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We pray, O Lord, that thou wilt disclose the duties of life to every one. May all lay aside false shame, and indolence, and self-seeking, and whatever hinders them from disclosing the powers that are in them.
We pray that thou wilt fill this church with men and women who shall be workers together in the blessed cause of God. Spread the truth throughout all our land. Help those who are seeking better ways for men. May our whole nation be reformed, that it may be held back from violence, from avarice, from evil passions, from inordinate affections. We pray that thou wilt harmonize the counsels of this great people. May we be more and more intense in our desires for universal intelligence. And grant that liberty may not degenerate into licentiousness. May this Christian people, raised up and protected by the providence of God, become a light to guide other nations, and to convince them of their need of knowledge, in order that they purge away the blackness of ignorance, and all imps of superstition, and all temptations to tyranny by reason of men's weakness.
So, in the strength which comes from virtue, and intelligence, and piety, may thy people every where stand strong in that liberty wherewith Christ makes them free. Have compassion upon the world. Hasten, we beseech of thee, the day when all men shall know thee from the greatest unto the least, when thy kingdom shall come, and when tby will shall be done in earth as it is done in heaven.
And to thy name shall be the praise, Father, Son, and Spirit, evermore. Amen.
PRAYER AFTER THE SERMON.
OUR Tather, we pray that thy blessing may rest upon the truth spoken to-night. Grant that it may do good, exciting thought, and inciting men to considerateness who are careless. Grant, we pray thee, that those who are in peril may be withdrawn from their danger. Grant that those who are safe may be maintained in their safety. We pray for the whole community. We pray that the power of Christian truth may elevate it on every side. We pray that labor may become sweeter, and its remunerations surer. We pray that contentment may follow acquisition. We pray that men may learn how to be happy without becoming frivolous. We pray that men Dey use this world as a means of preparing for the world to come. May they learn to use all the the things which God has created without abusing them. And bring us all, by and by, to our Father's house, through riches of grace in Christ Jesus. Amen.
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of your selves: it is the gift of God.”—EPH. ii., 8.
The salvation of men is the result of the divine nature. It is the effluence and the effect of the disposition of God. Whatever governmental theories may have hitherto been entertained, whatever philosophical explanations may have been made, the fact will become more and more apparent that the reason of men's salvation, in the end, is that the tendency of the divine government-which is but another word for the effect of the divine disposition-is to communicate everlasting life to men.
No exposition of Christianity will be abiding and effective which does not take into account the whole of man, mankind, and all the circumstances which act upon men. It is easy for us to form theories in the study, using those men about us who are the best descended, the best educated, and the most favorably situated, as our specimens; but no theory springing from Christianity will be valid and permanent which does not to take into account the whole race, under all their circumstances, and under all the influences that have acted, and are acting, and will continue, according to the constitution of things, to act upon them.
What does ideal perfectness require a man to be? or, in other words, what does the law of God require of mankind? -for the law of God can be nothing other than the law of ideal perfectness. There is a law spoken of in the Word of God-the ceremonial law of the Jews; and, for the most
SUNDAY MORNING, May 24, 1874. LESSON: Isaiah lv., HYMNS (Plymouth Collection): Nos. 130, 180, 660.
part, that is the meaning of the term as employed in the epistles; because the apostles who wrote were writing to their countrymen, and were seeking to enlarge them and set them free from the old Mosaic economy. Then there is society law, such as men find all around them. But divine law— that on which we are to reason in determining right and wrong respecting life and the great events of the futurethat law cannot be regarded as synonymous with the Mosaic law, or society law, or any other law than that of ideal perfectness in every part of man's nature. Such a law as this demands perfect conditions of body; for the mind can no more act rightly without its connections in this world, than a steam-engine can go to sea without a ship's hull under it. We all know that the mind grows sick with the body, and grows well with the body, to a certain degree; and though we may not be able to mark the limitations exactly, yet the general truth is universally admitted that the body and mind in our present circumstances so work together that one affects the other, that one is dependent upon the other, and that for the highest mental action there must be the highest bodily conditions.
