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If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love ; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. — John XV, 10. Man is the subject of law throughout his entire earthly existence. He never escapes its rule for a single instant. There is a cause, a reason, a law for his first and for his last breath. He is what he is from moment to moment by virtue of his obedience or disobedience to the conditions environing him. He is related to the physical globe, to the air, to the light, to the heat, to food, to work, to society, to play, to trade, to commerce, to government, to his fellow-men, and the laws of these various relations are necessary to his existence, growth, happiness, and power. In other words, we have our existence in a moral universe. The constitution under which we live is such that if one event occurs another event necessarily occurs. The constitution of affairs is such that consequent must have its antecedent, that every effect must have a cause, that what is is the child of the past and the parent of the future; that all results, whether they be gross and material, or fine, spiritual, and impalpable, are conditioned, and not whimsical, or arbitrary, or capricious. The solemn message of nature to man is: '* Keep my commandments, and I will bless you, I will feed
244 CJiristian Manliness, you, I will support and sustain you, I will elevate, strengthen, enrich, and honor you. Disobey my
laws, and I will punish you, I will weaken you, I will give you pain, I will degrade you, I will make you poor, and at last I will destroy you." This is the impartial, unvarying message of nature to man every-where, in all ages and in all countries, in savagery and in civilization. All we have comes primarily from the earth. Out of the soil comes, first or last, that which su-pports human life, and that without which human life could not be maintained on this globe ; but here, as everywhere, law reigns. We avail ourselves of the products and wealth of the earth by ascertaining and obeying certain well-established laws. It is not a matter of indifference when a man plants corn or sows wheat ; there are times for doing those things, and our business is to ascertain these times, to conform to these conditions ; and any attempt to go contrary to these immutable conditions of nature leaves us without corn and without wheat. The man who should attempt to do in the month of December that which nature has appointed to be done in the month of May, the man who should attempt to do in the month of May that which should be done in the month of October, would speedily find that law reigns in husbandry, and that it is only by finding out and conforming to the conditions of germination and growth on the physical globe that we can have our life on the earth. If we do not obey these conditions, instantly we suffer loss; and
Lazv ill the Spiritual Realm. 245 if to-day the whole race should dehberately resolve to set aside these conditions, and every man proceed to live after his own sweet will, the time would not be long before man would perish by starvation.
So is it when we come to our bodies; there is a cause for our health or our ill health. There are laws governing the growth, the strength, the health, the longevity of all physical organisms on this globe. When the headache comes, if you have reached the period of intelligence and reflection, you at once begin to inquire as to the cause of the disturbance. You know that the pain did not come arbitrarily, or fortuitously, or vindictively, or capriciously ; you know that there must be some near or remote cause for it, either in what you ate or did not eat, in the loss of sleep, in extraordinary exertions, or in your inheritances — you are certain that somewhere or other there is a distinct cause or reason for the headache. There is a cause for the fever; there is a cause for the cough; there is a cause for the pestilence ; there are conditions, laws, surrounding our physical being, and it is at our grave peril that we seek to evade or escape from them. Obedience to them is the price we pay for health, strength, and long life. The reign of law obtains in all the commercial and industrial pursuits and activities of human life. " Well, young man," says the gray-haired head of the house to the new employee, " do you know the laws of success in this business?" " ot very well, sir." " In the first place, you must be industrious,
246 CJiristian Manliness. you must be thrifty, you must be economical, you must be clear-headed and sagacious, you must be diligent, you must be honest, you must be patient." In other words, the laws of industry, of patience, of skill, of sagacity, of economy, constitute the conditions of commercial and industrial success. If any
