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The Energy of Unselfishness.

The Energy of Unselfishness.

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Published by glennpease

REV. H. S. HOLLAND, M.A.


— Eph. iv. 31, 32.

REV. H. S. HOLLAND, M.A.


— Eph. iv. 31, 32.

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Published by: glennpease on May 23, 2013
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07/28/2014

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THE EERGY OF USELFISHESS.REV. H. S. HOLLAD, M.A. — Eph. iv. 31, 32.What a strange change it liad been for St. PauFsconverts, as they passed out of the old into the new — the old so rough, so angry, so violent and venomous, soloud and so brutal — that life woven out of such bitterthreads and melancholy hues — "debates, envyings,wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings,tumults" — that life of the flesh, "hatred, variance,emulations, wrath, strife, envyings, murders.*' That iswhat has been banished and crucified by those who hadfound themselves, amid the heat and tumult of thatloud quarrelling, suddenly mastered by the vision of Him Who won them by His meekness and His gentle-ness — the Man of human kindness, the Priest of com-passion, the King of Peace, the Lamb of God " Who,when He was reviled, reviled not again." This wasthe message that had reached and held and possessedthem, the message of the preacher who besought them" by the meekness and the gentleness of Jesus." Whocan measure the sweetness with which such words266 ewness of Life.would fall upon a world hot with angry feuds andbitter revenges — " the meekness and the gentleness of Jesus ? " As cool water to fevered lips, as wet grassesamid arid sands, as the sound of soft rains falling onbarren fields, so the kind words stole in as a blessingand a boon upon hearts worn and heavy laden, uponthose who crept out of the tumult to hide theirwounds and weariness within the comfortable fold of that Good Shepherd Who led them into such richpastures, and by such quiet waters.And yet we all of us are subject to a suspicion, acriticism that may be silent in church, but which willyet rejoin us at the church door, and before we reachhome will have had its say — a suspicion very old andvery familiar, but, for all that, one which it may be
 
well worth while to consider again. It suggests thatpossibly something, after all, may have been lostin the passage from the old state to the new. Veryrough, very uncomfortable that old condition of thingsmay have been; but was there not a vigour in itsvivacities and a robustness in its violence that we missin the kindly new ? Is there no loss of manliness inpassing to this new temper ? and is it fitted forthe actual world? For rough work needs roughmethods ; and our work here is rough, and cannot bepushed through without a good deal of energeticemphasis. And, again, there is a hearty and muscularnaturalness in that boisterous scramble of man againstman which we like in books and in plays, even thoughin real life it is rather oppressive and unpleasant.And this humility, this gentleness, — they disturb usThe Energy of Unselfishness. 267as something unnatural, artificial, laboured. Are theyquite real ? Are they not apt to be very full of pro-voking mannerisms and insincerities ? So every one,I suppose, has said to himself again and again ; andwith this suspicion at work within him he easilyaccepts the more formal and public criticism which isfamiliar in our ears, pronouncing that these Christiangraces, beautiful as ideals, charming us as spiritualexcellencies with their choice flavour of exquisitepiety, do neverthless represent an unearthly and un-social type of virtue; that we lose as citizens whatwe gain as saints; that by walking in the Spirit wecease to be equally effective forces for economic pur-poses ; that the business of a State would prefer in itsfactors the old character at the cost of its quarrelsome-ness, to the new at the price of its passivity.ow, this suspicion and this criticism are familiarand strong because they have a great deal of plausibleevidence behind them. There is much in our religioushabit and temper which would tend to confirm whatthey suggest ; and certainly our religious thought hasfailed to give us any logic which would displace thesuspicion or expose the criticism ; and through this weare easily led into three great disasters.
 
First, there have been bred up among us a publicmind and tone which have so deeply accepted theseassumptions of which I speak that it has been foundeasy for science to persuade us that wherever theroot-instincts of men are allowed free play they arenecessarily selfish; that from this primal and cal-culable motive all the vigorous and positive qualities of 268 ewness of Life,industrious production issue ; that the degree of vigourso displayed will be in proportion to the amount of selfishness in action ; and that, however much thisnatural impulse may and ought, for ethical reasons, tobe checked and limited, yet such checks and limi-tations will curtail the normal action of commercialindustry according to the degree with which theyrepress the free play of self-interest. That is a well-known position which we have allowed to pass, and inwhich we have detected no flaw. Perhaps its carefulabstention from the moral region succeeded in puttingus off our guard.But then there comes the second disaster, thatwhen the parallel position is taken in that region of ethics we seem to have lost our power of protest. Whodoes not know how naturally, how obviously the argu-ment meets us ? Who can resist its patent evidence,its plain and plausible logic ? Our eyes are taught torange over the turmoil of a swarming and warring lifeof nature; and everywhere we learn how all thingspush forward to self-preservation, towards fuller living — how upwards towards this richer existence every-thing presses, and thrusts, and aspires, and that in thatvital vigour lies the secret of all type and growth andtransformation. And when we pass from the lowerlevel, without any perceptible break, into the longstrife of human progress, surely it is the same law,that we cannot but detect, directing and ruling theadvance — the law of preservation, the methods of self-interest. Men struggle to endure and to grow; andthe principles which best serve that endurance and

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