The ideal perfectness which God requires demands the right use, under proper limitations, provisions and government, of all the appetites and all the passions which are put into man's economy. There is not one of them that is not in its central nature and purpose divine, wise and necessary, as a constituent element of humanity; and it is the right use of them, limiting them simply to their normal functions and proper government, that is demanded by the ideal law of God. That law also requires that men should develop their right functions in right lines, and in right associations or company. And the education and predominance of the moral sentiments and spiritual elements which are in men is to be secured. The control of the passions, the development of the social affections, and the unfolding of the moral nature of man-these things are to take place in the light of reason, of the imagination, and of the highest forms of intelligence.
Now, consider that these things are to be accomplished in some sense against nature. Consider, in other words, that it
is not the tendency of a man's physical being to develop itself . toward spirituality. The flesh tends toward coarseness, and not toward that spirituality which is the result of will, effort, and continuous influence. All this various development of the ideal man in perfect harmony and symmetry is to be brought about within itself. What that perfect harmony and symmetry is we do not know. It differs in different men, as will appear more clearly in the sequel. Every man is to be developed by that which is within him into a personal harmony; and what that personal harmony is, is to be found out by each one separately.
That is to say, we
It also is to be continuous, perpetual. are to seek, not a mood, but a character; not a flash of feeling, but an abiding disposition; not some happy hour of inspiration merely, but a life. Through dark and through light, through calm and through storm, through battle and through peace, we are to seek abidingly a higher form of character which shall put all that is in us into harmonious relations with itself, and ourselves into harmonious relations with God and the invisible world.
Such is the law of God, such is the ideal manhood which we are to aspire to, and such is the substantial law by which men are judged, and are to be judged.
Now, let us observe the facts of men's creation, and of their condition in this world. If we take the old reasoning, and say that men were created holy, that they fell from their first estate, and that since the race has fallen it is to be treated as a race that has fallen by its own fault in some way-if we take that reasoning we despatch the question very briefly, but most unsatisfactorily. No such reasoning, however, can possibly continue. It is not true in respect to each individual, as that reasoning would lead us to suppose, that he ever fell in our great forefather, Adam, in any such sense as that. The facts of the individual experience of a person, or of the race, are to be accounted for on the grounds of divine arrangement, as much as the nature of the earth, or the laws of light and gravity. The theory that they depend upon the creative care of God is absolute and inevitable.
Men are born into the world empty. There is nothing of them in the beginning. There are germinant tendencies in them, there are undeveloped forces in them, carrying certain potential qualities; but those tendencies and qualities are at first chaotic. Helpless man, when he is born, is like a city sketched on paper but not built. Men come into the world nothings, though they come with the capacity of being somethings. The human being is an apprentice to all things that are manly-to all things whose nature is moral. comes into life lower than an apprentice. He learns everything by the slowest and by the hardest. The eye learns to see. It was adapted to learn; but it has to learn. The ear learns, the tongue learns, the hand learns, the foot learns, the very body itself learns, everything.
It is not so with the animal creation underneath us. They at birth know all that they are ever to know, for the most part. Certainly, as you go down lower everything is created more nearly perfect. No long period is required for the nonintelligent animals to learn to walk or to gambol and enjoy themselves. Their apprenticeship is very short. And when you go below them to the insects, these are born perfect.
But men are born at nothing—at zero; and they have to come up, learning everything which pertains to their body slowly, by experimental steps, by tentative efforts.
When you rise higher than the body, the apprenticeship is still more apparent, and men are obliged to learn everything that is wise, or good, or gentle, or discreet, or excellent in any form, by a still longer schooling. This is in accordance with the divine constitution. It is not a mere accident of men. It might as well be said that men are responsible for the shape of their head, for its size, or for the character of their features, as to say that they are responsible for those conditions which bring them into life at zero, and which make it impossible for any creature that ever lives on earth to reach anything excellent except through certain stages of evolution. The most complex thing, the subtlest thing, the most difficult thing to be conceived of, is the development of a truly divine character in man. There is no other problem which is so intricate and so unreachable as the