Then he will believe.