young man, swollen with vanity, imagines that law does not rule here, let him try it : let him be lazy, let him be improvident and wasteful, let him be careless of his word, let it be a matter of indifference with him whether he shall arrive at his office at ten o'clock in the morning or two o'clock in the afternoon, and he will soon find that, although these laws are not printed in any statute-book, nevertheless they determine the question of success in all the industrial and commercial relations of life. Law conditions the awakening and unfolding of the intellectual powers and the acquisition of knowledge. Grote's History of Greece, twelve goodsized volumes, may be enough to discourage the beginner, but he who would have a broad and thor^ ough knowledge of Greek history must read it, and master its contents. You cannot dream yourself into a knowledge of it, you cannot wish yourself into a knowledge of it ; there is only one way to bQ familiar with the glorious age of Pericles, and that is thoroughly to read about it, and meditate about it, and reflect about it, and thus get yourself steepe4 in the very spirit of the time. Suppose the young collegian or student has a rich social nature, he can^ not give full vent to this nature and become an
Law in the Spiritual Realm. 247 exact and broad scholar: he must say to his strong social desires, *' You must serve and wait." Law governs the acquisition of all knowledge, as well as the sharpening and drilling into fineness and power of our faculties. There is no easy, royal, luxurious road to learning; there is no royal road to wealth ; there is no royal road to health ; all these ways have been thoroughly explored for centuries, and they who attempt to acquire knowledge, or to amass
wealth, or to build up strong bodies by violating these laws are sure to come to grief and ruin. The man has never lived who has been able, in the presence of these inexorable facts, to set up an ideal universe of his own. Law rules from the time w^e begin to breathe until all is over ; and then law takes our bodies and decomposes them, and restores the elements that entered into them to their original form, that they may in turn enter into other bodies. We were born, we work, we love, we suffer, we triumph, we fail, we die, under the reign of impartial, immutable, beneficent law. And now, when we come to the life and activities of the spirit, does God reverse his method? When we come to the realm of the religious life, with its rich experiences and glorious products, has God given us a lawless, chance, haphazard realm ? When we come to that sphere in which we ascertain man's relations and duties to those things that are invisible, is law banished ? Do we say that caprice, impulse, and fancy rule here? Is such teaching in accordance with the ascertained analogies of the
248 Christian Manliness^ development of human nature, and the maintenance of human hfe in otlier realms of activity ? Man is not only the subject of physical conditions; he is not only related to the state, and to trade, and to the intellectual life; he is related also (and far more deeply than he imagines) to the spiritual realm ; he is related to the great truth of an Invisible Father, whose child he is, and whose nature he bears, and upon his spirit is the ineffaceable divine impress. He is tied to great and solemn duties, from which he may not escape, and which it is his glory to acknowledge and to perform ; duties that suggest and
involve eternity. He sustains relations to the great idea of the survival of his life hereafter and forever, and so of a more intimate and perfect knowledge of the Father of his spirit. Can it be possible that we are in the vise-like grip of law until we touch that realm, and that then fancy, arbitrariness, luck, accident, are to take the place of law ? And yet I fear that many religious people indulge themselves in the luxurious delusion that the religious realm is lawless ; without order, without fixed conditions, without distinct and stringent requirements of obedience. Hear the text again : " If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love." Where is it taught otherwise in the Bible? This passage does not say, " If ye keep my commandments, I will begin to love you." It is not taught here that the love of Jesus Christ to men as the expression, the manifestation, the bodying forth of the eternal love of God, is contingent upon
Law in the Spiritual Realm. 249 our obedience to him, but it is taught that if we are to reahze that love, if we are consciously to enter into it, if we are to abide in it, we must keep his commandments. The statement is not, " Obey, that you may create this div^ine love," but, " Obey, that you may know it, and abide in it," and the difference is vast and significant. " If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love ; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love." ow, what are some of the plain, simple commandments of Jesus? You know he did not give us just so many precepts after the letter, he did not give us ceremonial ritual commandments after the example of Moses to the Jews, but, neverthe-
