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a right to look them in the face and inquire, “What do ye more than others ? ” There is no impertinence, but perfect fairness and justice, in the interrogation. The solemn voice of conscience will sound it forth, in silent and meditative seasons, though the world should not. In the stillness of seclusion, in the calm hour of thoughtful reflection, when bewildering vanities are scattered away and vanish, when earthly promises recede and heaven draws near, at midnight, and over the grave, that sober questioning will go on, “What do ye more than oth
Sorrowful and heavy must our hearts be, if we cannot render in our response with peace and joy ; if, for the five talents intrusted us, we cannot give back other five, gained beside them.
Let us look now to find what are some of those proofs we are constantly giving, that we do, after all, whatever the general current of our conduct may be, - however irreligious, however frivolous, however false, - that we do really believe the Christian faith to be essential to the well-being of society. Look round upon the ordinary practices that prevail about you. Gather up the evidences that are presented there of an opinion rooted in men's minds, that the whole social system is considerably safer with Christianity at its foundation, than it would be altogether without it. Nay, look in upon yourself, and see if you, too, are not yielding the same testimony,
I. Let the first instance be taken for a fact already alluded to. This phrase, "a Christian community,” what does it signify? Something it signifies undoubtedly; and what is it ? You take a just and honorable pride in belonging to such a community. You would feel
yourself personally insulted, and your country and nation deeply injured, if that title of “Christian” were withheld from it, denied it. Why is this, if there is not in the title something of a precious and sacred significance ? Why is it, but that there ought to be real reverence for the thing of which the name is but a sign ? stant and constantly approved custom of calling a people, a generation, an age, a city, or a village, " Christian," of maintaining that it is a right name, and belongs to that to which it is applied, shows full well that something underlies that name that deserves to be profoundly venerated, - something that is regarded as eminently excellent, necessary to prosperity, to a good reputation, to public glory. So much being admitted, enough is admitted to lay that community, or country, or generation, or city, or village, under an obligation to be practically whatever its chosen appellation implies ; to disown and forsake all that Christianity rebukes ; to repeal every law, and to abolish every usage, that the free and peaceful spirit of the Great Teacher would not sanction. Consistency requires it; and until it be accomplished, there is a palpable incongruity between the name and the thing ; between the boast and the fulfilment; between what is spoken and what is done. So individually. That person who deems it his due to be designated as one of a Christian people, has something more devolving on him than to go about asserting that right with his lips. -He has to testify that he deserves it, and that by a regular and conscientious action, worthy to be described as discipleship. He cannot complain with indignation, that the distinction is not accorded to him, unless he presents a character equal to the dignity he claims. Christianity proposes no vocabulary of unmeaning epithets ; it publishes no book of pompous heraldry. It aims at a perfect harmony between the speech and the deed, and calls the whole company of its believers to take up the cross of daily effort, and march, through trial and through toil, to the inheritance and the crown. Call yourselves a Christian community, a Christian society, and you confess your obligation to be Christians.
II. In the next place, literature, — by which I mean the expression of the intellect, whether by writing or by the living tongue, -- almost all literature amongst us has, more or less, an air of religious pretension. It speaks well, almost uniformly, in these days, of the church and her interests. It would honor her great Head and Founder, professedly. It eulogizes his apostles. It bestows its patronage on his ministers. The makers of books inscribe them with mottoes that savour of piety. Science is anxious to appear in unison with revelation. Geology and astronomy would pay homage to the majesty of the Inspired Word. History traces with pride the advancement of that Cause that had its birth in a manger, that never faltered nor stumbled fatally, and of which the end is not yet. Great orators bring their finest conceptions, and try their mightiest powers, to tell worthily the triumphs of Christian truth. The far-reaching and clearsighted minds of statesmen turn aside, in the midst of grave and deliberative occasions, to offer fitting tributes to the benign spirit of simple love that came embodied, on its gracious mission, eighteen hundred years ago; that received its consecration at the Jordan, and won its
divinest victory on Calvary. Even imagination strives, if she may be herself believed, to echo and illustrate the teachings of him who preached in parables. Nor are the elegant arts less dutiful. The geniuses of painting and of sculpture labor to reproduce the forms of martyrs that died for the reproach of the cross, to figure forth the scenes and the personages commemorated in Christian story; music catches her sublimest inspiration from the tones of self-denying trust and celestial joy, breathed first among the hills of Judea ; poetry burns incense on the altar of a spiritual sacrifice ; and all wait, worship, and humbly veil their eyes, in the temple of God. And now, in so doing, what do literature, and science, and art confess, but that Christianity is the master-principle in human life ; that its message is true, and its precepts of authority ? What, then, but that they who utter its praises, and draw their breath from its spirit, should be moulded in heart and deed by its hallowed instruction ? I can discover no alternative for consistency beside, cept all these varied utterances be pronounced a hypocritical lie; and so every brightest sign of sincerity and genuineness and singleness of purpose in human speech be blotted away, under the sweeping aspersion of falsehood.
III. Again, we perceive existing all around us institutions, having a Christian origin, and pretending to have a Christian design. Here is the church, with its simple ceremonies of memorial and of consecration; the ministry, with houses of worship, appointed methods of instruction, and many offices belonging to it closely joined with the chief events of life ; the Sabbath, not the old
Hebrew festival and resting-time, but a Christian Sabbath, -hallowed by being devoted to spiritual exercises, meditation, communion, to growing in holiness and drawing nearer to the kingdom of heaven. These institutions exist, and we see them existing. I do not speak now of their propriety, their foundation, the grounds of their establishment. They are recognized facts among us at present, and of course we all sustain towards them certain relations. We either positively oppose them, or indifferently neglect them, or else observe them. Now, inasmuch as every individual has all his life been standing in one or the other of these relations, it is quite time his position were defined to himself, and his action made accordant to it. Most persons who read these pages are in the habit of observing these institutions. Indeed, it is one of the clearest and most beautiful evidences of their natural fitness and adaptedness to the wants of our na'ture, that even they who undertake to question or stand aloof from them do yet render them many involuntary and indirect tributes, finding it extremely hard to get on satisfactorily without them.
But most persons among us do observe them, more or less punctually, more or less devoutly, more or less heartily. They visit the sanctuary. They leave meaner cares, they forsake lighter pleasures, to gather themselves, week by week, into each other's social presence, and around the prayerconsecrated altar. The tones of the church-bell that summons them are tones of venerable "authority, and there is more than pleasant music, there is religion, in their clear vibrations. They look upward to the towering spire, and they believe it points to a real heaven. They