« AnteriorContinuar »
heart, and with little to comfort them under the disappointments which life must often bring them; and they are necessarily destitute of the expansion, the sympathy, and the energy of soul by which alone their own nature can be fully developed, and by which they exert their best influence upon others. But when it was proclaimed to men that the Lord Jesus Christ, in all His combined mercy and justice, would hereafter bring every work into judgment, and that His gracious and holy will was the beginning and end, the Alpha and Omega of human life, all hesitation, and irresolution, and melancholy, were at once swept away. Men could know in Whom they believed. They could study His character; they could obtain the guidance of His Spirit by prayer; they could be sure of His assistance in growing more and more like Him; and life became, for all practical purposes, clear, and hopeful, and full of peace. What does it matter to such a belief whether, as the early Christians supposed, our Lord was soon to return, or whether centuries were to elapse before His reappearance? The one important fact was that He would return, to execute judgment, to save and bless His own; and this great reality was supreme. It solved at once the main problems of existence, it settled life on an eternal basis, opened up its true sources, and enabled
every one to devote himself to the lawful work of his calling in a spirit of perfect truth, freedom, and fearlessness.
For, let it be observed, the fact that this judgment of our Lord gives supreme importance to the moral and spiritual character of our actions is so far from placing it out of harmony with the business of life, that this is the only condition on which it could control all the work of life without exception. The one quality which is supreme in all work, of whatever kind, is the moral quality. Other qualities must needs vary indefinitely. The physical and intellectual powers present an endless diversity both in degree and in kind. But truth in work, and faithfulness to the domestic or social relations in which we are placed-these conditions are the same in every occupation, and in proportion as they are fulfilled, is the utmost amount of intellectual or physical power developed, and does work of all kinds prosper. The moral duties, for our discharge of which we shall be judged, are the hinges on which the whole world turns. Let those be duly performed, and everything else will follow, in accordance with the various laws which God has impressed upon our nature. We have but to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all secondary things shall be added unto us. The whole of life,
therefore, without any exception, was illuminated and revivified by this revelation of our Lord as the Judge of quick and dead.
In proportion as we grasp the same principle, and make it the starting-point of all our thought, shall we be sensible of a similar illumination and a similar vigour. We need to maintain that grasp in two respects-alike with reference to those general discussions respecting the conduct and the organization of life, which are forced upon our attention by the literature and thought of the time, and in respect to our private lives. In regard to the former, it cannot but be the duty of a Christian to adopt a more decided tone than that to which, from feelings of mistaken kindness, and, perhaps, of misplaced modesty, we are often inclined. From the point of view of the great truth we have been considering, nothing, surely, can be more lamentable, than that such a vast amount of time and energy should be consumed in the constant discussion of moral and religious problems on other than Christian principles. On those principles, no philosophy can reach a true result, no moral system can lead to sound conclusions, no system of education, whether private or national, whether at home, or in schools, or in Universities, can be trusted, which is not based upon the recognition of our Lord as the centre of all God's purposes, and as the Judge of all mankind.
He claims to have declared the moral principles by which all mankind will be judged, by which every act and word and thought will be measured, and consequently to have determined the eternal standard and rule of moral action.
It is indeed the glory of the Gospel, or rather it is our Lord's glory, that every truth, of whatever kind, belongs to Him-is a part of His wisdom and His will; and just as the greatest Christian Fathers regarded the philosophy of Greece as sharing in some degree with the Law of Moses the office of being a schoolmaster to the world to bring it unto Christ, so whatever moral truths may be established by independent speculation must needs be so many additional steps on the road towards • Him who is the Truth. But this does not alter the fact that it is alike our privilege and our duty, in the present day, to start on every subject from the central truth that our Saviour is the Lord and Judge of all men, to estimate every moral and religious argument or opinion by the standard of His words, and to depend wholly on the promised aid of His Spirit to guide us aright. We cannot allow less than this to a principle of so absolute and supreme a character as that which we have been contemplating. It may be pressed too far, or injudiciously applied, as it was in the Middle Ages, when physical questions were determined by doubtful inferences
from theological premises. But we have of late been certainly tending towards the other extreme, and such reflections as these may well suggest to us a reconsideration of our position and our duty in the matter. There is one moral and religious question which must take precedence of all others, and that is the old one, 'What think ye of Christ?' Do you accept His claim to be the Judge of quick and dead, and the Lord of life alike in this world and in the next? He comes forward with that claim, and there is no similar claim in competition with it. If a man unhappily reject it, he can only fall back on the comparatively dim light of nature and of conscience, and feel his way in the twilight as best he may. But it is a claim which may be said to be in possession of the ground. During the last eighteen centuries it has guided the civilization which is now the hope of the world, and there is an enormous presumption in its favour. But if it be accepted, it decides at one trenchant stroke many of the controversies by which the world is distracted; it sets aside many a futile debate; and it affords a firm basis for the edifice of moral and social life.
But, to turn for a moment from this more general view of the principle in question to its relation to our private lives, we must acknowledge at once how profound and how elevating would be its influence if it were always present to our minds in full force.