less, he gave us commandments. I may not exhaust them in the brief time at my disposal, but I can indicate and emphasize some of them. It will not be disputed that this is one of his commandments : REPE T ! Repent instantly, repent thoroughly, repent strenuously — all men will agree that this was, and is, one of his commandments. He began to preach by saying : " Repent ; change your lives : fall out with evil ; turn away from the evil that you find in yourself; do not waste your life in meditating about it, but turn away from wrong-doing at once, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, it is here now, it is open to all who will enter it ; put down the evil that is within you, flee at once from the evil that solicits you ; remodel your dispositions ; set your faces toward
250 Christ ia7t Manliness. that which is good." How can a man expect to discern and enter into Christ's love who has never repented ? How can a man expect to abide in Christ's love, as the dearest possession of his soul, who has never been willing to conform to this commandment of repentance? This love which is so freely proffered to us, and is disclosed as divine and eternal, how can the unrepentant man avail himself of it ? If he will not repent, or if he repents only of those sins that are easy to repent of, if he will repent of those sins which are superficial and external only, and not of those sins which are internal and spiritual : if he will not repent of the malign spirit of envy that eats out the heart of love and holiness, if he will not repent of the selfishness that is mastering him, if he will not cast out the whole infernal brood of inner devils that are surely demonizing him — if he will not repent of
all these things how can he expect to abide in that Love which has for the first and fundamental condition of its realization the earnestness and entireness of our repentance? Prayer is a command of Jesus. ot that we shall formally repeat so many prayers a definite number of times each day, not that our prayers shall be of a certain length, not that we shall include such and such topics, not that we shall pray at such and such holy places, in a given attitude, but this general truth is his commandment concerning prayer: that man needs to carry his spirit up to God, that it may be cleansed and refreshed,
Law in the Spiritual Realm. 251 and receive the divine light. This also does he teach and command us concerning prayer : that we are to be diligent, intelligent, and persistent in it ; that we ought not to faint or be discouraged in cultivating the spirit and habit of prayer ; that if the unjust judge, by reason of unceasing importunity, would do right, how much more may we expect the Just Judge to do right when his children cry day and night unto him ? How, then, can a man expect to abide in the love of Jesus, to enter into the enjoyment and strength of that love, who does not pray? How can a man expect to abide in it who says prayers? I am not now referring to those persons of other religious denominations who use fixed forms of prayer. I speak of the religious man who is in such a hurry in the morning that he has no time for private prayer, unless it be to mumble a few unfelt, superstitious words, and omits the family worship after breakfast ! I speak of the man who at night gives hours to recreation and amusement, and grudges minutes
for God ! Call that prayer ! Call that taking the soul out of its life of sordid care, and out of all that which defiles and degrades, and lifting it up into rapt and holy and blessed communion with God I How can a man expect to know the love of God in Christ, if he will not daily strive to live in the atmosphere of prayer? Another commandment of Christ may be comprehended in the general expression, strenuoiisness of spiritual endeavor, A Christian life may be 17
252 Christian Manliness. made easy, luxurious, and self-indulgent, in view of the prevailing idea of superficial expansion and culture, but when I turn to the ew Testament, and open my whole heart and mind to the real meaning and spirit of the Book, I am more and more impressed with one thing: that Jesus Christ commands us strenuously to endeavor toward the spiritual life. What does he say? "STRIVE to enter in at the strait gate ; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in and shall not be able." We may imagine that it is a delightful holiday task to live a Christian life amid the abounding wealth and luxury of a great city; but it is not a holiday task to live a Christian life here or anywhere if the ew Testament be our book of directions. If we would indeed live that life, it will require of us the most urgent, the most through, the most persistent, the most strenuous endeavors of which we are capable. How shall we know the love of God if we are strangers to this intense, fervid, spiritual earnestness? Consider the great commandment of Jesus : the
