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BY CHARLES F. DEEMS, D.D., LL.D.
"BUT THIS I SAY, BRETHREN, THE TIME IS SHORT. IT REMAINETH THAT BOTH THEY THAT HAVE WIVES BE AS THOUGH THEY HAD NONE ; AND THEY THAT WEEP AS THOUGH THEY WEPT not; and THEY THAT REJOICE AS THOUGH THEY REJOICED NOT ; AND THEY THAT BL Y AS THOUGH THEY POSSESSED NOT ; AND THEY THAT USE THIS WORLD AS NOT ABUSING IT ; FOR THE FASHION OF THIS WORLD PASSETH AWAY." 1 COR. VII. 29.
The mistakes of men as to the office and function of Christianity are largely in the way of its progress. Even when understood, there will still be the "enmity of the carnal mind" and " the offence of the cross," which only the power of God's grace can break. But why should unnecessary difficulties and obstructions be created ?
Christianity was made for man, not man for Christianity. It finds man not, to be sure, just as God made him, but as God made him and sin has spoiled him. It finds man with a certain mental and moral constitution, not in its normal state, but very much decayed by. his own sin and the sins of his forefathers, back to the first sin of the first sinner. What does it propose to do for this poor man? Put him in a strait-jacket because he is insane? No! It proposes to place him under such influences as shall bring him to right-mindedness. It is not a mechanical restraint ; it is a constitutional cure. It does not work from without; it works from within. It is not a destroyer ; it is a rectifier. Because the fine instrument of the soul is out of tune, Christianity does not propose to tear all its strings away ; it rather proposes to "tune" this wonderful instrument, and bring it into accord with the sure and certain harmonies of God's universe. There is not an appetite, passion, faculty, or power of body, mind, or soul, which has not been injured by sin; but there is not one which is useless or injurious
to man ; and consequently, if Christianity be a blessing, it will seek to break none of these down, but to purge away the influence of sin ; to adjust, rectify, harmonize, strengthen, and direct the play of all these human powers. If men conceive anything else to be the office of
Christianity, no wonder they reject it: they sAou/d reject whatever proposes to destroy the good work of the Great Creator. But every teaching of Jesus and His apostles, when rightly understood, corresponds with common sense and the well ascertained laws of thought and life, and //mt is prima facie evidence of the truth of our blessed religion.
In a thoroughly regenerated man old things have passed away and all things become new. He was sick. He is well-so well as not to be conscious of being healthy. That is only perfect health when a man does not think whether he is sick or well, and when, if you ask him very
strictly, "How are you?" it startles him: he has not felt himself; he has not even knowni that he was, at all-so perfectly and purely have all the functions of life been discharged. Blessed is the man who is well, and yet does not know how he is! who serves God so thoroughly in everything that he is not conscious of the service ! If a merchant has to brace his moral constitution every morning by a resolution not to cheat anybody, he is not sound at the heart, and you would not trade with such a man. You must have passed the period of " resolutions." '
This text before us seems to illustrate what has just been said. It shows that, in Paul's estimate, Christianity had not come to break up a single relationship of life, to mar a single pleasure, to deepen a single grief, to paralyze a single power, or curse a single legitimate employment It shows that he believed that religion is not a mere pietism, asceticism, or mysticism ; that It is not merely a ceremonial for the temple or a sentiment for the closet, to be hung
up in the church every Sunday night at nine o'clock, like the robes of the priest in the vestry, to be taken down on the next Sundaymorning at half-past ten o'clock, and worn twice that day, and never seen elsewhere ; that it is not to be divorced from common life and common things ; but that, being an inward and powerful principle, it is to send its blessed rectifying and beautifying influence up among the loftiest thoughts, feelings, and aspirations, and down to the lowest employment of humanity : up from the measuring of a yard of cloth or a peck of coal, to the most rapt and rapturous shoutings of the soul in its moments of intensest spiritual ecstasy.
Let us see how he unfolds this thought in the category of the text.
I. Christianity does not in anywise intend to pluck out of our hearts any of the sweet roots from which spring the flowers of love, or to break up .any of the dear relationships of life.
