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Christian Doctrine of Merit.

Christian Doctrine of Merit.

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Published by glennpease
BY JAMES MARTINEAU.


Luke xvii. 10.

so likewise ye, when ye shall haye done all those things
which are commanded you, say, ' we are unprofitable ser-
vants ; we have done that which was our duty to do.'
BY JAMES MARTINEAU.


Luke xvii. 10.

so likewise ye, when ye shall haye done all those things
which are commanded you, say, ' we are unprofitable ser-
vants ; we have done that which was our duty to do.'

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Published by: glennpease on Nov 15, 2013
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CHRISTIA DOCTRIE OF MERIT. BY JAMES MARTIEAU. Luke xvii. 10. so likewise ye, when ye shall haye done all those things which are commanded you, say, ' we are unprofitable ser- vants ; we have done that which was our duty to do.' To a thoughtful interpreter of human nature, no- thing so plainly reveals the hidden principle of a man's life, as the estimation in which he holds him- self. Whether the standard which guides him be conventional, moral, or divine; whether the invisible presence that haunts him be that of the w^orld's opinion, or his own self-witness, or the eye of God,  — may be seen in the contented self-delusion, or in- telligent self-knowledge, or noble self-forgetfulness, which reveal themselves through his natural language and demeanor. Too often you meet with a man who manifestly looks at himself with the eyes of others ; — and those too, not the wise who are above him, but the associates on the same level or the in- feriors beneath it, to whom he may be supposed an object of conspicuous attention. He stands well with himself, because he stands well with them; and nothing would make him angry with himself, except the forfeiture of his position among them. Their expectations from him being satisfied, or somewhat CHEISTIAlSr DOCTRIE OF MERIT. 441 more, he thinks his work is done, and turns loose into a holiday life, to do as he likes at his own un- licensed will. Their sentiments are the mirror, by which he dresses up his life ; as his self-complacency
 
is but the reflection of their smiles, his self-reproach is but the imitation of their frowns, — mere regret for error, not remorse for wrong; overheard in the cry of vexation, ' Fool that I am ! ' not in the whisper of penitence, 'God be merciful to me a sinner!' He every way impresses you with the conviction that, if nothing were demanded of him, nothing would be given ; that he simply comes into the terms imposed by men as conditions of peace and good fellowship; and did all men resemble him, the Cynic's theory would not be far wrong, that morality is but the conciliation of opinion, and society a company for mutual protection. However, if all men were such as he, and brought no strictly moral element into human affairs, it is plain that this much-vaunted power of 'public opin- ion' could never get formed. Till somebody has a conscience, nobody can feel a law. Accordingly, we everywhere meet with a higher order of men, who not only comprehend the wishes, but respect the rights, of others ; who are ruled, not by expectation without, but by the sense of obligation within; who do, not the agreeable, but the just; and, even amid the storm of public rage, can stand fast, with rooted foot and airy brow, like the granite mountain in the sea. oble, however, as this foundation of upright- ness always is, there may arise from it a self-estimate too proud and firm. If the stern consciousness of right have no softening of human affection, and kindling of diviner aspiration, it will give the lofty 342 CHRISTIA DOCTRIE OF MERIT. sense of personal merits, that makes the Stoic, and misses the Saint. To walk beneath the porch is still infinitely less than to kneel before the cross. We do nothing well, till we learn our worth ; nothing best,
 
till we forget it. And this will not be till, besides being built into the real veracious laws of this world, we are also conscious of the inspection of another ; till we live, not only fairly among equals, but sub- missively under the Most High ; and while casting the shadow of a good life on the scene below, lie in the light of vaster spheres above. Virtue, feeling its deep base in earth, lifts its head aloft; sanctity, con- scious of its far-off glimpse at heaven, bends it low. And yet, outwardly, they are not different, but the same ; one visible character may correspond with either; only standing amid relations incomplete in the one case, completed in the other. They -are but as the different aspects of the granite isle of which we spake. Let clouds roof out the heaven and shut a darkness in, and its gray crags look down^ with the grandeur of a gloomy monarch, sheltering the thunder and defying the flood. Sweep the rack aw^ay, and throw upon the hemisphere of morning air, and it lies low in the soft light, and sleeps with upturned gaze, like a sunny child of deep and sky, cradled on the summer sea. How is it that minds equally engaged in the outward service of duty, think of themselves so differently ? "Whence the self-reliance, bordering on self-exaggera- tion, of a Zeno, a Franklin, a Bentham? — the divine humility of a Pascal, a Howard, a Channing, and of the Master whose lineaments they variously reflect ? The answ^er Vvdll present itself spontaneously, if we inquire into the true doctrine of merit. This word, which has its equivalent in every language, expresses CHRISTIA DOCTRIE OF MERIT. 343 a meaning familiar, I suppose, to all men; and by- referring to a few common modes of speech and thought, the contents of that meaning may be un- folded and defined.

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