commandment to cultivate the disposition of love toward all men. I reserved it for the last, because it is the commanding commandment of Jesus. I know how we evade it ; I know how we seek to escape from it ; I know how disagreeable it is to the carnal and worldly spirit. But if Jesus did not command men to love men ; if he did not command men so to love each other that they would not hate, or wrong, or defile, or degrade each other ; if he did not teach me to love all men, without regard to
Law in the Spiritual Realm. 253 their culture, or their color, or their wealth, or their poverty, or their virtue, or their weakness ; if Jesus Christ does not teach me that I am to love all men as men, if he does not teach me that I am to put up with disagreeable people, if he does not teach me to bear with mean people, if he does not teach me that my whole heart's love is to go out to men in proportion to the sharpness and greatness of their need, if he does not teach me that my life is to be lived in this atmosphere of love for men — if he does not command and teach me these things, he has not commanded or taught me any thing. How, then, can a man expect to rise up to the knowledge of this divine love who does not love men, and is not trying to love men ? These are some of the conditions upon which we are to know and abide in the divine love. There is no room, then, in the Christian life for fanaticism ; there is no place left in the Christian life for that kind of false enthusiasm which expects the end without the means. ot a few people are just religious enough to be unhappy and miserable all the time. They are like a bright boy 1 knew at college, the son of a wealthy and prominent man, while
nearly all the other students were of the homespun sort, and came from plain and humble homes. He was naturally as well endowed as any of the students, perhaps better endowed, but the truth was that he did not want to study; he wanted to be at the head of his class without work; he wanted, without toil and self-denial, to pass the great rude boy that came
254 Christian Manliness. from the country — a boy who made his first appearance at college with no collar on, and with the roughest pair of boots and the shortest pair of trousers ever worn by a prospective freshman. When he saw that boy going to the head of the class he was irritated and exasperated ; he had just enough desire to be a scholar to keep himself in a state of misery all the time, and all because he would not obey the laws of college mastery and leadership. How many people there are who are religious in that way ! They are complaining and murmuring all the time, and yet they will not keep the laws of the Christian life. It is just as it is elsewhere — in the practice of the law, in business life, in teaching school, every-where : hanging on to every pursuit and vocation in life is a great crowd of murmurers, whiners, complainers, fault-finders. There are men who sit in their offices (where, by the way, nobody ever comes to see them), who can tell you exactly how that man across the street made his millions, but they never tell 5^ou why they did not make millions. They rail at the world because they have not succeeded, when the reason of it is that they have been idle, or dishonest, or self-indulgent, and have not brought to bear upon their work in li^^e sufficient energy and discretion. So there are people in the church who are leading miserable religious lives: they never have any joy; they never have
any discernible spiritual power; it is all a question of disagreeable duty with them ; they perform certain religious duties because the set time has come
Law in the Spiritual Realm. 255 for their observance, and because they think in a vague way that if they do not do these things some great, undefined, awful calamity will happen to them. They want to secure the peace and power of the love of Christ without keeping his commandments; they want life, and comfort, and faith, but they are not willing to obey the commandments. Repent ! " I will repent of every thing but that one thing, and I wont repent of that now." Pray? "Well, I am a busy man, and I have not time for family prayers; I am willing to say my prayers morning and evening." " Strenuousness of spiritual endeavor ? " They know nothing at all about strenuousness of spiritual endeavor. ** Cultivating a disposition of love toward all men?" Why, they despise and sneer at the majority of men ! ow, how can one, so living, expect to know the love of Christ? " If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love ; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love." Our obedience does not create, but it brings us into the conditions in which, and in which alone, we can clearly discern and joyfully appropriate the divine love. I once lived in a State where there were a great many lazy and ignorant farmers, culpably ignorant of the properties of the soil, and of what kind of crops could most successfully be raised by them. Suppose a farmer in this region who spent most of his time hunting and trying to get food for twelve or thirteen lean, lank, hungry dogs which he kept, and who was always complaining
2=;6 Christian Manliness.