There is none of that kind of radicalism in Christianity which severs the relation of husband and wife, parent and child, master and servant, and lays the whole social garden in a waste ; but there is that kind of radicalism which goes down to the roots of all the affections, and purges and sweetens the springs of love. The apostle selects the tenderest and noblest of all the relationships of life, that between husband and wife, to illustrate his principle. Christianity does not debar a man from any association or relationship which does not debase hivn. It does not enjoin celibacy. It expressly teaches, as in i Tim. iv., that to " forbid to marry " is a doctrine of devils, signifying that the man who administers to any man or woman a vow of celibacy is doing a devilish work, and they who assume such a vow are "giving heed to seducing spirits." It does not say that men must not have wives, but it does teach a moderation in the affections, and does put a solemn and holy influence over the loves of life. The Christian man that has a wife is to be so ready for all the reasonable demands of life and society that no celibate can
turn upon him and say, "See how much more free I am for usefulness than you " — to the great disparagement of marriage, sweet symbol of Christ's relation to His beautiful bride, the Church.
There are times and seasons when he who loves most tenderly must behave most bravely. There are occasions when humanity or one's country will peal such calls upon the conscience that the Christian man must rise up from amid the softest embraces, and, blinding himself to the brightness and beauty behind
him, gaze manfully and dutifully unto the stern and stormy night before him. He may for a single moment strain to his heart the form most beloved, and then plunge into the thick of the tempestuous darkness, for God's sake and for Man's. The weakly uxorious will^degrade the estate of love by shutting the door in the face of duty, and sinking into dreams of sweetness in
the arms of beauty. But a man whose affections are regulated by Christian principle will have his wife, and yet, so far as society, his country, and the Church of God are concerned, he will be as free to toil or fight as if no real love reigned in his heart. And the Christian wife or lady-love will give the elect and beloved one to the world, and sit firmly waiting, having a husband, loving him in the most beautiful sense, and holding him by the strongest tie, and yet, by reason of devotion to duty, be as though she had none.
2. The same principle is applied to men in their troubles and griefs: "It remaineth that they that weep be as thoujh they wept not."
There is nothing in Christian teaching oi holy living to make men stoical. Christianity does not solve the problem of trouble by rendering men insensible. On the contrary, there is everything in its solemn and tender teachings of God and Christ, of life and death, of heaven and hell, of personal responsibility, of faith and
hope and charity, to sharpen the intellect, to warm the emotions, to arouse the conscience, and to quicken the whole spiritual man into an acute sensitiveness. If a religion came with a command not to weep, or proposed a discipline which should blunt every sensibility, deaden every feeling, and dry up the founts of tears, men would have reasonable ground to reject it. But Christianity proposes no such inhuman and monstrous an achievement. The truest are always the tenderest. The bravest are always the gentlest. Woe to the man who weeps not. Shame to the man who boasts that he does not weep. Heroes have always been weepers. Men that have carried thunder in their hands and lightning in their eyes, have had showers of tears upon their cheeks, from the braves who roar in Homer's lines down to the grandest doers of our own age. The poets have seen this. Wherefore they have made sweetest tears to fall from eyes of roughest blacksmiths down on their anvils, or with the horny hand of ploughmen wiped the dews of tenderness from sunburnt cheeks.
And He, the Greatest and the Best, the Son of Man, the Son of Mary, the Son of God, the
Inflioence of Christianity on the Life.
Saviour of the world, who dared the greatest things, and endured the greatest things, and did the greatest things, He was the gentlest, tenderest hero of all. There is no more wonderful combination of two words in any language than that in John xi. 35, " yesits wept.'" Jesus — the Loftiest ! Wept— the Lowliest ! Jesus — Heaven ! Wept — Earth ! Jesus — God ! Wept — Man ! At the grave of Lazarus, Heaven and Earth kissed each other, and God and Man em10
braced each other, in the tears of Jesus.
And shall I, His minister, turn to you and say, "You must not weep; it is unmanly to weep ; it is unchristian to weep ?" No : I tell you to weep. When the desire of your eye fails ; when the flowers of your heart wither ; when the grand disappointments of life smite you ; when love is unrequited ; when Absalom rebels ; when you gaze upon some perverse and doomed but loved Jerusalem ; when Lazarus lies in his grave — weep! "Jesus wept!" He sighed and trembled like a timid and bereaved girl, but for the love He bore His dead friend He marched into the midst of bitter and infuriated foes. When he stood by the grave of Lazarus he wept like a man, but he wrought like a God.
