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All Saints' Day and Other Sermons by Charles Kingsley

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brought in contact with women of that class, of whom I shall only say,
that if they were not meant for some such noble work as this--and not for
mere pleasure and mere display, then for what purpose, in heaven or
earth, were they made? and why has Providence taken the trouble (as it
were) to elaborate, by long ages of civilization, that most exquisite of
all products of nature and of art--A Lady?

Ah! what the ladies of England might do, and that without interfering in
the least with their duties as wives and mothers, if they would work
together, as a class! If they would work as well and humanly while they
are in towns, as most of them do work while they are in the country; as
some of them do, to their honour, in the towns already! But how many?
what proportion do those who do good bear to those who do nothing? What
a small amount of humanizing and civilizing intercourse with some women
of the labouring class is there in the case of the wives of rich men who
come up to town, merely for the season, and forget that it is their
temporary and uncertain stay in London which causes much of the temporary
and uncertain employment of the London poor, and their consequent
temptation to unthrift and recklessness! How little humanizing and
civilizing intercourse with the poor is carried on by the wives of those
employers of labour who surely, surely owe something more to their
husband's work people, than to be aware (by hearsay) that they are duly
paid every Saturday night?

But I shall be told: We need not fear--we can justify ourselves before
God and man. I shall be reminded of all that has been done, and done
well too, for the poor during the last generation, and bidden not to
calumniate my countrymen. True, much has been done; and done well. And
true also it is that no effort to make the rich and poor meet together,
to bring the different classes of society into contact with each other,
but has succeeded--has sown good seed--which I trust may bring forth good
fruit in the day when every tree shall be judged by its fruit. The
events of 1830, startling and warning, and those of 1848, more pregnant,
if possible, with warning than the former, awakened a spirit of humanity
in England, which was also a spirit of prudence and of common sense.

But I cannot conceal from myself, or you, that the earnestness which was
awakened in those days is dying out in these. The richer classes of
every country are tempted from time to time to fits of laziness--fits of
frivolity and luxury, surfeits, in which men say, with a shrug and a
yawn--"Why be very much in earnest? Why take so much trouble? Somebody
must always be rich, why should not I? Somebody must enjoy the money,
why should not I? At all events, things will last my time." And that
such a surfeit has fallen upon the rich of this land, is a fact; for that
this is the tone of to-day, and that the tone increases, none can deny
who knows that which calls itself the WORLD, and calls itself so only too
truly; the world of which it is written, that all that is in the world--
the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--
is not of the Father, but of the world. And the world passeth away, and
the lust thereof. But he who doeth the will of God, he alone abideth for
ever.

God grant that we, who have just seen the most cunningly organized and
daintily bedizened specimen of a world, which ever flaunted on the earth
since men began to build their towers of Babel, collapse and crumble at a
single blow, may take God's hint, that the fashion of this world passeth
away. Let the idle, the frivolous, the sensual, and those who, like
Figaro's Marquis, have earned all earthly happiness by only taking the
trouble to be born--let them look back on this last awful Christmas-tide,
and hear, speaking in fact unmistakeable, the voice of the Lord. Think
ye that they whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices were
sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I
tell you, "Nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."

There are those who will hear such words with a smile, even with a sneer,
and say, Such wholesale judgments of God, even granting that there are
such things, are, after all, very rare: it is very seldom that a whole
class, a whole system of society, is punished in mass--and why then need
we trouble ourselves about so remote a probability?

Then know this--that as surely as God sometimes punishes wholesale, so
surely is He always punishing in detail. By that infinite concatenation
of moral causes and effects, which makes the whole world one mass of
special Providences, every sin of ours will punish itself, and probably
punish itself in kind. Are we selfish? We shall call out selfishness in
others. Do we neglect our duty? Then others will neglect their duty to
us. Do we indulge our passions? Then others, who depend on us, will
indulge theirs, to our detriment and misery. Do we squander our money?
Then our children and our servants will squander our money for us.

Do we?--but what use to go on reminding men of truths which no one
believes, because they are too painful and searching to be believed in
comfort? What use to tell men what they never will confess to be true--
that by every crime, folly, even neglect of theirs, they drive a thorn
into their own flesh, which will trouble them for years to come, it may
be to their dying day? And yet so it is.

Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small;
Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all.

As those who neglect their fellow-creatures will discover, by the most
patent undeniable proofs, in that last great day, when the rich and poor
shall meet together, and then, at least, discover that the Lord is the
maker of them all.

Footnotes:

{1} These sermons by the Rev. Charles Kingsley M.A., late rector of
Eversley and Canon of Westminster, were edited by the Rev. W. Harrison,
M.A., rector of Brington.--DP.

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