that the soil was so poor that he could scarcely get a living out of it. Suppose such a man as this should wake up some morning and find out that what he needed to do was to obey the conditions of success — namely, to plow his fields ; even, if the soil was a little poor, to plow deep, and not merely scratch the surface of the ground ; that he was to take out the briars and weeds by the roots, to have secure fences, so as to keep the cattle and hogs out, to sow good seed and diligently cultivate it, and that by so doing he should avail himself of the air and light and heat and rain, and all the producing properties of the soil. Imagine such a man, after he had raised two or three generous crops, complacently saying to himself: "I created the sun; I created the light ; I caused the rain to fall ; I created the constituent elements in the soil that gave me my wheat." That is what some people would have us say about the love of our Father in heaven ; they want us to say that when we get to doing good we create in him for the first time a disposition to love us. In other words, that when we begin to do good God begins to love us, and that if the case were otherwise God would not love us at all. o, no, my brethren. The divine love for men existed long before we were born ; it has existed from the beginning— if any body knows when that was. By obedience (and it is his love even that inclines us to obedience) we bring ourselves into conditions where that love becomes present, actual, reahzable. I notice that when my boy dis-
Law in the Spiritual Realm. 257 obeys me, he seems to have serious doubts as to the reality of my love for him. If I attempt, in a practical way, to convince him that I love him, he does not hesitate openly to deny the fact of my love. Do we not all know that a child, during the period of its defiant willfulness, will accept no outward evidences of parental love ? And do we not all know that obedience to Christ's commandments is an indispensable condition of making his love real and present to our hearts? When Thomas Carlyle determined to write the Life of Frederick the Great he put himself in training to realize, as far as possible, all the conditions of the life of Prussia at that time. He prepared his room with reference to it ; the desk on which he wrote was from Germany ; his inkstand was from Germany; his ink was from Germany; his pen was from Germany; the paper on which he wrote was from Germany ; the pictures on the walls were German pictures ; all the books in that room were German books, and related to that time ; so that when he went into the room at any time to compose he was in the presence of such circumstances as served perpetually to suggest Germany to his mind, and he almost lived in that room during the years in which he produced that great book. This age is spiritually decrepit ; halting, languid, feeble. It is a time, indeed, in which there is much to praise, a time of discovery of great truths, of vast external works of benevolence, but it is not an age
258 Christian Manliness.
of profound spiritual life. It is an age of feet, not wings. It is not an age when the great invisible realities are strongly grasped and realized by men; it is an age in which we hope that life may have a spiritual meaning; it is an age in which we hope there may be a personal, willing, loving God ; it is an age in which we hope there may be life to come ; but it is not an age in which these great supersensuous truths are steadily realized and made potential in the lives of men. And no wonder; no wonder ! We have not obeyed the conditions by which we realize spiritual truth. When the men of this age will repent ; when they will repent instantly and thoroughly; when the men of this time will pray, not say prayers ; when the men of this time engage themselves to strenuousness of spiritual endeavor; when the men of this time will learn to love all their brother-men, not by machinery, not by charity societies, not by subscribing to the support of the Gospel, but by downright kindness and helpfulness — when we thus fulfill the conditions of spiritual penetration and vigor, there will come to the men of this time an experience of the power and the blessedness of the great invisible realities ! O how poor and empty are our lives ! You may amass your wealth, you may acquire your knowledge, you may establish your fame, you may have the love of wife and child, but who does not know that there come passages, histories, experiences, griefs in life, when not wealth, nor knowledge, nor ambition, nor the love of wife, or child, or friend, will satisfy the deso-
Law in the Spiritual Realm. 259 late soul ? Who does not know that there come times when, above all things else, we yearn to know that there is a Mighty One to love us? Who does
not know that there are times when what we need to know is, not whether we love God, but whether God loves us? And how can we know it if we will not heed his commandments? This is the fatal heresy : to deny the reign of law in things spiritual. May we be preserved from this heresy ! May God mercifully incline our wayward hearts to keep his commandments, to the end that we may know and eternally abide in his righteous, sovereign Love !
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