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Christians shall be his own burden, it is no less sad
On the contrary, the follower of Christ is bound to set forth Christ's religion in all its force of moral impression, not with naked trunk and branches, but arrayed in the full verdure of its summer foliage. He ought to show its refining and ennobling power, its fitness for all the relations and situations of human life, its influence to overcome whatsoever is groveling, offensive, or contemptible, and to make the very utmost of the man.
He should show that while the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin, it can also take away those blots of selfishness and streaks of meanness and hatefulness with which the foul central pollution had traversed and mottled the whole pure sculpturing of God. Let him show that a regenerated soul is a soul restored to the fair proportions and engaging linea
ments of its primitive celestial manhood, and that in every aspect of humanity the new man is better than the old
Its true and native aspect will thus be rendered to the benign face and majestic form of our holy religion. The blameless lives and gracious doings of its followers have sometimes done more than all argument to promote the truth, and have often gained a hearing where prejudice had shut the ear. How much inore effective for all good is the word of one who has always been honored as a high-minded man, whose good name stands untarnished in all his intercourse, than of him whose ungenerous proceedings, questionable qualities, or unworthy devices are crowding on the memory or present to the sight! It would have been hard for Jacob to have done much spiritual good to Esau after that transaction of the birthright.
IV. We ascertain the will of God in this matter still more directly from the inherent nature of true religion as delineated in God's Word. We find it alike in the spirit, the precepts, and the examples of holiness as therein presented.
In its spirit. The spirit of revealed religion is one of unparalleled magnanimity and loveliness. It is a disposition of self-forgetfulness; a living and rejoicing in the welfare of others. We may talk of the chivalry and courtesy of unsanctified human life. We have sometimes been suffered to look beneath the boasted garb of chivalry and see the cloven foot. The veiled prophet has uncovered his face. But were it otherwise, what magnanimity or courtesy of human invention ever approached that grand and simple law, Whatsoever
would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” a large-heartedness and courtesy that considers neither the wealth, rank, color, estimation of its object, nor his means of requital; no, nor any other selfish thought, but views him as a brother man, capable of feeling kindness and generosity; a courtesy that never rests in the externals of civility, but requires them as the expression of a heart within. It is marked by no law-demanding and lawscrutinizing spirit, but a free, hearty good will that shall be a law unto itself; an inner activity working out in all helpfulness and benignity; a clear spring welling up and overflowing with its sparkling waters ; a flower that exhales fragrance and unfolds beauty to the passer-by; a bright sunshine and a balmy breeze, smiling and breathing to gladden a world. It is the exact opposite of that spirit which inquires : “How much can man or God compel me to do ?”
One reason why the new dispensation lays down so few specific laws is no doubt that this vital spirit may feel itself the more free in flowing forth in the action that it loves. And the man who is always asking, "Show me some specific command” for engaging in things confessedly good and noble, shows any other spirit than that of the gospel. Saith the apostle : “For the love of Christ constraineth us.' It is the sway ņot of law but of love.
Yet there is not wanting the enumeration of particulars that go to make up the catalogue of whatever is noble and lovely. The fitting discharge of all civil and social duties, respect for age and office, a regard for tender feelings and scruples of conscience, the high sense of honor, propriety, and true politeness, even a care for the impression of our conduct upon other men, are set forth in precept and abundantly embodied in example. The scope of the theme precludes full quotation. Yet consider such directions as these scattered through the sacred Word : “Fear God. Honour the king.” “Render therefore to all their dues : tribute to whom tribute is due; ... honour to whom honour. Owe no man any thing, but to love one another” — the only perpetual debt. Remember those instructions to parents and children which would fill the home with brightness; those directions to servants and masters which, fairly followed, would have smothered the life out of slavery from its birth ; and that sublime description and model of conjugal love, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it,” which should have superseded all crusade and clamor for woman's rights. “Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren ; the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.” “Put them in mind ... to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, ... to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men." “ Let none of you suffer ... as an evil-doer, or as a busybody in other men's matters.” “ And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your
business.” “ Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” “Distributing to the necessity of saints: given to hospitality.” “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers." "He that sheweth mercy,” let him do it “with cheerfulness.” “If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth”; yet “let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not.” “Let not then your good be evil spoken of.” “Provide things honest” not only in the sight of the Lord but also “in the sight of all men.”
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, ... is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil.” And if anything were lacking to the completeness of the magnificent ideal, then, “whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
So broad are the spirit and the precepts of our religion. And though it may be that few observe it as they read their Bibles, yet doubtless there is hardly a trait of character or a form or action truly honorable or lovely, however remote its seeming connection with the graver Christian virtues, but has its exemplification in the recorded lives of those best men in their best estate. Do we or do we not too much overlook these points as we read ? Nowhere do we find a nobler magnanimity, a higher sense of honor, a keener instinct of propriety, a greater care for all that is gentle and lovely, wherever it was consistent with the rebuke of