페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

over and above the line of action which is necessary to turn them into good and worthy men, and that in order to please God it is necessary to address ourselves to a style of conduct which certainly does not seem calculated to advance our happiness in this present world. Hence it is not uncommon to hear people say, that if it were only not for their fears of a judgment to come, and of what may happen after death, they would certainly not allow themselves to be bound by the restraints of religion, but would kick over the traces and proceed to have a good time of it. But if the object of religion be to teach us the true relation in which we stand to God-and that relation is the relation of a child to a parent, who wishes to teach his child how he can turn his life to the best account by living in accordance with the laws of the universe and of his own being-and if the laws of God and the laws of the universe are one and the selfsame thing, is it not absurd to suppose that any man can have a good time of it by flying in the face of them, and refusing to see things as they really are? Of course, it is open to a man to say, "I don't believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore don't feel bound to follow where He has led the way; "but if the way of the Lord Jesus Christ is the name of the right and the true way-the way by which a man can best fulfil the laws of his being, and attain the highest and best kind of life-he is certain to suffer for the neglect to

follow it, whether such a Being as the Lord Jesus Christ ever trod this earth, or whether He did not.

For the Christian law of life may be described as the outcome of the highest human experience of the highest and best kind of life that is open to us to follow; and if so, then our obligation to live in accordance with it depends not on our beliefs or opinions with respect to the nature of its origin, but simply upon its own intrinsic excellence. But many people reverse this. Instead of seeing that the use of every system of religion is to help to teach men to obey the laws of their being, even the will of God, they seem to think that the moral laws of their being would have no existence if it were not for their system of religion, and so they put their system in the place of righteousness; they adopt an artificial standard of goodness, or rather goodiness, and think that they are devoting themselves to the will of God when they are scrupulous in the performance of this or that trifling observance, which has no tendency whatever to turn them into wiser or better men. In the tenth chapter of his First Epistle to the Corinthians we may notice how the Apostle Paul endeavoured to reason with those of his own day who mistook devotion to a religious system for devotion to righteousness, and reminded them how the Israelites in the desert had a religious system as well as Christians, and yet fell in spite of it; because, instead of using it as a

means to an end, they treated it as if it were itself the end, and acted as if they thought righteousness was of no consequence so long as they kept themselves occupied with their sacred and venerable ceremonies. Therefore said he, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." Now, this portion of Scripture is placed before us as the Epistle for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity, and in the Gospel we are invited to compare with it the parable of the unjust steward, where our Lord reminds His disciples that the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light-for they, at all events, know what they want, and look out sharp to get it. Hence He advised them to take a leaf out of their book by imitating their astuteness and fertility of resource, by making quite sure that they wished to grow into good and true men, and then using their brains in choosing the best means of acquiring the character they wish to attain. In whatever language we describe our religion, and whatever authority we attribute to it, the end or object of it all is to help us to lead the best kind of life that our nature is capable of attaining-the best for this world, the best for any other, for the same King rules here who rules in heaven.

If, therefore, we aim at doing the will of God, we shall aim at growing into good and true men; whilst if we aim at growing into good and true men, we shall

do the will of God. The value of all our religious observances is exactly in proportion to the degree in which they contribute to this grand object of all human endeavours. They have no extra value whatever. But too many persons address themselves to them not in order that they may become really better, but that they may enjoy the sensation of feeling good -as though they fancied that religious service can be separated from the ordinary life, and that these are external acts that are pleasing to God apart from the consecration of our human life to the life which is in Him.

66

Let us, then, follow the apostolic advice in striving not to be unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is; and then, when we know what His will is, let us be careful to perform it, in full confidence that if we really do our best to tend and water the good seed which He has sown in our hearts, He will be sure to give us the appropriate increase, and as we trust the love of Him in whom we live and move and have our being to give us this, so shall we be free from the danger of trusting in our own arm for salvation; for safe and well we can only be, when,

forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, we press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

II.

Authority.

"And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at His doctrine: for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes."-MATT. vii. 28, 29.

It is probable that our very reverence for the great Teacher of whom these words were spoken prevents us from realizing their full significance.

We are so accustomed to bow to the authority of our Saviour's language, and to consider that the fact of His having said a thing must at once stamp that thing as true, that when we read in the Gospel of the impression that was made by His teaching upon those who listened to it for the first time, and find that what chiefly struck them was the contrast that it presented to the teaching of their accredited guides, in the weight and authority with which it came home to the heart, we are almost inclined to pass over the statement as a matter of course, as though we did not need to be told that the Son of God must needs speak with authority, and not as the scribes. But it is necessary

« 이전계속 »