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it too — may well have positive convictions, even “the full assurance of faith." He can say with stronger emphasis than did Carlyle that “the Christian religion, once here, cannot again pass away.” It is here to stay, here to work, here to triumph. He has no apologies for it or any of its belongings, no fears for its fate. And joined with this grand central trust there must be, and there will be, faith in the truth and the right, faith in virtue and in work, faith in woman and faith in good men, faith in every righteous cause and faith only in righteous means, faith in prayer and in providence, faith in progress and in ultimate success; faith to labor and to wait; faith to toil on in darkness and alone; faith to struggle and silently endure; faith to hold on and hold out; faith even to sit still and see the salvation of our God.
II. See now the value of a strong positive faith like this — its value, I mean, to its possessor.
Its value is felt throughout its entire range, whether in whole or in part, and from the top to the bottom of the scale.
It is a benign stimulus. The pursuit of a man's life or his enterprise of the day should carry his interest and his confidence that it is for him and for the time the sphere and the work. It makes cheerful toil, buoyant spirits. Men must believe in their callings, whatever they be, so long as they are honest. A true farmer should have as genuine an enthusiasm as a merchant or a lawyer. Shame on him who is ashamed! When the physician loses faith in medical science, let him depart. When the minister ceases to feel that his work is the noblest, he has a call to withdraw. The first Napoleon used often to say: “When I was lieutenant.” When Carey in India sat as an honored guest at the governorgeneral's table, and overheard a petty officer inquire, “ Was not that man once a shoemaker ?” “No, sir,” said Carey, “only a cobbler.” But he knew he had cobbled well. If Irving and Prescott had no zeal for the law, they did well to look elsewhere. When Sterling and Emerson lost faith in the clerical function, nothing became them so well as the leaving of it.
I do not for a moment concede, however, that a man can have a confidence only in some certain spheres and occupations. Much less would I countenance the not infrequent plea of the young student that he has no interest in certain branches of a well-balanced education, no drawing towards them; therefore he should be released from them. Nay, but he is bound to have both faith and zeal for the things that stand approved by the best wisdom of the past and present; bound, on that evidence, to believe in his mathematics and his science, and especially in his classics as indispensable to the highest training; and if he have no interest, to awaken one. If he is a true man, he will. His antipathies betray his necessities. The principle, Similia similibus curantur, will never work here. The lacking interest must be roused by faith — faith in his elders and his betters. A man is not to be tied up by his narrow and callow propensities. Good manhood lies in the power to throw mind and heart and hand into this thing or that, as divine Providence may call. And faith in the call shall change drudgery to delight.
Another function of value is that such strong positive convictions give the steadiness of purpose which is a chief element in every high human career. Men live for the day. They see only what is just here. The young student has no controlling sense of the future, and therefore he trifles away the present on which it hangs. The young professional man cannot toil patiently till his opportunity comes; and so, when it comes, it goes. Here and there the man of intense and masterful convictions labors and waits, and takes his prize - sometimes against all probabilities, as when the young adventurer Disraeli struck for a hearing in Parliament and the premiership of Britain. But it is with the fixedness of such convictions and with such consequent steadiness of purpose that the scholar, the artist, the discoverer, the professionalist, and, above all, the Christian toiler, have achieved their highest successes. Heyne delving at his classics with but two nights' sleep a week; Mendelssohn nine years perfecting his Elijah ; Webster lavishing time and money on some blacksmith's case for a fifteen-dollar fee; Schliemann, from the age of seven seeing the ruins of Troy beneath the dust of ages, and struggling towards it forty years; Kepler willing to wait two hundred years, if need be, for the acceptance of his discoveries ; the Plymouth Pilgrims silently harboring “a great hope and inward zeal of laying a foundation for the kingdom of Christ in these remote parts, though they should be but as stepping-stones unto others for performing so great a work,” – these are the men. And naturally enough it is in the sphere of religion that faith, Christian faith, has shown its marvelous power of steady perseverance; and the bright catalogue would contain volumes of names, from Paul to Livingstone.
Such men can work and pray — and wait. It is sad to hear the true cause of temperance pushed by false arguments. It was a pitiful thing that some of the men who a generation ago made valiant fight against American slavery must needs grow so impatient as to wage war upon the Bible and the Church because these were not fast enough for their fiery ardor. And most melancholy was it on the Fourth of July, 1842, to hear in the Methodist church in Andover, William Lloyd Garrison even petulantly wish that the lightnings of heaven might blast Bunker Hill monument. But his voice is silent; the Bible speaks; the Church lives; the monument stands; and slavery is dead. Faith in God can use God's appointed methods and await his time.
It is for the want of clear convictions, alike high and dominant, worthy of being called faith, that so many a gifted man has proved a wretched failure. Benjamin Constant, one of the brightest minds of France, yet avowedly without faith in virtue or honor, earned the name of “ Constant the inconstant,” made his life a wail, and his end a conscious failure. The world is full of such failures, partial or total. While
we recognize the brilliant achievements of such men as Poe, Byron, Burns, Mirabeau, we cannot forget how each of them burned out his life with passion and vice before he reached his proper prime; and, strikingly enough, it is Carlyle who avers that the radical lack of Burns was “religion,” and says of Byron that “Satan was the hero of his poetry and apparently the model of his conduct.”
See, once more, how the positive faith brings repose and quietude of spirit. Men rejoice to be well anchored. In proportion as doubts run deep and high, is the heavy groundswell of unrest. Paradoxically but truly has the vacuum of the heart been called aching void.” And one might almost say,
Great God! I'd rather be
Hume said he was “appalled at the forlorn solitude in which he was placed by his philosophy.” Miss Martineau, while boasting of her “freedom from old superstition,” cannot but speak in the same breath of "all the peace and quiet of orthodoxy.” A late atheist writer 1 avowed the great "pang” with which he cut loose from the moorings of Christianity. Later still, Vernon Lee, by the mouth of Vére, confesses that his
1 Candid Examination of Theism. 2 Contemporary Review, May, 1883.