There is our example. The grief that paralyzes, the grief that unfits us for our duty, the grief that causes us to make others grieve unnecessarily, the grief that keeps us from the House of Prayer and makes us refuse the consolations of the Gospel, is a grief at once inordi11
nate, unreasonable, unchristian, and therefore unmanly. Our faith in the good government of God should enable us to go forward on the path of duty, whatever grief may lay hot and heavy upon our hearts. He is the Christian man who weeps and works ; weeps and fights ; weeps and makes no others weep. A dead love, a faithless friend, a barbed arrow, may be in his heart. He may weep inwardly. He may go out into the park at night, and, clinging to a senseless and unsympathizing tree, may pour the wail of his indescribable agony on the night air ; or, having an unutterable sorrow, he may often be ready to scream hysterically in a crowd ; but he fastens and holds it back, turns the key on the skeleton closet of his heart, locks the beast in the cellar of his soul, and puts lights in all the chambers of his life, that wayfarers in the night may be cheered by him that hath a hidden horror in his house. Such a man goes from the closet or the sleepless couch out to his daily work, and his fellow-workmen see only perhaps a little paleness on the temples, or a little sternness on the lip, but no trifling with
the work, no shortcomings, no weaknesses; he is the man who weeps and is as though he wept not — knowing that the time is short, and that the Blessed Christ's own hands are to wipe from his cheeks the stain of all sorrow, as he wipes from his soul the stain of all sin.
3. It is a libel upon Christianity, propagated by professed friends and secret foes, that it is a joyless religion.
If God made man, He must have made him to be happy. Any other supposition is a very foul slander upon the best of Beings. And see what great stimulants to his joyfulness God has given to man ! There is the fact of physical health, the wholesome secretions, the unmarked but delightfully diffused comfort of digestion, the sweet fannings of the blood by the wings of the lungs, and the auroral glintings of the indescribable and etherial nerve-fluid-all the phys13
ical and sensuous enjoyments which, in fresh childhood and unbroken youth, are so exhilarating ! After all, men have more hours of ease than of pain, of physical enjoyment than of bodily ailment. We note these latter. The most important characteristic of health is that men do not notice it ; their very unconsciousness is proof of the perfection of this blessing.
And there are the intellectual enjoyments, the eagle delight of perception, the judicial pleasure of comparison, the manly exertion of reason, the fairy play of the fancy, the gorgeous architecture of the imagination, the tidal surgings of the emotions, and the godlike freedom of the will — all these, with their capabilities of being indefinitely enriched and expanded by culture, are sources of perpetual joy to man.
And there is the delight of action, motion, stir, execution, influence upon one's fellows, achievement, success: what crowning joys are these !
And there are all the pleasures which come of honest love, its first flutter in the depths of the heart, its primal germinal throb, its upspringing and beautiful growth, the love-glance of the eye, the love-grasp of the hand, the blush, the stammering syllables struggling out with love's eloquence, the confession, the plighting of troth, the bridal, the blessed babes, the noble boys and gracious girls growing up as olive-plants about one's table, the consolidating of domestic happiness and the maturing of domestic loves. There are our manly friendships, in which two men have grace to see each other's graciousness, and nobleness to acknowledge each other's nobility, and fidelity to cleave to each other through all fortunes; what brave
Influence of Christianity on the Life.
and gushing fountains of joy are these unselfish friendships ! But, brethren, I should be compelled to sweep the whole field of humanity and society to gather up all the reasons for rejoicing which the Heavenly Father has afforded to man.
Has Christ come to snatch from us all that He gave us in our creation ? A Christian is one whose God is Christ. And Christ Jesus was the loveliest of men. Wo\x\Ayo7i darken all life, eclipse its glories, blight its blooms, and make men dread to die and fear to live? Surely you would not. And Christ is infinitely more gracious than you. He cannot have come to give a darkness to the world. Nay, it is among the com7nands \h^t Christians "rejoice." Sadness is sin; sin is sadness. Nothing darkens God's universe but sin. And Christ came to save us from our sins. Then rejoice in your exuberant health, in the bloom of your beauty, in the birth of your babes, in your growth of power and in16
fluence among your fellow-men, in every physical, intellectual, social pleasure which God gives you. That is your duty.
But there is this element of moderation upon which Christianity insists, " Let those that rejoice be as though they rejoiced not." If our joy draw us from any pious duty, if it degenerate into mere selfishness, if it come to be loved for its own sake rather than for the sake of the infinitely generous Giver of it, if it emasculate the strength of the intellect, destroy the freshness of the heart or circumscribe the aspirations of the soul, joy is hurtful. Whatever be the delightfulness of our surroundings, the call of duty should be paramount, and promptly acknowledged. If you are at the dance or the opera when you should be aiding the orphan or comforting the widow, or attending your church meeting ; if you are lapped in the dear delights of home, and abandon yourselves to ease, shutting out the cry of suffering humanity by your thick mahogany doors and heavy curtains, then here is against you this precept of the apostle
which you are dishonoring.
Oh, Christian people ! do show the world that men can be good and happy, happy and good, at once ; that there is no one walking in the counsel of the ungodly so happy as you who are in wisdom's ways; that no youth, standing in the way of sinners, is so joyful as you whose feet take hold of the testimonies of the Lord, and that there is no man sitting in the seat of the scornful who is so exultant as you who are numbered in the congregation of the righteous. Show sombre, heavy, hard Christians that you can rejoice in all the good and sweet and beau-
tiful things that are, and yet rise as early, sit up as late, go as far, work as hard, do as much, give as freely, deny yourself as thoroughly, as the gloomiest of the gloomy people who wear such faces as men should never wear until they learn that God is dead and all the universe be-orphaned. And thus you will obey the precept
of the holy apostle, that they that rejoice be as though they rejoiced not.
4. Christianity does not interfere destructively with men's business, but comes in to ennoble and prosper it.
It is a mistake that one must retire from the world to be good. A merchant, a mechanic, an engineer, a lawyer, in full business may be just as saintly as a monk can be. Christianity, that interferes gently yet powerfully and healthfully with all things, has much to do with trade and business. There is not one system of morals for the market and another for the temple. A man is to be just as honest and earnest and pure in selling a yard of cloth or a pound of sugar as if he were delivering a truth from a pulpit. It is as certainly a mistake to neglect your business for your religion as to neglect your religion for your business. He has erroneous views of both who supposes that any legitimate demand of either interferes with any proper demand of the other. The Gospel recognizes business, trade,
buying and selling, as among the lawful and disciplinary employments of men. It does not teach that we are to shut up our shops and abandon our tools or merchandise. The necessity of exertion is laid upon us, and the Heavenly Father has made it a blessing. We must not make it a curse. And such it is when it absorbs and controls our affections, or when it is allowed to interfere with the proper discharge of our pious duties to God or our relative duties to man.
In the I2th of Romans, St. Paul puts it in this shape — "Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;" from which it is apparent that he did not consider diligence in business as interfering with fervor of spirit, nor spiritual devotion as antagonistic to secular pursuits. It must be a point with you, my dear people, to demonstrate that your business is your religion and your religion your business, that one is the body and the other the soul of your life, and that these twain are really not twain but one, so intermingling that no one can say,
" here his religion begins, there it ends; here his business begins, there it ends." Your religion must be to your whole life, not as the Gulf Stream to the Atlantic, that daintily gathers in
Influence of Christianity on the Life.
its blue robe so that if possible it may not touch the darker garment of the common sea, but as the salt to the ocean, present in each drop of the water, changing the whole character of all the vast ocean, giving its ponderous masses circulation and life, and yet making no increase in
" Buy," my brethren, buy ! But when you have bought, "be as though you possessed not." Go into the markets, put in your money, your brains, your strength, and your time. Buy and sell and get gain. It is more manly than to be counting beads in a monastery. The young merchants of our congregation have their lives of buying and seUing, of gaining and losing, before them. We should not call them off because there are dangers there. We should not dissuade men from commerce and travel because of the perils of the sea. But we should insist upon a good ship and compass and chart. Lay down for yourselves, my brethren, this simple rule of morals, that a man who trades on the time, the intellect, or capital at his command, as if it tvere his own, intending to devote the fortunate results thereof to himself, is, in his heart of hearts, a dishonest man. You would consider him so if you were principal and he agent ; if you had given him the whole capital to be used in a certain manner for ends that were yours, he to receive merely what you and he had agreed to be handsome wages. Any
assumption upon his part that he owned the money, and was to appropriate the profits, would lead to a withdrawal of the capital and the confidence at once.
Have you behaved so toward God ? Do you speak of what belongs to your Maker in the language of appropriation, saying " ;«/ store, my plantation, my stocks, my money, vty houses?" And are the uses of all these thmgs confined to yourself in fancy and in fact? If so you are a dishonest man. You wolld just as soon appropriate what your neighbor claims to be his if you were sure of no detection or even of no penalty. Let us be heartily ashamed of ourselves, my brethren. We are agents, r.o^. principals; what we use belongs to another, no' to us. We must show our books to God. When a man uses the property of his lord as if it were his own, entertaining himself and others upon the property of another as if he possessed it in his own right, God does not say to him simply, "Thou fool!" as to the man in the Gospel, but He says, " Thou cheat, thou sneak,
Let two young men begin business with equal
abilities and capital, the one on the plan of selfishness, and the other upon the plan of morality ; the one buying and using what he had purchased as if he were the supreme judge, and there were no responsibility to another, the other buying and acting as if he possessed not, and as if all belonged to God, as it really does. With the same abilities and capital, their prospects of success and their perils of failure seem naturally equal. But the former is sustained by no high sense of responsibility ; the latter is. The former has no consecration to his prosperity, the latter has ; the former sinks his profits in his little self, the latter lays up treasure in Heaven. When the former fails in business he is ruined ; all his expectations are blasted ; all the inten of his labor fails. When the same mercantile accident befalls the latter, he has the whole
moral result of success ; he has done what he started to do, namely, to please God, and God has transferred the capital for a season to the charge of another. He has no complaints. Oh, how it breaks the power and the pleasure of business to conduct iton the basis of selfishness ! Be pleased to notice, dear brethren, that this injunction of moderation which Christianity establishes is a blessing and not a curse ; is a wall against the invasion of evils, not an arbitrary and injurious r£straint upon any good. It is that love may be more beautiful, more noble, more enduring, that the precept is written, " It remaineth ihat they that have wives be as though they had none," for the woman that belongs to God and is your wife is more a wife than if she had never received the chrism of a celestial consecration. It is that human sorrow may not degenerate into the whine of a fretful weakness, but rise to the dignity of a solemn sacrament, that it is written, " It remaineth that they that weep be as though they wept not." It is that joy mav not sink to a baby's amusement with its corai and its rattle, but ascend to the heights
of a holy and majestic success, that it is written, "It remaineth that they that rejoice be as thou-h they rejoice not." It is written, "and they "that buy as though they possessed not," in order that the trade and traffic of human affairs mav not degrade themselves to the meanness of the^truggle between them that labor to cheat, and them that strive to avoid being cheated by cheatincr, but ascend to the dignity of commerce, which equally blesses him that buys and him that sells, and establishes a circulation among the material objects of the universe, accomplishing the designs of God, and being a ministry of crrowth and goodness to man.
Influence of Christianity on the Life.
And all this is summed up in the comprehensive precept, " It remaineth that they that use this world (be) as not abusing it !"
Use the world ! Use its lights and shadows, its smiles and tears, its beauty and music and fragrance, its wisdom and wit, its force and its fun, its chances and changes, its seedtime and harvest ; whatever is grand or gay, beautiful or sublime, disciplinary or exhilarating, use it ! But as you would have its nicest uses, do not abuse it. Do not spoil the delight of drinking by drunkenness ; the pleasures of eating by gluttony ; the tender charm of love by licentiousness, and all the fine faculties of the soul by satiety ! Whatever a man does to the world which makes it less usefitl or less delightful to himself or to others, is an abuse. In the soil of the world sow your seed and gather your crop for eternity, but leave the soil richer than you found it, that succeeding laborers in this field of the Lord may bless and not curse you.
Hear the reason. " The time is short : the fashion of this world passeth away.''^ No man has time enough to use the world and to abuse it. The fashion, the scheme, the appearances of this world shift like the changing scenes of a theatre. " The fashion of this world passeth," is passing, away. Continents are grinding up and going down into the sea, and forces at work are preparing other lands to be upheaved. Childhood changes to youth, youth to manhood, manhood to old age. Beauty runs through the filter of decay into other forms of beauty, but the eyes that saw that will not see these. Riches take wing and fly from nest to nest. The men that wielded the power, used the money, and enjoyed the praises of a hundred years ago — not one of them survives; they are all free among the dead. And who will be here a hundred years to come ?
" Who'll press for gold yon crowded street A hundred years to come }
Who'll tread this church with willing fee:
A hundred years to come ? Pale, trembling age and fiery youth, And childhood, with its brow of truth, The rich and poor, On land and sea- — Where will the mighty millions be
A hundred years to come ?
We all within our graves shall sleep,
A hundred years to come ; No living soul for us shall weep,
A hundred years to come; But other men our land will till, And others then our streets shall fill, And other singers, gay and bright, Shall rouse the drowsy hours of night,
A hundred years to come "
While we speak and hear, the shuttles that weave the thread of the present into the warp of the past, are flying with accelerating rapidity. But the web of character is being woven. Time is short, but character is long. Time flies, character stays. The doing is soon over, but the deed stands. The builder rots in the corner of the crypt of the cathedral he has erected ; his ideal of beauty, which he has petrified into a house for God, endures through the centuries. The unseen worker in the sea, the little coralbuilders that absorb and transform the lime of the sea into massive masonry, distil themselves into the oblivion of the ocean ; but the pillars which they have built shall uphold the continents which shall sustain the mightiest works of man through many ages.
Hear, then, oh hear, the solemn and tender words of the apostle :
'•'But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth that both they that have wives be as though they had none ; and they that weep
as though they wept not ; and they that rejoice as though they rejoiced not ; and they that buy as though they possessed not ; and they that use this world as not abusing it ; for the fashion of this world passeth away."
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